Category Archives: insight

Today at Sunrise

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I was able to take a picture of a pink sky this morning.  Each dawn that comes is a gift.  None of them are guaranteed.  I haven’t gone to the doctor now in almost three years, not because my diabetes is not making me ill, but because I can’t afford to go on a regular program of insulin.  I don’t know how long I can continue to take pictures of the dawn and write about appreciating it.  But it doesn’t matter. I am here now.  And for today I have found treasure.

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You Are Not Alone

Mary Murphy's Children

Losing the pool this summer was a humbling experience.  I had repaired it before and got it working properly again, so I knew in my heart I was capable of salvaging it.  But everyone was against me.  The city was convinced that I was a deadbeat letting it slide and simply lying about it taking a long time because illness and financial reversals were slowing me down.  My family was against me because they no longer had any confidence that I could still do it, and they feared me killing myself in the attempt.  And then Bank of America won their lawsuit and prevented me from paying for the effort, thoroughly punishing me for the mistaken notion that I had any right to get myself out of medical debt even with the help of a lawyer.  And the electrical problems, which I could not correct myself, put the pool restoration out of reach.  I failed to do what I knew in my heart I was capable of.  I failed.  I was the only one who believed I could do it, and I only managed to prove everybody else right.

But Michael Jackson’s somewhat creepy nudie video with the weird Maxfield Parrish parody in it is actually a theme song for what I learned about myself.  I was alone in the pool-restoration struggle.  But I am not alone in life.  I will never be alone, even if somehow I ended up the last person alive on the planet.  Because we are all connected.  We are all a part of one thing.  We are not alone, even when we are.

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I think I learned that best from my Grandmother, Mary A. Beyer.  She was a rock-solid believer in Jesus through the pragmatic Midwestern arm of the Methodist Church.  She also gradually became an isolated, lonely individual, living by herself in Mason City, Iowa.  Grandpa Beyer died in his fifties, when I was about ten.  Great Grandpa Raymond, who lived with them for as long as I can remember, passed away a few years later.  But she was never really alone.  Jesus Christ was a real person to her.  She read her Bible and her weekly copies of the Methodist publication, The Upper Room, constantly.  And she was always a central part of our lives.  Christmases at Grandma Beyer’s place are deeply woven into the fabric of my memory.  The bubble lights on the Christmas tree, the carefully saved and re-used wrapping paper from the 1940’s, the hot cocoa, and Christmas specials on her RCA color TV…  I still draw strength and love from those things, and from her faith, even after almost twenty years pretending Christmas was evil as a Jehovah’s Witness.  Simple truth and faith shared are some of those essential things that bind us together even though they are invisible to the eye.   My Grandma Beyer is still with me even when I am fighting off the pool harpies all by myself because the things she taught me and the love she had for me still live in me, still affect who I am and how I act and what I truly believe in.

I am not alone.

And you aren’t either.  I am here for you.  I value you as human being.  God tells me I should, even though God is probably not real, and I believe Him, even though I am a fool who probably really doesn’t know anything  And it is true even if I do not know you and never met you.  Heck, you may be reading this after I am long dead.  And it is still true.  Because we have shared life on this planet together.  We are both humans.  We both think and feel and read and believe stuff.  And I love you.  Because my Grandma taught me that I should, just as someone, somewhere in your life taught you.

You are not alone.

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The Man in the Mirror

Every now and again we have to stop what we are doing for a moment and examine ourselves.  If we are writers, we tend to do it every fifteen minutes or so.  You have to expose the soul to the light of day for a moment and take a look with eyes wide open, prepared to see the worst… but also open to seeing beauty where you may not have seen it before.

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So what do I see when I look in the mirror?  More darkening age spots, more patches of psoriasis with increasingly red and irritated potential infections.  Drooping eyes that have lost their sparkle and now darken with blue melancholy.  I see a man falling down.  Falling slowly, but falling never-the-less.  It happens to everybody with age.  I can no longer do the job I loved for 31 years.  I am no longer the goofy Reluctant Rabbit with the big pencil in the front of the classroom, telling stories and making learning happen.

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Once I was a big deal to little people.  Once I created magical experiences involving books and great authors, poems and great poets… and I taught little people how to write and master big words.  I mattered like a big frog in a small pond, able to make the biggest splash in that particular pond.  I was the froggiest.  But I haven’t drawn myself as a frog yet.

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Of course, I was never as big as that other Michael.  He made a really big splash in a really big pond.  He was a really big frog.

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He and I have a lot in common.  Not far off in age.  We got married about the same time.  Both had three kids, two boys and a girl.  Both were associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses at one point.  Both of us never really grew up.  He had Peter Pan Syndrome, and I stayed in school my whole working life.

And everybody has a dark side, in counterpoint to their better angels.  I’m not entirely sure what my dark side entails.  Being a grouch?  A diabetic?  A closet nudist?  But I have one.  I trot it out to make fun of it constantly.

But as I was feeling sorry for myself, being forced by the city to remove the pool, becoming a bankrupt poor guy thanks to Bank of America, and generally in such ill health that I feel like I am wearing a lead suit all the time, I stumbled across one of those life-affirming moments.  A former student asked me on Facebook to post a picture of myself so he could see how I was doing.  I posted this picture.

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Yep, the man in the mirror is definitely me.  I got loads of complements and howdys from former students, former colleagues, a former grade school classmate, and my Aunt Wilma.  I heard from people I care about and they reaffirmed that they still care about me, even though some of them I haven’t seen in more years than I am willing to admit.  Sometimes you have to look in the mirror to see what needs to be changed.  Sometimes you just need to see the precious few things that were always good and haven’t changed.  It is a process worth the effort.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, grumpiness, humor, insight, inspiration, Paffooney, rabbit people, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Angel Thinking

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Yes, you are about to read more Mickian nonsense about an agnostical atheist who believes angels are real.  Heck, I not only believe in angels, I am one.

The word itself comes from Biblical Greek where angelos was the word for messenger.  And because the pre-twelfth century translators of the Bible looked at the “el” part and thought of the Hebrew word that meant “God”, they used angel to mean a messenger from God.

Now, I am not being a sacrilegious atheist when I claim to be an angel.  That is mainly because I am not technically an atheist.  I do believe that a spiritual creative essence informs the universe, but I am actually an agnostic because that means I actually don’t know anything   “A” for “not” and “gnostic” for “a know-er of stuff”.   I am a teleological idiot because I actually don’t know anything about anything.  But I do have the ability to look at evidence, weigh it, and reach a logical conclusion about what is most probably true, and I firmly believe in that  only until more evidence comes along.  I believe that particular thinking process is what is known as science (at least until better evidence comes along).  So, scientifically considering the issue, I stupidly believe I am an angel.  I bring possible knowledge from God.

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Grandma Beyer used to have a picture like this in sepia tones on her bedroom wall in Mason City.  I studied that guardian angel picture for hours as a child.

Thinking about stuff hard enough gives you insight, at least if you don’t over-heat your brain with hard thinking and catch your hair on fire.  A lot of stuff has been happening that I have been thinking hard about.  Here are some examples.

  1. Donald Trump is proving to be a really epically bad president.
  2. There are multiple really epically bad hurricanes forming one after another in the Atlantic.
  3. The spell-checker on WordPress hates how I spell epically.
  4. A monster earthquake hit Mexico.
  5. The Bible has this book in it called Revelations that calls for bad weather and earthquakes and a battle called Armageddon that will bring an end to everything.
  6. Kim Jong Un is an epically bad leader in North Korea who has nukes.
  7. It is easy to see where the unavoidable conclusion is headed in angelic “message from God” terms.
  8. Satan was an angel too.

So, as an angel, here is what I believe God is saying;

“As human beings, we all need to learn to love one another more.  Love is the only answer that cures hate.”  – God (No, really, he said this to me!)

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Seriously.  We need to take the weather anomalies as a sign that the time for climate change denial is long over.  We need to work together with all people on the planet to lovingly change those things we do that have caused the crisis.  We need to lovingly make peace with North Korea.  Fighting them will only lead to the Biblical ending of the story coming to pass.   I have an anomalous agnostical faith that there is a lot of truth in the Christian Bible.  (The spell checker doesn’t like “agnostical” either.)  Loving other people besides ourselves and the people who know and love us is the only possible solution to the problems before us.

Of course, I am saying all this angelic crappola tongue-in-cheek because I am, after all, a humorist, and I agnostically don’t know anything at all.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t mean what I say.

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Politics in an Alien World

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I am working on the end of my sci-fi comedy novel, Stardusters and Space Lizards.  It is about an alien world that is dying from too much warfare and ignoring of pollution-created climate change.  So today, after personally declaring war on the Trumpinator yesterday, I want to talk about politics.  Not Earth politics.  Alien politics.  Any resemblance to real-world politics will be coincidental, or the result of truth being far stranger than fiction.

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Let’s be thoughtful for a moment and analyze the way politics works on an alien planet.  The political world always seems to devolve into two sides.  Remember, we are talking made-up alien worlds here.  So let’s give the two sides completely made up names.  Let’s call them Dumbocrats and Ratpublicans.  They are nothing like we have here on Earth.  These are aliens, remember, nothing like us.

On one side you have the party that is totally self-centered and cares more about business and profits and what the individual can gain from those than it does about anything else, even insignificant things like other alien people’s lives.  These are the conservative, me-party folks who try to maximize benefits for themselves and the relatively small circle of alien people they care about and think of as their own.  We’ll call them Ratpublicans, again, totally randomly, for no particular reason.

Then, on the other side, you have the selfless ones, the ones who are more interested in making everybody happy, an exercise in futility that invariably leaves no one happy in the long run.  I mean, if you give everything away to help others, eventually you are left with nothing.  It is the reason liberal alien people often starve to death.  It is also the reason that these selfless beings get so used to being poor and having nothing of their own.  We’ll call them Dumbocrats, only because it is the name we have left over.

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What always works best is when neither side gets everything they want.  It is far better that the two sides grab the Enchilada of  Happiness from opposite sides and pull with relatively equal force.  That way it stays about in the middle and no one gets the whole enchilada.  If the Ratpublicans get the whole thing, then the most powerful, ruthless, and evil among them will selfishly eat what they want and horde the rest, letting everyone else, even less-powerful Ratpublicans starve.   If the Dumbocrats get the whole thing, they will give small bits to everyone, even the space rats and space pigeons, and visiting Space Goons from other planets, and no one will have as much as they want.  Keeping the whole enchilada in the middle of the great political tug-of-war is the whole trick to making things stay balanced and under control.

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If something throws the whole system out of balance, say an orange-headed alien in a gold-colored fright wig suddenly uses the magic of corrupt business practices to seize control of the Enchilada of  Happiness, then the whole system starts to break down.

Now, you may have noticed already that instead of outer space aliens, I have used old movie clowns to illustrate this essay.  I think it is entirely possible that the best people to listen to when it comes to the matter of politics and what to do about them are the clowns, the comedians, the mockers, and the fools.  They have looked at the way things are with a keen eye to find what they can make fun of and make us laugh about.  But because they are looking with a keen eye, often they are seeing the truth for what it is.  Did you ever hear what Charlie Chaplin had to say?

Of course, we all know this whole discussion is about aliens on other planets.  It doesn’t apply here.  How could it?  We are nothing like them.  We’re smarter and better and have all the answers… if only we would take a moment to realize that we do.

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The Truth is Out There… Somewhere

My novel Catch a Falling Star is about an alien invasion that goes horribly wrong for the aliens.  I wanted to make the story as realistic as possible, even though, admittedly, the story is really about people on Earth.  The thing is, in order to supply realistic details to a story I had been working on for twenty-plus years, I started researching alien encounters with a certain gleeful seriousness, being a Carl Saganite who didn’t believe anything that was not provable and was always open to finding proof.

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The thing about the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory and alien encounters is that the Wonderland on the other end contains proof of all sorts, for and against, with varying degrees of veracity.  And if you follow the white rabbit of truthiness far enough, you are definitely going to find out things that, at the start of it all, you really did not want to know.  There is a big downside to being way too smart for your own good.

Here’s a bit of validated conclusion on my part that will probably disturb you if you have seen even half as many fake alien videos on YouTube as I have.  Skinny Bob is real.  If you are immediately disgusted with how foolish and easily fooled you think I am after that statement, actually watch both videos all the way to the end so you can follow how I made this remarkably stupid conclusion.

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The first video comes from an amateur researcher who is part of the MUFON community and spends lots of time working on uncovering and disclosing the truth because he is compelled, not because he is making money.  He reveals that the leakers of this particular item of film property have gone about it in a way that protects their own secrets and has not led to making a lot of money.  In fact, they distributed the video in a way that guarantees that governmental forces can’t easily erase it from being seen, copied, and studied.  Still, as Nick Pope, the former British government UFO researcher, has stated about the Skinny Bob videos, they could simply be someone’s attempt to spend time and resources pulling off a masterful hoax in CGI and film-craft.   Some people do live to fool other people.  That’s where the second video really blows a hole in the white rabbit’s head.  If you watched the very last bit about the frame rate, you can see that the leaked footage was intentionally reduced in frame rate from 18 frames per second to 12.  Because I am an animation nut, I already knew that film in the present day tends to be 24 to 26 frames per second.  Not only did the frame rate of the film suggest it comes from before 1975, but that someone had altered it for their own reasons to change how it would look.  I immediately thought, “Aha!  This will prove it is fake and the alteration was made to make the footage look more real.”  But the restored footage doesn’t look less real.  In fact, if anything, the footage looks even less like a robot or CGI program image.  Why would someone want to make a video look less real?  We can now cook and eat that old white rabbit.

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And so, the inevitable conclusion. Once again the fact that so much effort has gone into suppressing and covering up these things proves that they are almost certainly true.  You don’t make an effort to cover up a total fiction.  Skinny Bob is real.  And there is more to the story.  And, dang me, I want to know.

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Mickey and the Mother of Invention

Cool title, right?  No? It needs a lot of further explanation?  All right, here goes.

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“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist of creating out of void, but out of chaos”—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Whether you prefer the stealer of Tesla inventions or the author of Frankenstein for invention quotes, you have to admit they are both right.  Those of us who think creatively try with all our might and mind to take the wreckage life has given us and make something new.  Preferably we make something that is good for us and improves our situation.  But sometimes it turns out that it only makes matters worse and creates monsters of the mind.

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When I was ten, I was sexually assaulted by a neighbor boy who was older and stronger and decidedly crueler than me.  It split my world into pieces.  I retreated into fantasy worlds and lived in my imagination far more than the real world.  The monster in my memory was locked away in a tightly sealed forget-me box.  I repressed the memory successfully until I was twenty-two.  My creativity and inventiveness turned to fantasy art and fanciful fiction.  I worked at having a good sense of humor, being a tough athlete on the high school football field, and trying to force people to accept me as the brainiac weird kid who always knew the answers in science class and could do practically anything except successfully talk to girls.

Surprisingly my greatest invention would turn out to be me.  I reinvented myself.

I would’ve never believed when I was young that I was made to be a teacher.  I lived inside my own head.  How could I be a teacher and control a classroom and make people listen to the various shards of nonsense that I was completely full of?  But, through gradual problem-solving, I learned to be an effective public speaker.  I learned how to be an engaging presenter.  I did a few magic tricks.  I told more than a few jokes.  Some of them were even funny.  I learned how to put ideas in front of children in visual displays and organization charts.  I learned how to teach people to read.  And more than that, I learned how to teach people to learn.

I honestly don’t think I would’ve learned to do all of that if my childhood psyche hadn’t been broken and hidden away in brain boxes when I was ten.  I might still have been an artist.  But not the teacher and story-teller I ultimately became.  Without the mountain to climb, a boy can never become a mountain-climber.  Without a star to see and study, he can never be an astrophysicist.  And without a brain filled with broken brain bits, a man can never learn how to put himself back together again, let alone teach others how to do it.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men are no help with this endeavor.

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Have I now explained my terribly tilted title?  Does this help you see how I have sung the songs taught to me by the Mother of Invention?  Probably not.  I am a rather dense little goof and the work of making me into me is not yet finished.  I crashed and burned again a couple of years ago when I had to retire from teaching.  I had to invent myself again as something new.  I am certainly not done hitting the metal work with a big black hammer.  But, perhaps, you can see the tool-marks on this blog and learn something from it too.

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