I Love Rejection

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Okay, I don’t “love” love it, but I have come to accept and even be a little bit proud of it, in terms of my chosen career – writing. As anyone in the arts – particularly acting and writing – knows, you’re going to hear “no, thanks” a lot. Or the classic, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Or the dreaded, “Don’t quit your day job.” But a writer’s rejection is usually silent – a polite email that reads something like this.

“Thank you very much for submitting your material to us. Our agents have now had a chance to look at it and we are sorry to say we don’t feel that we can offer you representation. Because of the high volume of submissions we receive, unfortunately we are not able to give you more detailed feedback than this. However, these things are very subjective and someone else may well feel differently about your work.

Thank you again for letting us take a look at your material, and we wish you the best of luck in finding an agent and publisher.”

Isn’t that the nicest no you ever heard? The literary world is a polite one.

Of course, I don’t like receiving rejection letters. I’d much rather receive nothing but yes’s and have agents and publishers fighting with each other to represent my work, but I don’t really mind no’s.

So why am I so proud of rejection?

Because 98% of humanity doesn’t even try. Many have artistic inclinations and leanings – singing in the shower, drawing, playing an instrument a little, jotting down a line or two now and then – but they don’t pursue that side of themselves. There are good reasons – working hard to provide a good environment for children, for instance – and there are bad reasons – self-doubt, fear of failure, shyness, etc.

Someone once wrote, “We recognize in every work of genius our own discarded thoughts.” Plenty of people have ideas and think, “Wow! That would make a great book/poem/movie/song/painting/invention.” They’re full of fire and passion for a little while. They tell all their friends about it. A few go out and buy a “how to” book so they can learn everything about it before they actually start working. (Which is a big mistake – as Dan Millman wrote, “You don’t need to know everything about the ocean to swim in it.”)

Even fewer actually put pen to paper, or paint to canvas. But the vast majority do none of those things. They get the ego stroke from their friends and family telling them how brilliant their idea is, and that’s good enough. Or worse, some significant other tells them they’ll never make it – to be realistic – to get a good, steady job – that making it in the arts is like winning the lottery – and they let that person’s lack of belief prevent them from trying. But that nagging feeling remains – the question from that other voice – the one that knows greatness lies within – the one that asks, “Why aren’t you at least trying?”

The English writer Sydney Smith (1771-1845) wrote, “A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort.”

So that’s why I have made rejection my friend. The same goes for confusion. They are both necessary doorways to a better place. To continue moving toward that glorious dream – whatever it is – artists must embrace confusion (the portal to higher knowledge) and rejection (the proof that they’re trying hard.) The alternative is being crushed by every rejection and giving up. That’s not an option.

An even higher step is to ask people who rejected a work what they didn’t like about it, learn from that, and work hard not to repeat that mistake. There are very few spectacles in this world sadder than someone who just doesn’t have the talent to make it as an artist, yet constantly struggling to convince themselves that they do, blind to how much they don’t know, and unwilling to put in the hours of time and effort required to educate themselves properly. Of course, everyone wants to have great accomplishments without working, but that’s not how it works. Someone once wrote, “Success is often hard to recognize because it’s wearing dirty overalls.” The only place where success comes before work is the dictionary.

Clint Eastwood was told by an agent, “You’ll never make it. You’re too tall, you squint too much, and your voice is too soft.”

Harrison Ford was told by a director, “You’ll never make it. I’ve been around and I know star quality, and you don’t have it.”

J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected dozens of times. She was even advised by one agent to take a writing course!

When he submitted the now legendary book Moby Dick to an agent, Herman Melville was asked, “Does it have to be a whale?” (It did.)

Rudyard Kipling was told in a rejection letter, “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

So, you see, rejection isn’t even rejection most of the time – it’s just someone who doesn’t have the ability to recognize talent and should probably be doing something else for a living. Or it’s just that their agency has too many books like that already and doesn’t need another one. Or your submission landed in that agent’s email box when they were annoyed or preoccupied about something else. It’s not always about your work, and all you need to catapult you to that next level is one yes.

Sorry to get all Tony Robbins on you, but I received a rejection letter today and needed to remind myself why it doesn’t matter. I’ll still keep on doing what God put me here to do. I’ll still write even if nobody ever reads it. I’ll still devote my short life to something that inspires me and makes my heart beat faster and stronger. I’ll still do what I love. So that when I’m 95 and sitting by the fire, whether or not I reach the loftiest heights of my chosen path, I won’t have the regret of thinking I didn’t try hard enough, which is far worse and harder to live (and die) with than rejection.

Here’s a collection of rejection letters famous authors have received for now classic books. (And a few parodies.) Enjoy!

https://www.wiltgren.com/2016/10/31/12-rejection-letters-of-massively-popular-authors/

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All these books were rejected by agents/publishers who now hate themselves.

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Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 18 – The Rocket Pop

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Welcome to episode 18 of Messin’ with Mark! For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, let me tell you how it started . . .

When I was very young, Jesus was walking around in His heavenly area up there when he saw his Dad looking down through the clouds, laughing His head off. Curious, he walked over and asked, “What’s up, Pop?”

“Oh, just pranking that Mark kid again,” He replied.

Again?” Jesus asked, “Why are You always picking on him?”

I don’t know. There’s just something about him,” God said. “I mean, look at his face right now.”

Jesus looked down and started to chuckle, then stopped Himself. “Okay, I admit it’s kind of funny, but this is wrong. I mean, You created him. With all due respect, what kind of an example are you setting for the angels? We’re supposed to love and protect humanity, not single one out from all the rest for humiliation.”

God thought for a moment, then looked at Jesus and said, “You’re right. I should stop.” They looked at each other seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

Jesus suggested that he make a regular show of his pranks on me. They named it Messin’ with Mark. 

Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s bit about getting “no respect” from humans? It’s kind of like that, but on a cosmic level.

So, to today’s episode – The Rocket Pop.

It was a typical, blistering hot day in Los Angeles. I was employed as an insurance claims adjuster. And yes, it sucked. I was early for my appointment, sitting in my car on a street with no shade. It was such a bad neighborhood, even the trees had moved away. To make things even more enjoyable, the air-conditioning in my car had gone out. The sweat was lashing off me like someone had installed tiny faucets in every one of my pores. Then I saw him coming – the ice cream man.

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No celestial vision had ever been more dramatic. I crawled out of my car and flagged him down. 

I’ve always been a sucker for ice cream trucks. Who doesn’t have wonderful memories about them?

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I love the ice cream truck so much, I seriously considered becoming an ice cream man so I could be the purveyor of that perfect combination, joy and sugar. Writing is a lonely profession, but handing treats to tots isn’t lonely at all. The ice cream man is the hero of every street in America.

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I hadn’t bought anything from an ice cream truck for years so I was excited and nostalgic when I lined up with a bunch of kids and started to order my childhood usual – a Rocket Pop. 

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Some call it a Bomb Pop but I prefer Rocket Pop. Rockets are shot up into space for exploration. Bombs are dropped on people. The choice is obvious.

The only problem with the Rocket Pop is I enjoy the red (cherry) part and have to suffer through the white and blue parts when it’s gone. That’s when I saw it – the Bomb Pop JUNIOR! All cherry. No white and blue at all, just red cherry-flavored goodness. Yay!

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So I bought one, returned to the sauna (my car) and ate the living heck out of that Bomb Pop, Jr. I was like a bulldog gnawing on a bone. I finished it and was basking in the warm afterglow when I happened to glance at myself in the rear-view mirror. In a moment of pure horror, I was reminded that no part of the Rocket Pop, Bomb Pop, or any other pop is natural. No, it is saturated with RED DYE NUMBER 5. And so were my lips. 

This was turning into a real trip down Memory Lane! Another item came to mind from my childhood that was both novelty and candy – wax lips. 

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Yep, that’s what they looked like, and my appointment was just arriving, pulling into her driveway. She saw me and waved as she pulled in so it was too late to duck behind the dashboard. I grabbed a warm bottle of water, got out of the car, and splashed my face repeatedly but nothing worked. Nothing could make a dent in the red dye #5. In fact, the frantic rubbing only made the redness worse. I might as well have put on a fright wig and completed the clown outfit. 

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There was nothing left to do but face the music. I walked to the lady and extended my hand, hoping she had poor vision. She didn’t, and she wasn’t one for subtlety.

“What happened to your lips?” she asked, looking slightly frightened.

“I ate a Bomb Pop Junior,” I replied.

“Why did you call me Junior?” she asked.

“No, the thing I ate is called a Bomb Pop Junior,” I explained.

“Oh, well, whatever you ate, it sure painted you up,” she said, laughing unguardedly. 

I then had to conduct an inspection and take a recorded statement looking like Bozo the Clown, a statement that was interrupted repeatedly by her laughter. She would apologize every time, then do it again. By this point, I just didn’t care anymore. 

I said goodbye, got back into the sauna, and drove back to the office, being stared at by people who must have thought I was a drag queen with terrible make-up skills. 

Of course, this episode ended the way they all do – with me looking up at the sky, hearing faint laughter from somewhere above the clouds, and saying, “Well played, God. Well played.”

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Becoming My Father

I did two things for my father in the ten years or so before he passed away in December of 2014.

The first was to help him finish his memoir, The Other Belfast – An Irish Youth, and self-publish it so he could hold a real book in his hands and know the stories he told and wrote for forty years would finally be read by others around the world.

I’m proud to say I helped him accomplish that because his last five years on this earth were not good ones. He was whittled away to nothing mentally and physically by Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia until he couldn’t even remember me most of the time. This is his book.

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The second thing I did was dig up every old cassette I could find of his karaoke recordings and turn it into a CD with help from Rick Balentine – Composer (remixing) and Ryan Silo (cd design). I’m so glad I did because it’s a treasure to me now. Good Lord, could that man sing. If you like American standards, click on the link at the bottom of this post and have a listen to the song samples. Here’s his CD – 

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I named it “Get Rickerby Up For a Song!” because that’s what somebody would inevitably yell every time he was at the pub.

Every now and then, I mention his book and CD on some social platform because promoting his legacy helps ease the grief of losing him, particularly to diabolical brain diseases that leave only a shell of someone who was once full of passion, and the life of every party.

I remember listening to these old songs on the car radio for hours during long road trips and banging my head against the window hoping to knock myself out. (jk)  Now I love it, as my dad predicted I would, eventually. He tried to tell me the music I listened to when I was a teenager was garbage. and that someday I would come around and realize what real music was, but I refused to believe it. I’m pretty sure he’s laughing at me in heaven. I hope he’s still singing up there, too, because it was his greatest joy down here. 

A Plethora of Piñata’s

An interesting bit of synchronicity happened today.

The family and I were on the freeway and I was joking about that scene from Three Amigos when El Diablo picks on his friend for not knowing what the word “plethora” means after he tells him he has a plethora of piñata’s for his birthday party. A minute later, what rolls by – a plethora of piñata’s!

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Even though I’ve lived in Los Angeles all my life, a city with a large Hispanic population, I can never recall seeing a truckload of piñata’s like this before.

Is this mere coincidence, the law of attraction, or God’s sense of humor?

Here’s the scene from Three Amigos. Cracks me up every time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mTUmczVdik

This photo is titled The Last Ride – the final voyage for these unlucky (is there any other kind?) piñatas before getting the hell (okay, candy) beat out of them by a bunch of stick-wielding kids while bystanders laugh and cheer. Look at the fear in the eyes of the two on the left. 

For Haters of Rhyme

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I once spent a night in a cave at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. I had run out of money after six months of bouncing around Europe and the Greek islands and was waiting for my flight home in a few days. Because I was in my twenties, I was too naive to feel scared, but I did feel lonely that night. It’s hard not to in a dark cave, even with the city bursting with light and excitement. (It was a Saturday night.) There was even a hot air balloon festival not far away, so the night sky was filled with illuminated, multi-colored balloons. 

I had wandered through the city before going to the cave, attended a concert, had dinner, saw the Plaka (old section) one last time, but finally snuck under the chain link fence surrounding the Acropolis, snuck past the guards and their German Shepherds, laid out my sleeping bag in the cave, lit a candle, and started to fall asleep when I heard . . . bats. I tried to sleep anyway but the thought of waking up to one of them sucking on my jugular vein made sleep impossible. So I sat up again and took out a book of poetry that was so tattered from touring Europe with me, the pages were falling out. 

The book was called The Best-Loved Poems of the American People. Most of the poems rhymed because they were written by poets from the Romantic Period such as Longfellow, Dickinson, Byron, Keats, Shelley – the biggies. These poems made sense, had messages, and were perfectly constructed. I came to respect rhyming poetry because of them. Many of the answers to the greatest questions of life were in those poems. I wasn’t alone in that cave at all. They were with me. Their words sang, just as they did for the boys in Dead Poet’s Society in the cave they found on the school grounds. The words dripped from my tongue like honey. They helped me “suck the marrow out of life.”

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But not everyone has the same respect I developed for rhyming poetry. In fact, I recently posted a rhyming poem on Facebook and was told by someone that rhyme should be limited to lullabies and Hallmark cards. This person probably likes or at least respects the legendary poets above, but feels somehow that what they accomplished should no longer be attempted, and to do so, in her words is “stupid” (both writing rhymes and rhyming poetry.) Yes, stupid. She made this comment about a very serious poem I wrote (see my previous post called Journey to God) and a very silly poem called Yoga Makes Me Fart. Everyone got a kick out of it except . . . her. Both poems were deemed to be “stupid” by this self-proclaimed writer and connoisseur of the arts.

That’s another thing about pseudo-intellectuals. They think it’s low-brow to say words like “fart.” But a rhyme with a very long history, most notably by Roald Dahl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, goes –

A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.

So I like offending snobs. In fact, I enjoy it immensely. Normally, I would calmly discuss my reasons for enjoying and writing rhyming verse, but since this person decided to break out the S word, I decided to write a poem especially for her. Of course, it was a rhyming poem – you know, just to annoy her some more. Suffice to say the gloves were off. I don’t suffer the S word very well, I’m afraid, especially from someone with no literary accomplishments. Besides, rhyming poetry has been used to expose blowhards and nincompoops for centuries, too. It’s a fine tradition.

The fact is, I have no tolerance for someone with no discernible talent, someone who hasn’t faced and surmounted the struggles the acquisition of talent demands, yet somehow feels qualified to pass judgment on works of great passion by someone who has. If that sounds arrogant, so be it. A little arrogance can and should be wielded sometimes in life, but only when battling those who are arrogant with no foundation. The only thing I could find that she has written is a self-published book called Witless. You know, because Clueless was already taken. I’m not kidding. You can’t write this stuff.

I was also baffled by how someone can hate something as harmless as rhyming. Some people need to choose bigger causes for their lives. You know, ending world hunger and like that.

If she ever comes across this poem, her arrogance and self-delusion will probably lead her to conclude that she really got to me for me to write all this about her, like that old Carly Simon song You’re So Vain (you probably think this song is about you.) But, of course, it isn’t about her at all. It’s about art, expression, and smacking down anyone who attempts to suppress it in any of its forms. It must be done, but artfully. I laughed myself sick writing the poem below. I enjoyed it. And that’s the main purpose of art of any kind. Enjoyment. The subject of the poem probably won’t enjoy it quite so much.

So here’s a little nonsense. I hope it entertains. And if you start to feel sorry for the subject of the poem at any point, just remember, she deserved it.

The Ballad of Lucy Calhoun

This here is the ballad of Lucy Calhoun.
A bitter, cantankerous, mean, old buffoon.
What happened, you ask, to blacken her heart?
Poems that rhyme and people who fart.

“Rhyming is for lullabies!” she’d often say,
Unfazed that the masters all wrote that way.
No, rhyming of any kind gave her the fits.
Longfellow and Dickinson were a couple of twits. 

Until she suddenly woke up and saw the light
While suffering with the flu one night.
She sat up and, with a horrible start,
Let out a prize-winning, head-spinning fart.

It was so loud and mighty, it expelled a bug
That had lived there for decades, fat and snug.
It landed on the floor and let out a shriek.
Then Lucy passed out and slept for a week.

When she finally awoke, she walked to her table
And discovered that she too was finally able
To write flowing verse with heart and soul
Now that that insect was out of her hole.

Like the Grinch, her heart grew three sizes that day
And she vowed to forever write this new way
And stop driving everyone out of their wits
With babbling free verse that nobody gets.

Now that she had a bug-free rear end,
She said, “I’ll never again harass or offend.
Instead of being a jealous, hateful, old cow,
I’ll learn how to write, too, starting right now!”

And the poetry Grinch, forever-after,
Respected rhyme that rippled like laughter
And said, “Maybe I was dead wrong before.
Maybe rhyming poetry is a little bit more.”

And because her cold heart had unfurled,
She finally got published in the real world
The Romantic poets hadn’t gotten it wrong.
Her mediocrity was her greatest foe all along.

Thus ends the ballad of Lucy Calhoun.
A stern warning for egos that are over the moon.
Before calling the works of another the worst,
Prove yourself their intellectual equal first.

Journey to God (poem)

 

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I know most won’t read this because it is very, very, very long, so to the one or two who do, pat yourself on the back for not being afflicted with the A.D.D. the Internet has stricken 99% of the adult world with. I really opened a vein for it, so I think it will be worth your time. Thanks.

And to those who think a rhyming poem can’t be profound, please get out your Ouija board, contact Hank Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, Bob Frost and Billy Shakespeare (et al) and take it up with them. 

Journey to God

An old man passed away one night.
He’d had a good, long life.
and all that he regretted
was leaving his beautiful wife.

To others, her glory had faded
as the years had claimed their fee
but to him, she was just as lovely
as she was at twenty-three.

He saw his high school sweetheart
and remembered her sweet, shy smile.
He saw his bride in a gown of white
walking toward him down the aisle.

He saw her asleep in a hospital bed
as she cradled their newborn child.
He saw her quiet and thoughtful,
then passionate and wild.

He was so possessed by thoughts of her,
he hardly noticed he had passed.
He was still alive in spirit
and all his pain was gone at last.

He was surprised at how easy it was to die,
like shedding worn-out clothes
but even more to see himself below
as his spirit slowly rose.

He felt no urge or instinct
to return and get back in
for he knew the body on the bed
was never really him.

It was always just a vehicle,
now broken down and old.
What he’d walked around in all his life
was just a vehicle for his soul.

He had to laugh for, being dead,
he had never felt so great.
He couldn’t help but realize
this was a natural state.

Death was not the end of life,
just one more stanza in the poem.
It was not a sad departure
but a return to his true home.

But the cries of his dear wife
would not let him leave this plane.
He could not bear to leave her
while she was in such pain.

He saw her cry and hold him
as he lay still in their bed
and heard her whisper, “Rest, my love”
as he floated overhead.

He wanted to hold her and let her know
that he was free from pain.
He wished he could tell her not to cry
for they’d soon be together again.

But the wall between life and death
proved too thick and strong to breach.
The woman he’d held every day of his life,
for now, was out of reach.

So he cried, too, thinking of her
so frail and helpless there,
alone with his lifeless body
in the home they used to share.

Though at first he was elated
to be free of that painful shell,
he longed to return to tell her
that his soul was alive and well.

So as he floated like a feather
through the purple, misty air,
his sorrow and loneliness mounted
and he fell into despair.

When from far away, through the haze,
a strange melody reached his ears,
sung by a chorus of angels
to soothe and calm his fears.

He followed the voices, clear and sweet,
and could hardly believe the sight.
Radiant beings with glowing eyes
were guiding him toward the light!

“Do you remember me, John?” one of them asked,
“We were buddies in World War Two.”
“Do you remember me, John?” another voice called,
“You used to call me Grandpa Lou.”

“Hey, John! It’s me! Your brother, Joey!
I came here when you were ten.
I’ll bet you never thought
you would hear my voice again.”

This went on for hours and hours,
spirits wanting to say hello;
reunions with those he had loved so well
in the world and the life below.

His emotions were tossed seeing those he had lost
in the maelstrom of earthly life
where often the good are taken too soon
and heartache and sorrow is rife.

But there were two others he struggled to see
till he finally grew panicked and sad.
He said, “Wait a minute! Somebody tell me –
where are my mom and my dad?”

His brother whispered, “John, don’t worry.
They’re here and they’re happy you came.”
Then he saw them, bathed in golden light,
and their faces were just the same.

He cried with joy as he hugged them and said,
“Oh, I have missed you so.”
For years, he wished he could see them again.
Now, he could not let them go.

He was happy to hold them, to look in their eyes,
and laugh as they had before.
He was relieved that death is no different from life.
There’s just no pain anymore.

He told them he’d grown to appreciate
all that they’d done and said,
and as nice as it was to tell them now,
wished he’d told them in life instead.

But like most, he denied the fact of death
and refused to believe they could die.
He never allowed it to enter his mind
as the months and the years flew by.

Till he found himself standing beside their graves
and it finally sank in they were gone.
He was angry at God who allowed death to be.
It all seemed so senseless and wrong.

“Why are we given these feelings?” he had cried,
“And love that grows deeper with time?
If we’re bound to lose it all in the end,
then creating this world was a crime.”

And just the way he had wished
he could soothe his wife’s dismay,
his parents heard his anguished cry
and wished the same that day.

For they had already found their way home
to the fountain from which we all spring.
They had freed themselves of their mortal shells
and their souls had taken wing.

Now here he was, with them again,
and his joy could not be contained.
If only he’d known death was only a door,
his faith would never have waned.

“If you want to swim in the ocean,” they said,
“Just think it and you will be there.
Your body can’t slow you down anymore.
You’re as light and free as the air.”

“Remember those Sunday’s down by the sea?
Those summers that seemed without end?
Just close your eyes and imagine that time
and we’ll all be back there again!”

But he worried that God would not let him stay
and that all this was too good to last.
He feared that he would be banished
for his faltering faith in the past.

But his family and friends just smiled and said,
“John, you have nothing to fear.
A few things they said about heaven down there
are far from the truth up here.”

They said you had to go to church
for God to hear your prayer
but God can hear the softest whisper
anytime and anywhere.

You search for Christ was constant.
You fought for your faith since birth.
And the kindness you always showed in life
is the sole measure of anyone’s worth.

God doesn’t demand blind submission
or condemn you for questions or doubts.
It’s men that said God was vengeful,
a dictator who bullies and shouts.

You thought you needed pure faith
or God wouldn’t hear your call
but the times God tried to help you most
were when you had no faith at all.

You thought that sins were punished
with torture and endless pain
but the threat of hell is not for God
but for the church’s gain.

We don’t need a hell to burn in
or a devil to torture our minds.
Judgment takes place in our conscience
when we’re shown God’s vast design.

It’s not only the enemy of man
who compels us to do wrong.
Good and bad are side by side
within us, all along.

It all comes down to choices –
light or dark, right or wrong,
and they make or break our happiness
in life below and life beyond.

Every sin comes back to haunt us,
no matter how big or how small
and the pain we caused in earthly life
returns to us, after all.

We each have our own individual hell
and a battle none but us can fight.
Millions of souls are still spinning out there,
trapped in perpetual night.

For until they cure their own blindness,
in darkness their souls will bide.
God doesn’t force us to come back home
but patiently calls us inside.

Some men look at evil
and label it “God’s will”
but God gave life, and death for rest.
Only men can kill.

And some say God is dead
or he was never really there.
How else, they ask, can one explain
so many unanswered prayers?

How else can one explain
the pain and horror on the earth?
This has been the central question
since the dawn of mankind’s birth.

But like a mortal parent,
raising a baby all alone,
God did his best to teach us
then left us on our own.

And like a meddling father
who a child would push away,
God can’t live our lives for us
and he can’t cushion the way.

To take every hint of pain from life
would remove our right to choose.
If you really stop to think it through,
we’d gain less than we’d lose.

Some see the misery of human life
and ask God what it means
but the only way He could end it
would be to make us all machines.

So God does not stop evil,
though it hurts Him to let it be.
He can’t both rule with an iron hand
and allow us to be free.

The place that folks call “hell”
where sinners meet their fate
is distance from the light of God
and time to contemplate.

For once you feel God’s presence,
all your pain and sorrows cease.
All your questions then are answered
and your heart is filled with peace.

Men bent the words of Jesus
To control the multitude.
They took his divine message
and made it low and crude.

Men have always struggled for power,
from the caves to the streets of L.A.
Why wouldn’t they twist the word of God
and tell us we need them to pray?

The ring kissing, Hail Mary’s, and rosary beads,
right down to the Pope’s princely nod,
at best, is only good theater,
a bureaucracy between man and God.

You see, God is not some tyrant
who needs a chain of command.
You find God in the eyes of the aged
and in a baby’s hand.

You find God in a sunset
so pretty it makes you cry.
You find God in every warm embrace
and in a lover’s sigh.

You find God in generosity,
and in the meek and mild.
You find God in any gentle soul
who kneels to help a child.

You find God in the soft, pink light
when a new day has begun
and in the flower by the window
as it opens to the sun.

And yes, you find God in the dying
as the light fades in their eyes
and their spirit slowly slips away
to its true home in the skies.

God is in every one of us.
We can feel it when we’re young.
Then we’re snatched up by the world
and into the fray we’re flung.

We grow cynical and weary
and forget all that we once knew
when the peace and joy God gave us
has lost its native hue.

Oh, if only they knew, John! If only they knew!
What a wonderful world they might win
if they could only see past their differences
to the spirit that dwells within.”

He was shocked by these new revelations.
His mind spun around and around.
The chains that tethered his spirit in life
Lay shattered in pieces on the ground.

His parents said, “Welcome to heaven.”
He felt a peace he never thought he would know
and though his mortal life had just ended,
it seemed like a long time ago.

Then a hush fell all through the firmament.
Impossible colors filled the air, far and near.
His peace grew so deep, he sobbed out loud
and his mother whispered, “Look! God is here!”

– Mark Rickerby

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“Happiness” in 2018

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So here we are again, awash in resolutions, but what all self-improvement boils down to is the desire to be happy, right? And even if we did achieve that perfect state of mind, who’s to say it would stick around? Would the realization of one goal only give rise to another? Would the “there” we’re dreaming of now be replaced by another “there” the second we reach it? Isn’t that what has been happening for most of us so far? 

I spent most of my adult life waiting for happiness like UPS was going to deliver it. I kept waiting for it as if money or fame or someone else could make happiness come and stay permanently. Then I realized this is it, right now, as I washed the sink, or changed the baby, or resented someone for some insult in the distant past. This is it. Happiness was actually waiting for me, to make a choice, or continue not to, which is the same thing.

I learned that happiness is a choice, regardless of how much I have or don’t have. I must choose it for myself and defend it righteously when someone tries to destroy it (and they do – misery really does love company.)

But the irony is the happier I am, the more likely I am to achieve the things I want. Self-pity is never rewarded. The universe ignores it and I’m pretty sure it annoys God because He’s aware of all the effort that goes into being depressed and cynical – the adopting of the slouching posture, the ignoring of everything good (and free) around me at any given moment, the refusal to even begin to pursue the achievement that’s possible with even a minimal amount of effort. It’s hard work to be depressed. It takes effort to fail. I know. I set my own expectations of myself too low for years. My problem now is choosing which inspiration to pursue. And inspiration is everywhere. 

I can be a supernova exploding in all directions, or a dying star. It’s my choice. 

I tell my daughters who they are and will be is a choice they make every day and recommit to from moment to moment. Asking the right questions determines destiny –

Am I going to be happy or sad?

Am I going to be nice or mean?

Am I going to be healthy or sick?

Am I going to be decent or indecent?

Am I going to be smart or stupid?

How do I behave when nobody sees?

Not choosing is choosing. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Not choosing is resigning oneself to being a cork on the ocean, tossed about by the caprices of wind and current. 

So good luck with your resolutions, and asking yourself the right questions. Choosing the right answers requires a lot of trust – mainly that good things happen to good people. All one must do to see the opposite is turn on the news at night – it’s full of the chaos that fills the lives of those who never bother to ask themselves the right questions, or willfully choose the wrong answer. In fact, this post is probably wasted because it’s being read by bloggers, a generally enlightened bunch who don’t really need to read any of this.

Anyway, in case someone who might otherwise be robbing someone at an ATM, knocking over a liquor store, or just generally treating people like dirt happens to be reading this right now, as the guardian knight in Indiana Jones said . . .

choose-wisely

Yoga Makes Me Fart (a poem)

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Okay, this didn’t really happen to me, but I can’t say this really didn’t happen to me or it will sound like I’m lying and it did really happen to me, so I just won’t say anything at all. Oops, wait.

I thought this was a very original poem but after researching it a bit when I was finished writing it, it turns out farting in yoga class is kind of a thing. Who knew? I’ll share the product of my research with you at the end of the poem.

I took one yoga class many years ago and – well, let’s just say it didn’t go well. Again, fart suppression wasn’t the problem. I’m just not very bendy, which is surprising since the bendable Gumby and Pokey figures were my favorite toys as a child.

My next worry was that writing and posting a poem about farting would destroy my sophisticated reputation. I shared this worry with my wife. Her laughter (not at the poem – at my fantasy about anyone thinking I’m sophisticated) encouraged me to forge ahead. 

Anyway, all you yoga farters, ashamed or shameless, I hope it gives you a laugh.

Yoga Makes Me Fart

Well the misses and I,
We were growing apart
So I joined her yoga class
Cuz it’s dear to her heart
But I couldn’t bend that way
At least not at the start
And to make matters worse
Yoga makes me fart.

Yep, yoga makes me fart.
It makes me cut the cheese.
The yoga teacher got mad and said
“Just wait outside, please.”
I tried to show my sweetie
Just how much I care
But instead I left her yoga pals
Dying in there

If you’ve never done it,
Man, don’t ever start.
Yoga makes me fart.

Talk about your silent rides home.
I said sorry but she said, “Just leave me alone.
You did that on purpose,
Don’t you think I know?
If you didn’t want to do it,
You should have just said so!”

So I changed the subject and asked,
“How’d the rest of the class go?”
She said, “We had to put the windows down
and it’s twenty-five below!
But it didn’t help at all,
you big, flatulent schmoe!
It just smelled like somebody
Took a big dump in the snow!”

They all seemed so nice,
So enlightened and clever
So you can imagine my surprise
when they banned me forever.
They all seemed so peaceful,
At least at the start.
But what can I say?
Yoga makes me fart.

Yeah, yoga makes me fart.
The big, wet, slappy kind.
I made all them spiritual folks
go plum out their minds.
If you’ve never done it,
Brother, don’t ever start.
What can I say?
Yoga makes me fart.

 

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