Category Archives: commentary

Why Do You Think That? Part 5

On a sleepy summer Sunday it is only natural to think thoughts about God.  And I have to include Jesus and Christianity in all of that meditation.  After all, as a boy I attended Sunday school on Sunday morning in the Rowan Methodist Church and then would attend the Sunday service with my mother and father, brother, and two sisters.  We would sing songs from the Methodist hymnal.

But here’s the kicker.  Over time I have studied and learned science, how the world really works, and how people really act.  I have noticed that most of the most intelligent writers, scientists, and thinkers are atheists and agnostics.  I have had to make my peace with these things;

  • There is no life after death.
  • Jesus may not have been a real person.
  • If he was real, he had very little in common with the Jesus we worship.
  • Jesus doesn’t need to be real to have value in my life.
  • There is no white-haired old man sitting on a throne in heaven.
  • There is no heaven.
  • If there is no heaven, then there certainly is no hell.
  • We are all connected… even those of us who don’t live on this planet, in this galaxy.

So I guess, that makes me an atheist who believes in the existence of God.  And because of this moronic oxymoron, my thesis now has to be; Even atheists have a need for religion.

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Saint Raphael

Yes, when it comes to religion, I am an idiot.  Just like all the rest of you are.  Mark Twain once said something like, “Religion is the firmly held belief in what you know ain’t so.”  That misquote, of course, is taken entirely on faith from a vague memory of a passage in the short story “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”

Of course, I am not saying that I find no value in religion.  I was associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses for almost twenty years because that was the religion my wife clings to.  They are a Bible-based religion with a strict literalist interpretation of scripture who are expecting the end of the world, this “wicked system of things” at any moment now and go around knocking on doors and giving away free Bible literature with their own Truth professionally printed to save as many of the unbelievers as possible.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have never really fully accepted what they believe.  But I have freely participated.  Their belief system makes them some of the most loving, self-sacrificing people you could ever meet.  They are non-violent and believe in helping everybody no matter how far they have to bend over backwards to do it.  There are very good things in the Bible about living a moral life that are absolutely true and will make you and your children into better people.  But here’s the most important thing about living that kind of life.  If you are doing it for the promised rewards of eternal life, then you are doing it wrong.  The goodness you do in this life and the love you both give and receive is the only heaven there is.  Hardship taken on as a sacrifice to a loving God gets you nothing but the feeling that you have done the right thing.  But let me assure you, that feeling is a treasure greater than fine gold.  That mental state you create for yourself is the whole point and purpose of religion.

 

I do realize that liars are the people most likely to say, “Believe me…” before telling you something is true, but believe me, I don’t expect you to accept my cold clinical dissection of what religion is in my world view.  I want you to believe whatever you believe is true about Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, or Budda…  or nirvana or existentialism or science.  I accept you and love you for who you are.  The important thing is that we are all connected.  Most religions make us nicer to each other and make us more loving and kind, as long as we are not allowing ourselves to fall victim to the dark side that exists in every religion.  When your religion tells you to hate something, especially when it tells you to do something to punish that something you hate, especially especially if that something you hate is another person of some kind, then that’s where Eve is biting the apple, that’s where all the trouble starts.

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Don’t let atheists tell you they don’t believe in anything.  I hear Neal DeGrasse Tyson talk about being made of star stuff and teach about the connections we have with everything in the universe.  Listen to him yourself on Cosmos talking about the wonders of science and the human quest to know, and tell me if you don’t hear hymns to God in his reverent explanations.  He just knows God in a different form than you do.

So here is my humble conclusion on a sleepy summer Sunday morning when my meditations drift back to a boyhood of telling Jesus jokes in the down-time during Sunday school.  I am an atheist who believes in a loving God.  And even atheists need God in their life.

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For the Love of Sad Clowns

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This is my latest clown picture, inspired by my newest fascination with Puddles’ Pity Party on YouTube.  Like all my clown pictures, I am fairly sure that my number one son will tell me it’s a creepy clown.  He has never liked clowns.  When he was still small we took him to the pre-show at Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus which at that time was Meet the Clowns.  We met the men… and women… and dwarves… in the face paint with the loud personalities and huge red smiles.   I was charmed, as always, but number one son spent most of the time behind my pantleg, peering around for sneak peaks at the clowns.  He was actually shivering most of the time.

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But me, I love clowns.   Always have.  Especially the sad clowns.  The hobo clowns.  Red Skelton playing Freddy the Freeloader, Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp, Marcel Marceau, the peerless mime, and Emmett Kelly Jr. as Weary Willie.  There is something deeply poetic and resonant about a clown who makes you laugh by his outward actions but manifests deep feelings and an underlying sadness on the inside.  It is a metaphor for the whole of life in the human world.

Puddles walked on to the stage of America’s Got Talent and engaged everyone first with his silent-clown mime routine, and then grabbed everyone right by the heart by singing a song about drinking and swinging on the chandelier with such emotion and operatic power that, by the end of the song everyone was standing, everyone loved him.  Singing clowns with a sad song help us keep our own little boats afloat on a vast and stormy ocean of life.  The song buoys us up and makes it bearable to tread water a little longer.  I am at a time and place in my life where I really need that.

I love clowns.  Especially sad clowns.  Particularly when they sing.

I dare you to watch these videos and not fall in love with Puddles.  That’s the point of sad clowns.  They make you laugh at the sad and serious things that tear people apart.  And by doing that, they put Scotch Tape on the tears and put you back together.

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Filed under battling depression, clowns, commentary, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, sharing from YouTube, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Battling Pirates and Losing

Black Tim

I have been boarded and scuttled by the pirates of Banko Merricka.  Yes the blood-thirsty buccaneers have won their lawsuit against me and forced me into a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  You see, they ambushed me.  When I was undergoing a debt reduction plan, the evil banker buccaneers of Banko Merricka not only refused to answer all calls from my lawyer, they quietly sold my debt to their ruthless debt collecting assassins, who waited until I had paid off all my other creditors, and then launched a lawsuit against me.  They normally get away with this kind of ambush because people in general don’t know how to respond.  I hired a lawyer and fought back.  I would’ve been able to pay a settlement if it had occurred when I wasn’t dealing with a big financial hit from the city over the derelict swimming pool.

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My Banko Merricka debt was boosted by a couple thousand dollars due to their court fees which I must also pay.   It is a very expensive process for the average American to become bankrupt and poor.  The kind of bankruptcy I will undergo bundles all my unpaid unsecured credit card debt into one huge pile and then, supervised by an account manager, I will pay it off in manageable chunks for the next five years.  It wipes out all my credit accounts except car payments and reduces my ability to secure loans to zero.  The pirates have won.

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But I am not despairing.  I haven’t been able to afford medicine and going to the doctor since I retired, so I will probably not live to pay it all off anyway.  And money is not the focus of my life.  The people who care about money more than life itself do not lead happier lives than I do.  If we lose our house and have to move to an apartment, we can do that.  If I have to get by on less each month, well, I’ve done that before.  Money worries will not be the cause of my heart attack or stroke.  And who knows, if I eat enough spinach, maybe there is super-power to fight back with in my future.  Pirates don’t win every battle.

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This Is Me… Again

Who am I?  What is my name?  Mickey?  Michael?  Mike?  The Bavarian?  Dr. Seabreez?  The Happy Pessimist?  The Fool?

Yes, all of those.

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I winterized the Eggplant house.  I turned the Easter Bunny out front into a snowman.  Why did I do that?  So I could live there peacefully?  In a purple house made out of a weird vegetable that I can’t stand to eat?  Of course I did.

My own house is still in peril.  We have not yet gotten the pool removed.  I worked hard on it and repaired it to the point that it could actually hold water.  But the electrical repairs cost more than removing the pool.  The house was wired incorrectly when the pool was put in some time in the 70’s, long before I lived here.  So I tried to get a loan to cover the cost of the pool repair.  I was denied twice.  My credit rating is too far into the toilet.

Urkel

This is not a self portrait, though I am not saying I am not a nerd.

My credit rating went south because Bank of America sued me, and I can’t afford to pay what they demand and still have money for the mortgage, food, and, well, I have already stopped taking any medicine the doctor wants me to take for the rest of my life.  I talked to a lawyer yesterday and paid him the retainer to represent me in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.   I lose what credit I had left.

But, sad sack though I am, I still believe in the future.  There is still hope.  Joy to be had.  Songs to sing.  Clowns to be.  I still have my red foam nose.

I was thinking of going back to the nudist park on Saturday when more people would be there.  But it is going to rain Saturday.  Naked in the rain from a thunder-shower is not a good thing for nutty naked me.  So maybe not.  Sitting nude alone in my room has already helped my psoriasis sores dry and heal, so maybe I don’t have to go be embarrassed with other fools in order to feel better.  I am a poverty-stricken idiot, but I am still a basically happy person.

So… This is me… again.  I get to decide myself who I am and what I am worth.  Not bankers.  Not lawyers.  Not other fools.  Just me.  This is me.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney

Holding Patterns

Sometimes you have to fly in big circles waiting for terrible things to pass.  If you don’t wait… if you rush in unprepared… then you go down in flames.

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The problem is that the pirates from Bank of America finally came through with their offer to settle my debt.  Sixty per cent of $13,000 in four payments over the next four months.  I have an appointment tomorrow to talk with my lawyer about bankruptcy.  It is expensive in this country to become poor.  And if you are poor, you have no other option.  At least, if I can manage three more bankruptcies by the time I’m 70, I will be qualified to run for president.

moosethrow

Life is definitely a lot like Moose Bowling.  It is a simple game.  In order to win, you only have to knock down all ten pins in one throw.  The hard part is that you have to throw a moose to knock the pins down.  Did you know that the average weight of an adult moose is 1800 pounds, or 820 kilograms?  That’s a lot of moose meat to fling with my arthritic 60-year-old moose-throwing muscles.  My flabber is totally gasted by that.

Eden

So, as I swiftly rise from prosperity to poverty, the ultimate fate of most old school teachers, it is probably a good thing that I have decided to become a nudist.  At least I will save money on buying clothes.

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Imaginary Friends

Toccata and Fugue

When you know someone has an imaginary friend, something like Elwood’s six-foot invisible rabbit called Harvey, don’t you immediately think that person is crazy?  I do.  But I have imaginary people as friends. I think most writers do.  So am I crazy?  Probably. But hopefully it is a good kind of crazy.

It began with imaginary friends from books.  The Cat in the Hat was my friend.  Jim Hawkins was my friend, as was Mowgli and all the members of the Swiss Family Robinson.  They entered my dreams and my daydreams.  I told them my troubles the same way I listened to theirs through their stories.

I began to have imaginary friends that came from my own imagination too.

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I used to tell my mere human friends about my friend Davalon from outer space.  I told them that he was real and secretly visited me at night to talk about being able to learn about humans on earth by walking around invisibly and watching them.  I got so involved with these stories that my sixth grade class began saying, “Michael is from Mars.”

Island Girl2z

When I was a teenager, I began having conversations with a faun.  His name was Radasha.  He was a creature from Greek Myth, a sensual Dionysian creature who, in his child body, was both younger than me and way older than me.  I didn’t realize until much later in life that he was the result of my repressed memories of a childhood sexual assault that I was the victim of.  I could talk to him about my fear of nakedness.  I could tell him about my blossoming interests in naked girls and their bodies.  I could talk to him about all the things I was somehow too terrified to talk to my male friends about, even though none of them had the same reluctance to discuss sex.  Ra was imaginary.  But he helped me heal.

Then the story-telling seriously began.  I used Davalon as one of the main characters in my novel Catch a Falling Star.  I created Torrie Brownfield, the baby werewolf to express the feelings I had as a boy about being a monster and secretly terrible and deformed.  Torrie is a normal boy with a condition called hypertrichosis.  I am working on The Baby Werewolf now.  And then there’s lovely Valerie Clarke.  She is the main character of Snow Babies which is a finished novel, edited and proofread and ready to publish.  It is I book I will have to find another way to publish since the recent death of PDMI Publishing.  She is not a me-character, based on my own thoughts and feelings.  She is based on former classmates and students who told me things that express the sadness and isolation of growing up female.  So she is even more imaginary than my other characters.

They become real people to me.  They have their own point of view. They talk to me and I learn things from them.  But they are imaginary.  So am I crazy?   Yes… as a loon.  And happy as Elwood P. Dowd to be that way.

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Theme Songs for Living Life

You know how in movies and on TV they play a soundtrack behind the action of the show?  And how, sometimes, if the movie or TV show is any good, it enhances and underscores whatever is happening to the main theme of story and the action that expresses it on the screen?  Yeah, that.  A complex idea that lies just under the surface of consciousness, a something that somebody sometime thought up that actually works and can work quite well.  But why does it work?

Put as simply as I can say an idea that is so layered and complex, it is because that is how real life works.  Yeah, there is music in the background of every life.  It plays almost unnoticed until that point where you suddenly realize how it defines your very soul.

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Through childhood and junior high and high school, I used to joke with my two sisters that every song that came on the radio was my favorite song, my theme song.  Every new Beatles’ song, or Paul Revere and the Raiders’ song, or Elton John musical fantasy was the song that defined my entire life.  Yes, I really was that fickle.  But I was also responding to a sense that who I was had to change into something new as often as you heard a new song on the radio or bought a new record album.  (Yes, I know some of you have no idea what that is, but I am a child of the 60’s and 70’s, and I make no excuse for that.  So deal with it.)

I hope you have listened to some of the YouTube song-thingies I have added to this post.  They are not picked at random.  They are some of the key theme songs of my goofy, pointless, and fantastical life.

The Astroboy opening theme is here to represent my early childhood.  When I had the courage of the irrepressible imagination of childhood.  I soared with Astroboy through every black-and-white episode I could get hold of in the 60’s.  At times it met getting out of bed early to catch it at 6:00 am, just after Channel 3 came on the air in the morning.  At times it meant rushing home as soon as school let out because it came on only half an hour after the last bell, and the school was on the north end of Rowan, while home was as far south as the town went.Astroboy

I really used to believe that I would grow up to lead a heroic life and make a name for myself that would inspire others to greatness too.  We are uncommonly stupidly when we are children, and we need simplistic theme songs to wake us up to life gradually.

The Eagles provided the theme songs of my high school and college young manhood.  Trying out life, at times boldly, and at most times timidly, I had to “Take It to the Limit” as often as I could manage.  It turned out that due to irrepressible social awkwardness, my greatest presses against the walls of my existence were all academic in nature.  We learn by doing… and failing… and trying again.  The songs become more complex as they weave themselves into the background of your life story.

As a young teacher, shy and soft-spoken, it was impressed on me that discipline was about controlling behavior which you had to do by being stern and unyielding, good at rule-setting and handing down punishments.  But with my goofy temperament and non-threatening clown face, I soon learned that that road only led to misery and heartache for both me and, more importantly, the students.  In the 80’s I learned that you had to follow Bobby McFerrin’s philosophy of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.  I learned that you don’t teach someone lasting lessons by pushing them from behind with paddles and switches, but by leading them forward with jokes and obvious joy in the lessons you are teaching.

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Now that I have grown old and awful in the winter of my life, the songs that express my personal themes are classical music and complex with snowflakian symmetry and stark, cold beauty.  I would talk about a few more particulars, but I am now well past 500 words, and if you don’t have the idea yet, I’m sorry, you are probably never going to hear that music yourself.  But don’t worry… be happy.

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