Category Archives: forgiveness

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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Downloading Darkness

I just finished a novel project last Thursday, completing the manuscript of Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  But being the excessively creative goofball that I am, this was not a stand-alone project.  The companion book, The Baby Werewolf,  is an incomplete manuscript of a comedy horror story about a boy with hypertrichosis, sometimes known as werewolf-hair disease.  Both books happen in the same period of time in 1974 and share both characters and events.  The boy, Torrie Brownfield, has lost his mother.  His father has brought him back to a small Iowa town where he himself was once a boy, to live in the same house where the boy’s father and uncle grew up.  The uncle, hiding some dark secrets of his own, requires that Torrie be raised in hiding up in the attic.  But this only lasts until a local farm boy,  Todd Niland, discovers Torrie’s sad existence and becomes his friend. This is a much darker story than I have tackled before, and I am no stranger to dark humor.  It is significant, though, that both Todd and Torrie are gingerbread children from the book I just finished, and even though some sad, dark things come to light in that book, they are not nearly as sad and dark as what is present in this next project.  So I had to find some inspiration before trying to re-ignite the novel forge for The Baby Werewolf.

That led me to watch the video Donnie Darko for the very first time.

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Oofah!  What a strange, horrible, yet beautiful movie!  Richard Kelly’s first film is an incredible artwork that makes your soul sing darkly.  Talk about listening to dark rabbits from the future… really, I mean, no one told anyone they should talk about about dark rabbits from the future… but this film does with a twisted elegance and ironically terrible beauty.  It discusses the sex lives of Smurfs, raises alarms with old women wandering aimlessly to the mailbox in the path of oncoming cars, and fires teachers from their jobs for discussing the short stories of Graham Greene.  There is no way I can explain in a witless-wordless movie review.  You must simply watch the movie for yourself.

Remember this musical masterpiece?  “Hello, Darkness, my old friend… I’ve come to talk with you again…”  Yes, I am entertaining the darkness again because I will be depending on her to help me write this book whose theme is going to be, “Everyone dies in the end, but the real life depends on how we deal with that fact.”

Yes, people who know me, I mean really know me, including the facts behind what I can’t actually say in this blog because the innocent must be protected, will probably worry that I am undertaking a writing project about monsters and depression and suicidal thoughts and child abuse.  I do have scars.  But I am at peace with the hard parts of the life behind me.  And from great pain and profound suffering, beautiful things can be made.  So don’t worry.  Downloading a bunch of monster-movie darkness into my stupid old head is not going to hurt me at this point in my life.  And if I can’t write it now, it will never be written.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, battling depression, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, forgiveness, horror movie, humor, mental health, movie review, novel, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor

You should listen to the music.  Not only is it beautiful, it is the perfect description of the now.  Yes, I am a touch depressed, and the music is deep blue.  But there are such strains of the bittersweet and angelic light, that Albinoni must be speaking directly from his heart into mine.  This music paints my soul.

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The sky reflects my mood with lurking dark blues and obscuring clouds incapable of completely taking away the sun.  I finally had enough money to visit the doctor today.  I had an infection in throat and sinus.  I got medicine to heal the sores, and the medicine will prevent pneumonia, and probably saved my life.

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My family was whole and together for the holidays, though three of us were sick for a good share of it and unable to spend the time together  as we would’ve liked.  Still, even though we had to take number one son to DFW Airport in the rain and send him back to Marine world, we got to see him and share good times with him, no matter how short.  Deep blue with angelic violins of musical light.  He made it back safely.  I have more days and probably more months to live and write.  And the music of existence continues to quietly play.

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I continue to collect photos of new dawns.  Here is December 27th.

It is possible that Tomaso Albinoni did not write the Adagio in G Minor.  It is believed that it was cobbled together as a sort of hoax by his chief transcriber, Remo Giazotto.  He apparently took old Dresden manuscripts and made this beautiful piece as a reflection of the work of Albinoni.  Albinoni,a prolific composer of the 1700’s, beloved by Johan Sebastian Bach, wrote opera scores that never quite got published, and so,even though he is a composer of many musical works, most of them are lost to history.  Yet, how can such a thing be considered a fake?  The music touches my soul.  From Albinoni’s soul, through Giazotto’s, to mine, and, hopefully, thence to yours.  Listen to it.  Really listen.  You can’t help but understand what I mean.  Even if you can’t stand classical music.  Though, if you truly can’t stand classical music… I weep for thee.

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Filed under classical music, commentary, Depression, family, feeling sorry for myself, forgiveness, humor, illness, old art, review of music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

In a Softer Light…

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The news recently has been painful to contemplate.  Police shootings of suspects that seem on video to be indefensible, yet no charges are ever brought.  Angry people taking vengeance with guns on good Dallas policemen and women because the shooters somehow convinced themselves that violence in return for violence will balance the scales of justice.  Did they perhaps get that idea from orange-colored presidential candidates who have been campaigning about fighting fire with fire?  The weight of the injustice and spirals of anger are crushing me… and I deal with those things through humor, but humor takes time.  So what do I do while I’m trying to process all of the pain?  I spend some time shining lights on things and thinking about stuff.  I told you before that I bought a cheap lamp with a 300-watt bulb to use for photographing artwork.  Let me show you some of the photographed and re-photographed stuff I have been working on;

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Filed under artwork, battling depression, colored pencil, forgiveness, humor, Paffooney, photo paffoonies

The Oubliette

Every Dungeons and Dragons player, especially game masters, know about the oubliette.  In the foundations of towers in the castles of the French you often find a windowless room with the only entrance in the ceiling.  It is a dark hole where you throw captives you want to simply forget.  In fact, the name comes from the word in Middle French, “oublier” which translates to “forget”.  Now, of course, as a former school teacher, I know about oubliettes.  I have been in one more than once.  I have tossed bad kids in there more than once.  But the thing I had to learn about “forget holes” is that there is always a way out.

Eli Tragedy

I had a principal who decided I had betrayed him because he overheard me talking sympathetically to a teacher he had been berating for asking that he discipline students she sent to him for disruptive behavior.  He overheard me saying that he would be more understanding if he tried to manage a class himself once in a while.  For my indiscretion he took away my gifted class and gave me in its place a class composed entirely of students who had been repeatedly sent to him by teachers for being disruptive and unmanageable.  It was a class from hell.  Really… from hell… Satan’s stepson was the first student he put in that class.  I was told I would have to discipline them entirely without help from him.  But as tough as it is teaching twenty dysfunctional learners at once with no outside help, it was do-able.  In fact, I liked some of the kids in that class.  (Hated some too, though, because you can’t always like every kid no matter how crappy they act.)  I didn’t manage to teach them much English.  They all spoke Skuggboy fluently the whole time.  But I did endure.  In fact, when that principal was suddenly jobless two-thirds of the way through the year and replaced by a new principal, I got a chance to get some back.  She overhead Satan’s stepson doing his comic stand-up routine in response to my specific directions and came in to remind him who was in charge in the classroom and who deserved respect.  That reminder lasted for a good fifteen minutes and was a prelude to a parent-principal conference that same afternoon.  I saw his evil smile turned upside down for the first time that school year.

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Whenever I put a student in the oubliette (asked them to stand outside the classroom door until I could talk to them about their bad behavior) I never left them there more than five minutes.  I would quickly give the class the directions they needed to continue on their own, and then I would go out to execute the prisoner.  It usually was an explanation of how I wanted them to behave, and then giving them a choice, whether they wanted to go back in and do the right thing, or they wanted to visit the office with a written explanation by me of exactly what they did wrong.  Even though nothing would probably happen to them in the office, they rarely chose that option.

So, there is always a way out… but there are many forms of the oubliette, and no one is immune to being sent there.

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Late Autumn Rains

20151128_092151It is raining again in Texas, and cold enough to make the leaves turn red and yellow and orange.  The cracked and useless swimming pool is filled with rain water.  The sky is gray. El Niño  is here for a visit.  And he is not a well-behaved little boy.

I am confined indoors again by arthritis pain and breathing difficulties.   But I don’t mind.  I can travel by the wings of my imagination.  Things in my world are soaring once again amongst the clouds… and dancing like kites in the wind.

I have not taken any depression medication in six months, and I seem to be happier for it.  We have hot chocolate to drink and… mmm… pumpkin pie.  The cool winds are a reminder of what is was like as a boy in Iowa in the 60’s and 70’s.  Thanksgiving now past… Christmas coming…  I haven’t celebrated those holidays in 20 years, my wife being a Jehovah’s Witness, and I myself still identified with the congregation… even though my faith is somewhat stumbled… not in God himself, but in how men make pronouncements about what to think and what to say and who to be… in the name of magical rewards that the universe is not capable of delivering.  No higher power will step in to rescue us from our fears and misfortune.  That is not what God is there for.  He does not ask for slavish devotion, or rituals, or the sacrifice of your firstborn son.  That is superstition.  He only offers the chance to live, and laugh, and… love.  It is the only reward I need.  I do not fear the coming winter.  The weather may erode my mountain fortress and the rains may eventually make the rivers of life to drown me, but I have lived, and loved, and laughed.  And not even God can take that away.

I am sorry if this sounds somber and depressed to you.  I hear a different music than that.  I hear a resounding joy.  And even if I die right this minute, I am happy, for all is complete.  “Whether or not it is clear to you… the universe is unfolding as it should.” (The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann)

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Danse Macabre (the cartoon dance of death)

I would like to say going in that there are good reasons why young people can become obsessed with death and suffering and the color black and the dance towards the grave.  I danced that jig too when I was younger.  At age 22 my experience with sexual assault came back to me in dreams.  I thought they were only dream images, but as I continued to think about it and be tormented by it, I began to clearly recall the terrible things he did to me that I had been repressing for twelve years.  And I deal with traumatic experience with art for some crazy reason.  I took a week in 1981 to get all the horrid feelings out on paper.

Danse M3

You will notice the tombstone lists the date of death as being before my eleventh birthday in 1967.  That is when it happened.  It was not actually a sexual experience… it was torture.  He took my pants off and did things to my private parts to cause me intense pain.  And he even said to me that it was my own fault, that somehow I had told him that I wanted this horrible thing to happen.  For several years after I intentionally used the furnace in my home to make burn scars on my lower back and the back of my legs.  I believe now that I was hurting myself in order to extinguish sexual thoughts and feelings.  The worst thing he did to me was make me feel guilty about what happened.

Danse M2

When you go back to the art of the middle ages, the paintings of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Hans Holbein the Younger, and other European artists both young and old, you see artists grappling with mortality, the fact that all people, including me, will die.   At times it can seem to the immature mind that death is the only possible escape from suffering.  This artwork comes from a time when I was contemplating exactly that.

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If you are looking at this closely, you will see that I signed my name to it backwards.  I signed my art as Leah Cim Reyeb, or simply Leah Cim.  I put these four panels into my big black portfolio and never showed them to anybody until after my abuser passed away from a heart attack.  I don’t believe in Hell and I don’t believe in ghosts, so now, I finally feel safe about sharing this artwork with others.  The terrible secret is a secret no longer.  He can no longer reach out and hurt me any further.

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I apologize for not being funny… even remotely funny… in this post.  Funny is probably not the appropriate thing for this post.  You may be wondering why I even bother to post it.  Isn’t this a private matter, best kept to myself?  You tell me.  This is a terrible thing that happened to me.  I am now honest about it in a way I could never be before.  I can explain it without worrying about any retribution by or against him.  I can finally forgive him.  I can overcome what happened and be the stronger for it.  And if you have read this far without being so revolted by it that you stopped reading and stopped following my blog, maybe you need to do the dance with me.  Is there something you need to overcome?  It can be overcome.  So dance with me… and rejoice.

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Filed under forgiveness, Paffooney, philosophy