V – Vexfest: Different Stereotype (NaPoWriMo #26)

I sort of got the idea for this from another A to Z blogger, Sandra of What Sandra Thinks, specifically her Bitchfest 2017, where she adds “special touches of sarcasm, darkness and foul language.” Since I find her humor refreshing, I decided to take a similar, but more serious, path.

Vexations create a state of being annoyed or frustrated. I confess that during my life I’ve been guilty of many of the things I find vexing. My greatest frustration may be my own human condition. We have many words devoted to being pissed off. I am not the only one.

***

Vexatious Me
by Bill Reynolds

With all the natural evil that be,
I am most troubled by
The moral evils that I see
Placed peeps on peeps. I’m vexed and…

Affronted by unfair stereotyping,
Aggravated by sense of entitlement,
Angered by any amount of animal abuse.
Annoyed by the foolishness of youth,
Bugged by too much welfare abuse,
Bent out of shape by all the bullies,
Disgruntled by job discriminations.
Displeased with wasting time, including mine.
Embittered by lost love.

Enraged by abuse toward women.
Exasperated by flawed governance.

Frustrated by incompetence, especially mine,
Furious over child abuse, anywhere, any time.

Indignant over unjust justice.
Infuriated by big black lies, also
Irked by little white ones.

Irritated by misunderstandings and
Miffed by gossip for fun and pleasure.
Offended by those too sensitive,
Outraged by starving children.
Peeved by human weaknesses, yet
Piqued by those better than I.
Pissed off when treated unfairly, and

Riled by my own pride.

Worried that nothing will change.

***

I failed to mention other drivers (texters, Beemer drivers, and Mercedes too), the wealthy, other people’s kids and dogs, and the folks who work at the driving license places in virtually every state. Also, virtually anyone who disagrees with me about nearly anything at all. And then there are people who are more vexatious than I.

Relax and go with the flow. We’re only human,
but let’s look both ways to enjoy the view.
Mind the gaps my friends, lest you get too twisted.

 

P – Poetry: The Greatest God Damn Thing (NaPoWriMo #19)

What do I believe?

The title of this quatrain poem is taken from a New York Quarterly, ‘Craft Interview’ with James Dickey, as quoted in the Introduction to The Art of Poetry Writing by William Packard. I’m new to poetry writing, but I have always loved it. Thus, I concur with Mr. Dickey’s assessment.

***

The Greatest God Damn Thing
by Bill Reynolds

Beating hearts bring words as rhythm flows,
the brick and mortar for posing forms.
They come to me in words of prose.
I wrangle with words to bring the storms.

I feel the beat as I tap my feet,
I catch the bop and I keep the time.
My world finds rhythm to keep the beat.
I seek my Po-voice and find the rhyme.

Mind and spirt bring forth my emotions.
Poetic verse grows as I now can hear it.
Out of me come plans and potions.
The poem I’ve written is part of my spirit.

The pleasure I found in hearing the sound.
My voice is here and my voice is there,
My emotions can show a feeling we share,
My poem’s my gift to everyone around.

**

Read, write, and love poetry silently and in several voices
as you look both ways on the highway of life.
See and hear all the rhythm and rhyme.
But, mind the silence of the gaps.

***

I agree — Naturally

It’s Hopeless – That’s Good

hopelessness2

One of my favorite movie lines is, “What if this is as good as it gets?” Watch the movie trailer here.

This scene takes place in a shrink’s office after Melvin Udall’s (Jack Nicholson) doctor tells him that he needs an appointment. The doctor is pleased that Udall maybe taking responsibility and he acknowledges Udall’s difficulty with that. Have you ever asked yourself, is this as good as it gets?

Let’s answer this empowering question with, “It is what it is.” But, it’s more than that, and it applies to life.

Sometimes, feelings of sadness or depression blow through me like gusts of wind through the branches of trees. These visiting emotions last just long enough, and are disturbing enough, to let me know they visited. Then, just as quickly, they’re gone. I feel normal again. I know the feelings aren’t far away and they will return. When they come back, I have no way to expel them. These feelings have their own will; one I don’t control. When they return, I hope they don’t stay long.

I fancy myself a happy person, although I find happiness in my own way. Life is about how we feel. I love life and living – being me. I accept reality, which gets a bad rap for being negative. Life is what it is, which is mostly good for me. I know it’s good from my experience with when it was bad. I don’t like feeling desperate, but I feel hopeless at times. It’s not the same as depressed.

I’m hopeful about many of the things over which I have no control. When I fly, I hope the airplane doesn’t crash. When I drive through the I-90 tunnels toward Seattle, I hope there’s not an earthquake. Fear could prevent me from doing either. Planes crash and earthquakes happen. In The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck talks about denial keeping us from dying of freight. I’m not sure about that, but it might help me get to Austin. It’s not denial – shit happens.

hopelessness3However, I am willing to work with my feelings of hopelessness. I’m not referring to the charming but hopeless romantic, or being merely incompetent (Bill’s hopeless). And I’m not talking about sadness, fear, or denial. I’m talking about the feeling that can cause despair (being without hope). Back in the day, ‘twas that conclusion I expressed when I’d say OMGIF! (Oh my God, I’m fucked).

Some things are hopeless. While my online dictionary defines hopelessness as causing despair; being desperate, wretched, demoralized, or impossible; I prefer a simpler hopelessness: feeling the loss of hope. And hope is “a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency (control, influence, or power); it means you are essentially powerless.” (Derrick Jensen)

I recall an audio tape where the narrator asked, “What is the best hoped-for outcome of any relationship?” My answer is best expressed in the movie The Notebook. What I like most about that movie is Noah, who never gives up on his love for Allie despite their apparent hopeless situation. Spoiler alert: they don’t live happily ever after (which is my point). But they do have a great life.

Think of the Buddhist issue with desire as the cause of all of our problems. Is a desire not something hoped for? Two related Buddhist sayings are: “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails,” and “When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.”

Time for some philosophical music….

Is it all dust in the wind? Are we? Metaphorically, perhaps so; in reality, we will be. The song talks about the impermanence of passing time, the endlessness of earth and water, and the certainty of death, whereby our only immortality is by returning to earth and water.

Embracing hopelessness is not the same as giving up. It’s a form of acceptance. It is time for us to do what we can. It is time for our action. It helps us to live more in the present moment. We rely less on tomorrow being a better day. I’ve been accused of being negative when I defended reality. Others may want to live in fantasy, to deny reality to the point of making things worse (i.e., not seeking medical assistance), but that feeds denial and makes things worse. Accepting things as they really are, even when hopeless, gives us a better life.

hopelessness1I read this good article about hopelessness in the Orion Magazine called “Beyond Hope,by Derrick Jensen. He talks about hopelessness as a general topic, but specifically applies environmentalism as an example. Hopelessness does not deprive us of that final act of defiance.

As we accept the reality of hopelessness,
we need to look both ways and mind the gaps.

Changing Priorities

“Here’s to When I Gave a Feck”

Tom Selleck

Tom Selleck

“Look, Garrett, I’m closer to the end than to the beginning. So, some of this stuff, I just don’t have it in me to care anymore…It’s the rest of it, the posturing, the little digs, the wasting my time….” ~ Police Commissioner Frank Reagan; from the TV show Blue Bloods, Season 6, Episode 9, “Hold Outs.”

 

I can relate. I often say, “I don’t care.” But I do; in an odd, almost cavalier way. Normally, when I think I can help someone or fix something, I give my time and effort to the issue. I now care less about many of the things that were high on my list when I worked at my paying job. I haven’t lost my motivation; I now own it.

Opinions others have of me have lost much of their importance. Nowadays, I care more about issues that were of little interest during my past. Conversely, my “that’s bull shit” list is longer than ever. I worked, if you can call it that, for about 50 years. Now retired, my perspective on what’s important is changed.

Since age 18, excluding my time as an undergrad, I had one six-month period of unemployment. Even then, I treated my job search and being Mr. Mom, as two jobs. I enjoyed them both. The pay was horrendous, but the benefits were good.

I learned about myself during that time, simply by being me. That was the early 90s, the decade that I like to call my figure it out for myself years. Looking back, I now recognize that I was depressed and confused. I worried about things like money, a job, and my kids. I was more overwhelmed than I like to admit. I paid my dues. But now?

You know you want it, right?

You know you want it, right?

I wear blue jeans, shorts, or sweat pants. It’s like every day is casual Friday, but it’s really another Saturday. I’ve not worn khakis more than twice in 18 months. I haven’t worn a tie, suit, or sports jacket either.

I care about style, as long as it’s casual. While I still think wearing argyle socks with sandals is a sin for which any man should burn for eternity, there’s something to be said for not caring what others (like me) think, even in the choice of clothing styles. I toy with the idea of wearing a kilt cuz wife says I have great legs. Some opinions will always count.

It shouldn’t matter what most other people think. I’ve read that what they think of me is not my business. But it often does matter. If I ask you what you think, feel, or believe, you should want me to care about your answer. If I do, it’s fair enough.

If I like your idea, I may accept it, implement it, or otherwise go with it. When someone says, “You should do a blog on that,” it gets my attention. I often write with inspiration like that from someone else.

I’m a grandparent. A parent called to complain about a grandchild. I listened, but said nothing. I allowed my child to rant and get it out. My wife wasn’t home, so I was on my own for the call and the associated drama. These are my monkeys in my family circus, after all.

i-dont-care5Then I hear, “You haven’t said anything, Dad. What do you think?”

I take a deep breath and wonder if I should respond (the answer here is no).

Raising my kids, I made the same mistakes. But now, I have a different perspective. I answer with a quetion, “Are you sure you want to know?”

My ranting offspring responds, “Yes.” The tension builds. While I knew that this wouldn’t end well that day, I also knew it would eventually pass, and it did. I blurted out my answer as the Frank Reagan of my family.

“It doesn’t matter. What you’re so upset about is no big deal. There are more important issues in your child’s life. This is minor and kind of expected. As children, we’ve all had problems like this. We get over it and so will he. Allow him the dignity of experiencing and learning about life on life’s terms, not your conditions. I suggest you calm down and wait.”

Dial tone.

Blue Bloods writers would handle this scene at the family dinner table with everyone drinking wine.

snarkasm12I’m a here and now kind of guy. While I firmly believe in living in the present, I acknowledge that each life has a future and that’s the direction we live it. Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s funny dinner chat or neighborhood gossip.

Life goes on, and everyone should enjoy every possible breathtaking minute. What other people think is probably unimportant, and may be dangerous. So learning when to have had enough, to be tired of the BS, and to move on; to no longer give a shit, is good.

“But Mikey’s father, champion of all pint drinkers, is like my uncle Pa Keating, he doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart what the world says and that’s the way I’d like to be myself” ~ From Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt

So, care as you must. Live in your world and in your time. Figure out what’s important to you and to people close to you. Make choices, change your mind, look back and look forward. That makes perfect sense to me, I hope it does to you, too.

Meh takes a big swig of the foamy grog and grunts, “I don’t give a feck.”

Live life forward, understand it backwards,
mind the gap, and look both ways.

Who Forgives Whom?

Here I go again—trying to write a short blog on a topic suited for a book. I’ve taught classes on forgiveness, so I gained some insight. But that doesn’t mean I’m better than others at forgiving–I’m not. Two short stories for you, one related to the other.

First, as I was listening to a minister talk to his congregation about topics to teach in adult classes, he rattled off some that he thought his flock might struggle with. A few hands went up with each topic, until he mentioned forgiveness. I looked around to see two-thirds of them requesting instruction on forgiveness.

I taught the series of classes. To those people, this was the topic most of them wanted to deal with. I suspect that it was the most important.

forgiveness4Then, as I was teaching and near the conclusion of that class, one man asked, “Do I need to forgive Madalyn Murray O’Hair?”

I looked at him as I ran snarkastic comments through my mind, working on being kind to those who might have missed the point.

I said, “She was an atheist who died a tragic death about ten years ago. Why would you need to forgive her? Did she harm you?”

He said, “She took prayer out of our schools.”

If standing and glaring while trying to maintain composure sends a message to the rest of the class, that’s what I did. I scratched me head, hoping to end this soon. Insulting and vulgarities seemed inappropriate to the church venue.

I responded, “Well, I feel certain that Madalyn could not care less. She never had power to remove prayer from public schools, but the Supreme Court did. However, that case was not hers. Official, sponsored prayer had been voted to be unconstitutional two years before her case was decided. Hers involved her son and forced bible reading. Do you want to make a list of the Justices who decided that case so you can work on forgiving them? You don’t need to forgive her. But I think you should know exactly what it is that you are not forgiving her for.”

I don’t know what he was after, or if I was as condescending as I felt. Maybe he was wanting to discuss people that we might all have trouble forgiving. Hitler was and is still available, if we want to include the dead.

Forgiveness1

When I’ve harmed others and I feel remorse, I’d like to be forgiven. I realize such forgiveness is not a dismissal of my behavior. For that, I’ll always be responsible. When I’m forgiven, the personal relationship may be open to reconciliation. While it’s forever changed, the relationship may be worth saving. If so, the burden is mine.

When I’ve been harmed, I don’t need the person who wronged me to want forgiveness. They need not apologize, although that helps considerably. I do need to know exactly what they did that requires forgiving. I’ve learned that forgiveness has no easy on-off switch. I must want to forgive; then I must begin the process of forgiving.

forgiveness3

Forgiveness may take considerable time. But forgiving gives me a personal freedom and comfort that I enjoy, not to mention it frees my mind for other uses. Forgiving doesn’t mean that the transgression wasn’t serious or damaging. If it happens again, discernment trumps forgiveness. I want to forgive because it’s good for me. Any benefit to the transgressor is supplementary to my own.

I am not preaching forgiveness. I’m advocating happiness. We don’t need to forgive everyone or everything. In the link here, are several articles on the mental health advantages of forgiveness. They also warn about some issues with forgiveness. There may be advantages to not forgiving in cases of sexual abuse, since anger and a demand for justice seem to empower victims. I’ll add victims of spousal abuse for similar reasons. There may be other situations where forgiveness needs to wait.

Finally, there must always be justice. We strive for life to be fair. When Pope JPII went to forgive the man who shot him in an assassination attempt, they hugged and the Pope made is forgiveness known. Then, the Pope left, leaving the man to complete his prison sentence.

 

forgiveness2

The power of forgiveness rests with, and benefits most, the person wronged or harmed. Forgiving does not mean it was ok. If we can get on with our lives and rise above harmful difficulties, we can find relief and maybe happiness.

May we all find the strength and wisdom to move toward forgiveness when and where it’s wise and we’re able.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Look both ways.

Respect, Tolerance, and Silence

Imagine this. What if we could talk about anything—face-to-face? We each could honestly tell the other what we really think. Why can’t we? Should we? Why would we want to? Somehow, after adolescence, I lost that open and honest relationship with the world.

Respect1You might say, “Bill, I don’t agree with you. Explain how you decided that.” I may provide my information based upon my experience, reading, some internet or TV source, or maybe I’d inform you about some scientific evidence. If you still disagree with me, you may then counter what I said by presenting similar evidence.

Or you might look at me and say, “I don’t care what evidence you have. I still don’t agree with you. I prefer to believe otherwise.” Maybe you think I’m nuts (get in line). Then I might say, “Ok, I suppose we need another round. It’s your turn to buy, right?”

A dictionary defines respect like this.

  1. A feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.
  2. A feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way.
  3. A particular way of thinking about or looking at something.

Respect5We may respect each other—people, not necessarily ideas or beliefs. I think we should always be civil, polite, and treat each other well. I don’t mean politically correct. Maybe we like (or love) each other. If we share any common opinions, those should make our relationship better. At some point, we may even find respect (see 1 or 2, above) for each other’s opinions.

If we differ in some of our opinions, do we opt to keep our opinions or beliefs private (not talk)? Or, we may publicize some or all of what we think. We may share beliefs only between us or within a limited group—semi-private.

Respect2

What about our opinions or beliefs regarding sports, movies, music, restaurants, work issues, pot legalization, politics, or religion? How should we balance our differences while keeping with the priority of our relationship? What is our relationship? Are we family, friends, co-workers, or acquaintances in some other way? May we discuss or argue?

Is the metaphorical elephant in the room? If I am an atheist and you are religious (Christian, Jew, Pagan, Muslim; you pick), how is that going to work? Should we have that talk? If not, case closed. If we do talk, how do we do it? It seems to me that for some people, this is no problem. While others should not discuss religion or politics.

REspect4Respect for, or tolerance of, religious belief is an interesting topic in itself, especially to an atheist. All atheists want equal treatment (or respect, if you prefer) and tolerance in return from believers and religious persons—equal to what those folks want from everyone else. Look at the definitions of respect above one more time. Does the believer choose number 1 or 2 regarding someone’s atheism? Stop rolling your eyes and answer the question. Ok, then we shouldn’t talk about it. We need to move on.

Let’s drop a level and try tolerance. It’s defined as the willingness to tolerate (duh!) something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not agree with. That can work, but respect is gone. We don’t need it. However, we’re back at square-one because we still can’t have that talk. The elephant now wants to leave us because it’s grown impatient with our conundrum and is tired of us being wishy-washy. We’re merely putting up with each other’s crazy ideas.

Two weeks ago, someone objected to atheists saying, “I don’t believe in God.” Somehow, that is a profession of faith in her view. It’s not, but I agree with her point, sort of. I would prefer to say, “There are no gods.” It’s not so much a question of what I believe, or don’t believe. It is a fact and should be so-stated.

Following that comment, some believers would be personally offended by my blasphemy. They would be off, following the elephant down the street brooding about how insensitive and rude I was. They might rant about me in their blog. Perhaps they’d unfriend me on Facebook. Maybe they’d call my mom. Why? Because I was not respectful of their religious beliefs.

REspect3

If you are a religious person, I don’t need to have feelings regarding the goodness, value, or importance of your religion any more than you need to regarding my atheism. We do not, and we will not, agree. We may tolerate each other’s opinion or beliefs, up to a point. We should be respectful of each other’s dignity and rights. But opinions and beliefs are not rights.

Respect6We should certainly not be limited in our actions by any religion, nor are we under any obligation to pay for any religious practice.

I am still working through this delicate, walking on egg shells, situation. How do you handle this? Are you willing and able to have the talk? What advice would you have? Have you had any good, or disastrous, outcomes to these personal, face-to-face discussions?

Life is complex, look both ways.

 

Hear the Music

music2

My music–I like 1970s soft rock and disco, although they’re not exclusive to my play lists. During the 70s, songs didn’t have the same meaning they do now. These days, my current emotions change how I hear that same music. Today, my music taste is deeper and broader.

music1I can listen to a song and apply it to any time in my life–past, present, or future. Beautiful songs stir me emotionally. I have thoughts of love and family–those memories we carry with us. As I listen to lyrics, I contrive personal interpretation and meaning.

I’ve selected four songs: one from the late 1960s, two from the 1970’s, and one from the mid 1980s. While song writers couldn’t foresee my thoughts and feelings years later, it often worked out that way.

A Whiter Shade of Pale (by Procol Harum, 1967)

I don’t know the writer’s intent or inspiration. Some have said it has to do with a sexual encounter. It also parallels with the Titanic tragedy.

It’s a wonderful song. Most Brits and I have enjoyed it for years. This was the most-played song in England for the past 75 years. It’s haunting and mysterious. I see it as sad, but in an oddly good way. In the manner that sadness is not always a bad part of life.

I selected the video with Sarah Brightman (circa, 2000) because the older video with Procol Harum, a product of its time, is not my favorite. This one has better imaging and Sarah’s singing of A Whiter Shade of Pale is great. The original, by the original group, is the classic favorite.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ToU5OshV4g

Hotel California (by The Eagles, 1977)

The intent and inspiration for this Eagles classic is well-documented. But, it depends on when they were asked. There’s a lot written and said about this one. What Don Henley said in a 2002, 60 Minutes interview was, “It’s basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about.”

I agree that this is about life. I blow off the tie with LA. As my life moves forward I feel emotions and do things to experience life. I think my past, given what life had to work with, combined with my consciousness to make me – me. My two favorite lines in this song, which is also haunting and mysterious are:

“We are all just prisoners here, of our own device” …………….and

“We are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!”

Click on the link here to listen.

The Sad Café (by The Eagles, 1979)

Even more straightforward, this song is about their (musicians and writers) experience at The Troubadour, a club in LA where musicians met, back in the day. It’s a look back.

I love this song. I’ll say haunting again. This one draws me back to my younger days (my 20s and 30s) when I had more tomorrows than yesterdays. It’s not only about the dreams. It is about the feelings. I can still have those feelings when I listen to songs like this. The video is especially good because of all the pictures of the artists and musicians. I enjoy the photos casting the dark rainy nights.

https://vimeo.com/45249782

Dance Me to the End of Love (Leonard Cohen, 1984)

When I first heard this song, it came to me as a beautiful love song that could ride through eternity. Is there an end to love? Later, I learned that Cohen’s inspiration for the song was the Holocaust. He’s spoken of the string groups that played as others were gassed and burned. That changed the song for me. But did not the victims have love? Weren’t their loves in this life being cut short?

While I’ll never forget that Leonard Cohen wrote this song because of one of the most profoundly sad times in history, I cannot let go of the love and how it is a forever thing. Love and its beauty (with Leonard’s haunting voice) is what this song is about.

The video doesn’t betray Cohen’s inspiration, but it clearly implies long time love. Except for flashbacks, the people in the video share more yesterdays than they will tomorrows.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGorjBVag0I

music3Music mines deep into the treasures of our minds, hearts, memories, hopes, and dreams. It changes as we change, while it stays the same. May we enjoy music and the love songs that evoke our emotions. Let’s all find ecstasy in the music that makes us who we are; be we happy or sad, in or out of love, young or old. Let’s all dance to the end of love. And may that end be an eternity away.