Isleton

My pockets full of skeletons are rattling my bones​
roaming endless hallways among carefully hidden doors​
to rooms guarded by men with battle wounds from time at war alone
Where the future fights the past to control what the present is for​

If there’s beauty in things broken, welcome to Paradise​

My pockets full of skeleton keys are rattling to the floor
to rooms concealed by trust revealed by truths written in code​
while truth is a lie exposed beyond these impervious secret doors
Pocket full of keys and still a dream of a road that leads to home​

On an isolated island
Streets paved with dreams forgotten
Holding houses built on backs of
ghosts guilty they cannot die​
small town lights flicker over a river
of lies down to the bottom ​
Masks concealing faces of those
who would rather kill than cry​

If there’s beauty in things broken, welcome, welcome to Paradise

©2020 by Angela Mary Pope

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Tuesday Tuneup 82

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Just waking up.

Q. Now?   At 9 in the morning already?   Don’t you usually get up much earlier?

A. Usually at around 4:30.  But lately I’ve been getting up at 3, and this morning it all caught up with me.

Q. Why have you been getting up at 3?

A. Not tired anymore.

Q. What time are you going to bed?

A. That’s another thing.  It used to be, I’d go to bed at 9:30, and get a good 7 hours sleep.  Now, I don’t go to bed till 11.

Q. And you sleep till 3?

A. Yes.

Q. No wonder you’re so tired.   But doesn’t this remind you of something?

A. Yes it does, now that you mention it.   It reminds me of the time I always used to go to bed at 3, and get up at 7.   Very similar dynamic.   

Q. And when was that?

A. It was in 2003, right after Mom died.  Every night I stayed up till 3.   Every morning I got up at 7, and drove to the private school where I taught music.   That was the job that I lost in 2004.   I mentioned it in an earlier tuneup.

Q. Weren’t you having a first-time manic episode at the time?

A. Yes.  

Q. Are you afraid of having another one?

A. I don’t think “afraid” is the right word.   But I’m concerned.   I’m always concerned about this, as well I should be.   

Q. Is there any medication you can take to address it?

A. Perhaps.   I’m a little sensitive about it, being a runner.

A. What’s being a runner got to do with it?

A. My physiology is a lot different than someone who does not run.   So medications don’t have the same effect on me as they have on people who are more sedentary.

Q. Can you document that?

A. I can try.  I’m only stating my experience.   

Q. You haven’t always run, have you?   You’ve gone through periods when you don’t run much at all, right?

A. That’s right.

Q. How do medications affect you when you’re not running?

A. More like they’re supposed to, I think.  But check it out.  I didn’t run from about 2000 to mid-2003.   And I got super fat, by the way.   I was on 2400 mg a day of Gabapentin.

Q. Whatever for?

A. They believed it would be a good replacement for the Klonopin I had been on earlier, and less habit forming.

Q. But the Klonopin did not make you fat?

A. Not at all.  In fact, I requested they return me to the Klonopin, after I’d gained approximately 75 lbs.

Q. Did they accommodate your request?

A. Yes.  And then my Mom died, later that afternoon.

Q. So you think the combination of the medication switch and your mother’s death triggered the episode?

A. That’s my thinking, yes.   And psychiatry seems to agree with me, by and large, on this one.

Q. Does psychiatry often disagree with you?

A. I cant say that, no.   What I can say is — as a runner — I am always engaged in an experiment with my own body.   George Sheehan, in his book Running and Being, called it the “experiment of one.”  Since I continually experiment with my own body — that is, I develop theories, test them out, and draw conclusions — it disturbs me that someone who doesn’t know my body as well as I do should be experimenting with it.

Q. You don’t like doctors, do you?

A. I didn’t say that!  I just went to one yesterday, and I liked him very much.

Q. So what are you saying?

A. That I just have to hold this thing in check.

Q. You?  All by yourself?   Don’t you have a therapist?

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A. That’s right, I gotta find a good one.

Q. Were you going to a bad one?

A. Can’t exactly say bad — he just seemed, kinda like, he thought too well of me.

Q. Can you clarify?

A. I think he thought I was a lot more on the ball than I actually am.  First session, he kinda looked down as though guilty, and said: “You’re about twice as intelligent as me!” He said it in a tone of great self-pity, as though he were about to quit his job or something.

Q. He was insecure?

A. Yeah.  And now we had TWO insecure people in the room.

Q. So you left that guy?

A. Actually, he eventually quit the job.  And when he was leaving, he told me I should open up a private practice.

Q. And where did you go then?

A. To my pastor.   

Q. How did that go?

A. It was different.   Extremely intelligent, insightful, compassionate.   But somehow I felt as though something was cutting into my core — almost as though trying to create a disruption within me —

Q. Why would he have wanted to do that?

A. Oh, he wouldn’t have wanted to do it — not intentionally, not by his own self.  It was just an inadvertent effect of the logical progression of our mutual thought.   I left eventually, once I felt that something sacred within me was about to be desecrated.

Q. Sacred?

A. Yes.  Like an inner temple.  An adytum, if you will.   Something inside me that is so critical to my being, that no other influence has any business there.  Nobody, not even me, ought to tamper with that inner temple.

Q. So you felt threatened by the pastor, and you left that room as well?

A. You have such a crude way of putting things.   Yes, I left — but only because I then found a Masters Candidate who could see me for free, three times a week for five weeks, in order to fill out her hours for her Masters Degree.

Q. How was she?

A. Excellent!   I learned a lot in those five weeks.   But then she was done.

Q. Can’t you continue to see her?

A. Do I have $150 an hour?   

Q. Well then, what are you going to do?

A. I believe there are psychotherapists in my vicinity who accept MediCare and MedCaid.

Q. You gonna look for one?

A. It seems the humble thing to do, yes.

Q. Whoever called you humble?

A. No one yet.   May I be excused?

Q. Why?

A. Time for my morning run — and half the day’s gone already.  

The Questioner is silent.

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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.

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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Tuesday Tuneup 41

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater efficacy.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. I would like to be more effective.

Q. In what way?

A. In many ways.

Q. Such as?

The Answerer takes a breath.  

A. Such as in my ability to help people.  To make a difference in their lives.   I mean, a positive difference — not a negative one.   Sometimes I just feel like my influence, try as I may to be helpful, winds up being hurtful.  I stick my foot in my mouth at some juncture along the way, and I wind up feeling — I don’t know.   Like a failure, I guess.

Q. Are you a failure?  I mean, objectively speaking?

A. I suppose that depends on what it means to succeed.

Q. What does it mean to succeed?

canstock27956854.jpg

A. Very good questions, these.  I think that success must mean different things for different people.   And our notions of success must be somehow wrapped up in our ideas as to life-purpose.   We have this American idea of success here — seems to be dwindling a bit — but it’s the notion that success is related to some kind of worldly advance in monetary gain, accumulation of property, or perhaps a surge in prestige, clout, power, or influence over others.   I don’t know.  A bunch of things that I never really think about.

Q. Then why are you thinking about them?

A. I lied.  Who am I trying to fool?   I think ahout them all the time.  But usually, it’s with  aghast exasperation.

Q. Aghast exasperation?

A. Yeah.  I drop my jaw, and stand aghast at what they all seem to expect of me.  I become exasperated —  not because I don’t have those things (money, property, clout, etc.) — but because people seem to think I’m supposed to have those things in order to be “happy.”  Drives me up the wall!   How would you like it if a bunch of people were always telling you how “unhappy” you are, just because you don’t have all the things they have, even though you don’t want them anyway?  (Not to mention, you’re probably happier than they are.)

Q. Why do you care what they think?

A. I don’t know.   Seems I get asked that a lot these days.   

Q. Do they care what you think?

A. Evidently not.

Q. Then why should you care what they think?

A. Again, I don’t know.   Golden Rule, maybe?   I mean, what is this modern-day hogwash about how we should all be completely indifferent to what other people are thinking?  I get so tired of everybody telling me I care too much about what other people think.   What am I supposed to do?  Stop caring?   That seems — unloving.   Did Jesus stop caring when He went to the Cross?

Q. But isn’t there a difference between caring about them, and caring about what they think of you?

A. No!  They ARE what they’re thinking!!  Whether they think it about me, or anybody else, or the fencepost!!

Q. But do you KNOW what they are thinking?

A. Yes!  It’s obvious what they’re thinking!   They even tell me what they’re thinking!  They do that all the time.   How can I not know what they’re thinking?   They’re always telling me that I’m this worthless, no good, lazy impoverished bum who made “poor choices” throughout this poor life, otherwise with his talents and abilities he’d be living in the frickin’ Taj Mahal, or in some big mansion like that one place where I lived a long time ago.   As if I care to live in a mansion.   I’m just grateful I’m not flying a sign and sleeping under an overpass with a boatload of tweakers.   

Q. You once lived in a mansion?

A. Yes.

Q. What was it like living in a mansion?

A. Freaky is all get-out.  My landlord had more money than he knew what to do with.  He gave me this huge upstairs flat with a private bathroom and a marble floor on the shower.  The guy had two Steinway grand pianos, recording equipment  . . .

Q. Why was that freaky?   Why not beautiful?

A. I don’t know.  I just didn’t belong there somehow.  The guy had a Jaguar, a Cadillac – expensive Belgian furniture you weren’t even supposed to sit on — I just felt like it was out of my league.

Q. And what, pray tell, is your league?

A. Wrong side of the tracks, man.   Poor but thrifty parents.  Neither of them left a will.  Neither of them had anything to leave.  I’ve gravitated toward poor people all my life.  I feel a kinship with people who are impoverished, and I feel out of place among people of greater means and privilege.

Q. But why is that side of the tracks the wrong side?   Why not just — another side?

A. Because of the very thing I said at the top of this whole page.  

Q. Refresh my memory?

A. I said, I wish I could be more effective.   And it just seems like, in this society, if you don’t have at least some means, at least some privilege, you’re not effective at all.

Q. But can’t you be effective in other ways?   Like say helping a friend of yours with a personal issue?   It doesn’t cost money to do that, does it?

A. But that’s my whole frustration!   I don’t help people right.  I say the wrong things.  I get the feeling they should be talking to a professional, and yet — every time somebody’s told me that they couldn’t help me, and I needed a professional, I took it as personal rejection.

Q. Do you feel like a hypocrite?

A. Yes.  If I feel rejected because a friend is telling me that my issues are “too much of them” and that I need “professional help,” then what right do I have to suggest that some friend of mine needs professional help, rather than to talk to me?

Q. But if they talk to you, won’t you just stick your foot in your mouth again?

A. Yes.   And that very well could be the reason all those other people told me that I should see a professional.   They meant well, but they didn’t have the facile or expertise to help me.

Q. Would you consider seeing a professional?

A. I already do.  And I got a stack of bills higher than the ceiling.

Q. Andy – what is the bottom line?

A. You keep asking me that.

Q. Andy – what is the bottom line?

A. See what I mean?

Q. Andy – what is the bottom line?

Andy takes a breath.  

A. The bottom line is that, for a variety of reasons ranging from my being a social imbecile, a dork, a clutz, an unemployable space case, disabled, scraping my nuts off trying to keep up with the rising cost of living, not being able to get around, not having a car, and just generally being a weirdo,  I just don’t consider myself to be very effective.  And I would like to be more effective.

A. So with all that working against you, how can you be effective?

Q. By doing one great thing before I die.  By doing one great thing that will reach people — and that will make a positive difference in their lives.

A. Wow — do you have any idea what that thing might be?

Q. I know exactly what that thing might be!  And by the way, so do you.   Daylight’s burning.  Time’s wasting.  Money doesn’t grow on trees.  LET’S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD. 

The Questioner is silent.

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Shedding the Streets

“Shedding the Streets” is a 21 minute impromptu talk in which the speaker expresses the necessity and difficulty of abandoning tired old values acquired from years of living on the urban streets. If you like my work, please feel free to share it.  

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Gratitude List 1023

I’ve been doubling up on my gratitude lists lately, usually doing two a day instead of one.  I tend to do that when times are hard, because they really do help me keep my spirits up.  And then, ironically, I sometimes realize that times are not so hard after all.

1. Though I only slept 3 1/2 hours from about 10pm till 1:30am, it’s really okay.   There’s nowhere that I have to be today, and I can make my own schedule.  I’ve paid all my bills, and I’ve got food in the kitchen.  Thankful that I have a place where I can sleep, and that I’m not outside in the 32 degrees of cold.

2. I just remembered feeling a real sense of peace when I was walking home from the café in the drizzle last night.  When I was at peace, I saw a vision of someone whom I love, that she’s totally depressed right now, and I was able to pray for her with compassion.

3. When I was in the space of #2 above, I no longer felt threatened by this person whom I love.

4. Reading Proverbs 7 is reminding me it’s probably not a good idea to go out with any particularly flirtatious married women.   ;)

5. Really glad I decided to go to church yesterday after all.  Everything about it was nice, including the fellowship afterwards.  I didn’t know Tom R. could play the 12-string like that, and it was also the best I’d ever heard Mary R. play the flute.  Also, Amy P. got up and read very nicely.  I remember thinking her mother Kathy must be proud of her.

6. Finished the polished draft of #2A The Age of Nevermore”  in my vocal score. Really got into it, how all the extended notes acting like drones against the melody lines in the quintet are like the “sirens of the damned” that the lyrics reference.  Can’t wait to score the instrumental ending with all that cacaphony and synth-brass counterpoint over wailing guitar solos while my protagonist is in torture on a gurney at the psych ward.

7. I love that cute café, the way they just sit there and let me work, and they don’t kick me out or anything like they would have when I was homeless down in California.

8. Grateful for that Friday night meeting at the Recovery Center, and for Cindy being the secretary.   I think I’ll try to go every Friday now, and just go once a week between now and April.

9. Just saw a notification of a new email reply from Lynne Fisher.  This will give me something to do before I go back to bed.

10. I’m in a good mood now.  God is Good.

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Gratitude List 845

1. Though the energy of absent-mindedness and frustration drained me yesterday, it caused me to go to bed early and get a good seven hours sleep.

2. Jan & I get along really well with a sense of each of us making the other one better, and the two of us getting better and better.  We really seem to have been made for each other.

3. It was great running into the three musicians outside of One World, and feeling a special bond or connection you don’t just feel with just anybody.  Their love lifted me up at a low moment.

4. Sold an LP to a great musician who been very helpful to me, despite that this has been one of the worst years of his life.

5. Finished the Open Letter.

6. I’ve never lived in a place where people are as positive as they are here.

7. Danielle had the baby. :)  

8. Touched up The Temple of the Human Race and submitted it to Other Worlds.  Submitted “Classism, Stigma and Mental Health” to Classism Exposed and Street Spirit.  Submitted “The Age of Nevermore” to Street Spirit.

9. It’s really okay for people to think I’m crazy or in some way undesirable or to be avoided.  That way they leave me alone and I can get my work done.

10. For numerous reasons, I have wiped out Facebook and other sites I have found problematical with respect to my new life.  I have made a complete commitment to cease to bring the negativity of my past in California to the positivity of my present life in a part of the world that has been much more conducive to my creative and spiritual growth.  2 Corinthians 5:17.  God is Love.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Classism, Stigma and Mental Health

If a white collar worker is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the medications given are intended to make it easier for that person to function in the mainstream workplace. But if an impoverished person is diagnosed with that same mental health disorder, the same medications are given with the idea that the person will be directed toward disability culture, and never work again.

If a person is arrested for a non-serious crime in which alcohol is involved, the Courts order daily attendance at A.A. meetings, where the paradigm of the Twelve Steps is geared toward reacclimating such people into the mainstream of modern life.   These meetings, by the way, are free of charge.  But if a person with a mental health problem is arrested for the same crime, the Courts will direct that person toward a community counseling center with a “sliding scale.”  In other words, the support is at cost.  In fact, the options for cost-free mental health support groups stop at the level of a MeetUp.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) groups, for example, are difficult to find without paying good money.  A one-to-one Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) counselor will certainly expect to be paid.  Those in poverty culture can’t possibly afford the fees for mental health support, and often wind up finding them in psychiatric facilities only, where the price they pay is complete loss of freedom.

Step Two of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous reads: “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  Note the use of the word “restore.”  This implies that the alcoholic was, at one time, sane, and that through the application of the Steps, they may again become sane, and thus able to reintegrate themselves into mainstream culture.    So, even though the condition of active alcoholism is regarded as “insane,” a path toward sanity is indicated.

But for a path toward sanity to be recommended for one who has a mental health diagnosis, that person must have privilege from the start.   People of poverty with such diagnoses are considered to be unemployable.  This is pure stigma against those who have mental health conditions.  People of privilege with those same kinds of conditions are routinely encouraged to keep their jobs, their families and their social lives; the idea being that the very same treatment will enhance their ability to function in mainstream society.  But impoverished people with identical diagnoses are thrust into disability culture, made to subsist on minimal income, classified as “legally incompetent,” and threatened with loss of their cost-of-living income if they even try to go out and get a job.  This clearly amounts to class discrimination, when it comes to treatment of the mentally ill.

To understand why such discrimination is directed toward those thought to be “mentally ill” but not toward those considered to be “recovering alcoholics,” I think we need to examine the grounds on which mental illness is determined.    My theory is that one is considered to be “mentally ill” as soon as one displays an inability to function healthfully within the “box” of the status quo.   Those who flourish within normal expectations based on the work ethic and success model are considered to be mentally healthy.  Those who are focused on “climbing the ladder” are considered to be “successful,” and as role models for others.   But a person who thinks outside the box is somehow seen as a threat to society, and therefore limited to confinement within the realms of those labeled “incompetent’ and “unemployable.”

I would not doubt it if well over half of those who have mental health diagnoses are actually quite eminently sane, even perhaps brilliant, perhaps luminous visionaries.  Such people often focus, not on scaling the ladder of “success,” but on actualizing their own true selves, to make the most out of their own innate design and potential.  They often develop ideas and visions that would truly benefit society if given a chance to bloom.  But how can one be in orchid in a petunia patch?  The Powers That Be will continue to uphold the status quo, despite classism and social stigma on the grandest scale.  How sad it is that those who have vision are seen as pariahs by those who do not!

different drummer

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Piano Album & Recently Published Pieces

This will be brief.

I’ve been posting samples of my piano playing every Friday for a few months now.   Jan and I have now finished preparing an LP of the most popular of these tunes.  We’re going to sell CD’s, and have also posted the album on  BandCamp, where it is far sale for only $10.  Also, individual songs can be purchased for only one dollar.    We will apply the proceeds toward the production of my musical Eden in Babylon, which explores the effects of homelessness on the youth of today’s America.

If anyone is interested in obtaining a CD and assisting me toward this cause, please drop $10 into the pool by clicking on the donate button below.   Then leave me info as to how to get the album to you in my Contact Form.   The online version of the album may be found here.  

Other news is that I have now been published 25 times in Street Spirit and twice on Classism Exposed, after having escaped twelve years of grueling, demeaning homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area — and after never having been published before in my life!  The most recent such articles may be found on the link below:

STORIES ABOUT HOMELESSNESS, CLASSISM AND CHRISTIANITY

Although I try to post something substantial here every Thursday along the lines of the causes about which I am passionate, the “Thursday Blog of Substance” will have to wait another week or so.  I’m trying to prepare a detailed post examining the effects of classism in the behavioral health industry, and hopefully it will be ready soon.

Thank you all for your love and support.   May the Force be with you — and by all means, be a Jedi, and not a Sith.  ;)

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

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!

 

By Nature

Note: I tried several times to post this on my facebook timeline (where it belongs) but they wouldn’t let me do so — for some reason.   So here goes.

BY NATURE (an excerpt from my personal diary)

It seems I often awaken in a depressed state these days.  But the depressed state usually is based on extreme black-and-white perceptions about what others think of me.  These perceptions soften within the first ten minutes of the day, as I gradually realize that everything can or should be viewed in black-and-white terms.  While it is true that I often feel extremely misunderstood, it is not the case that everybody misunderstands me.  I can think of four people who understand me right off the top: Norman, Kathy, Danielle, and Jack.  And I’m sure there are others — or at least there can be, if I branch out and start meeting the right people.  

Yesterday morning was a case in point.  black and whiteI awoke depressed as usual, but was able to transform the depression into a sense of quietude. In that quietude, I prayed for all the people who had been troubling me. Then I sipped my coffee, and it was the best coffee I had ever tasted. I felt blessed, for having done the right thing. I even felt I could go back to bed, and I had the time to do so, to catch more sleep before Writer’s Guild.

Instead, I logged on to Facebook. It wasn’t long before the sense of over-stimulation, combined with loss of control, me becoming rattled, my nerves being strip-mined, my balance off-set by all the notifications, buzzes, comments, etc. was too much for me. Trying to order my responses seeming next-to-impossible, while imposing chat windows pop up in the way of my efforts to moderate the new Lincoln Summer Theatre group, and all kinds of other stressors, gradually put me into battle mode, feeling as though I was a soldier in battle needing to fire at the nearest, most dangerous approaching tank.

My sense of peace shot up to high anxiety within an hour or so, as my sense of inability to control the Power Greater Than Myself that is Facebook expanded beyond all reasonable proportion. I enjoy being connected with wonderful people from the “past” (?) in the “present” (?), but isn’t this all a but unnatural? If there were a meeting in quote-un-quote “real life,” where there were twenty people in the group, and I didn’t like one of them, I would either stay in the group, or drop out of the group. I wouldn’t have the unnatural social power to simply “block” the person I didn’t like, not see him or hear any of his statements, and yet still interact with the other nineteen. This is unnatural.

It is unnatural, and is what is unnatural healthy for us? I begin to doubt it.

What is natural is that life runs its course from birth to death; we move from job to job, town to town, and in some cases, from marriage to marriage. I’m a Sicilian who has a hard time letting go of people, places and things. By nature, I am never done with anyone. By genetic nature, I either stay friends with them, or if they dump me, I am still not done with them, because I will track them down to the ends of the earth. By nature, I reward loyalty and punish betrayal. That’s my nature, and I struggle to overcome the extremism thereof by exercising restraint and observing traditional standards of morality and etiquette. For another person, this may not be so much of a struggle, because it is not their nature, and their nature may provide them with other struggles – as well as other strengths – naturally.

So is it healthy that I, who already is struggling against my nature telling me not to move on, not to let go of people, places, and things that haven’t worked out for me, to be enveloped in an atmosphere that continues to flash the very people in my face that I am already struggling to let go of? Twice now — and I am not faulting anyone for doing this out of utter innocence and good nature — I have had to see the face of a person whom I thought was a very good friend of mine, flashed in my face (so to speak) on Facebook Messenger, knowing that this person had told me never to talk to him again and that any further contact from me would be considered harassment.

This is not natural. It doesn’t happen in what we used to call “real life.” I would have never reconnected with that individual (on Facebook) to begin with. He would have been somebody I’d have stopped seeing whenever we first parted ways — by nature — back in the seventies or so.

I have enough trouble “moving on” and “letting go” as it is. Does anybody feel me?

Here’s what happened to me personally after I had been rattled yesterday morning by making the dumb decision to log on to Facebook at a moment of idle down time. I became progressively more uptight, and finally drained. I had only slept three hours anyway, and I figured I had about an hour to kill before Writer’s Guild, so I went down for more rest. But did I rest? No way.

Me personally, I was almost instantly assaulted by what seemed like a demon spirit from hell, grabbing ahold of my neck and my back, thrusting his/her arm around my waist, and taunting me with the words: “Okay, Mr. Wonderful – how does *that* grab you?”

Now I’m glad I no longer live in the State of California or a densely populated urban area, where even making that admission might cause somebody to dial 9-1-1 and I find all my artistic progress further delayed by yet another pointless stay in a psychiatric facility. Just for speaking my truth.

The point is, had I not logged onto Facebook, had I followed my gut and gone back to bed while in a rested state, I would not have become so uptight that I would have risked entering into an hour’s worth of hell in sleep paralysis, fully conscious of my surroundings, knowing that I was dreaming and having a specific sort of nightmare, and unable to move my body for an entire hour, except for rare intervals when I came to, through the use of a couple techniques I learned through research, and then descending into sleep paralysis again. It is not fun.

Nor is it caused by Facebook. But if that’s the kind of height of anxiety that Facebook can trigger (not *cause*) in me, (not *you*), then what the heck am I doing here? This is the 5th Facebook I’ve had in ten years. Every other one of them imploded. Who am I trying to fool? Will I be any better able to handle this Facebook than any of the others?

rotary telephoneOf course not.

So here’s what I am going to do. I am going to go down and get a rotary telephone, like we had back in the Good Old Days, when the phone would ring, and we all would simply answer it. We weren’t afraid of each other in those days. We didn’t have the unnatural power to block out any and every person we didn’t happen to want to deal with from our lives. We didn’t burn bridges left and right. We built them — in ways that are natural. I’m going to plug it in my wall, and I am going to make sure there is no Call Waiting in any form attached, no touch tone, nothing.

Even when two of my Facebook friends were cool enough to actually indulge my natural neurosis and agree to talk with me on the phone, the very next day I had to contend with the phenomenon of Call Waiting, whereby I couldn’t even get through a conversation with before the little “bloop bloop” that tells me somebody else is calling kept continually interrupting my focus, as though this new person calling in was the “most immediate and threatening danger on the battlefield.”

I’m not saying that you guys necessarily encounter these same difficulties. But there’s a reason why I do, and just has to do with the way I’m wired. Call it ADHD or what-have-you. Every single time a Facbeook Messenger box pops up while I’m trying to do something else, my attention is *immediately* diverted to the Messenger, I ex it off, and then I return to whatever I was doing before, asking myself, “Now, where was I?” Sometimes I even forget completely what I was doing before. Sometimes I even forget that what I was doing was the only reason I had logged on to Facebook in the first place, like, for example, to find somebody’s phone number that they had given me in a Facebook comment, or to ask the previous tenant of my new apartment how to turn on the heater.

THIS IS NOT NATURAL. And correct me if I’m wrong. Am I the only person who is tired of having to tolerate all these unnatural social media weirdnesses? Probably not. And that’s part of the reason why this time I will not destroy my Facebook, I will not give up yet again, only to find that I miss everybody, wonder how they’re all doing, and start a Facebook again. I will take my lumps, I will take my chances, and I will bow before the monarch that is Facebook, while at the same time doing my best to give homage to my own King, whose name, by the way, is Jesus.

So – not upset, not defeated, not exasperated, not infuriated. Just a little miffed, and figured it was about time I spoke my piece, as cogently and clearly as I can.

But do me a favor. Let’s not make this entirely about my “mental health,” OK? I decided my mental health was either shot to smithereens and irredeemable, or else completely irrelevant when I first made the decision on August 8, 2006 to drop out completely from the Mainstream of Modern American Life and try to become the best Writer I could be. After all, every effort to become the best Musician or Teacher I could be was pretty much consumed in a confluence of losing one job after another due to things like absent-mindedness, tardiness, or general inability to keep up with the insanely fast pace of workaday urban life.  I’ve got a fast enough pace going on inside me as it is, without anybody else having to add to that velocity.

I’m a Writer. I wrote an entire musical about social dropouts, why we drop out, and what we can all do about it. To hell with my mental health! Click on the link below, and LET’S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD.

Daylight’s burning. I’m not going to be around forever.

Please consider making an any amount donation to Eden in Babylon at this time.  The stuff that gets people interested in original musicals by unknown playwrights unfortunately does not grow on trees.   

can-do

Anything Helps
God Bless

Please note.  As of October 30, 2017, all donations to this cause will be sent to my assistant, Danielle Stephens.  Further information as to this arrangement may be found here.   Donations in any amount may be made safely here.   

She Called Me Dad

A young Hispanic lady named Maria used to come sit across from my Spot about five or ten feet to my left.  Repeatedly, she would accost passersby, shouting “Fifty cents for a soda?  Fifty cents for a soda?”  At first it annoyed me, because it’s what we call “spange-busting.”  I was there first, and here she’s stealing my business with aggressive tactics.  It was especially annoying, being as I was determined to remain silent throughout my entire sign-flying tenure — partly so that I would never come across like she and others did, constantly invading the space of innocent bystanders.  

After a while, though, I developed something of a heart for the poor young woman.  She obviously had some kind of mental health diagnosis of the more severe variety.   Schizo-affective disorder maybe, or dissociative identity disorder, perhaps, or maybe paranoid schizoprenia.  She would break into different accents and identify herself according to different names, some of which belonged to fictitious entities with extremely interesting personalities. It made me wonder if she had done a lot of musical theatre at some point in her past.

watch my backBy and by, perhaps sensing my budding affinity for her eccentricity, she began to call me “Dad.”  She would hop off the bus, see me sitting with my back to the wall, and smiling, shout out: “Hi, Dad!”  How sweet, I thought.   She certainly wasn’t a bad looking young lady, either.  Perhaps having her “dad” nearby would afford her some measure of protection from the local wolves.  

One day, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to fulfill that very role.  A young man approached Maria flirtatiously, and proceeded to come at her with all kinds of odious pick-up lines.  Maria turned her head toward me as though to convey that she was in trouble.  We made eye contact, her fear meeting my concern.   Finally, breaking the silence, Maria scooped all the money from the cup beneath her feet, saying:  

“Hey Dad, I’m going to the grocery store.  Do you need anything?”

“No, I’m good.”

“All right –  see you in a half hour.”

“Okay — stay safe.”

At that, she scurried off, and the young lad turned to me with a look of shock on his face.  Approaching me, he spoke sheepishly:

“Hey – I’m sorry, sir.  I didn’t know she was your daughter.”

I glared at the fellow with a disapproving look in my paternal old eyes.  

“Maria and I are not biologically related,” I explained.  “We do what we can to take care of each other on these streets.”   

“Oh, I see,” the young man replied, taking a few steps back from me.  Then, turning his head from side to side as though to scan the neighborhood for possible friends of mine, he shrugged his shoulders and headed off up Allston toward the University.   

I looked to the right.  Maria was coming back from around the corner.

“Coast is clear,” I said.

She dropped a Hershey bar into my hat and took her seat.  The sun was setting on another beautiful evening in the city where I belonged.   

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