About Poverty… A Very Personal Story

RJs Autobiography BannerThis is going to be one of those posts that wrenches my heart. It was one of the most tragic days of my life.  When my mother abandoned my father leaving him with two very young boys  we changed from a two-income family to one very low payed bread winner who struggled daily to make ends meet.

Dad was never much of the communicator so he tried to shield us from all the problems he faced just getting by day-to-day. He never talked about his constant troubles with money and being so young I never realized what he faced in that or other areas until years later. I guess I was just too busy being a kid.

He was always there for us, if not in words, certainly in actions. He managed to find enough money to get us our school books and a couple of pairs of new jeans for each coming school year.  I, like most kids I guess, looked up to him as being a hero albeit a silent one. He never spent anything on himself. His hobby seemed to be to take all the attachments off the vacuum cleaner and to use just the nozzle to vacuum the entire carpet in our rented houses. He spent hours doing that.

2015-12-28_11-03-06Dad got paid on Thursday’s so that was the day to fill up the tank of the car for the coming week and to do the grocery shopping. He usually did the shopping on his way home but one time for whatever reason my brother and I went with him.  We left dad and just cruised the isles to see all the good stuff. When I finally went to find him he was in the meat department and was stuffing pork chops into his shirt!!  I simply couldn’t understand why he was stealing!! It devastated me to even think of my dad as a thief but there it was.  In that instant he was no longer the super-hero I thought him to be.. I was devastated…

I never told him about seeing this incident but I also never went with him again to a grocery store.   It was not until several year later that I realized that it was either shoplift or go without a substantial part of our diet. Like many in similar circumstances he was just too proud to ask for help so he saw shoplifting as his only solution.  As I grew older I came to realize just how poor we really were during those years.  I liked to imagine that this was the only time he shoplifted but in reality I’m sure it wasn’t.

That vision of him with his shirt open in the supermarket was emblazoned on my brain for years but the end result was that I came to love him even more because of it. Throughout my adult life I constantly thought to myself where dad was when he was my age and often wondered if I could have managed as well as he did under his circumstances.

The older I got the more I loved him for what he did for us. I was looking forward to spending some serious time with him after I retired from corporate life but tragically he died of cancer just five months short of that date.  More than fifteen years after his death I still think of him daily…

Being a Writer… Jefferson Style

After the recent post about not judging the past by the criteria of the present, my heroes  have been on my mind. The two most influential founders of our country were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. They were the most dominant thinkers of that period and are among my primary heroes. One of the things that draw me to them is that I like to think of myself as being like them in one small sense or another. Madison, like me, was a small guy who didn’t really like public attention. He was a thinker who was also an introvert.

But this post is about Jefferson.  Here is some quotes from the book entitled The Quotable Jefferson  Collected and edited by John P. Kaminski:

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Throughout his life Jefferson had a romance with language…

This allure of language, however, did not extend to the spoken word. John Adams recalled that in the Second Continental Congress Jefferson “never spoke in public; and during the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together”…

Jefferson was, perhaps above all, a great letter writer. He wrote literally thousands of letters. He delighted in corresponding with old friends, especially Benjamin Rush and after the rapprochment in 1812 with John Adams… Nearly everyday he found himself figuratively chained to the writing table — sometimes writing ten or twelve letters in a sitting — a drudgery that kept him from his love of reading.

When I read these words it dawned on me that I too “have a romance for language but not the spoken word”.  I love putting my thoughts to paper, so to speak but loathe having to get up and give a speech. I have given some talks to pretty broad audiences in my time but I agonized with the preparation and the especially the actual delivery.

Being deaf gives me a good excuse for not being very vocal in public but the real reason is that every thought I seem to have is almost immediately self-edited in one regard or another. I just never seem to find the “right” words the first time out.  When I am writing that is not a problem, I can go back and edit it later, but when public speaking that is impossible. Once they leave my mouth they are out there.

My blog posts are, of course, my letters. Some people are amazed that over the five year or so life of RJsCorner I have written almost 3,000 posts but to me it is simply something I  do. I just can’t leave everything stewing on the top of my mind. I have to put it in print for it to make sense and to make room in my brain for the next thing that percolates up.

Its nice to see some personal qualities that are similar to my heroes. It makes me feel that  maybe my present life is worth living.

Religious Certainty…

2015-12-15_13-39-51.pngSome of the biggest problems today are caused by religious certainty. People who are very certain that their religion is better than all the others tend to want to impose the rules laid out in their Holy Book on everyone. They have little respect for the fact that some people are guided by other Holy Books, and other equally valid types of ideals based on values instead of beliefs.

Unfortunately this concept has spread into the political arena where religious literalists often try to impose their religious standards on our nation. They fight important social trends, like the acceptance of gays in the military, on grounds that apply only to one religion. They marginalize the interests of individual humans on grounds of certainty that their Holy Book is right. In acting this way, these people fight against the very principles on which the United States was founded.

But a crucial trait in spiritual development is the ability to do away with this type of certainty – especially religious certainty. The same person who holds absolute religious certainty often also needs simple, immutable answers about the reason for our existence and about what happens after death. They need certainty that their own beliefs are right in a way that makes all other belief systems seem wrong. It often brings with it a sense of superiority over others, and allows this type of person to not mind imposing the laws of his own beliefs on others. For people who need it, this type of certainty holds their world together.

SOURCE: Religious Certainty versus Certitude.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of those who hold onto a certainty in their religious beliefs. But the problem is they are certain that they have God totally figured out and everyone who disagrees with them is simply wrong.  Yes, there are many of this category in the Muslim world but there may be even greater numbers in the Christian realm where they call themselves biblical literalists.

I want to make it very clear here that I am a strong believer in freedom of religion as found in our constitution. Everyone should be free to believe whatever they want concerning their spirituality. I don’t hold anything against you if that is how you want to live your life but don’t try to impose your “truth” on everyone else.

Religious certainty is very appealing to those who have trouble making sense of today’s world. It gives them something to cling to. From the evidence that is the primary reason for so many who suddenly become jihadists in the Muslim world. They found something to cling to in an otherwise hectic and confusing world.

I choose to believe in a God of love who cherishes each of us the same whether we are Christians, Jews, Muslims, or any other flavor. If you choose to believe in a god who is constantly looking for something to punish you with eternal agony that is fine.  Maybe you need that in your life for whatever reason.

As long as your beliefs don’t affect me then by all means believe what you want. But when your dogma causes harm to the world as ISIL does then it is time for something else…..

Move Along…

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Sometimes it seems that the NRA is a police force who forces “their” laws on the rest of us. They have such a strangle hold on so many politicians as to get their way even when it is opposed by a vast majority of our citizens. Realizing that we have more gun violence in a day than Great Britain has in a year should be sobering to those in DC but somehow they simply ignore it and the obvious solutions. When will we finally get representatives who actually represent us in the nation’s capital? That answer is totally up to us if we just have the guts to do it….