Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Man Who Wasn't There

One day, a certain man, we shall call him A, had the distinct impression that he was being watched. It seemed not a light matter, not a passing conceit, but a sure conviction attended by feelings of awareness so insistent that they seemed nothing less than evidentiary. The hairs on his neck bristled, shadows dodged conspiratorially at the periphery of his vision. Footsteps not his own fell in cadence, starting and stopping in perfect sympathy, such that it became clear to A that he was not only being watched, but closely followed, as faithfully as by his own shadow.

Always behind him was this ghost, this entity. If A turned to look, no matter how swiftly, the companion turned as well, remaining always behind, directly behind. He could feel the breath of the thing on his neck, he could feel the whisper of the breeze from its movement. If he ran, the thing ran, never tiring at all, or at least before A himself tired. If he stopped, the thing stopped, and drew so close that it might almost have been his own shirt collar. A felt himself haunted, if not possessed, and decided at last to see a doctor.

Showing up in the office on the appointed day, A sat nervously in the waiting room, his feet drawn beneath him, his elbows tucked in at his sides.

When the receptionist called his name, A rose and walked toward the door to the examination rooms.

"Excuse me," the receptionist interrupted, "we can allow only one patient at a time."

A stopped. "Me?" he said.

"Are you Mr. A?"


"Go ahead, then; but your friend will need to stay in the waiting room unless the doctor recommends a dual visit."

Dread rushed through A like a sudden fever, an electric sort of panic. Not knowing what else to do, he fled the waiting room, and entered the restroom at the end of the hall, as if to hide himself. He was shaking, sweating. He hurried to the sink, splashed water on his face, then gripped the edges of the porcelain basin, as if it were some kind of steering wheel, steadied himself, and raised his chin to face the mirror. He gazed intently upon the glass, turning his head first this way, then that.

No one was there. No one other than he himself, that is. A was there. He was alone in the restroom. Only he wasn't. He could see, in other words, that he was, but he knew at the same time that he wasn't.

A determined at that moment to seek the help of a psychiatrist. He went directly to a phone booth, paged through the book for a promising ad, and secured an appointment for two.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Question

Most people have no problem with saying that they believe in love - that love is both a thing that exists and a good thing.  Most agree that goodness is good, as is kindness, forgiveness, healing, compassion, purity, sacrifice in the interest of those in need. And yet many have a hard time believing in Christ.

Who is Christ?

Christ is the fullness of God in the flesh, the person of God operating in the world.

What is God like?

The disciples posed the same question to Jesus.

He answered, if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.

What is seen in Jesus?

Love, goodness, kindness, forgiveness, healing, compassion, purity, sacrifice in the interest of those in need.

Believe in me, He said. In what? In the goodness they witnessed. 'Believe', in the fulness of its original meaning, carried the force of both idea and action - Believe / Do - two sides of one coin.

What fault is it that people find in this? What is it in these things that has inspired such anger and rejection?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Review

Rather than ask Why me?, ask What now?

This might be said to be the essential focus of Shulamit Lando’s newly published book about her own experience with multiple sclerosis, a journey from initial fear and uncertainty when first diagnosed more than 30 years ago, to a new life of open avenues and spiritual maturity. Hope Beyond Illness (a guide to living well with a chronic condition) takes a philosophic, holistic look at how one may receive a medical diagnosis not as a penalty but as an invitation to grow, to become more fully the person one was intended to be.

The emphasis is not on new drugs, new medical procedures, but on new personal attitudes and useful spiritual procedures one can adopt to treat the illness, and oneself, from within. In an age that teaches an almost blind reliance on science and medicines, Ms. Lando’s views on the healing power of one’s own soul are a sorely needed breath of fresh air

“At the threshold of every great journey,” Lando quotes Claire Higgins, “we must first establish a direction and then, find the courage to take our first step, even when we don’t know where our foot will land, or where the step after will lead us. This way of traveling through life requires faith... the ability to feel, sense, and trust something that cannot yet or ever be seen.”

It is one of those strange contradictions in life that what seems on the surface to be adversity may in  fact be the cradle of great opportunity. Chronic illness brings about a change, not planned for, not asked for – but the essential nature of where that change takes us is really up to us. In Lando’s case, as in my own, the presence of illness has led to an exciting, fulfilling journey of growth, a new appreciation of the power of the spirit, the importance of compassion, the reality of faith. Upon facing a challenge, as Lando notes, we may feed the creature of our choice – that characterized by anger,  bitterness, hopelessness, or that characterized by love, joy and the spirit of discovery, wherein one’s grasp of what one truly believes is sharpened, filled out and can take form in one’s every day life.

Chasing symptoms with various medications and injections can, in itself, be discouraging and depressing, especially when we who have MS must admit that none of these treatments are curative but only palliative. Moreover, they may even make one feel worse than he felt beforehand. Again, we kneel before the doctor, groaning ‘Please help me.’ But there is a doctor in the house already – and modern studies are finding this more and more surely. As stated by the well respected Dr. Eben Alexander, “ and faith, the two ways of knowing the world that have defined our culture, are much, much more entwined than we tend to think they are.”

The doctor in the house is one’s own miraculous spirit, that which connects each person to pillars of knowledge, ability and strength that are beyond this world, beyond the door of the doctor’s office, beyond the prescription pad. Shulamit Lando invites you in her book to look both within and beyond at the strange gift that so-called chronic illness has bestowed.

[You can find this in eBook formats with a discount ($5.99) at: The first chapter is available to read for free. Hard copies are available on Amazon at:

Shulamit can be contacted at:
Tel: 972-544-868739
Skype:  chulinhu
Her client web site:]

A Lesson

Trundled out to JCO on Teuku Umar this evening. First time I've ever been here at night. Seems like a fur piece in the dark, and it is also a rather 'exciting' ride, given that one is traveling on Teuku Umar, otherwise known as Lunatic Lane.

I was thinking about firearms today, those having been variously in the news of late, and remembering my own fairly humble experience with them. There were no guns in my family, simply because no one was interested. My father was a fisherman. He hunted fish, a fairly safe hobby, though not completely without danger. One had to be aware of his surroundings, lest he hook the tree on the shore, or perhaps his fellow fisherman's nose. We were instructed, therefore, to watch what was behind us and to our casting side. One had to be careful of his footing as well, in a swift river, for instance, or in a lake with a false bottom. My father showed us these things, and we learned them. But of course no one has ever been shot by a fishing pole.

On the other hand, many of our family acquaintances owned rifles, which they used solely for hunting. Most of these men had also served in the military during World War II, and were rather intimately acquainted with guns. In short, they had a very sure appreciation of how deadly guns could be.  I remember Ed Upton, a veteran of service in France and Germany, taking us out to learn to shoot. We were more than ready, of course, at 10 and 12 years of age (although my mother wouldn't have been had she known). Gimme the gun, where's the trigger, right?

No, not right. For as it turned out, this morning of shooting was consumed mostly in instruction on how to hold the gun, where to point it, where NOT to point it, for Christ's sake, how to load it, how to unload it, how to make SURE it was unloaded (again, for Christ's sake), and what the damn thing could do if you made a Goddamn mistake. Ed was always colorful and definite in his language. He was a fearsome, 6 foot 2 inch cedar tree of a man and I never saw him smile in my entire life. In fact, by the time he was done, we weren't smiling either. We were petrified. Shooting a rifle seemed at last significantly less than fun. Only one of us, his son, went on to be a hunter, and that may have been only because it was expected of him.

The point is, I'm not so sure that people these days have the proper, and sober, idea about what guns do. I'm not so sure that they really appreciate that they are holding a murder weapon in their hands. I'm not so sure that they understand that death happens just as fast as the bullet travels. There's no do-over, no second chance.

As Ed Upton said, once you put your Goddamn finger on that Goddamn trigger you'd better damn well know what you're doin and why and what's gonna happen when you do it. Otherwise, you're gonna end up killing either yourself or your best buddy, or maybe even someone you don't even know.

Thanks for the lessons, Ed. You see, I haven't forgotten.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Another Threat

What is the message of the terrorists, who recently attacked in Jakarta and now threaten to attack in Bali? We're going to blow you up if you don't ... What? If we don't what? Adopt a Shariah lifestyle, obey Shariah laws? And blowing people up is likely to make us amenable? Do they ever say what the point is, these terrorists? What is the demand? What is the ultimatum? What is the complaint? And how will killing random people achieve your goals? What are your goals? And how would you know that one of the random people you killed was not already in favor of your goals? Did you ask him first? Did you conduct an onsite survey? How do you know that you didn't kill the Osama bin Ladin of the future?

Well, it doesn't make sense, and the reason it doesn't make sense is that it doesn't make sense, which means that this can only appeal to people who have no sense to begin with. They are small, insignificant, hate filled people who wish to punish someone, anyone, for the small, hate filled insignificance of their own existence. Murder gives them a rush. It is the only drug they can afford. And like the poor addict, a slave to his self absorbed addiction, the human life that he takes is nothing but a fix, serving no one, serving nothing other than the enormity of his narcissism.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Just a story I began to write but will not likely have the patience or energy to continue ...

Tomas got up early – too early, really – but this was to be his last day on the river and he wanted to fit in as much as possible, both during the daylight hours and then later at night. This way he would be in no hurry whatsoever. He could address each moment with finesse, and the chief ingredient of finesse is time. Wit, the right move, can seem, and should seem effortless, but in truth they are studied practices, like poetry and dance.

He zipped the tent entrance all the way closed so that no ticks or scorpions could crawl in, and then tied back the outer flap so that the breeze could enter through the screen during the day, which promised to be another hot one, possibly exceeding 100 degrees by mid afternoon. All the better that he had arisen early.

From the side awning of the tent, he retrieved his fly rod, unhooked his creel from the branch of the nearby cedar, brought both to the table, then sat down on the bench, turning to face the rising sun. He watched it spill red streaks through the trees, which turned orange, then yellow, then white as the great star gained the top of the hill’s steep shoulder and pushed itself into the bluing sky.

The night birds changed shift with the birds of the day, camp robbers and blue jays and little yellow birds that alighted in the cold fire pit and pecked at the ashes, finding, somehow, something of sustenance there.

Tomas realized that he himself was hungry, and, further, determined that he should eat, even if he weren’t hungry, because the day would be long and full of effort.

La preparación es la vanguardia de éxito.

Opening the cooler, Tomas retrieved the items that remained at the end of five days – three slices of bacon, two eggs, an apple and a quarter loaf of white bread. Two of the bread slices he would use for lunch, along with a tin of deviled ham. There was also one beer, which he would have at lunch, and enough coffee for a small pot now and a small pot later.

There was no point in making a fire. Not now. Wood, especially larger sticks, was sparse, and the morning was already warm, and, besides, the yellow birds were still busy at pecking at the feathery ashes in the pit.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

But Tomas did not want to take away from the birds. They reminded him of something, something he did not want to think about, but could still feel deep down, whether he thought about it or not. The yellow birds stuck together, side by side, and moved in a little crescent moon semi-circle, picking through the waste of what the fire had left behind, raising their small orange beaks from time to time to bite pensively at some bit of charred treasure, the marrow of something, the shriveled spirit, the shuck of life. Tomas watched the birds longer than he knew, all the uncounted while not thinking.

He found at last that his hands had detached the gas canister from the Coleman stove on their own volition, so he shook the container gently, decided there was sufficient gas to cook breakfast, pumped up the pressure in the canister, counting twenty strokes, replaced the nozzle into the intake and clicked the dial until he got a spark and a circle of blue flame jumped from the burner. He cooked the bacon first, then toasted the two slices of bread in the bacon grease, then fried the two eggs. A hatch of flies had buzzed forth from the huckleberry thickets and Tomas  shoo’d them away with one hand while he prepared his pot of coffee with the other. He was still in no hurry. There was still plenty of time. One more day here, and then he would head for Nogales, and then he would be on the plane and would not see this place again for perhaps two years, or perhaps forever. One thing he knew is that you never know. One thing he knew is that duty does not dream of a future.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Jakarta bombing

Psychopaths playing with guns and bombs, killing innocent people, ruining families, for what? So that they, through murder, can give meaning to their own worthless existence? So that they, through such brave and pointless cowardice, can feel that they somehow matter more than the peaceful existence of their random victims? So that they can somehow face their own soul-less vacuum and suck up lives that were actually worthwhile? Brainless, blood sucking subhuman zombies - that's all that they are, and it is everything they prove through acts that, with the utmost finality, end any claim to life among the members of the human community.

Pray for Jakarta.