Monday, March 31, 2014

A Bloody Book

It never really hit me until today how violent and bloody the Bible is. My 9 year old was given a Lego bible for her birthday this year which she was showing me this morning when I stopped by for a visit. Whoever made the scenes out Lego pieces didn't shy away from details. There is the story of Achan who stole loot from a battle which was forbidden and his whole family including children were stoned and burnt. Then there is a cell depicting David giving Saul 200 Philippines foreskins as a dowry for his daughter Michael. Or the guards David had strung up after chopping off their hands and feet - not to mention all the weird shit in Revelation.

The color red is abundant in this Lego rendition of a supposedly loving God's interaction with humabity. If not blood then it's the fires of Hell being portrayed. I know some people would say I'm ignoring the context or that it was a different dispensation. Was it God's dispensation of being an asshole? Malachi 3:6 says that God does not change so which is it? Don't give me the line about a holy and perfect god can't be in the presence of imperfection when he purportedly created beings with a high level of fallibility. I still believe that there is some iteration of God out there along with a spirit world but I'm done with this cockamamie cobbling of stories championed through circular logic. I really don't feel comfortable letting my kids read the bible, any more than I would let them watch Friday the 13th at this age.

It's a mad, blind, self-deluded world.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Language

I get grief sometimes for using "obscure" words as if I am trying to sound intelligent but the truth is I simply love words and language. There are a plethora of ways to convey a point - one way could be very simplistic and dull, another can be overly expressive and unnecessary but then there is the succinct statement that richly conveys the intent with brevity through the proper choice of words. I honestly believe that what separates us from the animals is our ability to convey entire thoughts through one word. For example most people say something was cheap because the item was inexpensive however, cheap should connotate poor quality which is usually coupled with a low price tag. Every concept from our basic conversations all the way to quantum physics are possible because of language. Most people could understand advanced scientific concepts if they had a contextual glossary to decipher the mumbo jumbo through. Neil DeGrass Tyson does this on the show Cosmos - he presents advanced concepts in language that an every day person can understand. I'm sure when he is hanging out with his buddies they use one word as short hand for a concept that would take several minutes to explain to the average person.

Generally people with large vocabularies are considered more intelligent however I would postulate that it is the large vocabulary which makes them more intelligent not the other way around. I heard a podcast about a deaf guy who grew up in a poor area of Mexico and was given the opportunity to go to school and learn sign language among other things. When he went back to visit his friends he couldn't stand it because it took them 45 minutes to tell a basic story through charades. Each person would tell part of the story but repeat everything else that had already been acted out because their brains weren't trained to connect the train of events like we do with words.

Don't look down on large vocabularies as something pretentious but instead consider it as a way to expand your brain - a micro evolution. You can pick up new words everywhere even on TV. The other day I learned the word breviloquent from the Blacklist (excellent show by the way) and have added it to my internal dictionary. Today I refreshed on recalcitrant and also learned inscucient - both great words that made my brain feel a little less stagnant.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Retractions

It is generally looked upon as wishy washy or fickle when someone changes their opinion regarding important issues in life. The opposition cites polar changes as a basis for an untrustworthy candidate in most elections. While many politicians are scumbags, there is such a thing as growth and change in perspective upon experiencing new events or data. Considering the amount of data, studies, lobbying that politicians experience in their careers it's kind of ignorant to expect them not to change their views over time. You think something will work, then you try it and realize it doesn't. That's how advancement and innovation work.

The past few days I've been thinking about all the changes I have made in my life and what my blog would have looked like just a few years ago. I realized that years from now I may be at a point where my writing may contradict a prior belief. My hope is that I am growing upwards building one set of knowledge upon the last not flip flopping like a bipolar person.

I'm around page 180 of the 400+ page book on Malcolm X and his life is a perfect example of personal growth. When he finally left the US around 1960 and met Muslims from the Middle East, it threw into question many things that the NOI taught forcing him to slowly change. I wish he was still alive because I would love to have met him and gain wisdom from someone who held strong beliefs but also had room for them to be altered and challenged by life. (Side note: one of his nicknames was Detroit Red because he had red hair so we have that in common.)

Last week I was called obtuse because I was arguing something that was perceived as stupid by a friend. Maybe I am being obtuse, but it's how I see things right now yet I'm always open for growth. It's not contradiction to change a point of view because you have been challenged - it's growth. It's only contradiction when you are a capriciously chasing your tail.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Patience - Love on Tap

Something my mother always told me as a child is that I had very little patience and unfortunately she was right. I hated waiting for anything because if things didn't happen immediately I would just forget about it and move onto something else. It's not that I was a spoiled brat - quite the opposite. I just was so used to doing without things and not having a voice that if I had to wait any length of time I figured it was never going to happen so why keep up my expectations and hope unnecessarily. As I've gotten older, I've realized that there are things worth holding out and holding on for and they do happen if you bide your time. My career is a prime example as it took a very difficult 9 year journey to get where I am today. Many times I thought I was never going to get where I wanted and it looked like time to give up and be "reasonable" but patience and persistence have paid off.

As I'm seeing how patience is playing into my life in relation to love, it seems like patience isn't actually a separate virtue from the "greatest virtue - love" but is love on tap. Waiting is denying yourself gratification, having hope, exercising self-control. Anyone can love for a few days, a week, maybe even a year but when you must wait with no definite end in sight - then you will see what you are made out of. When I got married it wasn't for love - it was about a lack of options and having no clue about life. If you have options but set your sights tenaciously on the object of your affection whether it be a person, possession or position (I just threw up a little for alliterating) - then you are living out a constant stream of love as long as you don't falter. Even self-sacrifice can take time off but waiting isn't something you can take a break from you. You either let love and hope flow or you dry up and quit.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blessings or Choices

Talking with a Mormon acquaintance yesterday (I would say friend but she has assured me that "I don't not like you") I learned about patriarchal blessings being part of their faith. When you become a certain age (somewhere in the teens generally) you receive a blessing from a male leadership figure (possibly but not necessarily your father) that is loosely a prophecy for your life. You are supposed to call back upon and meditate on it throughout the course of your life as guidance for who you are and what path you will take. When I posed the question "how much do you think the veracity of the blessing comes from the recipient unknowingly taking steps to fulfill the prophecy" she conceded that was probably generally the case. She said that there were somethings in her life that had been true but then others that weren't eg. her having many children - something she doesn't plan on having come true.

I won't emphatically say that certain individuals can't read into our lives and see possible futures but I firmly believe that we (many times subconsciously) take steps to create the destiny we have been fed. I was spoon fed a line of bullshit as a kid which I accepted for a long time. My belief coupled with my parents adherence to the same belief caused for many poor decisions to be made in my first 20 years of life.  It wasn't until I decided to take my life into my hands that things changed. I found out today there is a good chance that the last 10 years of my life could have been very different if my mother hadn't fucked up one event because of her beliefs molding her actions. I really don't think it's fate or destiny - it's what you choose to believe in that shapes your life.

The short version is - don't believe dumb shit "You make our own luck Mr. Reyes"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

5 and Out

Around 4 this afternoon some unexpected events occurred in my roommates life necessitating me to vacate for at least a couple of days. Thankfully we were working a very short drive from the apartment so I buzzed over there to quickly pack up. Before the past 6 months I would have been a little unsettled by the uncertainty of where I would go but when the situation arose there wasn't a worry in my mind. I didn't time myself but it literally took me about 5 minutes to gather up my belongings and get out.

It seems almost perverse to take happiness from the fact that I can so quickly and effortlessly blow away in the wind but being this zen has me stoked. I've stated it before but it bears repeating  "you don't know what you are capable of until you test yourself". This lifestyle though bizarre and maintaining some drawbacks, is such a break from the stress of the world that I wouldn't trade it for anything. When I hear people say "I have to keep doing something I hate because I have xyz responsibilities" it pains me. We imprison ourselves within the constructs of our minds using other people's opinions as the mortar. To a large extent I've quit caring if people disapprove of how I live or if I can't meet their unreasonable expectations. Life is far too short to be unhappy because of other people. If you are still breathing, you still have options. The grass on the outside of your prison walls really is green.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Radio

The early evening summer breeze wafted tobacco smoke towards me and I could see it tousling his wispy white hair as he rocked back and forth on the old porch. His hair wasn't actually white but had a tinge of yellowish-brownish-red still left in it. While I actually never knew my grandfather when his hair was bright red, the color became his nickname around town, and the little tint still left allowed me to picture he had looked as a younger man. I smiled thinking about how much I looked like him. The wind had taken a turn and carried the sound of his radio down the sidewalk "Jackson takes third, bases are loaded. Garcia is up". By that time I had reached the steps "Why are you listening to the radio when the TV is right.." "Shhhhshh" my grandfather held out one hand towards me to silence me and the other holding a light cigarette towards the speaker as he leaned in as if somehow holding that position would ensure he took it in like being at Fenway Park. "Garcia swings and a miss. It's a 2-2 count right now." "Damnit" he said matter of factly. I advanced a step causing him to pump his hands in the air as if doing a push up and i knew he meant "don't fucking move."

"Garcia cracks a 98 mph fast ball down the right line. Valentins got some distance on this one, it might make it over the fence...Gentry is racing for it, it looks like it's gone, no wait Chad Gentry snagged it just before it passed over. Oh my god what a catch. The Redsox are knocked out of the playoffs." He muttered something about lousy team management as he reached for the classical music station preset. Another thing I didn't understand - why the classical music? I could dig some of it but the opera was like lacerating my ear drums and pouring gasoline on the cuts.  "Come help me pick a salad" he said putting out his cigarette. I didn't reply because we both knew I wouldn't say no. I just waited for Gramps to grab his radio and stroll off to the garden. Every year there was a garden with the same things in it: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, green peppers and several kinds of lettuce. I guess old people like bitter things because my grandfather was a huge fan of Endive and would sometimes pick dandelion leaves to throw in the salad because the Endive just didn't cut it. We didn't talk for a few minutes other than him handing a head of lettuce he had cut out of the ground to me saying "wash this one". 

Right next to the garden was his compost pile that he would manually turn a few times a year. To help with the decomposing process he had run a water line underground several hundred feet to establish a spiggot for wetting down the compost. I don't know if it was part of the initial plan but at some point a sink was connected to the aqueduct (it being a sensible place to clean fresh vegetables in due to it's geographic location). "I can take it with me" Red called across the garden as he was picking some tomatoes. "What are you talkin about?" I shot back my diction not very crisp. "You need to enunciate when you speak especially when it's over long distances to your grandfather." He said this emphasizing the wh and t sounds in particular. "When I was younger I took an elocution class? Do you know what elocution is?" I shook my head no. "Get the dictionary and look it up." "Ok" I said and kept washing the lettuce the water overflowing from the sink into the compost. "I mean now. That lettuce can wait and don't look it up with your damn iphone sirachi thing or whatever the hell it is." I raised an eyebrow as I turned off the water and dried my hands on my T-shirt but he didn't notice. A few minutes later when I returned he asked without looking up "what did it say?" "the skill of clear and expressive speech, esp. of distinct pronunciation and articulation." I replied. "That's correct." He had stopped picking and looked over towards me. "I took an elocution class as a young man. The teacher told us that we might spit and be embarassed when we were encuiating during our speeches but that our points would be more powerful if we spoke the words clearly and with confidence." "Ok" I said after a long pause. I knew he was expecting a further question but I remained silent. "I can take it with me, the radio that is" he said completely changing tracks while placing down several bright red roma tomatoes." "Yeah but isn't if better to watch stuff happen than imagine it?" I asked winding up the salad spinner. "Sometimes i enjoy it but I prefer to not have all my mind sucked in if I can help it. I love to feel the breeze, and be able to watch the birds eat when I'm just listening. It's relaxing. TV is stressful. It zones you in and then shuts you down. We called it the boob tube because it turns you into a giant boob when you watch it." His use of the word boob cracked a grin on my face. Gramps would curse sometimes with a hell or damn (only once did I hear a bullshit) but he was never the kind of person to drop the f-word. Even though I used the f-bomb in my everyday language, I appreciated the fact that my grandfather didn't. It wasn't in a self-righteous or judgemental manner but was simply indicative of a different era.

I had been gone for several years in LA when my Mom called and said that Gramps had died. It was the first time in my life where I cried because someone had passed away and my mind went back to that day 8 years before. After the radio talk he had encouraged me in his offhanded way by saying that it made him smile to see me strike out on my own giving my mother grief in the process. I'm sure he didn't know how much that meant to me but I was reminded that I started to live my dream partially because of his small encouragement. Dreams take money and didn't have any extra which meant I couldn't purchase a last minute airline ticket for the funeral. The next few days I barely left the house except when I had to go pick up a couple job applications but my efforts to fill them out were perfunctory and they ended up in a pile on the end table. Thursday morning I was playing that conversation in the garden over again in my mind when it came to me how I could honor old Red. I jumped on my computer taking care of some details and emailed my mother with very specific instructions. 

My sister told me that when Mom brought out the radio and set it on the coffin, it turned some heads. "I'm sorry I couldn't make it to send Grandpa off with you guys but I think I found something almost more appropriate." I had emailed my mother this filed recorded on my computer and purchased a low powered radio transmitter to connect to her computer online. "We all know that Gramps loved the radio. He could have gotten a new radio when the KLH broke but wanted to have it repaired instead. Every room in the house had a radio pumping out different levels of a concerto or opera from WGBH. One time I asked him once why he would listen to the baseball games on the radio instead of watching it on TV. He gave me a few reasons but I think the real reason is that radio and Gramps were a lot the same. Radio announcers have to enunciate and speak clearly to be understood unlike TV where they subtitle all these mumblers. We've all nearly been baptized with his spit while getting an overly enunciated speech on the subject right?" I'm told a chuckle ran through the crowd." 

"It wasn't just the speaking clearly that was similar but also a cultural / epochal difference. Even radio has changed recently but it used to connotate a more wholesome world view without the profanity and lewdness on many TV shows now. Grandpa wasn't ever rude or crass but he said what was on his mind only occasionally punctuated with a hell or damn. He used his mind constantly which is why I think he liked the radio the most. When you watch TV you don't think very much because several senses are being involved. Listening to the radio is different - it keeps your mind active and processing. I think he understood that and didn't want to be shut down. I could have done this over a video with the technology we have today but wanted to just send the audio because it seemed appropriate. See, I think that's something that Red understood - being present with ourselves and others is the most important thing. Since you haven't had to focus on a video I bet you've been looking around as I talk sharing smiles and maybe some tears. I remember listening to the radio with Gramps when we were fishing, picking vegetables, or riding in the truck and sometimes we talked over it and other times he would just look at you out of the blue breaking the silence by making a funny face and making me laugh. He wanted a full life and he got it, his life propagating into outer space like one of the rockets he would read about in his Scientific American magazines.  I'm talking to you on Gramp's favorite radio station 99.5 right now and I would sing an opera for you but I don't know one. Bye Gramps" my voice cracking which was a perfect time to sign off so I played the morse code for "Gramps SK. "--. .-. .- -- .--. ... ...-.- ...-.-" It's how ham radio operators used to sign off in morse code standing for silent key. The radio went silent for a second till my mother turned off the small transmitter WGBH suddenly filling the room with a beautiful, mournful opera. The entire room sat silently listening till the song completed, tears streaming down faces. Everyone knew his silent spirit was taking one last listen to his KLH before he started his own broadcast somewhere else.



Running

Running away from the time that is chasing
Ignoring the signs of my life I am wasting
I thought I'd be something - an inventor or star
Instead I'm just sitting alone at the end of the bar

Seems like I might be getting anchored in one place
the divorce, job and kids keeping me here
thinking about getting a home I break out in sweat
Cause today it started sinking in, I'm setting way points in my mind
I felt instantly older knowing I might stagnate for a while.

With every new job, experience and place
I know I'll keep moving down the road some day.
If I don't set down roots or make plans to
I don't have to pay attention to the time I'm passing through.
Knowing I could be here till I die
feels like it should just be tomorrow.

Cut out the pain some happiness too
skip to the end so I can see what's beyond
It might be nothing or it might drop my jaw
but anything is better than the status quo fraud
we get ourselves mired in - pacifying ourselves with god.

A fugitive from the status quo,
I am running from time, but it won't let go
It seems kind of childish to not want to grow up
settle down in one place feels I'm just like giving up.
That's what normal life feels like to me
like I've given up trying and I'm happy where I am
a sad and boring life to live in debt to uncle sam

I gotta keep moving even if it's living in a van
down by the river, or not - I don't really give a shit
cause I'll probably switch it up, then break it down
A little switch hit destruction like Mordecai Brown.

If you see my tail lights it's nothing personal for sure
just my personal world tour to a foreign shore
I'm like Keith Richards, we're not gathering moss
till we're dead in the ground our caskets rusted
then maybe I won't have days to count or try and escape
and I'll find peace in one place, void of time - asleep.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Popcopy

Giving excuses is a natural part of humanity; we want people to understand us. I'm learning though, that most people don't give a shit about your reason. You can't please everyone all the time and some people are perennially unhappy. Despite your best efforts other humans are going to have expectations about you and they may at times be unreasonable. 

People generally only see what they want to see and you trying to offer an unasked for explanation only brings anger and irritation. As much as it grinds your gears it's best to not say anything and walk away. If you are doing your best and it's not good enough then there's no point in stressing over the rest. Do your best and "Popcopy" the rest. It makes life a whole lot less stressful.