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Grandpa Smitty's call-to-prayer over a first-course-salad
I was on my way to somewhere to the Mexicali sand A man sat down beside me, he had scars upon his hands He told me some stories - I told him some lies Light shone through my darkness, cast shadows from my mind His eyes they looked right through me Oh I knew he carried weight Something real was going down that day Oh I told him I'm a sinner He said that's o.k. I'm not here to change you anyway He was gone when I turned around Was it Jesus - Jesus on a Greyhound Jesus on a Greyhound Shelby Lynne
The history of The Hollywood Cross is apropos for Compass Star Wordsmith. It’s struggle to remain standing amidst the forces of nature and man is a metaphor. But the metaphor is mixed. Spiritual teaching instructs us to live as Jesus did, and to ask oneself “WWJD?”
I take that to mean not only during the good times, but to live as Jesus did through the bad times. As in His bad times. With strength, humility, and compassion.
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My Grandpa Smitty was perhaps the most influential man in my life. About most things in life that relate to becoming and being a man, but especially in intellectual and spiritual terms. He called himself an atheist, but I suspect now that he was more agnostic than atheist.
He told of an accident on a construction site that found him hanging from his wrist, which had been impaled with a nail. He half-jokingly related that he had been almost crucified!
Grandpa Smitty would follow up his call to prayer thusly
Good food, good meat.
Good God, let’s eat.
I think about that story and how it relates to “being like Jesus.” Grandpa Smitty evoked God’s name in bad times and good. An interesting twist for a self-described atheist, right?
When I hear some people describe their journey with Jesus, it doesn’t sound quite like mine. But then again, most people haven’t led a life quite like mine. My journey with Jesus is more like this:
In retrospect, unpacking one’s life is emotional geology. The pain and hurt and shame that came with so many bad decisions and a complete lack of impulse control have become memories. Not good or bad anymore. Just memories. To be picked apart and chiseled upon. So to learn and to grow. To accept.
Attaching word meanings to lived experiences doesn’t give the memory the respect it deserves. Lighting a burnt-out wick on a candle of regret is self-repeating-defeat. It doesn’t light and all it does is burn you again. Can we excavate the pain of the past without reliving it?
Take, for instance, prison. A seminal moment in my life that can objectively be called a “bad” experience. And now, 15 years later, without that perspective from that street corner, as it were, I wonder if I would still be adrift?
The problem with hypothesizing alternative life-outcomes is that humans always believe that we would make better choices given the do-over. And that those “better” choices would all work together to create a better life. That’s all a crock of cowshit, as Grandpa Smitty would say.
Going to prison, while a truly fucked-up-in-the-moment-daily-struggle-of-life-demeaning-activities, turned out to have actually altered my perspective. At the very least, I don’t drive drunk anymore. And beyond the very least is the shedding of judgmental responsibilities. My happiness is on me. Your unhappiness is on you. Our mutual satisfaction is upon us.
My posting schedule has been erratic at best lately. I have a million great concepts, but making the time to empty them from my head is like finding the time to finally organize the junk drawer.
So glad when it happens, but most likely the result of substituting one demanding task for a yet even more unyielding one. Which then leads down yet more fabbit-holes. About mission and method. About man and meaning. About me and more.
Working at The Hollywood Bowl is more like living at The Hollywood Bowl. Mornings melt into day. Days dissolve into night. Nights end at dawn’s doorstep. This lifestyle causes multiple instances of multiple colleagues asking, in dead earnestness, what day is this?
Over the past seven days, previously siloed departments have experienced a transformation. We’ve broken bread. And bagels. And Nutter Butters. Oreos. Pulled pork on King’s rolls. Oreos with cream cheese schmear. Pulled pork nutter butters. Don’t judge - stress eating is for real. And it’s a team-bonding activity.
If you want to change your perspective, just walk across the street. Look at life from over there. The next interaction with another human being is the next chance you have to walk across the street.
My perspective on life is shifting. I write about how a persons understanding of a situation is primarily dependent on the street corner they’re standing on when the crash happens. It’s impossible to describe the same thing from opposite sides.
I believe that to be true about the arc of a persons life as well. I think a lot about how my views now are far different from those of 30-year-old Ric. Yet what I’m discovering is an attempt to cram practices of yesteryear into principles of today.
That approach creates friction in my soul. So I go back to words that I wrote when I had nothing but time. And here I am, standing on yet another street corner. Looking at the wreck that was and now seeing the man that is.
TIME There is no life in here, only time seconds, minutes, hours-all running together Just numbers in a box, crossed off with an X. Days and nights, nights and days, Nowhere to go, to get out of this place You measure the days by the food you eat You wait for the night and pray that you sleep. Staring at the calendar, willing it to turn into the next month, as if only to prove that life stands not still, for those who are living it. It’s only time that’s passing, not your life that you lose living in a cell, with days dragging on, watching the shifts change, signaling hours of the day. Inside your head, the events that put you here play tricks on your mind, and tempts your soul into forgetting about life, not caring anymore. But that’s not true, for I have a heart that beats to a rhythm, conducted by GOD, marking time for me, until my freedom I gain. Back to my life, never forgetting the pain of learning the hard way, of arrogance and false pride. Of hurting your loved ones, of separation by force. No, never forgetting, never taking for granted each moment of life, a precious memory planted In the garden of dreams, tended by faith For upon my return, a harvest of love I shall reap Forever more, time will be mine to keep.
Inflicting long-lasting emotional pain upon loved ones, enduring self-imposed humiliation, and becoming 100% dependent on the goodwill of others. Writing over 150,000 words in eight months, reading 80 books, completing 1000 push-ups a day in 100-rep sets.
Reading and writing intimate love letters for illiterate men, of all colors, desperate to maintain connections to the outside world. Hustling ink, soups, contraband, and information just to pay the rent. Yeah. Sometime, to know the answer to WWJD, you have to survive a struggle. I only did with His help.
Thoughts I keep you always in my thoughts, where you’ll be close To my heart every day. The day soon will come when your sweet caress will bring chills to my skin, when I will be able to kiss your face and whisper in your ear. The time now passes slow, but my heart beats faster when I think of you. For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart It was not my lips you kissed – but my soul. Although we are separated by time and space, you are always in my heart, and constantly on my mind. Alone in here amongst so many lost souls, your love finds me, and comforts me and keeps me from being lonely. The dream of our reunion keeps my faith from fading.
One of the most severe punishments in prison is the lack of music. It wasn’t until I got a job in the R & R Department of Folsom State Prison that I was gifted a prison-Walkman. The Lieutenant I worked for gave it to me in an act of pity. Small acts of humanity in prison feel like miracles. Please enjoy this little miracle.
It’s called life,