Sins of the Father

Can any son live up to his father’s expectations? Can any father live up to his son’s? We are bound to disappoint in this life.

What compels us to resist, to make our own mistakes, instead of doing as told by those who know best? Is defying authority in our genes? Do we merely take off the training wheels to see what happens? My Dad didn’t believe in training wheels, to become dependent on ‘a crutch’.

However, when I was a kid my Dad gave my dog away, without warning. He had his reasons, I guess. But it was my dog. I came home one day and my dog was gone – “given to a farmer.” I never saw her again. Nothing was said. Ever.

Yet, the unwritten rules within my family did not allow for the open and candid airing of differences. He died, decades later, without my ever confronting him. I never heard one word of explanation, let alone an apology for this assault on me, and my sense of self. He probably never knew how affected I was. And how injured.

I reacted. I stole and did things that, had I been caught, would have deeply embarrassed him. He was a respected business man in our town. Had events played out differently, I wouldn’t have survived to write about them. That would have shown him.

I doubt my Dad was an angel in his youth. What process draws us to maturity? What causes ‘youthful indiscretion’? What have my children done only to lay their justifications at my feet?

Dad’s simple, thoughtless act affected everything between us for the rest of his life. As solid and dependable as he was in every other way, I never trusted him after that. Or anyone.

My Mom would suggest I ride with him on errands. We rode in silence.

Decades later, I would call to talk. He would pass the phone to Mom.

Is each parent a falling domino in an endless succession? Everyone knows the Trojan War was caused by the Trojans stealing Helen from Greece. But before that, the Greeks kidnapped… However, they were only reacting to the Trojan’s barbaric… We are told to begin at the beginning. Can someone please point me in that direction?

In the story of the Prodigal Son the title character, a wayward son, returns to his father’s embrace, as returned from the dead, his honor restored. The father insists his elder brother follow suit. But did the prodigal himself entertain doubts of his own worthiness? Did he accept his acceptance? Could he forgive his own flaws and betrayals? We are never told.

He is us. What do you think?

My Dad’s casket was the heaviest thing I ever carried. Do I carry it still? How does one slough off those very burdens by which we define ourselves?

Letting go of old wounds is difficult. After all, I paid a premium for them. I should discard them?

“Rest in peace” is wishful thinking if we haven’t resolved the issues which haunt us. Spoken in hope, it is ultimately ourselves to whom we speak. Incapable of following their own advice, the living command the dead, who neither need nor heed us.

Unfinished business haunts our days. The living must attend to it. The dead have reached their conclusions.

If forgiveness is withheld, how can unhealed wounds not be perpetuated as the sins of fathers visited on their children? Pain echoes down the generations. How to break the cycle? Could history be changed by forgiving not only our young, and our dead, but ourselves?

Does the beginning begin with us?

 

 

Eulogy

My mother passed away just before Christmas. The following is the eulogy I gave at her Memorial Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sarasota, Florida on March 24th, 2018. time restrictions forced my brevity. Mom was one of the great ones, with an irrepressible spirit. She touched many lives.

Thank you all for joining my family and me in honoring my mother, Marti Adams. I am John, Marti and Gordon’s third son.

There is an unreal quality in the loss of a loved one. Ninety years of memories, suddenly gone. Especially my mother, who knew me before I knew myself, and who nurtured me to the end.

The last time we spoke, a day before she passed, she assured me she was fine. She didn’t want me to worry. She was strong.

After all, in her nineties, while planning a trip, she had a personal trainer at the gym.

I can’t sum up Mom’s life, but let me give you my sense of her.

An early memory is Mom playing Beethoven’s, Moonlight Sonata on her piano. Her attempts at private time were always interrupted by us kids.

I don’t think I ever heard her complete it, but that pensive, opening movement has always been a favorite. Mom perfected her private time doing her art.

Mom’s signature phrase with us was “Fair is fair.” She used it to settle any dispute. But she also applied it in her spending habits, like when she bought each of us three boys, a giant, stuffed poodle dog for Christmas. Or the annual, festively wrapped socks and underwear under the tree.

We never pinned down exactly what ‘fair is fair’ meant, but it almost always stopped an argument. If things continued out of hand, Mom aimed her famous and dreaded ‘raised eyebrow’ at the perps, and that would be that.

Marti and Gordon met during WWII, at the University of Michigan while Gordon was there for Marine officer training.

I recently found a letter Dad wrote to his Commanding officer, requesting permission to marry ‘Miss Daligga,’ our future Mom.

Dad declared he knew “Miss Daligga and her family for over two years.” I shared it with Mom and laughing, she said “more like two weeks!”

Mom and Dad made marriage look easy. As easy as clearing the floor and dancing the ‘Lindy’ to Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.” They were a great team. I never saw them argue.

Friday night was date night for Mom and Dad and that meant fish sticks or tuna fish over rice for us four kids.

On our many road trips, Mom always brought hard boiled eggs for snacks, saving Dad from stopping every twenty minutes. Six weeks on the road and she always had hard boiled eggs. How did she do that?

Mom got much of her spirit and spunk from her mother, another strong and beautiful woman.

For a year in the late fifties, Mom basically raised us four kids solo. Dad was starting his business in Wilmar – two hours west of us. Although he came home on weekends, it must have been lonely for them both. But we never knew about that.

Mom kept us busy with projects, like gathering berries from our garden to make jams and jellies.

We moved to a rental house in Wilmar, near Dad’s office. On cold nights, the furnace would go out. It was below zero outside and no heat inside. Mom just got us dressed for school in front of the oven.

One Saturday, we kids discovered Rocky and Bullwinkle on TV. Our laughter drew Mom in, to see what mischief we were up to. She joined us on the couch and ended up laughing harder than the rest of us.

Mom was always practical when faced with a challenge. She told us, ‘Never, ever give up.’ One night we needed to pick up my darling sister Jan, from her piano lessons. Mom had poor night vision. And it was foggy.

While Mom attempted to drive the winding two-lane highway, I was hanging out the rear, driver’s side window while Jeff watched out the passenger side.

I called out “Mom! Mom! Go to the right. You’re gonna hit the curb” – (which would be the curb on the left side of the road).

Mom pulled over to the right and stopped. She decided it was safer for Jeff to drive, even though he was unlicensed. He could see. We all got home safely.

Mom was a fighter. Mom petitioned the court for us to keep our dog, Sam after Sam scared some bicyclists. The judge wouldn’t listen. Mom persisted. He threatened her with contempt of court. Mom wouldn’t give up.

He didn’t reckon on her using ‘fair is fair’ followed by ‘the eyebrow’.

We got to keep Sam.

Maryann and Lori Ann from St. Patrick’s rectory tell me Mom’s parishioner number was #1. They are now retiring her number, so Mom will always be #1.

Though we are all here today to celebrate Mom’s life, I have it on excellent authority that this separation we feel is only temporary. We’ll see you again Mom. Thank you.

On Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’

I recently saw a video of “Pale Blue Dot.” It is Carl Sagan’s meditation on our “insignificant earth” accompanied by a visual of earth receding into the void until it becomes but a ‘pale blue dot’.

Carl Sagan was more of a poet than most physicists, I guess. His grasping for hope in the face of his own mortality should be recognized for his humanity.

Sagan’s musings inspired me with some thoughts and reactions. I won’t reprint his narration here. It is easily googled.

Sagan condemns mankind as self-important and deluded about our privileged place in the universe. Privileged and self-important as compared to what? What is offended that we use our consciousness to examine our inner and outer worlds?

If we are alone in the universe, our abilities to examine our world and think about our place in it, make us unique.

Our mind is our greatest tool. Should we attenuate its power so as to step down from this privilege? Did this world famous scientist really suggest we do so?

Ideas have no tangible existence yet they can move mountains. If we are to act only on the visible and the material, we severely limit ourselves while reaching for the stars.

That we are not good stewards of our only home, our planet, speaks to a deeper flaw than poor hygiene.

Because no known planet is hospitable, Sagan states that it is here on Earth that “we make our stand.” This phrase reminds us of ‘Custer’s Last Stand,’ probably the most familiar use of the term. It came into use depicting a heroic, tragically failed defense against the superior numbers of an ‘inferior’ enemy.

Revisionist history thankfully recasts the racist Custer’s blunder into enemy territory. He was blinded by genocidal instincts and trapped by his grasping for glory. His true enemy resided within. Rather than heroic, Custer was embarrassingly human, an every-man.

Sagan, the atheist who dismisses religion as pompous, has more faith than I do. He believes humanity, through our own will, can change our essence and become consistently caring and upright in our endeavors. What evidence has he (the scientist), that this could ever be possible? Did someone say ‘self-important’?

Even if you disbelieve in a Supreme Being, why would you believe in that? Is he not actually promoting flaccid, New-age wish fulfillment masked by his scientific bona-fides? Humanity will save itself? Are you high?

Did Sagan want “a hint” of our needed salvation coming from beyond our solar system? What gives Sagan the confidence that a superior alien race would be more merciful to us than we are to each other? Or than we are to ‘lesser beings’?

As for migrating to new worlds, if mankind destroyed earth but successfully escaped elsewhere, would anyone be surprised that we brought our ‘fouled-up-edness’ along for the ride?

“What do you mean you ‘forgot to pack the innocence’?”

What new insights would we gain or bring to the enterprise of settling some distant planet? Or would we merely replay the past before a fresh landscape? Tell me these refugees would not soon be ravaged by their innate talent to deny their own inner darkness?

How does it follow, if it is all so meaningless, that must we be kind to each other? What is the payoff in that?

It seems it is that meaninglessness which drives men to fill the void with their self-importance and ever expanding egos. Believing we answer to no one but ourselves in service of our grandiose cravings is what creates monsters and tyrants.

Doesn’t our pride keep us from achieving our ideals? Generally, those who successfully transcend their basest nature, do not claim the credit, but give it to the ineffable – God. Transcendence would make such self-aggrandizement absurd.

Sagan says there is no hint of anyone coming to save us from ourselves. But our Savior is, was and will ever be. There is more than a hint if we open our hearts. Truth is unavoidable to one who humbly listens to that ‘still small voice’ in the whirlwind.

The Bible talks throughout of the God of the insignificant, the forgotten, the weak, the meek, and the downtrodden. The strong need no God. The strong fend for themselves. They are an end unto themselves.

Knowing our Creator favors the insignificant, allows us to stop inflating ourselves within a vacuum. Acknowledging our insignificance within this vast and magnificent universe humbles us.

The expectation that earth is the only home for life, suggests that ours is a very important speck indeed. Earth’s unique, life bearing status makes us privileged. But this is not our doing. A better term than ‘privileged’ might be that we are recipients of undeserved favor, or grace.

Humankind would be better served, not only by owning our humble place within Creation, but also in acknowledging its loving and merciful Creator.

Or not. That is the proverbial choice.

On Science and Miracles – Christmas and Others

It is the common belief that miracles are a fantasy of an over-heated religious sensibility. In our enlightened age, miracles have largely disappeared. Cultures which believe in miracles are regarded as primitive, childlike and, at best, quaint (like clapping your hands if you believe in fairies). Postmodern thinkers believe miracles won’t happen because they don’t happen, because they can’t happen… and so on.

Modern culture believes miracles cannot be true because they break the laws of nature. Those laws, though, imply a Law Giver. But let’s not talk about that.

So do miracles cease to happen in modern cultures? Or do we just stop seeing them? Blinded by our sophistication?

As Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” We possess the advanced technology. And yet there are still phenomenon that occur outside our control or ability to explain them.

Considering the number of UFO sightings each year (and rising) there is an appetite for that which is beyond our comprehension.

What distinguishes the religion of Scientism from other religions is it denies the occurrence of miracles, except perhaps those accomplished by its high priests (I mean those holders of advanced technology). I’m not aware that followers of Scientism believe in a Supreme Being, unless he has an advanced degree from MIT.

What rational person could believe in an all knowing entity that answers everyone’s questions in seconds, simultaneously, throughout the world? Before Google that was an absurd expectation. Now it is mundane and expected.

By miracles, I am not talking about parlor trick ‘miracles’ like might be demonstrated by David Copperfield parting the waters of a swimming pool. Nor do I think just any fantastic occurrence would be a miracle. I don’t necessarily think it would be a miracle if a cat were to talk. If it told a funny joke, that would be a miracle, for everyone knows cats have no sense of humor, unlike dogs.

Also, miracles are not a form of wish fulfillment like programming a computer to spit out predictions. That kind of hocus pocus is neither science nor miraculous. How sad to be throwing darts at a digital target and hoping no one notices those darts keep missing. Predictions aren’t miraculous. Results are.

Science is not consensus. And it doesn’t campaign. It isn’t a cult. Science does not recruit the largest crowd of believers to sway public opinion and policy to their side. It is not subject to vote. Pure science is based on meticulous research and replicable, predictable results.

Science doesn’t sell itself. It isn’t supposed to have any agenda but inquiry into the truth of things. Ideally, it doesn’t seek to win anything as it is dispassionate in its search.

By miraculous I am thinking more in terms of spontaneous recovery from an incurable disease, or someone risking their life to save another. These things happen fairly often, but are not predictable and so are thought miraculous by witnesses. They might not even make the news.

Miracles are popularly thought of in positive terms. To hear “It’s a miracle!” would generally indicate that good news had arrived. But obviously, Pharaoh’s army was not happy when Moses parted the Red Sea.

No one predicted Donald Trump would be elected president. It was declared impossible by the experts and described by many as a disaster, a tragedy. Most would agree that it was unpredictable and couldn’t happen again. Yet you don’t believe in miracles? Some still deny it happened.

Science is not all encompassing. Grant money is limited and choices must be made as to what will be researched. Some things are hard to study and so money does not flow to those challenging areas.

Science does not prove anything. It documents results of its painstaking research and posts statistical analysis as to the probabilities of this or that phenomenon. Science predicts based on those published probabilities. Science predicts. If results contradict the predictions, that theory collapses.

Science seeks to disprove. And that which cannot be disproven is deemed to be true (with qualifications).

A one-time event (aka a miracle) is a rare occurrence and so cannot be studied let alone predicted. Those who witnessed that occurrence are dismissed as superstitious for seeing a phenomenon that science chooses to ignore. How predictable and boring would be a life that only experienced ‘what is possible’ as determined by some bureaucrat in a distant government office?

Quantum physics is lifting the lid on some very curious, if not miraculous, phenomenon that do not fit previously accepted paradigms – like particles mirroring each other’s behavior simultaneously despite vast distances separating them. And the famous demonstration of a particle’s behavior being influenced by whether or not it is observed.

Consciousness receives very little attention from the scientific community. Most of us believe in consciousness because most of us believe we are conscious. But try to pin it down or tell me where to pin it. Consciousness is elusive despite seeming to be almost everywhere. Science side-steps it because they just don’t know how to test or duplicate it. Science does not play well with the ineffable.

Scientist and author Dr. Robert Lanza theorizes that death only seems to exist because we identify so closely with the physical body. Because humans are bio-centric, we fail to apprehend that other states of being may exist without our physical bodies. How does one test for that?

A man risking his life by running into a burning building to rescue others is counter-intuitive and irrational. It happens rarely enough to be unpredictable, but everyone knows it happens. Is it miraculous? To the person saved it would be.

Near death experiences are rare and so are ignored by science. Yet they exist. A friend of mine, Ray, describes how he died on the operating table and then watched from afar as the doctors tried to revive him. He realized his wife needed him and so he needed to return. He still tells his story.

The floods in Houston after Hurricane Harvey did not bring the predicted inter-racial blood bath, chaos and anarchy. Contrary to expectations, people instead acted on their best instincts to help one another.

News coverage of the Houston floods evaporated when common humanity appeared. Faith-based organizations converged on Houston to assist those who had lost everything. Atheists, predictably, stayed away in droves.

Many species have virgin births. Science confirms this. A human having a virgin birth would be extremely rare but not scientifically impossible. There is only one account of it ever happening.

One thing about the miracle of Christmas, regardless that you accept the virgin birth, Mary risked her life for her child. Life in those days was cheap but at risk of her own life she protected her baby and herself from death on many fronts. King Herod, fearing his replacement, sought to kill all babies under two years old. Unmarried sex (adultery) was a capital crime then. Mary was a single mother, and homeless. Rather than claiming victim-hood, or aborting him, she gave him birth and nurtured him.

By today’s enlightened and evolved standards, so many options now exist to avoid that dire fate. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood would eagerly offer support. What homeless, single mother these days, would intentionally bear a child under threat of death? It would be completely irrational.

Who would predict Mary, or Jesus?

Tolerance

I often hear about ‘tolerance’ and how necessary it is. What is tolerance? The word keeps morphing and its meaning seems elusive as a plume of smoke.

In carpentry ‘tolerance’ is an important concept. If your measurements are off and the margin for error is exceeded, the house you are constructing will be ‘out of tolerance’ and will not stand. You may think you can tolerate a chair built ‘outside of tolerance’ – at least until you sit on it. Or rather, when tested, it may not tolerate you!

Precision and working within tolerances becomes critical when building a ship or a jet. You don’t want to travel on a cruise in a ship built outside of tolerance, or you may awaken doing the back float.

Everyone has their limits. Try sleeping on a pillow that is too hard, or soft for your comfort. Without my favorite pillow, the quest for a night’s rest is intolerable.

Social contexts have their margins for error too. A civil society cannot survive without some elasticity in what can be tolerated. But context is everything. An Englishman may insist on his cultural prerequisites and drive on the left side of the road in Los Angeles. He will find no tolerance for this behavior.

You must conduct yourself differently when meeting the Queen of England than when meeting Courtney Love or you will find the limits of tolerance. Courtney’s friends might reject you too, if you treated her like a queen.

The shooting of unarmed civilians, regardless of their skin color is intolerable regardless of who does the shooting. We may experience intolerance of our response to intolerable actions.

Curiously, grown men sharing rest rooms with little girls is tolerated. But man-spreading on a subway is not.

In the past, an unchaperoned man spending time alone with an unmarried woman was not tolerated. Physical contact between the sexes was forbidden. A marriage contract was the remedy for couples who wished to hold hands, or more. In our enlightened age those rigid rules became intolerable. Tolerance has replaced virtue.

Ironically, recent news is filled with anxious stories about the ‘rape culture’ on college campuses. Some proposed remedies resemble requiring an attorney to negotiate signed acceptance at each stage of physical contact. Wasn’t a marriage contract simpler?

But can anyone tolerate the permanence implied by a contract anymore? Escape clauses don’t excite the libido like they used to.

It appears that in the media industry and within our halls of government a ‘rape culture’ was tolerated, until suddenly it wasn’t. Now, finger pointing is all the rage. Victimhood is power. If the powerful are intolerable, why do so many seek power?

In some other cultures rude behavior is not only tolerated, but expected. It’s a right. In the Middle East, many cultures treat their women as property. A woman claiming she was raped is more likely to be punished than the accused man.

Feminists’ silence about this, I’m told is because ‘each culture makes its choices.’ Really? That’s tolerant.

In today’s Europe, with the arrival of thousands of refugees and migrants from foreign cultures, incidents of rape have spiked. These attacks on native-born women are tolerated by the government due to… tolerance. Of course, a small minority of the migrants are the perpetrators of these crimes but it seems more than coincidental that the steep increase of sexual assaults followed their arrival.

We are told by our betters that we must tolerate those who are different, whomever they may be sexually, culturally, whatever. A man can choose to be a woman, a white can be black. There appears to be no end to this guessing game. I can declare myself to be a twenty-year old, native-American woman, or anything else should I choose. In a previous life I was Cleopatra. Why not now?

This raises an interesting question. If Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Bill Clinton and all the other accused sexual predators simply declared themselves to be from the Middle-East, would their troubles be over?

Maybe.

Would that be tolerance? Or a leaky boat?

 

Hits and Misses from Storyography – 2017

Each year at this time I re-publish a selection of some of my blogs that may have slipped through the cracks, or I hope will find readers who might have missed them on the first pass.

And I include some of my personal favorites.

I am Woman, Hear Me “Wahhh!” is a little more political than usual for me but, like it or not, I felt my take on the recent sex scandals had to be said: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/i-am-woman-hear-me-wahhh/  

Gumshoe, Meet Banana Peel is a rant from a different place that I hope gives you a smile: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/11/04/gumshoe-meet-banana-peel/

Shakespeare, On the Rocks is a whimsical re-imagining of some of the Bard’s more famous plays: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/shakespeare-on-the-rocks/

Eclipsed by a Fidget Spinner is an exploration of our need for diversion and the cyclical nature of our lives. This was printed in a recent edition of the Tolucan Times: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/eclipsed-by-a-fidget-spinner/

You Kiss With That Mouth? was my most read blog this year. I’m told my misadventures with dentists is very entertaining and funny. Don’t forget to floss: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/kicking-when-im-crowned/

Liberals and the Seven Stages of Grief examines the Kubler-Ross model of grief through the prism of the 2016 election: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/liberals-and-the-seven-stages-of-grief/

Another Brick in the Wall recounts my brief tenure as a middle school teacher: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/06/22/another-brick-in-the-wall/

Love and Scar Tissue is a reprint of a review I did for the Tolucan Times of the amazing Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. I wish everyone could have seen this riveting performance: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/love-and-scar-tissue-on-display-in-danny-and-the-deep-blue-sea-and-poison/

Thank you for reading my blog this year. I very much appreciate your comments and attention. I hope 2018 is wonderful for all.

I am Woman, Hear Me “Wahhh!”

Once upon a time, women were independent and strong. The struggles they endured and triumphed over give one pause.

My grandmother was one of these women. Divorced with four children, during the Great Depression, she was laid off from her salaried job selling advertising because “a man needed the job.” There was no time to debate ‘fairness’ or justice or oppression. She had mouths to feed. She did not fold. She didn’t collapse. She negotiated a commission-only deal and outsold her replacement. She was tough.

I never heard her complain about her lot. To suggest she was a victim would have made her laugh. The past was not kept alive in the present. She prevailed. She would relax by going to her social club and sing for her friends.

Had any wanker presumed to expose himself to her, I think she would have laughed in his face and told him to cover himself. She raised three boys to be men. Little boys didn’t scare her.

I never discussed this with her but I think she would scoff at a wolf whistle being equated with rape. Obviously, anyone confused about the difference has never actually been raped. Such ignorance diminishes the severity of rape and the injury suffered by victims of rapists.

Recently feminists have been demonstrating against ‘the patriarchy,’ the mainly white males who ‘run the world,’ oppress women and are generally seen as a ‘bunch of meanies.’

Who raised these petty tyrants?

Recently, women (and men) are emerging to speak of their abuse at the hands of the powerful. Whither the self-empowerment we hear so much about? Would that we all lived where self-defense was not necessary. Where is that again?

Little hard evidence has been offered to prove accusations that in some cases exceed the statute of limitations. It is so easy to point a finger. Easier even than saying ‘No!’

Some of these accusations have been stored for decades with nary a peep. Imagine opening a window revealing decades of your life to the public. Could anyone emerge unscathed from such public scrutiny? Who knows the countless micro-aggressions I have strewn over the decades? Thank God, I am no celebrity.

In college I made the mistake of saying something impolitic to a handful of women outside a bar. Not a victim among them, they violently impressed me with their opinions until the bouncer pulled them off of me. It was a lesson I never forgot. If only #metoo had existed then, I would not have had to explain my black eye to everyone.

I am not sure why these recent accusations are being referred to as ‘scandals’ when for decades, the popular message has been “If it feels good, do it. It’s just sex.” Isn’t this what ‘liberation’ is all about?

Please understand I am not defending the creeps who act this way. They deserve whatever they get. But outside of rape, most of the ‘revelations’ sound tamer than a typical HBO episode.

In the past, some women came forward to report assaults against them and they were disbelieved, dismissed and shamed (see: Clinton, Bill). These days, apparently all one needs do is click #metoo and they have an army of true believers behind them. Evidence be damned (see: Clinton, Hillary).

What does clicking #metoo actually accomplish, though? Does claiming some vague, amorphous victim status empower one somehow? Is there a bar to entry? Can anyone join? I was offended a few years ago, how about me?

So #metoo is the newly evolved way of dealing with creeps who make annoying and threatening comments? I don’t think so. What power is gained by claiming victim status, en masse? Is this truly the way to win the ’war on women’? At what point does the strength in numbers devolve into a mob mentality?

We are told things will be kinder and gentler when women run things. The evidence is not compelling.

Curiously, it is the purveyors of the whole ‘war on women’ concept; the news, entertainment and political class, who are the recipients of most of the accusations these days.

Not long ago, these same pundits ruthlessly attacked the religious community for their hypocrisy when a similar scandal arose. Now that the truth is emerging, would it be unfair to say the entertainment industry “Got religion”?

Ironically, before the avalanche of accusations started, V.P. Mike Pence was savaged by the media for declaring he never had private dinners with women besides his wife. What a rube. What a primitive. How unenlightened. Integrity and $1.50 will buy you a cup of coffee (and perhaps a happy marriage).

Conservative politicians are on their own. Numerous progressive politicians receive cover from newscasters. MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle, feels it would be a “slippery slope to get rid of everyone who is accused. There would be no one left.” Optimist.

Senior Rep. John Conyers (D) used public funds to pay off an accuser. Sen. Al Franken (D) is defended for his ‘benign abuse’ and after all, “he’s funny, he’s popular and votes the right way.” He describes himself as “warm”. So, to be fair, let’s just get rid of the conservatives.

I am curious, if you identify as a victim and want government protection, but the abuser is from the government, to whom do you turn?

****

Of course, celebrity ‘abusers’ have money with which to buy silence (although throwing money at an actor is the best way to get them to talk). Their riches are ‘proof of their blessedness’ and so we must listen. They can buy bigger megaphones with which to tout their superior knowledge (beware the authority who tells you how to live).

‘Dues paying’ is an all-purpose term, adaptable to many circumstances. I heard about the ‘casting couch’ when I was a kid. The term ‘cattle call’ didn’t get invented in a vacuum. Titillating movies (‘The Apartment’ and others) made in the ‘60s about sexual favors and the abuse of authority became a sub-genre. When seeking Hollywood stardom, is anyone truly innocent of the compromising possibilities? As my Grandma would say, ‘Lie down with dogs…’

For most of us, there is a presumption of mutual professional behavior, whether in Congress, the newsroom, the office, or on a set. When those norms are discarded by those for whom ‘the rules don’t apply’ (or by the rule makers), it can be a shattering experience.

In Hollywood, it seems the ‘rules’ that actually apply may be the very ones young starlets want suspended because, being so beautiful and talented, they deserve a pass.

I once witnessed a director promise a beautiful young starlet he would authorize her SAG card if she disrobed for the camera. Did she get that promise in writing? What do you think?

When the attitude is “anything for my art,” is anyone surprised at what ‘anything’ might lead to? Cries of foul, years after the fact, strain to pass the smell test. Many of these accusations may be true. But anyone can sign on to “#me too”. How about “#not me!”

Click  to see the Storyography Video Memoir website:  http://www.lifestoryography.com/

Shakespeare on the Rocks

I have been experiencing cognitive dissonance of late. I keep reading about how universities are providing ‘safe spaces’ for their students. If I understand correctly, these sensitive students are retreating from the very diversity they expect the rest of us to tolerate.

Do administrators honestly believe they serve these student’s interests? Will coddling them prepare them for the real world?

I once dropped my ice cream cone and therefore wanted to break windows and burn cars. But since I was only two, Molotov cocktails were beyond my capabilities and I could only find satisfaction by throwing a cookie at our cat.

The latest manifestation of this ‘safe space’ proliferation is ‘trigger warnings’, which are being issued in university literature classes (at Cambridge, no less) because the subject matter of some Shakespeare plays may contain “potentially distressing topics”.

I get it. After all, even the bard’s name creates a violent image. Can you imagine going to a play these days by someone named Bill Beheader?

If Shakespeare is too raw, God forbid these students ever open a newspaper. Better they hide out and listen to the soothing tones of the latest hip-hop stars.

New editions of Shakespeare’s plays are coming out where even the tragedies will only have happy endings. You know, like life itself.

Richard III would be reworked to tell the story of a young King trying to operate an Ebay auction. “My kingdom for a horse!”

Henry V could be turned into a musical that would leave them humming with a reprise of the old Herman’s Hermits hit, “Henry the Fifth I am, I am”. “Second verse, same as the first!”

The Merchant of Venice will easily be turned into a tract about the successful imposition of a $15 per hour minimum wage.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream would remain as a fanciful comedy of errors featuring numerous fanciful characters debating which gender restroom they should use. Although much of the rich humor of the original involves gender confusion, if audience members are confused about their own gender, some of the play’s wit may wither. No worries, they can always trot out Bottom.

Othello might be recast in the image of Black Lives Matter where the good news is Desdemona is killed not because of Othello’s jealousy (so unevolved), but due to the violence in her words. Othello acts in self-defense.

Romeo and Juliet wants to be about a young vegan girl in love with the heir to the owner of Bologna’s largest sausage factory. They run off together to farm quinoa.

Hamlet is an activist in the antifa vein. His hatred of his uncle (read Uncle Sam) would finally make sense. Enough with the indecision, already. He and Ophelia would escape to their utopia (a safe space) in a hot air balloon. “To be violent, or not to be violent… What kind of question is that?”

King Lear is an aging king with three beautiful and devoted daughters. He divides his kingdom equally among the three of them and they all live happily ever after. What fool needs conflict?

Taming of the Shrew would become a lesson in toxic masculinity. Duh! Of course, Petruchio would decide he is really a woman and all would be well. The dynamics of their relationship would be the same, but all would be well.

Julius Ceasar would be much better if it were about a chef at one of those Italian food trucks. “One slice of pizza? Eat two, Brutus!”

MacBeth could easily become a favorite. Lady MacBeth would now be the president of Planned Parenthood ranting on about how one can have infinite choices with nary a consequence. “Out damned spot!”

Shakespeare in Love… What? He didn’t write it? But I thought for certain…

Does anyone think these would be improvements on the originals? Must classic literature conform to the fickle fashions of callow youth?

After all, we are told diversity and tolerance is the goal. However, diversity, by its nature is accompanied by friction as differences are amicably resolved and the heft of ideas is reckoned.

It appears these young scholars cannot tolerate the slightest challenge to the truth they espouse. Whither diversity? With truth, what need they fear? Truth abolishes fear.

What ever happened to the ‘truth will set you free’? Truth casts an unquenchable light. Can it even be seen from within a safe space?

 

Eclipsed by a Fidget Spinner

by John K. Adams

There is nothing more charming than seeing children, faces all aglow, quietly joined in the group activity of staring at their respective smart phones. Not a word passes among them while their thumbs furiously tap the keyboards.

I don’t have a ‘smart phone’ because I don’t like taking orders from an inanimate object that is smarter than me. A Harry Potter character had to contend with the question of ‘talking to something that doesn’t have a brain’ and I think it didn’t end well. Having too many distractions in my life, I need to make an appointment just to have time to fidget.

Sports events are the perfect time suck. Sports are usually described as a proxy for warfare. While that may be true for the participants, sports serve a greater need by allowing observer to forget his immediate circumstances while projecting his desires toward the outcome of a grander spectacle. And that is alright. People need downtime to unwind.

To maintain interest, the game is chock full of little nuggets of set-up, tension, release. A single game might have hundreds of these; maybe several in a minute. Wash, rinse, repeat. These triads of tension are perfect for distracting one from anything important. And the cumulating results take on a sense of importance in the mind, far beyond any actual tangible result. You don’t think those rooting for a team feel empowered by a win? Tell that to those burning cars outside the stadium.

Set-up, tension, release. That is the basic structure of any roller-coaster ride, drama or the intertwining events of our complicated lives. One writer I know told me he structures every scene he writes, regardless of the content, as if it was a sex scene with set-up, tension and release.

Is there a correlation in our world to falling viewership of sports events and falling birthrates to the advent of the new device known as the fidget spinner? Please tell me I am joking.

Never in history have so many had so much free time. To what purpose are we biding all this time? Is this what Jefferson meant when he wrote “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Fidget Spinners”?

To an extra-terrestrial visitor it would appear we were at the height of our civilization… ripe for decline. Perhaps alarmingly, so much of this restless energy is astoundingly self-focused. What will that army of the idle do when fidget spinners no longer distract them?

You may not have noticed but the United States recently experienced a total eclipse of the sun. Thousands of people traveled hundreds of miles to witness this confluence of apparently random events to generate a massive cosmic coincidence.

It was a remarkable spectacle. By that, I mean the hype, not the eclipse.

Various groups projected meaning onto this event and have claimed it as their own. New-agers divined a manner to interpret the eclipse using personal numbers to determine your cosmic identity. I am told I am a “Ruler of the Divine.” Uh-huh.

Some Christians saw the eclipse as a sign of the pending apocalypse. Social Justice Warriors (SJW) called the eclipse ‘racist’ because it was seen by white people. ‘Scientists’ cited it as evidence of global climate change. I witnessed verbal attacks by ‘true believers’ on those expressing disinterest in the eclipse.

Taking a step back from the cosmos (just for a second), the eclipse is really just the syncing of the moon’s revolving around the earth with its passage between the earth and the sun. The earth’s rotation creates the illusion that the sun and moon are moving against each other. It is mechanical and predictable. It happens all the time. Synchronicity depends on us to project meaning onto a phenomenon. Climate change and my personal numerical identity have nothing to do with it.

How great is our need for distraction that thousands will travel hundreds or thousands of miles for an event that takes less than a minute to observe? (Honestly, Stanley Kubrick did it better in “2001, A Space Odyssey” and with music!)

With all this spinning and revolving on such a grand scale, one is reminded of how cycles and circles play a huge part in our lives. Didn’t someone at Disney say something about ‘the great  circle of life’?

Looked at in that sense, our whole solar system and by extension, the universe, is just an elaborate (and profoundly complex) fidget spinner. In that light, we who are made in the image of the Ruler of our universe can be amused by that thought. The question must be asked though, what happens when the Spinner of the cosmic fidget spinner stops being amused?

 

 

Liberals are Suffering the Seven Stages of Grief

Even if you are not aware of the “7 Stages of Grief” originally conceptualized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, you may have experienced them at some level in your own life. Recovery from grief is possible. The Kubler-Ross model is not the best model for grief recovery but it suits my purposes here.

Let me illustrate the seven steps by examining the behavior of many liberals since the 2016 Presidential Election. Please note that individuals and groups can exhibit more than one of these steps simultaneously and they do not necessarily follow in specific order.

SHOCK:                 Lots of people were shocked when ‘sure thing’ Hillary Clinton failed to win the 2016 election for U. S. president. It just didn’t seem possible. For shock, look no further than the election night coverage. As the returns dribbled in confirming state after state going for Trump, the glib self-assurance of the mainly liberal commentators visibly drained from grinning to chagrin, betraying a sinking awareness that their prognostications were horribly off mark. As the tone sank from smug to glum one could almost hear their thoughts sifting frantically through mental rolodexes for whom they could call should they find themselves jobless on Wednesday morning.

DENIAL:                It didn’t take long for denial to set in. The shrill wailing and gnashing of teeth began before the voting machines had cooled. Calls for vote recounts began almost immediately and Green Party candidate Jill Stein spent millions of dollars attempting to ‘fix’ a faulty outcome and ‘restore the integrity of our voting system’. Hillary Clinton and others cheered this effort after ridiculing winner Donald Trump for expressing before the vote, his concern that Democrats might once again try to steal an election.

The irony that Democrats instinctively resist attempts to establish election integrity safe-guards such as voter ID requirements was lost only on Democrats.

Another example of denial would be that Hillary Clinton insists that “she won” the election because she gained more popular votes. The fact that popular votes have never been decisive in choosing our president shows the lengths people will go to support their denial. Or would that be called ‘delusion’?

ANGER:            There are too many examples of anger to cite here; violent campus riots, faked hate crimes, fake news, and everyone’s favorite, calls for impeachment. Democrats started calling for Trump’s impeachment prior to the inauguration and continue to this day.

According to our Constitution, in order to impeach, an actual crime must have been committed by a sitting president. That pesky requirement won’t go away. Additionally, the Democrats lacking control of either house of Congress is another stumbling block that these wannabe demagogues can’t effectively ignore.

Name calling is a favorite tactic of people devoid of ideas. Those who routinely condemn “hate speech” think nothing of calling Trump and his supporters a fascist, racist, blank-o-phobe (fill in the blank), hater, anti-semite and worse. This tactic, and voter’s weariness of it may be one factor in Trump winning. The fact that many of the protesters embrace and practice those very behaviors they claim to abhor and project onto Trump is disturbing.

Of course, the whole Russia-gate scandal started within 24 hours after the election and despite the lack of evidence (that would be zero evidence) Trump colluded with Russians to steal the election, multiple investigations continue six months into Trump’s presidency. How is it that the best intelligence agencies in the world cannot find evidence of criminal activity by such “a foolish, ignorant troll”?

If collusion existed, would it look something like former President Obama telling Russian President Medvedev that he “would be more flexible after he is re-elected”? Or would it look more like then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signing off on the sale of 20% of U.S. uranium reserves to a Russian owned mining company?

BARGAINING:   This stage is just now coming to the fore. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered to cooperate with President Trump on healthcare “if he ditches the Freedom Caucus” and does it Schumer’s way.

Other Democratic leaders, such as Nancy Pelosi are trying to quell the silly demands for impeachment from Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Al Green and others.  Once Democrats regain both houses of Congress you can expect that chorus to rise once again.

After months of former FBI Director James Comey being condemned by the left for his betrayal of Hillary, Trump thought firing the director would be seen as a peace offering, a chance to meet in the middle. Of course, it is not about Comey or anything else, but only about stopping Trump no matter what he does.

Trust that all bargaining overtures are merely a ploy to co-opt Trump and separate him from his constituency, the better to sacrifice him.

DEPRESSION:     Can you say ‘snowflake’? This stage set in early and continues like a low-grade fever throughout the leftward end of the political spectrum. Universities set up ‘safe spaces’ with ponies and soft blankets for students who just couldn’t cope with the fact that Trump won. Reality can be so inconvenient. It’s not fair! I’m going to hold my breath until Hillary is President.

I know of one graduate student who retreated to her bed for over a week after the election. In doing this, she literally abandoned her mental health clinic internship until she found the strength to cope. The clinical responsibilities she abandoned included providing therapy to several chronically mentally ill clients.

TESTING:             The typical Democratic playbook needs some rewrites. Hysterically calling anyone you disagree with a racist doesn’t send people scurrying to the shadows like it once did. Playing the Russia-gate card is also reaping diminishing returns. One former Democratic Congresswoman, Nina Turner says people at town hall meetings aren’t asking about Russia, they’re asking about jobs. Go figure.

ACCEPTANCE:    Sooner or later the individual suffering from debilitating loss eventually comes to a place of peace and acceptance from where they can re-enter society and contribute in a positive manner. Of course, acceptance does not necessarily mean agreement or approval.

Grief can be a debilitating condition that inhibits one’s ability to manage simple tasks and maneuver through the day and through life. It affects one’s ability to maintain healthy relationships. Grief can sap one’s ability to successfully defend those people and ideals one holds dear. Grief is a necessary emotional process, but if one gets stuck, grief can keep one from living a full life.

The population I have used to illustrate the concepts of the Seven Stages of Grief may yet reach the point of acceptance in their recovery. I certainly hope so.

But I haven’t seen it yet.

….

John K. Adams is a writer, video-memoirist and a certified Grief Recovery Specialist who works in Los Angeles, CA.