I do not want a do-over

Hello from the corner of my room,

I am sitting in the chair in my room, which is a comfortable and thoughtful place in my home. It is a sort of safe place too. I have learned that I am a person who needs a quiet and safe place. I am not sure I have always been cognizant of that desideratum, but I am pretty sure it has been a requisite from early in my life. While I have absolutely no inkling, memory, or shadow of any recall of life with my biological parents, their neglect probably affected my sense of security or my need for contact in ways I have never connected to any particular event. It is also interesting how it affects others. Certainly, it always seemed to have affected my sister more than me. There is an irony to that because if we were at our grandparents’ house by the time I was two, Kris would have been less than 9 months old. Yet, she was entirely more obsessed than I was when it came to finding those very parents who neglected and left us alone for hours. I also imagine part of that was because our adopted mother was so much harder on her than she was on either the older brother or me. It is quite logical that she hoped somewhere else might be safer and she would be treated better. Part of reason she is on my mind is the 10th anniversary of her passing will be here in only a few days. So much has happened in the decade since I got that stunning phone call at about 5:30 a.m. that Tuesday morning. Hearing my niece sort of blurt out that they found her dead on the couch is still more clear in my mind than I perhaps wish it was. More to say about that.

I did not know I would be leaving Stout and Wisconsin at that time. I did not know that I would come back to Pennsylvania and resettle myself barely over an hour from where I first became a parish pastor, which is 30 years ago. It is also even more than that when I address my initial graduation from high school or undergrad (which have a LCD of 5 also). I wonder how that can be the case that things in my life seem to happen in years that are in multiples of 5. In a mathematical purist way, the only thing in my life divisible by 5 is the year I was born. It is also the point that in terms of family heritage, I would become the only surviving member of my immediate family. So much has happened in a decade. Yet, I believe that is how life happens if we truly try to live it with all the hope and involvement we can.

That brings me back to the title and what I have been pondering these past few days. I imagine such rumination is the yearly occasion of impending graduation, the watching of another group of students, who a few short years ago were wide-eyed freshman. Yet, now they find themselves even more unprepared, or aware of complexities of life in a more profound manner, which can feel as if they are underprepared. However this present ocular unsophistication is more about accepting responsibility for themselves in a much grander, more consequential manner, and they are realize the safety net that is college is no longer an option. There is grad school, and a few move in that direction, but with a average debt load approaching $40,000.00 for undergrad, many to not believe that adding to that is a reasonable path forward. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know that I have noted I did not expect to become a college professor. I have stated regularly I had little idea what I would become or do with my life, and certainly that has not changed (which may seem like a strange admission for someone in their 60s). And, in spite of where I am, or even the path it took to find myself as a tenured professor, there is little I would change. Veritably voiced, I do not want to go back, even knowing all I do, and try it all over again. I can wish that I had not been born with Crohn’s as they now believe I was. I can wish that I had lived a more non-peripatetic sort of adulthood. I could try to imagine how it would be had I somehow been given the opportunity to have actually fathered a child. Any of those changes would have significantly altered the life I have lived. Certainly, I ponder the what ifs as I noted in my last blog, but that does not mean I need or want to go back and do it all over. It reminds me of my first host family, Lee and Judy, two of the most phenomenal people I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. They are somewhat accidental in that I ended up on a Lutheran Youth Encounter team sort of last minute. They were my first host family, which is also more random than some might realize. For me, that randomness is anything but. It is the Holy Spirit doing what the Holy Spirit does. Intercession and intervention when we are mostly or totally unaware. What Judy would share on a later visit, much after that initial week, has always remained. She once noted that relationships have more to do with context and timing than emotion. Those were not her words, but the foundational belief in her words. As I have continued to age, I have understood the profound truth in what she said. Her advice or reflection, and my father’s warning about placing expectations on something, ring true for me and serve as thoughtful and careful warnings. Warning is not a pejorative term here, but a sort of safety net.

There have probably been consequences for that sort of shying away from any kind of relationship that involves something long-term. There have been other factors that have kept me in my own sort of tower, but I have generally been comfortable in that solitude. So again, would I change any of that which has already occurred? Not in anyway that immediately seems apparent to me. I have learned that sometimes the best things happen unexpectedly. That reality aligns with my father’s wisdom about all relationships. Whatever happens with happen. This is more accurate than l often imagined possible. Perhaps that is why I have lived most or my life without expectation. Perhaps that is why I am a firm believer in grasping onto the present and not imagining the future as much as some might think I do. I also realize a sort of incongruence, but one I can somehow find comfortability with, regardless the oxymoronic presence in this situation. Perhaps some of that living in the moment has been because of health issues. Some of it harkens back to the adopted child in me. There have seldom been guarantees in my life, and while I believe that is true for most, I was told that in so many words on numerous occasions. The impact of those words created more than one existential crisis for me. Yet I am blessed to be where I am and in how my life has evolved. I know this in ways I could not have imagined. One of the things I have managed is the ability to overcome most any difficulty in my life. To learn that there are always options and learning from our life challenges is an opportunity to move beyond whatever that obstacle might be. We always have a choice: to quit or move ahead. I have noted that there are moments I seem to learn a bit slowly. More accurately, I am being stubborn. If I allow myself to realize my accountability in any situation and go beyond. I am probably going to be alright. Listening to the counsel of those we trust is an important part of that learning. Sometimes those teachers, those sages, if you will, often insight and clarity when we least expect it. Sometimes we are offered profound wisdom from another when we did not even see it as a possibility. I have been blessed to have such a person (and there have been a number of them) throughout most of my life. What is needed from such a person is the ability to trust and believe in their intent, and the willingness to be vulnerable with or before that person. That has happened again in the most unexpected way and with a sense of timing that defies logic. Yet, what I am realizing is I should not be surprised. This is because it seems that most of the things that have created a positive outcome for me were not planned, or at least did not happen in a manner that illustrates a long term structure to create said outcome. Getting into Michigan Tech or returning after I left would be two examples. Meeting a present colleague at a previous institution, which would lead to a return to Pennsylvania, is yet another. Meeting someone as a sort of by chance encounter on a sideway during a summer day seems to be the latest thing that has me scratching my head by the initial randomness, and the subsequent path it appears to have taken. I am a firm believer that something larger than I watches over me in ways too amazing for words. God, Holy Spirit, guardian Angels, something other: not sure what it is, but for it I am grateful. It is for all of these diverse and random things that I need no do overs. It is for this sort of always in the middle of things that I have no desire to start again and imagine something different. What I am quite sure of is I am more than blessed and where I am at this point is beyond what any adopted little NW Iowa boy could have ever imagined. The two siblings with whom I grew up did not have the opportunity to see such a long life. Bob, my eldest brother, died at 26. While he was a father, something I have not experienced, I am often reminded that I have a number of surrogate offspring. As I write this, it is 10 years to the day that my full biological sister passed from this world. That was a stunning day for me and I remember over the next days trying to figure it all out. So much that contributed to her being barely in her 50s when she passed on. In the time since, I have faced the reality of being the only living member of the family with which I lived my childhood on more than one occasion. I have had family members reach out and some back away. Families are living, breathing entities that get caught out in their own individual lives and time and distance can do a number of things to those relationships that they claim are thicker. I am not sure they are as thick as we might want to believe. That is not a value judgement for me, but rather experience. Certainly adoption played a significant role in all of that for me.

What I know now is I am content. I am not sure where things are going, but I am blessed by the presence of others in ways I could not have imagined. I am blessed by having a job that means more to me than I can express in words. I have people in my life, both family and friends, that remind me of what is important. I have people who have taken the time to really get to know and accept me. There are no words to express my gratitude for that gift. I have learned so much in the last weeks and months, both about myself and what I might hope to yet accomplish. There are really no do overs, but what I know is I do not want or need one. As the amazing musical, Rent, notes so well: there is no day but today.

Thank you as always for reading,

Dr. Martin

The Fear of What If?

Good early morning,

This might be a no sleep night if the way things are going now does not change . . . and the consequences of hydration, diuretics, and vasodilators might make the attempt to sleep a moot issue. I am seriously debating getting dressed and going back to my office. “Being of some use,” in a Homer Wellsian sort of manner makes more sense to me than lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, not to say there are not times that such a practice might be reasonable. It is just that I do not generally do so. In fact, most often when my head hits the pillow, soon afterwards, I am on another plane. There have been times in my life that I struggled to rest, like my last year of graduate school, or when I went through the divorce from Susan. I believed that I was managing things well, but I know now that was pure fiction. During both times of my life, I turned to music to calm me down and make sleeping possible. To this day, the sounds of Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai, in their work, Through Windows and Walls, is my go-to listening. I used it more times than I might realize in the past 17 years as my sleep aide . . . It is still the same day and I did take an hour nap or so around 5:00 this evening. The day was busy and continuous from about 7:30 this morning until I left campus around 4:15. I got quite a lot done and wrapped my head around a couple of issues, meaning I have a plan to move forward. There are still some things to ponder moving toward that hoped for end result, but time will tell.

It is hard to believe I have known for 9 years today that I would be coming to Pennsylvania for a second time. It is 30 years ago this fall I first made my trek to the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA as a newly ordained pastor. Ironically, that is not that far from where I live now, but I was quite sure when I moved to Michigan to begin my life as a campus pastor and beginning academic in August of 1992, I believed there was little chance I would ever call myself a Pennsylvanian again. Now it is the state in which I have spent the longest continuous period since I graduated from high school almost 45 years ago. I remember being simultaneously excited and frightened each time I found myself packing to move to the upper middle Atlantic. The first time I knew little about what NEPA, as the acronym was offered, had in store for a 30-something year old pastor, who had not been married all that long. I learned about Pennsylvania Dutch, scrapple, and how the cold here, while much less frigid, was much more penetrating and uncomfortable. I learned and incorporated words into my own vernacular like tissues or sneakers, phrases that might include something like “did you outten the candles?” Or “are you goin’ with?” Then there was the ability with a little different voice inflection to make every statement an interrogative. In fact, there were moments in the 21 year hiatus that people would sort of both inquire and state, ” you used to live in Pennsylvania (you can insert either a period or question mark and be correct.). So certainly something in my speaking tipped them off to that fact.

As I came to Bloomsburg, there was a different fear the second time. I had somewhat failed in my previous tenure-track position. I had failed in not only the marriage that was part of my first Pennsylvania experience, but had gone through a second marriage also. The health issues that had manifested themselves completely the first time I was in Lehighton had wreaked havoc on my body in numerous ways over the ensuing two decades and I returned with a permanency that had been a temporary during my time in Lehighton twenty years before. In fact, when I had left Pennsylvania in August of 1992, what I believed to be my situation with UC was only beginning and what I really was fighting was a much more difficult and serious issue of Crohn’s. I still had much to learn and a great deal more I would have to experience. I have learned so much in the 1/2 my life where surgery has left me with a modified digestive system. I have learned about the struggle between the public and private. I have learned about how my image of myself so affects what I imagine others might think of me. I have learned some about the complexity that affects those who suffer from IBDs and how too many, even those afflicted, believe it is either a positive consequence or a negative consequence. It is so much more and exceedingly tougher.

I can honestly say that it has been both the questions and conscious support I have received in the last months that I can imagine life differently than I have imagined it for the last 18 years. While there have been some moments and one or two people who have made me feel accepted in the time period, nothing like I have felt in the more recent past. I do not believe I have ever taken a picture of myself with my ostomy, and while I have not shared it on any small or grand scale, the fact I could even consider a picture was to move beyond something that has frightened me since I first had that as a temporary companion. To actually take the picture is like move from looking at a ledge from across the room to walking up to the ledge. I know there are additional things one might consider, but both of these steps are beyond anything I had ever imagined a few short months ago. The power of image when it comes to our bodies is not a male, female, trans issue. It is a human issue. It is not a while, black, brown, or Asian issue; it is a human issue. It is not a rich, poor, educated, less-educated, extrovert, or introvert issue. It is something we struggle with from the time we can imagine other people’s response to us to when we are beyond our youthful wonderful eat-what-you-want, I-won’t-gain-an-ounce, to the middle age gravitational-reality faze (which is not gender specific) to being told I remind someone of their grandfather now period of my life. Regardless the point at which we find ourselves, we hope that we can somehow make a person take a second look. Part of that is physicality, but I believe much more of it has to do with simple desirability. We want to believe that somehow we matter in a personal, in possibly an intimate way (and there was many types of intimacy); we want to know that we can be remembered in a way that someone will value us when we are in a different place. Even after we are gone, be it metaphorically or in reality. I think every human fears being forgotten or trivialized to the place there seems to be little that can or needs be said.

I have noted this in previous blogs, and because I live a very different life than my Uncle Clare did, I do not see us in the exact same position or the same light. However, I have said on more than one occasion that I feel at times I am turning into him. I am that somewhat elderly single person, who can be curmudgeonly, who people are inviting because they do not want me to be alone. Ironically, to specifically not be like him, I have turned down some invitations at times and spent a holiday alone. Treating it much like any other day. I do not confess this to illicit sympathy, but more in the spirit of disclosure. Disclosure is always frightening. I have confronted more fears of late than almost anyone knows. Surprisingly, it has not been nearly as difficult as one might imagine, and certainly more freeing than I could have ever anticipated. Yet fear never really disappears. And fear is powerful; it is also paralyzing. Henry Ford once wrote, “One of the greatest discoveries a [human] makes, one of [the] great surprises, is to find [they] can do what [they] were afraid [they] couldn’t do.” Fear can cause us to pity ourselves and it can breed a sort of complacent comfortability creating a banal reality that robs us of a more fulfilling and meaningful life. The longer we make our excuses, the harder the change to something else becomes.

I know that I am great in justifying why I did not get around to something, complete a bit more of something, or why I merely passed up an opportunity. Somehow I find myself considering possibilities or imagining what ifs with more optimism or hope than I have in some time. While that too is a bit out of my comfort zone, and it causes me some fear, I believe imagining for once in way beyond a proverbial blue moon or even a super blue moon, seems to be better than not imagining. For the first time, it is not imagining or trying to control or steer something, but is is merely managing the moment, and it is not so much managing as it is living in it. This is not how I usually do things, so I am learning as I go along. Is there a fear of the “what if?”. You can bet the bank on it. Yet, I am not afraid. I am content. I am enjoying the hypothetical, the theoretical. Sometimes it is more enjoyable than I could have ever fathomed; in fact, it is incredibly stimulating. I am pretty simple in some ways. I was even told I was a bit innocent in a recent conversation. Not a word I would generally use, but as usual, they were (and seem often to be) correct. I actually appreciate that. There is a certain comfort in when something is offered it can be believed. Especially when in the world we watch and listen to on a daily basis is more “fake” than the faker would ever understand. Having a place of truth and honesty, while always important, seems to have even more value in our post-2016 world.

So as I finish my thoughts for the moment, I am staring down 10 days of classes left. As I do not have finals in my classes, that is it. Actually I have 9 days of actual class. I have more meetings than I can shake a stick at. I have a boatload of work in these two weeks and other things to complete and manage, but a bit of focus and I should be okay. Tonight the new and old mentors for the COB LC came to the acre for a cookout. Some are graduating, some are continuing, and some are just getting started. There is so much to learn and realize from their amazing abilities and the important and honest work they do. I am so grateful for what they teach me. They are honest in their fears and address their what ifs with a sense of purpose. Some are headed into internship summers. Some are considering more school. Some are working as they always do. Yet they move forward. It is all anyone can do. For me, these past weeks and months of moving forward has been both a bit fearful, but much more exhilarating.

Good luck with the end of the academic year, and as always, thank you for reading,

Dr. Martin

Learning Begins Again

Hello from my corner of the office,

It always seems to be the case that when I believe, or begin to believe, I have in some shape or fashion figured out what my life is about, the fastball of fate whizzes by my ear. Not only did I miss it, I am not sure I saw it to begin with. The only reason I really know it happened is that I hear the snap of the ball in the catcher’s mitt and realize holy crap something just happened. I think life is much more often like that versus you see it all clearly coming down that 60′ 6″ in slow motion so you can knock it out of the park.

In the summer of 1968, I was going into eighth grade and I weighed all of 75 pounds soaking wet, and holding rocks. While my older brother was heading into his senior year of high school, I do not think he had thought about issues of the draft, the military, or the consequence of not going to college quite yet. He was busy being a high school student and had a girlfriend named Darlene, and she and her family went to our church. Ironically, and as an aside, I actually went out with her younger sister, Janice, once at about the same time (or age). Northwest Iowa was not a particularly diverse area, nor did it seem that particularly political during this monumental summer. Yet, on the other hand, the entire country was much more political than a soon-to-be eighth grader understood, and because college was not yet on my radar, I paid little attention to college campuses.

Some research showed that Ames was more public in their show of shock in Rev. King’s brutal killing versus Iowa City, which actually surprises me. For those of you who are not familiar with the Hawkeye state, or know of it now because of people like Representative Steve King, Johnson County, the home of the U of I, is probably 80% Democrat. On the other hand, ISU, fondly known at one time as Tractor Tech, is a bit more conservative. Ames had multiple demonstrations on that Friday, fifty years ago. What I remember is sitting in our living room of our house, in our very white, middle-class, blue-collar neighborhood. I am not sure I had ever spoken to a black person in my life at that point. The only thing I really understood about race was I should and would never use the N word. My parents were adamant that such language was strictly forbidden. I am not sure I even knew why, but I knew the consequence of such an utterance would be quite swift and it would be extreme. So on that Thursday night as Walter Cronkite announced the killing of Dr. King, and coverage began to show almost immediately the rioting in cities like Kansas City and Chicago, neither that far away or unknown to me, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., my parents did speak to us about the issues of race and safety. I do not remember much of their lecture, with the exception of being careful and being respectful. I have forgotten that we were headed into Holy Week at that time. I am sure the parallels of being a martyr for the poor and downtrodden were made (and appropriately so). At twelve I did not understand the significance of Dr. King’s place in society or what his role in civil rights was. I think there was a parallel between Dr. King for a 12 year old, white, Iowa boy and the significance in 2008, of President Obama’s election for the same basic 12 year year old, white, Iowa, boy. In both cases, I remain quite convinced the loss of one and the elevation of the other was much more profound for a 12 year old black child even with the differences in communication and coverage.

In the weeks since I wrote this first section, it seems there continues to be those moments, specific instances of memory about the significance of dates. On the 11th, my Uncle Clare would have had a 122nd birthday. My adopted father would have turned 103 yesterday. While 103 does not seem that old, 122 does. That 122 spans three centuries. Almost daily my students remind me of how small the time period they understand really is. My uncle actually served in the First World War. I think he did not seem that old because we grew up just down the block and he was always part of our Sunday gatherings. His address was 2213 and ours was 2354 and on the same street. The walk to his place was a regular event. While he had a curmudgeonly personality, he also had a good heart. He possessed a colorful vocabulary that grew more prominently distinctive as he covered the septuagenarian and octogenarian years of his life, and location created no barrier for his very earthy outbursts. When 1968 came along. He was in his 70s and had been a widower for almost a decade. I made the inquisitive 14 year old mistake of once asking him if he was dating a person he had gone to lunch with a few times. Beyond calling me a “little son-of-a-bitch,” the rest of his answer would probably require a parental warning for this blog post. It would be restricted or over 18. The last time I saw him alive in the nursing home, he had injured his hand when he punched his roommate, and he was mighty proud of that. However, he was a genuinely grateful person when people helped him. I think what most astounds me is that in the almost century and a quarter from birth until death, the profound extent or degree of change, which had occurred beyond what most might deem even fathomable. From technology on the large scale to individual realizations about the change in our social fabric, the sort of seismic scale of difference in that time period is beyond the solitary person’s ability to process. I ponder how anyone can realize the magnitude of changes one experiences in a lifetime and simply, as a general rule, I do not believe we are capable of doing it. Moving to the second of the April family birthdays, what amazes me most about my adoptive father is how much we are alike, in spite of the fact that he was not my biological parent. When people tell me I was like him, I am honored and humbled. He was a good person, a caring person, and a person who worked hard and tried to make the lives of those around him better. He was giving and thoughtful. In spite of all, I know he was not perfect. I think he believed if you worked hard and “kept your nose clean,” as he called it, things would work out. I am not much different in my outlook. What I find most important it that he accepted people; he certainly did not always understand them, and he was most definitely a product of his time. There are ways I am sure he would be shaking his head at where we are societally. He was much more conservative than I am socially and I am more conservative than he was fiscally. It is an interesting juxtaposition.

As I noted at the outset, my head is most bobbled when I think I have things figured out, but find out perhaps not. Something happens to change my perspective of get my attention once again. There are two things in particular that have happened. The first I will address, though this does not mean I believe it to be the most important, is health things once again. After a bit of regular calling and trying, I was able to get into the dermatologist. I went in for a mole that was growing and on my back, and whose placement was annoying when I tried to lay down. It seemed reasonable because of the changes to get it removed. Well, interestingly enough, while the mole was removed, it was not all that problematic. However, while examining my back, the doctor decided some other areas were suspicious. So some lidocaine shots later and the removal of 5 areas of medical concern (three on my back, one on my collarbone area, and a small one on my forehead), and some serious subsequent holes where the removal was done, I have the heard back on the pathology of the problematic places. They are all cancerous and one of the areas on my back and the one on my forehead will require some additional work. The forehead area will require MOHS surgery, which I have previously done. The area on my back will be more invasive and done at a separate time. The issue with the back area is that I was informed that cancer is quite aggressive and they will probably have to cut an area and then it will require suturing to complete. That is the one that most concerns me. I have actually just spoken with the scheduling people and I am scheduled for both procedures on June 20th. I have to go back for some other follow up before that. While there is a side of me that is able to say, “just take care of it.” There is another side that says enough is enough. In the big picture, however, I know that once again, I am fortunate.

The second thing that has sort of boggled my mind is how life continues to provide opportunities for me to better understand myself and to imagine possibilities that seem to be outside what I had planned or what I believed could happen. One of my former students from UW-Stout, one who has been part of my life since the first day I began teaching there, once asked me why my life had transpired the way it had. I told her it was because I had more pressing things on my plate that needed attention than what I wanted or what I believed necessary. In her typical way, she did not allow me off the hook quite that easily and told me rather emphatically what she thought. It would be interesting to listen to her if I told her what was happening in my life at the moment. What is happening you ask? The most truthful answer is: I am not sure what is happening, but I am merely living it each day and blessed by what happens. It is not often that you find a thinker who thinks in the same manner, appreciates many of the same things, and is about process, which I am all about. That sort of work and conversation and helped me to consider writing and publishing in ways I have seldom imagined or been motivated to do. That is an exciting possibility. There is the same rather unique sense of humor and the ability to laugh both at myself and some of the things that seemed mundane, but also humorous to me. As I go through my days I am blessed by thoughts, hypotheticals, theoreticals, and actuals. It is so astounding that in spite of whatever happens, I know that I have a better, a more blessed, life. Conversations, texts, and late night phone calls have revealed more about myself than I could have ever anticipated.

As we head into the final weeks of the semester, there is always more to do than there is time, but it gets done somehow. I am excited to finish up the semester and see what the summer brings. I have had a couple things added to the schedule that I could just as well do without, but sometimes we have no choices in all of that. There is yet another hurdle to jump in terms of health, but I do not see this one as insurmountable. Then again, nothing is really insurmountable. Part of that is because I do not really see death as an enemy. I do not say that in an attempt to be morbid, but rather merely to say I am not afraid. At least, I have not been up to this point, and there seems to be no reason to change that position now. That is a topic for another blog. As I finish the year, and this blog, life is good and I am feeling loved and blessed. One cannot ask for much more. Somehow, this video, and the original Imagine Dragons’ video of this is outrageous, but I decided this video was what I wanted to post today.

Thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

Making Sense of the Nonsensical

Hello from my office,

It has been a long day, but that is typical for Monday, but today has seemed longer than usual. I think it is because I am more worn out that I would like to admit. I think it is because I do not seem to have the stamina I once had. I think it is because I have become more dependent on B12 shots and other medications that I wish I was. I am trying to figure out how to get out of that spiral. I do need to get my shot this week and I know there is more sense to that than a lack of sense. When a certain part of your intestinal track is the only place you readily absorb B complex vitamins, and you no longer have that part of your anatomy, you are dependent on something more to help you out. For me, that has become shots. While the shot in an of itself is not that difficult, it is that I need to schedule them out and I did at least get them approved for a year in advance. There are also the regular blood tests and the vitamins that I must manage in other ways because my insides have been so altered. This past week I had to get reloaded on vitamins, prescriptions, and other necessities that characterize my basic life. I have to admit this past year has been something that has pushed my generally optimistic outlook on how all of this is managed. About a year ago I wrote about the complexity that was becoming more and more clear. Hydration is something most of us generally take for granted; while I have known this is not something I can do, I was certainly not ready for how extreme my awareness of that need would become.

I had worked on this blog a couple of times, but for some reason by various writing tools did not synchronize, so I have lost a significant amount of what I wrote, but somehow the title I originally created still seems more apropos than ever. During the past couple of weeks at most every level, there seems to be more “truth is stranger than fiction” than one could ever hope to experience. From a 60 Minutes show, where a porn star alleges she slept with the President (and there are more than a dozen other women who claim some sort of encounter with him) to daily stories of chaos at the White House, even if we are to offer some benefit of the doubt, there is little more than can be said that it is exceedingly embarrassing for our country. Even if there is some embellishment of the accounts, after his infamous taped comments, it seems unlikely that he is a choir boy in all of this. I read an article just today where it noted that more than half the country believes the President to be liar. So much for credibility. It is stunning to me that anyone can find the scads of scandal palatable. One of my students noted that the press has been incredibly unfair to President Trump. Even if I am empathetic to that claim at all, and maybe there is a jot or tittle, he has done very little to mitigate their contempt. In fact, I believe he thrives on all this discontent. Not any way to run the country. After vowing to make Mexico to pay for his “beautiful wall,” today I read that President Trump is floating the idea of having the military to pay for it. First of all, that would certainly go back on one of his signature promises of his campaign. Of course, former Mexican President Vincente Fox stated emphatically that would not happen. Over the past weekend, on another tweeting tirade, which seems to be a regular event. What seems to be lacking here is the Constitutional difficulty moving money from a military budget would cause to come up with an estimated $15-25 billion dollars is beyond what he can constitutionally spend without Congressional authorization. And you cannot just take billions earmarked in one budget and move it wherever you want. This is not the Trump Organization. It is the United States.

The second issue, which always causes an avalanche of emotion is the entire 2nd Amendment conversation, which is at least a foundational pillar of the past week’s latest march in Washington, D.C. and mirroring marches around the globe. The March for Our Lives, with estimates of 1.2-2.0 million people in the capitol alone,  makes it one of the larger protests in our history. What I do believe is most significant is that it was initiated by high school students who are saying enough is enough. It was also interesting in it was the largest youth-led protest since Vietnam. That personally gives me some hope. Again, however, I struggle with some of the backlash, and as a somewhat native Iowan, there is a United States Representative from there that continually frightens me. His bigoted vitriol should frighten more than merely his legislative district. The bigger issue here is we cannot seem to come together in most anything that has fractured us currently. I believe that the 2016 election demonstrated beyond anything most imagined how bigoted, sexist, racist, and economically how extremely discriminatory we are. That has come out in the responses toward some of the students who have stood up to say enough. We seem to allow professional athletes to do all sort of atrocious things (and I know some will argue this because there has been some change in that), but we will question the passion of 14-18 year olds and accuse them of not being genuine. Please?? Between a photoshopped picture of her tearing up the Constitution to disparaging her wearing a Cuban flag, though she is of Cuban descent, and a plethora of other criticisms, people seem to focus the entire movement on simply a 2nd Amendment struggle. If you are uncertain of some of this, please see the following article: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/parkland-students-find-themselves-targets-of-lies-and-personal-attacks/ar-BBKMqbL?ocid=spartanntp_edu.

It is also interesting that former Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens noted that the 2nd Amendment should be repealed. That will fire some people up beyond belief and there is certainly an irony that students calling for an end to gun violence would now be referred to as Nazis. Alex Jones, a conservative talk host whose methods of journalism have seemed to create much more division than anything positive, has spliced together images of Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg with Nazi war images and distributed it, arguing authoritarianism is always about youth marches. Since when does protesting for the safety of people get automatically pushed toward Nazism, but singling out all the various groups that are paramount to “the other” that our President did during the campaign or continues to do with yet another ban on transgender people in the military is not, or should not be equated to that Adolph Hitler convinced the German population to do to the Jews. Again, I am asking for a little common sense here. For a State Representative in Minnesota to refer to David Hogg as Supreme Leader Hogg  and speak about Hitler’s comments about youth, and then beg they not be connected is disingenuous at best, and plain out despicable more than likely. Again, the underlying principle here is about civility and decorum. While I do not have any specifics about the protest, there is something to be said when this protest had co-protests occurring simultaneously around the entire world. That says, in a fundamental way, that this was about so much more than a 2nd Amendment. It was about creating safe spaces and about saying what is has become almost a norm rather than an exception needs to stop. We should not be at the point where somehow a mass shooting is just another day in the life of the country. We should be outraged. We should realize that the level of killing on our city streets and our country outpaces most of the world (if not all of it), and I know I could look it up, but the very fact that I believe we are in this dubious position says enough. One of my colleague has spoken out rather vociferously against this violence with the passion she exhibits for most parts of her life. While I am not sure I am always comfortable with the degree of pathos that accompanies her arguments, I do not disagree with where she stands or the argument she presents, an argument that is deeply thought through and an argument that is based on logic and the most fundamental of our founding principles. She is under some pretty extensive pressure from a variety of fronts to stand down, but as much as I am not sure she considers audience as much as I might, her audience certainly does not seem to understand her, most in terms of the degree of pathos (logos or ethos for that matter) she brings, and they certainly do not understand the deontology of her position. My picture that is at the top of this post has a two-fold purpose. First, we are struggling to stay in, or find, spring. Second, there is not a snowball’s chance my colleague will be intimidated to the point she will back down.

Then there are simply the things you can plan and plan, but the best laid plans do go awry. I took my car in for the annual inspection. In spite of the other car issues, somehow, I had a leaking radiator. I hate car repairs. In fact, this is the longest I have owned a car for a while. Fortunately, when I purchased this one, I had also purchased an extended warranty. It certainly made 100s of dollars difference. I must say that the dealership I have worked with for 9 years here in Bloomsburg has been quite good in terms of service. As I finally finish this post, it has once again taken me longer than planned. It is now about 4:30 a.m. on an Easter morning, an April Fools’ Day. I do not remember an Easter and the prankster’s day aligning when I was a pastor, but one of my seminary classmates and I were noting it in a Facebook message yesterday. People who proclaimed the resurrection were certainly called fools beginning that first Easer morning. More than one person has spoken about what has been called the folly of the cross. The role of the church in society has certainly changed in my lifetime, and certainly the acceleration of the change has grown since I left the parish as a pastor. This past week, as I held student conferences for my rhetoric class, One of my students who is looking at Friedrich Nietzsche, as a rhetorician, stated that at least 50% of the students today or probably atheists. I’m not sure I agree with that, although I do believe probably a much higher degree are, than when I was in college, strong agnostics. I am not sure I find Nietzsche that sensical, but then again as my title suggests there is little sensical at the present time. During the past months I have listened to so much that makes little sense, either logically or emotionally, as someone who grew up where I did (in Northwest Iowa) has taken a much different path than I would. Yet, that is the profound complexity of free will. It is not about making sense; it is about merely doing as one’s own peculiar psyche sees fit. There is little sense to it often times, but then again sense is seldom common, and that seems more true today than ever before. To those who celebrate this most significant day in the church calendar, Blessed Easter; to my Jewish colleges and friends, I know you celebrated Passover on Friday and shalom on this most holy day. It is that tradition that I post my somewhat obligatory trailer or song, though the issue is a different one in the Jewish mindset, but it should be the mindset of all. In our non-sensical world perhaps we need more atonement and forgiveness for our seemingly inexhaustible ability to offend one another.

 

Thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin