* “Chaos Overwhelms the Poor”

Yahoo! Voices has released my latest piece:

Chaos Overwhelms the Poor
10/18/2013
“Personal failings” and “an environment that is not conducive to success” so interact that many poor folk come into a state of self-generated, self-perpetuating crisis.  Personal failings can be outgrown, however, and untoward circumstances transcended.

For the moment, this is my definitive expression on the subject.

on air talent, radio talk show, talk show host, the homeless blogger

* I really have nothing better to do

(Transcribed from a letter to my mother dated 25 September 2007.)

This conversation yesterday with a co-worker astonished me.

“Peaches” is a 42-year old, very short woman, certainly a grandmother and very likely great-grandmother, who has about half her teeth. She works principally as a cashier, and is a really good worker and co-worker. She constantly teases me by pretending to flirt with me.

I was stocking the trash bags shelves, and became aware that she was in quite a pickle. Her shift was over, and she had appointments she had to keep at a certain time across town; but she also had assembled this bag full of items she needed to buy at once and before leaving the store. And the line at the cash register was quite long. (Long lines at cash register are a constant, intractable problem at this store.)

I told her facetiously, “Just go down there and push ’em all out.” She said, “No, that would be unmannerly, and that’s not like me.” (Conduct that can be called “unmannerly” is a big, big issue in this community, and a big issue for me personally since I see so much of it and find it offensive.) She went on: “Now, I like your manners. You speak to the customers …”
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* Sneak peek

Thanks to the reader who sent me this link:

Poor people aren’t stupid; bad decisions are from being overwhelmed, study finds

I am preparing a substantial response and should have it ready to publish a few weeks from now.  In the meantime, I thought others might be interested in the original article.

* The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:

14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24 “Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

26 “But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’[”]

On the one hand, I don’t believe Jesus ever said these words. (Link) On the other hand, I firmly believe in the principles expressed, and will have occasion to refer to this text many times.

Opening the present

Several weeks ago, I came into a new frame of mind, in which numerous profound insights have come, and I have seen doors open in my prayer life and elsewhere.  In particular, even though I frankly regard myself as spiritually advanced, one door has opened to a course offering far deeper spiritual growth that may make it possible for me to be happy practically all the time.  I copy pertinent diary entries here below, with commentary.

On reflection, I see that these diary entries assume the reader is well familiar with (1) “silence” and “presence,” which are technical terms referring to specific spiritual practices, and (2) those practices’ effects, especially the ability to choose and change one’s emotional feelings at will.  Accordingly, in the near future I will need to post explanations of meditation, contemplation, awakening the will, and how essential these are for anyone who would follow Jesus.

Until then, one would do well to consult three of Ambrose Worrall’s essays in the Library: “Essay on Prayer,” “Meditation and Contemplation,” and “Silentium Altum (Deep Silence).”

This may not be the best presentation.  But to have these thoughts available for later use, I need to record them now.  My frame of mind is sure to change, at which time, without this record, I am sure to forget these concepts indefinitely.

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Marketing strategies, part 2: Streams in the desert

I may be taking this too seriously.

Sometime between 1982 and 1985, Isaiah 35 was given to me as an icon of my vocation.  My understandings have changed so much since then, that it might be good to reconsider now whether this text still reflects my heart’s desire.
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* The power of presence

[Note, 08/15/13: Releasing this now as I will have another post on similar topics in the very near future.]

Wednesday afternoon 07/03/13 I stepped into the shower and said, “OK, what will I think about?” The answer came, “Think about nothing. Give yourself completely to this activity, this experience.”

And at once, for the first time in weeks, I felt the boost that comes from conserving one’s energies, when they are no longer being drained by attention to things distant from here and now and what I myself can do.

This is the power of presence.

[Notes to follow up on in the future:
– Scott Morrison
– Brother Lawrence: silence; feelings
– Forgive us our trespasses
– Take no thought
– The needle’s eye
– Just for today
– Serenity prayer
———
– Be here now
– Wherever you go, there you are
Conspiracy Theorists:  America’s Lost Sheep?
Was There a Jesus? If So, What Was He Like?]

(Reblogged 05/21/14.)

* When you can’t get what you want

There is a song from The Sound of Music that relates; it concludes, “… I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.”

Wednesday morning I stood outside McDonald’s having my last smoke before leaving.  I considered that as soon as I got to the library, I’d need to count my pennies and plan spending for the rest of the week.  I pondered whether or not to buy a soda on my way there.  I’d had some unusual spending earlier in the week, and faced some more unusual spending in connection with the 4th of July (The library’s closed.).  The wisdom of having bought or not bought a soda at this time would depend on the outcome of that planning.

I decided not to buy a soda at this time.  If I had enough cash left, according to the plan, I could enjoy a soda later in the week.

This isn’t sacrifice; that’s a topic I must discuss in later posts.  It’s a matter instead of delaying gratification; a decision to forego a pleasure now for the sake of possibly having the pleasure later.  This is an important strategy in learning stewardship (right management of one’s resources) and in improving one’s lot in life.

It still leaves me without a soda, when I want a soda.  What to do?
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* Rainbows

Baltimore is more likely than other places, to have weather when you can see rainbows. We are coming now into a period when this is especially so. We will probably have another such time again in September.

The key to seeing rainbows is, three things have to happen at the same time:
(1) The sun is shining
(2) while it rains, and
(3) there is blue sky somewhere.

If you happen to see the sun shining while it rains, then turn your back to the sun and look for blue sky straight ahead of you. That is where the rainbow may appear. The lower the sun is in the sky, the bigger the rainbow will be. The brighter the sun is, or the harder it’s raining, the brighter the rainbow will be. You may even see two or three rainbows, one inside the other.

Lessons from the rainbow

At the time of Noah, God decided to wipe out all life on earth and start over. God made it rain for forty days and forty nights, until the whole surface of the earth was under deep water. When dry land appeared again and Noah and his people left the ark, God promised them that God would never use a flood like this, to do this, again.

God had a bow and arrows, like hunters use. As a sign of God’s promise to Noah, God said, “I have put my bow in the clouds,” so that when it (the rainbow) appears God will remember this promise.

Another important part of this story:  In our world of social turmoil — back-stabbing, injustice and crime — it can be easy to lose hope, and wonder if there is anything in the world that can make sense. God’s promise to Noah includes an important reminder of the fundamental order God has built into creation. God said:

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night
shall not cease.

There are things you can count on.

(Reblogged 2014-08-27.)

* Carter Scott, Karma and Chaos

Short life of Carter Scott marred by accusations of family violence 

It’s difficult to start this post, as the story’s prone to leave one speechless.

What sort of karma would impel a child to be born into that context?

At the shelter, we’re compelled to attend chapel every night.  A different preacher comes each night, in a monthly rotation.  These generally disappoint me in their utter failure to speak to the sort of situation in question here.  About 40% of the presenters are preoccupied wholly with what will become of your soul when you die; whether you’ll go to heaven or hell; and your need to “believe in Jesus” as the key to salvation.  It’s all about a cognitive assent, saying “yes” to a certain set of ideas.  There is no presentation of Christianity as a lifestyle, nor any discussion of the role discipline in following Jesus.

Another 40% of the presenters are preoccupied wholly with obtaining “blessings,” principally by the means of praise:  “When the praises go up, the blessings come down.”  A “blessing” here is always a material, for example monetary, advantage that one has done nothing to earn.  It is as if God were some cosmic King Lear jealous for flattery.

Neither group mentions the call to repent,  in terms of any need to change one’s ways.

The only hell that concerns me is the living hell that folk create in this life, here and now, for themselves and their community.
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