Category Archives: finding love

Dancing With Alan Watts

It seems sometimes, in a Judaeo-Christian society, that we are a constantly being scrutinized by a rather harsh all-knowing God who rewards getting the faith-words accurately correct, to the letter, and the faith-based actions perfect, without a single mistake. And He punishes missteps of word or deed with pain and suffering and the potential of an eternity in Sheol or Hell. And that is a tough God to live with. He is like a teacher who uses his or her God-like powers to reward or punish to lead his students all down an exacting, narrow path to a destination that does not have room for everyone when they arrive.

It doesn’t take long in childhood for a highly intelligent person to realize before childhood is over that this cosmology is actually a load of horse pucky. It didn’t even take long for somebody as semi-stupid as me.

What I like about listening on YouTube to the wisdom of Alan Watts is that he gives us an alternative way of seeing the universe and ourselves. This he can offer through his studies of Eastern and Buddhist philosophies. Everything appealing in John Lennon’s signature song “Imagine” comes from Lennon’s love of listening to the lectures of Alan Watts. He is obviously a wise-guy.

Alan Watts teaches us the pathways that lead to finding yourself, who you truly are, and how you fit into the universe as a whole. When Carl Sagan says that we are all made of star-stuff, he is not only telling us what is literally true, as the elements our bodies were formed from were literally made in the nuclear forges at the centers of stars that later exploded in nova-bursts to scatter the elements across the skies of everywhere. He is also telling us that what Alan Watts says is metaphorically true, that everything in the universe is part of the same thing and we are all one in this way.

There is plenty to worry about in my little life. I could easily drop dead at any time from any one of my six incurable diseases or even the return of the skin cancer I beat in 1983. I suffer from the consequences of disease daily, as I have for many years now. My sins are many. I broke my promise the other day to never show you the horrors of my naked body on this blog. I constantly eat the wrong thing and continue to do things that I know are bad for the environment and the health of my body. I am prejudiced against racists, stupidity, and the actions of dedicated Trump-lovers. In many ways I deserve God’s wrath and brutal correction. I have come to truly believe that climate change is going to end life on Earth. I am horrible.

But I have learned from Alan Watts that all of those concerns mean nothing. I don’t believe in Heaven or an afterlife. But I do not fear death. I am one with the universe. And the universe goes on even if I do not. And I will always be a part of it, even after I am no longer alive. The universe has a mind and is intelligent And I take part in that because one small part of that intelligence is me, and lives in my head.

There is comfort to be found in the words of Alan Watts. And living in pain as I do, I really need that comfort most of the time. That is why I have attempted to share a bit of that comfort with you.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 6

Canto Six – Bacon and Eggs

Mom had breakfast ready and on the table.  Eggs and bacon on stoneware plates, one for Val and one for Daddy Kyle.  She was a great cook and loved to stuff her small family with what she made.   That was probably the reason she was watching over a second pan-full of sizzling bacon.

“Your father isn’t ready yet?” asked Mom, left eyebrow raised.

“Oh, he had to change his pants again for some reason.”

“That man can find more excuses for dragging his feet than…”

“Mom?  Is something the matter with Daddy?”

“What do you mean?”

“Last night I thought he was crying in the machine shed.”

“Well, you know your Daddy Kyle.  He loves his machinery, and that big old combine is broken down again.”

“It shouldn’t be.  It’s only two years old.”

Mom looked at her with unreadable eyes.  Was she mad?  Sad?  What?

“He says he can fix it.  He says the problem is just mechanical and you know how handy he is with tools.”

“Sure.”  He did love that combine.  Maybe that was what made him sad.   He loved Valerie and he was always sad when she was sick too.

Valerie gobbled eggs and bacon.  It was good, but even better eaten fast so you could enjoy those bacon burps for the next half hour.

“You eat like you’re starving.  I wish I could eat like that, Val, and stay as thin as you do.”

“Mom, I’m only eleven.   I’m not supposed to be a fatty at my age.”

“I thought you were ten, dear.   Where does the time go?”

Valerie was still thinking about yesterday, the holiday Monday… and why did so many people have to feel sad?

“Do you know what makes Ray Zeffer so sad, Mom?”

“Ray Zeffer?  What brings that up?”

“He and Danny Murphy walked me all the way home last night from town.  He’s such a gentleman.  But he always seems sad.”

“Well, I would guess that losing your father the way he did, such a short time ago… well, it might have something to do with it.  I know his mother, Donna Zeffer, is sad a lot too.”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“And there was a brother that died… older brother…  Bobby, I think.  His family has been through a lot.”

Valerie buttered a piece of toast and then sipped her milk from the mug that Grandpa Larry had given her years ago.  The mug had a big red heart on the side of it.

“I didn’t know about the brother.  Younger or older?”

“Definitely older.  More than ten years ago.”

“What was more than ten years ago?” asked Daddy Kyle as he came in to breakfast.

“Valerie was wondering about Ray Zeffer because he and the Murphy boy walked her home from town last night.  How long ago did Bobby Zeffer die, Kyle?”

“Oh, at least sixteen years ago.  But what’s this about boys walking Valerie home last night?”

Uh-oh.  Dad radar had picked up a boy-alert… a potential boyfriend/trouble/rock salt alert.

“Danny and Ray were just being gentlemen,” said Valerie.  “They wanted to make sure I got home safe.”

“And they didn’t have anything but your safety on their little minds?” Kyle asked with a skeptical smirk.

“I suppose now you want to shoot Ray?” asked Valerie.

“Who said anything about shooting Ray?” asked Mom.

“Dad did.  He wanted to shoot Pidney and Danny last night, and now he wants to shoot Ray!”

“Kyle!”  Mom’s scolding stare could wither flowers that were otherwise in full bloom.

“I was just kidding around!” said Daddy in a defensive voice that sounded a lot like a little boy who’d been caught pulling his sister’s hair.  “I wouldn’t really shoot anybody…  It’s a dad thing.”

“I’m sure it is,” said Mom.  “But let’s not joke about that anymore.”

“Yes, ma’am.”  He was thoroughly chastised, and Valerie marveled at how Mom could make him so instantly repentant, like a Baptist preacher preaching Hellfire or something.

“The bus is here, Princess,” said Daddy Kyle while peering out the window. And it really was.  Valerie had to hustle.  The old yellow bus driven by Milo Volker was waiting at the end of the Clarkes’ lane, and he wouldn’t linger if she didn’t show up fast.  Still, it made her grin to see the look of relief on her Daddy’s face as he realized the dangerous conversation was at an end.

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Aunt Minnie’s Love Seat

This is a story about an innocuous piece of furniture in Great Aunt Minnie Efram’s house.  It was a little brown loveseat with carved wooden monster feet.

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As the story begins, the little loveseat was sitting in the parlor in front of the small black and white television.  During the monthly Efram family card party, the love seat was the only place for the two of them to spend the evening.  But he was ten and he hated girls.  He had a reputation with the guys at school as a girl hater, and he couldn’t have it known that he was sitting on a loveseat with Uncle Henry’s stepdaughter, the one the guys all said they had seen eating her own boogers.

She was also ten, and in his class at school.  She liked to watch him more than any of the other boys.  But she didn’t know why.  She liked unicorns and the color pink, but she also kinda liked the way boys looked at her when she wore shorts.  And she liked seeing him in PE class at school, wearing shorts.  He was athletic and often won games in PE.

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After two years of monthly card parties happening during at least three different months every year at Aunt Minnie’s place, he had discovered that girls didn’t actually smell bad, and this one actually listened when he talked about playing football, and how it made him feel when he scored the seventy-five-yard touchdown.  In fact, the more he talked about football, and the closer they sat to each other, the better she seemed to smell.  He liked that smell.

She liked that he didn’t only pay attention to her at the card parties anymore.  He actually said, “Hi” in public.  And she liked his smile, even when he got braces.  He let her pick the shows they watched on the old black and white television while seated on the loveseat.  She actually worked up the nerve to tell him that she had told Jane at school to ask him if he liked her, and stupid Jane had completely forgotten to ask him, or maybe Jane was just too chicken to ask him and used the excuse that she forgot.

He said that if she liked him, he liked her.  But if she didn’t, he didn’t either.  “Like” her, he meant.  Which he did because she did.

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After two more years and six more card parties worth of scootching behinds closer together on the old loveseat, something different had happened.  And it was about time too.  Aunt Minnie had bought a puppy, and that not only was a bad thing for the seven cats that lived with old Minnie, but it was hard on the loveseat too.  One of the little couch’s monster feet was lost, and the numerous instances of terrified cat claws digging in were beginning to have an effect on the upholstery.  And that danged dog wizzled everywhere.  The loveseat had one purpose in life, and it didn’t want to give in to wear and tear before achieving that purpose.

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But the very next year brought disaster.  He apparently told the members of the freshman football team that something had happened on that old love seat that really hadn’t happened.  The football team was impressed because they all thought she was pretty hot stuff, and he was generally thought of as a lame-o dweeb.  She heard about it from Jane who heard about it from Nanette’s boyfriend who was on the team.  And she got mad.  How dare he say something like that when it wasn’t true?

In January of that year, Aunt Minnie passed away in her sleep.  The loveseat was sold at auction to a farmer who liked to do re-upholstery as a hobby.  It got re-done in red velvet and leather with wheels replacing the wooden monster feet and sold to a car dealer in Des Moines who placed it in the lobby show-room for customers to sit on.

But the story has a happy ending.  She would later make his locker room lie into the truth on Prom Night (fortunately with protection) and then went on to marry him when they both were sophomores in college.   Of course, it wasn’t always, “They lived happily ever after,” because they didn’t.  They got divorced once and got re-married shortly after… to each other.  They had three kids.  And the loveseat didn’t ever learn any of that.  Because it was a loveseat.  You didn’t really think loveseats could know anything, did you?

 

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Chances Are…

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Chances are… I could wear a foolish grin, like a Johnny Mathis Moon in the sky…

I could waltz… all alone in a dark room, never seizing on the chances to fly…

But there’s a time… meant to let the summer in…

And love songs… all make me wonder… Why?

Silly, I know.  But silly and surreal is how I go, how I deal with the time.  A song in my head leads to rhythm and metaphor and rhyme.  And it takes me from old winter and the waning of the moon… to the silly month of June… And my dancing shoes were never quite so spry.

Chances are… if you really read this, you will know I am depressed.

My life is all unfairly messed.

And I barely can get dressed…

To go tripping cross the floor, dancing awkwardly toward the door, ’cause I’m in need of so much more.

But in a poem I find it… the very reason that I rhymed it… like the crooning song that’s stuck in my old head…

I will catch it, and I’ll bind it, like a fool who hopes you’ll find it, and the treasure will be revealed before we’re dead…

Chances are… that you hear that silly tune, as it reels across the page in silent spread.  And the song will slowly stop, as I dance a final hop, and the answer is brightly shining in my head.

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Pyrrhuloxia

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The desert cardinal.

It sings and behaves almost exactly like its scarlet cousins.  It never flies away from seasonal changes or difficult weather, and it also tolerates drier conditions than its bright red family members.

Why do you need to know that?  Because I am a birdbrain.  I connect things that are totally unlike each other.  I am a surrealist.  And for me, being a cardinal is all about never flying away when the winter comes, never giving up.

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There was a time in my life when I wasn’t entirely sure of who I would become.  Let me say clearly, “I am not now, nor have I ever been a homosexual.”  And if I had been one, like a couple of my friends turned out to be, I would not be ashamed to be one.  But there was a time, in my high school years, when I really wasn’t certain, and I was terrified of what the answer might be.

And it was in high school that I met Dennis.

Now, to be honest, I noticed him while I was still an eighth grader, and he was in my sister’s class and two years younger.  It was in the locker room after eighth grade P.E. class was ended and sixth grade P.E. was getting dressed for class.  I was returning to pick up a book I had left.  He was standing just inside the door in nothing but shorts.  The feeling of attraction was deeply disturbing to my adolescent, hormone-confused brain.  I didn’t want to have anything to do with that feeling.  But I felt compelled to find out who he was anyway.  He was the younger brother of my classmate Rick Harper (not his real name).  In fact, he was the book end of a set of twins.  But I came to realize that it was Dennis I saw, not Darren, because they were trying to establish their identities by one of them curling his hair, and the other leaving his straight.

Nothing would ever have come of it, but during my Freshman year of high school, I encountered him again.  During a basketball practice where the ninth grade team was scrimmaging with the eighth graders, the seventh graders were all practicing free throws at the side of the junior high gym.  While I was on the bench, he came up to me from behind and tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around and he tossed me his basketball.   “Play me one on one?” He asked.  I almost did.  But I remembered that Coach Rod had warned us to be ready to go into the game when he called on us.  I had a turn coming up.  So, I told him that and promised I would play him some other time.  He grinned at me in a way that gave me butterflies in my stomach.  Why?  To this day I still don’t really know.

Dennis’s older brother and I were in Vocational Agriculture class together that year and both on the Parliamentary Procedure team preparing for a competition. We were at Rick’s house.  After a few rounds of practice that convinced our team we would definitely lose the competition, David and his brother trapped me in a corner.

“Hey, Meyer, how’re ya doin’?” Dennis said.  Darren just stared at me, saying nothing.

“It’s Beyer, not Meyer,” I said.  Of course, he knew that.  The Meyers were a local poor family with a bad reputation, and it was intended as an insult.  And it also rhymed, making it the perfect insult.

“Still one of the worst basketball players ever?”

“I try.  I’m working on it really hard.”  That got him to laugh and ask me to give him a high five.

“Goin’ to the basketball game later?”

“Yeah, probably.”

I knew then that he wanted to be my friend.  I wasn’t sure why.  He was picking me out of the blue to make friends with.  We didn’t move in the same circles, go to the same school, or even live in the same town.  He was a Belmond boy, I was Rowan kid.  And he didn’t know I was only a few years past being sexually assaulted and not ready to face the demons my trauma had created within me.

Later, at the basketball game, he found me in the bleachers and sat down beside me.  In my defense, I am not a homophobe.  And neither he nor I turned out to be a homosexual.  He just wanted to be my friend and was taking difficult steps to make that connection.  He was the one taking the risks.  I greeted him sarcastically, and looking back on it, somewhat cruelly, because I was filled with too many uncertainties.  I never meant to drive him away.  But I will never forget the wounded look on his face as he scooted away down the bleacher seat.

He tried to talk to me several times after that.  He apparently never lost the urge to befriend me.  But as much as I wanted to accept his friendship, it never came to be.  I have regretted that ever since.

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Dennis passed away from cancer early this year.  It is what made me think about who we both once were and what I gave away.  I went on to actually befriend a number of boys through college and into my teaching career.  I never chose any of them.  The friendship was always their idea.  I went on teach and mentor a number of fine young men.  I like to think I did it because I felt a bit guilty of never really being Dennis’s friend.  I hope somewhere along the way I made up for my mistake.  I hope Dennis forgives me.  And I wish I could tell him, “I really do want to be your friend.”

The pyrrhuloxia is a member of the family of cardinals and grosbeaks.  And it does not migrate away from troublesome seasons and bad weather.  There is dignity in being a pyrrhuloxia.

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Irreverence

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It is a difficult thing to be an atheist who believes in God.  Sometimes it takes an oxymoron to find the Truth.  And you often have to go heavily on the “moron” portion of the word.

The thing I find most distressing about faith is the fact that those who have it are absolutely convinced that if you don’t agree with them and whatever book of fairy tales they believe in and interpret for you, then you are not a True Believer and you do not have real Faith.

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I remember being told by a Mormon girl in one of my classes that I was her all-time favorite teacher, but she was deeply distressed that, because of my religion (I professed to be a Jehovah’s Witness at the time) I was doomed to burn in Hell forever.

Hey, I was raised in Iowa.  I have experienced minus 100 degree Fahrenheit windchill.  I am among those who think a nice warm afterlife wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But I am no longer actually a Jehovah’s Witness.  So I guess that helps with the whole Hell-burning thing.  The Witnesses are a religion that claims to understand the Bible is full of metaphorical truth, and yet insist that it is literally true.  They don’t believe in Hell, which, honestly, is not actually mentioned or explained in the Bible as we have it now.  But they do believe your prospects for eternal life on a paradise Earth are totally contingent on knocking on doors and telling other people that they must believe what you believe or experience eternal destruction.  I have stopped being an active Witness and knocking on doors because I got old and sick, and all the caring brothers and sisters in the congregation stopped coming around to visit because number one son joined the Marines, and the military is somehow evil hoodoo that cancels out any good you have done in the past.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness was really hard work with all the meetings (5 per week), Bible reading (I have read the entire Bible two and a half times), door-knocking, and praying, and you apparently can lose it all for saying, thinking, or doing one wrong thing.

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According to the Baptist preachers, Jehovah’s Witness elders, religious zealots, and other opinionated religious people I have known and dealt with in my life, if I do not believe what they believe and agree with them in every detail, then I do not know God and am therefore an atheist.  So, okay, I guess I am.   If I have to be an atheist to believe whole-heartedly that everyone is entitled to sincerely believe whatever the hell they want to believe, then I’ll wear that label.

On a personal note, my favorite verse of the Bible has always been 1 John 4:8,  “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”  That is why I claim to be an atheist who believes in God.  I know love.  I love all men, women, children, animals, sunrises, artwork, paintings of angels by Bouguereau… everything that is.  And I even love you if you exercise your freedom to tell me, “Your ideas are totally wrong, and you are going to burn in Hell, Mickey, you bad guy, you!”  Mark Twain always said, “I would choose Heaven for climate, but I would prefer Hell for company.”  I am not going to worry about it.  I will be in good company.  Some things are just bigger than me.  And trying to control things like that is nonsense. Sorta like this post.

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Stardusters… Canto 53

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Canto Fifty-Three – The Morrells’ Assigned Sleeping Nest

Alden was bone weary as he and Gracie finally found the nest that Sizzahl had assigned to the two of them.  It was a weird little alcove made of artificial stone, with what appeared at first glance to be a huge pile of sticks and leaves in the middle of the central depression of the floor.   The bedding materials were also artificial, however, made from some sort of foamy material and quite comfortable to recline on.

“Oh, Gracie,” said Alden, “I am so relieved to be able to wear clothes again.  I really couldn’t stand being naked around the children all the time.”

“I actually liked being naked, Alden.  It made me feel nice and so very free.”

“It’s like being totally vulnerable, like someone or something could take a bite out of you at any moment.”

Gracie looked suddenly concerned.  “Do you think our poor Brekka is safe with that awful man-eating plant thing?”

“Yes, I do.  It actually seems to take care of her.  I worry more about Sizzahl being safe with this uncle of hers.  Makkhain doesn’t seem very trustworthy to me.”

“You are such an old poop sometimes.”  Gracie looked a little put out.  “He’s her uncle.  He’s family.  Surely we can trust Sizzahl in his care.”

“But what about the rest of us?  Are we safe from Makkhain?  To him, we are the invading aliens.  And it’s no secret that the Galtorrian lizard-people will gladly eat human and Telleron flesh.”

“Well… yeah.   I don’t completely trust him either.  His weird, snaky eyes are creepy.  He’s not quite as human-like as dear little Sizzahl.”

“Gracie, I kinda like Sizzahl too, but you have to remember that she has no regrets about using us for her own purposes.  As soon as she learned we were Earth humans, she wanted to use us for her little Galtorrian/Human crock-pot experiment.  She’s cooking up ten children already, made from our… I mean, my DNA.”

“But when you stop and think about it, Alden, those ten little test-tube babies are your sons and daughters… your actual flesh and blood.  Doesn’t it excite you, at least a little bit, that you are finally going to be someone’s Daddy?”

The thought actually hadn’t hit Alden quite as hard as it did at that moment.  He almost swooned as he lay down on the soft nest-bedding.  “They are half mine and half Sizzahl’s,” He said.  “And they are going to be born from glass jars!”

“Cloning vats for warm-blooded children,” said Gracie.  “And since they are your children, doesn’t that make them mine too?”

Alden knew that back on Earth, not being able to have children had practically killed Gracie.  It was the reason she had been so anxious to adopt Davalon when they found him on that country highway, alone and left behind by his space ship and his people.

“Gracie, how do we do this?  We are living on an alien world now, possibly permanently.  We are two grown-up people from Earth trapped in the bodies of children.  You can never grow up.  And if I grow up without you, I…  Well, I simply can’t do that.   So how do we raise ten children all the same age?  And not just any children, half-lizard children!”

“They’re your children, Alden.  And I will love them as my own until the day I die.”

“The day you die may never come.  And I may have to keep making myself younger every year by Telleron technology to stay even with you.  I may be alive forever too.”

Gracie smiled as she crawled on top of Alden in the middle of the Galtorrian nest.  “Love me tonight.  You haven’t loved me since we became like this.”

“Gracie, you have the body of a little girl.”

“But I am an adult, no matter how young my flesh is.  And I love you.  We have a family now.  Don’t you feel young and alive again too?  Like I do?  Love me.”

There was no arguing with Gracie.   How could he do anything but love her?

*****

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