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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Closing the Book

I started writing about the garbage in my life here a few years ago.   I was told that it was the right thing to do, as it would compliment the radio show on WKY and give folks a chance to look a little deeper into the mind and soul of the artist formerly known as the "400lb Gorilla of Oklahoma Media."  I thought my friends were nuts, but they were right.  I've received quite a bit of feedback - both positive and negative - about my opinions, thoughts are various issues.  It's been a blessing either way.  I wouldn't trade any of this time for anything in the world.

From a political standpoint, legislatures across the nation are welcoming new faces, new ideas among their sacred chambers.  The hope for all of the electorate is that what has happened in the past, the adversarial policies could all be left behind.  Maybe, just maybe the future will bring something new and exciting and growth will take place.  In Washington, there's a bit of a changing of the guard, but we already expect more of the same.  The chapter continues...

My brother, Mark
In my days, I've faced some pretty intense adversity and admittedly, much of it is of my own doing.  I've made horrid decisions at many stages of my life on this planet and I've done some deplorable damage.  I think of the days before moving from my home state of Washington after serving 8 years in the Navy and they haunt me.  My brother lost most of his lower extremities due to diabetes and I wonder whether or not if I would have stayed there and took a more active role in his life if his world view would be different - maybe even save those limbs.  Then there's my cousin, Wayne.  He died a horrible death as a result of his lifestyle and I wonder if in that case were I there to plant my foot up his ass if wouldn't still be alive today.

And my two oldest children...Matthew and Heather.  God, what a disaster I've been as a father for them.  There's no one to blame but me.  It's the kind of thing that torments me daily.  They have become amazing adults, incredible human beings and this is in spite of my destructive force.

Mark, Me, Matthew, Dad
I see so many people around me who are having a rough go of it and I confess, I have no answers.  I hate the contrived, "I'll pray for you," sentiment because it's bullshit.  If you have time to "pray," you've got time to get off your ass hug someone's neck - and don't think I've got it down, because I am as guilty or more guilty than the average Joe.  I've tried to reach out, have spent a good portion of my life giving of myself to others but now, I'm just running on fumes.  I have to try and throw myself a life vest before saving the Titanic.  But it still hurts.  Where there is opportunity to be there for someone, I take it.

We often hear the axiom, "time to close that chapter and move on to the next one."  For some of us who have counseling resources on speed dial, we need to close the book and light it on fire and watch it burn until there is nothing left but a trace of an ash.  Over the last few years, I've written new chapters of my life, but they are all from the same story line.  I'm working toward that moment when it's released and the new existence begins.

Why all this depressing shit?  Well, I'm sure that there are many out there who are have a rough go of it during this Christmas season.  I used to think that I was probably the only person in the world experiencing this, but I've come to learn beyond the abstract, that there are others struggling to keep heads above water. Life isn't easy - much of the time it sucks ass.  But not being alone in the sojourn means so much...  To be able to look into the thoughts and heart of another may be the beginning of that walk of freedom instead of the walk of death.

Who knows?  Maybe you're reading the ramblings of a complete lunatic.  Time will tell.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Evil Is As Evil Does

Let me give you fair warning now:  Some of what you're about to read will probably upset your conventional wisdom apple cart.  The discussion of evil and its impact on humanity is a serious subject - but not as serious as we often take ourselves.  This is not for the wimps among you, but rather, I implore you to put on your proverbial "big girl panties," grab a chair and join me around the dinner table of unfettered dialog.

Humanity, when left to its own devices, is incapable of anything but darkness and evil.  For my Christian brethren, read Romans 3 and you will see my premise underscored, highlighted and bolded for your protection.  For my humanist, secularist friends, one need only look at the empirical evidence provided every night on the evening news.   Story after story of one human being harming another, ripping off another, using the judicial system to screw over another human - if that's not enough evidence, consider the following:

  • Every 2 minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in this country.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have experienced stalking in their lifetime.
In a previous blog entry, I covered some pretty scary statistics about domestic violence and how there is a massive under-reporting problem with violence against men in intimate relationships.  That being said, it's simply more evidence that humanity, when left to do what it will naturally do, will never choose to do "the right thing," but rather will embrace the darkness on one level or another.

Darkness doesn't just inhabit the innards of men.  Women are prone to evil just as much as men, but society tends to overlook the reprehensible behavior and attitudes of women because, I guess, the myth that they are the "weaker sex" is still prevalent in our culture.  It's easier and more acceptable on an emotional level to consider women "victims" than it is a man.  But even within those judgments themselves, there lies an evil desire to create imbalance.

Romans, Chapter 3 tells us quite loudly that "there is no one righteous, no not one," and that we have "altogether become useless."  Now, I know that comment goes directly against the doctrine of human potential, but I've already given you just a few examples of humanities inability to make the author of Romans a liar.  Then, in Romans 7, Paul gives is this incredible look at the dichotomous nature of the human existence - "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing."  According to Paul, we are incapable of keeping at bay the dogs of war that exist within us, but admittedly at varied levels.  For example, how many of us have been on a diet and knowing that our efforts will be wasted by sucking down that fast food, but we do it anyway?  We know our "temple" will be jacked up, but we cannot completely abstain from that dark side of our humanity.

So, Paul asks the question in chapter 7, "Who will save me from this body of sin and death?"  The answer is obvious, and it's evident he's talking of the Christ.  And for me, I believe that.  I don't think that we can have true peace until we make it right with the Creator through the sacrifice that took place a couple thousand years ago, about a 20 minute walk outside of downtown Jerusalem.  And I will take it one step further:

While the act of salvation, the forensic declaration of righteousness is all about the individual, there is a social, a community aspect to it as well.

In other words, we're not intended to be alone and we sure as hell can't survive alone.

The darkness that overtakes us becomes less controlling when we're not alone.  When we have someone with whom we can bare our souls, with a friend who can embrace us regardless of what dirt we have under our fingernails, the evil in our hearts calms, becomes more quiet.  There is a part of all of us that exists through divine intervention that by the nature of its very existence, connects with the light that is in others.  When the puzzle pieces of our hearts don't fit, however, the evil is exacerbated and becomes more intense.  But when the light within us connects with the light of another who truly understands and accepts us as we are, we begin to see a glimpse of who we were designed and created to be.  It doesn't have to be a romantic interest either - it could be a best friend, a family member, someone who just "gets you."

I've seen the evil that men do and continue to do, and it's not pretty.  Hell, I'm honest with myself and I've seen my very own evil manifest itself and I've seen the fallout.  I own it.  It's mine and mine alone.  There's no one who can or will ever take this burden and remove the scars, but you know, I'm honest about it.  But I've also seen moments when I've been able to somehow, miraculously tap into the river of positive consciousness and do good.  Sure, it's rare, but it happens.

Life is more than politics.  Life is more than liberal vs conservative.  Life is more than a damned bumper sticker.  Life is not your denomination or lack thereof.  Life begins with the death of our expectations and dependence upon human potential.  It begins and flourishes when we realize our weakened and evil state doesn't have to own us.  We know that we're not perfect and it is in that real acceptance of who we are that we begin to experience freedom.  There's liberty in knowing the depths of our depravity when we know it doesn't always have to be that way.  And it's a beautiful thing we don't do it alone.

It's just my opinion and I could be wrong - but I seriously doubt it.


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Musical Noise

Life is filled to overflowing with background noise, with chaos at every turn.  We see and hear about atrocities that were unheard of just 20 years ago, and yet we have become a little numb to it all because the noise of life has deafened us.  We're bombarded with noise all day long, both audible and visible, and it's no wonder we are collectively losing our bloody minds.  The political landscape alone in this country borders on the macabre and infects everything we do.  There are constants, however, that can be soothing, that will bring us back to a sense of peace and reality.

For me, it's all about the music.

I am often teased about the eclectic nature of my music collection, ranging from Mozart to Marylin Manson.  Yeah, I'm 50 and I still listen to Pantera, enjoy Slipknot, and even tap my toes to Kelly Clarkson.  Each of those artists represent something different, their songs speak to me in a different manner and address varied emotional states.  When I'm really pissed off and need to calm down, I turn on some Mozart and listen to the Marriage of Figaro.  Or, if I'm really pissed off and want to stay pissed off, it's Five Finger Death Punch or Billy Idol.  When I'm in a good mood, but sort of melancholy, I listen to Matchbox 20 or Rob Thomas - particularly the song, "Someday."

In my estimation, all music is a form of worship to the Creator.  I've seen, heard, debated and destroyed the fundamentalist argument that there is music that is "of the devil" - in some ways I agree...if you've listened to Contemporary Christian music lately, you'd see that it's neither contemporary nor Christian.   But the composition of music, the delivery and the emotion that it can draw is nothing short of evidence of the Creator's handiwork.  The way it touches us in the very core of our being is, well, miraculous in a way.  And for the record, I'm not the ideal Christian - hell, I'm not the ideal anything.  My thoughts and opinions of a theological nature have been battered, beaten and run through the spiritual wood chipper over the last few years, calling into question virtually everything I have ever believed.

Growing up, I always had an instrument nearby.  I played the trumpet, the baritone, the baritone bugle, the soprano horn...there was something always within arms reach to play and it eased much of the tension after mom got sick.  Today, it's much the same, but I play guitar rather than a brass instrument.  The therapeutic relief is much the same and for the last few years, there has been roadblocks to truly exploring the art.  Sure there was never an official blockage, but there was always the looming psychological threat that diving into music too much may not meet the requirements set forth therein.

So, what is the music that cuts through the noise for you?  Have you taken some time to listen, to share it with others?  If not, do so.


Monday, December 08, 2014

Refusing to Release 2014

It's difficult to wrap my already warped head around the fact that December is here, the New Year is rapidly approaching and Christmas is ready to stomp on us like a bug.  Where in the hell did 2014 go?  As a matter of fact, where did the last decade escape to?  It's true that the older we get, the quicker time seems to pass and how we get lost in the minutia of the moment and forget the bigger picture.  Supersonic, speed of light kind of travel is what we're talking about here, kids, and when that time is gone, you can't get it back.  So, again I ask, where in the hell did 2014 go to and how do we get a posse together to hunt that bugger down?

I was fortunate enough to spend some quality time with my kids this weekend and Maddie and Mason never cease to amaze me.  Being 17 and 18 respectively, they have had some pretty wild life experiences already and it has given them a perspective you wouldn't expect from teenagers.  They lost their grandfather a couple years ago and additionally, they are kids who have "survived" divorce.  We watched some Netflix, laughed a bit and talked about their work.  Without going into too much detail, we had some pizza and kind of relaxed.  They understood what it meant to "relax" - I'm not talking about being lazy, but rather simply enjoying one another's company in a stress-free environment.  It was one of those serendipitous moments that I will take to my grave.  My hope is that you get to experience those once in a while too.

Mondays when the Oklahoma legislature is not in session are an opportunity for legislators to show their constituents that they are still important, even if there is nothing of importance on their agenda.  For example, the fact that today, the members of the House are going through the "office lottery" where they get office assignments.  To the average taxpayer, it sounds more like a fraternity initiation than it does actually getting something done that is related to the will of the people.  Until the legislature's session begins, we can expect all kinds of frivolity from those who are elected, but lack self-esteem and are unsure of themselves in their elected position.  After the session begins, prepare for Romper Room.

War on Christmas
This time of year, every year, Fox News and its pundits proclaim that there is an alleged war on Christmas and it has become agonizing.  There was even a book penned a few years ago by one of their talking heads with the same title and yeah, it sold a lot of copies.  So, is there a war on Christmas?  I don't believe so and here's why:  If there was to be a war on Christmas, it should come from the members of the Church who know Church history and see the holiday for what it is - a secularization, an adoptive ceremony with other than orthodox roots.  One of the Pope's declared December 25th to be Christmas, and there it was.  Unfortunately, the date is inaccurate to the Biblical account because there is not a single "harvest" taking place in winter.  Unless you're harvesting deer, but that's not mentioned in Scripture.  But, do I think that we abolish the holiday?  Heavens no!  I just say that it's time to put it into perspective.  That's all.  And no, there is no bloody war on Christmas.

War on My Christmas
Admittedly, the holidays (I say "holidays" because I speak of the time from Thanksgiving to New Years) are kind of rough on me and have been for many years.  I know it's rather childish, but since the loss of my mother when I was 14, the holiday season just doesn't feel or maintain the same joy.  Sure, I've been able to pull it off for the kids and I love every minute of it, but at the same time, there is a darkness that accompanies the holidays.  I can't seem to shake it, have no idea why in the heck it's there with such intensity and I really don't know if I will power through it and put it to bed before I leave this planet.

There's No Place Like Home
During this time of year, we all think about "home" and creating a "home" environment.  For some, there is a big facade created where the house is decorated perfectly with Christmas trappings, the Scentsy has its holiday scents filling the air and the events for the days to come are rigidly planned and organized.  And when the time comes, God help you if you miss one of your cues or you don't follow the Happy Holiday Script.  On the other hand, there are places where there is no focus on pomp and circumstance, but rather a sanctuary where the very essence of Christmas is embraced. No one is afraid to share their love openly, no one cares what you wear - they just care that you're there.  Those are the places we call "home."  Many of those memories for me, those "home" moments, have taken place with my kids - all of them.  I just wish that we could have those moments in my home state of Washington.

2014 is just about behind us...let's say goodbye in style and do what we struggle to do - just let it all go.