The Conspiracy Theorist

This is the ninth of my monthly columns to have been published for Spokane Faith and Values. I’m going to rev up my search engine and churn out three more columns prior to Election Day in an effort to do my part, and then probably break for a while to work full time on my new musical, Eden in Babylon.

The Mindset of the Conspiracy Theorist and Matthew 7:5-3

Because of certain aspects of my background, I have been quicker than most to let people experiencing homelessness stay at my house. Sometimes too quick.

Twice I had people over whom one might classify as conspiracy theorists. One of them, a Q-Anon adherent, believed that the FBI & CIA were watching her and her ex-husband. The other guest told me of conversations he’d had with Bill Clinton and Steve Bannon, and also claimed to be suing 17 States in a case of mistaken identity.  His tales were very tall, involving altercations with multiple federal agents, from which he always emerged victorious. Furthermore, he claimed to know the brother and ex-husband of the first person I’d had over, even though I’m fairly certain that she and he, coming from two entirely different parts of the country, had never met. 

I noticed that each of these people had one trait in common. Each of them blamed all of their misfortunes on other people, and neither took much responsibility for their own choices. It then struck me that we have a president today who not only gives lip service to conspiracy theories, but consistently blames anybody but him for what is going wrong in the nation.  

But let’s take a look at the raw facts. Forty million Americans have lost their jobs in the past three months. Violent riots are breaking out in many major cities. An untempered pandemic rages chaotically across the country. And worst of all (in my opinion), our country who once identified herself as “one nation under God” is so radically divided, I hesitate to identify as a “moderate” lest I be accused of being a “coward” for not fully embracing one extreme or the other.

And yet, who is responsible for all these problems, according to Donald Trump? From the sounds of him, one would think that the fault belongs to some bizarre combination of Obama, Joe Biden, both Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, anyone else who disagrees with him, somebody somewhere in the Ukraine — and of course, the Chinese.  

It’s also impossible not to notice that a good portion of our president’s followers appear to do the same. Many Trump-supporters would rather focus on unverifiable conspiracies than on the pressing issues that all Americans face today. It makes me wonder how many of them might be “blame-shifters” in their personal lives. My two house guests certainly were. One wonders what exactly is the relationship between blame-shifting and the mind-set of the conspiracy theorist.

In the Wikipedia article on conspiracy theory, a statement in the second paragraph intrigues me.

“Research suggests that conspiracist ideation — belief in conspiracy theories — can be psychologically harmful or pathological, and that it is correlated with psychological projection, paranoia and Machiavellianism.” Interesting that the concept of “projection” emerges as a factor in the conspiracist mind-set.

Psychology Today defines projection as “the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection–attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another.”

In this definition, I am stricken by the expression “unacceptable urges.” For the current president, even in some bygone day, to have glorified the urge to grab a woman by her vagina is certainly unacceptable. Yet there are Trump-supporters who believe the details of Q-Anon; to wit, that the president is secretly in the process of outing a group of pedophiles — most of whom appear to be Democrats – who are secretly running the world and even sacrificing children in Satanic rituals.

Combine that with the testimonies of numerous women who have claimed that Mr. Trump has sexually abused them, and another wonder unfolds. Could it possibly be that an abusive misogynist would like for his supporters to think he is anything but?

Jesus said: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

As with many of Jesus’ sayings, He spoke this to “those to have ears to hear.” When I read these words, I am often convicted of my own tendency to pin the blame onto others. In some cases, of course, others truly are to blame. But I believe the point that my Lord is making is a universal one.  

All human beings have a natural tendency to blame-shift. When this tendency is activated to the extreme, one just might believe that the United States Government is to blame for their problems.  While one might well be right, on a certain level, one would certainly need to take the “beam” out of their own eye, before being able to see clearly to solve the problems of Uncle Sam.

Finally, if a person is actually involved in a conspiracy or “cabal,” wouldn’t it be convenient to divert attention from their own nefarious doings, and alert people to the supposed existence of an entirely different cabal? 

For all the absurdity of Q-Anon, its adherents often overlook one simple fact. Donald Trump colluded with the Russians in order to rise to power. And that is the conspiracy we all need to be looking at, as we approach Election Day on Nov. 3rd.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 84

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Reorganization.

Q. Of what?

A. Of many things. Most important is the reorganization of my mind.

Q. Most important?

A. I take that back. Most important is the reorganization of the Human Race. But each of us has a part in that, and my part is the reorganization of my mind.

Q. Ah, I see! Well then, can you describe the basic essence of this reorganization?

A. I believe so. You see, certain habitual thought processes have often led to false conclusions. The logic may have been sound, but the axioms or postulates on which I based my reasoning were false to begin with. So I’m in the process of altering the axiomatic system so as not to act upon false premises.

Q. Can you say that in English, please?

A. Very funny. Okay, look — I have noticed three things about myself — three commonly repeated mistakes that result from erroneous thought processes. I would like to share them, if I may, from the least important, to the most.

Q. What is the least important?

A. Don’t get me wrong. It’s pretty important. It’s just not as important as the two that follow.

Q. Once again, what is it?

A. I have finally realized that if I embrace a sexual fantasy about someone with whom I am involved non-sexually, it will affect my dealings with that person in a way that is out of kilter with the correct nature of our relationship.

Q. Uh – do you mean — you’ll start hitting on them?

A. Me? Probably not. But I will become enthralled with them, and shower them with inordinate favor.

Q. Isn’t that just a crush?

A. No, not really. We would have to dive into the origin of the fantasy.

Q. Do you wish to do so?

A. Yes. But it would make the tuneup too long for most readers to bother with. The point is that I realized that fantasizing about her was causing me to lose objectivity in a context where I needed to remain objective. So I ceased to romanticize this individual, and now our interactions are better balanced.

Q. How did you cease?

A. By recognizing what I was doing. When I saw how it had all come about — that is, the origin of the fantasy — I saw clearly a mental pathway whereby my thoughts gradually took me from something entirely different toward the realm of erotic fantasy. And when I saw the exact path, I saw how to steer clear of it. It was easy, in fact, for I found myself viewing that particular mental pathway as disgusting, pathetic, and beneath my dignity.

Q. Are you lonely?

A. Not particularly, no. Not quite sure why you asked.

Q. Okay, so what was the second one?

A. I have realized that if I view someone as a potential investor, backer, or patron (that is to say, of my musical project), then I cease to see them objectively — as the true human being whom they are. This is extremely unfair and unkind to that person.

Q. Anybody in mind?

A. Quite a few people, I’m afraid. But it took me realizing that I actually liked some of these people, and these very likable people are not at all to be viewed as potential patrons, but viewed rather as the unique human beings whom they are – with special needs and values, just like my own.

Q. So you ceased to regard them as potential investors?

A. Yes.

Q. How?

A. Again, once I recognized what I had been doing, I felt that disdain, that disgust, that sense of distastefulness – and I didn’t want to indulge it further. It was an ugly thing. It’s my task, as an Artist, to create Beauty. So when I see that I have created ugliness instead, it is fairly easy to scrap that effort, and start from scratch — in an effort to replace ugliness with Beauty.

Q. Fascinating. Does this mean that you’re not so much operating on a moral level, but on an aesthetic one?

A. Ultimately, I believe they are one and the same. I also believe that Aesthetics will replace Ethics in the Age to Come — but now I wax eschatological. The essence of the realization is that it’s unfair to regard people either as potential romances or as potential investors. If I do so, I am no different than a corrupt C.E.O., who only sees people according to what purpose they might serve.

Q. How long have you been doing this?

A. I don’t know. It’s something I’ve been doing unconsciously. It just recently surfaced.

Q. Intriguing. So what’s the third thing?

A. This is the big one. Are you ready?

Q. Shoot.

A. When I was homeless, I couldn’t understand why nobody was “letting me in.” All the people who lived indoors were seen as lacking compassion. I couldn’t understand how they could have a spare room in their house, and let me be rained on and ripped off and basically dumped on — all because I was “one of them.” I couldn’t understand how they could have money to fly to England and back, but somehow not have $60 to help with a night in a motel room.

Q. And now you understand?

A. More so than earlier, I think. The way I was coming across was desperate, insistent, demanding – and often accusational. I would accuse these people of lacking compassion, and try through logic and reason to convince them that I was right. But now that I’ve lived indoors for four years, I can only imagine how I would react if somebody came at me like this:

“Look dude – why aren’t you letting me crash at your house? I could die out here tonight! Don’t you have any compassion? What’s wrong with you?”

Q. Did you always come across like that?

A. Not always. At first my appeals were quite polite. But after hearing the word “no” enough times, I began to lose my natural courtesy.

Q. So what’s the point?

A. I’m leading up to something. I’ve already stated my new policy toward my home in Tuesday Tuneup 57. We don’t need repeated information on this quest. But my statement is a stepping stone to a much broader statement.

Q. About what?

A. About the people whom I have called friends. Those who have happened to have crossed my paths and vice-versa. People with whom I have felt an affinity. But that affinity waned when I had to repeatedly hear the word “no.” And then, even when I did get back on my feet, and was no longer homeless, these people still disdained my friendship.

I thought they were bad people. And perhaps, some of them were. Bad people do bad things in the privacy of their own homes, and naturally they don’t want to be observed. But by and large, chances are they were pretty good people. Just like the people I know today. But if I were homeless, and I started hitting up the people whom I know today for a crash pad, I don’t doubt that my present day associates would not behave the same way.

So it’s not as though the people I know today, who pretty much see my at my best; are any different than the people who knew me back then, who clearly saw me at my worst. The difference is not in the sort of people who see me. The difference is the person whom they see.

Q. But what about what Marilyn Monroe said?

A. I knew you would ask me that! She said: “If you can’t take me at worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.” I embraced that when I was homeless. And you know what? It’s a lot of malarkey.

Suppose I do succeed. Suppose my musical is produced on Broadway. Suppose I receive the Tony award that arguably I deserve. Then, suppose one of these people who has shunned me then has a change of heart. Suppose they approach me and say:

“Andy, I really couldn’t handle you ten or twelve years ago, but the comeback you’ve made, and the way you are today is nothing but an inspiration to me. God bless you, Andy – you are one of the most amazing success stories on the planet.”

Would it really be proper of me to respond with:

“Where were you when I needed you?”

Of course not! That’s mean-spirited! It would only show that I was still holding a grudge. The right thing to do, the Christian thing to do, would be to look that person straight in the eye, and say:

“You know, it warms my heart to hear you say that! Especially when I thought I would never see you ever again! I completely understand. The way I was coming across was more than a lot of people could handle. All I can say is thank you for showing up on the happiest day on my life.”

Q. How did you manage to reach all these needed conclusions in such a short period of time?

A. I’m not sure. I have a theory, though. It’s got something to do with the pandemic — the way this unprecedented form of trial has affected us all. There’s been a shake-up. A wake-up. And I’m not the only one who’s waking. Far from it.

Q. But how did you manage to forgive all these people who wouldn’t let you in? How did you manage to get over the sense of abandonment and loss?

A. Largely, it came by understanding. Once I understood that the people whom I had begrudged were no worse than the people whom I hold in high regard, it was easy to forgive — for I finally understood. But blessed are they who don’t understand, and yet they forgive.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 81

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Expansion.

Q. And before that?

A. Contraction.

Expanding Your Mind – Learning For Success – Learning Mind

Q. How did it feel to be contracting?

A. Not good.  I felt pressured, for one thing.

Q. And for another?

A. Restricted.  I felt restricted.

Q. And what else?

A. Intruded upon.  It felt very intrusive.

Q. What kind of intrusion?

A. Intrusive thoughts.

Q. About what?

A. About situations far beyond my control.   Not only can I not control those kinds of situations, but I cannot control my thoughts when I start to think about them.

Q. Really?   You can’t just will those thoughts away?

A. Not exactly.  Best course is just to let them run their course and try not to be bothered by them in the meantime.

Q. How long does that usually take?

A. It depends on how bad the contraction is.   Earlier tonight it was a good half hour.  Probably the first half hour of a brisk four mile walk.

Q. And on the second half hour?

A. I expanded.

Q. How does expansion feel?

A. Very good!   I feel no pressure whatsoever.   I am not at all restricted.  Nothing is tugging at me or eating at me.   I feel open to receiving good things.

Q. What kind of good things?

A. Musical motives and phrases.   New ideas, new plans.   Respect from others, from people who count.   Love and support, where it matters.

Q. Anything else?

A. Beautiful things.  Things that come true, and only later do you remember having dreamed they would.   Levity, and gladness of heart.  Mirth, and gentle merriment.

Q. All this comes from expansion?

A. All this and more.

Q. Then why not expand always?   Why ever contract?

A. Why ever exhale?   Why not always inhale?

Q. What do you mean?

A. The Universe has to breathe, doesn’t it?

The Questioner is silent. 

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Tuesday Tuneup 80

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Change of plans.

Q. How so?

A. Remember how I used to have you change questions every 22 times?  Well, things are going so slowly these days, I’d like to change that to every 20 times.

Q. Which means?

A. 80 being 4 x 20, we need a new question out of you by July 21st.   Then we can start Tuesday Tuneup 81 with an entirely new question.    

Orange man questions clipart

Q. What kind of question?

A. Well, you should know!  You’re the one who’s been asking them.   The first question, as I recall, was Do you know who I am?”  I believe you asked me that 22 times.    Then, you started asking me: “Where would you like to be?”

Q. Why would I ask you those kinds of questions?

A. Because they’re simple, broad-based, and can be answered a different way every time they’re asked.   Between one Tuesday and the next, I’m bound to have a different answer.

Q. Is that why I’ve been asking you what’s going on inside, too?

A. Yes.  What’s going on inside me will not be the same next Tuesday as it is tonight.  

Q. What kind of question will not work?

A. Any question that has a single absolute answer, regardless of how I might be feeling at the time.

Q. For example?

A. A good example would be: “What is your name?”   If I am to be honest, I will answer that question the same way every Tuesday.   One thing about me that does not change is my name.  

Q. What about you does change, then?

A. My mood, for one thing.   

Q. Will you be in a different mood next Tuesday than you are today?

A. Undoubtedly.   In fact, today I am in a different mood than I was last Tuesday.

Q. What else about you changes?

A. My attitude — my outlook toward life — somewhat related to mood, but perhaps more intentional.

Q. What else?

A. My plans.   What I intend to next.    This changes from one day to the next.

Q. Goodness!   How do you ever get anything done, if your plans change so often?

A.  I work really hard, to make up for it.

Q. Would that be a good question, then?

A. Would what be?

Q. “What are your plans today?”

A. That’s the general idea, yes.   Anything that will vary, from day to day — and from Tuesday till Tuesday.

Q. Should I start asking you that question next week, then?

A. No – not so fast.   That question is just a wee bit boring.    We might be able to come up with a more interesting question — one that will engage me and intrigue me.   If we pick the right question, I may even become motivated to show up every Tuesday.

Q. Will wonders never cease?

A. Probably not.   But getting down to brass tacks here, I think it’s time we choose a new question.   

Q. Who’s we?

A. All of us!   Maybe one of my readers would like to choose the question.

Q. You think so?

A. I do.  And in any case, it won’t hurt to ask.   What do you think?

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 79

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Decision making.

Q. And what are you using to make your decisions?

A. What kind of a question is that?

Q. What do you mean?

A. Well uh — using as in what?   Am I using a slide rule?   Am I using a compass?

Q. No no no – I mean, are you using your sound reason to make decisions?   Or are you using your fickle and volatile emotions?

A. How dare you accuse me of making my decisions based on emotions!

Q. Methinks he doth protest too much?   Ya think?    

A. All right, smartypants.  I’ll admit I’m a bit of an emotional guy.   In fact, the subject came up last night in counseling.  I do seem to have made a few decisions based on strong emotions lately.

Q. Such as?

A. I gotta tell you – I was so jazzed about rehearsal on Tuesday, it just went so great — when I came back home, I was sky high with elation.

Q. Don’t tell me –  you then made a decision based on elation?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you go out and celebrate?   Did you party?

A. No, I did not.  I cranked up the headphones and my new Finale 26.3 music notation software, and I didn’t stop until I’d completed the whole accompaniment score to the opening number of my musical.   

Q. Then how did you feel?

A. Even more elated.

Q. But why?

A. Because I didn’t think I could do it!

Q. Why wouldn’t you have been able to do it?

A. Well, I hadn’t really worked with the software before, and I hadn’t used Finale much at all since 2016.

Q. What happened in 2016?

A.  You already know.   I emerged from years of homelessness in the Bay Area with a bunch of tunes in my head, found a coffeehouse and with a nice little round table, sat down, and sequenced most of the music that had been whirling around between my ears.

Q. So you did it then.  Why did you not think you could do it now?

A. I dunno.   Low self-esteem maybe.   Lack of confidence.

Q. But you did do it?

A. Yes!

Q. And this led to further elation?

A. I believe it’s called over-elation.   

Q. Ah.   Then did you make a decision based on over-elation at that time?

A. Not so much a decision — more like an expectation.  

Q. What kind of expectation?   

A. Well, I was really rockin’ on that song, man.  In a way, it kinda was like a party.   I was snappin’ my fingers, boppin’ my head, and rockin’ out to the beat.   A friend of mine was also rockin’ too, a gal named Kathy – ordinarily a very quiet and studious person.  As I was working on it, I sent her updates.   She kept writing back and saying: “Yeah!   Makes me want to get up and dance!”   So I was further spurred on by her enthusiasm, and —

Q. Cut!  You haven’t answered the question!

A. Sorry, I was getting around to that.  My expectation was that, since me & Kathy had rocked out to it, everybody else would too.

Q. And they didn’t?

A. Only on WordPress.   Nobody anywhere else ever said anything about it, so I may assume they did not listen to it.   Either that, or they listened, but didn’t rock out.  :(

Q. How did that make you feel?

A. Ultimately, thankful for WordPress.   But at first, I was pretty disgruntled.  And maybe a little angry.   More than a little, perhaps, at moments . . . 

Q. Moments?

A. All right, so I was mad for twelve hours straight.   Pacing the floor all night, messaging people, talking out loud, trying to figure it all out, and not getting a wink of sleep till five in the morning.

Q. How do you account for this?

A. First off, the expectation that people would groove on it like me and Kathy did was pretty unrealistic.   Most people didn’t even know I was working on it.   Secondly, why should they listen to my music at all?   Especially these days — people naturally have a lot of other things on their minds.   But thirdly, and most importantly, I believe that when I found myself disgruntled, it was the natural reaction to the over-elation.  Law of gravity.  What goes up must come down.

Q. And where are you now?   Up or down?

A.  Neither.   I’m in the Middle.   

Q. What are you going to do from there?

A. What do you think I am going to do?   I’m going to start working on the second song in the show!

Q.  Do you think you can do it in three days?

A.  I tell you what — why don’t you check back on Friday and find out for yourself?

The Questioner is silent.     

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Tuesday Tuneup 78

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Upheaval.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I feel like I’m being shaken up inside.

Q. Is that bad?

A. Probably not!  It’s just unfamiliar.

Q. New territory?

A. Yeah.

Q. Do you also feel torn?

A. Yes!  That’s it — torn.  

Q. Well, what is tearing at you?  What are you torn between?

A. I’m conflicted between a number of different internal narratives, and the unresolved conflict is distorting my view of reality.   I believe this is called cognitive dissonance.

Q. How long have you been like this?

A. Probably longer than I know.

Q. Why do you say that?

A. It goes at least as far back as being homeless.  I would ask fifteen people if I could come stay with them for a while.   Even for a night.    Sometimes I even only asked if I could come over to take a shower, and leave.  Sometimes I offered to pay them.   Or just ask to come over for dinner on a holiday.   “Can I come by on Christmas?”  But nobody would ever let me in.

Q, Why not?

A.  Because why should they?  It wasn’t their responsibility.   But they never came out and said that.  They said lots of other things, though.  They gave all kinds of reasons.   Some reasons made more sense than others.   Some of them seemed kind of cold – others kind of paranoid.   I think there might have been a general sense that if you give someone an inch, they’ll take a ruler.   Nobody wanted to take a chance.

Q. How did this feel?

A. Not good.  I could tell that not all of their reasons were honest.  Many of the reasons were implausible.  I got the feeling somebody wasn’t telling me something — something about me.   There must have been some reason why I deserved homelessness, rather than the chance to get inside and get back on my feet.   But I couldn’t figure out what it was.

Q. What else?  I mean, what did that feeling conflict with?

A. The fact that it wasn’t all me!  They were doing things wrong.   They weren’t being honest with me.   I wanted them to come up front. 

Q. But what is the essence of the dissonance?

A. The essence of the cognitive dissonance is that I could never tell how much of it was my fault, and how much of it was their fault.  

Q. Why does it have to be anybody’s fault?

A. Well, somebody had to be responsible!

Q. But aren’t you the one who’s responsible for where you stay the night?

A. Yes, of course!  And I failed — because I couldn’t find anyone who would let me stay the night with them.

Q. But why should that be their responsibility?

A. What does it have to do with responsibility?   They were the ones who had roofs over their heads, not me!   What was I going to do, ask another homeless person to let me stay at his house?   

Q. But why is this all on your mind this evening?

A. Because the same dissonance is occurring, only with different variables.   And I do not believe that the dissonance started with homelessness!   It’s something in me!   It keeps happening, in different ways, even though I’ve lived inside for years now.   

Q. PTSD?

A. Yes.  I’ve been triggered.  

Q. Again?

A. It happens.   Every now and then — you can’t know when the triggers will arise.

Q. What is it this time?

A. If it were just one person saying to me, why they can’t show up, why they don’t have the music, why they didn’t make the deadline, why they can’t do the project — it would easily be believable.  But because it’s a conglomerate of people, I start to think: “What’s wrong with me?  Who do they take me for?   A fool?   Why are they playing me?  Why aren’t they coming up front?   What’s wrong with everybody?  Why do they lack compassion?”

Q. And that’s what you used to think when people wouldn’t let you stay overnight at their houses?

A. Yeah.  In both situations, I have felt like they’re not letting me in.   

Q. So what does this tell you?

A. That it must be me.   Just like, when all those people weren’t letting me inside their houses – whether they were being truthful with me or not — I was what they all had in common.   It was I whom they all held at bay.

And now, when all these people aren’t doing their work, or it seems like they’re not, and the team seems to be fizzling, it’s kinda like my friends — my family — they’re gradually abandoning me — they didn’t even start talking to me again after I got a place to live, after I’d stopped trying to cling to them —

My friends – my family — we don’t talk anymore, there’s my daughter, there’s no friends from the old people – no family — and these Kids —

Q. Go on.

A. These Kids — are going to leave me.   Just like my friends  – just like my family  – – 

Q. Why  —  why do you think so  —

A. They won’t let me in.   My brother, my sister — they won’t let me in.   Winston and Taura — the Kids in the show — the directors, the musicians, the producers, the venues —  they won’t let me in.   The Family won’t — let – me – in . . .

Q. Dude!  Dude – can you grab a hold of yourself?

A. Sorry, I’m flashin’ man –

Q. Are you sure this isn’t just drama?   Or words for dramatic effect?  To call attention to yourself when you’re feeling oversensitive, and easily abandoned, and you’re desperate for community and camaraderie?

A. Are you calling me a narcissist?  

Q. Did I say narcissist?

A. No –

Q. Why is narcissism on your mind?

A. Because that thing that happens — that pattern — that syndrome — it didn’t start with homelessness.   It started long before, with those very same people — and that’s why they didn’t let me in.

Q. When did it start?

A. With the Internet.   Way back in around ’99 or so, when I got my first computer.   I didn’t become homeless till 2004, but the Internet was a driving factor.

Q. How so?

A. I realized I could send the same message to multiple people at once.  I realized this about two weeks after I’d sent my first email.   A friend had sent a big email entitled: “Timmy Needs Help!”  He sent it to about forty people when he was on the verge of homelessness.

Q. So you learned you could do the same?

A. Yes!  Only since I didn’t become homeless for five more years, I sent the group emails for other reasons.

Q. What kinds of reasons?

A. Oh – if I’d lost my cell phone and needed somebody to call it.

Q. Isn’t that called cross-threading?

A. That’s right, I just remembered.  They told me I was “cross-threading.”  It isn’t cool to ask ten people to do something that can be taken care of by one.   

Q. Didn’t you lose a job that way once?

A. Yeah – that was the job I lost, that made me homeless, in 2004.  They were the ones who told me.   First job where I had to use email.  One day, I emailed five people to ask for help moving a piano, when one would have sufficed.  So two of us moved the piano, and four people showed up later, and got pissed.

Q. Is that the only reason you lost the job?

A. No – but that was a reason.  I was doing things like that all the time, and my boss told me to please stop cross-threading.   But I didn’t.

Q. Why not?

A. I’m not sure.  I think – I don’t know!   It seemed like — I couldn’t!   They told me I was having a first-time manic episode, and that it was all part of the episode.  But to me, all I knew is I’d gotten into a habit where whenever I sent an email, it had to be sent to ten or fifteen people.   I just became an Email Dispenser —  dishing out emails to everybody all day long, right and left.

Q. So – did they dish ’em back?

A. No.  They ignored me.  I used to send music for them to hear, too.  Songs I wrote.  If they listened, they never told me so.

Q. And these are the people whom you asked to stay the night with?

A. Yes, by and large.  A few add-ons, and some drop-offs, but  basically the same list.   

Q. I would assume they all said no, didn’t they?

A. For the most part.  That is, if they said anything at all.   

Q. Ever get the feeling you’ve been barking up the wrong tree?

A. Yes.  For longer than I’ve known, and in more ways than I know.  

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 77

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. I’m not sure.  It feels like a cross between transition and turmoil.

Q. Can you describe each sensation?

A. I’ll try.   Turmoil feels like things need to change, but they’re having a hard time getting themselves adjusted in such a way as to understand and effect the needed change.

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Q. Kinda like indecision?   

A. Kinda.  Or hesitation, or reservation, or doubt.

Q. What about transition?

A. That’s what results when doubt is removed.

Q. How does it feel?

A. Much better than turmoil.  In transition, there is hope.   Hope that the place I’m headed will be better than the place I’m headed from.

Q. Will it?

A. I think so.  Ultimately, yes.

Q. But there may be turmoil in transition?

A. Yes.  It’s not going to be a quick or easy ride.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Seven Reasons Why People Lie

I just read the excellent post, “Lost on the Spiritual Path” by the blogger known as Grady.  The post is about lying, and how toxic this practice can be for those who are on the spiritual journey.   Because the theme had been on my mind a lot lately, I had recently produced a list of seven reasons why I think people lie.

1. They’re trying to cover something up. Typical is when one makes it seem like their being a victim in a certain situation had nothing to do with a poor choice they had made, and was solely the effect of some surprise ambush.  An example would be someone who emphasizes how badly they had been abused, when in reality they were the one who started the fight.

2. They’re exaggerating the severity of a situation in which they were mistreated in order to deflect attention away from some poor choice of their own.   An example would be someone whose business was closed down by the Internal Revenue Service.  They might extol the horrors of the I.R.S. so that people won’t focus on the simple fact that they didn’t pay their taxes.

3. They’re minimizing something that makes them embarrassed or ashamed. An example would be saying “way back when” when the event occurred only three or four months ago.   “Oh, I had a drinking problem way back when!”  (Actually, they just had a drink last night.)

4. They’re trying to sustain a positive false impression in the eyes of someone whom they don’t want to know the truth. An example would be someone telling their parents they had a full time job with benefits when actually they were unemployed.  Or maybe they would tell them how happy they were in their relationship, when actually it was on the rocks.

5. They themselves are in denial. They inwardly don’t want to believe that things are as bad as they are, so they develop convenient, convincing falsehoods that most people will not question.

6. They are story tellers. They like to create colorful stories, and often do so at the expense of truth. Such people are probably deeply dissatisfied with some aspect of reality.  So they feel they need to adjust it a bit in order to cope.

Lying clipart - Clipground

7. Finally, they do not believe that there is, or should be, an absolute truth. Their truth varies according to whoever they’re talking to, depending on which falsehood they think will best serve them. They think everything is “subjective” or “relative” in a self-defined Universe that is elusive, and constantly in flux.

These sorts of people give themselves free reign to change all the time, so long as they can get away with it. Such people are usually extremely overconfident, and in a sense self-deifying. They overestimate their capacity to “create their own reality” at the expense of acknowledging the reality that’s actually happening.

They will fly closer and closer to the sun like Icarus, until finally they crash and burn.  People like these are known to hit swift and certain bottoms at some point in their lives.  They need to be shocked out of their unreasonable self-indulgence before they realize who they truly are.

If you pray, please pray for all of these kinds of liars — especially for the kind described in Point Seven.  The irony is that they are often very intelligent, with great gifts to offer.  For my part, I pray they come to realize that the Giver of all good gifts is God.

For your part, what are some reasons why you think people lie?

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An Intriguing Dream

When I was 18 years old, during the summer just before I left home for college, I had a very memorable dream.  

Magic fairy wand clipart clipart kid - Clipartix

A being like an angel appeared.  But she was more like a fairy, really.   She had a wand, and she waved it.  And she said:

“You will have many friends,
And you will have many enemies.
But you will need to know hate
Before you know love.”

The being in the dream disappeared, and then I awoke.  It was morning.

Every now and then that dream resurfaces in my consciousness.  What do you think it means?   

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Tuesday Tuneup 76

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Philosophical speculation, as usual.

Q. On what themes do you speculate?

A. One in particular.  The idea of worrying about what other people of you.

Q. Do you do this?

A. Sometimes.  Not nearly so much as earlier in life.

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Q. What gave rise to this particular speculation?

A. The other night, someone told me that they were worried about what somebody else thought of them.  I found myself saying something I had never said before.

Q. Did you say, perchance, that “whatever other people think about you is none of your business?”

A. No, I did not.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I find that cliché to be harsh.  It’s true that what other people of think of you is none of your business.  But it can come across like: “Hey! Mind your own business!”  

And then, the recipient of that rebuke might feel like: “Geeze, it wasn’t as though I was dipping into your personal stuff, bro!  All I was doing was worrying what somebody was thinking about me, for crying out loud!”

Q. Isn’t that an pretty sensitive response to an intentionally humorous cliché?

A. I’m a very sensitive person.  Next question, please.  

Q. Very well then.  How did you respond to this person’s concerns?

A. I said: “You really shouldn’t worry what she thinks about you.  The only person whose opinion of you matters is God, because God’s the only one whose opinion is perfectly true.”

Q. How did she respond?

A. She didn’t.

Q. What happened next?

A. I thought it was odd that those words came out of me.  I’d never had a thought like that before.   So I called my friend Danielle.  And she added to the thought.  

Q. What did Danielle say?

A. She said something very profound.  She said: “It is inbred in the human condition to worry about what somebody is thinking about you.  People who don’t believe in God don’t realize that this is because God has created us to be concerned about what He is thinking of us.   People simply transfer the object of the concern.”

Q. Fascinating!  But don’t people who do believe in God worry about what other people are thinking about them?

A. Sure they do.  But that’s just the other side of the same coin.  None of us except God is perfect.  So we can’t perfectly stop worrying about what all the other imperfect people are thinking about us.

Q. Can you think of anything to add to all this?

A. Not at the moment.  Maybe my readers can.

The Questioner is silent.

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Six)

If you’re new to my blog, “Dangers of Liberation” is a seven-part series that I began several Thursdays ago.  The previous posts are on consecutive Thursdays, with a one week break after Part Four.  

The extent to which my mother symbolized the Mainstream cannot be underestimated.  In fact, the only way I was ever able to achieve independence from the Mainstream was to achieve independence from my mother.   I did not do so until long after she died.

A mother’s love is not always unconditional.   My mother loved me to the extreme, under one condition: that I remain emotionally and psychologically dependent upon her.  She gave me everything a mother could possibly have given me, except for the one thing I eventually needed most — my independence.

As the first-born son of her four children, I was never able to come into my true identity as long as my mother was alive.  I was always her “little boy.”   Though she loved all her children immensely, she favored me among the four.  This favoring became more noticeable as she approached her death at the age of 89.  At family gatherings, she practically forgot that any of her other children were there.

After she died, my oldest sister and a close friend informed me that Mom had been “manipulating” me.  Throughout my life, she affected my decision-making in such a way that was designed to keep me out of trouble.  In so doing, she kept me locked into the box of the Mainstream.  I stayed out of trouble, but I lacked personal freedom.

It was almost like an indoctrination, the way my decisions were manipulated by her will.  My own will became a passive extension of hers.   Though I thought I was making my own choices, they were always the choices that Mom would have approved of.  I never realized that she had been doing the deciding for me.

This dependency grew worse and worse as I began to become more successful. Though I hadn’t actually lived with her since my thirties, I relied on her well into my late forties.  I called her five times a day, sometimes only to ask: “What do I do now?”  At that, she would laugh and make a suggestion.  Without questioning it, I would unhesitantly follow her suggestion.   It was as though I didn’t have a mind of my own — only somehow, I did  not know it.  

My mother died when I was fifty.  By that time, I had ascended to heights of success in the form of society that I call the Mainstream.  I was renting a luxurious room in a large mansion owned by one of many wealthy people for whom I was working. Though I rarely had to work more than twenty hours a week, I was nonetheless making $50,000 a year as a church musician, a music teacher at a private school, and a personal piano and voice teacher.  download

From the moment she died on October 9, 2003, till the moment I first became homeless on May 17, 2004, it was a downward plunge.  As I mentioned in the previous post, my psychiatrist had changed my anti-anxiety medication from Gabapentin to Klonopin on the morning of the day she was to die.  She then died in the afternoon, and I proceeded to have a first-time manic episode.  In a little over seven months, I lost all my jobs, my car, my living situation, and every penny of the $13,000 I had in the bank.

The moment she died, aided by the suppressive power of 6mg of Klonopin, I instantly blocked out every mental image of my mother.  I also immediately forgot every conversation she and I had ever had.  No longer able to call her five times a day, nor able to imagine how she might have directed me, I dispersed my many questions among my various associates.  I began to ask just about everybody, including total strangers, what I should do next.  Then, unquestioningly, I did what they suggested.  It is no wonder I lost my jobs!

My ability to perform in the Mainstream was entirely dependent upon my ability to interact with my mother.   The extent to which she valued personal security over personal freedom had left its mark.  But by the time I became homeless, I was thrust into a kind of liberation from all the icons of stability that the Mainstream had displayed.  But my liberation was tainted, because it lacked an internal association with my true identity.  My identity instead became further squashed and suppressed during twelve years of undignifying, degrading, demeaning homelessness.

So when was I actually liberated from the Mainstream?   It happened the moment I rose up from the prayer that I quoted in the previous entry.  At approximately midnight of an unknown date in July 2016, I fervently appealed to the Universe to put an end to twelve years of homelessness.  I made that appeal in the name of Jesus Christ.  When I rose up from my knees, I sensed something was very different.   I didn’t know it yet — but I was free at last.

Exactly how free, I will divulge in the seventh and final post of this series.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 71

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Uncertainty.

Q. Uncertainty about what?

A. About whether I ought to contact a group of theologians.

Q. Theologians?

A. University professors interested in theology.

Q. Why would you want to contact them?

A. To vindicate myself.

Q. Were you falsely accused?

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. What was their accusation?

A. That I did not make any sense.

Q. When?

A. When I expressed my personal theological conjecture.

Q. Which is?

A. I call it “The Clone Theory of Creation.”

Q. What’s that?

A. Hard to express.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have told me I wasn’t making sense.

Q. Give it a try?

A. That’s why I’m here.

The Answerer clears his throat.

download

A. Simply stated, the Clone Theory of Creation intends to demonstrate a parallel between the creation of life by God and the scientific replication of life that occurs during genetic cloning.

Q. What inspired this theory?

A. Genesis 1:26.   “Let us make Man in Our Image.”

Q. You believe that when God made Man in Their Image, it was like scientists cloning a human embryo, and thus creating a replicate in the image of the embryo?

A. Exactly.

Q. Isn’t that a bit far-fetched?

A. One would think so at first.  However, I later found numerous Scriptures that appear to confirm the hypothesis.

Q. Why did the theologians think you weren’t making sense?

A. Probably because I wasn’t!   I’d never really tried to express the theory before, and when I did, I became extremely tongue-tied.  I must have rambled for five minutes, before the professor to my right put his hand on my shoulder, and said: “Andy, I hate to break it to you, but nothing you’ve said in the past five minutes has made any sense at all.”

Q. What happened then?

A. I was embarrassed.  I felt my face turn beet red.  And I told them so.

Q. Are you sure that not one of those professors thought you were making any sense?

A. Quite sure.  There was, however, a young man present — a student — who approached me afterwards.  He assured me that the theory had made sense to him.  But he also said something that discouraged me.

Q. What was that?

A. He said: “I followed your theory, and I thought you were making sense.  But in deference to your age, wisdom, and maturity, I would like to suggest that even you, Andy, know that your theory is OUT THERE.”

Q. How did you feel then?

A. Shot down.

Q. Why?

A. Probably because of my ego.  You see, at the previous such meeting of theologians, I felt that I was shining unusually brightly.   A respected professor emeritus of philosophy even expressed a desire to have lunch with me sometime — a man held in high regard, who had spent three years in India with the Maharishi, and wrote a book about Gandhi.  People seemed to admire me for my biblical knowledge, as well as my knowledge of denominational differences.

Q. How did you pick up your knowledge of denominational differences?

A. Probably by losing jobs as a piano player with just about every denomination on the planet.  But, despite looming loss of job, I always enjoyed soaking in the sermons, and comparing those of one denominational slant to that of another.   My history of failed church jobs reads like a class in “Comparative Christianity.”

Q. So you felt that you had really shone at the previous meeting?

A. Yes.

Q. Then what?

A. Then my ego told me I had an image to maintain!   So I went to the next meeting eager to sustain my positive image, in the eyes of the professors present.

Q. And?

A. Because of that egoistic expectation, I tried too hard to prove myself.  And in trying too hard, I failed.

Q. Is there a moral to this story?

A. There certainly is.

Q. And the moral is?

A. Ditch the ego, dude.  Just be yourself.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.  I’d like to ask a question of you, and of my readers.

Q. What is the question?

A. Am I making any sense?

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 68

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Processing.

Q. Processing what?

A. Thoughts.

Q. Where does this occur?

A. In the brain.

Q. Not in the mind?

A. No.  The brain and the mind are two different things.

Q. How’s that?

A. The brain is the physical organ inside the body whose function is to process the thoughts that are formed in the mind.

Q. And the mind is not in the body?

A. No.

Q. Where is it, then?

A. That question is difficult to answer, because I have never been out of the body.

Q. You haven’t?

A. OK I take it back.  I have been out of the body.   It’s happened several times during sleep paralysis.  But I don’t know the name of the place that I go to when I have left the body.

Q. Do you enjoy leaving the body?

A. Not at all.

Q. You’re not into astral projection?

A. I understand that some people astral-project on purpose.  For me, that would be like sky-diving or bungee-jumping.  No thanks.

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Q. Why not?

A. Why?

Q. Isn’t there a sense of adventure involved?   And exploration?

A. Sure there is.  But there are many other realms to explore where I have found adventure.  That just doesn’t happen to be a realm I am interested in exploring.

Q. Why not?

A. Why?

Q. Why are you avoiding the question?  Are you afraid of astral-projecting?

A. Wow, we are really off the subject!

Q. What is the subject?

A. I was hoping to talk about thought processing.

Q. Can we discuss that later?

A. I suppose.

Q. So what is it about astral projection?

A. My God doesn’t want me involved there.

Q. Why not?

A. He says that this kind of practice is unnecessary and unwise.  

Q. Are you sure you’re not just afraid of it?

A. Well, to be honest with you, once I was out there for a really long time, and yes it was scary.  It was as though I were immersed in a raging river, struggling to stay afloat.  I felt as though there were rocks on either side of the river that I might have been dashed against. I heard three male voices right nearby, saying things like: “This way!”  “Keep him from heading that way!”  “I got him!”  “He’s safe!”  It felt as though these beings had been assigned to keep me from my ass kicked out there.

Q. But you eventually came back?

A. Three times.  When I came back it was like being washed ashore.  But then I went back into the paralysis, and soared up into the “Beyond” again —  and the same thing started over again.   After the third time, I gave up and went to the Emergency Room.

Q. What happened there?

A. I told the doctor exactly what I just told you.

Q. What did the doctor do?

A. He said: “Your description was very poetic.”  Then he dished out the benzos.

Image result for benzos

Q. Is that what you wanted?  The benzos?

A. Not at all.  I hate benzos.  They had me on 6mg of klonopin a day for almost ten years.  I got off it cold turkey on May 10, 2004 and have been hyped up ever since.

Q. Well, what did the benzos do?

A. They enabled to get back to sleep without entering into paralysis.

Q. So they worked?

A. Yes — for a one time shot.  I didn’t take any further, after that.

Q. Then you admit it was scary?

A. Yes.  And it wasn’t comfortable.

Q. But don’t some people astral-project on purpose, and enjoy it?  

A. Of course they do.  I’m just not one of those people.

Q. And you believe your God has told you not to do it?

A.  Yes.  

Q. How did He tell you this?

A. Look.  I seek Him all the time, all day long, moment to moment, throughout each day.  He says in His Word to “seek first the kingdom of God, and the rest will be added to you.”  Seeking the kingdom means setting priorities.   This isn’t a priority in my life.  There are other priorities that are far more important to who I am and what I am here to do.

Q. Like what?

A. I think you know what I’m about.  I’ve got all kinds of things to do besides waste my time soaring through the Beyond wondering how long it’s going to be before I come back.

Q. So you are calling the place where the Mind exists the Beyond?

A. Yes, I recall now, that’s what they called it.

Q. They?

A. They.

Q. They who?

A. I don’t remember their names.  

Q. How did you meet them?

A. Channeling.

Q. You were channeling?

A. Yes.

Q. Aren’t you a Christian?

A. I prefer the term Christ Follower.

Q. Aren’t Christians not supposed to channel?

A. I was doing it anyway.

Q. Then you disobeyed your God?

A. I did.

Q. Why?

A. Well — it was all part of a larger disobedience.   I was inquisitive as to a greater picture.  

Q. A greater picture than what?

A. Than what’s ordinarily available through the usual methods of research based on empirical data and sense experience.   I wanted to learn some secrets, that’s all.

Q. But isn’t God capable of revealing any information worth learning?

A. He certainly is.

Q. Then why didn’t you just turn to Him?  And to His Word?

A. Because I was tempted.  So severely tempted, that I succumbed.

Q. Why did you not resist?

A. Because I suspected I would learn something.  And I wanted badly to learn.

Q. What did you learn?

A. Mostly that in seeking greater knowledge, I lost sight of love.

Q. So you regret the search?

A. Not entirely, no.  It might be that the search can still be conducted, though not at the expense of love.

Q. How was love sacrificed?

A. Damage to essential self.  Self in need of self-care, of love.

Q. Self-love has been difficult since then?

A. I emerged with incredible boundary issues, to be honest.  I go about trying to serve others, as a Christ Follower.   But often I neglect my own needs in trying to serve others.  And then, sadly, I wind up not helping the others much either.

Q. Are you sad?

A. Not particularly, no.  I’m just trying to focus on other ways to be of service.   Astral projection and channeling are not ways for me to be in service to others.

Q. Where were you when all this happened?

A. Outside.   Sleeping in strange nooks and crannies.   This particular experience occurred in a stairwell attached to Berkeley City College.  

Image result for sleeping rough clipart

Q. Why is this all coming up now?

A. Because the things I learned are beginning to come back to me.   Like the word “Beyond” for example.  

Q. Why do you think that is?

A. Passage of time is clarifying the message.   And I’m getting better sleep. 

Q. Why is sleep so important?

A. I’m not entirely sure yet.  But it has something to do with the realm of Mind as it relates to sleep states and dream states.

Q. Do you think it will all come back?

A. Only the good and useful parts will come back.

Q. Not all of it was good?

A. No.  Some of it was clearly good and breathtakingly beautiful.   It bespoke an incredible array of hope for the human race.  But its glory was obscured by all kinds of garbage.  It was as though the garbage were thrown in there by malevolent entities in order to keep me from getting the Beauty.

Q. And your job was to edit out the garbage?

A. It could have been.  And it still might be, in some ways.  It’s just that — it seems I can’t possibly serve the good of the planet at the expense of my personal health.

Q. But didn’t Jesus do just that?

A. He died, yes, that many others might live.  But He also rose again.  If I destroy myself, I doubt I will rise again.  I am not God.  He was.  Or that is, an incarnation thereof.  

Q. But aren’t you a Christ Follower?   Don’t you believe that if you died in Him, you will also live in Him?

A. Sure I do.

Q. Don’t you believe that, even if you destroy yourself, you will rise again to live on in heaven?

A. Why are you tempting me to destroy myself?

Q. Why are you unwilling to do so?   Did not Jesus destroy himself?

A. No he did not.

Q. How can you say that?   Didn’t he have a choice in the matter?   Couldn’t he have refused to take up his cross?

A. Had he refused to do so, you and I might both be burning in hell.

Q. But don’t you feel that you may have a special calling?   A mission to delve as deeply into these dark ethereal waters as you can, in order that humanity will receieve a needed message?

A.  I feel that I am delving deep enough into dark enough waters as it is, without risking destroying myself in the process.   And humanity will receive whatever message it is that I am meant to convey.

Q. Well then — can you at least give me a rough overview of what you learned?

A. I’ve given you enough information — for now.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 67

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Depends on where inside.

Q. How about your stomach?

A. Not much acid.  More alkaline.

Q. Your heart?

A. Steady and strong.

Q. Your brain?

A. I was afraid you’d mention that one.

Q. What’s wrong with that one?

A. Oh, I’d say it’s probably damaged by now.

Q. Damaged where?

A. The hull of the skull.  I’ve got holes in my head.

Q. Like leaks in a roof?

A. Very much so.

Q. And the rain’s getting in?

A. Rain?  More like cosmic storms.   Bolts of supernatural lightning.   Fiery darts from the second heavens.  All kinds of random data from the Universe.  Hopes mixed with fears.  Love mixed with hate.  I’m all over the map.  I’m a wreck.

Q. Do you feel as though thoughts are flying to your brain from multiple external sources?

A. You took the words right out of my mouth.

Q. Then what?

A. The thoughts formed in external realms of the Mind are now confined in my own little mini-brain, trapped as it were, bouncing off the walls of my cerebral cortex, struggling to interact and make sense of each other.

Q. But the thoughts did not originate in your brain?

A. No, they did not. The brain is only a processor for thoughts that have their origin in mysterious realms of Non-Incarnate Mind.

Q. Realms of the Spirit?

A. Indeed. If I think any of my thoughts are original, I imagine I only deceive myself.  Surely they have all been thought before.

Q. Are you sure about that?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because the incompatibility of multiple thoughts in my own little brain bespeaks a greater incompatibility with these kinds of thoughts in the Universe at large.   I doubt these thoughts want to think too closely to each other, for they repel each other by nature.

Q. And now?

A. And now, though they repel each other, they do so in such an infinitesimally small habitat, they cannot help but bounce off the walls of this badly battered brain of mine, and by and by collide.

Q. What happens then?

A. Well naturally, they’re forced to coalesce with each other, living together in such close quarters, and so they combine themselves into new thoughts full of contradictions.  These contradictory thoughts are certainly formed in my own mind — not in the Universe at large.  For in the Universe at large, where they succeed at avoiding each other, no such combinations would be possible.

Q. How does it feel when this happens?

A. It feels as though war is waging within me.   Uncertain, endless war, with many sides at enmity with each other, and no clear or concrete alliances.

Q. Is there a way to stop the war?   To bring peace to your overloaded brain?

A. Only by reconciling all the myriad differences that entail among these different forms of thought, and thus inaugurating a new age of greater understanding and harmony within me.

Q. How can this be achieved?

A. Only by persistence in mediation on my part, until the thoughts are able to live with each other’s differences, and cease to fly about the brain as though bats in a belfry.

Q. How likely is this?

A. About as likely as achieving peace on Earth.

Q. Is that unlikely?

A. Not if we persist.  Not if we never abandon hope.   We can all do it together — if we try.

Describe who you are in 3 words. - December 19th, 2016 - Daily Challenge - MeYou Health

The Questioner is silent.

 

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Overcome Evil with Good

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

Never flag* in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.

Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

— Romans 12:9-21 RSV


*
The word “flag” has a meaning equivalent to the modern term “slack.”  The Revised Standard Version of the Bible (RSV) was produced in 1952.

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Tuesday Tuneup 66

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Having a third cup of coffee.

Q. Was there something wrong with the first two cups?

A. No — in fact, there was something right about them.

Q. What was that?

A. They tasted good.

Q. Are you trying to tell me that just because your first two cups of coffee tasted good, you’re drinking a third one?

A. That’s what I said, isn’t it?

Q. Well — don’t you think there’s something wrong with you?

A. There are many things wrong with me, as with us all.  But what are you driving at?

Q. Don’t you know that it’s unhealthy to indulge that which you enjoy to unneeded extremes?

A. Uh — a third cup of coffee is an “unneeded extreme?”

Q. Isn’t it well known that two cups of coffee are sufficient for all?   And that a third cup is extreme?

A. But how often do I actually have a third cup?

Q. I don’t know – how often?

A. Almost never.

Q. Your point?

A. My point is that it would be more extreme to remain at two cups every morning than to allow myself the occasional indulgence of a third cup.

Q. So you justify your indulgence on the basis of its rarity?

A. Yes.  It is so rare that I bother having a third cup of coffee, that I really don’t think I am in danger of overdoing it.

Q. Have you experienced any palpitations of the heart lately?

A. None.

Q. What about your excrement?  Notice anything strange in your poop?

A. Funny, my doctor asked me the same two questions last week.  And again I say, none.

Q. Why did your doctor ask you those questions?

A. Low thyroid, apparently.

Q. But don’t you take thyroid medication?

A. Begrudgingly, yes.

Q. Why is it begrudging?

A. Because I have to wait a half hour after taking it before I am allowed to have a morning cup of coffee.

Q. Isn’t that cruel and unusual punishment?

A. It has occurred to me more than once that the doctor’s orders are a violation of my 8th Amendment Rights.

Eighth Amendment: Banning Cruel and Unusual Punishment - David J. Shestokas

Q. And who else has violated your 8th Amendment Rights?

A. Glad you asked.   Before 2016, when I was experiencing homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area, lots of people violated my 8th Amendment Rights because they kept waking me up when I had nowhere else to sleep.  Then finally Martin v. Boise came into effect, and Judge Marsha Berson ruled that it is unconstitutional to wake up someone who is sleeping on public property and tell them to move, if in fact they have nowhere else to sleep.  So, at least in the 9th Circuit, including most Western States, I am free to be homeless again and not fear unjust awakening.

Q. Do you want to be homeless again?

A. Kinda.

Q. Why?

A. You want an honest answer?

Q. Of course.

A. Because I got to be good at it.   Really, the main thing that bothered me was all the awakenings in the middle of the night, when I was only trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Q. But will those awakenings stop just because of a new ruling?

A. Come to think of it, probably not.

Q. Why not?

A. For one thing, not all of the awakenings were by authority figures.   A lot of them were by other homeless people, and many of them were by random thieves and vandals roaming the area looking for easy marks.   What mark could be easier than a sleeping homeless person?

Q. So you say you got a lot of things stolen from you in the middle of the night?

A. Yes.  Also was threatened to bodily harm quite a bit, when I awakened to the sight of a stranger telling me I had stolen “his spot.”

Q. Would you say homelessness has lost its appeal?

A. Most of it, yes.

Q. Why did it ever appeal to you in the first place?

A. As earlier stated, it seemed a thing I could probably do well.   After all, I wasn’t managing very well at hanging on to a living situation.

Q. But you’re hanging on to your living situation now, aren’t you?

A. Seems that way, yes.  In a few short days I will have paid my rent on time for the 26th month in a row.   And prior to that, on a smaller cheaper place, fifteen months in a row.

Q. Doesn’t that give you a sense of stability?

A. It does.

Q. Then why on earth would you ever consider being homeless again?

A. Why on earth should I value something like “stability?”

Q. What do you mean?

A. We’re all going to die anyway, right?

Q. So?

A. So there’s no such thing as stability on this planet.  If we get too attached to things that make us feel stable, they will eventually be taken from us, and then we will have a really hard time letting go of them.  Better not to become so attached.  Better to be ready for anything.

Q. Anything?

A. You heard me.  Especially nowadays.   It is better to live spontaneously, and for one to ready oneself for anything — than to seek the fragile semblances of stability that this passing world has to offer.

Q. You really believe that?

A. I said it, didn’t I?

Q, Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. I don’t know.  Why do you?   

The Questioner is silent.  

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Paralyzed

Meant to get this to you earlier.  It was first published in the October “special issue” of Street Spirit and subsequently submitted to the International Network of Street Papers, where it has been published elsewhere.   And now, here as well.   Hope you enjoy it.  

Paralyzed: The Demons That Prey on the Homeless
by Andy Pope

When one is homeless, one is by definition exposed to all kinds of elements that escape the confines of one who lives indoors.  Weather is only one such element.  There are also predatorial elements — people who invade the space of someone who has no physical barrier to separate them from intruders of the night.

There is also another kind of predator sometimes encountered in the darkness.  This is the supernatural predator, often colloquially referred to as a “demon” — an entity that invades one’s dream states, or states of half-sleep.

Homeless friends of mine reported being “hassled” or “attacked” by malevolent entities that seemed to hover over various outdoor spots where we tried to sleep.  I sometimes sensed these invasions as well.  Typically, I would become paralyzed, and suddenly feel as though an invisible hostile creature was grabbing me and rubbing or scratching me with things that felt like paws or claws.  Sometimes I would feel as though I were being pounded on.  I would hear abusive voices as this happened: “Andy, you scum bag!! You are a total piece of shit!!!!”

Whether these were truly alien invaders from outer space, or merely the subconscious reflection of my own low self-esteem, I cannot say.

I learned that these attacks have a name: sleep paralysis.  Sleep paralysis is a condition where one is awake to one’s surroundings but lacks motor control.  In other words, you’re not awake enough to move your body, but awake enough to know what’s going on.  It often strikes during times when the usual patterns of sleep have been disrupted.  In my experience, very few things have disrupted my normal sleep patterns as much as the overall conditions of homelessness.

As a person who has had sleep paralysis since the age of 14, I am among the 8 percent of the population for whom this condition is commonplace.  When I was homeless, I noticed that these intrusions would be different depending on when and where they occurred.  For example, intrusions in Ohlone Park were different than those that took place on the steps of St. Joseph the Worker church or outside the Rubicon building.  I always sensed that I was being assaulted by some kind of invisible entity, but the nature of the entity would differ according to where it was that I was trying (unsuccessfully) to sleep.

If I were to take a daytime nap on Bart, however, I noticed that I was free of these mysterious assailants.  However, when the train would stop, sometimes they would attack.  This gave rise to the theory that they lived in a reality that intersected the normal Earth-based reality at certain spots, but that they were unable to traverse the surface of the Earth — at least not at speeds corresponding to those of rapid transit.   This theory is reminiscent of the concept of the “tesseract” expounded in the book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engel.  

Another theory had to do with the veracity of these demon-riddled reports.  How plausible were they really?   How credible were those who reported them?   And most of all, who was most likely to believe them?  I could not help but notice that those who were impoverished, homeless, on disability, working poor, or low-wage blue collar or assembly line workers were the quickest to embrace and believe my reports of sleep paralysis.  Often, people in the lower socio-economic brackets would share their own similar experiences of encounters with “demons.”  But people in the scientific community, upper level academicians, white collar workers, and corporate business people seemed often to scoff at our accounts, writing them off the same way that they wrote off all of our statements.  To be sure, this is another type of paralysis — one that is relentless, and occurs in broad daylight.

Whatever the cause or effect of these widespread stories, one thing seemed most disturbingly clear.  There were legions of demons haunting the realm of the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, the unprotected, and the abandoned.  Whether they meet us in dream states or in harsh reality, there are far more homeless demons than meet the eye.

Andy Pope is a freelance writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest, and the author of Eden in Babylon, a musical about youth homelessness in urban America.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 64

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I don’t know.

Q. What do you mean, you don’t know?

A. I mean, I don’t know why I’m still sitting here.  I’m supposed to go to a Christmas party.

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. Because I dislike forced social gatherings, especially when I would rather be alone.

Q. Would you really rather be alone?

A. Well — maybe not.  It would be nice to be among people.  But not at a forced, previously defined, premeditated gathering.  

Q. Why not?

A. Because no doubt they will force various activities upon me that are supposed to be fun, but that will wind up only embarrassing me and testing the limits of my ability to perform as normal in public.

Q. As normal?

A. You heard me.

Q. What the heck is “normal?”   Have you ever met anybody who’s normal??

A. Of course I have!   Just about everybody I’ve ever met is normal — at least compared to me, they are.

Q. But why compare them to you?

A. You mean to say I shouldn’t?

Q. Well, why should you?

A. I don’t know.  Just comes natural, I guess.

Q. But why give in to what comes natural?  If you always went with what was natural, wouldn’t you find yourself acting on some basic instinct, and winding up in a– a– 

download.jpgA. A jail cell, right?   Go ahead and say it.

Q. Why a jail cell?  Why not a psych ward?

A. Six of one, a half dozen of the other.

Q. What about the Christmas party?

A. What about it?

Q. It’s not a jail cell, is it?   It’s not a psych ward, is it?

A. Uh — er — I don’t suppose so, no . . .

Q. Then why not go to the party?

A. I can’t just go anywhere I please, on the basis of it not being as bad as a jail cell or a psych ward!

Q. Why not?

A. Because — that’s setting a pretty low bar.   I mean, you might as well tell me to go hang out in the Emergency Room.

Q. Wouldn’t the party be better than the Emergency Room?

A. That’s debatable.  In the Emergency room, there’s free coffee, and they’ll probably let me sit there all night, unless they’re busy.  Besides, they all know me, and they’re friendly toward me.  They’ll just say, “Hi Andy!”  And I’ll pick up a magazine, read it, and feel right at home.

Q. You honestly think that will be better than the Christmas party?

A. Maybe, maybe not.  But at least in the Emergency Room, I know what I’m in for.  At the party, anything could happen.  

Q. Like what?

A. There could be alcoholic beverages there.

Q. So what?  You don’t drink, do you?

A. No I don’t, personally.   But others might, and they might get drunk.  I can’t stand being around drunken people.

Q. But suppose nobody gets drunk.   What else might go wrong?

A. They might offer me marijuana.

Q. Then what will happen?

A. What do you think will happen?  Don’t be silly!   I’ll smoke it, and be grateful for it.

Q. If you would be grateful for it, then why would that be a bad thing?

A. Because I like it too much, and I’ll probably want to go out and buy some, which will cost me money I don’t have.   And then, I will no longer be grateful.  Besides, I like my sobriety.  It feels good.

Q. Can’t you just say no?

A. I could.  But I won’t.

Q. Have you ever tried?

A. Can’t say that I have, no.   

Q. Then why not just try saying no?  Just this once?

A, Okay.  I’ll grant you that.  But there are other temptations that could arise.

Q. Like what?

A. Oh — well lately — not sure how to broach the subject.  You see, I don’t deal well with these holidays.  People take off, everybody kinda leaves me in the lurch, and I feel more lonely than usual.   Usually, I’m not lonely at all.  In fact, I disdain loneliness.  I feel that loneliness is a pathetic and pointless feeling.   It’s like self-pity.  I should be bigger and better than such self-absorbed pettiness. 

Q. How did that answer my question?

A. It didn’t.  I just hadn’t gotten around to the point yet.

Q. Beating around the bush?

A. All right then.  When I’m lonely, I’m vulnerable.   I might meet another lonely person, and then — we might sort of hang out together — on the basis of mutual loneliness — and you know where that leads.

Todd Rundgren Quote: “Love between the ugly, is the most beautiful love of all.” (7 wallpapers ...Q. I do?

A. Don’t you?

Q. Why would I?

A. Come on!   Surely you’ve been lonely before!

Q. How could I have been lonely?

A. Hmm – well maybe you haven’t been then.  But I’ll tell you.   When two people get together, and they’re both lonely, it can lead to some pretty bad places.  

Q. Like where?

A. Like — like —

Q. Like what?

A. It can lead to places like —

Q. Hmm?

A. (after a pause) All right, I give up.   I’ll just go to the party.    

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 63

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I’m doing my morning, starting my day.

Q. Do you do this every morning?

A. No, not every morning.

Q. Every Tuesday, then?

A. Not really, no. Only on some Tuesdays. Sometimes on Sunday mornings or Friday nights. Other times, not at all.

Q. What about your morning ritual?

A. What ritual? There is no such thing.

Q. But haven’t I heard you recently tell people about your morning ritual?

A. I may have. I believe it lasted for about four days.

Q. What happened after four days?

A. I imploded.

Q. What do you think caused the implosion?

A. It was the fact of my forcing myself to follow a regimen that ran counter to my natural biorhythms and overall design. The ritual failed to honor my nature, and thus it backfired. I have now rejected the ritual, and have returned to my former, much more spontaneous treatment of the mornings.

Q. Spontaneous?

A. Yes. I simply get up and do whatever I want to do.

Q. What did you do this morning?

A. I started this Tuesday Tuneup, figuring it was Tuesday. Then I went to the 24 hour store down the way for a large coffee to get myself revved up. When I got back inside, I cranked up my Audacity software and started doing the final edits on a three way distribution of the new Suspended album onto three large wave files. This is for posting online for those for whom a hard copy CD is meaningless. I have figured out a way to make them pay for having it on the Internet, it requires my releasing the url to a personal link.

This project being divided into Parts 1-4, Parts 5-8, and Parts 9-12, I finished Parts 1-4 before calling Danielle. This is our regular morning call, and I thought I was late, but it turned out she was running late. So we got a good chance to talk.

Q. Regular call, you say?

A. Well, not too regular. Moderately regular, within reason.

Q. Do you do nothing with regularity?

A. I do not, yes that’s right.

Q. Why is this?

A. Because regularity rigidifies, and cyphens one in to its own restricted domain, whereby one regards as intrusive any externalia, despite its level of priority. In the opposite of regularity — which is spontaneity — one remains ready for anything, and will deal with passing, more pressing priorities as they arise. This is all part of the practice of spontaneity.

Q. And this is what you practice?

A. Yes. This is why I am irregular, and disdain ritualistic routines.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 61

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I’m fulfilling the requirement.

Q. What requirement?

A. I’m required to come up with a Tuesday Tuneup every Tuesday morning.

Q. Is that a requirement?  Or just a desire?

A. Okay, it’s a desire.  A requirement sounds a bit harsh, you’re right.

Q. Did I say anything about a requirement being harsh?

A. No – I suppose you didn’t.  But what is your question?

Q. My question is, why would you feel obligated to produce a Tuesday Tuneup if you don’t have anything in particular on your mind?   

A. Because it’s not really possible for there to be nothing on my mind.  The mind was designed to think.   And you have a way of drawing out what’s on my mind, even if I don’t know what it is at the start.

Q. What is on your mind?

A. What’s on my mind is how there really doesn’t seem to be anything on my mind this morning.

Q. But isn’t that on your mind?

Wellness Clipart | Free download best Wellness Clipart on ClipArtMag.comA. Ha — this is the kind of stuff that happens during meditation.

Q. Have you been meditating too much lately?

A. Well, uh – more than usual.  I don’t know it it’s too much.

Q. Do you think that meditation is clearing your mind of its thoughts?

A. Not exactly.  Otherwise none of this would be happening.  These are my thoughts, aren’t they?

Q. But didn’t you just say there was nothing on your mind?

A. Uh . . . I guess I was . . . a bit premature in presuming to pretend I had precluded all premediation from my — 

Q. From your preschool mentality?

A. Now you’re getting downright insulting!

Q. But aren’t I just playing off all the things you’re saying to me?

A. Jesus!   Now I know why meditation is such a menace.   I’m lacing up my shoes for a run in the snowy snow snow.   Laterz.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 60

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Thinking.

Q. About what?

A. About what to do next.

Q. What are your options?

A. Well, I can start working on one of two stories due Friday, I can continue working on my new musical, or I can do neither of the above.

Q. What will happen if you do neither of the above?

A. I’ll probably flop down on the floor from exhaustion.

Q. Have you been working too hard lately?

A. You might say so.

Q. Why?

A. Because everybody else says so.

Q. I meant, why you have been working so hard?

A. Because I’ve been hurt.

Q. What is the relationship between your working hard and your having been hurt?

A. When I’m hurt, I don’t like to experience the super-painful feelings.  So I dive into a creative project of some kind.  Something so engaging that it takes my mind off the hurt.

Q. Isn’t that unhealthy?

A. Why would it be unhealthy?

Q. Aren’t you supposed to face the hurt directly?   Walk through the pain?   Experience it fully until it has been processed?

A. Why would I be supposed to do that?

Q. Wouldn’t you be in denial if you don’t?

A. Denial of what?

Q. Denial of your feelings?

A. I don’t think so.  I already know how horribly painful the feelings are.   That’s the reason why I turn my attention away from them in the first place.

Q. In other words, your creative work is your painkiller?

A. You could put it that way, yes.

Q. How long have you been doing this?

A. I believe I was seven years old when I began to do this.

Q. What happened when you were seven?

A. Somebody hurt me.  And that same year, I learned how to play the piano, write music, write stories, and draw pictures.

Q. Who hurt you?

A. God.

Q. How could God have hurt you?

A. He hurt me in the sense that He created death.   Before I found out about death, I assumed I was going to live forever, in a very happy place, with a loving family.  Naturally, when I learned this was not the case, I was shattered.   And not only on my own behalf.  I was shattered on behalf of the entire human race.

Q. Would it be better if we all lived forever?

A. Yes.

Q. But won’t we all live forever anyway?  I mean, in heaven?

A. We’d certainly like to think so.  But apparently that statement has been the theme of much debate.

Q. Would you like to engage in such a debate at this time?

A. No, I would not.

Q. What would you like to do at this time?

A. To be honest, my heart is hugely into this new musical of mine.  When I was super-hurt yesterday, I sat down and cranked out five songs for the first scene — songs I’d already written (music only, no lyrics) and saw in a very short time how they could form the exposition and a good part of the development of an engaging new story line. And I’m psyched! This really could be the best of all the musicals, if I hunker down.

Q. How many musicals have you written?

A. Five.

Q. How many have been produced?

A. One.

Q. Why only one?

A. Because the process of trying to produce a musical is tedious, cumbersome, arduous, uncertain, stressful, frustrating, maddening, and painful.

Q. And you don’t like to face those feelings?

A. You know I don’t.

Q. So what do you do instead?

A. Usually, I write another musical.  But not immediately.  I have to let the last musical set for a while.

Q. What do you do in the meantime?  I mean, if you get hurt?

A. Depending on the level of the hurt, I either write a poem, an essay, or a song.  Unless the hurt is really really huge.

Q. What happens when the hurt is really really huge?

A. I jump the gun and dive into the next musical.   It’s the way I roll.  When my mom died, I wrote a musical.   When my wife left me years ago, I wrote a musical.

Q. And you’ve started yet another musical?   A sixth?  And you knocked out the first Scene with five songs in one morning?

A. Yes.

Q. How hurt must you have been to do something so huge!?

A. It’s not really important how hurt I was, or who hurt me, or why.  The important thing is that I’m tired.

Q. Tired?

A. Tired and weary.

Q. Tired of what?

A, Please move on to the next question.

Q. So what is this new musical going to be about?

A. The original hurt.

Q. You mean, when you were seven?

A. No.  Even more original.  I’m talking about what happened in the Garden.

Q. You mean, Eden?

A. Eden.  The Garden that we’re all unconsciously trying to return to.

garden.jpg

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 59

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Killing time.

Q. Have you ever really stopped to think about that expression?

A. What expression?

Q. Killing time?

A. No, not really.

Q. Well, think about it!  How can time be killed?

A. But — it’s only an expression.

Q. Why do you not answer my question directly?

A. All right, all right.  Literally speaking, I have no idea how time can be killed.

Q. Then what makes you think you can kill it?

A. That would seem rather presumptuous of me.

Q. So!  What are you really doing here?

A. Waiting.

Q. Waiting for what?

A. For it to be 11:24.

Q. What time is it now?

A. 11:05.

Q. What happens at 11:24?

A. The bus comes.

Q. Are you sitting at the bus stop right now?

A. No, I’m sitting in the Courtyard Cafe with my computer.

Q. How long will it take you to get from the Courtyard Cafe to the bus stop?

A. About two minutes.

Q. Then shouldn’t you have said you were waiting for it to be 11:22?   Won’t you miss the bus if you wait all the way till 11:24?

A. All right, then.   I’m waiting for it to become 11:22.

Q. What time is it now?

A. 11:08.

Q. So for how many more minutes will you need to keep this up?

A. For 14 minutes, sir.

Q. Why did you call me “sir?”

A. I don’t know.  It seemed — courteous.

the GADFLY - Music Venues - 117 Elm St, La Grande, OR ...Q. But what makes you think I’m a man?   Couldn’t I be a woman?   Why didn’t you call me “madam” instead?   Why did you assume I am a man?

A. I don’t know — uh maybe some kind of unconscious sexism of some sort?

Q. Sexism?   Don’t you believe in equal rights for women?

A. Equal, uh, er, rights, yes — and equal opportunity — but perhaps not equality in terms of — of —

Q. In terms of what, may I ask?

A. Well, I mean, anybody knows there are innate differences in the way men and women process information . . .

Q. Are you saying that women are less intelligent than men?

A. Don’t put words in my mouth!   I said nothing of the kind!

Q. Well then!   Just what are these innate differences you’re so convinced exist?

A. Um . . . for one thing, it’s well-known that men are more solution-oriented, and that women are — are —

Q. More problem-oriented?!   Is that what you’re suggesting?   That all we do is cause problems??

(Awkward pause.)

A. What time is it?

Q. Aren’t I supposed to be asking you the questions?

A. All right, it’s 11:14 already.

Q. And just how do you propose to spend the next 8 minutes?

A. In total silence, preferably.

Q. How the hell are you going to get that to happen?

A. Probably only if one of us stops talking.

Q. And who might that be?

A. I would hope that you would be the one to stop talking first!

Q. And if I don’t?

The Answerer is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 58

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I have no idea.

Q. None whatsoever?

A. None at all.

Q. How could this come to be?

A. Not sure.  My guess is that it may be due to an emptying of the mind.

Q. Are you trying to tell me that your mind is empty?

A. Well — emptier.  It’s usually full of all kinds of fancy notions.   It seems to have been cleared of many of them.

Q. What kinds of fancy notions?

A. Oh, this and that.

Q. Can you be more specific?

A. Well — it used to be, not too long ago, my life seemed to depend on certain things falling into place.  Certain things happening.   

Q. What kinds of things?

A. Professional things.   And some personal things.

Q. Too personal to discuss?

A. Next question, please.

Q. Are these things no longer happening?

A. Not exactly as I’d expected, no.  But bright things are emerging, both in personal and professional arenas.

Q. What kinds of things?

A. New things.

Q. New?

Q. Yes.  My world has been emptied of old things.   Things no longer pertinent to a newly emerging life.

Q. Do you know exactly what the new life will entail?

A. Not at all, sir.  I can only say that I’m very much looking forward to it.

Q. How did this all come to pass?

A. Through meditation.   And surrender.

Q. Surrender of what?

A. I already told you, sir!  Of old ideas.   Please don’t pry.

Q. Am I prying?

A. Yes.

Q. Should I apologize?

A. Only if it makes you feel better.

Q. So after you emptied your mind, did it come to be filled with new things?

A. Not filled to the brim.   But there’s a process of its being filled.

Q. By whom?

A. By God.   He can’t fill a full cup.  He can only fill an empty cup.

Q. Do you believe in God?

A. I do.

Q, How do you equate such an antiquated belief with your intellect?

A. The Word “God” is only a Word.   Words have meaning.  Ask yourself what the Word means.   Then read John Chapter One, Verse One.   Use the Berean Study Bible for ease of use and accurate translation.  Or the Revised Standard — that’s my suggestion.  Start from there.  Just try it.  And then — don’t read cover to cover.  The Word is not a novel.  Read where the Spirit leads you.   

Q. Why?

A. Because I did.  And another intellectual did — someone whom I love.   And countless others.   Believe me, it’s worth the search.   

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 57

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Waking up.

Q. Literally or figuratively?

A. Both.

Q. Aren’t you usually an early riser?

A. Up at 3 this morning.   There’s a chair where I meditate sometimes.  I sat down to meditate, and fell asleep.

Q. Is this a good thing?

A. Sleep?  Generally, yes.  I don’t think we get enough of it.

Q. We?

A. We the People of Today’s Society.   We seem to run ragged on the lack of it, and even glorify ourselves in the process, as though proud of this insanity.

Q. How did we ever get that way?

A. First Industrial Revolution, I suppose.  From there it happened gradually.

Q. What about figuratively?

A. Figuratively?   Refresh my memory.

Q. Aren’t you waking up in some sense other than the literal?

A. Well yeah.   Waking up to some of the harder realities.   Folly in my behavior.   False sense of nobility.   Twisted use of the Golden Rule.  

Q. Twisted?

A. Check it out:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  — Luke 6:35

Q. How did you twist that rule?

A. How do ya think?

Q. Did you expect something in return?

A. Yeah.   I didn’t think I did at the time, but I did.  When I was homeless, I expected compassion from people who lived indoors.  That was a pretty unwieldy expectation.  It set me up for a lot of disappointment.   Then when I lived indoors, I expected respect from those who were homeless.  That didn’t happen either.

Q. But the passage refers to loving your enemies.   Who, then, were your enemies?

A. That’s a loaded question.   For a long time, my enemies were just about anybody who slept in a bed, and who wouldn’t let me inside their front door, even for a half hour to take a needed shower, even when offered money in return.

Q. And how did you try to love these enemies?

A. By appealing to them.   By making them more important than my friends.   By trying to state my case, very respectfully, as to why they should let me inside their front doors.  By advising them how great their rewards would be in heaven if they did so.

Q. And who were your friends?

A. Homeless people.   People in the same boat.   People who knew how hard it was to be out there — not just being rained on — that wasn’t one tenth of it.   It was being stormed on — by people.   By condescending social workers, treating us as though we were good-for-nothing, incompetent nobodies.   By cops, security guards, business owners, property owners — and worst of all, other homeless people.   It was this indignity, this demeaning demoralizing crap, crammed into our heads, day after day, year after year — this idea that we were somehow worse than other human beings — if indeed, we were even regarded as human at all.  Much of the time, we were regarded rather as inanimate objects to be stepped around and shouted over, whilst we tried unsuccessfully to get our good night’s sleeps.  

Q. Go on.

A. I remember my one friend Jerome — a big black guy.   He and D’Angelo, another big black guy, they kinda protected me.   We slept in a big vacant lot.   I had my laptop.  If someone wanted to steal it, they’d have to get past these two big guys.  So I wasn’t so easy a mark.

Q. What about Jerome?

A. He would say to me — “Andy, if you ever get lucky enough to get inside again, you’re not going to be one of those guys who never lets us inside your house, are you?”

Q. What was your answer?

A. My answer was: “No!  Of course not!   I know what it’s like out here — I could never do that to any of you.”

Q. Then what?

A. Then I got inside.

Q. And you didn’t let them in?

A. I was thousands of miles away.  And light years away in culture.   I couldn’t let them in, so I let other homeless people in.   Homeless people, and people who were on the verge of homelessness.  

Q. And what happened?

A. Every single one of them took a gigantic dump on my good nature.   

Q. How so?

A. It pains me to go into detail.   I made house rules.   No alcohol in my house.   No cigarettes, no overnight guests, no sex.   Lights out at ten.   

Q. And they disobeyed your rules?

A.  Yes.  They dishonored my graciousness.   So you know what that means?   I expected something in return.  I expected appreciation.   I expected respect.    So where was the Golden Rule then?

Q. Aren’t you being a little —

A. Hard on myself?  Don’t even go there.   Yes, Jesus said to feed the hungry, to help the needy, and to take in the homeless.  He didn’t say that after I take in the homeless, I’m supposed to put up with them trashing my place and stealing from me.   How the hell is that helping anybody?   In fact, maybe it’s not about the Golden Rule.  It’s about not being a doormat, a masochist.   Not making oneself completely useless in a failed effort to help another.   Check it out, the very next verse:

“Be merciful, as your father in heaven is merciful.”  — Luke 6:36

Q. Is that what you were trying to do?   Be merciful?

A. Yeah, but I forgot something.   I’m one of the people I’m supposed to be merciful towards.

Q. So what about nobility?   

A. The sense of nobility, of ideals —  totally false.   A sham.   Nothing more than masochistic hypocrisy — if you can even imagine such a baffling combination.

Q. What would be more noble?

A. Gratitude.

Q. How so?  

A. I wanted them to be grateful.   They were not.   So I became bitter.  But then I thought, well, if I want someone to be grateful, then I myself should be grateful.   You know, Prayer of St. Francis.

Q. Refresh my memory?


A. If nothing else, it’s a great psychological tool.  If I want to be understood, I should understand.   If I want forgiveness, I should forgive.   So if I want gratitude, I should be grateful.

Q. Grateful to whom?

A. To God.   God gave me a nice secluded spot of my own after years of sleeping outdoors.  I had only prayed for a “lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet.”  God knew that was all I needed, and He gave me so much more than that.

Q. And how will you express this gratitude?

A. By being a good steward of this great blessing He has bestowed upon me.   By making it my spiritual sanctuary, my place of my repose, and the place where I accomplish my creative work.

Q. Did the people you let stay with you keep you from doing this?

A. Yes.  But I invited it.   So I could have expected it.   And now I’ve learned from it.

Q. What have you learned?

A. That there was a certain thousand dollars that didn’t come easy.   And now it’s gone.  I will never let anyone through that door again!

Q. Are you embittered? 

A. Perhaps.  But this too shall pass.  Are you but a gadfly?

The Questioner is silent.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 56

finest work

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Getting ready.

Q. For what?

A. For a change in policy.

Q. Why does your policy need to change?

A. Because it’s ineffective.

Q. How is it ineffective?

A. Why don’t you just ask me what the policy is?

Q. Why should I ask you that?

A. Because you will then be able to determine for yourself why it is ineffective.

Q. Very well, then.  What is your current policy?

A. Reckless Abandon.

Q. With respect to what?

A. With respect to Art.

Q. How so?

A. I create continuously.   I create without letup or rest.  I create like a crazed maniac.   But I only create at random.  There is no order, nor rhyme nor reason, to the manner in which I create.

Q. Can you provide a specific example?

A. Yes.  The talks I gave recently, and the blog post I wrote as to how PTSD relates to the Homeless Experience.   This was random.  It was not something I intended to do according to a concrete creative plan.  It just sort of — happened — when I was moved to do so.

Q. And a second example?

A. The piano album I created, called Abandon.  It resulted from a comment someone had made that intrigued me.  I took off on that comment, until an entire piano album had been produced.

Q. Is this a bad thing?

A. Not in and of itself, no.

Q. Then why do you need to change the policy?

A. Because these creative endeavors have been keeping me from fully engaging a far more important creative task.

Q Which is?

A. The 4th Draft of my musical Eden in Babylon, and the 2nd draft of its musical score.

Q. Have you been procrastinating?

A. Yes.  But I prefer to frame it a bit differently.

Q. How so?

A. It’s not so much procrastination as it is preparation.  

Q. How can procrastination be preparation?

Labor of Love – A Semester’s Reflection | Kelsey BrannanA. It’s like so.  When I procrastinate, I engage my creative energies in a way that pleases me.  It is not what I have to do.  It is what I want to do.   In doing so, I practice creating out of desire, not out of obligation.   Then, when I cease to procrastinate, the desire to create remains — for I have practiced it.

Q. Do you mean to tell me that when you implement the new change in policy, the Object of your Creative Desire will immediately be changed?

A. Yes.  When the clock strikes midnight tonight, the Object of my Artistic Affection will be altered. It will no longer have anything to do with homelessness, or PTSD, or even blogging, for that matter.  Nor will it involve my piano playing.  It will instead return to what it was before I deviated off onto those artistic tangents.

Q. In other words, at the stroke of midnight, you will immediately reactivate the desire to work on your musical?

A. Not exactly.  It’s already been activated.  I just haven’t begun to do it yet.

Q. Why not?

A. Because it isn’t time yet.  It happens at midnight tonight.

Q. Why?

A. Because it’s been scheduled that way.

Q. Why adhere so strictly to the schedule?

A. You want the whole rundown?

Q. Why not?

Funny sublimation designs downloads quote funny Not | EtsyA. Very well then.  To be honest with you, when we suspended operations on the project, I became depressed.  I blamed myself for falling short.   I remained depressed for eleven days.  And I accomplished nothing.

Then I decided to deal with the depression in my typical, lifelong fashion.  I would hurl myself full force into various artistic endeavors.  But I wouldn’t work on the musical, because it was too depressing to think about it.

In the process of working on these less pertinent, less relevant side projects, I became happy again.   And now that I am happy, and longer depressed, I will resume working on the musical, and be happy doing so.

Q. So you’re trying to tell me that the same project that earlier depressed you will now make you happy?

A. Yes.

Q. Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. Probably because you’re either not an Artist, or you don’t know me very well, or both.

Q. May I ask a question that might insult you?

A. At your own risk, ask away.  

Q. Why do you think you can pull it off?

A. Because my name is Andy Pope.   Any further questions?

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 54

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Contemplating life.

Q. Why?

A. Because I agree with Socrates, quoted below:

socrates.jpg

Q. What brought this on?

A. Transition.  I’m at a cusp between two stages in my journey.

Q. How do you figure that?

A. By observing the nature of the stage that is to pass, and envisioning the far greater nature of the stage that is to come.

Q. What is the nature of the stage that is to pass?

A. It is a stage based on fear.

Q. Fear of what?

A. Lots of things.  People, for one thing.  People’s opinions, for another thing.  People’s opinions of me, for a third thing.  But it all boils down to fear of death.

Q. Why be afraid of death?  Isn’t death a universal human experience?

A. Pretty much.  Even Jesus had to die, though He came back again, in eternal form.   Enoch and Elijah apparently escaped it.  People who believe in the “consummation of the saints” (AKA the so-called ‘rapture’), might escape it as well.  The jury’s still out on that one.

Q. Then why be afraid of it?

A. My experience is that those who are afraid to die are generally afraid to live.

Q. Have you been afraid to live?

A. Yes.  Especially throughout the past three years.

Q. What happened during the past three years?

A. I escaped twelve years of living in very sketchy situations, most often outdoors, in favor of living mostly alone in secure and secluded indoor dwelling spots.

Q. But wouldn’t that logically make you less afraid to live?

A. Logically, yes.   But what happened was not logical.

Q. What did happen?

A. I kept clinging to the old stage.  I kept living for the approbation of those from whom I had already departed.   Even though the new stage was crying out to be christened, I hesitated.  I clung to the old stage like a baby clinging to his mother’s breasts.

Q. So you were dependent upon the old stage?  Like a baby depends upon a mother?

A. Yes.  But not entirely of my own will.  It took two to dance that dance.  The possessive, overprotective mother of the Old Stage would not let me go.

Q. And now you are escaping her grip?

A. I can feel it, yes.   I’m not her baby anymore.  

Q. So the mother of the old stage was fear?

A. Yes.

Q. And who is the mother of the New Stage?

A. Love.  If you love someone, you let them go.

Q, So the old stage was a stage of fear, and the New Stage will be a Stage of Love.

perfect loveA. Yes — Love.

Q. Say again?

A. Love!

Q. One more time — 

A. LOVE!

Q. How so?

A. Because Perfect Love casts out fear.

 

                                                      The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 52

Q. What are you doing here?

A. What do you mean, what am I doing here?  I’m here to answer your questions, as best I can.

Q. But didn’t you say you weren’t coming back until October?

A. I changed my mind.

Q. What made you change your mind?

A. There’s much less stress in my life now than there was when I made that decision.

Q. But didn’t you give me your word?

A. I did, yes.

Q. Then why are you breaking your word?

A. Are you really taking this game that seriously?

Q. What makes it a game?

A. Hmm – good question.  I used the word “game” automatically, without really examining it first.

Q. Why do you think you did that?

A. There was a game on my mind.  A game where we used to always give our words, and shake on deals, even though a lot of the times, those deals were broken.

Q. What game was that?

A. Do you really need to know?

Q. Why shouldn’t I know?

A. It’s privileged information.

Q. Am I not privileged?

A. You are not.  And neither am I.

Q. Well, can you give me a clue?  

A. Can we have a guessing game?

Q. Okay.  Where did this game take place?

A. On the streets.

Q. Who did you play it with?

A. A bunch of other people who lived on the streets.

Q. What was the game called?

A. It was called the Game.  Capital G.

Q. How long did you play the Game?

A. Three years.  I began, to be honest, in July 2013.  I stopped in June 2016.

Q. Do you have a photographic memory?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. What did the Game consist of?

A. Interactions with others based on monetary exchanges, supply and demand.

Q. Were you a merchant in the Game?

A. No.  More like a customer.

Q. Why did you stop playing the Game?

A. Because I was no longer interested in the products that were being provided.

Q. Did you then begin to play another game?

A. I did not.  

Q. Why not?

A. Because, as a dear friend once told me, I am not immortal – and life is not a game.

The Questioner is silent.  

Life is Not a Game - Being Effective for God (April 2012)

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Tuesday Tuneup 51

Q.  What’s been bugging you lately?

A.  The Tuesday Tuneups.

Q.  Why?

A.  They’ve lost something.

Q.  How so?

A.  I think it started around about the time it would be a nice “game” to ask my readers to select a question for me, rather than me selecting one that I knew would work.

Q. How would you know?

A. Because I’ve been doing the “tuneups” since 1987, though not online, and not always on Tuesdays.   So I’ve accumulated a compendium of questions that do work.

Q. So are you going to select a new question for next week?

A. No.  I’m going to discontinue them for a while.

Q. Why?

A. Overloaded.   I’ve been dealing with what I call “Mainstream Stress” and it’s affecting my sense of integrity.

Q. Mainstream Stress?

A. The kind of stress one gets only in the Mainstream; that is, when one has multiple commitments, and has to show up at many specific places at specific times, prepared to conduct oneself according to an expected fashion.

Q. Are you trying to say you’ve been working too hard?

A. Something like that.  But I’ve always worked very hard.  I just haven’t done it to deadlines, or under pressure, in recent years.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I don’t believe that deadlines and pressures are good for the human spirit.  I also believe that my not having operated according to these Mainstream values is what has kept me generally happy and healthy over the years.

Q. And you are not happy and healthy now?

A. Still healthy, though at risk.

Q. And happy?

A. That depends upon what is meant by happiness.

Q. Why are you evading the question?

A. Scripture equates happiness with God’s blessings.  I have definitely been in receipt of God’s blessings.

Q. Then why aren’t you happy?

A. Because, apparently, I have been seeking happiness from a source other than God.

Q. What source is that?

A. Art.

Q. You have a friend named Art?

A. Um, no — I do know one guy named Art, but he’s only a casual acquaintance.   I’m talking about Art — as in Music.  Writing.  Singing.  All the things I have turned to in order to give beauty to an ugly situation.

Art


Q. What situation?

A. I can’t answer that.  I am sorry.  It’s too deep and too personal.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. Not just yet.  Let’s decide when the Tuneups will recur.

Q. When would you like them to recur?

A. October 1, 2019.

Q. Deal?

A. Deal.

Angel and demon deal Vector Image #131294 – RFclipart

 

The Questioner is silent. 

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Tuesday Tuneup 49

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. Way behind on my work.

Q. Is that all?

A. Lousy computer, slowing me down.

Q. Anything else?

A. Scattered, evasive mind-set.  Unwilling to confront harsh realities.  Impatient.  Resentful.  Objecting to this and that.   Generally freaked out.

Image result for pressed for timeQ. Why?

A. Overload.  Too much going on.

Q. What can you do to change this?

A. Simplify.  Eliminate unnecessary stressors.  Smooth out the rough edges.  Count the minutes, count the costs.

Related imageQ. And the costs are?

A. Exorbitant.

Q. How so?

A. You don’t want to know.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. I’d prefer it, frankly.  Am under time pressure.  Time is money and money is time.   I have more important things to do.   Goodbye.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 48

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. My relationship to reality.

Q. What is reality?

A. Well, you know the answer to that.   Reality is what’s actually happening.  It’s what is.

Q. And you are somehow not happening?  You are somehow not?  

A. I didn’t say that!

Q. Well, what are you saying, then?   How are you distinct from reality?

A. I’m distinct from reality in that I am supposed to be real and as such represent reality in the eyes of all who — who —

Q. Who?

A. Who observe me.

Q. Why did I think you were going to say something different than that?

A. Because you probably thought I was going to say: “in the eyes of all who judge me.”

Q. Are there people who are judging you?

A. Well yes, I believe so.  Or at least, they have a hard time not judging me, since they have to observe me.  Once you start observing somebody, it’s only a matter of time before you pass judgment on them.   It’s just human nature.  

Q. But wait – why are all these people observing you?   And who are these people?  

A. Who are they?   Gosh, I don’t know – they could be just about anybody.   Anybody who has access to — to —

Q. To binoculars?

A. No, no, no – to the Internet!   Anybody can pass by this page for any reason, they can look, they can lurk, they can draw conclusions —

Q. Are you trying to tell me that you are afraid of the random trolls and lifeless morning whiskey-guzzlers who idle upon your page at random first thing every Tuesday morning?

A. I never used the word “fear.”

Q. Then why am I picking it up?

A. Probably because I’m paranoid.

Q. What do you mean by that?  If you’re paranoid, aren’t you necessarily afraid?

A. No, not necessarily.  One can be totally paranoid without being afraid at all.  We’ve all met paranoid people who completely believe scenarios about reality that are entirely faulty.  Do they always act scared?  No, they don’t.  Sometimes they have amazing self-confidence.

Q. And are you one of these people?

A. No, I’m not.  But I’m not exactly scared either.   I’m just concerned about my relationship to reality.

Related imageQ. Do you see reality as a threat?

A. That’s a good question.  It’s not so much reality itself that is a threat.  It’s that I myself might never quite relate to reality in a healthy or beneficial way.

Q. How do you relate to reality?

A. Gee whiz, I thought you’d never ask!

Q. Hm?

A. I usually assess it first thing in the morning, see if it stands in my way, and exactly how much it’s in my way, quickly dispose of some of its usual, daily, meager demands, and then go about my business.

Q. And your business is?

A. You already know what my business is.

Q. But how is it that your business opposes reality?

A. It doesn’t.  Not in the highest sense.   My business involves the creation and instigation of — alternative realities.   New ways of looking at old things.   Transformative energies — you know where I’m coming from, don’t you?  It’s a bit crass to elaborate.   

Q. But reality opposes your business?

A. Well, yes.   And again, it all depends on what you think reality is.  If reality is this thing that always is, that never changes, that resists change — well, yes, then of course it opposes my business, and the business of all those like me.  If reality is this more open thing, always embracing that which is new, routinely cleansing, purging itself of what is old, inhaling, welcoming the breath of newness wherever it may be — then, no, reality does not oppose my business, but is in that sense an integral part of my business.

Q. Have you then therefore redefined reality?

A. No.  I’ve only redefined my relationship to it.

Q. And this relationship no longer bothers you?

A. I didn’t say that.   

Q. What are you saying then?

A. Only that the relationship is manageable, for now.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. You may.  I think we’ve exhausted this analysis — for now.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 47

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. The question is starting to bug me.

Q. Why?

A. Because it presupposes that there’s something bugging me.  But there isn’t.  I’m feeling really good this morning.

Q. Then why did you select the question?

A. Because I assumed there would always be something bugging me every morning.

Q. Why did you make that assumption?

A. Because there usually is.  Something bugging me.  Every morning.  

Q. But this morning there is not?

A. No.  Not really.

Q. Can’t you come up with something?

A. I suppose I could.  But what’s the point?   What’s the point of dredging negativity out of my subconscious, when in my conscious mind, I feel positive about life, myself, and the world?

Q. How can you possibly feel positive about the world?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Isn’t the world going to hell in a hand basket?

A. So what else is new?   The world’s been going to hell since time immemorial.  Since the Garden, to be theologically specific.   That doesn’t mean we still can’t find good things about it.

Q. What’s good about the world?

A. Beauty.   What does it say in the Desiderata?  “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” 

Q. You believe this?

A. Yes!  What people seem to do is to focus on the negative.  Then their worlds become dismal, because they make no effort to see the positive.  But there’s always positive.  Positive abounds.  One only need tune into it.

Q. But isn’t that denial?  Like an ostrich?  Hiding your head in the sand?

A. It can be.  But it doesn’t need to be.  It’s only denial if you also deny that bad things are happening.

Q. And you don’t?

A. I try not to.  But at the same time, I don’t deny that good things are happening either.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I’m happier when I focus on the good things, despite the bad things.

Q. Would you say you are a happy person?

A. Pretty much, yes.  

Q. And you attribute this to your focus on the positive?

A. Largely, yes.   This is also biblical.   Look what St. Paul has to say about it, in his letter to the Philippians:

This week's Bible verse: Philippians 4:8 : Specificfeed

Q. So you try to focus on what’s true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable?

A. Yes.  

Q. What’s lovely?  

A. I don’t know.  What is?

Q. What do you mean, what is?

A. I’d like to know what you think is lovely.

Q. Me?

A. Not you, silly.  My readers!   What do my readers think is “lovely?”  Tell me.

The Questioner is silent.

Tuesday Tuneup 45

Oh well  —  I’ve dragged the ‘game’ out for long enough now to only make it boring if I don’t just up-and-choose a ‘winner.’   And the winner is Lynne Fisher, for the simple reason that her question arouses or incites the most interesting possibilities — that is, for me personally, since after all, I *am* the Answerer. 

So thank you to everybody who participated, which I believe is five of you, if I counted right.   You certainly have raised some very interesting questions!   And now, without further ado, I will do my best to answer the chosen one.

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. I have a die-hard internal conflict that needs to be resolved.

Q. What conflict is that?

A. It’s hard to describe.

Q. How do you know?

A. I already tried.  I called my best friend and tried it to describe it to her.  And not even she, in her ultra-high intelligence and exceedingly advanced listening skills, was able to understand it.

Q. Wow — maybe, try again?

A. Okay here goes.

The Answerer takes a breath.

A. For a guy who feels called to convey an important theme for humanity – you know, as an Artist, as a spiritual human being, as a Man   — I sure have a lot of lousy inner thoughts that seem to be — well, they’re below me.

Q. What kinds of thoughts?

A. Thoughts of randomly calling people who have disrespected me, and leaving nasty messages on their voicemails – like say, during the middle of the night, when I know they won’t answer, but will pick up the messages when they get to work in the morning.Th

Q. Do you . . . ever actually make any of these “random” phone calls?

A. No I do not.

Q. Then why do you still think of doing so?

A. That’s a good question.

Q. Well – thank you – but – why would you want to do something like that?   What purpose would it serve?

A. It would jar them.  It would jolt them out of their inane complacency.  It would shake them up, and get them to realize that they can’t quite get rid of me as easily as they thought they could! It would let them know that I’m still there with them — still hovering over them — ready to plague them, to torment them, for all the remaining days of their pitiful, hellbound lives — and even for an eternity in hell thereafter, if it were possible.

Q. And it is not possible?

A. No it is not.  For between the two of us there is a great gulf fixed — kinda like Jesus in Luke 16, the parable about the rich guy down in hell and the poor man up in heaven, and all that.

Q. So you will be in heaven?

A. Yes.

Q. And they will be in hell?

A. Well, I certainly hope not!  But if they are, there’s no way I can reach them any longer.

Q. And if they aren’t?

A. Then we’re all up in heaven, and it’s all good.  Join the party!

Q. Your theology amuses me.

A. Only questions, please.

Q. All right, then here’s a question for you.  Is it so important for you to shake these guys up, that you would risk your entire eternal security in heaven by heading down to hell with them, just to keep nagging at them?

A. Well, now that you put it that way — no, I don’t suppose so — no.

Q. Then why don’t you just give it up?   Can you really change these guys?

A. OMG you’re starting to sound like a pop psychologist!   But no, I cannot change them.

Q. So why don’t you just turn your attention to something more positive, useful, peaceful, beautiful —

A. Well, that’s what I do already!  I do it every damn morning, if you want the God-honest truth.

DEUS transforma! « Geração Eleita
“Deus Transformed” by Geração Eleita

Q. I’m not sure I do want the “God-honest truth,” but that’s just an agnostic aside. 

A. Understood.

Q. My question is why do you have to go through a process every single morning of overcoming all this insane hatred and vitriol, before you can get to the place where you’re bringing about peace and joy and love and kindness and all of the virtues you truly value?

A. Because if it weren’t for all the hatred and vitriol, I would have no enemy to overcome, there would be no fight, the battle would be over, and I would accomplish nothing.  

Q. In other words, you need an enemy in order to win the war?

A. You got it.   This is war, man.   This is Art.   It’s the real thing.   I’m not just fooling around here.   This is serious business.   

Q. How long have you been fighting this war?

A. Goes back to early childhood.  Between five and seven, I think, when I found out about — about —

Q. About what?

A. Isn’t there somewhere else you have to be this morning?

Q. You tire of my questions?

A. Would Socrates have tired of a gadfly?  Of course not.  It’s just that we’re about up a whole new Pandora’s Box here, and I myself would frankly like to get a bite to eat before setting about the day . . . of creating . . . things that are beautiful . . . and peaceful . . . and harmonious . . .  pretty . . . artistic . . . aesthetic . . .

Q. Out with it!!  What was it that you learned when you were a child?!   What caused you to begin this lifelong war?

A. You know the answer to that.  And you also know who is the enemy.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Re: Tuesday Tuneup 45

I’m extending the game one more week, if anyone still wants to add their question.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read Re: Tuesday Tuneup 44.

Actually, I’d have started in with Tuesday Tuneup 45 all the same today, but I’m just way too busy.  I had to turn in all these stories for my new position as a regular columnist with Street Spirit, and then it turns out I’m the Casting Director for the Concert Reading, so I’ve been having to schedule auditions and early rehearsals, in light of our not yet having a Stage Manager.  

The sense of overload should subside before the week is out.  Then I’ll be sure to resume the tuneups Tuesday next.  

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My Life Has Just Begun

I wrote this on request from Alastair Boone, the editor-in-chief of Street Spirit.  


Shortly after I first became homeless in 2004, I was the victim of a sexual assault in a motel room. I had made a mistake I learned never to make again. I opened the door when someone knocked.

As one who had been sheltered his entire life, I didn’t know at the age of fifty some things that are common sense to people who are in the practice of renting cheap motel rooms in “red light districts.” One of them is that when you happen to land such a room — the kind where the owner might squeeze you in without proper identification — you never answer a knock on the door if you know what’s good for you. In this case, a large African-American man forced his way in and overpowered me. (I think he was looking for somebody else. In any case, I would suffice.)

Without going into horrific detail, the nature of the assault was such that it gave me a condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise known as PTSD. While I did my best to deal healthfully with this ongoing condition, I found that its symptoms never truly subsided, but only worsened throughout twelve long years on the streets.

Being pistol-whipped, being hit on the head with guns, and watching someone set all my possessions on fire before my eyes were only isolated incidents. As such, they barely made a dent in the overall state of shock in which I lived throughout most of those years. Sleep deprivation, malnutrition, and forced overexercise were alone enough to induce serious mental health disorientation, without having to lace them with cognitive dissonance. My psyche felt as though it had been split into two. Half of me still clung to the fading memories of a former humanity — a humanity I never questioned when I was a complacent, overweight music teacher, driving a Corolla, making $50,000 a year. The other half began to believe that I was truly the piece of dog poop I was often considered to be, as people stepped over and around me whilst I slept, as though afraid to get my scent on their shoes.

homeless-man-sleeping-step-homeless-man-sleeping-step-people-walk-past-martin-place-sydney-january-nn-108120289

One look at me in those days was usually enough to convince most people that my condition was hopeless. Of course, medical treatment was difficult to access on any kind of regular basis. Once I finally escaped all that wretched homelessness, one would think I’d have needed even more medical help. After all, how can someone make a successful transition back into mainstream society when one has deteriorated so grossly?

But the facts are that even people who live indoors will go nuts when deprived of regular rest, proper nutrition, and moderate exercise. To exercise in moderation was never an option for me. Skin and bones though I was, I was forced by the details of homeless life to walk over ten miles a day on most days. If for no other reason than to get from one needed resource to another, this was my daily requirement. And there were plenty of other reasons to be denied proper rest and be forced to keep moving. None of the spots where we sat or lay down were secure. Cops would wake us up in the middle of the night, and tell us to get up and “move on.” Once we had found somewhere else to crash, who was to say that another cop wouldn’t come again and do the same thing? Homeless people like to say that they sleep with one eye open. Anything can happen at any time.

Suppose that people living indoors were placed under the same sort of psychic fire. Suppose a group of homeowners were daily reminded that they were somehow “less than” the rest of the human race. Suppose they were treated like inanimate objects while there were sleeping in their own beds at home. Suppose people were walking over them and around them all night long, making as much noise as they wanted to make, disturbing their sleep. Of course they too would develop serious issues with sleep deprivation, and serious issues with self-esteem. I daresay many of them would wind up landing on the streets as well.

On the other hand, consider how one would respond, if one had been enduring such demeaning assaults on his health and well-being for years on end, and then suddenly found themselves in a living situation that was manageable, affordable, sustainable — and dignified. Well, if you can imagine that kind of a paradigm shift, it’s exactly what happened to me.

In the first week of having found palatable residence, far away from the demeaning indignities that had characterized my previous life, I wrote to a pastor of my acquaintance. I told her: “This is the first time in twelve years that I haven’t been in a state of shock.”

If that was my experience in the very first week, can you imagine what I feel like nearly three years later? For almost three years now, I’ve been getting REM sleep on a regular basis. I’ve even been dreaming. And that’s something that never happened when I was “sleeping with one eye open.”

Not only am I sleeping better; but also, I’ve been cooking my own food, taking showers in my own bathroom, and lacing up my shoes when I want to get moving — not when I’m told to “move on.” If I walk, if I run, I am the one who determines the pathways that I will traverse. I am the one who decides how many miles I need to put in each day. Many of the things I did when I was homeless were determined by conditions beyond my control. The contrast between the empowerment of my present day world and the powerlessness of my previous life is enough alone to lay waste to the remnants of a formerly traumatized existence.

And yet, I hear people of wealth and privilege crying out like helpless victims over “trauma” that isn’t one tenth the magnitude of what homeless people deal with routinely. Recently I heard someone complaining at a 12-Step meeting that they had spent $15,000 on blinds for their mansion, and that the blinds weren’t working right. Hello? Talk about your “luxury problem!” I would guess that the blinds would be to their satisfaction – after all, they are keeping the Light from shining in their blinded eyes.

To whatever extent my PTSD worsened over all that time on the streets, to that same extent has it been increasingly alleviated, the longer I live indoors. If I need a doctor, it won’t be for that. At the age of sixty-six, many of my peers are retiring from jobs that they probably hated. They act as though they don’t know what to do with themselves. They act as though they’re headed for the grave. After twelve years on the streets where hatred ruled, my life has just begun.

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Re: Tuesday Tuneup 44

A part of me was thrilled when I got more “likes” the day I posted Tuesday Tuneup 44 than any other day since I’ve been on WordPress.  But the greater part of me was disappointed, because hardly anybody was playing the game.

I thought about it, and I decided that in the Q & A where I described the game, I didn’t describe it very well.  I used too many words, and the essence of the game got lost.  So let me try again.

The game is to come up with a simple question that the Questioner in the Q & A can ask the Answerer repeatedly, and receive different answers every time it’s asked.

Sample questions would be:

Q. How are you feeling today?

Q. What’s on your mind?

Q. What are your plans for the weekend?

The answers to such questions will vary from one Tuesday to another.   This is the point of the Tuesday Tuneup.   If someone asked me “how are you feeling today?” I might say: “Great!”  Or I might say “Not so good.”  Then the Questioner might ask: “Why?” or “Why not?”  And we take it from there.

If you click on the three links to Tuesday Tuneups below this post, you’ll find examples.  All you gotta do is read them, and I’m sure you’ll see what the Tuesday Tuneup is all about.

I’ll decide which question I like the best, and then I’ll start using that question in my tuneups, at least for 22 more times.

Also, if you asked a question last week, please repeat it here — or even a different question, should you decide to change your mind.   We’re starting from scratch.

Get it?  Got it?  Good.

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Overcome Evil with Good

Bless those who persecute you.
Bless and do not curse. 
Rejoice with those who rejoice —
   weep with those who weep. 

Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud,
   but enjoy the company of the lowly.
Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Carefully consider what is right
   in the eyes of everybody. 
If it is possible on your part,
   live at peace with everyone.

Do not avenge yourselves, beloved —
   but leave room for God’s wrath.
For it is written:
   “Vengeance is Mine;
    I will repay,
       says the Lord.”

On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry —
   feed him.
If he is thirsty —
give him a drink.
For in so doing,

   you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil —
but overcome evil with good.

— Romans 12:14-21

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Tuesday Tuneup 44

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. I would like to be in a place where I no longer have to hear that question.

Q. What’s wrong with that question?

A. Nothing.  I’ve just heard it too many times.

Q. How many times have your heard it?

A. Twenty-two times.

Q. And you don’t want  to hear it a 23rd time?

A. No, I don’t.  I’d rather hear a different question.

Q. What question would you like to hear?

A. Any other question at all — with one exception.

Q. What’s the exception?

A. Don’t ask me if I know who you are.   

Q. Why not?

A. Because you have asked that question too many times.

Q. How many times have I asked it?

A. Twenty-two times.

Q. So you don’t want to hear any question more than twenty-two times??

A. I didn’t say that!  In fact, if the new question is good enough, I wouldn’t mind hearing it sixty-six times.

Q. And if it’s not good enough?

A. Twenty-two times will suffice — as it did for the previous two questions.

Q. And how shall we determine what the new question will be?

A. Let’s leave that up to my readers.   Let them decide what question you should ask me.

Q. Can you run all this past me again, please?

A. Certainly.  On the first 22 of the Tuesday Tuneups, you asked me: “Do you know who I am?”  On the second 22 of the Tuesday Tuneups, you asked me: “Where would you like to be?”  Now, for either 22 or 66 further future Tuesday tuneups, you will ask me a new and different question.   That question will be determined once we hear from my readers.

Q. But what if they all want to hear a different question?

A. That’s the whole point!   They absolutely will all want to hear a different question!  I will not permit any of my readers to ask a question that one of them has already asked.   All questions must be new.

Q. Will the winner get some kind of reward for having chosen the question that most meets your approval?

New $10 Bill Will Be a Major Win for Women Leaders | WIREDA. Sure!  I’ll shoot ’em $10 USD.

Q. Ten bucks?

A. Yup.

Q. Can you afford to let go of ten bucks?

A. Um — er – let’s just say I have a tendency to get a bit generous after the 1st of the month.

Q. So you are essentially holding a contest among your readers to see who will choose the question that most meets your approval?

A. You got it.

Q. And the winner gets ten bucks?

A. Yessir, Mr. Q!  A whoppin’ ten bucks.

Q. Isn’t this a bit crass?

A. I don’t think so.  It’s supposed to be fun!

Q. Are we having fun yet?

A. Yes.

The Questioner is silent. 

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Tuesday Tuneup 42

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a more loving place.

Q. Why did I not expect you to say that?

A. Because I don’t usually say things like that.

Q. Why did you say that this morning?

A. Because it strikes me that I have been hateful.

Q. Hateful toward whom?

A. Isn’t it obvious?  Read my blog.

Q. What makes you think I know how to read?

A. Never mind.

Q. Are you hateful toward an ex-lover?

A. No.

Q. Are you hateful toward a family member?

A. No.

Q. Are you hateful toward an authority figure?  A pastor?  A counselor?  A police officer?

A. No.

Q. Who then?  Who?

A. When it comes down to it, to be honest with you, I’m hateful toward people who do the very same things that I do myself, that I happen to hate, when I do them.

Q. Are you suggesting that you hate yourself?

A. Apparently so.   At times, anyway, this appears to be the case — if you say so.   ;)

Q. Then how can you come to love yourself?

A. That depends on the answer to a certain question.  I would like to ask this question of you, and of all my readers.   Please feel free to answer, as best you can.

Q. What is the question?

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 39

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place that’s slightly better than where I am now.

Q. Only slightly better?  Why not hugely better?  

A. Because I’m basically very happy where I am already.

Q. But if you got to a place that was hugely better, would you object?

A. Not at all.

Q. Then why not just shoot for the huge?   Why settle for the slight?

A. Because if I said I wanted to be in a place that was hugely better, it would sound as though I were dissatisfied with the place where I am right now.  And that’s not true.  I’m actually very grateful for where I am right now.

Q. But if you’re satisfied with where you are right now, then why do you need for it to even be slightly better?   

A. Hm . . . that’s a good question.   

Q. Come on — out with it!   Are you satisfied, or are you not??

A. Well . . . maybe it’s a matter of degrees.  I’m grateful that things aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be.  But I can’t pretend that they couldn’t still be better.

Q. So you’re saying you could be more grateful than you are right now?

A. Yes.  I would like to be slightly more grateful than I am now.

Q. In what way could this come about?

A. If my place were not so — stagnant.  If there were more of a sense of — forward motion.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Everything seems to be the same — day after day, month after month.

Q. But how can you say that?  Isn’t this one of the most productive periods of your life?

A. Productive, yes.  But there’s about the same level of productivity day after day, month after month.  And the stuff I produce — it all seems the same.  Nothing ever changes.  I only produce more of the same.

Q. So you need a shake-up?

A. Hopefully not.   A shake-up would probably do the trick, but it’s never very pretty in the process.

Q. What about a wake-up?

A. That would go easier on me.

Image: Come to our Bible Study Image | Bible Clip Art | Christart.comQ. Do you want me to wake you up?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because it’s not your job.

Q. Whose job is it, then?

A. I would say, it’s God’s job.

Q. Are you praying for a wake-up?

A. Every morning I pray for a wake-up.  It doesn’t have to be a huge one.  It just has to make me slightly more awake than I’ve been.

Q. What happens when you’re slightly more awake?

A. I’m slightly more effective.

Q. And what happens then?

A. I’m slightly more grateful.  I have slightly more faith.  I’m more in touch with hope, and a sense of purpose.   And I begin to believe again.  I begin to believe in God, and in myself.  I believe that there’s a direction.  I may not see it, but I still believe.  And then my gratitude has meaning.  It has basis, purpose, and form.

Q. And then you are satisfied?

A. I am.  Any further questions?  

The Questioner is silent.  

Tuesday Tuneup 36

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater resolve.

Q. Resolve?

A. Yes, resolve.  That is to say, resolution.

Q. What is it that needs to be resolved?

A. A dissonant progression.

Q. And how can this dissonant progression be resolved?

A. With a consonant cadence, obviously.

Q. Are you not speaking in strictly musical terms?

A. Not strictly. I use the musical analogy of a resolving cadence as a metaphor to the dissonance that needs to be resolved in my life.

Q. What do you find to be most dissonant?

A. There is discord between the nature of my relationships with those whom I know today in this town, and the nature of my relationships with long-term friends and family in the place where I used to live.

Q. How does that discord sound?

A. Ugly.  

Q. Do you feel you have the power to resolve it?

A. Yes and no.   I have creative power, as the composer of my life, to resolve any discord I wish to resolve.  That’s the “yes” part.

Q. And the “no” part?

A. I just haven’t found the right chord yet.  I don’t believe I can find it on my own.  It has to be given to me.  In a flash.   Once I find it, I will resolve the discord.  In so resolving the discord, I will complete this first movement to the Symphony of My Life.  And then, on to the Second Movement.

Q. How would you describe the feeling of the first movement?

A. Tumultuoso.

Q. And the second?

A. Grazioso.

Q. So all you need is a single concluding chord?

A. Yes.

Q. How best can you find that chord?

A. By subjecting the dissonance to proper theoretical analysis.

Q. You can do that, can’t you?

A. I can.

Q. Did you not receive very good grades in Music Theory and Composition at the Conservatory?

A. I did.

Q. Well then — what is the proper analysis of the dissonance?

A. It can best be symbolized as 20th Century Harmony morphing into a tension of atonality.

Q. What do you mean by atonality?

A. It lacks a tonal center.  In other words, I don’t know what key I’m in.  I only know that I’m in a different key than my old friends and family.  In fact, they all seem to be singing in the same key.  It’s an old key in my experience.  A minor key, associated with much sadness and despair.

Q. And you wish to resolve the piece in a major key?

A. Yes.  That would end the tumult, and usher in the 21st Century Harmony of Grace.

Q. So how do you get from the chaotic cacaphony of debilitating dissonance to the conclusive cadence of harmonious grace?

A. By reducing the power of the minor key in which my old friends and family members so sadly sing.

Q. You mean — you need to turn down their volume?

A. Now you’re getting it.

Q. But how can you have any power over the volume of their sadness?  Can’t you only turn down the volume of your dissonance?

A. By George, I think you’ve got it!  

Q. How so?

A. That’s the key!  I need to turn down my own volume.  They will then therefore turn down theirs.   

Q. Will you then find resolution to the dissonance?

A. Indeed I will.  For the dissonance will resolve into a major chord of unsurpassed, unprecedented power and joy.

Q. So your major chord will be stronger than their minor chord?

A. Ha!  They don’t stand a chance.

Q. And when will you go about turning down this great volume of yours?

A. Hmmm…. good question!  Off the top, I’d say, midnight of January 1st sounds about right.

Q. And how far down will you turn your volume?

A. All the way down.  

old newQ. Is this your New Year’s Resolution?

A. It is indeed.  Tired of having to prove myself to those guys.  They never let me know how they’re doing.  All they ever do is give me advice on how I ought to be doing.  And their advice no longer pertains to my reality.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because they’re still in the Old Story.  They just don’t know it yet.

Q. Why don’t they know it?

A. Because every time I contact them, I only engage the Age-Old Story.  

Q. Is this why they never hear the New Story?

A. Precisely.  No matter how loud I shout it, it is impossible for them to hear it.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because shouting at them is all part of the Old Story.

Q. And in the New Story?

A. I shout to the heavens.  I shout: “Hallelujah!”  Out with the Old – and in with the New.  The New Story has at last begun.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 33

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of peace.

Q. Are you at war?

A. Yes.

Q. With whom?

A. With my enemies, of course.

Q. And who are your enemies?

A. Good question.  I tend to think that there are two of them — two young rapscallions from the hood, deluded young gentlemen who are often ringing my doorbell at odd hours of the night, for lengthy periods of time, and only to request annoying favors of me.

Q. These two young rapscallions — are they truly your ememies?

A. Probably not.   My enemies are probably more internal than external.  

internal enemyQ. What do you mean by that?

A. Well you know, I have all these inner blocks or demons that try to prevent me from staying the course, from keeping to what I’m about, and all that.

Q. But if a guy rings your doorbell at three in the morning, and keeps ringing and knocking until you finally give up and go answer it, and you can’t get back to sleep, how is that your fault in any way?

A. You know something, you’re right.  Almost any O.G. would not be able to get to sleep after something like that!

Q. So why are you being such a pushover?

A. That’s the internal enemy I’m talking about.  I’m a pushover.  The Kid knows that once a month, I’m going to be available to walk down to the nearest ATM and get him money for his chewing tobacco.   So what I’ve got to do is just say NO and say it firmly.  

Q. Why haven’t you done this already?

A. He keeps catching me off guard.  Both of them do — the other one’s not so flagrantly nefarious – but he’s still got his angle.  And his angle involves me, because—

Q. Because?

A. Because I’m a pushover.  And worse yet, I just told the whole world about it.  Pretty soon, every rambunctious rapscallion in town will be knocking on my door.  On MY door!  On the lockable, locked door that I EARNED – after putting in twelve hard years on the streets, where there was no door to be locked, or even to offer the slightest separation from me and all the evils of the night.  What a fool I am to willfully descreate and violate the sanctity of my sanctuary!   Damn, I’m pissed.

Q. And now?

A. And now what?  I just have to make the internal change, and enforce it, and be firm about it.  It’s like — a life lesson.  It’s something I’m supposed to learn here, while I’m on this Earth, and take it to the next stage of experience, when I’m not.

Q. You think so?

A. Sounds good to me.   Not knowing how to stand up for myself and say NO to people landed me in a gutter for over ten years.  I daresay I shan’t make the same mistake twice.

The Questioner is Silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 32

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. Right where I am right now.

Q. Where’s that?

A. In a cozy cafe on Main Street, not very far from campus.

Q. What do you like about where you are now?

A. It brings out the best in me.

Q. And what, by the way, is the best in you?

A. The best in me is a part of me that seems most authentic, less contrived, and less compelled to veer from my designated course.

Q. And what is your designated course? 

A. I think you know.

Q. Do I?

A. Sure you do.  It’s all over this blog, isn’t it?

Q. Is it?

A. Yes, it is.

Q. Is that why you’re being evasive?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Well, isn’t it evasive of you not to provide me with a direct answer?

A. No – not evasive.  I’m just tired of it all.  Tired of always having to define myself.

Q. Is that tiredness a form of ennui?  Or perhaps burnout?

A. No, not really.  I’m not tired of the designated course at all.  I only tire of describing it.  

Q. Well then — if you don’t wish to describe the course itself, can you tell us what to veer from it looks like?

A. Certainly.  I veer from my course when I encounter a certain kind of compulsion.  

Q. What are you compelled to do?

A. I dare not say.

Q. But if you will neither describe the path nor its detours, how can we possibly learn anything about this disparity?

A. That’s a very logical question.  And I can’t say I didn’t anticipate it.   So I have prepared an illustrative reply.   May I proceed?

Q. Why not?

crossroadsA. Here in this small, close-knit, Art-positive community, there are two establishments in close proximity to each other on Main Street.  Like many of our residents, I have been known to frequent both.  Down the way from this cafe, there is a very different kind of place.  It is a much louder place – a looser place.  A place where just about anything could happen at any time.  

Q. A bar?

A. Not exactly.  No alcohol is served.  But the energy is a bit like a bar.  Logical social boundaries are often broken, and with great disregard for consequence.  

Q. Do you find this threatening?

A. Yes.  Threatening – and at the same time, compelling.

Q. What are you compelled to do there that you would not do elsewhere?

A. Lots of things.  Just about anything associated with a casual cultural standard.  Cussing, for example.  Or discussion of — you know, dirty things.

Q. Dirty?

A. You know what I mean.   Personal pollutants.  Those things that soil the soul.

Q. Why on earth would you want to pollute your person?  Or soil your soul?

A. Because to do so presents me with a consuming problem with which I am already quite familiar, and therefore comfortable.   Thus it provides an escape from a present-day problem that is unfamiliar, and thereby making me very, very uncomfortable.  To the point that I can’t even sleep at night.

Q. Didn’t you allude to this yesterday?

A. I did.  Point No. 5 on my gratitude list alludes to it.

Q.  So you wish to replace an uncomfortable problem with a comfortable one?

A. Exactly.  The comfort would ease the pain.

Q. Isn’t that dangerous?

A. Very much so.  That’s why I left the building.   I was not only compelled — to do something that I ought not to do — but sorely tempted.  The temptation came in the form of — a woman.  A beautiful woman.  Need I say more?

Q. Has enough been said?

A. Perhaps not.  Only the tip of the iceberg has been revealed.

Q. Where did you go when you left the building?

A. That you know.  I went down the way, to the cafe where I am now so content to sit.  

Q. And this cafe holds no compulsions to veer from your designated course?

A. Not in the least.   It rather fortifies my commitment to the course that has already been laid out for me.

Q. How so?

A. Here I have met the finest Artists.  The greatest musicians.   The most inspired social visionaries.   The most engaging speakers, and the most fascinating storytellers.  I am never compelled to veer when I sit here.  I am only compelled to expand upon that which I already have.

Q. Then why didn’t you just come to the cafe in the first place?  What compelled you to go to the other place down the block?

A. I don’t know.   I don’t want to be thought of as snooty or aloof.   

Q. What does it matter what they think?

A. It doesn’t.  I think I just learned that.   Well — I knew it — all along.  But I didn’t think I could practice it.  Now I do.  I was scared when I sensed where the woman was heading me.  And I fled.  After fleeing that iniquity, a sense of peace has come upon me.  The peace has come upon me — because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

Q. What does that got to do with anything?

A. I have an echo on this planet.  An echo in whom my voice resounds.  When my echo is dissonant — or suspended, or irresolute — often I am as well.   This is because the echo feels that her sound is that of an angel — yet in reality, the Angel has fallen. 

But now, you see,  I am consonant.  Released.  Resolved.   And the peace that transcends all human understanding now guards my heart and my mind — through the Spirit of the God of Love.   And if that incomprehensible peace has come upon me, then it can come upon my resounding echo.   And my Echo will be at Peace.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 31

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater contentment.

Q. But aren’t you fairly content at this time in your life?

A. About some things, yes.   About other things, no.

Q. About what things are you not content?

A. Things having to do with the actualization of life-purpose.

Q. Are you implying that you won’t be content until your life-purpose is actualized?

A. Wow – that’s a really good question.  Do you think I am supposed to be content anyway, even before the life purpose is actualized?

Q. Well, what do you think?  

A.  I think that, while I’m definitely not content — in fact, I’m restless — I believe that my restlessness serves a purpose.  In other words, without being as restless as I am, I would probably become complacent, and sit on my rump, enjoying the tranquility of my peaceful abode, and not really accomplishing anything toward my life goals.

Q. But if you think your restlessness serves a purpose, why would you need to become more content?  

A. Maybe I need to be content with being restless.

Q. Are you certain about that?

A. Not quite, no.

Q. About what are you uncertain?

A. The energy of restlessness.  It doesn’t seem quite — quite — spiritual.  

Q. Why does everything need to be spiritual?

A. Man, you’re asking good questions this morning!   I’ve never really thought about it before.  I’ve just assumed that since I’m a spiritual person, things have to be spiritual.

Q. But what is it about restlessness that is not spiritual?

A. Well gosh, it’s not exactly meditative or contemplative.  It doesn’t bring inner peace.  Doesn’t have much to do with love of God or of neighbor.  Or even of self, for that matter.

restless spiritQ. When you are restless, do you feel that you hate yourself?

A. Yes!  That’s it, exactly.  I’m never good enough for myself.

Q. Why is this?

A. Probably because of Dad.  Nothing I did was ever good enough for him.

Q. But aren’t you a little old to be blaming it on your dad?

A. Yes, you’re right.  I am.

Q. What is it that you hate about yourself when you are restless?

A. Let me think.  

Q. Think?

A. Yes, think.  I think that — when I am restless, I am impatient.  I want it all done right now.  And that’s what I hate about myself — my impatience.  It’s not spiritual.

Q. Then why don’t you work on patience?

A. Because I associate patience with laziness.

Q. What do you mean?

A. When I become patient about my life goals, I lax up.  I figure it’s all in God’s hands, and I no longer aggressively pursue my options.

Q. Why do you have to be aggressive?

A. Because I’m lazy at heart, and aggression goes against my grain.  Aggression is what works, isn’t it?

Q. Is it?

A. Maybe not . . .

Q. How about, instead of pursuing your options aggressively, why not pursue them patiently?

A. You know what, Questioner?  You might be on to something!

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. Yes, you may.  See you next Tuesday.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 29

just-say-no-to-nike-v-1200x630Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater fortitude.

Q. And what is fortitude?

A. Something like courage, but not quite.

Q. What’s the difference?

A. “Fortitude” implies more of a “just do it” approach.  That is, even if one lacks courage in general.  Just do it anyway, even when scared.  “Saying no” is a good example.  I need “fortitude” (not courage) to say “no.”  That’s what I think the difference is, anyway.

Q. Does this apply to something in your life today?

A. Lots of things.

Q. How so?

A. I burn out a lot.  If I don’t feel like doing something, I usually don’t do it.

Q. Then how does it ever get done?

A. Because I know that later on, I probably will feel like doing it.  So I wait till that happens, and in the meantime I do what I do feel like doing — knowing that I probably won’t feel like doing it later.

Q. Does that apply to everything?

A. No.  It doesn’t apply to things that I never feel like doing.

Q. What do you never feel like doing?

A. Washing the dishes.  I never feel like washing the dishes.

Q. And the dishes have piled up?

A. “Piled up” is an understatement.   

Q. How did you allow this to happen?

A. Well – it’s a bit on the personal side, but I guess the answer would be: “When have I not allowed it to happen?”  I’m just lousy at washing dishes.  They were clean for a while when there was someone here helping me with that kind of thing.  But that person isn’t here right now.  And anyway, dishes are just an example.

Q. What’s another example?

A. Saying “no” in general.  Keeping a couple people from knocking on my door at any hour.  And they don’t just knock.  They ring the bell.  Then they wait, and then ring it five times.  Then they wait, and start pounding on the door.  Then I finally realize it’s never going to end.  So I get up, even from being fast asleep, and explain that I’m sleeping and could they please come back another time.

Q. Where did you meet these guys?

A. At the Recovery Center.

Q. And you gave them your address?

A. Well yeah – we had the one guy over for dinner a couple times, when there was still two of us here.  It didn’t seem a big deal at the time.

Q. Then why does it seem a big deal now?

A. Other than that I’m being woke up in the middle of the night a lot?  That’s not a big deal?

Q. Isn’t there a bigger deal?

A. Well yeah – at the root of it, there is.  The bigger deal is I never just flat out tell these guys that I’d rather they don’t come over at all.  

Q. Why not?

A.  I don’t know.  I feel sorry for the one guy.  He’s been out in the cold a couple times.  Less sorry now, though, because I think he stole from me, and I heard he’s in jail right now.   Didn’t figure him for the “type,” but I noticed something was off last time.  Probably they switched his meds or something.   

Q. What about the other guy?

A.  I keep coming up with a use for him.  He’s a computer whiz, and he helped me get the right adapter so I could use my ThinkPad as a desktop now that it’s screen is cracked.

Q. Your laptop screen is cracked?

A. Yeah.  I had to plug it into an external monitor and start working from home.

Q. How did this happen?

A. I have no idea.  All I know is that it happens all too often.   And now I’m tempted to go over to the guy’s place with my old Dell, because I can’t get it to start up.  

Q.  But didn’t you start it up this morning?   Didn’t I read that on your gratitude list?

A. Yes, you did. But it only started up that one time.  Every other time I’ve tried it gets into a weird loop telling me it needs to restart, then I restart, and it tells me it needs to restart.  And so on.  

Q. Do you ever feel like you’re having more than your fair share of technical problems?

A. What do you mean?  New cell phone gets damaged due to water damage.  Second new cell phone gets cut off because they think I’m supposed to have the number of the old cell phone.  PayPal account gets locked for “suspicious activity” when I try to change my phone number.  Trying to send money from my PayPal somehow takes the money out of my bank account instead of my PayPal balance (Lord knows why) and now my bank account is overdrawn, plus I never succeeded in sending the money.   It’s still just sitting there in my PayPal account.  But when I try to transfer it to my bank I get a message telling me that they’re “not sure it’s me.”  I called them, and apparently when a person changes their phone number, it is regarded as “suspicious activity.”

Q. Anything else?

A. Thanks for asking.  So I wake up yesterday morning to a broken laptop screen.  And finally my back-up computer refuses to start up.  Well fine.  I’ll just work at home even though I’m totally paranoid these Kids are going to start pounding on the door any minute now.

A. Is that all?

Q. Probably not.  I mean — I’m an Artist.  I live for these moments of ecstasy I get when my work is going well.  I don’t know how to make money.  I don’t know how to deal with all this technical stuff.  They should only lay technical difficulties on people who can afford to deal with them.

Q. When did your life become so erratic?

A. One guess.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 25

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater integrity.

Q. What makes you think you lack integrity?

A. Hypocrisy.

Q. What makes you a hypocrite?

A. I say things for effect.  I don’t speak my truth.  I say things that I think will entertain the person I’m with.  Or, if not entertain them, in some way impress or please them.  I’m a hypocrite, kinda like a politician.  

Q. But don’t you value your integrity?

A. That I do.

Q. Then surely, doesn’t this come through in your interactions with others?

A. Perhaps.  But I think it’s far clouded over by the entertainer aspect.

Q. Are you saying that you don’t think people take you seriously?

A. Exactly.  That’s what it is.  They don’t take me seriously, because even my truth is obscured by all the entertainer tactics.

Q. Tactics?

A. You know — making them laugh, making them smile, making them cheer, making them clap.

Q. Won’t it help you in your cause to get them on your side?

A. Sure.  But it’s not really my side that I get them on.  I only get them on the side of the entertainer.

Q. And who is the entertainer?

A. The entertainer is a guy who has been trained to try to take people’s mind off of their troubles.

Q. And how does this conflict with your truth?

A. My truth ought to actually remind them of their troubles, and get them to want to do something about them.

Q. So your truth and your entertainer are in conflict?

A. You could put it that way.

Q. Which is more important?

A. My truth.

Q. Then why not ditch the entertainer?

A. Old habits die hard.  

Q. Can’t you try?

A. I can.

Q. Will you?

A. Give me three weeks.

Q. What will happen then?

A. You’ll come back and check, and see how I’m doing.  Say, around Tuesday Tuneup 28.

Q. May I be excused then?

A. You may.

The Questioner is silent. 

 

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Tuesday Tuneup 22

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I do.  You are the part of me who questions the logical validity of my inner workings, to the end that I might make more rational, better-informed decisions.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I am contrite.

Q. You don’t say?

A. I do.  I am contrite, because I feel I have wronged you, and I owe you an amends.

Q. An amends?  Or an apology?

A. An amends, like I said.

Q. What is the difference?

A. An apology has less merit than an amends in terms of acknowledging the inner-connectivity of all beings, whether they exist within the consciousness of a single being, or whether they are attached to separate consciousnesses of multiple beings.

Q. Could you run that past me again, please?

A. I could, I suppose.  But I grow weary of words.

Q. You??

A. Yes, me.  Sadly, even I tire of them.

Q. Then why not cut to the quick?

A. How can I?house-divided

Q. Can’t you just — get to the point?  And make your amends?

A. I’ll try.

Pause.

A. I would like to mend fences.  For I have treated you harshly — as though you were an enemy.  I fought against you, as though I wished to remain separate from you.  But in so doing, I denied that you are but a part of me.   Why should I fight against myself?  A house divided cannot stand.

Q. Then what do you propose to do instead?

A. I propose that we be friends again.   Lovers, if you will.   Let us become one being — no longer divided into two.

Q. This is your way of making peace?

A. Yes.  And not only peace — but unity.   I propose you and I join forces within me.  Gradually together we will transform me from a confused, conflicted sort of fellow, to a fulfilled friend of humanity, moving forward according to a clear and distinct vision, and no longer wallowing in the past, as though at war with the present.

Q. Won’t this affect the nature of my questions?

A. It will indeed.

Q. How so?

A. Come back next Tuesday.   And we shall see.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 21

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Not this again!

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I’m getting tired of hearing these first two questions.   

Q. Why are the questions tiring you?

A. Isn’t it obvious?  They’re the same every time.  No variety!  And besides, I’m running out of clever answers.

Q. Why do your answers have to be clever?

A. Because I need to entertain my readers.

Q. Why do you need to entertain your readers?

A. Because I’m an entertainer.  It’s what I do.  If I don’t entertain people, then I fail.

Q. And if you do entertain people?

A. Then I succeed.

Q. You equate success with entertainment?

A. If I’m in the entertainment business, I do.

Q. How long have you been in the entertainment business?

musical prodigyA. Since I was a little boy.

Q. You were an entertainer when you were a little boy?

A. Yes.  I was expected to entertain everybody.

Q. And if you didn’t?

A. Then they got bored.  They shrugged and frowned and said: “Oh boo!  You could do better than that!”  And then, they walked out.

Q. How did you feel when they walked out?

A. I felt — abandoned.  Abandoned — and worthless.

Q. And then what happened?

A. I cried.  I waited till they were all gone —  and when I was all alone, I burst into tears.  And if I couldn’t stop crying, I had to run and hide.

Q. Why?

A. So my dad wouldn’t find me.

Q. What would happen if he found you?

A. I’d be punished.

Q. Why?

A. Because a man wasn’t supposed to cry.  

Q. How did that make you feel?

A. Pressured.   Pressured to perform — to always be entertaining, in order to gain their interest, and their acceptance.  

Q. Do you mean to suggest that when you were little boy, you were judged on the basis of your performance?

A. Yes, I was. And guess what?

Q. What?

A. So are you.  You are being judged on the basis of your performance.  For even as I was judged, so do I judge others.

Q. How are you judging me?

A. I’ll tell you how! If you don’t come up with two new questions by Tuesday Tuneup 23, then you fail.   My judgment will be chiseled in stone.  There will be no forgiveness.  Only condemnation.  

Q. You mean – you’re going to do away with me??

A. You got it.

Q. But isn’t that a bit severe?

A. Well how do you expect me to react?   If you cease to entertain me, I have no further use for you.

Q. Are you saying you’re going to abandon me?

A. What else can I do?  Be with you till the ends of the earth?  Of course not!  I am going to leave you and forsake you.  For even as I have been abandoned, so do I abandon others.

Q. But – but – don’t you feel like you’re putting too much pressure on me?

A. Of course I do. Even as I have been pressured, so do I pressure others.

Q. What if I fail?

A. Then you’re gonna get a whoopin.’

Q. You’re not going to resort to — corporal punishment, are you?

A. I wish I could.

Q. Why can’t you?

A. Because all you are — is words.   Baseless words, without feeling or flesh.  And that’s how I felt when I was a kid.  My feelings didn’t matter.   My body, my flesh — didn’t matter.  The only thing that mattered — was that I entertain.   And if they didn’t clap for me when I played the piano, and if they didn’t laugh at my jokes in between songs, then I failed.  And if you don’t start entertaining me again, man —

The Questioner gulps.

Q. Then I fail?

A. You said it.

Q. But — what other two questions can I come up with?  

A. That’s for you to decide.  I’m not your Director.  I’m only your Creator.

Q. But – but – but what if — ???

A. No buts!   You have till Tuesday after next.   On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, I expect you to start off with a new pair of questions.   Do you hear me??

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 19

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Not sure.  You could be one thing, or another.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I am a crossroads.  I could go one way, or another.

indecisionQ. But couldn’t you have said that yesterday?

A. I could have.  And I should have — since yesterday was Tuesday.   I could have talked to you on Tuesday, like I’m supposed to.  But I didn’t.  And that’s part of the problem.

Q. Why didn’t you talk to me yesterday?

A. I don’t know.  I meant to.  I tried to.  But every time I started, I came up against a brick wall.

Q. And today?

A. Today I still — don’t quite know what to say, or to do.  I still feel like talking to you is like talking to a brick wall.

Q. Then why are you bothering?

A. Because — I’m supposed to.   I’ve found that if I see you every Tuesday — or once a week rather, even if it’s Wednesday or Thursday — I somehow stay tuned up.  I stay in touch with myself.   I know what I’m supposed to be about.

Q. You do??

A. Well, no — not now I don’t.  But over time, if I practice this consistently, with discipline, then yes, I begin to get a better idea what I’m supposed to be about.

Q. Can you really give me that power?  I mean, considering you’re not even sure who I am?

A. Not logically, no.  And I don’t mean to, exactly.  It’s not you who is the solution.  It’s the process.  The fact that I choose to engage this dialectic, once a week, with consistency.   It adds up, eventually.  It means something.  It takes me somewhere.

Q. Even when it feels like it doesn’t?

A. Perhaps.

Q. How does it feel right now?

A. Shitty.  Lousy.   It’s all a reflection of my — my uncertainty.  My unwillingness.

Q. Unwillingness?

A. Yeah — I’m not willing to — to make a move, one way or another.

Q. Why not?

A. Fear.

Q. Fear of — what?

A. Fear that I’ll be – barking up the wrong tree.   Choosing the wrong path.

Q. How will you know till you try?

A. I won’t.

Q. Then why don’t you just try one way, or the other, and see what happens?

A. Because I have not counted the costs.  Of either path.   I haven’t sat down and listed the pros and cons.  I haven’t really made an effort to scan each option, and make a conscious decision which one looks to be the better.

Q. Then why not sit down and do so?

A. Good idea.

Q. Isn’t that better than wallowing?

A. It is.

Q. Isn’t it better than being frozen in fear?

A. Yes, it is.  Even though I’m not yet taking one path or another, at least I’m doing something. 

Q. What’s that?

A. Deciding.  I’m making a conscious, concerted decision – and taking the time to do it.  I’m not juat taking this decision lightly, nor am I avoiding it.

Q. Do you feel then that I have helped you this morning?

A. Yes, you have.

Q. May I then be excused?

A. Yes.  You may go.

The Questioner is silent.  

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