Categories
Christ Christianity Homelessness mental health Spirituality

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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Categories
Finances gratitude Music Piano running

Gratitude List 877

(1) 55F degrees and perfect running weather.

(2) I’ve got two strong legs and a good set of lungs, and I can still run after all these years.  Somehow I’ve managed to avoid the typical stress-related diseases of modern culture, and I suspect I’m alive for a reason.

(3) When people play strange games of control, power, or one-upsmanship with me, it helps to consider the source.   I need not live in their twisted paradigms, and I’m thankful for my God-given right not to dwell in their worlds.

(4) I found my lost sunglasses on the floor by the chair at a cafe, when I went there and sat in the same spot five days later.

(5) On Friday, I played at an Open Mike for the first time on an electronic piano they provided.  The crowd reaction was surprisingly strong, and a great singer whom I respect came up and hugged me.

pope-plays-piano-1(6) Somebody gave me a vintage 1920 Howard upright piano for free, just like the one my dad had.   It needs a tuning, which is a cost factor, but that will come in time.

(7) Had a wonderful time playing piano at a housewarming party on Saturday.  I’m starting to feel like a member of the community here, with a positive contribution to make.

(8) Yesterday I finished a great book called Blessed are the Weird, and had a wonderful email exchange with its author, Jacob Nordby.

(9) Was able to borrow a Casio electronic piano from a guy at my church.   Now I can busk at the Farmer’s Market, and maybe sell some of my CD’s. 

(10) I really like my church, and I love the little one-bedroom apartment where I live with the love of my life.  When I am tormented by the envies of those who are miserable, or jealous of those who can afford what I can’t, I need to remember that money doesn’t buy happiness, and that all good gifts come from heaven above.   Thankful that my God is a God of Love, and that I don’t have to be perfect to earn that love.  He loves me because He is Love and is capable of showing it, and He teaches me how to show it, when otherwise I could not.   God is Love and Love is God.  Here’s to the God of Love.

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Categories
Christianity Musical Social Media technology

An Open Letter to All Believers Who Use Facebook

Brothers & Sisters:

I need prayer for Facebook addiction.  I don’t want to ever have to log on to that site again.   My mind becomes flooded with Facebook-related matters in such a way that interferes with my focus on the important things.  This even happened in counseling with Pastor Norman yesterday.

I was off of Facebook, hopefully for good, for about five or six weeks, not wanting to return to it.  The only reason I came back is because I found it impossible to communicate with the singers on my demo project by email or phone.  They wouldn’t return emails or phone calls when I was trying to organize rehearsals.  Erika (one of the singers) said I should start a Facebook if I wanted to talk to them.

Begrudgingly, I returned to Facebook.  All the singers accepted my Facebook friend requests immediately and I was then able to organize rehearsals and a studio date.  The problem on my end is that it then led to a progressive illness with regards to Facebook.  I’ve begun to think a lot about people whom I haven’t known for decades and never knew very well to begin with.  I’ve begun to think a lot about situations in Berkeley, where I haven’t lived for almost two years ago.   Basically, the “Old Story” was being fed, and the “New Story” being starved.

Yesterday, to cap it all off, I saw I had a message from my friend Todd, to whom this email is cc’d.  Because it was Todd, and not just any old Facebook “friend,”  I logged on to Facebook to check the message, even though I’d told everybody I was going to “take a break” from the site.  He had a video I could use for Homeless Lives Matter, a very compelling video that was appropriate for that site.  It was called “Homeless People Read Mean Tweets.”  It showed a number of homeless people sitting around reading anti-homeless tweets that were very mean-spirited, as well as, in most cases, ignorant.  So I shared it to the site.

Immediately, a woman named R. made a comment that “people who are housed” read mean tweets, too.  Long story short, by the end of the night, the comments section on Homeless Lives Matter was full of an argument between R. and somebody named Georgia who objected to her attitude.  It included a lengthy account about how R. had let me stay over at her house and how I left water on the floor after taking a shower and “blocked a doorway,” both of which events are plausible, but neither of them memorable.

(I do recall in those days that people frequently objected to manifestations of my absent-minded nature when, on rare occasions, they permitted me to shower at their homes or sleep on their couches.   I object, as you know. to these same manifestations, which occur to this day.  Absent-mindedness is probably the biggest problem I have now, holding me back more than any other idiosyncrasy.)

In any case, this woman — whom I only know from a single occasion — went on and on about how self-absorbed and self-preoccupied I am, only caring about myself and my music, not having consideration for her needs, and so forth.  In other words, this woman whom I had known for exactly one night flagrantly assassinated my character on a timeline where 600 members of the group I started in Berkeley could read it.  I am not an Admin of that group and no power to remove the inflammatory posts, so I simply deleted the video.

My lady friend Jan later said that this “highlights” the whole insanity of the Facebook phenomenon.  People don’t take the evils of Facebook seriously enough.  I have had friends post extremely personal information on my timeline, much of it completely erroneous or even stuff that would endanger their own security.  Then they wonder why I am removing their comments.  The world does need to know their personal business, or mine, and it baffles me why people won’t at least keep such comments in Messenger, where they are directed only toward the person for whom they are intended.

In any case, I need prayer for this addiction, because I had to deal with nightmares about R. all night, who also needs prayer.  I literally know this woman from a single night, was grateful she gave me the opportunity to rest up and shower when I was homeless, and was puzzled when she screamed and yelled at me in the morning.  That, several years later, she would even still be “tripping” on that incident, is beyond me.  All night long I dreamed about her having some psychotic obsession with me and stalking me all the way up to Northern Idaho.

For people who think that Facebook is “no big deal” — possibly even for my friend Todd himself (?) — my concerns may seem over the top.  After all, not everybody has an addictive personality, and many people “manage” the site very well.  But my premise is that the site itself is evil, and from the very pit of hell, to the same extent that a drug like crystal methamphetamine is evil, and from that same pit.

Any site that would post a link to “request account deletion” (as though account deletion ought to be a “request” and not a willful choice), and then tell you to fill out a certain form if you would like for your account to be deleted after your death raises a major red flag. Why anyone would support the money-loving evil in Mark Zuckerberg is far more baffling to me than why anyone would support Donald Trump.  Both baffle.  One baffles more.

Todd, I posted an article by a Christian woman named Ashley Slack.  Jan and I read this last night and were both extremely impressed.   I also have written this article: By Nature.

One response to that article, when posted on Facebook, was a recommendation from a certain well-meaning friend on how I ought to deal with “depression.”  This is due in part to the fact that because the first sentence alludes to depression, one might think that the entire article is about my personal depression.  Anyone reading that article in its entirety (which the well-meaning friend had not done) would discern easily that it had nothing to do with depression, but with a far more important subject than my own personal mental state.

However, this well-meaning friend then proceeded, quite innocently, to advise me on my timeline as to how to address depression, thus leading all of my hundreds of Facebook “friends” to believe I was in a depressed state.  What would logically have ensued would be a gigantic discussion on an open timeline about a problem that I simply did not have.

When I tried to tell this well-meaning friend about this, he suggested that I was “getting all bent out of shape over nothing.”  Well, maybe to him it is nothing, but to me, I certainly don’t need hundreds of people believing I am depressed (which I am not) anymore than I needed for hundreds of people to believe that I am a self-serving person who believes in retaliating against people who live indoors (as R. was saying) simply on the basis of my having left some water on a bathroom floor and, apparently, blocked a doorway, during the single night I slept at this woman’s house (on the couch) and had to deal with her screaming and yelling at me in the morning for no reason that I was aware of.

That this woman R. would even still be thinking about this isolated event from several years ago is testament to just how many kooks and creeps abound on the timelines of various Facebooks the whole world wide.

Finally, I wrote this article: The End of an Era.  And guess what?  The era did not end.

Facebook makes it far too easy to re-instate an account one is desperately trying to remove, and far too difficult to delete the account. In fact, the easiest “deletion” link to find leads you to believe that the account cannot be deleted until after death.  That is sick.

Also sick:

Facebook is a Living, Breathing Crime Scene.

The Naked Truth About Facebook’s Revenge Porn Tool

Facebook’s Tracking Cookies (European Report)

Facebook Routinely Suppressed Conservative News

How Facebook’s Tentacles Reach Further Than You Think

You want more?   I got ’em.   Here is a list of 66 sites that Facebook has unilateraterally deleted in the past two weeks – unilaterally, mind you.  None of these sites were in violation of Facebook Terms of Service.  Yet they seem to have something suspiciously in common:

  1. Collectively Conscious (915K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  2. Natural Cures Not Medicine (2.3M followers) – Deleted on June 11th, 2018.
  3. I Want to Be 100% Organic (700K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  4. Viral Alternative News (500K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  5. Organic Health (230K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  6. Natural Cures From Food (120K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  7. Heart Centered Rebalancing (3.9M followers) –
  8. Awareness Act
  9. Conscious Life News
  10. Living Traditionally (570K followers) – Unpublished on June 5th, 2018.
  11. Organic Wellness (600K followers) – Unpublished on June 5th, 2018.
  12. Chocolate Socrates (608K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  13. Earth We Are One
  14. Meditation Masters – Deleted in early June, 2018
  15. People’s Awakening
  16. Nikola Tesla
  17. Interesting Stories
  18. The Warrior
  19. Natural Health Warriors
  20. Tech Explorers
  21. Universe Explorers
  22. Area 51
  23. The Global Meditation
  24. Video Explorers
  25. com
  26. Flower of Life
  27. EWAO
  28. Global Freedom Movement (27K followers) – Deleted on June 19th, 2018.
  29. Health & Alternative Medicine (550K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  30. Pure Nature (1.7M followers) – Deleted on June 3rd, 2018.
  31. Nature Gallery (654K followers) – Deleted on June 3rd, 2018.
  32. Mesmerizing Nature (912K followers) – Deleted on June 3rd, 2018.
  33. Nature’s Touch (150K followers) – Deleted on June 3rd, 2018.
  34. Healthy Life Box (1.8M followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  35. Healthy Food House (3.4M followers) –
  36. Health Awareness (2.5M followers) –
  37. Healthy Life And Food (350K followers) – Deleted on May 23rd, 2018.
  38. Check These Things (80K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  39. Health Care Above All (90K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  40. Health and Healthy Living (450K followers) –
  41. Health & Alternative Medicine (550K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  42. Healthy Living Motivation (644K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  43. Alternative Health Universe (420K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  44. Natural Medicine Corner (411K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  45. Organic Health Team (490K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  46. Global Health Care (130K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  47. Healthy Alternative Medicine (140K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  48. Natural Healthy Team (190K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  49. Organic Food Medicine (30K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  50. Love, Health and Happiness (10K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  51. Healthy Organic Life (25K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  52. Healthy Lifestyle (55K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  53. Guardian of Health (160K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  54. Daily Health Keeper (190K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  55. Health & Love Page (720K followers) – Deleted on June 5th, 2018.
  56. Diabetes Health Page (180K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  57. The Beauty of Power (170K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  58. Nutrition Facts and Analysys (170K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  59. Deeper Perspectives (32K followers) – Deleted on June 13th, 2018.
  60. My Own Little World (1.5m) – Deleted on June 21, 2018
  61. Brighten Your Soul (100k plus) – Deleted on June 21, 2018
  62. Essence OF Spirit ( 12k) – Deleted on June 21, 2018
  63. We really like animals (544k) – Deleted on June 21, 2018
  64. Nature’s Majesty (191k) – Deleted on June 21, 2018
  65. Nature Magic (33k) – Deleted on June 21, 2018
  66. Floral Photobook (160k) – Deleted on June 21, 2018

Hmmm — payola from the Medical-Pharmaceutical Industry?   Really, peeps.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.  Finally:

To seek popularity
has nothing whatsoever to do
with Christian Love.
To collect friends,
to collect “likes”
or seek a greater number thereof,
are abominations in the eyes of a Loving God.

(And you can put a “thus saith the Lord” on that one.)

Sure, we want to send pictures of our children and our vacation locations to close friends and family.  But do we really need for a world full of child molesters, thieves, and thugs to know our whereabouts or see our children’s faces?

I knew a Christian pastor who was a “friends collector.”  Last I checked (two years ago) this man had 2,617 “friends.”  People would tell me: “None of Pastor C.’s friends are people to worry about.”  Yet among his “friends” were hardened criminals in the community who had hit me on the head with guns and stolen my laptop.

Do you think for one minute that these criminals have Facebook accounts because they like people?  Not at all.  They use Facebook in order to gain information as to user’s whereabouts, track them down, rob from them, assault them, and (in some cases) kill them.

Remember, all of this started out when a badly needed demo recording of my musical Eden in Babylon was made impossible without my resuming my Facebook account only because it was the only way I could expect to get a hold of the singers I’d spent months saving up the money to hire.

And then — the evil power of Facebook prevailed over my best intentions, to this day.

Hopefully, only to this day.

Please join me in my prayer that One Day at a Time, I will never log onto Facebook again.  And — while I cannot tell anyone else how to lead their Internet and device-based lives, I can only implore you all (including those in the bcc field) to consider that the words I am speaking might be the truth.

In the name of Jesus, I write.  AMEN.

Grace and Peace,

Andy

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Categories
Artist Composing Homelessness Musical Theatre Playwriting

Gratitude List 824

(1) Grateful for my lady friend.  If it weren’t for her stabilizing influence, I would have never gotten it together to record the Eden in Babylon demo.   

(2) Grateful that, after all this time, the demo has actually been completed.  Can’t wait to hear the mix.

(3) Grateful that now that it’s over, I will finally have time to give quality time to my daughter.  

(4) Grateful that the money to pay for demo costs came together more-or-less miraculously right in the nick of time, and all of it came from anonymous donations to the pool.

(5) Relieved that I am no longer manic like I was during the 48 hour period of pretty much non-stop preparation for this project.

(6) Grateful that when I got home from the recording session last night, there was no part of me that felt a need to “keep working.”  Instead, my entire being wanted to enjoy my night with my lady friend, and look peacefully into her beautiful blue eyes.

(7) Although, when I was manic, I thought this project was the most important thing in the world, I am relieved and thankful that when I got home last night, I realized that it was no big deal.  

(8) Grateful both for all the years when I slaved away as a servant for the super-rich, and all the years of enduring indignity and dehumanization on the cold city streets.   I have experienced both extremes.  Most people are not fortunate enough to even have experienced one of them.

(9) Grateful that No. 8 above has done nothing but fuel my philosophical fire.

(10) Let the Philosopher now prevail over the Artist.  I’ve got a job to do on this Earth – and nothing can stop me now.

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Categories
Christianity gratitude Hinduism Spirituality

Gratitude List 806

1. It amazes me how well Jan and I are getting along.   It’s as though my best friend has come back into my life, and vice-versa, she claims, according to her.  It’s uncanny, in a good way.  And it feels so right.

2. It was an incredibly warm family feeling for me when we all three were here together throughout the day yesterday after church, and Echo and I were both working on our music, in different rooms, and getting things done.

3. Not to mention I really like the rug, the dining room table, the clean bathroom and kitchen, and the decent wholesale organic coffee every morning.

4. Slept well and long last night for the third night in a row, not arising till 7:30 am.

5. Nice of Norman to bring by that flat panel.  Resolution and clarity while working on Finale is amazing.

6. Wiped clean Polaris and downloaded Finale on it, registered Finale on the new / old computer.   I can carry this one forth, considering the Asus needs to stay at home now.   Also, there is a printer now.

7. Just about done with the “Hunted” score, so all scores are done for the demo session, except for my need to rewrite six lines of Molly’s lyrics in keeping with her character and her relationship to Winston.

8. Echo so precious.

9. Weird that I wrote to Erika in the morning yesterday with those bizarre reservations toward Midnight Screams and related matters.  Anyway, everything is done as soon as I do the formatting and divvy the parts accordingly via email.  Then at least my colleagues will note my attempt at professionalism, even if the modern-day Internet-related standards for academic excellence never cease to intimidate me.
 
10. God is Love, and Love is God.

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Categories
Activism Christ Christianity Classism Homelessness

Tuesday Tuneup Six

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I really wish you would stop asking me that.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because today’s the Big Day.

Q. You mean, Tuesday?

A. Well – that, too.  But it’s not just any Tuesday.   Barring the catastrophic, I will finally be with my daughter for the first time in two years, and with my ex-wife for the first time in 16 years.   And my ex and I will be sleeping under the same roof for the first time in 28 years.

Q. How did all this come about?

A. I believe you asked me that already, two or three Tuesdays ago.

Q. Can you run it by me again, please?

A. Whew – I barely know where to start.   And I disdain to unveil personal information about my family here.  Let’s just say that I’m a person who was on the streets for about twelve years in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I learned a lot about people during those twelve years, and a lot about life.  Of course times were hard, and moments were miserable.  But I was given valuable information during that period of time that I have since been compelled to share.

sacrificesI have noticed, however, that not everyone wants to hear this information.  They would rather cling to old stereotypes that make them feel comfortable, because the truth would cause them to look inward, into places within themselves of which they are afraid.

Of course this has been disturbing to me.  When I was homeless, I watched as old friends of mine, people with whom I had thought I would be friends forever, began to reject me one by one.  They didn’t return emails or phone calls.  They got all bent out of shape over relatively little things that gave me the feeling that, if any of these people had landed on the streets, they wouldn’t have lasted more than a week or two.

Before too long, I realized that most of these people were never my friends at all.  In fact, there were times when I thought I had never made a friend in my life — until I had become homeless.

While people of privilege were blowing me off left and right with half-truths and transparent forms of Mainstream Doublespeak, homeless people were telling it like it is.  Sure, there were scoundrels among us.  Of course there were those it is best off to avoid, and yet the streets made it next-to-impossible to do so.

I was hit on the head with guns.  I was pistol-whipped.  I was raped.  I watched all my possessions being burnt to bits before my eyes.  Not one person in my former life who professed to believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins lifted a finger to help me.  The only Christian who continued to believe in me, who treated me as a Christian, is a woman who knew me from the Internet, in a distant State, who never ceased to treat me as an equal, as a friend.  And she is among my best friends to this day.   But as far as people from the church I used to attend when I still was making money in this world?

They told me to go to counseling, to see a psychiatrist, to go into some kind of live-in program of some sort, or to merely “check in” to a shelter – as if they had any clue what bureaucracy would be involved, or what atrocities I would be subjected to in that so-called “shelter.”  The shelters in my world were little more than glorified jailhouses, and I far preferred to sleep in seclusion, absolutely alone.

Did any of those Pontius Pilates actually help me?  If you want to call an occasional lunch date at the price of a lecture “help,” I suppose they did.  Believe me, I was grateful enough for the lunch to put up with the lecture, however irrelevant that lecture may have been.

The continual experience of condescension, dismissal, and disrespect that I received from so-called Christians was such a far cry from the acceptance, dignity, and love that I was receiving from my homeless friends, I would become infuriated at the thought that these “Christians” actually thought they were doing the will of God, when they continually treated a man who was suffering like a bag of dirt.

Even to this day, I have difficulty getting my own eyes to see the naked truth.  Even in the last week, I appealed to former friends of mine, thinking surely they would express some happiness or joy over this reconciliation — when all they did was continue to raise their eyebrows and write me off as “crazy.”

But when the mother of my only daughter reappeared in my life, and I had learned that she had been through trials very similar to that which I and others endure on the streets, she didn’t write me off as crazy.

And the Lord Himself seeks such to worship Him.

Q. John?  Chapter Four?

A. John.  Chapter Four.  The day will come when those who worship God will worship Him neither in Jerusalem nor on the mountain – but the true worshipers will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

The Questioner is silent.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Categories
Activism Christianity Homelessness Spirituality

Tuesday Tuneup Five

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I have some pretty good ideas.  But I can’t say as I’ve figured it out completely, as of yet.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. Because it’s Tuesday.

Q. Um — isn’t it — Thursday?

A. Darn. Must have lost a couple days there. I know – it’s unlike me. I’ve just been very distracted of late.

Q. Distracted?   By what?

A. What do you think?   I’ve got my daughter coming up with her mother on Saturday, I’ve offered her Mom a place to stay here, my daughter’s going to get her own apartment and apply to the University here, I haven’t even seen my daughter since I left Berkeley almost two years ago, haven’t seen my ex in over fifteen years – that right there is enough to distract a guy.

Q. How did this family reunion, so to speak, come about so quickly?

A. I don’t remember.  I think it started when I began to want to help people to get out of the San Francisco Bay Area, especially if they were struggling or on the verge of homelessness, and basically nobody took me up on my offers until I made the right offer to the right person.

Q. Your ex?

A. Exactly.

Q. When was the last time you lived her with her?

A. If I counted right, I believe it was 29 years ago.

Q. Isn’t this a little bit unheard of?

A. It is indeed.  That’s what I like about it.  ;)

The Questioner is silent.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Categories
Activism Christ Christianity Classism Homelessness

A Sacrifice of the Heart

If you are a person who knows what it’s like to be poor, have you ever noticed how quick people of privilege are to attribute aspects of poverty to something that has absolutely nothing to do with your financial situation?  Such as, for example, your mental health?

I live in a city of approximately 26,000 people, 30% of whom are at poverty level.  Most of the poor people in this city are reasonably happy and healthy.  This is one reason why I enjoy the unique city in which I live.   But it appalls me how readily some of my wealthier friends will assume that my current poverty must have been caused by a mental health problem, a drug or alcohol problem, or (quite simply) a moral failing. 

Although I will be the first to admit that I have mental health issues requiring treatment, I find it disturbing how often these issues will be cited as the reasons for my impoverished condition.  Many of the wealthier people who say such things would become much crazier than I am, if they, too, were to suddenly lost their shirts as quickly as I did in the year 2004.

The people who most often allude to this fallacy will usually make no attempt to actually understand my condition.  They are clearly looking for a scapegoat — something beyond the scope of their experience that they can use to shift the blame away from the realities of poverty that they do not wish to look at.

“Hey Bob, I really hate to bother you for another loan.  I know you’re busy, but my car just broke down terribly.  I need it to get to work, and I just can’t afford the bill.  Is there any way at all you can help me?”

“Well, Bill, I know you always pay me back, but I’m getting to be a little bit bothered by the fact that you’re not many progress.  Don’t you think it’s high time you dealt with your mental health, so that you won’t be so chronically down on your luck?”

friend in needOnce again, this is classism – pure and simple.   It can be incredibly frustrating when one is doing their best to maintain a healthy relationship to society, and the frequent setbacks endemic to poverty are dismissed as signs of poor mental health.  Of course one’s mental health suffers when encountering such setbacks.  But poor mental health does not cause those setbacks.  This is only an assumption on the part of those whose lives are such that they never have to experience such setbacks, and thus don’t know what those setbacks are like.

In short, they don’t know what it’s like to be poor.

Now here’s another thing I’ve noticed.  It is often assumed that someone who experiences a life crisis that hurls them into abject poverty — or even homelessness — has gotten there as the result of a moral failing.

“Obviously, Bill screwed up.  Nobody gets from where he was to the streets that fast without having done something wrong.   That being the case, I have no sympathy for Bob whatsoever.”

“Amen, Brother Bob.”

But the reality is that many people of privilege are extremely slow to let go of what they’ve got. In many cases, their natural stinginess is the reason why they’ve managed to accrue so much in the first place.  But many poor people, knowing what it’s like to be poor, will give another poor person the shirt off their back.  I myself have been known to give my last twenty dollars to another poor person if I felt they needed it more than I do.  When I do so, I am confident they would do the same for me, if the tables were turned.

A lot of people become poor as the result of something good that they have done — something that a rich person, under the same circumstances, might not do.  For example, if one’s mother or father is in poor health, perhaps dying, a person who is lower middle class might have their parent come live with them, despite having to take on added medical expenses.   A rich person, under the same circumstances, will often send their parent to a retirement home.

Granted, the richer person can afford to send Mom or Dad to the retirement home, and the poor person cannot.  But if you were aging, ailing, and dying, where would you rather be?   In a retirement home among total strangers?   Or with your kids whom you love, knowing that they love you too?  Where would you rather die?   With your children by your side?   Or not?

It is not a moral failing to take care of an ailing parent.  It is actually an act of self-sacrificial love.  Love, in its purest form, involves sacrifice.   When one sends one’s dying mother to an “old folk’s home,” what sacrifice is involved?  Only money.   But when one invites their dying parent to come live with them, that is a Sacrifice of the Heart.

I find it ironic that people of poverty often are more giving and more loving than people of wealth, and yet in our society it is often assumed that poverty is an effect of moral failing.   While moral laxity can certainly lead to poverty, it is definitely not the case that poverty necessarily results from it.

When Jesus appeared on the earth, who did he generally hang around?   Rich people or poor people?   Anyone with a cursory background in Scripture will know that he hung around the dregs of society, the outcasts, the lepers, the pariahs, those who were so dirt poor they were ostracized and vilified by the Pharisees and Saducees of their day.

If the first arrival of Jesus Christ were to have occurred today rather than two thousand years ago, you know who He would hang around?

The homeless people.  For my homeless brothers and sisters are the lepers of today’s society.  Let them in!   Let all of us in — before it is too late.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Categories
Art Artist Composer Composing Creative process Creativity Music Piano Songwriting Spirituality

Resignation and Debut

On Monday I resigned my position as pianist and organist of a local Presbyterian church.  They haven’t found someone to replace me permanently yet, but they have two people who can cover the stretch of time between now and the end of summer.  I also told them I desired to remain a member of the church, but not an employee.  They then agreed that this is their desire, as well.

The main reason for my resignation was that the stress of the job reached the point of interfering completely with my day-to-day spirituality.  Being a church job, this is rather ironic.  But that’s why I decided to continue on with the church.  I found the church itself to be a great contributor to my spirituality – just not the job itself.

Here is the text of my letter of resignation, submitted by email to the entire congregation:

My physical health is good, and I am generally in good spirits, but there are some issues with my mental health that are hard to grasp and have me occasionally feeling very disoriented. These are aggravated by stress. I cannot explain why this is, but somehow the simple piano-organ position that I had expected to be very easy for me and full of joy has become associated with an unbearable level of anxiety that, when it reaches a peak, causes me to make irrational decisions that have enduring consequences. If you can fashion a prayer around these words, please deliver your words to the One who has power to heal.

Also, while I regret that I was too ill to fulfill the Holy Week services, Norman has advised me that they went very well with the substitute. I will not be in church this Sunday, but I hope that thereafter you will all accept me as a member in good standing of First Presbyterian Church but not a part of the music ministry. While I occasionally enjoy playing the piano and recognize it as a gift from God, I have decided that things like reading music, following conductors, turning pages, piano-conducting, etc. are basically in the category of health risks at this time. I will eventually find some kind of piano lounge where I can play at random while daydreaming, make a little more money, and live a bit more comfortably here. So I hope you all will take this in the spirit in which it is intended. First Presbyterian Church of Moscow is the greatest church that I have ever happened upon in all of my lifelong church-hopping, and I will hop no further, so help me, God.

Thank you all for showing me true Christian love. I need that more than I need a job, at this time.

Grace and Peace,

Andy

As a start to a new day-to-day foundation for spirituality, I picked up a hard copy of a book today called The Celebration of Discipline, by a theologian named Richard J. Foster.  I think that to become a little more routinized and regularized (but not “regulated,” mind you) might help with my musical work as well.  I agreed with Pastor Norman that I would still play the Wednesday evening Taize services on a volunteer basis.  Otherwise, I am mainly focused on putting my show together for my debut as a singer-songwriter in this area:

One World Cafe Downtown Moscow

Andy Pope and Friends, Saturday May 6, 7pm, One World Cafe, 533 S. Main Street Moscow Idaho. Be There.

Even the demo is on the back burner for now (although I have rounded up most of the singers).  Today I found all the band members for the show two weeks from tomorrow, so I’m diving wholeheartedly into creating a set list and writing out parts.  I’ve got an Ibenez custom hollow body, a Yamaha electronic keyboard, and a good percussionist on the Cajon who also plays fiddle and mandolin.  My bassist is from Lionel Hampton, and I’ll be using the house sound system for my singing.  If you’re for any reason in the neighborhood, feel free to cruise by.  I mean – don’t bust your back or break any laws, but you know where I’ll be.

Categories
Artist Christianity Creative process Musical Musical Theatre Performing Arts

A Whole Lot of Love

Because this blog is supposed to be about the creative process and how it relates to my spiritual perspective on Art, I generally disdain from discussing personal issues in which impertinent emotions might be involved.   However, I have found that the emotional turmoil of the past three days is proving useful in getting me to discern certain elements of my Artistic goals more clearly.   I have concluded that is time to come up with a definite plan.

We are talking about three unproduced musicals.   The first of these, The Burden of Eden, is complete.  That is, we have a full piano-conductor score, and a full script.  The second, definitively entitled Eden in Babylon, consists of a complete score and an incomplete script.  The third, as yet untitled, consists of a complete score and an unwritten script.

I have no interest in beginning to write a script that I haven’t yet begun to write at this stage.  As my deadline approaches — that is to say, my death — the prospect is mind-boggling.  I’m looking for a librettist and have put out some feelers.  As for the first show, I wrote it between 2004 and 2008 when my head was in a much different place than it is now.  I basically think it sucks; I make no effort whatsoever to market it, but if anybody wants to produce it, you can go right ahead.   Just spell my name right and give me a decent cut of the royalties.

It is the second of the three shows that is my current concern.   Anybody reading my plot synopsis can tell instantly that the spiritual themes and social statements interwoven in the fabric of my story line are very near and dear to my heart.  Naturally, I would very much like to complete that script on my own, or at least collaborate with someone on it.  However, since the reason I have written practically nothing on that script for three years now (though the score is essentially complete), involves an enormous writer’s block associated with a personal issue, I need to somehow break that block in order to do so.  Also, the usual recommended methods for breaking writer’s blocks have not been working.  I cannot, for example, plow through the impasse and write anything that comes to mind.  No matter what I write, I find myself yelling and screaming obscenities while I do so.  I hit the keys too hard.  I risk destroying my computer keyboard.  I risk disturbing the neighbors.  My reactions even put my own health at risk.

So, please let me describe the nature of the block, and perhaps one or more of my readers might offer some sage counsel; or at the very least, be moved to pray for me.

It is not possible for me to dissociate myself from the awful feelings connected with this mysterious total put-down I received three years ago from a person whom I thought was my best friend, when I asked him to provide feedback on my script.  Every time I try to work on the script, my head becomes filled with garbage pertaining to how badly he treated me, condemning my work as “unproducible,” comparing my personality to that of a wildly deranged and sociopathic protagonist, and so forth.  Worse yet, he refused to address any of these issues, but after he assaulted me in this fashion, proceeded to ignore me completely for three years.  And yet we had gotten along perfectly well prior to my sending him the script.  It is almost as though something in the content of the script offended him personally; and he decided after reading my script never to contact me again.

This also has the nature of a progressive illness.  The more time goes by, the more difficult it is for me to work on the script without associating it in some way with this fellow who, ironically, does not even like it.  My indignation increases the longer he avoids me.  If I thought he owed me an explanation two years ago, that is nothing compared to the explanation he owed me one year ago.  By this time, I would venture to guess he owes me three or four, or perhaps five explanations.  If I was mildly disappointed in him three years ago, I was more than a bit miffed two years ago, markedly angry a year ago – and frankly enraged this last weekend.   But don’t get me wrong – in no way do I hold this man responsible for my rancor.  I only feel that if he were to offer me at least one of the many explanations I have come to feel that he owes me, everything would brighten up.  I also know which explanation he needs to provide for me.

He told me that my work  was “chock full of over-the-top political references that get in the way of the story.”  Again, I have no doubt that these references exist.  The problem is, I don’t know where they are.  He could have meant this here, or that there, or maybe the other thing — or none of the above.   Would it really be too much for this highly reputable and well-regarded professional theatre person to take a half-hour out of his busy schedule to point out two or three of these references for a fellow Artist who is suffering?  Does he not realize that the power to remove my block lies in his hands?   Or does he find my work so despicable that he does not actually even want me to complete it?   These questions will never be answered as long as he keeps ignoring me.   Yet, yet — they plague me.

As much as this single travesty has prevented me from finishing a work about which I am passionate, the amount of support I have thus far obtained from people on all sides of the spectrum has basically amounted to this:

“Take a valium.”

“F–k him.”

“Andy, get over it!”

The first of these is out of the question, as I determinedly stopped taking all such medications on May 10, 2004 and am proud of that choice.   The second is, to say the least, easier said than done.   The third borders on hostility.   None of these is particularly constructive, and none of these addresses the issue.   The issue is that I cannot finish this script as long as the block remains.

As I said, death approaches.  I do not know when it will come, nor am I unhealthy.  In fact, I am in excellent health, and fit, and vigorous.  Doctors tell me I should expect to live to be one hundred or more.  But it will take till I am 100 years old for me to finish this script at this rate!  It is becoming harder every year – and I am becoming “healthier” every year (if you get my meaning). 

I cannot close this post without bringing in the spiritual perspective.  What my naysayers are telling me, in so many choice words, is that I need to “let go.”  Now believe me, you do not know how many times I’ve tried.  This is a complex issue, and it cannot be solved by abandoning it.  In my perhaps not-s0-humble opinion, the solution to this problem is Love.  Love – good will in action – what in a former day, we used to call “Christian Love.” This is not the same thing as “letting go.”  It involves engagement.  It involves communication, respect, and participation between more than one person.  It involves sacrifice.  The amount of sacrifice I am requesting on this person’s part is very small.  And yet, I am sacrificing my life’s work here, because of his refusal to engage. 

My Love dwindles and wanes the longer there is no one willing to receive it.  For this dear old friend to take even a half-hour out of his time to give my work the little bit of attention I request, may seem like nothing.   To me, that would be a Whole Lot of Love.