Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Complex Commodes

There are basic necessities in every person’s life.  Answering the call of Mother Nature is one of those necessities.  I know that it is a call that I never ignore . . . I always answer.  Yet, I have never given much thought to the ascetics of where I answer that call.  Typically if there is a place where I can relief myself, I am happy.  A simple procedure of taking care of business, a flush, and I am on my way.  I am a happy camper . . . or at least I thought I was.

I recently stumbled upon an article about high tech commodes that are quite popular in Japan and parts of Europe.  These commodes are high tech . . . they are filled with such luxurious amenities as heated seats, sound effects, built-in bidets and lids that raise automatically.  They come with MP3 players . . . . places to plug in you iPod or iPhone . . . button galore.  Suddenly taking a break in the library of the house has turned into a high tech adventure.

Now, I am of the generation that did not have to use an outhouse to take care of business when Mother Nature called . . . I avoided the duplicity of the Sears and Roebuck catalog in which one could read before finishing up business with the pages just read . . . I avoided the use of corn cobs as a replacement for the Sears and Roebuck catalog . . . and, splinters in the rear.  Luckily I grew up in the generation that had access to the porcelain throne with running water and a functioning sewer system . . . the “thunder dome”.  I have always been a “flushable” sort of guy.  It seems that the next generation of toilets comes with an instruction manual . . . I am not sure that I am ready for that.  Heck, I just learned to master the stereo system in my car!

According to the article I read, nearly all the toilets in Japan are high tech.  The lid automatically lifts when a person enters the room . . . it has sound effects (I am not sure if thunder is one of them, but I read that applause is one of the sound effects . . . just what I need . . . applause when I have a successful bowel movement!) . . . it will play music . . . it warms up so that the buns do not get cold . . . even comes with a remote control.  Shoot, I have not even figured out how to use the remote control for my television and now there is a remote for the toilet! And, the greatest feature of these new high tech toilets is that they are environmentally kind . . . they can be adapted to be paper-free . . . they come with a bidet.

Aw . . . the bidet!  We westerners . . . us Americans . . . are not accustomed to the bidet.  A bidet is a reverse spray that sprays once a person is done with the bathroom duty . . . . sprays the rear end.  Not just any bidet, but bidets that can provide a variety of sprays to clean the rear.  You decide, oscillating or pulsating . . . whatever gets you through the night . . . is available.  Just punch it in on the remote.  Heck, I am still trying to figure out how to turn on the darn remote!  Personally, I am not sure I am ready for anything to squirt my butt . . . oscillating or pulsating . . . seems a little obscene to me.

I affectionately refer to the bathroom in our house as the “library”.  I have found the bathroom to be one of the few places in the house where one can find solitarity.  It is the place where I can escape, be away from everyone else, and enjoy the time I have alone . . . an introvert’s dream.  In the “library” I have the opportunity to read . . . contemplate . . . dream . . . and, take a dump.  Now, I could get into a heated seat . . . especially in the winter when the temperature outside is a negative thirty in Montana . . . everyone appreciates warm buns.  With a high tech toilet I could add music to the mix . . . probably Internet access . . . shoot!  I probably would never come out of the house library if I had options like that.

Of course, the people selling these high tech commodes claim that this toilet will improve people’s lives . . . make it easier.  They even claim that in the future the toilets will be able to give advice about diet and exercise.  Just what I need . . . another wife! 
The rumor is that these toilets are slowly making their way into the United States.  They are beginning to show up more and more in states like California . . . the hippy, liberal, communistic state . . . especially around Hollywood.  They are gaining in popularity.  Especially as they become more complicated.  They say that the toilets in Japan can perform urinalysis from the deposits made . . . report them to a person’s personal computer . . . and, get the ball rolling towards a healthier life.  If they could do the annual income tax forms . . . well, I might consider it.  Especially if they could put Turbo Tax out of business.

Now, I have to admit . . . I like what technology has to offer; but, at the same time, I am not sure that I am ready for technology to completely step into my life and regulate my answers to the call of nature.  I am not too sure I want to have my deposit analyzed.  My buns have gotten used to the cold seat.  I do not need sound effects . . . I produce plenty of my own.  I do not need music to sooth my soul . . . especially since I have not figured out whether or not it is to mask sounds made in the “thunder dome” or to relax people as they take care of business.  And, lastly . . . why in the world would I want another remote control in my life!

So, I am going to pass on the high tech toilet . . . as fascinating at it might be.  I think that I have it pretty good with what I have . . . solitude . . . plenty of reading material . . . and, a seat that fits my equipment.  As nice as it is that I could listen to music that I have chosen to take care of business . . . I make plenty of music while I am taking care of business,  The porcelain throne that occupies the homestead bathroom is good enough for me . . . . it beats the Sears and Roebuck catalog . . . beats corn cobs.  I don’t need a spray or squirt of water at the end of the deed.  To be honest, I am pretty happy with my present arrangement as antiquated as it might be.  It gets the job done.

I appreciate the hard work that others are doing to make my life easier . . . even when it comes to taking a dump.  Yet, at the same time, I am not too sure I am ready to step . . . or should I say, sit down to . . . a high tech toilet.  Shoot!  I just learned how to hang toilet paper correctly!  Plus, I do not need another remote control in my life!

To answer the question of the article: Are you ready for the toilet of the future?  My answer is . . . “NO!”  At my age I do not need people messing up one of the few bodily functions I appreciate.  I do not need a toilet telling my current health conditions.  I do not need music to get the job done.  I do not need sound effects.  I do not need a warm seat . . . or a toilet that lights up when I enter the room.  I need none of this high tech stuff to get the job done.  Until the federal government mandates high tech toilets, I am going to enjoy the freedom I know . . . . besides, my body really does not care where I get rid of the bodily waste . . . it only wants me to get rid of it.  Besides, I have a wife that will tell me everything I need to know.     

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ask Yourself . . . Do You Feel Lucky?

I did not realize, until this weekend, that this year was the 50th anniversary of the classic Clint Eastwood film, A Fist Full of Dollars.  This is the epitome of the spaghetti westerns . . . the standard for all the others to follow.  This was the movie of the “man with no name”.  Wow!  I am getting old . . . I never realized how long ago that movie came out.  It was the movie that launched a career.

I am in that generation that caught the tail end of the great westerns.  The movies and television shows with John Wayne, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers . . . Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Bonanza, Rifle Man, and the Lone Ranger.  Trust me, as a kid, those movies and shows made an impact on me . . . my imagination ran wild as I created western after western in my daily play.  I longed to be a cowboy . . . still do. 

Of course, I did not want to grow up to be a singing cowboy like Roy Rogers or Gene Autry . . . first of all, even at a young age, I realized I could not carry a tune in a bucket much less sing; second of all, it didn’t quite seem realistic to see some cowboy sitting on a horse singing to a bunch of cows.  Seems kind of wimpy to me.  At first I really wanted to be like the Lone Ranger and have a side kick like Tonto . . . but that seemed silly to me . . . to be riding around with a mask . . . and, where in the world would I get all of those silver bullets.  John Wayne . . . well, what can I say?  What youngster didn’t want to grow up to be the “Duke”?  John Wayne was the epitome of the cowboy . . . at least for a generation raised on being a good guy; but then there came “the man with no name” . . . the spaghetti western . . . and, Clint Eastwood.  John Wayne was supposed to be the strong silent type of cowboy, but compared to Clint Eastwood, John Wayne was a regular jabber mouth.  Clint Eastwood was who I wanted to be.

Years ago, Willie Nelson and his buddy, Waylon Jennings, sang the song that explained it all about being a cowboy . . . Mamma, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.  They got it right.  They told the truth about cowboys.  Remember these lyrics:

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
They'll never stay home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love

Cowboys ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold
And they'd rather give you a song than diamonds or gold
Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levis

And each night begins a new day
And if you don't understand him and he don't die young
You'll probably just ride away

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
They'll never stay home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love

Cowboys like smoky old pool rooms, clear mountain mornings
Little warm puppies and children, girls of the night
And them that don't know him won't like him and them that do

Sometimes won't know how to take him
He ain't wrong, he's just different but his pride won't let him
Do things to make you think he's right

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
They'll never stay home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys

I wanted to be a cowboy and I wanted to be a cowboy like ol’ Waylon and Willie sang about . . . I wanted to be a cowboy like the man with no name . . . like Clint Eastwood.  Eastwood was the more realistic cowboy.  John Wayne was good, but John Wayne was . . . well, he was more civilized.  John Wayne lived among people . . . had a ranch . . . socialized . . . talked . . . even had a wife in a lot of his movies.  He was an extrovert.  Clint, well . . . he stayed away from people because people always seemed to mess up his life . . . if he had a ranch someone always seemed to take it away, thus he was a loner . . . he socialized when he had to socialize, but for the most part he pretty much stayed to himself . . . talk, that is a laugh.  If he spoke more than a hundred lines in a movie I would be surprised.  A wife?  Has hell froze over?  Clint Eastwood was an introvert.  He was a real cowboy just like Waylon and Willie sang about.

I transitioned from the “golden age” of cowboys into the more realistic age of cowboys.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the “golden age” of cowboys caught my heart and imagination, but it was the beginning of the spaghetti westerns that stole my heart.  It was the era of the introvert as hero . . . or, should I say, anti-hero.  That was the sort of cowboy I wanted to be . . . and, in all honesty, still long to be. 

Since John Wayne and Clint Eastwood there have not been a whole lot of new role models for being a cowboy.  Oh sure, Kevin Costner attempted to put out a couple of westerns (Dances Like Wolves and Open Range) that were pretty good movies, but he couldn’t bump the two big boys off the pedestal.  I guess we humans have a tendency to gravitate towards those things that are the most like us . . . John Wayne, the extrovert and shining white knight—I mean, cowboy, was nice; but, being an introvert . . . Clint Eastwood was a loner!

I am beginning to get a little too old to be a cowboy . . . but, I have moved to Montana.  Montana is pretty close to being a cowboy haven . . . maybe not in actual cowboying, but in attitude.  There are not a lot of people . . . there is a whole lot of empty space to get lost in . . . and, the people here are pretty darn independent.  Sounds a whole lot more like a cowboy than a state like California.  The wife, years ago, acknowledged my desire to be a cowboy . . . she gave me a children’s book about cowboys, and then told me—more or less—to get over it.  Yet, the longing is still there.

I feel lucky.  I feel lucky that I can go and get in my pick-up truck and drive off into the landscape . . . out into the open country . . . to view God’s handiwork up close.  I feel lucky that I can stop at some small town’s local restaurant/bar and grab a quick lunch and beer among some real cowboys.  I feel lucky that I can . . . well, imagine that for a few hours out in the country, driving my pick-up, feel like a cowboy . . . feel like Clint Eastwood.  Sometimes I even put in the sound track from a Fist Full of Dollars by Ennio Morricone just to feel like a Clint Eastwood sort of cowboy.  Who would have ever thought that it would be an Italian, Sergio Leone, who made the epitome of the classic American cowboy?

Mostly, though, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to dream . . . to dream of being a cowboy.  Lucky to be around to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the classic spaghetti western, A Fist Full of Dollars . . . and, to have that dream rekindled.  I am not sure the wife will be ready for this revival . . . but, hey!  She should have known better . . . I warned her.  As I told her . . . “Go ahead, make my day!”  I feel lucky.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Day Late, Dollar Short

A day late . . . a dollar short.  Isn't that the story for a lot of us?  In my birthday trip into Yellowstone National Park it seemed as I was always a day late and a dollar short.  It seemed as if I missed the most spectacular  critters by a few minutes everywhere that I went in the park.  Now, I did have lots of luck too, but I did miss some pretty spectacular scenes with the wildlife.  It never fails . . . no matter how much I seem to prepare, I always came up short of that spectacular picture.
That seems the way that it is going for a lot of us right now . . . we are coming up a day late and a dollar short.  But life doesn't play by our rules . . . life does what life wants to do when it wants to do it.  In the midst of graduation celebrations . . . in the joy of spring finally bursting forth . . . death was seen hanging around . . . peeking around the corner.  News was shared during worship that the mother of one of our members was not doing well and that it would only be a matter of time . . . another member learned later that evening that his father would probably not make it much longer. Another member shared that she had lost to cancer her beloved pet.   News was shared of a death in the community.  Prayers were lifted up for those who were away from home and traveling.  News was shared about impeding surgeries and surgeries that were performed.  Not quite the news one thinks of when gathering for worship and praising God . . . but, life doesn't play fair . . . it has to do what it has to do . . . the journey goes on.

And, we know it.

We know it . . . we prepare for it, yet no matter how well we think we are for what life has to throw at any of us, we still feel a day late and a dollar short.  We feel like we have missed that opportunity . . . that moment.  But, have we?  Or have we just come to the realization that we are helpless in the situations that arise in our lives . . . situations that damper the celebration of life . . . that make us come to realize how precious and valuable life and others really are to each of us?  I am not sure.

I was not in the presence of either of my parents when they died . . . the distance was too far and the notice too short . . . I only arrived after it was all said and done.  And, to be honest, I lamented that time in my life because a good child would have been there . . . a good child would have held his or her dying parent's hand, whispered silent prayers, and hopefully said what needed to be said . . . I love you.  But, I was not there . . . I was a day late and a dollar short.  Yet, with perfect twenty/twenty vision, I came to realize that it would not have made any difference . . . my parents both knew that I loved them . . . that I would miss them . . . and, that there would be a great void in my life and the lives of my family.  And, it was okay because they knew.

Yet, we still feel a day late and a dollar short.  I am not sure that there are any words . . . any prayers that could be uttered . . . that will change that feeling for most of us.  Only time and grace seem to make a difference.  All I know is that if I could have been there, I would have been there; but, I couldn't.  Years later, it is okay . . . for all of us it will be okay.

My prayers are simple for those who are facing death at their door . . . you are not a lone.  God is with you.  We are with you.  May God's tender mercies surround you wherever you are in this journey of life . . . mercy and grace.  You are not a day late . . . you are not a dollar short . . . you are a child of God and God will be with you no matter when you show up.  You have done the best that you can do . . . we all do.  God knows it . . . our loved ones know it.  That should be enough.

Multiplicity of Faith

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
(Luke 10:27)

It has been over 40 years that I have been making this journey of life with Jesus.  And, as the Grateful Dead sing, “What a long strange trip it has been.”   The more I think that I understand . . . the simpler it seems to get . . . the more complicated it becomes.   Yet, I really do not think that God ever intended for faith—any of our faith—to be complicated. 

One year my mother gave me a framed needle point picture of a turtle with the words: “Keep It Simple Stupid”.  The “KISS” philosophy . . . and, no, my mother did not think I was stupid . . . she just liked the philosophy.  She wanted to remind me to keep things simple.  Ever since then I have attempted to do that.  The lawyer that Denzel Washington plays in the movie, Philadelphia, tells each of his clients that he wants them to tell him their story in words that a third grader would understand.  He believes that if a third grader can understand it then any jury or judge in the land will be able to understand it.  It is the KISS philosophy . . . keep it simple.  And, again, I have embraced that idea when I am trying to share the faith . . . keep it simple enough that any third grader can understand so that everyone can understand.  I think that is what God intended . . . it is we humans who go and complicate the whole matter of faith.  It is humans that seem to screw it up and make it harder than it has to be.
Because I want to keep it simple I pretty much have embraced the quote above as the purpose and meaning to being a follower of Jesus.  We are to love the Lord completely . . . and, love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  I think that Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message, says it in a way that makes sense: He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”  As Jesus told the lawyer who was challenging him, “If you do that, you’ve got it covered . . . you’ve got it made.”  Just go do it!

That is what I am striving to do . . . love God completely with everything I’ve got . . . love my neighbor just like I love myself.  It sounds so simple, wouldn’t you agree?  And, it really is . . . it is just not easy to live on a daily basis.

I can honestly state that I have spent a good portion of my journey with Jesus with my nose stuck in a whole lot of books . . . ministers have to do that.  They have to read a whole lot of book on theological  topics . . . “theo” meaning God, the “ology” part meaning the study of . . . I have read a lot of books on the study of God in hopes of getting to know God better.  I have shelves and shelves of theological books and books explaining the theological books.  It is mind-boggling the number of books there are about God for the faithful to follow.  But, boy do they complicate things.  It is like following bunny trails.  And, I have to be honest, I really, really liked reading theological books . . . but, a person could spend a lifetime reading about God and never experience God. 

Realizing that such reading was mostly “head” knowledge, I switched . . . I switched and started reading other forms of books . . . literature, fiction and non-fiction, biographies and autobiographies, history . . . books about people and their experiences with life and God.  This was a different type of reading . . . it was reading for the heart . . . reading for the soul.  Finding truth in other people’s stories.  But, once again, this is still burying oneself in books and not really experiencing God.

Prayer . . . being still and knowing God . . . listening . . . just being.  That helps a lot in knowing and experiencing God.  Worship . . . praise . . . thanksgiving . . . fellowship.  These help a lot in knowing and experiencing God.  In doing these things, one cannot hide behind the printed page . . . one is out in the open with no one else except him or herself and God.
In a roundabout way, I guess what I am saying is that I feel fairly comfortable in the first half of the quote from above . . . I am doing a pretty good job of loving God with my whole being.  I work pretty hard on my end of the relationship with God . . . I am not perfect at it (at least not yet), but I have such a relationship with God that God appreciates the effort, understands that I am human, and that I will keep trying no matter how many times I blow it.  I think that is part of God’s love and grace.

The more difficult part of the quote from above is not the part about “loving your neighbors”, but the part about “loving your neighbors as you love yourself.”  That is the more difficult part.  As I look around the world today . . . listen to the news on the radio or television . . . read it in the newspapers and magazines . . . watch people relate to other people . . . witness the senseless wars and crises of our day . . . and, I wonder why we—all of us—have such a difficult time loving ourselves.  If the reality of the world around us is a reflection about how we love ourselves because of the way that we treat one another; well, then, all of us need to work harder at loving ourselves.

I can admit that there are days that I do not like myself, much less love myself.  I can admit that I am not always the nicest person to other people . . . who is?  I can admit that I have my prejudices that color the way that I react and respond to others.  I do stupid things . . . say stupid things . . . react wrongly . . . get mad at people . . . use sign language while driving . . . Hey! I can admit that there are days that I have a hard time loving myself . . . so, how in the world am I supposed to love my neighbor.  And, I am not the only one with this problem . . . we all have it.  Look around and you can see it.

I guess I should have read the fine print at the bottom of my baptism certificate . . . should have read the legalese before jumping in and getting all wet.  But, it all sounded so simple . . . so easy . . . all I had to do was to love God and others.  Easier said than done.  Love and relationships are hard . . . hard because they involve more than one . . . it takes two to tango.  Whenever two or three are gathered . . . no, it is not what you think . . . whenever two or three are gathered someone always spills the milk.  Arguments happen.  Opinions are expressed.  Feelings are hurt.  And, relationships fall apart.  If you have ever really tried to be in a honest and open relationship with another person, you know how hard it is. 

Yet, it really is simple.  Love God.  Love yourself.  Love your neighbor.  Everyone is our neighbor.  Everyone is a child of God.  All we have to do is to love . . .

Faith is simple . . . love; well, love is a whole other story.  Jesus had the gall to tell the lawyer to do this and hit the jackpot.  The problem is that once you start loving you can’t stop.  It grows in you and around you.  It multiples with more and more relationships being experienced and born.  It is like that little mustard seed Jesus spoke about . . . a simple, itty bitty, tiny seed that when it is nurtured and loved grows into a mighty bush that is big enough to support birds and their nests . . . it grows!  Suddenly it is not so simple this simple idea of loving God and others.  It is enough to make one’s head spin.

Then I remember . . . keep it simple.  To focus on God . . . to love God completely.  To focus on me . . . to love myself for who God created me to be.  To focus on others to know this love that makes us connected to God and one another in such a way that we cannot help but to share it.  Not in the words that we say, but the actions that we take . . . love is not a bunch of words . . . love is how we care for one another.  It is as simple as that . . . but, watch out!  It could multiply and get complicated if you really live it.  It is as simple as that.