The Characters In My Play

Bordering my property on one side is the second home to a construction company owner. Jim and Hazel are not there often, though caretakers come and go sometimes. It makes for serene quietness on that side. On my other property border is well . . . Dale. My sister christened him with the moniker Dale-Bob in a tandem hyphenated name combination of a previous neighbor of mine named Bob. Dale definitely shares some similar characteristics of Bob. Thus the name was created. Dale-Bob is always here. And, by here I mean coming over or making noise from over there. He drives reckless out of this private 10 mph street with a loud shit truck that wakes up people like a stack of dominoes falling as he roars past. He seems to do what he can to keep them all annoyed.

On the other side of Dale is Tom, a retired pharmacist and his retired nurse wife, Stevie (Stephanie). Tom hates Dale-Bob. Which, sounds like a sentence out of a  Dick and Jane book. My first introduction to Tom was spent listening to Tom regale me with stories of Dale-Bob. His disdain for our shared neighbor practically frothed out of his mouth. Pharmacist or not, a great first impression it was not.

Last week, when Dale-Bob shoved the county's cease and desist letter he had received into my hands for a read, I wondered which of these neighbors had turned him in. It feels a bit like Dallas or Falcon Crest in my neck of the woods [you younger folks may have to google those shows] - minus the sexy behaviors. Scandalous romping mischief might be present too, but I haven't been eye-witness to or been filled with those stories - at least for now anyway! Neighborhood drama is not my thing. There are characters and players, opinions and stories about a handful who live back in this edge-of-the-water place. It's pretty entertaining at times - a fictional novel hiding here I think.

I live in a very odd geographic location. Odder still is the cocktail of socio economic, education, and lifestyles right in my hood. Living on the water draws both the couture and the uncultured. There is nothing fair about both affluence and poverty. Both though share a space in humanity.

On the corner of this dead-end private road lives another Tom, a retired butcher turned waterman who commercially crabs and oysters. He displays all the crap necessary, and possibly unnecessary, related to baiting, crabbing and oystering strewn across his property. It is culminated in crab season by nightly bating of line sessions under a canopy in his muchly missing of gravel driveway of mud. Tom, who is also missing a few front teeth and cannot hear shit, talks  smack about Dale-Bob. His introduction to me was something like, "So, you bought next to Dale? Didn't check the neighborhood out well, huh!"

Carole, a retired elementary school teacher, lives alone across the street from me. She, and her husband-now deceased, owned a metal fabricating company, built there 30 years ago. She is about 5 feet tall, sweeter than honey, and still dyes her hair an unnatural shade of brown for a 73 year old. If need be, I could dead lift her with one hand behind my back. She brings me flowers, invites me for coffee [I don't go inside her house due to COVID, but she keeps asking.] and generally always tells me how great our property looks now that she can see it through the brush and crap we removed. She never rakes her leaves, has a driveway mostly consisting of rotting leaves and mud. She though never speaks ill of Dale-Bob.  Every so often, without being asked, Dale-Bob pays for a small load of gravel to fill the growing mud hole at the end of her driveway.  

Around the other bend is a retired professor from Georgetown. His name sounds like someone who has lived a department chaired and tenured life - Bernard. His property is granola nutty, artsy, interpretative, and whimsical. He also has a small cottage on his property that he will let anyone who wants to have a place to "write" come and get their creative on. It's his second home as well.

Toward the opposite end of the street is another professor, this one from George Washington University. He and his dog walk each other like a time piece keeps time twice a day no matter the weather. Doug's intellect is high in a category that my own intellect needs direct tutoring to even understand. It's something to do with experiments, water life, buoys, and travelling the globe for such efforts - I think anyway. I am a genius on things that can't always be fully quantified. He, on the other hand, is Mensa smart. Whatever his smarts does probably improves things related to energy and water. Mine, well . . . a mystery to even myself most days.

Back to Dale-Bob, the tree man and neighbor to my left. As Dale-Bob finished cleaning up from grinding out some old tree stumps of mine, he told me his own version of stories I've heard about him from the neighbors, he laughed at his version like a life of the party sort of a person does.  He began . . .  His 30 arrests, including some time in jail, started after he turned 30 and have spanned the past 24 years. He turned 54 last week and said he's kept his anger in control for the past 2 1/2 years. When I asked  if drugs or alcohol played a role in those arrests he said, "No ma'am. I see red and act on it." He calls me sweetheart in nearly every conversation though we were born the same year, can't hear well, owns a bit bull mix named Flash who constantly sneaks up behind me and generally unkeeps his property in a very very unwellish style.

I thought about all the characters in my living play in this strange place I find myself. It's not been my favorite place or period of time for a myriad of reasons. I thought about the fact that wherever I am that's where I am - with these people for some reason. I have always found people interesting, and as my mom said this week, "You always seem to find yourself with the most interesting people having the most interesting conversations."

"Dale," I said countering to his life story synopsis he had just finished, "You know God wants to be a part of your life, even when you see red. He wants to be in it all with you daily."  I looked at him, took it all in - his middle aged belly, his loud smoker's voice, the stuff the neighbors had said about him, the wearable life of manual labor, and a slew of bad choices under his belt. It made him human.

I was drawn to humanness, to imperfection. It always showed me there is room for change, a re-do, a refurbishment of sorts that was available though presently hidden. Human is the skin God made us to live in. I assured Dale there was nothing that God couldn't use, make whole or redeem in our humanity. I said it to myself as well.


The Hyperbole of Cultural Rhetoric


I am sick to death of social media ads (social media too!), companies and influencers touting a cream, procedure, product, new eating plan - an app that will get me to my goal, a recipe collection, a subscription service, a life altering health breakthrough, a supplement, all deduced to a marketing blip intended to pull my emotions, vanity, and ultimately, my money. So very weary am I of algorithms that study what I click to "deliver" ads to me. 

We are plugged in very precariously [like the outlet the leg lamp is plugged into in the movie "A Christmas Story"] to way too many outlets - social media platforms, news outlets, streaming services, gaming sites. We are following so many things -news, movements, people, sites, posts, podcasts. And, we are apped to the max.

So intrusive. That intrusiveness has become the price we pay for the constant availability of all things. I am rethinking the benefits vs the detriments of that level of online-ness in my own life. I do so like and value my privacy and anonymity. 

Humanity [me included] can easily warp good things. Without conscious effort, we just keep eating the barrage of information, ads, marketing, constant claims of new/better/best/can't do life without, opinions, negative social media comments. It leaves me eventually feeling overly full, like a Thanksgiving meal! Moderation of most things leaves space to think rationally and slower, to respond appropriately, to be kinder, and to be still enough to be comfortable with the quietness of just self without all the ricocheting noise. That constant, never-ending sub woofer beat could be why we cannot differentiate truth any more, why kindness is absent, why being right is more important than love, why others come behind ourselves, and why our collection of stuff, like at the dump of Whoville, keeps growing.

Human nature wants a solution, an answer. I too want solutions to unlock things in my own life, correct my flaws and look younger, turn back the clock on aging, be more organized, solve my chronic health issues .  .  .  Those are not, in and of themselves, bad quests. 

Ads play upon human desire, our almost unhealthy belief that everything can be fixed, that there is an answer, a way to alleviate the problem - that somehow this is it. I want a destination not the journey. I want a short cut. I want a way to be rescued. I want it now! I want to declare my political beliefs are better than yours. It's the I- me-mine monster fanned into flame.

Marketing, and news for that matter as well, utilizes the paths that the human brain deciphers information to conjugate its nearly flawless approach to hooking us without us thinking we are being hooked. Capitalist revenue is generated by the sale of things (apps, books, food, supplements, exercise plans, news, diets, cars, clothes...) based on marketing smoke and mirrors and a great deal of human psychology and neuroscience. It's a feeding frenzy that never ceases. Never. We should feel tricked because in all reality, we are!.

The cure to my lifetime of chronic illnesses has not been found by all the books I've read, products I've purchased, plans I've tried, doctors and shamans I have seen. I want to believe that THE magic thing is out there and I just haven't discovered it, yet. I want to believe that with the right party in power the solution to many things can be had. We are wired for it. Hope sustains us in its healthiest form.

Marketing is targeted to play on desperation, the quest to get more, be better or create status. It wants to make us believe that thing holds the answer we have not found in other things until this particular thing. Concisely, most marketing is presented through emotion/feeling with truth/fact telling coming in second place with a spin. Without slowing down when skating through the barrage of information our emotions can drive our purchases, decisions, even our replies on social media posts or beliefs in news articles.

We are culturally, and humanly, wired to conquer and push boundaries. Feistiness, passion and drive have been the vehicle for great innovations and positive social changes. In the healthiest sense, they are to be celebrated, applauded loudly. May I suggest though, we may have pushed past the good for all mankind-the noble, to a space of negative outcomes in a great many things. Maybe we may have been better off without the invention of a few things; nuclear weapons, engineered foods, convenience packaging, food preservatives, easy debt, our dependence on resources at the expense of the care of the planet, non-stop news and social media out-of-controlness. At the very least, society would have benefited from some balance. 

Most things are connected and cascade to other things.  Is it truly positive growth if it contributes to the degradation of our culture? I am not responsible for others. I can barely handle my own humanity on any given day! I, we, are responsible to be aware and choose differently. And I, we, are to do so in spite of culture, trends, technology and others . 

The excessive rhetoric is exhausting.

The older I get the more I come to know that there is NOTHING that is going to keep us from gravity's effects, death, gaining a bit of weight as we age. Life is not a perfect Instagram post. No true contentment or personal bestness is found in the militant march of marketing, social media, or bombarding the air waves with harsh rhetoric. There is nothing out there that can change us, and ultimately sustain us in a world with each other, except moderation in most things, making a choice to be better than the negative around us, getting our focus off of ourselves and seeking relationship with Jesus.

If we know, in order to quell the excessive power of any addiction or negative choice, we need to acknowledge its powerful grip, then I am acknowledging I do not want to be ruled by cultural marketing, social media, the news and the ionic deadly rhetoric around me. It's simply not a space to flourish, for any of us.


it was a grand canyon sort of day - spiritually speaking I mean

Some teach that through meditation, chakras, enlightenment or spiritual practices there is a space you can get to outside of yourself.  A space where one is not aware of self thinking thoughts and are emptied to be surrounded only by light, pure love. It's there in that space we are fully the spiritual beings we are intended to be.

I'm not hung up on the name, the practices, or even some of the lingo, but I do believe that truth. I am my own worst enemy to that presence. My constant thinking and thoughts prohibit my complete absorption of the spiritual presence in and around me. There have been a handful of times in my life where I have experienced that heightened space of spiritual presence outside of myself - beautiful and healing, partly organic and spontaneous and usually the result of deep hunger for more. I always feel God's presence daily. This is a space beyond that.

We used to walk to the top of Yavapai Hills in Prescott, Arizona when we lived there. At the peak, a mile above sea level, was a treasure of unadulterated, wild, boundless wind. It was a different wind than what you could feel below. My heart would soar at the boundary-less freedom that could not even remotely inhibit the bigness of that wild wind. It felt like it might consume you and set you free at the same time. Its wildness spoke to the bigness of what we cannot see. 

It's tough to empty me of me. Maybe it is for all us who are human. Seems virtually impossible, mostly. Though I've come to realize impossible is its secret gate entrance. I cannot orchestrate, juxtapose, or even necessarily follow a script to get there. Maybe that would dim its grandeur if I could.

Less of anything, me included, opens the window and gives room to simply experience the bigness of God. In my fettered life and mind if I can free myself of less of me, less of the world's pulls, scrap off the sadness we ingest from the culture, I can more easily find that entrance to God. He is the named and sometimes unnamed presence in and all around us. I am an intricate snowflake in His wonder.

Two days ago, driven by sorrow of this country, I found myself absorbing the chaos. [How can God love us? Why does He love us based on our displays of yuckiness? His love must be bigger and deeper than I can even grasp. What am I missing in that deepness? Despite our downward spiral behavior and ungratefulness He created us and loves us.] 

I stopped . . .    It seemed inconceivable and unbelievable based on where we were. My thoughts began to place my own humanity against His Deity. I began to shrink, and disappear. Not in an insignificant, worth nothing sort of way. Instead, in a bigness of God's love for the world He created then down to the intimacy of just me. I was unaware of me and over aware of His presence in and around me. The message so powerful and unrestrained, like the wind atop Yavapai Hills. 

I stayed there suspended longer than the handful of previous times I had stumbled my way to the secret entrance. Time was not time in the fully divine light and love that cascaded over and through me. The know of the God of the Universe was palpable and I was only aware of one thing - God's immense love for me. It was so intense that I didn't want it to end. It's intensity and realization of love and light drove me deeper in the know of my unworthiness to be loved was somehow removing Nancy and allowing God's apparent outpouring at that moment.

My unworthiness was not shame, or wanting to hide. It was astonishment of the total envelopment of that kind of love and light around and in me. I was not worthy and yet, I was connecting to the One who made me. I felt emptied of me in the intense presence of God's love. I was outside myself feeling only God.

Some say there is a place they have visited so great they would visit it again and again just to experience the grandeur repeatedly - Belize, the Grand Canyon .  .  .   I wish I could have barred the exit doors on that space I had been in. I did not want it to end. God's intense love, which lies in the middle of me, for whatever reason was spatially brought to where I could experience it like the wild wind atop Yavapai Hills that day. It made me love Him more and me less.