There’s no place like…

Maple Avenue and Noyes Street, Evanston, Illinois (February 2019)

Fifty-four years old. Fifty-four years of being one of the lucky ones to call a particular address “Home.” Fifty-four years of memory…

I was born at 2560 Ridge Avenue in an Evanston Hospital delivery room. I have been told there was a snow event that day. A few days later I took my first car ride south down Ridge Avenue to an apartment building at the corner of Maple Avenue and Noyes Street – right next to the Noyes Station on Chicago’s ‘L’ (Elevated) Purple Line. I don’t remember my first home nor do I remember the sound of the L right outside my bedroom. Development psychologists would say that the sounds reverberating through my first home as L cars went by shaped my sense of wonder and the peace that I feel when I hear a train. (Just this past weekend I waited for sleep lying in my boyhood bed while visiting my brother and heard the sounds of a train whistle and the roll of its wheels in the distance. I fell immediately to sleep.)

A year later I moved (or, rather, was moved by my parents) to my next home on Michigan Avenue on the border of Evanston and Chicago. My first memory comes from my time at this apartment building. It is a very strong memory, probably because it involves four of my five senses: sight, sound, touch and smell. I sat on the stairs between two floors of the apartment building just high enough where I could see through the transom window over the front door of the apartment below. Out of the transom window came light from within, the sounds of a party (laughter and conversation), the smells of cooking (chicken?) while my butt was keenly aware that it was on the hard wood of the steps. I felt intense sadness at being outside while the party went on inside. I felt excluded and uninvited. The laughter that came out the transom seemed directed at me. I remember standing, placing a hand on the wooden railing as I turned to walk up the stairs. End of memory.

Just as trains bring me peace I have no doubt that my dis-ease and discomfort with parties starts with this memory. I am also aware that my strong sense of justice (and injustice), particularly when it comes to inclusion and exclusion, begins on those steps. Is it possible for a two-year-old to form at that early stage of being human a life’s call to purpose and mission where no human being should feel what I felt on those hard steps?

More home addresses followed. Buffalo Grove. Back to Evanston. Arthur, Illinois. Topeka, Kansas. Flossmoor, Illinois. Greencastle, Indiana. Logan Square, Chicago. Indianapolis. Martinsville, Indiana. Irvington, Indiana. Kalamazoo. Back to Irvington. Noblesville, Indiana.

So many memories. Beginning at home on Maple Avenue in Evanston. Continuing at my current home on Maple Avenue in Noblesville. More, I am sure, to come…

In the Eye of the Beholder…

Nude Under a Pine Tree, Pablo Picasso

“Many things that come into the world are not looked into. The individual says, ‘My crowd doesn’t run that way.’ I say, don’t run with crowds.”
― Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I have stood before Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam mesmerized by the immensity of the painting (12’ by 14’) and by the striding almost life-sized figures in black and white.

I have stood in front of Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg not knowing what an impact it would have on my spirituality at seminary four decades later.

I contemplated Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” at the Louvre Museum wondering why this was such a famous painting.

I have stood before da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” at the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan imagining for myself what Jesus’ last meal with his disciples might have looked like.

Twice I have stood below Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City looking upward trying to imagine how Charlton Heston created such a wonder – in agony and in ecstasy.

In the late-1980’s when I was a banker in downtown Chicago I would take advantage of admission-free Thursdays at The Art Institute of Chicago and pay a lunchtime visit. I could walk out the front entrance to my place of work at the corner of Adams Street and Wacker Drive, pick up a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese along the eight-block walk down Adams and enter straight into the front entrance of the AIC. As my lunch hour was limited to sixty-ish minutes I did not have the luxury to take on the museum stroll for very long. Thankfully my favorite room was the room at the top of the first flight of stairs after coming in the front doors off of Michigan Avenue between the famous lions.

Yesterday, twenty-nine years after my last visit, I made that same entrance and climbed the same first flight of stairs delighted that my Impressionists were still located in the very same room.

My tastes have changed. Whereas on my Thursday lunchtime visits I could sit and easily pass the time noting the differences in palette between Monet’s Haystacks, yesterday I was moved by Chagall, Dove and Picasso, and was fairly indifferent to the work of my beloved Cezanne.

There is so much beauty in the world; not just in the world of art. It is humanly impossible, for this human in particular, to see ALL as beautiful all the time. And yet, Picasso’s Nude Under a Pine Tree is not an object of beauty until I turn a corner and go, “Wow!”

“Beauty is no material thing. Beauty cannot be copied. Beauty is the sensation of pleasure on the mind of the seer. No thing is beautiful. But all things await the sensitive and imaginative mind that may be aroused to pleasurable emotion at the sight of them. This is beauty.”
― Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The Cost of Convenience…

Shipping Labels

Yesterday I received four padded mailers from Amazon. Each contained one or more small booklets that I had ordered two days prior – yes, I am a Prime Member. Each mailer was identical in size. Two plastic mailers. Two manila mailers. One mailer came from Philadelphia. One from Kansas City. One from Columbus. One from Kenosha. All were sent to the Amazon sort center in Hebron (Kentucky) which directed them to the Noblesville Postal Service for delivery to my home.

I work for Amazon. Each day I have occasion to think, “How in the world does my company make any money?” I see inefficiencies everywhere. I believe this question is endemic to all persons in all workplaces, i.e. I am not alone in sighing at my perceived sense of waste of dollars and human effort. When I return from work where I raised that question and find FOUR mailers for ONE order on my front porch, I sigh and raise the same question again: How is it possible for any person or non-person to make any money with such apparent waste?

I have an undergraduate degree where I majored in Economics and one quarter of a Masters of Business Administration in Economics. I “learned” that markets, processes, human endeavors, human consumption and human delights, if left unattended, unregulated, untaxed, unpersuaded and uncontrolled (whatever that may mean) in any manner would seek an equilibrium point of interaction that would be the most “efficient” point for that particular transaction or endeavor. (I recognize that this is a gross oversimplification of very complex and many-layered ventures and undertakings.)

In the Good Old Days of Yore I would have shopped for the same items at my local Barnes & Noble in Noblesville. One shopper – me. One store. All eight items located in the same shelf. I would have paid the listed price printed on the ISBN label less the discount for being a Barnes & Noble Loyal Customer. I would bring those items home and happily consume them in the way in which each was created to be consumed.

Fast forward to today. I paid the same list price for the items on the ISBN at Amazon – sorry, no price reduction. I received my employee discount which is roughly equivalent to a Loyal Customer discount. My shipping was as free as if I had brought the items home from Barnes & Noble of Noblesville myself – again, I am a Prime Member.

Net out-of-pocketbook dollar cost to me, Mr. Consumer, is the same for both transactions.

So, here’s the rub: How is it that Amazon.com flirts with being the World’s Most Valuable Company in this scenario?

Surely, it can’t be because of any efficiency gains created by the United States’ sole God, the God of the Free Market, and His Son, Economies of Scale and Efficient Equilibrium Who is constantly being crucified by Socialists, Market Manipulators and Taxes? Any sane Priest of Economics would say that this is exactly what is happening and defend Jeff Bezos’ right, indeed any person’s right, to interact with the Noble Consumer who is pushed around and/or pulled by the Invisible Hand of the God – or Goddess – of Whimsy.

I, once a Priest of Economics, a Follower of Friedman, a Dilettante of Dodd and Debreau and a Student of Stigler (yes, I was George Stigler’s caddy every Tuesday morning at Flossmoor Country Club during the summers of my youth), am now – and, to be honest, have been for some time – skeptical of the Holy Scripture of Economic Efficiency.

I am now declaring myself a Conservative in that I rejoice in and believe to be true that the sole measure of efficiency, any sort of efficiency, is that which gives me the most output of goods and services provided by others for as little input as possible of my own time and Being and personal resources i.e. conserves my time, my self, and my money.

I am now…conveniently…a Conservative of Convenience…my convenience.

panem et circenses

Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme

My first Super Bowl memory comes from January 18, 1976. My beloved Dallas Cowboys led by my boyhood hero, Roger Staubach, were playing in Super Bowl X against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. I watched the game in a Holiday Inn guest room in Harvey, Illinois. (The family had just moved from Topeka, Kansas to Flossmoor, Illinois. We were staying at the Holiday Inn while renovations were being completed on the parsonage that was to become my “boyhood” home.) It was a close game. Lynn Swann was named MVP; making catches that became part of his career highlight video. Roger made a Hail Mary with three seconds to go that was intercepted in the endzone. Steelers 21. Cowboys 17. And my heart broke.

Two years later, January 15, 1978, in the first Super Bowl played in a dome (Super Bowl XII), my Cowboys rode those Broncos to victory. Cowboys 27. Broncos 10.

January 21, 1979. The year of the Mean Joe Greene ad where Mean Joe turns nice after being handed a Coke by a young fan. The game was another heartbreaker. Super Bowl XIII (unlucky 13). Steelers 35. Cowboys 31. And the Cowboys were never heard from again after the Staubach era ended until another quarterback, Troy Aikman, brought them to the big game fourteen years later.

After 1979 all my attention turned to my hometown team. The Monsters of the Midway. The Chicago Bears.

The date January 26, 1986 in Super Bowl lore could be seen in many lights. Super Bowl XX was the very first appearance in a Super Bowl by the New England Patriots. The first of eleven. It was also the first appearance by the Chicago Bears. The final score was the largest margin of victory in a Super Bowl. Bears 46. Patriots 10. The Fridge took the plunge. Sweetness did not score. The Bears shuffled home, champions.

The most memorable moment of that game came from the pre-game show where Tom Brokaw interviewed President Ronald Reagan. Near the end of the interview Reagan asked Brokaw for a moment of privilege in order to share a football memory of his playing days at Eureka College. The memory Reagan shared was a story that involved himself and his good friend and teammate, Bud Cole, my great uncle. (Catch the story at 6:45.) I still remember how delightfully shocked the family was watching the telecast in the warmth of Siesta Key, Florida.

My interest in the big game has lessened such that I find the use of Roman numerals as a way of numbering the Super Bowls more interesting than any of the actual games. Much has been written about how America’s zeal for the big game mirrors the zeal of the Roman Empire for it’s games. Americans are happy – and easily distracted from what really matters in life – as long as they are served bread and games. I believe there is some truth to the comparison. However, there is A TRUTH when it comes to the Super Bowl…Americans are happiest when the New England Patriots lose.

In this corner…Naked Isaiah!

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

Chris Hedges preaches.

Read Confronting the Culture of Death, a sermon delivered this past Sunday.

Hedges informs. Hedges provokes anger (in supporters and detractors). Hedges saddens. Hedges encourages. Hedges never hedges.

Hedges speaks as one with authority; unlike the ignorant, vomiting, talking heads who spew the dogmatic views and “news” given to them by her or his media employer (FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, ETC.) and corporate sponsor (pick any corporation). A long-time war correspondent who immersed himself in the recent bitter struggles of human being against human being (Middle East, the Balkans, Central America). An ordained Presbyterian minister. Son of an ordained Presbyterian minister. Teacher. Writer. Husband. Father. Human Being. (Read the wikipedia entry for him.)

I encountered and then fell in love with Hedges’ writing and thinking when I read his first book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning in a seminary class, “War and Hebrew Scripture.” The Truth he spoke resonated deeply with me, as one who is a classically trained economist with practical experience in the world of high finance, as a father and as a person called by God to share God’s word. Since that time I have long shared Hedge’s proclamations and prognostications on Facebook, in sermons and in conversations.

Hedges speaks the same truth today as any biblical prophet spoke in times gone by: Repent or die! Pretty simple.

The question is: Of what do we repent? Hedges’ list is long…or short…depending on how you read him. His list is as follows:

Greed
Greed
GREED

Oh, and the last item on the list is greed.

Whenever I read Hedges I am always reminded of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

Number one on the List of Greed is: OUR Safety. Safety as a person, as a neighborhood, as a tribe, as a community, as an ethnicity, and as a nation. OUR Safety is SO important that the United States spends OVER 50% of its discretionary spending on military defense. FIFTY percent!!! Think about it: Would any household spend more than 50% of it’s income on an ADT Security System? ADT would sure like for us to do so. And we do. By embracing the idea that billions and billions of dollars (more than the national budgets of the next 5 or 6 countries combined!) will make us more safe. Are we? Do you feel safer? Perhaps there is a “need” to spend an additional $6 billion for a wall?

Have you traveled recently to another “First World” country? In Europe? In Asia? Germany? Norway? Japan? China? If so, did you notice (and were perhaps shocked?) how more advanced those nations are in terms of technology, infrastructure, culture, transportation, ecology, medicine and well-being? Or, do you continue to mindlessly compare the United States to “shithole” countries and thus feel good about our nation’s superiority in the world? Perhaps you declare, “Why do all the people want to immigrate to the United States?” without thinking that little to very, very few persons from other “First World” countries “immigrate” to our nation. Why not? Sure, some students from other “First World” countries come to the United States for an education…but they always return home. Who wants to stay in a “shithole” country compared to her or his own?

Hedges’ brilliance goes on and on and on…just as I could go on and on and on lifting up his prophetic declarations. I encourage you to read the sermon…or not.

Will you/we hear him? Probably not…for a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s home, hometown or country. Far easier to shrug and ask, “What can I do?” Even easier to ignore and ask, “Did you say something?” Even more easy…and saner…to point at the Isaiah wandering around naked and say, “What a nut!?!”

After all, who wants to hear, “This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited up a figure like Trump.”

How Women Named the Company I Work For…

Siurima Waiapi of the Waiapi tribe – Photo: AFP

The impetus for this post came to me the other day when I was again asked about the name of my employer. 

“Where did the name Amazon come from?  The river?”

I usually answer, “Yes, from the Amazon River.  Although the official corporate charter name is AMAZON.COM, INC.”

I might then go on to add, “However, Amazon is not the original name of the company.  The first name of the company was ‘Cadabra’ which is short for the magical word ‘abracadabra.’ When Jeff Bezos learned that people were hearing ‘Cadabra’ as ‘cadaver,’ he and others began a search for a new name.  A few domains were registered: Awake.com, Browse.com, Bookmall.com, but only one of those domains still remains, Relentless.com.”  (Click on the link Relentless.com and guess where you are directed?)  “One day Bezos went through the dictionary in search of a name.  He started with the A’s.  And, not too far in, he came upon ‘Amazon,’ and the rest is history.”1

But that is not the wholestory…

Perhaps in the story of the name “Amazon” there is a bit of herstory in the history. As always, one question leads to another question. 

“How did the river that is called 'Amazon' receive the name Amazon?”

The river already had a perfectly good name, El Río Marañón; a name given to it by the first Spanish explorers, with Marañón probably a Spanish approximation of a local tribe’s name for their part of the mighty river.  Another question.

“Whence Amazon?”

Sometimes when asked the Corporate Name Question I feel a little playful and respond with, “The name for the company Amazon.com comes from a tribe of ancient, middle-eastern warrior-women who cut off one of their breasts in order to more easily draw a bowstring.”  Imagine the look on faces with that conversation piece.  And then another question.

“How is it that innumerable indigenous tribal names for the largest river on earth become subsumed into one name which comes from an even earlier tribal period of human her(his)tory where one-breasted women rode in cavalry-formation picking off their enemy male counterparts with bows and arrows?”

Frightful, in my mind.  Imagine the warpaint on those warrior-women.  And yet, all this is not true in the factual sense of true according to current scholarly historical thinking. The idea of a group of one-breasted-bow-bearing-women-warriors comes from folk and mythical story which at one point in time was deemed historically “true.” The thinking of the scholarly historians of old was that “Amazon” is a combination of two words in the Greek language: “a” (without) and “mazos” (breast).  (Aside: Does ‘mazos’ rhyme with ‘bezos’?) It was from this mythic understanding of “Amazon” as women-warriors that the El Rio Marañón received the name Rio Amazonas.  And another question.

“How in the world does a mythical name for a middle-eastern, Scythian tribe of women-warriors come all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to the equatorial region of a newly ‘discovered’ continent?”

Enter the colonial era. The Spanish Explorer Francisco de Orellana remembered his Herodotus and the tales of the warrior-women of old when, after an attack by a native tribe where the women fought alongside the men, Orellana introduced the name “Amazonas.”

And there it is…where Jeff Bezos saw fit to give his company the name of the world’s largest river, in actuality, I work for a company whose name derives from a dynamic collective process whereby a Spanish colonialist conqueror leading an expedition in search of the Land of Cinnamon down an ‘unknown’ river is attacked by a tribe of men and women defending their homes and, as a result proclaims, “Amazonas,” which itself is an ignorant understanding by the expert historians of his era who truly believed that the name of an ancient group of fighting women was Amazon. 
 
 
 1 A summary of the naming of Amazon.com, Inc. found in The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone; which itself is a part of the story that is being added to the Myth of the Amazon.
 

Grief Described…

from “The Scream” by Edvard Munch

…or the most difficult thread to follow…

(For those who encounter this Blog and/or this post for the first time… My daughter, Sydney Marie Brotheridge, committed suicide and died on June 9, 2018.)

Warning: Grammar Ahead!

(How many times have I said or have heard the following said: “Grammar kills me!” or “If I have to conjugate one more verb I’m going to kill myself!” Needless to say, I have a deeper and more profound understanding of the significance of Grammar’s Death-Dealing Ways when placed alongside Life’s Death-Dealing Ways.)

So, in the immortal words of my high school freshman Language Arts teacher, Mr. Chip Shields: “Grammar is important. Proper grammar could save your life.” (I have no idea if Mr. Shields said those EXACT words back in 1979 but they capture the gist of what I took away from those tedious Grammar units in Language Arts.)

Two dictionary definitions: Grief as a noun and Grieve as a verb in two forms…

Grief, noun, Intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death

“I am overcome with Grief because of Sydney Marie’s death.”

Grieve, verb, [intransitive] to feel very sad, especially because someone has died

“I am still grieving the death of my daughter, Sydney Marie.”

Grieve, verb, [transitive] to make you feel very sad

“Sydney Marie’s death grieves me that I could do nothing to help her.”

I love how the Oxford Dictionary winnows incredibly complex thoughts, processes, states of being and human emotions down to a few simple words. (An aside: It strikes me that the Dictionary Method is the exact opposite of the Poetic Method. In other words, the Poetic Method takes a few simple words to create in the reader’s mind complex thoughts, processes, states of being and human emotions. I can’t help but feel that the difference is similar to a preference between: “Who’s on First?” by Abbott and Costello or “Chapter V: Advice From A Caterpillar” from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll?)

Google “grief” and you can click pages and pages and pages of “Next,” which leads me to think that Oxford’s dictionary definition cannot fulfill what a person wants when s/he seeks to live with grief. (Another aside: I think a fairly strong case can be made that Grief is more complex than Love when it comes to lived human experience. OR, and this is a novel thought for me, perhaps Grief, not Hate, is the opposite of Love. I am going to have to explore that thread a bit more…later.)

…Back to my Grief over Sydney Marie’s death which grieves me when I am grieving.

I have not found solace or solution for MY Grief in the countless books about Grief. The number of websites, let alone books, that number Grief in one way or another numbs my mind…and my heart. For example: “6 Grief Books That Actually Helped,” “9 Best Books for Dealing With Grief and Loss,” “32 Books About Death and Grief,” “11 Books to Help You Confront Your Grief” (How insane is the idea “confront your Grief”?), “Journeying Through Grief” (As if Grief is a location or an adventure), and my favorite, “I’m Dying Up Here: Books on How to Grieve and How to Die.”

Instead, give me a poem. Give me a poem.

Here are two books of poetry that currently carry me along my almost impossible and certainly insane “Journey through the Adventure-Land of Grief”:

The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing edited by Kevin Young

Holocaust Poetry compiled and introduced by Hilda Schiff

AND, more than any other, THE ONE POEM that captures the nature of MY GRIEF (One thing I have learned about Grief is that Grief is VERY personal and VERY different for each individual) is the following:

TAKE MY GRIEF… by Charla Norman
Do you want my grief,
Take it please,
Hold it next to your heart,
Feel it burn and tear you apart,
Please I beg of you,
Ease my mind,
Give me sleep for just one night,
Get the flashbacks,
The heart stopping pangs,
The helplessness from losing my way,
Can you feel my grief,
Hold it close,
It will bring you to your knees,
Your soul will yell, it will scream,
Can you hear it bellow while it takes your peace,
Your body aches, your mind stands still,
You live in the past, where things were real,
Help me friend,
I ask of you,
Take this grief,
For a day or two,
Just long enough, so I can clear my head,
So I can pretend my child’s not dead.



$337

It’s going to be interesting as people fill out their 2018 income tax returns. Last year’s Tax Cuts & Job Act passed with much hullabaloo: “Tax cuts for everyone!” I did some calculations then and figured I’d save a little bit in 2018, about $300 or so.

I wasn’t too far off the mark. I plugged the numbers from my 2017 tax program (H&R Block) into my 2018 program (H&R Block). Guess what? My taxes are $337 less under the Tax Cuts & Job Act.

What specifically brought about the $337? The Tax Cuts & Job Act eliminates exemptions and almost doubles the standard deduction. For me, the difference amounts to a $555 increase in my deductions, i.e. less taxable income of $555. The remaining tax difference looks as though my tax rate decreased a bit. Yippee! (Sarcasm there…)

So, will folks in my situation be happy with $337 given an increase in the federal budget deficit this past year to $883 billion? (Point of comparison: 2016 deficit = $585bn, 2015 deficit = $438bn, 2014 deficit = $485)

I am not happy; especially knowing that folks with more income are receiving bigger tax breaks, as are corporations. Given our “incredible economy” this past year I am even MORE unhappy as economic growth should mean a decrease in the budget deficit. No, the federal government still managed to spend more than revenue received.

$337 more in my pocket and an even worse financial picture in Washington than previous years.

What’s a taxpayer to do?

On Clotho, On Lachesis, On Atropos…NOT!

by Georgia Moore

First, this is not a “Sewing” web log or “blog” for short.

There will be no thoughts on running stitches. Nothing about basting stitches. Not a word on the backstitch; though I like the connotations of the word “backstitch.” No catch stitching clarifications. Likewise, no slip stitching; again, interesting undertones. No buttonhole stitching. And, from what my limited knowledge and Googling has shown me, these types of stitches are just names for hand-sewn stitches. There are other categories of stitches. So, let me make a blanket statement about sewing machine stitches: none will be found.

The extent of my sewing knowledge and of my sewing ability is limited to crudely bringing together with needle and thread two sides of cloth of a favorite item of clothing which has been ripped or torn; usually a shirt or the crotch of a pair of shorts or pants. Sometimes the color of the thread that I use matches the cloth I am sewing together. Sometimes.

No, I am not interested in the physical use of thread and the act of sewing. Reader, if this is your primary interest then click on another link in your search for thread-related websites.

I am, however, very interested in thread as metaphor, as a concept, as a thought-experiment, as a symbol and as a way of understanding what pulls me through Life.

The title of this blog comes from the first line of the poem “The Way It Is” by William Stafford.

“There is a thread you follow.”

“The Way It Is” is one of my favorite poems. William Stafford is one of my favorite poets. Yes, there will be poems in this blog. Many poems.

Note: I do NOT want to give the impression that this is a blog devoted to a deterministic understanding of the human condition; as if the Greek fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, were sitting on their stools creating the thread of an individual’s life, dispensing that thread of life and then ending a thread of life with a quick snip of a pair of mythic scissors. Imagine how busy they would be given the billions and billions of lives that have been, that are and that will be. Busy, busy, busy. Though I do like the discovery made by the Ancient Greeks about the effectiveness of the division of labor.

A side note: If you are interested in gorgeous art, Google images of “Greek Fates”.

Simply put: the guiding theme of this blog is to follow the multiple and various and infinite threads of Life as I live them…

Read on if this seems appealing.

Feel free to leave a comment if the thread you follow is pulled in any particular way by my reflections on the thread that I follow.

And enjoy.

New Year’s Resolution 2019

The first selfie of 2019

For several years I have taken the wise words which Walt Whitman wrote to preface his Leaves of Grass as my resolution for the upcoming year. Resolved:

This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
despise riches,
give alms to every one that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
hate tyrants,
argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any [person] or number of [persons],
go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,
re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem.

How have I done?

Love the sun…Just the other day I asked Elizabeth to join me on her back deck to take a look at my favorite color, a light pink, filling the sky at the end of a winter sunset.

Despise riches…I am firmly committed to the notion that the number one problem in the world today is the immense wealth disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

Give alms…I had a 50% success rate the other day. On the drive down to Bloomington to be with my parents, I paused at the stoplight on the off-ramp of I-465 to SR 37 South to give $1 to a lovely lady holding a cardboard sign. However, an hour later on my way to lunch in Bloomington, I did not stop for a man sitting up against a storefront in Eastland mall holding a similar sign.

Stand up for the stupid and crazy…I do so every time my stupid and crazy self stands up.

Devote income and labor to others…The majority of my income goes to provide food, shelter and WiFi for my youngest daughter and I continue to labor for the richest man in the world.

Hate tyrants…Especially orange tyrants that are “rich.”

Argue not concerning God…Not that I think God cares, but as a highly educated “professional” theologian no longer in the business of religion who firmly believes that many professed “religious” people haven’t updated their thinking about the nature of “g*d” in thousands of years…I think I have failed miserably.

Have patience and indulgence toward the people…Yeah, Uncle Walt, right.

Take off your hat…Check. I typically don’t wear a hat. When I do wear a hat in the winter the only time I take off my hat is to give my head a furious scratching to relieve the burning and itching of hat-head. One day, a co-worker and I took off our hats at the same time and scratched together. He said, nonchalantly, “A good hat-head scratching is orgasmic.” Amen!

Go freely with…A BIG check here. I work with them, daily. Powerful, lovely people. Real people. “Uneducated” people by the “standards” of “educated” people. Young people punching the clock day in and day out, in their early-20’s and, get this, who have been doing so for YEARS already since they graduated high school. And the single mothers? Even at $15 an hour with Amazon’s fantastic benefits a single mother struggles. Many at Amazon have two jobs. A single mother WITH TWO JOBS… MAGA!?! (See my wealth disparity comment above.)

Re-examine all you have been told…Another BIG check. I am a big fan of “Been There Done That.” How about striving to repair the entire order of Creation one incremental step at a time rather than focusing on walling off our small corner of the universe?

Dismiss whatever insults your own soul…Daily.

And your very flesh shall be a great poem…Flesh that takes longer to recover after three hours of volleyball or a BURN workout. Flesh that enjoys more reclining and napping. Flesh that gets up more frequently during the night to go pee. Flesh that proves gravity works. Flesh that requires more types of medication to properly function. And, interestingly, a greater sense of comfort and belonging in my own flesh than I had when I was younger. So, yes, I guess my flesh is a great poem!

All of this 2018 resolution stuff pales, though. No, not pales, fades to insignificance. No, not fades, either. Here it is: all this 2018 resolution stuff doesn’t amount to anything given that one daughter suffered through a horrific concussion that shut her down completely for two weeks and then this was immediately followed by a school shooting and one daughter committed suicide and one daughter is still looking for employment. I know that I am not the only one in my family who is saying, “Good riddance 2018!”

Yet there were some grand and good things in 2018. The overused axiom, “The worst brings out the best,” was shown to be true. The willingness of teachers at Noblesville to adjust for Bay’s “lights out” experience was a surprise blessing. Bay also nailed the SAT and was selected as a Rising Star of Indiana high school students. The outpouring of support, love and attention following Sydney’s death has sustained me and gets me up off the floor when sadness knocks me down. Corinne got engaged! She has also created a beautiful home with her beloved, Hunter, in her new hometown, filled with (I may get the numbers wrong…) three dogs, two goats and two flying rodent-type critters. I met an incredible woman who was sitting on a stool at the end of a bar…

Maybe I need to move on from Uncle Walt for my 2019 resolution. I am not a fan of the traditional resolutions. They leave too much wiggle room. While the resolution may sound grand I haven’t seen too many people concerned in July about the fact that they have failed miserably with either receiving, giving or fulfilling a wish for health, happiness, prosperity, success, satisfaction, good luck, joy, calmness, kindness, peace, love, journaling, calling Mom, improved diet, attending church, weight adjustment, etc., etc., etc.

There is a great deal for me to look forward to in 2019. My oldest is getting married in May! My youngest is going to find the college of her dreams where she will spend the next four years of her life! I will happily continue my fall into love!

Perhaps I need a different poem for 2019. (Sorry, Uncle Walt. Your words have inspired and motivated me for years but…) I was reminded of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day” not too long ago. Notwithstanding the fact that thinking about a summer day in the middle of an Indiana winter is delightful, the poem makes for a nice New Year’s resolution. So, how about this? In 2019 I resolve to live into the spirit of…

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Happy New Year for 2019 to my friends, family and loved ones!