Thinkerfromiowa's Blog

Conversation about a variety of subjects

No Man Is An Island

No Man Is an Island

No man is an island
No man stands alone
Each man’s joy is joy to me
Each man’s grief is my own

We need one another
So I will defend
Each man as my brother
Each man as my friend

I saw the people gather
I heard the music start
The song that they were singing
Is ringing in my heart

No man is an island
Way out in the blue
We all look to the one above
For our strength to renew


Hello, everyone.

I first heard this song almost 60 years ago in a high-school assembly. I have no idea who wrote it – web pages do not like to give the names of composers and lyricists – but whoever wrote it gets the honor. It is better than anything that I could come up with.

In 1624, English poet John Donne wrote a series of meditations about himself and his suffering from typhus, enteritis, or some other unknown disease. Possibly the best known meditation is Meditation XVIII, which contains the following paragraph:

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the SeaEurope is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.[22] [Donne’s original spelling and punctuation]

I’ll put it in 2016 form:

No man is an Island, entirely of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a Mannor (?) of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

(That was harder than I thought it would be. And I have a Masters in English Education!!)

No Man Is An Island. Think about what Donne is saying. As much as we may want to be individual entities and be all by ourselves, we cannot do so, because that is not the way that society was designed. Each of us was designed to be a cog in that machine called Society. And Society needs each of us to do his part – doctors to treat our physical conditions and diseases; lawyers to guarantee that we get justice; police to enforce the laws and keep us safe; factory workers who make the products that we use; military people to defend the country; pastors and theologians to teach us about God; entreprenneurs to create jobs and invent ways to improve society; farmers to provide our food; millionaires and billionaires to fund the entreprenneurs; scientists to teach us about the physical world and also to invent vaccines and other means to improve our lives; musicians and movie stars to entertain us; and teachers to educate us. Just as we cannot survive on our own, neither can these professions survive alone. Every one of them – and us – is needed for society to survive.

We are in the middle of a presidential race that could determine whether this country survives or not. One of the candidates – Donald Trump – has spoken many times of how we all are in this “America” thing together, and how we need to roll up our sleeves, join hands, and work to make this country great again. Another candidate – Bernie Sanders – says “NO!!” The only people that matter to him are the people in the slums and ghettos who contribute nothing to building this country. He, like all Liberals, have a hatred of the police and the people in the military. He and his party have come nowhere close to seeing the truth in Donne’s paragraph.

Fifty years ago, Simon & Garfunkel had a hit song that was the total antithesis to Donne’s words. The song was “I Am A Rock” by Paul Simon, and here are the last half of the second verse and the entirety of the fourth verse:

I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
. . . .
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have news for you. For a lot of years, this song was my anthem. It stated my philosophy of life to a T. I was hurt so many times by women that I had decided that I never wanted a woman in my life, kind of like Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady.” I avoided people as much as I could because I simply could not handle any more pain or ridicule because of my physical handicap.

Then I met my Ginny, and she dragged me back into society. We married, only to have her die after too short a time. I then met and married Carol, who had the hobby of telling me what a wonderful guy I was. We had 20 incredible years together and then I lost her also.

Those two dear ladies showed me that I belonged in society and that society needed my little cog to run smoothly.

I am no longer a rock or an island. I have essentially learned the lesson that John Donne had to teach. I admit that I have some rough edges. I am not a Christian, so the Christians want nothing to do with me. I support Donald Trump, so a lot of Republicans don’t like me. I definitely have conservative ideas, so my former Liberal friends want nothing to do with me. But I am fine with all of that. I am a “clod of Europe,” as Donne would put it. I am ME! And I am doing my very little bit to not only help the machine of Society run smoothly, but also to help Donald Trump make this country great once again.

Thank you for bearing with me in this diary. May each of you have a great day tomorrow.

Bill

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous, Music, Politics, Religion | , , , | Leave a comment

Thank God It’s Over!

Thank God It’s Over!

Hello, everyone.

I love music!!  My grandfather helped me develop and grow a love for classical music.  I love the oldies from the 60s because they take me back to my college days and the early years of my brief teaching career.  I was involved in church music for around 50 years, and I sang and played some wonderful church music.  I also sang and played some sheer doggerel as well, but that is another story.

But there is one song that I absolutely hate, despise, detest, and abhor.  It is the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  Every time I hear Andy Williams croaking that song, I want to take a 12-gauge shotgun and a dozen rounds of buckshot and blow him and the idiot who wrote that song to kingdom come.  I like Andy Williams – he also is from Iowa – but I hate and despise that song!!!!

The reason that I feel that way is quite simple.  That song is a lie.  The Christmas season is NOT the “most wonderful time of the year” for a lot of people for a lot of reasons.  Given the crass commercialism of Christmas in this country, people grieve because they cannot afford to give gifts to those whom they love.  Also because of that commercialism, people expect the moon when it comes to presents.  Poor people have to choose whether to pay for food, pay the heating bill, or pay the rent with the little pittance that they have.  And hardest, of all, some people have lost loved ones and had awful things happen to them during the Christmas season.  I am one of the latter.

“The most wonderful time of the year?”  Not by a long shot!!

It can be the loneliest time of the year.  One day when I was doing my laundry, in my going back and forth from my apartment to the laundry room, I passed an apartment down the hall on the way to the elevator.  There was a sign on the door that said, “Who cares?  No one.  Not a single person.  Life is hell.”  I decided that the social worker in our building needed to know about that note, so I told her.  She then went to visit the guy and talk to him.  The next day, the sign was gone, so maybe she and I did some good.

But I can identify with that guy.  And so can tons of others.  I lost my beloved wife on December 16, 2007.  Like my neighbor, I know how it feels to be left out of the celebrations.  People don‘t want to have much, if anything, to do with you if you don’t feel like whooping it up.  Or they are too occupied with Santa Claus or the Baby Jesus to have room for anything or anyone else in their hearts.  Or they are wrapped up in their own circles and don’t have the room – or the desire – in their hearts to broaden those circles.  “The most wonderful time of the year” is a long ways from being that for a lot of people.

Like I said earlier, I am one of those people who have had nasty stuff happen to them during the Holiday Season.  I won’t list the litany, but I will mention three:  My first serious girlfriend and I broke up on December 13, 1963.  My first wife was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma on December 21, 1981.  I lost my beloved Carol on December 16, 2007.  A lot of others have had their significant blows as well.  So we cannot be condemned for feeling a deep sense of relief when “the most wonderful time of the year” is finally over and we have had no major calamities happen to us.

So it is with a deep sense of relief that I can say, “Thank God it’s over!!”  I had no serious events happen in my life this year.  The worse was that I lost my cell phone somewhere here in my apartment, but even that was a blessing.  I got another phone that I love, and a good service provider.  We had a nice Xmas pot luck, which I attended and had a wonderful time.  I had a nice visit at Carol’s brother’s house.  I had a couple of delicious dinners delivered.  Plus I had fun watching videos of Christmas productions I was a part of when we lived out in Atascadero, California.  So all in all, the season was OK.

But I am still glad that the season is over.  I have 11 months to enjoy before it comes around again.  I have no idea what it will bring – whether it is a simple thing like losing my phone or a major whammy like losing a loved one – but I will be prepared for it in any case.

At the end of 1968, I watched Walter Cronkite’s wrapup of the year on CBS.  That was quite a year – the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the catastrophic Democratic Convention in Chicago, the election of Richard Nixon.  All that was atoned for by the Apollo 8 flight around the moon.  Cronkite concluded his broadcast by something like this:  “1968!  It indeed was quite a year.  And somehow, someway, we all managed to survive it!”

The Christmas season is over.  And somehow, someway, by the grace of God and my own determination, I managed to survive it.

May you all have a wonderful and blessed 2016.

Bill

 

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Life, Music, Religion | , , | Leave a comment

Fill the World With Love

Fill the World With Love

Hello, everyone.

This Thursday, 2/14/13, is Valentine’s Day. I really don’t know the story behind Valentine’s day, and that is just fine because I don’t want to talk about the day. Instead, I wish to address the subject of the day, and that is love.

What is love? It is one of those abstract nouns that defy definition. Poets have attempted to write definitions of love, and preachers have attempted – unsuccessfully, in my opinion – to portray “Jesus Christ” as love personified. In his masterful classic Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis portrays the title preacher as being filled to overflowing with love – carnal “love,” that is. Everywhere he goes, Gantry proclaims, “What is love? It is the morning and evening star,” and so on.

A definition of love is not the purpose of this diary. Instead, I want to focus on the portrayal of love in our lives.

This morning (2/10/13) the “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had “Love” as the program theme, in honor of Valentine’s Day. Lloyd Newell gave a wonderful meditation based on the love that George and Martha Washington shared as man and wife. The meditation was based on Rosemarie Zagarri’s book, Martha Washington: A Life, which can be found at this URL:

http://www.marthawashington.us/exhibits/show/martha-washington—a-life/the-war-for-independence/front

The first song that the choir performed was “Fill the World With Love,” which was written by Leslie Bricusse for the 1969 remake of Good-bye, Mr. Chips, which was based on the novella by James Hilton. Here are the lyrics of the song:


In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise.
At a moment in my life when the world is new.
And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me,
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

(Chorus)
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love my whole life through

In the noontime of my life I shall look to the sunshine,
At a moment in my life when the sky is blue.
And the blessing I shall ask shall remain unchanging.
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through

(Chorus)

In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset,
At a moment in my life when the night is due.
And the question I shall ask only I can answer.
Was I brave and strong and true?
Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?

(Chorus)

When the film came out, movie critics were virtually unanimous in their praise of the story and the stars, Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark, but were virtually unanimous in their damnation and condemnation of Mr. Bricusse’s songs for the movie. One critic said that the songs were extremely forgettable. Another said that the songs had no coherent link to the book (or script) but instead were folded in as a cook folds beaten eggwhites into a recipe. Yet at least this one has survived to hold a solid spot in the repertoire of the Mormon choir.

This noble idea of filling the world with love and love’s place in the world has been around for decades, if not centuries. One could even say millennia because the teachings of The Buddha were built on the idea of love. The concept that “love makes the world go round” has been the subject of too many songs to even attempt to count, although a song with that title, written by Bob Merrill, was the key song in the 1961 Broadway musical Carnival. A few years later, in 1965, Hal David and Burt Bacharach wrote a song titled “What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love,” which enjoyed some popularity and which was also used in certain Mainline religious circles. In the 1940s, a lady named Alma Bazel Androzzo wrote a song, “If I Can Help Somebody,” which carries the idea of displaying love towards our fellow men by helping those in need. So the idea of filling the world with love is far from a new concept, seeing that its seeds lie in the teaching of The Buddha.

Not to be outdone, the Evangelical community talks long and often about their “Jesus” being the personification of love. But is he really? Here are some verses, taken from the New King James Version.

Matt 10:34-38

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  NKJV

Luke 12:49

“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! NKJV

Luke 14:26

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. NKJV

WOW! Some kind of love there – NOT!!

Incidentally, the word “hate” in the verse from Luke 14 actually IS “hate” and NOT “love less.” The original Greek is miseo, from which we get the words “misanthrope,” a hater of mankind, and “misogynuy,” the hatred of women. Anyway, Greek is an extremely precise language, so if the idea of “loving less” were intended, that would have been reflected in the original Greek text.

The Evangelical church and its Catholic brother would say, “NO!! It is a misreading or a mistranslation.” But one cannot – and should not – argue with the Greek language. In addition, there are people who actually apply this interpretation to their philosophy of life. A spokesman for a group known as The Catholic League is described as follows:

As a man, he is a poison. In the media, through press releases, even through tweets, he exists to hurl bile at all those that challenge the church, or seek to reform it, or dare to condemn it, and at some point he decided that the entire world was but a subsidiary of the church, and that the code of the church would govern all, or at least his own extraordinarily narrow view of it would, and damn the rest of the Catholics, the people who sit in the pews on Sundays, and damn the objectors, and damn everybody else besides.”

That attitude sounds too much like the attitude of Jesus Christ as expressed above for me to feel very comfortable about it.

If you want to check out the article where the quote came from, here is the URL:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/02/10/1185467/-Euthanizing-gay-dogs-for-Jesus

Another thing that turns the Evangelical crank is the idea that animals have souls and are capable of feeling human emotion. They claim that “the Bible doesn’t say anywhere that animals have souls, and therefore they don’t.” Well, the Bible doesn’t say anything about jet aircraft, the Apollo moon landings, or the atomic bomb, but those things have existed and still do exist. Anyway, who hasn’t had a cat rub against his legs or curl up in his lap? Who hasn’t had a dog lay down at his feet or had a dog express great joy at seeing his master? And who hasn’t experienced the love expressed in a dog’s sloppy kisses? And who has not seen the bonding between the males and females of some species – the equivalent to human marriage? Do not try to convince me that animals do not have souls or are incapable of experiencing emotion. Sure, the animal emotions may not be the same as ours, but I would be willing to bet that they are pretty darned close.

So you Evangelicals who want to follow the example of your Jesus and put the kibosh on human feelings in general and love in particular, you go right ahead and do it. But I hope that you don’t mind if the rest of us celebrate this Valentine’s Day by celebrating this crazy, wonderful thing called love. After all, it is love that makes this poor weary world go round, and also makes our drab, tired lives worth living.

As Popeye said in one of his cartoons, you can catch more flies with sweetness than you can with sour puss. You Evangelicals and your Jesus would do well to try to learn this fact.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.

Bill

 

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Music, Religion | , | Leave a comment

Snoopy’s Christmas

Snoopy’s Christmas

Hello, everyone.

Back in 1966 and 67, Charles Schultz apparently drilled a dry hole or something in his “Peanuts” cartoon, because for several months – to me, it seemed like years – he was stuck on the idea of “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.” I was reading “Peanuts” at the time, and I eventually quit reading because I found that schtick so cotton-pickin’ boring. I never really cared for “Peanuts;” I never saw the humor in it, so it didn’t bother me in the least to leave it behind.

As a spin-off to the “Baron” business, a group of guys – from the Ocala, Florida, area – formed a group and recorded for the Laurie Record label under the name The Royal Guardsmen. They rode the “Baron Business” to #2 in 1966 with a bit of stupidity titled “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.” In 1967, they recorded a Christmas number, titled “Snoopy’s Christmas,” and saw it chart in 3 successive years – #1 in 1967, #15 in 1968, and #11 in 1969, all on Billboard’s Christmas chart.

In my opinion, the Christmas song was vastly, tremendously superior to the “Red Baron” song, and the fact that it charted so well for three years in a row supports my view, in my opinion. I remember hearing it in 1967, but not liking it, due to my distaste for the newspaper cartoon. However, in 1972, it enjoyed a resurgence – even though it did not chart that year – and I fell in love with it – to the degree that I have downloaded several videos of it from YouTube.

The reason I remember the 1972 resurgence is that I made a trip out to New Jersey during Christmas time that year to visit my brother and his wife and to meet my brand new baby niece. I went by train, and the train from Ottumwa, Iowa, was late enough in arriving in Chicago that I missed my connection to New York City on the Broadway Limited, so Amtrak put me up in the Palmer House in Chicago that night, and I made the trip to NYC the next day. A lady going to some place in Michigan missed her train as well, and she and I shared a cab to the Palmer House. We hit it off when we said hello, and had a pleasant trip to the hotel. What added to the pleasure was the fact that the cabbie had his radio on and the station he was listening to played the Guardsmen’s record. Indeed, I heard the song almost everywhere I went that Christmas.

What brought that sweet, darling little song to my mind? Amazingly enough, it was the Christmas Special done by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and broadcast on BYUTV today (12/23/12). Tom Brokaw was the special guest, and he told a true story about an American Air Force pilot who flew during the Berlin Air Lift back in 1948. According to Brokaw’s story, this pilot was shooting home movies at an air base where the Airlift took off for its trip to Berlin. Some local children were outside the fence and asked the pilot about the airplanes. He talked with them and when he had to leave, he took two pieces of chewing gum out of his pocket, broke them into 6 pieces, and gave the gum to the children. After he left them, he had an idea. Like all soldiers, he got some chocolate bars in his rations, and he started dropping them from his plane during his flights in the Airlift. Soon he had his squadron buddies offering their chocolate to the kids. People heard about it here in the States, and they started sending chocolate overseas to him for him to give to the children. The pilot is still alive – at age 92 – and he was on the program doing you know what – giving candy to kids.

When I watched the program and heard the story and heard Brokaw make the comment about giving candy to children who were once our enemies, I immediately reflected on “Snoopy’s Christmas.” In the song, the Red Baron forces Snoopy to fly across the Rhine River and land behind enemy lines. When they are both on land, Snoopy expects the worst, but instead, the Red Baron wishes him a Merry Christmas and they celebrate a holiday toast to each other.

At the end of my diary titled “May We Make Them Proud,” I wrote the following four paragraphs:

Why is this problem of gun violence so prevalent in the United States but so lacking in other, more definitely civilized countries? I truly believe in my heart that it is because of the influence of Jesus Christ in this nation. Remember that NOT ONE Evangelical Christian spokesman has spoken a word of solidarity with the parents of the dead children. We also have Jesus’ own word – spoken in Matthew 10:34 – that he – supposedly the “Prince of Peace” – did not come to this earth to bring peace, but a sword, or warfare and strife. Also in Luke 22:36, he advises his disciples to sell their clothing and use the money to buy swords, or arms. Time and space constraints hinder me from discussing this country’s bellicose history in any depth, but it is there for those who have the intellect to comprehend it.

Barak Obama said it extremely well: “God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.”

May we make them proud! May we decide that enough is enough and put an end to the Republican / Evangelical stupidity that holds us powerless except to observe shooting after shooting after shooting. And, if need be, may we grind Jesus Christ and his warmongering and life-taking spawn and grind them into dust and embrace a deity – Mohammed, Allah,The Buddah, or some other deity – who knows the pathway of peace and who chooses to endeavor to lead us in that pathway.

They say that every cloud has its silver lining. Out of the carnage of Newtown, HOPEFULLY we will emerge as smarter human beings. I do have my doubts, though.”

I believe that this is why the story of the “Chocolate Pilot” struck me so this morning. He did not have to interact with the children. He did not have to offer his two sticks of gum to them. He chose to do those things; they were acts of his volition.

He could have let the recent unpleasantness rule his heart in how he responded to the innocent children. Certainly modern Republicans and Evangelicals have taken far greater umbrage at far lesser slights. But instead he chose to act like the Red Baron in the song. In his own way that day and afterward, he “toasted” those little German children.

Last Friday (12/21), the Senior Housing where I live held a Christmas pot luck. The management provided the prime rib. I sat at the same table as James, a guy who lives a few doors down the hall from me. We got to talking, and I made this statement: “This time each year, for the four weeks of the holiday season, people are so kind, friendly, and nice. Why can’t they act the same way for the other eleven months?” James said, “I hear you, Bill.”

Why MUST we limit our “niceness” to the period between Thanksgiving and January 1? Why can’t we be kind, thoughtful, accepting, and tolerant the other eleven months? Conversely, why are Evangelicals, military types, and conservatives in general the most ungracious, thoughtless, and downright cruel people in society? I believe that, just like the “Chocolate Pilot,” we choose to act out those behaviors. They are acts of our volition.

One scene from 1977 or 78 is chiseled indelibly in my mind. It occurred in the old Northwestern train station in downtown Chicago. I had gotten off the train from Highland Park and was heading downstairs to the street level to walk over to Union Station to catch the train out to our home in Grayslake. A man and woman were walking fairly close to me. I could tell that the woman was not familiar with the Northwestern terminal because she was constantly going in the wrong direction. I assumed that the man she was with was her husband, because he was thoroughly nasty and rude to her, continually cussing her out for going the wrong way. He could just as easily have said, “No, Honey, not that way. This is the way we must go.” But he didn’t. Watching that scene moved me to promise to myself that I would never treat MY wife like that, but instead, I would endeavor to treat her like a queen as much as I could. And I did my best to honor that promise to each of my two wives.

When I was a boy, television station KTVO in Ottumwa, Iowa, had a children’s program presided over by a character who called himself Windy Jim. Windy Jim ended every program with this saying: “It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” There are tons of wisdom in those words. There is never a legitimate excuse for being not nice. As Popeye said in one of his cartoons, “You can catch more flies with sweetness than you can with sour puss.” So very true.

It is getting close to the time of the year when “New Year’s Resolutions” are de rigeur. You know – that list of good intentions that we all make on January 1 and flush down the toilet on January 2. Given the nastiness of this past presidential campaign, the endless carnage sponsored by the NRA, and the Republicans’ abject refusal to work with “the Black Man in the White House,” I believe that it would be appropriate to include resolutions to work to get along better in this society in our lists – and then make deliberate efforts to live up to those resolutions. It surely can’t hurt.

Back in 1969, a singer named Glen Campbell had a hit record with a song titled “Try A Little Kindness.” Here are the lyrics:

Songwriters: BOBBY AUSTIN / CURT SAPAUGH

If you see your brother standing by the road

With the heavy load from the seeds he sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Why don’t you stop and say:
You’re on the wrong way!

But you’ve got to try a little kindness
You show a little kindness
But you shine your light for every one to see
But if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of the narrow minded people
On the narrow minded street

And don’t you walk around the down and out
Just lend a helping hand and settle down
And the kindness that you show every day
It’s gonna help someone along life’s way

But you’ve got to try a little kindness
You show a little kindness
But you shine your light for every one to see
But if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of the narrow minded people
On the narrow minded street

© EMI Music Publishing

Not at all a bad philosophy to live by.

So as we transition into 2013, let’s not forget the lessons that Snoopy and the Red Baron, Windy Jim, Popeye, and Glen Campbell try to teach us. Let’s all determine to try a little kindness, catch more flies with sweetness and remember that it’s far more important to be nice. It really doesn’t matter if Joe Blow doesn’t believe the same way you believe. And it shouldn’t matter if John Doe is a Democrat. As the Democrats kept reminding us during the campaign, we are all in this thing together. What say we all endeavor to make the path to the future a little bit smoother?

Seasons’ Greetings and Happy Holidays, everyone. And Happy 2013.

Bill

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Music, Politics, Religion | , | Leave a comment

TGCIO

TGCIO

Hello, everyone.

TGCIO!!!

If you aren’t into acronyms, this reads as Thank God Christmas Is Over!!!

Yesterday was the birthday of the bouncing Baby Boy.  It was also the birthday for luminaries like Nimrod, Mithras, Horus, Attis, Tammuz,Krishna, Zoroaster, Dionysus, and a whole slew of other gods born to virgin mothers on December 25.

How did I get through this awful season?  By focusing on the Winter Solstice and anticipating the lengthening of the days.  There is scientific evidence of a mental / emotional condition where a person experiences depression because of the short days and long nights.  Carol experienced something like this when she was alive, and I have noticed since she died that I experience something similar.

In years past, the “Christmas” stuff started the day after Thanksgiving.  This year, it started later – it started in earnest around the 15th.  Also, possibly because of the economy, there weren’t the number of college Xmas concerts that there have been in the past.  But, those that made it to PBS were as good as they always have been.

There is the usual good and bad in Xmas programming.  Every time you turn around, there is another screening of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  That film has been shown so much, or talked about so much, that I have no desire to watch it.  Also this year, there was a concert by a 4-man group called “Tonic Sol-Fa.”  When I saw that in the program guide, I thought it was a concert of Xmas music by a group that was a part of the Sacred Harp shaped-notes tradition.  It was anything but.  These four guys did jazz interpretations of various Christmas songs.  I like the big bands and good Dixieland, but THEIR style of jazz just ain’t my bag.

And, of course, TBS did essentially a 24-hour marathon of “The Christmas Story,” about the kid who wants a BB gun for Christmas.  I saw it once, and thought that it made the Three Stooges look like serious Shakespearean theater.

But there was great stuff on as well.  Like I mentioned, the Christmas concerts from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minnesota, were wonderful as always.  What was especially darling about the Belmont program was the fact that they included a real bluegrass-type group that did one song that made it to the broadcast. Blue grass isn’t my cup of tea, but I couldn’t help but love those kids for being willing to get up and do their stuff.  I realize that the “Messiah” isn’t everyone’s favorite choice either.

But what made this such a wonderful holiday season for me was the return to TV of the 1951 movie of “A Christmas Carol,” starring Alastair Sim.  This is my favorite version of the story.  I remember when Carol was alive, I would keep checking the TV listings for it because I wanted to record it.  Almost every year I found it AFTER it has been broadcast, and Carol would always say, “My honey can always get it next year.”  But there came a time when there was no “next year.”  It just flat-out disappeared.  Then one day I was checking the Montrose TV listings online – the local newspaper prints the TV listings in the daily paper instead of one special section for the week like they used to – and I saw it listed on Turner Classic Movies.  To be sure, I got it! And it is now safely burned to DVD.  Thanks a ton, Ted Turner!!

And then there’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  What more needs to be said?

Plus, I found some fine presentations of “The Nutcracker” on YouTube, and I downloaded a couple of them.  That is the whole ballet, not the chopped-up bits and pieces that are the norm for YouTube.

So all in all, given the Alastair Sim “Carol,” the concerts from Belmont and St. Olaf, and the YouTube “Nutcrackers,” it was a tolerable season, but I am still glad that Xmas is over.

The Evangelicals are so wrapped up in their “baby” that they are oblivious to the fact that the Xmas season is or can be an extremely difficult time for people, especially for those who are alone.  I had a rough period yesterday, I think during a Mormon Tabernacle Choir program.  They sang “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, and Longfellow’s poem came to my mind and stayed there.  I thought about this verse

And in despair, I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’”

And I reflected on how Longfellow wrote his text during the Civil War, and then I started to think about the hatred in this world – the Christian jihad against Islam, the Christian hatred of the Palestinians, the Christian hatred of all other religions, Newt Gingrich’s hatred for the poor, etc., ad infibitum, ad nauseum – and I began to wonder that, in view of the Civil War and the modern Christian and conservative hatreds, what exactly was the purpose of the birth of the “baby” that the Christians insist that everyone celebrate?  All the hurt and pain in the world began to overcome me, and I got up to go and take some Xanax or St. John’sWort to help me get past this grief.

But before I could take a step to take the med, my cell phone rang.  It was Carol’s sister Ginny.  She called to wish me a Merry Xmas, and also to let me talk to my niece.  Hilary was home for the holidays and she wanted to talk to Uncle Bill.  What that call meant to my spirits, I’ll never be able to describe.  Hillie is to Uncle Bill what David and his harp were to King Saul in the Old Testament.  Dark clouds don’t last long when one hears her voice and her youthful enthusiasm.

After we ended the call, Longfellow’s text came back to my mind, but immediately the following verse came to my remembrance:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,

“God is not dead nor does he sleep.

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail

With ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’”

I was then reminded of a statement Dwight Eisenhower made at the end of his presidency.  He said something along the lines of “There are people in this country who want to live at peace with their fellow men, and the best thing that the government can do is to get out of their way and let them do so.”  As I thought about these things, I realized how correct and full of wisdom the “Occupy” movement was.  I also realized that Longfellow’s words had the potential to become true – but ONLY if we removed “Jesus Christ” from the equation.  Because if Christian superiority and the Christian hatreds are permitted to contaminate our society and our relationships with our fellow men, we will never know peace on earth and good will toward men.

And that is why I am so thrilled that Christmas is over!  No more sanctimonious bullshit about “a baby born in a manger.”  No more cacophony of “The Carol of the Bells.”  No more belching and braying of “Silent Night.”  And definitely no more of the moronic nonsense of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

If the jazz about “Jesus” really being the “Prince of Peace” is really true, then what say that we flush down the toilet all the moronic nonsense of “Jesus” conquering the world and all people being compelled to become Christians or die, and shut our friggin’ mouths and truly ponder how we can make this poor old world a better place to live.  I’m sure that the Palestinians have some ideas, if the Jews and Evangelicals have the intellect to shut up and listen.  I’m also sure that The Buddha and Mohammad have ideas if the Christians are capable of remaining silent and listening.  There are people on this planet who have an honest dream and desire to make this world a better place, and the best thing that the Christians, Jews, and everyone else who disagrees with this dream can do is to follow Ike’s advice and just get the heck out of the way and leave us alone and let us take a stab at making this world a better place to live.

Happy Kwanzaa, everyone.  And a happy 2012.

Bill

 

December 27, 2011 Posted by | Music, Politics, Religion | Leave a comment