Black Lives Matter?

A number of years ago a friend of mine had a buddy who happened to be black. That man was also a professional trumpet player. He was driving through Pasadena, California, obeying every traffic law, but was pulled over. Two officers approached him and made him get out of the car and stand with them behind his car. One officer looked into the car and saw the trumpet case. He asked the man what it was and the man told him. The officers looked at each other, discussing the fact that they thought he was lying to them. They said they needed him to prove it wasn’t stolen and that he could play. They got the trumpet out and handed it to him. But first, so he wouldn’t try to run away, they made him pull down his pants to his ankles. There he was, pants bunched around his feet, playing the trumpet while cars passed, and while the two police officers laughed at him.

Another friend of mine runs a program that mentors kids in poorer areas of Pasadena and Los Angeles. He helps them graduate high school and gets them into colleges. He had one student who has to regularly drive through San Marino to get to art school. He’s black. Every time he gets pulled over, most likely because the police officer says, “you match the description of someone we’re looking for,” he puts a notch on his dashboard. The last I heard the count was up over thirty-five.

My friend, James, who happens to be black and I were talking. I asked him how many times he’d been pulled over for no reason. He lost count.

My friend Byron, who happens to be black, received a phone call on his cell phone. Obeying the law, he pulled to the side, put the car in park, and answered the phone. A police officer yanked his cruiser in behind Byron, leaped out, and yelled at him, asking him why he pulled the car over when he saw a police car.

Another friend of mine who wished to remain anonymous worked at a large, influential church. This was a relatively multi-ethnic church, but primarily white. My friend is black. He pulled his car into the church parking lot and was checking his text before joining the others inside. Three police cars screamed in all around him, made him get out of the car, turned him around against his car, and handcuffed him. After he finally convinced him that he wasn’t the person “who matched the description of someone they were looking for” they let him go without an apology.

These are five situations. I’ve been pulled over a few times in my life and every single time except for one I deserved to be pulled over. I’ve never been stopped and told that I matched the description of someone they were looking for.

Now, please hear me out on this one, especially if you are a police officer. I believe in the work of the police. I believe that across this amazing country we have thousands of police officers who, while placing their lives at risk every single day, are trying their best to do the job they were called to do in a manner that is worthy of the badge they wear. Seriously. There is simply a handful who, for whatever reason, carry something inside them that lessens the value of a person of color. 

That being said, I have some advice for white people. Please give some grace to the Black Lives Matter movement. Sure, they may not be doing everything right as you see it. Sure, things are often said that may cause you anger or concern. But we have a beautiful set of people in our society who genuinely feel hurt. Anger is a responsive byproduct emotion that has its roots in feeling hurt. So many of our brothers and sisters who have darker skin have felt constant fear when around our police officers, in spite of there being no need for concern the majority of the time. When the killings continue I think these good people simply had had enough.

One more thing. When we white folks hear “Black Lives Matter” and immediately shoot back with “ALL LIVES MATTER,” I’m quite sure this does nothing to help the situation. I’m also quite sure that the black community understands and agrees with the fact that all lives matter. Why don’t we just let them express their frustration and maybe see what we can do to help things?

As with any advice, feel free to take it or leave it. If you disagree with me, that’s OK. But maybe just think a little more. Maybe offer a little grace. I come from a Christian ilk and I believe it is a Christian thing to try and understand a group of people who feel marginalized from time to time…or a lot of the time.

Addendum: Since George Floyd’s death we have seen murder again. I was driving alone in my car the other day thinking about this and suddenly yelled at the top of my lungs to nobody in particular, “This has GOT to end!!!” Total and complete reform of our law enforcement agencies must happen, and I believe it finally…might.

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Memorial Day

I woke up this morning, Monday morning, Memorial Day morning. Memorial Day. That’s the day we remember and pay tribute to those who have given their lives for others and their country by serving in the armed forces. As many mornings go, it was quiet and peaceful. I was able to think, meditate, pray, read scripture, etc. I found myself thinking about this day, specifically that concept of “giving their lives…” for others.

I have never served in the military. I signed up for the draft at the ripe old age of eighteen, though was never called. I went to college. I studied concepts. The only reason I ever picked up a weapon/firearm was for recreational purposes. The only fights I’ve participated in were the typical scraps that young boys had, and those were few enough to count on one hand. And I never feared for my life in those moments. There it is. I never feared for my life.

My great grandfather was in the Army. My grandfather was in the Army. My dad was in the Army. My brothers Steve and Avery were in the Army. That’s a very short list that could continue with many other relatives and friends known to me. I recently had a conversation with Avery who served in Korea, came home for a spell, then was shipped off to Afghanistan during our country’s attempts at fighting the Taliban. He was fortunate enough to have never had to fire his rifle at another human being. He was unfortunate enough to feel the fear of warfare. Of going out on a patrol, not knowing if his vehicle would hit an improvised explosive device, not knowing if someone would get off a shot that would take him down. The fear of warfare.

My grandfather felt the fear as he and his unit crossed over the Rhine River from France into Germany in 1945. He saw things that shook him to the core of his being. I remember the first time I realized what that experience did to him. I was young, maybe ten or eleven, and it was the fourth of July. We were all headed out to see the fireworks. Except for Grandpa. He stayed home. I was told that the sounds reminded him too much of the war. That was thirty-plus years earlier and the sounds still took him right back. (I recently saw some fireworks and I thought of him again.)

It’s the fear that keeps nagging at me. I’ve heard the stories. Read the accounts. I remember talking to a WWII vet who fought against the NAZI war machine during the Battle of the Bulge. He’d faced hand to hand combat four different times. He remembered like it had just happened killing a German soldier with his bayonet, seeing his eyes roll back in his head just before his heart stopped. He remembered the piece of shrapnel that entered his leg forcing him to hide in the snow by a tree for three days until the allied army advanced back into his area to rescue him. He cried several times while sharing this with me. I saw his eyes. I saw the fear.

Yes, it’s the immense terror that gets me. To give one’s life for another is one thing. To do it in this way is unimaginable. Willingly marching into a situation that cannot truly be explained, only felt, knowing that each second could be your last. Then that fateful second being your last.

You. That’s what you did, you great soldier. You brave knight of the battlefield. You most likely weren’t fearless. You most likely were terrified. You had horrific sounds erupting all around you. You saw things that I never want to see. You might have suffered intensely before breathing your last. It may have happened quickly for you. But you did it. You gave up your life for others. How am I supposed to repay that??? I didn’t do anything to earn that! You didn’t even know me!

I’m going to a barbecue today. I will make small talk with people that I am meeting for the first time. I won’t talk about you or what you did. But it will be with me. I’ll wear what you did like my own skin because I get to freely breathe air, eat potato salad, enjoy a burger because someone like you did something I’m not sure I could ever do. That’s your gift to me, to us…to all of us. I wish you could see the celebrations. I wish you could be with your family one more time. Thank you for your gift.

For those of you who felt that fear and made it back to us: Thank you, too. We are supposed to celebrate you on Veteran’s Day, but I’m going to think about you today as well.

What Might It Take?

What might it take to lay down my sword?
   When I’ve finished the cutting and slashing,
   or been slashed a bunch?
   When I’ve laid lots of waste and my soul is sated?
   Or when I lift my eyes and see
   I am in a vast rubble pile?

What might it take to lay down my sword?
   When I see that all your supporters and cronies are finally gone,
   leaving you to fend solo, in a corner, a caged animal?
   Or when I am the soloist in the only solitary cave I can find?
   When the avalanche of death is on you with
   sickle-man at the head of the rubble on a spree?
   Or rather charging at me…or both as much?

What might it take to lay down my sword?
   Maybe when we both are barely standing,
     sweat pouring,
       lungs heaving in violent hurricane waves,
          leaning hard on said swords.

We stare, we stagger, swagger gone
Perhaps we should have thought this through
Maybe now is the right time
I’ll lose my head, but I’ve lost it already

You Called My Name?

“You called my name?” asked Dylan with great excitement.

“Yes, I did!” I called back, hoping to match that excitement.

Then again, “You called my name?”

And again, “Yes, I did!”

“You picked me?”

“Yes, I did!”

“You called my name?”

“Yes, I did!” (Continue this for the next five minutes.)

That was a conversation I had with one of the athletes at the Tri-Valley Regional Games for Special Olympics. I was working the “Bullpen” which was a staging area where the athletes gathered prior to competing in an event. It was Dylan’s turn because his name was on my list.

Dylan has what we would consider to be intellectual disabilities. He can’t process things like I can, or like many of my friends. He has some physical disabilities as well, in that he can’t move with the kind of ease that I have, or many of my friends.

I most likely learned a thousand lessons that Saturday, many of which will come to me as I continue to think about them. Or maybe they will remain at the subconscious level. This time I got to learn from Dylan.

I live, as many do, in a world of insecurities. There is the constant internal struggle of not being good enough. Or fitting in to whatever social sector makes me feel decent enough of myself to come close to having a feeling of acceptance and love. School really didn’t help with this very much, though I hope it is better than when I was younger. We had to pick teams. The captains had to assess who would be the best to help her/his team win whatever the given competition of the day was, be it physical such as a kickball game, or mental such as a history competition or a spelling bee. I didn’t care about being picked first…just not last. Please, not last.

Dylan would have been picked last in any of my classes. This is not an indictment on my schooling by any stretch. It is just what would have happened. Kickball, for example. Dylan’s body and mind would not be able to process the ball coming his way fast enough to kick it into even the shallow part of the infield. His name wouldn’t have been called first. It would have been the very last. To be honest, if I were the captain I wouldn’t have called his name until I absolutely had no choice. That win for me would have been the prominent goal. Same with a spelling competition.

So there I was with my list on Saturday. The easy-ups were loaded with athletes waiting to compete. I looked and saw his name.

“Dylan?”

I saw the movement of someone standing. Fast. I looked and saw eyes beaming with light, with delight, with joy. “You called my name???”

During that conversation all of those memories and thoughts flooded through me. Choosing. Being chosen. Picking teams. Being picked. Acceptance. A lack of acceptance. And as our conversation continued, my excitement grew. I called his name! I did! I picked him! I “chose” Dylan! What an honor…for me!!!

And here is what I realize: He would have chosen me. And my name wouldn’t have had to be on a list. I really believe Dylan would have called my name and picked me. And for that I am extremely honored and grateful.

Blurry the Worry

I was awakened much earlier that what I would have preferred this morning. My thoughts were churning like the waters on the receiving end of Niagara’s flurry. It was anxiety. Concern. Worry. About what? It doesn’t really matter to this little rant. Most of us suffer from the worry disease. It has always been a rampant epidemic plaguing humanity probably from the beginning. Whatever the case, that was me this morning.

I hauled myself out of bed, knowing that staring at a dark ceiling while ruminating over my worry was not a good use of conscious time. I prepped some coffee. The smell of it was a nice distraction. Then I plopped myself down at our dining room table with my coffee, journal, and Bible. Time to talk about this to one who is a tad bit larger then me.

I wrote about this in my journal saying things like, “…I am worrying about ‘tomorrow’ even though today has enough things to worry about.” I realized that this came from Matthew 6 so I grabbed my Bible and figured reading this stuff would be of some encouragement.

Confession time. I’m trying to learn Spanish. I’ve been using an app on my phone called Duolingo and I’ve got a 36-day steak going in my consistency. This app “told” me that I’m actually 9 percent fluent. I figured this means that I can go to Tijuana and say just enough things in Spanish to get shot. In fact, I don’t even know how to say ‘don’t shoot’ in Spanish. Even as I write this I find myself worrying about it. I confess this because I am using a Spanish/English Bible, even though I barely what I’m doing.

So, there I am reading the English in verse 25: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” Then I looked over at the Spanish side: “Por eso les digo: No se preocupen por su vida…” That stopped me in my tracks. The translator used the word ‘preocupen’ for ‘worry’ in the sentence. Knowing that worry was talked about a few verses later I looked down. Sure enough. ‘Preocupen’ was used again.

“That word looks strangely like ‘preoccupy’ to me,” said I with a streak of profound intelligence shooting through my skull. So I looked up the Spanish root word ‘preocupar’ in my dictionary. It said, “1. [v] concern. 2. [v] preoccupy. 3. [v] worry; cause worry to.”

That’s my issue, and I suspect I’m not alone. Whatever my worry is becomes that which preoccupies my mind, my entire being many times. It swirls through me like a hurricane. And like a hurricane it has the tendency to destroy other good things. Things like peace I suppose.

What’s my answer to this worry/preoccupation thing? I don’t know about you. I’m not Tony Robbins or the Dalia Lama or Pope Francis or Ned Flanders. But each time I go back to the passage in Matthew 6 and do what it says, I find a sense of rest and peace come over me. No, it won’t take the issues of tomorrow away. But there will always be issues in tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, etc.

Another issue I have is to spend more time worrying than working. I realize that a number of these worry issues can be handled by simple hard work. When I do this I find that I’m so tired at the end of the day, sleep seems to take care of itself.

I’m of the Christian ilk so I add an extra element to this. (Feel free to jump to the end if this sort of thing is not your bag.) Jesus was saying those words about worry. He also said to “…seek first the kingdom of God…” a bit further on. Jesus’ constant message while here was, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That means that wherever I go I must bring with me the “peace on earth” promised by the angel before and at the birth of Jesus. I am a messenger of peace, of reconciliation, of joy. The kingdom of heaven is not worry. It is not dissention. It is not strife. It is not shooting up a Planned Parenthood. In fact, Jesus’ only real anger was at the church when the church was abusing its power.

I also realize that Jesus did suffer from what might be construed as worry and that it may have been hard for Jesus to follow his own words when praying in Gethsemane’s garden, sweating drops of blood. But maybe not. His request could maybe be paraphrased as, “Hey, if there is ANY other way to accomplish this salvation of the world thing, could we do that instead? Whatever the case, I’ll do what needs to be done.”

The rant is over. Ultimately it is easy to say, “Don’t worry.” It is harder to follow. So I will go with my Spanish speaking friends, using their encouragement when they translate, “Por eso les digo: No se preocupen por su vida.”

I’m Not Religious, But I’m Spiritual

Comedian Daniel Tosh during a stand-up routine: “You ever hear a girl say that? ‘I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.’ I like to reply with, ‘I’m not honest, but you’re interesting!’” I laughed when I heard that. But let’s analyze for fun. Why? Because I was reading about “The Woman at the Well” this morning and it gave me pause to ponder. (It’s in The Gospel of John, chapter 4.)

I suppose that I am in the same category as Daniel Tosh’s girl. But I have to step back and ask why. Perhaps religion has gotten the rap it deserves. The Old Testament (what I grew up calling it; Torah if you’re Jewish) is loaded with religious stuff that causes me to squirm in discomfort. You only have to take a quick gander at the sons of Israel to realize that things are definitely bumpy. Fast-forward to the acts of the Christian church during the middle ages. Death and mayhem have ruled on occasion. Islam is certainly not bathed in complete purity for sure. How many millions have suffered under its banner over the centuries? I’d rather not do a count. Peace in the Middle East? That’s an oxymoron of gargantuan proportions. It’s no wonder that people like Christopher Hitchens have had a field day with religion. It’s no wonder that many have said, “Forget it! There can’t be a god with all this crap religion flings about!”

This woman at the well. Can you imagine what it was like for a Samaritan woman living at that time? Any woman living at that time. A woman had no rights. Men held complete dominance over women all throughout that region. If you were a woman you needed a man as a husband to support you in every way. If your husband died you HAD to remarry or dip into prostitution or begging or just simply die. Who knows the story of this woman? The day and age implies that she had five husbands who either died or divorced her. What were her options? Whatever the case, there she was…

…at noon getting some water. Jesus talks to her. Uh oh. At that time a Jewish dude is not supposed to talk with a woman without her husband present. In fact, the whole Jew/Samaritan thing was problematic. I’m sure this was a shock to her. She responds with, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” I can almost hear her say it. (Though, I’ve got the English version running through my head.) I hear both the inquisitive version of her statement, as well as the shocked version of it.

The conversation goes back and forth with some interesting points that commentators and others have discussed over the centuries. I’ll let that go. Let’s move forward to this part:

Jesus: “Go, call your husband, and come back.”

Samaritan: “I have no husband.”

Jesus: “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’: for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

I’m not sure why Jesus took this route, but clearly it made this woman feel uncomfortable. The moment that insight was shared, she changed the subject to religion: “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Well, that’s what I would do. When confronted with something uncomfortable I try to deflect. It was clearly awkward for her so she deflected towards religion and used the details of worship to make her point. (We never do this in these modern times…said me never.) Fortunately, Jesus seemed to have had a plan. He talked about the time to come when location will not matter, a time when the boundaries of society won’t matter, a time when we will worship God in spirit and in truth. There it is! I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual!

I recently spent a day at our new campus in Pasadena. I was basically there alone with a few people coming and going from time to time. I believe that solitude is good on occasion for meditation and reflection. But during that day I was simply craving interaction. I kept texting my wife. I drove eight miles so that I could have lunch with other colleagues. I wandered outside so that I could see people. I craved relationship. We are all built that way. Even the introverts among us eventually need relationship.

Worship. Spirit. Truth. These three words hold a mystery for many of us. I’ve been in the worship racket for over twenty-three years and I clearly believe in it. But not for its own sake. It is a means to a further end. (“Bite your tongue, Perry!”) The further end is simply relationship. I’ve seen people and churches that are simply caught up in worship for the sake of worship and I believe they miss the point of it. Why? We worship in spirit and in truth. God is spirit and in worship, if we are honest, God reveals truth in us. Many times it is a truth in our lives that needs to be cleansed in difficult ways. But then we leave that hour during the week when we worship. What is in front of us? People. Sometimes, many times, they are difficult, or hurting, or angry, or delusional, or confused…

There it is for me: relationships. Relationship with God, relationship with others. There is so much in the Bible about how we are supposed to be in relationship with each other. Six out of the Ten Commandments talk about that. There are so many passages about caring for the sick, the poor, the widows, the orphans. The Golden Rule has made its way into pop culture. You know what that is? It is Jesus talking when he plopped himself down onto a hillside and rattled off a sermon. “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” (You might know it as ‘do unto others…etc.”) You realize whom that means? Dare I be crazy here? People who do not think and believe like me!

I am certainly no theologian. These are simply the ramblings of a person racked with attention deficit issues pondering that whole Woman at the Well story, possibly making a huge leap. The story ends by her saying, “Come and see…” That’s what I want. I want to see religion as an instrument toward spirituality so that God can, in relationship with God, move me to be a better person to others. Especially those who are in need. And, scene.

The Theology of the Tie

The large church where I’d worked in 1995 had two distinctive worship opportunities for its upper-middle class congregation. I was the worship leader of the contemporary service, the first option each Sunday. Another person, a “minister of music” as it were, steered the people through their worship liturgy for the traditional Nazarene service that followed. It included organ, piano, choir, orchestra, lots of hymns and an occasional chorus most likely written by the Gaithers some time during the Eisenhower administration. We’d done it this way because the pastor had a vision of a church being like a mall, with worship styles to fit any person who happened by our religious establishment. Plans were being drawn up for more options. In fact, that Easter we had a sunrise service with drama; a liturgical service that included pastoral leadership standing on the platform wearing robes; a contemporary service with drums, guitars, etc., which started during the liturgical service; and then our traditional service. We were busier than one-armed jugglers riding unicycles.

Then the pastor’s vision changed. We all needed to be under one roof together. That fall we became “blended” as people were naming it then. I was tasked with being the front guy worship leader and our traditional leader was responsible for the choir and orchestra.

That first Sunday morning I hustled into my nice jeans, a conservative collared shirt, sensible shoes, and a snazzy belt, which was showing because I tucked in my shirt, thank you very much. The plan was in place, the choir was standing proudly in their nice robes, the drummer was excited, the guitar and bass guitar players tuned up, the small orchestra with instruments poised and at the ready. We went through all of the songs, checked microphones, pacing, levels, the proper cues, and the rest of the things that cause a service to operate smoothly. We sounded great! What could go wrong?

It was Monday when the first salvo hit in the form of phone calls to the church office. The internet hadn’t taken us over yet, so the phones had to do. Call after call came in, all wanting to speak with the senior pastor about the carnal mess of cacophonic carnage that they had experienced the day before in their very own sanctuary! It was so loud! The drums made it sound like a rock concert! And worst of all, that worship leader in the front was a maniac! He was running around, making all sorts of gyrations and antics! He was a complete distraction to the entirety of the service! “We couldn’t even concentrate on the sermon afterwards, we were so upset!!!”

That continued through Wednesday and Thursday. It didn’t really let up. It was just now secondary to the “Friendship and Worship” cards that arrived by mail to the office echoing the vitriol that was pouring through the phone lines like water tumbling over Niagara Falls.

The weeks passed by and each was the same. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday the phone was on fire, followed by a stream of postal venom. A congregational survey went out and it was clear that I was the central reason for monumental dissatisfaction towards our church. I believe I was also accused of high gas prices, Clinton being in the White House, a rumor in the possible resurgence of bubonic plague, and indigestion.

At the two-month mark I crawled out of bed and donned my usual Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothing, with one exception: I opted on wearing a tie that matched the ensemble of the day. Then I proceeded to lead worship that morning, singing and playing the same sorts of choruses and hymns we’d been doing the prior eight weeks. The day ended and that evening I was pondering a new career. Maybe a garbage truck cleaner, or a rodeo clown, or a subject for stun gun testing, or a chicken coop custodian. These seemed more pleasant than my current state of affairs.

Monday hit and I dragged myself to the office. The phones were quiet. Nothing. The same on Tuesday. I prepared for the mail onslaught on Wednesday. A few nice cards came in but none with my name on them. And then the week ended without incident, without a single gripe or complaint. What happened??? I didn’t care at this point. I just assumed the saints were burned out and figured that their cries for holy change were going unheard. But I knew these people. They would walk through the fires of hell to get what they wanted. I knew for a fact that the disgruntled rich in our family of God had withheld their tithe for lesser atrocities in the past. Then it hit me. Maybe they subconsciously saw my tie and thought we’d changed all the music for them that Sunday. Maybe they heard what they had seen rather than just listened to the things we’d always been doing.

Strange. A tie is a piece of cloth tied in a knot around my neck. Much like a noose. Clothing. If I were a practitioner of Islam I’d slap a hibab on and the people would be pleased. If a Hindu I’d roll up some cloth and plop it on my head. If a Jew a doily cap would do. Same sort of apparel if I were a Mennonite woman. So, apparently, the tie was the trick for this church. It was my uniform.

At first I was frustrated, angry, sad, and maybe a little hurt. OK, a lot hurt. But over time that subsided and I have since come to realize that certain things, though seemingly trivial, matter. I’m quite sure that I have some subconscious certain “musts” that crop up from time to time. I find myself getting angry because someone does or does not do something I believe to be necessary though I have no idea why.

I know that in that church there were a substantial amount of good people who were seeing their way of weekly worship change in a manner that was most likely disconcerting to say the least. Being someone who didn’t look or sound familiar in their church, with drums and guitar pounding their limbic systems into total chaos, with their safe hymns being unceremoniously swapped out with choruses that they were thinking we repeated until Jesus’ return…I can’t really be angry with that group.

Now that I am over twenty years removed from that situation I can reflect on that time and allow God to give me the grace that I should have had in those moments. And, as music in the church continues to change and I get older and older, maybe I’ll treat the ones unleashing their new brands of worship with the grace that they deserve. I sure hope so anyway…

(While this was happening twenty or so years past, an incredible person visited our staff by the name of David Augsburger. I told him this story and he asked me to write it out and send it to him. I recently was at a dinner with him and his wonderful wife Leann. He remembered that conversation and I promised I’d follow through with the writeup. In a following email he wrote, “Blessed be the tie that binds.” Cracked me up. David, thank you for the encouragement! Those of you who were a part of this congregation then, please forgive any lapses of memory I have on some of the more specific details. And, if I offended you at that time, please forgive me. I was much younger.)

Presidential Letters

I was stretched out in bed the other night with the gift of sleep evading my every notion. For some strange reason I began thinking of the U. S. presidents. I ran through the names that I remembered, those being surprisingly more than I thought I could remember. The first few that stumbled into recent memory were the “famous” ones as well as the ones during my lifetime: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama. Then a strange notion crept into my skull. Of those aforementioned fourteen, seven ended with the letter ‘n.’ Half! I had to look into this!

The following morning I awakened and sprinted (exaggeration: stumbled to get some coffee, fed the cats, etc.,) to the computer. I made a list of the presidents and examined them with my expert eye. Here’s what I discovered.

Of the last names of our forty-four presidents, sixteen ended with the letter ‘n!’ What does this mean? I suppose our country has an affinity for that letter closing out a name. Perhaps that changes the odds for the 2016 election. Hillary has a much greater advantage in sealing the Democrat nomination given these scientific results that have just been set before you. Come to think of it Joe Biden also has a chance, but he’s getting a little long in the tooth these days. But then again, Reagan was no spring chicken.

The Republicans have their selection. John Bolton (former U.N. ambassador among other things), Dr. Ben Carson (though I’m not sure America would elect someone who is as smart as a neurosurgeon, which is what he is), and Mark Everson (the former IRS Commissioner!!! Oy vay!) Do we rule out Sarah Palin?

What if I simply slapped an ‘n’ at the end of my name? Nope. Too closely related to “moron” I suppose. However, it could be argued that the American people have elected a moron or two to that esteemed office.

What’s also strange is that of the five presidents with last names ending in a vowel: Monroe, Fillmore, Pierce, Coolidge, and Obama, there is only one that isn’t silent. Obama. The others simply have an ‘e’ hanging on doing nothing except take up space. I’m actually in the same boat on that one. If this short trend continues, Mike Huckabee might have a chance. Or maybe George Pataki. Or even Marco Rubio who boldly pronounces BOTH first and last name ending vowels. What courage! Chris Christie doesn’t count. He couldn’t leave the ‘i’ well enough alone.

I’ll stop now because none of this matters. If you read this entire “piece,” I’m so sorry.

Dirt, Soil, English

English is difficult. I was working in the yard the other day. When finished I looked at my hands, arms, pants, etc., and said, “I’m dirty.” Why would I say that? When, at the end of a long work day, I don’t say, “I’m tirey.” I say, “I’m tired.” So, why wouldn’t I say, “I’m dirted” when dirty? And what about a dirty joke?

Dirt is a great word. I just sits there like an overweight, unjust king slouched on his throne. “I’m Dirt! You will obey me!” Dirt. It’s like a German name. “Mein name ist Dirt Schopenhauer!” (My apologies to Arthur Schopenhauer. That was the first German name that came into my skull.)

But what is dirt? When young I learned that it is the stuff of the ground. But then I heard someone mention that they dredged up some dirt on a certain politician. I suppose he got dirted.

Dirt is soil. Soil sounds so much better depending upon the context. For example: “The gardener reached down and buried her hands deeply into the rich soil knowing that in a few months nutritious vegetables would be the gifts that would arise from this blessed gold.” (Or something like that.)

Soil adds a sophistication to the equation. You’d never say, “…into the rich dirt…” Dirt could never be rich. Dirt is that uncle who is always drunk around noon, missing a number of important teeth, wearing a wife-beater, always with a beer in hand, gearing up to watch The Price is Right because he has no job. Soil is that other uncle who lives in a “flat” in the city and has season tickets to the symphony orchestra. Uncle Dirt drives a rusted out pickup truck. Uncle Soil doesn’t own a car. He calls a driver. Uncle Dirt yells, “Pull my finger!” whenever a pocket of gas makes its way into his large intestine and lets fly something ripe, something, well, dirty. Uncle Soil reportedly has never farted.

Wait. That brings up another problem. “I soiled myself,” said the man with a chagrined look on his face. One has never dirted himself.

So, just to make sure I did due diligence in my musings, I looked up dirt in a thesaurus. Here’s what was listed as synonyms for dirt: crap, filth, gravel, graveled, grease, grime, malicious gossip, poop, scandal, SOIL, (yes, that is there) stain, turd, and ungraded.

Synonyms for soil: begrime, bemire, colly, DIRT, DIRTY, filth, grease, grime, ground, land, and stain.

Clearly Uncle Soil is in a higher class with names like begrime and colly.

I digress. (I always digress.) Yes, English is difficult. We have three words for to, two, too. We have three words for their, there, they’re. There are unspoken implications for so many words that one can barely craft a sentence without serious ramifications.

In many respects I suppose that is what makes it fun. Therefore, I shall just plow ahead. (That’s a farmer reference regarding churning up the dirt…or the soil…or the ground…dang. Ground. Another one…)

Dark Reality

There is no one person I hate
I am the picture of love to be sure
The picture of arms engulfing another
Saying, “You are the best because I see you now!
In front of me! Right now!
Yes, you, a singular person
There directly in my gaze
My horse blinders work perfectly
Right now: You! You! You!
Just you
For you I am the picture of love!”

Then we part company
“Hugs and kisses! All my best! Write soon! Keep in touch!”
You wander over into your group…
Or, as I sometimes say under my breath: “Those people.”
Now I stand here befuddled
Wondering why my arms are at my sides
Why aren’t my arms engulfing?
They are certainly capable of engulfing
They engulf all the time
I call them The Engulfers
They just engulfed!

And, “Why did YOU go over THERE?”
My arms don’t seem to be big enough
To wrap around “those” people
“They” do things that are ALL wrong
Well, more different than what is right
My right

Why did you go over there?
Please come back and be like me!
My people have so much more to offer
Than those people you seem to be standing with

This blog is just some stuff that popped out of my skull. Most of it is fiction, some of it is opinion. Some of it? Just mere musings of a fella who has some attention issues and who has managed to navigate life in a manner that some deem as, well, OK.