Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Oh, The Humanity

Oh, The Humanity
Scotty Roberts

Ronald Reagan was the very first president I helped elect into office. Twice. Much to the chagrin of my Minnesota DFL (Democratic Farm Labor) relations, and my died-in-the-wool Liberal, Communist grandfather, I was the family’s token black sheep; the young turk Conservative. Call me the “Alex Keaton” of my family, the tie-wearing, church-going, Reagan revolutionary. For me, Conservatism was the political manifesto of God, and as a bible thumping, ministry-bound seminarian, I laced my speech and actions with the finer points of Reaganomics, and lauded the presidential pink-slipping of striking air traffic controllers. The 1980s was most definitely the Age of Conservatism, with its military build-up that bolstered the Reagan version of Roosevelt’s “walk softly but carry a big stick” philosophy, and the unfettered growth of corporate America, who proved to me over and over again that greed – in it’s proper perspective - was indeed good.

Ah, those were the days! Life was good for me, and as seen through my youth-colored-glasses, there were only better days ahead, filled with a bright future for my country. As long, that is, as Reagan could get around that pesky constitutional prohibition on his running for a third, maybe even fourth term, age notwithstanding.

One thing that has been seared into my mind over the years is that the older I get, the less I know for sure. When one begins to question entrenched beliefs, it rarely comes on the epiphanous lighting bolt of a decisive moment in time. It, rather, rides the slow oxen of the westward bound pioneer, who watched the familiar landscape gradually transform from the Appalachian forests to the prairies and the jagged peeks of the Rocky mountains beyond. My landscape has changed, but it was not an overnight process, nor did it lead me to the far end of the political spectrum. While I held true to the Reagan Conservatism of my youth - and still do in many ways – I found myself combating the hard line of ConservaTIVES who seemed to evolve into a form that I found was no longer representative of what I believed as a Human Being.

Oh, and there it is. Human Being-ism. I have morphed from being a political idealogue into being a humanist - and I use the small “h” deliberately, as to not be confused with the philosophical mindset of Humanism. Though disagreeing vehemently with his politics, I remember the words of my grandfather, who told me a very long time ago, his eyes filling with genuine tears, that he could no longer love a country that could let children and poor people suffer, while he and others who had means simply lived as though they didn’t exist. “The poor and downtrodden in life are invisible,” he postulated. At the time, I brushed him off as spewing socialistic jargon, but his words made great impact on my deeper thinking, despite the years it took for me to come to that realization. I think his words molded my psyche more than I would have admitted had I been cognizant of it at the time.

I have a great love of history, and one of my areas of personal study and research has been the nineteenth century expansion into the American West, more recognizable in the Conservative mindset as the Eminent Dominion over a Conquered People. Though a man of Welsh-Scot descent, I have always been intrigued with Native American studies. My own blonde-haired, blue-eyed children are an eighth Oneida (one of the tribes of the Six Nations), and I felt it was good for them to grow up knowing about all the elemental aspects of their heritage. I remember an argument that ensued in the mid-1990s between my in-law relatives and me while sitting around the Thanksgiving table. The heated discussion arose when my brothers-in-law – all avid anglers – were expressing their vehemence that treaty rights with the Milacs Band of Ojibway be rescinded. They were supporting a new legislation that would eliminate nineteenth-century tribal fishing rights on Lake Milacs. Their argument was that the Ojibway were taking too many fish, leaving none for the anglers and tourism-driven summer vacationers. Well, believe me when I tell you that the shit hit the fan when I reminded my fishermen brothers-in-law, that the treaty with the Ojibway included the phrase, “in perpetuity,” meaning that the terms of the treaty would be, in essence, “forever.” The business of summer tourism and fishing had suddenly become more important than the United States and the State of Minnesota upholding it’s end of a treaty, rendering the words “in perpetuity” null and void as soon as economics came into the mix. The Conservatism of my in-law family members outweighed the efficacy of the contract made with the Ojibway. They were ready to wage a new war on the Native American peoples of central Minnesota.

And this scenario has been reenacted time and time again with Native Peoples, from gold in the Dakotas to uranium in New Mexico. My Conservatism would tend to support the notion that this is a new age, and money should talk while bullshit should walk, letting economics and greed determine the civility, heart and humanity of the situation. The age-old cliché of the black-caped, top-hatted land developer tying the hapless, helpless farmer’s daughter to the railroad tracks was reliving itself in different forms all around me. And while I supported the conservative belief that money, development, industry and greed should have dominion over contracts, natural resources and common human decency, I felt that my humanity was being compromised.

I remember working for a big, commercial printing house in Lynchburg, VA, back in the early 1980s. I was a fresh-faced kid, working on my theological education and continuing to construct my conservative views. One of the biggest clients we serviced was Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, headquartered right there in Lynchburg. This was for me - a Reagan Conservative - like living in heaven’s backyard. One morning I was picking up some paperwork at the offices of the Moral Majority, and I had to make a quick stop in the men’s room. While I was conducting my brief business, a member of the Moral Majority’s senior staff entered the lavatory. I recognized him and he had seen me around, as well. We did the polite chit-chat that takes place between guys standing at public urinals, when he simply blurted out how much he hated “homosexuals.” He even paraphrased the words of Indian hating General Sherman by shouting out, “The only good faggot is a dead faggot!” I was in stunned silence, mortified that a senior member of the Moral Majority’s staff was decrying Gays while we both stood, holding our respective penises in our respective hands. All I could mumble out was, “I kinda see the love of Jesus as inconsistent with lynching homosexuals.” He spent the next several minutes berating my words, and telling me what a true Conservative ought to believe on the matter. That incident was one of the earliest remembrances for me of a Conservatism that aligned itself with God, yet so contradicted the love of God. This began my trek down the path of confusion: If Conservatism was good, how could it hold to ideals that seemingly contradicted goodness? And this defines the internal struggle I am engaged in, even to this day.

Now, perhaps I am being a little harsh with my Conservative brothers and sisters. I still hold to many certain Conservative ideals, but I have begun to temper those ideals with more heart and humanity – at least to a greater extent than I did before I started understanding how much more important those things were. And this has led to an innate confusion; the colliding of two internal trains heading toward each other on the same set of tracks. I understand and adhere to the Conservative ideals of personal responsibility and learning how to fish rather than being handed a free fish. I believe that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – not the guarantee of fairness. I know in my heart of hearts that the government that rules least is the government that rules best, and that smaller government, non-invasive taxation, the right to bear arms, and being a nation of Law is essential to the continued life of the United States of America. But where I start to drift from the mainline Conservative agenda is when I see human beings falling through the cracks of the decking of American Conservatism. You can’t eat idealism. Smaller government never prevented a needy family’s electricity from being shut-off for inability to pay. Sure, maybe in the long run our system of free enterprise can establish a better future for everyone, but what do people do while Conservatives are attempting to build their own version of Utopia?

Somewhere in the mix we as Conservatives have lost touch with our humanity. We promulgate great things that can happen down the road, but have no failsafes for the people caught in the mix of political rivalry. I have always believed that congressional gridlock is a good thing – the slower government moves, the better for anyone with a purse or wallet. But in the midst of all the fighting and political maneuvering, the people lose.

I am not talking about religion or moral majorities, but rather, about placing humanity above politics. We are to be good stewards of our planet and it’s inhabitants. We need to downsize government while at the same time finding ways to not let people fall through the cracks. We must strive at all times to uphold and defend the Constitution in its original intent, and in living recognition of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, not leave people behind, but help create opportunity. And in the meantime, help those who cannot help themselves.

I find myself from time to time wondering how Ronald Reagan would handle current foreign or domestic governmental crisis – W.W.R.D. – “What Would Reagan Do?” But as I grow older, I find myself internalizing things and letting them affect me on a much more personal level. So the real question I need to ask is not how my party or it’s representatives should handle things in my place, but how I, as a citizen of this great country and a free-thinking individual possessing personal freedom and God-given liberty, live and act like a Human Being. Conservatives and Liberals be damned

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oh Captain, My Captain

Oh Captain, My Captain
Scotty Roberts

When I was a kid, I didn’t think much about the kind of dad I would someday become.
I was too busy daydreaming and doing the stuff that young boys do in their prepubescent years to think about such distant things. My own father was an unknown, faceless stranger whom I never knew until I turned thirty and was about to be a father for the first time, myself. I grew up one of those so-called “latch-key” kids whose young, attractive, single mom worked hard as a waitress for meager pay and a few lousy tips. She would head to her job at a small dive of a pub every day before I got home from school, leaving instructions to throw frozen pot pies into the oven for supper and for me and my siblings to be in bed by 9:00pm. She had a few boyfriends in and out of the home during those years, but none of them ever became a permanent fixture. Consequently, I created in my own mind, a masculine patriarch composed out of the figures of fatherhood and masculinity that television of the late 1960s and early 1970s had to offer. I soaked them up like a sponge.

During my childhood afternoons I found myself less in the sunshine or out playing in the yard, than in the dimly lit basement of my mother’s home, watching television. Every day, for several hours-a-day, I absorbed the varied heroes of Tinsel Town television, the sheriffs, outlaws, adventurers and secret agents in such shows as Robin Hood, The Wild, Wild West, Lost in Space and Gunsmoke. They were the manly icons that constructed my view of masculinity; the varied elements that comprised the amalgamated imaginary surrogate father of my youth.

Yet, there was one cathode-induced hero who stood head and shoulders above all the rest. No other televised character could compare with the fictional leader who, to me in my childhood, represented an image of what I wanted to become as a man; an escape from the emotional turmoil of my youth. Designed by his creator to be the Horatio Hornblower of outer space, Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise established for me the image of what I began to believe a man was really supposed to be.

There was something very different about the good captain that struck a chord of harmony with that little boy back in the late 1960s. It wasn’t until recent years that I was able to uncover the buried emotions of my past and discover why as a young boy, I found a “kindred spirit,” if you will, with the fictitious space-age adventurer.

Now, for the record, I must state that while I believe in good psychology, I have a great fear of much of the psycho-babbly, gobbelty-gook associated with the more non-scientific facet of the craft. And, quite frankly, as a ‘Guy,’ I am not always comfortable revealing the deeper, darker side of my emotional make up. So if I delve into either of those areas too deeply, extend some gracious latitude by accepting what you can, and leaving behind what you cannot go along with.

As I was growing up, I buried myself in the lore of Star Trek, idolizing its main character, mimicking his mannerisms and persona. You were on very shaky ground with me if you ever criticized the Captain or his show to my face. There was a need for escape during those formative years of my life, and I have since learned that I used my affinity with Kirk as a means of burying the things that were too painful for me to deal with in the open. In a very real sense, I took my childhood pains and buried them in a metaphoric tin can somewhere out there in my backyard. And now as an adult man, searching desperately for the source of buried anger, hidden pain and modes of operation, I have stepped out into that old backyard in the misty dark of midnight with nothing but a flashlight, shovel and the tattered pieces of a old, hand-drawn map marked with an “X” saying “this way to buried treasure” sketched out so many years ago.

Captain Kirk, to me, was a lonely man. Sure he had friends, advisers and a great many lovers, but at his core, when you stripped away all the facades of his position, he was a man alone. The pains and mistakes of his past molded him into the person he was. His inner pain drove him to singularity, and he conquered his demons by cheating them and scrapping his way into the light.

As a kid, I had a great many demons in need of burying, and though I had no understanding or knowledge of the language or techniques of psychology, I found an ally in the starship captain when I effectively buried in him the things with which I was unable to cope. When I was six-years-old, my older brother and I were repeatedly sexually abused by an older man who was supposed to keep watch over us while our single mother was working as a waitress. Knowledge of these goings-on were kept very secret. My brother and I, under threat, never said anything of the incidents to our mother. The sexual abuse, along with years of physical abuse became the stuff of hidden baggage much later in my life. The anger and rage at being controlled, and the fear of being abandoned that manifested in me as a child, found a secure burial when I discovered Captain Kirk, a “father” who would take away the pain. These weren’t conscious, cognitive actions on my part, but rather the natural subconscious survival techniques of a mind too young to know how to deal with what went wrong.

The memories of the abuse never left me, but because I buried the feelings, those memories faded from full, vibrant color to back-and-white with a few shades of grey. When I reached the age of adulthood, I could recount the memories of the abuse, but never get in touch with how it actually affected me inside – and, quite frankly, I was oblivious to the damage that had been done.

In a very real sense, Kirk was the key to the unraveling of the mystery of my buried past. As I grew older, i grew less and less enchanted with the fantasy of Star Trek and its characters, and more into the mechanics of how a program like that was created and developed. I found that as I matured and in all earnestness sought to reconcile my past and dig for the missing pieces, Kirk became less and less of a necessity. I realize this now, but back then I had no clue of what was happening. The understanding has come with the retrospect.

As I began to learn more about myself and how to cope with the pain of the past, the Captain simultaneously became less of a hero figure and more of what he actually was – a fictional television character. As i learned to deal with my past, he became less important. In a sense, he held my pain until i was able to handle it myself. Funny how the mind works.

As I became a young man, I had no clue as to the nature of my buried issues, and it wasn’t until I hit early thirties that a lot of this stuff even started to surface. By that time, Kirk had long since passed into the realm of childhood hero, replaced with a fondness that attached itself to the memory of how much I had idolized him as a kid, and respected the actor who created him. And I am convinced it is because he carried my pains.

But there is even more.

When I was in my mid-thirties, I started seeing a therapist as a result of a marriage that was falling apart. I wanted to find out what was really making me tick, because it seemed as if not all the puzzle pieces were on the table. In one particular session, the therapist offered up a new technique she was using that involved a sort of mild, waking hypnosis. She held a pencil in the air between us and moved it from side to side. As she did this, she asked me to focus on any picture that came into my mind. She said to not re-live and experience, but to observe the memory as if it were being projected on a movie screen, or passing by my eyes, outside the window of an imaginary train on which I was a passenger. She made no suggestion, but merely asked me to concentrate on the first image that entered my mind. I do not know why, but the first image that popped into my mind’s eye was a rather disturbing experience that took place when I was about eight or nine years old. In this “movie” playing back in my head, I saw a memory in which my brother and I were cowering on the kitchen floor where we were being severely beaten with a belt by our very angry mother. This beating was more than a mere disciplinary spanking, it was an outright anger-driven lashing. She was attempting to get one of us to confess whose belt it was she had found lying on the kitchen table. We both insisted it was the other’s, and she commenced whipping us with it until one of us would ‘fess up. I remember we were shrieking in pain and crying wildly at each lash of the belt. By the time she had worn through her anger, my brother and I were covered from neck to calves with purple, black and blue welts. The beatings were so severe, that during our park board swimming lessons the next afternoon, the instructors made us wear our tee-shirts into the pool so no one would see the markings left by the punishment.

I looked at my therapist and mumbled something like, “Shit. I don’t know where that came from.” She very calmly told me to simply go with that incident and continued to move the pencil back and forth, asking me to concentrate on that image and tell me anything else that came to my mind. What I saw next made me chuckle in discomfort and wonder if I was simply conjuring up images out of my head that had no bearing on what she was attempting to accomplish. “What do you see now, she asked, “Don’t worry if it seems funny or weird, just go with what you see.”

What I saw next was an image of Captain Kirk, dressed in his gold-shirted, black trouser and booted uniform, kneeling on the floor next to me while I was being beaten. His arm was up in the air, blocking the blows being administered with the belt, while his other arm was wrapped around my shoulders, holding me close in protection.

I looked at the therapist and shook my head, and again laughed out of the discomfort of not knowing why this particular image was coming into my head. She again assured me it was fine and to continue going with the imagery and relating what came next. The scene in my head morphed from the kitchen floor to the concrete stoop outside the back door of our house, where Captain Kirk sat next to me, his arm around my shoulder, comforting me as I cried. Then the image of a religiously stereotypical Jesus Christ, clad in long white tunic and a red robe faded into the picture. Jesus was sitting on my other side, while both he and Kirk enveloped me in the middle, wrapped in their arms.

Then it was all gone.

I sat back and was weeping in front of the therapist, not understanding what the hell all that imagery was all about, and what exactly it had to do with anything I was going through. It was then that she told me I would not believe how many men my age had similar sorts of images of Captain Kirk during this sort of therapy. She went on to explain how Kirk was for me – and apparently many other young boys of my age group – the hero that was more than a hero. Kirk was a sort of psychological savior who boys looked to for strength and a way to cope.

So what does all this have to do with being a dad? Easy. In a very real sense, the fictional character of James T. Kirk became what I believe to be a divinely appointed receptacle for the issues that God knew I was just not able to handle. And as I grew stronger and more able to cope with these issues, God, began releasing the facts. Of course you have to believe in a Higher Power for any of this to make any sense beyond the simple psychology of it all. My quest is still a work-in-progress, but I feel as though every day is a step in the right direction toward healing and overcoming my past. I do not camp my life at the foot of my past, I simply now know where to look as a starting point.

Something else I learned through all of these experiences – and this delves deeper into an issue of faith: God is there for me to dump on. God craves my trust and waits with open arms to receive my mess.

As a Father and a Dad, I want to instill in my children a trust in me. I want them to grow up knowing who their father is, and that their dad is always available. I want them to grow up knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can dump on me and have full faith that I am there to receive them as they are and hold them up. And as they learn to trust and have faith in me, they will inevitably learn to trust and have faith in God. After all, God established fatherhood as a picture of what he ultimately is to humankind.

A valuable lesson I learned out of my past is this…. Dads (or Moms, as the case may be) are the best “portrait of God” children will ever have. Don’t let them find that picture in someone else or something else. Give kids what they are by nature craving. Be there for them, and show them a little bit of God.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Nephilim" - article for TAPSparamag's June 2008 issue

A shorter, edited-for-space article appeared in TAPSparaMagazine. Below is the full, unedited article.....

Somewhere in our darker past, before the days of modern psychological discipline and scientific advance, we, the human race, believed that our life’s fortunes, illnesses, woes and serendipitous happenstances were firmly rooted in the spiritual and the supernatural. As we evolved our technology and sciences, we learned more and more about the mind and body, universal expansion and entropy, geological tectonics, and the movement of our solar system around a somewhat smallish star that burned in the Milky Way galaxy. Along the way, we dispensed with our reliance on the ethereal, casting aside our need for gods, devils and every cast of angel and demon in between. We corporately tuned-out our hearts, and turned our minds to the methodological pragmatic, allowing Science and skeptical thought to successfully supplant faith in that great “Something-Bigger-Than-Ourselves.” Quantifiable fact became the inevitable surrogate for the misty stuff of myth and legend. And while we may not have totally thrown out the baby with the bath water, we have successfully become a culture that discounts anything that cannot be measured by the Scientific Method, casting dispersions on experiential faith and even the slightest adherence to anything that smacks of an older spiritual belief system.

The paramount endeavor that occupies most of the recorded history of the Human Race – after the history of War, that is (which seems to be synonymous with the history of mankind) - is the great quest for discovery; the seeking-out of the whos, whats, wheres, whys and hows of our existence. And yet, while attempting, on that quest, to adhere to strict, quantifiable sources, we have let go the Spiritual; the innocuous, insubstantial, airborne flotsam that, when you actually look for it, seems to permeate every facet of being, down to the very spark of life, itself.

So, what if the outmoded, outgrown, discarded superstitions - the things of the unseen, unwanted realms - really do have their basis in some sort of truth? What if the superstitious banalities we brushed aside in the broad swath of our skeptical hand, were truly the evidentiary stuff of things not seen; the substance of a very real universe that dwelt and operated just below the surface of the visible, tangible world around us? What if there truly exists a viable, legitimate source code that, at times, finds its way through the barrier that divides the diaphanous from the substantive? What if Science ain’t the end-all and be-all of this universe, and we really are surrounded by forces of good, evil, light and dark? What if there really are living, vibrant beings who dwell and function beyond the veil of the dimension of the here and now?

What if the old myths and legends, really do have a meaty weight of truth and fact? What if Jehovah, Satan, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Shemjaza, Azazel, and a seemingly endless list of other angelic beings are not just the stuffs of ancient hallucinogenically-induced visions, but the very real names of overtly real creatures who live and interact with mankind since millennia past?

The quandary we face is that every one of these questions have answers that can only be substantiated by faith, as there is very little quantifiable proof that angels and demons exist beyond religious scripture and personal experience. We know that Good and Evil co-exist in this universe due to the fact that most of us have experienced these opposing forces on a firsthand basis, in one form or another. However, quantifying their existence can only be substantiated in the end result and affect, rather than the causal source.

During my seminary days, back in the early 1980s, one of my professors, Dr. Charles Aling – now the chair of History at Northwestern College in Roseville, MN – told me for the very first time, “All myth and legend has at it’s historical headwaters, at least a kernel of truth based in cold, hard fact.” It was this, then, original thought that became the philosophical teat on which my spiritual philosophies suckled. Together, they became the motivating factors in my personal studies of biblical and historical mysteries.

Noah’s Flood was always a great Sunday School story told with felt storyboard dioramas, where I learned that God destroyed the entire antediluvian world by universal flood that covered even the highest mountain peaks, and all because of the sinful nature and habits of his creation: man. As I grew older, it became more and more difficult to wrap my brain around the account found in the first book of the Pentateuch, especially in light of the fact that other ancient African, Mesopotamian and far eastern cultures had their own Noah-free versions of what seemed to be the very same ancient flood story. What is clear in most cultures’ flood accounts is that a massive, judgmental deluge ravaged the face of the known world as a result of “fallen angels” who impregnated human women, producing offspring. This started me looking at the Old Testament Genesis account through very different eyes, and wondering why these features had been omitted from my Sunday school education. The notion that the Genesis flood was Jehovah’s wrath excised on the earth as a direct result of the wickedness of mankind is a misinterpretation at worst, and a gross misunderstanding of the events, at best. The Genesis text clearly indicates that the watery judgment was directly linked to the intermingling between “beings who descended from the heavens” with human women, and the resultant hybrid race that was birthed by that intercourse. The notion that angels were sexless is pure political invention on the part of early church fathers.

Now, here is where the difficulty begins: on one hand we are discussing a story found in a spiritual text whose interpretation is faith based, and on the other, we are examining the details from the faith-based perspective that there existed “extraterrestrial” (not from this earth) beings who were the focal point of the issue. It’s rather like using psychic sensitives as quantifiable evidence for a haunting – they may be right on the mark, but you’ll never be able to apply the scientific method to such unquantifiable research practice. So, for the sake of this article, let’s just simplify the process and look at the account as written, parsing it down to gain a better understanding of what’s really contained in the text. And for the sake of space, we will call this little exercise, “Who Launched Noah’s Ark?’” Let’s start by looking at the text itself:

Genesis 6:1-4

1 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that these daughters were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.
3 Then the Lord said, "My Spirit will not contend with human beings forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years."
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of the human beings and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
(Today’s New International Version)

These four verses from Genesis chapter six appear in the preamble to the account of Noah’s flood. Noah’s name appears for the first time in the text in verse eight where it states that he “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” These four verses comprise a very interesting passage in that it differs in writing style from the rest of the book of Genesis, having earmarks of having been extracted, edited and perhaps even plagiarized - at least in part - from other extant contemporary source material. If you’ve ever written a term paper for school, it’s like paraphrasing material from external sources without quoting the source. After extensive study of this passage, Dr. David Penchansky, chair of Hebrew studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN stated,

“This passage has been edited, either by the writer of Genesis, or by later scribes. It most certainly does not match the writing style of the rest of the book, and the language in which it is written is ‘choppy,’ almost as if it is reproduced in the text as snippets from other source material. And the account was, obviously, far too well-known at the time to be omitted completely.”

Who are the Sons of God?
In this passage we are told that the “Sons of God” looked upon human women (other translations refer to these women as: “the daughters of men/man; men’s daughters; the beautiful women of the human race; and even, ‘these girls’”) and “saw that they were beautiful.” In some translations, the Sons of God “lusted after them,” and then “married any of them they chose,” or in some translations “they took the ones they liked.” The title, “Sons of God,” has been viewed several ways, and various translations refer to them as, “God’s Sons, heavenly beings, and Sons from the Heavens.” It is clear to most biblical scholars that the title, “Sons of God,” refers to angelic beings, and this is supported by other passages throughout the old and new testaments, as well as the apocryphal Book of Enoch, and various other historical texts. It is interesting that even Jesus of Nazareth, himself, was called “The Son of God.” Whoever they were, the text makes it clear that they were bequeathed by the God who was above them; sons by birth, or sons by creative act, their point of origin is clear in all accounts – they came from the heavens and had some claim to being called sons of God. The following passage from the Book of Enoch introduces them within the framework of the Jewish/Christian tradition – despite their appearance in a book that was banned from the canonical scriptures by The Church - and offers up a startlingly similar account to the Genesis 6:1-4 passage:

1 Enoch 7: 1-11

1 It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. 2 And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, ‘Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.’ 3 Then their leader Shamyaza said to them; ‘I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise; 4 And that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime.’
5 But they answered him and said; ‘We all swear; 6 And bind ourselves by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intention, but execute our projected undertaking.’ 7 Then they swore all together, and all bound themselves by mutual execrations. Their whole number was two hundred, who descended upon Ardis (during the days of Jared), which is the top of mount Armon (Mt. Hermon in present day Israel).
8 That mountain therefore was called Armon, because they had sworn upon it, and bound themselves by mutual execrations.
9 These are the names of their chiefs: Shamyaza, who was their leader, Urakabarameel, Akibeel, Tamiel, Ramuel, Danel, Azkeel, Saraknyal, Asael, Armers, Batraal, Anane, Zavebe, Samsaveel, Ertael, Turel, Yomyael, Arazyal. These were the prefects of the two hundred angels, and the remainder were all with them.
10 Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees.
11 And the women conceiving brought forth giants.

According to Enoch, the Sons of God were created, bequeathed angelic beings who descended (fell down) to the earthly realm, and atop Mt. Hermon, made a pact to produce offspring with human women. To ascribe malevolence to these angels would not be wholly accurate, but Enoch’s book does intimate that should they carry out their plan, they were in fear of being held responsible for enacting a “sinful” deed in the eyes of God. Enoch goes on to tell of the attributes they brought down to the human race with them: enchantments, the making of weaponry, meteorology, astrology, astronomy, interpretations of moon phases, herbology and the signs of the sun, stars and moon. With these angelic-taught skills, mankind delved to the lowest common denominator by developing the art of warfare, and pursued wickedness to the point of stirring up Jehovah’s wrath. And the Sons of God were, indeed, held to blame, Shemjaza their leader somehow overlooked, and Azazel being held as the main culprit for introducing weapons and warfare to mankind.

And then there was their “giant” offspring.

The Nephilim
According to scripture, the offspring of the Sons of God and human women were the Nephilim, but I do not believe the term is solely attributable to the offspring only. The Sons of God who descended from the heavens, were known as the Nephilim once they took up residence in the earthly realm. So they and their offspring together became known as the Nephilim. It’s the very same scenario you have when an Irish immigrant moves his existence to America. He is Irish, but his emigrating act has given him the new title of American, and he and his offspring are now known by both titles: Irish and American, possessing a dual identity. But the children born to him in America bear the stronger title.

The writers of the 1611 King James Bible indirectly translated the word Nephilim as “giants,” yet the preferred scholarly translation is “fallen ones.” “Giant” can be better understood when you ascribe the values of height, distance from the ground to the top, descending from the heights, falling from the heavens, etc. While there are many scholarly views on the identity of the Nephilim, it would take an entire book to explore the different Hebrew and Aramaic root words that comprise the term. Then, once you’ve properly identified and translated the word, you have to take into consideration it’s interpretation based on the surrounding textual context, as well as the audience for whom the text is being written.

The root Hebrew word for Nephilim is the verb nephal, meaning: 1) to fall (to the ground); 2) to fall (in battle); 3) to be cast down; 4) to desert a location; 5) to fail. The “im” denotes plurality, giving us the “fallen down ones,” or the “ones who descended.”

The Nephalim can best be defined as a race of beings who descended – or “fell” – to the earth, abandoning their existence and habitation in the heavenly realms. They were angelic in origin, birthed by God, and they brought to the human inhabitants of the earth special skills, as well as an unearthly libido. Their offspring bore the same title of Nephilim, and the propagation of their mixed race on the earth led to the judgment of God in the form of a flood as described in Genesis and other ancient accounts. Also mentioned in the Book of Enoch is the fact that these beings descended to the earth during “the days of Jared,” the father of Enoch. His name means, literally, “Descent,” and he was named thus because the descent of the Sons of God to the earth, took place during his lifetime.

It is interesting at this point, to note that both Jared and Enoch are also mentioned in the bible. Genesis 5:18-24 says:

18 When Jared was 162 years old, his son Enoch was born. 19 After the birth of Enoch, Jared lived another 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters. 20 He died at the age of 962.
21 When Enoch was 65 years old, his son Methuselah was born. 22 After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived another 300 years in close fellowship with God, and he had other sons and daughters. 23 Enoch lived 365 years in all. 24 He enjoyed a close relationship with God throughout his life. Then suddenly, he disappeared because God took him.
(New Living Translation)

In the older archaic English of the 1611 King James Version of the bible, that last verse is worded, “And Enoch walked with God, and was not, for God took him.”

In Summary
Cultural traditions from all around the world have myths and legends telling of angelic beings who descended to the earth and interacted with human beings, ushering in some sort of cataclysmic, world-wide destruction of humanity that left scant, few survivors. When analysis of the languages used in the various accounts is compared, blatantly similar facts emerge, revealing a commonality between the varied cultural tales, substantiating a corporate mythos: flesh and blood beings who were revered as gods, interacted with humanity in the most intimate of ways. Can these things be quantified by the Scientific Method? Does this establish any sort of verifiable proof of a crossover between inter-dimensional races? I believe yes. While the data is not repeatable for experimentation, the historical annals speak loudly and clearly. When there exists such localized myths in geographical regions, repeated by other localized myths in far away geographical regions, over and over again, there is a certain scientific methodology at play. There is a message revealed.

There is so much more meat on the bones that I have presented above, that it would take weeks and months of reading to fully acquaint one’s self with all the material. What I have presented here is, hopefully, a tip-of-the-iceberg look at a very large, expansive topic. And it is my belief that that it is a subject of great importance in understanding our past, both historically and spiritually. There was a time where history leapt the established boundaries and intermingled with the spiritual, and if we look hard enough, and dig deep enough, we can find the wonderfully exciting buried treasure of discovery.

There is an incredibly revealing verse found in the new testament book of Hebrews. It is an engagingly mystical, yet somehow frighteningly admonishing passage in light of all we have explored above…

Hebrews 13:2

Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.

* * * * * * * * * *

Further reading on this topic:

1) “Twilight of the Gods: Polytheism in the Hebrew Bible” by David Penchansky

2) “Gateway of the Gods” by Craig Hines

3) “The Lost Book of Enoch” by Joseph B. Lumpkin and Joyce A. Dujardin

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Little Tam O'Hare History.....

I was just writing to a friend, recounting the highlights of this process, and I wanted to share some of it here with you... if you can indulge me the length...

The Rollicking Adventures of Tam O'Hare has been a long time in the making - nine years, to be precise. I started the book in December of 1998 after telling the stories to my, then, six-year-old twin daughters. At the time, their mother was away from our home undergoing in-patient treatment for her alcoholism (much to her credit, she has been dry ever since, and is still in recovery). So I was spending lots of extra time with Abby and Bryn, wanting to assure them that I was there, and that they were secure, in light of the fact that their mom was gone from us for such an extended period of time. One of the things I did with regularity was read to my daughters, but then I started telling little tales to them at bedtime and while we were just hanging around the house. After making up a few stories of a medieval Scottish mouse, they wanted to see what he looked like, so we all lay down on the living room floor and started drawing pictures with markers.

When we first started drawing, Tam O'Hare wasn't Tam O'Hare at all, he was originally William the Mouse, bekilted and very Scottish - I think I still have the original magic marker sketch of him in a box somewhere....

William the Mouse, in marker...

While playing with stick figures and sketches on that living room floor, William eventually evolved into a rabbit - an Irish rabbit named Tam O'Hare. (O'Hare = hare = rabbit... clever, eh...?) heh. Anyway, we were all laying on the living room floor, drawing pictures, and Tam just came out. He apparantly wanted to be born, and there was no denying him. The girls said they were "ok" with me changing William from a mouse into a rabbit. The Scottish-to-Irish thing had little affect on them, but it was a bit of a struggle for me to abandon my Welsh/Scot ancestry for Irish. But the girls liked the name change, so it stuck.

Bryn and Abby around the same time...

...and Bryn and Abby now...

Well, needless to say, I was inspired, and the very next day, I sat at my drawing table and painted the first picture of Tam and his young squirrel squire, Horatio MacNutt before even writing down a single word of the story. That original painting is now the picture that adorns the front cover of the book.

My girls have watched this process for most of their lives. The written book first was in it's "finished" form around mid-2000. My opriginal intent was that it be a big picture book, with 26 paintings and a short story for kids. My agent submitted it to several publishers, withmost of the story intact, but only a few illustrations. Most of those publishers came back saying they loved the artwork, but the book was "too short for a chapter book; too long for a picture book," and they told my agent to have me "realize the book one way or the other."

About that same time, my mother was assaulted and shot in the chest by a former spouse. My mom lived through the ordeal, but the attempted murderer was a fugitive from the law for a year and two weeks. Due to that incident, I ended up shelving the book for quite some time. During the first few months after the shooting, I founded a company with a friend called, Citizen Observer, and established a nation-wide fugitive hunting website, with the attempted murderer as the first fugitive listing. The website gained a lot of notoriety, and eventually, America's Most Wanted came to us and did a ten minute piece on the scumbag. They had two days filming with us, and even had actors portraying allof us! While it was very serious business, it was also quite a bit of excitement.

During this period, there was word on the street that attempted murderer was going to come and extract a little revenge on me, threatening my life and the lives of my family. At the same time, my wife became pregnant with our son, Sam. There were many nights I sat awake, all alone in the dark of my house, with my pregnant wife and children sleeping upstairs, and me with a loaded shotgun across my lap, and a handgun on the table next to me. Those were stress-filled days, and I kicked very heavily into my "father and protector" mode.

Twelve months and two weeks after the shooting, the fugitive was captured and arrested, and, due to his past record (of which none of us were aware prior to the shooting), he is now spending the rest of his life in a federal penitentiary.

Several months later, my marriage succumbed to divorce, and a year-and-a-half later, I was awarded sole custody of my three children.

When I picked Tam O'Hare up again, he was nearly a stranger to me. So I re-read my own book, and found how much of it was encoded messages about my self and my life. On the surface, it was a whimsical tale set against the backdrop of 16th century England, Ireland and Scotland, but on a much deeper level, it was about the "hidden" things of my own spirit; the elements of character I wanted to see in myself; the missing pieces of the past written in code - even to myself. Those things are still very hidden in the text, and will probably never be readily accessible to the casual reader. The more I re-read, the more I decided I needed to put a lot more meat on the bones of the story, itself. As a result, the book more than doubled in size to it's present form of 32,000+ words and fourteen chapters.

I resubmitted he book to my agent - who had been patiently awaiting my return to the work - and he, in turn, resubmitted
The Rollicking Adventures of Tam O'Hare to publishers. Months passed and we received a few more rejections. Among them were editors turning me down on the basis that Tam O'Hare was "too much like Brian JacquesRedwall series." This really angered me at the time, as I knew very little about Mr. Jacques' work. I bristled, creatively, at the implication that I was a "copy cat" of his work. I think I took my manuscript and threw it against the wall, and walked away from it for quite some time. I toyed with it from time to time, attempting to keep the idea alive, but never could get my teeth sunk back in.

About a year ago, my agent made another series of submissions with some very good responses, albeit, still rejections. Simon & Schuster's imprint, Anthenium, was "very impressed," but rejected it as not being within their genre, but that they'd be "very happy" to look at some of my other manuscripts (yeah, like I had a stash of other manuscripts in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet, or something). Still, it was encouraging.

In recent months, it was an old friend who brought my book to actual publication. He gave me my first job as an artist waaaaay back in my high school days in 1977, and we have remained friends over the last thirty years. In March, he took on representation of Tam O'Hare, and it was his connections that landed me my publishing contract a year ago. And now I am in the throes of book two in the Tam O'Hare series:
Tam O'Hare and the Banshee of BallGlenMorrow.

Tam O'Hare has been a long journey for me, riding the tumult of riches to poverty, divorce, familial crisis, and many attempts by me to shelve it and move on to other things.

I am ever so glad I didn't.

Thanks again, for all your support and encouragement. And to those of you who believed in me when no one else did... thank you.


I am NOT Brian Jacques

Hey Folks!
As the title of this blog alludes, I get lots of queries as to whether or not I was influenced by, or am familiar with the Redwall series by Brian Jaques.

The simple answer to that question is: Yes and No.

While I am familiar with Mr. Jaques' titles, and the cover art adorning his books, I am wholly UN-familiar with the contents of his books, beyond some surface research I have done for the sake of comparison. I read one chapter of one of his books, then put it down so as to DELIBERATELY NOT write in any style that would be construed as being influenced by his body of work.

Since the genre in which I am writing and illustrating is similar to Brian Jaques work, I wanted to steer clear of being interpreted as a "copy cat" or a "Brian Jaques, Jr." Not that the comparsison is not flattering, as his work is so prolific and wide-spread, with millions of avid readers, but when an author/artist creates something, he loathes the idea or notion that his "original" work is a copy of someone else's. Hence my cognitive distancing of myself from Mr. Jaques' books. To be frank, I have never read a single one of Brian Jacques' books, in order to maintain my creative integrity on Tam O'Hare.

Here are some of the differences between Redwall and Tam O'Hare, as I see them...

1) Redwall is set in an almost medieval-like fantasy realm - albeit, very British in tone; i.e.: accents, dialects, etc.

Tam O'Hare is set in "real" history - England, Ireland and Scotland of the mid-sixteenth century, with actual historical nameplaces and geography. I have also incorporated the use of Gaelic phrases, as well as lots of nautical terms for the ships and sea battles.

Redwall's characters are all fictional creations of Brian Jaques' mind.

While Tam O'Hare, Horatio MacNutt and some of the other characters are all ficticious creations of mine, they are surrounded with, and interact with real historical characters - albeit fictionalized within their historical contexts - such as: Elizabeth I of England; Mary Stewart, Queen of the Scots; James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell; John Knox and several others.

3) Character names in the Redwall series. A recent 2002 release by Brian Jaques was entitled, Rackkety Tam, picturing a kilt-adorned, sword-weilding squirrel on the cover of the book.

Tam O'Hare is a character created by me in 1998, complete with a green bonnet, sword (a variation on the circa 1520 Venetian Serenissima Rapier), and a Scottish plaid mantle. The doublet Tam O'Hare is wearing was loosly based on the doublet worn by Charles I of England (from a painting done by Daniel Mytens in 1631 - about 50 years too late in fashion, but modified for my usage). All that to say that Tam O'Hare, while costumed by historical reference, is quite original. Oh, and his name was inspired by the old Scottish legend, Tam Lyn. and Rabby Burns's, Tam O'Shanter.

4) Brian Jaques incorporates British dialects in hs characterizations, recognizable as haling from certain geographic locales in Great Britain.

Tam O'Hare is an Irish Lord of the 16th century, and the vocal patterns I write for him are very refined, with a smack of Irish turn-of-phrase. The pirate racoons in the book are written with what has come to be thought of as "pirate slang," such as "...a ship the likes o' ours, what is engaged in the buisness o' piratin'..." or: "Cap'n sez, ye're to stay in yer cabin! And we're here t'make sure ye stays!" Pirate speak. heh.

5) The genre of Redwall is anthropomorphized - the ascribing of human form or attributes to animals.

This is a similarity between my work and Jaques' work. Both stories are anthropomorphized - much like Micky Mouse, Disney's fox as Robin Hood, Fivel the Mouse, Ren and Stimpy, Bugs Bunny, Brian the Dog in Family Guy, etc... ad infinitum...

6) Revisiting #1 above with a slightly different detail,
Redwall's geographic locations are fictional, set in a fantasy realm of Brian Jaques' creation.

Tam O'Hare is set in historically recognizable locations in England, Ireland and Scotland.

7) Redwall, as far as I can tell by book titles and cover art, and the little bit of research i have done, is a series of stories that does not have a recurring main character.

Tam O'Hare is the main charcter of what I intend to be a series of books - wholly dependent, of course, on the success and public reception of the first. Sorry to say, but no matter how creative a book may be, if it does not SELL WELL, the publisher will not continue to contract future books. The planned series will focus on the exploits of Lord Tam O'Hare of HareHenge castle, each tale revolving around his exploits and the paranormal aspects of Celtic mythology as experienced in 16th century Ireland.

So, as you can see, while there are similarities, the differences are vast.

I am honored to have the comparisons drawn, but at the same time, am more than eager to distance myself and my work from that of Mr. Jaques', in that The Rollicking Adventures of Tam O'Hare is a thoroughly original creation of my own, and will hopefully create it's own "coattails," rather than ride on the success of others.

Your questions and comments are more than welcome.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Living Backward.....

I have often been accused of being over-analytical. Pshaw, i say. heh. Actually, I think i am too damn complex. I sometime dig so deep to gain understanding, that I get lost in my search.

However, I am coming to a place where I have started asking myself: does my analyzing provide any useful insights, or is it my attempt to control the "Uncontrollable?" Am I taking useful personal inventory, and going through rigorous reevaluation to actually acheive a goal of betterment, or am I engaging in these activities to merely avoid work that needs to be done by keeping my mind occupied?

I have learned that Knowledge is power, and I have striven to increase my base of knowledge in order to gain Wisdom and "power" in my life. But what I am also learning is that sometimes my thirst for Knowledge can be my attempt to exercise power where I am powerless.

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."
~Soren Kierkegaard

Writer's Block.....

Some days, I just haven't a clue. There are no magic words, no prattling prose, no passionate reverie.

I look out my window. The sun crests the brown horizon, it's shafts broken by the novemberene mosaic of branches, yet no words flood the echoing cesspool of my brain - no words play hopscotch off the tip of my tongue. I am devoid of ability to comment on the celestial rolling of the gears.

Ah, coffee, sweet coffee! Your aromatic tendrils curl around me, caressing my olfactories, stirring memories of other sunrises enjoyed from adirondackian vantage. I yield to your robusto. I capitulate to your grandiose tyranny. The passenger door of my soul is flung wide to your meretricious gaudiness, and for a short time, I accept your play-act as "one and only," tempting me to bide longer when I leave my emptied cup as payment on the nightstand.

Ah, glorious coffee! Mental radiance in a ceramic cup! Arbiter of lucidity! Caffeine in excelsis!

My mind is an open conduit, a fertile playground to your ground-beanial suggestion....

Monday, November 07, 2005


I spent a lot of time with my kids this weekend. Their mom, Annette, and I had a big go-'round in front of them, despite my attempts at sheltering them from this sort of bullshit. I try to always be civil and right-headed when issues arise with their mother, and I work very hard at shielding my kids form the crap, but even I, the smart, level-headed one, got a little out-of-hand with her.

Annette got some free tickets from her church to take my daughters to a Christian Girls' Concert/Conference for Friday night and all-day Saturday. She asked if she could stay here at the house, and I was more than gracious with my hospitality, as I have been on several occasions. She stayed down in the girls' room. On saturday morning, I made everyone breakfast, and ran to the grocers early to get them some snack stuff they could take along. Over coffee, Annette asked me if I had any "extra cash" I could give the girls so they could buy t-shirts, CDs and whatever while at the concert/conference that day. I thought SHE had them covered, since it was her thing for them, but she said she had no cash. So I forked over a $50 bill to the girls and told them to get some fun stuff from the concert. They were pretty wide-eyed and thankful, and started enumerating the CDs and t-shirts they wanted to purchase.

What I found out late that afternoon, AFTER they returned home, was that their mom confiscated the $50 before even leaving the house to drop them at the conference that morning, ordering them to NOT tell me. She spent the money on a toy for Sam and stuff for herself, shopping while the girls were at their concert with not a single dime to get any souvenieres or CDs of their favorite singing groups.

I was pissed.

I confronted Annette and said, "I really do NOT appreciate your taking the girls' concert money. I need my change." Without saying a word, she locked her jaw, looked away from me and dug the remaining $20 out of her pocket and said that the girls "owed her $30" anyway. I got pretty angry - but as i always do, remained fairly calm and reasoned, and told her that she had been dishonest with me and disingenuous with her daughters for requesting money from me under the guise of it being for them, then promptly taking it from them in secret and pocketing it for herself. She responded that what happened between her and "her daughters" was none of my business.

I blanched.

I told her that it most certainly WAS my business. She then tried to launch into old issues from before the divorce five years ago. I derailed that immediately, saying that we could talk about anything she wanted to talk about at a different time, and that we needed to remain on the topic at hand. I reminded her that she was under the hospitality of my home. She scoffed at that and did the belittling chuckle thing. I told her that if she couldn't discuss the issue like adult parents, then she needed to leave.
Which she did.

Annette was using THEIR money to please herself. Then trying to pass it off as "none of my business" because the girls "owed her" $30 anyway. I asked her, "When should they owe you ANYTHING?? Further, why should you play the banker and confiscate their money that they "owed you" a half hour before they left for their concert?" I further pointed out that she has contributed NOT ONE penny to their upbringing. She scoffed at me and laughed again.

I repeated that she needed to leave.

She then wanted to take the kids to her home in Wisconsin overnight. I told her that she could, but she would have to drive them home the next day. She refused, saying that "in accordance with the divorce decree" it was MY responsibility to drive the kids on return trips. I then reminded her that I had done her several favors by drving the kids both ways several times over the last few months. I also reminded her that I had given her gas money so she could make the trips when she was short of gas. She replied that she thought I was doing her a favor, not demanding repayment and that she refused to drive them back home the next day.

I stared for a second, blinked once or twice and told her that if she didn't "get it," she needed to get the hell out of my driveway.

The girls begged her to stay and settle things with me, but it was more important for her to leave than it was for her to see her kids and work the situation out with me. She drove off with a flourish and a hearty "fuck off!" to me - in front of my kids - leaving the girls crying in the driveway, and Sam bawling. I hurt for my kids. I sat for quite awhile with all three of them huddled on my lap, crying after she left. Abby said she fears that after every time Annette does this, she will never see her mom again.

I cancelled all other plans for the day, and after they calmed down a bit, I took them all to a movie instead. Sam revitalized pretty quick at the prospect of "Zorro." After the movie, we spent the rest of the night at home, watching movies and eating pizza. That's when Sam did his little dance routine on the fireplace hearth. heh.

Done venting... for the moment.

Taking a deep breath... very frustrated, wishing Annette would fall off the planet and relieve everyone of all the strife she puts us through. I could handle her by myself, but she is so infectious to my kids.

Enough for now.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Dsappointment with God... and Friends...

In recent months I've gone through an unbelieveable amount of devastating, emotional shit in my life. My not-so-usual response left me in a temporal, uncharacteristic depression and an a-typical abrasive moodiness that was the outer manifstation of inner turmoil - despite my wrongly thinking I was handling myself with a modicum of grace and tact. I tend to be someone who lets all his friends lean on him for help, council and support, yet during this period, my antics and out-of-character funk seems only to have driven the people who I considered my friends far away. Not only have I gone through some life-altering, devastating events, but to add insult to injury, the friends I thought I had seemed to grow distant and judgemental and gossiping, as opposed to closer and more supportive. This just added to the pile of hurt and pain.

I put my neck out there for my friends. When possible, i stand in the gap and make myself available to be there for them. I feel as if I open myself up to be there for any of my friends who need me, but when I stepped outside the box of my normal behavior due to uncharacteristic depression and discouragement, my friends took a hiatus. Through the grapevine I hear that many of them "express concern" over me, yet I have not received so much as an e-mail or phone call from any of them unless initiated by me. Well, that's not totally true, either. I have a couple of very close friends who do not fir into this category at all, and you know who you are. It just seems that the bulk of those who say they are my friends, vanished when I acted a bit uncharacteristically. Perhaps they weren't the friends i thought they were. As my friend amanda told me, "Time to reevaluate your friends, Scotty, even the ones you thought were your close friends." For someone half my age, and with half the life experiences, she just might be right.

If my friends' hurts, devastations and short-lived, uncharacteristic behavior drive me away from loving and supporting them, then I would need to reexamine whether or not my friendship with them was genuine. Sure, I like to surround myself with uplifting people and friendships that bolster and rejuvinate me. But in turn, I also like to be present for my friends who need my emotional and physical support. The sad fact is that when you go through hard times and your friends tend to abandon you, a deeper disillusionment sets in, and brings realizations to light.

So, I do what I always do... I pull myself up by my own bootstraps, no matter how long that takes, and move on to the realization that Life is accomplished alone. Polonius said to Hamlet, "The friends thou hast and tried, grapple them to they soul with hoops of steel." I need to reevaluate my friendships and determine just who is and who is not a Friend. This is most certainly a part of growth and wisdom-gaining.

On a slightly different vein...
I have Festival fiends and interactions, but that is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the course of my life and the people I know and interact with. I tend to come across in my relationships (Fest people, business associates, advertising and publishing friends) as a genuine person who is sincere and honest, somewhat charismatic, vital, entrepeneureal and in-the-spotlight. However, on the inside I'm crushed and struggling with the "whys" of Life. Despite my early days in seminary and pastoral work - and councilling, believe it or not - I have lost sight of what I used to believe was "God's" will (call it "Goddess," "Universe," whatever...), or hand in affairs, and the answers to the whole why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people scenario.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about this.

I wish there were good answers to this, because I have LOTS of those sorts of questions, lately.

The older I get, the more it occurs to me that God is NOT intimately involved in the flow of the events in my Life. Nor, does it seem, that he is all that concerned with those events or their various outcomes. I am finding that he is primarily interested in my responses, my character development and my desire to lean on Him. Look at this passage from the New Testament... 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.....

* * * * *
8.) At first I didn't think of (my afflictions and
emotional distresses) as a gift, and

begged God to remove it. Three times I did that,
9.) and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all
you need. My strength comes into its own in your
weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it
happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began
appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's
strength moving in on my weakness. 10.) Now I take
limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these
limitations that cut me down to size - abuse,
accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ
take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I

* * * * *

Don't get me wrong, here, I believe God is there at all times, and is "sovreign over the affairs of mankind" (Daniel 4:34-37 - Nebuchadnezzar's praise after his
madness), but I believe He lets the events of Life unfold as they will - call it "Natural Occurance." His presence is not there to alter the course of natural
events, but rather, to give us grace and peace and a place to run to for help and comfort.

Life happens.

God is in control of the Universe, but does not stick His finger into the mix, unless to accomplish some purpose of His own mind and choosing. It seems to me
more and more that He simply has set Life in motion, governs over it, but does not involve himself in it's ebb and flow.

His "intervention" is incredibly rare. His grace, however, is ever-present. All we need do is appropriate it.

Sure, it's COMFORTING to think that God intervenes and performs miracles that alter the course of Life and History, but I just have not seen evidence of that.

What I HAVE experienced is God tugging at hearts and minds, God guiding and opening doors as we struggle through Life. I have rarely - if ever - witnessed God altering the course of natural events, and that seems to fly in the face of what I was taught in my Sunday School days as a kid. It is a bit disillusioning to find that "real life" is not the stuff of Sunday School fluff.

I remember one instance during my early twenties when I was in seminary, when a young couple in our church had new-born twins that were very ill. The entire
church, it seemed, camped at the hospital and prayed for a miraculous intervention on behalf of those children and their parents. The children still died two days later. It seemed that all of the "fervent, righteous prayers of upright people" had very little affect on the outcome of the natural events. God would have to have stepped in and altered physics to change the outcome.

What I learned from that event - and many subsequent events - was that God was little interested in altering Life's natural course, but that he was extremely interested in the unity the event brought. He was present to comfort and guide, but not to change the course of Natural Occurance.

Hmmmm.... I think as human beings, we tend to paint God in a picture that we seem to THINK he fits - and we have manipulated scripture to back up our desires. And then when He does not match up to that pre-conceived picture of our own making, we lose faith and fall into discouragement and disillusionment. It hardens us a bit, and we sit back and re-work elements of what we thought we already
knew so well. We are left in the wake, experiencing either a mode of blind faith that lacks understanding, yet acts in a "damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead" over-spiritualized bravado; or, we find ourselves in a state of incredible disappointment with God.

Either way, we have learned that God has not altered the events of Life's Natural Occurance.

The only real positive message I find in scripture regarding these things, is that God has promised to be there to help us cope, deal, muddle and manage our way
through the labyrinth of Natural Occurance. His grace is sufficient for me... it's all whether or not I choose to appropriate that grace. Of course, a lot of this is from the viewpoint of my early training. My spirituality has shifted a lot since then.

Any comments? Feelings? Disagreements? Concurances?

Friday, September 16, 2005

My Little Girl....

I am very proud of my daughter, Bryn (pictured on the left). It's times like these when I sit back and say, "Hey, I think I am doing an okay job as a dad."

I have always raised my children to be kind and respectful of others, and to stand up for the "little guy." They have garnered a reputation with their school teachers as being two very "kind-hearted, giving young women," who go out of their way to befriend the more-or-less "outcasts" in their circle of influence. hell, they even had a teacher once tell them, "C'mon, you can't be angels all the time!" (Sheeeesh... someone pull that teacher's plug!)

anyway, the other day, my young, four-year-old son was being picked-on by the shithead neighbor kid, who is twelve. My daughter came in the house and told me that she was going to go next door and have a "few words" with the bully. I approved, and told her i would be right at her back if she needed any aid in her little confrontation. And off she marched out the front door and across the front yard.

A friend of mine and I watched out the front window from the relative bunker-like safety of my living room, as my daughter strode valiently across the grass toward the next door neighbor's driveway, shoulders squared, spine erect, head high and attitude intact. My friend Dave pointed out the fact that Bryn was wearing her sleeveless, black Harley Davidson shirt, a somewhat intimidating factor all by itself. Just the sight of her marching toward the small group of teenagers milling in the driveway next door, made a twinkle of pride glisten at the corner of my oh-too-jaded eye.

From where we stood sequestered in the living room, we could see, but nor hear, the little confrontation that took place over the next few minutes. Bryn marched right over to the pubescent little shit-for-brains bully and stopped abruptly about a foot in front of him. When he turned to look at her, he took two giant, stumbling steps backward, as if being confronted by some nocturnal demonic presence that emerged from his closet in the night. He dropped his basketball, and Bryn hadn't even yet said a single word. His first reaction made my friend and I damn near giddy with reactionary anticipation for what was sure to be a wonderful show.

As the miscreant regained his footing, my daughter launched what must have been unholy hell. There could not have been more than 12 inches between them as her finger came up and pointed in his wide-eyed face. Her hands gesticulated her anger, but she never raised her voice loud enough for me to hear a single word. He stood there, pale and drawn as my kid berated him for his misdeeds. His friends all stood around in shocked silence, watching helplessly, unwilling to stand in the path of Hurricane Bryn.

The kid starting gesturing meekly, obviously pleading for his life, apologetic and sheepish. Bryn's hands went to her hips. She glared him down as he delivered, I am sure, some crackle-voiced, appallingly lame defense for his reprehensible behavior. Dave and I chortled from the living room, mocking, to each other, the neighbor kid's predicament. At one point, the other kids around them glanced toward my house. Dave and I jumped back away from the front window, laughing, not wanting to be seen observing Bryn's onslaught. It was her battle, and I did not want to interfere unless things turned ugly.

After a few minutes, Bryn turned and marched back to the house. She came in and - her voice still shaking from the righteous indignation - recounted the confrontation. I told her how proud I was of her for standing up for her little brother. She earned a ton of respect from me that afternoon.

As I said at the beginning, it's times like this when I take a brief moment to pat myself on the back and realize that I have done an okay job instilling some values in my kids. Standing up for someone who is weaker than you is an admirable quality. Putting your own neck on the block for someone else is altruism at it's best. I am very proud that my daughters have developed a reputation for being kind, generous, giving, caring people. It makes me a bit more confident that I am the kind of dad I have strived to become.

I am beaming as a proud dad should.