the wind and i just come and go

Month: April, 2015

Thomas Jefferson wrote a book . . .

The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was Thomas Jefferson’s effort to extract what he considered the pertinent doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists. It should be noted that he used several translations from several languages to do this, comparing them side by side. Using a razor, Jefferson cut and arranged selected verses from the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in chronological order, mingling excerpts from one text to those of another in order to create a single narrative. He shared it with a number of friends, but he never allowed it to be published during his lifetime.

The most complete form Jefferson produced was inherited by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and was published in 1895 by the National Museum in Washington.  I have been, for many years, both a fan and a skeptic of Jefferson, but at the very least, I considered him no less inspired, and certainly no less an intellect than those who assembled the New Testament over the first 1600 years after Christ’s birth and death.  (with long overdue thanks to Dr. Everett Long of UW-Whitewater).  It should be noted that he added nothing, and probably was not even aware of, the gnostic gospels, also known as the apocrypha – those gospels known of, but not included by the various councils and beard strokers of early Christendom.

For the first 50 or so years of my life, I was an active church attender and skeptical believer and yes, I was skeptical from the first time we dug worms and couldn’t see Hell from there.  More about that somewhere else at a later time.  However, while not a major Biblical scholar, my skepticism has allowed me to accept what others believe and understand why they might believe differently than I do, hopefully with none of the air of superiority that is displayed by some people who should, by virtue of their prior behavior – be tending their own house.   My life, and thinking, began to change one day, when I was talking to our minister. As the chair of the board of deacons in our church, I was having a hard time with reports that large quantities of what the UCC synod was sending to Nicaragua as medical aid was being intercepted and used to aid Communist rebels.  As anti-war as any product of the 60’s can be, I still could not absorb standing by bringing aid and comfort to the enemy.

The pastor looked at me and said, in his trained, neutralizing way, “I understand – if Jesus found a wounded man, what do you think he would do?”

i recognized the trap. “He would cleanse his wounds and wash his feet – and pretty much not ask about his politics”.  We never spoke of it again.  I think about that conversation often, though, as I try to make sense of life and my place in this world.  Jefferson was, I think, trying to make some sense of his world, as well.  As a seeker, a conflicted man dealing with far larger issues than we deal with daily, including holding slaves to the day of his death, Jefferson probed delicately into these things, not as a service to humanity, but to find some clarity in his 77 year old mind. We should all put forth the effort to clear our minds that this man did.  Jefferson scholars are in general agreement, I think, that Jefferson was at best a Deist – he believed in God, the Almighty, Divine Providence as he at various times referred to God, but probably not a Christian in the sense of believing in the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, etc.

When I first heard about the so-called Jefferson Bible, I was reminded of my seventh birthday, for which I received a Bible I could barely carry, but had a unique feature I hadn’t seen before.   My mother was behind this, a Bible this size was nonsense for a little kid who had only recently learned to read and probably still needed help with at least a few of the big words.  She was a fire-breathing, “you’re going to hell if…” and “God will punish you if … ” converted Catholic turned born-again Christian of the most conservative ilk.  Sooo… like most things I wanted straight answers on, I went to my dad.  “Daddy, how come some of the letters in the Bible are red?”

“Well son, we think those are the words that Jesus said, so they are in red because they’re important.”  A minister’s son, I usually got straight answers from him without the fire and smoke. So here I am almost 60 years later, back to reading the red parts in the red letter edition of the Bible.  Maybe they stole the idea from Jefferson.

Now, when I write, that would normally have been a good point to end my thoughts.  BUT, I digress here to point out another of my related lines of thought, and that is this nonsense about gay marriage and wedding cakes, etc.  Anybody who has read any of my stuff knows that I cannot figure out why humanity cannot go more than a few seconds without killing someone in anger, and worse, why nations can’t spend more than fifteen minutes without starting another war – or why any of that makes sense.  Yet it is our religions that are the basis for most of our wars, and Christians have been the middle of a lot of them.   The Catholic church also has some other skeletons in their closet that they need to come clean about.  And then, I was more than a little put out when the Missouri synod Lutheran Pastor wouldn’t let me speak from the pulpit to give my brother’s eulogy – so it appears we take one step back every time we get into a forward motion.

My point is this:  I’m a simple guy.  I have friends of every conceivable religious background.  .  When one of my friends asked me to make wooden crosses for the altar boys to carry in the masses at the local Catholic church, it never occurred to me to refuse.   And if, by some twist of fate, a couple asked me to make them a wedding box, or a wedding cake, for that matter,  I wouldn’t hesitate.  It wouldn’t occur to me to check to see if they were gay or not – (usually these requests come from a wedding planner, or one of the couple – I’m not totally naive).  You see, Jesus was a carpenter, and I think he would have been willing to make a wedding box for a gay couple, and it would be the best he could do on that day, because even if he disagreed with them, I believe his ministry on that day would be to do his best.  He would probably wash their feet. Not for a moment do I believe he would judge them.

The Squirrel . . .

On Friday morning, as I was going south on Highway C across State Highway 16, I noticed a gray squirrel running frantically across the road, as if he was trying to decide on which side he preferred to stop.  He ran across to the east side, went back across, and then back to the east, and there met his end under the right front tire of a white SUV.  He flipped a couple of times, and went straight stiff.  If the driver knew what had happened, she didn’t let on.

What struck me is that it was first light, the birds were flying, and they continued to fly.  Cars were driving, and they continued their courses.  Leaves blew across the road, people waited at the curb for the coffee shop to open, and things generally went on as usual.  In the moment, the death of a single squirrel mattered to seemingly no one.

It struck me that if the driver had been aware, she could have slowed down, or sped up, or altered her course just a little to avoid what for her was a minor incident, but for the squirrel and his squirrel family was, well, a major tragedy.  Years from now, squirrel newspapers will announce that his squirrel offspring were left without a father at an early age, and were, therefore, left to wander down an indistinct path to delinquency and wasted lives.  Somewhere, a squirrel mother will have to leave the den just a little earlier to clean the dens of wealthier squirrels just to put her kids through squirrel school.

From now on, I will keep the radio on in the truck on the way to work.  It keeps my mind from wandering down indistinct paths.

Listen closely . . .

Often, the boldest statements come in the form of silence . . .

Hate the war, not the warrior . . .

Recently, I offended one of my veteran friends with an anti-war statement. I think we patched things up, but it is so easy for any and all of us to react first and consider later, but I can understand that having people shoot real bullets at you in an environment where needed medical care might be wanting is really traumatic.

Killing one another makes no sense to me. That the powerful have the leverage to send the (mostly) unknowing into battle for a dubious cause still strikes me as a wonder of the modern world. In high school, in California, I had a teacher who really challenged us to think through the justifications that were being made for the increasing involvement (67-68) of the US Military in Southeast Asia. In short order, it became obvious to me that Ho Chi Minh was little or no threat to Orange County. It also became obvious to me that the North Vietnamese and their (mostly) Russian allies had created a killing machine that was, in its own element, brutally effective.

Racial and cultural differences were obvious and easy motivations that created superficial reasons for going to war. As a country, we have for 240 years expected every population to be a mirror image of our democratic marvel. War is just dumb. And I don’t excuse the bad guys who seem to make it impossible for the good guys to have to fight. We need to take note of a few things:

  1. We need to be vigilant and we need to be ready.
  2. We need to maintain a reasonable level of preparedness
  3. We need to keep in mind that our country had 150 years as a colony 3000 miles from the mother country to figure things out on our own before we embarked on our big democratic (really republican) adventure.
  4. We need to stop sticking our nose in where it doesn’t belong.  More than once the neighborhood bully went home with a bloody nose when he tried to stop my brothers from fighting.
  5. We need to stop making snowballs for others to throw.  Arming everyone without knowing where the guns will end up isn’t the best idea.
  6. We need to learn to play better with others.  It seemed for a while that we could call the shots.  It was a short period of time, in the grand scheme of things.  Less than 50 years.
  7. We need to be able to admit being wrong.  It’s not a sign of weakness.  This America right or wrong stuff has got to stop, because it blurs us from seeing when we’re wrong.
  8. We need to do better by our troops when we send them off to war, and when they come home all messed up.  If we do it right, they don’t have to go, and they don’t get messed up.
  9. We need to tone down the “hero” talk.  Soldiers, in my experience, consider their service doing their job as they see it.  They’re usually pretty humble.  If they went “over there” did their job, great.  If they raced into a burning building and brought out  a bunch of kids, I’ll buy the hero label.  According to some of the young guys, the whole “thank you for your service” stuff just makes those who stayed home feel better about missing the call.
  10. We need to make our schools gardens of critical thought.  They need to learn history – in a way that admits there can be a discussion about whether what we did among the family of nations was right or wrong.

Never hate the warrior.  Nobody goes anywhere to get their ass shot off for fun.  They do their duty as they see it.  They are only slightly more valuable than the small voice that says, “Let’s give this peace thing a chance”.

I am a simple man . . .


I am a simple man.  I probably owe an apology to both Graham Nash and Ricky Van Shelton, who recorded different songs under this title. Van Shelton’s lyrics probably have more immediate parallels in my life, but the Graham Nash song from the Songs for Beginners album (Crosby Stills & Nash) reaches out and speaks occasionally as well.  I don’t spend alot of time on me.  My haircut is pretty much the same as when Leo the barber cut my hair for 50 cents and a 25 cent tip in the 50’s.  It was on East Wisconsin Avenue, on the north side, so it was on the far reaches of my range. (park your bike in the alley, not on the sidewalk) I took a sabbatical from haircuts in the late 60’s and early 70’s, but that was political.   It was my sister’s bike.  It was the reason I walked to school.  It was a blue Schwinn balloon tired bomber – a GIRL’s model.  Another reason I was an outsider.  My mustache is about the same since the cuts first healed and the stitches were out after my altercation with the ice fishing shanty in 1971 – on Fowler Lake – on a very similar track that I had followed a few years earlier on a far more innocent trek across that wonderful little lake. The damage to my face was and is a mess no one needs to see. If it works, and it feels good, I am content to let well enough alone. I am a simple man.  I become complex only when people think I should be something else.  I left home early, went to college, quit, got married, went back, finished, went to work

I spent 35 years in an industry I neither understood or cared for, initially.  The insurance industry has alot of rules, most of which are understood only by the number crunchers who live far (physically and intellectually) from the people they are supposed to serve.  The numbers generally win.  I was fortunate, in that I worked for a mutual insurance company most of those years.   I also was successful enough to have access to the decision makers, and could usually drink enough to impact some decisions – or maybe I just drank enough to think I did.  My boss for most of those years frequently told me that I needed to have an avocation, that wasn’t for money, that I could be good at and find escape, satisfaction and personal rewards.  He even put this in writing at times when he thought I was taking the business too seriously.  I did that.  There were fast cars, bicycles, training hunting dogs, real estate,  woodworking, and a pretty long list of minor interests, as well.  I even coached my daughters’ basketball teams for several years.  The girls were also a great source of  escape, satisfaction and personal rewards.  I still love fast cars, try to ride the bike occasionally, love my dogs and tinker with a few other interests, but the wood working has stuck.  The girls are long gone to their own lives and families, but proffer the greatest satisfaction, when we can stand back and look at their successes and state unequivocally that the heavy lifting is done.

The woodworking has stuck.  It is confounding, yet incredibly satisfying.  I love the silence of hand work, can get lost in it without realizing it.  I also love the action and noise of the CNC router that I built from the ground up and has opened up a whole world of things I haven’t done before.  Turning is a drug – the incremental removal of material that results from the scraping of tools against a rotating project, revealing itself progressively – carrying with it a hope that it can be what we planned.   I’ve never been much for rules, especially rules that I didn’t understand or made no sense.  The wood doesn’t seem to care what I think.  It will change on the whim of a percentage of moisture content or a few degrees in temperature.  It forces me to adjust, anticipate, and sometimes just grow weary of its stubborn demands to remain as it was Created.   When I asked a chairmaker friend from Tennessee why he had no electrical power in his shop, I got more of an answer than I anticipated: “Mistakes happen faster with power tools.  With hand tools, I can fix a slip or gash, make it look like it belongs there.  With power tools, it is usually too late.  If it is too dark to see in the shop, I am either there too early or it is too late and I belong in the house with my family.”  I got the feeling he had worked on that answer for a time.

I am a simple man.  I could easily get along with a bowl, a spoon and a cup.  (we would still need to keep a plate, fork and knife around for the occasional rib eye or sirloin).  When something wears out, I look hard for an identical replacement, because I don’t want to fool around with adapting to something less functional.  When I find what I want, I usually buy two.  A good pair of boots (Red Wing 8″ 899 13M) suits me fine, as does a pair of jeans (wranglers – relaxed fit) and a long sleeved t-shirt (Hanes 2XL tall beefy T with a pocket),  an LL Bean 2XL tall flannel shirt (or a Pendleton if it’s a formal occasion).  On a cold day,  my Wolverine vest (2XL tall) takes the chill off.  But I’m not particular.

It’s time to move…

Corporate income taxes amount to somewhere around 10% of the total revenue of the federal government (so I have read and heard). I don’t know, and don’t think we can know how much corporations spend on political campaigns. There’s no question in my mind that a constitutional amendment is required to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Along with that, we need to END the corporate income tax, because that is just passed through to consumers as a tax on top of other taxes. Why end the corporate income tax? For the same reason this country’s agitation for a break with Great Britain began – no taxation without representation! This is the ONLY way we get back to the value of the individual vote. Corporations are not people in the founders sense of the word, only in a technical legal sense that has nothing to do with our constitution.

A RADICAL VIEW – You shouldn’t be surprised

Most people who know me know that I spent 35 years in the insurance business – mostly involved with selling insurance to business owners.  I’ve never been able to figure out the whole health insurance nonsense.  I was never really too involved with it – our company did little of it and when they did, they weren’t very good at it.

Hillary took a run at fixing it in the 90’s, and she botched the job.  She made no friends in the process and probably set a solution back 25 years – I know, I was in one of the meetings in Washington, and she’s a scary woman.  My mother was scarier, so she didn’t scare me much.  As I have gotten closer to the “magic” numbers – 65 for Medicare and something more for Social Security, one fact has become pretty clear to me.  We have two things that the government does reasonably well:  Social Security and Medicare.  I have talked to many of my friends on Medicare as I approach the magic age, and without exception, their reaction has been something close to “you’ll love it”.

So why can’t we agree to do for the rest of America what Medicare has done for our seniors?  Because we are led by greedy and people, and because they are leaders because we are lazy citizens and gullible to boot.