Babylon Interactive

I want to let you all know that I’ve got a playlist now on SoundCloud that will automatically pull up the interactive score to the musical I’ve been working on.   Feedback is welcome — I’m not exactly sure how viable the instrumentation is.   If I want to easily translate it to a live pit orchestra with “real” musicians, this arrangement probably is not optimum.   It does have an interesting, ethereal sound to it, however.

The thing I keep struggling with is the awareness that when I “received” this music, I was walking about the various outdoor venues of the Berkeley, California area, fully believing that the correct orchestrations were as absolute as the music itself, and that all these sounds were coming from Beyond, having originated in a realm of musical consciousness far greater than the confines of my relatively minute human intellect.

The more powerful that memory, the greater the sense in which I feel this music is cheapened by the arbitrary addition of synthetic sounds only remotely related to the real live musicianship that seems to be called for.  On the other hand, when the music was originally being “given” to me, I “heard” it involving sounds that I identified as being of a timbre tantamount to that of a tenor saxophone and a viola soloist.   So my choice to employ tenor sax and viola in my arrangements was not arbitrary.   It’s an attempt to best replicate that which I have already heard. 

The problem with this is that, while it may indeed provide adequate background for singers presenting an interactive production online, it would be difficult to rectify those sounds as being suitable within the typical pit orchestra of a Broadway-type musical.  I could replace them with an increased focus on electric guitars and keyboard-synth, and thus render the interactive orchestration compatible with that of a real-live pit orchestra — one with a rock ensemble flair — but if I do so, I sacrifice the beauty of the expressive tenor sax and viola sounds, as authentically replicating the ethereal sounds that I heard.

One thing to note is that instruments like saxophones and violas are generally found as parts of larger jazz or classical ensembles.  While we do hear sax solos in jazz and other genres, we don’t often hear viola solos.  More often, the viola is a part of a string section.  So I might as well add a wind section, a string section, and a brass section for that matter, if I’m going to involve such instruments.  They sound out of character when played together without some bolstering or support from instruments of their kind.

However, all of this has to do with idiom.  That is, because the ear is not accustomed to hearing passages that involve a sax and a viola harmonizing in descending cascades such as we hear in Sirens of Hope, it rejects the application of those instruments as bizarre.  They don’t match the typical pairing of instruments — a single brassy wind like that, with a solitary stringed instrument in the midrange.  And yet, were we to have such instrumentalists in a pit with ample miking and the like, we could lift their sounds to levels akin the other players – the drummer, the bass, the guitarist and the like.

A final thing to consider is that when the music was being directed my way, it was not with the idea that human musicians were playing it in whatever Ethereral Realm of the Beyond it was emanating from.  Seriously!  The distinct impression I got was that it was being performed in such a way that transcended mere human musicianship.   And if this is the case, then certainly the employment of the software is excusable.  To the ears of the ethereal, human instruments, human devices, and human programs are all one and the same.  They are all equally non-divine.

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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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Theology Afield

“Theology Afield” is a group of spiritual seekers, comprised largely of members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Moscow, Idaho.  Though I am not a member of that church, I was welcomed into that group when we still met in the reading room of our beloved One World Cafe.  Below is an excerpt from our first Zoom meeting, held last Thursday the 16th.   Kenton Bird, the group facilitator and Professor of Journalism at the University of Idaho, asked I and the others a very timely question.

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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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A Song Called Him

There are going to be a few changes in the concept of this blog. Due to COVID-19, I’m receiving a lot of suggestions that I provide more piano music, and less of the other stuff. The reason for this is because Music has a way of getting people through hard times. Music can comfort and inspire in a way that mere words are not meant to do.

Words have their time and purpose. Many words have been comforting and inspiring, and have transformed the hearts of men and women throughout the history of this earth. But this is a time when largely, words fail me. I don’t know what to say about everything that’s happening. But I know that when I play my piano, I’m saying something to somebody — without even having to open my mouth.

So there will be more music, and it won’t always come towards the end of the week. I’ll try to keep to the Friday schedule, but I’ll also post on whim. It just seems to be the energy of this transition that we all share. I can’t explain why. It is something I feel in my heart.

I’m in the process of preparing a new piano piece.  It’s a song by the name of “Him.” No, it is not about Jesus. I was not a believer when I wrote the song. I wrote it when I was 19 years old, and it is part of the first musical I ever wrote. It’s interesting that its name is “Him,” but I did not become a Christian until I was thirty.

You’ll note that there won’t be a youtube video. The nice man named Tom who has been helping me is not going to gather with me at the church, nor am I going to that building to prepare the piece. There may not be videos for a while, because it’s a two person job for me at this stage, and I am only one person, sheltering in place.

In my apartment, however, I own an upright piano. It’s not of the quality of the Baldwin Grand, but it has its own flavor. You may hear background noise, and I’m pretty sure one of the keys just lost its tune. The piano is almost 100 years old.  But it will do the job.

Now, if you don’t believe in God, consider this.

About two years ago, I was given a free piano by a woman I hardly knew at the time. She was moving to a new house, owned three pianos, and could not fit them all in. She knew I was a piano player, so she asked me if she could give me a piano.

Prior to this time in my life, I have never owned a piano. Now, at the age of 67, I do. I not only got it for free, but she even paid for the movers to bring it over and place it where it sits right here in my house.

The piano was horribly out of tune. The next day, a 19 year old guy from Kansas happened to be passing through town. He stopped at my church to ask if there were a piano he could practice on. We said: “Sure!”

I then proceeded to hear an absolutely dazzling rendition of the Pathetique by Ludwig van Beethoven. So I approached the young man to query of his experience. He gave me his card, and it turned out he was a piano tuner.

I had previously called the local piano tuner. But he wouldn’t have been able to get to me for six more weeks. This guy not only tuned it, he gave me a 25% discount, and came back the next day for a touch-up. Then he went his way, as he was only passing through town.

So now I had a free piano, freely delivered — and actually freely tuned as well, since a friend of a friend then offered to pay for the tuning. Overjoyed, I sat down at the piano. Something immediately seemed familiar.

“I have played this piano before!” I exclaimed.  

But I hadn’t really — I had only played one of its kind:

Howard Baby Grand piano made by Baldwin 1916 | eBay

“My God!” I shouted. “This is the same piano that Dad had!”

Not the same, of course, since my father — the ragtime piano player, Dave Pope — had converted his vintage 1921 Howard piano built in Cincinnati to a player piano.  This new one did not have the player. But it felt the same.  And more importantly, it played the same.

So I sat down and joyfully played a song called “Him.”  For a song called “Him” was composed in 1972 on the spittin’ image of the 1921 Howard upright that I so mysteriously received in 2018.

Is there a God?  Maybe not.  Could it be coincidence?  Odds are astronomically against it.  What about the Universe?   Just another name for God.   Synchronicity?   A creation of God.  Manifestation?  Even the most powerful among us powerful human beings do not have that much power.  Besides, I never asked for it, never prayed for it, and never tried to manifest it.  It was just dropped in my lap.  I had absolutely nothing to do with the arrival of that piano.

“But why does it have to be God?”

Good question.  My answer?   “God” is just a word.   Words have meanings.  Ask ten people what the word God means?  You get ten different answers.  This is why a book was created – was manifested, if you will — by the Universal Spirit Being whom in English speaking countries we call “God.”

That book is the Word of God.  God is a Word.  “In the beginning,” says St. John, “was the Word.  And the Word was with God.  And the Word was God.”

And I have found that — unlike other gods — my God keeps His Word.

Now, please enjoy the music of the amazing Pathetique — at a time when every other word has failed me.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 74

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Sorrow.

Q. Sorrow over what?

A. Past behavior of mine.

Q. Isn’t it past?

A. Evidently not.

Q. How so?

A. I wouldn’t be so cocky if I weren’t in such denial.

Q. What’s that supposed to mean?

A. I have been denying that my misfortunes down in California had a whole lot to do with me.

Q. But doesn’t stuff just happen that’s beyond your control?

A. Sure it does.  People get deadly diseases.  They get hit by cars.  None of that is their own doing.

Q. But didn’t you have some kind of mental health breakdown in 2004?

A. I harp on that — and yes I did.  But still, lots of stuff that happened, especially in terms of valued friends rejecting me, was entirely my doing.

Q. How so?

A. I found some emails I sent to some of my friends in 2015 when I was homeless.  They were pretty vitriolic, downright hateful, accusational.  I was accusing everybody of being uncompassionate.  There were expletives involved.  So it’s no wonder they all fled from me.  Nobody wants to deal with that.

Q. But weren’t the circumstances that led to those angry emails really beyond your control?

A. The circumstances were.  But a lot of us were experiencing those same circumstances.  How many of us sent angry emails to our friends and family members?

Q. I don’t know – how many of you did?

A. I don’t know either.  But they couldn’t have been as bad as the ones I sent.

Q. Why not?

A. Probably because I type about 120 wpm and so my emails were longer as well as angrier.  My anger was more detailed.

Q. But you don’t send those kinds of emails to people now, do you?

A. I’m not homeless.  I have no reason to.  

Q. Can’t you just be thankful for that and move on?

A. Probably, eventually. This doesn’t seem like the kind of guilt that will destroy me.

Q. Is there any kind of guilt that doesn’t destroy people?

A. Yes, there is.   There’s the kind of guilt you get when you realize that you’ve done something wrong.  It makes you want to never do it again.  

Q. So your sorrow is actually a good thing?

A. Yes it is.  It brings me closer to my God, rather than further away.   In the Bible, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, this is called “godly sorrow.”  It’s the kind of sorrow that leads to a change of heart — and it is not to be regretted.  But the other kind of sorrow, that contains the other kind of guilt, is called the “sorrow of this world.”  It leads to despair, and ultimately, to death.  It’s best I mourn the death of my former self, and proceed with the Self that’s New.  

The Questioner is silent.  

Growing Up In The Word : A Contrite Heart

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Gratitude List 1423

(1) Thankful for the current mania, because I’m in good spirits and getting a lot accomplished.

(2) Thankful for the recent depression, because I got caught up on my sleep and gave my head a rest.

(3) Thankful that I am only mildly and not severely bipolar, because managing this disorder without medication has been both a challenge and a source of beauty in my life.

(4) When I contemplate how hugely I’ve been blessed, I almost feel guilty that I’m not doing my best to return the favor.  But it’s a good feeling, a quasi-guilt, kinda more like a heartfelt conviction than a self-abnegation.

(5) Am really enjoying Ashley’s book.  She writes very clearly and is obviously an expert on mental health conditions & the DSM-5.

(6) I’m being called upon by the people at the coffee house to subdue the erratic energies of the people from the recovery center next door, which I believe is impossible.  However, what I’m grateful for is that someone would consider me mature and responsible enough to be in such a mediating position.   Usually it’s my own energies that they want to subdue.

(7) I’m also being called upon to fill the shoes of my musician friend Paul, who passed away suddenly last month.   A number of the younger musicians and even their parents are turning to me, because Paul was such a great mentor.  While I don’t know that I can follow his act, it’s a good feeling to be thought of as someone who might.

(8) I’m starting to realize that all these things that I tend to perceive as “Mainstream Stress” — the kind of stress that broke me down in 2004 and landed me on the streets for 12 years — are better seen as marvelous opportunities for me to show my shine.

(9) “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

(10) I’m not too manic, I don’t think.  Tears are happening, and they are cleansing.  One day I believe God will wipe every tear from our eyes.   There’s a lot of good in this Universe — we just gotta find it and do something with it.  God is Good.

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Four)

This is the fourth in a seven-part series I am posting on consecutive Thursdays.  Though the series is only quasi-chronological, I urge you to leaf through the first three first.  

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Drawing by Granger

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard referred to the moment, not as “an atom of time,” but as an “atom of eternity.”  That’s how the moment of August 8, 2006 felt.  One might say that time stood still at that moment, and I had a glimpse of the eternal bliss we might experience in heaven.

This is one reason why I framed this series as I did.   A chronological order of events would not be as meaningful as a spiritual progression, which in a way defies time.  My first day of homelessness was not August 8, 2006 — it was May 17, 2004.  But the night of May 17, 2004 was a night of fright and awful uncertainty, afraid to make myself prone on a bench at the Burlingame CalTrain station, but sitting up all night, nodding off periodically, and watching for cops all the while.

By contrast, the event of August 8, 2006 was one of momentary ecstasy, but where did that moment lead?  Down the tubes fairly quickly, as I recall.  Its memory, however, did not fade.

That memory was in fact felt in retrospect.  For on March 19, 2004, I took a look at my badly beaten car, its front end crunched like an accordion.   As I discovered the freedom of public transportation, of leaving the driving to those more capable than myself, I was granted a foreshadow of the more complete liberation I would know two years in the future.

The horror that marked my final three years in Berkeley was also foretold.  It wasn’t until June 24, 2013 that I first found myself pistol-whipped, as I watched a pair of young hooligans making off with my laptop.   But on some unknown date back in June of 2004, I had known a much more serious violation, of the kind that in civil society it is not thought proper to discuss.

The complex confluence of incongruous influences that comprised the conditions of homelessness was never considered a drain or an overload, in the way that the Mainstream had been.  The overload of the Mainstream was death to my soul. But all the excesses of stimuli that combined to create the Homeless Adventure were health to my spirit, and marrow to my bones.

“Naked I am!” I shouted.  “I am stripped of all I have ever thought I would be!  I have made myself naked and vulnerable in the face of a fully mercurial and often hostile Universe!”

I saw all my possessions be burned to bits before my eyes, the act of an unfeeling young juggaloe who hadn’t slept in days.   I was hurled to the ground by deluded gangbangers, shouting “I’m going to kill you White Motherf—-r!” — as they hit me again and again with the barrels of their guns, on the head I had bowed before them.

Yet through all these atrocities, I found it in myself to sleep on my back without bedroll in a thunderstorm, exerting pelvic thrusts in the direction of the full moon, and reveling.

“Bring it on!” I screamed.  “I want more!  I want more!!”

Then, getting up, fully clad and with shoes on — (for I always slept in shoes, so as to be ready) — I suddenly shivered.   So what did I do?   Of course, I ran as far as I could, as fast as I could, till I warmed.

When the sun shone, and the daylight burned, I walked about the City of Berkeley and composed music in protest, having not paper nor pen, neither software, nor laptop, no possessions at all, save the clothes on my back.

“Bop bop bop!” came the singing of the melodies.   My weathered trousers were as sets of drums.   Keyboards and electric guitars anointed the air, while passersby mocked and mimicked me, shouting: “Shut the f—k up!”  Meanwhile, seemingly unbeknowst to them, I composed the score to Eden in Babylon— to my proud estimation, the finest music I have written thus far, to date — in the timeless spool of life.

“That’s your whole problem!” my naysayers chided.  “You think that your music is more important than God.”

“Ah but no,” I replied.  “It’s your problem.  You think that your Mainstream is God.”

There was nothing Mainstream about the Uniqueness that was Homelessness in Berkeley.  So for all of the fears, the highs, and the rages, it yet remained sacred — to me.

“How do we get inside again?” my friend Jerome had earlier queried.   “How do we get back inside, and yet not get sucked back into the Mainstream?”

In search of answer, I shouted at the Most High in outrage.

“WHY am I hanging around pimps and hookers and drug dealers and thieves and criminals and hustlers and panhandlers?   WHY am I not among Artists and Writers and Musicians and Actors and Directors — and people more like myself!?  I know — I know — these are the people whom JESUS hung out with!   But I’m NOT JESUS!!! I’m NOT JESUS!!  I’m only f—ing human!!!  Give me a god-d—–d break!!!!”

Many times did I scream to the God of my youth.  Many times someone screamed back at me: “Would you just shut the f—-k up?!”

Then came the terrifying threats of the night.  “This guy,” said a jealous man, pointing my way, “is not going to live much longer.”

“You know what?” I told myself.  “He’s probably right.”

So on June 24, 2016, exactly three years after the first of a series of violent assaults against my person, I went down to Bill’s Computer Store on Shattuck Avenue, bought myself a refurbished Dell laptop with my government check, and walked quietly away from the City of Berkeley without saying a word.

God then proceeded to answer every prayer I had hurled toward Him, facing His Infinite Love with hatred and vitriol.   He answered those prayers sevenfold, nay — seventy times sevenfold — in spades.   And He provided a way for me to live inside without getting sucked back into the evils of the Mainstream.   In so doing, He showed me the hugeness of His unfathomable, unconditional love.  

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Dangers of Liberation (Part Three)

It would be tempting for me to recount just about everything that took place between August 12, 2006 and April 15, 2011.   But that would be a story in itself — perhaps even a novel or a book.   Suffice it to say that my travels during that period of time were extremely disjointed.   They represented the trek of a man who, having already realized that the Mainstream held nothing for him, nevertheless engaged himself in a five year plan of pointless futility, hanging on to the remnants of a former Mainstream identity.  To everyone in my path, this leg of my journey appeared to be nothing other than a poisonous mixture of insanity and instability.   I bounced from Lodi to Redwood City to Stockton, back to Redwood City, up to Oakland, and back to Stockton, with frenetic periods in between where I could claim no single city as my own.  "BenjaminAlways, I was haunted by the lure of Berkeley and its particularly special brand of homelessness.  Having tasted of that heavenly fruit, there was no way I could return to anything like my former system of values without incurring disaster.  Berkeley loomed as though a Mecca for all who had embraced this unusual consciousness.  In fact, prior to the momentous event of August 8, 2006, there was even a previous moment in the Fall of 2005 that served as a kind of prophecy of unknown times to come.   Someone had driven me to visit my daughter where she was working at the Jamba Juice on Bancroft, and as I stepped out of the car, I suddenly found myself  lifting up my hands in a spontaneous gesture of amazement, shouting: “Berkeley!   This is where I’ve got to be!”

To this day, I have no idea what prompted that outburst.  Something in the air of this peculiar city had caught my attention in a way that no other place ever had.   And then, there was the mysterious revelation of 2006, followed by the tortuous premature application of that epiphany in the next three days, prompting a five year disappearance into failed jobs, shelters, residence hotels, and psych wards, until at last, on April 15, 2011, I gave up the ghost.

On that day, I took $40, left the last of a series of untenable living situations, got on an AmTrak, and alighted once again on the City of Berkeley, this time with the full intent of my heart.

That night I hooked up with a fellow named Sydney, sold my cell phone for a blanket, and the two of us slept in a corridor near the U.C. campus.  Far from the earlier disorientation, I now found myself guided, as if by an unseen hand, to every resource for the homeless that the city had to offer.  It was at that time that I also was directed to numerous other homeless men and women whom I discovered to be very much like myself.   All of them shared a similar story of having been “liberated” from an evil form of bondage that we called the Mainstream.

One of these was a tall African-American man named Jerome.  For the first five days of my intentional homelessness, I chatted with him at Starbucks.  He was well-dressed — as was I — and it took five days before either of us discovered the other was homeless.  At that, we decided to camp out together.  (There’s safety, after all, in numbers.)

“Here’s the challenge,” Jerome said one night.  “How do get inside again without getting sucked back into the Mainstream?”

“That is indeed the challenge,” I replied.

Then there was silence.

There are many levels to liberation.  As I wrote in Part Two of this series, one is not just liberated from something.   One is liberated into something.   And that something might just morph into an ogre as forbidding as that from which one had been released in the first place.

For my part, there is no true liberation, unless one is liberated into Christ.   “If you make my Word your home,” said Jesus, “you will indeed be my disciples.  You will learn the truth — and the truth will make  you free.”  

When one has found a home, one needs to maintain it.  Otherwise one will have a home no longer.   Even the freedom that there is in Christ is not an absolute arrival.   To what extent I had found liberation it now needed to be tilled like a garden.  Otherwise, it would morph into a beast as threatening as the Mainstream from which I first fled.

For better or worse, that is what happened with homelessness.  It developed into a world of its own, with rules of its own, many of them tacitly acknowledged — unwritten and unspoken, yet real.   And those rules bespoke betrayal, vengeance, and death.

Though the first months of homelessness in Berkeley were little short of blissful, even on into the second year, eventually my old enemy reared his head, though in a different and far more frightening form.   Just how bad it got, it will disturb me greatly to tell.  But I’ll tell it, as cogently as I can, in Part Four.

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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.

Granddad Jumps With Granddaughter In Skydiving Adventure | Aero-News Network

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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Dangers of Liberation (Part Two)

This post is a sequel to Dangers of Liberation (Part One).  I strongly urge you to read it first, if you want to get the most out of this one.   

I am not the only person who has had an experience like the one described in the first post of this series.  After the unbelievable epiphany of August 8, 2006, I was later to be drawn toward a number of individuals who reported a very similar event.  The problem, however, is that the information received in that moment was processed prematurely, in a mind that was unready for so radical a change.   So I didn’t encounter the others till about five years later.  

Liberation is a two-way street.  It’s not just that someone finds themselves released from a form of inner bondage or imprisonment.  When one is liberated, they are released into a new realm.   The nature of that realm is of extreme significance.   We are not only liberated from.  We are liberated into.  

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all ...

This raises a couple questions. From what sort of inner prison were we released?  Essentially, it was a conglomerate of rules, customs, social mores, status symbols, contracts, hierarchies, schedules, regimens, routines and protocols that ran contrary to our natural God-given design and character.  For lack of a better word, I and others called this conglomerate the Mainstream.   It was a stifling force, the Mainstream, whose role was to quench the spirit.  

To what sort of freedom were we liberated?  To freedom from the outmoded rules of a former day.  From customs by which we could no longer abide.  From social mores that bespoke hypocrisy, status symbols we no longer possessed, contracts severed, hierarchies violated, schedules disregarded, regimens rejected, routines discarded, and protocols exposed.   Where could we find such freedom?

Only in homelessness.  Everything else reflected a Mainstream that never served our true natures, and from which we were eventually severed.

It took five hard years for me to find the others who shared this unusual gift.  For in the days that followed that moment of bliss, I struggled to process the strange twists and turns that came of outdoor living.  I learned, for one thing, that a person doesn’t just walk into a shelter and expect to be served.  There was an application process, and a long waiting line, before one could be granted a bed.   So for three days I struggled to manage, with no money, no roof over my head, stuck and stranded in a strange town called Berkeley.

By the third day, my thinking was very much awry.  I got in with the wrong crowd, and long story short, found myself running from would-be assailants.   Though I believe I eluded the two young rapscallions, I was by that time completely spent.  In desperation, I flagged down a police car and beseeched them for help.   Discerning my mania, the officers had no problem escorting me to the place where they felt I belonged.

So on August 11, 2006, I sat in the John George Psychiatric Pavilion, having persuaded myself and others that my issue was merely one of untreated bipolar disorder.  The entire memory of a momentary freedom now paled in the wake of a serious disease.  In that downtrodden state, I permitted the clinicians to diagnose my liberation, and prescribe me the mood stabilizer Depakote.   After a single night’s stay in the psych ward, my thinking was clear enough to steer me toward a $50 PayPal loan from a friend in Las Vegas, a one-way Greyhound ticket to a small town in the Valley, a shelter, a clinic, and a cheap residence hotel.  

“I must have been out of my mind!” I told myself.  And then, for five years, I followed the guidelines of a Mainstream I’d already rejected in my heart.

It was not until April 15, 2011, that I took the next plunge into the realm where the memory of a transcendent event had informed my true spirit.   On that day, I took $40, left the last of a series of untenable living situations, hopped on an AmTrak, alighted upon the City of Berkeley once again, and proceeded to become Homeless by Choice.  

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Gratitude List 1367

This week’s daily gratitude selection is from Saturday, New Year’s Day.  

1. Happy New Year!

2. Slept six hours from 11:30 till 5:30.   Very sound, tranquil sleep.

3. Nice of Bruce to meet with me for coffee in the morning yesterday.  He’s a good, supportive listener and a very nice man.  Very perceptive, as well.

4. Spent most of the day at the Center yesterday, which in this case was healing.   April is working there now and she has come a very long way.  April and Amber helped me a lot, and it gave me a place to chill when my nerves were harried from lack of sleep the previous night.

5. Prompted by noticing that more people are showing up on Tuesdays than any other day on my blog site, I made a New Years Resolution to put more effort into the blog and stick to the scheduled posts on scheduled days.   Started out with a bang and am encouraged.

6. Really grateful that the recent storm has passed.  For a while, during the sleepless night, it wasn’t possible for me to hang on to a positive thought, and I felt nothing but self-hatred and frustration with others, as well as deep pessimism and a sense of utter defeat.   Somehow that was all lifted during the time when I was at the Center.   Now I don’t feel any frustration with anyone at all, and I have compassion for people whom I usually begrudge.

7. This makes it easier to pray for them.   Also, about prayer life, I noticed something toward the end of Proverbs 1 this morning that answered a big question for me.   Looking forward to a healthier interior life.

8. Was just reading Galatians 5 and had forgotten about some really good stuff in there, particularly how faith is “expressed through love.”

9. Got to have a long talk with Alex last night, which was inspiring on many levels, including meditation, DBT, our daughters, and the great encouragement of his political bent.

10. Out with the Old, in with the New.   2 Corinthians 5:17.   God is Good.

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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Dangers of Liberation (Part One)

This post was lifted from its original manifestation of approximately one year ago.  I didn’t feel ready at that time to produce the next four parts of the series.  I do now.  

On August 8, 2006, I sat at the corner of Shattuck and Kitteredge in Berkeley, California, three blocks North of the Royal Grounds Cafe, where I had just spent my last two dollars on coffee.   

I had walked back and forth, to and fro, not knowing where I was going.  It gradually dawned on me that I had nowhere left to go.  I had spent my entire severance check after leaving my summer job as a singing teacher with Children’s Musical Theatre San Jose.  I had spent it all on taxicabs, meals in restaurants, and motel rooms.   So I sat down, expecting to enter into total misery.  Instead, I entered into total bliss.

Mihai Eminescu Quote: “I understand that a man can have everything having nothing and nothing ...

I finally had nothing.  Nothing to prove anymore.  Nothing to hold on to.  Nothing to need to protect or salvage or horde.  Nothing that could be coveted or stolen.  Nothing that I needed to accomplish or achieve.   

And in having nothing, I realized that I was open to everything.  In an instant, everything that the Universe had to offer came soaring into my consciousness.  All the gifts of life — the very gifts that my worldly concerns had blinded me from seeing — were now not only visible, but tangible, accessible, and omnipresent.  

I found paper and pen, and I wrote down these words:

I have indeed hit bottom.
And at the moment when I reached my bottom,
I realized that I had reached the very top.
At that moment, I was Buddha.

While this surprising sense of liberation was very real, and while it was destined to impact me for years to come, its accompanying bliss was short-lived.  Within three days, I was to see its downside in a dramatic way.   And the bittersweet dynamic thereof informed my later thought.

So I’ve decided to use the next several Thursdays to post my thoughts on this theme as best I can.   There are distinct dangers involved when one permits oneself to receive gifts of joy and happiness from sources commonly associated with misery and despair.  I’ll do my best to illustrate what the years following that experience have held for me.  Hopefully, I can do so with clarity.

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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 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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Gratitude List 1229

(1) Though I only got about an hour and a half of sleep before I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, I’m still very thankful that it’s been seven days now and I’ve not gone into sleep paralysis.

(2) I was able to get a large tube of toothpaste and a bottle of shampoo for free at the Co-Op in the box of things they take to the Food Bank.   Also, I found a brand new toothbrush in my backpack that I’d forgotten about.

(3) Really looking forward to calling my friend Danielle, and to talking with her for 45 minutes between 4:45 and 5:30.  I’ve missed the last four times due to sleeping in, and it’s left a bit of a void.  I very much gain from this early morning fellowship.  It’s been a tradition now for a long time.

(4) My daughter has connected with a writing coach whom I regard very highly, Lauren Sapala, and Lauren has promised to read a book she has written, called Secrets Held Too Tight to Keep.  

(5) As of this morning, I believe my unhealthy attitudes toward money are being healed.

(6) For the second time this year, just when I ran out of reading glasses, I found a nice pair of dollar readers sitting on a bench, and they suit me perfectly.   

(7) I was able to cry during the church service, though not a whole lot.  Still, it’s a start.  I hardly ever cry, but the times when I’ve gotten in touch with the deeper feelings, I’ve cried in torrents.   It’s always cleansing when I do, and it helps me to move forward once again.

(8) I’ll probably have two new piano pieces for you later on in the week, as soon as I get them off of that guy’s smartphone and upload them onto my youtube channel.  I recall they both came out very nicely.

(9) Letting go off the past has always been very difficult for me.   But it’s become clear that I really need to count my blessings and look forward.   That said, there are some pretty substantial potential blog posts hidden in some of the very long emails I have sent to those who have ceased to contact me.   The words I wrote are still valuable.  I only wrote them to the wrong people.

(10) Training for window washing at 6am, should make some money in cash before 9am, when I have to go to the hospital and finalize my volunteer position.  The volunteer position, by the way, is that I will now be playing piano regularly at the entrance to the Courtyard Cafe — in the hospital where I was born.   Stranger things have happened!  And the Lord Himself moves in strange and mysterious ways.

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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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Pitfalls of Forgiveness: Part Two

I wanted to subtitle this one: “How NOT to forgive somebody.”   I got this crazy idea that  if somebody whom I have resented would only answer a few questions for me, I would finally “understand” the situation, and therefore finally “forgive” the guy.   After all, isn’t there a French proverb that reads: “To understand all is to forgive all?”   Sure there is!  Therefore,  if I could only understand this fellow’s baffling behavior toward me, then naturally I would finally arrive at a moment like this:

“Oh!  I get it!  That’s why you said all those weird and totally hurtful things!  I understand now!   It all makes sense!!  Finally, I forgive you, man!!!”

Believe me, this is not the way to approach the matter.   To illustrate this, I’ve prepared a fictitious email, sent to someone named “Tom” who hypothetically had offended me.  The nature of the offense is based on truth, though the names and variables have been altered and mixed, for the sake of discretion and taste.  Observe the absurdity of such an entreaty:

Hey Tom –

As you know, I’ve been having a very difficult time forgiving you for nearly two years now.    Largely, this is due to a single conversation in which you suddenly decided, among other things, that you were not really my good, close friend, but only a “casual acquaintance.”

Being as we have had many close conversations over a twenty year period of time, this demotion seemed a bit unfair.  Come to think of it, however, it was only I who kept revealing all kinds of personal information to you, thinking you were one of my very best friends.  Perhaps this explains why you would often take the information I conveyed to you in confidence and freely distribute among your many associates.  Had I been your friend, and not just some random guy, you might have been more loyal.

It appears that either you are one of the most malicious people I’ve ever met, or one of the stupidest.  I sure hope the latter is the case.  If you are stupid, then you simply don’t realize the implications of your statements, and therefore it is more difficult for me to find fault with you.

I have therefore provided you with a 12-point questionnaire, designed to determine whether or not you are an evil genius or a stupid idiot.  Once I know the answer, I will understand you perfectly; and therefore forgive you.  

Best Regards,

Andy

Do you see how ludicrous that would be?  If the situation were reversed, and I knew that someone hated me, and the person who hated me was insisting that I alter my behavior in some form or another, until he would no longer hate me, how would I feel?

I would be incensed!  It is not my purpose in life to adjust my behavior to please him who hates me.  That person who hates me is not God, and has no right to insist that I change in any way.

Scrummaster Needed Desperately at LAST Conf 2016 in ...

But the aphorism above comes to mind and is wise.  This person whom I am calling “Tom” also had a way of lecturing me.  Lengthy dissertations on how to live my life, flavored by little gifts he would buy me — running shoes, a cell phone, and lunches.  It took me a while to realize that he must not have been all that bright.   People who give a lot of advice generally mean well.  They’re just not smart enough to realize that they shouldn’t be doing it.  

Of course, this begs the question: “Why on earth did I listen to all these uninvited lectures in the first place?

The answer is this:

When you’re homeless, and you’re out on the streets, and you’re not sleeping very well, and you’re being treated left and right as though you are a totally worthless scum bag with no clue how to live your life, you eventually begin to believe it.

So you turn to those who appear to be doing well, and you eat up their worthless advice as though it were manna from heaven.  Somehow, you don’t realize until you finally get inside that their advice pertains only to the world of the wealthy.  It has no relevance whatever to the world of the underprivileged — the world where you actually live.

As far as forgiveness is concerned, as Bryan Wagner has pointed out, it has nothing to do with the other person at all.   The idea of requesting that someone alter their behavior in order that you might forgive them is absurd.   Had they been willing to do something like that, you’d have never resented them in the first place.

Forgiveness is an inside job.  It can only be accomplished in that place inside you where you meet your True and Highest Self.  It can only be accomplished in the heart.

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Pitfalls of Forgiveness: Part One

As most of  you know, I am of a genetic heritage (Sicilian) that is noted for resisting the notion of forgiveness.   Some of us seem to have an alarming capacity to take our grudges to our graves.   However, because I am a Christian, and I take the Bible seriously, I would like to make sure that I forgive those whom I still begrudge.   Yet I frankly find forgiveness of these people to be next to impossible. 

But I’ve got to forgive them!   Even if I didn’t identify as a Christian, I’d probably still feel a need to forgive them, if for no other reason than that a lingering resentment doesn’t feel good.   Resentments against others eat away at one’s mental health.   If I weren’t a Christian, I would want to let go of these grudges for my sake.   But because I am a Christian, it is not only for my own sake that I must forgive.  It is for God’s sake — for the sake of all that is good and just and kind in this world.  Look what Jesus said:

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.
–Mark 11:25-26

So if we want to be forgiven, then we need to forgive.   That much seems simple and sound.   But whether or not you are conversant with Scripture, these words of Jesus are likely to strike a puzzling note.   Aren’t we Christians the ones who believe that we simply are forgiven?   As in, no matter what we do?

forgiveWell, yes and no.   There are Christians and there are Christians.  A Calvinist might believe this.  An Arminian might not.   We could get into Romans Six and all that, but this single Scripture definitely appears to contradict numerous biblical references to the security of the believer. Have our names not been written on the Book of Life since “before the foundation of the world?”  If I am a Christian, and I believe that God has already forgiven me, then why would I need to forgive anyone else in order to secure His forgiveness?   

Although I’ve read numerous studies on the matter, they seem by and large to be rationalizations.   One suggested that Jesus speaks in this context not to “believers” but to “people in the world.”   But that doesn’t hold water.   Jesus is simply speaking to everybody — to whoever has ears to hear — whether they believe Him or not.

So I pondered this apparent contradiction for a long time.  Finally, I arrived at a reconciliation within myself, as a result of performing the following dialectic:

Q. What’s bugging you?

A. I think I might be going to hell.

Q. Why?

A. There are three people in my life whom I have not forgiven.  

Q. But aren’t you a Christian?

A. That depends upon what you mean by “Christian.”

Q. What do you mean by Christian?

A. A Christian (according to me) is a person who is in the process of being saved.

Q. Saved from what?

A. From the just consequences of our many misdeeds.

Q. Can you document this scripturally?

A. I can try.   Romans 10:9 states:  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  According to this Scripture, these are the two prerequisites for salvation.

Q. Do you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord?

A. Sometimes.

Q. Do you believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead?

A. Always.

Q. Then why would you not be saved?

A. Because I haven’t forgiven these three people, and God says I have to forgive them if I want to go to heaven.

Q. Do you want to forgive them?

A. Oh yes!

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. I keep trying, but I keep winding up going back to the grudges.   It’s not that I don’t want to forgive them, it’s that I don’t feel I have the power to do so.

Q. But as a Christian, doesn’t your power come from God?

A. Well, if it doesn’t, then it ought to.

Q. Then why not ask God to empower you to forgive them?

A. Good idea.   I will do so immediately.

Q. Anything else?

A. Yes.

Q. What?

A. As I asked God to empower me to forgive the triumvirate whom I begrudge, a thought came to mind.  Something I’d never thought before.

Q. Really?  What thought is that?

A. Since God knows all things, maybe God knows that ultimately, at some time in my life, I am going to forgive all three of them.   Therefore, though I haven’t forgiven them yet — and would certainly go to hell were I to die on this very day — I am still nonetheless going to go to heaven on some future day, because by the time that future day rolls around, I will have forgiven them.   And God knows this!  I may not have forgiven them yet, but I will forgive them.  I will then be free to depart gracefully from the present planet, and take up my throne in heaven.

Q. Your throne?   Isn’t God the one on the throne?

A. 2 Timothy 2:12 & Revelation 20:6, dude.  We’re all gonna be reigning in heaven.   Remember: you are dealing with a person who actually reads the Bible.   I’m not a person who blindly swallows every lie that comes out of the mouth of the preacher on the pulpit.  Nor am I of the camp who absolutely refuse to open the Book, for fear of its contents.   Nor am I —

Q. Excuse me!! What about 1 Corinthians 8:1?

A. Oops — I forgot.  You actually read the Bible, too.

Q. Well, what about it?

A. What about what?

Q. Don’t dodge the question — what about 1 Cor 8:1?   Paul clearly states that the pursuit of knowledge leads to arrogance, whereas the pursuit of love leads to encouragement and spiritual growth.

A. All right, I’ll admit it.  My problem is that I’m too hung up on learning, reading, absorbing, acquiring information, and gaining knowledge.   And despite all of that intellectual focus, the plain fact is that I just don’t have enough love in my heart.   

Q. And Who is Love?

A. You know the answer to that.   Luke 15:9 & John 4:8 come to mind.   God is Love.

Q. Then Whom shall you seek, if you are to learn how to love?

A. Deuteronomy 4:29 & Jeremiah 29:13 hold the answer to that one.

Q. Wasn’t that a bit indirect of you?

A. Was Jesus always direct?

The Questioner is silent.  

Obviously, I’ve arrived at a resolution that is quite pleasant, if tenuous.   It would seem that my next move along these lines should be to forgive the three people whom I continue to begrudge.   So, in Parts 2-4 of this series (if I ever get around to writing them),  please expect me to go through great efforts to forgive the triad of traitors who so treacherously trapped, tricked, and traumatized me.   I’m not going to mention them by name — of course.   But I’m definitely going to delve into it.

Why?  Because I must.  It’s not just being Sicilian.   It’s that I spent way too much time on the streets.   There, the concept of achieving peace of mind over a troubling individual was virtually synonymous with the notion of getting even with them.   If I wanted there to be peace between me and someone with whom I was quarreling,  I didn’t even think about forgiving them.  I thought about intimidating them until they were too scared to mess with me.   It was only then that I would breathe my long-awaited — though highly temporary — sigh of relief.

Let’s put it this way.   I may have Mafioso blood, but I sure didn’t have anything against any of these people before I had to spend twelve years on the streets.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Simple Love Song

Before we go much further, I probably ought to let my close followers know how the radio show went.  It went great.  And not only that, but a couple of very interesting events occurred immediately before and after the interview.  

Not having done a radio interview since 1987, I was extremely nervous.  I was so nervous, I had a hard time praying before the show.  I was grabbing a bite to eat at the Courtyard, when I prayed: “Lord, please let me run into another believer who will pray for me, because I cannot pray.” (Ironically, when I said, “I cannot pray,” I was praying.) 

I believe that prayer was heard.   I had barely taken one step out the door of the Courtyard, when someone locking their bicycle said hi to me.  But I didn’t recognize her with helmet and haircut.  As she took off the helmet, I realized she was Amanda from my church.

So I explained the situation and asked her to pray.   Then I got to the studio right on time, and the entire event flowed beautifully.   It wasn’t perfect, of course.  But it was a lot better than I’d feared!

Immediately after the three hour event was over, I went to the bathroom and thanked the Lord.  Then I asked Him what I should do next.  (I’ve been doing that a lot lately, because I’m such a space case I often don’t know what the next logical thing to do is.)

The still small voice clearly said: “Relax and rejoice.”  I’d never heard that combination before.  But it sounded right to me.

As I left the studio, an incredible peace came over my entire being.  It was the most peace I had felt in my spirit since the day when I played the entire score on the piano of Dan Bukvich, the noted composer and percussionist.   His reply had been: “We gotta get this thing staged!”

After that, I was at peace for about six hours.  I’m not a person who ordinarily experiences that depth of peace.  (In case anyone hasn’t noticed, I’m one of those “high strung space cases.”)

This time, the peace was not quite so enduring.  But while I was immersed in a blissful peace, approximately five minutes after I had left the studio, I saw a fellow with a backpack, and I heard a familiar phrase.

“Hey, you dropped your smile!”

This expression was used a lot by panhandlers in Berkeley, during the years when I was homeless there.   Sometimes people were offended.  In this case, the young woman merely smiled.  You see, we have only one visible homeless person in this entire town.   So it’s very unusual to run into a homeless chap up here. 

Smiling, I asked him: “Did you just say, ‘you dropped your smile?””

“Yeah!  Are you homeless?”

“Not anymore.”

“Me neither.   I just got myself a small house on the edge of town, after being homeless in Seattle for years.”

After a brief but warm conversation, we parted ways.   I then reflected on how this sudden radio show had come about.   I had played a song at the Open Mike which we hold on the last Friday of each month in the quiet little Art-positive hamlet in which I dwell.   Then I found myself shooting the breeze with one of the other participants in the event, and it turned out he needed somebody for his radio show the following day.

The song that he heard, by the way, was this:

“Simple Love Song” © 1976, 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope

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Full of Light

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your vision is poor, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For without God, people strive after all these things, yet your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

— Matthew 6:22-33

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Gratitude List 1152

(1) Managed to get three hours of sleep last night, with dreams even, following one of those long dark nights of the soul.  Slept from about 5 till 8 in the morning.  Glad I got some rest, and glad I can take it easy today.

(2) My daughter is doing so well now.  I and her other friends received her first Gratitude List yesterday — and she thanked me for the idea.  She really has a lot to be thankful for these days, and she knows it.

(3) Latah Recovery Center.  We are here for us when we need us.  It’s like no other place in town.

(4) This town, by the way, is like no other place on Earth.

(5) It’s a beautiful Spring day in the city of my birth.

(6) I can’t help but have noticed that the director of my show sees eye to eye to me.  We are getting along well, and communicating really well, too.  I am also very impressed with the female lead, and others on board, as well.

(7) I have a bicycle now.  It’s fun, and it greatly decreases the amount of time it takes to get from A to B.

(8) The unique events of the past have indeed informed the consciousness of the present, and insights as to this phenomenon have been very useful.  At the same time, I become more grateful when I ponder what kind of future might stem from the present, than I do when I ponder how the present has stemmed from the past.

(9) This is the first time in about as long as I can remember when the musicians in my life have wanted to play my music, and the singers in my life have wanted to sing it — and they’re not even in it for the money.   They actually like the music.   When I really stop to think about how cool this is, the sense of blessing is almost impossible to describe.

(10) I have a lot of problems in my life right now.  But when I think of the blessings, I am renewed in hope.  His blessings are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.

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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 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 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 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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Gratitude List 1074

1. Slept deeply for 6 1/2 hours solid, from 9:30 to 4am, without having to get up once to go to the bathroom. First good night’s sleep in almost a week. Hallelujah.

2. I remembered to leave the mouse in the backpack last night so as to resist the urge to run to the computer and issue vitriol, if perchance I were to wake up in a rage. That said, I didn’t wake up in a rage (just a fog).

3. Pretty sure the manic phase is over.

4. Considering the time frame in which the nice long sleep occurred, it’s highly likely I can get myself organized and have a pretty productive day.

5. I have some good friends and a good support group these days. Given the weirdness of my personality, I’m pretty happy that I even have any friends at all. And the parts of me that are off-putting can also be put to use, because I’m just weird enough that people have a way of not wanting to approach me, which helps me to get more work done than would be the case if I were this really charismatic, attractive, appealing presence that everybody was drawn toward.

6. Somebody sent $25.

7. Looks like I have a nice email reply from Lynne. Skimming it, I see she agrees with my take on Part Two of Firefly Magic. She also says she’s been corresponding with Lauren lately, which is unusual and somewhat intriguing. I’ll look forward to digesting her words, as they tend to be brilliant, thought-provoking, and encouraging.

8. Lauren Sapala agreed to schedule a Skype call with me to discuss Firefly Magic and money-making implications in the modern world.

9. During the manic phase, it seems that my extraverted function was enhanced (to put it diplomatically). I contacted a number of people with whom I’ve not been in touch in quite some time, including Pastors C. & S. from the Berkeley realm, and my old friend Jean Anne from Stockton.  While this may have been a dubious choice, I couldn’t help but notice that the responses were generally very warm, and that every one of these people commented on how much better I sounded. If I sounded “better” during a manic phase when I was often angry and freaking out, how much better will I sound as I return to normalcy? There is indeed a sense of progress here.

10. Life holds promise. I doubt I’ll go hungry today. God is Good.

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The Challenge of the Wealthy

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

–Matthew 19:16-24

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Dangers of Liberation: Part One

On August 8, 2006, I sat at the corner of Shattuck and Kitteredge in Berkeley, California, three blocks North of the Royal Grounds Cafe, where I had just spent my last two dollars on coffee.   

I had walked back and forth, to and fro, not knowing where I was going.  It gradually dawned on me that I had nowhere left to go.  I had spent my entire severance check after leaving my summer job as a singing teacher with Children’s Musical Theatre San Jose.  I had spent it all on taxicabs, meals in restaurants, and motel rooms.   So I sat down, expecting to enter into total misery.  Instead, I entered into total bliss.

Image result for i understand that a man can have everything having nothing

I finally had nothing.  Nothing to prove anymore.  Nothing to hold on to.  Nothing to need to protect or salvage or horde.  Nothing that could be coveted or stolen.  Nothing that I needed to accomplish or achieve.   

And in having nothing, I realized that I was open to everything.  In an instant, everything that the Universe had to offer came soaring into my consciousness.  All the gifts of life — the very gifts that my worldly concerns had blinded me from seeing — were now not only visible, but tangible, accessible, and omnipresent.  

I found paper and pen, and I wrote down these words:

I have indeed hit bottom.
And at the moment when I reached my bottom,
I realized that I had reached the very top.
At that moment, I was Buddha.

While this surprising sense of liberation was very real, and while it was destined to impact me for years to come, its accompanying bliss was short-lived.  Within three days, I was to see its downside in a dramatic way.   And the bittersweet dynamic thereof informed my later thought.

So I’ve decided to use the next several Thursdays to post my thoughts on this theme as best I can.   There are distinct dangers involved when one permits oneself to receive gifts of joy and happiness from sources commonly associated with misery and despair.  I’ll do my best to illustrate what the years following that experience have held for me.  Hopefully, I can do so with clarity.

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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 35

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. I would like to be with Jesus Christ, in the Day when there will be a New Heaven and a New Earth.  In that Day I will drink new wine — with Him.  For the form of old wine will have passed, and there will be no drunken stupor, but only the intoxication of the Spirit.  Among us will be many others of the Resurrection Family, as we revel in a realm of unimaginable beauty and glory.   A realm where everybody is equal, and where no one need be told to know the Lord. 

For we will all know Him — from the least to the very greatest.   There will be neither male nor female, neither Greek nor Jew, neither slave nor owner thereof.  For we will all have been loosed from the bonds of oppression, and liberated into the freedom of unhindered, unrestricted, unrestrained Flow of Life.   We will drink freely of the Water in the River of the Water of Life, and in that Baptismal Water, Christ will be born in the hearts of all who live forever in His Spirit.

And God Himself will be among us, and we will be His people, and He will be our God.  And in that Day we will need no lamp, nor light from the sun, for the Lord God will give us Light.   And God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

The Questioner is Silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 34

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. Good question.

Q. Is that all you’re going to say?

A. No.

Q. Then what else are you going to say?

A. I don’t know.

Q. Why don’t you know?

A. Because I’m not sure where I would like to be.

Q. Why not?

A. I’m not sure.  I just feel kinda drained.

Q. Why do you think that is?

A. Pushing myself too hard lately.

Q. How so?

A. I got triggered a few nights ago.   Stuff kept me up, couldn’t sleep.  And to tell the truth, I haven’t been sleeping well lately much at all.  When I lose sleep, I get overamped.  Nervous energy.  Nowadays, they say “manic” — but I don’t like to toss that word around idly.  Still, I’ve been sleeping less, eating less, working more, exercising more, overreacting to stuff — I don’t know.  It just burns me out.  The body/mind can only take so much of it, and I eventually crash.

Q. You say you’re burned out?

A. Yes. Burned out.

Q. Then why don’t you take a nap?   Do you have time?

Ahome sweet home. Yes, I have time.  And I ought to take a nap.  I really ought to.  It’s raining, I went to the grocery store, I brought the groceries in, my pastor was nice enough to give me a ride . . . and I’ve been so bummed about certain things lately, I’ve been escaping into all this work, as though to justify or vindicate myself — to make myself strong during a personal storm.

But you know what?  When I walked through that door with those groceries, and I heard the rain outside, something just came over me.  Like tears.  I actually have my own apartment.  I actually can buy groceries.  There’s actually somebody in my life who would drive me to the grocery story in the rain, who would wait for me in the car.

I am human now.  I am a human being.  I am not a piece of shit.  I never was a piece of shit.  I thought I was a piece of shit — because I had become homeless.  And because a lot of people think that homeless people are pieces of shit.   I believed it so much, I internalized it.   And then I felt I had to prove myself all the harder.

But I’m beginning to realize something.  I don’t have to prove myself at all.  I’m who I am.  I’m a human being.  I am loved.

So if I don’t know where I would like to be right now, then maybe I’m missing the point.  Why should I like to be anywhere else than in this nice quiet apartment, listening to the rain outside?  Three years ago that rain would be raining right on me.

Why should I be anything but thankful I was able to make my own sandwich and cook my own pasta?  What more do I need on a day like this?  It was hell down there.  And it’s heaven right now.   Does anybody have to prove themselves in heaven?  Why should I be anywhere other than where I am right now?  And why would I need anything other than this?

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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A Homily for the Homeless at Heart

It’s Sunday morning, and time for a sermon.  But far be it for me to preach.  These words may be read by anyone who happens upon this page.  But they are directed to those who are, or who have been, homeless — who know the fullness of what that word entails.  These words are meant primarily for those who, despite perhaps having escaped its horrors, have a place in their heart for the homeless, who revere Homelessness as a heavenly gift.  This homily is for the Homeless at Heart. 

This homily is for those who realize that here on this Earth, we have no true home that will not be outlasted.  Our home is in spiritual places, in the heavens, eternal.  In that sense, we are all in fact homeless.   In another sense, knowing what is everlasting, and distinguishing it from that which will vanish at the grave, we rejoice in being Homeless No More.

It’s been two years and three months now that I have been living indoors, in dignified dwelling spaces of my own design and desire.  I have either lived alone, in a studio room or this present one bedroom apartment; or I have lived in this apartment with a like-minded person; a significant other, if you will.   I have not had to “live” in shelters, rehabs, psychiatric facilities, or board and care homes.  Note the quotation marks around the word “live.”

Twenty-seven months have passed, and I have never failed to pay my rent on time.  For me, this is a milestone.  It negates and transcends every other concern that anyone could possibly have about my mode of existence.    Since people in general do not like to look at the ugliness of homelessness, the people who were in my life before all this happened have not wanted to look at the actual reality that was behind my sordid conditions.  So they looked at other things that they suspected might be at the heart of it all.  When they alighted upon something that satisfied their need to know why a man like me should ever have permitted himself to land in such miserable conditions, they contented themselves to wash their hands of my suffering, and of the suffering of those of my kind.  They were content to classify me as a lazy bum, a loser, a deadbeat, a drug addict, perhaps an alcoholic, or a nut case, a lunatic, a wannabe — or better yet, a has-been.  In so doing, they echoed the sentiments of the Pharisee who in the 18th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, praised God that he was not like other, more miserable men.  They looked at me with condescension and scorn, saying:  “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I fully understand why people would think I am insane.   People are often threatened by those whom they can’t quite classify or codify.   It doesn’t matter whether they lean to the Left, to the Right, or neither.   What matters is that, in some way or another, they are bound by what I call mainstream values — the very values condemned in the first two verses of the 12th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.  Anybody locked into any kind of box is going to think I’m crazy.  They’ll also think that anyone like me is crazy.  Be that as it may.

It is remarkable how well I get along with formerly homeless people, even though their life practices and spiritualities may be far disparate from mine.   Their experiences and practices have led them to different conclusions than mine.  But we’ve all been through the same life-changing experience: the Experience of Homelessness.  This alone is such a powerful grounds for identification, it practically overwhelms all else.

I may not identify with New Age spirituality. I may not identify with the Ascension Movement. I don’t identify with NeoPaganism — not much anyway. There were those of us who, though Christian, identified as Castaneda Warriors in order to manage the conditions of homelessness with some semblance of thanksgiving and peace.  Some of us needed the Boy Scout Handbook to get by outdoors. Whatever we did, it was a concerted effort to make a valid life-practice out of abominable conditions — not the least of which was that while we struggled day after day to survive, people looked down upon us in scorn.

This commonality is so strong it overwhelms religous and philosophical differences. It overwhelms political differences. It consumes the entirety of Who We Are.  That I should emerge from such a life-changing experience and even pretend to go back to old ways of being that never worked for me is such an assault to my own inner integrity, it baffles me that I should even endeavor to keep up the pretense.

The milestone of having manifested a respectable place of dwelling, tailored and customized to meet the needs of my specific, individual personality is the greatest thing that I have achieved since having escaped twelve years of homelessness and borderline-homelesness in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It also paved the way for other milestones.  I successfully scored all the music I had written “in my head” while wandering the streets of Berkeley like a madman, playing drums on my pants legs, keyboards and guitars in the air, and singing “bop, bop, bop” to the ridicule of all passersby.  I doubt seriously that more than 10% of the people who saw me doing so were able to perceive that I was actually composing music, and not just being crazy.  When I got inside, I was able to score all this music with notation software on my laptop, and put it on the Berkeley Page of this site. 

After that, I was able to complete an entire musical — book, music and lyrics – about homelessness in America.   I also became a regular contributor to the Street Spirit newspaper, though I had no background in journalism, as well as a regular blogger for the Classism Exposed publication in Boston.  I joined a Writers Guild, and had a piece of mine published in an anthology.  I made five speeches on the Homeless Experience.  I created a youtube channel of my piano work, and three CD’s of my piano playing, two of which you may find on my SoundCloud.  And many other things did I do —  not that I wish to boast about these accomplishments, but only to illustrate two key points:

(1) That these things could only have been accomplished under the protective umbrella of the dignified, customized living situation that I had crafted, with God’s help, for the manifestation of my true and unique self.   

(2) That the motivation to accomplish these things is a direct result of the inspiration received during those twelve years of living outdoors.

So it’s not just the case that I couldn’t have done any of these things if I had remained homeless.  It’s also the case that I wouldn’t have done any of these things had I not have been homeless.  

And of all these things that I so pride myself in having been able to accomplish, I honestly feel that the finest thing of all is this recent piano album called Exile.   I pride myself on this album even more than I have prided myself on my finally having completed a full musical play that I had belabored in my mind so fruitlessly for more than five years.  Somehow, without words, without singing, without drums, bass, or other instruments, the music of Exile reflects the person whom my homeless experience has permitted me to become.  And it’s called Exile for a reason. 

Others who are or were homeless have heard these strains, and they hear in it the uniqueness and authenticity that marks the way of those who have embraced the fullness of outdoor living.  We are the unsheltered ones, the ones who have placed ourselves naked and vulnerable before all the vicissitudes of a totally predictable and often hostile Universe, with no box to hide in, whether that box be the physical box of an ill-fitting abode, or the spiritual box that binds our true selves, and prevents us from accessing Who We Are.

We are those who spent years in exile.  And now, we are in exile no more.  

Strange feelings overwhelm me as I listen to this music.  I hear myself playing as I have never played before.  People thought I was a good piano player before this huge life transformation took place, and informed the transformation of my Music and my Art.  And do you think that I was able to actually practice the piano in all the years when I was homeless?  Not at all.  Of course not!   If I wanted to play the piano in an empty church sanctuary, they would have been denied me access “for insurance reasons,” on the supposition that I was likely a thief or a vandal.   It took a dramatic resurrection from the gigantic grave of homelessness for me to get to the point where I am now trusted with the keys to a church building that includes a Baldwin grand piano.

How strange it feels to realize that the same people who offered adulation and praise for my music, before it became so authentic, will no longer hear one note of it, nor admit it into the realms of that which they are willing to appreciate as Art. But I hear my true heart in the notes that I have played.   And while I feel great satisfaction in what I have been able to produce, I also feel outrage that during all the years when I was homeless, people flat-out refused to recognize my musical gifts.   The only people who acknowledged my musical talent were other homeless people!

What is up with that?   People who lived indoors were so maddeningly focused on my various visible personal flaws and foibles, it awakened my indignation, and prompted me in protest to channel the composing of my music in the appearance of a maniac, visibly homeless, visibly composing music on the streets, and marveling in how many people saw me as a “nut case,” and how few even realized that I was writing these strains.

This has not happened here.  Everything I did when I was homeless was visible.  Everybody saw me do it.  But because of their preconceptions, what I was actually doing was invisible.  Nobody saw what I was really doing.  They only saw their stigma and prejudice, manifested according to their own inner lies.   So naturally, my insistence on pursuing my music in any form, let alone insisting that others pay attention to it, was off-putting. “First things first,” they chided, pointing their fingers, as they all adjured me to get out of homelessness first, and then perchance they would listen to my music.

But they didn’t!   I got out of homelessness, and they still would not listen to my music!  Instead, they continued to bombard me with mockery over whatever was wrong with me, despite the fact that the obvious point of their intial objections no longer existed. This proved that their condescending treatment of me was not sheerly on the basis of my having been homeless, but in a larger sense, a product of their own need to exercise one-upsmanship.  It’s really that simple. They didn’t treat me with normal human respect. I was always lower than them. Worse than them! Inferior to them! Why?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because these are the kinds of people who have no real sense of self, so they measure themselves against those to whom they can claim to be superior.  My being homeless made me an easy mark for finger-pointing, so they pointed their ever-pointing fingers at me.   Instead of having compassion, they looked down on me and judged me. Their condescending attitudes toward me made an already difficult life all the more difficult. If they did anything at all to help me, which was rarely, they then expected me to kiss their royal behinds as though I owed them, for the rest of their hellbound lives. All the while they never gave me what they owed me, which is what I was certainly trying to give them, what we all owe each other, which is love and respect. Isn’t it?

But how can you respect people who are treating you so disrespectfully? That’s the issue. And we might say, well this is my issue — my “stuff,” so to speak. But if that’s the case, does every person who has ever been homeless have the same exact, hidden, deep-seated psychological issue? Is that what made us homeless? Because we all happened to be these weird over-sensitive freaks who didn’t take very well to being treated with disrespect, and so our logical, mutual life-destination was Homelessness? That is, unless we all toughened up and acted like insensitive, inhuman, competitive assholes?

Yes, many of us were sensitive. Many of us did not have any feel for the play of the game; we did not relish the ruthlessness of the realm where we were expected to climb up the corporate latter and screw people left and right, while receiving raises and perks from our higher-ups for doing so, as they encouraged all of us who had succeeded in being so clever and cunning and callous and crafty to do the very same. These are the ones who are encouraged to “succeed” in our sick society.

I shudder to think about it, but it wasn’t much different in the realms of Education or of the Performing Arts, even though people in those spheres routinely express opposition to the competitive or capitalistic mores of the corporate world. They were just as damned cut-throat. That’s why at least one man I know in the Performing Arts has made it as far as he has — and I sincerely doubt he’s a happy man. His ways of achieving things, in order that he himself might “get his way,” are outright immoral and sometimes even unethical. He intimidates people into his getting what he wants. He’s good at it, and he does it craftily as well as, at times, blatantly.  He almost always gets away with it. Look where that man is now in Theatre Arts: reputable, respected, and feared. Well, I fear him not!

I fear him not.  Nor do I fear those like him.  For one thing, that miserable man, despite his ill-gotten notoriety, is not all that talented.  Had he been more talented, he would not have felt the need to gain fame and fortune through nefarious means.  He’d have felt that his talent alone would have sufficed to get him there.  And then — if he were like me (which he would not have been) — he would not have achieved notoriety, for he’d have discovered (like I did) that talent alone did not suffice.

Do you think I’m jealous? If I am, it’s to my fault. Why would I want to be jealous of the depressed, desperate kinds of people whom he exemplifies? What reason would I have to be envious of those who, having reaped what they have sown from a lifelong facile at getting their own ways, to the detriment of others in their paths, had brought them nationwide recognition and success, but not happiness?

I am reminded of another man I once knew who also enjoyed great worldly success, in the field of Education.  He resembled the other bloke in that he saw people as objects, but he went a step further in deciding that certain people (myself at one time included) were actually projects of his. Passive vehicles for his own self-expression, for him to paint and sculpt and mold, as though we were easels and statues and pieces of pottery, and he was the great cunning craftsman known as God.  All of this was done under the guise of “teaching,” and he did it very well.  But is it the role of an educator to seek out the gullible, and fashion them into facsimiles of one’s own godless self?  Did not the Pharisess whom Jesus decried in the 23rd chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew do the same?

Woe to you,
teachers of the law and Pharisees,
you hypocrites!
You travel over land and sea
to win a single convert,
and when you have succeeded,
you make them twice as fit for hell
as you are yourselves.

Both of these men would refer to God, to prayer, and in the most nauseous of hypocritical ways. Who the hell are they praying to anyway? They have no gods but their own bellies.

All of that competitive focus on achieving “success” in the sense that our society holds we be successful, is a total distraction from receiving the kind of success and satisfaction that can only come from desiring God. As I desire God, it is revealed to me that they are the ones who are really in need of enlightenment, salvation, and healing; because the realm they roam like lions that roar is the form of a former world that is passing. But the truth will endure forever.

It’s absurd for me to have even thought that, in getting inside finally, I could readily or easily return to old systems of values that not only were the very same systems that, when I tried unsuccessfully to adopt them in my pre-homeless past, only had the effect of leading me back into further and deeper Homelessness. It’s absurd that I thought that, just as soon as I finally got inside again, I could regain the friendship of friends who had not only failed me and betrayed me once I became homeless, but proved in so doing that they were never my true friends to begin with. It’s absurd that I should go back and try to engage in anything left over from my pre-homeless existence, if all those things did was join together with each other to form a bunch of things that, when working in concert, had the power to cast me out from society and put me on the streets.

After having learned how to be real in a world of fakery, it is absurd that I should do anything other than my best to be real. Learning to be real got me out of homelessness and into a dignified living situation that works for me, that represents and reflects the person whom I truly am. Busting my guts to try and be fake in a world of fakes not only failed all the fakes who had mastered such fakery, but also it failed myself. Why should I go back to being a fake after learning how to be real? Rather, I should work my butt off trying to maintain being real, in a world where my being real is what’s working.

Many who hear these words will echo the sentiments of the reality now being brought to light. For it is we who were forced by abominable life conditions to struggle day after day, enduring relentless persecutions and assaults against our persons and our dignity, and in many cases, our bodies as well as our minds, hearts, souls, and spirits, while we were already struggling with all our might to survive the indescribable conditions of continuous outdoor living, feeling trapped as though sub-human animals on the cold-hearted city streets.

It was more than many could bear. But not all. Let our voices be heard and understood. Were these words to be sent to homeless and formerly homeless people everywhere, many would lift their hearts and their voices in accord. Many did indeed falter, collapse, and eventually be put to death by the overall horror that is Homelessness. But many endured, survived, and prevailed – for the purpose that now unfolds.

Lift up your hearts, whoever you are who hears these words and understands them! We were spared the fate of the bulk of our fellows. We were not destined to die in vain, alone and friendless, without hope, without purpose.

Instead we were destined to rise above all that mire, put our lives back together, and emerge from the cages in which we were kept, on a mission to even the score. For where once we were submerged in the world as though destined to drown in the depths of dark water, we now have emerged with a story to tell, and our story is driven by fire. For once we were all but forgotten, and death was at every door. Once we were all of us homeless. Now, we are Homeless No More.

homeless make a difference

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Gratitude List 914

(1) I remembered to take my big cup with me to the 24/7 corner store when I went there to get my coffee this morning.  This not only decreased the price, but greatly increased the amount of coffee I was able to fit in a single cup — since my “big cup” is actually a quart in size, hehe.  Nice to be starting off the day with a nice big cup of hot coffee.

(2) When I came in last night from the cold, how great it felt just to be inside and be warm!

(3) Got up a little earlier this morning and did the entire wash.  Felt so good to put nice warm clothes on.

(4) And I must say – my morning coffee options have been greatly enhanced since the days when, if I wanted a cup of coffee in the morning, I would have to — have to — have to . . .  arrgghh.   Let’s just not go there, okay?

(5) Moreover, in another minute or two, I’m going to take a shower.  Once again, this is the first time since 2010 when I haven’t had to hassle with other men just to get a shower in the morning.   It feels wonderful to have my own bathroom, and my own shower, once again.

(6) I can’t help but have noticed that I’m not as angry as I used to be, and that I’m also not as absent-minded as I used to be.  Not only have I noticed this myself, but others have commented on it as well.  This is a good thing, and a great relief.

(7) Got the Street Spirit check in Friday’s mail, along with a complimentary copy of the paper, including my article, “The H-Word” (heavily edited, but hey – they spelled my name right.)

(8) The weather, though cold, has been incredibly gorgeous lately, with brilliant sunsets and sunrises, during both of which all the runners are out, in rare form.  And I will soon be among them. :)

(9) This gratitude list seems to be working fairly well, even though it’s the first one I’ve made since last Monday.  I think I’ll start making them every day again, and see if my life improves as much as a lot of spiritual people say it will.

(10) Something uncomfortable happened at Mikey’s the other night when I was having dinner there; and I ran into two of the youngsters, good friends of each other, the one Italian guy who’s always smiling, and his friend the bass player.   I don’t want to detail the exact essence of the discomfort, but suffice it to say that the bass player was turning to me for support in a certain issue — as a young person will often turn to an older person whom they respect.  But instead of support, I smirked with cynicism – as an older person will sometimes do, forgetting who he’s talking to at the moment.

May I always remember that the youngsters look up to the older sorts, and if they see something in the older person that they think is admirable, they will turn to that person as a role model — especially if they are lacking other adult role models in their lives.  May I never forget this.  1 Cor 10:23, Ephesians 4:1, and a bunch of other Scriptures come to mind.  (To my mind, anyway) . . .

I may be too old to seek out an “older role model” — but consider that if Jesus rose from the dead, and is still alive, that Guy would be over 2000 years old by now.   Can you imagine all the insanity He’s seen go down, by now?   And while Christ may be intangible on the worldly plane, I can still read His words, and seek His Spirit where it may be found.  Not all of those words are lost on everyone.  May they not be lost on me.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 26

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater confidence.

Q. In what areas do you lack confidence?

A. In many areas.  But only  one area is important to me at this time.

Q. What area is that?

A. It has to do with integrity, as we discussed last week.  I lack confidence that I will be able to act according to my integrity, and not according to hypocrisy.

Q. Why should you ever prefer hypocrisy over integrity?

A. I don’t, in my heart.  But at certain moments, I find myself choosing a hypocritical course of action, only because I lack confidence that I can find a way to act according to my integrity at that same moment.

Q. Can you provide an example of that?

A. Sure.   Say I’m at an idle moment.  I’m bored at that moment, and I don’t quite know what to do.  I see before me a certain door.  I am compelled to open the door, because on the other side will be people who will alleviate my boredom.  But the only way that these people have ever been known to alleviate my boredom is that they provide me with an audience for the Entertainer in me.  I will proceed to entertain them.  They will laugh when I say  funny things, and do comic imitations of people, and put on humorous expressions and mannerisms.  And then, I will be gratified.

Q. Who are these people?

A. That’s a good question.  They could be just about anybody, I suppose.  In this case, they were a number of people I saw sitting behind the back door of the Recovery Center where I have been volunteering, that back door being made of glass.

Q. Did you then go inside and entertain them, in order to alleviate your boredom?

A. No, I did not.  I turned and went next door, to a cafe where it was quiet, and I would find a way to alleviate my boredom, without having to entertain anyone.

Q. How did you manage that?

A. By doing what I am doing right now.  I am sitting down at a quiet table in a quiet cafe, among many quiet students studying, and professors preparing their lectures.  To entertain these people would be to interrupt their work, which would be quite rude.  So instead I logged on my laptop to do my own work, and therefore blend perfectly into the atmosphere.

Q. But aren’t you still being an Entertainer?

A. How so?

Q. You’re entertaining me, aren’t you?

A. It’s not my intention.

Q. What about your readers?  Aren’t they being entertained?

A. I hope not!

Q. And aren’t you still a hypocrite?

A. No!

Q. But what you’re doing right now – sitting in this academic cafe the way you are — isn’t this just as hypocritical as ever?

A. I think not!  I’m not hypocritical at all right now.

Q. You’re not?

A. No I’m not! I mean – what makes you think I am?

Q. Well, you’re not a student are you?

A. No – not in the strictest academic sense, as in pay tuition, take classes, and all that.

Q. And you’re not a professor, are you?

A. I am neither student nor professor, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do on my laptop.

Q. But by trying to blend in with all the academics. aren’t you trying to pretend to be one of them?

A. I see your point, but no I’m not.  Plenty of people come in here to work on their laptops who are not students or professors.

Q. But still, you’re trying to look like a student or a professor — and isn’t this hypocrisy?

A. I don’t believe so, no.  Even if I’m not an official student, I sort of feel like one.  I’m always studying, doing research of various sorts.  Especially, I research classism, and inequality, and poverty culture, and homelessness.  This is who I am right now; it’s not hypocrisy.

Q. But haven’ you been an entertainer for most of your life?  How is it hypocritical to keep being who you are?

A. Because I don’t think the Entertainer is the real me.  The real me actually is more of scholar than an entertainer.  Besides, a spiritual scholar is one who is seeking the truth.   That describes me to a tee.  But an entertainer?  An entertainer tries to take people’s minds off of their troubles.  In a way, the Entertainer keeps people from looking for the truth.

Q. But haven’t been there entertainers who also were spiritual truth-seekers.  What about Dick Gregory?

2012 Summer TCA Tour - Day 1
Dick Gregory

A. What about him?

Q. Wasn’t he a comedian?

A. That he was.

Q. And didn’t he going on numerous hunger strikes, frequently fasting for forty days and forty nights for the sake of social justice?

A. That he did.  But he was different.  His comedy was about social and racial inequality.  Observe:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.

Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said, “That’s all right. I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.”

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”

Q. Well then why don’t you do like Gregory did?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Why not use your social activism in your comedy routine?

A. I sort of do that already.  Among friends, that is.  But what I’m trying to say is that, I am not a comedian at heart.  I’m not an Entertainer at heart?  I’m a spiritual man, and an Artist — a man of integrity, at heart.  The Entertainer is just a facade.  It’s just that I lack confidence I can ever shed that facade.

Q. Why bother?

A. What do you mean, why bother?

Q. Just what I said – why bother?  Isn’t the Entertainer a part of who you are?

A. Maybe.  This is all becoming very confusing.  And a wee bit annoying, I might add.

Q. But aren’t I just asking logical questions, spinning off the things you’re saying?

A. I suppose you are, but it’s still kind of irritating.

Q. Should we adjourn till later?

A. Probably.  I really do tire of this.

Q. Well, at least you’re not bored anymore, are you?

A. Get out of here!

The Questioner is silent.

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Order of Business

Does the crackhead become homeless,” someone asked, “or does the homeless person become a crackhead?”  This question was posed on the site Quora, where I am an infrequent volunteer contributor.

I took the question to be indicative of a certain social perception; i.e., that the usage of illicit substances is so widespread in the homeless populace that it is difficult to discern which came first: the drug addict or the homeless person.  I have observed that both can happen, but that the latter occurs a lot more often than many people are inclined at first to believe.

This is because people have a way of wanting to find out why someone has become homeless.  If they can pin their homelessness on a secondary issue, unrelated to the defining factor; viz., that a homeless person lacks a roof over their head, then they can effectively deflect attention away from concern over homelessness by replacing it with concern over that secondary issue.  But that issue, be it drug addiction or what-have-you, is only secondary.  The primary issue is homelessness — and people don’t want to look at it.  So they look at the “why” instead.

nietzsche quote on truth and illusionThis is because it is easier for most people to live with the perception that a person became homeless because they were a “crackhead” (or drug addict, alcoholic, etc.), than it is with the sense that a homeless person may have become homeless for reasons that were completely beyond their control, and that cannot possibly be attributed to any kind of behavioral flaw or defect of that person’s character.  The homeless person needs to somehow be blamed for having gotten themselves as far low as they’ve gotten themselves.  This is so that the focus can become on what they ostensibly did wrongin order to result in their homelessness; and not on the homelessness itself.

The situation is further complicated by the widespread misconception that drug addiction and alcoholism are behavioral flaws, rather than as spiritual maladies that can be arrested through faith in God or a Higher Power.   So it becomes easy to say: “Well, that guy became homeless because of his crack addiction.” A perception like that can easily soon morph into: “If he would just deal with his crack habit, he would be able to get out of homelessness.”

However, it is not true that if a person could deal with their “crack habit,” they could necessarily find a roof over their head. It may make it easier for them to find their way out of homelessness, but homelessness is a pretty deep hole, with many elements besides drug addiction obscuring the way out of it.

If, however, a person didn’t start using street drugs until years after the overall conditions of homelessness began to gnaw away at their better judgment, that person is less likely to be believed. This is because people don’t like the idea that homelessness might have resulted from anything other than a supposed “behavioral flaw or character defect.” If it was revealed that homelessness were the result of situations entirely beyond the individual’s control — for example, a foreclosure, an illegal eviction, or a costly medical misdiagnosis — then one would be forced to absolve the homeless person of any sense that they had “deserved” their homelessness, or that “bad choices” they had made were at its root.

In that case, one would be faced with the challenge of having to show compassion for the homeless person, rather than levying judgment upon them. Unfortunately, it is easier for most of us to judge others than to have compassion toward them.

For this reason, more people are likely to believe that the “crackhead became homeless” (as a result of their addiction) than that the “homeless person became a crackhead” (as a result of their homelessness.) Therefore, there are more homeless people in the latter camp than many are willing to believe.

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Gratitude List 898

(1) I’ve had a flu, maybe food poisoning — but it seems to have past with lots of rest and water.  It would have been a lot more difficult to take care of, if I still lived outside.

(2) Life is a colossal, colorful miracle that may be appreciated on multiple magical levels.

(3) Courtyard Cafe, free Starbucks coffee & refills.

(4) It helps during times of trial to remember His blessings: past, present and future.

(5) That doctor was a really nice guy, when I had to go to Emergency the other day.

(6) Most people I’ve met are pretty nice, and it helps their niceness not to make too many demands upon them, in this life.

(7) Self-sufficiency, not being dependent on too many other people, is a good thing, and a blessed thing in the eyes of the Lord.

(8) I’ve been blessed with some pretty good, loyal friends in this life — Danielle being one of them.

(9) Nobody’s perfect, and to expect too much out of people is not wise.

(10) But God is perfect.  We can expect the Universe from Him.

Note: I’ll be taking a week off from this blog, starting this morning.  Will return on September 3rd, God willing.  

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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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Gratitude List 884

Here’s my second gratitude list from Saturday, after waking up from a morning nap.

1. I was tired and discouraged, then I remembered I could take a power nap at the church. Slept so heavily I didn’t know where I was when I woke, and was not nearly so discouraged on awakening, and no longer tired.

2. I prayed for the discouragement to be removed, and it was removed.

3. I prayed specifically for things to happen that would cancel out what happened to discourage me — and one of them has already happened.

shoelaces4. There was no way I could get the knot out of my left shoelace, which was a thin shoelace. Walking lacelessly toward the thrift shop was bringing back bad memories, and I really did not want to spend the $5 debit card limit just to get a 63 cent shoelace at the Salvation Army. Then, I found a dollar bill on the ground, so I didn’t have to. Also, the single shoelace they had (not the set) was a very thick 54″ shoelace, which was the perfect size. The prayer about the shoelace was answered, not fifteen minutes after I prayed it. Wow.

5. Also find it interesting synchronicity that I twice alluded to the “homeless shoelace problem” recently — in Talk 4 and in the Thursday post — and then, it happened. These things happen for a reason.

6. Heard an O.G. playing nice jazz standards and singing on a guitar outside the music store downtown. He told me the store had hired him, which was encouraging, since not everyone will hire an Old Guy. Exchanged contact info, felt warm inside. Loved his version of “Laura.”

7. Ran into Timbo at the café just before Writer’s Guild. Great guy, leaving for Michigan on Wednesday. He bought an “Abstractions” CD, which helps considerably.

8. Really great to reconnect with the people at the local Writer’s Guild.

9. Something tells me that the friendship between me & my daughter will be stronger than ever before.

10. God is Love.

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(Talks 2018) – Talk No. 3

This morning please find the third in our Talks 2018 series of talks on the Homeless Experience. This talk is intended to demonstrate how, even if a person has made a conscious choice to be homeless, that person is likely to soon find themselves entrenched in a condition from which it is almost impossible to escape.

Homeless by Condition: Part Two

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Tuesday Tuneup Twenty

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Does it matter?

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. You didn’t answer my question.

Q. Am I to provide the answers?

A. Yes.

Q. Then why can I only ask questions?

A. Because that’s how the answers come.

Q. Through questions?

A. Through questions.

Q. Such as?

A. Such as why.

Q. Why what?

A. Why not?

Q. What kind of an answer is that?

A. A frivolous one, I suppose.

Q. Frivolous? Or evasive?

A. You suddenly seem to challenge me. I would say — frivolous, and evasive. I did have a question looming in my mind. A question that begins with “why.” But it doesn’t end with the word “not.”

Q. Why not?

A. Because it’s deeper than that. And larger. And more germane to my recent struggles.

Q. What was the question?

A. The question was: “Why can’t I let go of past hurts, and enjoy the blessings of the present?”

let-goQ. Was that your question?

A. Yes, it was.

Q. Then why didn’t you ask it in the first place?

A. Because no sooner did I form the question, than I had already realized the answer. And then I didn’t need you any longer.

Q. But — but — what is the answer?

A. Ask me the question, and I will tell you the answer.

The Questioner clears his throat.

Q. Ahem.  Why can’t you let go of past hurts, and enjoy the blessings of the present?

A. I can.

Q. You can?

A. Yes, I can.  And, in fact, I have.

Q. You have??

A. Yes, I have.

Q. When did this happen? 

A. About a half hour ago.

Q. Are you trying to tell me that a half hour ago, you let go of past hurts, and began to enjoy the blessings of the present?

A. Yes.

Q. How did this happen?

A. It’s a miracle.  It’s the Miracle of Life.   The hurt was huge, and I prayed, and I prayed fervently, even after accusing God of never answering my prayer.  And then, I can’t explain it, but the hurt was lifted from me.  The hurt of an entire year or more, the way I was mistreated by — by someone whom I loved.   Somehow it was removed.  Completely removed.   And the whole world opened up to me.  I am no longer angry, or afraid.

Q. You aren’t??

A. No.  I’m not.   

Q. Will this last??

A. Does it matter?   All any of us have is today.

Q. But what about tomorrow?

A. We know not what it brings.

Q. And yesterday?

A. Gone.  All gone.

Q. Are you honestly trying to tell me that you have let go completely?

A. Yes.  And there are tears of joy streaming down my face.  All the anger: all the inner rage; has been replaced with inner peace.  This is one of the greatest days of my life.

Q. Then what more can I do for you?

A.  Not much, I’m afraid.  But I do appreciate your indulgence on this matter.   It’s just that — I have no further need of you — for now.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Homeless by Choice

On the Q&A site Quora, dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge by those “in the know,” I was asked if I thought there was anything wrong with being “homeless by choice.”  Here’s my answer:

There is nothing morally wrong with being homeless by choice. One has a right to do whatever they wish to do as long as it does not impinge upon the rights of others. Therefore, if one wants to be homeless, and one is not harming anyone in the process, one can rightly exercise that choice.

However, this does beg the question as to why one would want to be homeless by choice; and in fact, if one choosing to be homeless is actually choosing a preferred lifestyle, or merely the lesser of evils in an untenable situation.

home sweet homelessThere are three general reasons why one would “choose” being homeless over an indoor living situation:

(1) lack of privacy in the indoor situation

(2) abuse or neglect in the indoor situation

(3) inability to keep up with the cost of living indoors

I was homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years.  As I stated in this post, I often had a difficult time with shelters and other group situations due to the lack of privacy. I also found it next-to-impossible to keep up with the rising cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The trade-off was made palatable due to my not having to pay exorbitant rental fees, often subjected to rent increases every six months.

Although I personally would not have characterized any of my living situations as “abusive,” I certainly have met numerous people, mostly young people, who chose to live “home free” following emancipation from abusive parents or guardians. To many of them, the idea of living indoors was associated with bondage, violence, and sexual violation. Of course they should not be faulted for wishing to escape such horrible home lives. This is why many such young people will not use the term “homeless” to describe their lifestyle. They prefer the term “home free” — and this is telling.

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Gratitude List 866

(1) Something tells me this is going to be a very productive week.

(2) I slept incredibly soundly last night.

(3) Just now awoke and noticed immediately that I was back in my “usual good mood” — no more of that funk I was in for a few days there.

(4) Coffee was ready without even having to flip a switch.  Tastes good, too!

smiling computer(5) My computer is right here where I left it.   Turned on my tensor lamp and voilà –  the O.G. is ready to roll.

(6) Had a really nice Skype with Howard last night — noticed once again how insightful and good-natured he can be.  This is especially illuminated over the Skype interface, where one can actually see the guy.   Will wonders of technology never cease.

(7) Nice of Norman to have dinner with me at the Co-Op.  Another very insightful and compassionate man.

(8) I am not at a loss for true friends at this time in my life.

(9) This honestly is the best I’ve felt in ages.

(10) I get to meet Jan at the station tonight and walk her back home.  It sure is nice having her around.   The Lord has blessed me so much.   And I can be whom I’ve always wanted to be.   Thank God for the good things in life.

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