Bart’s Amazing Disappearing Cloak*

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Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside.

Bartimaeus was blind.

Raised in the Christian tradition, I had heard this story more often than even Mark must have told it. But it wasn’t until I was well past 40 something or another that I finally heard the words as they were originally said.

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside.

Bartimaeus was BLIND.

As such, he had hopes few whatsoever in finding the damned thing again, should his take on this particular Jewish carpenter-turned public speaker prove to be wrong.

According to the new testament at any rate, we know that his gamble paid off. And maybe that’s where the story gets watered down for us. Winning always does look so easy in retrospect, doesn’t it?

Now my point here isn’t to address the dogmatic diatribes of who’s god-head is true, or who’s god-head is false, or even the idea that the whole lot of them might just be a case of communal wishful thinking. No, my point here is that Bartimaeus was blind. And he threw that blessed cloak away anyway.

Again, being raised in the Christian tradition, I am fairly certain that there are already camps forming for either side over a potential upcoming schism, as to whether he did so because he felt he no longer needed it, or because he felt that in a few short minutes he would be able to find it himself. Not the point here, kids. Why he did it doesn’t matter, that he did it, does.

You see, what he had was faith. True blue, potentially pie in the sky faith. In something, or in someone, or in his own good self doesn’t matter either. What matters is that he had it. Enough so that he could throw away the one thing that was guaranteed to protect him otherwise. The only thing that had proven itself to him up until that point.

And assuming that Mark wasn’t blowing total theological smoke, it carried him through to the end, this faith, making him presumably a happier guy who could now find his own cloak without any assistance, thankyouverymuch.

I don’t know why I heard it this way today, but I did.

The verse doesn’t expand on any back stories in regards to his possibly also having had a spouse who deceitfully broke all their promises to him, nor if he had had children who had also seemingly summarily dismissed him from their lives. It doesn’t even go into whether or not he was more than broken as a result of all these things.

In short, there was scant anything about him at all, sans a desperate plea for help and the fact that he and I both have cloaks – mine being woven much more with fear than fabric – that provided me with any sort of kinship with the man.

And still…

Still, I feel that as if this cat Bart could have faith – faith enough to literally toss aside the only protection a blind person of his day might have had against the elements – then I might also find this sort of power in me as well. I might also find the faith needed in some Thing, some One, hell, maybe even in some Me, someday as to be able to throw aside my personal cloak; carefully hand-woven over these past 40 something or another years. Maybe.

Bartimaeus was blind.

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside any way.

Pray this cat someday has vision similar to do the same.

* Based on Mark 10:46 – 52.

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(The) Wonderful Life

When we were first starting our journey another lifetime ago, we often compered ourselves to the Baileys, George and Mary. We were the ones who “stayed behind” to support the two aging families. We were the ones who had children to carry on in the same. We were the Baileys true and true, because though we had but 2 dollars to our name (yes, called papa dollar and momma dollar respectively), we were the ones that had each other and the dream…

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It’s a Wonderful Life ends too soon you see, that’s it’s problem.

It ends just after George has his breakdown and subsequent salvation, but well before Mary has her very own mental destruction of a sort. A breakdown that couldn’t be fixed by any mere bell-ring wing hopeful; as Mary would never listen to opinions – heavenly though they may be – differing from her’s anyway. A breakdown that would eventually cause her to run off, indulging in “adventure” – replete with a newly purchased boot knife – all while pushing George from the house, from her life and from the life of his children. A breakdown that would eventually drive her to want to even kill George, if not in the flesh, then at least and more importantly in the spirit.

And George in fact, did die.

More completely than he ever realized was possible.

Not in the flesh, but at least and more importantly in the spirit.

He died very painfully, and for a very long time.

Just long enough in fact, to take root.

You see, in his death, an odd thing occurred. George became aware of something. In his death, George began to finally understand what that cross-hugging Israelite Lover of Life (the very One who took His own in celebration and protection of it) had so long ago said about not being able to truly live, until you had first tasted – and indeed drank of – the rusty cup of death. Not through his own wisdom alone surely, George was somehow able to recognize the fact that his death wasn’t so much a defeat as it was a victory – or at the very least an opportunity to achieve the victory that a long time ago he had willingly given up in order to obtain what he thought would be, if you’ll pardon the pun, the “wonderful life.”

The angels sent this time weren’t Mark Twainian flaming rum punch enthusiasts either. They were actual breathing, living, thinking, loving and bells-be-damned speaking people. OK, and possibly flaming rum punch enthusiasts as well. People who dispelled George’s self-hatred and loathing through speaking their truth of him to him. A truth he hadn’t heard for a very long time (15 + years to be exact), and a truth that through their persuasion he was finally willing to believe to be so.

A truth strong enough as to bring him back to life.

And with this belief, plus the tears that had watered and nourished him as he taken root, George was able to begin to grow again. Not even “again,” really, but rather, to grow anew.

Yes, that’s it – George began to grow anew.

It’s a Wonderful Life ends too soon you see, that’s it’s problem. Ending where it does, we don’t get to see the full story. I suppose that’s the case in almost every tale though. There will always be endings that are really just beginnings to even deeper, more meaningful tales. There will always be a moment in the story where we feel that “happy” is at a maximum, so we cut it there, afraid to carry on much further. And in so doing, we all – as C.S. Lewis once taught me while I was still a young Zuzu’s petal pocket-cramming naive father – sacrifice True Joy for mere happiness.

In the case of the Baileys and the tale we’ll never know, I pray that this George at least is never again satisfied enough with the latter, as to forego the purposed pursuit of the former. I pray that this George at least – and that all of you – are able to truly live, and enjoy moving forward towards, Wonderful Lives.

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Dreams Past

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I fell into a dream.

A dream that decided to make unto itself a nightmare for both herself and I.

But like all nightmares, it has proven to be simply an inconsequential mental exercise which simply serves to make of me a better me. A thing to learn and grow from, and to never return to afterwards.

And as all nightmares go, this one too can not last forever.

I fell into a dream, but now the daylight beckons, the nightmare is almost complete.

And I will be able to dream again, once it is finally over

Living Our Dream

Second week in a row for my 100 Word Song and Light And Shade mash-up. They both had a very similar spirit, and I hope I was able to capture it correctly…

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Shrugging the tuxedo jacket on gingerly, Val noticed the smallest of sections was threadbare. None would notice, but this coming-out party was important for Pat, and Val felt everything should be perfect.

Pat didn’t care though, and remained delighted that they’d been able to even find Val a vintage suit correctly sized. Smiling while pulling stockings over freshly-painted nails, Pat decided that optimism was the magnet to pull them through this night, this life, together.

Opening the car door for her – as gentlemen do – Pat waited until Val buckled, before anxiously closing it. Tonight was to be special, and he couldn’t wait to start.

•••

Light & Shade Challenge:

Optimism is like a spiritual magnet 

– Anna Massey

100 Word Song Prompt:

All The Sad Men, revisited

His name was Daniel, but he answered to Dan. As in when his mom called out, “Just tell the man ‘no,’ Dan.” 

From my register I was asking him the same questions (those designed as blatant pleas to grab even more of your cash before you leave the store) that I ask everyone. I was doing so, both because we’re supposed to, and also because I didn’t want Dan to think that I saw him any differently than those customers that preceded him. Even though I did.

In fact, my interaction with him reminded me of a post that I wrote a little over two years ago now. A post remembered as I asked God to bless Dan and his family while they happily left my store. A post that I’d like to revisit here today…

She sat there, munching somewhat sloppily on her burger, occasionally spitting forth bits as she yelped out to no one in particular. And I sat there and stared. I felt bad that I was staring, but I wasn’t doing so out of rudeness. No, it was more like envy than superiority that I felt. It was more a case of “what if” than of “thank God not.” And here’s why.

Whenever I experience one living with severe special needs, I become somewhat immersed in what I imagine is their imprisonment. Their imprisonment in a world who wishes that they just weren’t around. Or at least, not quite so visible. But at the same time, I find myself jealous of their freedom. Freedom from this same world that ofttimes judges them in ignorance.

A world, mind you, that can be far more handicapped than they will ever be. A world filled with folk who care more about little dollar bills than they do each other. A world that places much more emphasis on the cut of the cloth than on the content of the character. In my very humble opinion, this world isn’t nearly good enough for people such as her. This world is a damned and empty shadow of what it could be, and I feel that we’ve all worked pretty hard at making it so. Or at the very least, sat back and simply allowed it happen.

So what of the poor girl-woman that suffered under my “not intentionally rude, but extremely rude nonetheless” stares? Why do I sometimes feel jealousy towards people like her? How could I be so crass as to make mention of the concept? Well, imprisoned as she appears, I would love to see the world through her eyes, just once. Just once to see if what I think to be true, actually is.

You see, I’m of the belief that her vision is much clearer than mine. I’m quite sure, in fact, that mine is muddled beyond the point of ever recognizing the Truth. A Truth that I believe she most likely sees quite naturally, and on a daily basis. A Truth that she may even long to share with the rest of us, if only we weren’t so ignorant to her language.

She sees the Truth, and I see only what I choose to see. And yet she is locked in the wheeled chair, while I roam free…

I suppose I should step back for a moment and let you know where my meanderings on the topic come from. I’ve no personal experience in my own family, but when I was young, I was forced (yes, I meant to say that – or at least did at the time) to volunteer at an institution that cared for people like my incidental lunch companion.

As my parents felt it was important to teach us about stewardship, part of their education to this end included a trip to a local long-term care center that managed the severest cases. As a young and unappreciative pisser, I recall hating the place when we first arrived. The stark white walls did nothing to conceal the smell of piss and medicine. The painted-over drop ceiling served more to rebound, than muffle the occasional non-sensical shout or yelp. The halls were clogged with wheel chairs, and in each sat an alien life form. A being so far removed from my knowledge of the world as to be almost comical, if only they didn’t frighten me so.

Being young, and being a pisser, and being there against my will, I decided that hatred would be my best response. Hatred towards these creatures. Hatred towards their needing my assistance. Hatred towards their being around at all. I did as I was told, but only just. How dare they make me? How dare they be here? How dare they exist?

And then, as happens so often in life, something happened. And that something was this. One of them began wailing. And not just a whimper or a sob, but an honest-to-Jesus moon-raising moan. One that would make you think that they were seeing Satan’s ghost himself. And for all I know, maybe they were. The wailing only made me feel uncomfortable. But to another, it provoked a different reaction. I can’t recall if it was an employee, a volunteer, a random passer-by, or maybe even an angel in disguise. But I do remember watching one soul walk deliberately up to the young wheelchair-entrapped wailer, and hugging them. Simply hugging them. The wails continued, but so did the hug. And eventually both were quietly put to rest. Both the hugger and the wailer were at peace. I stood there dumbfounded as the blinds were torn from my eyes, my little stupid pisser attitude backhanded to the floor.

I could physically feel myself growing up a little bit that day. One of the first of many times I’ve had the experience.

A little while later I was pushing along one of the more talkative residents who would speak and speak and speak, and occasionally even say something. At one point he looked me dead in the eye, and with no prompt or reason whatsoever, told me very lucidly the exact day it would start snowing and the exact amount – in quarter inches – that we would receive. I’m sure you already know by now that I’m going to tell you that he was exactly correct on both counts. EXACTLY. Dumb luck? Could’ve been. Dumb luck does seem to have a way of getting around. But I’d like to think that there’s something more to it.

In fact, I’d like to think that maybe – just maybe – there are certain people who are so spiritually in-tuned, so close to God, that they’re incapable of making themselves small enough as to deal with our little shambles of a “reality.” They’re exalted over the angels, but trapped on this mortal plain, and they simply can’t function at such a junior level. They need our help in this world, but only because we’ll need theirs in the next. We just don’t know it yet. They’re not “retarded,” we are. They are of a higher prominence, yet we sit smugly by and laugh at their superiority.

I know. It sounds a little too naive to be true. And that, in part, is why I wanted to jump into my lunch mate’s head. Just once I really would like to see if I’m right. Or if I’m an idiot. Or both. It’ll never happen of course. For one thing, we don’t live in a Disney movie, and switches of this nature just aren’t possible. But even if they were, I don’t feel that the swap would be a very fair one. For her, that is.

•••

I feel it’s important to note, I’m using this song today not in jest, but in respect.  I too, long for the day when all of us “sane men” are locked away, and we allow the “mad” ones to finally be free.

Happy Easter, kids.

 

Silent Conversations

Sorry kids, but a very busy week means that this week’s Inspiration Monday isn’t arriving until Friday – err – today.

As always, I hope you enjoy…

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The clean, crisply folded clothes sat behind him, pleading to be placed safely back away, deep within their horizontally sliding wood and formica hovels. Begging to be taken out of the broken and rather dreary piece of molded plastic, that at one point had been proud to call itself a laundry basket. But instead of doing so, he sat facing away and inattentive, sipping aggressively at his vodka-straight while he stared into his computer screen.

In front of the screen was a keyboard of no importance, but atop it was a slightly crumpled, possibly tear-stained sheet of scrap paper. Scrap paper that had the word “flight” noted excitedly upon it. Scrap paper that was intended as a reminder for a task that was never realized, never completed. The scrap paper that now mocked him knowingly, as he moved it nervously – unable to dispose of it altogether – from this side to that, across the keyboard which remained of no importance.

To the left of that very keyboard, his phone violently burped out a small blue light, alerting him as to incoming messages, silent conversations wishing to be held. Raising its electronic hand in this fashion meekly, the phone likewise hoped to garner his attention. But much like the laundry before it, it had no success, as he continued to stare – dead-eyed but not numbed – into his computer screen, with one finger aimlessly stroking the rim of the vodka’s tumbler.

The tumbler itself and the vodka had very little to say, as they were both feeling incredibly loved and important at the moment. Seeing that the ice cubes might cause an interruption to the affection being unceremoniously showered upon it, the vodka had already taken careful measures – through the use of its limited knowledge of chemistry – to ensure that both cubes were forever silenced by their watered-down oblivion. Their raucous clinking now abated, still, into the screen he stared, sucking a combination of air and 80 proof through clenched teeth.

A screen that, being unlike the rest, in that it was unable to speak, was feeling very uncomfortable at this moment. For as he stared at it, it in turn was forced to stare at him – forced to gaze deep into his booze-soaked eyes. Held captive as it observed the sadness that created the tears, that in turn slowly strolled down his cheek, into the forest of his absent-minded beard.

The screen realized of course that he wasn’t staring at it, per say, but this understanding did little to make the whole experience any more palatable. And on the occasions when he actually touched it drunkenly – caressing it really – longingly, the screen could almost imagine what it must feel like to shiver with desire. It did not of course, as it was only a speechless screen after all.

While touching the un-shivering screen, he softly wondered why. Why had he made her countenance his screen saver in the first? With his free hand he found himself again stroking the lip of the tumbler, in some hope of finding a nick or a gouge – just something – to make him bleed. Just enough as to remind him that he was alive, and in this space, not hers.

He missed her.

Dammit, he missed her.

And that wasn’t like him. It wasn’t what he said this life would be, moving forward. And yet, here he was – the cacophony of his everyday life literally screaming for attention – and he, being only able to sit and stare. Not blankly at a random and mute screen, but at every nuance of the personage represented there, eyes and hair aglow, coming to life in vibrant 1024 x 768 dpi.

A cat, the only solitary living being within the house besides he (and a growing family of mice that neither yet had figured out was sharing the same roof), silently nudged its head against his shin, hoping as well to begin a conversation of sorts that would involve many strokes to the forehead and maybe even a treat or two.

Not diverting his eyes, he rubbed his thumb forcefully against the cat’s head – right where favored, upon the bridge – in blind observance of the tradition. But otherwise the feline as well, found itself unsuccessful in engaging, and decided to stalk off to its favorite corner instead, watching him with disdain, as he slowly continued to caress the random piece of glass that happened to be housed within an equally random piece of plastic. Both of which worked together to contain a countenance – due to its blatant lack of scent – unrecognizable to the cat, but still somehow very real to the man who beheld it.

•••

Thirty-three Words…

Rationed to my life,

If that was all I’d left,

I wouldn’t need but four.

To profess, between yester ‘n today,

My feelings respecting you.

Breathing dear, my last

“I love you more.”

•••

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Hellbent on going out on a high (and ball-peen free) note, I used the crux of the Trifecta challenge – as shown with today’s post title – by using “Thirty-three words,” as my prompt for this week’s free, and final, Trifecta Writing Challenge.

Coming in relatively late to the game (and YES – admittedly still bellyaching over never having won a week =) ), I really did enjoy my time with the Trifecta community, and wish you all the very best.