Reverse Designing by the Master

There are times when the thoughts expressed in an article I wrote several years ago about square pegs and round holes bubble to the surface. The idea behind that literary effort was an examination of the lives of the dual-gendered and how, at least for myself, life had been quite similar to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

What occurs to me now is that there’s another way of looking at it, which is to think in terms of any item on a store shelf. Virtually all of them come in a package of some kind. The item always fits very nicely into the package doesn’t it? Now do you suppose that someone came up with a package and then went looking for an object to put in it? No, that’s not the way it works. Someone invents, designs or creates an item to serve a particular purpose. That purpose may be for pleasure, necessity, speed, enhanced durability or any number of human needs, but whatever the purpose, the purpose precedes the design of the object. The design of the object determines the package it comes in. Even the design of that little workbench with the various shaped holes and pegs determined the shape of the box it came in. I think that in my case, if I were to be compared to a packaged item on a store shelf, I would be the one item on the shelf that was designed to fit the package.

Can you imagine what functional use something would be if the entire basis of its design were just to be sure that it fit in the previously designed package? Have you looked at the strange shapes of some of the packages on a store shelf lately? Have you ever tried putting an item back into one of those molded plastic packages? Excuse the masculine phrase but “Fat Chance Sweetie”. Can you imagine some nut turned loose with the package design before an inventor or engineer developed something with a purpose to fit the package? Well, I have often felt that I’ve been a package driven product.

Of course I don’t know this for certain, but the thought has occurred to me that God designed this body, this package, first. I think he started with the overall size. He created it just a little too small for the average guy and just a little too big for the average girl. Then, beginning at the ground level he designed the feet. I think he thought that this time he would try flat, narrow and on the small side. There he was definitely thinking feminine.

Next He did the legs and with these He was clearly thinking female. At this point in my life I am extremely grateful for that choice. When it came to my posterior and my hips I’m not quite sure what He was thinking so I will just let that “sit”. (Oh that was shameful wasn’t it?)

Next I believe He worked on my torso, waist first. When I was younger it was rather small but He seems to have designed a doughnut with late rising yeast to go around that youthful waist. I think He was just getting ready to go on a coffee break when He designed my chest because it’s just blah from both male and female outlooks.

The arms and shoulders have always been strong like a guy’s, but kind of delicate looking like a woman’s. He was certainly thinking feminine when he designed the hands.

As for the head and face He was surely thinking dual purpose and I kind of like it that way. The only thing that I haven’t quite figured out is the hair. On first thought it would appear that He was thinking “old guy” or “really old guy”. I haven’t had enough hair of my own to spit at for years. Of course God might have been thinking ” he’s going to be wearing wigs in Phoenix Arizona during the summer some day and that will be really hot with a full head of hair under there.”

There is one exception to the “Georgia Rule” about designing the product first and then the package. Alfalfa sprouts! They are grown and shipped to the store in those plastic boxes. As a result, the shape of the cluster of sprouts when you take it off of the shelf is exactly what the shape of the box is. And you will notice that there are a number of different shaped containers available from sprout producers. So in a way there are parts of this body that are like the package of alfalfa sprouts.

The basic package that I was delivered in, a male body had seeds of a personality in it. For most of my life, as the personality “sprouted” and developed it had to take the shape of the package, which was a male body, even though it had attributes of a female body. Just like the alfalfa sprouts, there was no choice as to how my personality had to grow, at least as long as the package remained closed. But what happens when the package is opened?

Well, of course the bundle of sprouts will maintain its shape for a time but, not indefinitely. They can be spread out and used on a sandwich or a salad. They can be left to dry out or spoil, in which case they are a total waste. Or they can be nurtured, placed in a little soil and eventually, if not soon, they will become full-fledged plants with extremely deep and strong roots that can live almost indefinitely if given the right care and attention.

And so it is with this second personality, upon the realization that the package it came in didn’t have to remain sealed. Once the awareness of the options was awakened the “package” no longer had to define the shape of the product. The body that we are born with simply does not have to be the defining expression of our lives. We just have to take the “sprout” of that femininity, or masculinity, whichever the case may be in our package, plant it in some soil, nourish it, care for it and watch it take root, grow and bloom into what The Master Designer had in mind for the package.

Indulge Me … Please!

Among the attributes I inherited is a certain degree of sense of humor. My best friend, Vince was very instrumental in honing that sense to a far sharper edge than would have occurred without his tutelage. I’m dedicating this effort to him so indulge me … Please!
This past Monday morning I posted a tongue-in-cheek bit on Facebook about what to do with my remains. After posting it I realized that it really needed to be expanded and developed further. So, here goes.

The post began this way: “Okay … I’ve made a decision, which of course may be rescinded by this time tomorrow morning. After I have assumed room temperature and have been stuffed into the blazing furnace of the nearest crematorium I wish 2 things to happen to the ashes formerly identified as me … Georgia. Sprinkle a generous amount over Monument Valley from a biplane.”

Cremation is critical here. I really don’t want to be put on display in an overpriced, satin lined box so people feel pressured to stroll by and say something they really don’t mean like, “She looks so peaceful.” Of course I would look peaceful. Some overpaid afterlife cosmetologist would have been paid a couple of thousand dollars to make me look peaceful thought totally unlike anything I did in life. I would much prefer that people remember me in their mind’s eye the way I appeared to them. And no, a closed coffin would not be a suitable alternative. I wouldn’t want the undertaker to have his hard work go unseen although it would be a way of getting even for the exorbitant pay he’d be getting from someone in my life who cared enough to cough it up.

As to the ashes, the biplane and Monument Valley; this is a must. Blame it on a limited sense of possibilities but … that’s where I’m happiest in this life and can’t begin to contemplate an improvement on that. Maybe I’m just not letting my imagination run wild enough so I’ll think about that a bit.

The biplane just seems right for some reason because of a scene from “The English Patient” when his biplane crashes with him and his love … in the desert. Go figure!

When I compare all the places that most of the world considers beautiful I think of mountains, forests, lakes and rivers; maybe the seashore. For the most part those scare the living daylights out of me. Mountains can be austere and cold, and at times forbidding. Deserts, on the other hand, don’t hem you in. Granny commented on occasion, when she was at the family cabin in Montana that she couldn’t “see out yonder.” She felt hemmed in by the forest and mountains and I agree. In that respect, the parts of Montana which are referred to as “Big Sky” would be my first alternative to Monument Valley because you can “see out yonder.” Bill collectors can’t sneak up on you that way … and neither can ex’s.

They don’t have ill tempered bears in the desert, which means I don’t have to wear something noisy like an old set of sleigh bells and carry a canister of pepper spray the size of a commercial fire extinguisher with me just to go for a walk. Forests just never seem as clean as the desert the floor which is clean windswept sand, not a carpet of decaying leaves, rotting logs and innumerable unseen creeping crawling creatures; ticks for instance.

There are, I admit, a few advantages to the forest. The forests in Montana have huckleberries and believe you me you haven’t lived till you’ve had homemade ice cream and fresh huckleberries, in the absence of ice cream, Huckleberry shortcake. There are also an abundant number of natural springs feeding the lakes and rivers. Water is nice to have around. It’s a requirement for morning coffee and mid-afternoon iced tea.

The necessity of the cemetery at West Yellowstone, next to the ashes of my bride goes without saying. It was a promise, and the last song played at her funeral was Dan Seals’ “Meet me in Montana.” And that’s the closest I’m getting to tears today.

On with the lighter side! The original hard copy of the original text of “Dear Mom and Dad” and a copy of the Book of Job is an absolute must. I’ve developed a deep and abiding affection for Job because I can relate. And so when some explorer in the distant future and he/she stumbles across my simple headstone and digs up the small vault which will hold my ashes and these relative items of significance to my life, he will understand why I included the book of Job with the memoir.

I will request that a large jar of Peter Pan Smooth (not crunchy) Peanut Butter and a jar of Blackburn’s Apricot preserves along with a pack of Trident Sugarless Tropical Fruit gum be included as symbols of my life’s simple requirements for contentment. Also just in case I am reincarnated I want to be prepared with the essentials.

The last item, and for this you can use one of those empty pint mug jars from Blackburn’s Apricot preserves you will find in most every cabinet in my kitchen, along with its lid; this last item will be filled with club soda, a shot of Rose’s Lime juice and two squeezes of lime. I’m thinking of taping a note to the jar that commends two bartenders, Jakob at Plazma on Osborne and Andy at Cash Inn on McDowell in Phoenix, for their faithful and generous provisioning of my liquid refreshments for so long.

Now, where has this day gone? Time does fly when you’re having fun and I have had fun creating this totally valueless communique´.

Carrot and Stick

It’s not all that uncommon for me to realize after I’ve posted something new on my blog, to realize there was more to be said on the latest subject. Then on reflection I generally conclude to leave well enough alone. However this time is different.

In my last post, I cracked an egg that needs to go directly into the frying pan to be basted sunny side up. Near the end of the piece I quote from Mark 10:14-15 (NLT) with emphasis on verse 15. “I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their (the children’s) kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.”

A friend, who is himself a blogger as well as a former minister/pastor, responded to me with very thoughtful and interesting comments which prompted me to reflect on a few thoughts which have periodically given me pause to examine a very basic element of Christian faith. In fact, that element, as my blogger friend points out, is very basic to virtually every faith of religious nature adhered to by mankind. That element is a benefit to the believer, and in most cases involves a promise of eternal life in one form or another, be it with angels, virgins or whatever carrot you have an eternal appetite for.
Naturally there is the stick. In Christianity that stick is eternity in hell, which of course is still a form of eternal life, isn’t it? That brings us to motive. What are our real motives in what we do in this life? A question that Dr. Wayne Dyer asks on occasion is, “If there was no such thing as money, how would you spend the waking hours of your life?” Interesting question isn’t it? So, let’s ask ourselves a similar question. If there was no such thing as the potential of eternity for us, how would we spend the time in this life? Oh come on, you mean to tell me that thought never occurred to you? Sure it has; every time you are tempted to engage in some guilty pleasure forbidden by your faith that indulgence in would draw you nearer to the dismal abyss.

On the flip side of that thought is the notion that eternal punishment is the result of misbehavior. Maybe you’re less inhibited by the thought of losing eternal pleasure than you are by the thought of earning eternal punishment. Either way the key element is eternity isn’t it. So, back to the original question: what if there was no possibility of eternity either way, and you had either a firm belief, or actual knowledge of that fact? Would there be a point to your life? Would there be a moral basis for your relationships with other people?

That question becomes more significant if you are, as I am, a devout Christian. With all the promises, carrots if you wish, in the bible of life eternal, IF you adhere to the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the son of God, then your belief also tells you that you will live forever … guaranteed; done deal. I ask this question then: “Is the belief that God exists and Jesus of Nazareth was his only begotten son incompatible with a belief that eternity is for them alone? That for us, the Sadducees were right, this is all there is, there ain’t no more?”

If you are trying to wrap your mind around all of this and having difficulty with the concept of morality without reward in your faith, and neglect the ingredient of love then you need to pause and add that ingredient. When you do add it, make sure you are adding love which goes out from you to God and the people in your life. Now ask yourself the question, do you love your God enough to live your life as if eternity IS ahead even if it ISN’T? Or, are you committed to your faith, be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever, only because of the promise of life eternal if you mind your P’s and Q’s? Is your love of the God you know and worship powerful enough, deep enough, to sustain your faith even if you discover the Sadducees were correct, that this life is all there is?

What is the purpose to your life if there is neither carrot nor stick? Is your faith in the purpose to your life the kind of childlike faith that doesn’t require knowledge of anything beyond this day, this hour, this moment?

Do You Have a Golden Calf?

When I try to remember the images and lessons from the Sunday school classes of my youth, the details are sketchy at best. I honestly don’t remember a single solitary moment that stands out as a lesson learned and cherished. I was a senior in high school before I was exposed to the principle of osmosis. My memory of that seems to apply to the process of what I apparently retained from all those Sunday morning classes. What I came away with was a basic set of morals by which I was expected to live my life. Don’t lie, cheat, steal, kill and the rest of the don’ts. The odd thing is that I don’t think I ever absorbed a thing about the dos. Well, maybe the part about “honor thy father and mother.” But then again, I may have picked that up at home as much as in Sunday school lessons.

When I finally began to really examine the totality of my beliefs, after losing my bride to cancer in my mid fifties, I gradually awakened to the huge gap in my early Christian education. There wasn’t any memory of discussions or descriptions of the nature of God. Maybe it was just assumed that I would automatically absorb that knowledge. Sure, there was the universal “Heavenly Father” bit, but that was it because after all God was GOD.

I’ve written previously about coming to the realization of how my relationship with Dad, my earthly father affected the nature of the way I related to my Heavenly Father and the huge obstacle that presented. (See my blog entry of 2/13/2013 “A Father’s Image”) Dad seldom discussed spiritual issues. In fact I only remember one specific discussion and it had to do with life after death. Dad had created in his mind what heaven, or whatever followed this life, would be like. But what he envisioned was totally unrelated to anything found in scripture. And that brings me to my point.

Last night when I was doing what I do every night; reading my bible until my eyelids are ready to slam shut, a thought which has surfaced from time to time, bubbled up once again. But this time it demanded that I stop what I was doing and make an entry in my “Nothing Notebook.” What I wrote was this:

“When someone says, ‘I believe God is such-and-such, and goes on to describe “what” their idea of God is, how is that different from a person who carves a graven image from stone, clay or wood and worships it? God’s ability to have a unique relationship with each of us does not mean that we can define Him.”
As a Christian it’s incumbent on me to share my faith as often, and with as many people, as I can; and I do exactly that. I’ve found one common thread in the responses I get from people. That thread is this: they universally have created an idea of whom and/or what God or the universe or whatever they relate to, which is greater than they are. And it requires absolutely nothing of them beyond being a nice person. In many cases that higher power seems to be quite tolerant of transgressions and untruths that benefit the believer as long as they are a “nice person.”

In that light I’m reminded of Demetrius the Ephesian silversmith whose livelihood of making graven images of the Greek goddess Artemis was threatened by Paul’s efforts to share The Good News with the citizens of Ephesus. Demetrius definitely didn’t want Paul sharing his vision because it threatened Demetrius’ very reason for getting up every morning and the sanctity of the little images he and his employees were creating out of their imagination each day.

The most frequent response I hear from people at the mention of church, Christianity, faith, God, or heaven forbid, Jesus, is “well I just don’t think you have to go to church to be a Christian.” Another favorite is “I don’t believe in God the way you do. I don’t think he … blah blah, blah.” Really? How do you know that? You don’t know how I believe until I tell you. And one last favorite which I was particularly fond of using, “I was raised a ________ and I just got burned out on religion.”

Many of these people have actually studied the bible, and at one time or another professed a belief in God and or Jesus, but somewhere along the line they lose sight of what “faith” is all about. At the core of Judeo-Christian faith is trust in something so big, so awesome that trying to define it is futile. Faith for me is a belief that the nature of God and whatever lies ahead are so incredible in scope and experience that the only regret I will have, is having wasted so much as one minute trying to define it; explain it; worrying about what it will be like.

Jesus was very explicit in his definition of faith when he said about the children being brought to him for blessings: “… Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14-15 NLT)
That verse is so pregnant with meaning and importance that frankly it just boggles my mind. And it’s the one verse that anyone who avoids a relationship with The Trinity needs to understand. You see, children don’t define their world. Children accept their world on faith as it’s revealed to them each day.

As adults, we tend to not only define our world, but over-define it, because with age comes distrust in our world. So, we attempt to shape and define our beliefs to match our circumstance and emotions. That’s what the Hebrew’s were attempting to do when they made the golden calf. God’s friend and servant Moses, the one being they could see and touch, hadn’t been seen for days. The golden calf was a representation of a total lack of faith in something when they couldn’t see it. In spite of the fact that they’d witnessed miracle after miracle, they just had to create their own idea of God; an idea they could see and which didn’t require faith in its existence.

So I ask, “Have you created your own ‘golden calf’ to cover a lack of faith?”