Wise young man

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I strongly suspect that I am a good bit older than most of the bloggers I follow. But I relate well to them. I often wonder if they relate to my posts (judging by the amount of hits I’m getting not many). I write from the perspective of an adult, albeit an emotionally stunted one at times, with grown children, many years of life experience and the added bonus of chronic illness just to keep it interested. I think young because in my heart I’m a much younger man than my license suggests. And it has worked for me. A firm policy of consciously avoiding uttering the words “kids today” has served me well.

I am at a wonderful stage where I am still a player in the game of life but able to have an advantage. That advantage is wisdom.

Wis-dom

noun

  1. the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
synonyms: sagacity, intelligence, sense, common sense, shrewdness, astuteness, smartness, judiciousness, judgment, prudence,

circumspection

 

Wisdom is gained through experience. I do have plenty of that. Good decisions come from experience and experience is gained through making bad decisions. I have made a lot of bad decisions. Among the things I wish I had told my father before he died is how many times he was right and I chose to do it my way. And it cost me. Other experience is gained through the course of living life, surviving what life throws at you. And I have been through a lot of shit. If God gives you all he thinks you can handle he must think I’m Rambo.

Now that I have it what do I do with it? Wisdom, in the form of advice, must be distributed carefully. By that I mean it shouldn’t be offered unsolicited. I firmly follow the “opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one” mantra. I’m not that guy that offers up “hey do you know what I think”. But lately I’ve found myself dispensing a lot of advice, advice that is being asked of me. Friends texting me, inboxing me, calling me with dilemmas of all nature. I think I have been able to help a bit in some cases.

I find it odd to be a source of good advice given my situation. I’m not in a good place at all. But people aren’t coming to me about matters of high finance and which fork to use for the appetizer. They are asking me about matters of life. Relationships, family matters, how to handle people, the list goes on. Apparently, I am known as a guy who has “been there” and knows what to do. Sadly, that is true. I have had some really bad jobs, horrible bosses, bad girlfriends, a lousy marriage, regrettable moments of anger with the family that I will always regret and on top of that several serious health scares. And I learned from all of them. The biggest lessons learned by adhering to the following:

  • A man does what he has to do
  • Life is not always fun
  • It’s bigger than you, you have a family
  • Get busy living or get busy dying
  • Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does

I deliberately avoid giving advice, but I am glad to share what I know. We all have a purpose in life, maybe my recent assignment is to share what I have learned so that someone else may benefit. The biggest advice I would offer anyone is to live life, take your hits, learn from them and move on. You can’t learn from someone else’s experience. But there are people you can learn from. Take them up on it. Everyone can teach you something, even if by poor example they show you something you don’t want.

Finding God…is he hiding?

“Religion is sitting in church thinking about a Kayak. Spirituality is sitting in a Kayak thinking about God”

I identified as an atheist for most of my adult life. I went through the motions through my late teen years. I went to the local Baptist church with my mom and dad. We dressed nice and walked into the church wearing our most “pious” faces. I stood during hymns without singing, I tried to close my eyes during prayer but I was more interested in seeing who else had their eyes open. I was people watching, a habit I have never outgrown.

I dreaded going to church, it didn’t interest me and I got nothing out of it. With the exception of a few genuinely nice people, I saw a lot of contemptible people. There was the rich guy that held up the 100 dollar bill for all to see before he put it in the collection plate. Then there was the “Deacon”, father of my friend Jeff, who beat Jeff every Sunday after church. Then there was the endless string of parasites that milked the congregation for all of the charity they could and then disappeared. The list goes on.

And then there was “the incident” in which I told the pompous ass of a Southern Baptist minister, who cheated on his wife, where to go and how to get there when he refused to marry my widowed aunt because her fiancé was divorced. I became famous and an outcast overnight. I was asked not to return to the church for the egregious offense of defending a beloved family member from his puritanical bullshit. I was happy to oblige. I would not enter another church, with the exception of weddings and funerals, for over twenty years.

My mother would insist that my refusal to go to church was because of that incident. I could never convince her that it wasn’t just that. Sure, that minister was an ass. He was run out himself 2 years later when his affair was revealed. But I knew that was only one church. The truth, I tried to convince my dear mother, was that I just didn’t feel it. Whatever it is, the feeling you are supposed to have in the church, I didn’t have it. And I had questions. How can the kindly old man with the flowing white robe give babies cancer, let bad things happen to good people and let assholes thrive and reproduce? I respected that other people believed in it but it wasn’t for me.

Because of my tendency (past tense) to be “black and white,” it naturally followed that if I wasn’t possessed by the holy spirit then I must be an atheist. Agnosticism had no appeal, it just screamed of “indecisive”. I wasn’t militant like most atheists. I didn’t want to convert anyone (they won’t admit it but they are their own church). I would hear anyone out who wanted to talk about it, it just didn’t stick. And even when on my deathbed due to a severe staph infection, when I “went down” for four minutes before a routine bed check saved my life, I never prayed. I didn’t even think to.
As the saying goes “there are no atheists in foxholes” and in my late forties, I was in a foxhole. My family, finances, marriage, and health were in the tank and I was opening myself up to all possibilities. I began to entertain the notion of spirituality. That maybe God didn’t exist within a building. It wasn’t God or the idea of a higher power I was rejecting it was organized religion. Also, I found it arrogant of atheists to be “sure” that God didn’t exist, no one can be certain of that. If you can’t prove it’s not there then it could be there. I needed something else in my life. For a short while, I did feel selfish, like the people I had before rejected because they used God to serve their selfish needs. A hypocrite I am not.

Then my father died.

My father had Parkinson’s disease. He suffered terribly for a lot of years. His death crushed me. Among the many emotions I was experiencing, I felt so bad that a man who worked so hard all of his life never caught a break. He worked, he got sick and he died. I opened myself up to a God and an afterlife because I wanted it for him, to get him the peace he deserved and had prayed for. It wasn’t for me and it still isn’t. I soon became the guy that visits cemeteries and talk to headstones. But it’s not so bad because, unlike any church I’ve been in, I felt God at the cemetery. I see God in a lot of places now.
It isn’t that my mind is open, it is my paradigm that has changed. God doesn’t have to look like the artists have drawn him. Prayer doesn’t have to be in a building. Blessings don’t necessarily have to be readily apparent to us. And the reasons things happen don’t necessarily have to make sense to us. To me, God has shown up in the form of a beautiful fall day, an amazing conversation with a stranger, a pleasant breeze on a fall day, in the laugh of a child, or in the crystal clear water of the lake as I sit in my Kayak.

I go to church once in a while now. I sit in the back. I stand when the hymns are sung but I don’t sing. I try to close my eyes during prayer but I’m not convinced that I need to in order to talk to God. I go for the sermons hoping for something I can use.  Some people probably don’t like how I don’t take communion because I still don’t believe in rituals. It’s their problem, not mine, it’s not as if I’m trying to offend them. My relationship with my version of God is uniquely mine. If I don’t talk to him right now I will probably see him next time I am out in my Kayak. I believe that you find things the moment you stop looking for them. Maybe it was right there in front of me all along.

Afraid of the dark?

I have always considered myself a guy with an “acceptable” amount of fears and phobias. I’m afraid of heights, falling to be exact. It’s not the fall but the sudden stop at the end. I’m also pretty scared of lightning. I saw a guy get hit by a bolt when I was a kid and it will stay with me forever. I don’t swim in the deeper water because I can’t see what’s under me. I think it’s an acceptable amount of fears, just right if you will.

But recently I have been getting really freaked out at night. Especially on really dark nights, nights with a heavy cloud cover or moonless. And only since I moved up here to my mom’s house in the White Mountains of NH. There are no streetlights up here and the houses have a fair amount of acreage between them. So once it is dark it is dark. It starts with the dog. Walking him at night is fine until he suddenly stops, digs in and growls at something that I can’t see. At night, while looking out the slider I see blackness and my reflection. The dog keeps going to the glass door barking his balls off. What does he see? I have always slept with the TV on because I need some noise to sleep. There is no TV in the bedrooms here and the house is eerily quiet, with the exception of some random noises that may be the house “settling” or it could be something else, like my imagination.

I wake up several times per night. But I always wake up at 3 or 3:05 AM. I’ve heard that if you wake up at 3 AM something is watching you. I am looking but so far nothing. But I have been waking up with a profound feeling of dread. Last night I woke up and I felt like something bad was about to happen. I looked down from my loft at the sofa. There was the dog. He looked up at me. He’s a very sound sleeper and I have no idea how he knew I was watching him, I swear his eyes were glowing red. I wasn’t wearing my glasses so I have to chalk it up to bad vision and a vivid imagination.

I’m not a stranger to the paranormal. I obsessively watch shows about it, my favorite genre is horror and I have witnessed paranormal events myself in the past. In fact, I once helped a friend rearrange the living area furniture in his new apartment. We went out for beer and when we came back the furniture was all back where it originally was. That FREAKED me out as you can imagine and there was no other explanation. My approach to the paranormal is like my approach to religion; if you can’t prove it’s not there then it might be there.

My only possible explanation is my dad. This is his house even though he is occupying a different realm now. Maybe he’s keeping an eye on me and his house. If so, I wish he would just say hi already.