Owning Up ....

"Birds of a feather flock together"

A bit of background:

That phrase was taught to me by my parents way back when.  Often, it was when they were pointing out examples of people they thought I should probably not 'hang with' or whatever the long forgotten term for spending inordinate amounts of time in a certain social group was back then.  I have generally thought of myself as an outsider and someone who is loath to 'join' much of anything.  Sort of a both secular and sectarian "in the world but not of the world" attitude I suppose.  I prefer to be able to float into pretty much any social situation and then float back out at will.  

I like it that way.  

Call me selfish, but I don't like having to carry the load for some other jerks stupidity just because 'we're buds' or whatever.  If those I am with are getting stupid, I simply exit.  The inverse advantage of this approach is that others (hopefully) don't end up burdened by my stupidity. Of course it does not always work out that way, but the concept is nice and clean.  It is an ideal to strive for... .  

When it comes to belief systems, standing alone holds true for me.  I am a Christian.  I was raised a Christian.  We studied theology at home(my parents met in seminary).  I am fairly conversant in protestant theology, not an expert by any means, but far beyond the fundamentals that I hear most Christians talk about when they decide to sit and discus their faith.  That being said, I am far from the bible toting and quoting evangelist.  I have my beliefs, they are mine, I don't expect anyone else to agree with them.  Nor am I interested in convincing anyone else that my beliefs are 'right'.  They are good for me.  On the flip side of that, I am more than happy to sit down over a brandy and coke and delve into beliefs, whether mine or someone else's.  It is really fascinating!  It is a meta-physical exploration and as such, wide open and freeing...   

Me Owning up: 

Regardless of how independent I think I am, my belief system associates me with a particular group of people: Protestant Christians. There are all sorts of these folks.  They come in all sorts of flavors, many of which I find to be bitter.  Others are tolerable, and some are just cool.  But they all call themselves Christians, and thus don the 'feathers that make the flock'.   Buddhists, Atheists, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Mormons, Christians, etc... .  People gather together to support each other and to achieve some external source of self-affirmation. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.  It is natural and normal.  

It is also dangerous and potentially destructive....

Wars have been fought, kingdoms destroyed, rape, pillage, plunder, enslavement, torture and other nasty things have been done by and to people because of differences in belief systems:  Mine included.   I could sit back and say "well, we have come a long way since ..." and wash my hands of some of the things that have been done, and are being done, in the name of Christ.  Frankly, I think Christ (if he exists as I believe he does) is probably appalled.

But appalled or not, agree or not, I am associated with the flock of Christians for good, bad or indifferent and am thus associated with the actions and consequences of that group.  I am compelled in some ways to own up.  When Mike Huckabee or Ben Carson start using their belief system to justify their politics, I have to own up to that.  I don't think they should.  I take a very firm stance on separation of church and state.  

As an example: Mike Huckabee argues that we should support Israel in the building of homes on land given to the Jews by Abraham.  Frankly, I have not seen Abraham around recently and really don't understand why something Abraham said should be used as a platform for current foreign policy.  The old testament is not to the best of my knowledge a binding document for every country in the world, nor should it be.  There may be very good reasons to support Israel in building homes on the contested land.  What Abraham did or did not say is not one of them in my view.  I will forgo other issues (some of them simply embarrassing to me because of the 'flocks' approach to them) and simply leave the this as an example of how I think about belief systems relative to politics.....  

The point is that, whether I want to be or not, I am associated in name with Mike Huckabee.  I have to own that or I can not rightly call myself a Christian.  One does not get to just float in and out of such a broad category.  One chooses....  I chose, so I own it.  And yeah, for me that sucks!  I am sure that Huckabee is a good guy on a personal level, but his politics is just plain un-American.  It is that simple to me. 
 But I still own it..........

Picking on Muslims and Owning up:

Islam is interesting.  I have been reading the Quran (slowly) to try to educate myself a bit.  I have a long way to go, and that is fine.  I wish to be informed, not converted.  

Islam is a belief system, just like Christianity and the rest.  And those folks who identify with that system own it.  And frankly, I expect them to hold up to that ownership.  I have to live with my Huckabee, and the Muslims have to live with and own up to Jihad.  Neither is acceptable.

I am going to simply state it bluntly.  Jihad is a Muslim problem, and it should be up to Muslims to solve it.  The rest of the world should be in support of that effort.  However, we do not have to tolerate it.  Same goes with Sharia law.  If Sharia is important, that is understandable and acceptable as long as it does not infringe on others.  In the United States, there is one source of all law:  The Constitution.  So if you want Sharia, live elsewhere.  

Theocracy is fundamentally anti-American.  And Christians ought to remember that too!  If you want a Christian nation, go make one somewhere.  I prefer a nation that allows me to be Christian, but has no right to compel me to be one!  

Separation of Church and State.  There is a damn good reason for it!  It is called "free will".


Just living...

This is yet another naval gazing post in some ways I suppose, except I am writing for someone else this time, not just for me.  A person (who I know by name only really) has cancer.  It is serious and life threatening, just like mine is.  And that is what I want to examine from my own perspective for that person with the hope that they and those who support that person find some value in what, and more importantly how, I think about my good buddy - Multiple Myeloma.

First of all, it is a bitch.  I sometimes feel sorry for myself to the point of sitting down and weeping.  I don't care if that makes me a weak-assed wimp.  It happens.  I have taken pride in my ability to face adversity in my life, and I know damn well that there are those who have faced a lot more of it than I have.  Never-the-less, cancer is the unexpected challenge for which I was totally unprepared.  And yeah, it kicks my ass some days.  I hurt, I often can't sleep, I look in the mirror and don't recognize the reflection.  For 51 years, on the rare occasion that I looked in a mirror I pretty much knew what to expect.  I still expect it, and am still surprised at the contrast between the reflection and the expectation.  It goes deeper than that....

I have seldom been one who recalls dreams, or even that I had dreams.  I just didn't connect with that part of my conscious on a regular basis.  Now however, I dream and I remember them.  In my dreams, I am what I was before cancer.  I work, I run, I am strong and agile and reasonably coordinated with good balance, ...and I am a fighter.  Not in a physical sense, but in the sense that I have fought all my life with concepts and ideas and values and principles.  I am not a good fighter, but I am persistent....

.... and then I wake up, and for those first few milliseconds of dream recall - I am what I used to be - .  It is a real shock in the following milliseconds to recognize that my reality and my conscious perceptions are substantially and drastically different than my subconscious perceptions.  I am sure this sounds like a bunch of hacker psycho-babble, and maybe it is.  However, at the same time, this is my truth.  I am a self image overlaid with reality.  The two do not mesh.  And that is difficult.

Like the person I am thinking about and writing for, my cancer is advanced.  I have outlived my statistical life expectancy twice now.  My cancer is comparatively rare.  The only thing I have going for me is that I got it at an younger age than most.  I am twenty months into a 28 month life expectancy.  Yeah, those are just statistics.  I may live 20 years, who knows?

Like the person I am thinking about, I am sometimes frustrated, sometimes angry, sometimes just bummed, and sometimes all of them. Every time I go to the oncologist I wonder what the blood work will look like.  Will the test show an increase in the ratio of kappa and lambda light chains that indicate the cancer is re-activating?  Will we have to increase the chemo again... take the mind-bending steroids?

This is part of my life..... and in those few words comes the reprieve....  .  To the person I am thinking about..... you got some information today that is disappointing.  But remember, it is only information.  Information is good.  It informs one of what options one might have.  It provides a path forward.  I would rather know.... and I hope you would too.

Another observation:  We talk about fighting cancer, beating cancer, eradicating cancer.  We talk about fighting to live, of doing everything we can to hang on to life.  Life is a beautiful thing, from which we all will exit at some point.  i did a lot of fighting to stay alive, I still do a bit of that fighting, but not so much anymore.  I found that fighting to stay alive took so much time that I didn't have time to live life.  I was so busy fighting for it that I was not living it.  I don't know how much life I have left.  Some days I suspect it is a lot, some days i know it won't be much more.  The bottom line is that I just don't know.  So I am just like everyone else, ignorant of when I will go.  I like not knowing.  I didn't know before I got cancer, and I really don't know now.  Same shit, different day....
I am not saying don't fight: I am saying don't spend all your time fighting.  Spend all you can living, just like you would if you didn't have cancer....

Those of us that have cancer are different from those that don't have cancer in a lot fewer ways than we think.  Cancer has become a label, sort of like leprosy was a long time ago.  There are the physical impacts of course.  The time spent with medical professionals, insurance companies, etc... .  That is sort of differentiating of course...   But that label also affects our self image... more than it should I think.   My dreams are true...that is me in those images, strong, agile, cantankerous... .  I have not changed really.  Inside, where it counts, I am still me.  Outside....well, does it really matter that I am a cancerous hunchback?  I don't think so, not as much as we let on.
I hope that person that I am thinking about remembers that we are living, not dying.  That person, I have learned, is open, interesting, engaged and, I hope, proud of themselves.  I hope that when it is time to cry, you are strong enough to cry, and then when you are done crying, you laugh.  You laugh at yourself, at the craziness in the world you see around you. I hope that you do those things that you simply want to do.  Just do them as if you will never stop doing them.

I hope that you understand that even though I don't really know you, I give a damn.  We share similar challenges, and more importantly to me, you share it openly.  Because of you, I know I am not alone.  We are not the same of course, but we are similar.  I find that comforting and intriguing.  I hope you know that your sharing openly is one of your unique strengths, and that it is valuable.  I like that about you.  I hope that this is in some way helpful ... maybe you know all this and I am being presumptions(it would not be the first time! ).  At any rate, helpful or otherwise, I wish you laughter and joy and peace of mind...  from those things comes strength I think.