C.M. Albrecht's Weblog

This is how I see it.

Category: Opinion

Getting my Exercise

Recently, shortly after my 90th birthday, my doctor felt that I should try to build up my strength. He suggested I drink Ensure (I can’t stand anything that closely resembles milk, etc. and told him so, but he wanted me to try. He also suggested I get a bicycle for some good but easy daily exercise. Okay, he’s the doctor.

The Ensure was too much for me to contemplate since I much prefer a bottle of dark beer with my lunch, but I did think a bike might be fun. I hadn’t ridden in many a year. I looked around and found a nice “old-school” bike with balloon tires, one speed (I’d never be able to master 10-speed and even more. And this baby had that marvel that used to impress me as a kid: New Departure Coaster Brakes.  Although it had been years since I tried to ride a bike, they say you never forget and for the most part, I think they’re right. But you do have to consider age and condition.

So far the results have been mixed but encouraging. I cleaned the bike up on April 30th, made sure everything was oiled and worked and the next day, May first, I’d take her for a spin around the neighborhood. It turned out the first of May was a pick-up day for rubbish, tree branches, limbs, etc. Just pile the stuff in the street by the driveway.

Actually, it turned out the first of May was not only my inauguration into the exercise program but it was also a pick-up day for rubbish, tree branches, limbs, etc. Just pile the stuff in the street by the driveway.

I got on my bike in the driveway with my wife doubtfully watching and overall, it felt pretty good. I hit the pedal and started down the driveway.  As I did this, perhaps in a burst of unwarranted overconfidence,  laughing and talking over my shoulder to my wife that I didn’t notice the neighbor’s clean-up pile that waited just ahead.

Talk about exercise! I’ll tell you, there’s a lot more to exercise than meets the eye. Man,  what an experience, but still, I find it hard for the city to justify nearly $4,000 for the emergency vehicle that took me three miles to the wrong hospital. And since that hospital didn’t use the plan I have, they billed me nearly $2,000 for emergency services and a three-day stay in ICU just to make sure I was going to be all right.  Unfortunately,  my insurance plan would only cover those costs if I called ahead and got an approval. I did not know that. But being unconscious, I couldn’t have called anyway, so the joke’s on them.

I really feel bad for my poor wife though.  My exercise accident upset her so much she was a nervous wreck. She followed the emergency vehicle in our new Lexus and the entire incident had so upset her that she didn’t see the red light and a beer truck T-boned her. Insurance will cover most of the damage to the car…well, they determined it to be a total loss, and so whatever we end up getting can go toward another car.I just feel

I just feel bad about my poor wife. I have no idea of the cost her stay will amount to since she has the same medical plan I do, But with the surgery and all, I can imagine it’s going to be pretty stiff.  Bust, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The good news is that she’s not suffering at all, and when she comes out of her coma, the doctors tell me she probably won’t remember anything about the entire incident.

In the meantime, lying there in the hospital, I had plenty of time to think. My doctor did manage to come around to see me. He smiled and said, “The last time I saw you we decided you needed more

He smiled and said, “The last time I saw you we decided you needed more exercise, didn’t we? Well, perhaps a bicycle is a bit too much so I’d suggest you try exercising in the garage.”

So when I was discharged, I donated the bike to The St. Vincent de Paul Society and opted to jog in place inside the garage.

We live in a crazy world. The funniest things happen. Well, it’s my own fault that the oil from my old pickup leaked all over the floor. And since I lost my glasses in the bicycle incident I didn’t notice it.

I have to laugh though, at the expression on my son’s face when he came by two days later to see why no one answered the phone.

He said, “Dad, why are you lying here on the garage floor? Don’t you see it’s all oily?”

The upside to all this is that now, back in the hospital, I can have a nurse push my wheelchair up to see my sweet wife. Of course, she can’t talk, but I’m sure she knows I’m there holding her hand (it’s a pity they couldn’t save the other hand, the one that got crushed in the accident), but the upside to that is, now she can get out of a lot of housework I supposed I can do for her.

Well, this exercise business has certainly been an eye-opener and I have lost nearly seven pounds I’m glad I no longer have to carry around.

The moment my wife wakes from her coma, I’ll be sure to write a follow-up. (That is if the burns on my hand permit. Up until now I never dreamed the handles on pots and pans could get so hot, but now that I’m the cook, I’m learning quickly.

Who ever knew a little exercise could be so exciting?

 

—0—Old Man on Bike

 

Islamic Terrorism?

We keep hearing the buzzwords “Islamic Terrorism” from the media.

It’s easy to understand the media’s need to keep people interested and following. Advertising money is what keeps the media rolling. Readers and/or viewers see the advertising. If the media has little to offer, interest dies off and advertisers look elsewhere to peddle their products.

However, keeping the public interested doesn’t necessarily mean we have to use words that are not only untrue, but serve rather to arouse anger and intolerance in others.

Christians have arguably started and/or become involved in more wars and bloodshed than peoples of any other nation.

Starting in the Middle Ages with the intention of wiping out Islam (still an almost unknown religion in most of Europe without the ease of communication we enjoy today), and located across the Mediterranean where few Europeans ever expected to go, good Christians took it upon themselves to make numerous Crusades to wipe these Infidels off the face of our world map.

Before and since that time, not content with waging only religious wars, Christians have managed to become involved in an almost constant stream of warfare for some of the vaguest and most improbable reasons imaginable.

The point here is that, no matter how many wars Christians believers wage, few have ever referred to these conflicts as Christian Terrorism, or the Christian war in Korea or Viet Nam. No one calls our invasion of Iraq the Christian Movement to get Saddam.

Terrorism exists. No doubt of that, and it’s worldwide, but Islam has little or nothing to do with this. While it is true that many factions hide their violent assaults on other peoples behind the veil of Islam, the truth is that they use this as a cover, an excuse for their actions. The real focus of their anger is the common practice of the United States to meddle in the affairs of other countries. It’s true that as a world leader, the United States has a vested interest in keeping an eye on other countries, especially repressive countries. We have an interest in protecting human rights. But where does our interest in human rights end and our interest in the protection of oil wells, and other resources supersede these?

Neither Christian beliefs nor Muslim beliefs promote violence nor intolerance. In Christian communities, some people carry a Bible and many have spent years in close study of this document. Yet everything a Christian needs to know and heed has been stated by Jesus. His words are words to live by, yet we conveniently forget or twist these around so they can fit our purposes. People smile and say, “Do unto others before they do unto you”.

The message brought by Jesus is so simple and straightforward that even the most uneducated should be able to understand and follow it. Mohammed taught essentially the same ideas. In fact, almost all world religions teach exactly the same teachings.

From the very beginnings of life on earth, until today, we  — each and every one, black white, yellow or blue — are related. We’re brothers and sisters. While it’s true that siblings sometimes have disagreements, they seldom attack and even kill one another.

Rodney King may not have been an educator, nor even an upstanding pillar in our society, but he said something very penetrating when he said, “Can’t we all just get along?”

That’s how I see it.

 

 

Are We In Trouble Yet?

65745314As Cheech and Chong once said, “Things are tough all over.”

We constantly hear of the need for more education, and I heartily agree that  every citizen should have the right to a college education. Children are forced by law to attend grammar school. In most instances, high school and beyond is optional. If children were properly prepared for high school while still in grammar school, and understanding that a free college education would follow that, perhaps they might be more interested in pursuing their education. Just knowing that the paycheck after four years of college combined with the respect that sheepskin brings along with it, should be an incentive for many children to buckle down and study.

Obviously not every child would study. Every human is different, and like or not, our world is better off this way. Imagine a world in which, like robots, we looked and acted exactly alike.

But there’s a flip side to all this college education. Maybe the “Animal House” story is closer to the truth than we know.

In keeping my eyes open, and looking over résumés from college-educated, experienced individuals, I wonder just how much college has taught them.

Not only in writing do we see egregious errors, but TV newscasters and commentators often mispronounce words, names and/or use bad grammar, as do “off the cuff” politicos. Thank heaven for professionally crafted speeches and Teleprompters!

Here are a few written examples of what I mean. These are from actual résumés of persons looking for a position in journalism, individuals who profess to have college degrees and considerable experience as well. Some of the following are grammatically incorrect while some are simply confusing. Did these writers even take a moment to edit their own writing? I’d have to say no to that, but I’ll let the reader be the judge.

“over a scope of divisions”

“I am prepared at making duplicate for different”

“composed, altered or edit scholarly”

“with regards to composing and editing, I demand getting words…a good fit for the reason”

“I appreciate molding content that is promptly reasonable”

“We are a gathering of — …s into a group”

“decision for all you’re composing needs”

“keep readers returning for additional.” (that’s a period there. End of sentence)

“look no more remote than”

“We will surpass your most prominent desires”

“a top-notch degree”

“have the mastery to convey an extensive variety of ventures”

“typesetting administrations for”

“With..years of distributed and venture administration encounter, regardless of what stage your undertaking is at, I can help you with its culmination”

Okay, as my daughter used to say when criticized, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

 

I ‘m like Hercule Poirot, sort of.

Hercule Poirot,  Agatha Christie’s famed detective, and I share a good many physical as well at mental and daily habit qualities.
Poirot

The other day after shaving,  I stood looking into the mirror and there he was: Hercule Poirot! I suddenly realized how much alike we are.

Okay, I’m six feet tall while he was only about 5′ 4″, but if I hunch my shoulders and bend my knees a little…

He had an egg-shaped head. Mine isn’t quite egg-shaped. A bit more pointy perhaps, but with a bowler on, maybe —

His mustache was of course famous. I have a mustache. Well, I did have one before my wife made me shave it off. I can speak with a very clever French accent and throw in a mon ami, merci or tiens! here and there. That adds a touch of authenticity as well as considerable color to the conversation.

M. Poirot prefers chocolate for breakfast. I don’t care for chocolate for breakfast, but my wife does.

Poirot was a meticulous dresser. Ask anyone at the Goodwill Store and they’ll tell you I’m very picky when it comes to choosing my clothing.(10% discount on Tues. and Wed.. The Belgians, like the French, are thought to be frugal. As for me, I have to be frugal!)

I have a cane. Okay, it may not be a real whangee walking stick like M. Poirot had, but it’s finished to look like one, sort of.

I wear patent leather shoes. Well again, sort of. They’re leather on top and my socks are pattin’ on the sidewalk.

And the little grey cells! Ah, this is where I really shine. My little gray cells are even smaller and more darker grey than M. Poirot’s! I’d say something like the fuzzy dark grey lint that comes from the dryer. In his day he probably didn’t even have a dryer.

So there we have it. My argument why I’m almost as much like Poirot as David Suchet. But I have to admit a secret: I still like Mr. Suchet better. In spite of the similarities between M. Poirot and me, Mr. Suchet is as close to the real Poirot as anyone could ever get. We’ll say no more on the subject.

.

Madison Avenue’s Unknown Secret

The advertising gurus on Madison Avenue have a secret that is so well-hidden (in plain sight) that even they haven’t yet discovered its value…

That secret lies in the names they come up with for products.

I hesitate to point a finger at unknown and very possibly nice well-meaning advertising people such as Darrin Stevens. These individuals are harassed and befuddled and bewitched by their wives who are undoubtedly crosses between Lucy and Samantha, but…

I have a gut feeling that only drug induced dreams could account for most of the imaginative if inappropriate names advertising campaigns come up with for new and older products. I’m thinking primarily of the automobile and pharmaceutical industries.

Otezla is a pharmaceutical product, but can’t you just envision the arrival on the showroom floor of the new Ford Otezla, or the Honda Abreva, all new for 2017? How about the Dodge Viagra with its new 400 hp. engine?  Or a new health aid for those in hospital called Enclave? The new medical breakthrough for male enhancement, The Veloster? Or that new hybrid family SUV, the Cialis.

Azera could be a great treatment for that nasal congestion we sometimes get, and of course Genesis might be a great name for a cream that keeps you looking young forever.

Of course that new bodybuilding vitamin-enriched capsule, the Impreza, is guaranteed to be a winner.

Admittedly not all car manufacturers pay big bucks to acquire fancy names for their vehicles. Most European manufacturers show a more subtle if still imaginative approach to assigning a model name to their vehicles. Numbers and/or combinations of numbers and letters create a presumably more upscale and dignified way of giving each vehicle style its personal identity without naming it after a wild beast or what might well be a pharmaceutical product. Of course, since nearly all the vehicles on the road today are so nearly identical in appearance, it’s really more necessary now than ever before to give us some means to identify them.

Hey, if funny names help sell cars, then I suppose we can’t blame the automakers. But if that’s what sells cars, it’s no wonder our country is in such a distasteful position, hated by most of the world (even though nearly everything we buy and use comes from outside the United States), we find ourselves to be the object of ridicule, especially for our disorganized political disaster. From our once proud position as the country other countries strive to emulate, we’re now a third world country, and should be driving around in our new, improved 2016 Acyclovir with our heads hanging in shame.

The dismal hope of getting a president who can even try to address some of our many much-needed improvements from bridges and highways to the universal healthcare and education that should be the birthright of every citizen is barely imaginable. With a congress of old men who should never have been allowed to spend more than eight years, if that, fiddling around in Washington “serving” their country (read: serving their own self-interests), a president is not a dictator.

President Obama, in eight years, has been quite fortunate in being able to accomplish the good things he has managed to squeak past our lawmakers in the face of almost 100% opposition from the Senate and the House of Reprehensibles.

We need change in America, and the first step would be to limit the terms of representatives and senators to – at most – eight years, just as our president is limited to eight years. Anything longer than that tends to open the gates of Washington to the few who manage to get a permanent grip on our government. While technically these “presidents” etc., in many countries refer to themselves as presidents, in reality, they become kings, the real old-style “off with his head” type kings. Such kings also enjoy the privilege of designating their successors. Did someone mention nepotism? Hey, anything’s possible in a country that lets too many venal “servants” serve for far too long.

But getting back to Madison Avenue, another possibility has occurred to me. It’s quite possible that a brigade of interns spends its first few years in the advertising business with one sole responsibility (aside from bringing coffee and picking up dry-cleaning for the upper echelons of suits), and that is to spend all their free time thinking up catchy new names for products. Never mind what products. The intern’s job is simply to think up catchy new names. Has to be something different, unusual, and something that a high-school dropout can remember. All these unassociated names go into a special computer file called: Names.

When a new vehicle comes out from Nissan and they need a model name for it, all they have to do is call the agency. An agent looks into the Names file and bingo! The Vytorin! The All-New and Improved Nissan Vytorin, the only family vehicle you’ll ever need!

I’m thinking of buying that new camera from Canon. You know, the Xanax. Makes me think of that old-time household name, Kodak. At one time any old camera was called a Kodak. Who says catchy names don’t matter?

 

 

#advertising #automobile names #pharmaceutical names #Madison Ave. #politics #congress #senate #politicians #United States

A dream come true

In my latest effort, Hail Mary, I took a daring (for me) step left, getting away from the mystery/detective genre and noir fiction that I love and usually write.

This time, Hail Mary was different. I didn’t consciously plan it, I hadn’t even thought about such a thing and if I had thought about it, I’m sure I’d have quickly discarded the premise.

But it didn’t happen that way. One night not too far removed from this night I began dreaming and unlike so many dreams that skip around like bees pollinating flowers, I watched this dream unfold before my very eyes. It actually had continuity and made sense, at least to me.

I woke from this dream around four in the morning and it was as if I’d been watching a movie. It had been very visual and not only made sense in its own way, but I knew I had to get up and do something before it faded from memory as so many dreams quickly do.

Within a week I had at least a first draft. It wouldn’t have taken that long, but aside from writing, I do have a life (well, sort of). I mean I have some coffee, shave, etc. Have more coffee. Go about turning off the exterior lights, More coffee. I’ve read that Honoré de Balzac downed something like seventy-odd cups of coffee a day. I called Guiness and threatened to drink ninety, but they haven’t called back. Maybe I’ll have to talk about an even hundred.

Then there are all the other little things that have to be done. Take out the garbage, check my email, cook. Oh yes, I’m the head cook around here and I get to clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes as well. My wife and I like to go together for lunch, about the only quiet time we get to spend together without constant interruption during the day. Besides, I can sit at the computer only so long before I feel so sleepy I just have to go lie down for a bit. Half the night I can’t sleep, but during the day I can, especially if I’m doing something important.

Then of course there’s Klondike 3 card draw solitaire. That somehow seems an important part of the day.

But in Hail Mary’s case, the book pretty much wrote itself. Mediums used to talk of automatic writing (perhaps they still do). It was something like that. The book poured out as quickly as I could type. Of course I can type much faster than I can think so frequently I have to go back and translate what I’ve written into legible English.

Still, the entire little book took only a short time and required very little revision, mostly typos, etc. It just flowed along and if I could take credit, I’d say I dreamed up a clever and devious plot.

What happened is that Mary and Harry “Bulldog” Drummond, a retired cop, have been married over forty years. Mary was a wild party girl, a true free-spirit, while the Bulldog was not only conservative, but a by-the-book no-nonsense cop. When he was called to Whitey’s Tavern one night because of a disturbance, he found the disturbance to be Mary. He cuffed her and took her out of the building, but by the time he got her to the station, they both realized they’d found their soul mate. Okay, seems unlikely that water and electricity could form a soul mate duo, but they did and they realized it right away.

Shortly after their marriage Estelle came along. She was a future cop just like dad.

Creighton followed, but completely unlike dad, Cray was a diffident, non-confrontational fellow who did not want anything to do with being a police officer. He became a pretty good accountant however.

This starts with a bad day for Cray. His father dies and Cray gets fired the same day. Then hoping to keep Mary at home with him and his family until after the funeral, he brings her home, but the day after the funeral, unlicensed Mary “borrows” Cray’s car and recruits a couple of old girlfriends she’s known since the seventh grade. They go off together to comfort Mary and that’s when things really go crazy.

Somehow in the end however, everything works out. Mary it turns out isn’t quite as flaky as everyone thought and nobody got killed or hurt…well except for the four dejected and bandaged bikers sitting in jail where they rue the day they ever messed with those three little old ladies.

Hail Marry will be out this month at amazon.com and all the usual suspect book venders and can be pre-ordered at http://writewordsinc.com (Cambridge Books)

I really think you’ll like this one.

Hail Mary, a dream come true

In my latest effort, Hail Mary, I took a daring (for me) step left and, getting away from the mystery/detective genre and noir fiction that I love and usually write.

This time, Hail Mary was different. I didn’t consciously plan it, I hadn’t even thought about such a thing and if I had thought about it, I’m sure I’d have quickly discarded the premise.

But it didn’t happen that way. One night not too far removed from this night I began dreaming and unlike so many dreams that skip around like bees pollinating flowers, I watched this dream unfold before my very eyes. It actually had continuity and made sense, at least to me.

I woke from this dream around four in the morning and it was as if I’d been watching a movie. It had been very visual and not only made sense in its own way, but I knew I had to get up and do something before it faded from memory as so many dreams quickly do.

Within a week I had at least a first draft. It wouldn’t have taken that long, but aside from writing, I do have a life (well, sort of). I mean I have some coffee, shave, etc. Have more coffee. Go about turning off the exterior lights, More coffee. I’ve read that Honoré de Balzac downed something like seventy-odd cups of coffee a day. I called Guiness and threatened to drink ninety, but they haven’t called back. Maybe I’ll have to talk about an even hundred.

Then there are all the other little things that have to be done. Take out the garbage, check my email, cook. Oh yes, I’m the head cook around here and I get to clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes as well. My wife and I like to go together for lunch, about the only quiet time we get to spend together without constant interruption during the day. Besides, I can sit at the computer only so long before I feel so sleepy I just have to go lie down for a bit. Half the night I can’t sleep, but during the day I can, especially if I’m doing something important.

Then of course there’s Klondike 3 card draw solitaire. That somehow seems an important part of the day.

But in Hail Marys case, the book pretty much wrote itself. Mediums used to talk of automatic writing (perhaps they still do). It was something like that. The book poured out as quickly as I could type. Of course I can type much faster than I can think so frequently I have to go back and translate what I’ve written into legible English.

Still, the entire little book took only a short time and required very little revision, mostly typos, etc. It just flowed along and if I could take credit, I’d say I dreamed up a clever and devious plot.

What happened is that Mary and Harry “Bulldog” Drummond, a retired cop, have been married over forty years. Mary was a wild party girl, a true free-spirit, while the Bulldog was not only conservative, but a by-the-book no-nonsense cop. When he was called to Whitey’s Tavern one night because of a disturbance, he found the disturbance to be Mary. He cuffed her and took her out of the building, but by the time he got her to the station, they both realized they’d found their soul mate. Okay, seems unlikely that water and electricity could form a soul mate duo, but they did and they realized it right away.

Shortly after their marriage Estelle came along. She was a future cop just like dad.

Creighton followed, but completely unlike dad, Cray was a diffident, non-confrontational fellow who did not want anything to do with being a police officer. He became a pretty good accountant however.

Bad day for Cray. His father died and Cray got fired the same day. Then hoping to keep Mary at home with him and his family until after the funeral, he brings her home, but the day after the funeral, unlicensed Mary “borrows” Cray’s car and recruits a couple of old girlfriends she’s known since the seventh grade. They go off together to comfort Mary and that’s when things really go crazy.

Somehow in the end however, everything works out. Mary it turns out isn’t quite as flaky as everyone thought and nobody got killed or hurt…well except for the four dejected and bandaged bikers sitting in jail where they rue the day they ever messed with those three little old ladies.

Hail Marry will be out this month at amazon.com and all the usual suspect book venders and can be pre-ordered at http://writewordsinc.com (Cambridge Books)

I really think you’ll like this one.Hail Mary jpeg 2

“Hail Mary”

At last! My short novel “Hail Mary” is about to be published, probably before the end of June. July  at the latest.

A notable departure from my usual crime/mystery and/or noir fiction, this Hail Mary jpeg 2tragicomedy, “Hail Mary” follows three, well make that four people as they survive a couple of days of confusion, fear, danger, laughter and grief.

Many find it hard to believe that free-spirit Mary and hard-nosed, by-the-book retired cop, Harry “Bulldog” Drummond could be soul mates, but they are. Make that were. After over forty years of fighting and making up, Mary awakes to find the Bulldog dead.

As this happens, their diffident son, Creighton, an accountant goes to work happily expecting the raise his boss, John McClatchy has practically promised. Instead of a raise however, Creighton sees a plum payroll account slip through his fingers and in the ensuing discussion, actually trying to assert himself for once, Cray goes about it in the wrong way and gets himself fired on the spot.

Now, coming home despondent and jobless with a wife and two kids, two mortgages, payments on his wife’s SUV and a lazy dog, Cray learns the news that his father has just died.

Creighton and his wife, Celie, decide to help Mary get through this by bringing her to stay with them until after the funeral.

It turns out that their attentions are not quite enough and Mary gets in touch with a couple of women from their school days. She “borrows” Cray’s car, and the trio go off on what turns out to be one wild ride, not just on the ground but in the air as they get high in more than one way.

After two days of harrowing experiences for the women as well as for a hapless Creighton, Mary comes back down to earth help Cray and his family get back on track.

The only unhappy participants at the end of this ride are the four hard-ass bikers in jail nursing their injuries and regretting ever having messed with those three little old ladies.

That’s just a small part of the goings-on when these three slightly tarnished “Golden Girls” get out and about.

“Hail Mary”

     ISBN — Print:  978-1-61386-369-5 — e-book:  978-1-61386-370-1

Pre-order your copy today from http://writewordsinc.com

Soon available as a Kindle book, Nook etc.

“A study in family dynamics. This is a fine tale with lessons for those who face tragic situations.” — Anne K. Edwards “Murder in Paradise”

“I laughed more in this book than in any I’ve ever read.” — Martha A. Cheves  “The good, the Bad, the Maybe”

 

 

Getting Our Heads out of the Box

Fulfillment of Life

Man in Box

Here on our little earth, a tiny dot lost among the stars of the vast universe, I see organized religion as our greatest and most restrictive impediment to the enjoyment and fulfillment of life.

Religious leaders the world over constantly attempt to impose their world views upon us, citing their “holiness” or their ability to communicate directly with God, a privilege not accorded base mankind. This is, and had always been the privilege of the priesthood.

From earliest days, men, just like you and me, with women excluded of course, have had built constructions they called their temples. They told everyone the temples were sacred, and to raise their own stakes in the estimation of the populace, inside these temples they had constructed for themselves a smaller area called their “Sanctum Sanctorum”.  By the time we had reached the age of Roman domination, Latin became the sacred language of the priesthood, hence the Latin name for their inner circle, a place so holy that only the priests themselves might enter. The rest of us may have considered ourselves lucky to be able to enter the temple itself and often marvel at the precious objects that increasingly found a home within those sacred walls.

This was at a time when no one read. Well, no one but the priesthood, and by the time of the beginning of Christianity when Latin was popular, they began writing everything in Latin, thus making it impossible for any layman to read and understand save what the priests told him.

All this was accompanied as might be expected by a great deal of sanctimonious pomp and ceremony, impressive and flowing robes not lacking in gold and silver embellishments, all designed to further impress upon the general populace the power and grace of the priesthood as opposed to the squalor of the average citizen.

Today of course, most of us read and write. Most documents once available to the elite in the original Latin or Greek, are now readily available to us all in the language of our choosing.

But throughout the millennia, life on earth has developed and changed, perhaps not always for the better, but change it has.

Although today we can read and write, few of us have really spent time in consideration of what we have been taught since childhood. One thing that should come to mind when we do take a moment to reflect: the priesthood still exists. Not always with the pomp and ceremony of a relative few of today’s churches, and certainly not in the way it existed before the time of Jesus. But it still exists. It exists not only in most organized churches, but in every tiny corner church where some “reverend” or “pastor” or “evangelist” impresses upon anyone who will listen (especially if they bring a little money for the privilege) that this particular individual, whether he call himself a pastor, or a minister; whatever, this individual will claim that he or she alone has the secret reserved only for the enlightened and now the Lord has sent him/her to divulge that secret to you, if only you will listen and obey.

Bottom line here: Organized religion, while it may help some feel better, help some to want to be better citizens, it also directs us to keep our thinking inside a box. Inside a very small box with the lid tightly closed, as if we’re protecting ourselves in a storm cellar even when no storm is to be detective on the horizon.

We are admonished to listen to the words of this particular pastor as if God himself were speaking into our ear, and we are never to listen to others who only talk religion without knowing or understanding the true faith. The one and only Real Faith.

My admonishment on the other hand is to open the lid of the box, get out and stretch and look around. Read. Find out what you need to know about religion. Many live by the Bible, carry it with them day and night and believe every word has been inspired by God and must be true. Perhaps these ancient peoples were only writing the “blogs” of their day. Supposing they wrote only what they believed, or had deduced from their observation of the world around them. Isn’t it likely that a person who was able to read and write might want to keep a journal to jot down these speculations?  And, in an age where there are no railroads, no telephones, no aircraft, none of the modern products we share today, were available to that ancient scholar, then how could he/she describe mental visions that might arise in his speculative moments?

In the early days of the arrival of Europeans, our Native Americans became aware of many new objects they had never before seen and had no real words or explanations for them. Actually, it is said that when Columbus landed, the native inhabitants asked how he had arrived and he pointed to his ships. They looked and looked but saw nothing. Their minds were in a box. That box contained canoes perhaps or a raft, but that was the extent of their view of the ocean. Eventually it was necessary to row some of them out to the ships before they could actually grasp the reality of what they were being told.

They had no name for alcoholic beverages or rifles, etc. Despite Hollywood’s idea of what Native Americans called these things, such as “fire stick”, most tribes quickly came up with their own name, a name that made sense to them.

The different tribes had their own religions. Who can say they were uninformed while Europeans, or more specifically the Europeans and the Middle-Eastern Priesthood knew all the answers and were determined to correct the mistaken beliefs of these “primitive” peoples?

Thinking for a moment about this, does it make any sense whatsoever? We’ve been taught to believe in the Judeo-Christian ideology, but all over the world, since the beginning of mankind itself, people have felt the necessity of having some sort of belief in a higher power. Surely this universe did not simply spring out of nothingness.

Today we smile at Norse gods, Greek gods and Roman gods as well as Egyptian gods and most of the other deities of the past. Someday perhaps a more enlightened society will smile in the same way at the major beliefs of citizens of our century.

Listening to a good speaker exhort us to be better citizens, to behave in a more humane way toward our brethren, to show mercy, compassion and many of the other attributes taught by most of the great religious leaders, all these are good and can be very beneficial. They can help bring many through a difficult period or to make a more thoughtful decision about a contemplated action. But these exhortations should always be kept in the proper proportion. These are not necessarily from the mouth of God, not do they need to be. They’re common sense solutions to most of our world’s problems today.

Let us wake up and separate fact from fiction, and let us be mindful that no matter what our religious faith, under the skin of varied colors, we are indeed all brothers and sisters and therefore family. Real families stick together through thick and thin and the strong take care of the weak when they need it.

After all this jeremiad, I do not mean to imply that we should not have beliefs. It is the right of every individual to believe whatever he/she likes.

I’m not writing this to profess a deity nor am I here to preach atheism or agnosticism. It is my belief that any beliefs are an intensely personal choice and whatever a person chooses to believe, or perhaps to doubt, is that person’s business and it is not for us to ask nor to assume. I feel that if a person’s belief helps that person in some way, as offering hope, someone to turn to, a promise of a better life in the future, the conviction that a greater (and kindly) power presides over us,then more power to that person. Granted,  despite the strife in the world, all this may indeed be part of vast eternal plan, one however that unfortunately did not include making Tevye a rich man.

The reader of this little essay, if he/she is still reading, may profess a certain organized religion and may therefore be shocked, even offended by the foregoing. Others may never have given it much thought.

My single goal here is not to dissuade anyone from any religious belief, not from any organized church, but simply to ask the reader to open the box even if just a little and take a look around.

Haven’t you ever noticed how people use and distort religion to their own needs and desires? When Henry VIII was unable to get the Pope to permit a divorce, he changed the course of English religious history. He formed the Church of England and got his divorce as well. But that wasn’t enough. Others, not quite agreeing with one tenet or another,  formed their own organizations. Each time a new religious organization takes hold, it jealously rejects any other beliefs. This is what led to the voyage of the Mayflower.

Here in our country, the Puritans jealously guarded their faith and proscribed any other. And so it goes.

Today, with heavy fighting in the political arena, many spend more time worrying about the different candidates’ religious affiliation than any other thing. In their minds, the important thing for a president is to share the same faith as the person who voted for him/her. Here we are, an educated nation, many have college degrees, and we all forget one of the most vital caveats our wise forefathers got into First Amendment to the Constitution: (For those who don’t know, or don’t remember: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” And for those who believe this somehow to be ambiguous, Article Six of the United States Constitution reads: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States”.

One last word: Open that box you may have been hiding in. The counsel and advice of others may be wonderful, but an attribute I see as being a much more valuable and wonderful tool is to start thinking for yourself. Question the things you hear, especially when a person tells you he/she “knows for a fact”.

 

 

Some Thoughts on Religious Beliefs

This little commentary is not intended to promote any particular religion or atheism either. I’m not making judgments, but rather a little commentary on the subject of religious belief, or lack thereof.
Many find great comfort in their beliefs and church attendance, and I have no quarrel with that. This is overall a pretty cold world and most churches of all faiths offer us hope of a better life ahead. If we can believe and take comfort from that, then I’m all for it.
However, I look around me, after more years than I’m willing to admit (since I can’t understand why I’m still here), I see very disturbing signs. Not that this is new. I started feeling the way I feel many many years ago, and the feeling has grown, but I’ve kept silent, not wanting to argue or hurt anyone’s feelings.
Since the beginning, I believe religious beliefs have caused more war, intolerance, strife, hatred and lack of empathy or understanding than all the other man-made and or natural causes put together.
That’s very sad, because every religion I’ve ever heard of seems to promote brotherly love, peace, tolerance, and love for our fellow man. I don’t know of any of our great religious leaders, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, and so on who has told us to hate any non-believers, kill the unfaithful unless they can be brought into the fold. And here I’m not targeting only people like ISIS. We’ve had inquisitions, witch hunts and general intolerance in every church of which I’m aware, since the very beginning. Even today different denominations, be they Muslim, Christian or Jew, are at best quietly intolerant of other offshoots of the same religions, and at worst…well, we know where that leads.
But aside from all that. No matter who we choose for a God, be it Thor, Ares, Allah, Ra…Whoever, I really wonder. Do we honestly believe this God, in our case, a benevolent Santa Claus lookalike without the red suit (which Satan copped early on), do we honestly believe this God wants us on our knees groveling night and day, thanking him for food we had to struggle to get, begging for our child’s health or a better job?
As parents, we raise our children and to them, up until a certain age at least, we are their Gods. Now they are grown and does any one of us want these grown children on their groveling before us every day to thank us for not killing them the day they spilled a gallon of milk all over the kitchen floor, or the time they casually tossed a dirty sock on the lamp starting a fire? Of course not. Nor do we expect them to thank us every time they put food into their mouths. As we all know, we’re lucky to get a thank you even when we do something extra nice. Our kids love us, but they take us for granted. We’re the parent and we know they love us and they know we know they love us. They see no reason why they should reassure us at least once every day.
I know the world we see around us is a sort of illusion. Nothing is what it appears to be, because if we could look deeply into it, we’d see that all the atoms that make up our bodies, our trees, our scorpions and worms and chickens, etc. are basically identical. And the atoms are made up of particles and the particles really have no substance, therefore no shape, no color, and the entire world, including us, is made from a gigantic collection of them. So in the end, we are nothing, made from nothing, and in my opinion, that’s a piece of work in itself. So I’ll give a God a pass on that. If the world was only what we can see and touch with the naked eye and ungloved hand, I’d say no God. No nothing.
But knowing that it’s much more complex than that, and now we’re talking of infinite universes and black holes and wormholes and space-time, and that tells me there may just be some sort of intelligence behind and beyond all this. If so, I doubt that this intelligence looks anything like a benevolent Santa Claus in a long white robe with a gilded shepherd’s staff in his hand.
So I’m not saying we shouldn’t bother to go to church, if that brings us any comfort. But too many I’ve seen remind me of Jesus’ comments on the Pharisees, feeling holier than people who don’t spend as much time in church as they do. I do wish we could be a lot more tolerant of others, no matter what their religion or faith. If we could do just that, the world would be a much better place for all, and perhaps bring us a lot closer to God as well.

Author Jay D.

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