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”.

 

 

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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.

Prescription Medication, the Panacea that will keep us happy forever.

Didja ever notice? (My chance to be comedian for a day, well for a few minutes).
If you take any one (or better yet, half a dozen) of those medications constantly hyped to us on our TVs, (despite side effects more frightening than the threat of a North Korean prison), you no longer have to work for a living.
All day, you just lie around in a hammock, or lie by the pool sipping cool refreshment, or even swim if that’s your pleasure. You walk your dogs in the park and schmooze with other dog walkers who’re on the same medication(s). You take long leisurely walks along trails past bubbling brooks and yes, even do a little mountain climbing.
Or you can hook up the trailer and go traveling. You can go anyplace and park your trailer at the very edge of a sheer thousand foot drop and confidently stand there hugging your companion while you contentedly contemplate the beauty of nature. You go driving, hiking, biking and running. You’re bursting with the energy you need to play with your grandchildren and you can even go sky-diving, enjoy that cruise to the Bahamas and best of all, if you can afford two bathtubs, you and your loved one can pig out on Cialis and, sitting side by side and holding hands across the short abyss, contemplate the marvelous colors of the setting sun. And of course, once out of the tub, no matter where you are, be it at the tennis court, the club, the swimming pool, maybe even in church? That urge comes on and Cialis has you covered. Don’t worry about prurient onlookers. They’re only jealous of you, a ninety-year old man humping a gasping woman like she’s never been humped before.
In my case, I can’t afford to stop working long enough to enjoy the benefits of all these (mostly very expensive) medications, and in the case of most of them, I’d probably have to bribe my doctor to get them, or order on the Internet from Canada or Mexico (shipped in a plain brown wrapper). And if the item is OTC I can order today and they’ll double the offer. Trouble there is I just can’t afford to pay the separate shipping and handling – and, by the way, neither can you.
So even if I had all the pep, sense of well-being and youthfulness bursting at every seam, I couldn’t afford to stop working long enough to leave town for more than a day. Bummer.

The Great Wall of Mexico

I was thinking about Mr. Trump’s great idea to build a gigantic (and expensive) wall between the United States of America and the United States of Mexico. First, looking back at history, I see that our most artistic and well-built wall, was the Great Wall of China, most of which stands today. Unfortunately, it didn’t keep anybody out. The Berlin Wall, which was pretty nasty from its beginnings, failed to keep people in, and eventually fell. The walls we already have between our country and Mexico are not only a shame upon our nation, but are also useless and expensive to boot. Where’s the great wall that keeps Canadians from invading our country?
Mr. Trump talks of keeping out drug peddlers, rapists and criminals. Does he really believe that the majority of people who come here can be placed in that category? Nearly all these people are coming here to seek a better life, not to get welfare or rob liquor stores or rape our womenfolk. They come here looking for a job, a chance to earn a little money so their kids can go to school and hopefully get a better education than they had.
Supposing for a moment, we get that ridiculous and shameful wall constructed and somehow, despite human ingenuity, we manage to keep everybody out, what will become of our country?
Who will pick the lettuce, weed the beets and pick the hops and berries? Who will mow our lawns, do our gardening and landscaping? Who will do the dishes, mop the floors and clean up the kitchen in countless fast food joints? Who will wash our cars Who will clear the table in our favorite restaurant? In short, who will do all the dirty, menial work nobody else wants, or is willing, to do?
Face it: A gringo simply can’t weed beets. (Trust me on this!) It’s a back-breaking job under a relentless sun that only an underpaid completely desperate person can possibly hope to accomplish.
The average North American citizen isn’t willing to wash dishes, bus tables, scrub floors, mow lawns and do landscaping, nor is he willing to wash cars all day under a scorching sun for what amounts to peanuts. Almost nobody is willing, or capable, of working in the fields.
There are hundreds of menial jobs in our country that nobody wants, or is willing, to do. Without the Mexican labor force that slips across our borders, we’d be at a standstill.
We need the Mexicans as much as they need us. And as they come here, learn and educate their children, like the Irish and Italians, Poles and Armenians, etc. before them, they start at the bottom and move up the ladder to better jobs and better lives and become a valuable asset to our country.
America, let’s wake up! Let’s get real!

The Shame of Television

It really bothers me to see that the people who program television as well as the people who create the ads for television, set such a low bar on our national IQ.

They feed us “reality” that is patently unreal and mostly so boring I have a feeling the director and cameraman go to sleep during taping and only deal with what turns up later. But to really rub it in, after each little segment, a “psychologist” or “legal expert” or former criminal turned honest or even a former disgraced police officer tosses out “expert” opinions.

A couple is looking for a house. Yeah. Like the producers are going to waste time and money looking at houses when in the end, the couple decides to stay in Mom’s basement where they’ve been since they married five years ago. They look at house Number 1 and the wife complains that there are no granite counter tops while the husband says he wants a bigger back yard for his dog.

Immediately after this, a honey-voiced narrator, like a UN translator, tells us the wife wants granite counter tops and the husband wants a larger yard for his dog. Have we finally got it? Do we care?

A criminal casually tells how he butchered a young woman, buried her remains and then went to McDonald’s for dinner. Immediately a psychologist appears and explains that criminals often relive their crimes and feel a need to talk about them. Who knew?

Hillbillies are big. Evidently the television industry thinks we’re fascinated by hillbillies and strange people who live off the grid. I don’t know, maybe they’re right. Maybe that’s why we have so many problems and everybody in the world hates Americans. After all, most of our politicians act and talk as if they were the slow kids who spent three years in the third grade. One told his mom, ‘You got to get out of that third grade before you can get no place.’ Besides, while they’re kicking back in front of the TV they can afford to sip martinis, and plenty of ‘em.

From its very beginnings, television has been for the masses, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve always had advertising and commercials, but in the past they didn’t talk down to us in the same way they do today.

We had little jingles. “Luckies taste good…” “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat” Jell-O, Alka-Seltzer…all they did was tell you their product was good. As one commercial said, “Try it, you’ll like it”.

Now we have to sit through long dry commercials about new prescription drugs with more fancy names than new cars. That’s bad enough, but then the commercial turns into a horror movie while we’re quickly warned of all the deadly side effects, immediately switching to a happy couple with nothing to do but hike in the woods or go boating. We see people practically having sexual relations in front of people on the beach, etc. because the guy took Cialis. Hot women lie impatiently in bed waiting for (we hope) their husbands to down a Viagra. We’re hounded by attorneys begging us to sue somebody for almost anything. Mesothelioma, Mesh, and on and on ad nauseam. And then the real snapper: the amazing new product that will keep your car looking and running like new forever or the kitchen gadget you can’t live without. Just $19.95, but wait! Order today and we’ll double your offer and upgrade you to the model with a built-in flashlight, and then more softly, just pay separate shipping and handling. People who have fallen for those ads often end up having paid $75 or more dollars for junk they’ll later find at Walgreen’s in the “As seen on TV” shelf for something like ten bucks.

What really troubles me is not so much that they try this stuff, but evidently it’s working. They’re getting worse every day.

When TLC started, TLC meant The Learning Channel and I expected a rival of public television. Commercials? Sure as long as I get some educational and interesting programming…but sadly, it looks as if there wasn’t much of an audience for that, and now TLC, while no long teaching anything but bad taste to prurient viewers, has found its niche. Others are just as guilty. With its reputation I would expect National Geographic to offer really interesting programming. Yeah. And the History Channel. Sounds like you really learn a lot of that history you missed out on in school because you were daydreaming. I like truck drivers and their work is important. I’ve had two brothers-in-law who were truckers, but what do modern-day truck drivers have to do with yesterday’s happening? Well, as to history, one of the brothers-in-law, while visiting us on a delivery trip, went to sleep and his cigarette burned our new coffee table, but, well…that’s sort of history I guess.

Come on America. We (the few of us who are outraged at today’s TV programming and advertising) need to stand up and, like in the movie, “Network”, yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more. Good-bye Dish, Direct TV, Comcast and all the other panderers who peddle this stuff. Well, I can’t cut them off completely. I need my Turner Classic Movie Channel. At least Mr. Turner hasn’t let us down. I even watch CNN sometimes.

After thinking about it, I may look into getting two bathtubs on the patio and maybe I too could, you know…

It’s a cold world.

The Sand Bluff Murders by C.M Albrecht

Rosie Amber

Sand Bluff MurdersSand Bluff Murders by Carl Albrecht

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Sand Bluff Murders are set in a small fictional town in northern California. Jonas Cleary has applied for the post of detective, he likes the idea of a small sleepy town where he can settle down and hopefully start a family.

So when a dead body turns up, the first in twenty years, he’s not sure if the other officers are pulling a prank on the newbie. When the corpse proves to be real Jonas finds himself deep in his first homicide. He must try to put the pieces of the puzzle together with the help of the local townsfolk. When the body is identified they find the man was a stranger, and Jonas must try to reason what brought him to Sand Bluff.

A second dead body has Jonas trying to discover if the two murders…

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Mystery Tour Day 17 #MysteryNovember The Sand Bluff Murders by C.M Albrecht

Rosie is doing a great job. We need more Rosie Ambers.

Rosie Amber

November Mystery Tour

Today our guest on the Mystery Book Tour is Carl Albrecht and his book The Sand Bluff Murders.

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Where is your home town?

I write under the name, C. M. Albrecht, but my friends call me Carl. Lord knows what my enemies might call me, but fortunately I don’t believe I really have any.

Although I sometimes talk tough when I write, I’m really a pretty meek mild-mannered fellow. I’m not a thrill-seeker. I don’t go sky-diving, base-jumping and I don’t take any of those wonder drugs they peddle on TV (the ones that are clinically tested and so miraculous but carry along with them life-threatening side-effects).

Save for a stint in the army, I spent most of my formative years in Portland, Oregon. I loved it there, partially because, from my reading, I felt it must be a lot like London. Old bridges over a wide river. Dark narrow…

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Sharia

Apparently around the world there’s a growing belief that sharia should be imposed upon all the countries of the world. I was aghast at first, but then I thought a little about this.

After all, upon due consideration, I have to admit there’s something to be said about Sharia.

Men get to sit around all day and night smoking and drinking, have girlfriends and boyfriends and come and go as they wish. If they get the chance to rape a woman, hey, it’s her fault because she probably didn’t have her veil properly attached. When they come home their wife better have dinner on the table and keep her mouth shut about never helping with the kids or taking out the trash. Quelle idée ! If she starts complaining about too much work, just get another wife or two to help her out.

Generally speaking, men can do just about anything they want to, while women know their place and if they forget for a moment, they’ll be so sharply reminded that they’ll be unlikely ever to forget again. They don’t discuss your money with you or get to drive your new car.  Sweet.

Just think about the possibilities. When you go out she doesn’t ask where you’re going or when you’ll be back. When you crawl through the door at three in the morning, she’ll never ask where you’ve been all night or what you’ve been up to. When you want to watch a game she’ll be there with the beer and popcorn for you and your buddies, and when you load up your golf clubs or bowling ball, she’ll help you carry the load to the car and bow humbly as you drive off on yet another tryst.

Yes, I’m beginning to think I like this sharia stuff. Only one hitch. I don’t think my wife will go for it. In fact, I’m sure of it.

Thrift Stores

Thrift Store

When I was young I worked in a fast food place similar to McDo. This was inside-only service and we had to collect when served. Every time my manager passed one of us hs’d mutter: “Get the money!” He drove us crazy with that, but now, being older and wiser, I have to say he was right. We were there to make money. Here’s a quote reputedly made by a man far wiser than I am:

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption to our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

When we go into some of our local thrift stores we’re constantly faced with the same thing: a store full of workers, wandering about, clogging aisles with their wagons and generally doing little but stocking shelves (a job most stores primarily do during off hours), while a long line stands behind a yellow line waiting for a lone cashier to handle each customer, one…by….one….More than one time my wife and I have laid our potential purchases aside and walked out, unwilling to stand there while the cashier piddles with some customer over the price of an item or whatever. I wonder how many other customers do the same.

The object of all stores, aside from training etc., is — or certainly should be — to get money. I realize that most of the people wandering about on the floor may not be trained to work the cash register, but that should be an important part of  training. For us, it’s infuriating to see all this personnel, all this activity while we have to climb around aisle-clogging wagons filled with merchandise while employees push rolling hangers of clothing about, and then when we finally settle on our purchases and get to the register, STOP! Stop and wait…and wait and wait.

On the plus side, most of the employees we see are very polite and greet visitors and try to be helpful.

For us, going to thrift stores is sort of a scavenger hunt. We usually don’t know what we’re looking for, and never know what we’ll find (even if we don’t need it), but we stopped shopping at Kmart years ago because of the very same problem: aisles clogged with merchandise, unmarked merchandise and long, long waits at the register while a clerk calls out over the loudspeaker, “Price check on register three!”

We won’t stop going to thrift stores. We enjoy poking around and we almost always end up buying something. But don’t make it difficult for a customer to spend money.

And back to what I said in the beginning as I feel  my former boss’s ghost hovering above my shoulder:

“Get the money!”

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