Ramblings: Guilty by Association

Briefly, before I start this article, I want to thank those who read Ristretto Rain and did a review on Amazon. I now have 13 and am approaching newspapers and etc. about doing big reviews to a large audience. I don’t know the number of sales yet, but its been well into the hundreds. That may not sound like much (and will recoup less than 10% of the cost of producing the book), but most books never sell more than 100. Only the top tier books sell in the tens or hundreds of thousands and those have big publishers marketing their books. So thanks again.

The Problem of Guilt

Guilt is one of those emotional feelings that all people, (well almost all), experience. Some of us encounter it higher levels than others. Some have accused me of being arrogant, because I love to have “lofty” discussions about things, such as truth. But nothing could be further from that truth. Even before cancer, I was often insecure and guilt-ridden. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a classic story of how someone can internalize real or perceived guilt and it can haunt and control them.

I must explain, this posting is about one of those observations I make about the human condition of guilt and it is not just about my guilt. I will draw from my story to make my point. I often share more candidly than some people feel comfortable with. For those people I think they see my writings as a deeply personal plea for help, sympathy, or pity. I am certainly not “compliment, sympathy, or pity trolling” and will not let any such comments through to the public in this case. I appreciate the good-will intent of those who wanted to do so. My goal here is to create resonance within that place of guilt that may dwell in the soul of others. If people want to share their own stories through comments, I will allow those to go public.

Macbeth | Heidelberg University

I think there are several genera or forms of guilt. The most notorious is that guilt which comes as a result of someone intentionally and for selfish reasons, causing great harm to someone. Macbeth may have killed King Duncan (you have to read again to see). This is example of such agonizing guilt.

Then there is guilt of the second degree, where the harm is the guilty person’s fault and from intent, but not necessarily with a malice of intent. For example, someone making a bad decision to drive while intoxicated, even though they know the risks, and causing the deaths of others.

The next level is where there is no poor judgement or intent, yet the guilty person’s actions caused great harm. The worse such guilt I can imagine is, and I know of two such cases, where someone accidentally runs over and kill their child or grandchild with their car.

Lastly, guilt by association is where someone is bathed day in and day out by guilt over something which they have no control nor whose actions caused the harm. For example a parent who is homeless after a forest fire and has to sleep in their car with their four kids. I bet this problem is far more common that we think. Illness can be one of those.

I never knew that cancer would have so much guilt. All illnesses do. For 38 years I heard (mostly woman) tell me how guilty they felt because their migraines kept them from being a “good person.” A good person in that case was one who worked hard, cleaned house, cooked, and raised the children. . . or had a successful career.

While illnesses may carry guilt of many forms the type that I experience is tied with my self-esteem or self-worth. I think that is often the case for people as with the migraineurs mentioned.

Two years ago I imagined myself going into retirement age, getting in the best shape of my life, continuing to work and bring in income until I was 90. This was interrupted when cancer struck and when I was preparing to go back to work, I was laid off. This topic is coming to a head right now for me (and has been on the back burner since diagnosis) because, after finally finding a chemo that works with almost side effects, and then spending hours over four months to find the very best insurance to cover this expensive chemo, my new insurance created a “co-pay” for me of about $30,000/year. I’ve spent many hours on the phone for the past three weeks trying to find coverage to no avail. That is more than I’m earning from Social Security. So, the difficulty for me as a man to go from being a provider for my family for 38 years and now being a financial drain, creates incredible guilt. Yeah, I hear what you are saying and thank you for those thoughts.

But this is where I want to connect with your own struggle. It is hard isn’t it? On the physical level, fighting cancer as been 100 times harder than anything I’ve ever done before such as climbing Mount Baker. However, the emotional battle is even harder. It is a constant fighting the thoughts of worthlessness. The fear of being extraneous to the world trumps the fear of death itself. In my book Ristretto Rain, I tried to depict this struggle through the eyes of a cancer sufferer whose family did abandon her.

The fear of being extraneous to the world trumps the fear of death itself.

I’m going to dive really deeply into the personal and I suspect that some reading this will relate. When I was an evangelical it was very offensive to talk about struggles because we lived in a false narrative that we always were “victorious” in life. But do understand, I don’t consider me nor my struggles as unique and many of you reading this are dealing with physical pain, cancer, loss of a child, divorce and many other crises. That’s why I’m writing this.

Night Conversations

I saw a funny cartoon once on FB. It was a woman laying in bed with her eyes almost closed. It said something like this, “I am just dozing off when my brain said, ‘Let me inventory all the miserable failures of your life and the people who hate you because of them’.” The next frame her eyes are wide open and the clock says 3 a.m.

7 reasons you can't sleep through the night and how to fix them - CNET

For me at least, the night times are the trenches where this most brutal emotional battles take place. I’ve been a light sleeper for 20 years, but since cancer, my sleep has been very interrupted due to things like twitching and, like last night pain, where I had pretty severe neuralgia in my right arm (side effect from chemo). But once awake that nasty little voice inside (in the Christian story, Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” ) starts to say bad things to me.

Bad Voice: “Mike, you are totally worthless. You bring nothing to the table now. You have no impact on this world except to drain from it. Denise would be better off without you. You are a failure. Your cancer has made you more loathsome. Virtually everyone in this world hates you.”

Good Voice: “That’s not true. I have intrinsic value because I’m created in God’s image. Everyone doesn’t hate me. Most people don’t even think about me like I don’t think about them. But those who do, they don’t hate me. They say such nice things.”

Bad Voice: “Look how much your treatment is costing you. You are not worth that much. You will leave nothing for Denise to live on if you die. You are a drain. She will grow to loathe you.”

Good Voice: “That’s not true. Denise loves me. Money is just money. She will never go hungry.”

You get my drift. But this battle for my soul is brutal and constant. I do pray throughout the night for God’s mercy and if I can’t have that here, that I would be taken from this earth. It is a prayer framed on all sides by sweat and many, many tears. That’s why I have reacted in anger to people (and it’s happened twice) who confront me that I must not pray or have a good relationship with God because I share my struggles here on this forum. Haven’t you had those conversations between the good and bad voice?

This emotional article is a lead up to a more academic article that I’m working on about this type of struggle. So, there is no point here except to expose the raw human condition. . . okay, my condition. Maybe you relate or not.

Mike

Housekeeping Item

I realize that there are three different natures to my blog postings (my health, about writing, and philosophical ramblings) and that viewers may have interest in only one of those. I’ve tried to divide my blog to those three categories, so that individuals can subscribe to only those topics they are interested in. Unfortunately, WordPress allows only one blog on a site. They do allow categories and I may try to separate my 1000 posts into those three categories, but that will take a lot of time to accomplish. So, I will try to label each post according to the content.

Lastly, someone commented to me that they hate to have to prove that they are not a robot in order to comment on my posts. For reasons I don’t understand, every morning my site is flooded with spam, usually people trying to use my comment section to promote their products (eg. men’s “sexual health” stuff) or websites. There’s a lot of Russian (appears Russian) junk. So, WordPress is correct in screening out at least the hundreds that are robot generated and then I have to personally sift through the dozens that are personally generated but still spam. I hope you understand but it is the world we live in.

Ramblings: Philosophical Presuppositions Regarding Our View of Nature

Based on several discussions I’ve had lately, I wanted to discuss the foundational views of nature and how those views profoundly influence the way we live. These presuppositions influence our view of things like COVID-19 and cancer. While this is NOT an article about either COVID-19 or cancer, I can use them as examples of how each world view would address them. I will try my best to be concise.

First, I must define nature as it carries many connotations. Basically what I mean by nature is the material. This includes the physical things that you can detect with your senses. But it also includes things that you can’t see such as energy, gravity, and those things that are undetectable but real. So, certainly it is more than the forests, animals, streams, and etc, which people often associate with the term nature.

Atheistic Views

Atheists are not a monolithic group, all thinking the same way and that’s why I chose the word “views.” But to be consistent, atheism must hold there is no God, no creative force, no plan, or intention. Some atheists cheat at this juncture and try to put meaning into nature such as “I guess that was the universe’s plan for us.” The word “plan” is a personal word with a connotation that there is an intelligent life behind that plan.

When I’ve had this conversation with atheists, sometimes I give them the wrong impression that I’m being critical. Christians are often critical of atheists. I’m not because I came close to being an atheist once and understand why many people reach that point. I like being around atheists too, because they are often more honest and certainly less captious than others.

When I say that atheists cannot have meaning, or a “based meaning,” it is a philosophical statement. They can inject arbitrary meaning such as, “our purpose is to be happy, to better the world, or to help the human species survive.” But this meaning is not absolute. In some ways, the world would be better off without humans. An absolute meaning implies intention. Intention comes only with a personal creator. “To help the human species survive because this is God’s plan,” is an example of such intention.

Regarding the view of nature by the atheists, I see two schools. One school is that the universe if full of order but nature is flawed. The other is that order is only a perception, and again nature is flawed.

Atheistic View 1: Orderly but Flawed Nature

I suspect that most atheists consider themselves of this school. Here is where they observe the real order of nature. For example, in the world of big things (Newton’s laws) you can see this order in things such as the Fibonacci Sequence.

While atheists must omit absolute meaning, they can certainly explain order by atheistic terms (however, you can debate this explanation). These terms can start with the Big Bang (out of nothing everything came into being including the laws defined by Newton and Einstein). However, some theoretical physicists believe the String Theory can have a different explanation of the start of the universe than the Big Bang. But that is another story.

While this school can see nature as mostly good, they cannot see nature as perfect. According to this view, through the process of evolution, nature is constantly being fine tuned . . . but without perfecting it. There are plenty of theists too who believe in evolution as a process that God uses. However, evolution cannot perfect nature for three reasons.

Reason that Evolution Cannot Perfect Nature #1: Evolution can on improve on nature only during the period of fertility. Simply, if a species has a flaw that harms them or kills them during their fertile period, then fewer offspring will be produced. Over time, those most vulnerable to the flaw cease to exist. In that way evolution can rid a species of bad traits.

However, if the flaw only appears after the period of fertility has expired, then it cannot be eradicated by evolution. Cancer, which affects people in their post fertile years, persist within a species. This is why humans will never evolve beyond the flaw of Multiple Myeloma (my kind of cancer) because it affects mostly people well past their fertile years. This is true of most cancers. Many cancers do have a minority representation in children and those in their fertile years, but the mainstay (eg. leukemia) is still in older populations.

Evolution could eradicate childhood illnesses or any illness that negatively influences the opportunity to reproduce. However, it does’t for the next two reasons.

Reason that Evolution Cannot Perfect Nature # 2: Our environment is constantly changing. Climate change is just one example of this. A species has to adapt to the new climate, and as soon as it does, presto, there are more changes. So it is trying to hit a moving target and therefore can never reach a state of perfection.

Reason that Evolution Cannot Perfect Nature # 3: The last reason is due to new challenges, such as viruses constantly mutating and appearing on the scene. The most obvious example is the COVID-19 virus, which mutated allowing it to attack humans. Now, it is is true that in time we could evolve beyond COVID-19, or develop a herd immunity, but at a great cost.

To evolve beyond COVID-19 it may take thousands of years of suffering and death, where over time only those people with natural resistance (not immunity) survive. But the problem with this approach is by the time we evolve to be resistant to COVID-19, many more novel viruses will appear on the scene, so it is a loosing proposition. For true herd immunity, this suffering has to be experienced with each new generation, just like smallpox played out, until we found a vaccine, a way to induce the same immunity but without the death and suffering.

I heard one lecture about COVID-19 from a physician who made the case that viruses was nature’s way of reprogramming our DNA to make us better. He called it a software upgrade. He implied that by resisting COVID-19 (mask wearing, vaccinations) is fighting against nature and doing us more harm than good.

His first erroneous premise is that nature is perfect (I will address this more below under the Christian ideologies). If nature was perfect, the we would fully trust it, that whatever it throws at us, a virus or a hurricane, should be welcomed with opened arms, because it is for our good . . . as nature is perfect (and it certainly is not).

But this physician, in my humble opinion, presented this view because he can personally benefit from his theory by his books and supplements, which he sells. There is nothing wrong in earning money from selling books and supplements, unless the ideas you use to promote are false and you know they are false. The idea that nature is perfect and only has our best interest at heart is the stuff of ferry-tales. But that narrative is profoundly attractive and can make you rich and a star among those who want to hear such things.

One example of this physician’s false statements is that he says all (or most) of our DNA was programmed by nature using viruses. That is simply not true and he should know better. My son can correct me, but I believe it is around 8% of our DNA has been the product of virus reprogramming. Some of these “updates” may have made us a better species. However, viruses have also causes all life forms tremendous suffering and death. After all, viruses are parasites. They live and reproduce at our expense, not by doing us any favors. Would you go into a hungry lion’s den thinking the lions will only eat me if it is for my benefit? Same thinking.

I will now look at our view of nature from a Christian perspective, because that has been the dominate perspective of the west for most of the past 2000 years. But, in my opinion, some of these view have been toxic.

Christian View #1: Nature is Bad

The Bible clearly warned the early church not to incorporate secular philosophies into Christian doctrines . . . but they did anyway. One of the most powerful secular moments that penetrated the church at its onset, and left its mark up until the modern times, is Gnostic Dualism, which was related to oriental non-Christian mysticism (e.g. Zoroastrianism, Jewish mystic cults) and some of the Greek philosophers (e.g. Plato).

To summarize this view of nature, is to say that it was at least inferior to a much better non-material “spiritual,” world, but often this view holds nature as evil, dirty, and hopefully will be destroyed. Much of American Christian eschatology (view of the end times) is built around this model, where the nasty earth is destroyed in the end.

On a very practical level, this is also why the American evangelical church doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the environment or saving the planet. In their view, the planet is nasty and not worth saving. I will say once again, the the “Dark Ages” were the result of the church in Europe adopting this erroneous view of the material (including science and the arts). Within this view, the human relationship to nature is to dominate and control it for our own pleasure.

The Christian church wrestled with this view for most of its 2000 years. Yes, you will find examples in history of monks, priests, church leaders, who took a different view. I have read that the Celtic church rejected this view of nature. But has a whole, the church has made this big mistake for most of its existence and it is not a Biblical position at all.

Christian View of Nature #2, The Biblical View, Nature is Great, but Not Perfect:

If you were to read the Bible without any influence from human Christian traditions or extra Biblical philosophies, you would see that God created nature and said it was good. He also describes how it is not perfect. While it was meant to be perfect, there was “the Fall” or that goodness became corrupted. In that model, humans are given the role as stewards and gardeners to help restore nature, not to dominate it. In that case, to fight cancer is to fight the ills of nature and to attempt it restore it to its intended perfection.

Western View of Nature #3, Nature is Perfect:

I wish I could tell this whole story here because it is fascinating, but this is getting long. I will oversimplify this by saying one man (there were several involved with this story), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (born June 28, 1712) rejected this negative view of nature as taught by people in the Calvinist Geneva, where he grew up. He came up with the basic view that nature was perfect, when left alone. That is was human interference in nature that harmed it. This was almost the opposite of the thinking of the time (Christian View # 1).

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (painted portrait).jpg
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

His philosophy became very popular in France because of the oppression of the aristocracy (King and Church). The belief became, based on Rousseau’s teaching, that if you could rid yourself of human authorities, then people would resort to their more natural and perfect state. This was the philosophical foundation to the French Revolution.

To make a long complex story short, this view did not work out so well after the French cast off their authority but chaos and suffering continued until Napoleon Bonaparte imposed a new authority over the people. Yet, the Rousseauian philosophy caught on and became very popular. This became the foundation of our present philosophy that nature is perfect.

Walk into any grocery store and count how many times you see the word nature or natural? Those words have such a positive connotation because of this view, that nature is perfect always intends our very best and anything “artificial” (touched by humans) is bad.

This is my major gripe with alternative medicine. While they have a lot of good things to offer, often things that western medicine has failed to do, they start with the premise that in our natural state we are healthy. They then, based on Rousseauian philosophy, believe that all illness is caused by human intervention. They preach how horrible medications are, but promote some “natural” supplements which are dangerous to ingest. There are real problems with western medicine (evidence based medicine) but that’s not it.

I gave the example here of seeking a massage therapist after having my bone marrow transplant. While I’m convinced that massage therapist, chiropractors, naturopaths have many things to offer, good things, it is this premise that is the mistake. This massage therapist, once she found out I had cancer, asked me if I had been seeing a naturopath before I had cancer because. . .”you don’t get cancer for no reason.”

She was implying that my cancer was my fault because I wasn’t doing something right. Really? I was exercising like crazy. I was almost a vegetarian. I took supplements. But her statement was based on her philosophical view that nature is perfect and if we live naturally, we will never be harmed.

I had a friend who her and her husband were both naturopaths and they went around Seattle preaching this message, until her husband succumbed to leukemia at age 37. Their whole world view was turned on its head. Crap can happen to anyone at any age and it usually isn’t their fault. We live within the realms of an imperfect nature. It isn’t a ferry-tale.

But my point, think about this underlying concept of nature the next time you consider these things. Is is perfect? Is it bad? Is it great, but imperfect?

I wish I had time to explore the views of Islam (which are similar to the Christian #1 view) and pantheism. Pantheism has been re-imagine in so many ways it would be hard to define it in these terms. I could talk about a precise view of the Buddha or Hinduism but for time’s sake, I will not.

Mike

UPDATE:A Tactical Pause – Time for Reflection and Thanksgiving

A tactical pause is when an army, in the middle of a battle, stops fighting to regroup, check on supplies, and to reassess their strategy. This is one of those points. While there many things I am thankful about, I will mention the difficult things first and get them out of the way.

As I posted several weeks ago, the most direct look at my cancer, bone marrow biopsy and “M spike” came my relatively low, suggesting that I’m in a partial remission and holding. I did have my routine labs 4 weeks ago that, to my disappointment, showed my kidneys doing worse (after doing much better the previous month) and my bad proteins heading up. I will have labs again on Monday, so we will see where those are at.

I did loose my brother Gary two days ago. I may come back here and write some thoughts down. Yes, I can say he is out of his suffering now and he has suffered for 3 + years. But still, the whole thing, cancer death and suffering are a tragedy.

Gary is beside me kneeling

Although we shared bunk beds growing up, Gary and I were not close. He was seven years older than me. But for some reason, when I was born he became very jealous and tormented me until he left for Vietnam. When Gary became ill, we reconnected, even before I became ill. After I was sick, we spoke weekly on the phone about the similar symptoms we were experiencing. I am very sad to have lost him. Cancer is garbage.

Here are some good things that I am deeply grateful for.

I’ve talked about my neurological symptoms some here, but never exhaustively because you would think I was embellishing. That’s what many of my doctors thought because my syndrome was so unusual. But practically every muscle in my body was constantly twitching. My tongue was twitching, my mouth, my eyes, all my skeletal muscles, inside my abdomen was twitching so hard on the outside it looked like a huge bag of moving worms. It felt that way too. The closes thing that it resembled is found in a condition called benign fasciculation syndrome. That condition does not cause death but suicide is high if it persist. It is what brought me to thoughts of suicide at least twice (along with everything else). We assume it was the product of living in renal failure for a couple of months. Anyway, it never went away but came in bad cycles up to a month and then lower cycles for a few weeks. I am hesitant to say anything, but after 17 months of this nightmare, the down cycles are getting lower and lower. I’m in a down cycle now and I can go as long as 5 minutes without the twitches. Before, the best it ever got was dropping down to about 15 twitches at a time. But now, there are those moments when I have none. It gives me some hope that they will eventually go away as no treatment has helped.

I never knew how tough the mental health battle would be. I mean, besides the cancer and facing death, the getting laid off from my job, going from a busy career to nothing, then in strict quarantine was terrible. I was so lonely through the spring, that I started to have those thoughts of just asking God to take me off this planet. This is why my writing is so important to me.

I have been blessed to have my son Ramsey get tested for COVID and come home to live with me for two months. He is leaving soon and I dread what is coming. However, Denise has changed jobs and will no longer be working these 60 hour weeks.

Lastly, I have struggled to get good care for my cancer. The problem is, Multiple Myeloma is a very complex disease. As one cancer doctor said, it is like a bundle of about 15 different cancers, each type of Multiple Myeloma acts very differently than the others. My oncologist admits that he does not know what to do with me. I had tried to got back to Seattle for care, but due to COVID they were not taking “new patients.” However, now I have a two day appointment in Seattle at the end of September and I hope to re-establish with Multiple Myeloma expert who can help me get on the right path.

Denise and I had a long awaited vacation planned this week. I’m on an oral chemo so I can travel better and she just quit her job. It was going to be a two week road trip. It was a good trip, but I hate to say this but people bugged the hell out of us. I’m not talking about friends. I’m talking about insurance companies, banks, her work, people I had scheduled to do work for us in a couple of weeks, the list goes on and on. But we were in a remote place (east side of Mount Rainier) with spotty phone reception and no internet and everything was urgent to them (or my chemo would be canceled or my insurance cancelled, our refinancing of our house would fall through, tree trimming will be cancelled, blab, blab, blab). Can’t we ever have a moment of peace? So, sadly, after four wonderful days we gave up and came back home. We had also forgotten our tents as people were also bugging the hell out of us when we were trying to leave. So sleeping in our car without a tent was another factor for coming home. This our first day back, I’ve spent most of the day on the phone with pharmacies and insurance, banks and tree trimming companies trying to untangle messes that they’ve made. The tree trimming company had scheduled with me the week we were to come back and I had told them I was out of town. But somehow their scheduled opened up and as soon as we were out of town, they wanted us home to trim our trees and kept calling and leaving voice mails that it was urgent we talk. Anyway, it is almost 2 a.m. (I did chemo today with steroids which keeps me awake) and I’ve vented. But mostly, I want to focus on the good things above. And they are good. Mike

(battery is dead must post before I loose this and without proofing)

Ramblings: Writing, and Ristretto Rain

My passion is writing. It is one of the things that gives me purpose as I’ve been laid off because of my cancer and am home alone a lot. I am thankful to have Ramsey here for much of the summer. Writing is my art, my hobby. Like most artists, it is a craft that I want to develop as time goes on.

I wrote my first book in high school, and published it myself (including the binding). So, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. However, raising five children and working these medical jobs that took 50-60 hours a week, made writing impossible (except for scholarly articles and a couple of books). Now, I have the time. It is a late start I know.

I am happy to say that I’m at chapter 20 of my new book, Retribution. I have two more chapters and it will be finished! Then comes the hard part of editing. My imagination has me living in Yemen for the past month. I feel connected to Yemen as we were a host family to about 20 Yemenis students at Eastern Michigan University and, we were assigned to go to Sana’a, Yemen as missionaries when our organization folded while we were still living in Egypt.

As I promote my books, it is not a business endeavor. Most books, including most of mine, never earn 10% of what it cost to produce them. So, when you see me marketing my books, it has nothing to do with money. It is about quality of life. I’ve given away many books. I have also sold about 200 and that means to me that eventually 300 or more people will read those books. My goal is to have 1,000. But all artists want people to admire their work, to get pleasure from it, and to give feedback, positive or negative.

I am so thankful for those here who have purchased my book and read it. If you have not yet written a review on Amazon, that would be helpful. I must have at least 10 reviews to have newspapers and etc. review the book. I am stuck at 8 right now.

I have an ad that I have posted on this page. I own the rights to the photo. You can share this ad by right clicking it, copying it, and then pasting it into your Face Book timeline or other media outlets. This would be a help.

But what brings me the most satisfaction, as the ad depicts, is for someone telling me they enjoyed the book, that it made them think, or at least, distracted them from the ugly in the world.

I have several other articles I’ve been working on for this blog site (not about my writing). I’m trying to find a way to make those shorter.

Denise just left her position at the hospital yesterday. I hope we will have more time together now as her new job is less intense. I will also do an update about my cancer situation in the next week.

Mike

Ramblings: Truth Exhaustion

I approach this topic with trepidation because I know how easily I can be misunderstood. But I was thinking, what is the greatest challenge to my own joy? Is the fact that I have cancer and it can return any day? Is it the fact that my life most likely has been shorten? Is it the fact that I don’t feel well anymore and can’t imagine a day where I did? Is it that I’m loosing my brother as I speak?

While all of those are factors, the real challenging to me living in the moment, enjoying this world world God has made, is my disappointment in how lies dominate this world.

Now here is where I want to be clear. I do not want to give the impression that I have the reins to all truth and look down at others who don’t. As a matter of fact, I spent a good period of my early life with a very false narrative about the real world. I know now that I make mistakes in what I believe and what I tell myself.

I’ve said before that if you read the Bible honestly, you will see that God’s greatest desire is for truth. Not a particular dogma, but factual truth. He also calls Satan the father of lies.The historical Jesus didn’t go around preaching against abortion (that’s another topic for discussion), gay marriage, politics, but about the problem of lies. Most notably were the lies that performance religion was true religion and that money brings happiness.

I mentioned recently about how lies are the basis of all evil. All wars start with lies. All murders start with lies. But then there are things like at least 100,000 of the COVID deaths (out of the 165,000) could have been prevented if it were not for lies. This really upsets me. I hate reckless suffering and death.

I had the nativity at one point that lies were an issue of education. Like for me, it took a decade of study, mostly history and science, to realize where I had gone so wrong. But its not.

I wake up every morning to a flood of misinformation, mostly on FaceBook. In my naivety, I used to think, all I had to do was to show that person factual information and they will say, “Oh, thank you for correcting me.” I would expect the same as I have shared misinformation myself (although I try very hard not to).

Now, I’m not talking about opinion. Here is an opinion, “America will function better as a country with very low taxes and services Vs American will function better with high taxes and more services (like in Scandinavia). You can argue those points and good people should be able to without hostilities.

But I see this long list of statements such as, “Hillary Clinton was arrested at age 16 for molesting children while she was baby sitting.” That is a total lie and can easily be refuted with facts. To be fair, I will throw one out from the other side, “Donald Trump paid to have his daughter Tiffany aborted.” No evidence of that.

But this is what saddens me. When I say to the person that it is not factually true that Hillary Clinton was arrested at age 16 for molesting children, they say, “You’re just a libtard. You’ve been brainwashed by the liberal media and your head is in the sand.”

This is what saddens me with the world and total dis-interest in facts and lack of curiosity.

Somehow I must realize that I can’t fix this mess. I can’t un-racist the racist by educating them. I can’t rid the hate by telling people the hateful bullshit they are reading and sharing is not true.

I have been “unfriending” people who habitually share this kind of mis-information. I’ve always kept my friend list small. I had joined a group that was “Christians Against Trump” to spare my sanity because I was surrounded by evangelical Trump supporters, which makes no sense to me. I will say again, Donald Trump is 180 degrees opposite of the historical Jesus. However, before long, I noticed that people in that group were also habitual liars and haters (of Trump in that case) and had to get out.

My mother said when I was a small child, “You are different from other kids. You feel things very deeply.” She didn’t say it as a compliment. But I do. It is from this place of deep passion that I try to draw from as a writer. But it tears at your heart at times.

There has to be a balance where we focus on knowing truth ourselves, but not so much of the rest of world, yet, not giving up on the world. But with the thought that it is up to me to save the world, when I can’t, is not a place of peace. I have to let it go. But still, as we are told in Ephesians 4:15, to speak the truth (factual truth) in love.

Ramblings: A Brief Word of Praise for The Elegant Universe

I finished the novels Odd Child Out and The Book of the Dead this past week and moved on to the nonfiction genre with the book, The Elegant Universe by Brain Greene. It was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and that’s why I chose it. It is a little dated, with a publication date in 1999 and I bet many of you have read it. Brain Greene is a physicist and mathematician. . . and an author, a damn good one. While I knew a lot about relativity (general and specific), quantum mechanics, and the string theory, he really brings it to life in a very entertaining way. You would enjoy the book (I think) even if you were not that familiar with those terms.

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the ...

For the theist (those who believe in a creator) this book is an introduction to real mysticism, because the universe is just plain freaky in places. Imagine time that warps, twin particles that when you manipulate one, its twin, even a billion light years away, will instantly respond not to mention photons that exist as particles and waves at the same time. You can’t get your head around it at all. It is so much better than what I call the “poor man’s mysticism” of just emotions relabeled as mysticism. “I felt God’s presence.” Not that emotions are bad, They are fantastic. However, throughout human history there has been a tendency to call emotions something supernatural, when often they are not. But I think natural is as good or better than the so-called “supernatural” because God created everything including this wonderful planet and our intellect and emotions.

But if you read this well-written book and allow yourself to meditate on those mysteries, it will cause you to feel quite humbled. You can no longer put God in a box for convenient’s sake. The Creator is far beyond what we can imagine and his true mysticism is completely mind blowing. That is why there are more theist in astrophysics than any other genre of science, except maybe medicine.

After having some encouraging labs 4 weeks ago, then this week, not so much. That gives me lighter sleep and more time to enjoy books, as a distraction.

Mike

Update: Ristretto Rain

I just had my first invoice from the book distributors. It appears, as of yesterday, I have sold 52 paperback versions in the US and 7 in the UK. The digital / Kindle numbers are not in yet.

If you have not been in my shoes as a writer, this number will sound pathetic, but it’s really not. I think I saw a statistic that over 90% of published books never sell over 100 copies. So, I am deeply grateful for those who have trusted me enough to buy the book.

The number of sales also is with no advertising, except by word of mouth and notices I’ve put here and on FaceBook.

I will wait to invest in advertising until I know if I have a good product to promote. I think I do. The six reviews on Amazon have been positive. I realize that there was a shortage of books at first and some, including me, have waited two weeks and still don’t have your copy. Once you get it, I do hope you will read it, although I appreciate the generous act of just buying a copy. When you get done reading it and you had a positive experience with it, leave a review on Amazon.

If you didn’t like the book, please don’t just be silent. Send me a private message about what you didn’t like. If I have several negative messages, I will not waste money in advertising. If I get a lot of negatives, I may give up writing completely. If there is a theme to the criticism, then I know that I have to change as a writer. I am working on chapter 14 of my new novel and I still have plenty of time to adjust my voice and my style.

If you do think this book was a good book, please share it on your Face Book page and recommend it to your friends. As a no-name author it is very hard to get a positive return on paid advertising. For example, I spent $500 on a google ad with one book and had $8 royalties from the sales of that advertising campaign. So, word of mouth is what makes it work for us.

Thanks again,

Mike

Ramblings: Gnostic “Truth”

I read an article the other day and the writer used the term “Gnostic Truth” to describe something (and I can’t remember what it was) in the news. He used the term correctly and started my mental wheels turning again. I am in the infusion center awaiting chemo and have nothing better to do than write. Look out, I just had steroids and those make me more wordy (wink).

I have a great interest in the process of finding truth. The philosophical term for this process is epistemology. I’ve stated before that we are living in an age that has lost its sense of truth in the classical sense.

While this fragmentation has always been around, it has been intensified in the age of social media, where there is a choice of realities to live in. I call it niche realities. So, we have lost the concept of universal truths (what I call TRUTH) and sold out to personal truths. We re-label those “truths” as “God’s Truth,” or in the political realm, where your political orientation (red or blue) is “true” and all other perspectives are “fake news.”

Honestly, I’m sick and tired of politics. I would love to do away with the Republican (my old party) and the Democratic parties. I like to create two parties. One would be called the party of liars and haters (POLH) and the other, lovers and truth seekers (POLTS). There would be some Republican’s migrating to each of the new parties and some Democrats doing the same. Then the choice would be clear and the debate over. The POLH could live in their conspiracy driven world of fantasy and hate and the POLTS would seek TRUTH no matter which political policies it would help. For example, do a good study and if you find assault weapons don’t increase violence and murder, then allow everyone to have one. If regulations are proven not to protect the environment or the workers or consumers, then get rid of all of them. I’m tried of not being able to talk about TRUTH without accused of being political.

One big conspiracy movement that was griping the evangelical movement when I was part of it in the early 1990s, (but now has gone much further now), is the idea that there is this big boogie man called “Liberal Media” that is out to deceive us, turn our children against us (or turn them gay or atheist), and to destroy the judo-Christian culture this country was built upon.

While I would love to talk more about this, I will quickly move to the point of this discussion and that is in the one finite area of Gnostic truth. At one time I was doing a long series on the loss of TRUTH, but I could tell that readership was waning. It is somewhat of a “Catch 22” that people aren’t interested in the loss of TRUTH anymore because, of the consequences of the loss of TRUTH on them previously. I would love to write a book about the journey of TRUTH in our society, but no one would buy it and read it. But if you are interested in this historical journey of Evangelicalism, I recommend Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. If you are interested in a totally non-political story that is moving and refreshing I recommend Ristretto Rain (how do you spell “Plug”?).

Gnostic Truth has roots in the very early Christian church, although this article (mentioned above) was using the term to address political ideas. The Greek root to the word “Gnostic” mean’s knowledge. But what the groups within the early church meant was a knowledge that was supernatural, that came directly to them from God without any need for study or thinking. While this sounds sexy and spiritual, it is a very lazy (intellectually) way to arrive at TRUTH and it is very easily abused to manipulate and control other people. The Bible says our psyche is the most deceitful thing on the planet, so do you really fully trust that inner voice without more evidence?

The reason that parts of the early church adopted this approach in the first place was that they had already erroneously adopted the dualistic philosophy of Plato and the mystic religions in the region. If you are a Christian, I will say that this adoption was tragic and not Biblical at all. But it claimed that the universe was divided between the “seen” or material and the spiritual. The material was inferior to the spiritual or possibly even evil. The spiritual was always supernatural (outside the laws of nature) and therefore closer to God’s intention because anything natural was inferior. But a more Biblical view is that God created everything, the seen and the unseen, the understandable and the mysterious and they are ALL good.

If you think that the pursuit of TRUTH is a minor issue in Christianity, then go back and read your Bible. TRUTH seems to be God’s highest priority. Even Jesus defined himself as “The Way, The TRUTH (classical sense not dogma), and the LIFE.” Now if you say that love is God’s greatest calling, I will say, all hate or lack of love stems from lies and misinformation. The foundation to all love is factual truth or TRUTH.

Today we mark the one year anniversary of the El Paso slaughter, directed at Hispanics. It was fueled by lies about Hispanics coming to America, taking our jobs, bringing crime, drugs. TRUTH allows love to flourish. All racism is based on lies.

Now if you say that love is God’s greatest calling, I will say, all hate or lack of love stems from lies and misinformation.

When it comes back to knowledge, the Gnostics believed that their intuitive (what they called “spiritual” truth) was superior to anything they could reason or observe through reading, hearing from teachers, and learning, because it was from this higher “spiritual” realm. They believed that reason and learning itself was of this inferior material world.

Lies=Hate=Murder in El Paso

If you want to know how dangerous Gnostic truth is, it alone was most responsible for the Dark Ages and all the suffering that came with that period. Also, all cults begin with a leader who uses Gnostic truth to control and separate out his or her followers from the herd.

In the modern, non-Christian world of politics, Gnostic truths are best expressed by conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories are not the exact same as Gnostic truth, but one builds on the other.

Conspiracy theories are where a confident person, usually with charisma, comes up with a theory that is attractive to their political cause. That theory is usually completely baseless but has “curb appeal” to people with a particular political perspective. Then it is easy to create “evidence” for that theory and they put that out on social or mainstream media. There is a psychological phenomena where if you believe something, you will eventually start to see evidence to justify that belief. People are drawn to just conspiracy theories because it supports their political ideology and it makes them feel smart and special. “I know something that the mainstream doesn’t know that makes me smarter.”

Common political conspiracy theories without supporting evidence (at this point) are:

On the Left;

Donald Trump has sex with his daughter Ivanka

Deutsche Bank has laundered hundreds of millions of Trump family crime money

Donald Trump raped many adolescence girls with the help of Jeffery Epstein

Donald Trump planned with the Russians how to win the election because they had a video tape of him with prostitutes in Moscow.

On the Right;

QAnon

Voting by mail is full of fraud

Our failure to respond to the COVID pandemic was Obama’s fault

Scientist are suppressing the truth that hydoxychloroquine cures COVID.

I love science because most scientists pursue real TRUTH at all cost. They are doing God’s work. Most scientists are good, honest people. I worked in research full time for four years. It was incomprehensible that someone would fudge data to prove something they believed. We followed the data, wherever it took us because we were invested in TRUTH. Yes, sometimes there are biases brought into science, but it is not that common. Those who oppose science, such as unfortunately the evangelicals, the far political right and sometimes the left, and those in alternative health. My gripe with alternative health is when they make claims that either the evidence doesn’t support or has disproved. Testimonials are notoriously wrong because our own psyche’s are deceptive. You can get anybody or any small group of people (patients or doctors) to say anything, and they will do so for money or just because of their own biases. That’s why large placebo-controlled studies are the gold standard and when done right always reveal the TRUTH.

I had a friend who was an editor of a national medical journal. He told me that he got complaints from people in alternative medicine that he is biased. He said he would love to publish a good study showing that a non-pharmacological, natural treatment was as good or better than drug treatments. He would make the leading article because that is everyone’s hope. But the problem is the people in alternative medicine refused to do the same quality of studies that he required of published work from other scientists. I will say, I saw that he published a good article from a group of chiropractors this year and it was well-received by most because the science was done well. I will add that “western medicine” is far from perfect and as a patient I know that far too well. I want to write more about that when I get the chance.

But these people mentioned above often promote a conspiracy theory that science is biased and corrupt through and through. By demonizing good science, it give oxygen to their baseless ideas which science as refuted. It is magical thinking.

Simple science is based on mathematical principles called the scientific method. Virtually all our discoveries, interventions, and things that have made our lives better are based on this method. Now, some people don’t want to believe in the scientific method or even math. In my opinion, mathematics is the language of God. It is the foundation of the universe and that’s why it consistency brings us to the TRUTH.

The church, in my opinion, reached its zenith during the Enlightenment. It was during that brief period that the church and science were aligned as both wanted TRUTH and sought it with passion. But that period was short-lived. But then something happened. It is too complicated to explain here, except for a “thumbnail” version.

One of the things that happened was the the church in America (and some other regions) felt threatened in the early 20th century from the scientific community. One big example was new geological theories that dated the earth as much older than the church dated it. Remember, the Bible say absolute nothing about the age of the earth. Then, Darwin introduced his theories that life forms adapt and change (he was not promoting an atheistic theory of evolution at that time). The church started to resist, criticize, and then over time, declare war on science. To do so, they had to create their own conspiracy theories about science, none of which are true. Now, sadly, science is the arch nemesis to faith. That must break God’s heart, the creator of science. It is like having two children you love who are always fighting.

Speaking of children, as a child, I was somewhat of a science prodigy. I won our district’s science fair (all of NE Tennessee) when I built a working radio out of a pineapple. The next year I got second place, loosing out to a kid who developed a brand new method for measuring the height of geological features on the moon using observation points of the earth during the moon’s orbit and measuring the length of those feature’s shadows. And this was the days before computers and he had to use a slide rule.

About 20 years ago I was asked to be a judge of a local science fair of a Christian home-school group. It was at the high school level, the same as the fairs I had entered. When I walked into the church’s gym, where it was held, I was totally appalled. While this was a senior high school fair, the work I saw would not be allowed in a typical elementary school science fair. One was a simple can with aluminum foil around it, creating the familiar volcano. The student put in soap water and a chunk of dry ice and it foamed and came down the sides. Then I asked her about volcanoes and she knew nothing about them. Then I asked her why did the dry ice cause the bubbles and she had no clue. Then I asked her what is dry ice and she had no clue. Another entry was a tropical fish in a bowl. The student knew nothing about the species. That was a science fair entry? It was an example of the church’s total disinterest in real science. Sad was too weak of a word to use. Personally, I love science and math BECAUSE I believe in God, not in spite.

Notice that this girl is doing the same “experiment” but she is in elementary or middle school and she has good posters. She is using baking soda and vinegar but I bet she knows something simple about how the two interact (acid and base giving off CO2 byproduct).

One of the best examples of this conflict between conspiracy theories and science is the present (this week) controversy over the role of hydroxychloroquine in preventing or treating COVID-19.

Here is the real TRUTH about it, as the scientific community has determined through good research. I will talk only about the prevention aspects. I reviewed all the studies once again last night. There have been two major studies where people exposed to COVID-19 were given either a placebo or real hydroxychloroquine at high or low doses. Over 2000 patients were studied. There was no difference in the number of patients who got COVID between the two groups. That is the math talking. Now, it is a fair question to ask, what would happen if you were taking prophylactic hydroxychloroquine before you were exposed? That would be a hard study to do, but someone should do it with hundreds of patients. I, or no one, knows the answer to that question.

Now I this juncture I will mention that one study published in The Lancet was found to have some false data. The pro hydroxychloroquine group quotes this all the time and exaggerate about it saying “they had to pull many studies due to false information.” This single study was not about prevention but treatment of serious patients. The false data showed a higher death rate for the hydroxychloroquine patients. This false data was supplied by a data processing company. Their motivations are still unclear. It could be political, such as an anti-Trump bias, but more likely it was just sloppy work. But even this bias was called out and Lancet retracted the study.

Now, COVID-19 should never have been political because being so it has caused the deaths of 50-100 K people (the rest of the deaths would have happened anyway). This is why these things piss me off. It is not because I want to be right, but I hate seeing people suffering and dying out of ignorance. The shooting in El Paso pissed me off.

Early on, Donald Trump promoted hydroxychoroquine as an effective treatment for COVID and now, Trump followers believe the pro-hydroxychloroquine narrative that it works, is practically a cure and that information is being suppressed by the evil scientific community. Pro-trump organizations and people like far-right personality Steve Bannon, have this agenda because of 1) Trump said it therefore we must make it true even if it’s not, and 2) If we can orchestrate the idea of a COVID cure, then the economy will bounce back just in time to get Trump re-elected.

The laypeople are left thinking, “Well, there are two sides to this story. I will listen to both and decide because they are equal.”

These sides are not equal! You have the entire research community of infectious disease experts who are honestly looking at data and coming to conclusions. These thousands of doctors, treating tens of thousands of patients are on one side. Then on the other side are a handful of doctors (I’ve looked at their backgrounds) and they are strongly aligned with the political right and either don’t practice medicine at all any more or have limited experience seeing patients in Urgent Care, aesthetic or weight loss clinics. There is absolutely no comparison.

If you are on the right and want to believe what Trump said, then do the damn studies and get away from the testimonials and theatrics. Steve Bannon has the money. Trump, Inc. has the money to support such a study. But it has to be done fairly. For us who work in medicine (or did work) and research, the “Front Line Doctors” press conference was done in such a flaky way that red flags went off like fireworks and could not be taken any more seriously than a “professional wrestling” match.

Here’s how you will convince most of us. Take 1,000 people, put half of them on whatever dose Donald Trump is promoting, and the other half on an identical looking tablet and wait six months. Ad the end of six months measure COVID-19 antibodies in the two groups. Then you will know if it works as a preventative. And it might. There is a little scientific explanation why it could work.

If I had the resources I could get 20 doctors to say that horseshit up your nose cures COVID-19 and put that on TV or FaceBook.

What frustrates me the most is this conspiracy theory nonsense that the scientific community is corrupt because they don’t support your worldview. I wish like hell that hydroxychloroquine worked. It would radically change my life. I don’t give a rats ass if it makes Trump look good. . . or bad. This whole fiasco is the really sad loss of TRUTH and the introduction of Gnostic Truth, ideas without real evidence.

What do we do about it? If you really want, stop being so gullible. Repent from your hate. Stop hating Hispanics. Stop hating blacks, even stop hating Donald Trump. Seek truth at all cost and not just the truth that you want to hear, but the real, provable TRUTH. Math never lies. And stay away from the damn conspiracy web sites on the right or the left.

Mike

Ramblings: Zen and the Art of House Painting

I hate painting houses with a passion. Yet, that is how I’ve spent my summer so far. Up on ladders, brush in hand, paint on my nose. But it is nothing new. I painted our houses in Marquette, Michigan, Duluth, Minnesota, Spring Valley, Minnesota, and our previous house here in Anacortes. I never painted our apartment in Cairo . . . or did I? I did build a tree house in Egypt. But this house is even more challenging than the others because in one spot it is three stories (walk out basement plus two more floors) and it is on a very hilly place. Unleveled ground makes each ladder placement like landing a rover on Mars, an inch that way is disaster and an inch this way is a mess.

But the reason I’ve always painted our houses is that I worked as a professional house painter in college, and in graduate school, I had my own painting company. So why wouldn’t I paint our houses and save us thousands of dollars? I’m sure that people who were plumbers in college do their own plumbing. Wait a minute. I do our own plumbing too. My brother was a plumber and my father was a manager of a plumbing supply shop so I guess that counts.

I also hate plumbing, especially late at night on a Saturday when the hardware stores are closed and water is everywhere. But that’s another story.

Our house really did need painting. It was the color of a lemon, a faded and worn lemon. I wanted it paint it green or blue. Denise wanted yellow. So, we compromised and I am painting it the blue of a banana (wink).

The reason I decided to take on this momentous job is the same as before, however, this time there was even more at stake. I was even more motivated because, if cancer was not enough, I got laid off from my career because of it. While I did have some disability payments, a small portion of what I was earning, I dropped from being the main bread winner and that was painful. So, Denise and I decided that I would make up for not earning income by doing things that would save us money. . . like painting the house, fixing the cars, and etc. That seems fair, however, I would much rather be taking care of headache patients.

My motivation to not paint the house was also enhanced this year. Before I got my bone marrow results just a week or so ago, I didn’t know where my cancer stood. I could have been on the threshold of sudden decline into death. Wouldn’t I hate to spend my last 12 weeks on this planet doing something I hate?

Also, I’m not the man I used to be. It is more than age. While age is the reason that my knees ache from climbing ladders all day. The renal failure has caused me to have some significant neurological weaknesses. My legs sometimes gives out when I’m perched up high. And then there’s my friend diarrhea. While much better now, It is not that uncommon to get all my supplies up on the roof and then I am poised to paint and it hits.

With all of that said, I am happy that I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to Eli’s help. Normally when you paint house, you start at the highest point and work your way down. But my 24 foot ladder would not reach the highest point, plus there are some places that I could not figure how to get to. I am down to those bad spots. Sitting precariously like they are daring me to paint them.

My ace in a hole is my son Tyler, who, like me was a professional painter. I was expecting him to have a way to reach those last spots and he could do them for me. He came to look yesterday for the first time and he is as puzzled as I am as how to do it.

“Tyler,” I said. “I thought you were a professional and would know what to do?”

“Dad, hard spots like you have are the reason I got out of painting.”

All this above is the introduction to what I really want to talk about and that are some things I learned as a painter. I will first state that I have a “hyper-rational” fear of heights. What I mean is, I don’t have an irrational fear of heights. I mean, I can climb ladders, cross bridges (Deception Pass bridge doesn’t scare me) and I have even rock and mountain climbed. I’ve stood on the edge of a 200 fool crevasse with just crampons and a thin glacier rope holding me. But I do like to be very safe. For example, I’ve had friends who had no qualms about free climbing (without gear) up the face of a cliff. I would not do that.

Back when I first started painting, I was working with a Presbyterian pastor friend of mine. If you know theology, Presbyterians emphasize God’s sovereignty over everything. God is the master puppeteer and we, and everything on this earth, His puppets.

This guy, I will call him “Ted,” also was one of these people like Alex Honnold who seemed to have no fear of heights. It has to be genetic. But Ted spiritualized it (as evangelicals tend to do about everything) that my hesitation of climbing to ridiculous heights in precarious rigging was because “You lack faith.” He always made me feel so horrible about myself. . . as evangelicals often do.

Now, let me explain these painting situations. Ted started contracting doing the most dangerous painting jobs because they paid better. For example, we did a big church with steeple that must have been 60-70 feet in the air. The only way we could reach it was to take our biggest ladder (40 feet?) and put it on the roof of his Dodge van. Then take our next longest ladder and tie it on the end of the big ladder with a rope. It was crazy! However, if I did not go up these ladders, he would make it a spiritual issue, that I was not trusting God. He said that he didn’t have fear because he trusted God completely (again, I think it was genetic, the way his and Alex brains are wired).

To make a long story short, right after I left the company, Ted had a terrible fall, fracturing his spine and pelvis and almost killing him. It is a miracle that he could walk again. He says that fall was God’s will for him. Really? Does physics play any role here? What about reason? I believe both reason and physics are part of God’s wonderful creation.

I do think for 2,000 years, the Church has often put God in a box. That box is “God is in control.” Now, that sounds sexy and spiritual and by me even bringing this topic up again will cause some to doubt my faith. But it is not an issue of faith, but of understanding God and the world. It really is a metaphysical problem.

I now believe that God has created a world full of wonder . . . and thorns. That we humans have been given the mandate to care for this world and to make it better and to watch out for, and eliminate the thorns when we can. Those thorns could be the dangers of falling, environmental disasters, or systemic injustices that plague our societies. We must intervene in our own life experiences and the shape of history.

Too often people become paralyzed in the notion that “God is in control, so I do nothing.”

You can make the jump at this juncture over to cancer. I’ve read some things and a few people (very few) have suggested things that are troublesome. To me, it seems like people like cliches more than they like to really think things through. For example, “You do understand that God gave you cancer for a reason?”

Bullshit.

“You don’t need to worry about your tests (or doing anything to change the course of my disease) because God is in control.”

More bullshit.

To raise this question causes people to point at you, like Ted did, and say, “You are a man of little faith.”

Extra Bullshit.

No, I’m a man who thinks these things through and tries very hard not to define God or put Him in a box or to reduce Him to a genie.

In a surreal place, my cell phone just rang and it was my brother Gary. I called him yesterday. He is gravely ill. He told me just now that he has hours, not days. We had a long talk. He is mad at God for not giving him more time on earth (he has gotten to live 7 years more than I have, so far). I told him how much I related. I was not mad at God, but I was very disappoint when at barely age 64 and I was told I was dying, that I would loose my life and my dreams.

However, it would have been stupid of me to have told Gary that this was God’s plan for him. But I could say that this world is full of thorns and is not fair. It isn’t fair for any of us. It frankly sucks sometimes. But it is still glorious. I told him that I will still pray for a miracle for him, but if one does not come, I hope to see him on the other side of the grave. I pray that he can come to peace with God before that departure.

I told him that I had come to terms with death and if I died in my sleep tonight, I would not be bitter. But I do fear suffering. Having tasted it, I found it to be worst than my nightmares could have framed. The terrible nature of suffering is that the further you go into it, the lonelier it becomes. People stop listening to moans that are piercing to their ears. The medical comforts become inadequate. When doctors don’t know what to do, they often blamed the patient. So, I pray to God that Gary will not suffer. . . nor I again. These are the worst thorns on this planet.

I will not say the thoughtless cliche that they say down south, something along the lines of “God took him home because Heaven needed a good plumber.” No, if he is not spared, he died from leukemia. A horrible thorn on this earth, a dis. . . ease. We should fight against these things, not accept them as a gift. We are not puppets. The gift that God gave us is our will and our minds. We have the opportunity to change who we are and what the world has become. That’s our calling. I believe that is God’s plan.

Regarding the “Zen,” no I’m not a Buddhist. But Zen offers meditations into the true nature of our minds and things with the purpose of benefiting others. That idea I can embrace with this exercise . . . and the adventure in painting.

Mike

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