Archive for October, 2011

I’m Still Stoned

My Halloween costume this year is going to be a hospital johnny.  I don’t know why they call it a ‘johnny’; maybe because stevie and bobby were already taken?  Dunno.

If you read my previous entry you know that I was being chauffeured back and forth to the ER for problems with kidney stones.  All good fun.  Well, since that time I have had a few appointments and examinations by people with clip boards and high-tech, state-of-the-art machinery.  I had an ultrasound (don’t be fooled by the name, it was actually very quiet), but I asked that they not tell me the sex of the kidney stone — I want to be surprised.

The inaudible ultrasound revealed that, in addition to a kidney stone, I have an asteroid field full of bladder stones.  The urologist informed me that these weren’t going away by themselves, so he’d have to go all 21st-century on them with lasers and whatnot.  For the past couple of weeks, the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” has been looped and playing nonstop inside my hollow skull, and tomorrow I get my wish, as they are going to give me some anesthesia and then release an unmanned predator drone up into my southern territory… or something.

Though they call this procedure noninvasive, yours truly is truly a wuss, so who knows how long I’ll be away from the computer.  You won’t get these exciting, glorified status updates for a while; if for no other reason than to siphon as much sympathy as I can from the situation.  If, by the grace of God, all goes well (see how dramatic I can be?), I’ll be back to replace these elongated tweet-style personal posts with some profound, illuminating, brainstem-stimulating insights into the out-of-sight.

But maybe I’ll just come back to whine about how painkillers seem to back up one’s plumbing, or the agony of a catheter.  I’m sorry, I’d rather have a dentist’s drill up my nose than have some rubber-gloved guy shoving junk up my … junk.  After the insertion of a catheter everything goes down the tubes.  But I digress.

And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’
He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'”  Luke 19:39-40

Oh, and Happy Halloween!


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“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” said John Lennon (when he was still alive).  Well, the best laid plans of mice and Dan have gone haywire the past couple of weeks, due to kidney stone henge.  Yeah, I’m apparently going to be one of those Internet people who tells strangers all about their personal life in a blog.  Really I’m just offering an explanation for my blog neglect, for anyone who might have noticed.  If I had an actual job writing, my employer would have given me my walking papers by now.  (Insert obligatory disabled person joke here.)

Don’t give up on me.  I’ll eventually get back to abnormal and actually write on a consistent basis.  (Knock on head.)  Kidney stones are a lot like the Rolling Stones in that you think they’re gone because they haven’t made any noise in a while, but then… if you start ’em up, if you start ’em up they’ll never stop.  And they do freaky little spastic Mick Jagger dances, too.

My initial visit to the ER happened a couple weeks ago.  I was in agony, and Keith Richards wanted some drugs bad!  I got there at around 11 PM and didn’t see a doctor until somewhere near 1:30 AM.  I went by ambulance, and still all that waiting.  Ambulance ambience doesn’t necessarily lead to hospital hospitality.  Don’t get me wrong: the nurses were great, and you feel bad for them, because they keep having to tell everybody that they’re next in line, but I felt like telling them Keith Richards doesn’t do lines.  Wait … well, you know what I mean.

After roughly a 3 1/2 hour wait, the doctor saw me when my kidneys were full-grown (groan) adultneys, kicking and bending it like Beckham.  I strongly disliked this guy for several seconds — and then was suddenly overcome by an intense bonding session that occurred when he uttered the words, “OK, let’s give you something that will make you more comfortable.”

Then they have to find a vein in which to stick an IV line.  It’s often a vain search.  My veins are so Whitey Bulger-elusive, I have literally had nurses I’ve had to console as they walk away crying, because they were unsuccessful after several stabs at it.  I’m used to it, but they keep apologizing.  This time I said, “Look, my abdomen feels like somebody’s pushing a white-hot poker into it, turning me into human shish kebab; this tiny little needle is the least of my concerns.”

And, THANK GOD, they hit pay dirt and I was instantly pain-free.  There’s no feeling quite like no feeling.  It’s great.

They asked me to stay a couple of days, because my personality was so infectious that I had an infection.  I shared a room with a 91-year-old man who had a broken hip and a broken hearing aid, so everybody had to yell to communicate with him.  I felt bad for the guy, but felt worse for his sweet wife, who took a lot of verbal abuse from Old Yeller, who was quite proficient with profanity.

Needles to say, I got very little sleep during my stay, between the cursing codger and the apologetic nurses, waking me up every half-hour to take my temperature, my blood pressure, and my blood.  They sent me home with an antibiotic, and life was good.  I couldn’t feel any pain for several days.  Then the antibiotic ran out.  There was still no pain, but, what I described as discomfort.  That and my urine looked like Heinz ketchup, which didn’t sit right with me.  So, here we go, another trip in the ambulance.

In the back of the ambulance, the EMT that’s not driving is busy helping you write your biography.  They ask you a bunch of questions that are going to be asked again several times by several different people once you get to the hospital.  (Note to self: take a tape recorder with you next time and record the Q&A, so you can play it back for anyone interested in asking the same questions.)

Hey, I should mention that I brought my rosary beads with me this time, wrapped around my right hand.  This is a big step for me; I’d never done anything like that before.  The nurse found a vein with no problem and no pain in the very first stab of said right hand.  Thanks, Mother Mary.

After being in the ER for a little while, they asked me for a urine sample.  I gave ’em one, and, wouldn’t you know, it was as clear as it had ever been; no more Heinz ketchup.  I have to admit, this was a little bit aggravating.  We race to the ER because my pee looks like a horror movie and then get there and my stream doesn’t back my story.  I look like a drama queen, the princess and the pee, if you will.

To make a long story less long: the Doc said everything came up roses this time.  I’ve still got the stone, but it’s trying to make its way to the exit, so he gave me some painkillers, which is all Keith Richards really wanted in the first place.  But if you don’t see me writing here, don’t give up on me, because I’m just catching up on some rest.  Trying to give birth to a reluctant rock.  Say a Hail Mary for me, would ya?  Thanks.

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Wake up and smell the miracles, Rip Van Winkle!  Are you a Catholic sitting on the witness stand with the prosecutor ripping into you, demanding answers about how you can believe the things you believe without having a firm, scientific foundation to support it?  Are they grilling you like you’re Joan of Arc, insisting you come clean and admit the truth.  (Joan of Arc’s last words, by the way, were, “Excuse me, I believe I asked to be seated in the non-smoking section, thanks.”)

You should look the prosecutor in the eye, pull a Jack Nicholson, and shout out, “You can’t handle the truth!”  (If you’re into clichés.)  The truth is science is a Catholic’s best friend and we’d really be hung out to dry half the time, if we didn’t have science to back up our seemingly outrageous claims.  You should really change seats with this presumptuous prosecutor and make him answer some questions.  For instance, why is it that skeptics and nonbelievers throw the Big Bang theory at Catholics as a supposed proof AGAINST our creation assertions when it was a Catholic Monsignor, Georges Lemaitre, who proposed the theory in the first place?

Atheism: the belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs.  Makes perfect sense.”

Eggheads sit around college classrooms pooh-poohing the simpleminded, superstitious religious rubes of history, but it was the Jesuits who pretty much constructed the entire academic system as we know it today.  For some other generous Jesuit contributions:

pendulum clocks, pantographs, barometers, reflecting telescopes and microscopes, to scientific fields as various as magnetism, optics and electricity. They observed, in some cases before anyone else, the colored bands on Jupiter’s surface, the Andromeda nebula and Saturn’s rings. They theorized about the circulation of the blood (independently of Harvey), the theoretical possibility of flight, the way the moon effected the tides, and the wave-like nature of light. Star maps of the southern hemisphere, symbolic logic, flood-control measures on the Po and Adige rivers, introducing plus and minus signs into Italian mathematics – all were typical Jesuit achievements, and scientists as influential as Fermat, Huygens, Leibniz and Newton were not alone in counting Jesuits among their most prized correspondents.  — from Jonathan Wright’s “God’s Soldiers”

Science, who’s your daddy?!

OK, so Christians pretty much built the civilized world and then explained the science behind it to a mind-blowing extent, but then these same scientific, rational, reasonable geniuses continued to accept and persist in insisting on the reality of the miraculous; the unexplainable mysteries.  And that’s where they lose a lot of their bandwagon followers.  If you can’t see it, and measure it, it’s not there — right?  Well, radio waves were present throughout history, but they weren’t discovered until 1865.  Electromagnetic radiation was always with us, but Napoleon’s army didn’t have any night-vision infrared goggles, much to his chagrin.  (I just wanted to say ‘chagrin’ today.)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  William Shakespeare

The Unexplained
Lucy, ‘splain to me the Shroud of Turin, the historical artifact that many believe to be the ancient burial cloth of our Lord.  His image was somehow manifested unto this 14.3 x 3.7 ft strip of fabric, and though it’s been scrutinized and experimented on by scientists of every make and model since the 14th century, they have absolutely no idea how the outline of this naked and battered body was superimposed onto the cloth, but have eliminated just about every method known to man so far.  The majority of scientists who began their work examining the shroud went into it intending to debunk the ridiculous notion that it’s Christ’s burial cloth, and many end up as true believers and what one might call religious zealots.

The Catholic Church, by the way, has neither formally endorsed nor rejected the shroud, which should make peoples jaws scrape the pavement, since they could really — really — insist the fabric is undoubtably divine.  However, despite popular opinion, the Church takes the business of the miraculous very very seriously, so don’t buy the propaganda.

Prop-culture leads you to believe that the Church jumps on every whacked-out far-fetched Jesus and Mary sighting that’s presented to them.  You’ll be watching a late-night talk show where they’re mocking some poor, fourth-world farmer who discovered the image of God on a sheet of two ply toilet paper while doing his business, and everybody will have a good laugh, but the not-so-subtle implication is that these religious fanatics are all so gullible.  Meanwhile, the Pope is probably watching and laughing just as hard as anyone else.  And, contrary to popular opinion, the Holy Father doesn’t canonize Saints on a whim either.  He doesn’t hear a secondhand account of somebody’s Aunt Flo in Walla Walla Washington turning water into vodka and exercising obese demons and then say, “By the power vested in me, I declare thee St. Flo Walla Walla.”

If anything, the Vatican’s investigative division is more thorough and nitpicky than any investigative unit out there.  There is a lot at stake, and a lot of these miracle-workers were burned at the stake, so, please no mistakes.

For every grilled-cheese sandwich with the face of the Virgin Mary on it, there are many more legitimate, unexplainable apparitions that go unaddressed by satirists.  The sandwich-worshipers and their yeast inflection get all the ink and laughs, while the uppercrust Marian mysteries receive little to no fanfare by our cynical secular overlords.

In February of 1858, young Bernadette Soubirous — an illiterate peasant girl from Lourdes, France — received all kinds of attention after claiming to speak with Our Lady, leading to crowds of onlookers watching in disgust as she, in a trancelike state, began scooping up grass and dirt and eating it.  After coming out of her trance, those who stuck around asked the girl with the dirty mouth why she did that, and Bernadette explained that the Lady told her to “drink at the spring and wash in it” only there was no spring there — yet.  Of course, everybody knows this eventual body of water became a healing pool, and thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Lourdes yearly.  There are many documented healings that took place after a dip in these waters.  Other noteworthy things are how Bernadette, while in her trance, many witnesses saw her hand go astray and end up resting in the flame of the candle she was holding.  One of these witnesses was a physician, who said that he examined her hand thoroughly after Bernadette came out of her trance, and he was astonished to find that, after about an hour of her hand being submerged in the flame, there wasn’t even a mark.

Another thing: Bernadette was a 14-year-old who couldn’t really read or write, but, when she asked the Lady who she was, the apparition referred to herself as “the Immaculate Conception”, and there’s no way the young girl could’ve had any knowledge of such terminology, since the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception hadn’t even been established yet.  The concept would have been foreign to your average clergymen back then, nevermind an illiterate peasant girl.  Everyone knows that term now, and most people know about Our Lady of Lourdes, but in my next entry, I want to get into some of the other science-baffling phenomena that you may not be as familiar with.  Please check out the video below for a tasty tease.

Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”
Saint Augustine

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I remember the day so clearly.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and we sat outside on the deck.  Jim Shaw looked very thin and his movement was labored, but his demeanor was as pleasant and laid-back as ever.  My father sat with us that day, which was very unlike him.  My dad was, at times, antisocial and awkward when we’d have company, but he was very fond of Jim.  Even though they were complete opposites, Jim made my father feel at ease.  We laughed and enjoyed each others’ company for a while, and though you could see that simply taking part in conversation was strenuous for Jim, he never acknowledged that there was anything different about this visit.  Although, I do recall him making a joke about not buying any green bananas, in reference to his life-expectancy, but that was a common joke he tossed around over our years together.  He eventually said goodbye, always maintaining that jovial grin.  I knew it would be the last time I would see him.

Jim did give me one more gift: that old, beat up, duct taped Bible with his writing in its margins — it’s one of my most valued possessions, even though I can’t physically manage to hold and read through pages in books anymore, I know it’s there.  Jim’s words mixed in with The Word.  The Word existed before time began, and it is absolute Goodness and absolute Truth.  There is no banality in morality; one either aligns themselves with it or stands outside of it, so there is a finality to morality.  Moral relativists reject that notion and insist that the only thing that is true for everyone is that nothing is true for everyone.  Personal morality is indeed an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or instant classic or a little pregnant or common sense and conventional wisdom.  Trust in The Good Book, not the Contradictionary.

‘Only the Good Die Young’ is a Billy Joel song that pokes fun at Catholics; and it was for this reason Jim held a grudge against the Piano Man, who is one of my favorites.  I remembered teasing him saying, “But if Billy is right, you and I will live forever, so — fingers crossed.”  Shaw was one of the finest men I’ve ever known, and he lived a full and nobble life in the noblest of professions.  Immortality in physical form wasn’t in the cards.  He spent the last few weeks of his life at his home with his wife and kids taking care of him.  By this time, I had a personal computer that I could use via voice-recognition software, so I was able to dictate a letter to my friend and mentor, in an attempt to tell him how important he was to me.  I told him that he was the best teacher I’d ever had, but he was also one of the best friends I could ever have.  In my mind and heart Jim Shaw did attain immortality.

The day I found out of his passing I was at a friend’s house and my mother drove by, coming from Jim and I’s favorite, The Italian Kitchen.  The mutual friend and owner of the restaurant gave her the news.  As much as I knew it was coming eventually, of course you can never really prepare yourself for it.

I was in a sort of surreal trance as I made my way back to the house.  It was strange, from then on I would be living in a world that didn’t have Jim Shaw.  Thoughts like that were going through my head.  When I got home my mother had a plate of spaghetti and meatballs prepared for lunch.  To go along with the meal was an ice cold glass of Coke.  It didn’t even dawn on me until I was about halfway through, as my mother and I sat there eating and talking about Jim, that this was the exact same meal that he brought to me on so many occasions.  This place was a somewhat rare treat, not something we had regularly.  I pointed out the coincidence to my mother and she said it hadn’t occurred to her either.  Jim would always come bearing gifts, and somehow in our conversations he gathered that I liked Coca-Cola, so, the next thing you know, he’s bringing cases of the stuff; the same with the spaghetti and meatballs from IK.  Maybe it was his way of saying goodbye, or letting me know that he was still with me.

Absence is to love as wind to fire; it extinguishes the small flame and it kindles the great.”  Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

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“Personal morality is an oxymoron,” he routinely insisted, this home tutor of mine.  (What do I know?  I’m just a regular moron.)  It was a dinosaur bone of contention, repeatedly being unearthed in our debates.  “There is no such thing as ‘personal morality’, because morality is inherently based on the good of all, so one person can’t decide what’s righteous, since that would be self-righteous.”  My argument was that personal morality is inevitable, since the individual ultimately chooses what is right in the end.  Say, for instance, you decided that Jesus’ way is the right and moral way.  Who decided that?  You did, i.e., personal morality.  I was in my late teens, he was in his late 60s, and we were both certain that our respective position was the correct one.  I have reconsidered after roughly eighteen years.

My high school days had become too much of a hassle: getting bundled up on winter mornings in New England, in time to meet the bus to go to a place I dreaded.  I would have liked school if it was the same for me as it was for able-bodied students, but it just wasn’t.  I had an aide going with me from class to class; which would’ve been fine, but this particular aide was — oh, how can I put this charitably? — past her prime; a somewhat slow old lady (God bless her), who was accustomed to working with the mentally challenged, and couldn’t quite make the adjustment to dealing with a physically disabled individual.  Always being talked down to like Barney the dinosaur talked to his TV audience tends to wear on you.  I made friends fairly easily when I was younger, but 16 and 17-year-olds tend to shy away from somebody who had a silver-haired chaperone following ’em around.

So, when my mother approached me with the idea of getting a home tutor it didn’t take much time to decide in favor of it.  Two days a week somebody would come to the house for a couple of hours and, presumably, teach me the same curriculum I would have been learning in regular high school classes.  This was great.  Right off the bat I was sleeping until 11 o’clock in the morning on weekdays, because the tutor wasn’t due to show up until noon.  Up all night, sleep all day.  Sweet deal!

Mr. Shaw showed up right on time that first day — something he always managed to do.  For some reason, I expected him to be wearing a suit and tie, but he dressed very casually in a sweatshirt, slacks and sneakers.  Whenever he entered the house, he always said, “Peace be with you”; which probably would’ve seemed strange coming from anybody else, but he made it charming.  I was oblivious, but my mother knew the traditional Catholic response was, “and also with you.”  I called him Mr. Shaw and he insisted that I call him by his first name, Jim.  I could tell Jim was as relieved as I was to be liberated from the shackles of the public school system.  And I was dead wrong for thinking that we’d be covering the same curriculum other high school kids were.  He liked my sense of humor and, after the feeling out process, Jim decided that sharpening my wit and honing my comedic timing would be one of our primary goals.


We’d start each session with a joke, and oftentimes it would be the same joke.  Which was weird, but Jim took his comedy seriously.  He’d bring books from old Irish comedians, so we could study their techniques.  It probably wouldn’t be permitted in the public schools nowadays, but, along with the meticulous joke-telling technique, Jim and I  talked a lot about politics and religion.

Politically, Jim was a right-winger.  I, on the other hand, was a wannabe-hippie, open-mindededed, give peace a chance, sexual-evolutionary, civil rights inactive activist looking to save the spotted owl or give it an abortion.  Jim was a staunch Catholic (though I didn’t make a distinction between Catholics and any other Christians at that time), and he came with his beat-up, duct taped, paperback Bible, ready to break it out at anytime and do the chapter and verse thang.

He had his own notes written in the margins.  I assumed, at the time, that this was his way of taking what was written and then interpreting it so that it would conform to his preconceived notions of morality; in other words, his own ‘personal morality’.  Had I not been such a smug, know-it-all punk, I might have called him out on this, and he would’ve explained to me that the Catholic Church has an unbroken Tradition of divinely-inspired, uber-intellectuals who literally did nothing else but eat, drink, meditate, ruminate, marinate in, and digest sacred Scriptures.  Interpreting the holy texts was all these great church doctors did, and, though they didn’t always reach the same exact conclusions, they came miraculously close.

Jim once told me that, when he would come to parts of the Bible that didn’t feel right — teachings that seemed to him unfair — he’d accept that he must be wrong and adjust accordingly.  This admission made me cringe.  I couldn’t respect that thought process at the time.  Surrendering your own reason to that of an outside point of view, based on nothing but an assumption of subordination (like this outside source was God or something).  And this coming from the man, Jim Shaw, who’d taught me better than anyone else about the practice of critical thinking and how I should be cautious in automatically yielding to conventional wisdom.

Although I was tentative at times about voicing my uncensored opinions on certain topics, Jim never really gave me any reason to be so.  He wasn’t at all intolerant or averse to hearing a dissenting view — to the contrary — Mr. Shaw wanted to be challenged, because he was a genuine seeker of the truth.  He was steadfast in his beliefs and convictions, so, back then I probably would have described him as stubborn, but that just wasn’t the case.  We practiced the Socratic Method, where ideas were simply bounced around in want of feedback and exploration, and possible correction.  There would have been no sense in taking part in these debates if neither of us was prepared to acknowledge flaws in our argument.  It would have been intellectually dishonest.  I want to at least be honest, if not intellectual.

Though sometimes a bitter pill to swallow, the Truth is the goal we all wish to attain, so we might as well cut to the chase.  Easier said than done, I know, since the genuine article is often a diamond in the rough.  You have to have something to be your guiding star, though.  For Jim Shaw this was Jesus and His teachings.  One can have an endless array of teachers, but I highly soberly recommend investing in only one doctrine from which you shouldn’t waver.  You ought to have a foundation on which to build.

A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.” – Lee Segall

You’re on the right path if your intentions are pure.  Money is great, but money can’t buy me love.  Love is great, but loving somebody else without first having a source to draw from is impossible; like offering somebody the shirt off of your back when you yourself don’t own a shirt.  So as Jim and I explored, chipped away at the outer shell, I discovered that the only discovery worth discovering was self-discovery; whereas, Jim always knew that finding out who you are isn’t nearly as important as finding out Whose you are.

The Infinite, in His infinite wisdom, thought it important — nay, paramount — that YOU should be created.  Is it not worth the time to investigate His investment?  I think so.

I unofficially graduated from high school the year I was scheduled to; however, I continued my sessions with Jim Shaw until I was 22 years old.  I had a physical therapist come to my house twice a week, and the only way this could continue was if I stayed in the public school system, since they were footing the bill.  It was a surprise to me to find out that my insurance wouldn’t cover physical therapy, because, after being evaluated, the powers-that-be came to the conclusion that physical therapy was a luxury, not a necessity.  Furthermore, therapy wasn’t improving my condition, it was merely “maintenance.”  That’s the word they used.  It’s hard out here for a gimp.

Anyway, though I was not happy about this at the time, it ended up being beneficial having those extra four years — of tutoring and physical therapy.  (I had a crush on the therapist, but that’s a story for another time.)  So, sometimes serendipity gives you a subtle kiss on the cheek.  I don’t believe in fate, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

The things Jim Shaw taught me stuck, despite myself.  The older I get, the righter he was; especially with regard to politics.  As I said, he did a full tilt to the right.  Shaw was a Conservative, and the people and authors he followed almost always fell under this heading.  I hated Pat Buchanan and the like.  Abby Hoffman and dead civil rights activists were my heroes.  Heroes will never let you down, just as long as they’re dead.  I still admire civil rights activists from that era, but the rub is, current counterfeits in politics are hanging from the coattails of The Ghost of Kennedys’ Past, trying to tell you they’re selling the same product.  Stop snorting the party line!  “Republican” and “Democrat” are themselves corporate entities.  They are products.  However, conservativism and liberalism are adjectives.  Still, what’s considered conservativism now is far more liberal than it was 50 years ago.  I consider myself a libertarian-leaning conservative, high in moral fiber, low in preservatives.  Separation of church and state?  Somewhat.  Why?  Because — keep your filthy politics away from my beautiful religion!

Al Charlatan is not Martin Luther King.  Pat Rob-you-some is not Billy Graham.  The manipulative media — which itself is nothing more than a product — has them prepackaged for you in the same grocery aisle as if they are one and the same.  Whatever floats your vote.

Listen to them.  If you really care, don’t be one of those people who shrugs their shoulders and says, “They’re all corrupt anyway.”  If we operate under the assumption that all lawyers and politicians are, without exception, sinister bad guys, then what kind of students are going to aspire to be lawyers and politicians?  You reap what you sow.  By the way,  the word “sinister” is derived from the Latin for left-handed.  The left?  I’m just saying…

And don’t be one of the naïve people who think that you can ignore politics, because it’s boring or esoteric.  Politics touches every area of life and how we function in society.  The same group that would tell you that it is morally wrong for law enforcement to profile in order to save possibly thousands of human lives, only seconds later will turn to a different camera, for a different story, and tell you that their research shows that 85% of African Americans voted for this one candidate, but this other candidate is winning the Woman vote by almost 65%, and roughly 70% of the Senior Citizens.  There’s also this one candidate who’s doing particularly well with unemployed overweight Asian widowers with multiple tattoos and peanut allergies who go by the name Biff.

While you’re not paying attention to what strings the Puppet Masters are pulling, they’re polling and organizing focus groups in order to try to figure out how to manipulate you and your demographic into purchasing their product; and by ‘product’ I don’t mean their brand of bottled water, I’m talking about selling you a nondiscriminatory, all-access ideology.  Once this Trojan horse gets through, your opinions are obsolete and you’ll buy anything that their manufactured celebrity endorses.

When you are reduced to an archetype, a stereotype, a particularly shaped peg to fit within a similarly shaped hole, you are a more targetable mark.  What’s fascinating is that this status is much sought after in modern times.  People will readily trade their individuality, their status as remarkable, for their unremarkable status as part of some sub-group based solely on a shared attribute.  They become a targetable mark and a marketable target.  ‘Single black mothers from the inner-city, between the ages of 18 to 32 vote this way …’  Divide and conquer.  I myself, being a middle-class, white-bread, blue-collar, multicolored-underwear-wearing, environmentally-conscious, down-to-earth, Joe-average, everyday-Joe, living in a Hyphen-Nation, don’t like being put into a box.  I’m made from the ‘think-outside-of-the-box’ mold, and when they made me, they broke it; at least according to some trendy market jargon with a monopoly on the lexicon.

I’d like to be a part of the minority of the less than 1% who are called wealthy.  Though, I’m not one of these class warfare people who think that either the really rich or the really poor are immoral parasites on humanity.  I’ve known sour grape people who harbor such contempt for the affluent and their lifestyles — a lifestyle that they themselves one day hope to attain — that it gets really confusing at times.  Some of these people work harder in an argument to justify their predetermined role as one of life’s have-nots than they ever would to make an attempt to better themselves and their position.

Then there is another group, who do all the right things and play by the rules, but still never manage to attain financial breathing room.  Sadly, this is the majority of us.  It’s one of those majorities we’d like to remove ourselves from.  But there is another majority that is even more inescapable if you live long enough.  Technically it’s a minority, but it’s not one of those glamorous minorities that we would strive to be associated with so that we could wear it as a crown of thorns, since there is no long-term payoff in this one.  Because, in this one, there is no long term.

If you’re lucky, you’re going to get to be old someday.  The music you once enjoyed will accompany you between floors on an elevator ride.  You’ll say things like, “In my day we didn’t have electricity, so we had to watch TV by candlelight.”  Within all of us is an elderly person in utero, so it behooves us to apply the golden rule to those of us who are already in the golden years.  One of the reasons we are so afraid to get old is because we can observe how society treats its elderly.  We don’t want to be thought of as expendable.  We want our opinions to matter.  And you know that someday somebody who has seen and experienced a fraction of the things you have in your life is going to roll their eyes while you speak and discard your words, because they are coming from one who might be regarded as a feebleminded old person who’s stuck in the past.  (Or an aide for some wheelchair-bound punk in public school.)

When Jim Shaw saw me for the last time as his student, he was in his early 70s and still as sharp and mentally adroit as ever.  I was with him for about four and half years, since joining him partway through my sophomore year in high school until the end of my allowed stay in the public school system.  Before Jim, I was always pretty much a B student, but he gave me straight A’s every year I was with him.  To this day my mother teases me about this.  No doubt there was some generous grading going on there from my dear friend.  (If he graded me on a curve, it was a Dolly Parton-esque curve.)

He told me on occasion that I was his best student.  Carefully chosen words were his craft, so, coming from Jim, such a compliment made me feel good.  Upon his departure in an official capacity, he left me with tools of reasoning for which I’ll be eternally grateful.  The Jim Shaw Affect has resulted in my inclination toward conservative writers and speakers, although, it’s still not the singer but the song that resonates.  It’s the Truth we seek, not its mode of transport.

A couple years after Jim said goodbye as my teacher, I found out that he’d become ill.  Years before he became a teacher, Jim worked as some kind of laborer, and due to regular exposure to asbestos on the job site, his lungs had been contaminated and it’d taken all that time to grow into a noticeable problem.  If I remember correctly, he had surgery to try to remove some of the liquid that had built up in his lungs, making it difficult for him to breathe.  It was shortly after this surgery that Jim came to visit me at my house once again.

to be continued…

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Two Wolves

I don’t know the origin of this parable — if I did, I’d give credit where it’s due — but I’ve stumbled across it a couple times in my travels, and completely agree with its message.

Two Wolves

An old Cherokee chief is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope,
serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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