My Credo


There is no idea or belief I so dearly cherish so as to shield it from rigorous scrutiny or thoughtful challenge. There is no idea or belief I esteem so highly that I will not alter it or abandon it — sacrifice it in favor of standing even closer to the truth.

I penned and published those words several years ago and they have served me well. The corollary to that statement is: I hate being wrong; I detest it. In fact, I abhor being wrong so much that I desperately want to know when I am so that I can stop. Such a credo requires constant monitoring and evaluating of my ideas and beliefs — primarily those [but not exclusively] that are the substance for how I live my life.

Most humans, however, tend to hold onto their beliefs with the same tenacity and vigor as when a pit bull chomps down on another dog’s body during a dog fight. Humans will sacrifice the truth of a matter to their own opinion or to an idea that is incorrect. People do not like to change their mind. This reality is probably a function of believing that changing one’s mind in the face of other information is a sign of weakness or a feeling of being diminished as opposed to one of maturity, if not wisdom. In these instances, stubbornness becomes synonymous with stupidity.

It is recorded that when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, Jesus spoke of truth to which Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus did not answer. [Though earlier, to a different audience, Jesus stated, “I am the truth…”] In any event, I understand that what is true can be difficult to discern and sometime even relative. What is deemed to be true today, could later be found to be untrue or only partly true. Nonetheless, that does not absolve one of the responsibility to honor truth by continually searching for it or at least dismissing what one once thought to be true. I use the term “responsibility” quite deliberately.

No matter one’s ethos, there are few purposes that occupy a higher place than the love of and subsequent search for what is true. But as stated earlier, humans tend to not only not search, but simply select beliefs that are given them by others or beliefs that constitute “low hanging fruit”. After all, to do otherwise is very hard work. This being so, the easy thing to do is to reject ideas that do not fit into one’s construct of truth about a matter. The story of the psychiatrist and the delusional patient comes to mind:

The patient sits down and declares to the doctor, “I am dead.”

The psychiatrist queries, “How do you know you are dead?”

“Dead people don’t bleed,” he replied. At that point the psychiatrist removed a pocket knife from his desk, rose and approached the patient. He cut the patient on the hand. The patient looked at his hand and saw blood oozing out.

He exclaimed with utter surprise, “I didn’t know dead people could bleed!”

As can be seen, some people will dismiss or discount information that contradicts their beliefs. Nothing, not even “God” can get them to abandon what is wrong and accept what is true.

To that end, how many people who reject the idea of current global warming as being primarily the result of human activity, would change their mind in light of the influx of more and more  confirming information?

To that end, how many people will reject the idea of creationism/religion as well as evolution in favor of intelligent design and subsequently deism?

To that end, how many people will submit their ideas about marriage, religion, politics, abortion, free-market capitalism, etcetera, to rigorous and unmerciful scrutiny as part of their relentless search for what is true?

Of course, certain matters are not subject to being right or wrong, true or untrue. They are a matter of view point. Such a thing is fine with one proviso: The examination of all sides of an issue.

In short, a human does not deserve to take sides in an issue unless she or he has closely examined all sides of an issue. Such examination should be so thorough that one can argue any side with the conviction of a believer of that side even if one is not. Then and only then, does one have a right to an opinion [an opinion, because truth is not the final arbiter in some situations]

So, I aver again, before I embrace any idea, I will spit on it slap it, punch it, knock it down and kick it, stomp it … and if it gets back up — I will embrace it, until the next time.

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Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 4:49 AM  Comments (2)  
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Three Beautiful Words


When asked, “What are the three most beautiful words in the English language?” people often respond: “I love you.” Though beautiful (and powerful), those words are frequently misspoken or misapplied – ofttimes said without really giving the matter the thought it deserves. At the other end, the notion of speaking those three words, for some, creates anxiety or discomfort resulting in those words not being uttered enough or spoken to the right persons.

 There are, however, three other words that are equally as beautiful. What is most tragic is that many people will often fight not to speak these other words; they will go to arduous lengths to avoid saying them despite how obvious it is they should say them and despite the powerful effect those words have in promoting the well-being of all involved. I also submit these three words are spoken far less often than the words “I love you” though they should probably be spoken more so. Those other three words are, “I am wrong” or “I was wrong” and their sister statement, “You are right.”

 Stated with sincerity, those words are twice nice. They can avert wrath, ameliorate rage or otherwise ease a tense situation. Furthermore, they can foster respect more effectively than always being “right.” At the other end, to utter those beautiful and euphonious words sincerely reflects both humility and self-respect. With regard to self-respect, when a person loves and respects himself, there is no puerile-type shame in admitting error; acknowledging error or a mistake is seen as acknowledging one’s humanity or limitations and not as being of less value.

 Resipiscence (a $59.13 word meaning recognizing one’s own error; seeing reason once again) does not require one to truckle or grovel, but simply to intelligently accept that absolute truth and absolute right does not begin and end with who you are – an idea that is easy for most humans to declare but far more difficult to actually embrace.

 It is true, however, that admitting error or wrong can bring with it, dire or inimical consequences. It may subject one to being flayed or excoriated because some people would interpret such an admission just as a ravenous lion would view a wounded calf.

Nonetheless, for the most part, admitting being wrong has more of an upside than not.

As humans, we thrive where there is love but I think, admitting error is as potent an ingredient for our tranquility and growth as any. Saying, “I love you,” has more force if, when appropriate, one can also say, “I was wrong.”

Published in: on June 21, 2013 at 1:49 AM  Leave a Comment  

Imagine


The world is replete with varying beliefs about “God” and religion. These varying beliefs have been the source of much of the pain humans have suffered over the millennia. Even to this day, those beliefs engender division, antipathy and misery. Having either read or listened to many of these varying and often contradictory beliefs, I ask you to imagine the following:

Imagine a “God” who had nothing to do with the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, The Book of Mormon or any other “holy” book.

Laws proscribing theft, rape, murder and so forth would still exist and would still be violated as they have been even with these “holy” books in circulation. Besides commenting on morality, these books purport to present doctrines such as details about such subjects as, the essence of “God”, baptism, prophets and prophecies, gender roles, et cetera – all of which provide fodder for debate, division, persecution and even pogroms.

Most importantly, however, someone once said that the author of a “holy” book is not as powerful as the person who has been deemed authorized to interpret it. God” may speak, but the mullah, the minister, the monk, the prophet, the priest, the preacher, the pope, the “whoever”, explains. (No wonder there is this phenomenon: same book, different interpretations.)

Imagine a “God” who is something other than a “He” or a “She.”

How “God” is referenced has subtle implications and ramifications with respect to how humans define their gender roles. Referencing “God” in terms of one of the sexes, and not the other, buoys a sense of entitlement to govern or dominate the gender not chosen to reference “God.”

Imagine a “God” who banned/forbade the practice of religion with all its accouterments.

There would be no churches, temples, kingdom halls, synagogues, or mosques. No need for prophets, popes, cardinals, elders, nuns, ministers, deacons, mullahs, priests, preachers.

Additionally, there would be no need for religious rituals, baptisms, holy water, robes, or collection plates.

Also, no place or time would be considered “holy.”

Thus, without religion, there would be one less thing to argue about or kill over (albeit true that humans will always find plenty of other reasons to do either one) and one less reason to feel superior (or to feel “saved” or “righteous”).

Imagine a “God” who had nothing to do with our successes or our failures.

There would be no reason to “thank God” for winning the ball game, or receiving an award, or finding a job or escaping death. After all, why would “God” help you do any of those things and yet let millions suffer hunger, disease, genocide, rape and torture? That kind of “God” would have misplaced priorities.

Imagine a “God” who did not need a Satan against which to stand in contrast.

Sufficient is the “evil” within humans without the need for a being who personifies “evil.” Is it that humans are more comfortable pointing to something outside themselves to assign blame for much of the horrors we experience? Assuming that “God” is “good,” Prison Earth is filled with enough evil humans who stand at the opposite end of that continuum.

Imagine a “God” who did not need a hell with which to punish or a heaven with which to bribe.

How righteous or honorable is the person who lives a certain way because he wants to receive an award or avoid punishment. How would worshippers live if there were no prospect or living in eternal bliss or eternal torment? If heaven is a reward for “righteous” behavior and hell for “wicked” behavior, by which standard is one judged? Is it Christianity, Islam, Shintoism, Hinduism? Which branch or sect of those religions?

What happens to infants who die? What happens to those who convert from one religion to the other? Why punish/torture even the most vile human being for an eternity? How does eighty years of being “wicked” justify billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of years (i.e., forever) of excruciating torment?

Imagine a “God” whose ego did not require adulation, sacrifice or worship from humans.

“God” – the creator of a universe of unimaginable size, power, and complexity versus human beings. Why would such a Being require, demand puny humans to worship, praise and heap adulations on it? Is it not possible for humans to respect and love each other in the absence of worshipping “God”? Of course! I present atheists and deists who are law abiding and exhibit behavior characterized as loving, and decent.

Imagine a “God” who placed emphasis on love rather than doctrine.

Is “God” part of a Trinity, or is “God” a distinct separate being from the other two members of the Triune? Is hell the grave or a place of torment? Is the cow a sacred animal or a delectable source of protein? Is pork unholy or best served fried? Or are love and respect for each human more important? How much sense does it make to observe the Sabbath but lie, or steal or even kill during the other six days of the week? How much sense does it make to condemn homosexuality but pray to “God” to bless your country as it engages in activities of which not even the prophets of your religion would approve?

People declare that all religions teach love and respect for human beings, but they insist on overlaying that notion with all sorts of doctrines and ideologies that turn the simple and sublime into complicated and convoluted.

Imagine a “God” who did not need humans to kill or punish in his/her/its/their name.

Put succinctly, why does an all-powerful “God” need humans to kill each other in defense of “Him” or “Her” system of worship? “God” is in the best position to kill because “God” would know all the relevant facts and motives; humans cannot. “God” would, presumably not kill the innocent while killing the “guilty”; humans often claim that “collateral” damage is unavoidable.

I ask you to please do the following:

Imagine a “God” not made in the image of “HuMan.”

Published in: on June 21, 2013 at 1:37 AM  Leave a Comment  
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50 Years


Fifty years ago, my mother stepped out onto a porch and stood next to me. Her husband stood near us both. She feared him but since he brought me with him, she was sufficiently at ease. After all, he had just pleaded so softly for her to step out on the porch to talk. I stood there completely clueless – – clueless as a door knob. Only he knew the agenda; he had come there to fulfill his self-imposed mission. Seconds later, he fired six bullets, reloaded and fired five more. My mother lay in a pool of her own blood. I panicked and fled like a coward.

Fifty years ago on 17 June 1963, I was twelve and we had lived under that man’s tyranny for ten years.

On the fiftieth anniversary of my mother’s murder, these things I believe:
a] When I die, my mother will die again — without ceremony or recognition
b] Praying to “God” or any deity is as effective as praying to a wall
c] As a male, I belong to a species half of whom believe it is their  damn-near divine right to subjugate and marginalize the other half
d] I am ashamed of the half to which I belong
e] Life is not only unfair, it is, at times, egregiously cruel
f] Cruelty is often a function of the image a man has of himself
g] When we come here, we are confined to death row — all the reason to live a life of color in a black and white world

I miss my mother so much; what he did was so wrong — still so hard to believe … so hard to understand … so unforgivable … so painful

But I recognize that death, murder, mayhem and cruelty are as common as their counterparts. My mother’s murder was just one of the billions before her and after her. No worse, no better. That’s life on Prison Earth. Her death is a big deal to me; in the scheme of things, however, it was ordinary. That fact is not lost on me.

Nonetheless, to this day: My heart still bleeds tears for her.

Published in: on June 12, 2013 at 1:52 AM  Comments (3)  
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4,654 Days


From19 September 1950 to 17 June 1963: The number of days from my birth to the death of my mother. 12 years and 9 months of childhood memories seared into my mind.

During those days, I heard and saw him choke my mother to near unconsciousness then beat her then choke her again to near unconsciousness then beat her again – repeating that pattern until he was tired. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

During those days, I saw him chase my mother into the street – in broad daylight – beating her with the buckled end of a belt – stripping her red dress off, revealing her slip and bra. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

During those days, I saw him come home as she was peeling potatoes. He beat her because that is what he did on Friday or Saturday nights. I would hear her scream and plead for him to stop. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

During those days, I would follow her onto the street, in the middle of the night as he kicked us both out the house – she, tugging on her short slip and I in my underwear running down the street. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

During those days, I would hear him rant and then tell my mother to wake me up. She would come to my door and call me. I would never answer on the first call … I would stand before him, listening or answering the questions of a drunken fool as my mother stood by, helplessly until he decided to go to bed. I would tremble as if I were convulsing.

Near the end, she wished I were older so that he would not beat her anymore. She knew I was not ready … too young, too frightened.

Near the end she became brave; she left him – and her seven children – only she stayed nearby. She would meet me on my way to school and walk with me the rest of the way everyday. No more beatings and humiliations. No more broken ribs or face broken beyond recognition. No more screaming and begging for mercy.

I would no longer tremble as if I were convulsing.

On day number 4,654, he took me with him to go looking for her. (He retrieved $40 from his pocket and gave it to me. “I won’t need it where I’m going.” His intentions did not even dawn on me.)

We found her, with her mother, visiting with neighbors – a family. He and I stood on the front porch. She came to the screen door. In the softest and sweetest of voices he asked her to step out on the porch with us. She shook her head. He pleaded ever so kindly, in a whisper, like a lover who wanted to make amends. He pleaded.

Finally, she stepped out onto the porch. Folded her arms and asked, so matter-of-factly, “Now what do you want, Odis?” He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket. She held out her hands and in a terrified voice, “Don’t stick me, Odis.” There, as we stood inches apart, he produced a gun and began firing. I panicked. I fled as he continued firing. (Later, I learned, he reloaded and continued shooting – shooting her a total of at least 11 times).1

After running less than a block, I shut down. I stopped the horror from rushing in. I began walking as if nothing had just happened. I stopped my mind as I wandered aimlessly. I ended up at a store and bought an apple and corn chips. I wandered back to the house. I asked to see my mama. The police would not let me see her. I saw the pool of her blood on the living room floor (She had stumbled back into the house – pleading for her life as he continued shooting. Reloading again … then sat on the porch steps waiting for the police.)

The next 30 years, I did not cry. I would remember her death day but shed no tears. Then, 17 June 1993, I had a brutal and life-altering epiphany. For the first time, I wept like a broken child. Thirty years of pain and grief and shame crushed me.

I did not save my mother. The terror of living with him snuffed out any courage I might have had. (Even in my marriage, I was disgustingly weak. Yielding, compromising, and acquiescing just to avoid conflict – trying anything and anyway not to be even remotely like him.)

Too late, I grew a pair. And also,

Too late, I grew into a man who, if it were possible, would avenge my mother in ways that would even make the “Devil”2 glad he wasn’t my mother’s husband. (Would I rather that than to see my mama again if I had to choose between the two?)

In this life, my regrets are plenty but none compares with the regret of failing to save my mama. My heart still bleeds tears for her. My heart still beats with her love for me and mine for her. Her last 4,654 days and my first 4,654 days … too soon she departed, and too late I arrived.

Epilogue

 Yes, I am drenched with a kind of guilt for being used as unwitting bait in my mother’s death and for being worthless as her protector. I also have a sustained disdain for a man who has been dead for more than 30 years. Amazingly, (as far as many social scientist are concerned) I never resorted to anti-social behavior such as drug use, poor performance in school, committing crimes and so forth. I have been able to segregate my guilt and hatred so that they do not interfere with my functions as a productive human being in society. With regard to my marriage, I started out as a weak and always yielding person. I was conflict averse. Later, I began to respect my needs and wishes. In either case, however, I did not resort to violence; nothing could make me emulate the man my mother married. I also, without effort, was the very opposite of the kind of father he was.

In any event, I am accepting of (having reached a kind of resolve) the feelings of guilt and loathing that spring from failing to protect my mama; and I cannot forgive the man who snuffed out her light. To me, to feel guilt-free would besmirch my mother’s memory, and to forgive him would be to dishonor it.

Oh, to be able to return to day 4,653 of my life and know what I know now.


1 The newspapers inaccurately stated my mama and he were arguing. There was no arguing. He calmly and gently begged her to come out. She kept saying no – in the most gentle of ways. Nothing was said, in words or tone to telegraph any anger, hostility or murderous intentions.


2 I use the term “Devil” metaphorically to illustrate the kind of unbridled savagery I would unleash against that man if it were possible … the extent of my abiding hatred for him.

Published in: on June 11, 2013 at 11:17 PM  Leave a Comment  
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