My thoughts on prayer

Understand, I’m an agnostic. I’ve never been blessed with the gift of faith. I have spent a great deal of time researching the topic of early Christianity, as well as some time looking into Judaism, Mormonism, Islam and, most recently, Scientology. I don’t deny anyone’s faith. How could I, I have none.

I have spent a lot of time considering what would and would not be appropriate based on the precepts of these faiths. I’d like to tell you my conclusions on the topic of prayer.

Assuming there is a God, Supreme Being, deity, whatever. Also, assuming that he’s a benevolent creator, he’s looking out for us, intervening from time to time, i.e.…sending a son to Earth. Being a God, he’d be omniscient. He’d know everything. From the beginning until the end. This doesn’t speak to predestination. Everyone has free will, he just knows what we’ll choose. Time to him is like height to us. He sees it all at one time.

Based on all of the above, I first determined that there is only one appropriate prayer. That would be, “Thy will be done.” Being benevolent, he has our best interests in mind, by our, I mean the human race. His vision is not on the outcome any individual person’s crisis. He knows that we’ll have difficulties. How many times have you heard, “It’s God’s will”? His vision is on the long term. He knows what the consequences of decisions made today will be in 500 years. If he decides that Grandma needs to die on August 14th, we have to trust that decision. He knows what he’s doing. Our only position must be,”Thy will be done.”

After reflection on this point, I realized that there’s actually a second appropriate prayer. “Help me to accept your will.” Sometimes we have trouble accepting that which we don’t understand and I believe that it’s appropriate to ask for help with that.

I’ve spoken to people on this topic and they’ve shared their family’s prayers from home with me. I hear things asked for such as health and happiness for the family, for focus and determination to accomplish certain goals, and such prayers.  There are many others, but I believe they all basically fall into one of those two categories. The health and happiness prayer is motivated by self interest. If it’s in his plan, it will happen without being asked for. The second prayer is goal setting which is admirable and, I believe, should be encouraged, it’s not something to ask a deity for. “God helps those…” Goal setting is a skill to be used in our daily lives to achieve certain things which matter to us. These are earthly matters, not spiritual ones.

Religion is a lesson in humility. Humble yourself before the one who created you. Thy will be done. Whatever you think is all right with me because I trust in you. I’m a pawn and I’m here to serve. Any greatness I have is a credit to your greatness, not of my own doing. Any wisdom I have, any intellect I have, any physical abilities I have, and so on.

That’s it. Two prayers. Word them any way you like. Wrap them around any situation you’re in. Two prayers.

Patriotic

In all of the rhetoric I see about society there’s something I don’t like. Let me start with an example. If most people were to come into a great deal of money, winning the lotto, an inheritance or maybe having bought into a great stock investment that suddenly went through the roof, those people would likely share their good fortune with their family. As we sit around and discuss those types of things, that’s what I hear most often is that people would make sure their loved ones were secure, healthy and educated. No questions about whether their loved ones earned the financial rewards being shared or whether their problems were self created. We take care of our own.

But in the same situation there are certain sectors of our society that feel no responsibility toward our greater society. If, through their own inventiveness or the luck of genealogy, they happen to be financially fortunate, there’s no inclination to take care of those portions of society that aren’t so fortunate. That’s their prerogative. We live in a free country. But if those that have are selfish and don’t invest in the future greatness of our society but rather use their fortune to glorify themselves how can they call themselves patriots? I hear, excuse me for singling them out, folks on the Fox news channel saying things favoring the financially fortunate and deriding the less fortunate. They favor removing funding for helping those less fortunate portions of our society to raise themselves. They like the gap. But how does that help society? Aren’t they putting their own self interest above that of the country? If Paul Revere had valued his own safety over his national responsibility would we call him a patriot?  There are many who lived then who did just that and our country flourished and became great but the ones we hold up as patriots are the ones who sacrificed their own for the good of everyone. If you’re one who believes that your own personal wealth and power are yours and not to be used to raise everyone that’s fine. That’s your business. Just, please, don’t fool yourself that you’re in any way patriotic.

Letter to the Editor

Back in 2001 Winona Ryder got busted for shoplifting. I wrote a letter to the editor and they called me because they wanted to put it in the newspaper but it was too long. Their maximum length was 100 words. They wanted to know if they could cut my letter to 100 words. I politely declined. Here, for the first time, is my letter to the editor. By the way, I live in Spokane, WA, USA.

I was shocked and dismayed by the decision reached by the jury in LA regarding Winona Ryder’s shoplifting charges. What kind of world do we live in where celebrities are held to the same rules as average ordinary citizens?

I believe that it guarantees in the Constitution of these here United States of America that you’ll be judged by a jury of your peers. Who on that jury can say that they’re one of Ms. Ryder’s peers? Oh sure, they had a studio executive, but that would be like calling the busboy in one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants Emeril’s peer. Would any one of those jurors be recognized as they entered a glamorous restaurant? I don’t think so. Would they be stopped by Joan Rivers on the red carpet on the way to presenting at the Academy Awards? Once again, I don’t think so.

No, I believe we have a duty to worship our celebrities and to do so from afar. We must give them the right to set their own rules, to live as they see fit. The laws of the masses shouldn’t, nay can’t apply to those who shine so brightly.

I was inspired by the events in La-la land to reflect on our situation here in the Inland Empire. I’ve seen other economies around the country turn to tourism as a way to bring in outside dollars. What we need here is a tourist hook. Maybe we should start recruiting celebrities to relocate here with the promise that they would have a free rein. They could walk in any store, restaurant, or entertainment establishment and take whatever they want without harassment from local law enforcement.

Imagine the possibilities. Walking through Northtown and bumping into Tom Cruise. “Oh, sorry Mr. Cruise. Is there anything I can do to make your day more pleasant?” Crossing the street downtown and being narrowly missed by a speeding Drew Barrymore? You could wave back at her only you’d use all of your fingers. Or, like a dream come true, you might be a clerk in one of the stores the celebrities would visit. “Certainly I’ll take your wedding pictures Mr. Ford. When will Ms. Flockhart be arriving?”

People from around the world would be dying to book reservations to visit and stay in our town. The money would come pouring in and all we’d have to do is sit around and scoop it up with the same shovels we use to clear our sidewalks of snow.

Oh yes. Nothing like a celebrity trial to clear my mind.

The Texas Shit Pit Story

This is absolutely true. My kids grew up hearing this story.

I used to work at a mine outside of Houston, TX in a little town named Clodine (pronounced claw-DEEN). I was the plant electrician. Our office was a little cinder block building and all of the drains for this building ran into a pit outside the building into a covered pit. Yes, including the toilet. Inside this pit was a submersible pump we used to pump the raw sewage into the local stream. I know, very nice. This was the 80’s and apparently the authorities didn’t know about us. Anyway, when this pump stopped working it was my job to fix it. So we would pull the cover back, hook up a portable pump to get as much out of the pit as we could and then I had to crawl down in and work on the broken pump. Now I had two choices. I could either bitch, moan and complain the whole time or I could sing, laugh and make jokes while I was down there. Either way I was standing in a pit coated with human excrement. I chose the sing and laugh option. The point of this true story is that happiness is a decision you make, not a result of your surroundings. Whatever you have going on  at work or in your life probably isn’t as offensive as the Texas Shit Pit. Decide to be happy while you go about your business.

BTW, neither of my kids ever implemented this lesson.

Carol

This is a letter I wrote about my friend Carol, who’s married, never sent but ended up going to her house sitting in her living room with her husband and telling them this story. While I was telling it, she went to her bedroom and came our with the dress she wore that night. Anyway, this is my story. BTW, I’m 56 years old now.Oh, and I think I’ll add a picture of us that night.Image

I’ve told several people this story over the past couple of weeks and thought you might like to hear it. It’s about being in love. Not the comfortable kind of love you share with someone after years together, or someone you’ve been friends with for a while and full time companionship is the next step. This is about the kind of love where your feet don’t touch the ground, you have stars in your eyes, where there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the world except the two of you. This is about the only time in my life I felt that way.

I was on a date with a beautiful girl, as long as I’ve known her I’ve always thought she was beautiful. She had invited me to a banquet. She wore a full length dress, brown with yellow, orange and white floral sleeves. We were at the Brown Derby restaurant outside Akron. Dinner was finished, as were the awards, and the dancing had begun. She and I made our way to and outside the back door. Out back there was a hill and we walked to the top. It wasn’t raining, it was drizzling slightly, not enough to stop us from going up there. We walked up, talking about I don’t remember what, we’d been friends a while by then, and when we got to the top we looked down at the restaurant. I took her in my arms and kissed her.

At that moment I felt like I’d never felt before, and as it turns out ever again. It was magical. I was swept away by so much emotion, I don’t have words to explain how I felt. I know that we went back to the party, but she was all I could think about. I imagine that I had some stupid look on my face, because this was the feeling that poems are written about. I drove her back to the dorm so in love with her, and when I walked her to her dorm, I didn’t want to leave. I did, but on the way home, I found that she had left her purse in my car. I was elated. I was going to see her again. I turned around and headed back. When I walked to the desk and had her paged, I couldn’t wait for her to return to the lobby.

That’s where the story turns. You see, part of the memory is that she was feeling the same things. When we kissed she, too, was swept away to that magical place. The reason she forgot her purse is because, like me, her head was a muddled mess and her heart was filled. But, when she stepped off the elevator, I crashed to the ground. I looked at her and it was obvious that something had changed, that she no longer felt for me the way she had minutes before. She later told me that the catalyst for the change was a phone call from an old boyfriend in California, which caused confusion. However, the feeling was gone, never to return. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved her, I still do, just not the same way. The magic was taken away.

I’ve spoken to many people about this. I’ve asked them if they’ve ever felt that feeling. Most say no. I feel very very fortunate to have experienced what we did. I’ll never minimize it or forget it. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that way again, I don’t know if I can. I’m 44 and I’m not done living, but maybe you only get one chance at that. I know that I’ll love again, but probably never like that, and I thank you for that.

Maroon 5 and the Doobie Brothers.

I was talking to a young friend of mine recently after she expressed a love for Matchbox 20. I, jokingly, suggested that she “upgrade” to Maroon 5. I actually like both groups. However, a friend of hers said that she thought that Maroon 5 was much better during their Songs About Jane period. This reminded me of similar sentiments decades earlier when the Doobie Brothers changed their sound after Michael McDonald joined the group. Speaking in favor of the changes I’ll say this, musicians get to the level of professionals because of a love of the music. You can’t be great if you don’t love it. But, you’re influenced by both the others you play with and the money. If you don’t get paid, you have to find another career. Other players have their own styles that a musician incorporates when playing together. Music company executives and fans who demand more of the same are doing a disservice to the artists by attempting to keep them in a pigeonhole and not allowing them to grow and follow their inspiration. A perfect example of following your instincts is Pink. Her record company freaked when she made M!ssundaztood. Look it up. Anyway, love what you love musically but support the artists that move in different directions that change the sound of their music whether you like it or not. It’s their music, not yours.

Antonio Banderas

I’m getting ready for work and the Mickey D’s commercial for the McCafe comes on. Senor Banderas narrates. Brings to mind again that advertisers understand that we as a nation believe that there is always better than here. If someone sounds like they’re from some exotic foreign land, they know things we don’t. If it’s a European formula or Aussie secret it must be better than something from here. IMO, this is self defeating. Stuff from here employs locals. Just saying.