Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014
As little children, we are told,
“You shall die when you grow old,
“But you will have to wait,
And then you’ll go to heaven’s gate.”
In many times, it has been said,
“Say your night prayers by your bed.
And you may have to wait,
But then you go through heaven’s gate.”
“Where is heaven?” children wonder.
Our eyes roll up and look up yonder,
“Yes, we may have to wait,
But way up there is heaven’s gate.”
The children think, the children sigh.
A tiny tear drops from a teeny eye.
They may have to wait,
Yet, they do know
That heaven’s gate,
Is not up there and in the sky.
For they see truly and aloud they cry;
“I need not wait,
For In my heart,
Is heaven’s gate!”
GNOME DETECTIVE AGENCY—INTELLIGENT INVESTIGATIONS OF HEINOUS CRIMES AND FELINE MISDEMEANORS UTILIZING ELECTRONIC AND HUMAN CLANDESTINE PROCEDURES (WE DO WINDOWS TOO!)
Night dreams. What are they made of? Who knows? All I knew was, that in that particular fantasy, I was floating on a bed of cloud, watching with increasing interest, a scantily clad and an extremely attractive young lady seductively bending forward over me. She negligently revealed those secrets of feminine pulchritude normally reserved for an intimate lover. That must be me! I thought dreamily. Yippee! I felt her light fingertips gently caress my strong manly forehead, trace a sinuous line across my bushy eyebrow, slip down the bridge of my nose, and then hotly touch my fevered eyelid. I felt the lid suddenly jerked open.
“Hey, you!” I heard a tiny voice say.
I saw a blurry image of another eye peering into my cornea.
“Huh?” I asked.
My eyelid was released with a snap. The woman of my erotic dreams evaporated back into the stuff that dreams are made of, and it was, not so subtly, replaced by the reality of an excruciating pain in my nostrils. It felt like they were being crushed and twisted by a fiendishly annoyed nutcracker.
“Come on, meathead!” My nose got another jerk, “Wake the hell up!”
I did, and with alacrity. As both of my eyes popped open, they had the sensation of rotten Italian meatballs coated in gritty Parmesan cheese and left too long in the sun.
“Oh!” I moaned.
I began to rub my nose, and as I did, my hand bumped something resilient and a second later I heard a muffled, rumbling sound coming from somewhere below me. To my sleep addled ears, it sounded like a muted miniature bowling alley or the distant faded echoes of artillery fire. Thinking this brought me a touch closer to awareness, and I realized that I was lying on a sofa. When I turned my head to look down, I perceived a little man standing there. It seemed to be an animated G.I. Joe doll. I closed my eyes again and shook my head, but upon reopening them, he was still there. A ten-inch tall olive green man, with his arms crossed and a one-inch booted foot tapping on the floor, and completely nude!
“Think you’re something else, doncha?” The little chap said with a growl.
Faster than I could blink an eye (an action I dreaded), he had crawled up my dangling arm and hopped back onto my chin, from which I must have dislodged him. He straddled it and began giving me a series of tiny, but brutal head butts to my already tingling nose.
“Hey!” I yelled. “Cut that out, Mr. Gee!”
I groaned again, for by that time I had apprehended his identity. He was my boss and he is a gnome. (More about this in the Next Chapter.)
He slapped my cheeks a few times and in response, I began to sit up. He grabbed a viselike hold of my ears to keep from falling off my face, the pain of which caused me to gently remove him… at least that was my intention. In reality, it only caused an extreme stretching of my earlobes.
“Come on, Mr. Gee,” I said as calmly as I could. “Let go and I’ll set you down.”
“Right!” He replied and I placed him beside me, he looking up at me and I looking down at him.
“So, what gives, Junior?” He asked me while scratching his hairless chest. “What time did you sneak in last night?”
“I din’t sdeak id, Boss, I hab a gey.” I said, with that air of injured ego children display with a hand stuck in the cookie jar. “As you certainly well know.” I added upon readjusting my nose.
“So whatcha doin’ here this early in the goddamn mornin’?” He said, glancing at the wall clock above the desk. “Hell’s bells, sonny,” he supplemented with a punch on my hip. “It’s almost eight in the ay-em!”
Being hit by a little doll-like man may seem to you of no account. A mere brush by a gnat, you may think, or a flick of a child’s finger. But, you would be incredibly wrong. Mr. Gee’s cuff was akin to that of jab by Mr. Muhammad Ali.
I stretched, carefully avoiding dislodging him yet again; popping my neck as I gathered my fleece blanketed thoughts of why I had snuck in so early on this particular morning. I then remembered that I had received an email the night before from a prospective client asking for our services. Upon replying with my interest in the matter, I had set an appointment for eight o’clock… TODAY!
Holy, batshit! My mind screamed. She’ll be here any second!
I stood up like a rocket and frantically looked around our office for signs of disorder and then recalled with alarm that Mr. Gee was utterly unclad and flagrante delicto to most of the civilized world’s accustomed social norms. The door buzzer buzzed.
“Who in hell could that be at this ungodly hour!” Mr. Gee hollered, as he jumped off the couch.
“Uh…” I faltered. Then I said, “That would be Ms. Penny Pincher from Magnus Opus, Inc.”
Mr. Gee resumed his perfectly practiced stance of folded arms and toe tapping the linoleum.
“Ms. Who from what-the-hell?” He sputtered.
“Yes,” I said, snatching him from the floor and quickly carrying him toward his box.
(One must understand that his box is a refrigerator packing crate filled to the brim with personal amenities, including a privy, a wet bar and a home entertainment center, minus a kitchen; we normally ate cooked food deliveries. So, please do not contact the ASPCA. Besides, Mr. Gee is not an animal and regrettably is not under the law of humanity, although he does share some of the Homo sapiens genome; pun not intended.)
I kneeled down and released Mr. Gee, shooing him toward his cardboard domicile. (Walls reinforced with carbon nanotubing, roofed in terracotta tiles, pleasant beige stucco walls on the outside and polished wood paneled interior, and all electric utilities.) He reluctantly complied, but before he streamed his normal torrent of abuse and protestations to the contrary, I shoved him inside and slammed his miniature door. (Oak carved with inset beveled, diamond shaped, stained glass panes, composed of rather bizarre images of his home country… and brass fixtures.) I hurriedly explained the situation to him through his opened window (triple-pane bulletproof acrylic optical polymer).
“Sorry, Mr. Gee.” I said. “This client may be a wonderful source of ready cash, and it would be a dire shame if we let this opportunity fly with the wind and out of the door.”
His beet-red face nodded, yet I could see that he wasn’t entirely mollified by the minute flecks of foam splattering through the window.
“Office mortgage due the fifteenth.” I reminded him. “Be back post haste, Mr. Gee.” I said.
Straightening up, I became aware that the buzzer had ceased buzzing.
“Oh!” I exclaimed. “It may be wise to get dressed, sir, just in case.”
He answered me with the slam of the window
In severe and fluttering anxiety, I sprinted to the front office door, fearing that our prospective client may have truly gone with the wind. This entailed my making hasty detours around various furniture and picking up sundry items of clothing scattered by a gnome with little or no housekeeping wherewithal. Then I flew through the small conference room, and emerged in the front hall. As I bypassed the empty receptionist’s booth (Kriśna having gone to Calcutta on holiday), I threw the lot over and behind the counter, giving the smelly pile a good kick under it for good measure.
Approaching the door, I peered into the peephole to verify what I had seen on the LCD monitor. I confirmed that our visitor was indeed a young woman in a blue pinstriped suit, with wavy, shoulder length, brown hair and wearing huge glasses framed in black plastic. I couldn’t see her shoes, but instinctually I knew them to be sensible and very probably brown. She was dangling a tannish briefcase in her left hand, and by this token, I absolutely knew she really meant business. Flicking the alarm off, I unfastened the three deadbolts, and opened the red painted steel door. Flashing my brilliant one thousand-lumen smile, I asked her to come in, with a grand sweep of my arm and a slight suggestion of a bow.
Glancing at our business card in her right hand, she nodded pertly in return and asked me, “Do I have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gnome?”
“No,” I said, closing the door. Then after refastening the locks and resetting the alarm, I added, “No…uh…Ms…” Due to the rush of the moment and the dazzling beauty of her face, I had forgotten her name.
“Ms. Pennypincher,” she said, with a crooked smile, looking up and down my six foot six, (if I do say so myself) athletic, muscular frame. I courteously returned this kindness with an appropriate gaze, yet mine took a bit longer and had more intensity. She was not fazed one little bit, which deflated my ego with an audible sigh.
“I am Thomas Douteux, Ms. Pennypincher,” I said with a discrete nod. “Assistant to Mr. Gnome, who is regrettably not here at the moment.”
Noting the disappointed look in her eyes, I added, “But, I assure you that I have Mr. Gnome’s complete confidence and can initiate any and all business matters in his absence.”
Indicating a deep and maroon velvet armchair, I motioned her to sit down. Having sat, she set her briefcase upon the glass coffee table. I sat down; but only after she did. (Savoir faire is my middle name, Mr. Gee has told me on a number of occasions. It is one of the main reasons he hired me; the other was my discovery of him, a tale of which I will relate in the next chapter.)
2. NEXT CHAPTER (if anytwo are interested...)
The Adventures of a Babe in Toyland: Retrospective of a Societal Microcosm - Ages Zero Through Seven
As I have trudged the winding road of my life, many people have asked me why I am such an ass-hole. Let this be my reply.
It all started in the year of our Lord, one thousand, fifty-three when I had the misfortune (or otherwise depending on POV) of being hatched in a cabbage patch (or so I was told). Everything was hunky-dory in my personal Dreamtime, because I did nothing but demand the complete attention of those other outside BIG beings that attended to my needs. Then about five years later I became aware that I was NOT the center of this, my universe. No, I shared this extraordinary realm with beings that looked like me, although they came in assorted shapes and sizes. I also discovered bugs, which to my immense pleasure entertained me far more than the variety of human species. Bugs made me smile. Humans made me frown. I also became conscious of a sense of wonder about my environment. It was HUGE and I was so very little. I was in IT and IT surrounded me. I discovered dichotomy, polarity, and duality and was able to make comparisons. Heavy shit for a five-year-old.
Also, about this time, I heard two “voices” that were not made by the immediate humans who inhabited this space along with me. No. These “voices” were coming from points just above my head and near my right shoulder, approximately one foot away and they were male. These voices revealed seemingly contradictory information. The “head” voice was sternly letting me know the outcome of a particular habit that I had developed and the “shoulder” voice informed me that it didn’t make much difference whether I continued the action or not. Both voices used a vocabulary that I did not understand, but the “shoulder” voice made more sense. I never heard from them again. Really heavy shit for a six-year-old!
From that point on, my life went on like a movie show, reel changes coming at fairly expected intervals. I began school, REAL school—first grade in fact. I had finished kindergarten in St. Louis, Missouri and started first grade in Aurora, Colorado. Okay, I have to admit it was not the usual reel change. Yet, it definitely was a REAL change in my small life.
This missive is about school and my experiences with the educational system of post-War America. School is a microcosm of the so-called “real” world. I observed all of these incidents as if from the outside looking in. Except for the occasional pummeling from bullies or my father, I kept a fairly adequate objectivity. Although, pain has a tendency to immerse one’s self into the real reality. My reason for the preamble that you have just read is to illustrate that my objectivity was a bit tainted from previous perceptual preconceptions; i.e., my unusual frame of reference.
I had my “child’s garden” when I had lived in St. Louis. To be more accurate, I attended school in Wellston, Missouri, a suburban city-within-a-city. I have no remembrances of being afraid upon my initiatory entry into the grand two-story solid brick edifice during the year of nineteen fifty-eight. What I do recall is; how to drink a half-pint of cold milk quickly, before it became warm, how to lie down upon a plastic mattress and meditate to Brahms, how to make a balloon on a stick for John Lennon’s favorite digit, how to share and feel empathy, and how to come home when school let out…immediately.
Kindergarten was where I became a social unit in harmony with others. I encountered within me a sensation of stomach drop, akin to what one would feel of falling or on an elevator’s sudden plummet. This sensation would appear as I witnessed a fellow child becoming hurt and in pain. It did not occur when they cried for a stolen toy or spilt finger paint. I later realized that I had experienced a form of physical empathy. To my consternation, then as now, this feeling has never left me. I write “consternation”, but not “dismay”, for although I do not enjoy the experience, I know now that it is something to be cultivated, if I wish to understand my brother and sister human being…Homo sapiens sapiens.
This impression of philadelphos led to my becoming friends with a neat kid named Charles, and Charles was as excited about the coming space race, as I was. We played astronaut on the jungle gym, sometimes attempting to chase the other kids away—who ignored us—so that Charles and I could gain the upper reaches of the playground structure and have our very own cockpit. I was increasingly amplifying my imaginative thought processing. Due to our inability to achieve our goal, one-day we decided to stay after class and have the “monkey bars” all to ourselves. Our friendship and shared imagination was all consuming and afternoon too quickly changed into evening with the arrival of my father, who by then was not amused. I learned that hierarchical dominance was to be given complete attention. I whipped me rather severely. This put a damper on my friendship with Charles and any ideas of mine of exploring my universe without adult supervision for at least a year. All in all my kindergarten adventure was very productive. I highly recommend this form of early childhood education. I wish that the rest of my academic careening had been as much fun.
I learned to read in first grade and to do so silently. The book of curricular choice was Fun with Dick and Jane. Wow! I thought to myself. I wish I had friends like Dick and Jane and Sally and Spot and whatever that kitten’s name had been…Fluffy? And, I wished that I had a mom and dad just like those kids did, too. As I read, I’d peek around to determine what the other kids were up to. Did they read with their lips moving like I did, or out loud as I did not do? I learned social awareness expressed in comparison with my peers. So far, the only thing that the elementary school had given me was the book and lunch. Therefore, I developed a fantasy life. I was hooked on books forever more. I was on the fast track to becoming an ass hole.
Elementary school is a class system graduated upon age. Everyone knows this and suffers from it to this very day. One day, this social stratification was upended when a student from Mexico came to our class and stayed. He was ten years old and knew little English, but he could make a really nifty gun with his hand. He used TWO fingers for the barrel and said, “Pow-pow!” Not, the usual “bang-bang” or the index fingered barrel as we typical USA kids had been doing. His name was José, he always smiled and when he was with us on the playground, I never once had an encounter with a bully. I thought that he was the neatest kid I had ever met. I learned to say, si, gracias, amigo and pow-pow. I was becoming multi-cultural and class indeterminate. Only in America!
One must remember that this was in the time of President Eisenhower and the country was slowly coming out of the post-War economic doldrums. My school had recently been built in the modern brick façade, one-story, small window category that used tons of hydrocarbons to keep it warm in the Colorado winter. Of course, this was beyond my pay grade at the time. I was not aware of the physical plant and the maintenance of it, as I am now. I did “see” a janitor now and then, but he (they were stereotypically “he”) was faceless and therefore rendered unmemorable. This also applied to the kitchen staff, unless one wished a second helping of mashed potatoes. The only important people in my academic life were the teachers and the principal (who was God and the devil rolled into one). I had learned of the anonymity of the service sector and the hierarchy of rulers. I had already understood the tyranny of leadership from my service-retired father, so I knew when to jump and how high. I was rolling right along, educationally speaking. I made it out of first grade and my father made it out of Aurora. I started second grade in Denver.
So far, I had been to three different schools and I was only seven years old. I was an academic pro by then. Plus, I had become a good judge of character—at least little kid character—and knew when to hold, fold or run away. This is about the time I needed glasses or my educational career would be completely ruined. Some enterprising member of my new school’s administration, in consultation with my new schoolteacher, came to the conclusion that my grades might be slipping due to my inability to see the blackboard. Voilà! Mr. Holmes would have been very proud. Also, I was having trouble following instruction and was sent (with parental permission) to a social worker, much to the chagrin of the aforesaid parental. Whispers around me from these savants of early childhood education suggested that I might be having “problems at home”. My father insisted that this could not be the case, with a shaking fist in my face. I went alone by bus, into downtown Denver. When I arrived at the building, I looked at inkblots and put puzzles together, talked with a very nice man in a tie and was sent home. I had ascertained my psycho/social relationship with the predominate culture. I never told him that I hated my glasses, because they were the mark of Cain, as far as I was concerned. This was parentally verboten, too. I totally knew that from then on, I’d get my ass whipped quite often and called “Four eyes!” Therefore, I developed an almost sixth sense for ally identification and a wicked sense of humor. Hey! I had to protect my scrawny ass one way or another and I chose both. I became an adapter.
I went halfway through my new school, then Dad dragged me out and I went to a new-new school in the Rocky Mountains. Idaho Springs to be exact. Had a great time. Even became a Cub Scout, an extra-curricular branch of modern American education where I learned uniform conformity. It was in this sleepy, tiny locale of a once bustling silver/gold boomtown (that happened to be next to the innovative Interstate 70 highway and not far from the dynamite and earthmovers of the Eisenhower Tunnel construction project) that big screen motion pictures revealed themselves to me. Wow! Now, I could envision the outside world beyond my immediate ken. I saw my first 3-D movie there, The Mask. Unfortunately, I saw it all alone and had to go back home, all alone, then go to sleep, all alone, and it had scared the living shit out of me! I understood real fear for the first time, a fear that was not only of MY imagination, but a fear instilled within me from an ethereal flickering fuzzy tri-dimensional source. Not fear as a lion or tiger, REAL kinds of fear, but something brand spanking new that invaded my small world paradigm. I had to endure it all by myself with a paper bag of chocolate-malted balls…Leaf Brand, if I remember correctly. I had found out the utility of using chemicals to modify my brain chemistry in order to “deal” with uncontrollable events. Similar to drug addiction causation. I was well on my way to becoming a “normal” fucked-up American.
My dad and I lived on Main Street; at least I remembered it as Main Street. From recently inspecting maps of the area, I may have lived on Colorado Blvd. or Miner St. I was only seven at the time and it was many moons ago, so my recall is a little bit weak. I do remember that it was also called US 40. We lived on the second floor of a very old brick building that used to be someone’s house and sometime later was divided into apartments—up and down. There was a small kitchen just inside the front entry at the top of a narrow stairway and a large bedroom off the kitchen that we shared. Dad had invested into a bar with some man that I never met before, which was why we had moved there. I walked to school and it wasn’t too far, five or six blocks or so west of the apartment and I always walked past the bar on the way to school. The school and the bar had names, but both escape me now. About the same distance away, toward the east were the drug store and the movie theater, they had unremembered titles as well.
In this school I learned many new concepts and ideas. The most familiar idea that I remember learning was about the “Indians” of the Southwest. Of course, now we know them as native Americans or the indigenous peoples. But in nineteen-sixty they were Indians. Since Colorado was home primarily to the Utes on the Western Slope and the Arapaho on the Eastern Slope, we studied the Navajo. We got to do sand paintings and made clumsy pots out of ropes of terra cotta, watched slides and read our textbook out loud to the class. That’s about all I can remember. I must have learned some arithmetic, yet it is absent. I should have learned some English grammar, but this draws a blank. I was very interested in science, but nothing lingers in my mind. Nothing but Indians and orange juice popsicles is present in my memories. I learned to make and desire orange-juice popsicles. Our class had special deep molds for the juice. I also learned to use a straw for the half-pint milk carton. I had always opened up the little spout in first grade, but in second I discovered a new type of carton, one that had a foil covered hole on the top and that came with a straw attached. The straw was shaped into a point on one end and I jammed it into the foil, on through and down into the carton.
What I seemed to have learned must have been very subliminal and may reside deeply in my sub-conscious, because I have such miniscule memories of the experience, yet I do know that most of my education was freely given to me, but outside the classroom environment. I remember a whole lot of that. Since this a treatise on formal education, I feel obligated to leave this extracurricular activity to the side, although it is very telling of the inadequacy of the system of education in Colorado at that time. It seems a shame, too. I had great adventures and fun, which if you really think about it is the preferable method of actually learning anything substantial that will withstand the erosion of time.
One fine late Autumn day, my dad’s partner ran off with the cash box and we had to move away, back toward the metropolis of Denver, so he could get a job. Somewhere around this time, he also picked up a woman named Suzie. It was almost as if she had been a misplaced marionette and was lying around in a dark closet, then after rooting around, Dad had rescued her, brought her to Pinocchio status and helped her to set up house with us. One day she was not there, then one day she was. She stayed with us for about five years. She wasn’t a replacement for my mom, still alive and living back in St. Louis, but I liked her and she liked me. This was the third appearance of a post-mom female in our lives after Dad’s divorce and Suzie stayed the longest.
In Denver, I went to an almost carbon copy of the earlier Aurora elementary school to finish up my second grade. I was to learn later that schools were almost identically massed produced to keep up with the baby Boomer tsunami that swept the nation. Mostly cheap glass and brick veneer that could be set up in a big hurry. I’m not sure exactly where in the Denver metro area this school was located. It was on the outskirts and in a suburban setting, as I recall. Dad, Suzie and I lived in a small two-bedroom apartment that later became home to another woman—a friend of Suzie’s—to help with the rent.
Winter set in as I attended this school until the end of the year. That year’s snowfall was up to a couple of feet deep, yet all that I remember of it is when it began to thaw. I suppose this was because I knew soon school was to let out and the happiness this gave me caused the memory to be retained, but that’s about it. Nothing, nada, zilcho is in my mind from that school, at least anything that I would in the least label tangible. Once again, my mind has brilliant visions of the world outside of the academy, but inside the murky hallowed halls of knowledge…oh, I do recall a big globe of the earth.
Soon, Dad and I were on the move, as spring changed into summer, yet no Suzie. It seemed that her friend had vanished as well. For all that I knew, maybe they had been repossessed and sent to Geppetto’s workshop to be refitted and loaned out to a more deserving customer. We were on the way to Fort Logan, Colorado! Before we were to embark on this great adventure, we had to make a pit stop, because Dad had to rent another apartment in Denver. We had to wait for an old officer’s quarters to open up in the fort, before we could move in. Dad commuted, while I was babysat by a woman who was a retired army WAC. After we moved to the fort, she suddenly appeared and wanted me to call her mom. Dad said they were married.
The excitement of living in a real fort must have pushed Suzie and her friend right out of my mind. Of course, it wasn’t like the forts that I envisioned. These forts consisted of hewn upright logs placed in a circle around the homes of soldiers and guarded by patrolling men on the walls with black powder rifles and who patiently scanned the horizon for marauding Injuns. No. This fort seemed like a small village set on acres and acres of land, as far as my tiny eye could see, although it did have a parade ground, but with no parades that I ever saw. It also was the location of a mental health facility and on the outskirts of the fort was where my new school resided. I would soon begin my third grade there.
Monday, February 17, 2014
The man left town mutely, early one morn
When the town wished, he’d never been born.
Shunned by his kin, and stunned by his friends.
Ahead were beginnings, behind just old ends.
His wisdom was spoken with words needed said,
The sheep cried, “Impiety,” and wanted him dead.
Cast forth from society, his staff in his hand,
The man shook from his boots the last grains of sand.
Soon evening is fading, as the sun gently falls,
As night begins shading, the whippoorwill calls.
As ravens fly home, from valley to ridge,
Behind the man glows a bright burning bridge.
© 2013 C.M. Baker III
When I was a child,
Starlight danced and
Whirled in my heart,
Lighting my mind and
Making me wild.
Yet, I was stalked by the beast
Of darkness lying ahead.
Soon the sun sets on my journey
Along the paths of the dead.
When I, as a young man,
With memories still new,
Somehow, I knew that life,
Was for living and
Giving that liar of old,
The devil, his due.
Yet, I was stalked by darkness,
By the beast up ahead.
Soon the sun sets on my journey
Along the paths of the dead.
Now I am older, feebler, but
Bolder than the child inside.
I can no longer run, seek or hide
From the knowledge that
Hope is my temple and
Love is my bride.
I am stalked by the beast
Of darkness, my old friend,
That waits for his feast
When my journey does end.
© 2013 Charles M Baker III
I wish you weren’t so busy,
Busies all you do,
Swinging through the scenery,
Like the monkeys at the zoo.
I wish you’d just sit down,
Jumping’s all you do.
Jumping up and down and up
Yes, you know it’s true!
If you weren’t so busy,
So busy as a bee,
Buzzing all around me, then
You could talk with me.
I wish that you’d be still.
Just to be and not to do.
Moving round and round and round
And, I’m so dizzy, too.
But, since you are so busy,
Too busy just to be
A decent human critter who
Cannot think of me.
I guess that I’m too busy,
Much to busy, too.
To cry away my hours,
For the likes of you.
© 2008 C. M. Baker III
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." A well-known and wise man once said.
Substitute “prophets” for “leaders”.
I seem to see these critters wherever I look these days. Of course, they have been lurking around corners and in shadowy places since time immemorial. We just see them as emperors without clothes. Naturally, they MUST wear clothes, but nowadays they wear woolen three-piece sheep suits and sweat in the bright lights of television. They run hugely complicated machines that do nothing but steal the bread from babies’ mouths, thieve old women’s crutches, and generally make a big nuisance of themselves by ripping off our dignities. Don’t let them fool YOU, though. We know them by their fruit: war, death, and destruction.
So, don’t let them pull the wool over YOUR eyes. They are actually very naked and very afraid.
Below are some words spoken by Yeshua of Nazareth that illustrate the above:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
"The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them Rabbi.
"But you are not to be called Rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one father — the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
"Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.' You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, 'Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.' How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?"
Matthew 12: 33-37
"Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers."
[verses from the NRSV and edited for reading clarity]
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Peering Through a Glass Darkly
I climb exhaustedly, hunched over as I gain the summit on a hill of years, and from my elderly vantage point I can barely distinguish through a hazy distance a lonely church spire from which I dimly hear the tolling of a muffled bell. It beckons me, as would a doorbell ringing, children singing, or ice cream trucks dinging around my old neighborhood. Slowly shambling down my hill with an ever gradual spring in my stride, I begin to run. Sooner than a burst of lightning I am at the church building, my limbs tingling with the energy of youth.
Stretching my legs and pushing higher on the tips of my toes I can scarcely peer through a indigo blotch of stained glass. The inner light is dim, yet the sun shines through all the windows enough to show me nobody's home. An old hand and rhyming game runs through my perplexity. "Here's the church, here's the steeple. Open the doors and where's all the people." Then I awaken.
The above is an allusion to the fading Christian congregations that the increasingly secular scientific Western societies experience today. Some people believe that it must be that great ogre SCIENCE that is to blame, but when actually, I believe it's the amount of time spent every day seeking money and amusement. True, the more educated among us have become more secularized and cannot believe as wholeheartedly in religious superstitions as our ancestors. Yet, this hasn't removed the wow factor from our experiences. No, it has been replaced by an artifice beyond the imaginations of the greatest Epicurean philosophers. Why go to a church when there is a great game on or a groovy movie, not to mention the hundreds of schlock filled cable shows saturated with ads?
The awe has gone, that jaw-dropping sense of personal smallness, yet imbued with a buoyant sense of wonder that manufactures gods from the stuff of nature. And that's another problem, we no longer live withIN nature. We live insulated from and withOUT it. This also explains why a large minority of us seem oblivious to our surrounding environmental degradation.
Another major impediment to church attendance is the insidious hierarchical structure of organized religion. It is a turnoff for the young and the free-thinkers among us. It seems the only way to get folks into a church nowadays is for the elders to appeal to the selfish natures of our worst angels. In other words, promise the new coming tithers plenty of pie-in-the-sky dreams, controversies and MORE amusements. Something that is antithetical to the teaching of any prophetic savant, whether Christian, Judaic, Islamic, Buddhistic, take your pick. They all preach against what is happening now in our mega-churches.
It seems such a shame, although I have to confess that I don't go to church, either. My reasons for non-attendance are manifold.
The primary excuse goes like this: there are two churches in my small town, Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic. I have been baptized in the Southern Baptist tradition and this occurred when I was nine years old, not a truly responsible nor reasonable age to understand the complexities of Protestant dogma. Yet I truly believed at that age and before, as far back as five years old. But, as time progressed and my discovery of the racist founding of the Southern church led me to disdain the fellowship. As for the Roman Catholic church, I have not been catechized, therefore I cannot partake of the Eucharist. I am limited to these two choices, because I do not drive and the next nearest group of churches is fifteen miles away, a fairly long walk. Beside this excuse, I have another; I am not really into the doctrine of the Trinity, which I consider a Nicaean human compromise endorsed by a Roman imperator and not what I believe comes from the "hand" of the Father, the "God" that Yeshua of Nazareth taught his disciples to love. But, what I truly miss is "fellowship." (A term that is tinged with the shade of male chauvinism, yet is the one commonly used.)
To me, fellowship is the raison d'être of any church gathering. To be with sisters and brothers surrendered to agape IS heaven on earth.
[My next blog addition will be ABOUT the Kingdom of Heaven]
The day gently hushed to an end.
The western sky was a burning velveteen curtain,
Falling as vermilion ash to the blackened peaks on the horizon.
I was resting in the old battered porch swing.
I heard the front screen door rattle and the whine of the rusty spring.
She came gracefully into my sight,
Placed a wizened hand on my shoulder,
And descended beside me like an autumn sprite.
I nodded my head and patted her on the hem of her gown.
She turned to me and the sunset accented her tender frown.
“Beautiful evening, isn’t it, Martha Mary?”
I placed my arm around her cold, thin back.
“It is at that,” She grinned.
“Yes, it is a fine evening, Jack.”
We sat silently watching the ruddy sun shyly hide its face behind the mountains.
As the dusk grew, she began to fidget a little, I guessed to keep warm.
She was probably thinking about Them, and when They would come.
I hugged her closer, until she was nestled in my strong, young arm.
She tucked her arm through mine.
“Yes, Martha Mary,” I softly spoke her fear.
“They will soon be coming here.”
She nodded against my side and placed her withered hand on my thigh.
“I’m really not afraid, Jack.”
She said with a cautious sigh.
“I know you’re not, Martha Mary.”
I nodded with a smile, quiet and calm.
I brushed her soft white hair awhile with my callused palm.
“I know you aren’t.”
“Get the swing going, honey.”
I did, pushing back and letting go.
The creak of the rusty eyebolts sang of death,
Along with the crickets and the wheeze of breath.
“How could anyone ever be afraid of the angels, Jack?”
“Some are, Martha Mary,” I said. “Most aren’t.”
The darkness calmly shrouded us in a comforting gloom,
As we waited for the time to roll towards doom.
“Do you remember how old I am?”
She asked me, peering up to find my eyes.
Hers so warm. Hers so wise.
I nodded; even knowing she could not see me.
“Yes, Martha Mary,”
I hugged her tighter to me.
“You are seventy-three.”
“How old are you now, Jack.”
“Why, Martha Mary,”
I stopped to dredge my mind.
“I believe that I am twenty-eight years.”
She nodded her head against my side, dampened with her tears.
“It has not been long enough, Jack, but life has been kind.”
I looked up from her and stared into the night.
I caught the gleam of distant fairy light.
“They are here, Jack, my son.”
She started to stand up.
I held her and brought her back down.
“We still have a few more minutes,”
I said leaning my head down to hers as she lifted her face.
I gave her my last kiss and final embrace.
The insect songs seemed to die away, smothered by a nightfall cocoon.
We clung to each other in the blanketed darkness, knowing the light to come soon.
© 2013 Charles M. Baker III