Archives For creativity

Cover art for The Day the Angels Fell

I want to tell you about a book. A beautiful, wonderful, terrible, moving, life-altering little book. What I mean by that is, upon finishing it, I (an avid reader) couldn’t find another volume in my library which I felt could even begin to come near to the experience I’d just lived through.

 
Picture if you will the following scene:
 
You are in a dusty tent in the near middle east. The air is close, scorching your throat as you try to breathe in great, gulping gasps. Your sweat-soaked clothes cling to your body like a wetsuit; you’re not sure you’ll even be able to peel them off. The tanned animal hides, sweaty bodies, the remains of a lunch hastily eaten add a piquant bouquet to the cloistered air.
 
Like Saul of old, you’re there on a mission; namely, to ask the favor of a witch. But it’s not the shade of Samuel you’re there to raise; no, it’s someone much more recently dead.
 
You ask the witch there, in Endor, to raise up the shade of Madeleine L’Engle, late author of A Wrinkle in Time (and many others). You have a request of her; something you feel only she can do. You want her to rewrite Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.
 
But not as a horror story; yes, it’s still a book about death, and the lengths which we’ll go to try to get around, behind, beyond it. Now, however, it’s thesis isn’t necessarily that “sometimes dead is better,” but rather that death is a gift to be embraced.
 
You have traveled halfway around the world, and are now presently standing in this stifling tent, because you believe that L’Engle is the only one who, as one of (if the the most) preeminent young adult authors of the 20th century, can turn a story of horrific death, loss, and pain into a tale of blazing light, probing the darkest reaches of the heart.
 
She agrees.
 
——————
 
The foregoing is fiction; Madeleine L’Engle is still, sadly, dead. That said, there is a voice working today, and I swear he channeled L’Engle (with just a dollop of Stephen King) in his book, The Day the Angels Fell. This is the volume I alluded to above. It’s the book that, upon finishing, left me reeling, unable to find anything suitable to read in its wake.
 
Who is this genius author? None other than Shawn Smucker. His book, The Day the Angels Fell, releases on September 5th. I would be very sad if you didn’t pick a up copy or three.
 
Find it on Amazon here:

Photo Credit: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Oh, the things you’ll see!”, © 2011 Michael (a.k.a. moik) McCullough, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Relax. No, I don’t have cancer, but it runs in my family. I’ve lost both a grandmother, and an uncle, to it. Because of this, despite not yet being fifty, I’m supposed to get an annual colonoscopy.

I’ve yet to have one.

The reason for this is simple, stupid, but nevertheless true: I’ve had a flexible sigmoidoscopy. What’s that, you ask?

A sigmoidoscopy is colonoscopy’s younger sibling (or maybe its second cousin, twice removed). All of the prep work is the same; meaning no food beginning 12-24 hours prior, stool softeners, and that lovely Cascara, which is like drinking chalk-flavored Gatorade.

In case you missed that, one’s mission–whether one accepts it, or not–is to self-induce diarrhea in advanced of undergoing the procedure. On purpose.

People died of diarrhea during the Civil War!

In any case, while the preparations are similar, there is one crucial difference between the flex sig and a full colonoscopy; namely, that a colonoscopy is done under general anesthesia, whereas the sigmoidoscopy is done fully awake.

Yes, you read that right: it’s done entirely conscious. And while both are out patient procedures, the former is usually done in a hospital, while the latter can be done in one’s doctor’s office.

If my understanding is correct, the prevailing medical thought is that because the flexible sigmoidoscopy doesn’t go as far into the colon, it’s less a pain in the butt, and can consequently be done awake.

Let that sink in.

One reports to one’s doctor’s office, after having quite literally crapped one’s guts out, to lie prone upon a table, in a too-cold room, with nothing but a paper gown on to ward off the chill. The doctor enters, with a nurse, because like the boy and girl scouts this requires two-deep leadership (it wouldn’t do to have anything untoward occur). And then, without so much as a by-your-leave (or even dinner), lube is lugubriously applied to a region reserved as an exit only zone. After that, a long tube, at a snail’s pace, is inserted. All the while, the nurse is encouraging relaxation; “just breathe,” she says.

As if.

Photo Credit: “Colonoscopy?”, © 2009 Rollan Budi, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Relaxation is about the farthest thing from one’s mind at that point. It’s more like grin and bear it–or grimace and bear it. One of the two. The best that can happen is an uneasy peace; it’s not going to last forever, or one will die right there of embarrassment.

There is after all a long, dark tube right up there in the Hershey Highway.

But the worst is yet to come:

Air, like helium into party balloons, is pumped up in there so that the doctor may better appreciate the structures of the lower bowel. Only it’s no party; it’s quite literally a pain in the butt. And beyond.

As a patient, whether one can, or cannot, see the monitor upon which the Colon Cam is displayed, one’s doctor will typically begin a descriptive video service. (Nowhere did this item ever even begin to appear on my bucket list: have your sigmoid colon described in vivid detail by your doctor). “That’s a hemorrhoid! There’s another one! Good! Don’t see any polyps! Oh, look! A piece of poo!”

If one felt embarrassed before, that right there would be where the bottom fell out of the nadir of embarrassment. Oh, to melt through the table, into the floor, and be no more! Curse this too, too solid flesh!

Then at last it’s over, one is handed tissues to wipe off the thick, viscous jelly from one’s nethers; the doctor and nurse exuent omnes, and one is left to contemplate the series of events leading to this tube time and place.

Wiping, washing, and dressing complete, one is free to leave; breathing a sigh (or several) of relief, thinking the worst is behind you.

Oh, how wrong that is!

The air pumped up in there, no longer having a tube occluding its exit route, discovers the point of least resistance–namely, one’s anus. If the blow-by-blow of the colon highway was the bottom dropping out of the nadir of the experience this is somehow even lower.

It’s not just a little gas; it’s like the inevitable results of a weeklong refried bean binge, the Vesuvius of anal expulsions (think pyroclastic flow–all hot ash and gas, no lava), and the Manhattan Project all rolled into one. In other words, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Yet other than death there is no escaping these noxious emissions.

Photo Credit: “Fart Bomb”, © 2006 basibanget, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is why I have yet to have a full colonoscopy. The defense rests. I place myself upon the mercy of the court.

Have you had a colonoscopy/sigmoidoscopy? How did it go?

 

Old: A Poem

randomlychad  —  July 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

Looking in the mirror and what do I see?
Whose is this face staring back at me?
Familiar in outline, but foreign in detail
Craggy, careworn features all over prevail

But who is he?

Is this me?

Inside, he feels the same small boy
Curious, quick, and ruddy of mind
Rich inside life bringing joy
But somewhere, having lost track of time

The visage reflected, as in a mirror darkly
Yet somehow still so very, very starkly

Shows one thing above all others:

The face is

Old

100% Pure Molly


No. This isn’t about that Molly–the drug. But it is about 100% pure Molly of another kind. My son’s best friend, Molly the canine. He so loves her that, since getting a job, he pays his sister to take care of her.

I digress, and need to backup to the beginning. It was three years ago that Molly entered our lives. We got her as a rescue. As such, two things are true of her:

1) We don’t exactly know her breed–other than possibly part Cockapoo.

2) She was spayed at just weeks of age.

Number one above isn’t so much of an issue as is (and isn’t it always) number two. You see the veterinary literature suggests that spaying too young can lead to health issues. These can include growth and/or maturity, cognitive problems, and in Molly’s case, seizures.

So here we had this cute, sweet, playful little puppy doing the things puppies do: pooping, peeing, playing, chewing…

And seizing. Out of nowhere, she would drop, losing control of at least one side of her body. At the time, we didn’t know of the link between spaying and seizures; we thought she was just sick. Sick, and that the rescue shelter hadn’t disclosed the issue. When contacted, they affirmed that we could bring her back; whereupon she would be promptly put down.

We weren’t about to do that.

So we just loved her.

Molly is still with us, has grown out of the seizures, but still has a problem which had persisted since puppyhood:

She doesn’t just chew; she snaps.

We’ll be watching out daughter playing with Molly (this little girl loves animals), and  they’re happy, having a great time, frolicking , running, and then for no particular reason at all snap! go her jaws. This is not a playful bite, but a quick, powerful  slamming. Molly inst upset–isn’t snarling, growling, and she hasn’t been hurt. The closest we can figure is that she’s overwrought–over-excited–amd this is how she behaves. Being a dog, we’re not sure that even she knows why. It just is.

Not being canine behaviorists, we can only speculate that PTSD being a thing with people, it’s entirely possible that it’s a thing with dogs as well. Molly suffered childhood trauma: was born into less than ideal conditions, removed from that setting, cleaned up, operated upon, separated from her mother and siblings, introduced into a new environment, and then to top it all off had seizures as well.

It’s no wonder that life sometimes is too much for her. Why she’s dysfunctional. Why she gets anxious outdoors, preferring the security of her crate.

I bring that all up, because it’s like that with dysfunctional people, too; they probably don’t even know why they are they way they are. They have suffered some kind of childhood trauma, and adopted a particular set of coping skills to make life survivable. Understanding this–like Molly–give us a way to love them, have them in our lives.
One could, for instance, be having this awesome conversation with your loved one, be feeling the familial bond, like you’re relating, then the <snap>  comes. Just like Molly, out of nowhere, one is cut, emotionally bleeding.

We’re all conditioned to trust our family members, but then get seriously sidelined when they let us down, hurt us. We have to bear in mind where they’ve come from, the hurts they’ve borne, and go prepared. That to my mind is the difference between a reaction and a response.Forewarned is forearmed.

Make no mistake: this is  not excusing bad behavior, but understanding its origins. Like Molly, people don’t often know  they’re being hurtful. Like your loved one (or mine) for instance. They says things probably because that’s how they were spoken to. They don’t know there’s something wrong. Just like Molly getting over excited and snapping her jaws. She’s not trying to be bad, she’s not trying to hurt anyone; she’s just being Molly. 

Understanding this is the difference between reacting to a perceived (or actually hurt) and and having a prepared response. It’s knowing that the hurt will come, and having a plan going into that time without always being so hurt, so caught off guard, by them. We go into any interaction with the understanding that sooner or later the <snap> is coming. In the case of Molly, she goes back into her crate for a cooling off period. With people, much as we want to at times, we can’t simply lock them away.

But we can excuse ourselves, having determined in advance just what our limits are, and what to do when those boundaries are crossed. It could be words: “that’s unfair,” “it hurts my feelings when…,” or it could be simply getting up and leaving ourselves. If my family has learned anything Molly, it’s that when she’s acting out reprisals, reproach, recrimination, or call it discipline doesn’t work. People aren’t so very different; defensive behavior will almost always escalate situations. Or as the Bible says, “a soft answer turns away wrath.” In the case of these difficult situations, and especially in cases where people just don’t even know they’re being hurtful (and tempers can easily flare), sometimes that soft answer is simply walking away–thereby gaining much needed space and perspective.

It’s amazing what we can learn from a little dog, isn’t it?

How do you handle the Molly’s in your life?

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, right? That’s the theology of most bands, isn’t it? Live fast, party hard, have fun, and damn the consequences. Insofar as I know, Metallica has never been quite that band; lyrically, at least. This isn’t the glam rock of Motley Crüe, or RATT, but the thrash of angst, anger, and injustice.
I’m not here saying I’m a fan, or that one should listen to Metallica. What I am saying is that, at least in their most recently released single, Hardwired, there’s a theology present. What do I mean?

C.S. Lewis famously wrote of theology of dirty jokes, his thesis being that off-color (especially sexual or scatological) humor makes us uncomfortable precisely because, on some instinctual level, we recognize that we are more than these flesh suits we wear. That we were in fact made for more, for glory. So that our own creatureliness offends us. Granted, one can’t make an entire theology of dirty jokes, but there is one there.

Likewise, with Hardwired, Metallica while delivering a fast-paced, frenetic tune, have hit upon a certain theological truth. Let me put in this way:

If the central tenet of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is “the wages of sin is death,” then Hardwired is a song (whether through composer intent or not) about the most basic fact of human nature:

We’re lost, born in sin.

Please understand that the theology contained herein, as in dirty jokes, is crudely expressed. With that in mind, consider the lyrics below:

In the name of desperation [our condition]

In the name of wretched pain [pain is universal]

In the name of all creation [the creation groans]

Gone insane [who can dispute this?]
We’re so f*cked [our natural state without Christ]

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct
On the way to paranoia

On the crooked borderline

On the way to great destroyer [the god of this world]

Doom design
We’re so f*cked

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct
Once upon a planet burning

Once upon a flame

Once upon a fear returning

All in vain
Do you feel that hope is fading?

Do you comprehend?

Do you feel it terminating?

In the end
We’re so f*cked

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct

Hardwired to self-destruct
Self-destruct

Self-destruct

Self-destruct

As the Scriptures say, we’re “born in sin and shapen in iniquity,” doomed to die apart from our Creator. By our very nature we are indeed “hardwired to self destruct.”

But…

But, God, knowing our nature, made a way. And that way is Jesus. Only in him can our very nature be rewired.

Be redeemed.

So, as in Macbeth, there is a theology in Hardwired, but it’s only half the story. Yes, indeed the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Which path are you on? The Hardwired one, the broad way? Or the narrow one leading to life?

 

PS You might say I’m reading too  much into a rock song. That’s as may be. C.S Lewis also said,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”