Friday, November 18, 2011

Bringing Us Together to Make Music

The Vampire Defanged

Friday, October 28, 2011

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
~ John O'Donohue ~

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Papal Bull

Have you ever heard of a papal bull?  It is a decree issued by the Pope.  When I heard about a papal bull in my high school world history class in the 1980's an image of a cartoon bull dressed in papal robes flashed into my mind.  That was the birth of The Papal Bull. 

His story formed rather quickly in my imagination.  He was the Pope's special agent used to carry out missions of worldwide importance.  These were the days of John Paul II and it had only been a few years since the 1981 assassination attempt on everyone's favorite Papa.  The super-heroic Papal Bull was a natural progression after the development of the real world Pope-mobile.  In time, the Papal Bull would add his very own Pope-mobile to his arsenal of super-spy gadgets and holy artifacts.

Inspired by the Monty Python skit "The Bishop," the Bull used an "ex-communicator" to contact the Vatican by wireless (these are the pre-cell phone days you understand).  His shepherd staff was the source of his power but he wasn't above stealing other characters tricks, like eating spinach to gain super-strength.  The Papal Bull did have his own battle cry "Dominus Onus," which is a corruption of dominus omnis meaning "Lord of All."  Of course I did not know that in the eighties; I picked it up from Eddie Murphy's routine about the Pope getting shot.

The Papal Bull saved the Pope from cartoon terrorists in striped shirts and domino masks in his first adventure.  But the villains soon improved.  Later, the Pope sent him on an ecumenical mission to save the Salvation Army from the "Lybian" army of Col. Gaddafi.  That's right, the same guy who just got ousted by his own people.  Recall that Gaddafi was the Bin Laden of the 1980's.  He was President Reagan's arch enemy and even in the those old days he seemed to be mimicking a Bond villain.  So if the Pope was going to send his top man - er, bull - into political territory who else would he confront other than Gaddafi? 

The Papal Bull even made it into movies.  Well, I made a tedious clay-mation, Gumby-style, 8mm film of Papal Bull rescuing the Pope's from a jet plane hijacked by terrorists.  It all seemed so fantastic and unbelievable in those days.

Gaddafi and the clay-mation terrorists were played for laughs.  This was parody and lampoon.  We joked about our enemies and made fun of them.  Reading these old comics made me smile, but also reminded how much humor the world seems to have lost in the last thirty years.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

What Have We Learned About Scandals?

Either character matters for all of us all of the time, or it doesn't.  Those are the only two options. Keep this in mind as we sample both current events and history.  (I am aware that those two rarely appear in the same room together).
Currently, the media is enjoying the term Weinergate as if they were third graders who have learned a new swear word.  Press from all points of the political spectrum are giving thanks to the media gods that the politician caught in the latest sex scandal is named Weiner.  No one is going for the high ground on this one - not even Wolf Blitzer.

As many expected, the news broke that Rep. Weiner lied to us.  He has confessed.  At first he said, "I did not tweet that woman in Washington State." The implication was that we should all be ashamed for not readily accepting the explanation as first given.  Now he admits that the relationship was inappropriate.  Reporters are telling us that his wife is the strong one.  We are learning more about her and we are drawn to feel sympathy for a good woman who does not deserve the shame that her husband has brought upon her with his indiscretions.

Now hold on, we've been to this show before haven't we?  There is an uncanny parallel to1998 and President Clinton's terse remark: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."  The similarities are so close that I wonder if Wiener is honestly trying to imitate Bill Clinton.  That or there is a secret politicians' handbook that lays out a strategy for getting caught in scandals. (A better strategy for 2011 might be "Don't Tweet!")

In both 1998 and 2011, the accused politician denies the charges.  In both events, the politician tries to end the story by asserting that he has to get back to work for the electorate and doesn't have time to justify muckraking.  Both times, the indignant statesman who scolded the press for playing games apologized and confessed to dishonesty.

It's oddly similar, except that this time there seems to be a different approach to the issue of character.  In 1998, Clinton's supporters and leading members of his party argued that the President's record mattered more than his private affairs.  We were also informed of a "vast right wing conspiracy" that was behind the trumped up charges.  Even after Clinton admitted to much more that "tweeting," his supporters still rallied to his side and held hands singing hymns.  But now in 2011, some of those very same people are demanding a full investigation of Anthony Weiner.  Why?

It may be political expediency.  One could argue, and many have, that Democrats support of Pres. Clinton during the scandal ultimately led to Al Gore's lack of support in the 2000 election.  Perhaps crafty Democrats have concluded that it is better to cast aside scandal-ridden colleagues for the greater good of the party.

Daring to be less cynical, I wonder if this may also be a glimmer of hope that our world has learned something about character.  In 1998, it was common to see a "person-on-the-street" comment that the President's personal life has no bearing on his job performance.  In the 1990's character was deemed less important than job performance.  Furthermore, some open-minded souls chastised Americans for being parochial and it was indicated that European politicians have many mistresses and indiscretions and no one is truly the worse for it.  Really?  Fast forward to 2011 and between Monicagate and Weinergate we have grown weary and felt the pain of the ribald tales of Tiger Woods, John Edwards, and Arnold Schwarzenegger to name a few.  And we aren't too patient with European officials engaging in extra-marital dalliances when they chase housekeeping through a hotel.  Those are just the sex scandals.  Financial scandals and abuse of power scandals all have something in common with the sex scandals: we are lied to and bystanders get hurt and in some cases killed.  We just might be recognizing connections between character and performance of duties now that we have felt the consequences of dishonesty, arrogance, and irresponsibility.

Of course there is another conversation we should have about how we respond to lapses in character.  We can be compassionate, forgiving, and gracious without relaxing high expectations.  We can be humble even as we are insist on reconciliation and repentance.  Dramatic and endless reporting that smacks of gossip is less than noble and too often adds to the pain and shame.  We can be more discreet without sweeping matters beneath the carpet.  I want to believe that we can get back to insistence on character regardless of how popular, how powerful, and how clever one is.  Likewise, regardless of how one is politically aligned.

So perhaps, just perhaps, we are doing away with the broken philosophy that a politician's character doesn't matter as long as he or she does a great job.  Perhaps it isn't old-fashioned to expect that simple things like honesty and self-control matter to all of us.  I must caution however that there is this unrelenting quality to character: it demands consistency.  If we demand good character of our officials, then we must demand it of ourselves.  Either character matters for all of us all of the time, or it doesn't.  Those are the only two options.

Monday, June 06, 2011

A Letter to Facebook

Dear Facebook:

What happened to the crazy website who went to college and got everyone net-worked-up?  You were so rowdy and carefree in those early days.  Everyone was able to customize their profile.  You didn't take your forms and files so seriously.  If I wanted to tell the world that I was a snake-handler who studied glass-blowing at Cambridge University you went along with me.  You chuckled a bit but didn't care.  If I was in the mood to tell everyone who had "friended" me that I could speak English, Pig Latin, and three Fremen dialects you didn't bat an eye.  You were cool with all that.

Oh, and remember the fun we used to have playing "Chris is . . .?"  You always had that dumb little status bar that started out with that phrase.  Sure it was annoying and hardly applied to anything that I wanted to write in the blank, but it made me more creative and it was entertaining to find ways to work it into my status sentences.

But now you limit me to 420 characters.  Now I have to write notes when I want to go on a diatribe like this.  You probably won't even put it on my wall.  Nobody reads Notes, FB!  You just don't listen anymore!  When did that happen?  Why did that happen?

Maybe it was when you started experimenting with those wretched "Vampire vs. Werewolf" games and such.  Oh, I knew that was a bad sign.  I did not have a good feeling about that.  And you got some of my friends hooked on it.  Instead of checking in to see what "My Friend is" doing, I learn that they have become a Level 5 vampire or they've joined the mafia. 

You even tried to get me hooked on that garbage.  Remember your Farm Town phase, FB?  You were so shameless then.  Why?  Well for starters you packaged it like it was for kids but it was more addictive than cocaine.  You knew that everyone wanted a dog and barn and wouldn't care how many pumpkins they had to sell to get one!  And then you wouldn't even own up to it.  You blamed it on some third-party.  Oh, FB I thought you had more self-respect than that.

Now look at you.  You are all dressed up in your suit and tie and speak so many different language.  You talk about safety and privacy.  Privacy?  If I wanted true privacy I wouldn't be social networking, you stooge!

I'm sorry FB.  Just got a little emotional.  I was just thinking about the way I keep trying to fill in the blank for "Hometown" with something silly like "Metropolis" or "Frostbite Falls" and you won't let me because it doesn't conform to your database.  It's like you really need to know exactly where I live.  It's like you need to record all my data in your giant humorless corporate brain,  but you don't really care about me.  Just one more time it would be nice to hear you ask "Chris is . . .?"

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why I Am Rapture Ready

If you are reading this post after May 21 then you didn't make the cut.  Either that or the world did not end as Harold Camping and the grassroots movement he organized predicted.

I hate to say it, but I have been through this before.  I was in college the last time the end of the world was so certain.  I was part of a dorm study group and two of the fellows in that group were arguing with one another about the impending end of the world.  They were roommates and the disbeliever asked the believer if he could have all of his books after he was raptured.

Then there was Y2K.  Alright, maybe that wasn't strictly a rapture prediction.  More about the collapse of society - which is probably happening, just not overnight.

Frequent prophecies of the end of the world delivered with absolute certainty drove my interest in determining how someone else could divine the secrets of eschatology.  I marveled at the "new math" that transformed the Bible into a train-schedule for the end of time.  None of it ever made sense to me.  Well, that's not true.  What actually happened was a a huge headache after reading three sentences of the "Daniel and Revelation"-laden tracts - and why are they always printed in such tiny fonts!

To my everlasting benefit (get it?) I discovered a film called "A Thief in the Night," which is the same thing as the more popular "Left Behind" film.  The only differences are production values and hairstyles.  Cinematic narrative makes perfect sense to me.  Forget the numbers, no one really understands them anyway.  The names and dates change, but the basic narrative of the end of days according to the rapture scenario does not change significantly.  Thanks to "A Thief in the Night" (aka "The Partridge Family Goes to Hell") that I was able to understand the rapture narrative like a sci-fi movie instead of a math quiz.  I couldn't compete when math was the game, but now I was in my element and my narrative kung fu is strong.  I dismantled the logic of the post-rapture world like a cheap radio and discovered that if their rules apply I had two options and I was good either way.

So best case scenario if the rapture occurs: I am out of here and in heaven and all is well.  Apparently there isn't much I can do to insure that this happens except trust Jesus, which I certainly hope I have done.  (Seriously, I hope I have put my trust in him for more that a one way ticket to heaven, but that's another article okay).

Worst case scenario is getting left behind.  Now here's where it gets interesting.  There's a lot of effort has been put into maintaining the world post-rapture.  There are atheists who will care for the pets of raptured pet-owners.  There's even a handy post-rapture survival guide that suggests storing up on canned goods, guns, and gold.  This sort of survival makes sense if we devolve into a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome scenario, but none of this matters if you are left behind.  I really am surprised that I understand the narrative and philosophy of the post-rapture world better than those who genuinely believe it.  In the post-rapture world the rules seem to have changed.  There's no grace.  You either stand with God or you die with the devil.  Why is this so hard?  The Anti-Christ is going to follow a fairly specific script and lead everyone down the garden path to destruction.  Even though no one knows who this Anti-Christ is, he is going to do specific things that ought to be noticeable.  Like what?  Oh, rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  At least that is how the story goes in nearly every version of the post-rapture tale.

Here's why I say I am rapture ready even if I get left behind: It's just too easy.  I'm not going to waste time trying to survive on canned goods and hoard gold.  Why bother?  All I have to do is march down to the "one world government headquarters" and refuse to get stamped with the "mark of the beast."  When they ask me why I start preaching the gospel and call out the Anti-Christ as a liar.  Heck, I will challenge him to an arm-wrestling match (I think I can take him too).  Now if I understand the new rules of post-rapture land, this is going to get me killed.  Well?  Apparently life isn't worth living after the rapture so there's nothing to lose.

Now I have to show my cards and let you know, good reader, that I am not convinced that there will even be a rapture.  I do think that God has a plan for the world that eventually ends with the restoration of all things.  I am very hopeful of this.  But the rapture does not fit into that plan.  The wretched world of the post-rapture earth is probably nothing more than a fearful image to convince the non-committed to accept Jesus as their personal savior.  In other words, the details of that horrid post-apocalyptic zombie land have become so developed when really it was just meant to get people to make up their mind today.  And this is where I think we begin to see the difference between following Christ and fearing hell.  In the world today people live in real situations that are far worse than anything imagined in the Left Behind books.  Sure, it scares a middle class American or European to know that water will be contaminated and disease is rampant.  I wonder how much that frightens the people in nations where this is an everyday occurrence?  I wonder how much it frightened the martyrs who gave their lives in devotion to Christ?  Hell may be frightening, but less so when you walk through it with the one who overcame it.