Category Archives: inspiration

Seeing Things Differently

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Where do I begin?  There are just too many ideas in this one topic to enumerate them all here.   I just got turned down on another loan application.  I am lost for what to do about the swimming pool.  I can’t fix it myself.  I can’t afford to pay anyone to fix it or remove it.  I am suffering from how the world sees me.  Debt to income ratio makes bankers see me as a deadbeat.  The city pool inspector thinks I don’t work hard enough at keeping my property from falling apart.  I don’t know what the doctor thinks any more.  I haven’t gone in for a check up in two years.  I can’t afford to go on insulin, so I simply don’t.  This world seems to see me as a potential homeless person in a short amount of time.  No chance that any one of those folks are going to let me define myself.

But suffering builds character.  And, damn!  I have a lot of character.  Want some of the extra?

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Life for me has always been pretty much a long march into the darkness.  I try to bring power and light and goodness with me as I march, but I know there is a final end to the journey, and it will not go smoothly.  It will not end well.  But I don’t see things the way other men do.  I continue to fight the good fight, even though I will ultimately lose the war.  “Rage! Rage against the dying of the light!” says the poet Dylan Thomas.  The fight is everything.  And I simply can’t be troubled with thinking about what lies over the last hill in this march toward the final battle.

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I think, ultimately, that the important thing isn’t winning or losing.  It is about who or what we have become on the inside.  I find solace in being able to laugh at life.  A lot of depressing things have been happening lately.  It can make the laughing harder to manage.  But if life is not joy at its heart, then what is it?  And what makes it worth living?

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu

Thus it is…  Lao Tzu is wise.  The Tzu part of his name means “teacher”.  So maybe I need to learn from him.  There has to be a way forward, at least until the path ends.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, insight, inspiration, irony, Paffooney

Things I Must Tell You Before I Die

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I collect sunrises.  The picture above is today’s, July 16th, 2017, looking east over the green belt park in Carrollton, Texas.  Every new day is a miracle.  I am sixty years and eight months old as of this sunrise.  I have six incurable diseases and am a cancer survivor since 1983.  One of those diseases is diabetes, and I cannot afford to be put on insulin.  There is no reason to believe I will have another sunrise tomorrow.

But I am not sad or angry.  I am not afraid.  I am thankful.  I have lived a good life.

And here’s a secret nobody has probably ever told you before in these exact words;  “Life is a miracle, and no matter how cruel it has been to you over time, or what terrible things have happened to you, the world is a better place because you have lived in it.”

Amazingly, those words apply even to Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson.  If you think about it, there was a backlash to all the misery, suffering, grief and death they caused.  In a backhanded way,  bad people make us come together, find the strength in ourselves to resist evil, and make the world better in ways it couldn’t have been if there had been no challenge or reason to do it.  Think of all the heroes like Oscar Schindler that Hitler’s persecution of Jews created.  Think of all the times a Satanic figure like Manson made you shudder when you confronted the darkness in your own soul, and how it made you vow to be a better person than he was.  And how you kept that vow.

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It seems I may have become a nudist in my doddering old age.  I signed up to blog for a nudist website associated with the AANR (American Association of Nude Recreation) and suddenly I have nudist friends who are encouraging me to take all my clothes off and go camping in spite of my little pink psoriasis spots.  I haven’t actually gone naked camping yet, despite the invitations.  But if I continue to blog about it, I will end up having to. Even though the pay per article is pretty paltry.   Hmm.  I still might not.  But you can’t be any more naked with no clothes on than you are when you bare your soul by writing.  If you have actually read my blog, you have seen things that are well beneath the very skin of me… all the way to heart and bone.  And here is the secret I must impart about all of that nakedness stuff;  “People are actually naked all the time.  Clothes merely make us think that we are not.”

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Here’s a really important thing I have to tell you.  I was a middle school teacher and actually loved it.  Don’t tell the people at the Institute for Keeping Crazy People Off the Streets.  They are probably still looking for me.  Though I have reason to believe they may also be entirely imaginary.  Teaching middle school kids will do that to you.  I was an English teacher for 31 years in Texas public schools.  I taught kids to read.  I taught kids to write.  I taught kids to laugh at Mark Twain’s story about a jumping frog and the people who bet on them.  I taught kids to be amazed at the ways and words of William Shakespeare, to see language and stories as poetry and music and the “stuff that dreams are made of”.  I taught them that Socrates supposedly invented school the way we do it now with teachers using the Socratic method.  So I suppose, realistically, you would have to say that I taught over a thousand kids in South Texas to sincerely hate Socrates.  But here’s a secret I must also tell you before I can die; “When it comes to learning about love and life and laughter, they taught me so much more than I could possibly have taught them.  I loved being their teacher for the too-brief time it was my privilege to be that.”

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And there you have it.  Three things I had to tell you in case I croak before sunrise tomorrow.  I am not saying that is what will happen.  Only that it could happen.  But there is wisdom in telling secrets and not carrying them with you to the grave.  Or was I supposed to admit that it is actually foolishness?  Now I’m not sure any more.  But it is one of those.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, insight, inspiration, Mark Twain, nudes, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, William Shakespeare, wisdom

Evidence There is a Living God

A humorist does well to remember that you should not joke about religion.  God does have a sense of humor.  But it is a sense of humor backed by the ever-present threat of being struck by lightning.  And among religious types, a sense of humor is about as common as a nudist wandering into the midst of a porcupine convention just as the thistle-pigs begin arguing about whether or not God is actually a porcupine.

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On the question of God and whether we actually have one, or whether he’s alive or not, we often turn to philosophers for insight.  Friedrich Nietzsche was a philosopher with a hard to spell name.  People often turn to him for evidence of god and the accompanying God-thoughts.

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But it is entirely possible that Nietzsche did not get the absolute last word on the matter.

Nietzsche was a bit of a poozer when it comes to questions about God.  He said that God is dead because the big guy in the sky didn’t seem to be active in the world.  At least, not since Bible times.

And if we are supposed to believe that God Jehovah is real because he’s written down in a magic book that so very many people believe in, they why isn’t god Thor to be believed in any more?  He’s written down in some very old books too.  And isn’t the story about how Thor almost drank the ocean dry on a bet just as impressive as Jehovah parting the Red Sea for Moses?

But Nietzsche wasn’t a complete and total poozer.  He did have some wonderful things to say along with the klunky and hard-to-understand God stuff he said.

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It takes a big mind in a big head to think of making the stars dance just by generating chaos-waves in your big old head.  That’s the kind of big idea that could become a religion of its own… if Nietzsche wasn’t already dead, of course.

But I tend to believe there really is a living God.  My sister posted an old picture of some of the reasons why on Facebook today.

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My thing one, thing two, and thing three (in the baby carrier with her feet up) are all the reason I need to believe in miracles.  Thing one was recently promoted to Corporal in the Marines.  Thing Two has applied for a job at Walmart, and thing three will be a sophomore in high school this fall.  Grandma Aldrich is in the middle between thing one and my sister’s girl.  The little blond one on the left is my sister’s kid too.  All of them are miracles in human form.  Grandma Aldrich is gone now.  She died not long after this picture was taken.  But her life resonates through mine, and through me to my children and nieces and nephews also. I would not be me if it wasn’t for her.

So there is proof of a living God.  Everything that exists cannot be erased from existence, even when it disappears from memory.  So we are all eternal.  We  all have touched the stars… at least, in a metaphorical sense.  And our bodies, science has proved, are made of star stuff in a literal sense.  So it is not too much of a stretch to believe we can make the stars dance.

And if my quasi-religious joking around has God thinking about how to apply a good thunderbolt, well, I was making fun of Nietzsche… wasn’t I?

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Filed under commentary, family, humor, insight, inspiration, religion, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Followed by a Moon Shadow

Moonshadow by Cat Stevens

I first heard this song as a freshman in coll20160424_181349ege.  It struck me that it was hauntingly beautiful… but maybe I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant.

The song is about losing body parts and being okay with that.

That can actually be kinda creepy, right?

It is probably a song about gradually dying.

But that’s not really what it’s about.

I am there now.  Peeling, cracking, drying out… my life has reached the downhill run toward the finish line.  But I am not worried and not afraid.  Life is so much more than hands and eyes and legs and feet.  I can lose those things and have no regrets.  I am so much more than merely the sum of those physical things.

My spirit soars.  And my life is bound up in words and meanings that are now written down, and are at least as imperishable as paper.  And may, in fact, be written on a few human hearts here and there.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, humor, illness, insight, inspiration, music, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Opening Windows on the Past

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This particular Iowa trip has me thinking hard about mortality and the cold harsh wind that blows toward us from the future.  My cousin’s only son lost his battle with depression, and his family finally came to terms with the loss.  But the sadness is past.   The responsibilities of the living is what remains.

I was born while Eisenhower was President.  I was alive and aware when Kennedy was assassinated and when men first walked on the moon.  I was teaching in a classroom when the first teacher in space was killed on the exploding space shuttle.  And I was also in the classroom when the twin towers fell on 9-11.  It is an important part of the responsibilities I have for being alive to keep that past alive too.

 

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My mother’s knickknack shelf.

The reason we collect and care about little extraneous things like porcelain eggs, angels, fine blue china plates, and the California Raisins singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine is because those little, otherwise unimportant things connect us to memories of important times and places and people.   We keep old photographs around, many of them black and white, for the same reasons.

 

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The fiction I write is not contemporary.  It is mostly historical fiction.  It is set in a recent past where the Beatles and the Eagles provided the sound track to our lives.  It does not cross the border into the 21st Century.  The part of my writing that is not about the past is science fiction set in the far future, entirely in the universe of my imagination.  It is my duty to connect the past to the future.

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And I share that duty with everyone who is alive.  My great grandparents and grandparents are now gone from this world.  But their horse-and-buggy memories about life on the farm before electric lights and cars… with humorous outhouse stories thrown in for comic relief… are in me too.  I am steeped in the past in so many ways…  And I must not fail to pass that finely brewed essence on to my children and anyone young who will listen.  It is a grave responsibility.  And it is possible to reach the grave without having fulfilled that important purpose.

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In times of great sadness and loss we must think about how life goes on.  There has to be a will to carry on and deliver the past to the future.  Every story-teller carries that burden, whether in large or small packages.  And there is no guarantee that tomorrow will even arrive.  So here is my duty for the day.  One more window has been opened.

 

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, blog posting, family, healing, humor, insight, inspiration

Albert Pujols

You have probably gathered by this point that I like Albert Pujols.  Of course, that would be the wrong conclusion for you to draw.  I LOVE Albert Pujols.  And I am not alone.  Not only did the man take my favorite team from the doldrums of the 90’s to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, but he did it with a work-ethic, a grace, and a power that restored my faith in a sport that had been rocked by scandal and steroid use.  He restored my faith in humanity.  He is not only a sports hero.  He is a really great human being… a super hero.  Did you watch the 60-Minutes’ piece?  There isn’t anything more to say about that.  Humility is part of the equation.

 

I got my love of baseball from listening to games on the radio with my Great Grandpa Raymond.  We listened to the Minnesota Twins take on the baseball world on KGLO Radio in Mason City, Iowa.  I heard Harmon Killebrew smack homers and Tony Oliva get key hits in crucial situations.  I followed the exploits of Rod Carew.  And then, the St. Louis Cardinals took over the 60’s.  They were in the World Series three times and won it twice.  Bob Gibson was pitching.  Lou Brock played Left Field and stole bases.  It was miraculous.  I would go on to live and die with the Cardinals every baseball season, even though I could only follow them through the newspaper and occasionally when they played the Cubs on TV.   Tim McCarver, Ted Simmons, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr, Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, Mark Macgwire, Scott Carpenter, Scott Rolen…  If those names don’t mean anything to you then you are not really a baseball fan, and you probably didn’t read this far anyway.

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Anyway… he did it.  600 home runs.  He is now part of an elite group in the record books.  And there is no doubt he is one of the best baseball players that ever lived.

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Filed under autobiography, baseball fan, cardinals, heroes, inspiration, sports, St. Louis

Books are Life, and Life is Books

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I just finished reading David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, his novel from 2014.  Just, WOW!  I guess this post is technically a book review… but not really.  I have to talk about so much more than just the book.

You can see in my initial illustration that I read this book to pieces.  Literally.  (And I was an English Major in college, so I LITERALLY know what literally means!)

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Look at this face.  Can you stop looking at the beautiful eyes?  I can’t.

I discovered Mitchell as a writer when I happened onto the book and movie pair of Cloud Atlas.  It enthralled me.  I read the book, a complex fantasy about time and connections, about as deeply and intricately as any book that I have ever read.  I fell in love.  It was a love as deep and wide as my love of Dickens or my love of Twain… even my love of Terry Pratchett.

It is like the picture on the left.  I can’t stop looking into it and seeing more and more.  It is plotted and put together like a finely crafted jeweled timepiece.

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And this new book is almost exactly like that.  It is a first- person narrative in six parts with five different narrators.  Holly Sykes, the central character, is the narrator of the first and last parts, in the past in the 1980’s, and in the future in 2043.  The titular metaphor of the bone clocks is about the human body and how it measures time from youth to old age.  And it is pictured as a clock ticking in practically all it’s forms, from a child who is snuffed out at eight years of age to horologists who have lived for a thousand years by being reincarnated with past lives intact.

Fantasy and photographic realism intertwine and filigree this book like a vast kaleidoscope of many colors, peoples, societies, and places.  At one point David Mitchell even inserts himself into the narrative cleverly as the narrator of part four, Crispin Hershey, the popular English novelist struggling to stay on top of the literary world.  He even indulges every writer’s fantasy and murders himself in the course of the story.

David Mitchell is the reason I have to read voraciously and write endlessly.  His works seem to contain an entire universe of ideas and portraits and events and predictions and wisdoms. And he clearly shows me that his universe is not the only one that needs to be written before the world ends.  Books are life, and life is in books.  And when the world as we know it is indeed gone, then they will be the most important thing we ever did.  Even if no one is left to read them.

And so, I read this book until it fell into pieces, its spine broken and its back cover lost.  To be fair, I bought it at a used book store, and the paperback copy was obviously read by previous owners cover to cover.  The pages were already dog eared with some pages having their corners turned down to show where someone left off and picked up reading before me.  But that, too, is significant.  I am not the only one who devoured this book and its life-sustaining stories.  Know that, if you do decide to read and love this book, you are definitely not the only one.  I’d lend you my copy.  But… well, it’s already in pieces.

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Filed under book review, education, insight, inspiration, strange and wonderful ideas about life