these absurd times of our surreal lives

“I have nothing but respect for you — and not much of that.”
― Groucho Marx

“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.”
― Albert Camus

Surrealism: An archaic term. Formerly an art movement. No longer distinguishable from everyday life.
Brad Holland

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(an early marketing advert used by Guinness Beer / the Guinness Factory Museum / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s not easy knowing what to say….
It’s difficult figuring out what to do…
It’s a challenge understanding how we actually should be feeling…

It’s no longer easy nor comfortable figuring out what we are to say, how we are to react, or to whom we are to speak candidly and clearly to…
All of which is a reflection of the sad state of affairs of our current trials and tribulations.

We currently have crazy Islamic extremists running around the globe attempting to kill as many people as possible who are not a part of their “movement”…

And because the crazy Islamist extremists claim that their movement is a “defense” of their extreme branch of their religion, everyone out there has now decided that all religions are bad.

As now so many people, even the President who made mention of such in a recent speech, seems to think that had those Christians just not gone on those crusades almost 1000 years ago, none of this would be happening…uh hummmmm

We have planes blowing up, cars blowing up, people blowing up….

As we have people strapping bombs to themselves in order to blow themselves up, as well as anyone and everyone within close proximity–not even children or infants are considered hands off or scared…

We have Christians still being crucified.

We have people cutting off the heads of other people.

We have crazy Islamic extremists parading around in the desert blowing up ancient historical monuments just for fun, while they strap a few innocent souls to these monuments just for kicks, as they blow everything and everyone up to smithereens.

We have people who can’t wrap their heads around the crazy Islamic extremists who in turn don’t give a damn that nobody can understand what they’re all about, as if death, murder and mayhem leaves much to understand. So everyone just kind of stands around scratching their heads.

We have satirical magazines being just that, satirical…as well as irreverent–as they spread the love for each and all– it’s as if they think that it makes it all ok if they ridicule, belittle and make fun of everyone equally as nothing, I mean nothing, remains “sacred”…but it’s all good and its all ok cause they make fun equally and we’re all about some fun…

We have thousands of people displaced and on the move on a global scale because no one seems to be able to stop the bad guys in these peoples home countries–with everyone left wondering whose going to take care of all these displaced folks.

We have bad guys mixed in with all the displaced roaming global people…
all the while as the world Governments think they can weed out the bad from the good, as places like Paris must now think otherwise with Germany, who was leading the charge of come one come all, now closing their borders.

We have a president along with his fellow world leaders who are either too afraid, too arrogant or to ignorant to call the mass murders of the crazy Islamic extremists what they are, mass murders carried out by crazy Islamic extremists, as they fear they might just hurt somebody’s feelings…I wonder how the families of all those killed thus far by these crazy Islamic extremists are feeling about hurting the feelings of others as their entire beings now hurt and ache in the deep abyss of loss…

We have young black college students all over this county now fighting the powers that be, screaming “black lives matter”…when I thought all lives mattered–of who now dare to say that the terror attacks in Paris have stolen their thunder….

We have policemen who are afraid to be policeman because we have had some bad policemen doing bad jobs and the lack of leadership to do anything about it.

We have violent crime, tragically deadly home invasions, carjackings, smash and grabs, child molesters running amuck and ruining lives because our legal systems seems to favor the bad guys.

We have too many people living their too busy, self consumed, self obsessed, rule free lives who won’t stop, can’t stop, long enough to actually see what’s taking place

We have a bunch of people who want to be president so they spend millions of dollars as they wine, dine, schmooze and waste countless hours debating with a tit for tat mentality of fussing children all the while as people are dying by the hands of crazy Islamic extremists.

We have folks all over the Globe wondering what’s going on.

We have Muslims afraid to say or do anything to or with the crazy Islamic extremists because they are afraid of what will happen if they do.

We have the leader of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, sounding the alarm but he is maligned and ignored by world leaders as an extremist bully himself.

We have a divided Jewish nation who haggle over their religion verses their heir apparent nationality.

We have people who now think we’d never be in all of this mess if it hadn’t been for religion in the first place so they want to do away with religion as they see Christians as the main ones at fault…so it makes sense just to crush the Christians.

We have people who don’t understand that we have basically turned a blind eye to God and that maybe, just maybe, we have not lived our lives as He would have had us to live…

We have Christians afraid to say anything about everything because they are just that, afraid…afraid of offending others, afraid of retribution, afraid that maybe their beliefs are wrong, afraid that their faith is not as strong as it should be…Christians who are depressed, frustrated, simply too nice, too kind, too naive, too passive, too distracted—forgetting that God decreed some very powerful tenants for living all the while as the powers that be within the “Church” have watered down the Word of God, tweaked and rewritten it all to appease desired lifestyles of those wishing to have their cake and eat it too–never mind that we choose sin over His Word or that His Word just seems to interfere too much with how we want to live… as in lets all hold hands and sing kum-ba-ya while we continue to make God little…all the while as we turn our God, Creator, Savior into just another friend rather than the Absolute God of all that was and is and will be, who desires, as well as deserves, our utmost homage…

As each new day brings a new piece to the surreal puzzle we now call our absurd lives…

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And…

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4:3-19

Asleep at the helm

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.
Henry Ward Beecher

Even today we raise our hand against our brother… We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.
Pope Francis

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(Justice Ginsburg asleep during the State of the Union Address, image taken from Web / 2015)

It is not my intent to delve into the twisted world of the political here on this blog—preferring rather to simply offer a bit of thought, concern and reflection on this thing we call life. . .
However I was recently taken aback when this image of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg made its way in and out of the various news agencies and the meme of various websites as this octogenarian was caught napping, as it were, during the recent State of the Union Address.
Adding a bit of insult to injury was her ensuing explanation—“I wasn’t 100% sober”

OUCH!
Really??!

As a lifelong educator, for me, this entire incident has trouble written all over it. Here we have a member of one of the highest offices in our land doing two things that any other mere mortal human would be strung to the highest yardarm for having done. . .
A) she was sleeping on the job
and
B) she wasn’t sober.

“Ok”, you say, “she’s old, cut her some slack.”
Really?
“She technically wasn’t working, she was attending an albeit, perceived by many, boring sort of speech.”

I would think, however, that when one dons the robes of one of the highest offices in the land, that would pretty much be considered working at the top of one’s professional duty.

And now the mantra begins. . .”She’s been sick, battling cancer. . .She’s a tough old bird. Let her have her wine and sleep. It was just a speech. She’s brilliant. It’s no big deal. . .”

And so it appears that the excuse for her having been caught sleeping, which was more or less an alcoholic induced sleep, is no big deal because she wasn’t driving, wasn’t the speaker, wasn’t actually sitting on a case—making it all fine and dandy, and as some may add, a much ado about nothing sort of moment. . .???

Well, I’m certainly not trying the cast stones as I am far from any paragon of virtue, yet I do know trouble when I see it.

Let’s say that my principal, superintendent or even myself, a lowly teacher, had gone to dinner prior to say some sort of school or other important function, opting to have had a couple of drinks or glasses of wine with the meal—only to later attend said function. Taking either the place of honor on stage or on front row of said function and now feeling and reeling from the full effects of being totally satiated and woozy, coupled with it being toward the end of a long day and it’s now a little too warm, plus I’m now nice and still, subsequently falling asleep—Only to blow it off later as “I ate and drank too much prior to the meeting”—-the general public would demand a head upon a plate as that would have been no way for any professional, let alone educator, to have conducted themselves during a public forum of such.

And yet we think it’s okay for a Supreme Court Justice to do such since she’s older, sickly and probably tired. . . all the while as we, the courts, the justice systems and any adult worth their mettle, tell our kids, as well as the general public, do not drink when driving, working, caring for children or the elderly, operating heavy machinery or making important decisions that effect people’s lives. . .let alone opting to be seen by the general population at a massively public forum. . .and better not to drink in the first place, period. . .

I think we mere mortals do expect, as well as often demand, that our elected officials, our leaders, our doctors, our ministers, our educators, our justices, even our parents, act the part of their said position and if they don’t, we, in turn, are very quick to do one of two things. . .We either quickly excuse and dismiss the poor behavior, attempting to make it all quickly disappear, or we quickly assemble the executioning squad.

It’s just that I don’t ever remember seeing Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, being snapped by press or paparazzi, sleeping while attending any sort of state or governmental function. . .nor even Vladimir Putin, who is often seen shirtless attempting to be a hulking he-man, nor Queen Elizabeth (we won’t discuss her children or grandchildren), or other world leaders. . .Therefore do we not observe that certain positions require one to step it up as it were, appearing above board particularly when the lights are on and the cameras are rolling?

Which brings us to the idea of not being caught asleep while standing at the helm.

A colloquial expression used to express the sage warning that anyone given authority, such as steering a ship, should live up to such responsibility, not shirking one’s duty particularly when the heat is on. . .
I can only imagine the jokes that this viral image has now generated amongst not only ourselves and the late night TV talk shows but to the jokes and mockery from allies and enemies alike.

I don’t think I need to remind any of us that we are currently living in very globally grave times. A time that calls upon us to be ever vigilant, mindful, stalwart and resolute. . .

There is another image out today equally as viral yet this one being most vile. . .

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This is an image of a group of Coptic Christian men from Egypt, lined up along a beach in Libya, at the hands of their ISIS captors who are about to video the beheading of the men. Beheaded in retaliation for the death of Usama Bin Laden. . .
But wait!
Weren’t we, the US, the ones who actually killed Bin Laden?
These men were guilty of one thing, and one thing only, they were Christians.
Maybe they were actually guilty of two things—they were Middle Eastern and Christian—a deadly combination.

Somehow I do not think we will ever see images of ISIS leaders asleep at the job, claiming that they were not sober, I often wonder if these evil individuals ever sleep.

“But Julie” I hear you implore– “a sleeping Justice has nothing to do with a global terrorism organization that is comprised of thugs! How can you even put these two events within close proximity to one another?! You’re being terribly unfair. . .”

When we see our country wrestling with and waiting on our Supreme Court Justices to figure out such in-country bickering and struggles over who can and can’t smoke pot legally, whether or not homosexuals can or cannot marry legally, or to what extent does a President’s powers reach— all the while as a growing global army of terrorists quickly decide who can and can’t live, let alone who can or cannot practice a religion and life other than that of extreme Islam, I think we’ve got bigger troubles than what we could ever imagine. . .

May we all be mindful of our responsibilities.
May we be mindful of our duties.
May we be mindful that we are often the only example others may have.
May we be the example of that which is just and good.
May we be strong enough to stand above the crowd.
May we take what we do seriously, no matter how insignificant we may think it to be.
May we understand that too causal is not always a good thing.
May we be mature, stepping up to the plate, when the circumstances demand nothing less.
May we not play the blame game but rather “man up” to take the heat when necessary, remembering that often times the buck does indeed stop with us.
May we not be so quick to write everything off so simply.
May we not tolerate everything we do and say for the mere sake of tolerance but rather may we have the courage to pick and choose what we do and say then have the courage to stand behind our beliefs–
May we remember that there was a time in this country when we could disagree, respecting the right to disagree rather than as today when the mentality of “I’m right and you’re wrong and therefore you must change and change now or else” reigns supreme
And may we remember that there are those forces around this globe of ours who look to take away our very way of life and wait in the shadows for when we are asleep at the helm to take advantage of our sleep and distraction, hoping to change our lives forever. . .

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.”

Mark 13:34-36

There is both compassion and malice in this world

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

Every day in the year there comes some malice into the world, and where it comes from is no good place.
Lady Gregory

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(a tiny friend trapped in a garage, weary and waiting for assistance / Julie Cook / 2014)

As I opened the kitchen door, I heard the familiar sound of heavy and intense buzzing–as if a swarm of giant bees was laying siege to my garage. And as it is, I have grown somewhat accustomed to this sound, as I immediately did an about face heading back in the house to fetch the telescopic duster.

For whatever reason, during the summer months, as long as the hummingbirds have taken up residence at my feeders, inevitably one of their clan seems to find its way into my garage yet cannot find its way out.

Our garage / carport is finished on the inside and is painted white. I’ve often wondered about the color white and whether or not the hummingbirds, or birds in general for that matter, have any sort of depth perception as far as color is concerned. Once in the carport, the birds frantically fly about the ceiling, as if they think it is the sky and they should simply be able to take off as it were. Instead, the tiny birds exhaust themselves buzzing along the ceiling, around and around hoping to be free of the invisible barrier. Sometimes they head to the windows with the same flying intensity as if the glass boundary will magically disappear. As the tiny birds grow increasingly fatigued, they often light on the windowsill or garage door lift. This is where I come in. . .

Careening my neck to an almost backwards breaking point, I precariously wander about the carport holding up a telescopic pole used for dusting ceiling fans following the erratic flying pattern, attempting to get near enough to the small lost creature, hoping he or she will grow so weary that they will simply perch on the soft duster at the end of the pole.
I look much like I’m practicing some sort of odd balancing circus act.

Inevitably and thankfully the bird lands. If I’m lucky, I can gently lower the pole, dipping it low enough, past the overhead garage door, allowing the exhausted bird to fly off to freedom. Sometimes they still have just enough energy to panic, taking off again for another round of “fly around the ceiling.” Other times, if the bird lights on the windowsill, I can usually crawl up on the brick ledge, gingerly picking up the weary bird from off the sill and gently carry it out to freedom—as was the case yesterday.

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(a grateful and soon to be liberated friend / Julie Cook / 2014

Happily no one is any worse for the wear as I can often be found later in the day sitting on the back deck reading and watching the feeders when, out of the blue, one of the birds darts under the awning, right up to my face hovering around a bit as if to offer a bit of thanks before darting back out to the feeders. A most humbling interaction with one of Nature’s smallest creatures.

And as I sat yesterday afternoon, thinking about my encounter with a tiny bird in need of a little help, a little human compassion, my thoughts turned to the latest tragedy which unfolded in the Middle East this week with the execution of Steven Sotloff. Was it not just last week that our attentions were turned to the execution of the American journalist James Foley?!

Executions which are more reminiscent of medieval times verses a modern 21st century. The sinister and malicious, if not sadistic, performance of the macabre. It is beyond my soul how a person can raise a knife to another person’s throat and proceed to cut off that individual’s head. I simply can’t wrap my mind around that. And maybe that’s part of the problem. This middle aged American wife, mother, educator, cannot comprehend what it takes, what exists inside of a person, do such a horrific act on another living soul.

Frighteningly, there is obviously a cold and empty detachment.
Perhaps this is the living definition of Evil.

I understand that there are sick individuals out there who commit horrific crimes–for a myriad of reasons all equally twisted and sick. Yet we must be mindful that the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known by its acronym, ISIS, is not composed of a single sick deprived individual—rather, it is a movement. A movement that is growing at an alarming, frighteningly and exponentially rate of high speed.

Oh I suppose we can say what we will about journalists who perhaps get a little too close to the action in the name of capturing “the story.” Some may say that these reporters and journalist know the risks going in. I suppose we may say the same about the aid workers who rush in to war torn and disease ridden countries in order to offer just that–aid, comfort, help and hope to the millions of innocent souls caught in the middle of chaos or those unfortunate enough to live in plague ridden areas with limited medical care. . .

Yet I for one do not buy the excuses of the jaded who write these individuals off as merely folks who unfortunately end up on the wrong side of the statistics of the risk.
No human being deserves to suffer mercilessly at the hand of another human being.
How empty my words sound to the families of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

About this same time last year, a Paris based organization, Reporters without Borders, reported that the estimate was that there were at least 60 “news providers” being held captive, or “detained”, as well as 110 or more individuals who had already been killed at the hands of Islamic terrorist groups across the globe.

Kidnappings, torture, exorbitant ransoms and ultimately grizzly executions.
All for what?
A new world order?
A new dogma?
World domination?
Sounds all rather Orwellian, yet ominously, it seems to be a very real and swiftly growing worry and threat.

Recently reported by a New York Times investigation, published last month, “Al Qaeda and its affiliates had brought in at least $125 million through ransom payments since 2008, including $66 million in 2013. That money came largely from European governments.”
As reported yerterday in The Guardian, “After telling MPs that the UK would not pay ransoms to secure the release of hostages in the hands of Islamic State militants, the prime minister, David Cameron, said Britain and the US would step up attempts to persuade other governments to cease making such payments.”

There are currently three known aid workers being held by ISIS. One being a 26 year old female American who was kidnapped last year. An Italian and Brit are the other two known captives. The American aid worker, as had her European and British counterparts, had gone to Syria, by her own volition, to offer her help, comfort, support, hope–to countless numbers of refugees, many of whom are children caught up in the tangled web of extremist chaos.

We may choose to sit back, reading our papers and watching our news reports of such stories as these–stories of the ugliness of “over there.” We may have missed the fact that there are now American and European citizens who are counted among the members of this growing extremist movement. We may continue feeling comfortable and safe in our chairs in our homes as we read and watch the news about this latest war. . .over there. . .

What of the aid workers? What dare say we will be their fate at the hands of these depraved terrorists? There has been a confirmed ransom demand of 6.6 million dollars for the American. Our government has long said it will not negotiate with terrorist. I agree. Obviously David Cameron agrees. Yet if I was the mother of that aid worker, I know I would feel differently. I would most likely beg, borrow and steal to have my child safely back in my arms. The question begs to be answered. . .can nations continue paying barbaric thugs astronomical amounts of money, which simply in turn goes to further funding the deepening madness and chaos of thuggery and terrorism. . .a precarious price of extortion and blood money given in the name of buying, albeit a brief, peace of mind?

How long will the cost of that peace of mind last until the next demand of payment to the proverbial piper?
The concern should be that groups such as ISIS will not be content to merely take hold of a town, a city, a country. They are parasitic and they are hungry. Their hunger is ravenous and knows no limit.

The compassion of the innocents, in this case the aid workers, has been met with the malicious hate of evil–in this case, a cohesive malevolent movement. It is merely a matter of time until we learn the next move in this latest and costly game of chess. May our thoughts and prayers remain steadfast for theses individuals and their familiars.

When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail.
Pearl S. Buck