So Much of Life is Arbitrary

Ar-bi-trar-y, so much of life is ar-bi-trar-y. 

How does one believe in bene-vo-lence

of any kind, no less the divine sort when

the ar-bi-trar-y hits hard, fast, down and

dirty and so, well, ar-bi-trar-il-y?  It’s

hard, so hard, especially when a parent

dies young, poof, in a heartbeat and the

children feel clobbered upside the head

for years and years and flinch in their

very, wary hearts at the very, maybe out-

rage-ous, notion of a bene-vo-lent God

who really cares even as they sit in the

pews listening to the preacher who hap-

pens to be their dad.

This Land Was Made for You and Me

“My kingdom is not of this world and those who worship God, worship in spirit and truth for God is spirit,” to paraphrase a couple of quotes by a very prominent early first century rabbi,

(The son of humanity has nowhere to lay his head.)

which meant simply that political power exerted through a reign of oppression and terror and colonialism was not his way and that land had to do with stewardship and not at all with ownership or even

(This land was made for you and me.)

the kind of “gift-ship” which can be turned into “owner-ship” and often is, as in “God gave it to us and not to you so get the hell out or we will kill you.”  And here’s the rub: That Jesus’ kingdom is not a worldly

(The son of humanity has nowhere to lay his head.)

kingdom is what most American Christians have affirmed from the days when life was so bad for some Christians they sang, “This world is not my home; I’m just a passin’ through,” to those who just wish

(This land was made for you and me.)

to worship in the spirit-land of justice, mercy, self-sacrificial love and peace lived out, of course, on terra firma (where else?) rather than some misguided, misunderstood, pre-ordained

(The son of humanity has nowhere to lay his head.)

territorial imperative (in a West Michigan town populated mostly by conservative Christians, home owners don’t want people stepping on their property. Even a toe on the grass is trespassing.), and that is just it

(This land was made for you and me.)

for a small minority of evangelicals who still think of real estate as God’s great gift to some in the Middle-East and, for sure, not others who have been inhabiting those parts nonstop for a couple

(The son of humanity has nowhere to lay his head.)

thousand years or so, a notion which is causing hell on terra firma and not much heaven there.  And these Christians sit around in their comfortable homes on their tidy plots of land they think

(This land was made for you and me.)

they own far away from harm waiting for Armageddon in that hell hole of holy land they helped create while they wait for their Jesus, the conqueror king, to descend, bless certain tribes by his great dispensation and

(The son of humanity has nowhere to lay his head.)

arbitrary meanness. Lord, have mercy on such thinking which makes God into an authoritarian, critical, judgmental and, over all, nasty tribal deity with a small “d,”  for sure very small “d,” if even that.

(And this land was made for you and me.)

To Watch or Not to Watch, That Is the Rabbi’s Question

The late, great Rabbi Friedman

said at one of his conferences on

Family Systems Theory back in the

90’s, that the media is geared, designed

and oriented to scare the wits out of

the public so that the public would

get hooked on fear and keep watch-

ing, listening, reading.  They knew

our drug. He ended by saying,

with a smile on his face, that when

we returned to our hotel rooms, we

should watch the evening news, local,

state and national, to see if he was right.

And then he just chuckled. Wow! It is

really scary out there we realized. 

The next day, he suggested we stop

watching the news if we wanted to

save our lives, marriages and families.

That was pretty scary, too. And so,

for all the bad stuff that somehow

we were aware was happening out

there between the late 90’s and now

of which you don’t need a long litany

at this particular moment because we

all know intuitively about wars, pest-

ilence, droughts and terrorist attacks

just to mention a few calamities, we

concentrated on how well everything

in our world works – the toilet keeps

flushing, the furnace warms, the air con-

ditioner cools, the dish washer cleans

dishes, the clothes washer washes our

clothes, the hot water heater doesn’t

leak from the rubber hoses into the

condo below, the lights go on and off,

the car starts most of the time and air-

planes make it to their destinations

most often safely, but we don’t need

the news to tell us that like our cars

which get into a lot of accidents to no

one’s surprise.  Then, assuming life

was good and safe, after all, we suc-

cumbed, watched the evening news

and realized our worst fears, for

really real.  We had gone to Target

after Thanksgiving and before Christ-

mas and used our debit card – massive

fraud. Yikes! Destitution here we come

and just as Congress is cutting back

food stamps as we were told by smiling,

buxomy, blond women on Fox News,

which to be honest, sort of helped digest

the bad news. Then I thought, just like car

commercials, they found another old way

to keep us watching – bad news from blonds,

what a winning combo! “Honey, could I

have another bourbon straight up, three

fingers while it lasts?”

He Read a Review

He read a review of a book

debunking Christianity by

showing that St. Paul started

a new religion never envisioned

by St. James, Jesus’ brother,

the heir apparent to the Jesus

Movement of Judaism. Maybe



He had read previously that St.

Paul was the first to mythologize

Jesus from an itinerate teacher/

preacher into the Cosmic Christ,

beyond anything that had come

before but including notions

that had been around for

quite a while.  Maybe so.


And that some have spent a

considerable amount of time

demythologizing that Cosmic

Christ back to the itinerate

teacher/preacher. Maybe so.


He likes Jesus, the person of the

Gospels, when you whittle it

down to what he probably said

and did and even what would

have been in agreement with

those things, the person who

urged sacrificial love, justice,

mercy and peace, who blessed

children and stood up for the

oppressed and thumbed his

nose (metaphorically speaking)

at the ruling religious and

political classes.


Someone said that Jesus is

the mirror through which

we see the God of Life.

Maybe so.


Also, he likes the mythology

of dying and rising, resurrection

in the here and now rather

than later on “pie in the sky,

oh, what a good boy am I

individual salvation in Jesus

Christ, I’ve got mine and you

better get it just as I say”

stuff that crept in over

the ages. 


He even likes St. Paul,

the old curmudgeon,

who had the big picture

and wouldn’t let go even

when scared little minds

wanted to reduce the big

screen to a Dick Tracy

watch which is on the way

from Samsung and gave

Paul a lot of time in solitary

confinement to think and

write about it with the

muses of myth sitting on

his shoulder.


He likes the metaphors and

similes of faith like the 

parables of life in the Realm

where all those things Jesus

said and did ever and always

rise from the ashes of human

folly and speculation and then

hard, recalcitrant certainty

with the ever-present us

vs. them.


And lastly, or should he say

for now, he’s content with

“maybe so,” or even “maybe

not,” for he knows he sees

through that mirror dimly with

the hope of seeing face to

face, metaphorically speaking,

and he’ll trust that.

Of All the Times

Of all the times he’s been

in the hospital dating back

in his memory to the bowl

of ice cream to sooth his

super sore throat after he

counted bricks as the ether

was poured onto the cloth

and over his nose and mouth

when he was six to the time

as a teenager having surgery

to bring a testicle down to

the scrotum where it belonged

and of which he could not

speak at his high school and

then as an AARP member

to the ICU unit for three

days’ observation after

crushing thirteen bones in

a really stupid mountain

biking accident, what he

remembered most were

not visits from high-priced,

really busy, as they wanted

him to appreciate, physicians

or the obligatory questions

from officious nurses who

spent most of their time at

the desk writing reports and

telling black hospital humor

to pass the time, but, rather

the nurses’ aides who served

the ice cream, gave a horny teen

with a sore scrotum a back rub

and helped him forget, for the

moment, that embarrassing

surgery for a sixteen year

old and a senior citizen a

little, welcome conversation

to help pass the boredom

of the day in the regular

hospital room he was

moved to for four more

days after his three

day stay in the ICU.

Sideway Is the Right Way

Mean is the real thing

they tell me everyday

as they drive on the

highways, but everyone

seems so sweet and nice

and very, very polite and

full of full-moon light

which is today, actually,

and strange things happen,

I’m told, in full-moon light

like up is down and down

is up and sideways is side-

ways, which, it is regardless

of the phases of the moon,

and that is the way it is, and

seeing that I always see life

sideways as so many have

told me so many times, for

years not to mention months

not to mention just during

full-moons, so why should

I think this full-moon would

be any different in any way?

I thought I was looking at

life sideways, the way that

is the same way from the

left side or right side when

all the while, I was look-

ing upside down and not

right side up this full-

moon day.  Yep, now

that this day is fading

away, I see that people

are significantly meaner

than that time now al-

most yesterday, and

those same people

don’t drive nearly as

nicely as I thought

they did  that day,

now nearly yesterday,

when I had my head

in the clouds that way

that I thought was just

sideways, the under-

stood correct way

whether viewed from

the left or right way.

A Missal I Received

A missal I received in ’13 from 1988,
a note from Stanfield, the late great
professor from TJC
a friend of you and me
who went on to Purdue fame
but one who was always the same
hard-assed and hard-nosed prof.
who would never let us off
without giving our best
and may his soul rest
in the knowledge that he
did his best
and we
his students from TJC
are the beneficiaries.
And among many others
that means Vicki, friend                                                                                                                               who found and               forwarded                                                                                                                           said note,
and me.

The Detective Was Examined

The  detective was examined by

a smug, sophomoric investigator

with a smirk on his face, about

a horrendous crime scene where

the detective had to fight for her

very life. The investigator leaned

back against the desk, picked up

his cup of coffee and took a long,

slow drink while the detective

shook uncontrollably. The invest-

igator missed the human quality

of the case as she sat right in

front of him not even including

the inhumane nature of the

crime that caused the un-

controlled shaking. A seasoned

cop showed the investigator the

proverbial ropes, the investigator

woke up, smelled the roses and

then the cop helped the then

educable investigator solve the

diabolical case, which isn’t

the way it goes often in real life,

because, in part, the case needs

to be solved in one hour counting

fifteen minutes of commercials,

insulting to human intelligence

and repeated over and over and

over or forty-five minutes if it is a

BBC production shown on PBS.

When was anything significant,

such as the gaining of wisdom,

accomplished in forty-five minutes?

There may be an “ah ha” moment

in real life but usually it takes a

life-time of bouncing off those

proverbial ropes to get it and

even then, there is no guarantee.

Just think about the commercials

or go to a fiftieth high school

reunion and watch.

Way Out in the Wild and Wooly West

Way out in the wild and wooly West,

they found a downtown Phoenix deli

with online reviews proclaiming it the best,

for specialty goodies like Swedish fish so smelly.

Till Christmas they put off the Lutefisk and headcheese

but saw windmill blades blowing a zephyr breeze.

Yes, they found a box of cookies baked by the Dutch.

They paid and said, “Thank you so much,”

and tack sa mycket in Swedish and eet smakelijk (bon

appetite) in Dutch.

In the car, the passenger so eager, tore the box with

her bare hands,

and they both partook of the contents made in

Ooltgensplaat, the Netherlands.

The driver was of Swedish and Dutch tribes

and his wife of German and Irish descent

but both agreed it was a few U.S. dollars

very well spent.