3528 – Tuesday, September 3, 2019 — Love versus Hate:  Does Hate Trump Love?

love versus hate

God calls us to love others, just as he loves us.  We show love to others by forgiving, accepting and honoring them.  —  From a quote in a Lutheran Church Brochure

Pick up a newspaper any day of the week.  How much love do you see?  Very little I would bet.  How much hate?  Pages and pages of hate.

  • Man kills seven and injures 31 with assault rifle.
  • Woman with five DUI’s kills mother and daughter in auto crash.
  • Israeli bomb attack kills fifteen jihadists.
  • Terrorist bomb kills 35 soldiers in Iraq.
  • Trump encourages beating up protesters.

I propose that you will find at least ten times more hate in the news than you do love.  But that is not news to you or anyone else, is it?  Newspapers exist to sell advertising, and nothing sells like hate, violence, gore, mayhem and disasters.  The crème de la crème is reserved for serial killings, mass killings and family murders.  Local news is full of crime stories from places that are thousands of miles away and that no one has ever heard of.  Bad news and hate crowd out the good and love that society has.  In a way it is ironic, since so many people in the world regard themselves as Christians.  Christianity professes to follow the teachings of a man named Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ (for those of you who might be unfamiliar with him) was a big advocate of love and peace.  Jesus told his followers “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  — John 13:34.  Jesus is also reputed to have said “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  — Mathew 5:44.  Another irony, considering that numerous Christian churches have supported racism and hatred towards Blacks and other minorities.

One would think that particularly in those parts of the United States dominated by Christian churches, love would blossom like a million flowers.  You would expect that in the so called “Bible Belt” you would see evidence of love and not hate everywhere you look.  If any place was against prejudice, discrimination, bigotry and ill will towards their fellow human beings, it should be in the Bible Belt.  Another irony, since according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the South has more hate groups than any other area of the United States.  Even more confusing, are the Christian ministers who preach hate and use Christs name to justify it.  This is a recent map of hate groups in the USA.

ir166-hate-map-launch

A few Sundays ago, Pastor Joe Major of Louisiana’s Faith Baptist Church gave a guest sermon at the Philippines church of Pastor Logan Robertson.  You’ll never guess what Major talked about.  In a sermon titled “Make the World Straight Again,” Major told the raucous crowd about how all homosexuals were inherently pedophiles and that’s why they deserved to be executed.  Several years past, the Rev. Steven Anderson quoted passages from the Old Testament to the congregation of his Faithful Word Baptist Church about the kinds of people God hates in Tempe Arizona.  Anderson told worshipers he interprets these passages to include Mr. Obama and that he prays for the president’s death.  Is it ironic that Anderson believes he is a Christian and promotes hate in the name of Jesus?

But enough looking at hate, what about love?  Can we find examples of love in the world?  Do we even know what love really is?  We all know the quote about “love is kind, love is patient, etc.”  But what is the difference between love and compassion or between love and mercy or between love and charity?  What about the role of forgiveness?  Can we have love without forgiveness?  Should we forgive everyone?

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.  —

Isaiah, 58:9-10

Love can not exist in the dark.  Hate brings the dark.  Love is extinguished by hate. In order to have love, you must eliminate hate.  The two cannot go together.  Love opens the door.  Hate closes the door.  Love leads to mercy.  Hate leads to revenge.  Love leads to compassion.  Hate leads to scorn.  Love leads to forgiveness.  Hate leads to vendettas.  Love leads to charity.  Hate leads to greed.   If you want to bring love into the world, you must work to eliminate hate.  Love cannot blossom in a soil that is contaminated with the poison of hate.

I think we are love deprived today.  I mean real love.  Not love of things.  I love my car.  I love my new watch.  I love my blender.  This is not love.  This is idolatry.  It is a Madison avenue con that has been foisted on us to buy stuff and more stuff.  No where in the world do people own more stuff than in America.  Rich or poor in this country, we all have the disease of stuff.  We buy and sell and buy more stuff.  A t-shirt exhorts us to “shop till we drop.”  The midnight madness sales during the Holiday seasons are an ironic example of what it means to be really crazy.  Ironic, because when things matter more than people, we have a world that is truly mad and insane.  We have a world without love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King

 

 

When I Die?

death-and-dying-grim-reaper-large

“Every now and then I think about my own death.”  Martin Luther King was only thirty-nine years old when he said these words and shared his thoughts about what he wanted his life to stand for.  I think about these words a great deal these days but more in connection with my own life.  The thought that someone only 39 years old had to contemplate the ramifications and implications of death is alarming.  No one should have such worries until old age.

“It is necessary to meditate early, and often, on the art of dying to succeed later in doing it properly just once.”
― Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before

I don’t know when I started to think about dying but at age seventy-two, I suppose it is worth reflecting on.  Wasn’t it Socrates who said that the “Unexamined life is not worth living?”  Death is one part of life that many of us may put off thinking about until perhaps it is too late.  I have had ample evidence that death is inevitable.

My grandfather died at the age of fifty-six when I was only eight years old in 1954.  My father died in 1985 when he was 60 years old and I was not yet forty.  My mother died in 1994 when she was 68 and my oldest sister died in 2002 when she was fifty-five years old.  I have had many other relatives and friends who have already departed this world at an earlier than expected age.  I seldom am surprised anymore by anyone else’s death.

Every now and then I think about dying and how I will succumb to Charon.  Will I go willingly? Will I go honorably?  Will my life have meant something?  Will I have made a difference in the world?  The how, when and where of death holds fascinating opportunities for reflection.

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
― Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Occasionally, I think about going out of this world, fast.  I had a Yamaha FZ1 up to 160 mph on the I35 going to Duluth one morning.  A crash at that speed might not have been going out in a blaze of glory, but it would have been quick.  I wonder if it would have been painless?  That would be a plus.

Sometimes I think about going out heroically.  I dive into some icy river or rush into a burning house to save some poor soul.  I don’t make it.  Will the world remember me as a hero or some idiot with heroic aspirations who failed at his hero task?

Part of me would like to die in bed.  I think of the remark that Clive Cussler made that the best way to go is in bed with your accountant telling you that you are ten dollars overdrawn in your account.  I would die peacefully with my beloved Karen and sister Jeanine at my side.  I would use my last breath to tell them how much I love them.  No pain but no heroic antics either.  Sort of a blah death in a way but it does have an appeal.

I was doing a morning run this week when the thought of dying kept intruding into my run.  I sometimes think about how long it would take a bullet to hit me when I run in the mountains and desert.  There are always some folks who seem to prefer shooting near the park rather than in the approved shooting ranges on the other side of the Casa Grande Mountains.  I can hear the boom of their shots echoing across the desert valley.  I wonder precisely how long it would take a stray bullet to strike me?  A friend of mine said much less than one second.  I count the seconds anyway after I hear a boom and wonder what my last thoughts will be.

Regrets-of-the-Dying-2-938x489

Death accidently shot while running in the mountains would no doubt be a fast but ignominious way of dying.  I am opting for something a little more glamourous.  I think about the headline in the Casa Grande Dispatch the next day.  “Man accidently shot while running trails in the mountains by MORON exercising his Second Amendment rights.”  Man and MORON would be linked for all eternity.  How will anyone weave this into my eulogy?

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”
― Banksy

Some of you reading this might be thinking “This guy is really morose, maybe even suicidal.”  The experts say that reflecting on death too much might not be healthy and might be evidence of suicidal tendencies.  However, (as you might expect) other experts say that reflecting on death is a normal and even important aspect of aging that may help prepare us for the coming trials of old age.  A quote I rather like goes like this “Old age is not for the faint of heart.”

My sister (who seems to know everyone in the State of Rhode Island) is five years younger than I am and manages to go to at least one or two funerals a month.  I avoid funerals, but I prefer them to weddings.  While funerals may be no more honest than weddings when it comes to the things people will say about the departed, at least funerals preclude any errant delusions of grandeur (For example, living happily ever after).  How many newlyweds will manage to live happily ever after?

I have always said (half-jokingly) that I want to go first.  I want Karen to live on long after I pass away and have a good life.  Many of the things I do today are in a sense to help prepare for that eventuality.  I had expected that Karen would no doubt survive me as women generally live longer than men.  Besides, my life has been lived much faster than Karen’s and thus I have used up more of my “thread of life.”  However, with old age I have had second thoughts on this expectation.

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
― Shannon Alder

A few weeks ago, I was sharing a bottle of Brandy and some cigars with two friends, when I said that I hoped that I would go first as I could not think of being alone in this life without Karen.  One of the other men astonished me when he said, “I want my wife to go first.”  I immediately assumed that he was being selfish but being curious I asked him why?  He explained very sincerely that his wife had been quite sick and that he had no one else to take care of her.  He did not want to leave her alone without his help.  I was moved by his charity and unselfishness which suddenly made my position seem quite the opposite.  Selfish!  Selfish!  Selfish!

Another joke I have often made was that I married a nurse so that she could take care of me when I was old and feeble.  I always thought this was funny.  In the last few years, I have had a different perspective.  My spouse (who really is a nurse) is getting older and frailer.  The wear and tear of aging is very visible in new creases, new lines, slower movements and lower energy levels.  The realization hit me like the proverbial brick a few years ago that I might be taking care of her rather than the other way around.

a course in dying without bird

I doubt that anyone who knows me would ever think of me as a “caregiver.”  But I have always been a pragmatist and so I have started taking some caregiver classes and classes on aging.   I have also taken one on the various aspects of Dementia and Alzheimers.  I will grow old along with my spouse and do what I can to take care of both of us.  I may not always believe that the “best is yet to be” but I will do my best to help make this possibility a reality.

assisted-dying

“To fear death, gentlemen, is no other than to think oneself wise when one is not, to think one knows what one does not know. No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils.”
― Socrates

I don’t want to glamorize getting old but neither do I want to disparage the possibilities that old age has for many of us.  I will never know the how, when or where of my dying, but I can live my life the best I can and each day try to be the best person, husband, friend, father and neighbor that I can be.  Each day life offers me more choices to grow old with dignity.  To face the difficulties of aging more boldly and maybe even heroically.  To paraphrase Martin Luther King, when I die:

  • Don’t tell them about my titles
  • Don’t tell them about my degrees
  • Don’t tell them about my jobs
  • Don’t tell them about the books I wrote or the places I have been
  • Tell them I wanted to be a good person and was honest enough to know that I usually fell short.

Time for Questions:

Do your ever think about dying?  What do you want to be remembered for? How would you like to die?  Do you think you will go fast or slow?

Life is just beginning.

“In the end, I won’t say that I have ‘NO REGRETS’ because that would be bullshit.  I have more regrets than I can count.” —  J. Persico

 

 

Autobiographies from the Dead — Jesus Christ the Martyr

black jesus

I am adding a few new autobiographies to my series.  I had stopped with seven, but it seems appropriate to add several more.  Thus, I really should not have said that this series will end since so many “dead” people still have stories to tell.  If you have not read my other “Autobiographies,” I strongly urge you to do so and add your comments or thoughts to their stories.  I know many of the “dead” will appreciate your perspectives.

38000-christian-denominations-good-luck-choosing-the-right-oneThis week, you will hear from one Jesus of Nazareth.  He has been called by many names including: Messiah, Emmanuel, Christ, Lord, Master, Logos (the Word), Son of God and by himself more often The Son of Man.   He is often credited with being the founder or perhaps foundation for a popular religion called Christianity.  Today, it is difficult to see the link between the teachings of Jesus and many of these so-called Christian religions.  I have it on good authority that Jesus never ever preached killing anyone and yet many of these so-called Christian religions are continually waving a banner of mayhem and destruction at those who think differently than they do.  Anyway, it is time to let Jesus speak for himself.

Jesus Christ the Martyr

I never thought it would end like this.  Where are my followers?  Where are my disciples?  Only my mother, my sister and Mary watched me die.  All the rest – gone – all have deserted me.  The crowds I taught, the people I healed, yet they chose me to die over a thief and a murderer.

Jesus or Barabbas

I repeat:  My God, My God, why did thou forsake me?

What did I do to deserve this?  Toward the end, I could see it coming.  I wanted to have it pass by me, but I could not deny my beliefs or still my voice.  They were constantly trying to silence me.  Finally, they arrested me on “Trumped” up charges of sedition and blasphemy.  It was called blasphemy to try and tell the truth to people.  It was called sedition to try and address unjust laws.  The rulers of my time incited the people with lies against me and turned many of my followers into haters.

Jesus-being-flogged

Who would have ever thought that I, a man of peace and tolerance, would be stripped, beaten, tortured and nailed to a cross to die.  It was a painful death.  The thirst, the suffocation, the spear piercing my body were unbearable.  I cried out in vain:

EliElilema sabachthani!

The crowds laughed at me.  The soldiers mocked me.  My close family looked on while my followers hid in the shadows and in their homes.  I felt abandoned by all.  All my good works.  All my thoughts and ideas.  All that I preached and dreamed and hoped for now seemed in vain.

Jesus with Mary at the cross

I started my mission for those who were forgotten or persecuted.  I taught the sick, the poor and the outcasts that they were truly loved.  Our leaders despised and looked down on these people.  I taught them what would later be called the Eight Beatitudes.  My principles of life were all summed up in these Eight Beatitudes.  I never denied the Ten Commandments, but the Eight Beatitudes are my legacy to the world.  They represent the sum of my teachings and the goals of my life.deny god by your actions

Everywhere I look today, I see my principles torn and shredded by tyrants, by demagogues and even by people who profess to be my followers.  I have yet to see my Beatitudes enshrined in bronze as is so often the case with Moses and the Ten Commandments.  Why have they forgotten my most important teachings?  When will my teachings be placed in courtyards and on billboards?  Why are they anathema to so many people?

 

Let me explain what each of the Eight Beatitudes mean.  My body and soul will not depart this world until I have accomplished this task and until humanity embraces the ideas I gave my life for.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

christ says help the needy.I am talking about greed here.  I am talking about wanting more and more regardless of the effects it has on the earth.  I am telling you that happiness does not come from having more of things.  The only true happiness comes from helping others.  It is better to share with others who are needy than to amass a fortune that you cannot take with you.  Those who berate the tax collector and call him a sinner and cheat are no better than the tax collector.  Indeed, those who refuse to pay their fair share for the life they are given are worse than the tax collector.  

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 

god told me to hate youI am talking about sin here.  I am talking about grieving your mistakes and injustices towards others.  No one can walk in this world without hurting others either deliberately or by mistake.  But the people who will be comforted in the next world are those who regret their mistakes and injustices and ask for forgiveness.  They are the people who acknowledge their sins and mistakes and try to make amends.  I was not perfect, and no one born of this world is perfect.  The good and just man admits his vices and tries to overcome them.  The good and just man tries to make amends to the people he has hurt or abused.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 

child-for-hours-simply-because-hes-a-muslim-youre-not-13669022The narcissist and the man full of hubris will do injustice to all they meet.  The narcissist thinks that the world revolves around his needs, wants and desires, and is content to ignore the needs and wants and desires of others.  The man of hubris is overly prideful and arrogant and thinks that he has earned the right to have more than others.  Both feel that everyone else is there to serve their needs and that their needs come before the needs of anyone else.  The injustice done by these beliefs amounts to a mountain of intolerance and discrimination towards anyone who is perceived as inferior or beneath their consideration.  For this reason, I say “Do not look upon yourself as being better than others.  Remember that there but for the grace of God, would you go.”

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 

The righteous man looks for justice.  The righteous man looks for what is good in the confucious on good thoughtsworld.  No one who is not seeking righteousness and justice can expect to find peace.  I say that your task is to look for justice where there is injustice.  To look for goodness where there is wickedness.  You can never complete your search.  Your hunger will never be sated.  Your thirst will never be quenched.  Each generation must take up the search because evil is in our own hearts.  Only by looking to replace evil with justice and righteousness can the evil that is within us be banished.  We are all born with original sin, but the righteous man is the one who overcomes their sinfulness by replacing it with a goodness that transcends earthly needs and desires.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 

christians and gaysThose who show mercy towards others will have mercy shown towards them.  I lived in a time when lepers, Samaritans, non-Jews and many others were thought to be unworthy of mercy.  Mercy was always for those in our own tribe.  This meant mercy for Jews if you were a Jew.  Mercy for Romans if you were a Roman.  No mercy was to be shown to the poor for they were lazy.  No mercy was to be shown to the sick because they were sinners.  No mercy was to be shown to those of other religions because they were “non-believers.”

I say that those who only show mercy to those of their own tribe, only to those who are like them, will never have mercy shown towards themselves.  I have said before that:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. 

fakechristiansI say to you that the pure of heart are those with integrity and character.  They are without selfishness and seek primarily to do good for others regardless of the cost to themselves.  They are not opportunists who try to squeeze the most for themselves at every turn of events.  Neither are they sycophants who yield their ideas and actions to others so they can creat more profit for themselves.  The pure of heart are not greedy.  They are not profit driven.  They are not out for fame and fortune.  The pure of heart care only about the good they can do for others.  Others include the entire human race and not simply those who belong to their tribe or religion or country.  Those who put humanity above patriotism, humanity above family, humanity above friendships and humanity above self will surely see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. 

peacemakersRage, jealousy, ingratitude, intolerance, bigotry and fear are the enemies of peace.  Those who want peace must be willing to beat their swords into plowshares.  If you follow my Beatitude, you will disarm yourself.  You will throw down your guns.  You will deactivate your nuclear weapons.  You will turn your armies for war into armies for education.  There is no peace possible in aggression.  There is no peace possible in hatred.  There is no peace possible in defensiveness.  The only path to peace is to turn the other cheek.  How many times have I said you must do this to find peace?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.   And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.   Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

I will someday be extolled for giving my life so that others may be saved.  It will be said about me that “He gave his body and blood so that they may have eternal life.”  Yet, I see a world now where people are so afraid of each other that they carry concealed weapons, where they lock people up for the slightest offenses and where they have weapons to destroy the entire planet many times over.  I do not see a peaceful people.  I do not see peaceful governments.  I do not see peaceful leaders.  I do not even see peaceful Christian churches.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Martin_Luther_King_1872702iActions speak louder than words.  All those who cry out “Lord, lord” will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  What good is the salt if it has lost its taste?  Those who speak beautiful words will not enter my kingdom without beautiful deeds to match their words.  I spoke out my ideas and thoughts. I challenged the powers that were corrupt.  I was taken up to the mountain and promised fame and fortune and power by Satan if I renounced my beliefs, but I remained steadfast.  I was persecuted and crucified, but I never renounced my beliefs.  How then do you think you will be saved by being nice to others and by silencing your thoughts in the face of evil?  No one who speaks my name should expect to escape persecution.  There is no change without struggle and oppression.

These are my Eight Beatitudes.  These are my meanings for each of them.  If you want to follow me, follow my teachings.  Do not say “I am a Christian and follower of Christ” when you reject any one of these Beatitudes.

I must leave this this place now.  I cannot rest in peace.  My body has been stolen and taken to some hidden place.  But my body is only temporal.  It is my soul that now cries out for justice.  But it is not the justice of revenge or the justice of retribution, it is the justice of love.

They believe I will come again.  I hear their words praying for the Second Coming of Christ.  It is impossible.  I cannot come back to a people who practice hate and vengeance and violence in my name.  My soul will roam this planet for all eternity if my name continues to be blasphemed by the hypocrisies of those who say, “Lord Lord” or “Jesus is my Savior.”

Jesus looking at the earth

I go now, but I go to ask my Father “why?”  What was this all for?  Is there some difference on earth that I do not see or was it all in vain?  Please Father, help me to understand.

Time for Questions:

Are you a Christian?  Why or why not?  If you follow Christ, what difference have you made in the world?  How are you helping the poor, the sick and the needy?  Do you have to be a Christian to help others?  Have you read the “Parable of the Good Samaritan?”  Who was his brother?  Who are you brother or sister to?  Who do you hate?  Why?  What would Jesus say?

Life is just beginning.

A prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.”

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Amen.

 

 

 

Endless Horizons:  How We Learn and Develop

horizons and clouds

I have a theory about life and about how we grow as individuals. I call this my theory of “Endless Horizons.”  I developed this theory through experience and observation.  I would like to share it with you this week.  It has been a big inspiration in my life and provided a great deal of motivation for me in my journeys.  It involves the ability to accept the unknown but with a difference that is important.  Whereas many theories posit an “unknown and unknowable,” my theory says that what is unknown may just possibly be “over the next horizon.”  Let me explain more.

Once upon a time, I believed that what we see, feel, taste and smell was all that there was.  It did not get any better or worse than what I was already experiencing.  I was usually a very angry guy.  I was ready to physically fight at the drop of a hat or some perceived slur or insult.  My temper and lack of anger management got me into a lot of trouble.  I was arrested for assault and battery.  I had more fights than I can remember.

“Those who improve with age embrace the power of personal growth and personal achievement and begin to replace youth with wisdom, innocence with understanding, and lack of purpose with self-actualization.” — Bo Bennett

how-long-sleep-give-nightmares-1501590827

Perhaps worse was the constant state of fear that it kept my first wife and daughter in.  I never realized how hurtful my temper and lack of anger control was to them.  From my throwing things, to yelling and punching walls, I was like a volcano that might explode at any moment.  Even my sleep time was violent.  I was constantly having nightmares of someone chasing me and trying to kill me.  I would wake up drenched in sweat with my pulse racing a mile a minute.

My first wife and I divorced after sixteen years.  My daughter who was fifteen at the time eventually cut off all contact with me.  I have not seen or talked to her for over twenty years now.

father-daughter-quote-heart

“Building a better life for every child is a lot harder than becoming a world champion. Both goals take dedication and commitment.” — Kim Yuna

I knew I needed some help and I joined a treatment program for violent and abusive men.  About ½ of the men were in treatment voluntarily and about ½ were court ordered.  It was sponsored by the Wilder Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I completed the program (which met weekly) for about 16 weeks. After that I continued with a support group for another two years or so.  The support group also met weekly and was restricted to men who had finished the regular treatment program.  I had a buddy (Jerry) whom I could call if my temper flared up.  Jerry was part of my process or control plan for dealing with my anger issues rather than acting out.  There was more to the plan that included walks and other means of cooling off. 

I do not know whether my marriage would have been saved if I had gone through this program earlier.  I do know my wife would have been a lot happier and my daughter would probably still be speaking to me.  Another thing I know is that my nightmares went away.

Getting back to my “Endless Horizon Theory,” I first observed it in the anger support groups that I went to weekly.  Before coming to these groups, most “angry” men were in denial.  It was always, “they or she made me do it.”  “It was not my fault.”  The horizon of most men in terms of their awareness of themselves was very short.  After they went to treatment, they made it to a new horizon of sorts.  From this new horizon, many men could now understand that it was their fault not the fault of others around them.  If they chose to, they did not have to go through life angry, violent and abusive.  Standing at the horizon of having accepted their responsibility for their anger, they could see a new horizon.  This horizon was one of equanimity and if not happiness, at least not misery.  The support groups offered a way to get to this next horizon.  As they say, “Rome was not built in a day.”  Well, dealing with anger problems involves a trip of years.  It would not be an easy journey for many of these men.

I stayed in the group for nearly two years.  Many of the men I met during these two years were also long-timers.  Our support group seemed to grow together as friends and comrades along the journey.  I think many of us made it to the next horizon.  When I arrived there, I saw another horizon just beyond the one I had reached.  We had all assumed that the best we could get would be a life without being constantly angry and explosive.  When I came to this new horizon, I began to understand that there was more that I could accomplish.  The next horizon promised happiness and a positive outlook to life.  Many of us had gone from a negative outlook on life to a neutral outlook and now saw a horizon that promised a positive outlook.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell

Unfortunately, the Wilder Center did not see that as the role of these support groups.  They saw their mission as helping to curb domestic abuse.  They did not see their mission as helping men grow and develop beyond their ability to control their anger issues.  With the lack of support and even hostility towards our new goal, many of the long-termers in my group simply quit and went away.  I kept in touch with a few men, but the years have melted these relationships away. 

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.” — N. R. Narayana Murthy

I realized that when I reached one horizon, I could now see beyond it to a new horizon. It was clear to me that there was possibly an infinite number of new horizons.  If one has the tenacity, discipline and determination, there is no end to the development that we potentially can reach.  Another experience gave me more proof for my theory of “Endless Horizons.”

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My second wife Karen and I have both been to two Marriage Encounter weekends.  We went to our first Marriage Encounter weekend about five years into our marriage.  The second weekend was about ten years after the first.  Both weekends had very positive impacts on our marriage, friendship and lives.  My horizon theory was further strengthened by events that happened at both weekends.  I will relate the events at the first weekend.

I was long past worrying about anger issues by the time of our first Marriage Encounter weekend.  I had been trying to be more tolerant of Karen and some of the things that she did that annoyed me.  I had reached what I will call a Horizon of Tolerance.  I thought I was doing pretty good when I could practice tolerance.  When I could not, I would be sarcastic, rude and frustrated.  We went to the first weekend as a means of improving our marriage.  I will forever be grateful to the organizations and volunteers that put these weekends on.  We have found that both these weekends helped us to be better lovers, parents and friends.

Well, during the first weekend, we were having some discussion about the issue of tolerance.  I was pretty pumped up because I thought I was doing pretty good with dealing with this issue.  I made the remark that I thought I was very tolerant.  The response I received caught me by surprise.  It was something to the effect that tolerance falls short of respecting the other person. The speaker explained that tolerance simply accepts what is.  Respect on the other hand sees the benefits and appreciates the value of what is.  There is a significant difference between respect and tolerance.  For instance, we can tolerate minorities or people who are different than we are but that is not the same as respecting them.

I was confronted with a new horizon for my relationship with Karen and our marriage. Again, I realized that this new horizon further supported my “Endless Horizon” theory of growth and development.  I had finally accepted (and thus my theory was born) that there is an endless number of horizons.  Each horizon presents a new possibility for growth.  We cannot see beyond our present horizon, but we can be sure that something new will await us once we reach it.

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”  — Napoleon Hill

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What does it take to reach a horizon?  I said earlier that you must have determination.  It helps to have support and coaching along the way.  As the song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  It also takes commitment to keep trying.  There are lots of potholes along the way. There are dead-ends.  There are large crevasses, boulders and obstacles to overcome.  There are no straight flat highways to the next horizon.  It is not a straight-line journey.  There are times when you will get lost and times when you will go backwards.  But the journey is not to the fittest but to the ones who are most determined.

Time for Questions:

What horizon are you at in your life?  What new horizons have you found in your life’s journey?  What obstacles have you had to overcome?  Have you given up on finding new horizons or are you still searching for new horizons?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.” — Antonio Brown

The Window

wndow in nursing home

I’m sitting here looking out the window.  It has taken me nearly sixty-five years but now I understand.

New-Nurses-Survival-GuideI was only twenty-five when I met Irene.  It was my first job out of college.  I had just finished my RN program at Regina Nursing School.  It took me three years going to school days and working part-time evenings to complete my degree.  After finishing school, I applied at several nursing homes since I wanted to work with the elderly.  In three weeks, I was hired by the River Birch nursing home in New Prague Minnesota.

nurse-tutoringMy first day on the job was the high point and perhaps also the low point of my life.  It was the day I met Irene.  My supervisor Michelle started my job orientation by introducing me to the staff I would be working with.  She then gave me a brief summary of my work duties.  She explained that I would be assigned a wing of the nursing home and within that wing, I would be in charge of a specific number of residents.  We were not to call them patients.  Each day, my job would be to take care of the residents that I was assigned and to ensure that they received food, care and compassion.

nurse with patient

Michele then took me around to the twenty or so residents that I would responsible for.  One by one, she gave me a brief bio and medical review for each person.  The last one of my charges was Irene.  Michele said she had saved Irene for last because she would be my most difficult resident.

Irene had been taken into the home about two months prior to my arrival.  She appeared to have an advanced case of Alzheimers disease (which sixty-five years ago was not identified as such.)  She had been living with her only daughter for the past five years but her daughter had died in a car accident and Irene had no other surviving relatives.  Her mother, father and two sisters had died many years before her and no other family members could be located.  Social Services selected the River Birch nursing home due to its proximity to her previous home.

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Michele cautioned me that I should not spend too much time with Irene.  She did not speak much except to demand being taken in her wheel chair to the same window each day.  She would sit and look out the window and was not interested in eating, talking or socializing in any form.  Several of the other nurses had tried to form some type of communication with Irene, but all she would ever say was “window, window.”  Most thought she was simply unfriendly and had stopped spending any time with her.

I was young and naïve.  I thought I could surely reach out to Irene and form some type of bridge which would unite us as human beings.  Irene would be my project.  We would become friends.

Each day, I made a special point of taking Irene to her window and stopping by a few times of the day to simply chat.  I would bring her a cookie in the morning during the coffee break time and one after lunch during mid-afternoon coffee break.  Irene would never take the cookie or even bother to look at me.  She simply stared out the window.

windows-AOver time, I began to wonder what she was looking at.  After looking out the window myself, all I could see was a large grassy field surrounded by numerous oak, maple and birch trees. On any given day, there might some grackles or robins out in the field but very little else to view.  It was a pleasant enough scene but nothing that I thought could keep anyone’s attention for more than a few minutes never mind several hours of staring out the window

On the other side of the large sitting room, there was another picture window.  I noticed that it had a pretty view of a large lake and periodically several sail boats with brightly covered jibs and mains blowing in the wind would be traversing the lake.  I thought that perhaps Irene might like this view better. I walked over to where her sit was sitting in her wheel chair and told her I was going to show her recalcitrant patienta very pretty view that she could look out at.  I thought she would enjoy the variety and the change of scenery.  As I started to push Irene’s wheel chair away from her chosen window, she became very agitated and started pointing and in a raised voice saying “window, window.”  I moved her back to the old window and left her for the day.

Weeks went by and there was never any change in Irene.  Then one day, I went over to see how Irene was doing and I brought her a cookie just in case she changed her mind.  I never gave up on somehow connecting with Irene and I thought surely the cookie would be my entre.  Much to my surprise, she took the cookie from my hand and replied, “Thank you, they’re coming, they’re coming.”  I looked out the window but did not see anyone.  I asked, “Irene dear, who is coming?”  Irene answered, “Why mom and dad and my sisters.”  Poor thing I thought, she is delusional.

empty chairNext morning, I came to work and started my rounds.  I did not see Irene and I wondered where she was.  I checked her room but the bed was made up and there was no sign of Irene.  I went into see my supervisor and ask about her.  “I am sorry” Michele said “She passed away last night and was taken to the funeral home. There will be no services for her as she had no surviving relatives.”  I went home and cried for her passing.  I had never understood her or made a connection with her that I thought was the least bit meaningful.

little girl looking out the windowIt is sixty-five years later and I finally understand Irene.  I am sitting here looking out a window from the nursing home where I am now a resident.  Each day I look out the same window and I see a different event from my life.  I have been amazed at the events that I have witnessed.  I have seen my mother giving birth to me.  I saw the birth of each of my sisters and brothers.  I witnessed my first communion and my first day in school.  I watched my wedding and the birth of each of my children.  I was at my husband’s funeral again.  During the past few months, I have seen all the major events of my life one after the other in perfect chronological order.  I am almost at the end of my journey.  There is only one final event.  The last event will be when they come for me.  They are getting close.  My mom and dad are coming for me.  They are coming to take me home.  I must keep looking out the window or I will miss them.

Time for Questions:

How do we deal with the loss of a loved one when they are still alive?  What connections can we possibly make to bridge the sometimes-unbridgeable gaps that age has a way of creating? What if our loved ones are still with us even when we may think they are not?  How do we have compassion for people who no longer seem to know or care about us?

Life is just beginning.

“What would I have wanted to say if I had had the opportunity to see him one more time? I would like to think that I would have kept it simple and said, “I love you,” then just held his hand in silence, letting that thought linger in the space of the time we had left together.”
― Lisa J. ShultzA Chance to Say Goodbye: Reflections on Losing a Parent

 

 

 

Emily and Robert:  A love story

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Our story starts in a bathroom.   Emily is brushing her teeth and thinking about her beloved husband Robert.  Emily is 85 years old and Robert is 87 years old.  Emily and Robert have had a long life together.  Often happy, but often tumultuous with the stress of family, money and work disrupting the natural harmony of things.  Through all the ups and downs, their love for each other was the one constant of their lives.  Despite all the cliches about true love and being made for each other and all the other tropes one hears about lovers, no two people ever loved each other more than Emily and Robert.

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For the past ten years, Emily had been taking care of Robert.  After he had his second stroke, Robert needed help to dress and shower each morning.  He was no longer able to take care of his house hold chores and he needed help to do the many activities that he had once taken for granted.  Robert was a proud man but Emily was also very stubborn and she showed her love for Robert in her dedication to helping him.  Robert was appreciative and demonstrated it by doing all he could to minimize the burden for Emily.  He never complained and he never forget to say thank you to Emily no matter how many times she helped him.

An-older-couple-sitting-i-0072Emily and Robert had been married for nearly 65 years.  They were both in their early twenties when they met in college.  It was love at first sight.  Their parents wanted them to wait to finish college but after a brief whirlwind romance, they simply eloped.  They surprised everyone when they came back to school and finished their college degrees.  Robert became an engineer and Emily was a school teacher for many years.  The careers they chose suited their personalities.  They were known as hard faithful workers.  Not once in over forty years did any employer ever have a complaint or problem with either Robert or Emily.  After forty-five years, they both chose to retire so they could spend more time together after Robert’s first stroke.

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The saddest part of their lives was their inability to have their own children.  However, they made up for this by becoming foster parents.  Over the course of their years together, they had helped to raise nearly twenty-five foster children.  The social service agency responsible for the placements always said that they could not have found two more loving parents.  As parents, they were strict with high expectations but they were always fair and compassionate.  They latino-couplewere loved by all their foster children who often returned home to visit or to simply stop by with a bit of news or something to eat.  Robert and Emily could not have loved any children of their own more than they loved their foster children.

 

Emily continued brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed.  The light was off in their bedroom and the bathroom adjoined the bedroom.  Emily kept up a running dialogue with Robert about her day and the trip she had taken to visit one of her sick foster children.  Robert never answered so Emily just assumed he was reading or perhaps had fallen asleep.  Even after all these years, they still slept together.  Robert always slept closest to the bathroom door and Emily slept on the other side closest to the window.

lady surprisedEmily finished brushing her teeth and then took her nightly pills.  She shut off the bathroom light and started out to the bedroom.  The light by Robert’s side of the bed was on and Emily started to say something to Robert when abruptly she stopped.  Her eyes fell upon an empty bed that was undisturbed.  The sheets and bed covers had not been moved.  Emily was surprised and shocked.  Where was bedroom at nightRobert?  Suddenly, Emily remembered.  Robert had died the previous week and had been buried two days before on Saturday.  Tears came to her eyes.  What would she do without her Robert?  She was all alone now.  No one to go to bed with.  No one to talk to at night.  No one who would regularly listen to her complaints and problems about the world.

Being the survivor of a pair of lovers is a terrible burden.  Most of us want to go first.  However, neither Emily or Robert had ever wanted to be the first to go for both knew how hard it would be for the other.  Sadly, someone must go first.  The survivor is left with a vacuum in their life and memories.  The vacuum can never be filled and the memories cannot be forgotten.  Events that happened many years ago seem like they just happened yesterday and events of a few days past seem like they happened eons ago.  Memories do not respect a correlation to physical time.

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Emily will die in five years.  In between today and her death, she will experience joy, sadness, pain and a certainty that life will once more resume for her and Robert.  She believes that somewhere in this vast universe, her atoms and Robert’s atoms will coalesce and the two of them will again be united.  As sure as you are reading this story, Robert and Emily will live joyfully ever after in a place where life and death can no longer challenge their happiness.

Time for Questions:

What is love?  Have you ever been in love?  How do you know?  Who was the greatest love of your life?  Why?  Is there anything more important than love?

Life is just beginning.

“The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day, but over and over again – and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.” —  Barbara De Angelis
 

The Sexiest Story Ever Told – X Rated

man and woman no color

Well, now that I have got your attention, I will tell you a secret.  I lied.  This will probably not be the sexiest story ever told.  It will however, be a slightly sexy story.  The title seemed like a good way to get you to listen to my strange but true tale.  Not many people will believe me but I swear it really happened.  It took place, 20 years ago in the year 2255.  Connubial sex had been banned nearly 150 years earlier in 2107.

black man white womanI need to back up a bit as you must understand some mitigating factors.  Most people of my generation today have no idea about why mutual sex was abolished.  With hind sight, it may seem a little like throwing the baby out with the bath water.  However, around the year 2090, war, terrorism and violence had become so common that everyone agreed something must be done about it.  A group of the leading thinkers in the world formed a committee to see whether aggression could be stopped.  They accepted the fact that most savage and brutal actions were committed by males of the species.  Throughout history, men have fought wars over territory, money, power, fame and women.  Men were responsible for most murders, robberies, rapes and crimes against women.  The committee noted that the underlying drive behind male aggression was a preponderance of the hormone testosterone.  A theory was proposed that if something could be done to reduce the amount of male testosterone, a corresponding drop in world violence would take place.

Working on the afore mentioned theory, several scientists soon located the gene for male testosterone.  A simple means of genetically altering the chromosomes producing testosterone was subsequently found.  Next, it was decided by a secret government committee that any female pregnant with a baby boy would be given an injection which would effectively neuter the gene that produced male testosterone.  At first, it was tried only in California.  The results were so positive that the practice soon spread to every state in the USA and eventually every country in the world adopted the method.

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By the year 2100, war, rape, domestic abuse, assaults and road rage had become things of the past.  The “new” male was peaceable, pliant, cooperative and extremely non-aggressive.  The only problem was that the anatomy of a man that was not supposed to be pliant was now perpetually pliant.  It was found that without the aid of testosterone, the male genitalia would remain more flexible than inflexible.  Some looked for a cure for this problem, but having destroyed the genes that produce testosterone, there was now none available for any medicinal purposes.  Even more detrimental to the reproduction of the species was the fact that most men no longer exhibited any sex drive or interest in procreation.

delicious-black-loversThe solution was political rather than biological.  The “Birth Act of 2107” decreed that any physical conjoining of men and women was illegal and immoral.  The Supreme High Committee decided that since ancient methods of reproduction were now unreliable, the only way that women could have a baby was by artificial insemination.  First, a prospective mother would need to file a permit for a license.  Once having a license approved (the present birth rate was a critical factor in licensing decisions) a woman could then go to a birth clinic where she would be impregnated using a glass syringe.  Male sperm was collected by harvesting willing males who were paid a fee for their production.  Collected specimens were then sent to a national sperm bank to be cataloged and eventually matched with appropriate recipients.

art,collision,couples,hug-a0f1e155fe157b9d44e4442c55d61efa_iNow as you know, life will always produce mutations.  Genetic anomalies that defy the common strain of biology.  And so, several years ago, a male baby was born with the genes to develop testosterone.  His parents were not aware of this fact until he reached his pre-teens at which point his unique physical abilities were more than obvious.  Unsure what the repercussions would be, his mother advised him not to tell anyone.  His parents assumed that he could quite easily hide his sometimes-awkward condition from his peers and society at large. This strategy worked for many years.  During this time, Adam tried to exercise his abilities as discreetly as possible.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for Adam, his unique proficiency soon developed quite a coterie of female followers.  Upon hearing rumors of Adam’s prowess, many young women wanted to sample his talents for themselves.  There was ample testimony that Adam’s skills in impregnating a woman was a much more pleasant way of going about the birth process then a glass syringe.

Before long, his neighbors noted the large number of nubile women coming and going from Adam’s home.  Eventually, one of them (no one knows who) contacted the National Security Agency to report the strange situation of so many women showing up at Adam’s house.  The agency sent an investigator who questioned several of the women before they entered Adam’s house.  Each one simply said that Adam was a friend and that they were only visiting him.

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The situation was reported to the Chief of the National Security Agency.  He suspected that there might be more than just visiting going on.  The Chief decided that he needed someone to infiltrate and get the goods on Adam first hand.  He chose to seek a woman officer for the mission and was surprised when most of the female employees at the National Security Agency volunteered.  He pondered whether he should select an agent based on seniority or attractiveness.  Seniority was dictated by agency rules, but intuition told him that an informant might have a better chance of being accepted by Adam if they were attractive.  He picked his most beautiful officer for the operation.  Officer Eve was over joyed with the assignment and swore she would do her best.

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Eve was outfitted with a tight-fitting jump suit and dropped off several blocks from Adam’s house.  A spy bot was positioned outside Adam’s domicile complete with a video camera and communication with Agency headquarters.  In about thirty minutes, Eve showed up at Adam’s door and tapped his door alarm.  Adam went to the door and took one look at Eve.  He had no hesitation about allowing Officer Eve access.

Several hours went by and monitors at the station headquarters began to think that something had gone wrong.  Possible interruption of the operation was contemplated but the Chief felt that it was too soon to compromise Eve’s cover.  It was decided to give Eve another thirty minutes and if she did not communicate during this time, they would assault Adam’s house.  With less than ten minutes to go, much to everyone’s surprise, Eve suddenly walked out of the house looking quite cheerful.

“What the heck” thought the Chief and all the agency monitors.  “No go ahead call or any interdiction messages from Eve.  What had been going on during the five hours that Eve had been inside?”  As soon as Eve arrived by at station headquarters, they would find out.

Eve walked in to the headquarters and was barraged with questions: “What happened?”  “Are you, alright?”  “What is this guy up to?”  “What did you do with all that time while you were inside?”

Eve rather nonchalantly answered:  “Adam loves to play chess.  We had a great game of chess.  He has invited me back to play again.  I hope the agency will be all right with that?”

chinese lovers

The Chief was very suspicious and decided to send another agent in.  This action was repeated several times but the results were always the same.  Female agent after agent came back marveling at the great game of chess that Adam played.  Many other female agents offered to infiltrate Adam’s residence but finally the agency Chief reluctantly decided that they were spending too much time with too few results.  The operation was aborted.  The Chief went back to his paperwork and the agents found other work to do.

Approximately, nine months later, all of the security agents that had been used as infiltrators at Adams had applied for pregnancy leave.

Well, that’s the whole story.  Everything I have told you is true although I am telling you twenty years after the fact.  You see, I just heard the story yesterday.  My mother Eve waited twenty years to inform me that I was born by a very old-ancient birthing technique known as consensual sex and that my Uncle Adam was really my father.

Oh!  My name is Cain and I have got to go tell my brother Abel the story so that he knows the truth as well.

adam and eve

Time for Questions:

What if there were humans before the Garden of Eden?  Do you think that sex will ever go out of popularity?  What if everybody was celibate?  Have you ever thought of being celibate?  Why or why not?  Would it be worth it to eliminate sex if we could eliminate violence, wars and murder?

Life is just beginning.

“Let’s make out, have sex, cuddle, and have a deep talk. Then let’s have sex again, go out to eat, go back home, watch a movie, put on some music and then have sex again.  When we get up in the morning, I will make you breakfast in bed.”

 

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