Hannah’s Hug

There is a young girl at my church who warrants special mention. She is proof, to me, that we are all God’s children. She walks with difficulty and speaks with equally labored effort: Dickens would have likened her to Tiny Tim, of that I am sure. She is a wonderful person, though fate has given her challenges that most people do not face. Her name is Hannah, and today, she gave me a hug.

I don’t know exactly what I did to deserve it, but before I could get out of my pew at the end of the services today, Hannah was there and she flung her arms around my neck. She said nothing, just smiled, and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Anger wears down the heart while laughter revs it up: it’s tears, though, that lubricate and maintain the heart. I had me a good, strong, happy sort of cry while Hannah gave me that hug.

She has a lot of hardships, but she sees beyond them – if she sees them at all. And though she struggled to make her way down the aisle to give me the hug I did not expect, she gave freely of what she had to give. She gave a smile and she gave a piece of her heart.

I felt charity with that hug, I truly did. The pure love of God was in that hug, and none can tell me otherwise. I don’t know if it was with a purpose to reassure me for a loss or prepare me for a trial… or if it was simply a wonderful child that needed to share the joy she felt by hugging someone. I don’t know, but I accepted that hug gladly and with humility.

Her hug gives me hope. Thank you very much, Hannah. God bless us, every one!

Masked Wrestlers Save the Day

mayanzombie

Currently watching “Santo contra los zombies.” Clunky old black and white b-grade Mexican sci-fi film with cheesy special effects that totally blows away 90% of the garbage coming out of Hollywood these days. 100% fun, fun fun! And if ninjas beat pirates and zombies beat ninjas, then this movie gives hope for humanity: MASKED WRESTLERS BEAT ZOMBIES. Totally awesome news. I’m going to watch “Santo contra las mujeres vampiro” next and I’ll bet pesos to pollos it’ll be way better than any Twilight flick.

Hey, Congress! Remember Sandy? No?

“I would not give one penny to [The Republicans] based on what they did to us last night… [Republicans can] kiss their seats goodbye…because if you can’t provide the most basic assistance for your district, who needs you in Congress?” – Representative Peter King, R-NY

As the House approved the bill to kick the can down the road and climb back up to the edge of the fiscal cliff – because we’re not out of the woods on that one, yet – it failed to consider a bill to assist victims of Sandy. They managed to increase their own salaries and continue to allow the government to wiretap and record all Internet activity without warrant, but they failed to remember the poor and suffering of the nation.

Yes, I know there’s too much spending in government. I heartily agree that there have to be fundamental restructurings of entitlement programs, or we’re all going down the tubes. But one function of a government is to take resources from one part of the nation that’s doing well and ship them over to another part that isn’t. It’s one of the most basic forms of government. I *want* my government to help out the people hit by disasters, not only because I might need some of that help myself one day, but because it’s the right and compassionate thing to do.

The GOP holds the gavel in the House, and it was their responsibility to remember the poor in that body. They have failed, and our nation fails with that decision. No matter how many times we sing “America the Beautiful”, God won’t shed his grace on us if, as a nation, we fail to remember His most simple of rules: to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Congress CAN Come Together!

Congress actually CAN come together on a few things:

1. They approved a pay increase for themselves.
2. They agreed to keep laws allowing wiretaps without warrants.

It’s nice to see that it’s not all bickering and nonsense on Capitol Hill. Sometimes, they can come together and show the nation that on what really matters, their bottom line and increasing the invasiveness of the state, they can roll up their shirtsleeves and do what has to be done.

Divided Divided Government

Normally, in a “divided government” scenario, we see only the Presidency and one or both houses of Congress in the hands of different parties. This time around, the Presidency is in the hands of the Democrats and the House and the Senate aren’t. No party can get anything out of either house.

In the Senate, the Republicans are able to filibuster anything the Democrats suggest and the Democrats can vote down anything the Republicans suggest. In the House, the Democrats can do nothing to stop the Republicans from voting down every one of their measures… but the Republicans themselves are divided and unable to lead. All they can agree upon is that they don’t like the Democrat proposals.

It’s not like we have any pressing issues we need to deal with OH WAIT THERE IS THE FISCAL CLIFF AND THE DEBT LIMIT AND THE ONGOING DEPRESSION HOW DID THIS HAPPEN WE MUST NOT BE VERY GOOD AT GOVERNMENT IN THIS COUNTRY…

Universal Health Care and the Mayan Apocalypse

Yes, they’re related. To understand this, you have to understand the Mesoamerican concept of “the end of the world.” It wasn’t a sudden cataclysm that wiped everything out. It was a process that could take a few years but, at the end of that process, the old world would be totally gone and a new one ready in its place. When the Aztecs predicted an end of the world in 1519, it showed up right on schedule in the form of the Spanish army and a smallpox epidemic. By 1521, the Aztec world lay shattered and a new world, dominated by the Spanish, lay before them.

In that new world, there were a series of devastating epidemics. The first two were smallpox, but then the Aztecs began to complain of other ailments whose symptoms were more in line with some bizarre hemorrhagic fevers from the native jungles. The reason why the Aztecs were now more vulnerable to them was because of the hard conditions they faced: poor nutrition, harsher working conditions, and general displacement. The first waves of smallpox killed 50% of the Mexican population: the succeeding epidemics killed off sufficient numbers to keep the population total of natives in 1690 roughly a tenth of what it was in 1519.

We’ve got some people now saying the end of the world will come to us on 21 December, 2012, according to one interpretation of a Mayan calendar. Maybe it will, who knows? But if the Mayans are in charge, it won’t be a massive, sudden shift. It’ll be a process. Maybe it’ll have something to do with the lack of accessible health care in the USA and the increasingly marginal conditions the people of the USA find themselves in.

Let’s face it, as long as corporate interests have their hooks in Congress, the people of the USA won’t get a fair shake on anything, and that includes health care. The food companies give us fattening junk and won’t let Congress change that situation. The drug companies will use their influence in Congress to make sure their profits stay large. Similarly, the health care industry practically wrote the health care bill passed a few years ago. It suits their needs perfectly and leaves the people in the USA that can’t access health care now forced to pay a tax for not being able to afford health care.

The banks have turned us out of our houses while the multinationals have gone Galt and enslaved other people, leaving us without decent jobs. With the trifecta of an overburdened health care system that places a priority on corporate profits, the people of America are becoming more and more vulnerable to an actual plague, let alone increasing incidence of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

If we didn’t have a Congress beholden to corporations and if we didn’t have corporate directors that were beholden to the almighty dollar, we’d be able to do something about it. As it is, though, we’re ripe and ready for the Mayan Apocalypse, whenever it actually does happen.

Follow Your Dreams? Find Them, First.

It always drives me up the wall to see some exhortation in the media to have everyone follow his or her dreams without offering one shred of advice on how to determine what those said dreams are. Think of it: if everyone up and followed dreams right now, there would be countless broken families, empty chairs, unfilled jobs… and massive, massive lines going around the block waiting for publishers, movie producers, and other people with money to smile upon their ventures. But would they even be there, if they went off on some sudden dream quest?

There’s what we think we want, and then what we really want. What we really want may not be “living the dream”, but dealing with reality successfully. Things like raising a family, helping friends in a bind, and working at a job worth doing are what most people truly want to do. We may dream of escapes from the drudgery, but the successes in those areas can’t happen without the hard, hard work. What we really want is what we’re willing to do the hard, hard work for.

To me, “living the dream” does not mean abandoning family or friends. That means doing without certain options in my life. It doesn’t mean I’m trapped in a family or home. It means I’m doing what I really want to do. Other things are secondary. I like having time on my own, sure. Just not permanently. My wife and kids don’t hold me back – they give me strength to go on.

Would I like to be a hugely successful artiste? Certainly, the idea of walking out on stage to thunderous applause is a tempting idea. Receiving millions of dollars for an artistic enterprise seems like a grand thing. But are any of those things worth the price if it means sacrificing my family along the way? Are any of them worth the loss of my soul and integrity?

I have to face the fact that I’m a working stiff. I can try for a grab at the brass ring of fame and fortune, but even if I lean all the way out and give up my entire base in that leap for glory, it’s only luck that determines who wins it in the end. I’ve seen successes, but I’ve also seen failures all around and behind them. Wisdom tells me that the rate of success at “follow your dreams!” is very low for people that aren’t willing to sacrifice either their souls or their integrities. Conversely, the poison-tongued backstabbers always seem to find a way to the top of the world. Funny how that works out.

But is that really success? Is that really “living the dream”? I’ve known men that died with peace in their hearts. That is part of true success in life. The other part is being able to face the spirits of the rest of the dead without shame or regret. Our ability to forgive and to find forgiveness is critical to success in the ultimate scheme of things. Our ability to be welcomed into the fraternity of the good and the wise when we are dead is more important than any song, book, film, or investment banking deal. When I’m dead, I don’t want to be sitting at a table full of Nazis, full of perfect recollection of the wrong I had done, the pain I had caused, and the mistakes I had made.

Given the complete folly of the world and the law of averages, I am firmly convinced that the smartest man that ever lived was a Chinese peasant from the 14th century, who probably narrowly avoided execution because he kept his ideas to himself. In so doing, he preserved his family and possibly also his village. I believe that the most talented musician ever to grace the earth lived in the 8th century in West Africa: he made all the children in his village laugh. Who was the greatest writer? Tough question, given that so many people that would have been in competition for that title never learned to read or write. There’s a ten-year-old child in a cave near Mexico City right now that has the greatest story ever told in his mind… it’s just that we’re not likely to ever hear it because he’s not able to get to school, let alone the means to write the book – or even land a publishing deal. The world sees him as a nobody, with nothing to offer. He can sure try to follow his dreams, but he’s got to deal with basic survival issues, first.

When I was a kid, I sometimes imagined life as a rock and roll star, going out on stage, singing songs, and having the crowd go wild. I didn’t imagine the money or the travel – just the experience of the concert. Today, I teach songs to the children at my church. I work with ages 18 months up to 12 years and I strive to get everyone to sing along with me. I’m up there, in front of them, singing songs… and the crowd does go wild, and I mean that in a good way, most of the time. They recognize me at the store and I always stop to spend a little time with my tiny fans. I find that, in keeping to my family and friends, in keeping my soul and my integrity, I have sort of stumbled into my dream.

I never was specific about the makeup of my audience. While I hoped to do rock songs, any sort of songs would do for my dream, I suppose. The stage and seats weren’t really important – just the connection with my audience, the discovery of a shared joy in the performance. This is why it’s so easy for me to do art for free – money has never really been part of my dream. My dream has been in having a powerful, positive, shared experience through art. That is exactly what I have with the 30 or so kids I work with every Sunday.

It is foolish to presume that every dream involves a journey away from something, that it might be properly followed. True dreams do not float on the wind: they get our hands dirty, make our faces worn, and bring our backs aches. They are here, where we are willing to do hard, hard work. These true dreams are worth the sacrifice, no matter what a television advertisement or banal movie platitude may say. True dreams bring us what we truly desire, not what we’re told to desire. True dreams make us heroes, even if only to one person, and even if that one person is ourself.