The Cycles of Life

The Danish Christian philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, was once quoted as saying that life is lived forward but understood backward. I can attest to that in my own life. Perhaps if one practiced the art of mindfulness more, this would not be a necessary truth. In the Buddhist tradition, if one is truly mindful, one is, or one has, completely trained the mind to be in the fullness of each moment. No easy task to say the least but it is possible, and in the words of Hamlet, “… a consummation devoutly to be wished….”
An illustration of this might be that let us say that one is washing dishes. While washing dishes, the mind is focused on the task at hand. Not thinking about what one has to do next or what one did not do in the past, or what one will wear to work the following day, etc. Just washing the dishes. The temperature of the water. The motion of scrubbing the plate, the clanging sound of one dish hitting another, The rhythm of the breath while washing the dishes, etc. The act of washing dishes may simply be viewed as a form mediation in and of itself.
It seems in this way, if one is in the moment fully, the lessons of the moment can be comprehended then and there and not when one has the luxury of hindsight, or because one’s mind is all over the place. These are just my own personal speculations on the subject.
Regarding the cycles of one’s life, it would seem to me that if one accepts that life experience, the living of one’s life is, like history itself, is not linear but cyclical, what goes around actually does come around, and that if we are conscious of this, then we are different persons as the cycles reappear—hopefully. In this way we all actually do get second chances to act or react to the situations that come our way in different and perhaps more creative ways.
I can only speak for myself obviously, but what is most frustrating to me is not that I make a mistake in a situation, but when I make the same mistake time and time again, each time that life brings the same lesson to me. This is where I get the most triggered. However, it would also appear to me, that the act of patience and forgiveness, with myself as well as others, is always a prime lesson in the cycles of my life.

Peace to you all,

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Extraterestrial Healing & Independence Day, July 4th, 2013

Its been awhile since my last posting and its been a helluva 18 month journey. I had lost my job at a hospital here in the Mountains of Western, N.C. in March of 2012. My mom had stage 3 colon cancer last Fall, only after being diagnosed with breast cancer during the spring of the same year, 2012. She is cancer free as of this writing.
My dad died in January of 2013 after an 8 year bout with pancreatic cancer. Unheard of. Not dying from pancreatic cancer, but living that long with it. He had what is known as a “whipple surgery,” which if done in time, can actually prolong the patient’s life, along with the quality of that life–IF CAUGHT IN TIME!!!
My dad was fortunate. He was still driving around in his car and engaged in life until the last 3 months or so before he died. His mental attitude was crucial to his surviving that long as well, for my dad was not a particularly religious person. Never was. He and I had no unfinished business together and so we had a wonderful relationship throughout our journey together.
I know this is beginning to sound like an old blues tune or country western song, but then my wife and I split up. I move out on Good Friday, with all of the symbolism the day conjures up. Yes, we now are talking about reconciling and I really want this to happen, but the stress of travelling to NY to bury my dad, knowing that when I returned to the South I was moving out of the house we had lived in for 8 years, well….
Not to mention that I am still attempting to find a publisher for my book, Amazon is still stressing me, man, all of this was just sooooooooooo frustrating to say the least.
So what happened next? I developed a blood clot in my left leg ( I say it was stress induced as I have no history of clotting and neither does anyone in my family) that was as long as the leg itself.
I didn’t know the symptoms except that it was extremely painful. I thought I had pulled a muscle of something. Deep Vein Thrombosis is the medical term for it and it usually occurs after surgery of some sort. I have not had surgery of any sort. I had not travelled on an airplane for over 3 hours or driven long distances at the time of diagnosis. Nothing.
Anyway, I am on Coumadin until the third week in September which will be 6 months.
Needless to say, if a piece of this clot had broken off and travelled to my lung, heart, or what is left of my brain, my day would have been ruined. And yet in hindsight it came at just the right time. First of all, I never really felt that it was my time to die, but that may have been my delusional self telling me that I was somehow unique or special and death surely knew who I was and that it was not good to mess with me.
But I did not really feel that it was my time yet. I really felt watched over. Someone needed to get my attention.
Nevertheless, the timing was right because up until that time I was arguing and angry with my wife for wanting to separate from me. We have a daughter and I felt that there were other ways to work things out.
I won’t get into the details and this is not the way I would have handled the situation, but honestly, I must say that the space has done me some good, and she says it has helped her as well. We date often and vacationed together this summer and it has given me fresh eyes. I cannot speak for her but I would say that she would agree to an extent. And why not? She started this mess….( smile).
We do love each other and the blood clot made me realize that either we get it together or we will lose each other, and I simply don’t want that to happen.
In the meantime, our daughter thinks we’re really not separated because she always sees us together so things are working out.
But back to the story. My legs are really ostrich like in shape and size, and when I had the clot, my left leg was the size of LeBron James’ leg. It was heavily swollen and it really, really, hurt. The docs had me injecting myself for 10 days in my abdomen with a blood thinner called enoxoparin before prescribing the Coumadin. That was fun. Sticking a spike into my stomach twice a day, waiting for the clots to dissolve. I highly recommend it. Eventually, one runs out of places to inject oneself but don’t let that stop you. Especially, if you have nothing else to live for. Just joking, and the drugs did save my life but the swelling was slow to go down. In fact it never really did subside completely and then the docs said that if the swelling did go down in six months that I may have permanent damage to my veins and that I would just have to live with it. Nice.
My wife said I had “muffin legs.” It looked as if I was holding fluid or something in my right leg.
And then it happened! Let me say on the outset that I have not had a visit from my friends for several years that I can recall. I’m not talking about visits in the dream state, but a face to face meeting.
On July 4th, at 9:49 pm I had my visit. It had been a rainy day and the fireworks that my wife and daughter like to see were cancelled that evening, and so I left them and when home. I live only 20 minutes away in my small but cozy apartment.
I was listening to the thunder and lying on my stomach. I recall thinking that this is what my friends who served in Vietnam must have tried to sleep through as it really sounded to me like a war zone outside.
Then all was eriely quiet and I heard my cell phone beep, which was a weird sound that I had not heard it make before. Suddenly, I felt this electrical energy in the back of my head and torso. There were three or four of what I can only recall as “zapping sounds,’ zzzzzp, zzzzzzzp, zzzzzzzzp, zzzzzzzzzp, and when I turned over a little person with and oversized skull just vanished as if the molecules of his/her body dissolved!!!
This is how they began their visits with me years before. I immediately noted the time ( 9:49 pm) and called my contactee support group leader in New York—no answer. I then called a friend who used to be in the support group with me and she talked to me for an hour or so. I had so much energy I thought I could fly.
The next day, I looked at my leg and the swelling had gone and my leg was healed! I showed my wife and daughter and they witnessed it as well. My right legged looked as if the veins had been somehow reworked and wrapped around my angle, shin, and leg up to the knee. Beautiful work! I thanked my ET friends and I am so very grateful.
The only problem was that when I visited my doctors for my blood work, they could not understand why my blood levels had dropped with the blood thinner. That was there main concern, not the healing of the leg and of course I am not telling them anything, unless of course they read this blog. My last two blood work ups have not been satisfactory for them.
The result is that they have raised my dosage until we meet again on the 5th of August. I really don’t blame them. They do what they do and they want me to recover. Yes, I’ll have to muddle through with these meds until early Fall but I’ll be fine. But what a wonderful gift on Independence Day no less, and I consider it a wonderful birthday present as well. I was born on July 9th.
It may not be what Marvin Gaye had in mind, but for me, ET healing can be just as good!

Peace to all,

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Labor Day

Pretty mellow day today. Nice to have a long weekend and to spend some time with family. Thank goodness for the proof reading skills of my lovely wife as I have now completed a (second) revised Foreward to the 2nd edition of my book as well as completing a chapter on UFOs in Islam. I have submitted it to my publicist and will see what transpires.
Back to work at church tomorrow. Looking forward to it!

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New Foreward for 2nd Edition of my Book

I have spent a good part of today writing a new Foreward for the second edtition of my book in addtion to writing a new chapter on UFOs in the Koran. Stay tuned as I am still on the hunt for a publisher for a hard cover edtion, hopefully by fall of 2013.

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First day of office hours at church

Wonderful day yesterday, August 29th. Had a productive meeting with my ministerial transition team. They are a really dyanmic and supportive group who really believe in the church and what we are attempting to achieve.
I also had a chance to do some pastoral counciling during the day and a delicious lunch was prepared for us by some members of the church using the leftovers from Sunday potluck which tasted even better the second time around.
I am looking forward to getting back to work in the office this Friday!

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New ministerial position in Black Mountain, NC

Yesterday was my first day as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Swananoa Valley. We had a wonderful intergenerational service to celebrate and affirm our generational diversity within our congregation and community.
Afterwards, a wonderful potluck meal was served with delicious food and deserts. I have been in the ministry for 18 years and August 26th, 2012 was a most memorable day (aside from my ordinations) indeed. I stand on the shoulders of many people who believed in me and supported me on this journey. For their guidance and support I am ever grateful.
In the words of the prolific Theologian Howard Thurman, “they have placed a crown above my head that I will struggle to grow tall enough to wear.”
Thanks be to God….

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An Idea Whose Time Has Come….

I finally got my book published as an e-book on December 26th, 2011. The small publisher from Arizona who decided to work with me back in 2005 decided to retire leaving me with the always nagging human question of “what now?”. My wife Judy assisted me in re-editing the book as my first publisher did not do the greatest job in making the book flow as smoothly as it could.
There was also the fact that now the book would not be out in a hard copy. Now I must admit that I really do like the feel of going into a bookstore and coming out with a hard cover book in my hand. For me it just feels good. But for now at least it appears that electronic books are the way to go for me until I find a publisher.
The book is entitled,”Alien Scriptures;Extraterrestrials In The Holy Bible”. The book is a compilation of my personal experiences on the subject along with my Master’s Thesis in Divinity Studies. An appearance on the History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens” helped a bit with the sales and for that I am ever grateful. When I initially began writing and speaking about this topic a mere 17 years ago, one’s mental sanity and reputation would have been called into question.
Yet today our culture is saturated with the idea that not only are we not alone in the universe, but that maybe, just maybe our own government is lying to us about not only about the reality of ET life but that we have even made contact with that life! Times do indeed change, and Goethe’s statement that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come is a powerful testament indeed.
In the meantime I encourage all of my fellow human beings to “keep looking up”. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to buy the book!
You may purchase the kindle book on Amazon!
Or the NOOK Book @ Barnes&Noble!

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The Unexpected Call….A Short Story 1.6.12

The Unexpected Call
“Hello, may I help you?” I had just moved into my new office at the hospital and was still getting myself situated. “This is Glenda.” How are you? I asked, not really wanting to talk at the moment. “ I need you to do me a really big favor”. The voice sounded so weak and fragile over the phone my initial reaction was. Uh Oh. “What can I do for you?” I said, thinking at the same time what am I getting myself into?
Back in May Glenda was referred to me by someone about a possible job connection at the hospital. Hiring nor firing are in my job description but we set up a meeting a few days afterwards to meet. There are so few people of color who are professionals here in town so I wanted to at least reach out to her and perhaps be of some kind of service if I could.
Glenda is an African American woman, late 50ish, with a perfectly shaped skull and close cropped hair, with a deep chocolate brown complextion. She wears thick black rimmed glasses and has the look of a scholar. She is very well educated and is careful to pronounce her sentences with near perfect diction. Her mental energy is formidable, and her smile lights up her face like the way light blinds one when one first awakens from a deep sleep. There is a very pleasant aura about her.
We’ve only spoken two or three times since we met back in May and so I’m thinking this is a bit early to begin asking for “big favors.” I am also a wee bit embarrassed and ashamed by my thought process.
“My dad died over the weekend and I was wondering if you would say a few words for him. He’s going to be cremated and it’s very informal.” Her voice was cracking as she spoke. ‘What time are we talking?” Around 1pm was the reply. I had a meeting until 1:30 pm but she said she would work around my schedule. We agreed to meet in front of the hospital at 2pm as her daughter would be accompanying her as well. She had traveled from Washington, DC.
I was so glad Glenda picked me up as I would never have found the funeral parlor. The lapis blue PT Cruiser pulled up in front of the hospital and fortunately I had grabbed my Unitarian Christian Book of Common Prayer ( I used this book back in my UU Christian days and never got rid of it) thinking surely something will be appropriate in this book for the occasion. I would later discover that I would not need it. I also called Glenda back to inquire if her dad was indeed a Christian. Her reply was yes he is.
I gathered brief snippets of information about her father and she provided them readily. His name was Martin. Awkwardly I explained why I inquired earlier during the ride over about his religious beliefs. I explained that I simply wanted to have the appropriate religious material on hand and she assured me that she had understood. I inquired how he died and she just said his heart gave out. Glenda also confessed that her father was more “spiritual than religious.” This statement somehow gave me a feeling of relief. Although I am not a Christian I would have use whatever material she requested that would make she and her daughter comfortable. For more orthodox Christians this type of phrasing of religion and spirituality can seem harsh and biting, but there are times when there is a difference between the two perspectives. Religion can at times become religiousity and spirituality can become just another way of not dealing with life and feeling superior to more traditional religious beliefs. But this was not the case and I understood her perfectly, for she was describing myself as well.
Her father was a musician who had learned to play the trumpet as a young man and felt that piano playing was a bit too sissy. Even with geniuses like Basie and Ellington around at the time?, I asked. Yes, she replied. Martin was from Eastern North Carolina. He loved jazz, enjoyed reading the daily newspaper, loved to talk politics, served in our nation’s armed forces during the 2nd world war, and loved his daughter and grand-daughter.
Glenda did not go into too much detail when I initially inquired if she and her father had been close. She said that they were but she had some “forgiving” to do. Ah, family dynamics and relationships I thought. Difficult and trying at best. Toxic at worst. The pain in her voice was palpable though she smiled in spite of herself. She stated frankly that her dad never really believed he was loved. Ever. I could not help but think, and I recall that I had even made the remark that if one cannot except love one cannot really give it. Was that too forward? The sentence was already out of my mouth. She briefly nodded and mumbled, “yeah”.
During the car ride, her daughter, Inetta, was quiet. We introduced ourselves earlier and we noted that at one time she was also a Diversity and Inclusion Officer for an institution. This is the same position I now hold at the hospital. Inetta’s facial features reminded me of producer, director, Spike Lee, only much more feminine looking. She had her hair in one medium size braid that reached just beyond the crown of her head with a very pronounced widows peak. Her eyes were sharp and she had the same intellectual energy that I felt from her mom with eyes that gazed out from heavy looking eye lids which gave one the impression either that she was ready for sleep or had just woke up . She wore the same 1950’s looking thick black framed glasses as did her mom, and she was extremely thin, with a long flowing sky blue skirt, a blue denim wrangler jacket, with a silk paisley scarf around her neck which accentuated her skin which was more the color of caramel chocolate. I have always loved the colors of my people.
I made small talk while I tried to recall two poems for the occasion. One poem entitled, Dear Lovely Death, by Langston Hughes, and another called, If I should Go While You’re Still Here. They are both personal favorites of mine. I jotted them both down on a piece of scrap paper as we drove along.
After awhile we arrived at the funeral/cremation parlor. The air is crisp, cloudy, and cool. The leaves were orange, yellow, brown, and red, and they shimmied as the breeze rustled through the trees. I love this time of year in these mountains. There is something about an overcast sky in the autumn that holds me in awe when I gaze upward.
We enter the building which is sparsely decorated as far as furniture goes, and say hello a three times but no one answers. Glenda excuses herself to go to the ladies room while Inetta and I look around. I begin to peruse the literature about cremation. I have talked with my wife about my being cremated instead of having a large funeral (and yes, it is a bit presumptuous of me to assume that my funeral would be well attended) which would only create an even bigger expense for her when I died. That is to say if I go while she’s still here. When I mentioned the idea to my mother about my possibly being cremated when my time comes she may it quite clear that she found the idea distasteful.
At this time we are still waiting for someone, anyone to assist us, when as if on cue a bald white gentleman enters the room. He is wearing the solemn, weary look of someone who has been doing this kind of work for centuries. His face appeared pinched almost as though he had caught himself in his zipper while in the bathroom. Despite this look, Inetta and I shake his hands, and at that moment Glenda comes out of the ladies room , smiles, and shakes his hands as well, explaining that hers were not quite dry.
There is some personal business that they need to talk over regarding money and G.I.Benefits and so I offer to wait while they go into his office to talk. It’s been awhile since I have been in funeral parlor. In a previous life I had been a chaplain (for the same hospital before I became Mr. Diversity, as my Masters Degree is in Divinity Studies) I routinely escorted families to see their deceased loved ones in a room provided by the hospital for such a time as this. Yet the last time I was in a funeral parlor was when my brother was murdered 16 years ago.
I also began to acknowledge the seeming randomness of life and how events can take shape. Just a few hours ago I was sitting in my new office wondering about what the next phase of my job would entail and I get a call from someone I had not spoken to in months, requesting that me of all people, would be the one to speak at her dad’s funeral. Needless, to say I was honored and I even told Glenda so. One just never knows where the journey will take you. My whole day had change because of this unexpected call.
The door opened and Glenda, Inetta, and the parlor director exited and made a bee line to another room where the body was lying in state. The room was typical of these types of viewing rooms, with rows of wooden folding chairs lined up and an isle down the middle. Old time Baptist hymn music was piped in and I could not help humming and then singing along as these were the hymns I had grown up with as a child. As I an adult I have long since moved on from the theology these songs express and yet even after all these years they were so comforting to hear.
I held back as Glenda and Inett approached the coffin. Glenda had already begun to cry. I gently placed my hand in the small of her back as she gazed down at her father lying there as I gently whispered for her to let it out. My heart went out to her. Yes it is the natural order of things (most of the time)for a child to out the parent. I say most of the time for my brother was murdered back in 1995 and my parents live every day with that wound. I watched as Inett made the sign of the cross and would not look up from her father’s serene expression.
He was dressed in a dark blue suit and his hair and beard were a lovely silver. The corners of his mouth were turned down and their appeared in my view a certain sadness in the expression, as if a burden reluctantly yet out of necessity has been laid to rest.
As I was gazing at the body in the coffin, Glenda reached into the huge shoulder bag and began pulling out photographs, a newspaper, some yellow tulips that I had forgotten she had brought along, and various personal items belonging to her dad. She placed them all in the coffin with him, touchingly telling what she was leaving with him and why. It was like witnessing ancient Egyptian custom of bringing articles for the deceased to take with them on their journey to the afterlife, which is in fact exactly what it was. I exchanged rings with my brother before they closed the coffin on him at his funeral.
There were family photos, photos of him in Europe with an all African American unit during the war, photos of Glenda and Inette when they were all younger with bright smiles beaming from ear to ear. I noticed that there was only one picture of Martin and his wife. I did not feel that it was may place to bring this up and so I just kept my mouth shut, yet I was curious. Why wasn’t his wife here?
After Glenda explained why she had brought the last item for him to take on his journey it just felt like the time for me to begin my homily. I just jumped into the silence but so as not to be intrusive and this felt like the right time. I spoke about the brevity and ironies of life. The courage ti took to live it and the love of family and friends.
I recited both poems and wished Martin well on his journey. Afterwards I sat down while they stayed for a few moments at the coffin. Glenda told her dad that she was leaving now and gave him one long kiss on his forehead. The tears were really flowing now and then Glenda and Inette turned and walked away as if ready to leave. I asked Glenda if she was really ready to go, if she wanted to give him one last kiss and say goodbye. She replied, “I don’t think I can do it again”. I suggested that she try one more time and she did go over and kiss him again and said “goodbye daddy, I love you”.

As we said goodbye to the funeral director Glenda and Inette invited me to lunch. I initially refused but did give in to the offer and the lunch was indeed tasty. We had cornbread, collard greens, cabbage, smoked potato salad , smoked pork, smoked chicken, and spare ribs. This is not a part of my regular diet but once in awhile it sure hits the spot. My companions chose the sweet tea with jokes about getting diabetes from the beverage. We all laughed as I chose a glass of water.
On the way to the car I did build up the courage to inquire of Glenda why her father’s wife did not come. She told me that her step mother did not want to come as she felt he would be better off being buried in Washington D.C. because afterall, that is where they lived.But Glenda had the body sent here so he could be buried at “home” which she says was what he wanted in the first place. Family dynamics again.
Afterwards, as goodbyes were being said, Glenda handed me an envelope and told me not to say anything but just except it. She told me that she knew I was the one to do this and that she knew that I would be available. I thanked her again as she dropped me off back at work and we hugged and said that we would be in touch soon.
When I arrived back to my office I opened the envelope and discovered that Glenda had already written a thank you to me which emphasized to me that she did indeed know that I would be available today to answer her request. Talk about faith in claiming what you need. She wrote;
“Dearest Michael,
I’ve always said that sometimes the reason that you meet someone isn’t for the reason that you think. Thank you so much for helping my daughter and I to say our final goodbyes to our father/grandfather. It really means so very much to us. Had you met my father while he was alive I think that the two of you would have become fast friends. I am sorry that you won’t have the opportunity. Yet, I do believe that his spirit will be smiling among us.”
With deepest appreciation,
Glenda, and Inetta
I smiledto myself as I glanced at the business card I had taken from the funeral parlor.

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The Limits of Critical Thinking

Psychologist B.F. Skinner once said that, “Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten”. T.S. Elliott asks, ‘Where is the wisdom lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge lost in wisdom? Our postmodern information culture forces us to become overly cerebral, but it really doesn’t teach us to think, much less to feel for that matter. So now the question really becomes— How are we educating our children?

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What’s In a Name?

Perhaps the small town of Kewaunee, Wisconsin can answer the above query. A town of only 2,745 people have decided to change the name of the local High School Football Team. Under a new state law whose purpose is to eliminate race based nick names, mascots, and logos, the Kewaunee School District has decided to drop the name, “Indians” which had been in use since 1936.

No easy tasks as old habits die hard and normally the only people who welcome change are babies with wet diapers.  To help things along, students and community residents were asked to come up with other suggestions. This law is the first of its kind and it allows school district communities to make complaints about race based names that may be considered offensive. Districts can debate that a name isn’t discriminatory with a tribe’s approval. One can only wonder this was not thought of initially. Back in 2005, the NCAA prohibited the use of First Nation’s Peoples nicknames, mascots, and imagery during championship events.  Wisconsin’s law is the first of its kind.

Right here in Asheville, Mr. Monroe Gilmore, who is the coordinator of The North Carolina Mascot Education & Action Group (NCMEAG) is attempting to raise the consciousness of our community regarding “Indian” mascots.  NCMEAG is a project of Western North Carolina Citizens for and End to Institutional  Bigotry, also known as (WNCCEIB). Mr. Gilmore admits to growing up a Redskins fan ( no huge crime, especially since they are playing well this season thus far) and not really thinking about the subject until local First Nations people complained about a mascot in one of the local schools back in 1996. The question posed was, how can you say you honoring me when I don’t feel honored? Many of us don’t think about these things because they are part of the air we breathe in our society.

That said, now that we do know because these issues are being raised, what excuse do we have?  And yes, there are Native Americans who don’t mind the names or mascots and their may always be.  I wonder how long this would last if it were about an African American Mascot?  How long? Not long!

Thanks to Mr. Gilmore and others, 36 schools around the state of North Carolina have retired their “Indian Mascots” since 2002. Great work Monroe Gilmore. Somebody’s listening.

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