Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Meeting

Something I wrote several years ago.

You say you want to see me
and I want to see you.
More than anything
else that I could do.

But a meeting is but a spot in time
just minutes and seconds to end.
And then when gone,
empty without you.

And what if my tongue,
momentarily tied,
fails to tell you,
fails to persuade?

Is my moment lost?
Never to return?
Or may I have another and another
Until I do what's right?

And what if my courage
suddenly flees
in the face of your poise and grace?
May I have another, please?

No this parceling of moments is far too cruel,
I cannot risk you on such thin gruel.
To do you justice requires a lifetime of toil
that this minute and second thing foils.

I think the only way to care for you
is to stop all time and until we are through,
to live each moment over and again
until I know and understand...

...you.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Box

I am trapped in a box of my own design.
No exits, weak points or seams.
I've lived here my whole life.
Hearing the muffled sounds and bumps of life outside.
I suppose I shall never leave.
After all, I built it for me.

We can't set ourselves free.
Who will rescue me?

Friday, November 4, 2016

The blind leading the blind

I see only what I want to see
I know only what I know
I think the thoughts I want to think
I'm blind, so very blind

If you'll be my eyes I'll be yours
If you'll see for me, I'll see for you
The blind leading the blind
is the only way to see.
Only when the blind lead the blind
truth can we find.

We see only what we want to see
We know only what we know
We think the thoughts we want to think.
We're all blind, so very blind

If you'll be my eyes I'll be yours
If you'll see for me, I'll see for you
The blind leading the blind
is the only way to see.
Only when the blind lead the blind
truth can we find.

We find ourselves through truth. 
And its truth that makes us free.
I don't want to be blind anymore.
Wandering in the dark.
I want to see the truth
And walk in the light.

If you'll be my eyes I'll be yours
If you'll see for me, I'll see for you
The blind leading the blind
is the only way to see.
Only when the blind lead the blind
truth can we find.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Side by Side

We got here late.
Spent a lifetime apart.

Yet for a moment, we were together.
One precious moment.

That moment is gone,
leaving my desire even stronger.

I don't know when next we'll meet,
or if our lot is to be forever apart.

But I can't forget how I felt.
When I was with you.

Because I can see you in my mind's eye.
And feel those sensations, those emotions.

And I'll never forget you because you'll always come back to me.
Side by side in my dreams.




Friday, September 30, 2016

Pebbles

Pebbles.
In the stream of life.

We've seen years flow
by: People, places, lives.

Rubbing our sharpness smooth,
fitting us for life in the stream.

We no longer sparkle and shine
but glow with a softer light.

Take us out and we become
dull, dead, gravel.

Someday we'll be sand
but until then we're:

Pebbles.
In the stream of life.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Light in Your Eyes

You called and we talked the other day,
it seemed we had so much to say.
But the depth of your heart dwarfed my puny thoughts
and I'm not sure I can live up to your ways.

You're as deep as a diamond and as bright as the sun.
As strong as the mountains, as sweet as true love.
When I'm talking to you I forget where I am because
I get lost chasing the light in your eyes.

You love playing music and taught it to me
but my pla-pla-playing marred your beauty.
But the strength of your soul swamped my puny notes
and I'm not sure I can live up to your ways.

You're as deep as a diamond and as bright as the sun.
As strong as the mountains, as sweet as true love.
When I play with you I forget where I am because
I get lost chasing my dream of your eyes.

You're coming to see me and I'm a little scared
in a way that about women I never have cared.
I don't know why I feel so unsettled except
I'm not sure I can't live up to your ways.

You're as deep as a diamond and as bright as the sun.
As strong as the mountains, as sweet as true love.
When you come to see me I don't know what I'll do.
Except get lost in your eyes, your deep, diamond eyes.

On Doubt

doubt
dout/
noun
  1. 1.
    a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.
    "some doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this account"
    synonyms:uncertainty, unsureness, indecisionhesitation, dubiousness, suspicionconfusion;More


verb
  1. 1.
    feel uncertain about.
    "I doubt my ability to do the job"
  2. 2.
    archaic
    fear; be afraid of.
    "I doubt not your contradictions"

    Doubts. We all have them. About the future, about the past, about our friends, about our enemies, about ourselves. About the advisability of eating that four day old lamb shawarma and the questionable logic of surfing. We believe but not completely, we trust but not wholly. We doubt God.

    I should know because I am a world class doubter. I am the Muhammed Ali of doubt "I am (without a doubt) the Greatest" doubter of all time. Indeed, I spent a better part of a year living in a mini-van compiling lists of the all the reasons to doubt, curse, mock and hate the Christian God. I schemed and spat at God in my minivan snow cave at -15F when the scheming steamed and the spit froze on contact. I do doubt better than that piker "Doubting" Thomas ever did. As I said, I am - without a doubt - the greatest doubter in the history of Christian doubt. And if you doubt that....well I doubt you do.

    Yet I believe.

    From the very beginning of my consciousness I have been aware of God.  Very early on in life my parents gave me words and concepts that helped me 'see' Him.  Originally my vision of God was very distant - imagine glimpsing an immense slab of stainless steel gleaming in the distance. As I grew up and learned more about God and about the world around me it was as if I drew nearer to the slab. And as I did, I started noticing "stains" or "blemishes" on this "stainless" steel God. I drew even closer - "was that rust?" Even closer, pulling out my magnifying glass:  "Omygosh that is disgusting! How could God allow such things to mar his brilliant surface?"  I felt so betrayed but also so clever - I had figured this God guy out - when I looked at him as a child of course he was all shiny and clean. But when I got a better look at him with the tools and "sophistication" of a 'college graduate' all the rust and decay that was always there began to show. I wasn't interested in this "dirty" God so I fell away. 

    But some time later, for reasons I can't explain, I was compelled to look even closer - to investigate this disgusting 'rusty' corruption on the so called "God" at even greater magnification. To my surprise looking at His "flaws" more carefully didn't make Him uglier, instead it revealed incredible, astounding beauty, like the intricacy of the Iron Oxide tracing patterns on that steel slab. There's a limit to how closely I can look at that steel in this world but people in a position to know tell me that if I could look at it even closer it would reveal incredible beauty and order and if I looked even deeper, eventually that order would resolve at the "magical", quantum level where seemingly everything is possible. The wise ones at church tell me something similar about the infinite God: that while today my simple mind can only comprehend a small part of His special revelation (scripture) and His general revelation (creation), seeing cracks and blemishes everywhere, I believe that all of God and his creation fit together to form a complete, coherent whole. All I lack is the ability to see it, to fully comprehend Him and His purposes. But as I look closer, as I learn more and ultimately as I enter His kingdom I believe I will see and fully understand His "magic" in all its Glory. 

    Indeed He's done it for me already - my early doubts were erased by greater knowledge of Him and His creation only to be replaced by finer grained doubts who in their turn were erased and replaced by even more particular ones.  It's the way of faith and it's His plan to create in us and through us beings far greater and nobler than the most brilliant angel in Heaven.

    Of that I have no doubt.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Crooked Teeth

For Linc

My teeth are crooked and yellow and my eyes won't open wide,
wide enough so you can see the God who lives inside.
And my arms are far too short, as are my stubby legs,
to lift His name on high, as high as it should get.

Why should a perfect God live in a broken man?
Why is that so very hard to understand?
For God made us and chooses us still,
and promises that He always will.

My mind is slow and small and cannot comprehend:
the genius of His Word or strength of His hand.
You see there really isn't anything He wants from you and me,
except to be a vessel, to follow, to believe.

Why should a perfect God live in a broken man?
Why is that so very hard to understand?
For God made us and chooses us still,
and promises that He always will.

Yes, God chose us and chooses us still,
and promises that He always will.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

You can't own hearts

All my life I've been searching for pebbles.
Some of them pretty,  some of them plain.
I picked them up all the same.

I'd peer at them and ask
"What are you to me?"
They'd tell me nothing that I wanted to be.

So I'd stick them in my pocket,
Or toss them in the sea
None of them meant very much to me.

Until one day a I found one that caught my eye.
I just had to have that pebble.
Or else I would die.

You can't own him and he can't own you.
Love is about giving, love is about truth.
And the only thing you can keep of any man,
Is the sweetness of his love and the touch of his hand.

So I picked it up.
I held it so tight.
This was the stone for which I would fight.

I took that pebble home
Said that it was mine.
Put it on a pedestal that was so very fine.

But I found that pebbles aren't owned.
(Much to my dismay.)
Or possessed or ruled in any other way.

You can't own her and she can't own you.
Love is about giving, love is about truth.
And the only thing you can keep of any woman born,
Is the sweetness of her love and the touch of her hand.

So she kept me In her pocket
And used me in her way.
Until the day I fit no more and she tossed me away.

That tossing created ripples,
giant waves of pain.
I swore that I'd never pick up pretty pebbles again.

But of course I lied
Because I can never look away
From all the many pebbles that come pebbling my way.

Searching for the special ones
that threaten waves of pain.
To see if it hurts when I hold them again.

You can't own hearts and you can't own souls.
Love is about giving, about becoming whole.
And the only thing you can have of any woman or man,
Is the sweetness of their love and the touch of their hand.

I've loved a lot and I've lost even more.
And the only thing I've learned,
Really the only thing I know. Is...

You can't own hearts and you can't own souls.
Love is about giving, about becoming whole.
And the only thing you can have of any woman or man
Is the sweetness of their love and the touch of their hand.

Yes the only thing I've learned, the only thing I know, 
is that you can't own hearts and you can't own souls.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hammock Dream

In a hammock side by side,
Head to toe, toe to head
Watching you watching me.
Speaking of hopes, dreams, you.

Touching your foot, ankle, calf.
Your soft, sheathed strength beneath my hand.
You ask a question. I smile: "no".
It doesn't matter where we go.

Anniversary

My dad died a year ago yesterday. Thinking it would weigh hardest on my mother, I made plans to spend my day with her...you know, to help her through it. But she was having none of it. She spent her day busy with her normal activities and then when she came home she went to her room, turned out the lights and laid on my father's side of their bed. I went in and spoke with her for a few minutes until she made it clear that it was time for me to leave. She spent her time that evening with her beloved, shedding tears, talking to him, dreaming of them together, waking and remembering. I was not necessary or wanted.

So I went out with a friend. But after that was over and I was driving home I felt the weight of my father's loss pressing on my soul. So I went home, turned out the lights and like my mother, talked to my dad. And later, when I fell asleep I dreamed of both of them with me, laughing.

I don't believe you lose your loved ones when they die - they just move. As one day we will too.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Surprised

I was surprised by beauty again, today.
Though I did not see you,
nor did I feel the press and warmth of your hand.
You are so very far away.

But the beauty in your voice
and the grace of your spirit
surprised me anew.

I'm not sure why you hold my gaze so.
Except that in a life of tumult and travail,
where no one is certain and nothing lasts,
you seem truer, more constant.

You shine brighter,
piercing the darkness with your spirit.
And surprising me again and again.

I am grateful that here and now I
know you and am known by you.
And in the knowing can be surprised.
And in being surprised, find joy.

Known and Knowing

For my friend Megan

It is a strange thing to know a person
and stranger still to be known.

Undressing our fears and faltering hopes.
Admitting weakness and selfish intent.

Stripping away all artifice,
all the perfumed unguents with which
we disguise our souls.

To reach out across the chasms that separate us.
Alone in our mountain redoubts, safely dead.

To touch, to grasp, to cling
For to slip is to fall and in falling we are lost.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Clinton Parable

Anna Foster adjusted the photograph of her husband and children and sighed.  As the first woman and first black Chief Counsel for BigCorp, she was used to tricky situations but this was ridiculous.

"So why don't you lay the whole scenario out for me" said, Richard "Rick" Sanchez, her lead outside counsel and Partner with Smith, Jones and Lopez, the white shoe New York firm that handled most of Bigcorp's legal issues.

"Well you remember the Bill Winton case? You know, the guy that was Director of Contracting who was caught sexually harassing and abusing women employees, interns and contractors?"

"Yeah, ugly case. But I though he'd left the company at the end of that year and then was convicted of perjury in connection with one of the civil cases that he got hit with, right?"

"Right. Well this is about his wife, Hillary. She was a Contract Administration Manager underneath him during that time - I don't know why she didn't divorce him, Lord knows I would have."
"Go on", Rick said cautiously.

"Well anyway she was a top performer and the CFO really like her. So when Bill took the package he wanted to elevate her to the top job in contracting. Fortunately we talked him out of it because besides the bad optics, she didn't have the requisite legal training - we've always required the person in that role to be a trained lawyer due to the tricky contract interpretation and negotiations needed."
"Yeah that makes sense, you put that fast track guy Barry wosisname into that role"

Anna nodded "Yeah because Hillary cut a deal with the CFO.  If she would go get her law degree, then when she was done, Barry would go on to some International assignment and she could slide right into the Director slot. Now there was no formal promise but it was understood so long that she did well at school, she'd be top dog.  And crucially it was known publicly."

"So how'd she do?" Rick sighed, absentmindedly flicking imaginary lint off of his knee.
"She did great but it's what she did after school hours that's at issue."
"Whaddya mean 'after school hours'? Did she have a part time job?", Rick leaned forward.

Anna sighed "Well sort of.  You see once she got to Yale some of our largest contracting partners - vendors, customers, distributors started wining and dining her and her husband. And - evidently this was her or Bill's idea - they began inviting one or both of them to their offsite meetings at resorts, providing all expense paid trips for them."
"Hmmm, I don't like where this is going."

"Well it gets worse. They'd go to these events - during the week when Hillary had class, Bill would go - and they would be asked to give a few remarks to the 'troops' of these companies about 'contracting'. And here's the kicker: they were paid between $2,500 and $3,500 dollars "Honorarium" for their talk.
"Wow, five to seven grand an hour? I'm going to have to raise my rates." Sanchez exclaimed. "So of course you didn't rehire her, did you?"

Anna got out of her chair and walked over to the window, she turned and said "we did rehire her. As a matter of fact she's now our new Director of Contracting"
"Where did Barry go?"
"He's doing some make work thing over in the Golf Products division, you know these fast trackers".
"Don't I though.  So you're telling me that the CFO rehired her and put her in the Director's job even after all of the payments and luxury vacations companies gave her?  How much money are we talking about here?"
"At least $400 grand and possibly much more and that doesn't include the freebies".
"Holy cow!!" The woman who took upwards of a million dollars in payments and vacations from.....how many companies took her up on this?"
"Well over a hundred - all of them major hundred million dollar and above contracting parties with BigCorp.  Every single company with a billion dollar annual relationship had her speak, some of them two or three times."
"What did she say to them"
Anna's brow wrinkled:  "She won't say, she says they are private meetings and are none of our business". But it gets even worse."
"How could that be possible?"
"You remember Bill, her husband and first Bigcorp executive ever convicted of a felony for actions he took while in office?" 
"Yeah"
"well she's 'hired' Bill as her co-Director.  We're not paying him of course and we don't want him in the building for obvious reasons but she has him travelling to all the major contracting players - you know the ones that bribed them - doing what she's calling 'partner outreach and relations'."
"You mean shaking them down for more?" Rick questioned with a shocked look.
"No, not likely. That would be illegal rather than just incredibly sleazy, I think what he's doing is gathering requested favors that they owe these companies for the consideration they've already received." "But I can't prove that", she added.
"OH. MY. GOD what a mess" 
"Your'e telling me, I'm thinking of resigning in protest" Anna said quietly.
"What? give up the job you've worked your whole life to achieve?"
"Yeah. But I achieved everything I've got by playing by the rules and if BigCorp is going to be run by people like this I don't want to be a part of it. Because it's inevitable that an organization that would knowingly tolerate this kind of corruption has got to be riddled with many other criminal activities. 
I've gotten wind of some but I don't have the resources or the political position to hold all of these......these...Gangsters accountable. I hope I can count on you as a reference?"
"Sure, although after I tell our managing committee about this, my job may be on the line because there's no way we can afford to do work for such a corrupt institution."
"I understand completely"

After what seemed like an eternity of silence Rick stood up and said brightly: "Well" I think I'm going to go get drunk, care to join me?"
"No I'll stay here. Happy drunking."

Anna sat back down in her chair and toyed with her family's pictures again. She had given her life to Bigcorp and now it was all turning into a corrupt lie. She brushed away tears and taking a deep breath called out to her EA to come in to review her resignation letter.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Kathleen Carter's Limerick in Honor of Dragonhood

There once was a Big Scary Dragon
Who drank Bintang from a Flagon
The Dragon, who died,
made all of us cry.
And a week later had us all gaggin'.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ode to Karen on the date of her birth.

Oh Karen! Mighty Twin!
It is your birthday once again!
Your age advances as does the regard
of those who fell for you so hard.

Oh Karen! It is thee we beseech
because you are a helluva peach.
We lift our glasses to toast you on high,
it is your praises that we do cry.

Oh Karen! Sister of noble Kathleen,
who looks so much like you it must be seen!
So it can be said that God has made
two perfect creatures in one short day.

Oh Karen! One of a kind!
We look and say 'what a find'!
We are honored to sing your praise
and to wish you a happy birthday.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

If I'm Calvinist is God Hobbes? Part 3: Leviathan or What Happens When You Pick On Tommy Hobbes

This is part three of a three part tale.  Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here.

I think Thomas Hobbes must have been picked on a lot at school. Tommy Hobbes getting pantsed, Tommy being hung from the flagpole by his training codpiece. You know, the normal fruits of being small, irritating and self righteous in a society of boys.

After all, in his book Leviathan he describes the natural state of man's existence as being among other things "nasty, brutish and short" which would have made perfect sense to anyone sentenced to a stretch at an English boarding school. His book is the dark, Hobbesian (I know but it is the mot juste) masterpiece of the English Enlightenment. And it clearly shows the fruits of years of brooding on human nature and its defects whilst hanging from flagpoles being pelted with rotting vegetables.

In Leviathan Hobbes makes essentially two arguments: the first that man in his natural state behaves like a bunch of adolescent English boys in school or stranded on a tropical island and if you think that's bad, you should spend a day with their sisters. His second argument is that the only way to stop the little shits from beating....I mean the only way to establish order and peace where the talented, tiny, tinny tenth can flourish is for an all powerful force to impose order from above. Sort of a Terminator Skynet version of Mr. Chips.

But Hobbes argued that the Leviathan didn't have to be a super intelligent globe spanning satellite and robot network dedicated to the enslavement of humankind. Well actually he didn't argue that but what he did argue was that Leviathan didn't necessarily need to be the 17th century version of Skynet: the Absolute Monarch ruling by Divine Right. Although he believed that it was probably the best most stable form of Leviathan until robots got invented. This was because in his view monarchy best facilitated the orderly transition of power for example, from from King "Potato" Chips I to King "Fritos" Chips II and so on.

Instead, Leviathan could be a self perpetuating oligarchy, sort of a school board on steroids who didn't monkey around with detention and suspension but was willing to expel the disorderly from their bodies with extreme prejudice. It could even be a democracy where the people create an all powerful government and then revel in its democratically endorsed persecution of themselves, sort of a Hobbesian masochist nirvana.

Regardless of form, the key attributes of Leviathan were that it be both an all powerful and self perpetuating institution. He argued that if it didn't have both of these attributes then society would suffer constant disorder interrupted by bouts of dynastic or electoral chaos. Like those he experience while hanging from flagpoles.

"Lookit:  I'm a Monster King!"
The one thing that Hobbesy - I guess I should pause for a biographical note: at the start of the 9th grade Hobbes decided that his bully problem was attributable to his lack of bling and threads that were far from being 'de rigueur' so he briefly became Home Boy Hobbesy. For his efforts he was tossed into the school pond and nearly drowned from all the damned Spanish bling.

So anyway, one thing Hobbes didn't include in his conception of Leviathan was God, or at least the Judeo Christian deity of that name. And you can understand why: aside from Golgotha or a men's communal prison shower, the English boarding school is considered to be the most God forsaken place on the planet. Reflecting on this while dodging flying produce was in fact how he developed the concept of an all powerful ruler in the first place. A Leviathan who by strange coincidence sure looked like a cross between God and Tommy Hobbes which is why his selfie is on the cover of the early editions of his book. On the cover, I might add, as a 1,000 foot tall giant King. Who says that academics are modest?

Well not me and certainly not Hobbes because between their obsession over their own point of view in their area of expertise (and damned near everything else) their towering rage at the other boffins for denying their peculiar brand of 'truth', contempt for the the hoi polloi who couldn't (as they would say in their quaint vernacular) 'give a shit' and their utter estrangement from what was then called 'ye olde reality based village' making one of these cats or even worse a sackfull of them Leviathan was an incredibly life shortening proposition. Think Robert Mugabe crossed with Robspierre and Pol Pot all on a toasted Paul Krugman bun. Yuck.

And this is where Hobbes and Calvin parted ways. Hobbes thought it would be swell to ruled by a crowd that called all the shots, couldn't be deposed and had a vigorous if obscure fantasy life. Mind you, he was fine with religion so long as it was civic and national in nature being run by and for Leviathan. In this he was a real Mussolini: 'everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing above the state'. Although not being Italian he didn't have Il Duce's fashion sense or penchant for high drama much less his stable of on-call starlets.

Calvin by contrast was God's man. He had seen Mr. Big in the Vatican and knew that combining lawyers, guns and money with an absolutist religion was a recipe for one helluva toot followed by a continental scale hangover. His definition of a good Leviathan was one with powers limited by God's commands ideally interpreted by a brilliant judge namely himself. Now mind you this didn't make him a liberal but distrust of Mr. Bigs and the fear that if there was only one slot Luther or Zwingli might get in and if he had to listen to Luther's plodding prose one more time or sing 'A mighty fortress is our God' when it was obvious that God never ever played defence he'd probably go full Torquemada on someone. Preferably Luther.

Now where was I? So anyway this resentment and fear of the other guy drove Calvin who was a theocrat at heart to support republican governance. Limited by God's Constitution so to speak. Which is how an exiled Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey became more American than a Brit with the Kick Ass name Tommy Hobbes. Which just goes to show that ideas and faith matter more than putting yourself on the front of your book as a 1000 foot monster king.

If I'm Calvinist, is God Hobbes? The You're Not the Pope of Me Doctrinal Kerfuffle

I'm the Pope of you!
If you had the misfortune to read If I'm Calvinist, is God Hobbes? Part 1 of this scholarly exegesis, no - that's not right - this Rabelasian road trip, yes, much better - you no doubt will have noted several inconsistencies, non sequiturs, logical conundrums and downright falsehoods. Good for you, if they're still alive, your Sunday School teachers will be so proud. Me? Couldn't care less. What concerns me is that I didn't fully explain why the Pope was so ticked at Calvin and his cranky co-conspirators. Yes, the Calvinists made a big deal of God's unapproachable, towering sovereignty but that wasn't primarily what frosted the Pope's beer mug. It was the insistence of Calvinists (and Lutherans, Zwingliites, Arians, Anglicans etc.) that the Pope had no authority from God to rule the church or compel the obedience of any Christian.

No. I'm the Pope of you!
'The "You're not the boss of me" doctrine was a direct assault on the power, perquisites and privileges of what by the 14th century had become the best gig in religion. It was such a good gig that different kings set up their own Popes to get in on all the fun. And you can understand why being a major league Roman Prelate was in such demand: you got to hang out in the south of France or Italy, A list celebrities kissed your pinkie ring, you presided over a religion that used excellent wine as it's primary sacrament, and you lived in a time where the practical definition of 'celibacy' was "sorry honey, you know I can't marry you but I'll pray that it's a boy". Sort of an all expense paid version of Porkys in man dresses. And not something to be given up just because some punk has spent too much time reading his Bible.


No! I'm the Pope of both of you!
And then there was the whole Antichrist thing.  I mean telling the guy that cashes Jesus' checks here on earth that he actually doesn't have signing authority for those accounts is liable to put the calmest Cote d'Azur popeboy in a state of heightened agitation. So yes, differences about the sovereignty of God, the nature of Salvation and the questionable fashion sense of wearing really tall hats all fed into the Pope's hostility .  But at the end of the day what they were really fighting over was custody of the Papal expense account.

If I'm Calvinist is God Hobbes?


John Calvin 1509-1564 displaying the classic
"L" is for Luthers symbol commonly used by Calvinists
mostly because it made Luther mad.  In America
the symbolism has evolved into men bearing
large foam fingers preaching a degenerate form of the faith
in crowded gladiator arenas on Sunday afternoons.  It
replaced the pagan giant foam thumb used by
the Flavian emperors to speed up the pace of play
in ancient Rome.

This is Part 1 of who knows how many parts.   Here is:  Part 2:  The 'You're not the Pope of me' doctrinal kerfuffle  and Part 3:  Leviathan or what happens when you pick on Tommy Hobbes.  And if you find this weird you may also want to be weirded out by my 'unique' (my Pastor's words) take on God in God 1.0.

I'm Presbyterian which means that I am Protestant, 'Reformed' (my ex says 'ha ha') and subscribe (while ignoring the increasingly strident renewal notices) to the Calvinist view of Christianity. It is a point of pride among Presbyterians that we can take almost an entire paragraph to introduce our religious credentials and that's even before we get to what type Presbyterian we are. For others field identification is simpler: Baptists say they're 'saved' and 'praise the Lord' a lot, Episcopalians don't talk about God but mix a mean sacramental Martini, Pentecostals jibberjabber and serious Catholics have lots of kids. Unless you're in Utah, then they're Mormons. Atheists are by far the easiest to ID: they tend to stand alone in the corner with a sour, resentful look. Getting stuck in a conversation with a militant Atheist can drive you to sacramental Episcopalianism.

To be a Calvinist  you have to believe in Tulips, no, not the flower and most definitely not Mick Jagger, although the Rolling Stones do give off a rather Hobbesian aura.  No, I'm talking about T.U.L.I.P. which any buck-Deacon in a one horse Presbyterian church knows stands for: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints - TULIP which of course was thought up in Holland where every damn business, house or idea had to have that stupid flower in it's name.  But Calvin was French and would have described it as: dépravation totale, l'élection inconditionnelle, l'expiation limitée, grâce irrésistible, et la persévérance des saints which would be DEEGP which makes no sense so be glad that TULIP won out.  Indeed John Calvin would be Jean but for the theologians of the 17th century who thought they'd get made fun of if they studied books with a girl's name or for that matter with a French guy's name.  Branding is everything.

I guess before I go any further I should lay out my credentials for opining on Calvinist Hobbesianism:  I am what is known as a 'Dozing' Presbyterian.  There are three types of Presbyterians: Nosey, Posey and Dozy.  Nosey Presbyterians know their Bible, they tend to be preachers, teachers and older women and definitely know the difference between Calvin's Institutes and Confucius' Analects (hey anyone could make that mistake).  If you want to know what's going on in the church or anything for that matter, talk to the Noseys - they'll tell you.  And tell you and tell you.  By contrast Poseys tend to be Deacons and Elders, particularly ones that got there via the 'fast track' of ushering.  They generally look pretty impressive, having the command presence needed to shoehorn a 5 person family into a 4 person spot.  But ask them a question about faith or truth or God and they get that blank, deacon in the headlights look and their hands instinctively clutch for the stack of programs that isn't there.  But if you want to get in and out of the building quick or get money with no probing, thoughtful questions asked, the Posey Presbyterian is your man - and in the more liberal denominations your woman too. But I'm a Dozy.  We're the foot soldiers of Presbyterianism, it's Bible fodder, if you will.  Dozys can always be identified after Sunday service by the broad, reddish mark  made by resting our foreheads reverentially against the pew in front of us.  We have developed our knowledge of theology via osmosis, or more accurately dozemosis.  We make outstanding early childhood Sunday school teachers because our childlike ignorance allows us to relate to the little ones at their level.  "Yes Kaitlin, I know that when you sing Jesus Loves Me He loves you and when Connor sings it He loves Connor but I'm here to tell you that when I sing it He loves me more because I'm bigger. That's just the way He is!"

Well anyway, back to the deep thinking.  As I understand it, or in reality, probably dreamt it, a key principle in Calvinism is the Sovereignty of God or SOG.  SOG is the idea that God is really God.  Get it?  He's not your invisible buddy, your copilot, your shrink or that pious pal who runs errands for you, he's the actual freaking God, the Big Numero Uno, The Creator of the Universe who judges the quick and the dead and if you're not quick about it, He'll darn sure make you dead.  Imagine your toughest boss crossed with Santa Claus - no not the "Ho Ho Ho" part, the "he knows when you've been bad or good part".  Have that in your head?  OK? Now imagine just how many days (hours) it would have taken him before he would have fired (or called the cops on) your ass.  That many?  Remember he knows when you've been lying too, that's more like it.  That's the kind of God we've got.  You see under SOG, God calls all the shots.  Even before the pool table's been built - He knows when you've been sleeping and knows when you're awake before you've been born.  And to say that He has a 'plan' for your life is like saying that my advice to President Kennedy to buy more life insurance after I had seen his assassination and then traveled back in time to be his insurance agent was just a 'lucky guess'.  SOG is that intense.

Thomas "Tommy" Hobbes on the first 
edition of his Big Book of Leviathan.
Hobbes is represented as the giant
King at the top.  This image is 
considered to be the earliest example
of a "Selfie" extant.  It will not surprise you
that Hobbes was generally considered by
those who knew him to be a 'pompous ass'.

Which is why I suppose it bugged the Pope so much.  After all, if you're the Pope you're supposed to be the 'Vicar' of Christ, meaning His representative here on Earth.  And while you are perfectly happy to have God be a hard ass the better to keep the faithless but fearful in line - you're pretty sure you don't have the chops to channel the Santa Claus role and frankly as God's Number 2, you'd like just a little more autonomy to run your own shop thank you very much.  I mean how can you really be the 'man with the plan' when everyone knows that God is already a few billion  years ahead of you.  Which is why Jean became John and got a Swiss passport: the Pope was that pissed.

It occurs to me that it's dinner time.  And while I would never, ever sacrifice my commitment to The Truth for carnal pursuits it's just that we're having steak.  Besides I think this piece probably needs some serious quality control which is why it is called Part 1:  Provisionally Speculative Edition. To whet your appetite, I mean if the steak mention didn't do it, I've included an image of Hobbes' Leviathan to give you a sense of just how Hobbesian my world is going to get.  For what it's worth, here's Part 2:  The "You're not the Pope of me" doctrinal kerfuffle.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

On Holland, England, Declarations of Independence and Crazy Ass Admirals

I've been watching Admiral on Netflix. Admiral is a Dutch film about the great Admiral de Ruyter who kicked the British Navy's ass in the 1600s (Brits make the best villains, it's the accent). The movie's great and it reminded me of three things. First of all, English and Dutch are very similar languages - Admiral has a lot of Dutch with English subtitles in it and with both there at once it's surprising to this monoglot English speaker how much I understand - I almost feel like I could be multilingual but......naaaah, who'm I kidding?

Second, American freedom is based upon a Dutch/English Joint Venture. The Dutch had the first modern Republic in the world so when the English finally got sick of their jackass Scottish kings they had a "Glorious Revolution" and turfed them out (The Brits were always good at PR - even back then they were thinking about the tourist trade) . But that meant they needed a new king for the tourists so they imported a slick Dutch model called William (which is a bit ironic because after all, another Willie had invaded England in 1066 and made them kowtow to him in French which no doubt frosted their ale mugs pretty badly). The key selling feature of this guy - aside from him being married to an English Princess - was that he was house trained, specifically House of Commons trained to be a Constitutional Monarch. It's this "Glorious Revolution and King Adoption" that the American revolutionaries based our Declaration of Independence as "Free Englishmen" on. If the Dutch hadn't bred house trained princes then we might have been in trouble.

The third thing that I noticed in this film was that everything comes full circle: the Dutch gave us the Republic thing, whacked a prince with a rolled up parchment until he was trained enough to not wee on Parliament so the English could give us the Glorious Revo idea. And what did we give them in return? The Errol Flynn maneuver whereby movie stars who are supposed to be playing sober captains and admirals instead behave like......well, jackass Scottish kings - forgetting their duty completely and running amuck like baboons with swords and capes. Which is precisely what this de Ruyter hepcat did in the movie.

So thanks Dutch dudes for the constitutional republicanism and capitalism and trade and all that and here's your ridiculous movie cliche in return. Let us know if you need anything else. We've got a really cool large breasted ingenue cliche we call Marilyn Monroe-ism that we can let go for cheap. Or if you're into mid century ass wiggling rock star cliches we can let Elvis' Pelvis go for a song.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hello

Hello.

It's such a little word. 
Just five letters, two vowels.

Yet it travels farther than any other.
Reaching across canyons that divide us.

Where we sit alone, aloof, waiting to be rescued.
By the brave ones, the ones that dare risk the jump.

We watch and wait for them, in readiness to catch -
the life preserver that saves us from ourselves.

I'm grateful for all the brave souls.
Souls who reached out to me.

Souls like yours.
Bearing a word:

Hello.

Monday, March 14, 2016

This chick is nuts.

I'm waiting for a friend at this topless damn you smartphone spellchecker! I mean tapas bar. I'm sorry but I've been having knock down drag out fights with lady in my phone and I think the cyborg you know what is resorting to sabotage. She's extremely territorial and gets jealous at the slightest provocation. I decided to use the rental car's GPS lady rather than her (she's been deliberately routing me onto giant traffic jams because I turn her off at night but I have to, she won't stop beeping) and she threw a cyborg hissy fit. I'm searching for a nice boring Midwestern man avatar. This chick is nuts.

The Chain

He couldn't make the Wise One understand.

The chain was biting into his ankle.  The unbreakable chain that bound all the Continental children.  Up until now, it had been loose but some of the others had tipped over the edge into the abyss and now it was getting tight.

"Well of course there are problems" the Wise One said in an exasperated tone as he bit into a ripe peach he had just plucked from the tree. "Look at these peaches!".
"Yes, but the chain."
He looked down at the links around The Boy's ankle and their taughtness that stretched off into the distance connected to their friends and their friend's friends and others who were already gone. He looked at his own, which was as loose or looser than than The Boy's had been and shrugged.
"You worry too much."
"But it hurts!" The Boy said, straining against the chain. His shoes skipped a fraction of an inch as he pulled.
"You must be exaggerating because I don't see Cal or Jurgen squawking....." tossing the now exposed pit aside. "Things are just like they've always been, have a peach" proffering the ripe, beautiful fruit to The Boy who had both hands around the chain and his feet jammed and scrabbling the ground.

Off in the distance they could hear Cal and Jurgen laughing and calling back and forth to each other.  They were lying on the ground and their respective chains were dragging them slowly, ever so slowly but they didn't seem cut into their ankles the way it did The Boy's and anyway, they didn't seem to mind.

And the Wise One was right:  things were beautiful.  The trees were filled with fruit, the sky was a sparkling blue and there was a babbling brook darting and dancing all the way down to the abyss. The roar of the water as it fell in almost drowned out the cries and moans of those inside. The Slavic kids scrabbling at the steep sides, trying to stop their slide, the Asians, almost all boys, grim jaws set, climbing over the bodies of others clamped to the wall and the Bantu wails from all the little ones at the bottom - too young and weak to even begin to escape the dark, cold water.

A number of the children walked over to talk to The Boy and The Wise One - the ones without chains.  "Why do you have a chain?" they asked.
"Because we are Continentals!" The Wise One answered proudly.
"But you'll end up in the Abyss"
"No we won't" The Wise One said a little too defiantly as one of the littlest fell screaming down the side.
"Why don't you just unlock your lock? Take the chain off?"
The Boy winced but not from the pain of the chain in his skin but from the mention of the treason he planned.
"There is no key", The Wise One said.  "Well, to use a key wouldn't work", he finally admitted "because all of those other kids further down - the ones that don't realize what is happening to them - would fall in all the faster" he said with an intensity that belied his feigned nonchalance. "There is no choice, we must remain linked no matter what".
"Do you think you're your brother's keeper?" said the Free Leader incredulously.
"Yes, of course, we're the responsible ones"
"Then why are you letting the chain drag you all down to the abyss?  Do you like cold and darkness?"
"No, of course not. But this is what we've always done"
"That's a lie" shouted, The Boy - "There never used to be these tight chains, we all stayed together in the meadow and played but it's only been a little while since we were all chained together, ever since the abyss opened in the middle."
The Wise One rounded on him "for your own good, so you wouldn't stray. Please be quiet, you're making things worse" as The Boy's straining legs and shoes skipped again.

By the by The Wise One wandered off to debate with the Free Ones, he had so much slack in his chains he could walk the entire meadow.  The Boy, exhausted from his fight looked around furtively and digging in his pocket retrieved the golden key that they all had before they accepted the lock and the chain.  But many of the children had been careless or improvident and had lost or sold theirs.  Not The Boy. He looked at the key's gleam - it read in finely etched letters:  "Liberty".  All of a sudden a wail went up among some of the other tightly dragging children who jealously pointed at The Boy, chanting "key, key, key".  He frantically began trying to fit the key in the lock and release it but his hands were tired and bloody from the fight with his chain and he kept dropping it.

The Wise One looked up from his reverie, and called out the alarm to his still loosely chained friends.  As The Boy finally recovered the key one of them kicked it out of his hand and it flew far away....out of reach for the tightly chained Boy.
"Please, he begged, please give me my key back".
"No, you're not allowed to flee."
"For God sakes! I'm going to be dragged into the abyss, don't  you understand?  Please, please give me my key! It's mine! I saved it."
The Free Children came over, looking pensive.
"Well surely you'll help me, please just go get my key - it's right over there.  There's nothing they can do to you".
But they just stood there, staring.
"Why won't you help me?" The Boy cried out.
"We can't" Said the Largest of their group "Every child has to choose to be tied to a chain or to become truly free of their own accord.  We can't do anything except encourage.  It's every child for themselves".
The Boy sobbed as his shoes finally broke their friction connection with the ground and he landed unceremoniously on his back - moving a full half a foot Abyss-ward in the process.  He lay there softly crying as the chain dragged him towards his end.  After a while he began humming and laughing, talking to himself and smiling.

The Wise One turned to the Free Ones "See, I told you he wanted to stay chained" and walked away with his steadily shortening chain in tow.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Chainsaw Juggling

So I'm doing some chain sawing today - it's tough work cutting shrub branches - and I got to thinking about all of those other burly lumberjacks out there in their burly lumberjack outfits with matching burly lumberjack shoes and this is the thing: I don't think juggling running chainsaws is nearly as hard as they make it out to be. In fact I think it's quite simple: you just take a couple of chainsaws like these. Then you fire 'em up and duct tape the button thingy down so the chain keeps moving even though no one is holding the handle - what the faint of heart call a 'safety' feature. You do it just like this....then you hold them like this and toss one and then the other lickety split into the air and....oops.....dang.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Are you still?

For my daughter Amelia.

Are you still as beautiful as when we last met?

No. You are fairer still.
And filled with light and whimsy.

You wear beauty gently.
A gossamer gown flowing with light.

I stop. I stare and stutter.
Beauty overcomes and my joy is complete.

Where did such wondrous grace emerge?
What sorcerer conjured you from dust?

It was God and Nature and Truth together.
For none could by themselves.

I revel in your shadow.
And wonder that you are my child.

No one deserves such bounty.
No man could hold such wealth.

All one can do is to love and be loved.
By that which cannot be possessed.

To love my own blood. To love you. My Amelia.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Die drones die?

I walk on a golf course in the evening, which this time of year means in the dark. Recently one or more drones have been following my progress. At least I think they're drones. I certainly hope they are. Anyway, I assume these 'drones' are being piloted by neighborhood lads who got them from Santa. Incidentally, I have a similar issue with Santa as he flies around willy nilly on one of the heaviest drinking nights of the year, inevitably scaring legitimately drunk revelers into premature sobriety. And now the Kringlemeister is indoctrinating our youth in unauthorized fly bys.Honestly, the geezer is beginning to grate and I hate grated geezer. But I digress. What I really wanted to know is: 1. Do you think that I'm right about the neighborhood lads dealing the drones? And 2. If so, is it considered overly sensitive to shoot the sumbitches out of the sky and 3. If not, should I use a Twelve Gauge with a Varmint round or some other ordinance for optimal drone death dealing. And 4. What happens if I'm wrong and it's aliens or the CIA? but I repeat myself.
Sincerely,
Trying to be Tolerant of the Tykes New Toys in Texas. And Failing.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Rainy days and first days always get me down

So I left last Friday morning to go to the board retreat for my first official day working with this left coast software business I've been fooling around with. Mom drove me. I've been staying with my parents to help dad deal with his various cancers and other maladies only to watch him set land survival records and threaten to outlive his doctors (that'll wipe the smug off their faces). It's not as bad as it sounds: I have my own floor and since my mother threw away everything I had ever owned the day I left for college and then promptly moved to Houston (without leaving a forwarding address I might add), I'm not forced to sleep in my old room. But I am forced to sleep while being stared at by many copies of my leering adolescent self. How I got it into my head that I was good looking back then I do not know.

So where was I? Ah yes, with mom on the way to the airport. I thought dear old mom might be regressing a bit because she bought me new underwear. Which is what she used to do every fall when school started. Fortunately she didn’t insist on taking a picture of me with my pencil box and everything before I got on the bloody plane.

Out of the car and into the terminal. Past the huge new International Terminal project. This for the second 'domestic' airport. I'm sorry but I'm afraid this whole "Houston Boom Town of Destiny" thing is getting out of hand.

Beyond that the Southwest greeter was shouting "check in left, bag check only right!" at the top of her lungs. Being a seasoned (basted and roasted) traveler I moved right while avoiding eye contact (of course). Offended by my lack of Texas neighborly-ness, she stopped me and shouted "hey! bag check only" while I nodded and tugged my forelock. It's embarrassing enough, that I, who have been diamond and platinum clubbed the world over had to check a bag, but to be herded. Well let's just say I know how steers feel just after their “steerage” ceremony. Or do I? Because I then was processed through the TSA - or as I like call them: the one percenter's - chute. I call them that not because average comp for these minderbinders crests above $100K but because by my reckoning they will uncover a whole one percent of the security threats that go through an airport. Now follow my math here: according to their own 'quality control' report in the last comprehensive multi airport test they missed 95% of the fake bombs, guns, rocket launchers, bushel bags of Semtex and other ordinance that was lugged past them by bushy bearded guys in man dresses while catching 98% of the little old ladies with weaponized titanium hips. But that's only the beginning of their security theater virtuosity.  One of my favorite pastimes while waiting to be "processed" is to think of all the ways I could get a bomb on a plane without going through the chute. And that's what gets me from 5 to 1 percent effectiveness.

Of course today they had a bomb sniffing dog (who as a Federal Dog was probably pulling down 30Gs with low deductible Veterinary care and retirement to a luxury kennel after five years tossed in) so maybe that doubled their effectiveness to...2%. But in fairness to the TSAistas, I think the existential pointlessness of their job is finally beginning to sink in, because after being directed by a ($100K) federal employee who was literally looking at a screen that alternated a large left and right arrow and then pointing left and right with it (I kid you not) I ended up going through the "Aw fuck it, who gives a rip" or as they euphemistically put it: "Expedited" line. What's next? The pre-cleared terrorist line? "I'm sorry sir but this line is only for pre cleared terrorists from Federally Accredited terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, Al Ansar, Boko Haram and ISIS. I'm sure you understand that the Federal Government can't accommodate every Tom, Dick and Crazy that wants to blow up a plane."

Incidentally, a couple hours at an airport listening to the omnipresent happy talk drone of CNN is enough to make you want to shoot that sonofabitch Ted Turner.  My God, My God why have you forsaken me? I blame Jane Fonda. But it's my own fault - tempted by filthy lucre not to mention justifiably showing up for work a few hours late - I took the oversold deal.  The gate agent said "you're in luck Mr. Reeves! Your new flight will get you in ten minutes before this one plus you get $366 to boot!" Which I suppose is "good news" unless you were hoping to screw around in the Las Vegas airport for a few hours the way I was.  Smug bastard.

Speaking of smug bastards, while being forced to listen to CNN, Bill Clinton came on saying something in that sobby voice of his about how wonderful it was that South Carolina was pulling old Dixie down (so to speak). This of course is the same Bill Clinton who as a four term governor of corrupt one party post segregationist Democrat Arkansas signed a flag law and accompanying statement specifically describing how the Arkansas flag had a large single star " to honor our Confederate heritage”. Like with Gay marriage where Obama, Clinton (his and hers) and almost all other prominent Democrat pols were agin’ it for “deeply held religious reasons” until the precise moment is became useful to be ‘for’ it (I mean God doesn’t even vote, so screw Him), the Confederate flag has only become anathema since the voters who consider it part of their heritage stopped voting….Democrat. The Port Side party really should change their motto from “Happy Days are Here Again”(because they’re not) to “You tell me what gets me money, power and (if you’re Slick Wilbur) babes and that’s what I’ll say I believe.” Until the moment that some other belief system (Islam?) looks like it will get them more money, power and babes, that is.

At that point I got on the plane and breathed into the airsickness bag until I stopped hyperventilating. God I hate first days.  It's probably going to rain.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

For common sense regulation of nudity

For the record:  I am in favor of a certain amount of public nudity I just think there need to be some (to paraphrase politicians who have none) commonsense regulations to protect the tender psyches of....well...me for one.  I know, I know that I'm supposed to be a libertarian who says everything is swell and should be legal but even I have limits.  In my case psychological and physiological ones....I just...well...I just have limits.  So in order to protect those needing protecting I propose the following commonsense nudity regulations built along the lines of our driving regulations:

1. Driving has a minimum age - nuding should have a maximum one.
2. There are student drivers who can drive without being licensed so long as a licensed driver who loves them is in the car with them at all times.  Likewise there can be nuders that are over the maximum age so long as a licensed nuder who loves them is willing to be seen with them at all times, never more than three feet away. And critically, they are not allowed to deny their relationship with the overage nuder.
3. Just as there is a maximum blood alcohol level above which a driver loses his license, there should be a maximum Saggy Skin Level above which a nuder gets his license yanked.
4. We will also need to establish standards for "reckless nuding", "nude rage", "tail nuding" and so on.  The Nuding Cops will need to be trained to deal sensitively with "multi nude pile ups".