Greetings, My Fellow Humans

Note: Dear beloved English teachers, current and past, I realize every sentence is not a complete sentence. It is intentional. Sorry.

For those of you not of my generation, may you be so lucky as to become old someday, to grow wiser than ever, and to be an able matriarch or patriarch of your tribe. May you be honored for your past, cherished for wisdom today, and be a loss lamented when your time happens.

My wife Facebook shared/posted a (much too) long epistle that numerically listed 21 items of advice for old people (like we effing need it). I don’t agree with most of it. My oldest (adult) son made the sarcastic comment (it’s in his genes), “Dad’s always been on top of the latest fashions.”

I never wear socks with sandals (matured in 60-70-80s), checks or plads with stripes, or color combos that make my wife wince. I wore a uniform for years, then (after a period of high-casual) went as laid back as I could pull off.

I was once asked by a fellow manager how I ran a department where employees (include me) dressed casual Friday, Monday thru Thursday. He told me he asked upper management and got an emphatic ‘NO!” My response was, “I didn’t ask.”

But, Billy has a point.

My below the waist wardrobe: shorts, sweat pants, or jeans (clean underwear). Feet: usually short socks, slide-on shoes of some kind with rubber soles (no crocks), maybe laces, rarely sandals, very temperature dependent. I rotate sneakers but have some for rain and some for mud.

Upper bod gets things with no buttons like an old (maybe new) tee, or pullover long sleeve thingy, or sweatshirt. Formal shirts have collars like golf/polo type. Have some mock turtlenecks for when I feel all cool Pat Conroy, John Updike, or Patterson-ish like.

Dark color, pull-over sweaters for my shady moods and gloomy times of Peter Reading, Poe, Blake, e. e., T.S., A.E., Ezra, or G.G. Lord Byron-ish days. I have them.

I wear baseball (sometimes newsboy/Irish eight-piece/flat) caps.

I have clothes I no longer wear (since retired): Docker-like slacks, dress pants (not sure what still fits), sport coats covered to keep dust off, ‘nice’ long-sleeved button-down shirts (dusty), leather shoes (no wingtips or suede).

One pair of hiking boots I also use for motor scooter rides. I do have variations of workout garb that changes with the weather. A mix of sweat or beach hoodie thingies (how cold is it?) including a red rain jacket. Casual jackets, several of which I cannot recall ever having worn. I have my USAF leather flight jacket that screams ‘you put on a few’ when I wear it.

At home, it’s about how I feel. Out, it depends. I may be professor R.J. at the library, but more Chinasky at the pub. Writing at coffee shops is mood-determined. On my worst low-casual day, I look better than half the peeps in Wally World (maybe more than half), but who cares?

The last time I wore a tie either somebody died, got hitched, or I was being paid to dress like that. I have tossed a ton of ties, but a dusty dozen remain in my closet with all those belts. I wear one belt and only with jeans, but have beaucoup backups.

I try to keep my hair cut short (no old man pony tails for me, thanks), I brush and floss daily, walk about 2mi a day (when motivated), swim a bit more than that in week (shower daily after swim), sit way too much at this computer, go to one or two ‘social’ events a week, read not enough, watch some (too much) TV (The Voice, NCIS [needs me to write for them], Chicago PD, Fire, Med-maybe, an occasional Netflix movie or documentary, Bull a bit, some football [maybe]). If I go to the movie (or other) theater, I will dress medium casual, but at home…eff-it.

I really do care.

So, what’s up with (in) my closet? An old flight suit that no way would ever fit again, covered sports jacks and an old Class-A, USAF uniform (‘when I wore a younger man’s clothes’), too many shirts of which I wear less than half, pants that if not jeans I never wear, and two baskets for shorts, sweat pants, and miscellaneous whatever.

In drawers I have socks (mostly over-ankle types worn less than one day a week, if it is a socks day), underwear of which some %-age always needs tossed out, more tees, and too many pull over sweaters (all of which I like and do intend to wear, [see mood comments above] but I live in Texas). ‘tis the season, though – twenty-five degrees here this morning, which is why I sit writing this instead of out humpin’ for my 2 miles. Do not hang pullover sweaters on hangars. It gives them (you) shoulder bumps.

Okay. The truth is that I am an old man who basically does WTF he wants and has a dress and grooming code/standard bar set at ‘somewhat’ acceptable, if anyone cares. I do not wear stink (fragrances like cologne or after shave). Me? A fool? I think not; but passionate? Hell, YES! (Just not about my rags.) So, let’s end this with a poem by Yeats.

A prayer for old age by WB Yeats

God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;
From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song’s sake a fool?
I pray—for word is out
And prayer comes round again—
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.

Intense?

Look both ways on the closet rack and ask, “why do I have?”
Mind the gaps in the closet, for a tie’s a poor gift to an old man who’d be tickled with a kiss.

An allegory of conclusion

The Man in the Room

I don’t recall exactly when I learned a man was in the room. I’m sure someone told me.

For years, I watched as other people behaved as if they knew he was there. This was serious business. People (called martyrs) died because of this man. As a child, I never doubted what I was told about the man in the room. I not only believed he was there, I also knew a lot about him. He was old with a long gray beard, but handsome. He was quite distinguished and grandfatherly.

The man in the room was more important than anyone, even more than the President or the Pope. The President, and especially the Pope, also believed there was a man in the room. The Pope even had secrets that the man had entrusted to him. The man in the room was even more important than I was, or my parents, or any king.

Everything was about this man.

People wanted me to devote my life to the man in the room. We gave up things and made sacrifices either for him or to him. We did good things, like give money and stuff to the poor and needy because the man in the room wanted us to. The more we showed that we cared about the man, the better we were treated by our teachers, preachers, and parents.

The man in the room made the rules for everybody. He picked special adults and told them what the rules were for all of us. Everyone I knew agreed that there was a man in the room, and he was in charge forever. He was super powerful. He could do anything. He was in total control of everything. He could be invisible and even bring dead people to life.

He had always existed and always would.

Eventually, I learned that the man in the room made everything; even me, and you, and the Pope. I learned that he made me for a reason. I was to love and serve him and to do his will outside of the room. Everyone was. Even people who didn’t know it were supposed to serve him. That was my first world view, my purpose for being, but I didn’t fully realize it.

People would talk to the man in the room. Sometimes, they would ask for something. I was taught how to talk to him. I did this for a long time, but the man never talked back to me. Apparently, he only talked to certain people using his thoughts. That made sense. I sometimes asked the man for things. I was told he was always watching me, so I assumed that was why he never gave me anything I requested.

I knew people went into the room to see the man. One day, I decided to follow some people, hoping to see him. When I opened the door and stepped in, I saw no one, not even the people I had followed. It was an empty room and there was no man or any person to be seen. I wondered why I had seen no one else and why he apparently left the room as I entered. I had been assured that he always remained in the room.

I decided to find out why I had seen no one, especially not the man I was searching for. Since everyone was so positive about the man, I was sure that I had made some mistake.

After leaving the room by the only door, I decided to ask my mother why I had not seen the man. Mom got nervous and seemed upset. She told me to ask my father. I did. That was a mistake. Dad became angry and sent me to my room. He told me that next time he might beat some sense into me.

I decided to try a more neutral person.

I asked one of my teachers who I could trust if there was a reason that I couldn’t see the man. I could see her irritation, but she kindly explained to me that if I could not see the man, it meant that I did not believe strongly enough. I needed to have more faith. If I believed strongly enough, I would see the man.

As I asked others and I talked with friends, I realized that some people did not see the man either. A few of them never went into the room, or they denied any room existed. But they never told me that there was not a man to be seen. Most others told me that they did see the man. I was told that those of us who did not see the man were at fault. The issue was our lack of faith. And my lack of faith was evidenced by the fact that I asked too many questions and talked about it.

I thought the problem was clearly with me. I could see the room, but never saw the man. Others did. I needed more faith. I simply had to try harder.

If others could see him, why not me?

Years passed. I lived my life and almost forgot about the man. However, the man in the room issue never went away. I noticed that people began to assume I could see the man, just as they claimed. I stopped talking about him as though I could not see him. In a way, I lied by pretending.

For a while, I returned to the room often. I decided to ask a ‘man in the room’ expert if there was reason for my failure and if there was anything I could do. Again, the blindness was my doing. If I would believe more, I would see him. That still made sense to me.

I wondered how to have more faith.

Since I was certain that there was a man in the room, that it was my lack of faith that prevented me from seeing him, I decided to take even more drastic action.

I became a man in the room fanatic. I joined organizations. I took all the classes and attended all the learning groups I could find. My expertise allowed me to teach classes to both children and adults regarding the man in the room and the things they should do to be better followers. Eventually, I became a man in the room leader in a large and important relevant group.

I held firmly to the belief that there was a man in that room. Finally, one day I saw the room again. No one could have done more than I to be a true-blue follower, believer, and expert. I had not seen the room in years, but then one day there it was.

That was my moment, my time, my life-long goal of seeing the man was to be that day.

I proudly opened the door and triumphantly marched into the room, and there sitting in the chair in the corner was me as a child.

The child looked up and said, “I have been sitting here your entire life. I wanted nothing more than to meet the man in the room. For over 50 years, I have waited and searched, while you have worked and prayed and believed. But, look around. There is no man in this room and there never has been. I have gone to other rooms with the same discovery.”

I felt broken and deceived. I had wasted so much of my life hoping to see a man who never existed. Again, I walked out through the only door. When I looked back, the room was gone. I thought, and I wondered, and read and studied all the possibilities. I felt myself changing. I began to say negative things to people regarding what may be in the room.

I had lived most of my life with almost constant thought about the man in the room. Over many months I slowly became a person who openly expressed doubts.

Then one day a friend asked if I still believed that there was a man in the room.

I looked at my friend and said, “For more years than you have been on the earth I have searched for the man in the room. I did more than enough. I have decided that I was deceived. After a lifetime of trying to find a man, it is my conclusion that he does not exist and never has. The man is a myth and has always been.” I was relieved to know that I had finally found a truth that escapes so many.

One day, someone asked, “What is the point of you saying that there is no man in the room?”

I responded, “There is no room, only one told in stories. There is no man, invisible or otherwise. Too much life is wasted over nothing. Either there is man, or there isn’t. Faith is irrelevant. Belief does not make it so anymore than failure to believe makes it not so. It is reality based upon evidence.”

Another man overheard that comment. He approached me and said that I may not make such a statement if I have no proof that there is no man in the room. He said that I was asserting a fact that I could not prove. He wanted me to say that I believed that there is no man in the room.

I objected by claiming that I was asked a question (what is the point?) to which I provided my best answer. I postulated nothing. My answer to the question is not an affirmation that there is a man, but a admission that there is no evidence that there ever was a man in the room. Since he was not in the room when I looked, that was all the proof I needed. The fact that others believe there is a man in the room because someone told them has no bearing on reality. It only supports what they already believe.

My conclusion is different than their belief. No one ever told me that there was not a man, only that there was. When I tried to find the man, or to ask why I could not see him, no one said he was not there. They only told me that my inability to find him was my fault. I no longer believe what people told me. But since I did everything I could, and I did what they told me I must do, and I still did not find any evidence of the man, I concluded he does not exist.

One of the things that helped me with my conclusion is the story, and the resulting idiom, of The Emperor Has No Clothes. I should have known from the beginning that there was no man to see because I could not see him. That should have ended it. But I did not want to accept that people were telling me the same lies they had been told.

Almost everyone I knew insisted that I was wrong. When I realized that the Emperor was naked, I knew why I wanted there to be a man in the room. I wanted there to be a man, and I wanted him to be as I was told he was. I wanted to be like most people. I’m not.

Now, I know the truth. I need no proof of what does not exist.

©Bill Reynolds, 11/12/2018

Look both ways. Look again, and again, and ….
Mind the gaps dearly, they may hide truth.


The Emperor Believed.

(pingback: https://grabaspine.wordpress.com/)

 

Song Lyric Sunday – Take

Helen’s post for the SLS theme for today is take. I immediately (excitedly) thought of Take It Easy, by the Eagles. It was written by Jackson Browne and Glen Frey about 1971. Take It Easy was the Eagles’ first single (1972) and the title of their debut album. It is one of my favorites, primarily for the lyrics.

Besides the title, the hook lyrics for the theme are in the refrain:

Take it easy
Take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels
Make you crazy

Other lyrics I (and others) especially like about the song are:

 

I’m going with a wild-ass video with Travis Tritt from the fantastic Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles album.

Lyrics to Take it Easy

Well, I’m running down the road
Tryin’ to loosen my load
I’ve got seven women on my mind
Four that wanna own me
Two that wanna stone me
One says she’s a friend of mine

Take it easy
Take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels
Drive you crazy

Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand
And take it easy

Well, I’m a standing on a corner
In Winslow, Arizona
And such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my lord
In a flatbed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me

Come on, baby
Don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love
Is gonna save me

We may lose and we may win
Though we will never be here again
So open up, I’m climbin’ in
And take it easy

Well I’m running down the road
Tryin’ to loosen my load
Got a world of trouble on my mind
Lookin’ for a lover
Who won’t blow my cover
She’s so hard to find

Take it easy
Take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels
Make you crazy

Come on baby
Don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love
Is gonna save me

Oh oh oh
Oh we got it easy
We oughta take it easy

***

Thanks to Helen for a great theme prompt and thanks to the Eagles for years of great music.

Look both ways, mind the gaps, take it easy, and
don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.

Click graphic for link to SLS page.

 

 

Will I Care? Don’t Talk Like That!

The past happened without me, as will the future.
Beginning on what day will I no longer get out of bed?
Unable to remove the mask and walk away,
to pee or whatever. Will I know anything?
On what day will I no longer want coffee?
I can handle not to have. But not to want?
Does nirvana or moksha reflect happiness or denial?
On what morn I’ll no longer begin a day’s reading?
Is not my quest for knowledge stewed in desire?
To have and to hold, to want and to need. To care?
There’s more I want to know. Will I care? Do I?
Must I stop loving her on that day? As the Jones song goes.
Will my dignity be intact, or will it be the first to go?
Will I die in a puddle of shit? As many would see that as fit.
Will I remember my name, yours, where I am? Will I care?
Is there such a thing as death with dignity? Or do we
just pass on to return life for life? Don’t talk like that?
Away and towards. Turn, turn, turn. Say I love you.

I care.

I do.

Love you.

 

© Bill Reynolds 10/15/2018

Look both ways; to the beginning and toward the end, when gaps no longer matter.

Poetry: May I try?

 

Why can’t I be a poet?
What is that anyway?

The maker of sounds
and finder of words to say.

Poems à la muse must
be creative and see
imaginative ways,
to say,
expressively,
what we,
so capable and specially
can feel,
in a poem’s
certain way.

Poets are
sensitive.
We read (love)
dead poets!

Good at it? Yer a poet.
Writes poetry so well?
Maybe yer the bard
who shows the way.

Poetry is verse.
‘tis a versifier ye are?
Is it not?
How to tell?

Not up to par?
A poetaster you are.
If that’s in me,
a lessor poet’s what I’ll be.

What is inferior?
My poem, or me?
Or is it that my verse
is just too dern terse?

Write a poem of wit
and magic,
or a salty limerick
of some jester’s
funny verse.

Be the bard yer born to be.
Sing like a minstrel
along with me.

Be the poet
and you will see.

© Bill Reynolds 10/8/2018

A note from Johnny Cash.

If yer gunna try, look both ways and mind the gaps.
Let us feel the poems as you write.

Essay: God do what?

While I say I don’t pray, I kind of do – accidentally. A believer might consider my praying to be blasphemy, but so is embracing atheism or agnosticism. As with so many words, blasphemy is only a thing if god exists (like sin), and it is only bad if you happen to believe in god (Satanists not withstanding).
No god = no blasphemy, no sin, no hell – make sense?

I have a few old habits and knee jerk reactions I’ve tried to shed without success. Two phrases I use too often are God damnit! and God bless you. In both cases, I am apparently invoking the supernatural to my wishes. But since intent matters, in the case of god damning, few of us mean it. In the blessing case, it is an old version of universal well-wishing when people coughed or sneezed. It goes back to the bubonic plague days in Europe. How well did that work?

Since I speak fluent profanity, I don’t blurt out the damning one very often. I’ve always been more of an f- or s-word guy. Yet, if someone near me sneezes, I usually have god blessed them before their next breath or sneeze. I’ve been doing that most of my life. When I don’t say something, I feel like an ass. I need to use gesundheit or one of the other secular phrases from around the world, of which there are many. This sounds like fun.

‘Thank you for covering your mouth and I wish you good health. Live long and prosper.’ (Vulcan Salute)

I used to pray often and for many people, but I didn’t pray for everything. I didn’t pray for rain to start or stop, or for any other change to the weather. I never prayed for bad events, personal wealth, or my own health. I don’t know why, but all that seems in bad taste. Likewise, I would never have prayed for anything bad to happen to any other person, unless you count the god-damning of nouns.

I carried a notebook where I kept notes of who to pray for and why. Seriously. People would ask me to pray for them or for some other person. If I didn’t write it down, I’d forget. Weekly, I would go late at night to a chapel room at our church for what is called perpetual adoration, and there I’d pray in the actual presence of the body and blood of JC (Holy Eucharist). That’s why it was there.

God was literally several feet away in a gold sunburst thingy called a monstrance, behind a tiny piece of glass, in the ‘actual’ form of the body and blood of Christ. He and I were alone most of the time. If what the Church proffered was true, I prayed a lot of folks straight to heaven – big IF. That was then. I still carry a notebook, but not for the same reason.

I’ve often prayed for dead people. That is customary for Catholics. Most Catholic parishes have a Book of the Dead which contains the names of the deceased loved ones we prayed for on All Souls Day (November 1st). It’s called praying for the ‘repose of the soul of’ the people we assumed might be in Purgatory; not in heaven yet. That’s how they say it. The repose part was to get them to heaven. A good thing, right? Just an odd way to say it.

Yep. Praying for other people, especially dead ones, was my favorite. Most of my other praying was reading (often aloud) from prayer books; prayers of adoration, love, or general holy stuff. I had my favorites and I still like what some prayers say. Like this poem by Mary Oliver:

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?

— From “The summer day”;
New and Selected Poems 1992

I am sure that many protestants thought the real presence deal was bull shit. Maybe they were envious. The last time I prayed and was serious about it was about nine years ago.

When people say they will pray for me, I am unsure how to gratefully and gracefully decline the offer. I was diagnosed with cancer. People unaware of my atheism would offer to pray for me. If I requested a pass, they ignored me. So, I just said thank you and moved on.

Some who know of my unbelief would offer to pray, but then would backtrack. I would thank them and explain I understood the intent. I used to pray. I know why people do it.

 Lori Arnold’s (McFarlane) memoir, The Last Petal Falling, talks of her experience regarding prayer. That helped me realize I should be more diligent to replace prayer with action, honest love, or the offer, how can I help?

I usually don’t care what others do. Read a book, contemplate their navel, drink scotch, listen to disco music, meditate, or pray. I think one of those is wasted time, but that’s for others to decide. It’s not my business. Even if others pray for me. It’s okay. If that’s their thing, have at it. However, there is one well-intended prayer I would adamantly decline, if asked.

I hope no one wastes their time praying that god forces me, or any atheist, back to religion. It’s hard to explain, but that’s insulting. It is asking their god to take away my free will. If someone believes in god, I accept that as their belief and I’m ok with that opinion. May they cheerfully return the acceptance.

This kind of ‘praying’ usually involves more famous atheists. For whatever reason and given all the dumb-shit stuff there is wrong in the world to pray for, or all the people who are in need, especially the children; why so many people find it necessary to pray that an atheist will come to the opposite conclusion is mind boggling. I understand why some may wish and hope for change for loved ones. But it is still wrong.

One of the most prayer-group-prayed-for persons in US history was the late Christopher Hitchens. He was a famous writer and atheist of celebrity status who often debated with religious people. These people needed to find something better to do with their time than to pray for atheists (agnostics, free thinkers, skeptics) to stop believing as we do. It is insulting and demeaning. I will personally never recant my atheism. Never. Ok, if god physically shows up, I will. But not due to prayers.

How would a believer feel if atheists prayed for them to apostatize? What if we asked their god to turn them into atheists? How would that sit? Admittedly, a believer would see it as a damning petition. In a way, when people pray for us to recant, it’s the same thing; that we’re damned to hell simply for what we think.

I have a right to believe what I think truth to be. It’s unnecessary for anyone to respect what I believe (or don’t), but at least in quid pro quo fashion, one should give the nod to my right to believe it. Praying to take away that right, or doing so in the practice of one’s religion, is an attempt to take away an inalienable freedom: my right to think.

Some religious folks have the piety to keep their religion to themselves, but too many don’t. In many cases, that would be against their religion. If they must do something, they should follow the many religious who do something useful. If one knocks on my door, I may ask them to read my tract and come over to my way of thinking. Many do.

Look both ways and allow others the dignity to do the same.
Think. It’s free and helpful if you don’t over do.
Mind the gaps.

Poetry: Soul Satisfied

Prompted by: ‘Smoldering coals of fury with which oppression always fires the soul.’ (1862)

Anger burned like acid surging through his body,
deadly rage ran unfiltered with each breath
as in shame he hid and buried his anger
as it called out for vengeance – for satisfaction.
He felt the scalding physical pain of revenge withheld.

He felt how the inhumanity man can deal to his
fellow man is without comparison.
Only man hates his own. As only man can
kill without reason and crush his kind
without purpose or cause, leaving no real hope.

He felt helpless as despair hardened him.
His broken mind and heart pleaded for him to let loose
the righteous fury growing inside as hours, days,
and years passed in the agony of painful misery,
hatred pounded his chest to be loosed
as his purposeless worthless life festered.

He spoke to his anger about the promise
of a better life, but not for him.
His was to live into his dream
of revenge and retribution with the fury
of the spurned prisoner held within him,
but for not much longer.

Soon he would defeat their world.
Soon he could kill them all,
and his hate would feast on their flesh.
All the pain and suffering would be avenged.
Then he could die in peace,
with honor avenged, pride returned,
his life’s purpose satisfied.

©Bill Reynolds

 

Look both ways, be careful what you wish for, and speak up for the oppressed.
Mind the gaps. Learn where they are.