j-town

although the so-called rapture didn’t happen over the weekend, as predicted by harold camping, maybe something of a preview of the rapture did occur sunday night. around 6 pm sunday evening, a significant portion of joplin, missouri, the town i lived in for most of 2000 and 2001, was decimated by an f4 (or possibly higher) tornado, forever changing the landscape of this bustling little city.

j-town, as i affectionately call it, was not the place for me ultimately, but it was the place where i grew up, so it will always be a special place to me. i don’t mean grew up in the literal sense, being that i spent all of my life in sedalia until i went away to college at mizzou at the age of 17. no, my growing up at this point was more about actually becoming a grown up, at the age of 35. it was here in j-town that i was drawn away from the fundamentalist christianity i’d been steeped in for the better part of a decade, and began to see that there was life outside of the christian ghetto. it was here that i was first introduced to the ‘radical’ idea that neither christianity nor the other two abrahamic religions were the only game in town when it came to experiencing god. it was also here that i mourned my mother’s long drawn out death, which had finally occurred on christmas day 1999, a couple of months before my move south. it was here that a tumultuous love affair innocently began, even from the beginning knowing that it would end in the way most love affairs do, especially if there are other people involved : very badly (although happily, the two of us are now good friends).

somewhat humorously, calling it j-town seemed quite appropriate, because it seemed like every male i met had a first name that began with the letter j. in particular, i met way too many guys named john. i attributed that to joplin ‘being on the buckle of the bible belt’: ‘what do you think we ought to name the baby?’ ‘well i don’t know; john is in the bible and if it’s good enough for the bible, it’s good enough for our son!’   at one point i had assigned them numbers, but soon found that to be just plain stupid, so i just referred to anyone named john by his first and last name when speaking of him (whichever one he might be). also, there was my relationship with jesus, because even as i got further away from mainstream christianity, i learned more about the human side of jesus. at this point i wasn’t ready to say he was not a historical figure, but i was learning that the bible didn’t tell nearly enough of his story.

so, even though i was there a short time, joplin was a huge milestone in my life, perhaps even a turning point. i knew i couldn’t live there forever though, because, well, i’m not being politically correct here, but it is a redneck cracker-ish town. i used to count the number of people of color i’d see on a daily basis and most days i never got past 5 (although there was the one day i got up to 17, but i had to have counted some twice). there are two kinds of people (generally) who live there, jesus freaks and meth heads (respect to both groups, and to anyone in between). i loved being ‘the library lady’, recognized many places i went in town from working the front desk at jpl, but that’s all i was going to be had i stayed there. so i left, taking experience and friendships and memories with me into the next phase of my life. and that’s what i’m mourning here this evening, those experiences and friendships and memories. oh those things aren’t going anywhere. i’ll always have those things, but what i’m sad about now is that the place where those things, those changes, occurred has itself changed, in a most sudden and devastating way. however, even in the midst of this devastation, as j-town begins to rebuild, i believe what has happened will make joplin a better place in the long term. the pain and heartbreak my fellow joplinites are currently going through – well it hurts me terribly and i’ve been away for going on ten years, so i can only imagine what lifelong joplinites are going through. but all i can do is pray and send a little money to the red cross, and pray some more. going there to help is not an option for me at this time.

i love you, j-town. i know you’ll make it through to the other side.

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a primer on the rapture vs. the end of the world

i have lots of pet peeves. one of them is using terms interchangeably that should not be used interchangeably. all week long, it was broadcast in the media that today was forecast to be the end of the world by religious broadcaster and nutjob harold camping, but that simply isn’t true, whatever you may or may not believe about the rapture ever happening. i don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but theologically, the rapture and the end of the world are two separate and distinct events. camping’s prediction was that the rapture was to happen today, with the end of the world several months down the line, the end basically being the result of god beating up on those of us who were left behind. what follows is a little bit of what i was previously taught regarding the timetable of the end times. not that anyone from the media will read this, but it’ll make me feel a little better…

the end of the world has been part of the doctrine in most religions for millennia, but the idea of a ‘rapture of believers’ wasn’t a part of christian theology until after 1830. in 1830 a young girl had a vision about the return of jesus and the taking up of believers. this was gradually adopted by various fundamentalist denominations, who have interpreted bible verses in 2 thessalonians to mean that this is the event spoken of. as i was taught, this event was to take place at the beginning of the great tribulation, a time in which the anti-christ has taken control over the entire planet, and all sorts of disasters, natural and man-made, take place. however, the verses (as i was taught and understood them while a resident of the christian ghetto) refer to the second coming of jesus, which is to supposed to occur at the end of the great tribulation.

…and i’m about to digress here, because a lot depends upon whether you believe in a pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib rapture.  i do know people who believe we are currently in the great tribulation and have been since september 2005, which could give some credence to camping’s prediction for mid-trib believers (if you choose to believe such a thing, which i don’t, by the way). pre-trib simply means that the rapture occurs before the 7 year tribulation, mid-trib, during the tribulation, and post-trib… well you get the idea. apparently camping’s group were late mid-trib adherents.

the thing is that, at the end of the tribulation the 1000-year reign of jesus is supposed to begin. jesus himself will be the ruler over the entire planet (assisted by believers taken up in the rapture, who return to earth with new bodies), according to a literal reading of revelation 20 as i was taught. at the end of the 1000 year reign is the great white throne judgment, which will, for all intents and purposes, be the end of the world, as the book of life will then reveal who spends eternity in heaven and who ends up in the lake of fire, and off we go to our permanent destinations.  so if this all is true (and i’m not saying it is or isn’t; it’s just what i was taught as a born-again believer), may 21, 2011 could hardly be called the end of the world, if it had actually happened today. *if* the rapture had occurred, it would not have been the end. at worst, it would have been the beginning of a new level of chaos (or perhaps your death if you had been a passenger in a vehicle being driven by someone who was taken up). but, since, according to camping, the rapture was supposed to have occurred at 6 pm local time in each time zone, you would have had time to get prepared (unless you were in new zealand). if you had heard about believers in new zealand disappearing out of the blue around that time, you would have been able to either ask jesus into your heart so you weren’t left behind when the rapture came to your time zone, or you could have hung out in front of the houses of people you know are christians so that when they were called away, you had first dibs on their possessions. i, of course, had plans to do the latter. 😉

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living for god

you may (or may not) remember when a couple of months back, a young woman boarded the bus i take daily to work, and proceeded to give her testimony about her relationship with jesus christ. at the time, i thought it was touching, especially because at the end of her spiel, she prayed for the bus passengers. even though i no longer believe as she does, i appreciated her sincerity, and as we got off at the same stop, i thanked her for her prayer.

fast forward to this morning’s bus ride. after the bus pulled up to the stop she was at, this same young woman handed out religious tracts to each person getting off. (the stop happened to be at a church ministry that provides free breakfasts every morning, and there are a number of regular riders who get off here daily for that reason). i thought, ‘uh oh, here we go again…,’ and yes, after she paid her fare, she passed out tracts to those of us remaining on the bus… except to me, but only because i politely refused. and then she proceeded to deliver a little sermonette about living for god.

i only caught bits and pieces of what she was saying, because i was trying to listen to a podcast on gnosticism (would this be called irony?). however, the gist of it was the usual ‘if you’re not living for god, you’re going to hell’. and, on one level, i can appreciate what she was saying, because i’ve been in that place. i’ve been where i earnestly believed that anyone who had not accepted jesus christ as their personal lord and savior was going to hell. therefore, i believed that people like gandhi and mother teresa were in hell because they were not born-again christians, but someone like jeffrey dahmer was in heaven, even after the horrible things he did, because reportedly he had accepted christ into his heart before being murdered in prison. forgive me, y’all, but this is rather fucked up theology. a person such as gandhi, whose life was dedicated to the betterment of humanity, is currently being tormented by demons for all eternity because he chose not to believe that the jewish version of a myth was a series of historical events? seriously? and you do realize that christianity really is little more than the jewish adaptation of myths revolving around various sun gods (and related goddesses, who are strangely missing in the christianized version) dating centuries before the time jesus was said to have walked the earth. the major difference between the christianized version and earlier versions is that, due to various power plays between political factions at that time, people were convinced (basically by the sword) that this jesus character was real. (and i mean no disrespect when i say ‘jesus character’.)

if there is anyone reading this who has known me for many years, but not had any real interaction with me, you are probably rather shocked at this point. a number of you know that i spent (or as i like to say, wasted) many years believing and living this. jesus was my life. i lived in what you might call a christian ghetto: i worked full-time in a christian bookstore, was deeply involved in a church (or two), all my social interaction was with other born-again christians, and i was afraid (i didn’t realize it at the time, but it all boiled down to fear) to scarcely listen to anything that wasn’t ccm (contemporary christian music) or even drink something as innocent as a watered down wine cooler.

what gradually but ultimately changed things for me first was developing close friendships with people who didn’t have such a narrow view of what it meant to love god, people who helped me to see that what i was really doing was ‘churchianity’. also, after moving away from columbia in 2000, i read a book that removed the foundation from under my feet, ‘why christianity must change or die’ by bishop john shelby spong. actually the first time i tried to read it, it made me so angry, i couldn’t finish it. i couldn’t believe this so-called bishop was saying all these ‘untrue’ things about what i had staked my life on. for some reason though, a few months later i tried it again, and got angry again, but for a different reason. this time i was pissed because i realized that i had been lied to for pretty much all my life. however, the unanswerable question was, whom should i be pissed at? i couldn’t be mad at the people who taught me this stuff, because they were only teaching me what they had been taught, and what their teachers had been taught. and it seemed pretty pointless to get mad at an institution. i remember right after finishing the book, i said to god, aloud, ‘all i want to know is the truth.’ and i swear, i heard a voice in my head say, ‘now we can begin.’ and my life has not been the same.

i’ve been through a lot spiritually, and religion-wise, between then and now. (spirituality and religion are not the same thing; trust me.) i’ve studied various world religions, some more deeply than others to be sure, but i’ve noticed they’re all basically pointing at the same thing. the problem with most religion is that people get hung up on the thing doing the pointing instead of paying attention to the ‘object’ (for lack of a better word) being pointed at. (not gonna use the finger pointing at the moon quote here, not gonna do it…) a couple of people who have met me in the last few years have accused me of being an atheist, just so i can ‘get away with’ doing whatever i want. nobody gets away with anything, but that’s a whole ‘nuther piece of writing. i’m not an atheist because i don’t believe the bible literally anymore. (actually i’m not an atheist, period.) my belief about the bible, and, by extension, about jesus, is that although the bible is true, it is far from being factual. it, along with other religious texts, is a collection of stories about the human condition, about how to (and how not to) treat others, and about ways to find deeper meaning in life. and that deeper meaning does not consist of literally believing that a man born of a virgin was sent from heaven to die for your sins so you don’t have to. that’s what my problem is with the young woman on the bus this morning. i know where her head is at, because i’ve been there. but she’s got to get outside her own head somehow, and see the bigger picture. she, and all of us, can embrace the experiences that brought her to this point in her life, but she needs to know that there’s more to this life than keeping people out of a literal hell.

maybe this life here on earth would be a little bit less hell-ish if we stopped to realize that there are as many ways to live for god as there are people on this planet.

(this post is an adaptation of a note i posted on facebook earlier today.)

my sugar demon

i am really struggling right now with this sugar addiction thing. yes, addiction. i believe that it is possible to have an addiction to sugar, and my belief is backed up by numerous articles and websites i’ve read online. (yeah, i know… but i saw it on the internet so it has to be true!) i can go for a few days without it and feel great and think that, okay, i can do this, i don’t want sugar ever again. then something will happen at work that triggers a need in me to make myself feel better by having a reese’s peanut butter cup or two, and next thing i know, i’ve bought a bag of reese’s miniatures, and ultimately, instead of feeling better about myself, i feel so much worse.

other than the sugar thing, i feel that my diet in general is pretty decent, although i’m sure conventional wisdom would beg to differ on that. the paleo/primal way of eating is the best for me and my continued longevity, i’m sure of that. i know i feel so much better, and move so much better, when i’m eating this way than when not. the thing is that about 90% of the time i *am* eating this way, the sugar thing notwithstanding. and that actually is not necessarily good for me, but only because eating sugars and starches with high concentrations of fat in the diet is what causes people to gain weight, and develop diabetes, cardiovascular issues, etc., ad nauseum. it’s not the fat i’m eating that is the problem; it’s the combination of the fat and the high carbs, and that is what i’ve got to get a handle on. it’s not even that the carbs are so high, because i rarely eat bread or pasta or potatoes anymore. the carbs are coming from the sugar fixes i seem to need daily, usually at mid-morning, and right after lunch, and then maybe once i get home from work, about an hour before dinner(!).

this is what i normally eat during a week (other than the sugar, that is). for breakfast each morning i have 2 eggs scrambled in butter. lunch is whatever i had for dinner the previous evening. dinner is usually something like one of these:

  • liver and onions (recipe adapted from here), with mashed cauliflower and butter
  • shrimp sautéed in butter and various spices with steamed spinach
  • pesto kale (adapting a recipe i got from here), with kale or spinach, broccoli, and sausage all starring, with an amazing supporting cast of spices, onion, garlic, peppers, and coconut oil.
  • a salad made with mixed greens, chicken or salmon, avocado, red onion, nuts, bacon, and a homemade dressing (olive oil, vinegar, and whatever else strikes my fancy) (kinda adapted from here)

sometimes i’ll mix things up by having tilapia with steamed broccoli and butter, or a bison burger topped with bacon and avocado, but usually it’s one of those meals mentioned above. also, in the fall and winter, i make a very decent beanless chili or a primal jambalaya using cauliflower rice. most of the time i’m happy with a meal consisting of a healthy protein, some sort of fat, and something green (or cauliflower, as the case may be). i feel good when i eat like this, especially when combined with my daily dose of cod liver oil, along with a probiotic. (and on weekend mornings, i add bacon to those two scrambled eggs.)

so why oh why do i sabotage the good eating like this could do for me by basically eating crap? and it is crap. i notice that, even as much as i love reese’s, they have a fake taste about them. it’s because they aren’t real food. they are made in a factory, using chemicals that supposedly taste like what they are trying to represent, chocolate and peanut butter. (of course i’m not sure because at their website, while they do provide ‘nutritional’ information, there’s no listing of actual ingredients that i can find. because they want me to think that i’m eating real chocolate and real peanut butter.) oddly enough, when i’m eating real chocolate, that is, dark 88% cocoa chocolate, i need two small squares, and i’m satisfied. that’s because it’s a real food. and when i have those two squares, i don’t obsess over when i’m gonna have a chance to have my next two squares. it ain’t no big thang, because i know that eventually i’ll have some at a future time. or i won’t. and it’s okay either way. but with reese’s, it’s like gimme more, gimme more. and because of that greed, that desperation, and the sneakiness and lies (i am lying to myself every time i convince myself that it’s okay, this one last time) behind it all, i really shouldn’t have any.

cold turkey is the only way for me. i’ve done it before, and have been successful for days at a time. i just need to wake up tomorrow morning, hop back on that wagon, and do it again, and when i have that shitty day at work, instead of running off to CVS for my reese’s fix, i need to call a friend, or type it out, or do something physical to work out whatever the issue of that moment is. otherwise, all the other things i’m doing for my own health and well-being are useless, as far as i’m concerned.

review of ‘zeitgeist: moving forward’

over the weekend i watched the third in the series of zeitgeist documentaries, zeitgeist: moving forward. i ‘enjoyed’ (well as much as one can ‘enjoy’ movies telling us why we’re fucked in the ways that we are) the first two movies, although i found myself disagreeing with the solution first presented in zeitgeist: addendum: a resource-based economy, as demonstrated in the venus project. it just seemed too utopian in its vision and much too dependent on technology.

in moving forward, the idea of a resource based economy seems to have been kicked up a notch from addendum. but here’s the thing: the film is absolutely right in what it says about human nature and about how the monetary system will basically be the root of our demise. the first two films were right on in unmasking religion, christianity in particular, as a tool of control, as well as in the questions asked about 9/11, and in its explanation of how the federal reserve system works, to our detriment. the creators of this film series have nailed our society’s problems on the head, and then some. it’s the solution presented where these films are lacking, in my opinion. and i’m not one to necessarily present better alternatives; i’m not that smart. i think ultimately  solutions will work themselves out, out of necessity, as we cross various bridges. whether or not the solutions humanity comes up with will be enough to save ourselves remains to be seen. but, i think the energy that has obviously gone into the thinking about the venus project has been wasted, because this solution is only viable to someone who grew up on and believed what he saw on the jetsons. this well-meaning energy needs to go instead into planning for the future based on the way things are now, not working with a clean slate, which is pretty much the premise behind solutions presented in the film. (the earth exists with the same number of resources currently in existence, but i’m not sure about the number of people or what happened to the cities and/or countries currently in existence.)

in moving forward, jacque fresco, the mastermind behind these ideas, suggests building cities with different rings, or zones, designed for various activities. one of my questions is, what happens to the cities that exist now? are we going to raze all currently standing cities so these perfectly round cities with populations of 50,000-ish can be built? and each of these cities has an agricultural belt, where the city’s food (presumably vegetables?) will be grown in high rise one-acre gardens. with these gardens ringing the city, providing the city’s food needs, supposedly you wouldn’t have to go outside the city to get food ever again. if everyone in the city is a vegetarian, that is. a vegetarian diet is not an ideal diet, no matter what its pundits say. so, are you going to raise livestock in these high-rise towers? that would take factory farming to a whole new level (no pun intended). and it seems that some sort of artificial lighting would be needed in a high rise farm, because all sides cannot be optimally oriented towards the sun, which means some sort of power source would be needed. maybe it would be solar, maybe not, but solar energy requires extraction of resources as well (for panels). the devil is in the details.

additionally, this example of a resource-based economy is much too dependent on technology. it is suggested in the film that computers be used to globally monitor resources (the global monitoring thing kinda smells like big brother to me), so that resources can be shipped to where they are in short supply anywhere on the planet. but when the grid goes down, computers (and ipads and e-readers and smartphones and that big flat-screen telly, etc.) are going to be pretty useless, except maybe for use as doorstops or paperweights. and driverless cars, and trains that can get from china to new york city in an hour – it’s all basically wishful thinking bullshit. it seems there are more pressing needs than getting from point a to point b in the shortest amount of time, just because you can. (plus, what about the idea that it’s really all supposed to be about the journey, not just arrival at the destination?)

this utopian fantasy of fresco’s is still based on extracting resources from the earth on a massive scale. however, just because you have the ability to keep track of a resource and where you think it needs to go doesn’t mean the resource is available to be used to begin with. the fact is that any solution to the problems the people of this planet face (once the world economy collapses/the grid goes down) will have to deal with people learning how to do things for themselves, by hand, locally, and not dependent on a system whose home base may be on the other side of the planet. this means learning how to do things like growing and raising food, sewing and mending, even bartering and trading skills. besides, we don’t really have the time to wait for dr. fresco to build these magical cities that will solve all our problems for us with the push of a button, while we currently continue to grow more distant from one another, even with the world at our fingertips via the internet. we have to solve our own problems: ‘we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.’ and i fear that we may even be too late on that front, but no matter, there are some of us who see what’s going on and realize that we need to do what we can, while we can.

so, overall, i do support the zeitgeist franchise, in that it is waking people up and getting us to at least think about taking control of our own destinies. but i wish it would leave it at that, or at least offer realistic suggestions on how to do so, without proposing another system of control (which i think is rather ironic since much of the content of these films is about exposing the control world systems have on us). honestly i didn’t watch the last 45 minutes of moving forward (which is nearly 3 hours long), because my thought was that the solutions offered were pretty much non-workable. maybe i’m too quick to judge, who knows, but it seems to me that with converging global crises a very real matter, we just don’t have the time for this fantasy foolishness. we have work to do.

same shit different year?

what a difference a year makes, right? 52 weeks ago today i moved out of what had been a cute little house i had shared with someone who at one time had been one of my best friends. i was moving into a temporary situation where i was to sleep on my sister’s couch, with my cat who didn’t like other cats (of which my sister had three), working 15-20 hours a week at the b&n with the possibility of a second job on the horizon, but not certain. even if the second job came to pass (which it did), it was only seasonal work, and i had no idea what was going to happen once the season was over. my plan for spring/summer 2010 was to find a room rental that was month-to-month and would allow me to keep my cat. at the end of the season, if i didn’t have a ‘real’ job, i’d pack everything and go to new orleans and see what happened. fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it), in a relatively short amount of time i got a ‘real’ job (with benefits and everything! please note the sarcasm attached…) with the state of kansas and was able to move back to kansas city.

so things have gone relatively well since my return to the city. i have a decent job in a medical academic library, and my current living situation i couldn’t have planned better if i tried. (actually, during a reading with my psychic last year shortly after my move, she told me that i had ‘created’ this ideal situation in my head, and made it happen, something she said i have a real ability to do. hmmm.)

on the surface, it all seems pretty sweet. i basically could work this current job until retirement (20-25 years!), after which i’d have a nice pension, and in the meantime, i could buy a cute little house in the volker neighborhood, and live happily ever after, maybe as part of a happy couple, maybe as a single old maid librarian-ish person with a bunch of plants and cats. point is, most people would look at my current situation and tell me i’m set. hell, if i were a normal person, i’d think i was set.

last weekend, talking on the phone with one of my best friends, i told her that i was thinking of doing all that, buying a house and settling down. her initial response was, ‘you want to spend the rest of your life in kansas city?’ when she put it that way, well, um, no. and that question and answer have been gnawing at me all this past week. i mean, it even kinda had before, but i had pushed my doubts under the rug. i figured i could buy a house here, and ‘bloom where i’m planted’, literally and figuratively. a cute little fixer-upper with a decent sized backyard would provide me with the space to do the urban farming thing, and i could work full-time to keep the roof over my head. never mind that i have hated the past two winters here, swearing that i needed to live somewhere warmer (new orleans?). never mind that while i do have friends here, finding freedom-loving sustainability-minded integrally-informed people with decent taste in music (no lady gaga allowed!) here in the nation’s breadbasket hasn’t been easy. never mind the fact that even though i have a good job, it has its pitfalls, namely that there are days where maybe i do 2 hours’ worth of work in an 8 hour day, and those two hours (or four or seven, but never eight) consist basically of my moving bytes of information from one computer to another. and i tell myself that i’m helping out society by giving current and future medical professionals the information they need to help people get healthy, but most of the information i’m moving about is nothing more than folks with a bunch of letters behind their names spouting conventional wisdom, and you can look in any doctor’s office waiting room, or even just take a look at people walking down the street, and you will see how far conventional wisdom has taken us. but i digress…

a couple of weekends ago, my roommate had a birthday party at which one of the guests included a professional psychic. after most of the guests had left, he gave readings for the few of us that remained. in my reading, i got several major arcana cards, which are the cards that indicate major life changes. (the 56 card tarot deck contains 22 major arcana cards. i drew six of them out of the ten cards contained in the celtic cross spread.) the cards i drew included the wheel of fortune, which the psychic told me indicated that something very good was about to ‘fall into my lap’; the magician, which he said indicated that my powers of manifesting were very strong, and i was good at getting what i wished for (which kinda backs up what my regular psychic said last year); justice, which he said indicated that i needed to take advantage of this upcoming opportunity because i passed it by in a previous lifetime; also, the hermit, the hierophant, and the lovers (reversed, which is just my luck) were pulled.

so, what does it all mean? even though i’m more settled down and things seem more stable this year, is it a case of same shit different year? maybe this current job is a temporary situation designed to get my feet firmly planted on the ground before making the next move. but what is that next move? i still want the little homestead where i’m raising veggies and chickens and making my own soap and knitting in front of the fireplace in the winter (some place where it’s not snowing every other day), and if i *must* work a regular job, it’s only for 20 hours a week, preferably in a library setting; otherwise i also make a little money writing about whatever it is i’m doing. i think some really bad shit is about to go down over the next few years, on a planetary scale, and there’s no reason to believe that the united states will be spared any of what might happen.  i don’t want to get all doom-and-gloom, but i think the ‘little homestead’, whether urban or rural, will be the best way to protect myself and whoever happens to be around it with me (because another piece of this puzzle is that i don’t want to do this alone). really, i’m not doing this for that reason, i genuinely love the idea of raising my own food and taking care of my own needs (whether by growing it myself or through barter/trade/etc. with others), and being more in tune with nature’s cycles, and more in tune with other people, and with reality. but there are definitely practical reasons why i’m interested in all this too. so we shall see. as i try to do with all matters, i put all this in the universe’s hands, and wait to see what happens next…

mixed reaction

i hate to actually say this out loud (or type it, as it were), but is god trying to get my attention? first there was the cross dream from the other night. i didn’t feel bad about the conversation i had with ‘jesus’ in the dream (and still don’t). but i (foolishly) wonder if what happened this morning on the bus is somehow related to the dream, and if so, what message might god be trying to send me.

if he is trying to get my attention, i don’t believe the message is as obvious as the casual observer to the whole thing might think. here’s what happened: a cute young lady of color, probably in her early 20s, boarded the bus and paid her fare, while casually chatting with the driver. i didn’t think anything of that, but realize now that she was probably asking permission for what she was about to do. there were no seats on the bus, so she stood at the front, and asked how everybody was doing this morning. most everyone replied with some version of ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or ‘blessed’. then she asked if anybody on the bus needed prayer, to which no one responded, so she then said, ‘well, i’m gonna pray for y’all anyway, that god will provide whatever it is that you need.’ and then she started preaching, about how god had done so much for her, and for all of us, and how if we’re not living for god, we’re going to hell. then she prayed aloud, that basically everyone on the bus would repent and be saved, if they weren’t already. most of the people on the bus had their heads bowed and eyes closed (but not me). at the end of the prayer, ‘in jesus’ name’ of course, she thanked us for her time and was silent for the rest of her time on the bus.

so, my reaction to this? first i was pissed off that she was intruding into my thought space. plus, how dare she assume that everyone on the bus believes the same way she does. the majority of passengers on this particular route are black, which as a racial group tend to be pretty religious on the xtian side of things, so that was a safe bet for her, but still. i was pissed, especially when she started talking about living for god, and hell. i wanted to exclaim, like i did in my dream, ‘it’s all a fucking metaphor!’ then i calmed myself down by thinking about this being a blue/amber thing, and considered that maybe she is at a point in her life where she needs this belief structure to make sense of her world. maybe god, as she sees ‘him’, really has rescued her from some bad situations or a bad lifestyle, and feels that everyone else ought to know all the good god has done for her and could do for them. i get that. i was certainly as zealous as she, especially about not wanting folks to go to hell, when i first became a born-again christian back in 1985. so i could respect that and started being a little less pissed.

once she started praying, i felt tears well up in my eyes. actually, i suddenly had this huge urge to just start bawling my eyes out. what stopped me was the fact that i ride this bus daily, and while i see most of these people every day, we’re mostly essentially strangers. yes, i was worried about what they would think of me. then, even while she spoke, i was trying to figure out why her praying affected me so. one conclusion i came to was that it touched me that someone cared enough to pray for me, and the other people on the bus, all strangers to her. she put herself out there for us, and seemed quite sincere about it.

on another level, i think god, not big daddy god in the sky, but the ground of all being, used this incident to get my attention. over the last few months, i’ve not done much praying or meditation or even study of spiritual matters. it’s not that i need to go live in an ashram or a convent, but just that i do need to remember the divinity present in all people and things. today on facebook, one of my friends posted a link saying something about ‘if you want to see the fingerprint of god, look at a godly man or woman.’ i say (and almost commented to him), if you want to see the fingerprint of god, look at the person right in front of you, ‘godly’ in the world’s eyes or not. here’s a controversial thought: even hitler is a part of the fingerprint of god. (stay with me here: i’m just considering the idea that god encompasses all things, good and evil, and that evil, in its own way, is nothing more – and nothing less – than god’s shadow side.)

so, i am eating the fish i need and spitting out the bones from this encounter. when i got off the bus, i surprisingly (to me) thanked her for her prayer and her heart. (her response? ‘praise god!) i’m taking this as a reminder to pay attention to the divinity i see all around, even during mundane activities such as my morning commute. and i pray that god/the universe/the ground of all being will use this young woman to bring more light into the world, and that she will grow into an ever-expanding knowledge of who and what god really is (and isn’t).