Sunday, June 02, 2019

It's All a Big Joke

I've been pondering the possibility that I may be turning into a crotchety old man. One of those "you kids get off my lawn" guys who's angry at everyone and everything. Someone who doesn't know what this younger generation is coming to who thinks the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

Throughout my childhood and most of my adult life I always thought life was more of a comedy than a tragedy. Stiff necked teachers, drill instructors, bosses, used to say words like..."Crossen, you think everything's a joke don't you?" after I'd done something I thought was funny but they thought was bad behavior of some sort,

I never said so but as a matter of fact I did pretty much think everything was a big joke. Humor and comedy are excellent coping mechanisms. Like most people I've had some incredibly sad and tragic events happen in my life but I chose to focus on the more lighthearted aspects of life - rather than deal with separation, loss, tragedy and grief head on. Denial, although probably not the most psychologically healthy coping mechanism, is nonetheless quite effective.

It's a matter of balance. On the one hand we have to recognize that bad things happen - people die, friends are lost, eventually we and the people we love will grow old, sick and die. On the other hand life is a gas man - people can be hilarious, sometimes the crazier someone is the funnier they are, ridiculous and absurd things happen all the time...which if you have the right frame of mind can lead to lots of joy and laughter.

These two quotes from Viktor Frankl are relevant to this discussion -

"If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete." 
"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." 
Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning is a good resource for anyone wanting to understand something about human nature and how an individual might approach living a good life. This video seems to have a pretty good summary of the ideas in the book if your short on reading time.

Do you remember seeing the picture of the guy somewhere in Canada mowing his lawn while there is a big scary looking tornado approaching on the horizon?

Getting the lawn mowed before the tornado blows the house away seems like a pretty good metaphor for how to approach life eh? Keep on keepin on man. Things happen that will blow us over if we can't bend. Humor, lightheartedness and a Buddhist sense of equanimity; all serve to give us flexibility in our chosen response to the difficulties of human existence. This Onion article also includes crispy snacks in our toolkit for dealing with life's difficulties ;-) I'd buy into that - and partake of some herb before breaking out the Tim's Hot Chips


I find religious faith to be useful in dealing with life's ups and downs. I was raised as a Catholic and switched over to the ELCA when B and I got married. When I was in grade school I loved being an altar boy, being around the priests, lighting the candles...all the ritual. I went to church every morning - it was me, the priest and a few elderly congregants. That experience instilled a deep faith in something beyond the known world - God, Goddess, Buddha, Vishnu, Pure Energy, alternate dimensions; something good, pure and beautiful beyond the knowable. I'm a Catholic/Lutheran/wannabe Buddhist/sometime non-believer - these days.

I wrote the previous paragraph thinking it might be of some use for context in how I view religion and why I'm including some writing from an ELCA daily devotional book in this blog. Basically I don't want to frighten or turn off anyone who is suspicious (rightfully so) of religion. I'm just a regular old sinner like you.

The theme of the devotional comes from Psalm 110:1-4,

"From the womb of the morning, like dew, your youth will come to you."

The author Heather Lee - a mother, wife, teacher and author of "This Moment of Retreat" writes,

"Ah, the poetry of the psalms. I'm so grateful that the word of God speaks in poetry, song, and metaphor. From the womb of the morning, we are birthed like dew, new again - young.

Do you believe it? Today is a new day, and like a youth - like a child - we are welcomed to begin again. I love the morning, and over the last decade or more have often been born into it by those I have birthed - crying babies, rambunctious toddlers, ready-to-play children. God's call in these morning times is to remind me to live like a child - mostly present, mostly playful, mostly eyes wide open and ready to learn. I am new today - free from the bondage of the past and the worry of tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will be born anew yet again. Today, my youth will come to me from the womb of the morning dew. I will delight in the gift of this new day. I will look for God's blessings. And I will seek to bless others with the joy and love God has given me.

God of the womb, of the morning dew, and of the new, grant me the joy, wonder, playfulness of my youth today. Amen"

I hope you had a good Sunday and a great week ahead, may you find some peace, love, joy and laughter as you go about your day.


I have to throw one thing that's not like the other things here - because it's been rattling around in my head. I saw this report on TYT's Damage Report a few days ago. It's about a black college student in Boulder Colorado who is picking up trash in front of his residence with one of those trash grabber things. A police man shows up and escalates the situation to the point where he's demanding the student drop his "weapon" (the trash grabber) because he (the police man) feels threatened by it. The police man takes out a tazer but decides that isn't good enough so he pulls his gun on the student picking up trash in his own yard.

It just makes me think how hard it is as a white person to understand what it's like to be a minority in America. Certainly many (most?) people who do racist things don't think they are racists because of unconscious bias we all have.

So there's that...but what also struck me is how afraid the police man is of the black student. He's talking to a black guy in his own front yard holding a plastic bucket and a trash grabber and has to pull his weapon because "he" feels threatened? Good God what a pansy or a power hungry prick (you chose). The only person who's life was in danger was the black student. 

I still remember over fifty years ago when a Montana State Highway patrolman came to talk to our grade school class about his job. He said in his over thirty years working as a highway patrolman he had never drawn his weapon. I think he was (rightfully) proud of that. 

Oftentimes by design the whole fear of "the other" drives so much in our political world. Politicians and some media who are beholden to special interests use fear as a motivating tool to hide their true intentions - maintaining power and the status quo where they sit at the tippy top of the economic ladder while 40% of Americans can't come up with 400 bucks in an emergency.

The NRA has followed this playbook for some time now. As a result we have the insane idea that extended capacity magazines, bump stocks, armor piercing bullets, silencers and semi-automatic weapons that can fire a hundred rounds in a minute; should be available for purchase to any idiot with the cash. It's nuts because the NRA and the media has driven a lot of people insane (out of touch with reality, believing for example the myth that having a gun makes you safer).

In the small town rural area of Montana where I grew up I had plenty of opportunity to be around guns and people who liked to hunt or shoot at targets. We had an Olympic class marksman in that little town and a bunch of guys who hunted the fairly plentiful wild animals. I used to tend bar in a place that had lots and lots of dead stuffed animals in cases and on the walls. I bought a 308 Savage rifle with a scope and nice case from a guy who was having bad luck at poker and wanted to stay in the game one time. I used to serve, and have a lot of conversations, with a lady whose husband had shot off her hand when she tried to stop him from shooting her son. Zelda told me not to sweat the small things.

But where is this going you (and I) ask?

I just wanted to make the point that even though there were guns around no one ever said - boy if I only had a silencer, extended clip, bump stock or a rapid firing semi-automatic weapon wouldn't that be great? The people who used guns were more than capable of using regular rifles, shotguns and occasionally pistols to do what they wanted guns to do - kill game to eat (usually although there were some jerks who were trophy hunters too) or see how close they could get to the bulls eye on a paper target, or shoot bottles (sometimes out of the air with a pistol in the case of one alcoholic sign painter/friend of the was quite impressive). I guess the shotguns worked fine to shoot up the road signs in rural Montana since signs peppered with buckshot were pretty common.

One other thing you never heard was a citizen talking about needing a gun for self defense. People were much less fearful, which is weird to think about considering the existential threats of war and nuclear annihilation that spanned that time. 

Thirty to forty people die every day in the USA in gun-related deaths for an average of between 12,000 and 15,000 people yearly. This doesn't take into account the 22,000 people who commit suicide using a gun every year. 

The only way this will change is through education and revised laws. So learn a lot and vote for progressive candidates who are willing to change the status quo.