Friday, October 19, 2018

Is God really Omnipresent?

I love my men's group.  Last night we tangented into a discussion of whether God is actually omnipresent.  The idea there being that God is everywhere at all times.

This is one of those doctrines that I've always taken for granted.  But I tend to go along with ideas like this up until the point that I don't.  There are a lot of doctrines that sound kinda like some guys way back when wanted to make sure everybody understood just how big God is, so they came up with doctrines with no wiggle room.

And when I start thinking about it, I have some issues right off.  Because the impression I have is that in order for God to create a universe where free will is possible, He had to create something that is outside of Himself, that is Other than Himself.  Which makes me think He is not everywhere.  Not that He couldn't be, but that He has chosen not to be.

But what does the Bible say? 

Well, there are lots of verses that kinda sound like God is everywhere at once.  But a lot of them say things like 'He sees what you do in private' or 'He beholds all things in heaven and earth'.  But omnipresence isn't saying He can see everything - it's saying that He is everywhere.  So I'm gonna say those are not proofs for omnipresence.

Then there are verses like Psalm 139, where it asks 'Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your Presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there.  If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.'

But that's in the Psalms.  And the Psalms are filled with hyperbole and metaphor.  I don't think my soul literally pants for God or that the wicked will all fall into their own nets.  I think you need to be extra careful when extracting theology from Psalms.  So when it says 'He knows my innermost thoughts', I'm not convinced that's supposed to be taken literally.  Just because I say to someone, 'I know what you're thinking', doesn't mean I actually do, even if I'm correct.  It's an expression of an emotion or a hunch.

Meanwhile, there are verses on the other side.  Like in Genesis, when Adam and Eve are naked, and then God show up and calls to them.  He isn't there, and then He is.

So where does that leave me?  It does seem like God can see everywhere, even allowing for figurative language.  And I'll allow that God CAN go anywhere He wants.  But I lean towards that idea that he's carved out that space for us so that we have some freedom.  Like letting your kid play in the back yard - you don't keep an eye on them at all times, and you're certainly not there in the backyard with them, but you're within earshot, so if something happens you can run and be there pretty quick.

That's where I'm leaning after one day of thinking about it.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Matt's Insomnia Tips

I do struggle with insomnia from time to time.  And since I keep seeing posts from someone I know about how much they hate their insomnia, I thought I'd talk about the tricks that have helped me.  Take it with a grain of salt, of course, since I'm writing this at 5am, being unable to sleep any more tonight.

There Is No Try - Don't try to go to sleep.  If you're lying in bed thinking about how you're not sleeping, you're just getting wound up or frustrated.  Instead, commit yourself to thinking about something else.  For me, it's writing.  I'll lie there thinking through story ideas or coming up with a blog post.  The thing is to do it sincerely.  If you're doing it while keeping one metaphorical eye open, looking for sleep to appear, it's not going to work.  Just know that you may or may not go to sleep, but in the meantime, perhaps you'll end up being productive.  For example, I had this blog all written in my head before I got up.  That said ...

No Math - People can't do math in their sleep.  If you're ever wondering if someone is sleepwalking or talking in their sleep, ask them what's 5 +12.  The reverse is also somewhat true.  There's a part of your brain that won't want to go to sleep while you're focusing on logical stuff.  So find other things to think about.

Get Up - Some of the best advice I ever read for insomnia was that if you're not falling asleep within a reasonable amount of time, get up, do something else for a while, then try again later.  Do something that doesn't wake up your brain too much.  Me?  I piddle around on the internet or watch TV.  But ...

No Clocks - This is pretty simple.  If you see that it's 2am one night, the next night your brain will think it's OK to be up at 2am.  So don't look.

Chocolate Milk - There's nothing scientific here.  Obviously, you don't want to drink coffee or tea or anything overly caffeinated.  I'll sometimes have chocolate milk or hot chocolate.  Sure, there's sugar in it.  But I think the taste reminds me of childhood, when it was easier to go to sleep.  Speaking of ...

The Void - When I was younger, I had a foolproof method of falling asleep.  I would imagine an endless void behind me, and I would fall back into it.  Sometimes I would tumble backwards, heel over head, and sometimes I would just float.  And the void wasn't scary to me - it was just the unknown, sort of an adventure.  Sadly, I can't always use this now as it kinda makes me feel dizzy.

Naps - I've read that you shouldn't nap during the day, because it will make it harder to sleep at night.  But I don't know that that's true in my case.  And if you're tired and you can get a little sleep to help you keep going, I say go for it.  But set an alarm.  I like to do 15 minute power naps.  Sometimes I'll do double naps - the alarm will go off and I'll say, "Siri, timer 15 minutes", and nap a little more.  But it's possible that when you feel like napping, what you should do is ...

Exercise - I hate exercise, but the reality is that exercise helps your body get back on track with its natural rhythms, and expending that energy will make your body more prone to go to sleep in a timely fashion.

So there you go.  My tried and true, guaranteed to kinda maybe work sometimes tips for dealing with insomnia.  Yeah, nothing is foolproof, but each of these has helped at times, and maybe they will work for you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Good Place to Start

I've been thinking a lot about why so many people these days feel like it's OK to just do whatever they want, and why there's a certain moral bankruptcy that is spreading in our society.  I'm talking about both the big things, from Enron to mass shootings, to little things like cutting people off in traffic and illegal downloads.  And I'm reminded of Confucianism.

2500 years ago, Chinese society was in a similar place, with people more and more doing whatever they felt like.  They had no moral center.  And along comes this guy, basically an itinerant teacher, preaching a strange, new philosophy.  Sadly, his teachings didn't really take hold until after he died.  The emperor adopted his ideas and managed to get them to spread across the country.

Confucianism is kinda two things.  One part is some pretty basic principles and rules for how to behave.  But it also plugs everyone into a larger community by encouraging respect for your elders and devotion to your family and other societal structures.  It's not really a religion, although there is an element of praying to deceased ancestors.  Really, you can be a Confucian and a Christian.

I've long thought that community is the key to many of our society's ills.  Just imagine if farmer Bob cut off general store owner Rick in a small town in 1868.  It would be all over town, and everywhere Bob went, people would be looking at him funny and asking him why he did that.  And, really, Bob wouldn't do it in the first place, not just because of the shame, but because he would know the person he was interacting with and people generally don't do that kind of thing to people they actually know.  But today we can do these things in a vacuum. 

Of course, we all know this.  I'm not stating anything we're not all aware of.  But what to do about it?  Honestly, I don't know.  But there is a sitcom which I think is a great conversation starter and, as such, may be more important than a lot of people realize.

On The Good Place, each episode, in addition to being delightful and funny, also teaches an ethics lesson.  And one of the things that they keep coming back to is the question of Why Be Good?  Why bother?  And the answer it keeps coming back to is because of other people.  There are characters on The Good Place that struggle to be good, but being around other people - even other people who also struggle to be good - helps them.  It pulls out of them the desire to be better.

So, no, I don't have an answer.  Yet.  But I think this little show is a great conversation starter.  And it points toward at least a partial answer that is palatable even to our increasingly immoral and godless society.  Because everyone wants to connect with other people.  We just need to figure out how to facilitate it, and then have these conversations with each other about ethics.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

50 Days of Rhetoric Challenge

Fifty days ago I came up with a project - to go through the book, The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth, and each day write something based on a rhetorical trick.  Along the way, I took a couple of creative detours of my own.  And here we are.  So below you will find all of those Facebook posts in one place.  Enjoy.  And, of course, I highly recommend buying your own copy of the Elements of Eloquence.  I have found it to be a literally life-changing book, in that it has spurred my creativity  more than anything else I can think of.


Day 1: I've decided to go through The Elements of Eloquence, using each of the 40+ rhetorical tricks. First up is Alliteration. The trick is to slip it in there so the sentences seem pleasing, but beware of beating and berating the pretty party people with too, too many tricks. And so ...
A golden girl, she came to play
With Dave and Maddie in L.A.
She clutched a crock of stolen coins
And banshee beasties did enjoin.
The lucky lass so full of pluck
Was in a situation stuck.
Some hateful men were haunting her,
And through the airport made a stir.
Through the baggage claim they climbed,
But their escape was not well timed.
They caught up with them, took the loot.
And that’s the end of that pursuit.
But with her wishes, Maddie freed
The leprechaun of all her greed.
So back to Ireland she goes,
From whence this moonlight first arose.
**********
Living in the slowly
Nothing much to do
And all because I do not think
I can live without you
Going through the fitfully
With my red eyes glowing
Empty space here in my bed
Since the hard got going
Turning from the kindly
Comments undiscerning
None of them can comprehend
He never is returning
Kneeling in the quietly
Placing my flowers there
Haven’t seen Neil in over a year
The pain is too much to bear
Living in the slowly
Nothing much to do
And all because I do not think
I can live without you
Rhetorical Challenge, Day Two: There’s a rhetorical trick I really like where you turn an adjective into a noun. I got to wondering if it would work if you turned an adverb into a noun. It’s harder, but it’s doable, and think the result is rather haunting in the way it sounds both poetic and disjointed at the same time.
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Rhetoric: Day 3 – Polyptoton is when you use two or more homonyms, which is when words sound the same, but with different meanings. My friend Michelle Harden Stevens posted that there is a subset of homonyms – contranyms - which have contrary meanings. So, for example, in the poem below, ‘custom’ can mean something you do regularly, but it can also mean something that is unique, and therefore not repeated.
It is my custom to drive a custom auto now and then.
Though I buckle at the buckle, which is too tight, time and again.
Since my model is a model of great efficiency.
I’ll take a trip and will not trip over this small deficiency.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 4: Antithesis is when you’re making a comparison. It’s a simple statement, or pair of statements, that show two sides of a coin. An antithesis done well can make you think. An antithesis done poorly can drive you to drink. Or laugh.
There are two types of people: those who like to play board games, and those I don’t care to be friends with.
Reading is for those who want to have an adventure. TV is for those who have already given up.
Women can do whatever they set their minds to. Men can do whatever their wives let them do.
On the one hand, I can see all the women I want. On the other hand is my wedding ring.
Art is what makes life worth living. Life is what makes art possible.
The galaxy is a very big place, but earth is where all of my friends are.
Lawmakers make the laws. Lawbreakers have better things to do.
The human voice can be a beautiful instrument or a deadly weapon.
Rich people can afford to buy all kinds of fancy toys. Poor people can only afford common sense.
Time flies when you’re having fun. Time crawls when you’re waiting for dinner to be ready.
So that’s antithesis. See if you can come up with some!
**********
Rhetoric Day 5: Merism – this is when you have two or more things that represent all of something else. You could say ‘at any height’, or you could say ‘whether high or low’. You could say ‘the whole country’, or you could say ‘from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam. And I could have said ‘everything’, but instead I wrote this silly thing:
I knew a man who liked to eat.
And in this feat, he could not be beat.
He set himself a terrible task.
What did he eat? I’m glad you asked.
“We’ll bring to you whatever you like!”
The head chef said, all businesslike.
He started out with beef and pork.
Gobbled them up without a fork.
Chickens next, and and other fowl.
Like peacock, penguin and even owl.
“There is no more!” the cooks opined.
“But I’m still hungry!” the fat man whined.
So other animals were brought.
Cooked up in a giant pot.
Llamas, rhinos, even gnu.
It’s like he was eating a zoo.
“You’ve eaten all the animals, sir!”
“Then other food!” the man did slur.
They brought him other things to eat.
Apples, carrots, shredded wheat.
Pancakes, waffles, snickerdoodles.
Chocolate cake and buttered noodles.
“Keep it coming!” the big man huffed.
So they brought him other stuff.
Potted plants. Rubber tires.
Hammers, nails, drills and pliers.
Each thing they brought he quickly ate.
In fact, he even ate the plate.
“It’s not enough! What else you got?”
The head chef then had quite the thought.
Automobiles. Giant boulders.
Companies with all the stockholders.
Buildings made of wood and glass.
A major freeway overpass.
“More! More! I must eat more!”
So then they brought him Baltimore.
Other cities were soon to go.
Denver, Salt Lake, Amarillo.
Soon whole states were devoured with glee.
California, Tennessee.
“Keep it coming! I’ll get it down!”
He said as he finished off a town.
From countries he did not abstain.
France and England, even Spain.
Albania, Lithuania, Mauritania,
Romania, Tasmania, Transylvania.
“There’s nothing left!”, the cooks did cry.
“Oh, yes there is! Don’t tell a lie!”
Mars and Venus, Saturn too.
Jupiter was in the stew.
And then you know what that man done?
He turned around and ate the sun.
‘Oh, woe! Woe! Woe is us!,
What now will become of us?”
He ate the stars and galaxies.
Gobbled them up, fine as you please.
And then the universe he ate.
So now you know our terrible fate.
What did he eat? I’m glad you asked.
The rest of us will have to fast.
**********
Rhetoric Day 6: Blazon – a blazon is when you describe someone using a list of similes and metaphors for their various attributes, like that bit in Song of Solomon where he refers to her neck as a tower, her teeth as sheep and her breasts as flocks of … something. Here is my take on a blazon:
He stood there, menacing as a schoolyard bully, with a forehead that made him look positively cro-magnon. His eyebrows, an unbroken row of bushes, helped to hide eyes that steamed like withering coal. A rather large protuberance in the middle of his face dripped blood and snot like a leaky faucet, some of it spilling into the rows of stalagtites and stalagmites that filled his gory mouth, the breath of which was like the wind carried over a sewage plant. Ungainly legs, so bowlegged you’d swear they were crafted by a barrel maker, supported a massive torso with more hair than Robin Williams. Arms like an orangutan completed the picture, making him look like his knuckles might just actually scrape the ground as he walked.
Imelda, the slime monster, took one look and knew she had found her soul mate.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 7 – Synaesthesia – This is a hard one. Basically, this is using a descriptor that would usually apply to one sense (sight, sound, touch, etc.) and applying it instead to another: Smooth jazz, a sunny voice, strong convictions. Difficult, but I think I'm getting the hang of it:
It was our second date, and we hadn’t kissed yet. I showed up at her apartment to pick her up. I had the evening all planned out, including a move to start us on the right track.
She greeted me with a deep hug, then excused herself to finish getting ready. I busied myself checking out her DVD’s, while nervously plotting. Then she returned and said she was ready.
I took her hand. Her skin thrummed under my fingers. As I pulled her to me, the surprise made the colors dance in her eyes. And then we were kissing. Soft, sweet, perfect. After twenty seconds, we parted and I nonchalantly pulled away, leaving her to hum in the afterflow.
“Ready to go?” I twinkled at her.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 8 – Aposiopesis is when … And that’s pretty much it. It’s when you trail off, and it’s indicated by three dots.
Time is withering on the vine.
Through these last moments, let’s drink some …
We thought forever was our find.
But now it’s clear that we were …
Our final monsters are now at hand.
Right now we run, but soon we …
Icy death, thy hand doth creep.
And pulls us, pulls us into …
Sore and sad, we slink from sight.
Sinking into that eternal …
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Rhetoric: Day 9 – a tangent. In The Elements of Eloquence, there is a story about how J.R.R. Tolkien, age 7, wrote a story about a green great dragon. His mother corrected him, explaining that you could have a great green dragon, but not a green great dragon. Because there’s this unspoken rule that we all kind of instinctively follow, where adjectives have to go in a certain order. In this case, size has to go before color – otherwise it sounds wrong. Well, Mrs. Tolkien … challenge accepted!
Long ago, in the land of Grete, there lived many dragons, mostly of two types. There were the green dragons, so called because of their coloring. And there were the great dragons, who tended to be much larger than the green ones, and who could be pretty much any color except green. Go figure.
Sadly, these two dragon clans did not get along. And it came down to gluten. You see, the green dragons were gluten intolerant. They would eat everything else, and often did. But nothing with wheat in it. This had two effects. First, it was the main reason they were smaller than their cousins, the great dragons, because wheat tends to help dragons grow up to be big and strong. And second, they were rather snooty about it, looking down on those who did eat wheat. You might be wondering why anyone would act snooty about having an affliction, but somehow they managed it.
The great dragons did not care to be looked down upon, especially as they generally were much taller than the green dragons, not to mention living on higher ground. It seemed quite senseless that their kin should be so snooty, and they frankly did not take it well. They began to speak ill of the greens and their tiny torsos and determined to stay separate from them. Also, they would sometimes sneak into the green village and leave tasty cakes, made with copious amounts of flour. You know, for spite.
And so things went for many years. The great dragons enjoyed eating grains, and the green dragons enjoyed their feeling of superiority. And each group went their separate ways. Until one day, a great dragon named Greg, came upon a green dragon named Georgina, and it was love at first sight. Soon they were sneaking away together all the time and engaging in some scaly snogging. Greg admired Georgina’s beautiful emerald epidermis, and she felt safe wrapped in his enormous wings. And so, they were happy.
But this is a story, and stories have conflict. So, of course, their families found out about their fling (You knew this was going to get all Romeo and Juliet, right?). And they did not approve. Greg and Georgina begged their families to try to be reasonable, but dragons are generally a stubborn lot. Tempers flared and debates between them grew ever more heated, until they were positively ready to clobber each other.
At this point, some calmer heads tried to insert themselves into the animosity. Messages were sent, via messenger, suggesting the two families meet and try to hash things out. But you know how sometimes someone will say something that sounds nice, but you can tell they’re really taking a dig at you? That’s what was happening here. The great dragons would send a note inviting the green dragons to ‘break bread’ with them, then follow that with, ‘Oh, wait, you can’t eat bread, can you?’ Whereupon the greens would send word to the greats declining that invitation and suggesting instead that the greats would be welcome to come to the green village, although they might have trouble sitting their rather large bottoms on their ‘regular-sized’ furniture.
And so, the feuding continued and battle lines were drawn. Literally. Soon all of the dragons found themselves facing each other at the border of their territories, hissing and snarling and, as one would imagine, breathing fire. Until Georgina stepped into the middle of the fray and announced she was pregnant.
Well, that was unexpected. The two sides backed off. And they decided the only thing to do was to shun the couple completely. So Greg and Georgina were sent away. They were sad to be ostracized by their families, but at least they had each other. So, they got on with their lives and two years later, Georgina laid an egg. And after sitting on it for a couple of months, it hatched. And do you know what was inside? Why, a dragon, of course! But not just any dragon. They could tell from the bone structure that this was a great dragon, and yet it had a hue of the deepest green. And they named him Grant.
When the rest of the dragons saw the baby dragon, he was just so cute that they couldn’t help themselves. They welcomed Greg and Georgina back into the fold. And the dragons on both sides decided to put their differences aside. And so began the story of Grant, the greatest of the dragons. He grew and grew and grew. And in time, he galvanized all of the dragons of Grete to wreak havoc all across the country, gobbling up tiny humans and torching their towns and generally destroying all who got in their way. And that is why we gather on this day every year and celebrate and honor the best of all dragons:
All hail Grant, the Green Great Dragon of Grete!
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Rhetoric: Day 10 – Hyberbaton is when you put words in an odd order. Tricky can this be. Of the rails you can go if too far you take it.
Got to work did Steven
Early starts he did believe in.
Said his morning hello.
Felt he did quite rather mellow.
Down to work he got.
But up again just like a shot.
In his chair was there.
The teeniest, tiniest big brown bear!
Roared at him it did.
Flipped did he his mental lid.
Run away did he.
From the bear he had to flee.
Chase the bear did give.
Wanted, Steven did, to live.
Flew to Randy’s spot.
Pleased Randy sure was not.
Run now did the pair.
Behind them still there was the bear.
Faster Steven ran.
Randy slower was the plan.
Catch him did the bear.
Gobbled him up with none to spare.
The moral can you see?
When from a bear you have to flee.
The bear you don’t outrun.
Simply be faster than anyone.
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Rhetoric: Day 11
I saw Death again today. She was at a graduation party. She took up a lot of the seats, plus all of the cracks and crevices. But I did my thing and she did hers. Funny thing, though, I think someone else saw her. I caught him craning his neck to follow as Death was moving around, and we caught each other’s eyes. It was nice. We didn’t say anything, but we shared a moment.
Afterwards, I thought Death might be following me. I was so distracted that I missed my car and kept walking up the street. I was looking around, wondering where my car was. Then I walked back and spotted it right where I’d already looked. I think Death was watching me, but I can’t be sure.
That makes four times this month. I’m getting used to her being around, showing up at the same places.
I keep wondering what I would say if someone asked me to describe Death. But it’s hard to say. It’s like there’s extra people around that don’t belong there. But they’re pale and wispy and have these black, smoky trails following them. And they look sad, but really intense, like they have something they have to do, but they’re not happy about it.
Why do I see Death? I see Death because of fear. Fear allows me to see what others don’t. And I think we’ve all become so coddled, so wrapped up in our own rich, comfortable lives, that we don’t recognize true fear anymore. And so, Death stalks us, and we are unaware.
***
This includes an example of Anadiplosis. Which is simply ending a sentence with a word, then starting the next sentence with the same word. It adds weight.
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Rhetoric: Day 12
If I let my foot off of the pedal,
If I drifted along the road,
And through the intersection,
Ever slowing, ever fading,
If I took my hands off of the wheel,
And stared straight ahead,
As if lost to time,
If I floated to a stop,
With cars piling up behind me,
And honking, and clamoring,
If I ignored it all,
And just paused …
If I sat there,
For a very long time,
Would anybody notice me then?
***
A Periodic Sentence is when you add clause on top of clause, putting off the main verb until right near the end. So the reader, having once started, and feeling invested, and wanting that sense of fulfilment, and trusting the author not to let them down, and having a basic understanding of the social contract between writer and reader, and wanting to be a good person of the sort who keeps their promises, spoken or unspoken, keeps on reading until they get there.
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Rhetoric: Day 13
Sam needed a groffel. Groffels are good cleaners. Sam’s apartment was a mess. Women didn’t like messy apartments. But Sam liked women. Sam wanted a woman. A groffel would help. But groffels were expensive. So, Sam had saved up his money. He’d been saving for 6 years. And now he could afford a groffel.
He looked at the offerings. This batch had been bred in Wisconsin. Some were blue. Some were orange. One had a yellow spot on its neck. Most of them looked sickly.
Sam spotted the one he wanted. It was rounder than the rest. It had fuzzy teeth. And its name was Gromshoe. Sam gave the proprietor his money. Twelve thousand credits.
Gromshoe followed him home. It started cleaning right away. It licked every surface. Sam was proud of his purchase.
The next day, Sam placed an ad. An ad for a woman. And then he waited.
***
Parataxis is plain, simple English. One simple sentence after another. Of course, this is very vanilla, so I had to compensate by writing something weird.
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Rhetoric: Day 14 – Hypotaxis – this is the opposite of parataxis, the plain, simple English I used in the story yesterday. Hypotaxis layers clause upon clause, creating run-on sentences. I thought I’d write the same story using only two sentences, instead of the 31 in the previous version.
Sam, being a messy man, and men being what they are, wanted a woman, for which he had been willing to save, to the tune of six years; that being the length of time required to save up for a groffel which, as everyone knows, are amazing at cleaning, although the cleaning is done by them licking everything sight. So Sam, after taking the time to learn about groffel colors and species and where the best ones were bred (Wisconsin), visited an establishment, perused the livestock, chose a nicely round specimen with fuzzy teeth whose name was Gromshoe, and induced it to follow him home, whereupon he felt confident enough to place an ad the very next day for the woman of his dreams.
**********
Rhetoric, Day 15
East focused on the little fools across the brick path, daring them to make a move, grow some grit, do anything that might be considered aggression. One of them stepped forward and cleared his throat.
“Your reign of terror is over! You are herewith banned from these lands! You will leave immediately or –“
“Or what, little man?”
“Or … or …”
A shoe came hurling out of the crowd, easily missing her. She smiled. Then, from behind their backs, the rest of the mob produced axes, arrows, pitchforks, pots, pans. The diminutive dimwits were armed! Oh, good for them! So be it.
“Now!” At the prearranged signal, a hail of arrows flew at her. She waved her hand, they dropped out of the sky. Several members of the mob rushed at her. Well aimed fireballs felled them, wailing, to the ground. Those remaining began backing away, realizing they were still outmatched. Then, a shadow, a whooshing sound, a shudder in the air. She looked up, too late.
Dazed, dying, bones shattered, East could feel the heft of the house upon her. As she melted into the mud, she had one final thought. You got me, you little buggers. You got me.
***
Asyndeton is when you leave out the conjunctions that would normally be there. So, going to the store and the library and home again becomes going to the store, library, home.
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Rhetoric: Day 16 – Conjunction Junction! – Polysyndeton is simply creating a sentence with lots of conjunctions. So here we go – this is going to be silly.
You can either have cake and ice cream today, or have a party with all of your friends on Saturday, but you can’t have both, unless you can convince me otherwise, although that seems unlikely, provided my position of authority, which derives from being your parent, whereas whatever I say goes, until such time as I relinquish that authority, that will not be for a while, because I am an adult, while you are still a child, just as God intended, even if you don’t believe in God, as if that mattered, since your personal view doesn’t change the nature of reality, as much as you might wish it did, in order that you might always get your way, for such humble occasions as your birthday, yet that is the way things are, so go ahead, now make your choice, lest this ice cream melts.
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Rhetoric, Day 17 – Diacope is a word sandwich. Die, you mothers, die! I’m sorry, Petunia, truly sorry. Bond, James Bond.
She crawled out of bed on her hands and knees, struggling towards the window. “The light, Jimmy! Help me see the light!”
Doctor Watson was shocked, as Miss Frontismere did not look old enough to have a child that age.
“Oh my! What a chipper little lad. What grade do you suppose he is in?”
“Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary.”
“Those stupid Mounties had no idea what we were smuggling! Canada? More like … Cana-duh!”
“Now you try!” said Matt. “Now you try.”
**********
With crimson hair and grinning eyes,
You always take me by surprise.
Your welcome squeeze belies the lie.
Why do you want to make me cry?
We met around six months ago.
I made you laugh, you helped me grow.
My trust in you was flying high.
Why do you want to make me cry?
You said you’d come last night to see.
What might be or what might be.
But now you’ve got no alibi.
Why do you want to make me cry?
***
Rhetoric: Day 18 – Rhetorical Questions
**********
Looking for kindness, looking for grace,
My eyes find the flick of a smirk in her face.
The curve and the smile makes it all worthwhile,
Then it’s gone without even a trace.
***
Rhetoric: Day 19 – Hendiadys is when you take an adjective and a noun, and turn the adjective into its own noun. So ‘furious sound’ becomes ‘sound and fury’ or ‘I love your beautiful eyes’ becomes ‘I love your beauty and eyes’. It’s trickier than it sounds, because often it just sounds stupid. I could take ‘annoying computer’ and say ‘I struggled to write on the annoying and the computer’, but it doesn’t sound right, does it? So, you have keep trying them until you get one that sounds … right. In this poem, I worked out the third line, and thought it was lovely, so I created the rest of the poem around it.
**********
Bittersweet. Bohemian. These are a part of me. I am
Drawn to the poor and musical. Forsake the rich, for I am full
Of artistry. Creativity. And no matter what happens to me,
I will sing and I will play for God and for myself.
Like Romeo and Juliet and Billy boy and Penny, yet
Without the partner, only fret. Without the dying, only debt.
I see romance in living well, and through my poetry, I’ll tell
Of what I’ve done and what I’ll do for God and for myself.
Custodian and curator. Designer, primer, and be sure
That all I hear and do and see is substance, fodder and will be
Found in stories, songs, and art. Each and every thing is part
Of the adventure when I depart for God and for myself.
***
Rhetoric: Day 20 – Epistrophe is a form of rhetoric we all know – repeating a word or phrase at the end of every sentence or phrase or paragraph. It’s used in almost every song you’ve ever heard.
**********
What if there’s nobody out there?
What if there’s nobody waiting for me to leave?
Why shouldn’t I stay in here?
Why shouldn’t I disappear?
I want to scream. I want to yell. I wish that I could grieve.
Mind, body, and some semblance of a soul.
I weary of the world, as the world takes its toll.
So I will hide away.
From the night. From the day.
From everything that leaves me small and cold.
What if there’s nobody out there?
What if all the love is meant for someone else?
Don’t want to take the chance.
To sing or dance or find romance.
I’ll just curl up and sleep and drift away …
***
Rhetoric: Day 21 – Tricolon is when you take two things – eat, drink – and add a third – and be merry. But there’s more to it than that. In a good tricolon, the third part will be longer than the first two parts: Truth, justice and the American way. And it will try to be part of the greater world that the first two are part of: Life, the universe and everything. Anyway, can you spot the five tricolons in my poem above?
**********
Melanie continued down the street. She’d been driving this route for fifteen years. She’d seen it all, and nothing shocked her anymore. Not the meth heads with their cloudy hair and brains. Not the ditzy dog ladies with the miniature mutts hidden in their purses. Not even the odd celebrity, thinking they could slip in among the ‘common people’. Melanie had seen it all.
She spotted the rider ahead, sitting there with her hand raised. I see you! Melanie pulled up right in front of the overhang and worked the door release. The woman sat there on the bench. The woman sat there on the bench. The woman sat there on the –
“Honey, I don’t have all day! You gettin’ on?”
Melanie glanced at the woman, then shrugged reaching to close the door. Then she froze. She looked more closely. The woman was still sitting on the bench, with her hand raised, looking back down the street. And then her head rolled right off of her body.
Melanie screamed.
***
Rhetoric: Day 22 – Epizeuxis – This idea popped into my head of a serial killer who terrorizes bus riders, and I decided to use that for today’s writing. Epizeuxis is when you repeat the same word or phrase in exactly the same way. Simple. Simple.
**********
Sitting in my cozy.
Sitting in my dark.
I wish I had another to
Ignite a simple spark.
We’d watch a little funny.
And drink a little red.
And then we would retire to our
Cozy double bed.
***
Rhetoric: Day 23 – When I was first learning the different kinds of rhetoric, I misunderstood one of them, and so accidentally created my own. It’s simple. Just think of a noun. Then think of an adjective that describes that noun. Then remove the noun and just use the adjective – keeping in mind that you may have to try a few, or play with the tense or something. The result can often be quite lovely. For example, if you think of the ‘moon’, then think of ‘silvery’, you’ve got ‘silvery moon’. Take away 'moon' and tweak a little, and you can say, ‘I was walking alone in the silver’. See? Lovely. Now you try!
**********
Rhetoric: Day 24 – Syllepsis is when you use the same word(s) in two or more different, incongruous ways. In the following examples, the key words are ‘fight’, ‘hopping’ and ‘old hat’:
Myrna had had enough. If the teachers couldn’t do anything, and her mother didn’t believe her, then it was up to her. She’d have to fight with the bullies, for her self-respect and against her own worst instincts.
Despite his injury, Ernest kept hopping from table to table and topic to topic, trying to find a good conversation.
Franklin had performed this illusion with the same worn accoutrements hundreds of times. It was, quite literally, old hat.
Anyone else want to try and try their hand at it?
**********
Life, to me, is pointless without God.
He lights the sky.
He fills our lungs.
He gives us hope.
He is everything.
But what if I don’t feel Him?
I see the stars.
I breathe the air.
I know the truth.
But I feel nothing.
How do you wrestle with that?
Hide in the shadows?
Hold in your breath?
Hash out the lies?
Where can you run?
Life, to me, is pointless without God.
But the days grow shorter.
And the clouds grow darker.
And my doubt grows stronger.
As I search for anything ...
***
Rhetoric: Day 25 - Isocolon is two or more sentences that have a similar grammatical structure. Roses are red. Violets are blue.
**********
A flickery of the flame.
A clickety of the clock.
Time stands still.
Against my will.
I’m in a state of shock.
***
Rhetoric: Day 26 – Enallage is when you purposely use poor grammar, like the wrong verb tense, to make a line stand out. Hopefully I done good here.
**********
Before the accident, they were always fighting. He couldn’t move past her indiscretions, and she tortured herself over her poor choices. But looking at her in that hospital bed, it didn’t seem to matter anymore. Looking at her lying there, broken and vulnerable, he just wanted to take care of her. Even if she couldn’t remember him or the life they’d shared, he knew he had to live up to the commitment he’d made.
The accident changed everything. He learned to forgive; she to forget.
***
Rhetoric: Day 27 – Zeugma is a weird little guy. It’s when you have two clauses sharing a verb, but the verb only shows up in one of them. One clause gets the verb; the other shafted. It’s a hard one to make work without it sounding completely wrong, but I think I managed it.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 28: Paradox. Coming up with a paradox is really hard. And it doesn’t have to be an actual paradox – it just needs to be an apparent paradox. But still. So today’s installment is short, because apparently my brain does not like creating paradoxes, although my future self says otherwise.
***
You can open a book in the comfort of your living room, and instantly be a million miles away.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 29 – OK, I can’t do it. I can’t write in Iambic Pentameter. Or Dactyl Tetrameter. Or any of the other rhythmic ways. I get it. I kinda do it automatically, to some degree. But when I try to do it on purpose, it falls apart. You know how you can say a word so many times that it starts to lose its meaning and just sounds like gobbledygook? It’s like that.
See, words have specific stresses, like ‘empty’ has the stress on the first syllable: TUM-te. And if you string several words together the right way, it creates a rhythm: The empty boat stood by the moat. Te-TUM-te-TUM-te-TUM-te-TUM. And since we were all raised with Dr. Seuss, it can come somewhat naturally: I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.
But when I try different words out in my head, they start to lose their natural stresses, and nothing sounds right. JUSTified? JustiFIED? JUSTiFIED? Yeah, I don’t know anymore. My brain tried to justify stressing it in different ways, and now I can’t remember how to say it correctly anymore.
So I will not be composing anything using that method. I'll leave that to Shakespeare. But it’s my project. Sue me.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 30: Chiasmus
Chiasmus is a sentence of symmetrical ideas or similar sounding words. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Two for tea and tea for two.
***
I can afford to be picky as long as I pick things I can afford.
I project that it’s time to eat, but you’re eating up our time with your project!
You say FTW and I say WTF!?!
Mess with people and people will mess with you, but love on people and people will love you back.
Whoa. That is a tale. A tale of woe.
***
Now I will try to give it to you. You wanna give it a try?
**********
Glen slipped through the living room on the balls of his feet, keeping a sharp eye to avoid the dog toys strewn about the floor, as if some toddler had had the mother of all temper tantrums for four days in a row, but nobody bothered picking up after. He reached the front door and felt for the knob, hoping to escape before she woke up.
“Going somewhere?” his mother’s voice came, sounding like she’d been gargling with a mix of turpentine and tiny stones.
“I’m going out.” He replied, keeping his face still and flat. He turned and saw her staring at him with a look that a police interrogator only wished they could summon.
“You are twelve years old. You need my permission to go … ‘out’.” she said, with an effort to keep her voice steady. They stood, eyeing each other across the living room, like two shooters at high noon, the hurt boiling up inside each of them, and growing . And growing.
“You didn’t ask my permission when you started drugging me.” he spat out, willing the bile to pile up in his throat.
“I’ve told you, it’s to help you focus in school and not act out!” she shouted, her calm giving way to anger and frustration.
“Putting a child on mind-altering drugs is barbaric!” he screamed, pushing her backwards by putting as much volume as he could into his voice. He opened the door with a jerk that made it bounce off of the wall, and part of him noted with satisfaction that the knob had probably left a dent where it hit. He exited, moving his legs with purpose and venom, striding down to the street.
“You leave now, don’t bother coming back!” her voice called out, lingering in the air, angry and red.
And he never did.
***
Rhetoric: Day 31 – A friend told me that Steven King advises not to use adverbs when you write. He didn’t explain why (my friend), but I’m guessing it’s because it’s too easy. Instead of just throwing an adverb in there, why not try to describe the action … more descriptively? So, I tried an experiment. I wrote a scene using lots of adverbs. Then, I went back and rewrote the scene replacing all of the adverbs with more descriptive language. I think the result speaks for itself. Oh, and here is the original scene, for comparison:
Glen quietly slipped through the living room, carefully avoiding the dog toys strewn carelessly about the floor. He quickly reached the front door and reached for the knob.
“Going somewhere?” his mother’s voice came abrasively.
“I’m going out.” He replied stonily. He turned and saw her staring at him accusingly.
“You are twelve years old. You need my permission to go ‘out’.” she said angrily. They stood, warily eyeing each other, the hurt boiling up inside each of them exponentially.
“You didn’t ask my permission when you started drugging me.” he spat out venomously.
“I’ve told you, it’s to help you focus in school and not act out!” she shouted unhelpfully.
“Putting a child on mind-altering drugs is barbaric!” he screamed loudly. He forcefully opened the door and exited quickly, striding purposefully down to the street.
“You leave now, don’t bother coming back!” her voice called spitefully from behind him.
And he never did.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 32 – Assonance is the more nuanced cousin of rhyming. Some words rhyme, like ‘student’ and ‘fluent’. But in some, just the vowels match, like ‘ask’ and ‘pan’. That’s assonance (assonance intended).
***
Relaxing back into the void.
Slipping into oblivion.
The night and the covers close and tight.
Right up to my chinny-chin.
I felt and fell asleep each eve.
Like flying and falling united.
When I was green, it seemed that peace.
Would grow whenever invited.
But, lo! I’m old and my bones are tired.
Yet when I get to bed.
I find a dizziness haunting me.
When I try to rest my head.
**********
Seventeen swordsmen hunted me.
And though I tried, I could not see
A way out of this quandary.
Seventeen families I had sacked.
Raped their women, plunder packed.
Left some skulls severely cracked.
Seventeen seers failed to find
The clever chap, the mastermind.
I fooled them all. They were so blind.
Seventeen times I’d tried my luck.
Sixteen times I’d made a buck.
The last was when disaster struck.
Seventeen ales I dared to drink.
And boasted ‘til my face was pink
Of all my deeds, then gave a wink.
Seventeen witnesses offered notes
In exchange for seven goats.
(I swore that I would cut their throats!)
Seventeen miles I ran and ran.
Until I found a caravan.
In which to hide. From which to plan.
Seventeen minutes, more or less
Is how long it took to guess
That I was hiding in a dress.
Seventeen swordsmen hunted me.
One for each and every spree.
I sense my own mortality.
***
Rhetoric: Day 33 – The author of my book calls this The Fourteenth Rule. It’s not actually number 14, but he makes the point that if you use a specific number, that makes it more interesting than if you say ‘several’ or ‘a lot of’.
**********
I am now the proud owner of an invisible cat.
She prowls my apartment like a windless day.
Her meow is silence.
***
Rhetoric: Day 34 – Catachresis is when you use a word in the wrong way, but it ends up being shockingly right. Like ‘staring daggers’ or ‘Love in the first degree’. It’s kinda hard to know if you’ve pulled it off, because the more you read it, the more it sounds normal, but I think my last line here qualifies.
Also, I now have a cat. I think.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 35 - One of my favorite quotes is a Litotes. A litotes is when you affirm something by denying its opposite. But it helps greatly if everyone reading/hearing it understands the underlying reality. So, I could say about Beyonce – ‘She’s not ugly’ – because we all know that Beyonce is generally understood to be beautiful. Or if someone is really good at something, they might say ‘It’s not my first rodeo.” Some other examples:
About my cat, who is still hiding in a corner of my bedroom, behind some boxes: My new cat is not exactly fond of me yet.
What my dad would say when he thought something was great: “Not too shabby!”
Or, as Arthur Bach said (in the movie Arthur), after being asked by a reporter how it felt to have all that money: “It doesn’t suck.”
**********
The blue skirt swished down the corridor, male eyes following furtively. Upon reaching a particular door, diamond studded fingers paused, then rapped the steel confidently. A slot appeared and an elderly eye looked out, forcing the visitor to freeze in place as if by command. Seconds ticked by while it gazed up and down.
“Enter.”
The door swung open. Darkness looked back. She walked forward.
***
Rhetoric: Day 36 – Synecdoche is when you use part of something to represent the whole, most often by representing people with body parts. All hands on deck refers to not just the hands, but the entire bodies of the crew.
**********
The Ministry of Magic today issued a statement that ‘extra protection’ would be provided to all educational establishments. The Headmaster’s Office of Hogwarts was quick to condemn the action as crossing a line and that furthermore the Ministry should enlist its best wands in the protection of students, “without bringing Azkaban into the mix.” A spokesperson for the Order of the Phoenix, speaking anonymously, was quick to support the Supreme Wugwump, while the Wizengamot appears to be sitting back to see how things play out. We at the Quibbler, ever mindful of the events at Godric’s Hollow, place our support firmly behind the lightning bolt, unlike those situated at the South end of Diagon Alley.
***
Rhetoric: Day 37 – Metonymy is when you represent one thing or person, with something that is physically connected to it. See how many you can spot above.
**********
The empty windows of the house on the hill anxiously watched the man as he climbed the lonely road. The angry sun reached down and grabbed him and shook him, leaving his clothes drenched and dripping with fatigue. His boots complained with creaks and sores, but he pressed on. Past the diseased smoke shop on the corner. Past the lazy, old barber shop. Past the bitter bridge with its dearth of water flowing underneath. And finally up to a brooding, black fence whose gates hung despairingly off of their hinges. He paused for a moment, gazing at a tired sign with its impotent message to trespassers. He peered up at the indignant house from under the melancholy brim of his hat and sighed an anguished sigh. Then he continued up the hill.
***
Rhetoric: Day 38 – Forsyth talks about how Dickens would take transferred epithets (which I’ll cover tomorrow) too far, which had the effect of animating everything in the world. It’s basically transferring human emotions over to physical things. It’s actually pretty easy to do and the result is quite fun.
**********
Susie Serendipity was super duper nice.
Always with a smile. Always thinking twice.
Always in the mood to lend a helping hand.
Really just too nice for anyone to stand.
Crazy Cathy Caterwaul was in a mood most foul.
Her pinched up face portrayed more than her ordinary scowl.
For, you see, her slushie had all melted in the sun.
And that’s the way that crazy Cathy’s day had just begun.
Susie went to Cathy and tried to cheer her up.
Suggesting Cathy just enjoy the juice still in her cup.
Cathy didn’t care for that a bit. No, not at all.
And you know what they say about pride before a fall.
Cathy took her slushie and she flung it with full force.
Sailing through the air on a predetermined course.
Right at Susie’s head, and you know her aim was true.
Soon Susie was all covered in a sticky, new shampoo.
The angry animosity lingered in her hair.
Like noodles on wet poodles, but without any flair.
And for the first time ever, Susie felt a feeling stir.
A feeling of sheer hatred for the girl before her.
And without another thought did Susie try to punch.
But Cathy was much quicker, plus she’d kinda had a hunch.
That under all the nicety, that Susie was a brawler.
Sad for Susie, crazy Cathy was a good foot taller.
So Susie got a beating. And Cathy let off steam.
You see, it worked out in the end just like a pleasant dream.
So what then is the moral of this story I have writ?
It’s nice to be nice to the nice, but Cathy’s a little shit.
***
Rhetoric: Day 39 – Dance Break!
Some days I just get a phrase in my head that begs to be used before it floats away. Today that phrase was ‘angry animosity’. And the rest is history.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 40 – A transferred epithet is when you take the emotion or action from the subject and transfer it to something they’re connected to. For example:
I saw my savior lie back on the weeping wood …
My five o’clock shadow was itching for a fight.
He lit a cautious cigarette and waited in the shadows.
Her aunt ran down the stairs to meet her, her fanciful luggage bouncing joyfully after.
They gazed into each other’s eyes, his bushy eyebrows whispering sweet nothings.
See? The wood doesn’t actually weep, and the cigarette isn’t cautious, but that transfer puts a spin on it that wouldn’t be the same if you just said ‘He cautiously lit a cigarette.’
**********
Wee and small and almost not at all.
Is how I now feel, along with not so tall.
‘Cuz I said some mean words that were meant to cause pain.
Oh, how I wish I could take them back again.
***
Rhetoric: Day 41 – Pleonasm is when you add in extra words that mean the same thing. A simple example would be ‘Free gift’. Or you get a double in ‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered together’. Or there’s my favorite Frasier Crane line, ‘So, you’re saying I’m redundant? That I’m repeating myself? That I’m saying the same thing over and over?’
**********
Depression begets depression.
The weak-willed will always be weak.
For the mind of man is loose and limp and cannot pull itself up out of the swamp.
It slips and slides down into the sandy mire, bogged down by thoughts it cannot expel.
It waits to be rescued.
It does not climb.
It does not clamber.
It does not …
Sadness comes and goes.
But numbness comes and stays.
Depression begets depression.
***
Rhetoric: Day 42 – Epanalepsis is when you start and end with the same word or phrase, either the sentence or the paragraph or a whole song. And while it’s not necessary, it’s at its best when it emphasizes a circle of change or unchange, or both, like ‘The king is dead. Long live the king.’
**********
When I was a kid, I was always getting hurt. Scraped knees, black eyes, bloody noses, and the occasional poke in the eye with a sharp stick. It wasn’t just that I was a scrapper, always starting trouble. It’s that I grew too fast and didn’t take to it quickly enough. Clumsiness, with her knobby knees, called me over and I stood up, tripped, and fell at her feet.
***
Rhetoric: Day 43 – Personification is when you take a thing or an idea and give it human attributes. There are simple ones, like ‘time flies’, which hardly count. And at the other extreme is full-on allegory, like Pilgrim’s Progress. But personification is at her best when she appears, winks at you, then slips away again.
**********
Was the boy wet? Yes. But to say he was wet did not begin to cover it. He was soggy. He was sodden. He was soaked. His clothes, deep with rainwater, hung from him like the avalanches of snow on a cabin roof, stacked up precariously, so that you knew that at any minute they would fall, burying the house and all of the people with it. His shoes squeaked and squelched, their cries echoing through the house, sending the mice to scamper frantically in the hopes of escaping the encroaching flood that would surely end all life. Each tread of his foot across the carpet left a lake deeper than Lake Michigan, able to capsize ships caught in the wake of his thunderous running through the room. His hair was the rain forest of the Congo River basin when it has downpoured nonstop for 18 days. And, as he stood there sheepishly, each drip of water formed a new world on the floor, teeming with life, such as mermaids and great whites and sperm whales. Was the boy wet? Yes.
***
Rhetoric: Day 44 – We all know what hyperbole is. But if you’re going to do it, you should really go for it.
**********
Starbucks will run out of coffee.
In ‘n’ Out will run out of burgers.
Whole Foods will run out of kale.
Before that candy shop opens again.
Trader Joe’s will have ample parking.
Commuters will prefer the 405.
Santa Monica will run out of bicycles.
Before that candy shop opens again.
Vegetarians will stop proselytizing.
Gluten haters will stop preaching.
Actors will stop being flakes.
Before that candy shop opens again.
***
Rhetoric: Day 45: Adynaton is when you make up an impossibility to contrast with something else ever happening. “Hell will freeze over before …” In this case, I was inspired by the picture of my friend Jett Whitworth's kids sitting sadly in front of the closed candy store. Also, I had fun coming up with things that will ‘never happen’ in L.A. Anybody care to add to the list?
**********
Rhetoric: Day 46 – It’s putting the cart before the horse, with the cart being a pronoun and the horse being the noun it refers to; that’s what prolepsis is. Usually we say something like, ‘Look at that sunset. Its beautiful’. For prolepsis, you do a little swapparoo. ‘Look at how beautiful, that sunset’.
***
They will always be a mystery to me. Women.
She’s a sneaky one, that cat of mine.
It screeched and dove at the field mouse below. Faster, closer, reaching forward to grasp it, still alive. Then the hawk carried its prize away to feed its young.
It turned out pretty well, didn’t it? We should have a BBQ every 4th of July.
What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinkety sound? A spring! A spring! A marvelous thing! Everyone knows it’s Slinky!
**********
She came to me and we tangled together. Dangerous eyes, sweaty lips, tattooed thighs, grinding hips, sunburned shoulders, ears that smolder, shins and grins and supple skin, fingers groping, hard back sloping, ass crack hoping, biceps, triceps, beaks and cheeks, yummy tummy, toes so gummy, souls bared, hair everywhere. We didn’t dare come up for air, and the world went away.
***
Rhetoric: Day 47 – Congeries is a fancy word that means ‘list’.
**********
Nighttime. Quiet. Four poster bed. Satin sheets with pink ruffles. Nightstand with a glass of water. Dollhouses and dollies. Elaborate, expensive wallpaper. Crayon drawings of animals and family on the walls. An open window. A shadow running from that window to the bed. And a little girl in the bed. She opens her eyes and screams.
***
Rhetoric: Day 48 – Scesis Onomaton is a sentence(s) without a main verb, generally used to set the scene. What’s great about it is that it kind of holds the reader until that verb comes along, because they’re waiting for something to happen. Although you can just have a single, bold sentence that grabs the attention, like ‘Space, the final frontier.’
**********
The ceiling in my apartment has a story to tell.
The ceiling in my apartment has a stain. It is a dark, reddish brown stain and it is getting larger by the minute.
The ceiling in my apartment is leaking.
The ceiling in my apartment is dripping. Drip, drip, dripping something that appears to be blood.
The ceiling in my apartment is trying to tell me something. Something I’m not sure I want to know.
The ceiling in my apartment has secrets. Secrets are supposed to stay secret. Keep your secrets to yourself, ceiling!
The ceiling in my apartment is going to get me in trouble.
The ceiling in my apartment is loud now with banging and stomping and shouting.
The ceiling in my apartment won’t shut up, no matter how much I wish it would!
The ceiling in my apartment has gone quiet.
The ceiling in my apartment is waiting for me to make a move.
The ceiling in my apartment is breathing heavily.
The ceiling in my apartment is warning me to get out.
The ceiling in my apartment is ... spinning ...
The ceiling in my apartment is …
***
Rhetoric: Day 49 – Anaphora is a common and very powerful trick. You see it everywhere from the I Have a Dream speech to Green Eggs and Ham. And all it is is starting each sentence (or nearly) with the same word or phrase.
**********
Rhetoric: Day 50 – Nothing.  It’s over.  Copied and pasted all of the previous days together and into my blog.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Whatever you're doing tomorrow, you're doing it without me.

Whatever you're doing tomorrow, you're doing it without me.

Which is fine.  You may be out of town or doing a family-only thing or doing something I'd have no interest in doing.  But ... I mean, I'm not sure what else to try.

One problem with being alone and lonely is that it's a downward spiral.  Every time I invite someone to do something or invite folks over to play games, and people are too busy or don't respond at all, it just makes it harder to try the next time.  But I do keep trying, here and there.  Because it's not like people are inviting me to anything.  I mean, I get general invites, like when people are putting on a show or something, and they want to get people, any people, to come.  But people don't really invite me to be part of their group anymore.  

Which, you know what?  Is shitty.  Because I do that.  I invite specific people to come with me on my retreat each year.  At Thanksgiving, I try to ask around to see if people have somewhere to be, and invite them if they don't.  When I meet a guy I click with, I tell them about my men's group and see if they're interested.  And I'm an introvert.  It's actually kinda hard to put myself out there and face the possibility of rejection.  But I do it, as best as I can.

Where are the rest of you?  Why aren't more of you looking around and trying to spot the lonely people and inviting them to join you?  Honestly?  Shame on you.

Oh, and please don't invite me to anything for tomorrow, because I don't want an invite I've shamed you into.  But maybe think of me, or the other lonely people, the next time you're planning something.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play with my cat.  I guess I'll just be a crazy, lonely cat person now.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I'm Never Busy

I'm never busy.

OK, that's hyperbole.  Sometimes I'm busy for short periods.  Once in a while I have something to do on both Friday AND Saturday.  But that's pretty rare.  Most of the time, I'm not very busy.  I mean, I fill the time.  I read, write, watch TV, play video games.  I have a few weekly or monthly things, like my men's group, church on Sunday, visiting guys in prison.  And I'm always trying to find more things, so I'll organize an impromptu drawing class with a few friends or try to have a game night.  But most of the time, MOST of the time, I'm not busy.

So I don't understand what other people are always busy with.  Some people, sure.  If you're married and have kids, that obviously sucks up a lot of time.  But what else do you people do?  My only guess is that you're all spending time with each other. 

Maybe that's it.  I mean, I'm not really a party person - if you invite me to something with lots of people I don't know, there's a good chance I'll turn you down.  Not that there are tons of invites I'm turning down, anyway.  Plus, most people are in relationships, so they've got that built in person to hang with.  And that's where a lot of time goes.  That makes sense.

Me?  Shitloads of time on my hands.  I'd like to fill it spending time with people, but ... I guess that's not going to happen.  Everyone is too busy.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Crosswalk Conundrum

I think I have a pretty strong moral compass.  So much so that other friends will sometimes run issues by me to help figure out what is the correct moral thing to do.  And I'm pretty much a rule-follower.  Now, I'm not completely cut and dried - I don't always strictly follow the rules.  For example, I'll go faster than the speed limit if it's with the flow of traffic, because I believe that's the spirit of the law, and therefore more important.  And I even think there are times when you maybe, kinda should go ahead and break the rules ... for fun.  As long as you don't make a habit of it and you're not affecting anyone else.

Which brings us to today.  At my church, I usually park on the street, across the street from the church and down the street.  To get to the church from there, I have to use two crosswalks.  One crosses the street, and the other crosses a driveway (not sure why that driveway is so special that it gets its own light, but it does).  I have also had occasion to park further up the street, directly across from the church, so that the crosswalks would be out of the way, down at the intersection.

So!  The crosswalk that crosses the street?  I wait for the light.  Seems simple enough so far, right?

The crosswalk that crosses the driveway?  I ignore the light and just cross.  Because I know that the place is closed on Sundays and there is no traffic coming out of there.

Today, my friend Adam (we often carpool) wanted to ignore the light and cross the street.  I did not.  Because even though there was no traffic coming, it's a street and I tend to follow the rules.  But here's the thing - when I parked directly across the street, where there is no crosswalk, I just went ahead and jaywalked, and I was OK with it, because there was no traffic coming, and to use the crosswalk would have been out of the way.

So my moral compass is confusing me.  If I'm OK with crossing the street where there is no crosswalk, as long as there is no traffic, then why do I not want to do that at the crosswalk?  It's not like I mind waiting.  I'm not impatient for the light to change - what's an extra minute?  And I'm not late. 

And it's not that I have respect for the visible signs or authority they represent to the degree that I prefer to follow the rules, because at the driveway I don't care.

I actually laughed out loud at myself for a couple of minutes because of the logical inconsistency.

So what is my moral compass doing?  Why is it OK with breaking the rules in one way but not another?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Queer Eye for the Christian Guy

I've been watching the new Queer Eye series on Netflix.  I never saw the old one, and I didn't think it would be my cup of tea, but I thought I'd watch one just to check it out.

Wow.  It's terrific.  Here are a bunch of guys who go in and shower love on someone.  OK, yes, it's their job, but it's more than that.  They each, in their own constructive way, choose to love on the person.  The hair and makeup guy doesn't just make them look fashionable - he constantly tells them they're beautiful, and means it.  The home makeover guy doesn't just make their place stylish, he gets to know them so that he can make it a reflection of who they are and what they need. 

I cry every episode.  And the more I watch it, the more I think every Christian should watch it, so they can see terrific examples of how to embrace and love the Other.  Some of the best episodes are when they're helping Christians, even though they themselves have been hurt and ostracized by Christians.

I watch this show, and it kinda makes me wonder if God didn't look at the Christians and say, 'Hey, you're not doing your job.  So, I'm gonna raise up these people that you've marginalized and have them do it.'

Look, if you know me, you know I'm not entirely comfortable with gay people, especially the flamboyant ones.  And you don't have to agree with their choices.  But you must try to be kind.

As The Doctor says, "Laugh hard.  Run fast.  Be kind."

Because that's the example we were given.  The sermon at church today was about the woman at the well.  And here's a woman who has been ostracized and mistreated and avoided.  She is, for a Jew, the very definition of Other - she's the wrong people, and a woman, and she's had 5 husbands and now she's living with a man outside of marriage.  But this is the woman Jesus gets close to.  This is the woman that Jesus makes time for.  And this is, in fact, the woman that Jesus uses to save the whole village.

Mind you, I'm talking to myself here, too.  But, Christians?  It's time to embrace the Other.  If a drag queen walks into your church, you should welcome them with a hug.  Don't hang back and see how it plays out - be the one to go over there and embrace them.  You don't have to agree with them.  Just welcome them and then let them work out their own faith.

It's time to get uncomfortable.


Friday, June 29, 2018

Thoughts on Tithing

I tithe.  I haven't always been a consistent tither, so I totally understand the struggle, especially when you're up against it or living paycheck to paycheck.  But I have some thoughts, and here they are.

Why tithe?  It's not like God needs the money.  For me, it's more of an acknowledgement that God has all of the money and if he wants me to temporarily have more or less of it, that's up to Him.  It's good for me to give up that sense of control or entitlement or whatever, and acknowledge that He is God.  Lord knows I have a hard enough time not thinking of myself as the center of the universe - I can use the help.

How much?  Well, 10%.  And I tithe on the gross.  My thinking is don't be stingy with God unless you're expecting Him to be stingy with you.  Plus, again, I think I'm going to have as much money as He wills, so there's really no point in being stingy.  I suppose the same argument could be made in favor of giving away everything I have to the poor, but that's a discussion for another day.

Where?  This one is interesting, because I know a couple of people who give some or all of their tithe not to their church, but to missionaries or some other charity.  They can do what they want, but I don't like going down that road.  I don't think we should have any say in how our tithe is used.  For example, if you heard about someone who went to the pastor and said, "I tithe $100K per year, and I want part of that spent on new choir robes.", I think most of us would agree there's a problem there.  And take it a step further.  Can you not imagine someone giving their tithe to their political party or candidate, because surely God wants to stop those evil people on the other side?  Even something as simple as using part of my tithe to buy food for my small group - I can't do it.  People would be thanking ME for MY hospitality.  And it's not about me.  So, I say if you trust the leadership at your church, then blindly give the whole tithe to them.  And if you don't trust the leadership at your church, then ... you might want to find a new church.

Always?  That's a tricky one for me.  When I'm unemployed, I don't tithe.  I suppose you could argue that God is providing via the state, but if I get to the point where I have to ask my mother for help, it doesn't seem right to ask her for more than I need.  So that's me.

Are there exceptions?  Of course.  Probably.  I'll admit there have been times when I was working a part time job and I told God that I would tithe as soon as I was really working again.  But that is a sticky one, because maybe God is wanting to see how you'll act when the going gets tough.  And you need to be careful when you start making exceptions, 'cuz one can more easily lead to another.  But God deals with each person differently.  I've heard a pastor suggest to someone that they start with 5% and work their way up, giving God time to show them that He will provide.  So you do your thang - as long as you do it honestly and pray about it and consult with people.

Anyway, that's me and tithing.  Maybe this will help someone else think through their position and start to tithe.  Because it's good for the soul - it really is.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Littlest Thing

I am a big believer that the some of the littlest things we do have the greatest impact.

For example, a woman at church today made my day.  Pretty much by just being herself.  She smiled.  She spoke to me.  She gave me a compliment.  She chose to sit next to me.  And during the funny parts of the sermon, she leaned into/nudged me.  And it's not like there's a romantic interest there (she's got a boyfriend).  She was just being her warm, friendly self.

But it made my day so much better than it was.  Not that I was in a bad mood, but it filled up my quality-time tank a bit.  Just enough that when I got back to my apartment and saw the annoying family with the annoying kid, instead of averting my gaze, I nodded at them.  And the dad waved back.  And that was better than dwelling in my normal animosity.

I've been working on being more friendly, too.  For example, I was reading an article about being friendly, and it suggested complimenting people.  Which, in the past, has not really occurred to me as something people ... do.  So I've been trying to do that.  I like your green dress.  I dig your Harry Potter shirt.  Your eyes are really pretty today.  And the thing I've noticed is that while they may appreciate the compliment, it does much more for me.  I'm spending time thinking about them and trying to notice something that I can then appreciate.  Which is good for me, because it gets me out of my head and thinking about others.  Which, if you know me, is not my ... first impulse.

I'm telling you, you don't even know the ripple effect you can have by smiling at someone or engaging them in conversation and looking them in the eye.  I honestly believe that the littlest thing can, stupidly enough, change lives.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Something Suddenly Came Up

Something I learned watching the Brady Bunch back in the day - it's rude to break off plans without giving a real reason.

Marcia is excited to go to the dance with Doug, BMOC (Big Man On Campus).  But when she gets hit in the nose with a football ("Mom always said, don't play ball in the house!"), Doug begs off, telling Marcia, "Something suddenly came up."

It's portrayed as the cool kid thinking he can do whatever he wants, even being rude by not giving a real reason for breaking the date.  And I agree that it's rude.  Have you ever had someone break off their plans with you without giving a reason?  "Sorry, our plans changed."  That's not an explanation!

In my book, if you make plans with someone, you follow through.  There are exceptions, of course.  If someone is in the hospital, it is acceptable to break your plans - an emergency is a valid reason to cancel.  I also think it's OK to change your plans if a MUCH better offer comes along.  Not just any offer, but something you can't do at any other time.  If you had dinner plans with a friend, and another friend comes up with tickets to see your favorite band, that's understandable.  But even then, I would call the person I had plans with, and ask if I could be excused or if we could reschedule, and I would explain about the event that came up.  Because, the way I was raised, you don't just change your plans willy-nilly, and you try to treat people with respect.

To break plans with someone, and not tell them why, is rude.  Look, I'm understanding.  I have, on occasion, had better things come up.  But I touch base with the person I'm cancelling on and make sure it's cool.  Because that's what proper, civilized people do.

Monday, May 14, 2018

In defense of using the word 'Girl'

Like many guys, I often use the word 'girl', instead of 'woman'.  As in, 'I saw a cute girl' or 'Damn that girl is cute!' or 'Damn, girl!' (OK, I don't use that last one, because, due to an abnormality with my thumbs, I am unable to snap my fingers.)

I know there are some women who take offense at this.  As I understand it, the complaint is that using the term 'girl' infantilizes women.  As in a boss telling a woman that she's not as good at business because she's 'just a girl'.

But that comment could just as easily be 'just a woman'.  The problem is the tone or idea behind it.  Right?  And I don't think of women as inferior, so that's not a sentence I would ever say.  Frankly, it's hard for me to imagine anyone saying that these days, but maybe I just don't know those people.  Or because I don't work in an advertising firm in the 1960's.

But, the next question is, do I mean something different when I say woman or girl?  Yes, I do.  Here's how I kinda categorize it.  If I'm talking in general or in a professional way, I will tend to use 'woman'.  If I'm talking in a more casual way, it will often be 'girl'.  But there is more to it.  Because while I don't think I'm infantilizing women, there is a qualitative difference.  And I think it's that 'girl' implies youthfulness.  Not necessarily childish, but youthful and playful.  There are cute girls and attractive women.  Girls are still girlish, in the same way that guys are still boyish (although that can play out differently for each gender).  So, in that sense, if a woman is in her 50's and I call her a girl, it's very much a compliment, because I'm seeing her as still youthful and vital.  And not that leaving girlishness behind and becoming more mature is a bad thing, either - both are good.  But everyone, man or woman, grows more mature over time (one hopes).  Still, I actually have great respect for people who know when not to act their age.  Possibly because they're coming down to my level.

So how come we say 'guys' for men and 'girls' for women?  Probably because it used to be guys and dolls, but 'doll' feels outdated (not to mention quite a bit more sexist than 'girl').  And because the English language is weird that way.  We also drive on parkways and park on driveways, but only Steven Wright is upset about that.

I suppose some other arguments could be made.  Like how using it is perpetuating the male-dominated patriarchy.  Or how it's about calling women what they want to be called, or how if some people find it offensive, then everyone should just change.  But the question is, do I really care, if people are just looking to be offended?  Because, if you know me, I think you know I'm a good guy and I'm not infantilizing women.  If anything, I generally think men are more likely to act in a childish manner. 

So, I'll try not to use the word 'girl' in professional situations.  How's about you give me a little grace and benefit of the doubt and see that I'm actually being complimentary and descriptive in what, to me, is a positive way?  As in, 'Damn, girl!  You are looking fine!'  Nope, still can't pull that off.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Wheels on the Bus ...

When I was around 25, I had no car.  I'd been in a car accident and I'd let my insurance expire, so my year-old-but-now-totaled car was not going to be replaced.  I was working at a retail job, with no real hope of even saving up for a new car.  So I was in a good place.

I lived in Altadena and it would take me about 45 minutes to walk to work in Pasadena, so that was doable.  But on Wednesdays, I had to see my therapist in Glendale, so I had to take the bus.  My bus stop was the first one of that particular bus's line.  And when it got there, I would get on with maybe one or two other people.  And as the bus progressed, people would get on and off and the bus would slowly fill up.  And I noticed something interesting.  Every seat would fill up, and there would even be people standing in the aisles, before anyone would sit next to me.  Every week.  People would stand in the aisle, swinging around  with one hand on the railing and the other holding their 16 bags of groceries, rather than sit next to me.  Good thing I was going to therapy, right?

Once I noticed it there, I noticed it other places.  This phenomenon has followed me.  Not every single time, but a lot.  Classes?  Empty seats on either side of me.  Church?  My row is the last to fill up.  At my small group the other night, there was a ring of chairs, and every one of them was taken except - you guessed it - the one on either side of me.  And not only that, but one of the ones next to me was clearly a comfy chair as compared to the other available hard-backed chairs.  When this was pointed out to a woman who had just taken a seat, she did then move to the comfy chair next to me.  But she had to think about it.

I had this one friend at church, and when he would sit next to me, he would sit one seat over. I kid you not.  The whole church would fill up, the ushers would be asking people to scoot, and he'd still leave a chair between us.  So I told him the story of the bus, and he agreed it was odd.  Next week, my friend shows up and ...one seat over.  I asked him - 'Remember the story I told you about the bus?  About people not sitting next to me?'  'Yeah, what about it?'

So, what is it?  I bathe.  I know I have an acerbic personality, but it often happens before I've even said a word.  Maybe people just feel more more comfortable sitting next to Bill or Clive or the smelly, homeless man.  I dunno.

You might think this is perception bias.  Maybe I just notice WHEN it happens.  I don't think so.  You're not paranoid if people really are out to get you.  Mind you, I'm not saying people are out to get me ... they clearly don't want to be anywhere near me.



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Self Aware vs Other Aware

I think I'm pretty self-aware.  I think that, compared to most people, I'm pretty in touch with how I tick and what's made me the way I am.  I am sometimes surprised by new revelations, but I enjoy digging in and figuring myself out.

And all of that is good.  The unexamined life is not worth living, and all that.  But I'm not very other aware.

Sure, I like to figure out what makes other people tick.  I'm good at spotting patterns that I've seen elsewhere and applying them to new people.  I'm a student of human behavior.  But I approach it with a scientist's brain.

I was recently called prickly.  It didn't bother me.  Much.  But it got me thinking.  What does that look like?  So, in conversation with a new friend, I asked, "Am I prickly?"  Her immediate response was, "Yes."  She went on to say that I'm funny, and I know I'm funny, and I throw in a lot of geeky or pop culture references.  And that people can find me abrasive or be put off by me.

Which is curious to me.  Isn't funny a good thing?  Don't people gravitate towards funny people?  Why is that prickly?  But she explained that people don't always get that I'm joking.

Now, my usual response to something like that is that the people not laughing are either boring or not very smart or overly sensitive.  But maybe they're not.  Maybe I just don't get them.  Me.  Not getting them.  I know, it seems crazy to even consider, but maybe there are people whose thoughts and feelings I have not completely figured out who nonetheless have valid opinions about me.  Hmmm.

Of course, it goes deeper than that.  Even close friends often seem alien to me.  They'll tell me their hopes or motivations or fears, and my response will range from confusion to laughter.  How can anyone think or feel so completely differently from me?  Don't get me wrong - I'm often fascinated by the differences and love trying to puzzle them out.  But, if I'm honest, at the end of the day, I have a hunch that my brain is wired correctly and their is not.  I mean, other than the things that are wrong with me, but I know what most of those are.  And besides the addictions and compulsions and fears, surely my brain and personality is the right one.  Right?

I do tend to treat other people like a puzzle to figure out, more than a living, breathing person to just love and understand.  I have to remind myself to ask friends about things that are important to them: How's your dad doing after his surgery?  What ever happened with that problem at work?  I realize this makes me an ass, but I kinda don't care.  I care about the way you think and your motivations, but not so much about life events.  I really struggle with ... how should I put this?  It's like I know that other people are real and have their own lives and thoughts and emotions, but it doesn't feel real.  I sometimes fee like my life is a play, but I'm the only real person.

That's pretty shitty, actually.  I dunno - maybe we're all like this, to some degree.  We are all stuck in our own heads, unable to peer inside each other.  I actually have a story developing in my head about a society where people can, only by choice, choose to experience each other.  Like an emotional mind meld.  And in my story, it's a much more peaceful society, because everyone is much more aware that other people are real and therefore feel worse when they do something that hurts another.

So that's me.  I'm aware of myself, but not very aware of others.  You're all like shadows to me.  Except those with high empathy.  They break through - they feel things more strongly, and in return I feel them feeling things.  Mmmm .... feelings.  I am an emotional leech, after all.  I love strong feelings.  And maybe there is something broken in me, that doesn't sense other people's feelings as much as I ought to.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

What is Joy?

My pastor today was trying to define joy.  He had a weird sentence that I think was intentionally odd, so as to be memorable.  Something like Joy is how you go WITH as you travel THROUGH.  I actually don't think he stuck the landing.

But it got me thinking.  My definition of joy has always been 'meaning and purpose'.  In other words it's not about being happy (most of us can agree on that), so much as it's the stuff that makes you happy a lot of the time.  Because you can be sad and still have joy, like when someone close to you dies, but you believe they're going to be with Jesus.

I was talking with some friends afterwards, and I came up with another definition, which is 'a sense that you're on the right track'.  That resonated with all three of us.  And using that, you can have the 'joy of the Lord' - the sense that you're trusting in Him and He loves you and is guiding you.  But you can also have other kinds of joy, like career joy or girlfriend joy or Christmas joy - a sense that despite flaws or setbacks or whatever, you're mostly on the right track for meeting your goals or doing life together or enjoying the sense of giving that goes with the season.

So, that's what I'm thinking about joy.  What's your definition?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Freaking over Geeking

I consider myself a geek.  I'm into science fiction and board games.  And I like a lot of the things that geeky people are into, at least to some degree.  But I don't go overboard with it.  I don't dress up in costume and run around with a foam sword or collect every possible piece of merchandise for Doctor Who (Tardis mugs!  Dalek salt and pepper shakers!  OK, I have Doctor Who throw pillows, but they were a present.).  I have about a hundred board games, but I pretty much only keep the ones that actually get played, even if rarely.  I don't have display cases for my collectibles.

Not that I mind if people are really into something.  Have fun!  Except ... I do mind.  And it's not that it's a waste of time (although sometimes I think it is) or that their thing is uncool.  It's ... something else.  And I can't quite put my finger on it.

Have you had someone corner you and start talking endlessly about something they're really into?  Like, they'll hear that you watched an episode of some new show, and they'll launch into a monologue that lasts for ten minutes about the nerdy details that you have no interest in knowing.  And they won't pick up on the non-verbal cues that you would like very much to extricate yourself from that conversation.  Those people freak me out.

Or, like today.  There's a place here in Burbank called Geeky Teas that I just discovered.  They've got all kinds of games and geeky artwork and a life-size Dalek.  Very fun.  And you can go there and play games for $5, plus they have events like tabletop tournaments and Doctor Who screening nights.  And the lady who runs the shop is really friendly and cool.  And I was looking at the shop and the schedule and thinking what a cool place it is and how it's too bad that I'll never go there.

Because they're weird!  I mean, not really.  Everyone is nice and friendly and likes to play games.  What's not to like?  But if I went there ... just showed up and looked for folks to hang out or play games with ...

I'd be one of them.

And I don't want to be one of them.

Why?  I don't know.  I mean, a guy showed up while I was making my purchase.  He seemed to have showed up alone and hadn't been there before and just thought he'd try his luck and try to find people to play games with.  And he didn't seem overly geeky - just a normal guy.  So, of course I left.

(Mind you, I had just stopped in to grab the game I special ordered, and I had a friend with me who I needed to take home, so it's not like I could have stayed.  But the point is that I wouldn't have.)

I dunno.  Seems like there's a whole world of friendly, geeky people that I might enjoy getting to know and who like board games like I do, and yet I just can't bring myself to go there.

Why is that?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

No Text Messages from God

There's a certain 'letting go' that I find myself simply incapable of.

I have this idea that when I die, Jesus will embrace me.  And in that moment, I will be able to let go of all of the crap I hold on to.  Let my guard down.  Be completely vulnerable.  And, in doing so, be completely whole.

But I can't do it here and now.  I mean, I can do it a tiny bit, sometimes.  I was talking to a friend the other day about how I make it a point to pray every night.  I think this is a good habit, and I've been consistent for over a year now.  Not that I don't pray other times, but if nothing else, I pray when I get into bed, and confess my sins, and talk to God for a minute.  But it can be rather rote.  There are many nights when I have nothing new to say, nothing much going on either in the events of the day or the thoughts in my head.  So, I'll still pray, but it's like a form letter.  It is what it is.  But then there are other times when I don't want to pray.  When I'm feeling pig-headed and far away from God and I don't want to draw near.  These can also be rote.  I think it's better than nothing.  But I know there's a better thing.  To let my guard down.  To unclench.  To let go of my crap and let Him in.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. 

My love language is quality time.  And what I crave more than anything else is to have someone in my life who just enjoys spending time with me so much that we do it all the time.  I was thinking about that last night, and the thought, annoyingly, came to mind that God is there all of the time.  God always wants to spend time with me.

Yeah, but ... it's not the same thing.  It's not quantifiable.  I can't feel it.  I can't see the results of it.  There's no text message on my phone asking what my plans are for the weekend.

Maybe other people do sense that.  I have a friend who says he sometimes imagines himself cuddling up to God.  I've tried - doesn't really work for me.  And maybe that's just something that's beyond my reach in this life.  Sensing God's presence.  Not that I don't want it.  Not that I'm not open to it.  And maybe if I could let go more, I could feel it.  Maybe. 

But I suspect I will just have to wait until I die.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Slight Theological Shift

I had an interesting evening about a week ago.  It was after a Bible study, and several of us were talking to this one guy who was trying to figure out his faith and whether he should be doing more and if he was taking enough time to listen to God or if he was letting God move him - kind of a jumble of stuff.

At one point, I broke in and pointed out that he was exactly where God wants him to be, because God is pulling strings to a degree that we don't even realize, putting us right where He wants us.

This denotes a slight shift in my theology, but it's been coming for a while.  In my men's group, I've been piecing together that I think that we have extremely limited free will.  Don't get me wrong - I do think we have free will, because otherwise we're just a movie that's playing out and this whole thing is a farce.  But so many factors influence who we are and the decisions we make: where we were born and who our family is and our temperament and things we're exposed to.  So there's that - we each develop our own paradigm that guides our choices based on the factors both intrinsic and extrinsic to us.

But more than that, it really seems like there are decisions we make that are completely God-directed.  Why was I there talking to that guy?  Because, a month prior, the people I usually sat with were on vacation and I was sitting alone.  And because a woman at church was rude to me.  So, when a friend invited me to try his church, after about 30 years at the same church, I suddenly decided to try a new place.  And on the 2nd Sunday, they announced small groups, and I figured that would help me meet some new people.  And when I watched the videos by the various group leaders, I just happened to have met the kids of one of the couples while helping a friend on a shoot.  And that small group was mostly closed, but they had decided to open up a couple of spots.  And I emailed before other people, so I got one of those spots.  And when I was there, I was so taken with the awesome family that hosts it that I didn't want to leave.  And neither did that guy.

A series of coincidences?  Or does God know exactly what He's doing and He is going to drag us where He wants us, because He is good and free will is mostly (but not completely) an illusion?

I've always tended to think that God is much more involved than we think He is.  When Amy Grant sings the suggestion, 'A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way.', I actually kinda believe that.  And I think lately that's been solidifying.

Another factor is my increasing belief in the idea that God is not as omnipresent in the past, present and future as many Christians believe these days - the idea being that God knows the future because He's already there.  I'm inclined to think, rather, that when God created this universe, He created a space that is outside of Himself.  It would have to be, because otherwise we'd just be part of Him.  And because of that, God is present in the Now with us, but is not in the future and does not know the future, because the future hasn't happened yet.  This doesn't mean that God doesn't know everything - He knows everything that it is possible to know, but doesn't know the future because it doesn't exist yet.  BUT - and this is the part that gives me comfort - but He is so big and powerful and smart that He can know what He wants the future to look like, on macro and micro levels, and can pull strings and make things work out so that what He wants to happen will come to pass.  Like a master pool player, he can call which balls will go in which pockets, then hit the cue to make the balls zip around the table and land exactly where He wants them.

That's what I think.  God knows exactly what He's doing.  He knows where He wants you to be.  And He's going to take you there.  Kicking and screaming, if necessary.  But you are not wasting your time.  You may have taken a detour, but He will put you back on track.  Or that detour may have been exactly what you needed.