LIFE (in the slow lane)

 

Hey Bubba, just between you and me –

I’m tired of running on just one spark plug.  My timing is off and my belts are slipping.  And don’t even ask me about my fluid levels.  Yeah, this old pile of rust and bolts just wants to retire to the junk yard.

Ever feel that way?  I thought a few days ago that a visit to my private fantasy island, Gonstagos, in the Mediterranean would cure my ills.  A time of communion with the brothers living in the cliff-side caves would restore and replenish.  Nope, nada.

I truly want life to pass by and abandon me to a routine of reading, writing, yoga and meditation.  Sure, a meal once in a while would be nice and a slice of apple pie in the evening.  Of course you can come to visit – let me check my social calendar.  How about the 5th Saturday of next August?  Oh sorry, that’s not good.  I’m having my annual prostate exam.

Perhaps finally as a septuagenarian I have recognized that I am not normal, never have been.  Not shy about social outings, but I don’t seek them.  Not a stick-in-the-mud, but I had fun 2 months ago and I’m still recovering.  No, I’m not set in my ways, but don’t ever put the carving knife in that drawer again.

old codger

They talk about old people becoming reclusive and withdrawn from the world.  Heck, I’ve always been that way.  I don’t like the world.  It’s full of people who don’t agree with my politics, my lifestyle, or my religion and they are unabashed in voicing their differences. Young hoodlums drive by the house with a radio blasting ruining my 2 o’clock nap.  Just no respect for seniors.  And the stray cats in the neighborhood know I’m a cat lover, so they trot over here to my yard and crap in my petunias.  No respect – none at all.

Yeah, just accept that I am a blustery, old codger who loves sitting on the porch shooting spit balls at the stray cats and a middle finger at the noisy hoodlums driving by.  I’m Ok with that, you should be too. Don’t try to refine me or reform me.  Some old folks are just too tired, too ornery and too worn out to care what others think.

Now, having that squared away, I’m going have a healthy Geritol and vinegar cocktail and a salad of fresh kale. Mmmmm-mmmmm.

35

 

Mexico City

BBC NEWS

In the capital, city officials prepared food and shelter as well as medical services to those arriving at the Jesus Martinez “Palillo” stadium.

‘There are pregnant women, many children, vulnerable people and we have to guarantee the space and the services they require,’  said city leader Jose Ramon Amieva Galvez.

Many of those arriving were so exhausted they only grabbed a blanket before falling asleep.  ‘From what I brought from Honduras I have nothing.  Even yesterday I walked barefoot,’ Kenia Alvarado, 21, told El Universal newspaper.

Residents of Mexico City have donated clothes and shoes for the travelers, local media reported.”

REUTERS

At a campaign rally in Montana, US President Trump praised  troops installing razor wire along the US-Mexico border to stop an approaching migrant caravan, saying “barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight.”

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”  Matthew 25:42-44

Shame upon us!  The wealthiest nation in the Western Hemisphere sends troops and  lays barbed wire.  One of the poorest nations feeds, clothes and gives shelter.  How dare the United States call itself Christian?

 

beggar and wanderer

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“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”  Harold S. Kushner in his foreword, Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Beacon Press: 2006), x. cac.org

The ancient wisdom of Hindu teachings tells us that we, those of us in this human experience called life, will traverse through 4 stages.  First is the student.  We learn lessons from parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, peers, and life itself.  Whom we become as adults is instilled during this period.

Second is the householder.  We hone our skills as businessmen and women, professionals and tradespeople and assume roles as parents and providers. We become engaged in the community, take leadership roles in civic organizations, churches and politics.  Asset building is paramount to many of us, while establishing ourselves within our vocations is important to many others.  We build credibility as successful  members of society.

Third is the retiree.  This is when our productive years in jobs and community leadership begin to decline.  If wisdom prevails, we cede control to our children and the younger generation who will inherit the goodness we have generated or the chaos and disorder we have created.  Many in Western culture refuse to move beyond the life stage of productivity and societal influence.  We are dragged kicking and screaming toward stage 3 of our lives, the retirement years.  It is not merely a refusal to relinquish economical or political control. It is a refusal to bow out and pass the baton to the next generation.  It is their world that we now occupy as transients.  They have the innovative concepts and fresh ideas that will resolve the world’s problems.

Lastly is the beggar or wanderer.  We detach from the things of this world and prepare for our pending physical deaths.  It is not a surrender to the uncertainties and frailties of old age, but rather, a search for comfort and security in that which is not earth-bound.  We look at the pending transition focused on the spiritual aspects of our being.  It is here that we can face a great sense of vulnerability and insecurity if spirit is not in balance within this human life experience.  Accepting that we have no control over what happens to us, realizing that there is no financial or physical security in life can mean the difference between a terrifying home stretch as beggar and wanderer or an indwelling peace beyond human understanding.

As with all situations in life, my response is my choice just as your response is yours.  Especially in the role of beggar and wanderer, we can be driven to emotional turmoil and madness when control is given to forces which are essentially beyond our control.  Why give brain space to a person, a political power, a religious tradition which does not pay rent for that space?  Why allow rhetoric and behavior which is not sanctifying and gracious into that inner sanctum of peace?

I can control my universe, so can you.  The decision is ours.

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Hurricanes, volcanoes & God

 

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It is difficult to feel joy and happiness while millions of my neighbors to the north are still reeling from the devastation of a Category 4 hurricane.  It will take months, if not years, for them to rebuild their lives.

I believe that what the rest of us Floridians are feeling is relief.  We dodged this one, but the next could get us.  It’s what we live with here on the Gulf as do our friends on the Atlantic coast during the hot, summer months when superheated waters spawn super storms.  I try to never say I’m glad that the hurricane missed us and made landfall in another community.  I try never to believe that God saved us from the devastation because then the follow-up question would be, “Why didn’t God save them also? Don’t we have a loving and just Father who tends all his people?”

Naw, don’t need to go there.  I’d rather live with the mysteries of my simplistic God-belief than the theories of scholarly minds and PHDs in Divinity.  The bottom line for all of us is that nobody knows.  We all get a one way ticket to eternity and nobody has come back to explain the God mysteries to us.  The theses and scholarly papers written throughout history are nothing more than man’s philosophy.  The scriptures accepted by many as the inerrant and infallible word of God are beautiful literature written by men and women highly inspired by their faith in what they hope is truth.  But, nobody knows.

And therefore, why was my coastline spared while the Panhandle got blasted?  Do you think that maybe God had nothing to do with it?  The reason I’m hot about this tonight is because a neighbor commented, “Well, God surely protected us from the wrath of Michael.”  Really?  She also believes that Sodom and Gomorrah got incinerated because of their sins.  Folks, active volcanoes, not God, do that kind of thing.  Volcanoes spew fire and ash into the air and destroy villages and cities.  If we need to credit anyone let’s give Mother Nature a hand for being the weather-master of our planet.  She creates and destroys.

Here comes Michael

irma

Now is not the time to worry about Hurricane Michael.  The planning and preparation should have been done yesterday and earlier today.  Water bottles filled, gas tanks filled, pantry shelves stocked, batteries, medications, valuable papers gathered, first aid kit handy, and good books to read when the power goes out as it always does.  Having decided not to evacuate, all we can now do is sit tight, enjoy the stormy weather, and keep an eye on neighbors who could need help.

Contrary to popular opinion, storms can be enjoyable.  Spectacular lightning displays, torrential rains, trees whipping in the wind – it’s all part of God’s beautiful scenario, always has been, always will be.  Absolutely the most awesome display of mother nature’s might occurred on an interstate in Arkansas many years ago.  CB communication had warned us that tornadoes were spotted in the area. We were caught in a big rig miles from any safe haven.  Seeing the funnel ahead of us we pulled off the highway under an overpass and cocked the tractor to the trailer for stability.   Within seconds the rig was rocking, the sky grew dark and the fields of knee-high grass surrounding us lay flat to the ground as if in obeisance to the Master of creation.  From my vantage point strapped in my seat, I saw an amazing display of blue-green fireworks as the transformers on the power line about 1/2 mile away blew out one by one.  Pop! Pop! Pop! My co-driver urged me to climb in back under the bunk.  “Hell no,” I yelled, “and miss the show?”

All of us need to reckon with this impermanence called human life.  We are not destined for physical immortality.  We were not created to live perfectly nor care-free.  But, each of us has the capacity to love unconditionally and enjoy exceedingly.  Jesus did that.  In his short human life, Jesus healed, instructed, nurtured, and loved exceedingly.  I believe that even when he was hanging on the cross crucified, he said, ‘Thanks, Father, that was one helluva ride.”  Some folks will disagree, but this is my story, isn’t it?

We can live and love as Jesus did when we walk our paths here on earth.  It’s our choice.  The show is guaranteed to be spectacular.

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lest we forget

 

 

As they arrived at their unfamiliar destination, fear and uncertainty filled their hearts.  The children clung to their mothers as men speaking harshly directed the travelers to an unseen outpost for processing.  Upon arriving there, the children were separated from parents and taken from the sight of mothers who by now were desperately sobbing and screaming, “Where are you taking my child?”  

A scenario from America’s southern border with Mexico where refugees from Central America and South America have been stopped by immigration officials?  No, this is a scene from Hitler’s Nazi Germany during the early 1940s.  Those children were sent to slave labor camps to work for the German war machine or to their deaths because they were too young to work.

I have often been chided for slipping from sobriety and spiritual themes offering hope and recovery to issues of social justice facing our contemporary society in not only the USA but also the world.  For reasons unknown to me even I can convince myself that I should avoid straying from noncontroversial topics.  It’s safer and it’s more pleasant to prattle on about the ABCs of ‘serene and clean” living then to face the harsh realities of the world in which we live

WWJD?  What would Jesus do?  What would any community-spirited sober-minded citizen do?  The answer always comes back to me in undeniable clarity.  Having read the words attributed to Jesus and the stories of his ministry to his oppressed and downtrodden fellow Israelites, having been advised by a Higher Power in the form of other recovering alcoholics that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is preparing me to return to society as a useful tool and voice in my community, I must muster the courage and determination to be a voice, no matter how small,  for justice in a socially unjust society.  That’s my definition of spirituality and recovery.

You say my introductory paragraphs can’t happen here in America in 2018?  Really?  It’s a slippery slope on which our experiment in democracy finds itself today.  The grand copper  Lady in New York Harbor welcomed “the tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse, the homeless and tempest tost.”  The words from the Book of Matthew which evangelical Christianity tongues fervently, “As ye do unto the least of these, my brothers, ye have also done unto me,” convicts us of our failure in today’s refugee crisis.

If I am truly a child of God created in the image of God, a spiritual entity, then I must be concerned with the injustices I see on a daily basis on my media screens.  I must offer a dollar or a meal to the homeless man on the corner.  I must be involved in a political process which challenges the greed of the wealthy and the indifference of the politically powerful.  When I talk the talk of sweet verses and inspiration, I also must walk the thorny paths of human misery shoulder to shoulder with the huddled masses.  I am nothing if I can’t empathize with the suffering brother, the hungry beggar, or the homeless man on the corner.  “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith which can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2

When I am tempted to stand before the world thumping my chest with American pride and Christian hypocrisy, when I want to believe somebody else will take care of the poor and homeless, it is then that I need to find a quiet place and reorganize my priorities asking WWJD.

Think about it.  Hitler denigrated Jews as sub-human, as animals.  He fed the fears of Germans with racism and intolerance.  He appealed to human depravity at its worst.  He declared Aryans to be the superior, God-blessed race.  Their fate is well documented in historical annals and film.

Can’t happen again?  Maybe or maybe not, but I don’t want to be the one who quietly stood on the sidelines of neutrality.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.  The opposite of art is not ugliness, it is indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it is indifference.  And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” 

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Elie Wiesel

 

 

maturity with respect

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

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Sometimes sobriety comes in small doses.  That infinite wisdom called experience knows when we are ready for an increased fix of maturity – a commodity sorely lacking in our addictions.  What’s that you say?  You always were mature?  Maybe we can talk about that in another post.

I have only myself as a barometer for comparison.  I am not who I used to be, I am not who I’d like to be, but, thank God I have a sober mind to guide me on the ‘clean and serene’ path.  That includes the maturity index.  When I think I’ve got it down pat, I do something absolutely stupid and inane.  A mini inventory and a sincere apology to those offended cleans my slate and puts me again on that clean and serene path. I know that this will be a continuing lifetime process.  Act stupid, apologize, regroup.  Act stupid, apologize, regroup.

As I travel this road, I become more acutely aware of the immaturity displayed by those in my life, sometimes family and friends, but more often celebrities and national leaders.  We have all heard in our recovery circles the words, “Too bad he doesn’t have our program.”

Indeed, too bad they don’t have our program.  Too bad they haven’t embraced growth and maturity.  No, don’t call it a judgmental thing; rather, it is seeing life through a different set of lenses.  Judging is a matter between that person and his/her God.  However, I do compare.  Would I be comfortable speaking as he does?  Would I be able to conduct myself as she does?  If not, is there something wrong with me?

And all I have upon which to rely is me and my path.  My path has brought a severely broken man to a mildly challenged man.  It has, again and again, reminded me that there is something much greater than that universe which spins between my ears.  A world of other humans, just like me, aspires just like me, and hurts just like me.  They endure the hardships of their lives and search for answers.  They experience joy and heartbreak – just like me.  The greatest bit of wisdom which I’ve realized is that I am not the center of existence.  My life is but a grain of sand in the desert, a drop of water in the ocean.  But, when co-existing peaceably and maturely with other grains and other drops, I become we and we become massive forces in this life’s experience.

I find myself, in today’s political atmosphere, questioning motives and behaviors of the nation’s leaders.  I sometimes can’t agree or disagree because my barometer doesn’t gauge some of the stupidity and ignorance which I see.  What’s wrong with them?  Why are they behaving like children?  Where is the respect and maturity which most of us have learned to embrace in our everyday lives?  How can a national leader show such crass disrespect for a war-time hero?  How can men and women of national prominence be so self-involved?

I guess they are not part of the same deserts and oceans which you and I are building.  Maybe they need a program like the one we have.  Maturity with respect heals the greatest of differences, creates a bridge to enlightenment.  I can only pray for their healing, be a voice for change, and then vote my conscience in November.

How about you?