Category Archives: happiness

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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Pez Head

If you have seen any of my numerous posts about dolls or old books or even, you guessed it, Pez dispensers, you know how badly I am gifted with hoarding disorder.  You know the disease.  Every old string-saving grandpa or scrap-booking maiden aunt you had as a kid had it.  Piles and piles of useless and pointless things all neatly stacked and sorted somewhere in the house, or possibly garage… lurking like a monster of many pieces waiting to take over the whole house.

I can’t help it.  Collections have to be completed.  If you see it and you don’t already have it, you must possess it.  Twenty-seven cents short of the full price with tax included?  Go out to the car and dig in the cup holder.  Oops!  Can’t part with those particular State Quarters.  Will they take that many pennies?  Have to try.

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Lately I have been victimized by a combination of my disorder and the fact that Toys-R-Us is a convenient restroom stop on the rush-hour drive along I-35 to pick up the Princess at her high school in Carrollton, Texas and my son Henry at his school in Lewisville, Texas.  It is a killer two hours and I need to go potty at the halfway point.  And I can’t make my way to the restroom without passing the Pez dispenser display.  And I can’t pass the Pez dispenser display without… well, you know.

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What can I say?  I’m diabetic.  I have to visit the restroom frequently.

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And they do look good on my bookshelves with a lot of the other junk I collect.

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And not all of these are new, bought some time this school year.  In fact, not most of them.

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And they only cost a couple of dollars each.

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And I do resist the urge to buy one once in a while… honest, I really do.

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And see here?  Only Minnie Mouse and Pluto  on this shelf are new.  And how could I leave this collection without Minnie and Pluto?

And it’s not like butterfly collecting, which I shamefully admit I did as a kid.  You don’t kill and mount Pez dispensers.  Although I admit, I really don’t know for sure how their factory works.

But I also have to admit, Pez dispensers aren’t the only thing that turns my collecting urge up to the highest possible settings.

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So don’t hate me for hoarding.  If you’re worried, all of these things are available in stores too.  And I have worked on my photographicalizing skills a bit to share them with you.  And who knows where these treasures will end up when I pass on to the cartoonist’s paint box in the sky?  My daughter has vowed not to let them end up in a landfill somewhere.  Somebody will play with them and love them when I’m finally done.  MAYBE EVEN FUTURE GRANDCHILDREN.   There is a possibility, you know… always a possibility.

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Filed under collecting, foolishness, happiness, humor, photo paffoonies, photos, self portrait, sharing, strange and wonderful ideas about life

New Stuff Happens Here

Well, Spring is sproinging with a great green ferocity.  The wisteria that is eating the corner of the house by the pool is blooming.  The pool is full of winter rainwater and must be drained before it begins to bloom millions of mosquitoes.

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So, I rented a pump and started to drain the swamp.  (Yes, I know I could make a joke here about somebody orange who promised to drain the swamp and is instead putting swamp monsters in it…  He got his Supreme Court Scalia Dragon added to the murky deeps of dollar politics yesterday… but I won’t because I hate how the Twitter Baby in Chief is always filling my perceptions with dirty diaper business.)

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I collected some neat new Pez dispensers by stopping at Toys-R-Us to use the restroom halfway through my daily rush-hour trek to pick up my son from his school in Lewisville.

I found Fluttershy to complete the My Little Pony set, and I picked up all three of the Smurfs.  Brainy Smurf is my favorite Smurf because I like the way he constantly gets put down when he is trying to be too smart for his own britches.  It’s really nice when that happens to somebody who isn’t me.

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And when, at midday, I got so stuck in traffic I had to stop and take a break in Hobby Lobby’s air conditioning, I found some HO scale dragons, Pegasus, and a unicorn to add to the denizens of Toonerville.

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So life has generally been good to me, even when it is a little bit bad.

 

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Filed under autobiography, collecting, feeling sorry for myself, happiness, humor, photo paffoonies, photos, self portrait

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach may or may not have written his organ masterpiece, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in 1704.  All we know for sure is that the combined efforts of Johannes Ringk, who saved it in manuscript form in the 1830’s, and Felix Mendelssohn who performed it and made it a hit you could dance to during the Bach Revival in 1840 made it possible to still hear its sublime music today.  Okay, maybe not dance to exactly…  But without the two of them, the piece might have been lost to us in obscurity.

The Toccata part is a composition that uses fast fingerings and a sprightly beat to make happy hippie type music that is really quite trippy.   The Fugue part (pronounced Fyoog, not Fuggwee which I learned to my horror in grade school music class) is a part where one part of the tune echoes another part of the tune and one part becomes the other part and then reflects it all back again.  I know that’s needlessly confusing, but at least I know what I mean.  That is not always a given when I am writing quickly like a Toccata.

I have posted two different versions for you to listen to in this musical metaphor nonsensical posticle… err… Popsicle… err… maybe just post.  One is the kinda creepy organ version like you might find in a Hammer Films monster movie in the 1970’s.  The other is the light and fluffy violin version from Disney’s Fantasia.  I don’t really expect you to listen to both, but listening to one or the other would at least give you a tonal hint about what the ever-loving foolishness I am writing in this post is really all about.

You see, I find sober thoughts in this 313-year-old piece of music that I apply to the arc of my life to give it meaning in musical measure.

Toccata and Fugue

This is the Paffooney of this piece, a picture of my wife in her cartoon panda incarnation, along with the panda persona of my number two son.  The background of this Paffooney is the actual Ringk manuscript that allowed Bach’s masterwork not to be lost for all time.

My life was always a musical composition, though I never really learned piano other than to pick out favorite tunes by ear.  But the Bach Toccata and Fugue begins thusly;

The Toccata begins with a single-voice flourish in the upper ranges of the keyboard, doubled at the octave. It then spirals toward the bottom, where a diminished seventh chord appears (which actually implies a dominant chord with a minor 9th against a tonic pedal), built one note at a time. This resolves into a D major chord.

I interpret that in prose thusly;

Life was bright and full of promise when I was a child… men going to the moon, me learning to draw and paint, and being smarter than the average child to the point of being hated for my smart-asserry and tortured accordingly.  I was sexually assaulted by an older boy and spiraled towards the bottom where I was diminished for a time and mired in a seventh chord of depression and despair.  But that resolved into a D major chord when the realization dawned that I could teach and help others to learn the music of life.

And then the Fugue begins in earnest.  I set the melody and led my students to repeat and reflect it back again.  Over and over, rising like a storm and skipping like a happy child through the tulips that blossom as the showers pass.  Winding and unwinding in equal measure, my life progressed to a creaky old age.  But the notes of regret in the conclusion are few.  The reflections of happinesses gained are legion.  I have lived a life I do not regret.  I may not have my music saved in the same way Johann Sebastian did, but I am proud of the whole of it.  And whether by organ or by violin, it will translate to the next life, and will continue to repeat.  What more can a doofus who thinks teaching and drawing and telling stories are a form of music ask for from life?

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, classical music, commentary, happiness, humor, Paffooney, sharing from YouTube, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Now You See Me… Now You Don’t

How does an artist know himself?  Now there’s a difficult question.  I spend all my time looking at the world with the eyes of imagination.  I don’t even seem to be able to take photographs in the normal way other people do.  Maybe I should consider this self-think through the medium of pictures I have made with captions added to them?

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Mickey is not actually me.  He is my “other” me, my pen name, my goofier self.

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                                                      I was born in a blizzard in Mason City, Iowa in the 1950’s.

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I have learned about dog poop five times a day since 2011 when we found Jade, our dog.

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                                                                                                                      I was a middle school teacher for 24 of my 31 years of teaching.  I love/hate 7th Graders.

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When things go wrong, I tend to make a joke about it.

I like to draw students as I saw them, not as they really were.

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I always see myself as the one with the BIG pencil.

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If there is goofiness around here, it is all my fault.

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                                                                                           In spite of the title, I don’t know how to disappear.

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I love everything Disney.

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I tend not to be very much like other people.  I don’t think like they do.

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                                                                                                                         In grade school, I was deeply in love with Alicia Stewart, though I never told her that, and that is not her real name.

My high school art teacher told me that when an artist draws someone, he always ends up making it look a little bit like himself.  That is because, I suppose, an artist can only draw what he knows and he really only knows himself.  That being said, this post should really look just like me.

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Reading Twain for a Lifetime

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I wish to leave no doubt unturned like a stone that might have treasure hidden under it.  I love the works of Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

I have read and studied his writing for a lifetime, starting with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer which I read for myself in the seventh grade, after seeing the musical movie Tom Sawyer starring Johnny Whittaker as Tom.  I caught a severe passion, more serious than a head-cold, for the wit and wisdom with which Twain crafted a story.  It took me a while to acquire and read more… but I most definitely did.  I took an American Literature course in college that featured Twain, and I read and analyzed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I also bought a copy of Pudd’nhead Wilson which I would later devour in the same thoroughly literate and pretentious manner as I had Huck Finn.  Copies of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Mysterious Stranger were purchased at the same time, though I didn’t read them cover to cover until later during my years as a middle school English teacher.  I should point out, however, that I read and re-read both of those, Connecticut Yankee winning out by being read three times.  As a teacher, I taught Tom Sawyer as an in-class novel assignment in the time when other teachers thought I was more-or-less crazy for trying to teach a 100-year-old book to mostly Hispanic non-readers.  While the lunatic-inspired experiment was not a total success, it was not a total failure either.  Some kids actually liked having me read parts of it aloud to them, and some borrowed copies of the book to reread it for themselves after we finished as a class.

marktwaindvd2006During my middle-school teaching years I also bought and read copies of The Prince and the Pauper, Roughing It, and Life on the Mississippi.  I would later use a selection from Roughing It as part of a thematic unit on Mark Twain where I used Will Vinton’s glorious clay-mation movie, The Adventures of Mark Twain as a way to painlessly introduce my kids to the notion that Mark Twain was funny and complex and wise.

I have also read and used some of Twain’s most famous short fictions.  “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg” are both masterpieces of Twain’s keen insight into the human psyche and the goofy and comic corruptions he finds there.

And now, retired old me is reading Tom Sawyer Abroad.  And, though it is not one of his finest works, I still love it and am enthralled.  I will review it and share it with you when I am finished.  But I will never be through with Mark Twain.  Not only is there more of him to read, but he has truly been a life-long friend .

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Toonerville Trickshots

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Today, in view of ill health and brain pain, I will share with you some of the more picture-intensive thinking going on in my sick old artsy-fartsy brain.  Less words equals less headache.

The subject today is Toonerville, the little town that once existed on my HO model train layout, and now lives on my bookshelves and even more-so in my imagination.  I have a file of photos I made of it intending to composite them into backgrounds and details in photo-shopped cartoons.

Notice how one building from different angles can look like many different places.

And details can be cropped out so that a building can be placed over a background in a composite image.

Thus a lighted model becomes Bill Freen’s house in Toonerville.

And I have many of these buildings to experiment with.

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Sometimes this blithering nonsense can actually be quite fun and productive.

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Honestly, I built these things from kits or painted and repainted them decades ago… but they are a part of a place that I still live in.

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