30 August 2013

The Cutting Room Floor

"Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides,
 and gravity...we shall harness the energies of love.
Then, for the second time in the history of the world,
 man will have discovered fire."
--Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955:  French Jesuit Priest, philosopher and theologian, also trained as a           paleontologist & geologist; from The Phenomenon of Man)

I have been re-reading a book I purchased in 2010 through the Alban Institute -- a research and resource organization for the Church.  The title:  Know Your Story and Lead with It:  The Power of Narrative in Clergy Leadership, by Richard Hester & Kelli Walker-Jones (2009; Alban Institute Publications).  Though retired from active parish ministry, this book affected me deeply and helped shape my style of presentation for the last 1.5 years of parish leadership prior to retirement.  It was one of those "chance" purchases and, ultimately, a book I decided to keep during the "great purge" of my professional library (going from 900+ books to about 150 that I now retain).

In this phase of my life, I have left behind the intensity that is the daily parochial and organizational elements of Episcopal Church struggles over issues.  There is a lot of judgmental rhetoric and dualistic thinking in the organizational element of any group.  One does not generally expect it in the Church; but, as one wise theologian once quipped:  "There is no more secular environment in the human community than the Church." (NB:  anytime I use the term, "Church," I mean the Church universal.  I will specify, when I speak only of my own tradition, which is the Episcopal Church).  

This, however, is not a rant about what I have left behind in retirement.  It is a reflection on two levels:  What I seem to be becoming in this phase of life; What about the "gaps" in my, or any, story?

All of us who have any sort of career maintain a resume of some type.  In the Episcopal Church, for instance, we have two types:  the personal "paper" resume and the electronic/digital deployment online resume available only to those with a need (in a search process, for instance).  A resume tells a summary story of where we come from; what level of education/training we have had; what employment positions we have held; what our goals and vision may be in our vocational journey.   The key word here is summary.  A resume only highlights a person through one particular lens.  A resume, in no way, says anything about the whole of one's life and experiences.

This is also true in the emergence and saturation of social media worldwide.  A typical Facebook or LinkedIn posting is a literal split-second "photo" of what a person is thinking or experiencing.  It is even more limited in its descriptive scope than a typical resume.  The content of social media expressions is very different from a resume insomuch as social media allows for expression of  "emotion in print" and opinion without necessary objectivity (resumes strive to be totally objective in presentation, e.g. I earned a BA from the University of Florida in 1972....period).

What is left out of a resume, or social media expressions, or even in casual group/personal interaction are the myriad experiences, thoughts, joys, fears, anxieties, successes, failures, grief and triumph that "flesh out" our full personality and character.  Each human being has an internal gyroscope...a balancing element of being that centers us and expresses itself as Self.  It is a combination of core character and ego structure.  Some folks call it the "moral compass," but I find that a bit limiting.  At the core of all human life is a fundamental being that is, by its very nature, good.  It is formed in love.  The ego, which is formed as we move from birth into an environment of relationships, is the voice that we normally associate with our reality.  However, it is only the adjunct to the central reality of Self.  In living our lives, it is the content of this inner dialogue that is missing from both us telling our own story, as well as the story others have in experiencing us.

Those missing elements of our journey are like the pieces of a film that have been created.  Pre-digital film making meant shooting a lot of movie scenes to create the narrative envisioned by both the writer and director of the movie.  Once all the scenes were on film, the editing crew went to work to cut scenes and enhance other scenes to produce a final movie product that met both time and narrative limitations.  The pieces of the movie that had been cut were consigned (in movie making language) to "the cutting room floor."
At some point, if the movie had achieved success, there might be a second release advertising, "never before seen footage"... respliced scenes that had been cut before first viewing.

In the digital age, this is all done very differently, but the concept is still the same.  It is simply a seamless stream, with the unwanted portions of the original filming either deleted or archived.

Life, as human beings in community, is different.  We cannot cut out unwanted material.  We are in a continuous and constant flow of engagement...even in sleep.  We have "scenes" that we classify as "mistakes" or "triumphs."  There are things we say or do that we would rather no one else ever know.  We  have experiences that are either so distressing or disruptive that we bury them deeply in our unconscious so that we, ourselves, don't remember them.  Nevertheless, all these things are there.  They simply are not part of the narrative story that we share.  If we were to write an autobiography that detailed every moment of our lives, we would, for certain, come to places where we would say, "leave that chapter out" -- hoping to permanently consign it to the "cutting room floor."

Another facet of this is the story that we have about others.  I want to share an example.  All names have been removed for obvious reasons.

I have a colleague friend who arrived at a parish church to begin a new ministry.  As all congregations do, his new congregation had an identity by virtue of its history and ministry styles.  At the first meeting of the wider community of clergy, this person was received well by most.   My friend was from another part of the country and not familiar with the diocese we were in.  To the amazement of many, there was a group who had already developed a "story" about the parish who, after introduction, launched into my friend with words like, "we know what kind of person you are and what you believe."  

I did not know what to think of this moment of characterization of a relatively unknown individual.  Not knowing much of this person's deeper story, I arranged a time, over lunch, where we could share our deeper stories.  My intent was to listen to my friend's story without either judgment or rejoinder.  What emerged over the two-hour period was a vast amount of experiences that painted a picture hugely different than the pre-fabricated story based upon heresay or corporate identification.  And, still, this is not nearly the whole story.

Our opinions and judgments about persons in the larger environment are more often shaped by conjecture, innuendo, a "snap shot" by someone who has had a brief encounter, or by the "expertise" of those whom we have given some level of authority.  Cable television news journalism is overwhelmingly a series of either diatribes or "opinion editorials" without benefit of personal knowledge or deeper stories of anyone featured in a presentation.  I do not know the inner workings of any of the persons in either the White House administration or either chamber of Congress.  I personally know only one Congressman.  We have been friends for about 10 years, and I have had the pleasure of having lunches, coffees and other times of sharing thoughts, experiences and life stories.  But even with that depth, I am not in a place of tagging him with motives or characterizations.

Our culture is currently in a relatively unhealthy place.  We've been captured by dualistic thinking for most of  the last two millennia (perhaps far longer), so this is not new.  Dualism comes down to someone winning and, therefore, someone losing; someone good, and, therefore, someone bad;  someone left, and, therefore, someone right.  All of these dichotomies are fabrications based largely on supposition that anything different from our own experiences must, somehow, be flawed.  There are folks close to me, for instance, who feel compelled to find mistakes or flaws in anything I place into public discourse.  In dualistic environments, folks find it incredibly difficult to to simply accept differences.

In this phase of my life, my internal balance is more and more dependent upon finding homeostasis in the larger system.  In every parish that I led over 31 years, it was important to insure that all persons who entered the doors for worship felt both safe and welcomed (I was not the lead priest the first four years of ordained life).  Now, in retirement, this seems even more important.  Even if my ego wants to say, "this person has the wackiest ____(politics, theology, social behavior, attitude, etc) I can imagine," my earnest endeavor is to ask questions, actively listen (without creating a story internally as a form of judgment or rebuttal) and find common ground in our deeper experiences.  It was a gift that Martin Luther King, Jr. had that made the cause of Civil Rights the transformational shift it has been in our culture.  He could tell his story -- his experience of both spiritual and emotional depth -- in ways that ignited the possibilities for a "color blind" society.  Are we there yet?  Of course not.  There are still pre-fabricated stories and ego driven prejudices that cast judgment on those who are different.

Truly, we who are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist cannot even tell our personal stories, or our foundational faith stories, to each other in our own traditions in the space of Love -- much less speak our stories to one another across the lines of these major traditions.  An increasingly larger number of people are trying, but this is a slow, agonizing and painful process.

My blog is, in large measure, an attempt to reclaim some of my story that has been consigned to the cutting room floor and present a clearer, more accurate presentation of Self --- the more "uncut" version.  It's a risk, but I value integrity of character over the judgment of others.  I don't know how much time in this phase of life I have before me, but it will not be defined by dualistic diatribes, snap judgments, or type-casting based upon race, ethnicity, heritage, gender, socio-economic status, or political ideology.  Life, as I face it, is truly too short for that.  We are meant for much more than that...to be sure.

Love and Blessings,

Fr. Fred+

27 August 2013

There is a Pill for That

Mother's Little Helper. from the Album, Aftermath (1966)
Lyrics by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

From previous posts, folks know that I have been on a journey.  It is one that has (and is) profoundly reshaping my physiology, daily routines and engagement with life itself.  It is not something I did on a whim, or because it seemed like a good thing to do at the moment.  It took a long time for me to open the door to this shift.  In some ways, I waited too long.  I am past the point that "diabetes won't happen to me."  It did.  And, once the gene for that condition "turns on," it will never "turn off."  This is a journey to change fundamentally  what I eat, how I eat and the choices I make to engage my environment on a daily basis.  

In the eight blog posts that reflected my first two weeks of this journey, I made a lot of statements and shared a lot of information.  One thing I learned a long time ago, in my craft/vocation of being an Episcopal Priest, is that a decision to change something isn't just about that thing being changed.  It is much more complex, and nearly everything in one's sphere shifts at some level in that one decision.  

I also have learned that it always helps to go to a number of sources in the process of making a decision or embracing a modality that will lead to a shift.  I am not, for example, an "MSNBC devotee," or a "CNN junkie," or a "Fox News fanatic."  Truth, in both event and impact, is always somewhere in the middle of all of those opinions, prognostications, and diatribes.

So, being who I am, this journey began not simply with an impulse or a resolve.  It included the desire and determination to research and read as much as I could find in the field of human nutrition, diabetes research, food science and the chemistry that happens in the metabolic processes that create hyperlipidemia, tryglyceride saturation and insulin resistance.  

Now, beginning my sixth week of this new journey, I have not only researched a number of significant websites, but have read a number of journal articles, books and other published materials available in both local and online library systems.  In all, I think I have read more than 700 pages of material in these weeks.  Much of it is in the form of research results and data from studies over the past twenty years.  A lot of it is cutting edge research by such noted institutions as the National Institute of Health (NIH), Harvard Institute of Public Health, Duke University, Johns-Hopkins University, Mayo Clinic -- along with data published in articles appearing in Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).  This list is just a representative listing of what I explored.

When one is using the internet as a source of research, inevitably one's contact will be part of that site for future reference -- like a bookmark we use on our own browser systems.  I have found this useful in some of the sites I listed above, because additional materials will be sent, as research continues.  On some websites, however, I have discovered something I already knew intuitively.  Some folks who are publishing credible independent research data also "front" for companies that make claims with what I call that "Disneyland Appeal."  

Example:  I read a very credible report on metabolic processes in nutrition on one site that is located in Oregon.  Since reading that report five weeks ago, I have received four emails from the site owners touting "the latest development in metabolic balance," or "the answer to the problem of Type II Diabetes."  Great.  So, I click on the report.  It begins with a somewhat convincing presentation on what condition the body is in at a particular stage of a chronic condition (gluten intolerance, diabetes, colitis, etc.).  After a time of rehearsing the effects, there begins a litany of "what you find tiresome" (as if that was a standard experience).  To wit:  constant dieting; inability to enjoy the foods you like; cravings; "hours of exhausting exercise."  The litany can get pretty long.  This is where the pitch generally kicks in.

"Dr. X, after exhaustive research, has put together a formula of natural herbs and essential nutrients guaranteed to control and lower glucose, while you can continue to enjoy all the foods you have always loved."  Then, the ingredients are listed with explanations of how this particular herb, seed or plant has, for centuries, been used by an indigenous group in some part of the world.  Just two of these a day, and you can enjoy health and vitality.  The price for the supplement is always hidden behind the "order now" button.

Seriously, I am all for free enterprise.  However, what I have learned is the painful truth that almost all of these "we can save your life now" products play upon the naivete and gullibility of a culture that has, for a very long time, demanded the easiest, fasted and most effortless means to achieve perfect health, perfect looks and longevity.  Remember the slimming belts sold in our parents' generation (post WW II)?  Remember the slimming beds?  Simply lie down, relax and the movement of the table (twisting in the center) will burn that midriff fat right off!   I remember one of my aunts, who used both machines and could never understand why they didn't work for her.  Well, they didn't work for anyone.  It's not how fat is burned in the body.

I received access to a "kit" that has nine PDF modules for diabetes solution.  It is actually rather close to what I have been doing.  The only difference is that wheat is allowed.  This is a problem, but it isn't a total deal-breaker (if you don't yet have a diagnosis of Type II Diabetes).   The real problem for me is that the same group that put out this "kit" now regularly sends long and tedious audio-visual presentations to tell me that a particular kind of supplement is "the" answer for folks with diabetes.  Okay, which one of the five you have now sent me is the real "the" answer?!

Fact:  There are medications that are necessary for metabolic disorders.  I will be on a heart medication for life, due to a genetic coronary artery disorder.  I will be on a blood pressure medication for life, because of the same disorder.  However, there are ways to work with disorders like diabetes, gluten intolerance,  and ulcerative colitis that can result in being removed from medications.  This is backed by a number of very credible studies...published and available.

Fact:  The wheat that we are eating is not the wheat eaten by our ancestors...or by us, if we were born prior to the mid/late 1960s.  One-hundred percent of  American wheat is a genetically produced hybrid strain that includes a protein that was not present in any wheat in human civilization prior to around 1970, when this hybrid strain was introduced.  That protein is gliadin.  It acts on both our neural and metabolic processes in ways that quadruple the negative affects of gluten and glucose in the body.  It also negatively affects insulin production.  There is hard science in this.  Why aren't we concerned about this?  Perhaps because the neural affect is identical to the addictive process of cocaine and heroin.  We are essentially addicted to wheat.

Fact:  It is the amount and forms of sugar and carbohydrate consumed that are responsible for most metabolic dysfunction.  Wheat products, high fructose corn syrup and other sugar additives are at the center of why more than 33% of the U.S. population alone now has diabetes.  It is why, since 1970, the average American consumes 440 per day more than we did prior to that time.  That's 68,000 calories per year!  This does not take into account that China reports that nearly 400 million of its people have either diabetes or metabolic syndrome (aka pre-diabetes).  Diabetes in China's population was almost unknown until 30 years ago.

Fact:  There is no "magic bullet" or "little pill" that will make all this go away.  None!  Pills only mask a problem.  They are an expensive way to remain in denial about what we purchase and consume in grocery stores, restaurants and, yes, even in most health food stores.  Example:  Most "gluten free" foods may have no gluten, but they contain other by-products to enhance taste that will send blood glucose levels through the roof.

What I am doing is not THE answer for everyone.   I keep saying that to folks who hang out with me around Sarasota.  I no longer consume products with added sugars.  I no longer consume "low-fat" products, because they contain sugar additives to enhance taste (compare the amount of sugar listed in a quart of fat-free milk with the sugar in a quart of heavy cream....you will be stunned...guaranteed).  I no longer consume wheat products or processed foods with wheat additives.

I eat lean protein (the less processed the better...no sugars or carbs), fresh vegetables (excluding root vegetables right now...high in carbs), blueberries, raspberries, a few strawberries, a variety of nuts (with a few exceptions).  I eat in moderation.  I am almost never hungry.  After a trip to the gym, if my blood glucose has dipped a bit, 1 ounce of hard, natural cheese, or about 1.5 ounces of almonds, walnuts,  or pistachios (or combination) will do the trick.  I drink coffee and use heavy cream.  I drink unsweetened black or green tea.  I like a sweet potato....half of one in a meal.   I am finding great recipes that use almond flour, coconut flour and other substitutes for wheat and corn to make a new kind of bread (yes, most corn is now genetically modified and metabolized differently).

In five weeks:  my average fasting blood glucose is within normal range (85-100 mg/dl) for the first time in over four years.  I have lost 21 lbs in five weeks.  Again, no starvation diet but a total change in lifestyle.  I exercise five days/week....moderate.  I am not "exhausting" myself at the gym to lose weight.  I sleep much better at night.  I have a lot of energy during the day...no need for a nap.  I don't think about food, and cravings left me about three weeks ago.  I no longer want breads or sweet stuff.  In essence, my body is regaining its balance.  I drive the person taking my order crazy in restaurants.

This kind of thing should not be marketed.  It needs to be available to everyone.  We need to change the food industry.  If we keep eating stuff that is killing us, the food industry will continue to stock the shelves with it.  If we demand that agri-businesses produce only healthy grain products and refuse to consume what isn't healthy, things will change.  It will take time.

I am not holding my breath.  But, I am already a lot healthier than I was less than six weeks ago.  There is no pill for this.  It is simply doing what really and seriously works with commitment.  No greatness here....simply a sojourner for honest balance.

Love and Blessings,


09 August 2013

Only One Small Mouse Click

By, F. Montforte D'Hubert...with kind thanks to Frederick Mann for permission to place this on his blog site.

I read this story in The New Yorker and wanted to share it with you:


Andy Borowitz is an intelligent and insightful journalist.  I am not making this up.  He has been writing for The New Yorker for some time now, and, I must say, I like both his style and his accuracy.

How do I know that Andy has it right this time, regarding the sale of the Washington Post?  Well, because I almost bought the State of California by accident not too long ago.

It happened on one of those evenings when it had been stormy.  This happens often in South Florida during the summer, so that was not unusual.  What was unusual was that I simply could not sleep.  It was disconcerting and downright inconvenient, because I needed to be up early for a meeting.  I was burning moonlight.

Rather than watch late night television, I decided to get on the computer and, perhaps, do some journal writing, or catch up on email.  One of my emails came from a friend who shared a picture of a new t-shirt that really looked spiffy.  I am all about collecting t-shirts with unusual slogans and small pictures, and the one my friend showed off was especially enticing.  It was a California t-shirt.

Now, I have a number of friends who live in California or have lived there sometime in their past.  I have been to California a number of times and am a fan of the U. Cal.-Berkeley Bears.  I like bears, and UC Berkeley has some nice t-shirts.

So, at 11:45pm on this rainy night, I went to the State of California website.  It was well laid out, and I navigated my way to the "Online Store" section of the menu bar.  Because California is a big state, it has lots of products and kitch that one can purchase for a nominal fee.  We all know that California has had its financial woes of late, so, even the kitch is a tad pricey.  Nonetheless, I hunted around a bit in the "apparel" area and, finally, Voila!  There was the t-shirt my friend had showed me.

This product came in several colors and sizes for both men and women.  It had the color I wanted and the size that fits well.  I was in luck!  But....I was also getting sleepy by now.  "Come On!" I said to myself..."you can do this, shut down and be in bed in five minutes."

So, I popped my knuckles, took a deep breath, focused and "bam" began hitting the choice and check out keys in rapid order.  Fingers humming away, I clicked each window, as it came up.  Within five minutes, I had placed the choice in my shopping cart, provided the information, signaled the purchase and confirmed my decision -- that last button.  Up popped the completion page...of which I made a copy and simply threw it on my desk, as I shut my system down.  Sleep came fast.

Next morning, after my meeting, I was tooling about our home town -- doing the usual errands -- when I got this call from my bank on my cell phone (unusual).  The lady on the other end seemed a bit frantic and halting in her tone and presentation.

"Sir, can you please verify that you are the owner of this account (name, address)?"  "Yes," I replied, a bit apprehensively.  She proceeded with the usual security questions, to which I gave spot-on answers.

When that was done, I preempted her with one of my own questions, "Excuse me, but you seem a bit distracted, and you don't usually call my cell phone.  Is there a problem I should know about?"

Her response came in a frame of hesitancy.  "Uh, yes, we seem to have a problem with your account.  There is a request for $2.5 million to be paid out through your account.  The requesting agency is, well, unusual."  Now was my time to be hesitant and frantic.

"I'm sorry, but did you say $2.5 million as in 2 million, five hundred thousand American dollars?"  The bank lady could tell I was suddenly edgy.  "Yes sir, $2 million, five-hundred thousand plus $21.45."

"So, what is the last little bit all about?" I queried...mouth getting drier by the second.

"Well, the itemized breakdown says that the final $21.45 is for a 'medium blue, xl, t-shirt' which includes the tax.  There is no tax on the seriously big amount."  Now we were both acting like people who had been hit up-side the head with a frying pan.  My ears were ringing.

"Tell me please, ma'am, how is it that I have a pending $2.5 million charge to my bank card.  I don't have that kind of cash anywhere."  I had, fortunately, stopped my car on the edge of a shopping center parking lot.  My hands were shaking.  How am I going to explain this to She Who Must Be Obeyed?

There was a moment of awkward silence.  Then, the bank lady said, in what seemed to be both a weary and wary voice, "The purchase order request for that large amount simply says, The State of California and All Not Privately Owned Properties and Businesses."  Yep, she said exactly that.  Me too, this had to be a joke.  I asked as much...mustering all the energy from my now very dry mouth and parched lungs.

"No sir, both our bank manager and the regional manager have checked the validity of the request.  You did, at 11:51pm last evening, check out of the State of California official website store with the purchase of the entire state of California and one t-shirt.  It is legitimate, and the Sacramento State House placed a call to our bank president...just as I began my call to you...wanting to know when to expect the transfer of funds.  It is why I seemed so distracted.  This is very unusual."

"Unusual?!!" I croaked.  "This is bloody impossible, outrageous and a joke!  It isn't even pay day!"  I added the last quip hoping to finally get her to laugh and admit that the bank was having a good time at my expense on this moist and hot morning.

It was no joke.  The manager came on the phone and gave me the routing number.  We ended the call with me, now all buzzed with nerves, heading home to take a look at the purchase confirmation sheet that was still laying on my desk, where I had casually tossed it before retiring for the night.  Seeming that some bizarre mix-up had occurred, the bank manager suggested I give a call to customer service at the State of California Online Store to see (and she said this), "What the hell this is all about."

To my utter horror and amazement, on the purchase confirmation sheet, on my study desk, were two purchases:  a t-shirt and The State of California sans private property and privately owned businesses.  That is a lot of land and infrastructure.  It is also a lot of overhead.  Owning California is like owning an old home.  Not only is there ongoing upkeep; there is also the neglect and renovation needed from the missteps of previous owners.  But, the State of California is the third largest state in the U.S.A.  It is worth gazillions...not just $2.5 million.  I don't have $2.5 million...never have, never will (unless I win the lottery).

The next couple of hours are blurred and too complex to transfer to text.  Ultimately, the customer service representative at the State of California website store (a nice, but firm, guy with an accent that made it hard for me to communicate well), who simply wanted the purchase order to be closed, called some office in Sacramento.  I could hear the "What the f...?" responses and on-hold buttons being pushed...as the customer service rep moved through a rather long chain of command.  Nobody wanted to handle this.  I was really nervous.  Stuff on this level gets real serious, and unusual people show up at one's doorstep driving black SUVs, with Sig-Sauers tucked under their jackets.

After about 14 expletive laden responses and on-hold sequences, there came a click and a smooth, mature and unusually calm voice.  "Is the customer on the line right now?"  The service rep answered in the affirmative with a crisp, "sir" at the end.  "I am connecting you now, sir."

"Good morning from Sacramento," said the voice, "I understand there is some kind of problem.  I am Jerry Brown, the Governor.  How can I help you?"  Now it was my turn, "What the f...?"  The actual governor of California?  "None other," came the reply.  There was a long pause.

I finally was able to more or less sputter the story to Gov. Brown.  I told him what I think happened on the website.  I was getting sleepy and assumed that all the buttons I clicked had to do with buying one simple, damned t-shirt.  I did not realize I was buying an entire state.  I don't want a state.  It's too big and too much responsibility.  Besides, I can't even afford a state.  How is it that the state puts itself on sale on its own website?

Gov. Brown sighed heavily and said, "Well, it is true.  We have had our problems, and we are not out of the woods yet to be sure.  I asked the State House for some creative ideas on how we could raise revenues for operations.  I have all my staff looking into this.  I want you to give me about 2 hours to see what we can do.  I will personally call you back."

At just after 4:00pm that afternoon...just as I poured my 11th cup of coffee (used up all my really good fresh ground stuff that day), my cellphone buzzed.  It was Gov. Brown...the governor...on the phone.  "Hey, Mr. D'Hubert, I am sorry to keep you waiting so long.  These things can be hard to track down.  We have a number of goofy state representatives.  No one wanted to chat...especially the ones from San Diego and Bakersfield.  Got a minute to let me explain?"

"Yes, sir, but first, what about that charge on my bank card?"  I was supremely nervous and was tired of staring out from behind the drapes of my living room for black SUVs.  "Oh, for crying out loud...I'm sorry...no, that charge has been cleared.  You aren't buying the state after all."  My release of tension was probably audible for blocks.  It seemed to distress the Governor a bit.

Composure regained, I asked -- rather meekly -- what had happened.

The Governor summed it up this way:  We did some tracking, and we found an article that you had written on 6 July 2012 about the 4th of July fireworks debacle in San Diego two days earlier.  You might remember that.  Well, my security staff have been doing some checking this afternoon.  We found that a group of state representatives may have hired a fellow to hack into our system and enable a sale of the public entities of the State of California....uh, on our own state website.  Using your article from last year, we have tried to trace the persons you interviewed but have not been successful.  The person of real interest is this computer nerd/agri-business person known only as "Weed."  Did you ever get to meet him?

It all came back to me.  A whole year later, and here it was again.  I scrambled to my computer, while still on the phone, and hunted my archived files.  Sure enough, published on 6 July 2012 was the article about the San Diego fireworks two days earlier.  All the characters came back vividly into memory.  Then, I remembered Gov. Brown, " Uh, oh, sorry, sir.  I have found the article.  The only person in that piece that I didn't meet was the one that Dr. Plank called 'Weed'."

Yep, he's the one.  Never met him, eh?  Okay.  You just happened to be the guy to get online and hit the buttons it seems.  It could have happened to any customer...maybe even a few saw it and simply thought it a joke.  This state has a reputation for being goofy on occasion.  You must have been really tired to hit that button.

"Yes, sir. My late night shopping days are over.  How are you going to find this Weed guy, if he is the one...if it is okay to ask," I was tentative in my request.

Well, the security folks are telling us that this guy is hugely crafty.  Knocked power out of half of California's coastal areas a few years back.   There is a whole legend about this guy emerging in back alley stories.  Several of the internal intelligence guys tell me that he pulls these capers and then hides under his bed for days on end....so they hear.  We just don't have the manpower to go to every home in California and look under beds.  Plus, he hasn't left any cyber footprints that we can yet find.  Rest assured, we are on it.
Then, the Governor asked me a strange question:   You wouldn't happen to be interested in owning the town of Bakersfield...and possibly all of Kern County...would you?  I know it's in the south central desert area of the state, but it might prove to be a good challenge for a retired guy like you.  Lots of goofy stuff to research there.

"No thanks!"

(Sigh), Okay, then.....

"Governor, I am grateful that I don't have to own California...much less govern it.  I am very grateful for not having a $2.5 million dollar purchase hanging on to my credit balance."

The governor and I finished our conversation with mutual pleasantries.  Now, I read every drop box and button upon which I am asked to click.  I certainly don't want to accidentally buy Washington, DC!

So, for Jeff Bezos:  If you pressed the wrong button to buy the Washington Post, my best advice is to call Gov. Jerry Brown in Sacramento.  Maybe the Grahams will understand.  It's a Washington thing anyway.

Have a great day!

F. Montforte D'Hubert

(Frederick Mann allows Mr. D'Hubert to occasionally blog on this site.  He is an old style Florida boy...born and raised in the swampy part of South Florida.  He has been several things...among them a good journalist.  He was capable of getting to the nub of unusual and complex events -- finding truths and getting interviews in ways that mystify his colleagues.  The earlier article mentioned here is posted on this blog site for the date 6 July 2012.  It has some real characters in it to be sure.)

02 August 2013

A New Journey -- Part 8: Harmony and Balance

Just open your eyes and realize the way it's always been
Just open your mind and you will find
The way it's always been, 
 Just open your heart
And that's a start

--Lyrics by Thomas Edge of the Moody Blues, from the song, "Balance"
from the album, "A Question of Balance," released in 1970
(the full song, "Balance" can be heard on the above YouTube link)

Unquestionably, for me, one of the greatest rock groups in history is The Moody Blues.  I own every album (CD) they have made, and I go back to them on a regular basis.  Their music is a bend of classic rock and philosophical and mystical lyrics.  There is a lot to be pondered in their music.  Truth is, what they have to say is probably even more relevant in our contemporary culture.

Growing up as a post-WWII Baby Boomer, I was taught to think for myself and focus on "doing better than my parents."  I'm not sure how often Dad said to me something like, "You need to stay focused, work hard, and get a college degree..."  What came out of the 1950s and 60s was a fast growing individualism that doubled-down on the 19th century image of the "rugged frontier individualist."  

Of course, we valued cultural community.  It was necessary to have a team that would get to the moon before the Russians.  Being on a team most always means being in some kind of competition with another team.  That's fine for sports or friendly games.  However, we have taken the competitive role to extremes.  Competition, as we now "play" it, means that someone has to win, and someone has to lose.  It means that someonw has to be right, and someone has to be wrong.  Teams now generally reflect a group of people who are close enough in what they think and believe, that the individual can feel safe, justified and protected in that particular shell of "herding instinct."

What I just said is not universally the case...just predominantly so.  Even in the institutional religious sector, we are a group of individualists herding together under a certain banner.  We are production and quantity oriented.  There are parishes in the Episcopal Church, for instance, where new parishioners are interviewed (yes, interviewed) by the priest or lay leaders to see if their way of thinking and believing "fit in with who we are."  Folks have come into every parish, where I have been Rector, with stories of how they were either kindly or sternly told, "You will be happier in another parish."  That is a kind of individualism that sociologists call the "group ego."

After four years of college and receiving my B.A. degree, I did something many college graduates would not do.  I enlisted in the United States Navy.  Now, let me be assure you, this was not my idea.  I had shifted my entire lifepath from science/medicine to being a Priest in the Episcopal Church.  I was made a Postulant (first stage in the process) in April 1972 in the Diocese of Central Florida.  The Bishop of that diocese, at that time, was William Hopkins Folwell.  

During a conference with Bishop Folwell in April 1972, he reflected that he was sympathetic with my views on the Vietnam War (I was very much all about getting out of there...immediately).  He listened, with patience, to my carefully crafted reasons for where I found myself in life at that moment.

Then, without so much as a warning shot, he fired this at me:  "Fred, if you are to be ordained a priest and be responsible for the spiritual well-being of a congregation of any size, you will encounter many ways of interpreting scripture and doing theology.  You will have to learn how to hold in balance a diverse gathering of people...coming from all different backgrounds and viewpoints...all wanting to experience God's Love."  Then, after a long pause, he added, "You need time to gain the ability and resources to create such a balance.  I suggest you spend some time in the military."  

It's a long story regarding what happened over the next 3 weeks.  Short version:  I told Bishop Folwell he was crazy...for which he forgave me as being a "passionate moment of surprise and indiscretion."  I found out I could get a commission in the U.S. Navy and work in the surface intelligence field, but the time of getting into OCS, completing the training process for the specialty rating, and required time of active duty would put me out at around 1979.  Bishop Folwell wanted me out of seminary at that time.  It was then he suggested I enlist.  I was stunned!  For a second time I told him, "You really are crazy!"  He simply held up two fingers, smiled and said, "Don't let the third finger appear."

I did the research and found out how I could move through an enlistment period that would combine 3 years active duty and three years reserve duty...during which I would go to seminary to earn the Master's degree required for ordination.  He immediately concurred, and my "fate" was immediately sealed.  I was going to boot camp.

In Recruit Training Duty (boot camp), I was placed in a training company comprised of 76 people.  Two of us were college graduates, three others had 2 years of college.  The rest were high school graduates, with exception of 2 drop-outs.   I was 21 years old.  Only two others were that age.  The average age was 19.  We were White, African American, Latino, Native American (2) and Asian (1).  There were conservative, liberal, "I don't give a shit" and some who were still trying to figure all that out.  Most were from working class and middle class families.  A small group were from white collar families.  Most were escaping being drafted into the Army by joining the Navy.  Only 14 of us enlisted without pressure of draft (I was under a different kind of pressure...non sequitur to the blend of folks).

What I found in my active duty experience was very different from what I had thought and believed about the "military complex" as a college student.  I found all kinds of people working together to make a system combat ready.  Some of my best friends in those years were people with whom I might have never thought to associate myself otherwise.  We were a diversity within a unity.  It was not perfect by any means, but there was a harmony and balance I had not seen anywhere else up to that point.

Hegelian Dialectic (a philosophical model) is depicted as a loose spiral, where the beginning point represents a way of thinking (thesis), the point where the spiral curves upward is another way of thinking (antithesis), and the point above the beginning of the spiral is a new way of thinking that incorporates the best of the other two (synthesis).  This synthesis, then, becomes a new thesis for the next phase of evolving thought and resulting action.  My way of "doing business" has been a form of Hegelian Dialectic for at least 35 years.  For those who keep notes on schools of philosophy and theology, I am also Aristotelian, a Thomist (Thomas Aquinas),  Rahnerian (Karl Rahner) and Jungian (Carl Jung).

Immediately upon locating myself, as I did above, those who read this and work in the same areas I have worked will quickly try to "pigeon hole" me into a particular category of priest, partisan or citizen.  What if I added to the mix that I have experience I value in Charismatic Renewal, read a lot of N.T. Wright, Karl Barth, John Macquarrie, Plato and Abraham Maslow (the latter being the focus of my final undergraduate research for my BA in Psychology)?  Now, that muddies the waters a bit.  Some of those would appear to a number of my colleagues as being "oppositional" to how I described myself.  Truth is, I am grounded in the former and do work in all the former and latter.  

"For the good of the Service" is a quiet motto for all branches of the military.  One goes where one's skills will be needed and put to use...where one will fit into the working team of that command.   In the Church, it is a little different.  A Priest in the Episcopal Church will be called based upon both experience and skill sets needed for a parish.  However, one is not entering a "command team."  One is entering a diverse community that functions intermittently.  

The real question in community is: What meets the needs of the largest number of people within this community?  It is never about "my way or the highway."  It is not about forging a diverse group into a single minded entity.  If it is, then we are seriously playing a dangerous game.  We are creating a "cult of the personality"... one based upon the ego and mindset of the leader...the consummate individualist (if they are thinking this way).

St. Paul was aware of how diversity becomes unity.  He used the human body as an example.  "If the body was all eye, how could it hear?  If all ear, how could it smell?  As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where it is needed.....For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of.?"  (1 Corinthians 12:18 and 19)

It is interesting that many of my generation came together in the 1960s to engage societal change but then dissipated to engage in forging individual lives.  Now, our generation is in large measure responsible for the rancor and paralysis of our socio-political environment.  This is not a universal comment, but it reflects our current cultural "temperature" pretty well I think.  

There isn't one.  We are in a flow that is one that cannot be stopped.  It can be altered or shifted, but it cannot stop.  What I have learned in my own process is only a moment of reflection.  It will shift as I move forward.  If I believed that I simply must "take my medicine, exercise and eat sensibly," I would be stuck in a condition that would ultimately deteriorate.  Where is the antithesis to that particular thesis?

My new journey is, in fact, an antithesis.  It is an invitation for my bodily system -- made up of a huge diversity of cells that do thousands of different functions -- to engage in a systemically balanced kind of harmony.  It is dependent on my mental, emotional and spiritual leadership.  That leadership working in its harmony will make appropriate choices "for the best good of the whole."  

Unless something radical happens in the next day or so, this is my last reflection in this series.  I have moved through nine days and ending the detox period tomorrow.  My body is coming into some new synthesis and balance.  Like St. Paul, I trust the balance and integrity of body can reflect the balance and integrity of relationships external to the body.  It is why we have been placed here, I believe ... to learn how to function in harmony and balance as a whole people.

Today's Numbers
  • Fasting Blood Glucose:  88.  I am now running a daily average of 89 --- well within the range of normal fasting blood sugar.
  • Weight:  232.  I have lost 9 lbs. in 9 days.  As the glycogen stored in liver and muscle "fat" cells continues to be burned, the weight will come off.  When I shift to fat burning, it will slow.  According to the docs, my best weight will be 215.
  • Blood Pressure:  134/73.  I had a chat with my cardiologist's nurse this morning (in her office).  They are not momentarily concerned with this.  They want some numbers after I take medication in the mornings.  I am doing it immediately upon awakening...before medication.  Okay, we'll see.
Since I have shared this journey...partly as a way of holding myself accountable and partly because it is community, and we all deal with these same issues...I will provide periodic updates via this blog.  No long postings with reflective theology or philosophy.  Just the facts.

Love and Blessings,