Sunday, June 22, 2014

Black Creek

  I've been thinking of "home" in recent times. I've traveled a lot in my later years. Honolulu, (beautiful place) Colorado Springs (to cold for my southern blood, but my son was born there) Tuscaloosa, Alabama (it's Alabama, it's southern, I live and work here but it's not "home." ) 

Where is home? Where you are born? Where you grew up? Where you got your first kiss or your first crush? In that case it would be Gadsden, Alabama and more specifically Walnut Park in Gadsden for me. Where you remember family and going to church and ball games? Attalla, Alabama and Altoona, Alabama for me. Still it's all in Etowah County. But, I've thought about home recently. It's Sunday afternoon and I was on the "Welcome to Gadsden" facebook page. Looking at pictures of Black Creek and Nocculula Falls. I should have known. Throw an old county slow dance song on the old stero on Stonewall Avenue and let me head out the door because my mother will start singing along with Loretta Lynn any minute now. ;-)

I was talking with a friend several years ago. He is from Gadsden but not from Alabama City. He said the people  from that area and especially from Walnut Park talk about it with fondness. A fondness that seems a little more intense than the way some people talk about the old neighborhoods they grew up in. But, all of us remember the days of our childhood no matter where we grew up. I have some good memories of Altoona, Alabama too. I remember going up to Prince's Drug Store (soda fountain, tables and chairs, classic) and looking at comic books and going next door and getting an ice cream cone and heading back to my grandparents house to eat my ice cream and read my comic book.

We lived all over Walnut Park. I remember taking my wife and touring the old neighborhood before we got married. We started on Chester Street. I said I lived there and right next door and my grandparents  lived there and right across the street. Then we headed on up to the corner of Chester and Stonewall and I said I lived right there. My best and oldest friends lived right over there where we just passed. Their neighbors that we played with lived right there. We headed down Stonewall and I said I lived there and then there. Wow, she said. You lived all over this neighborhood.

My stepdads parents lived on Webster Street. I walked to school sometime because back then walking to Walnut Park Elementary was not a big deal. My friend tells the story of getting sick at school one day. They let him walk home because he didn't feel well. No endless forms or phone calls or even worries. Just "go home." Much different time and place.

Black Creek: We lived on the Alabama City or Emma Sansom side of Black Creek. The snooty Gadsden folks lived on the other side. ;-) I transfered to West End my sophomore year and graduated in 1976. I missed a lot of the old classmates that went on and graduated from Sansom. But, I also met a lot of cool people at West End. Like I said it's all home to me now all these years later.

I am just in one of those nostalgic moods today. I think about the people that I've known and the people that have gone on and the people that I miss. I used to read more fiction than non fiction but I don't read as much these days. I still read non fiction and will on occasion pick up a novel. I remember something Dean Koontz wrote for one of his characters. He wrote "The only way back is to go forward." Something along those lines it's not a perfect quote. But, it has stuck with me and I like the idea. Why?

Well, because maybe, just maybe this isn't the destination. Life is part of the journey and the ties and relationships and apparent coincidences of life are part of a larger picture. Maybe somewhere there is another version of home. A brighter, truer version. Maybe, just maybe we really do come from afar trailing clouds of glory. Maybe it is just one eternal moment.

So, I'll keep going forward. I'll look in the mirror and think "wow, where did those lines come from?" I'll look at my hands and be startled that they no longer look like the hands of a nineteen year old or a twenty five year old. I'll talk to my mother while I can on the phone and "see" the firey, tempermental brunette woman that sang country music and could bust ya one if you messed with her. Until, I go back up to Gadsden and see the greyed haired aged old lady that still sounds like her but certainly doesn't look like her. I try to remember that when I talk with her on the phone and she says something that sets off the old mother-child conflict alarm. :-) I find these days it's easier to forgive and love than to be mad and self righteous.

Some people say that there are multiple universes. I don't know that I believe that but I think about it. I went ahead and graduated from Sansom in one of those and my mother stayed with my step dad in Walnut Park, On the other hand the car that hit me when I was five had to have killed me in at least one of those universes and missed me  completely in another. Ouch, makes the ole noggin hurt to think about it.

I haven't always done my best. I have tried to do my best when I really believed in something though. I haven't hated and I've tried and still try to treat others the way I want to be treated. I'm not in a hurry but I honestly do look to a river and a more real home. Peace

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah...Leonard Cohen

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Right/Left Wing

I have recently been reading a book called "Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God" by Frank Schaefer. I am thinking of doing  a review of it once I complete it. Frank Schaefer is the son of one of the icons of the "Evangelical Movement" in the 70's and beyond named Francis Schaefer. I have recently had some uncomfortable talks with my wife about the "religion" we were both raised in. I'm still sympathetic to the concept and find myself trying to defend the core of the faith while agreeing with her that much of the dogma is ...well, lets just say illogical. I still maintain the core reality of the Ground of all being putting on flesh and partaking of this world and dying with us is the very essence of love. I understand I'm perhaps, maybe adding my own worldview to the gospel story but I really think  that is the essence of what Christ was and is doing. Still I'm a heretic so what do I know?

I am really concerned with  the direction my nation is going right now. We seem to be split apart between political parties. I have a friend on facebook who is also a friend and a person I used to go to church with. He was funny and polite and good natured. Quick with a joke and could laugh at either your or his expense as long as it was funny and not cruel. ;-) Yet, I have seen a side of my friend that I didn't think existed back in the day. Now, we never really hung out and I'm not saying we knew everything about each other but the vibe was positive and I always enjoyed the conversations. But, in recent years and on facebook he seems (to me) to have gotten rather bitter.

I think (damn, I start a lot of paragraphs with "I")  Sorry, I get distracted easily. My wife says I've developed Adult ADD. :-) But, anyway, I notice that politics and the extreme right wing has taken much of my friend and the faith of my youth over. There is a bitter and sarcastic edge to it. A real and bitter hate for President Obama in particular and the left leaning folks in general. I remember some of the comments when Travon Martin was murdered. Some of the "devout" people I had gone to church with back in the day. They made fun of hoodies and light of a young man (in the image of God) being killed. But, it was OK because they were fighting for a cause don'tcha know? They had to defend "god, guns and country" even if a few heathens died, what was that in comparison to bringing the "Kingdom of God" to earth? Or at least to Jesus favorite nation the U.S.A.? Not to mention his other favorite Israel (most of who are going to hell anyway because they don't accept Jesus and keep their Jewish or secular beliefs. I know you might be saying "But, Jesus was a devout Jew" Well, you think too much. Pick up the original bible written in God's own language (The King James version of course) and hush.

I do think that Christianity as a faith is getting a bad rap from the "mainstream" media and hollywood these days. You couldn't get away with talking about Islam or Mohammed the way the name of Christ is thrown around. But, you also have to consider that the excesses of the church. The televevangelist and the politics that bomb countries and try to rewrite the political discourse has a lot to do with it. Somewhere, in my fundi youth I remember a passage from the bible. I remember it said something about "Judgement starts in the house of God." So, maybe the "right wing church" needs to check itself. Just saying.

Anyway, (Holy keyboard Batman, He started a paragraph without "I." ) Anyway, there are some things that I do think about our political situation. To my conservative friends: Yes, I do think health care is a universal right. I do think putting a price tag on a human beings health is evil. Yes, I do think civilians in Iraq are just as important to "God" as Americans and Israelies. Yes I do think a nation as rich as America should build houses for the homeless and provide food for the poor.

No, I don't think the Hispanics coming across the border to try and find a way to feed their families is a giant threat to truth, justice and the American way. No, I don't think God Almighty gave this nation to the Europeans and drove out the savages before us. NO, I don't think Jesus esteems the American Constitution above all political law and thought in this world.

No, I don't think just because a millionaire or a billionaire built a corporation that it gives them the right to take advantage of their fellow men/women and pay slave wages. Yes, I do think if you take a people group and put them in chains. Tell them they are subhuman and feed them with the frickin livestock and sell their babies that you do spirtual and financial damage. It doesn't just go away because it happened a long time ago. Time? Not much to it in the concept of an eternal moment. But, that's just me or as somebody once said "My Bag."

To my liberal friends: No, I don't think removing all concepts of an eternal purpose and relationship to our source is a great idea. No, I don't think there is any one entity that answers to the name of "Science." that replaces the need for a spiritual connection. No, I don't think everybody who disagrees with my president is a racist. No, I don't think we should take money from white people and give it to black people. No, I don't think we should keep dividing people as "People of color vs whitey."

Why not raise all people up? If you feed the poor and most of them are brown then you have already uplifted the minority. But, you have also uplifted all the poor and so the resentment of poor white people has also been addressed. I don't have guru's. I don't "believe" in a one size fits all religion, political system or world view.

With all that said I will say this. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my hero's. Know why? Not simply because he marched and sang Kumbaya. The reason he is a hero to me is the strength of his convictions. He didn't step back when the police came and say "Well, I'm the leader so I need to stay free. Take one of these little people and I'll do a soundbite." No, he stepped up and said "take me, I'll go to jail." Also, I believe he was coming to the conclusion that a rising tide lifts all boats. Let's lift up all who are poor and downtrodden. But, that message gets lost. Instead we divide people. It's the economic divide and not the color divide that oppresses humans. Poor people fight rich peoples war. 

No, this isn't meant to say I have the answers. There is plenty of room for debate and searching for answers. It's just some of the things that I have been thinking of this morning and this week.