I mentioned in post number one today that a theologian named Marcus Borg labeled Jesus of Nazareth a “movement initiator.” That’s funny to me because it’s so demonstrative of effort. Borg was a Believer, but he really thought that things weren’t good enough as is. He seemed to think, “Maybe if we change the words and labels more people will buy into this garbage.
“Messiah? Too old testament. Movement initiator? Brilliant!
“Christ? Too Greek. Che Guevara? That’s the ticket!
“Son of God? Too not-atheistic. Barack Obama? Exactly!”
Well, I have a revision of my own that I’d like to share. This one came to me the other morning. Different than a phrase, mine is an image. But I’m no artist, so I’ll do my best to describe the image.
To make it palatable, you need some backstory. The backstory is that a good friend, or former good friend (he has a girlfriend now and naturally we don’t talk anymore), is a little brother. And through conversations he shared with me that he has lent his big brother money and never been repaid–not that he ever expected to be. Why did he lend the big brother the money? Obviously love is the reason.
Most of you know that I, too, have a brother. But in my case, I am the big brother. So the other morning, I am reporting in to my little brother that a big conversation with the ex ended terribly and left me without hope, at least in the financial realm of life. As we chit-chatted via the wonder of texting, I jokingly asked him for money. (Actually, I asked him to buy me a house.) Suddenly, my friend’s situation came to mind, and I felt terrible because it occurred to me that maybe my question, despite being ridiculous and clearly a joke, would actually cause my little brother consternation because of how much he loves me. Still with me? I suddenly feared that I was becoming my friend’s douche-bag older brother who was taking advantage of his position in relation to my good friend. And that was not my intent at all.
Now, whether or not my little brother felt any pang of “maybe I should…” before he texted me a resolute “no”, a new version of Jesus’ attitude/demeanor before/during the crucifixion came to mind.
Mel Gibson and the events as recorded in the Gospels seem to have it that he willfully submitted to the punishment because he knew that it was what had to happen if we were ever to understand the better. But for today, at least, I’m kinda in love with this new revision of his emotional state at that trying time. Instead of willful submission, try picturing Jesus of Nazareth in a discussion with the human race. His side of the argument? “Listen to me. Life because better. I speak the truth.” Our side? “Prove it.”
And much like my friend, Jesus would really prefer to avoid the debate. Not because he doubts himself–no. But because he knows how far he will go to prove his conviction. He knows that he will do anything to convince humanity that he’s telling the truth–that he loves us more than he loves himself and that that’s because we deserve the love that we just won’t accept for some reason. So my revision of Jesus during the passion is an unkemptly bearded man pleading with me, a sure sadness in his eyes, “Please don’t ask me to prove it. Please.” And then to himself only, continuing, “Because I will. You don’t know how far I will go.”
Forgive me, brother. My request was in poor taste.
Get excited people. You don’t just get two, but three posts today. The third post on this random August day is coming in an hour. What? I just have a lot to say tonight. Exciting.
Before I became a hero, I always perceived civilians as mocking the military’s love of acronyms. How times have changed. This is relevant to Christianity and happiness (or eudaimonia) because I have simplified Christianity into three words. But I didn’t stop there. I want to promote the three words using their acronym. The reason I think this is the best marketing strategy is because it’s an acronym that sounds remarkably similar to another trending one. My acronym? LBB. See? One short syllable away from LBGT. You civilian pukes want acronyms? Well, this is the only one you need to know.
So what does LBB stand for? Life Because Better.
That’s what Christianity is all about. Better. I don’t think the LBGT crowd will mind too much that I’m ripping them off, because that whole thing is about better in its own way. (Though, I can’t deny that I am utterly shocked and yet wear a larger than life smile of amazement at life’s absurdities to include that anyone would ever celebrate gaining the ability to get married. That is one contract this confirmed bachelor will never enter into again.)
Some of what I’m about to argue just has to be felt in your heart. I’m not right, you’re not wrong. It just is. You either agree or you don’t.
History of Everything: The only relevant lesson.
God creates humanity with free will. Why? Why does he give us life? Because better. Life because better. LBB. In brief, God created humanity. Humanity went to shit (doh, sorry Dad, *). So he destroys everyone but one family and their animals and boat. Then God decides on this second go-around that he needs to be a more hands-on parent. So he chooses a group of people, (Jews), to use to teach the other groups of people that life can in fact be better than the fleeting pleasure found in raping your sister and mom and the livestock. How were the non-chosen people supposed to determine that they were missing out on happiness? They would notice that the Jews win more wars, get out of tight spots more often, and have an uncommon solidarity down through history despite not always, or hardly ever, being recognized as a nation-state. These Jews also had one only God, and a hope for a messiah.
Then, around the time of Jesus’ existence, the Jews really, really believed that a messiah was going to come and violently overthrow their current oppressors, like the Old Testament reported used to happen. But surprise, surprise, the man who claims to be the messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, enters the picture and instead of same-shit-different-day, he says the time has come to open up the ability to be a member of the people of God to anyone and everyone and that it has nothing to do with buildings and geography. He argues that the era of teaching the world what’s up through methods including violent revolution for the benefit of one segment of the population is over. He claims that a new history needs to begin and unlike ever before humanity as a whole is finally ready to accept the notion that life can be better. Life because better.
Life because better. LBB.
The best part of this story? It’s true. Life can be better. We can be kinder. We can not hurt each other. We can love our neighbor. We can be decent. We can respect each other for who we are. We can meet each other where we are.
Truth be told, sometimes I like worse life. I like venting and ranting and name calling. I like doing it very articulately as I’ve tried to demonstrate on this blog. I like hating–a lot. Feels good. Not as good as loving, but sometimes really close.
At the end of the day, however, as I lay in bed I dream about the better. I wish I wouldn’t have said things, done things, or contributed to anyone else’s pain.
For me, the only person I’ve ever heard of who gives me hope that I can do life better tomorrow is Jesus of Nazareth. Not the current batch of intelligentsia, not Albert Einstein or Nietzsche, not any living person who thinks I’m totally wrong. You will be forgotten. I will be forgotten. It’s sad but true. Sorry. But he won’t be; he can’t be.
Life because better. LBB.
Americans, especially, the world is watching: Be the better. And give credit where credit’s due. It’s the only hope.
Yes. Three posts in one day. And it’s not even my day off. Crazy. Like a friend said, word volcano.
It’s probably odd that I’m only a few months into my current job and already writing about dreams for another job. No matter. I’m happy at my current job and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean I don’t dream of an even better job.
So what’s this better job? Right now I’m dreaming about becoming a preacher. Or maybe a priest. Or a monk. I don’t know the specifics, but I know that I want to be a “man of the cloth” as they say. I want to be a part of a profession of men whose goods are solace and listening. I want people to seek me out. I want people, everyday people from all walks of life to come to my door or invite me to come to theirs. And I want to hear what is going on with them and their life. I want people to share the state of their soul with me. I want that opportunity. I want to do it over food too. Breakfasts, coffees, lunches, dinners, desserts. That’s the ideal job to me. I want to hear from people who don’t necessarily understand the depth of their courage for sharing the most intimate aspects of their eternal struggle on this journey called life. But more than that (yes, there’s more. I dream big when I dream.) More than that, I want to be able to hug these people. Or maybe just hold their hand. And more than any physical comfort, I want to be able to look them in the eye and with the most sincerity and conviction I am able to muster, I want to tell them, “Everything is going to be okay.”
Because everything is going to be okay. Right?
“I want macaroni and cheese,” H- said as the waitress held out her pad. She smiled at the girl’s boldness.
Then addressing the little girl’s dad, the waitress clarified, “It’s not Kraft macaroni and cheese, but our own homemade version. It has a heavy cheese sauce-”
“I love homemade macaroni and cheese,” H- interrupted.
Again, the waitress smiled. As did the dad.
“I need a few more minutes,” he said, “but you can bring hers out whenever.”
Minutes elapsed as H- and her dad partook in their respective lunches during spring break.
H- broke the silence and smartly volunteered, “I should eat all my macaroni and cheese before the strawberries, right?”
Smiling, her dad answered, “Right.”
A few more minutes of diligence on H-‘s part passed.
“You really should eat more, H-.”
“Eat? Look at my tummy. It’s so full,” she began, attempting to stick her non-existent belly out. Then, as if realizing she may be her own worst enemy, she added with determined eyes, “But not too full for dessert.”
“It’s not even big, H-,” he answered, rolling his eyes at the four year old’s endeavor.
“Do you know what a pooch is, Daddy?”
He didn’t want to let her see his shock at her question, so he delicately, though quickly, shifted his eyes from hers to something a few inches away. “Pooch?” he thought. “Why does my daughter know what a pooch is? What moron–no, what mother fucker is using the word pooch around little girls? As if little girls don’t have enough bullshit to worry about in this world, some knucklehead is even now ruining their already set-up-for-failure image innocence. Never again will I let her out of my sight-”
“It’s a dog!”
He turned. Relief? Alleviation, perhaps? Mitigation? Easement? None of these words capture the feeling this answer gave him.
“Maybe the world’s not such a terrible place,” he thought.
“Pete, I think that that was the line.”
“There are so many couples here.”
“We’re the cutest couple in this place,” say two teenage girls loud enough for 1995 to hear after taking a selfie.
A flock of college students approach a twenty foot tall stack of folded quilts. To the agreement of the rest, one female righteously asserts, “They should give these to the homeless.”
“I don’t think I’m a museum person.”
“I mean it’s alright, but I’m not that intrigued or even empathetic to the artwork. I don’t get most of it. I saw that Picasso piece. I was impressed that I was actually looking at a Picasso. Really, though, all I know is he cut off his ear.”
“He was insane.”
“Right. I will say this though. You and I, and H-, we’re walking around here, looking around. When you see something you like, you walk away, and I don’t think twice. I’ve been doing the same. H- too. Then we find each other and move on. It’s a very nice pace. But I’ve never seen couples do that. Have you been watching the guy’s faces as they follow their women around? Art is a very individual thing, no?”
“I have. Did you see that one, the dude with that smokin’ redhead by where we had H- dancing to the African drums? He looked miserable.”
“Oh my god. George. Read that first sentence over there.”
George turns and reads about Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s Trade Canoe for Don Quixote piece.
Indian canoes were used on the river highways for thousands of years, but after the Great Invasion, they were also used by trappers, traders and U.S. government agents.
His head quickly retreats an inch in disbelief before turning to Pete.
“I know. Great Invasion. How does that get published? Just stick to drawing lady.”
“I wonder how far she’ll get before she realizes you’re not next to her.”
“I don’t know. She’s been doing it all day.”
Pete quickens his pace to keep H- in sight.
“Little girl! Little girl! Where’s your pare-”
“Sir, you need to stay in the same room as your child. You don’t know how many kids we lose here.”
One person presents/reads/speaks uninterrupted for up to twenty minutes on any topic of their choosing. Up to thirteen other people listen while they eat dinner. (We do spaghetti). Then those thirteen folks (even the women) each take a turn at responding–also uninterrupted–for up to ten minutes. Then we break for dessert. Then the speaker gets a ten minute follow-up window, after which the others get their own up-to-five minute responses. That’s the Mark Twain Listening Club.
With the enthusiasm of some friends, I began the Mark Twain Listening Club (MTLC) over two years ago. We meet twice a month (give or take) and while talking for twenty minutes or ten minutes seems daunting, it does not take much thought to realize that it isn’t about talking, but listening. You share for up to ten minutes and listen for one hundred thirty. Now, what, I wonder, do you suppose happens when people listen to each other? I’ll tell you. Empathy. Understanding. Fun. Friendship. And witty witticism’s.
Last dinner a friend wanted to talk about manifesting reality. She had recently watched What The Bleep Do We Know? She loved the ideas presented within that film but was a bit nervous that she would be ostracized for misunderstanding them or oversimplifying them. But when one of her conclusions or take-aways or bottoms lines was “Consequently, if I’m manifesting my reality, and for example trying to make a new friend, then I don’t have to focus on their negative qualities. Instead, I can choose to direct my attention towards the positive qualities,” you can’t help but want to be closer to someone with such heart. Even her husband, the scientist, couldn’t find fault with the argument.
Naturally, the phenomenon known as The Secret, not to mention a certain more ancient book, was introduced during the pursuant discussion. While it is impossible to recreate the power of the moment, when one friend had his turn and asked, “What the bleep is the secret?”, I couldn’t help but think that there is no social setting that fosters such simple creativity than table dinners of this nature.
You know what the neatest thing about the Mark Twain Listening Club dinners is? I chose the goofy name to pay tribute to Mark Twain because I got the idea from his autobiography (and women attendees weren’t allowed to speak in his day). But about a year into it, someone pointed out the acronym could also be “More Tender Loving Care.”
Yes, ladies, I’m talking to you. You did it! And I couldn’t be prouder. Not that I ever doubted you.
But here’s my question: What would I have to do if I wanted to become a woman? Don’t laugh. I’m serious. I want to know.
I don’t mean that I want to go under the knife for this change. You didn’t have to for yours, so why should I? What would I have to do?
I’m no good at small talk, so let’s get to the point. I don’t actually want to be a woman. Not because I see anything wrong with it, but because I love being a man. Love it. I get to be stronger than you. I got to fight a war. (Well, if put under our days’ heavy scrutiny on claims of valor, it is more accurate to say I got to “participate in combat operations where our aircraft (rental) was fired upon (small arms) only a (singular) handful of times–if that (it was dark)”.) I get to be taller and heavier than you. What else? In 2015, what else do I get to love about being a man? Oh, here’s one. *Don’t shoot me* but manual labor-wise, I can out work you.
Humph. Now that I’m attempting to write this clever post, I’m struggling. Everything I love about being a man involves physicality, which seems to have been used in times past to protect, to guard, to keep safe. But what needs protecting, guarding, or keeping safe if you women are now men in every way save size and strength? All along, I thought women were what needed this protection. But now that you all are men, I’m confused. Maybe the mistake was mine. Maybe men never were protecting women. What were they protecting then? Seems like weakness is what some would answer, men were protecting the weaker members of society. Maybe some men were, but not me. I never wanted to protect weakness. I wanted to protect rightness. Keeping weakness alive and safe is counter-intuitive. What were men protecting?
Were men protecting strength? Like a Batman “[You have to] Endure, Master Wayne,” kind of strength? Were men protecting forgiveness? Were they protecting decency? Were men protecting grace? How about love? Were men protecting love? Would love exist if there were no women? Seems like making love would be tougher without women. I wonder if they were protecting life itself, in protecting women. Is that possible? And don’t tell me that you women haven’t become like men in this regard, either. I see you. I hear you. You don’t want to make babies, just like men can’t make babies. Have you thought that one through, though? Really thought it through?
Look. Like most men, I’m no saint. Read my book and you’ll see. I messed up. But that doesn’t mean I’m dumb. I get it. You’re scared. But I’d suggest joining me in striving to be better, rather than overcoming your fear by changing into what you dread (second Dark Knight mention if you’re keeping track George). You did it. You proved you could become one of us. But now it’s time to put the costume up (third). It’s time to show me what it means to be a woman–only you can do that.
Ladies, don’t be a man. Be a better woman.
Back to the good stuff, if I do say so myself.
I don’t take advice on life from my younger brother. Actually, I don’t take it from any immediate family members.
When we discuss life, we mostly just fight. All parties are to blame, of course, but when pitted against my younger brother I’m always ready to accept more blame because I’m older and should know better, the theory goes. Amidst our current unpleasantness I have been thinking about why I never listen to him. This naturally led to me contemplating how I decide to ever listen to anyone. In other words, which criteria do I use to seriously consider another person’s invariably well-meaning advice? As always, I’m curious to read how others would answer this question too.
For me, however, it boils down to loss. The more loss a person has experienced, the more I listen. If a person has experienced less loss than me, then I don’t listen. After all, what do they know?
So mom and dad, brother and sister, I hear you, but your life choices haven’t resulted in much loss according to my all-seeing eye. Sorry. If I’m missing something, please share. At this point, what do you have to lose?
Loss is important to me because it demonstrates risk. Taking risks demonstrates belief, which demonstrates passion, which, in turn, demonstrates that you are alive. At least this is how I see things. I’m not prescribing this to you. I just want you to know this is how I am. I don’t mean any disrespect. We’re just different. I live the inverse of: “You won’t fail if you don’t try.”
Actually, come to think of it, since I hold the “lost most” card, I do want to prescribe this way of life to the four of you. Live a little. All four of you play it too safe.
Now, I know at least mom is rolling her eyes and asking “Why should I listen to him again?” “What’s he lost?” I’ve lost half of H-‘s childhood. Half. How’d I lose it? By passionately rushing into a marriage that K- and I should’ve seen wasn’t ever going to work. And let me be clear: It is no good that neither K- nor I can ever get back the time lost because of our decision–no good at all. But the flip side to that coin is we each get half of H-‘s childhood. And we would’ve never got any of it if we would’ve played it safe. And without H-, well, we’d all be worse off. You know that’s a fact.
I just smiled after writing that. Because it’s true. I’m actually excited now. (I love writing.) So until you convince me that you’ve lost as much, I’m not taking your advice to play it safe. I’m not going to pad the walls by considering all the outcomes or what strangers or relatives will think. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m going to do–and do it better. Forever. So there.
NOTE: Today ONLY, Jan 9th, you can download the Kindle ebook The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor for FREE. Enjoy!
“Aunt Jess, why is my mom crying?”
“Just go back to the living room, RJ. Watch some tv or something.” Jess said, pushing the boy out of sight.
“Mary, don’t get so upset. He’s not going to be in trouble. Didn’t he just call to say that they’re finally releasing him after all these weeks?”
Just then the two women heard the garage door motor hum. Mary started bawling again. RJ slunk deeper into the couch. A car door slammed and the door to the laundry room opened cautiously.
“HOW COULD YOU!” Mary screamed, running up to Rick. “How could you?”
Rick put up no defense to the slap that shocked him with its violence. Eyes closed and head unmoving, he left his cheek exposed as he waited with uncertainty for her next move.
After what seemed like an eternity without noise, he first peeked out of his left eye before opening them both. He watched her run off in tears back to the kitchen with Jess. As he entered the kitchen, he saw Jess pull back from her embrace with the crying Mary and join RJ in the living room.
Mary turned to the cabinets and began to open them as if searching for something. She balked and then straightened up. Next she pulled a stack of plates out and dropped them to the ground. And another. Then she just reached her entire left arm in and swept the bowls out. And the salad plates. Another cabinet open, another set of dishes dashed against the tile. Rick pursed his lips as he tried not to cry.
Finally, he said, “Mary. Oh Mary.” Emotion overcame him and he looked away.
Unable to speak, he bent down and began to pick up the pieces.
Before we get to the story, I thought you should know that you can download the Kindle version of Captain’s Log April 2012 – July 2014 for FREE today, Friday, and Saturday (Jan 8, 9, and 10). Enjoy!
My dad first told me about the amazing sandwiches at Jimmy John’s while I was back home in Kansas City a few years ago. We were on our way to see Josh Groban in concert. Yes. Two adult men, a father son duo, were going to see Josh Groban–himself a man–alone. Nothing odd about that.
We were walking to the new Sprint Center where along the way we planned to grab a bite. And he just kept talking about how much he liked the mayonnaise on these sandwiches. On top of this fact, in classic father style, he shared that he always only ate half and then wrapped up the rest to enjoy a little later. But what struck me was the mayonnaise comment. It struck me because I happen to love the Kansas City favorite Mr. Goodcent’s Subs for the same reason. When I visit, I stop at Goodcent’s at least once just for their 16 inch Italian on white, cheddar cheese please, and I insist on extra mayonnaise. I love their mayonnaise.
So now I am discovering that besides the two of us sharing a love for the ever-chivalristic stylings of Josh Groban, we also love mayonnaise. Nice.
But he’s my dad. So I should’ve known there would be a catch to his passion. Opening the door to the restaurant for the first time, I immediately noticed that they have Costco size containers of their choice condiments on proud display behind and above the counter. So what kind of miraculous mayonnaise does Jimmy John’s use to subdue my dad sandwich after sandwich? Hellmann’s. The same mayonnaise my mom has made his sandwiches with for years. I’m pretty sure that, in its own peculiar way, that is love.