A hypocritical oath

I had the perfect chance to put my fancy words about “Love Your Neighbor” and “Be Kind to Your Enemies” into action this week. I flunked the test big time.

It was on the same day that I wrote these words:

“I have written often of my admiration for Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus the Christ, with regard to their commitment to nonviolent solutions. 

“‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,’ Jesus said. ‘If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well.’ That’s hard advice to swallow, but it’s more likely to turn an enemy into a friend someday than killing that enemy and as many of his friends as you can.”

For today, I wrote an entire blog post about how, when tested on this score, I revealed myself to be a hypocrite. Once I finished, I realized I couldn’t tell the story because it would appear as if I was rationalizing or even justifying my nasty behavior toward someone with whom I have a serious disagreement.

Some people would read it and say, “Well, you had every right to behave that way.” Others would read it and say, “My Lord, Bluhm, you are a jerk.” But that’s not the point. 

I had a chance to show love toward — well, “enemy” may be too strong a word, but certainly an adversary. I could have been kind and gentle. I could have done good to this person, blessed this person, and prayed for the person I felt was mistreating me. Nope, nope, nope. I was mean and rude.

All the incident ended up proving is what I wrote first: “That’s hard advice to swallow.” I had a chance to sit down with someone and educate each other about where and why we disagree. It may have resolved nothing, but at least it would clear some air. Opportunity lost.

But there will be a next time, and maybe next time I’ll take a deep breath and practice what I preach.

The Sanders and Moses phase

What goes around comes around, and that apparently applies to random thoughts in my head.

The other day as I contemplated my pocket publishing business as we enter the new year, during which I will turn 70, I wrote in my journal, “My goal now is to be Colonel Sanders or Grandma Moses, flourishing in my late years,” a reference of course to the late great business owner and the beloved artist, who both got started after they were 65.

Curious as to how my current frame of mind compared to the year I turned 65, another significant age number, I pulled out a journal from 2018, where I found:

“What is my offering to the world? My Leaves of Grass? My Walden — my Civil Disobedience — my Scarlet Letter

“It feels yet to come — my best days are ahead as a creator — aren’t they? I will be the Colonel Sanders of wordsmithing … the Grandma Moses phase of my career is yet to come.” There I was, thinking of the same role models.

When 2018 began I had four books in print-on-demand that I authored, and I had edited and published another three books featuring public domain content. In the ensuing time those seven available books have tripled to 21, and blogging has been part of my daily routine since Aug. 1, 2020, so I have some momentum going. 

In the back of my mind I always strive to produce novels, something I haven’t done since 2012, so I allow myself to feel frustrated. So my mindset has not been “Over the last five years, I’ve published 14 books, eight as the author. Cool!” Nope, it’s “When the heck am I going to get serious about my novels?” 

John Lennon (who I’m confident wasn’t the first to say it) famously said, “Life is what happened to you while you were busy making other plans.” It seems that while I was tinkering with being a novelist, the Sanders and Moses phase of my career has careened along.

The mishmash of whatever

This is it! The end of the streak! After 864 consecutive days of blogging, I am utterly without anything to encourage, enlighten or entertain you with.

I’d like to thank everyone who “Liked” one of these posts along the way and encouraged me to keep plodding along, sharing the mishmash of whatever may appear in this space day by day. I only wish I could have kept it going.

“Hang on a second,” you might say. “How can it be the end of the streak if you’ve just posted an 865th blog post, right on time, talking about the 864 posts that came before?”

To which I say: Oh, yeah. Well, never mind.

Ducks in a row versus Godzilla

I’ve been having that urge to make something — a story, a poem, a song, a recording — anything — just as long as an expression comes out and an attempt at connection is made. See what I think and feel — do you think and feel this, too, or something like it? Thank goodness. I guess we’re not alone, after all. What’s that? You think and feel it in a different way? That’s great, too; now I can see it your way and it becomes part of our understanding of each other.

But before that connection, the art needs to be made. Which way do I go? What is trying to come out?

And that whimsical voice I rediscovered the other day, where has it been? Where has it gone? Where is it taking me? Can I relinquish control, let it take care of the vertical and the horizontal, and journey to the outer limits with it? 

It’s like when you know the only thing that will work is to let go but you keep holding on with all your might, and the whimsy struggles to burst free until it’s smushed in your grip, and oh the anxiety — you could feel that a unicorn with sparkly eyes was trying to lift you into a fantasy world so fine and adventurous that you could see a big fluffy dragon smiling at you, but you couldn’t make the leap, you couldn’t name the princess and release the magic, and woe is you, woe is you, woe woe woe woe yeah yeah yeah, hey, little devil …

Give me another chance, I know there’s another silly story in there if you just let me try — but wait, these are words of frustration and despair. That’s nearly the opposite of whimsy.

Whimsy is ducks in a row with X’s for eyes facing off against Godzilla. Whimsy is salt and pepper shaker cows smiling at each other. Whimsy is a moose in a winter scarf and a fedora up on the top shelf. 

Lift up your eyes and find a gentle smile, a chuckle, and a belly laugh. Coax the twinkle back into your eye and set sail for a land so far away that it’s right there in your heart.

And there you’ll find that tale of funny animals and pumpkins in jeopardy that you were longing to tell, or something very much akin. As for the tyrants who would steal your hopes and dreams and leave you to wallow in the horrible, disarm them with ridicule and ignorance — that is to say, laugh and ignore them.

Happy Easter

Easter Morning © Ricardo Reitmeyer | Dreamstime.com

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

A ride on the time machine

(from my blog, Nov. 22, 2011; I adjusted the number of years that have gone by)

We had a substitute teacher that day. She was much older than our regular fifth-grade teacher at Elementary School No. 1 in Little Falls, N.J.

A little after 1:30 the principal, Mr. Laux, unexpectedly poked his nose into the room and announced that President Kennedy had been fatally shot in Dallas.

Everything went kind of numb then. The substitute teacher was sad and upset, but she told the story of when she was a little girl walking past the train depot and someone shouted down that President McKinley had been shot, 62 years earlier in 1901.

They let us out of school early that day. I remember riding my bike home and how bright the sun was and how the shadows of the trees stood out against the library on Warren Street. There’s something about the death of someone important that makes you appreciate being alive, I learned that day.

That’s pretty much the entirety of my memory of Nov. 22, 1963.

Just on an impulse I Googled Mr. Laux and found his obituary – he died only last year, August 2010, in Portland, Maine, of all places. He retired in 1972 and lived to be 91. He was responsible for kindergarten through fifth grade, I believe, and most grades had at least two sections, so he had to make that little speech a dozen or more times. That must have been a tough day.

It’s hard to believe that was 58 years ago now – who in fifth grade thinks they’ll ever be able to remember things that happened a half-century ago? That was why it was so impressive for that teacher to tell a story about 62 years earlier.

And now here I am passing along to you the story of a little girl walking past a train depot 120 years ago and hearing that the president had been shot. I wonder if that memory will be preserved again in another 58 years.