Tuesday Tune-Up Two

Q.  Do you know who I am?

A.  Not exactly.  But I don’t think it’s relevant.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. Because it’s Tuesday.

Q. Tuesday?

A. You heard me.

Q. What have I got to do with Tuesday?

A. I don’t know.  It just kind of seemed like a good day to check in with you.

Q. You mean you’re going to see me every Tuesday?

A. Yes.

Q. Why?

A. Because it represents order.   Regularity.   Discipline.   Things that are sadly lacking in my chaotic life.

Q. Why is your life chaotic?

A. I think I’ve explained this already.   But I suppose it can bear review.   I made a drastic life change about a year and a half ago, in which the old standards and values began no longer to apply.  An effect of this shocking translation is that of chaos.

Q. But don’t you despise chaos?

A. I not only despise it — I am entirely threatened by it.   As a creative, I thrive on order.  There is no place for chaos in my ideal, beautiful world.

Q. Then what can be done to remove it?

meditation-key-loving-reaching-healthy-weightA. Meditation.

Q. Are you serious?

A. I am indeed.

Q. But isn’t meditation a device of the devil designed to make the mind open to demonic influences?

A. Oh, please.  I may be a Christian, but I’m not stupid.

Q. You aren’t?

A. I could conceivably be offended.  Of course I’m not stupid.  Only chaotic, convoluted, and confused.

Q. But how can meditation help you with this?  

A. I can’t tell you.  All I know is that the one time I dared to try it, the results were marvelous.

Q. How so?

A. I noticed all these bizarre thought patterns that had been holding me back.  And in noticing them, and accepting them, somehow they dissolved.

Q. Do you mean that when you were done meditating, you were no longer harangued by these processes?

A. Not for a while, I wasn’t.  A few of them later returned to me, along with some new ones.

Q. So what does this tell you?

A. That I should meditate every day.  It’s a place I need to revisit regularly, in order to get myself clear.

Q. So what’s stopping you?

A. What do you think?

The Questioner is silent.

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The God of Love

For many years, I taught private piano and voice lessons in a very wealthy area of California. Rarely did I find the parents involved meaningfully in the lives of their children.  They were too busy working their two high-paying jobs, as well as attending unnecessary high-brow social occasions to which the children, of course, were not invited. Most of the children were brought up by nannies because the parents did not have time to bring them up themselves.  In almost all cases, the nannies were from foreign countries and did not speak English.  The children did not speak the languages of their nannies, and no effort was made for either party to learn the language of the other.

The parents placed their children in numerous activities that they had the money to pay for, seemingly to take them of their backs.  The children, involved in ballet, lacrosse, musical theatre, volleyball, etc. often received only four or five hours of sleep each night.  Actual parental contact with their children was minimal.  In one case, the mother did not even know my name six months after I had been teaching her award-winning son how to sing, and had been showing up at their home on a weekly basis.

On the other side of the socio-economic spectrum, we find a similar disregard for the sanctity of family love.   Consider the preponderance of foster children, emancipated children, and homeless children. I have spoken with homeless teenagers who were so eager to emancipate at the age of fifteen, that their concept of living indoors had become associated exclusively with abuse, neglect, violence, violation, and bondage.  The speech I gave in the previous post deals with this phenomenon, which I have experienced first-hand. 

Because I met these remarkable young people at a very difficult time in my life, when I myself was homeless and struggling to survive outdoors, I was inspired to to write a musical about the effects of homelessness on the youth of today’s America.  I honestly never dreamed I would be ever be able to finish an entire musical – book, music & lyrics – at this time time in my life.  But I did, because I was exactly that motivated, and that inspired, by these Kids.  What was so inspiring was the immense love that these Kids held for one another – a form of love they had never found anywhere else.  In their unity, one to another, they developed ideals toward the kind of universal love that could well save the entire human race.

Why on earth should today’s young people have to leave their birth families in order to awaken to these first-time experiences of love?  Why have we permitted our sense of family and birth community to disintegrate to the extent that love cannot be provided first of all in the first places of our lives?  I have seen some of these Kids absolutely freak out at the idea of living indoors.  When a well-meaning social worker recommends an indoor living situation, it cannot help but remind them of the only indoor living situation they have ever known.  There, the ungodly treatment that they suffered at the hands of their so-called parents had scarred their capacity to live inside, rather than outside —  possibly for the rest of their lives.

America has simply forgotten how to love. We seem to have lost sight of a few very basic standards that will dramatically improve our national morale as soon as we choose to re-implement them. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. A house divided cannot stand. The Good Shepherd does not go after the ninety-nine sheep who remain in the fold, He goes after the one who is lost.

chain weakest linkYet we split our houses in half at the drop of a dime.  We toss our aging “weak links” into poorly run, dehumanizing retirement homes.  We throw our “lost sheep” to the wolves so as not to have to cast our blinded eyes upon the sight of the pain in theirs. We have become a nation of self-serving pleasure-seekers, when we would profit immensely from redirecting our energies away from the pursuit of wasteful pleasures, and toward the love of our neighbors, of ourselves, and of the God of Love.  We have become, as predicted in 2 Timothy 3:4, “lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God.”  That we have not yet been completely consumed in the colossal consequences of our misdirected love is astonishing.   I think it’s high time we opened our eyes and realized what is going on in the shattering of the spiritual fabric of an entire generation.

It would not be a burdensome matter for us to cease burning bridges with such abominations as identity politics, liberal bashing, political correctness, White nationalism, and pointless flirtations and arguments on Facebook.  Why not become far less concerned with recreation, and far more concerned with creation itself?  Are we not all born with creative power to change, in the very likeness of the Creator who gave us all birth?  We have the power within us to create a new and better world for ourselves and for our children!   Why are we wasting our precious time doing anything else?

So – call me fanatical or reactionary or whatever you want to label this kind of thinking.  In my mind, of course, I am nothing of the kind.  This is neither a conservative statement nor a liberal statement.   It is a statement of hope.  I will confess that I hope not to have to express this position more than once.  But I express the reality of this hope as one who is old enough to remember when America was a compassionate nation.

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Spiritual Independence

This is one of nine speeches I made in the year 2013 concerning my experience with homelessness.  I created these speeches in a tiny spot that I rented for six months on the outskirts of Stockton, California.   Spiritual Independence was created on May 17, 2013, shortly before I returned to Berkeley to be homeless once again — by choice.


Spiritual Independence

My views on the homeless phenomenon in America have changed and expanded quite a bit in the past five years since that speech was made.  I’m eager to begin a new Spoken Word project that I have outlined accordingly.  Assuming I can surmount the current technical hurdles toward this end, I will post a speech entitled “Homeless By Condition: Part One” on this blog one week from today.   Thank you for your ongoing interest in my work.

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Treasures in Heaven

In my blog, I often discuss how homeless people are stigmatized in our society.  I  have also identified myself as a Christian. But the identity of a Christian is spoiled by stigmatic perception every bit as much as the identity of a homeless person is thus spoiled.   Therefore, I think it’s about time I did my part to diffuse a few of these stereotypes.

I almost fear telling others I’m a Christian, because I am often assaulted immediately with accusations of being a sexist and a homophobe.   But what is more germane to the present-day purpose of this blog is how much classism seems to run rampant in American Christianity.  This is especially evident in what is often called the Prosperity Gospel.

The Prosperity Gospel, in short, is a particularly inviting deception that equates spiritual blessings with material success.  Of course it is entirely conceivable that once a person decides to live according to spiritual wisdom rather than careless foolishness, one might find oneself advancing in material gain.  If one, for example, has been blowing all of one’s money on drugs, hookers, and other forms of escape, one would naturally notice a pleasant increase in one’s financial status once such expenses have ceased.  The Proverbs of Solomon are all about that distinction.  However, we find such wisdom in many sources other than the Bible; and I for one would submit that most of the Proverbs are merely common sense.

Besides, it is also quite plausible that a person can be extremely happy living a minimalistic lifestyle with very few possessions at all.  In fact, in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, we read of a young man who had “great possessions” who walked away from Jesus in sorrow when advised that he should give up all he owned in order to inherit eternal life.  Does such denial of worldly goods equate spiritual blessing with prosperity?  Obviously, the opposite is the case.

treasuresConsider also these very famous Scriptures:  “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:24)  “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10).  And without bothering to quote every word, passages such as James 5:1-11 and Luke 16:19-31 hurl severe warnings in the direction of the wealthy.  But where in the Bible are such warnings thrown in the direction of the poor?  Nowhere.

To the contrary, Luke 6:20 includes the words: “Blessed are you who are poor.”  Where in the Bible do we find the words, “blessed are you who are rich?”  Again, we find them nowhere.

A proponent of the Prosperity Gospel will almost always cite Jeremiah 29:11 from the New International Version of the Bible, as follows:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Although it is true that the word “prosper” figures in this translation, a quick scan of several other popular translations will reveal nothing of the kind. In the English Standard Version, for example, the phrase “plans to prosper you” reads “plans for welfare.” The same phrase in the time-honored King James reads “thoughts of peace.” So this single verse, taken completely out of context in a modern American translation, is hardly a valid rationale for a deception as extreme as the so-called Prosperity Gospel.

In the Bible, once again, where exactly are material acquisitions equated with the kind of provision that brings real fulfillment, inner peace, personal happiness, and eternal security?  Nowhere, really.  The only time when material gain is cited as a blessing from God is in a context where the greater blessing would be the evidence of God’s love; for example, the last chapter of the Book of Job.   And love, according to 1 Corinthians 13, abides forever.  Material blessings vanish at the grave.

In conclusion, I would contend that we who are spiritual ought to set our affections on the things that are above and beyond our material disposition (Colossians 3:2), rather than on the passing pleasures and comforts of this world.  The expression, “you can’t take it with you,” ought not to have been coined in vain.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moths and vermin destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21

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For the Director of Music

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.

–Psalm 88

700 Days of Gratitude

You know you’re a Writer when you come back to edit your daily gratitude list.  This is List 700, by the way.

1. This morning I received the zany idea to compile all seven hundred of these lists into a single volume, do a bit of editing to protect the innocent, and publish it on Zulu or CreateSpace under the title: 700 Days of Gratitude.  Why not?

gratitude2. That said, these lists having long since drifted from their original purpose, I’ve created a new morning wake-up routine that reduces the role of the Gratitude List to five points sprawled with a pen onto paper at the end of each day, and five each morning, first thing upon arising.  Then I’ll take my thyroid medication, read something fun and light for fifteen minutes, read a spiritual book for fifteen minutes, and then make my coffee, and write in my journal.   In this manner, I won’t hit the Internet for 45 minutes – and believe me, I shall be enriched.

3. Walked four miles today at a brisk pace.   All set to go running tomorrow.

4. Grateful the Recovery Center was open, where I received encouraging peer support, and also was able to be of service to a recovering alcoholic, as well as two addicts passing through town.

5. Learned something important about myself last night, and use the pain of the experience to effect a positive life change.

6. Was granted a few scoops of coffee tonight at the Center, and it sits in my filter, even as we speak.  Tomorrow I’ll put on a pot while I read, and drink it once a large glass of water’s been downed, one half hour after awakening.   Can’t go wrong with that!

7. What a nice, secluded, quiet, neat, clean one-bedroom apartment I rent today!  The price can’t be beat, the neighbors are civil, and there isn’t a tweaker in sight.

8. Finally broke my block and hammered out a blog for my new writing gig – and I’m glad.  Though it was 1500 words (rough draft, stream of flow), and it’s supposed to be 600 words max, at least I got from A-Z.   Also:

9. I’ve got a professional editor now, a retired lady from my church whose second career was in writing and editing.   She’s smart as a whip, and extremely proficient, and I’m sure she can chop off those excess adjectives and superfluous phrases and cut that thing down to size.

10. This will be my last published Gratitude List, so I might as well speak my conclusive piece.  Gratitude Lists indeed have a way of improving my spirits, all the day long.   I feel good when I’m happy, and these lists have a way of making me happy.  But in the end, life isn’t about feeling good.  It’s about being good — and doing good.  It’s about cultivating wisdom, and nurturing compassion, and caring for those in need.   But most of all, it’s about caring for one’s own self; and showing in that manner of selfless self-love an example that shines before others, that they might see that our actions are worthy, and glorify our God from beyond and before us, the Giver of all good gifts.

The people who seek their own pleasure are the takers.  They eat better, and gluttonously so, and eventually become fat, and burst.  But the people who seek to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God are the givers.  They sleep better, and rest comfortably within their own skin, and wind up feeling better — about themselves, about their purpose, and about humanity on the whole.   So I ask you: is it pleasure, or righteousness, that one ought to seek after first?  It profits little if one gains the whole world, to the loss of their God-given soul.


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The End of an Era

It has now been 92 hours since I made it impossible for me to log on to Facebook. How did I do this? It was simple.

I opened Notepad.  Then, I created a random password consisting of about thirty-five random characters in a row that I produced by closing my eyes and doing a big piano glissando up and down the computer keyboard.   I copied it, put it in the “change password” field on Facebook, and promptly deleted it from Notepad.  Then I logged off.

Since Facebook requires one to post their old password prior to creating a new one, and since I now have no idea what my old password is, I will simply never log on to Facebook again.

Why did I do this?   Let’s look at the hard facts.

(1) I just punched in facebook.com on my browser to see how many notifications I had received in the past 92 hours.  Interestingly, the number is 184.  That’s twice 92 – and I kid you not.  This means I was receiving one notification every half an hour.

Now, let’s say I would spend fifteen minutes addressing each notification.  (That, by the way, is a very conservative estimate, knowing me.)  15 times 184 amounts to 2,760.  2,760 minutes amounts to 46 hours.  In the 92 hour period of time, that means I would have spent half my time on Facebook, dealing with the notifications alone.  Can I afford to spend half my time on Facebook?   No, I cannot.

(2) I am a person who has been diagnosed with severe adult attention hyperactive deficit disorder, otherwise known as ADHD.  What this means, as far as Facebook is concerned, is that whatever stimulus is the strongest and most immediate will be the one that grabs my attention. 

One morning, for example, I logged onto Facebook in order to grab a video from my daughter’s video files to send to a friend of mine.  Before I could find the video, a friend of mine who was feeling depressed logged on, and I spent two hours in an effort to console him.  Point is, his depression struck me as being of more immediate importance than the elusive video my daughter had made, which was buried somewhere deep within her video files, and therefore less immediate.  Once my friend was comforted, no sooner did I begin once again to look for the video, when another friend of mine showed up,  wanting to discuss a subject about which I am passionate.  Her passion striking me as being of more immediate importance than my daughter’s video, I quite passionately discussed the important subject with her for another two hours. Then I had to go to work.  In the meantime, I forgot all about the video, which was the only reason I had logged onto Facebook in the first place.  Thus are the effects of Adult ADHD.

(3) As one who is Sicilian by genetic predisposition, I have a very difficult time letting go of the past.  It therefore stands to reason that if I want this situation to improve, I ought not to be hanging around too many people whom I knew in the past, and instead throw more of my focus on developing positive friendships in the present, that will lead me to a more positive future.   Moreover, reconciling with certain figures from the distant past has more than once proved to be disastrous.

And here’s where the story gets good:

(4) At one point in my life, I made a casual comment on my Facebook that was misinterpreted by a well-meaning Facebook friend.  All of a sudden, three cops came pounding on my door.  They handcuffed me, ransacked my hotel room for narcotics and firearms, (of which I had neither!) and hauled me off to an insane asylum.

I was released the next morning, but highly inconvenienced by the ordeal.  My blood pressure shot up sky high, and I had to sit on a gurney in an emergency room for about six and a half hours before it was low enough for me to be legally hauled away to the nearest local loony bin, twenty-five miles South of my hotel room.

There, I managed to convince the baffled psych techs that I was neither suicidal nor homicidal.  I was released in my T-shirt in freezing cold December weather, and I wandered around for three days until the debit card refund for my hotel room cleared to my account.  (Obviously, I lost the hotel room, where I had paid for a two week stay, because when the 9-1-1 team showed up to haul me off to the psychiatric pavilion, all of the tenants came out of their doors to see what all the ruckus was about; and due to the police involvement, the hotel manager did not want to rent to me any longer.  I also left most of my clothing in the room, along with some books.  The motel room owners claimed no responsibility for items life in the building.)

As for the Facebook friend who made the dubious 9-1-1 call?   Long story short, I basically never heard from him again, except for a total of exactly two fairly unpleasant interactions in the following four years.  Must not have been much of a friend.  But he sure seemed like a friend for a while there, because he was the only one out of my some 300 odd Facebook friends who was concerned enough about my well-being to even consider making such a call.  And this leads to my 5th reason:

(5) These hundreds of people on your Facebook “friends” list are by and large not your friends.  You think they are your friends, because you befriended them when you were both in your teens or early twenties, and it was wonderful to reconnect with them.  Perhaps they are friends of friends of yours, or maybe even friends of people who are not your friends.   You know how to find out who your friends are on Facebook?  It’s easy, which leads to my sixth reason:

(6) I gave my phone number and email address to all of my Facebook friends some time prior to my abrupt departure.   Outside of the handful of people whom I already knew to be my true friends, you know how many of them actually called me?   Exactly three.  Thank you, Paul, Mari, and Holly.  Now I know who my friends are.  :)

(7) When I found myself arguing politics pointlessly with a total stranger in New York City who would not only never change his mind, but was probably drunk off his butt and had no idea what I was even talking about, enough was enough.

What all of this points to is:

(8) I have had five Facebooks in the past ten years.  Every one of them started out fine, then in some way imploded.  Every time I started a new one, I mistakenly thought I had overcome my dysfunctional obsessive-compulsive addictive relationship with Facebook.  I was wrong.

What did Albert Einstein have to say about the matter?

einstein insanity


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