Come As You Are

Religion, like politics, is hard to write about from a global perspective. Religion is, and it should be, a deep personal experience. Notice my chosen word, not belief, not faith, but experience. If religion is based on faith alone, the bond between ones belief and their God is lacking a needed personal daily experience. That bond for me is steeped in the spiritualism of life as in, my wonder of the universal being. You know, the ability to be awestruck as I’m watching the Milky way weave through the clear night sky or perhaps feeling a sense of oneness with nature as I watch a leaf blowing across a country road, calling out the end of our summer days.

I try not to write about religion because of that deep seated personal respect I have for religion and the belief systems of people around the world. More, I just have a general respect for the beliefs of others whether I agree with them or not. Of course, there’s also some truth that every time I write about religion, I piss some one off, usually a good friend. For some reason, if you ask a question, the question is taken as an attack on their faith? If you disagree with their point of view, it’s an attack on their faith, If you ask about a recent archaeological discovery, it’s an attack on their faith.

My takeaway, people of religious faith yell and stomp their feet demanding I respect their faith yet give my belief system no credibility. They fail miserably in giving me one iota of respect for my beliefs while demanding I bow to theirs, and it’s getting to be old hat.

I’m getting tired of the religious ilk playing the victim card.

Now, the above said. I also know people who are deeply,  spiritually religious, meaning that their faith is one of experience, open to questions, to debate and the pursuit of knowledge. While I might not agree with them, I respect them and their beliefs religiously.

There is a huge difference between having faith and having a personal experience with your faith. Having a personal experience means that ones essential being, who they are as a person, comes from having that personal experience that is based in a certain spiritual relationship. A relationship that is free from the context and trappings of organized religion. Not that, that context is a bad thing. It’s not, in fact, those trappings of organized religion serve to benefit humanity in the form of social justice, community, and as a central belief in the goodness of man and woman. These are not evil things! Yet they become evil when the spiritual oneness of whatever God you choose to believe in, is missing. They become evil because without the accompanying spirituality, the closeness of God, they become hollow facades behind which people hide and yell, proclaiming the greatness of their god and the belittlement of all other beliefs.

I find little actual religion in those hollow voices. They are not who they claim to be and when they stand before their God, they will be standing as who they are.

The Palpitations of Hate

I live in a place where Somalians are hated. The hate is palpable, in your face, and everywhere. I’d like to justify that hate by thinking it’s confined to a small, but vocal group of people, but I’m not so sure. Funny thing is, if I talk to one of my friends who fall into this gathering storm of distrust, they don’t see it as hate. They just don’t want them around, unless they  talk

 like they do, dress like they do, act like they do. They rage on-line, and in person, against all the free help the Somalian population receives, how they get free living, free medical, all without contributing a damn thing back. I don’t know how much of that is true, and it doesn’t matter, because facts don’t change anyones beliefs. If truth was a factor in our lives, people would pay attention, they’d take time to think about things, do a little research, to converse with people of opposing views, but it’s easier to bitch and complain, then to question one’s own feelings. An interesting truth is that most of the people who find fault in these new American immigrants are not bad people. Most people here are honest, hard working folk, and regular church goers, made more intriguing because most Somalians are here because of our churches. Being honest, hard working, and church going isn’t an excuse, nor does doing so clarify the problem. In fact, it confuses the hate, making it hard to understand. From a personal perspective, and that’s a perspective of one who grew up as an entitled American in third world countries, I don’t get it. The only answer I can come up with is fear, fear of change, fear of loss, fear of anything that’s different, fear of anything that threatens a way of life. And hates a passionate way to express those fears. Wrong, but passionate. There’s a thought too, that the degradation of an entire culture also has it’s roots in larger fears, fear of political instability and division, fear of financial stress, and fear of the crushing weight of life that at every turn seems to be more complicated. We work harder for less, the rich get richer, and we parse our pennies for a loaf of bread, all while screaming at our politicians for relief, only to find out once elected, they don’t seem to give a damn. We surf the net, see IG posts of those living the good life, and are left wondering where’s my vacay in the sun bleached sand. All said and done, I don’t believe people are born with hate and distrust in their hearts, I don’t believe people, at least most people, live their lives looking for someone to vilify, but when I look around, and I extend that vilification to society in large, including everything from racial tensions, to social injustice, immigration, and the political divide, I can’t help but believe that my community is but a symptom of a larger problem. One that’s not going away, one that’s going to get worse, and one that there’s a thousand answers for, but not a single solution.

Political Garbarge

Abortion is a moral choice, and legislation of morals is political garbage, in that liberal and conservative leaders know it’s nothing more than a divisive issue, used to motivate or shame, supporters or opponents. Alabama, and other southern states, are passing arcane abortion laws in an attempt to have their voices heard in front of our supreme court, with the intent to overturn Roe Vs Wade. All will face lengthy, and expensive court battles on their way there. Even if these states were to prevail, they’ll lose, we’ll all lose. Women will still seek abortions, unsafe and alone, without support, without compassion. I’m also of the opinion, that of the 25 white males that voted for Alabama’s legislation, that not one of them would step forward to help support a child of an unwanted pregnancy. As a man, I’m not comfortable discussing what I believe is a womens personal choice, rooted in their beliefs. Personally, I’d like every child to be born, if we lived in a perfect world, but we do not. To legislate that a women impregnated by a viscous, brutal rape must carry the child through to birth, is beyond my comprehension. Indeed, it’s an embarrassment to our compassion for others. I do not know what the answer is, I don’t know if a six week old clump of cells is a living person or not, I don’t know when life begins, and neither does anyone else. You might believe human life begins at the moment of conception, but your belief doesn’t make it a valid fact. Yes, there’s an argument for potential. It’s a valid argument, that a group of cells, might one day be a  human being, but if that’s your argument, every sperm I have carries that capacity, and perhaps vasectomies should be deemed illegal.

Destroyer of Worlds

Being intelligent is a strange and sad thing. Strange in that your smarter than most, but sad in that you’re not smart enough to know when you’re intelligence is killing you. Now I’m not a particularly religious man, but I do believe our dominance over the wild comes with certain responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to act as caretakers for the world we share with other life forms. I’m guessing I’m in the minority with that, considering mankind has literally wiped out 83 percent of mammals and half the plant life. We are pretty good at keeping things around that we like though, like dogs, cats and cows, but that’s probably because we don’t do well in relationships and we like to eat. For a species that only makes up about a tenth of a percent of all life on earth, our dominance is leading us right down a path to a cold, barren world where we’ll all be left alone with no one but each other, and that’s a damn scary thought prospect.

Rob Paxton

Cafe Conversations at the End of the Universe

I watched the dying embers of the universe, lost in a millennium of thoughts. Time had been lost, I reached for my coffee, felt the coldness of the ceramic, and left it.

“So you’re not happy with how it turned out?”

I turned to God, who shared the cheap Formica café booth, and just took his presence in. There was nothing left to say, it was all gone.

“It was meant, by design to end like this.” God was saying as I lifted my coffee cup to the thick, tank like woman who was our sole waitress among empty booths, “There was a thought, to let it continue, but there was no purpose in doing so.”

I met the woman’s eyes as she filed my cup, and gave a slight nod, then turned to God. “But what was the purpose to begin?”

“Loneliness.”

I saw a shifting pattern of stars in the eyes of God, and noted the sorrow.

God tapped out a quick forefingered rap on the chipped Formica, and raised his white mug, didn’t drink, and then sat it down.

“Have you ever wondered why you’re setting here with me?” he asked.

I had, but never asked.

“Because you’re lonely?”

The corner of my eye caught a galaxy dwindle to dust, scattered by the remaining cosmic winds.

“Not in the sense, of being alone, of being without companion. More in the sense of purpose.” God replied turning his head toward the great window we were seated at. “Existence is futile without purpose.”

I furrowed my brow, wrapped my palms around my cup, not wanting to look God in the large void of now starless eyes.

“You created existence to give meaning to your own? You didn’t find it, and now it all ends?”

“Or perhaps I found purpose, and I no longer have the need I once had?”

God smiled.

I frowned.

God noticed.

“You had a good life, why the frown?” A star exploded, and died in his pupil.

“Because apparently I had no purpose of my own.” I answered as the last light of the star dwindled into darkness.

“Purpose is not given. Purpose must be found, my old friend.”

My sight crossed over to the waitress, who stood behind the counter wrapping silverware in pleated napkins, laying each bundle neatly in a row.

I wondered who she was expecting?

Cafe Conversations one and two

Rob Paxton

The Outside, Looking In.

Most people I know will spout off and snicker that they don’t give a crap what other people think of ’em. Course, it’s not true, cuz we all wanna be liked, and it’s painful when someone comes along and sets us straight to some truths about ourselves we don’t like.

This report is hard to read, in that it’s heartbreaking. There’s good stuff in it as well, but overall it lays bare the problems we face as a Nation. It’s worth reading, worth thinking about, and if it doesn’t piss you off, there’s just no hope.

www.robpaxton.me

Lost in 140 Characters

If a butterfly flapping it’s wing can create a hurricane, then a Presidents silence can create a void filled with hate.

Two young men dead in Seattle, a young man dead in Maryland, A man in Times Square, dead. All a result of hatred, racial hatred, cultural hatred, religious hatred. Add in the incidents of racial violence across the nation, all in the last few months, my heart sickens. This is not who we are, not the country my father fought to defend. We are better.

But we are not.

Somehow, a 140 word tweet calling out the intolerance of hate is a poor reflection of our Presidents thoughts on the murder and mayhem we’re assaulted with. But it is not just our President, it is our leaders, of both parties, who have failed us. It is they, in their unrelenting posture to hate each other, they, who are intolerant of each other, who refuse to work together for our benefit, it is they who have built the foundation of hate and violence in America. They have set the example. They have created the vile atmosphere we live in.

As Truman said, however, the buck stops here. Trump has vowed, in his inauguration speech, to be the President of all the people, to be a unifying force.

He.has.not.been.

Trump has consistently been divisive, and intolerant, and failed to speak out in a strong, unifying national voice. He communicates with America via tweets that are oblique, insensitive, yet fulfilling to his base. Trump has ridiculed, belittled, and lied to those he disagrees with, to those he fears, and to us, the American people. Instead of unifying, Trump has created an atmosphere comparable to when Black Americans were lynched without fear of repercussion, when it was okay to demean with words such as ‘wetback’. For a President who desires to unify a shattered Nation, his voice has been silent, his actions invisible. His voice allocated to a series of 140 characters every Saturday morning, available to 15 percent of the nation. The rest of us hear about his tweets, spun whatever way our news preferences dictate. Trump is not a great communicator, not even a good one. Trump is not able to parse a coherent voice because he himself is incoherent, evident in his hundreds of tweets that have muddied waters and created confusion.

Who knows where our President stands on anything? Denials of this, accusations of that, self pity, fake news, name calling, character assassination and outright lies comprise his communication style.

I can not accept this for my Nation.

I will not accept this.

Never!

Cafe Conversations at the End of the World

Read More

I knew he had something in his thoughts, something he wanted to spit out. I stayed quiet, allowing him time. Funny, God needing time.

“Time is, always has been irrelevant, Rob.”

“How so?” I lifted my mug, let the coffee waft just under my nose, waiting.

“Time is nothing more than a tool. A tool to measure, and like any tool, when the job is done, the tool becomes irrelevant.”

I expressed my understanding with a simple “Ahhhhh” and took a long slug of my coffee.

“I’ve been thinking, Rob. Tell me, what are your thoughts on violence? Why was the species so violent?”

“Didn’t you give that to us as a basic survival trait?”

“I did, but I also gave you what I thought was the intelligence to spare the need for violent behavior when it wasn’t needed.”beard

God took a long slug of his own mug and looked out the café window. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was contemplating as the Universe sped by. He turned back to stare at me, “I can’t help but wonder if the violence stems from a rage and anger with me?”

I had been setting relaxed. Quickly, I furled my brow in a question, and sat my mug on the Formica, “Why would I be angry with you?” not quite understanding the question. The tank saw my cup resting and walked behind the counter for the decanter.

“Because most children foster an anger with their parents for one reason or another.”

“Most children outgrow that anger.”

God stroked his beard, nodded, “Perhaps you’re the child that never grew up.”

The battle ax poured my coffee, and interjected “For my two cents, I had a lot of fun mixing it all up.”

God smirked, “I suppose you did.” watching the waitress move on.

“Maybe it was something else, maybe it was just fear.” I said.

images“A scared little species, afraid and angry at everything. I could almost buy that.” God again looked away from the booth, out the window where a giant nebula was spouting light years of beautiful, colorful gases as if she were a lighted water fountain in the dark night. God started tapping his forefinger in rhythm to some music only he could hear, than stopped and returned to the conversation. “But I don’t. Being angry and scared isn’t good enough to account for an entire existence of war, corruption, and abuse directed toward not only yourselves, but the entire universe. There were others who were born angry and scared, but they grew up, they learned how to conquer their fear, how to address their anger, but you, you I don’t understand.”

“Interesting, I’m not necessarily angry or scared at the moment. I don’t remember living a life full of anger and fear, God.”

“Then why all the violence? Were you just too lazy to do the hard work and talk about solutions?”

“Lazy? We spanned our galaxy, we built something, accomplished something. We had our times of peace, we weren’t all lazy, angry and scared.”

God tilted his head in playful astonishment, “I’d say that what you built was a legacy of violence, made all the more disturbing by your inability to figure out why you were so violent.”

A little swell of that anger twisted my gut, and God smiled at that. I grimaced, and forced it away.images (1)

“That wasn’t all that hard, was it?” knowing a residual turn of the twist remained. “Perhaps it was my fault, perhaps there just wasn’t’ enough in the realm of consequences for your violence.”

I looked at God, tilted my head in astonishment, and ended the topic, “I’ll buy that.”

God smiled, and the heavy set women with hair knotted in buns stood up from the table she was wiping down, and gave another two cents, “At least I’m not being blamed for everything.”

Cafe Conversations one  and three

Robpaxtons website

American Angry

Amwp americanangryericans are angry. Black Americans, American Latinos, Native Americans and of course, White Americans. The poor are angry, as are the rich and middle class, right along with second amendment and gun control advocates, pro-lifers, pro-abortionists, Southerners, Northerners, Christians, non-Christians, the Police, the old, the young, the general public, and just about everyone else in America.

We should be!

I am an old, not quite withered man of 58, and I am angry. I am also tired.

In my lifetime, I cannot remember a time when this Nation was not on a war footing. Wars; big, small and even inconsequential have been the thread of our existence.

What does a legacy of war say about this exceptional Nation?

An exceptional nation that honors our solders as great heroes, greater patriots in our media, in our entertainment media. Heroes that have given their lives to protect our freedom, yet our Veterans, with no better phrase to state it, are treated like crap by the Government they protect and by the very public which hails them as heroes. I’m angry about that, angry that the Veteran suicide rate is so fantastically high, almost one every hour, and angrier that few claim to even be aware of that fact. I’m angry that we have a civilian population of young and ageing vets that are damaged.

I’m angry at what we have become as a people, as a nation. I’m angry at what our priorities have become. I’m angry at those, without knowing who they are, who have driven a huge wedge between myself and my friends, and even family members. I’m angry at myself for allowing that wedge to exist, and I’m angrier at those who refuse to comprise, much less listen, and relish driving that wedge deeper into the soul of all Americans for their personal welfare, their personal agenda, and their personal view of what this Nation should look like.

As a white man that once woke uncomfortably up, the only white man in a cell, I get that racism exists. That’s on the individual, that feeling of being uncomfortable wasn’t the result of humans that were born a darker shade than I, it was because of my feelings, my fear, my sense of being uncomfortable.

We no longer ask why we are uncomfortable, we just blame it on minorities, the poor, the mentally ill, anyone who we can claim as a scapegoat. I’m angry that is who we are.

For a Nation of Christians, we fail miserably at being good stewards of our earth, good keepers of our brothers, in being compassionate of our judgement of others. Indeed, religion as a whole has become a divisive wedge, not bringing people together in brotherhood, but instead driving people apart, in horrible, terrible ways. I’m angry at what Christianity has become, fractured, divisive, political, fearful, and even, hateful. What was once a deeply personal experience has become fodder for those who wish to propagate their beliefs, interpreting the aged words of God as their own, personal belief system.

Indeed, we do not celebrate age, wisdom and experience in this Nation, we shutter our elders away in retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes, and most visit their mother or father on a holiday or birthday. Gone is the generational connection of having your elder living in your basement, or nearby. Gone is the honor of passing in your own home, your own bed. Gone is the tradition of inheritance, because the state, the government takes everything to pay for your parents lives lived in retirement. They will takes yours as well.

Just as we fear diversity, just as we do not celebrate our elderly, we fear and we ignore the mentally handicapped. They are shunned, outcasts and forced to live with a stigma that you not only don’t understand, but don’t want to understand.

Neither Christian, American, much less humanistic.

I was taught we take care of our own, clearly we do not.

Not only do we take care of our own, we’re not good stewards of our home, a living, breathing ecosystem in the cold darkness of space. While we’ve raised awareness, raising that awareness doesn’t do much if major corporations can continue to spill billions of oil into our oceans without serious consequence, if game and fishing industries can continue to hunt and fish our companion species into extinction, if shipping can continue to create a huge garbage dump of our oceans, all without serious consequence. Without even tagging the fact of global warming, we’re destroying our planet. Add in the dire warnings of climate change, our future looks dismal.

All of us have reasons to be angry. We live our lives in the midst of violence. Be it from our police, a mass shooting, a riot, a single murder or on the screen of our television, we almost relish it for the entertainment it brings us, until it is our son, our daughter, whose corpse we are invited to identify. We don’t even have the intelligence, the compassion, the honor or gall to even address the issue much less talk about it unless we’re blaming our neighbor for the violence. It’s always someone else’s fault.

I’m also angry that I bought into a lie my father preached to me as a young son. Work hard, be honest and you’ll find success. I don’t measure success by living paycheck to paycheck at 58. Yes, I made some bad decisions, and I take ownership, but I’ve held down a job since I was eleven. My wife, since finishing nursing school. We’ve both worked hard, decent jobs. I had almost 20 years with my last employer, and Theresa has 25 with hers. Never been poor, but this is the thing, when we get a paycheck, it’s gone, mostly to bills, groceries and benefits. We’re not poor, but we’re certainly aren’t going to have the golden years we once thought we would. Yea, I’m angry about that. Angry that I’m part of that vanishing, working class American.

There is a lot to be angry about. We are not the exceptional Nation that you believe we are. Yes, we might be full of piss and vinegar, we might beat our chests in triumph, we might bleed red, white, and blue but none of that makes us exceptional to anyone else, except those doing the shouting how great we are.

Greatness is born of respect, and we lost that when we made the collective, National decision that to be feared is exceptional, that to be respected is to be minimal.

There’s a lot to be angry about. A lot left unsaid.

robpaxtons website