Is blissful ignorance better?

There was a time when it took, what seems like forever today, for news to travel from one point on earth to the other. For example, the French invasion of Russia on 24 June 1812 was confirmed by several sources and published in The London Times on 13 July 1812. The Battle of Waterloo fought in Belgium between Napoleon Bonaparte’s army and the allied armies under Wellington and Blücher was fought on 18 June 1815. News of the victory was published in the London Gazette on 22 June 1815. ( https://historyhouse.co.uk/articles/speed_of_news.html ) I remember when I was a boy in rural Cross County, Arkansas back in the 1950s, we didn’t get news of events that happened with our relatives in Chicago until days, sometimes weeks after it happened. Relatives would pass information along by telephone, if someone owned one, or word of mouth, which was the most used method to transport information. For some reason, the immediate dramatic quality of a messages’ content had evaporated to a certain degree when we finally received it.

I’ve been watching, reading and listening to the 24/7 onslaught of information and confusion being effortlessly served up about the Coronavirus. It seems every news outlet, legitimate and otherwise is champing at the bit to be exclusive in efforts to let us know how many have been affected, how many are hospitalized, quarantined, and God forbid died. As our fears grow like fungus on the north side of a tree, we develop a greater thirst for being even more scared to death. The reliability of facts tends to lose their character, as we rush out to purchase every mask, bottle of hand sanitizer and whatever else we can get our hands on to defend ourselves from the untimely Armageddon.

According to the World Health Organization, worldwide approximately 5 million people die yearly from smoking. In the United States the number of smoking-related deaths from 2000 to 2004 was 443,000, of which 49,000 were estimated to be from second-hand smoke. According to Safer America Consumer Information, every year, roughly 1.3 million people die in car accidents worldwide – an average of 3,287 deaths per day. I could go on; however, the point I’m probably failing to make is that there are all kinds of boggy men out there vying to slay us daily. The difference between them and Covid-19 is that they have less marketability in the news cycle. I apologize for what might seem like insensitivity, but I hope you get the point. Can you imagine high fearful we all might be if there was continual bombardment in the 24/7 news cycle of every threat to life and limb of folks on earth from all sources of harm and death? The fact that most of these threats to life on earth are caused by our own hands should, in no way, be minimized.

Which is better to be told that an unusual meteor shower is headed our way, and it suddenly takes a right turn for space beyond our solar system, or to be walking peacefully in your neighborhood and have a piece land in front of you, and you were never told it was coming? In the former scenario, you would have skipped you exercise. In the latter, you got your exercise and you were never armed. I guess it all depends on whether you’ve raided your local Walmart to stock up on toilet paper, or you’ve just returned home from walking the dog.

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I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.


Don’t you like being honest about how you feel?

There’s a greeting that’s often given me: Are you okay? I usually respond to the soul who shows concern for my wellbeing in this manner by simply saying, “Fine and you.” Occasionally, if the person who greets me is close in our relationship, I might say, “I’m better today than yesterday, but I pray not as good as tomorrow.” If I’m really connected to the person, I have no hesitation about telling them how I really feel.


The preceding is the normal kind of civil greeting that most of us give to one another, or some version thereof. I often experience something that only another with a chronic health condition can understand. I remember shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer, folks would ask me how I was doing. With chemotherapy and all manner of other drugs being a part of my routine, there were times when I felt horrible. There was this one person who would admonish me for being honest about how I really felt. The conversation would go something like: “Hello Brother Long. How are you doing today?” I would offer an honest, but not complete assessment of how I felt by saying, “Thanks for asking. I’m a little tired today. I just came from cancer clinic.” He would admonish me, or at least it felt that way, by saying something like, “Aw, come on you’re doing fine. You’re up and moving around, aren’t you? Thank God!” At that moment, I felt like I really needed a good dose of compassion, but it didn’t come. Each time I suffered this experience, I intellectually understood what he was trying to do; however, intellectualizing my feelings isn’t what I needed.

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People who suffer from chronic illness are often faced with people, who try their best to show good intentions, but fail to consider what someone might be feeling. There’s an old saying about walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins. You know the one that says you can’t know a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes/moccasins. I used to use that expression frequently, but after living with cancer for twenty years, I try to no longer cause chronically ill folks to suffer from my insensitive attempts to get them to feel better than the state in which they exist. These days, I even find myself pausing to listen to what they have to say. Oftentimes, listening is all I do. You see I can’t walk in their moccasins. At my very best, I can only walk beside them, listen and pray, if they so desire. It’s been my experience that giving the opportunity to allow a person to honestly tell you how they feel is good medicine. It doesn’t take the physical pain away, but it often works wonders for the psyche.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Spring: a sure sign of life

This winter has been damp, gray and dreary in Arkansas. Although we haven’t seen much cold weather, the sogginess of it has caused me to stay inside most of the time. Then came the last few days, the latter part of February and first part of March. Now I’m seeing a preview of what’s to come. What I’ve been seeing, the white blossoms on the Dogwood trees, and daffodils poking their heads out, as if they’re getting a whiff of the early spring air, give me an impressive gander at life itself.

I could be wrong, but I think most people think of heart and lungs encased within sinews, bones and an outer epidural layer as life. We look at the miracle of the human body and all the warm- and cold-blooded animals around us as the most obvious examples of life on earth. Although I can understand that limited perspective of life, there is a much more expansive way to perceive life on our little blue ball. Spring is the perfect time of the year for me to get a universal feel for what life really is.

As far back as I can recall, even when we’ve had the most frigid of winters, spring comes early in Arkansas and the rest of the Southern United States. As I mentioned earlier, I’m seeing softwood trees blooming and daffodils itching to share their beauty with winter weary denizens already. According to the calendar, the spring equinox won’t occur until Mach 20. By the mid-April, I’ll see my Apple tree that I planted in my backyard last year showing signs of life; life that simply took a nap for the last few months. My lawn, my Crape Myrtles, rose bushes and more will reach for the sky, as if they’re stretching their muscles to be the best they can be for the rest of the growing season. Then, with the precision of a digital clock, they will fall into deep slumber again to protect themselves from the harsher climes of October through February.

Life, though created by God, is still a mystery. It’s a system that’s connected in ways we cannot see. Each component is depended on the other to support the whole. It’s confusing to me how all humankind can’t see and be amazed at the awesomeness of life and all it has to offer. God Himself, according to ancient scripture, looked at creation at the point of completion and thought it to be very good. I can only imagine the glow of universal life that shone on everything at that time. With my small imagination, I tend to liken spring to that time; a time when I can see all things plant and animal trying their best to show their shiny best.

Give me spring…a veritable portrait of life in its many portrayals.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

What to do when you’re caught in a loop

lemons

 

I’ve been posting on Facebook for many years. Recently, I started to look back at some of these posts. I decided to pull some of them down and use them as blogs. This may not get me very many likes, but it solves the writer’s block syndrome, temporarily anyway.

From February 26, 2014:

Since I’ve been retired, I’ve been noticing a lot more things, just things. One thing is obvious, many of us are caught in a loop, like the movie “Ground Hog Day.” If you find yourself wondering why each day is just like the one before, stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: Why don’t I change it? If each day presents you with the same old basket of lemons, a bucket of water and a few cups of sugar, don’t just look at them as normal, mix them up and make some lemon aide. While you’re at it, look around, God might have even blessed you with a few cherries, allowing you to make some cherry lemon aide. (Sorry for the five and dime philosophical gibberish, but Facebook keeps asking what’s on my mind.) God bless you all…

cherries

 

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

People are to be engaged, enjoyed

fellowshipping 3

One of the things I’ve noticed about Chris, for as long as we’ve been married, is that she can strike up a conversation with anyone. It doesn’t make any difference if we’re 500 miles from home in a shopping mall we’ve never visited. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat in the car after church for what seems like forever while she talks weather with what seems like everyone at church. Okay, I know you’re saying that’s the fellowshipping that’s supposed to happen. Well, there’s fellowshipping and then there’s fellowshipping. I’ll let you guess the brand a died-in the-wool introvert like me prefers. When I was younger, the wait was troubling to say the least. I don’t think what I’m saying here is a surprise to my better half. I’m admitting it on this page, because I’m now far less bothered than in my younger years. I now wait while enjoying the time with my iPhone, listening to SiriusXM Smooth Jazz or just closing my eyes and meditating on the silence. As the saying goes, it’s all good.

Guess what, I’ve noticed something about myself in recent months; I’m becoming my wife. Not to the fullest, but my time spent in the cashier’s line at the Walmart Super Center is being consumed more by talking to strangers. I’ve noticed something about certain people. Some people emit a signal that indicates it’s okay to talk to me. I’m not sure what it is that lets me know it’s okay to say something. Maybe it’s the smile on their face when you look at them, the eye contact that connects with you, or the just plain old hello, or where did you get that?

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with stepping outside of my introverted cage and striking up conversations with total strangers. If you know me, of course, I know you probably don’t, that’s stretching it for me. Chris knows me, and if I were to get a quote from her right now, she would attest to the accuracy of my self-characterization.

One thing seems universal with folks who signal an interest in brief social encounters; they want to share a smidgen of themselves for the few minutes you have with each other. They want to talk about their cat, dog, children, grandchildren, even the weather. They want to certify for themselves that they are just like you in some way. And you know, gender, ethnicity, social strata often don’t matter. These brief social encounters are what I’m now calling micro-engagements. I’ve noticed something else about them, too, they make you feel enriched in some way. I can’t explain them very well, because they are more soul-stirring than cerebral. I don’t walk away any more intelligent than before the encounter, but the encounter usually leaves an imprint. And I usually come home and mention it to Chris. I think this is just one more sign of me coming more into my tag line, Old and Blessed.

Fellowshipping 1

The longer you roam around on this planet, while remaining open to all it has to offer, the greater your chances for Godly evolution.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Living with something I’d rather not

unwelcome guest 1

I’m fast approaching a twenty-year anniversary that I thought twenty years ago I would never see. If you’re reading this and you’ve read any of my musings previously, you know I’m talking about my twenty years of living with cancer. I don’t want to sound redundant, but I have Multiple Myeloma, a type of blood cancer. I won’t go into anymore detail than that. My anniversary will be March 12, the date I received my diagnosis. Only God knows how long I’ve had the disease. After all, at the time of diagnosis, the daemon had taken a substantial toll on my body.

The last twenty years have been a roller coaster ride in many ways. I’ve had my share of infections anyone might expect a cancer patient to have pneumonia, bouts with the flu, urinary tract infection, sepsis. That’s enough. I’ll leave it there. However, there’s an upside to the last twenty years, one being that I’m still alive and kicking. I remember asking God to keep me alive to see my kids grow into mentally, physically and spiritually fit adults. He answered that prayer, and I’m glad to say I now have five grandkids and one great grandchild.

I trust that through my writing my faith in God shines. I say that because I don’t write, for the most part, with an evangelical flavor. That, in no way is meant to diminish my faith in God. My faith has been strengthened by God’s answer to my prayer for long life. I often think about the odds the world would have given me for being around this many years. At the time of my diagnosis the life expectancy of a Myeloma patient was three to five years. So much for worldly odds. God decided I should be around much longer. His answer to my prayer has given me an opportunity to be a clear and present witness to the power of prayer, and God’s graciousness in answering them.

Enemy 2

 

I’m happy at this stage in my life to say that I’m living a productive and joyous life despite the insidious cells that daily try to destroy my body. I would rather they not be actively trying to consume bone tissue, internal organs, wreak havoc with my dental health and cause irreparable damage to my temple, but through the cutting-edge treatments of medical science and God’s grace, I’m living with a daemon.

I was prompted to write this piece while sitting in the cancer clinic today, waiting to have my next in the semi-annual tests I’m stuck with the rest of my life. I happened to be sitting beside a young lady who is a member of my church, who also has Multiple Myeloma. She’s a five-year survivor, in remission and doing well. I love talking with folks who have this daemon, same as I, who haven’t been around as long. You know, I think God still has me around to have these conversations.

enemy 3

You may not have cancer, but what daemon do you have that you’ve learned to life with, by the grace of God?

I old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Why give them a special month?

Diverse society 1

This is February, Black History Month. The genesis of Black History Month was in 1926 when Carter G. Woodson, the historian, author and journalist started Negro History Week. The week was later expanded to Black History Month in 1976. (This year marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week and the bicentennial of the United States’ independence.) Today Black History Month is recognized internationally by Canada, the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands.

There are many who feel strongly that Black History Month, or the recognition of contributions made by people of African descent to the building of America should not be limited to just one month. I count myself among those who think that way. I also feel strongly that no segment of a population should be relegated to a week or month-long celebration in the history of a nation.

Have you looked at the calendar lately and noticed the number of month-long recognitions that have been set aside for groups in our society? We have Women’s History Month, Native American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, just to name a few. As with any good thing, there are those who beg the question why. Why do we have to have these special months to recognize anyone? After all, we’re all American, aren’t we?

Diverse society 2

 

 

Of course, we’re all Americans, but have we all been treated as such. Have we all been recognized in the normal course of activities that keep a country operating? History has a habit of telling their story and not all of our story. Annals are usually the compilation of records kept for the general society buy those in power; those who operate the financial institutions, the government, the mainstream cultural institutions, even the mainstream religious institutions. Without access to mainstream outlets, some folks cannot easily influence the telling of local, national and international stories.

All people have a need to be recognized for their contributions, some more than others. All people of every nation have made some amount (often major) of contribution to the development of the whole. Would America be what it is today without the “American Pie” having ingredients from descendants of people stolen from the continent of Africa, Native Americans, Latinos from Central America, women who stood beside men at every pioneering venture, Chinese who labored to build miles of railroads to expand the country westward?

Diverse society 3

 

If you ever find yourself asking why do they need a month set aside to remember and celebrate their groups contributions, honestly answer: America is a vast, beautiful country that in no way could have become what it is today without the invaluable contributions of native people, immigrants and kidnapped individuals. Our all-inclusive story should be told 24/7, not just during special months of the year. An informed conscience just might be an effective glue for cementing what appears to be increasing cracks in the American social fabric.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A brief visit across generations

Black History Month 5

This is Black History Month in the United States, a time set aside to recognize and honor the contributions of African Americans to the development of our country.

For the past three years, my church has hosted a musical event called The Love of Art, a concert honoring the late Art Porter Sr. (February 1934 – 1993). He was an African American Jazz musician born and reared in Little Rock, Arkansas. The concert is held to raise money for the Art Porter Foundation, which provides scholarships for young folks interested in pursuing music as their passion.

Chris, my wife whom I’ve mentioned previously in my blogs, sings with the Art Porter Singers. She had to arrive early for the concert to do a sound check, and whatever else singers and musicians do behind the scenes to prepare for concerts. Because we didn’t want to drive two cars to the event, I chose to go early with her. I’m glad I did because it gave me an opportunity to experience something that was apropos for the occasion.

As I was sitting in the foyer, listening to videos on my iPhone, a lady came in followed by a somewhat older lady. It was a daughter and her mother. The daughter had to use the lady’s room and she asked her mom to sit in the foyer until she returned. I overheard the daughter make some comment about the mom being ninety-four years old. That piqued my interest, along with the fact that this ninety-four-year-old woman walked into the building unassisted, albeit although with a cane.

oral history

I started our conversation by telling her, in all honesty, that she didn’t look ninety-four. She graciously thanked me. I said to her that I was sixty-nine, and I that had seen a lot of things in my years of being alive, but I bet nothing compared to her. I commented that she had probably seen the T-Model car and horseless carriages. She smiled and said she had not only seen T-Models but A-Models, too. Of course, if she had seen the T-Model, she would have seen the A-Model since it came after the T. From there, I was in awe of what sat before me, a living history book that could vocalize personal accounts of a good chunk of American history. From the short conversation we had, she mentioned the Great Depression of the 1930s. We talked about World war II, the Central Highschool crisis of 1957 and several other notable historic events. Her words were personal accounts from someone who lived the times and the events. This wasn’t, by the way, my first opportunity to converse with a living history book. My maternal grandparents were born much earlier than this lady; however, I never fully appreciated the value of the information they could have shared with me about the first half of twentieth century American history. I was young and driven by other, less valuable interest at the time.

t-model ford

Shortly after our conversation had begun, the daughter returned. She thanked me for keeping company with her mom. I thanked her for giving me the few minutes I spent with her mom. With that the history class ended. That was real-life Black history, during Black History Month. How cool was that?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Plants aren’t just plants, sometimes

Spring flowers one

I want to make it perfectly clear from the start that I’m not about to work hard to inject deep meaning into this piece. Something dawned on me as I was watering my plants this morning.

I’m one of those people who can’t tell you the name of one plant from the other; however, for years I’ve nurtured plants in our house. For some reason, plants thrive under my care. Each spring, I make a trip to the Home Depot, Lowe’s or some garden center to buy fresh potting plants. They just seem to make the decks (front and back) on our house look alive and welcoming. They also add a nice touch to the inside, too.

Back to what came across my mind as I was watering the plants scattered around our living room this morning. The other day, a friend of mine posted a picture of a plant on Facebook. I won’t mention her name, because I’m not sure she would want it in a blog deposited in cyberspace. She lost her mom a few years ago, and I thought it touching that she would post the picture of one of her mom’s plants. It was the picture of a Drunkard Dream. (Since I know very little about the names of plants, I accept what she called it as what it is.) The post said, “My momma’s Drunkard Dream is blooming. Such cherry yellow flowers for dreary winter days. She would be so happy.” I think you can tell by these words that she holds her mother very dearly in her heart and that this plant is more than just a plant.

karen's mom's plnt

The Drunkard Dream

My friend’s posting prompted an exchange between the two of us. I too lost my mom. She died due to complications related to Alzheimer’s a year ago this past July. I have a plant that occupies a special place in our house. It didn’t belong to my mom, but it was one of the many bright floral spots that adorned the space surrounding her casket.

Mom's plant

Plant from mom’s funeral

My friend also mentioned, as we conversed on Facebook, that she had one of the same types of plants from her father-in-law’s funeral that I collected from my mom’s funeral. I’m sure it wouldn’t still be there, being nourished and cared for if it didn’t have special meaning.

I’m getting these mental images as I stroke the keys to my laptop. I see an old hickory nut tree standing stately in the center of one of my maternal grandfather’s fields. I remember many days playing underneath that tree as a boy, collecting hickory nuts in the fall and watching my grandfather resting beneath it after a hard morning of tilling the soil with his team of mules. I remember the drooping limbs of Weeping Willows in my grandparent’s yard gently blowing in the light breezes of many hot, humid summers in Cross County, Arkansas. There was also and old Oak tree in one corner of their yard that grandpa used to hang and stretch fishing poles he made from sticks he gathered, from where, I have no clue. That tree was also used for hanging animals, as he skinned them.

I guess I didn’t keep my promise. There is deep meaning in plants, as they unintentionally help us remember tender points in our lives.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Why a counter argument?

argument 1

As I move from this sentence to the rest of these little musings, I’m going to try my best not to show left- or right-wing bias. Of course, I can’t promise anything. The title of this piece was prompted by a letter to the editor I just read in my local newspaper. The writer was obviously bothered by a position someone in the community had taken on an issue. As I read the letter, I couldn’t help but think why, why the reader felt compelled to write this letter. Then, it dawned on me, most of us have a problem allowing someone else to have the last word, the last idea, the last proposal for the good of the order.

I honestly believe that there are some people who, if I walked outside, as I started my day, and I proclaimed it to be a beautiful day, they would say it’s not. Some folks would be offended by my acknowledgement of what I felt to be a God-given day to enjoy to the fullest. My proclamation wouldn’t have risked harm to anyone, yet it was offensive somehow.

Let’s advance this idea of “why a counter argument?” Scientists have concluded that climate change is caused by two sources; 1) Natural – Volcanic eruptions would be an example of this. The heat and gases spewed from volcanoes have a direct impact on the environment. Most of us would have no argument with that; and 2) Humans- We produce harmful gases due to our efforts to make the planet more hospitable for our existence. The latter does produce countless counter arguments. Even if some of us are not overwhelmingly convinced that we are major contributors to global warming, why can’t we agree that efforts to clean up the environment would be a good thing for everyone? Why can’t positions taken by those of us intended for good, and not inherently harmful for anyone be worthy of consideration versus an attack on mom, baseball and apple pie? If you think like me, you have strong suspicions why, but as I said earlier, I’m going to try to keep my bias out of this. Conversely, why can’t someone bothered by a sunny day, with calm winds and temperature at 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 Celsius), be an opportunity to have a civil conversation with someone who felt differently, versus an argument?

reasoning together

It seems sometimes that we spend inordinate amounts of time arguing over issues that really don’t matter. Meantime, we demonstrate very little concern for the human needs that prevail all around us. The Christian Bible contains two verses in Isaiah 1: 17- 18a – “Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now and let us reason together…” There are some who would take argument with that. Really. How could you? Oops. My bias is showing, isn’t it?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.