O Fragile We

We bleed when we’re cut,

We cry when we mourn.

Fragile when we die.

Fragile when born.

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On Suffering and Sewage

Spontaneous sensitivity to the suffering of another is a concept which is neither dependent upon teaching, conditioning, or indoctrination.

 

Experience is the teacher, and spontaneous is the experience.

 

Just as a person does not have to be taught to have an aversion to the smell of raw sewage, so likewise a person does not have to be taught to have an aversion to the suffering of another sentient being.

 

The aversion to such are natural experiences.

Once experienced, so learned.

 

In fact, the only way a person can become accustomed to the stench of raw sewage is to become desensitized to its effect.

 

In the same way, the only way a person can become accustomed to the suffering of another is to become desensitized to its effect.

 

I hope I never become so accustomed to the stench of raw sewage as to become desensitized to its repulsive odor.

 

Worse yet, I hope I never become so accustomed to the suffering of another that I become desensitized to the feelings of my fellow beings.

 

Poverty, Illness, Aging, Infant Mortality, Stress, Racism, Bigotry….

 

There are many ways people suffer.

 

And for a society to just accept such suffering as being normal and routine…..

 

Really stinks.

 

And THAT is a stench that I hope I never become desensitized to.

We Are Our Own Salvation

The older I get, the more intrigued I am by our Universe.  And I suppose that which intrigues me most of all is that the Universe is everywhere.  The Universe is literally:  EVERYWHERE!!

I am furthermore humbled by our lack of knowledge regarding the Universe.  I realize that humanity has made great strides towards learning what is “out there”, but the simple fact is that we do not have a clue as to the extent of that of which we remain ignorant regarding the Universe.

We simply have no clue how little we know because we just do not know  how much there is which is either yet undiscovered or forever not to be discovered.  Fascinating!

All we really know is that our Universe is ever expanding at a continuously accelerating rate.  Since it appears to be expanding in a curve, then one of two occurrences will inevitably end its existence as it is now:

1.  The Universe will expand to the extent that it rips apart, or

2.  The Universe will turn back in on its self, resulting in who knows what (another great expansion, thereby resulting in yet another Universe?  No one knows for certain)

Regardless, the Universe is on an unavoidable trek to an inevitable end, and no one can or ever will be able to do anything to prevent that reality.

Furthermore, I am but a seemingly immeasurable speck within this massive ever expanding mass known as the Universe.  I am nothing.  Well, not quite, but so close as to be nothing in terms of the measure of all things.  In the grand scope of all reality, I am simply an insignificant coincidence to an expansion which will either rip me apart or collapse upon me should I happen to be living when the great expansion comes to its inevitable end.

Frankly, the great expansion which is our Universe is completely indifferent to my well being.

That said, it occurs to me that we of humanity are the only known species in the entire Universe with our degree of concern for the well being of ourselves and sensitivity and compassion for others.  (Note, I make this statement within the context of an already admitted ignorance as to other species and/or other universes that may possibly exist… “out there”!  My statement is thus asserted strictly within the context of that aspect of the Universe that we are aware of)

This is not to say that other sentient beings are not concerned with their own well being.  Indeed all beings are.  And this is not to say that other sentient beings do not have an instinctive concern for the well being of other such beings, in particularly their own offspring.  (Indeed, a mama cow or a mama bear can teach us much about natural filial concern!!)

However, it does seemingly appear that we of humanity may have an even more so refined sense of compassion and concern for the welfare of other beings.  That being the case, then there is a natural responsibility to care the welfare of others, because if we don’t do it, it simply will not get done.

There is no evidence of any celestial mastermind either driving this expanse, or overseeing its day to day operation.  Hence, there is no mystical helper to take care of matters that we choose to just ignore.

So if we choose to implement social systems that leave people in the streets, homeless, hungry, and without healthcare, we need not expect some celestial savior to swoop down and make it all better.

And if we choose to poison our environment with fracking, or ignore the effects of climate change, we need not look for some divine intervention to make it all better.

We are on our own.

As scary as it may sound, we of humanity are our own salvation, or there simply is no salvation.

In the words of Vonnegut:

” we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is”

I truly do not know whether helping each other through this unexplainable circumstance known as life is the purpose for existence, or whether there simply is no purpose for our existence.

All I know is that in the light of our existence within an ever expanding Universe which evidences itself day and in and day out to be completely indifferent to our well being one way or the other; we can choose to do whatever we can to save our planet and alleviate undue and unnecessary suffering in the process.

Or not.

Either way, the Universe continues to expand on the way to its inevitable end and leaves us to our own doings.

We are our own salvation.  Or there is no salvation.

On Poverty and Social Obligations (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)

Although I no longer regard the Bible as more than literature created in the human mind and crafted by human hands, I nonetheless do find this ancient material interesting, if not downright fascinating.  And more specifically, I find certain sections of the writings contained therein reasonable if not downright practical.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 is just such a very passage.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me because it speaks of the human condition as it truly is.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me because it speaks of the reality of poverty.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me because it offers a realistic and practical resolution to the realities of poverty.

The following is the text of Deuteronomy 15:7-11; which is very specific as to the obligations imposed by the Hebrew culture as to the real world issue of poverty.  (The text is copied and pasted from biblegateway.com.  The bold lettered emphasis is mine)

DEUTERONOMY 15:7-11:

7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:

8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.

9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.

10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.

11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

My comments:

1.  This passage addresses the realities of the human condition:  “the poor shall never cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

2.  This passage addresses the fundamental problem with regards to how those with money all too oftentimes tend to relate to the poor.

  • Hesitantly

  • Begrudgingly

  • Resentfully

3.  This passage is clear as to the responsible party with regards to resolving the issue of poverty.

  • The responsible party was those with the means to resolve the issue of poverty.

  • The responsible party was those who had the money to give to the poor.

4.  This passage is clear as to the obligations of those with the means to assist the poor and with the money to give to the poor:

  • They were to give to the poor.  Period.

  • Even if the timing was such that the loaner would likely not receive back the full money, because of “the year of release” (cf Deut 15:1-2).

  • Those with the means were to give to the poor.  Period.

5.  This passage is clear as to the attitude with which those with the means were to assist the poor:

  • Freely

  • Willingly

I regard Deuteronomy 15:11 as a passage which addresses the realities of the human condition and the resolutions thereof in an unmistakably clear and concise social commandment:

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”

Oh that humanity never had to suffer the condition of poverty; but so many do. (Deut 15:11)

Oh that humanity would periodically release the debt of the poor; with no conditions and no  strings attached; if only they would.  (Deut 15:1-2)

Oh that humanity would “open wide” their hand and their hearts to the poor and the needy… if only they could see it in their deepest sense of compassion to do so…..

Oh that humanity cared as much about the suffering of others in this world, in “the here and the now”; as they do about the fear of their own suffering in “the afterlife”……

“open wide thine hand unto thy brother, to thy poor and to thy needy, in thy land”…..

Plenty of opportunities out there to do so……

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3KoJj4dz2I

Remembering Jimmy Porter

 

What you are about to read is a brief story of a man whose life and influence upon those who knew him personally is beyond measure.  Jimmy Porter was not a celebrity, but in my opinion the memory of such a man should be celebrated and cherished for as long as those who knew him personally are still here to recollect his life and his deeds.

As you are about to read, the name “Jimmy Porter” lives on in my hometown of Carrollton, Texas in the way of a City Park and an annual Civic Award.  I applaud the leaders of Carrollton for continuing to honor him so.  At the same time, I acknowledge and admit that so much time has elapsed since his death (we lost Jimmy 30 years ago this coming December) that the number of those who knew the man, and I mean really KNEW the man is surely dwindling.

Which is one of the reasons I repost this article (which I have slightly modified this year) every February on my blog and on my Facebook page.  But it is more than that.  Much more than that. Unfortunately I don’t know that the words exist which can adequately express my deepest felt reasons for wanting people to read of the life of Jimmy Porter and to recollect his deeds. I guess it is simply this:

Jimmy Porter was one of the finest human beings that I personally have ever met.  He personified in “living color” (no pun intended) what it is be HUMAN.  To socialize, to relate to his fellow human being, to love, to care, to enjoy life even though he lived in poverty, to care, to care…. I mean to really, truly care about his fellow human being.

In my opinion, Jimmy Porter lived THE SPIRIT of humanity.

The attached picture, taken by a fellow Carrollton resident Kerry Carloy (Texfstop), is in my judgment one of the most real to life photos which so vividly represent Jimmy Porter.  He is pictured here in 1982 wearing a St Louis cap (fitting; as he played baseball in St Louis in the 1920’s), worn blue jeans, and his stereotypical easy going, friendly smile.  Thank you Kerry for capturing this image of this wonderful man a mere two years before he passed away:

Jimmy Porter

And so as I prepare to share again “The Story of Jimmy Porter”,  I simply want everyone to know as you read these words, that you are reading a brief description of a man who REALLY knew what life was truly about.  And lived it.

And so in honor of Black History Month, and in memory of an old friend; I once again share “The Story of Jimmy Porter”:

Approximately a mile South of the George Bush Tollway in Carrollton, Texas; immediately south of the railroad tracks as they cross Josey Lane, there is a City Park where young girls and boys play Little League Baseball and where families entertain their children on pleasant weekend afternoons.  This certain park has been a source of such leisure for over 40 years.

Near the Concession Stand, a plaque records a brief history of the establishment of the park and features an engraved image of its namesake. The bronze image has faded with time, in fact the smiling face is barely visible. Albeit the engraved image has faded, the image of Jimmy Porter is indelibly stamped within the memory of every person who grew up in Carrollton, Texas during the mid to latter 1900′s. When I stand before that fading bronze image of an elderly black man wearing a baseball cap, my mind drifts back to a time when there was no such place as the “Jimmy Porter Park”. I recollect a time when an elderly black man, wearing dirty blue jeans and a faded work shirt, soaked with sweat, would be seen walking down Perry Road carrying several wooden baseball bats upon his shoulder, headed in the direction of the baseball backstop of Carrollton Elementary. On his balding head was any one of several stained baseball caps, and attached to his bats were several old baseball gloves. At his side, he carried a bag of well worn but still useful baseballs.  His slow but steady gait was that of a man who was intent on a mission. For Jimmy Porter; whose daily duties when I knew him consisted of mowing lawns and doing general labor, everyday was a quest. For whenever this elderly black gentleman was seen walking with bats over shoulders in the direction of town; everyone knew that Jimmy Porter was ready…. for that next “pick up” baseball game….

It was the Summer of 1969.  Nixon was in the White House, the Soldiers were in Vietnam, the Hippies were at Woodstock, Neil Armstrong was on the moon, and Major League Baseball was celebrating its 100th birthday.  I recollect somewhat of those national events, but frankly I did not care.  I was a typical 8 year old who was just glad to be out of school for Summer Break!

It was the Summer of 1969 when I first met Jimmy Porter.  At that time, he was just the nice old black man who played ball with all we locals at the backstop of Carrollton Elementary.  Although he was not there every day, when he was there all the neighborhood kids would congregate like parishioners at church for our religious practice of  “pick up” baseball with this old black man who we simply called “Jimmy”.  (A few years later I learned that Jimmy operated somwhat of a “circuit” in order to accommodate us all.  Some days he was at the backstop of Central Elementary to play ball with the kids in south Carrollton and north Farmers Branch.  Other days he was at the backstop of Good Elementary to play ball with the children of North Carrollton.  And then there were the days that he was at the backstop of Carrollton Elementary, which was just down the street from where I lived).

Little did I realize at that time just how influential this man would prove to be in my life.  Nor could I even perceive of the influence that he would have on the lives of all the children of my hometown.  Most of all, I simply had no concept in the Summer of 1969 of the history of the nice old black man that we kids simply called “Jimmy”…..

Jimmy Porter came to Carrollton in the 1920′s after a brief career as a Negro League baseball player in St. Louis. Jimmy; who had been born in Tennessee in1900, arrived in town unemployed and uneducated. In consideration of the times; he seemed destined for a life of poverty and obscurity. Although Jimmy was poor;he was anything but obscure. Jimmy Porter would become the best known and most loved man in Carrollton, Texas! He lead parades; was the namesake of the aforementioned Jimmy Porter Park; appeared on television, and even received a house from local businessmen before his days were done! The account of the events which lead this young, unemployed black man to be honored as Carrollton’s most celebrated personality is the story of Jimmy Porter….

Shortly after his arrival in the 1920’s, Jimmy formed a black semipro baseball team known as The Carrollton Cats. He played for the Cats for several years, until they eventually disbanded. Yet he continued to promote the game he loved so dearly. In fact; eventually Jimmy helped to influence city leaders to found, and was himself a coach in the Carrollton Little League. Even after his “official” coaching days ended, he continued to teach children the game of baseball by way of informal“pick up” games. EVERYONE was welcome to play baseball with Jimmy Porter! Boys and girls of all ages would participate in the grand ole game under the supervision of this kindly old gentleman. The games were casual. Jimmy selected the teams; and he always made sure the youngest and the smallest got to bat first. He even provided the equipment. The wooden bats usually had nails driven through the barrel due to cracks; the baseballs were worn; and most his gloves were left-handed; but everyone was welcome to use his supplies. Jimmy usually did all the pitching; and he definitely did all the umping.  At the end of the game; every child left with a hug from the kindly old man.

Jimmy was a role model to the children who idolized him. He had a gift for making every child, regardless of skill or lack of athleticism, feel special. As time went by, the children who adored him grew to become the citizens of the city he had embraced so many years before. Every year; he rode in the front of the firetruck that lead the Opening Day ceremonies of the Carrollton Little League. He grinned and waved as he tossed candy to the children who ran down the street yelling his name. His attendance at any Little League game was an honor for the children, and obviously was a joy to the aging Jimmy. He was always allowed a select seat directly behind homeplate, and was well known during the games to verbally encourage each batter. Whenever a player got a hit; Jimmy would wave his cap and holler in approval. Just as he had done in his “pick up”games; Jimmy made each child feel like the star of the game.

In time, Jimmy became the most celebrated citizen in town. In 1973 Jimmy Porter Park was constructed and dedicated in his honor. The monument with his picture (now badly faded) was erected there in 1975. Furthermore, a beautiful oil painting of Jimmy was displayed in the Carrollton Community Center. In 1977; Jimmy, who had no children of his own, was awarded a lifetime membership by the Texas PTA. Furthermore, Jimmy appeared as a guest on the Today Show in 1982. As his health declined, several local citizens; many of whom had grown up playing baseball with Jimmy; had a one bedroom house built for the elderly Porter. Jimmy, who at one time had lived in an abandoned railroad car on the North edge of town, moved into his new home in 1983. He lived there for the brief duration of his life.

Jimmy Porter died on December 11, 1984. His modest gravestone features 2 baseball bats crossed at the barrel. Every year the city of Carrollton presents a citizen who excels in community service with The Jimmy Porter Award. Those who actually knew the man remember his passion for baseball and life; and his compassion for one and all. Such was the life of Jimmy Porter….

Jimmy Porter; b Sept 2, 1900 (Tennessee)

d Dec 11, 1984 (Texas)

I dont get back to Carrollton much these days. But when I do, I make the effort to visit the grave of my old friend. His final resting place is but a few steps from Perry Road, where I often saw him walking, bats over his shoulder, heading towards the backstop of the playground of Carrollton Elementary…. on a quest for that next “pick up” baseball game…

(My thanks again to Kerry Carloy for the delightful photo of our beloved Jimmy Porter: https://www.flickr.com/people/texfstop/)

 

The Struggle Inherent to the Human Condition

The human condition is a struggle from birth till death.

I cannot imagine a single moment of life that is exempt from the struggle.

From the outset we struggle to overcome the elements and our environment.

The basis for the struggle seems to be a natural aversion to discomfort.

Thus the struggle inherent to the human condition is an effort to be comfortable in spite of the elements and within our environment.

The struggle inherent to the human condition is thus the struggle inherent to all known sentient beings.

Hence the baby cries when cold.

Hence the dog seeks shade on a hot summer day.

Hence we eat when hungry, and drink when thirsty.

The human condition is indeed a never ending struggle.

Ours is a collective condition; thus ours is a collective struggle.

Hence, we can struggle TOGETHER to overcome the elements and our environment.

Or, we can struggle AGAINST EACH OTHER to overcome the elements and our environment.

Ours is a collective condition; thus ours is a collective struggle.

And the struggle never ends.

And the suffering never ceases.

What A Waste

Collective reasoning,

The way of humanity.

To squander intelligence,

Amounts to insanity.

Aversion to suffering,

The universal guide.

Reason and intelligence,

The utility of the mind.

Compassion for the poor,

A natural reaction.

Potential of collective consensus,

Yet no resolute action.

Yet great minds cooperate,

From the earth to extract oil.

Such wasted potential,

It just makes my blood boil.

We have not fed the poor,

Who live on top of the sand.

Yet the resources below,

The great conquest of man!

The potential of our species,

The possibilities of our kind.

The wasted malevolent efforts,

It simply blows my mind.