faith

Gotta Minute? We Need To Talk

sandy hookThis feeling of inadequacy  has been bugging me since Friday morning.   I’ve felt inadequate after watching FOX and CNN and seeing the tears and witnessing heartache in tsunamic waves of emotion that just wouldn’t stop.   I could do nothing but sit there and empathize.

And then I got mad.

What happened in Newton, CT last week was a lot like 9/11 but in some ways, even more gut wrenching.   The age of the  victims, I suppose.

Not that the terrorist attacks almost 12 years ago didn’t include children.   They did.  Seven kids, all under the age of  17 died on that balmy September morning.  Six were on board the hijacked planes; one young man–supposedly a teenager, had been on one of the impacted floors of the World Trade Center.

Like most of my fellow global citizens, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to process all that happened twelve years  ago.   Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism; an attempt to make sense of the senseless, but that horrible day has now become this horrific amalgam of people and debris.  The destruction of lives,  the destruction of buildings, airplanes….our innocence.    There were almost 3, 000 lives lost that day and after a while, the horror of it all;  the unspeakable tragedy that unfolded on live TV and for New Yorkers and Washington residents, in their own backyards, forced us to view 9/11 differently.   At least, it forced me to think differently.    On every anniversary since then, I have refused to allow the day to take a human form.   I can’t see it as the mass murder for three thousand.     It’s just a horrible day that still makes me feel like hell.   It always will.

What happened at Sandy Hook,  was smaller in scale, but in many ways, even bigger than life.      Twenty children woke up Friday morning, to die.   They got dressed, had breakfast, said goodbye and trundled into their classrooms at the usual safe haven that is a school—a familiar place where they learn to add and subtract, to spell and write.  It’s a place where they learn the basic academic foundations of life.   But all that changed Friday.   That’s when a mentally man who at 20, was a mere child himself in so many ways, chose to take his delusional rage out on the softest of targets.  Six unarmed women.  One of which was his mother and 20 children.

It was almost as if he killed a child to represent every year of his tortured life.

It’ll be different of course for the people of Sandy Hook, but in the coming weeks, when time has placed enough distance between the rest of the world and what Adam Lanza did, we’ll start hearing  quite a few conversations–heated and otherwise.      Oh, there will be those who insist that gun control be enacted NOW and they’ll do so with histrionics and drama citing 27 reasons (the number of fatalities in Connecticut) for the total abolition of all guns, certainly combat caliber assault rifles.  And while I can understand this stance, I also see it as more knee jerk  reaction than anything else.

The old adage that we’ve heard a million times–hackneyed as it is–applies here:  guns don’t kill people, people do.

Lots of people will call that a pant load.    When it comes to murder with a gun, another platitude applies:  which came first,  the chicken or the egg?    A gun is the weapon, a person uses the weapon.   A gun is only as lethal as the person pulling the trigger and so on and so forth.    I’m not making light of the situation.  It’s that gun control has been a font of rhetoric for ages.

The ubiquitous ‘they’ demanded gun control after Columbine; after Gabby Giffords was shot in Arizona, after the mass slaughter at the McDonald’s in San Ysidrio, California, after the one at the Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen….after Virginia Tech.     They’ve shouted for gun control after every time any bloody scenario has played out in this country.     And people get up in arms about it–no pun intended and it maintains life–for a little while, and then eventually, like everything in this country, the zeal wanes.

Why does it fall by the wayside?   Why are there no teeth in the anti-gun bite?  Well, I’d venture a guess it has much  to do with the indefatigable and immensely powerful lobby that IS the National Rifle Association.   And then there’s the  Second Amendment of the United States Constitution which protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home

Of course, when you read that knowing all the illegalities involved in guns in this country, it seems a bit sophomoric.  Well, intended but in this day and age, not all that applicable.  Some people will do it right…most will.  They’ll buy firearms legally and will own a gun (or guns)  for a lifetime without a single incident.    Then, there are the criminals who have to have a gun,legal or otherwise, to do their licentious bidding.    So do lunatics.

Enter the gist of my blogpost.  I really  don’t think guns are the problem.     Mental illness is.   A crazed person hell-bent on killing is going to kill come hell or high water.    A knife, a hammer….anything can be used as a blunt object—a frozen round steak, my old Chatty Cathy doll.    They had hard PVC bodies back then.   Real rigid stuff.

An old school doll can be a murder weapon, but a gun is a much more efficient killer.

But it isn’t the only choice the contemporary mass murderer has at his disposal.    Case in point:  the hijackers killed using airplanes, tons of A-1 jet fuel, physics and box cutters.   No guns.     The attack was extremely efficient and admittedly, visually stunning.    And that’s stunning asn inducing paralysis–both emotional and physical.

In Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer, a timer and a rented truck.     Efficient, too.    One-hundred and sixty-eight people were killed when the Murrah Federal Building was blown up.   Of that number, 19 victims were children under the age of 6.   You might recall, there was a nursery just above the detonation point.

We’ll also hear lots of talk about mental health.   This is one conversation we need to listen to and join in.    We need to talk openly about mental illness; recognize the signs and learn what to do when it stares back at us…before it looks down on us through the cross hairs in a rifle scope.

We need to voice our concerns when someone starts to act differently.   We have to risk being wrong people.   One person’s bad day could be another person’s breaking point.   We have to speak up, risk being embarrassed if we’re wrong; risk embarrassing someone if we’re right.   We must risk angering someone.  And in this ridiculously litigious society we now live in, we must even risk a slander suit.

Mentally deranged people are at the helm of every heartbreaking scenario known to man.   I firmly believe this.   Now, psychiatrists may argue that point.  They’ll tell us that not all murderers are psychopaths.    And that not all psychopaths are murderers.  Call it what you must for your article in this month’s Psychology Today,  Doctor, but as I see it, EVERY  murderer is deranged by the mere fact that he/she took someone’s life.

We have to get a better handle on why so many young white males are cropping up mentally impaired and not only that, why they’re acting upon their delusions in such murderous ways.   Is it the pharmacological parenting that’s creating this rewiring of adolescent gray matter?   Is it external import?    Is this something that’s genetic?     As for the ADD/ADHD crisis, I have no doubt that there are very real cases of  kids with these maladies for which mind or mood altering meds are a godsend, but..

I also feel that these meds can be just what the doctor ordered for a tired overwrought, overworked single parent with a very rambunctious, attention demanding seven-year old.    Give ‘em a pill….put ‘em in front of a Kindle Fire and let ‘em Angry Bird their life away.     Mom’s tired.Fred At Work

Hey, I understand the plight of some parents.  These are hard times.   There are dead tired single moms and dads who are driving on very bald tires.   There are married couples too who because of the economy, both have to work.    The problem  in this case?   When Mr. Slate pulls the bird’s tail indicating Fred Flintstone can quit for the day and slide on out of the quarry courtesy of the sleek, sloping back of  a back of  sauropod, that only means the end of the 9 to 5 work day.     Being a parent, being married has no schedule.  It just goes on and on….as it should.

So yeah, sure I get it and I sympathize, but mind-numbing medications especially prescribed for a still growing child, aren’t a panacea for frenetic family life.

I’d be all over Obamacare if it included had a fair and balanced mental health section that was truly fair and balanced and not agenda driven, regardless of the politics.    I’d be all over so-called” gun control, but as an American rather fond of our Constitution, I can’t be.   Keeping automatic weapons IN the hands of sane, law abiding citizens yes.  Out of the hands of the criminals and lunatic fringe, oh hell yeah..

But that won’t happen.  The black market and other aspects of illegal arms dealing will always offer access.    I’m not even holding my breath for mental health care that makes sense.   It’s costly and really, only effective if there’s therapy and if  person on the meds, stays on the meds.   The big problem facing us today is the fact that so many patients go off their drugs .  They hate the way they feel, they hate the drudgery of the routine of taking them, day in and day out.    Perhaps the choice of taking a pill or not taking a pill is one of the few controls they feel they have.

But look at the tragedies than can and do ensue when that happens.    Being medicated for a mental illness has to become a way of life….a lifestyle, but can never be construed as a lifestyle choice.     Then civil rights come into play.    We can’t ‘make’ people do anything.    Well, maybe its time we should.

Kids or adults who make threats and even hint at being a danger to themselves are others should be incarcerated.    Psych wards, asylums–penal institutions, I’m not picky.     Lives are at stake.    I’m sorry that mental health issues have been stigmatized, but the stigmatization is there for a reason.   Yes, I know I can’t lump all mental health illnesses  under one Freudian umbrella, but sadly when there’s a significant snap or detachment from reality,  there’s almost always  a body count.   If you produce a bad seed, admit it….  As a parent, I beg you, please DO NOT let  pride or ignorance gets in the way of getting help for your family member.   You must be held responsible on all levels.  And don’t depend on the government to pick up the tab for this safeguard.  This is your responsibility    Curtail the danger by placing the ill  person in an institution.  Slam the door and sign something that allows for little wriggle room.

Is this harsh?    I’m sure some will see it as harsh, then again so are 20 tiny little corpses.

Is this fair?   Not really, but it’s still your responsibility.     So, you get better insurance; get a second job, get a third mortgage.    Yes,  it’ll be expensive but in the long run, cheaper than all those wrongful death lawsuits.

Lastly, we’ll hear about the lack of faith.   How we’ve PC’d God out of the equation.    Some might even ask, where was God that Friday morning?   And some might respond, “He wasn’t in that first grade classroom  in Sandy Hook Elementary– that’s for sure!”

Epicurus one scribed:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.

Is God able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.

Is God both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?

Is God neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

I asked this question many times after 9/11.    In the wake of Friday’s massacre, many are asking it now.    And that’s a normal query.  It’s normal to try to figure out the ancient conundrum:  God vs Evil.     I think that if you’re a theist, one who unquestionably believes in a Supreme Being, then might I assume you view God as the ultimate Divine Source,  but one that also has oh–let’s call it “a responsibility”  to serve man.   I say that in the vein of God answering our prayers in the affirmative; you know–getting us through bad break ups, acing that LSAT, shrinking that tumor, landing that job after two years of abject unemployment….making that cute Jeremy Michael Holmstead The Third text me later, because he promised he would during fourth period math and I’ll just die…just DIE if he doesn’t.

I didn’t go to divinity school.   I’m a lapsed Catholic.   I’m fairly ignorant in the ecclesiastical ways and  means.   Even so,  I find absolutely no logical basis for this assumption, whether  right or wrong.  The reality is, there are necessary evils in the world we have to confront and endure.   If you live long enough, you will encounter the, and when those are encountered,  faith for some is the driving force that keeps forward momentum.    It’s a strength they can call upon.    I’m not even talking about the spiritual kind of faith.  I’m talking about the general kind,  that this too shall pass; that tomorrow will be another day.   Faith, regardless of its genus, is intangible.  It just is.   It’s what keeps some people  waking up in the morning despite horrific life events.   Yes, faith is important but  let’s not forget  19 hijackers were also men devoted to their faith.    They died–and killed–for what they believed in.   Theirr version of Allah.

Then again, maybe they were destined to do what they did.

I don’t know–maybe I’m grasping at straws here, but I have to believe in the theory that good can come from suffering.   There was good that came out of 9/11.    September 11th created the TSA, an institution that’s  not without its problems, but frankly, they are the first line of defense against future hijackings.   Every plane that crashes teaches us about safety issues.  Invariably, air travel is safer as a result.   Earthquakes and tornadoes make us improve building codes.     Cars now have cushioning airbags that explode on impact;  thanks to medical research, a diagnosis of AIDS and cancer no longer mean death sentences.

Those who have died in all these situations, were martyrs of sorts, unwitting all of them, but martyrs nonetheless.     We have to honor them by making sure their lives and deaths weren’t in vain.  We have to do something.

In the hours after Friday’s shooting, all people could say when interviewed by the media is, “there are no words” to describe how they were feeling.   Of course there are no words.    Shock and awe are best expressed and dealt with in silence.    But we’re going on 72 hours since the shooting and soon, it’ll be a week and then a month and then a year.    Time makes it both easier and necessary to find our voices.  We have to find the words to talk about mental illness and how to keep any and all automatic weapons out of the hands of those sick individuals who pose a threat to society.   We have to have open and honest dialog, much of it will ask difficult and uncomfortable questions, but all necessary.   There has to be follow-up conversations and cooperation from BOTH sides of the Congressional aisle.    Bi-partisan give and take.    We have much to learn.    Much to accomplish.

Many lives to save.

Friday, December 14th will become a seminal date, much like 9/11.   And like 9/11,  there will be good that comes out of what happened in Newton, CT.

How do I know this?    I have faith that it will.

The Lighter Side Of Faith

And there is one, you know.  

The Christian or any religious devotee who walks around thinking that he has to live  his life in abject in fear because his views are all Old Testament, a time when God was a little peeved and smite crazy, has no life at all, as far as I’m concerned.   God created senses of humor in his human minions, therefore he has to have one,too.  

I mean, come on!!!!      What more proof do you want or  need other than to take one look at Kim Kardashian’s “career”????      

Sorry, these are a little blurry.    But as God’s boy, Matthew once scribed, “Squint and ye shall read”.  

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Faith Or Ignorance?? You Tell Me

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Having reported on the news most of my professional career, it’s truly the last thing I want to encounter in my life as a civilian.   I am blissfully unaware of most current events.   The story your about to read unfolded throughout most of  2008, but I only recently found out about it.

Here’s the story:

Wisconsin father, Dale Nuemann, charged last October with reckless homicide for not taking his dying daughter to a doctor, told police that he believed God would heal her.  He went on to say that when she lapsed into a coma, he merely thought she was sleeping.

Eleven-year-old Madeline Neumann lost a battle with undiagnosed diabetes in March of 2008 at her family’s rural Wisconsin home.   She lying on the floor, surrounded by people who’d been praying for healing.    It wasn’t until she stopped breathing that someone finally called 911.

Prosecutors say her father, Dale Neumann, had a legal obligation take his dying daughter to a doctor or a hospital.

Neumann told investigators that in the weeks leading up to Madeline’s death, he noticed that was a “little weak and a little slower,” something he attributed to puberty. Her condition deteriorated, and the day before her death,  Madeline could no longer walk or talk.

“We just trusted the Lord for complete healing,” he said. “We didn’t really sense it was like a life-and-death situation. We figured there was something really fighting in her body. We asked people to join with us in prayer agreement.”

Neumann said it never crossed his mind that his daughter might have lost consciousness.

According  to Neumann,  “I didn’t believe at all that the Lord would even allow her to pass.”

Neumann also told detectives that even though he’s convinced “sickness is a result of sin”, his daughter’s death hasn’t shaken his faith or belief system.

The family does not belong to an organized religion, and Neumann’s wife, Leilani testified that she and her husband have nothing against doctors. But, she said, she viewed Madeline’s illness as “something spiritual.”

Leilani Neumann was convicted of second-degree reckless homicide this spring and faces up to 25 years in prison..

Dr. Joseph Monaco, who worked on Madeline in the hospital emergency room, said she was “very, very emaciated and wasted physically.”

I hear stories like this and I get very angry.  And not only that, people like this make me angry.  I’m talking about those who believe God will handle everything in a flash, like one of Samantha Stevens’ (TV’s “Bewitched”) magical finger snaps. 

As if even Almighty God can take someone in the latent stages of Level 4 Cancer; when the death rattle has begun, that suddenly  He/She will make that poor emaciated creature well, then hope on out of their one-time death bed ready to dance a hula.

I wonder when people (even those who are limited in scope as the Nuemanns) will understand that God isn’t this better-than-a Vegas-act magician!!   Sure, mmiraculous events still happen these days.  Granted, they’re not as convincing as the Bible would have us believe, but miracles still occur.  The problem is people aren’t aware of them, or take them for granted.  It’s hard not to witness childbirth or a massive suspended bridge connecting two land masses across a huge body of water and not marvel at the miracle of technology.

But technology isn’t magic.  It’s applied science.  Therefore, I suppose my question at this point is when will people understand that God isn’t magic?   And when we people understand the role they play in their own survival?

I’m not an incredibly Godly woman.  While I believe in a very defined higher power that works for me, I also believe in the power we have within us.  God given power, one could say. I believe in our power to affect change and that covers an extremely broad scope.  

 The Nuemanns are what I called “literalists”.  They can’t see beyond the words of the Bible that they firmly believe are ccompletely infallible.  

OK, cool whatever floats your boat, but if they would have chosen to educate themselves to what exists beyond the scope of  this book’s text (and sorry people, but we’re talking about a book here, that no matter how you slice it, was physcially written by man) they wouldn’t both be facing lengthy jail sentences.. They are guilty of ignorance, extreme provincial thinking and misappropriation of faith.  In my opinion, they’re faith is wrong.   It’s oddly scoped.   They are entitled to believe as they see fit, but where has it gotten them?   Jail time and a daughter who’s dead.  I pity them them for thinking that all illnesses are the result of sin.  That speaks volumes about these people.

Sadly, they were looking for a miracle; one of those Lazarus type resurrection deals. At the time that happened and if that ever happened in the first place, that could have been described as such solely for the benefit of an even more ignorant and unenlightened group of people…..early man.  

You know, the needed the magic to believe.

What the Nuemanns failed to realize in their own (and yes, I’ll say it) STUPIDITY is that had they taken their daughter to a hospital, she would probably still be alive.   And if anyone would like to take that further and split hairs, we can do that:  That said, one then could argue that God paved the way for medical technology to be as cutting edge as it is today.  He gave people the drive and the intellect to invent these mmiraculous processes, such as dialysis, tumor removal and neurosurgery.  The list is endless.

 Go have a mole removed by laser surgery and then argue that point with me.

I don’t have more to say about the subject other than it reminds of a parable I’ve heard for years.

A man  was caught in a terrible flash flood. 

He prayed, “Lord, save me!” 

Shortly after his prayer, a boat paddled towards him and the people urged the man to get in.

“No thank-you”, said the man, “The Lord is going to save me”.

An hour later, a motor boat drove by and the people urged the man to get in.

“No thank you”, said the man, “The Lord is going to save me”.

The water continued to rise; so much so that the rescue efforts were significantly hampered. The man, at this point, was clinging to the roof-top; floodwaters were about to completely engulf him.   He knew his life stood in the balance.    Then suddenly, a helicopter flew overhead and lowered a rope ladder next to him as he clung to the roof for life.

“Don’t worry about me. The Lord is going to save me”.  

Shortly after that, the man drowned.

As he stood before God in Heaven, he asked Him, “Lord, I trusted in You–Why didn’t You save?”

“Save you???”, replied God, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter! What else did you expect?”

Well, there you go.

Maybe it’s just me, but I do believe that sometimes we haveto make the effort to see the ecclesiastical forest for the trees.  As this case perfectly exemplifies, do the alternatives really give us much of an option otherwise?l

 

God Called Again

Wednesday, 8:21 pm
Houston, Texas

The phone rings./

LK: Hello?

God: Hey there, kiddo!

LK: Hello God.

God: Hey, what happened?   We were having regular conversations for a while there and then all of a sudden, I didn’t hear from you anymore.  I’ve been wondering what happened to you.

LK: I’ve been wondering that myself.

God: What do you mean?

LK: Well frankly, I don’t feel like you’ve been around much lately.   I feel forgotten.

God: Oh LK, you’re a child of all that matters!   You know that’s not true!

LK: Do I? In recent months a lot of stuff has happened to me and I’ve tried talking to you,  but it often felt like one-sided conversations.

God: So, because I didn’t acknowledge you as you wanted me to, you let that dampen your faith?

LK: I didn’t have that much faith to begin with.    To put it in your terms, I do feel rather forsaken.

God: And I’ll put this in your terms;   you are soooo totally wrong!

LK: I don’t talk that way.

God: And I wasn’t ignoring you.

LK: Then why does it feel that way?

God: I’ve been with you the entire time.   You just didn’t feel you needed me.  That was your decision.  You’ve been trying to tackle all these issues yourself and that’s OK.   I love your determination and yes,  you’ve been handling your affairs as well as can be expected.   Even so,   I know you have some family issues…you’re under unemployed and there’s no special man in your life.  You’re what 63 now?

LK:   Uh, 52, God.  I would think you’d know that.

God: I do.  I was just making sure you were listening.   Vanity has 20/20 hearing, you know.

LK:  You were saying?

GOD:  Well, you’re human.  Your situation scares you.   That’s OK.  Inf act, it’s a normal response.   It SHOULD  scare you.  But sometimes, all I can do is sit back and let you sort it out yourself.  Even when you ask for help, sometimes, I have to allow you to help yourself. This has been  one of those times.

LK: Why in your name would you do that if I’ve asked you for help repeatedly?

God: Because sometimes you have to go through certain things.  It’s called “life” and it’s your duty to live it good, bad or indifferently.   Intellectually you know this.  We’ve talked about this before–I won’t always give you what you want, but I’ll always give you what you need.  And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about  prayer for a second, can we?

LK: OK.

God: I love the fact that you guys pray, I really do.   It warms my heart and I hear every one submitted, but come on, pray wisely, will ya?    By that,  I mean give me the really big stuff that’s so burdensome, you can’t handle it.  I’ll deal with it, but I need you guys to understand you are accountable for your own actions, too.  Don’t waste your time asking me to allow your team to win the big game or asking me for the courage to find the right kumquat in the grocery store as you enter the produce aisle.   I’m not Samantha from “Bewitched”.

LK: I know that, but some people believe you’re magic.

God: No, I’m God and furthermore, your team either wins or looses, because one team played better and wanted the victory more.   The fact that you picked the right veggie or the wrong one, is the luck of the draw and lastly,  begging me to let you ace that college physics exam because the hunky, Jack Sumner ONLY dated women with a 3.0 GPA or higher was wrong.  You flunked or passed that test because you either  prepared for the quiz or not.

LK: Wow, that was almost 30 years ago.  You remember that one?

God: Of course.  And what happened?

LK: I struggled just to make a C in that course.

God: And then what happened?

LK: I fell head over heels for Robbie Patterson.

God: Why?

LK: A lot of reasons, I guess.

God: I will repeat myself– why did you fall in love with Robbie?

LK: Because he loved me.…without stipulation.

God: And were you happy?

LK: It was bliss on a stick.

God: And yet another prime of example of what you wanted versus what you needed.

LK:  Why did we break up then?

God: Because you and Robbie wanted and needed each other at that particular time.  Then when you broke up, that was your cue that you no longer needed him.  He no longer needed you, either.  You went your separate ways until it was time to do something else….be with someone else.

LK: And the fact that I really haven’t been with anyone since then….means what, exactly?

God: Only that you haven’t found the right one yet.   You will.

LK:  Gotta date and time?

God: That’s up to you.

LK:   But you just said “you will”.  Does that mean I’m definitely going to meet someone ?

God:  You can if you want to.  You have free will.  That’s a human gift that’s divinely inspired.  

LK: Gee, thanks.  Well, God, in retrospect I suppose, I could never have been happy with Jack and his strange ways,  but it still makes no sense.  But what about the poor father who lives in a lean-to and prays to you daily that he and his family of eight be delivered from poverty? How can he “need” to endure that existence?  God, it  seems inane to keep believing and praying for your intercession and be…

God: Wait, wait!!  Do you actually talk like that?   I swear to Me, this is like talking to “Frasier”!!!

LK: As I was saying, it’s hard to maintain faith in the intangible when so many things we ask for are withheld.

God: Laurie, we’ve gone over this before many, many times.   once again and I hope you’re listening–I don’t withhold anything.  You guys are accountable for the majority of things in your lives.  And about that impoverished father.  His prayers will be answered one way or the other.  If  he really wants to remove his family out of those wretched condition,  I’ll present him with opportunities,  but HE has to take advantage of them….or not.   That’s his decision.

LK: How can not being able to feed or cloth a man’s  family or in my case, not finding a job for months and months and going broke be something I want but don’t need or need but I don’t want or…

God: Yeah, hold up.  Don’t strain yourself, I get it.   For one thing, there’s Earth time and there’s my time, OK?   The two are exponentially different.

LK:    With all due respect God, I always thought that was such a cop out;  something that was man-inspired to explain why most prayers aren’t answered.

God. Hardly, my dear….hardly.  Things have to happen in my time because  there are certain things you have to experience.    If you constantly get everything you want, how can you learn to appreciate it when you have it?    Or when you don’t?   I never wanted a spoiled flock.

LK: Well, it sure seems like some people are very spoiled and they have it awfully easy.

God: You just answered you own  question!   It only “seems” like some people have everything.   They don’t.  Not in the way you think.

LK: How so?

God: Take your standard-issue beautiful actress who pulls in 12 million a picture.   Her life is glamorous and she’s rich;  on magazine covers,  billboards; walks the glitzy red carpet before awards show.    It looks like she has it made.  The fact that she’s hounded by the press, in every gossip column are bad enough but keep in mind she went through a very painful ordeal when her husband cheated on her, in public, on a movie set and he eventually went on to have children with the other woman, sans a ceremony or certificate in the eyes of..well, me.    Her beauty, her wealth, her celebrity didn’t make her exempt from heartache or rampant insecurities.

LK: You’re talking about Jennifer Aniston, right?

God: Yes and the mere fact that she’s wealthy will never buy her real happiness.

LK: Yeah, but having that kind of money would certainly allow you to rent some.

God: It’s all about what she does with her money, really.  And what she does with it, is her option.  Jennifer is a sweet kid, but her marriage to Brad was a mistake that had run its course.   She had to figure that out and by doing it with some pain involved, she’s less likely to do it again.  At least, I hope she is.  By the way, that “Brangelina”  stuff  tickles me.   Is there any portmanteau that the American press won’t conjugate?

LK: If Jennifer’s marriage was a mistake, why did you let it happen?

God: I do love that crazy ass. walking Benetton ad they call a family, though.   Adoption is a nice thing and while unconventional, Brad and Angie are philanthropic and generous.  Their hearts are in the right place.

LK: Please answer my question.

God: What question?

LK: The one about Jennifer’s marriage.  If it was wrong, why did you let it happen?

God: Okay, here’s what I really want everyone to know, Laurie.  People have it wrong when they think that I, as you put it, intercede on a regular basis.  That’s not to say I never have, because yes, I most certainly have and I always will when warranted, but the way this whole thing was set up was to be all about you.  Your choices;  your decisions; your options.  You know, that pesky “free will” stuff you guys love and loathe.    Jennifer married Brad because she chose to.    Brad then chose to have an affair with his “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” co-star.   Jennifer then had to choose how to respond.  Brad had the option of continuing with the affair… or not and 37 children later, I think we all know which path HE chose.

LK: But sometimes we have no options.

God: That’s not true. You always have options.  Deciding to do nothing at all is also an option.

LK: What about the doomed passengers on board the hijacked planes or the ones on TWA Flight 800 that exploded in mid-air?   What choices did they have?   You’re trying to tell me that thee people jumping out of the  windows on burning floors of the World Trade Center also had options?

God: To be honest, they did.  If you think about it, they got to decide how they’d die.

LK:   What?  How was that a decision?  They had no idea they’d all die horrifically minutes after taking off.  I don’t see that as an option at all!

God: Look, I know you grapple with me and what I am on a regular basis.  Most people do and I’m OK with that.   I like it when you think.  I take great pride in the fact that you have doubts and ask questions.  That’s so wonderfully human.   Disney created Automatons, I didn’t.

LK: The Hall of Presidents completely creeps me out.

God: Me too.  Besides Lincoln’s real voice was far less butch than Walt and the boys made it out to be.

LK: Really?

God: Oh yeah, it was shrill and rather high.   He sounded like a male gymnast.  Back to my point, as I told you the last time we spoke, I was at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th.   I was on board those hijacked planes and TWA Flight 800 when it exploded just off the New York coast a dozen years ago.

LK: I didn’t get that when you said it me then and I still don’t get it now.  God,  those people on Flight 800 and at the Pentagon and the Twin Towers died horrible, fiery deaths!

God: There are going to be things you’ll never understand.

LK: Why?

God: Because. 

LK:   Beacause?  That’s the best you can give me?

GOD:    No, but it’s the simplest explanation I can give you.  It’s like this– I look at things from an eternal standpoint, whereas you can’t.  As a human, you have a defined beginning, a middle and an end. You look at things from an earthly perspective because well, that’s all you’ve got, but that’s because  I made it that way.   You know…term limits. 

LK:  tell that to Texas Governor, Rick Perry

GOD:  Trust me, I have

LK:   How about that hair?

GOD:  Yeah, I know.  There are limits to applications of Aqua Net, too.  But seriously,  if you knew what I know, that would confound you to the point of spontaneous combustion.   I think it was Isaiah who once scribed, ”   “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,  so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts”.   That pretty much sums it up, but  I assure you, I was at all those places you just mentioned.    Who’s to say I didn’t take  the jumpers’ lives before they hit the ground or before the passengers on board those jets, including the one that blew up  in mid air, realized what was happening?

LK: Then why did any of those things have to happen?

God:  Because they had to happen, Laurie.   Allow me to reiterate a point I just made.  As a species, you…and by you I mean the collective… have a shelf life; an expiration date.  Understand that every human being who’s ever walked on this planet has had a special purpose..a job to do, if you will… and you all have a certain number of days in which to accomplish that mission.

LK: But I still don’t get it!

God:  And you, my little mortal humanoid, never will.  Sorry,  but that’s just the way it is.  But here’s something I’d like for you to focus on instead.  Yes, there was heartache on 9/11, but think about the miracles that happened on that day.   How about the New York City firefighters who survived the collapse of a 110 story building in a stairwell?  And what about the good things that came after that day?   Air travel was made much safer.   We stiffened immigration laws that had been laxed.   We started rethinking national security.  Tragedy unified you as a nation; for a while anyway.  And what about the people who for a myriad of reasons, didn’t go to work or missed their flights on that day?

LK: Was that your handiwork?

God: No, not really.  Those people who missed their flights or came to their World Trade Center offices late, did so of their own doing.

LK: Explain.

God: They could have left for the airport earlier, taken a different route or freeway that wasn’t as congested.   Maybe that extra cup of coffee at home made them lose account or time or  they dawdled because they window shopped  and those things made them late arriving at the subway or bus stop.   They had errands to run or maybe someone stopped for a bagel and service took longer than they anticipated.  And what about  that radiator that over boiled?   Had the car been  taken to a mechanic the minute the owner first noticed signs of trouble, the story would’ve been very different for that person on September 11th.   The owner elected, for whatever reason, NOT to take the car in.   So, what was a smoking, steaming pain in the ass parked on the side of the freeway three miles from Boston Logan at the time of departure,  instead became an event that saved his or her life.  You follow me?

LK: Yes.

God:   You’re all mortal.   You will all die.  Your time in this existence is finite and in your time here, you live your lives based choices; options; excercising your free wil.  Sometimes, you’re oblivious that your   decision to either turn left or right can alter the course of your existence.     There will be times when you’ll make these life or death decisions without even realizing it.   You’ll only become aware of  the impact of your decisions after the fact.  That happened countless times on September 11th.

LK: So, it was the free will of the those three thousand people to go to work that day or the passengers who endeavored NOT to not miss their flight?

God: Yes but remember, I told you everyone on Earth has a mission.  Perhaps those that died accomplished theirs  by the morning of September 11th.

LK: Then they were sacrificial pawns?

God: No, not at all.   

LK: Then why did it have to play out so horrifically?   And why did you create evil in the first place?

God: It happened that way because 19 religious zealots chose to take the evil route adn they did it my name, which is bull…..well, bologna. 

LK:   You almost cussed!!!

GOD:   Yeah…sorry.  But what they heck.   You know, I invented colorful metaphors  right after that whole Babel thing.  Anyway, the roughly  three-thousand people who died that day,  did so because it was their time.  How they died was luck of the draw.  And let’s get something straight,  I didn’t create evil.  It exists as it always has and actually, it’s as nebulous as I’m often perceived.  It isn’t anything incarnate and honestly, neither am I.   I’m not this bearded guy who wears white, flowing robes and lives on a cloud with a lot of harp music playing in the background.    And consequently, evil doesn’t look anything like that little red guy with horns on a label of Underwood Deviled Ham.   The human mind needs to humanize things.  This is what some call matrixing.    The brain needs to recognize similar, corporeal  images in order to fully comprehend and make sense of the chaos and confusion.

LK: I had no idea.

God: Oh, yes indeed.  Those images are man made.  And moreover, humans somewhere along the way, have gotten the mistaken impression that evil is something palpable.  As if  one can reach into a Louis Vuitton purse and pull out a big, old handful of it.  Can’t be done.   Evil is an intangible; so is good. You can’t bottle them or package them.  They’re often the result of a split second decision.   It’s a path you choose to take.   It’s consciousness.   Should I steal that apple or not?   Should I burglarize this house or not?     Should I help this poor woman in need or not?    You choose how to act and you have two options:   good or evil.  It really is just that simple.

LK:   All of this is very tough to wrap my head around, God.   We’re talking behaviors, addictions and so on?

God: Why do you think they call those things “demons”?

LK: Wow.

God: Well, there you go.

LK: What do you mean about every human having a mission?

God: When I said that everyone on Earth  as a special purpose, I didn’t mean winning the Nobel prize for Chemistry.   It may not be discovering the cure for cancer.  It may not be anything grand at all!    Sometimes,  you don’t even know how or when you do it, but by connecting with others, you can change  someone’s life in a heartbeat.  Take you for example:  you were very funny on that radio show you used to be on.

LK: We had great ratings.

God: Yes, but you you also had no idea how many times what you guys said or did made someone laugh and perhaps in doing so, they put down the gun, the razor or that bottle of pills.  Laughter is powerful and restorative.   You’ve made a huge difference in many people’s lives, even saved a few,  as good if not better than any heart surgeon.   Every person has.  No life is ever wasted, no matter how brief;  no matter how seemingly trivial.

LK:  Seriously?

God: Seriously.

(Slight pause in the conversation.  There is brief silence)

LK: You know, God?  Perhaps, I have been ignoring you.

God: It’s OK.  You’re imperfect and I love you.

LK: Can I ask you two more questions?

God: Please do.

LK: The Mayans claim the world will end on December 21st, 2012.  Will it?

God: Those Mayans were a brilliant and enterprising people, but horrible with dates.     Next question?

LK: Will I be OK?

God: Do you want to be OK?

LK: I do

God: Do you want a great job that’s fulfilling, a life of abundance and abiding love?

LK: Very much so.

God: Then, I’ll provide the opportunities, you provide the results.  Remember, it’s all about free will.

(A call waiting beep is heard)

LK: Sounds like you’ve got an  incoming call.

God: Wait a sec.  Let me check  my ID thing.   Oh, it’s Barack Obama and all things considered Sweetie, I really need to take this call.

LK: Then go ahead.  Say, I’m curious about something….what does the Big O call you:  God or Allah?

God: Now Laurie, don’t start with that!!   If you must know, he calls me God… but I answer to both.

LK:  I see.  Then I would imagine he has a lot to talk to you about.  How’s he doing, the way?

God: Let’s discuss that in about  about 17 months.

LK: I’d like to think we’ll talk before that.

God: Then we will.   It’s your call.

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Seven Years Later…

September 11, 2001.

I woke up that morning just after 8am-Houston time—a friend’s call served as my alarm. I turned on the TV as an automatic reflex. The “Today” show had a camera trained on the North Tower. All you could see was a huge, gaping hole with fire and smoke billowing from it.

I remember thinking instantly that this was the handiwork of Osama bin Laden. This wasn’t an accident; this wasn’t the tragic result some confused pilot in a Cessna who’d lost his way trying to follow the meandering shoreline of the Hudson.

This was intentional. This was bin Laden making good on his threat after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Then, things got stranger and more surreal.

There were more reports of other planes that couldn’t be accounted for….more hijackings.  Jumpers from the upper floors of a doomed skyscraper with only minutes left to remain intact, were captured by TV cameras as they fell to their deaths.

It was intensely painful.

And just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. A second plane hit the South Tower. There is, I swear, an eternal imprint on the souls of every person who bore witness to the horrible, lamentable event of that day.

Then came the first collapse.

I watched the South Tower crumble first. Floor by floor. I watched walls and ceilings, and tons and tons of steel girders fall to the earth. What took nearly three and half years to build, came down in 12 seconds.

In those waning hours after the attack– as the nation emerged wounded and disoriented from the debris cloud of our it’s own disbelief, we were glued to our TV sets. As reality continued to force feed us the acceptance of a most horrific situation, I realized that after witnessing so many interviews, a shape-shifting in the collective American consciousness was occurring. A rather laissez fare and cavalier attitude toward the government, foreign policy and national defense was rapidly changing in the course of one very event filled afternoon. A certain amount of nationalism and pride was starting surface, in spite of the horror.  But that was often drummed into silence by an almost primal mélange of base emotions being discussed openly and honestly: despair, grief, anger, shock, dismay, rage, bitterness, disbelief, pain, revenge…

And fear.

We’d been attacked by the most dangerous nemesis known to man: hate fueled by fundamentalist psychopaths who believed they were divinely inspired and justified to do as they pleased. They made no discernment between civilians and soldiers, children, men or women—everyone was fair game. Plus, this vicious, murderous event occurred on our own soil. It cost us our sense of security. We immediately stopped feeling safe and started feeling vulnerable. We felt duped, as if we’d been had, because the method used—and it must be said—was brilliant in its simplicity. It was treacherous in its total effectiveness.

Perhaps, that’s what made it even more frightening. That somewhere, somehow we…The United States of America, the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world with its extremely sophisticated method of intelligence gathering, had failed. We’d been breached by our own planes, in our own airspace and by a failed system of airport security checks and balances put there to protect us.

We weren’t impervious.

That became more apparent as the day progressed–the afternoon offered no reprieve. The North Tower fell, the Pentagon was attacked,  Building 7 collapsed and the news was confirmed regarding the crash of the fourth hijacked plane, United 93 in that field in rural Pennsylvania.

Still, I kept watching, hearing stories of those who managed to escape death’s clutches; I watched reports about people who saw evil “up close and personal” and lived to tell about it. I heard countless tales of bravery and heroism. After a while, I stopped listening to what they said and instead just looked at them for what they represented; what the day had forced them to become.

That’s when I saw something beginning to emerge…like the mighty Phoenix.

That morning, these survivors entered their respective offices at the World Trade Center representing a wide cross section of America. Men, women, execs, middle management and hourly wage earners. They went about their daily routines…getting coffee, making copies, faxing Atlanta; talking to the Tokyooffice…to a client in Cairo. And they did these things as vastly different people—physically, ethnically; socially.

Yet after the towers collapsed, those who survived emerged from the dust and debris, covered in the same, whitish colored ash that just hours before had been two-110-story American icons— architectural wonders brought down by physics, gravity and hate. The ash represented so much: pulverized remnants of offices, money, solvency, debt, flooring, invoices, hopes, dreams, goals….so many different human lives.

These people, who woke up that morning for the sole purpose of being inexorably and permanently changed by surviving, were covered in humanity, really.

And it covered them from head to toe.

At first glance, it prevented me from discerning who and what they were. I couldn’t tell whether they were rich or poor; a Wharton grad or a high school drop out. What were they ethnically? It was even that easy to discern gender.

On September 11, 2001 they were merely survivors. Tragedy and devastation removed all other labels.

You see, on this one extraordinarily tragic day in our history, these very different people, really weren’t very different at all. For a few hours anyway, they ceased being black, white, Asians, Latinos, Jews, Gentiles, bosses or subordinates–they weren’t rich or poor. Not even men or women. They were just people who miraculously survived and in the hellish aftermath of one of the worst terror attacks in history, found themselves covered in this thick, white, ashen “sameness”.

How ironic, too.

White represents the total absence of color.

Somehow, that day made us do the unexpected; what the terrorists hadn’t anticipated:  hate had unified us.

And it did…for a little while, anyway. 

I can only speak for myself, but on the dark day that was September 11, 2001, this realization was a tiny bright spot of hope.

It isn’t much, but it’s something I still cling to seven years later.

Wish I’d Said That

There was a time dear friends, when you could tell someone to ‘fuck off” in the most eloquent and elegant way without ever uttering that specific two word phrase.

Yes, there was a time when there was dignity in speech and even the insults bore weight and temerity; to the point where they’d leave the intended victim reeling and non-plussed, providing of course, he or she was mentally adroit and capable of comprehending the insult in the first place.

There’s a book called “The Portable Curmudgeon” which is a delightful compendium of so many of these wondrous insults, come-backs and put-downs. It was published in 1993 and is well worth the price of admission, which in the world of Amazon.com means $10.40 plus shipping.

Seriously, if you possess a single pretentious bone in your corpus, buy this book. Learn these phrases; study them, incorporate them into your lexicon and use them in everyday conversation. That way, you’ll confound the ignorant and impress the literate.

Here are a few examples.

This is a wonderful exchange between Winston Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, “If you were my husband I’d give you poison.”

He said, “If you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

A member of Parliament to British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.” “That depends, Sir,” said Disraeli, “whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

“He had delusions of adequacy.” – Walter Kerr

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” – Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” – William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” – Moses Hadas

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” – Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” – Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend…. if you have one.” – George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

“Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… if there is one.” – Winston Churchill, in response.

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.” – Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.” -
Irvin S. Cobb

“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.” -
Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” – Paul Keating

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” – Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” – Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” – Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” – Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” – Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts… for support rather than illumination.” – Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” – Billy Wilder

“He is a self-made man who thinks quite highly of his creator”-Laurie Kendrick about her boyfriend, PM

But seriously folks…

My last offering isn’t in the book, but it’s one of my favorites, so I wanted to include it in this post.

Lately, I’ve been reading quite a bit about G.K. Chesterton, certainly one of the most neglected writers of our time.

A wee bit of background, if I may: this legendary Brit is no longer taught in schools, nor has he been for quite some time and I will admit, it’s only been in recent years that I was introduced to his writings and philosophy.

I now know what I was missing.

Chesterton is tough…damn tough to pigeonhole. He was a writer yes, and also quite the humanist, but those two things only begin to cover all of the monikers that would apply. However, if I were to compose a list, political and social realist would be in the top five.

Chesterton argued eloquently against all the trends which eventually took over the 20th century mindset: materialism, scientific determinism, moral relativism, and agnosticism, to name a few. He also argued against both socialism and capitalism. He deemed them to be enemies of the freedom and justice that permeates modern society. On capitalism, many would agree he missed the mark; but few would deign to argue that he was wrong about socialism being an encompassing evil.

So, then one could ask, was there anything he actually liked? Anything he supported?

Yes, there were many things.

Chesterton liked the common man, especially when common sense was applied in an uncommon fashion. He defended the poor; the family; beauty, nature and Christianity along with Catholicism. Today, with the exception of beauty, nature and to a lesser degree the family, these are considered extremely divergent topics and to even bring any of them up in a classroom setting, much less in the media or in a public arena would result in at least one eight-minute, vitriolic filled rant from the Angry Dark Lord of Haldol, Keith the Heretic of Olbermann.

And in prime time, no less.

While I am by no means an exacting Christian, I do believe in an Almighty, which I’m still trying to define. I no longer practice the Catholicism in which I was raised, but I still possess an inexplicably mother-hennish attitude about the Mother Church.

Go figure.

So, I can’t say that I agree with everything Chesterton ever wrote, thought or felt strongly about, but I do like his approach. With him, it was about the collective that is humanity. That’s fine with me. I’ll back anyone who extols that dignity be granted to the poor, while holding firm the belief that freedom…real freedom…is only acquired through responsibility.

Anyway, Chesterton was a large man, standing 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing around 21 stone if you’re British (that’s 134 kg if you’re not an American; 294 pounds if you are and NOT into any of the applied sciences). His girth gave rise to a famous anecdote. He once remarked to his friend, influential playwright George Bernard Shaw who was tall, thin and quite lanky, ‘To look at you, Shaw anyone would think there was a famine in England.’

Shaw retorted, ‘To look at you, Chesterton, anyone would think you caused it”.

Classic.

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