How to be a Hero

I woke up the other night and started to write this, and it got big, and I realize I can’t find the edges of this topic. So I’ll post it, typos and all, and then move on, and will no doubt have more to say later, in and among the brambles of my regular days.

___

What Part of Jesus do I Hang on my Wall?

QUESTION: Should they, the Early Christians, have chosen something else to symbolize God’s love?

God’s son: rendered in wood, and hung upon a cross – that ancient instrument of intimidation, torture, humiliation, and death. It seems at times to me a bit unseemly to remember and announce a transcendent God in quite this way; a rather poor eulogy for His Saviour Son of Man. Jesus had so many better moments in his shortened life.

And yet perhaps no greater moment than this – his last. Would we have remembered Jesus any better otherwise… or still less, or even at all? What if he had died an old man, surrounded instead by loved ones upon his blessed deathbed, after a long, full life of healing the sick, walking on water, multiplying food & drink, challenging authorities, and delivering life lessons in the form of riddles?

Maybe it was that shocking (and, as it turned out, temporary) end to his story that keeps it in my mind, somewhere. Maybe it is that very image of a man hung high for the crime of claiming a connection to the divine – one that he told us we all share – that keeps me longing to take lessons from one sad story of good news.

My Daily Denials

I keep a crucifix in a bedroom drawer – next to my other unmentionables, and additional random remnants I keep as talismans too, inexplicably: a broken shoelace, a ball of wood from some art supply store, and a bookmark (mentioned in another post), bearing the words of another, differently contentious prophet. A curious trove of trinkets and treasures, from the arguably practical to the I’m-not-sure-quite-what. Strings, stones, boxers, briefs, socks, words, and an eternally dying plastic Jesus Christ.

I wonder at times why I don’t have an image of Christ on my wall where I wake up every day, and then I recall what that image is, and what (I think) it represents. I suppose I owe the man that much, to remember his sacrifice, but Jesus Christ (sorry, Jesus)… who wants to celebrate that moment, and see it every day? Is that what God would want? It’s a kind of macabre celebration of a life, to fixate so fully on its last and agonizing moments.

There is of course the sanitized version of this symbol: the crucifix without the dying Word of God upon it. It looks to me like an inverted sword; it has a practical handle for holding up against vampires too. It has an epic simplicity to it, and works as well in rough-worked wood as it does in gold – probably better in wood, all things considered.

But then… would I carry around a tiny noose, or a rack, or maybe a miniature iron maiden – and any of these out of context – as a symbol of my faith in the good that resides at the very kernel of each of us? Of our collective potential to transcend violence and anger and fear?

No, I would choose maybe an acorn, or a bird, or a cloud. Something light, something fluffier, and a wee bit less gruesome. The cross alone was simply an instrument of death inflicted by mortals upon other mortals (and maybe one immortal volunteer). Jesus upon the cross changes its character and meaning entirely. I have never appreciated the meaning of the word sanctify, but maybe this is as good an example as any example could be of a word-used-well.

I have a problem with the suffering in this world, and a problem with being reminded of the suffering of a man who we have since come to remember for his message of healing, compassion, peace, and forgiveness. This contrast is understandably stark, and itself deeply mysterious. At least, it is those things to me. What is the allure of Jesus hung in pain (and presumably some amount of resigned disappointment), alone upon a lonely post?

Maybe it is sacrilege to ask. But then I think the Christian God at least appreciates questions. Maybe even demands them. As long as we’re asking questions about how to better ourselves and others, I’m not so sure any divine creator worth their salt (and our devotion and attention) would care if we at times struggled around the edges of what our faith and devotion to better ideals should look like.

I don’t know about yours, but my God appreciates effort, and understands human minds are capable of only so much wisdom without a good deal of making mistakes in the process of pursuing it.

Choosing a Means to Remember

So given that I have been given the right to choose how best to remember this man Jesus, what would I have chosen, as a symbol to remember Jesus by, if not his execution?

Would it have been his face? And what arrangement of features and skin tones would be sufficient to give credit to every person in every part of the world who would like to see some of themselves reflected in Him, so they could better reflect Him in themselves? I have no answer. Maybe Jesus could be carved to look like any one of us. But then, how would one recognize him?

Would I have chosen his crown of thorns alone, without the suffering skull? Perhaps with a respectful drop of divine blood? This too would be an appropriate symbol, though perhaps might be conflated with a wreath in these modern and commercial times. Also, the thorns would need to be a bit blunter, were one to expect to wear a smaller crown around their neck. Still, maybe the crown of thorns would be the thing I would choose, at least if pressed to choose quickly.

What about the feet of Jesus (with or without sandals)? The objects of reverent kisses; the very members that moved this travelling prophet around the lands he had come to land upon? The ones that touched the now-holy grounds most physically? Are there stones still in the world that were touched by those very feet? The fleshy surface of Jesus that came into most direct contact with our own world: the feet that could defy gravity, and walk on waves. Maybe those? But who would hang feet upon their wall, and where do you cut them off, respectfully? Perhaps just his footprint… but somehow without making assumptions about his size, in any way. It seems a tall order to celebrate God with a pair of feet, in any case.

Would it be a shroud, or a hand, or the tongue which spoke divine words? A tongue alone is probably taking it too far. The hand, but without identifying fingerprints (an invasion of privacy and personal security to be sure)… the shroud, but then it would need a regular washing, and would that require holy water and/or soap? I cannot know these things.

You might begin to get the idea. It is hard to properly immortalize the already immortal, using the common materials and symbols at hand.

Is it one of the many paintings of Jesus, that I might prefer to see when I look at a given wall? No, those are just paintings, and images are a dime a dozen these days. They are sure to only resolve God into a man with a beard of a given length, and a certain eye colour, and some kind of hairstyle. I think there is something to be said for the Muslim decision (as I understand it, which I admittedly might not) to not characterize such an important figure in such a visually literal manner. It collapses something big into something ordinary, regardless of how colourful one might choose to make it.

But the Christian god – my God – does at least put up with this, and would not approve of violence against those who might wish to paint his Son (in various media), out of love or otherwise.

Even cartoons can be a good way to remember, and continue to consider; remembering and considering are considerably better than discounting and forgetting. I think Jesus had a sense of humour anyway. It’s all good, He might say, I’m not entirely in that image anyway, but you go ahead and try and guess what I really look like I’ll still be waiting when you’ve got more questions.

The Power of an Unfinished Story

The Christian faith to me remains a curious personal struggle with mystery and faith. These and others are the words I have been handed by circumstance to consider and repeat, and perhaps to build upon, in my own life.

Christianity to me does not seem to be an immutable set of pat answers to anything, even though scripture is very often accused of attempting just that, and is very often used in just that way.

Look at the man: he did not settle somewhere and build a temple to himself (or his father, Our Father)- he moved around. He followed the roads available to him, moving at what mostly appears to be Human speed. He retraced steps. He evaded pursuers. He stuck to the ground he was given – but he moved. When not welcome in one place, he shook the dust from his feet and moved on. He told others they should do the same. There was work to be done everywhere, just like today, and too little time to do it all. He even lost his cool now and then, and might have even regretted it afterward. He didn’t carve his words or behaviours into stone or dogma: we did that after he was gone.

Today, we remember this mobile man, by affixing his image to the sawn trunk of a dead tree, re-posted in the ground – or itself hung upon a wall, and most often indoors. We place this symbol of a movement in fixed positions in our homes and houses of worship. The physical tokens of Mobile Jesus still get around a lot, captured in that one fixed moment in time and space.

I could go on, finding other symbols that I would prefer to hang upon any given wall, to remind me that Jesus died for the forgiveness of my sins. One might well roll their eyes at my presumption here. After all, there are as many if not more in the world who do not consider Jesus a given, at all. I am only reiterating what I have been told, and continue to consider.

And still, here I am: the hearing of this story, and my continuing consideration of it in light of the things I’ve personally gone through in my life, has been objectively important to me – in saving me from some dark and downward spirals I might not otherwise have escaped.

The story alone carries with it an undeniable Holy Spirit. Jesus, whoever you feel he may or may not have been, did save me from something, and continues to do so. Call that Magic if you will, or call it the power of Faith, or the power of God, or even the Power of Intention if you must – but it manifests as solidly as solid matter, in my heart and mind, and then in the things I choose to manifest in this world.

So for now I peek at my dying Jesus now and then, and say a very-Canadian Sorry for not wanting to put a nail in the wall, so that I can nail Jesus once again to something stationary, trapped in one place and time.

I carry instead the symbol in my heart and mind, and when the Holy Spirit (or whatever you might wish to call it) is suitably stirred up in me, I can see Jesus (that is, God; that is, Love) in the faces of those around me, and in the animals, and in the water and the trees… and even within myself.

The Word is not a dead word – it is animated and fluid, and living, and works its way through how simple people continue to struggle with their own simple selves, in the pursuit of answers that are continuously given through the active asking for them. Nothing is nailed down.

Happy Sunday! I hope you are safe and well and continue on your own better searches.

Routines, Episode… something

This morning, like most mornings, my eyelids fluttered and my body tossed this way and that, and my neck felt a bit sore, and my chest a bit heavy. I was leaving the world of dreams to enter this one. Things here are more-or-less real.

I had breakfast. I had a shower. I answered the varied calls of Nature. All in some kind of order. It involved putting on clothes and gathering things.

I found myself at the wheel of my father’s red truck, having said good morning and see you later to my Mum (often though not always the first one to rise in her household), and with my Dad still asleep and healing soundly.

The truck brought me down the road, while I rebooted my thoughts, dispelled again my inward concerns, and heard the ear worm I had created over the last several weeks playing in a quiet and steady loop at the back of my mind.

Then I was at the gas station. According to a new little sign on the pump, I was supposed to wear a mask even while outdoors now (in “public spaces”). I had rebelled, accidentally. The world for me at 50 is officially changing faster than my habits can keep up with. I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to breathe outdoors the way I had once done, a week ago, and all of my life before that. Now I know. I’ll try and adjust.

I got some coffee, after driving myself in a different direction than I had in the previous week. This, for variety – and to delay the inevitable start of my one-more-day-till-the-curtains-close.

I don’t mean to be morbid, in mentioning my mortality.

It’s Friday, and I’ve survived another arbitrarily strung-together sequence of weekdays. My mood and thoughts are shifted slightly now, knowing the underlying tone of my next two days will be slightly different: I’ll feel more vaguely free – though nothing at all will have changed, and by Monday the cycle will start again. I know this from great experience.

I left out the thousand little details that got me from my leaving last night’s dreamland to sitting here, writing to you, from the passenger seat of a borrowed truck. These unmentioned details are all iterations of what has come to and from me, twenty-thousand times before (or thereabouts). You can fill in the details: towels for showering, opening and closing various doors, tying shoelaces, scarfing down an unmentioned muffin, and so on.

I wish I had never seen the movie Groundhog Day – I would be feeling (I think) a little less stuck in some kind of puzzle right now, had I not. But then again, maybe that movie was a clue to solving something. I’ve had this thought before as well, unsurprisingly.

I am a biological machine, and (thankfully) I don’t run a completely randomized set of instructions every day. Can you imagine? Without any routines at all, we would be utterly inconsistent and incoherent. We might be happy, but we would be alone in that happiness. My routines keep me tied to people and to causes and to places that I care about, for whatever reason. Maybe my reasons for caring are themselves just matters of habit – though I think there’s quite a bit more to it than that. That is what I refer to loosely as Faith.

Writing should have been a better routine for me these last few years, but it has been hard to stick with it, in the face of so many other things to graft onto (or remove from) the routines that make up the person that is me. Regular exercise and better nutrition should have been [could still be] a part of those routines as well. And other things. I’ve still got time, but I never know how much. That’s part of the puzzle.

All those red herrings and paths not-yet traveled. How does a person live well through a mine field like that? Like this? Too many metaphors to mix… so little time to untangle it all.

I enjoy the challenge of life, more days and moments than not. I won’t lie: I can’t take much credit for it, as I was given a good hand of cards from the outset. I had somewhere solid to start from, and return to. I still do. I think I write too much about the guilt I feel about this, though I’d like to believe that this too is a routine I can work my way through, and on to the other side. Maybe through writing, maybe through doing nothing at all except what I’m doing now.

Bill Murray worked though the puzzle, somehow. I don’t remember the details of that story, just that it had some sort of good resolution. He learned something. I forget what… but I remember that he did. I guess it was a good movie after all. Maybe I’m glad I remembered that much.

The clock closes in on what we have come to call 9:30 (at least in this narrow band of our world). This signals some part of my brain to think about wrapping this up, finishing my caffeine drink, and getting back home, where a collection of new and old routines awaits. Side-quests to complete, on the road to somewhere else, slightly different than where I am now.

May you have a surprisingly excellent Friday! I want you to experience something wonderful and new, out of nowhere. It is out there waiting – I know it.

Thank God For Fridays (TGFF?) 🙂

Always Unfinished

Every morning (almost like clockwork), the Universe tells me that I should wake up.

Sometimes a digital alarm is involved, and sometimes it is alarming thoughts about the time I have remaining here, brought on by curious dreams that pursue me as I emerge from sleep.

To know what’s truly at stake, in my effort to fully and finally awake…

I drove around today in a big loop, wondering how to break my cycles of enthusiasm and dread. I’m always too far in my own head for comfort – looking back into shame or regret, or trying to peer forward into the fog of possibility, uncertainty, worry, or inevitability. I can’t determine the nature of the fog – only that it is there wherever I look when I’m not paying attention to the present moment.

I see that our world needs help. I know that I have hands to help, and I try (I think). Who needs it the most? Starting from within, it would be me, so that I can be there for those closest by, and then, for an expanding array of others. The species may though might not matter. Pick someone – regardless of their bipedal-ness – and give them some time. Maybe that’s how the world is made better, by degrees.

Sometimes, that someone who needs your time the most is you. You will know when you’re asking for it from yourself, I think. Don’t ask me how I have come to believe this – I just presently do.

After that, go out and look for another in need of something you might currently have to give. I am speaking as much if not more to myself than to any other ReadWriter who might happen upon these words, after they’ve come to me from somewhere, to put down and then share.

As always, I am journaling sidelong toward something. Maybe some action involving my feet? Maybe something or someone in need of lifting.

I wrote recently about feeling like an adolescent, but there are days when I feel much more like a toddler. The spiritual onion has a lot of layers, I feel – it feels that way at times.

Toddlers are concerned for the most part with walking – taking steps with some purpose. The purpose is sometimes just learning to take steps – sometimes, there’s a real somewhere to go. Only the toddler knows.

I know I’m still trying to toddle to someplace, for somebody… or something.

this.ideas[“art-it-proj_2020”] : {

namespace HR : {

/*
// version 0.0.1
// Hello, World!
// what else should we #include here?
// WHAT SYNTAX IS THIS?
let n = 0; // Getting imperative... 
TODO[n]: check this for:[syntax ideas, anomalies]; parse&&execute;
TODO[++n]:
Write<WL.Fict.Draft, #Collab> (
  "Fast Friends", ["A Big Short Story"], 
  #Friendship#Humour#Efficiency
);
TODO[++n]: 
Write<HR.Opin.Post, #Short> (
  "A Day Without Fear or Shame",
  "[Good Grief - Give yourself a Break",#ImagineThat#SelfLove]
);
TODO[n++]: Create another programmatic TODO;
*/

// The ... is essentially-openly-directionally-declarative...

// Aboot Hardly Regarding (HR)
const<txt> hardly.id : "hardly-regarding";
const<dom> hardly.dom : "hardly-regarding.ca";
const<uri[]> hardly.uris : ["https://hardly-regarding.ca"];
const<txt[]> hardly.types : ["blog_13_en", "podcast_13_en"];
const<dom[]> hardly.hosts : ["wordpress.com","podbean.com"];
const<btc[]> hardly.crypto.btc : /*TODO*/;
const<uri[]> hardly.contacts : [
  "mailto:hardly-regarding@gmail.com";
  "mailto:info@hardly-regarding.ca"
]; 

// Format of a report to HR (Hardly Regarding)
const class Report(input) : {

  // class extensions
  static<enum> TYPE : {0:HELLO; 1:ERROR; 2:QUERY; 3:IDEA; 4:POST; 5:ETC};
  
  // read-only fields
  const contact : hardly.contacts[0];
  const subject : "HR Field Report - {input.from}";
  const submitted : {input.date}

  // user-supplied fields
  var<.TYPE> type; // what type of report is this? 
  var<sName> resp.name; // who are you?
  var<email> resp.email; // how can HR contact you?
  var<txt> body.text: "Hello, HR!"; // What do you have to say?
  
  // optional user-supplied fields
  opt<uri[]> body.links: // links to submission content
  opt<meta> body.tags; // meta-tag your content
  opt<sName> credit.name; // who can HR thank for your report?
  opt<uri> credit.uri; // website, blog, or business;
  opt<btc> credit.btc; // a trusted btc wallet public address
  opt<paypal> credit.paypal; // a trusted paypal address
  opt<interac.ca> credit.interac; // for e-transfer (Canada only)
  //opt<opt.color> answer["What's your favourite color?"].favouriteColor;
}


// This is where the ReadWriter comes in =>
// Example of a politely sugared, empty HR.Report submission: 
public HR.Report => {
  resp.name : "";
  resp.email : "";
  body.text : "";
  body.links : [];
  body.tags : [];
  credit : {
    name : "";
    uri : "";
    btc : "";
    paypal : "";
    interac : "";
  }
};

// Example of a politely compacted, filled HR.Report submission: 
public HR.Report => {
  resp.name : "Joe Sanders";
  resp.email : "TheRealJoeSanders4@someMailService.io";
  body.text : "Hi! I found a typo on page 4, paragraph 11 -Joe";
  body.tags : "#GrammarIsMyPassion#";
  credit : {
    name : "The Sanders Family";
    interac : "TheRealJoeSanders4@someMailService.io";
  }
};

// TODO: eventually create endpoints. For now, old-fashioned email will do.

}} // cont’d…

Being a software nerd, I find myself at times trying to express information in structured ways. This helps computers understand what we mean. Taken too far, it can obscure our meaning from our fellow Humans. Sometimes I think computer nerds enjoy this obfuscation: it can make you feel like a wizard (but you’re not one).

This is probably an attempt to take back some sense of agency lost for (in my case) not understanding how cars work, or how to fix a leaky sink (without consulting Instructables).

The above syntax is not a specific language, but it’s certainly based on various languages I’ve had a chance to use. It is what you might call declarative… meaning, the syntax is all about making statements, but not about issuing orders. Imperative language issues orders/instructions, and can also make statements.

You might think I am about to attempt some clever parallel with how declaring versus commanding works, or doesn’t, in the real world, and you’d have been correct for a matter of a moment, just one or two paragraphs up from here… but I’ve not got the energy this morning, and am typing in a truck (not while moving). I’m also late for something.

Although my “software code” above is not telling you to do anything, it is extending an offer – or extending a request, depending on how you look at it – using statements (and helped along by comments, which are not meant to be parsed by machines, only Humans).

Random Reporting from the Field of Possibility

I went to return a library book, and ended up finding some news.

It’s actually easy to Find News, if you bother to look – and if you consider anything that’s news to your own self to be news at all.

Inspiring Shed of Mystery – found @ Fredericton, New Brunswick

I did not know about the recent murder of a school teacher in France, until I I drove by a crowd of people assembled in front of my hometown’s town hall this morning. I noticed they had signs – one of them read, Islam loves Jesus.

Who could not wonder at least a little bit what that was about? So when my errand was complete, I went back to ask. The crowd had mostly dispersed by then, except for a few families. I spoke to four of the men there; we talked about peace and about getting along. We smiled through our masks as we spoke each other’s names. I received a bookmark from one of the men, with the words:

I was sent to perfect good character
Prophet Mohammed

I cannot think for one moment that the Author ever meant to condone violence, or the racism and bigotry that such an act seems destined to fuel. I feel he meant to argue for the opposite of those things.

Nobody in that, my hometown crowd, seemed to want anything but to remind their neighbours that the greater number of us are on the same page. We want our children to be safe, and our lives to have a meaning far, far above politics and division.

My one errand became two, and then three. There is good news in the world, I’m writing to remind you, and it has a far stronger character than the bad.

Have a happy and safe Halloween ❤

Hardly Focusing

Listening to found audio from the Internet : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_uLM5i0Z4c

I have too many Things. This includes physical Things, like household objects, as well as project-like Things, like work, self-improvement, hobbies, and fleeting interests. These all add up to an inventory. Even my burgeoning list of passwords and TODOs are part of this expansive inventory.

My inventory is a blessing and a curse of course, as are many gifts. The options available to me are by-and-large of greater number – any given Thing being a potential key to some door – but with options comes an implicit call to someday choose-it-or-otherwise-lose-it. I’ve written about this elsewhere at other times, but always I think for about the same reason: I have trouble focusing in one direction, when so many intriguing ones present themselves.

At the risk of being repetitive: the Things we are given, and the Time we have to filter through and then pursue them, seem rather mismatched to me. Where are the extra limbs and eyes and minds I need to see these Things to their better conceived conclusions (or better yet, continuations)? I am only one mortal man, with no more than the predictable number of attachments and powers.

Of course, we are a collective for a reason. We are meant to recognize in each other all of the potential we can’t ourselves realize on our own. Some of our quests might be better given to or shared with others.

I am engaged at work these days. The project I’m working on – to a good extent a realization of my own imagination, then empowered by the interests and experiences of several other minds – keeps me thinking and plugging away.

Last night, I put myself to bed in a happy state, excited for the next steps in this project. I felt a familiar feeling: engagement in what I’m doing. This is a signal that I’ve found something worth really focusing on. By that, I mean other things (at least for a time) need to give way to it, so the work can happen in a full sense, rather than a partial one.

This means I can’t write for hours every day, or read for hours every day, or spend hours and hours watching videos and tutorials unrelated to the principal task at hand. It means I can’t start new projects whenever I want. It means I can’t keep a thousand browser tabs open, to be lightly and continuously monitored while doing all of the other Things. Focusing on one Thing means something. It is different than succeeding at everything you feel you should succeed at.

I sometimes imagine myself occupying a position in Possibility Space. This is different though related to Physical Space. The directions aren’t informed by the same magnetism, but are instead directions of exploration, inquiry, and implementation. Each journey takes one toward some conclusion/continuation (with the requisite embedded learning), and then necessarily away from the others.

A person wishing to explore to the East and North will end up to the North-East – a place in between the two places they were actually interested in visiting. A person wishing to explore East and West at once will end up more-or-less where they already are. Of course, this metaphor takes one only so far – the point is, if you want to finish something fully, head toward that Thing with something akin to determination, and certainly with a good measure of focus, for some amount of time.

How far you go in that direction might have as much to do with how little you concern yourself with all of the other available ones, as with the walking you do in the direction you decide to actually walk. Walking with intention – enjoying the view, moving objectively forward. The destinations you leave (for now) might be more reachable from your new position, for all you now know, once you become elevated through your concentrated effort (like climbing). It’s all about an attitude for altitude, maybe.

Art and AI

I recently watched two young violin professionals on Youtube react to the compositions of AIs, arrayed alongside those of humans.

The challenge was for them to tell which was which. One could see on their faces an uneasiness about where technology has gone, and where it might still go. I felt that anyway, watching it.

Increasing complexity and capacity in computing power begins to challenge my understanding of what makes a person Human, and what makes a work a work of Human inspiration. In the music space, artists are now uncertain how to approach music composed entirely by machines.

They aren’t in fact composed entirely by machines though – the machines still need Human creative works to inspect, so they can re-swizzle the patterns they find in order to “innovate”. The more predictable and repetitive Human art becomes, the easier it becomes for AI to simulate.

AI are getting quite disturbingly good at simulating us, in some sense. This might be a call for artists to raise the bar and move forward with what we consider art. Whatever that means. I’ll leave that to the real artists.

Once the AI can do what we do, we must venture out and do something entirely new…

HRe: Podcast Ep 2

I found some files on a usb stick, which I found among some clutter, which was located in a room.

Among the files were some of the audio variety. These involve a man talking to himself in a truck.

Bad Sound From a Borrowed Truck
Ep 02 : Faith, Serendipity, Atheism, and Ikigai

Ikigai: https://medium.com/thrive-global/ikigai-the-japanese-secret-to-a-long-and-happy-life-might-just-help-you-live-a-more-fulfilling-9871d01992b7

Title music:
Fuzzball Parade by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5044-fuzzball-parade
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/