Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Of Designer Shirts and Other Thoughts.

Normally, the concept of politics is one which –even though I have defined beliefs- does not get discussed in this blog or in pretty much any conversation in which I am involved. Why? The same as religion, each one of us has his/her own beliefs and these should be respected… even when they are dead wrong.

It has now been close to 50 years since I had the chance of stepping my dainty size 14 feet on Cuban soil, MY homeland. As my friends and readers of this blog know, this has been due not to personal preferences, but to a very strong personal dislike of the since 1959 current dictatorship, a continuing bad show that has turned the island from a veritable Caribbean paradise (yes, I know… not perfect, but close!!) into an outpost from hell.

Am I biased? You bet! Family and childhood friends never to be seen again; some reunions held many years later and in far places. Do I have a strong dislike for those who choose to wear trendy clothes with the likes of Guevara, Castro and others like them? Yes I do. And this does not come from the simple fact of their sartorial choice, but because this choice has been made without giving a second thought to the reality(ies) behind the person they are rendering homage to by wearing their faces on their chests, pants, hats, etc. Many who wear the famous Che Guevara face, do so because “others do” and, better yet, because “he was a hero to the Cubans, and fought for them”. Well, I have news for them.

This hero, as they call him, was personally responsible (his hands held and used the guns) for the documented deaths of 145 people, several of whom had not reached their 18th birthday. Many other deaths, attributed to him, are not fully documented yet. In most cases, the soon to be dead person would be held by a couple of his goons, to make sure there would be no possible attempt to fight back and “hurt” the che. These deaths were carried out because the individual in question “disagreed” with government views, or because the person had committed a “crime” (usually related to ideals) against the state. One time while still in the mountains, because a hungry rebel soldier dared eat food that unbeknown to him, was destined for the che’s stomach. In these cases once the victim was identified, an arbitrary judgment was made by a deranged mind, drunk with power. Che was also a totally ineffective administrator. Every single department or functional corporate structure he was put in charge of, was literally run to the ground and declared a failure. Of course, “others” were always to blame for these failures and, in more than one instance, the hapless soul which was so identified paid with his life for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Over several years, I have taught ESL (English as a second language) to many immigrants. Not long ago, I had a Peruvian student who was about 40 years old at the time. For a while, he came to class with a che cap on. He was very proud of his hat and would wear it at all times. One day, I asked him about the che and, as expected, he really did not know much about the deeds of the man. It was a week end class and, as homework, I gave some books and web sites which have true information on this man, and asked that everyone do a one paragraph report on the che. Often, in these classes, homework is not done. Tiredness due to long work hours and a family with whom to deal, becomes a mental barrier. So, I was somewhat surprised when the following week end rolled around, and most had done some homework; especially my Peruvian friend. The first thing I noted, was that his beloved hat was not on his head. Then, that he asked to be the first to speak.

He proceeded to tell us that when he started to read about the real history of the Che Guevara, his heart sank. From a “people’s hero” he was downgraded to common criminal, not apt to be honored. He was surprised to find out how many untruths the marketing machinery spews out, in order to sell an idea. This was the general gist of the discussion that morning. Only one person in the class kept saying “these were all lies” and when confronted by his fellow students (not by me, I only created the viable scenario –the other side does it all the time, so why can’t I?) he could not hold his side of the story at all. In the end, he (a young man from Mexico) had no choice but to accept that “perhaps”, some of these “accusations” were true.

The moral of this story is that much more is accomplished by educating people than by screaming against their ideas. Ideas are sacred; we all have the freedom of choice (well, those of us who live in democratic societies, anyway) and this includes the freedom of thought. If I attack your ideas, your reaction will be that of entrenching in them. So would be the reaction of most of us, given the case. However, if I can get you to analyze what your ideas are, what the base for them is and whether or not you have looked at all different angles, you will carry out an exercise in self education. Then, if you insist on maintaining your thoughts as they were, you will do so knowing the full story and the full impact of these ideals; good and bad. That I will respect, even in disagreement. What I cannot respect is a blind fanatic, who simply puts on a hat or wears a slogan because “someone told him to”, without taking the time and effort to understand its true meaning.

This morning I saw the proverbial face of che staring at me from somebody’s chest. Since the wearer was a relatively busty young lady, the che’s face was cheekier than usual, giving him an even more surreal look. I had to laugh at this.

Anyway, enough for now;

Be Back…

Take care, RJA

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Personal Thoughts

This is a long time in the making note. I am not sure why, but here it is. I hope you understand that it is meant as a rambling thought, but it is what I strongly believe. In my travels, I have come across many self proclaimed preachers; some are very honest in what they do and they tend to be the poorest of the lot. They have a true calling and their message is The Word. Others have become obsessed with their own image and worth and have forgotten their initial calling in the process; to these, the only message is the medium itself (I know, someone already said this and he was right, even before that medium became a control issue). Too bad.

“All major religions state that if you are not a member, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these major religions and since people belong to only one at any one time, we can then logically project that all souls will go to Hell.

The above is part of an answer given by a graduate student to a question regarding certain possible characteristics of hell. The complete answer is quite witty, earning the student an A+. However, when I read it, the above paragraph jumped at me and sort of supported something in which I have believed for many years.

I will state upfront that I firmly and unequivocally choose to believe in a Heavenly Father, who watches over all. I also believe in and give myself to The Christ whom I understand to be an extension of the Father’s spirit made into flesh so that we, in our limited human perception, could see, touch, feel and understand the existence of The One who, in His ethereal form, would be beyond our comprehension. There have been too many instances in my life in which His presence was made known to me, through helping hands that had not been there before I asked for His help. In the darkest moments and out of the deepest holes, his presence saw me through.

As stated elsewhere in these ramblings, I have had the opportunity and privilege of traveling around the world because of the work I was doing. These travels have taken me to, literally, the four “corners” of the world (didn’t see an edge drop off anywhere!). There was a period of time during which I clocked well over one million miles of air travel. I have had the chance to discuss beliefs with friends who are Muslims, Jewish, Catholics, Christians of several denominations, Mormons, Hindi, Buddhists, and I don’t remember what else. Of course, each one would try to convince me of the fact that his religion was the one true one leading to salvation (see intro above…); all other religions were sadly misdirected. These discussions became somewhat of a philosophical exercise for me; always acting out the part of one who wanted to know more (which I actually did) and who was open to listen to a different point of view (which is true also). Never said, however, that I was going to change my own belief.

Note from the Editor (that’s me): It has been several weeks since this was started; in fact, before Easter. Studying for tests which I had to pass in order to rejoin the world of orderly working society; then, my wife fell and eventually a small tear became infected by the feared staph virus, her arm looking like a badly stuffed sausage; looking for a clinic to treat her infection and the subsequent antibiotic treatments etc… She is doing very well now, but for a couple of days there was real concern. Also, we moved and I have started working in my old forever field which is life insurance. Anyway, the subject topic is not easy to write about yet I truly want to, so on I go, big mouth and all.

To me, it all comes down to one thread which seems to weave in and out of each and every major religion: In the end, in all religions present and past, there is one Supreme Being, even in multi-deity religions. He/She (remember, that being is all encompassing) rules over others and is responsible for all. Different names are given: Father, Jehovah, Allah, God, Zeus, Odin… etc.

The more I listen to and talk with friends who profess different beliefs, the more convinced I am that those who follow the basic tenets of their own religions, will act the same, since all these will require the same behavior. Unfortunately, in the name of the different names (sorry for the redundancy) and banners, many of history’s worst bloodsheds have been committed. It is very ironic that invoking the Supreme Being, who stands for love and wellbeing, so much of humanity has been killed. Often in the worst possible way. No major religion escapes this guilt; all have been involved in one way or another sometime along our history.

As a Christian, I profess to believe in and to love The Christ, Jesus. I have come to accept Him as a guide, companion, friend, protector and, most of all, as the true earthbound Son of The Father. I am very far from being a theologian (almost can’t spell it…) or a devout student of the Bible. In repeating something I wrote a couple of paragraphs above, when The Father allowed part of his eternal Spirit (The Holy Trinity, remember?) to become flesh and blood on this earth, knowing beforehand what his fate would be, I believe He did so in order to allow us humans to understand, to see, to feel, to touch and to witness the fact that there is a higher being watching over us. I also believe he accepted that, within our very limited human minds, the concept of a guiding spirit (our word, I’m sure) would simply be beyond our grasp unless we had the chance to witness and historically record an “equal”, a being like us we could understand and whose message we could then choose to accept, or not. That choice was still left to us; many have accepted Christ, many others see him as a prophet only and others see his story from a different viewpoint. But pretty much all acknowledge His existence.

Unfortunately, religion as professed by us has, more often than not, become a theater of the absurd. While a vast portion of humanity is condemned to poverty and hunger, religious leaders construct huge cathedrals and mass communication networks as monuments to themselves and their “unique” brand. Each one professing to have a special calling from The Lord. Some offer holy waters, others holy prayer booklets, others whatever their marketing guys tell them will sell best. Some offer death and suffering. In the old selling days these would be the “gimmicks” which would bring the crowds. Today, the selling medium is mass communication. Imagine: if 2 million people (not an outrageous figure by today’s standards) can be reached via a single TV presentation, and a “mere” 10 percent can be coaxed into sending US$20.00 each, you have a tidy sum of $4M coming in every time the show airs… Not bad as business goes. Especially when most of what is done, spent and received is exempt of taxes. No wonder there are so many TV preachers… Even when the message is true and well meaning, it tends to get lost in the middle of all the trappings.

What we tend to forget in the middle of all the hoopla is that Our Lord’s true cathedral is in each of our souls and hearts. When I (or you) accept Him, it becomes a way of life which tells in the doing, not in the preaching. A message from a gilded pulpit will be lost to those who need it most: the poor, the hungry, the needy. Yes, it can be (and often has been) argued that the trappings will attract more funds to be then spent, but I see too many times that many of these funds are spent in the maintenance of the expensive lifestyle of the preacher and his/her family, instead that on those who truly need the help. When I am hungry, when my family is hungry and sick and in need of a roof, I do not need someone stepping off a limousine, dressed in a $2000 Armani (or some such) suit to tell me the Good Lord cares about me.

I have never questioned the fact that The Good Lord cares about me; He has shown that to me too many times. However, often I do question the integrity of those who claim to have the sole representation of His graces on this earth. If it was my company, I would probably fire most of the lot.

Be well!! Back soon.

Doña América and other memories.

I know she has already been mentioned somewhen along this line of sometimes unhinged memories as they relate to moments of my life , but y...