Some of our Students

Some of our students just returned from a week at our nation’s capitol. Can you imagined what they must have learned? What a perfect opportunity to witness history, to actually see the government in action, to hear live presentations from current leaders in their professions. It was quite the field trip! And so much more.

Many departments have been able to send groups of students to Europe in study aboard situations, to enable students to experience the world. As academic leaders we have recognized that it is good to have a range from local field trips to statewide conferences. It is good because the students are changed for the good.

How much better is it when our students are also challenged for their abilities? Only a few departments know how this feels. Certainly in sports, speech, music, in fact any department that spends the time to find organizations where their students can be showcased. Of course there are issues. What if we lose? How will our students feel? How will I feel if my teaching seems less than it should? Most of us don’t try to compete. Even when there are organizations where our students can be showcased.

This week I am hoping that there will be returning teams from some district in the Midwest, where they got several Honorables and maybe a fourth place in the nation. The team will be welcomed with a lunch at the district office and will be honored by everyone at their college because the team is owned by the administration and the staff. They were their students. It was their community. They put their training and expertise on the line, and risked their competence. And they won and carried away the prize.

In ancient Rome, a victory in some distant part of the empire would receive a Triumph, a celebratory parade in Rome. Thousands would fill the streets to give honor, and partly to own the victory for themselves.

This week Contra Costa College came back with two National Pacemaker Awards from the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) it is the largest and oldest national membership organization for college student media in the United States. It awards the newspaper, magazine, and online National Pacemaker Awards, which are considered the highest honors a student publication can receive.

It is an amazing story that continues a long line of successful stories. The college has won many Pacemakers over the years. Perhaps because of this, the college has often ignored the accomplishment. Maybe it was thought that it was a conference of a couple of dozen friends who come together for a good time and give “attaboys”? Do the research. This is a big deal. The college has never won two Pacemakers in the same year. Will that make a difference? I think not.

The college, various departments, certainly the district, and even some faculty have distanced themselves. They don’t see it as “our’ journalism department. They don’t even see it as our students. What does that mean to the community?

Is it possible that we are committing far more energy to our plan to educate for greatness, instead of recognizing the greatness that is current? Our college has never received the respect an honor that it deserves. Our students are remarkable!

It occurred to me that perhaps some at the college, and certainly some at the district are reluctant to give honor to the journalists at the college because of some article that was published. I have only this to say, if reporters found an error, then the first thing you do is to be proud that they have been taught to do the research, and have the courage to report the truth.

Or more simply, if you don’t want to look like an idiot in print, don’t do idiotic things.

I am so honored to be even remotely connected to The Advocate. You deserve a triumphal arch erected in the Quad.

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Hollywood

I have recently been intrigued by the classic black and white headshots of the 1940s. I’m not familiar with any names of the photographers, but I am admiring their work. Wikipedia sometimes gets the actual names of the actors wrong, and sometimes I am unfamiliar enough to not notice.

In order to learn a bit more about color, I have taken on a study to colorized a few of the classic photos. It’s been very instructive, and I’ve created a new drop menu on the menu called Hollywood Art for the finished projects. I’ve changed backgrounds on some, redrawn the eyes and mouths on others, and experimented with color shading on all. Generally each photo goes through a process of blending about ten different layers, merged finally into one.

Here are a few samples…

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Now?

I once saw a man with a tattoo of a watch on his wrist. Periodically it had the correct time, at least twice a day. The theoretical concept is that if he had more tattoos, it will increase the ratio of accuracy. If his arm was long enough, and he knew where to look, his tattoo watch would be perfect, with no moving parts or power.

That is the basic problem with time, our attempts to measure something that is in the fourth dimension with third dimension technology sucks.

I’ve been pondering the concept of “now”. I can see that it is coming, and I can see that it passed, but I just can’t freeze the moment in between. “Now” is elusive. There is supposedly the “Clock of the Long Now”. Actually, it exists, and there is a museum. It is also called the 10,000 Year Clock. Look it up on Google. There is one being built on a mountain in Nevada, powered by the difference in temperature from the top of the mountain, to the bottom of the mountain.

Stewart Brand, of the Whole Earth Catalog fame, is on the Board of Directors of the Long Now Foundation, so is the musician Brian Eno. There is also a cafe/museum/interesting place called The Interval in San Francisco. I haven’t been, but it is a place where one can discuss “deep time” issues.

I think redefining “Now” into the “Long Now” does not help my concern. But maybe a trip to the city with coffee and a bagel will change my mind.

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My friend Bob

I am inspired by his work

www.youtube.com/watch

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Recent Work

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What do I make?

Well, in simplistic terms, I make art. It is art because I say so, not because I have mastered any particular media. It is art because I have recognized that in the making, that the image has crossed the threshold into art. For me!

There are literally hundreds of mediums to explore in order to make art. From the basic rudiments of “found art” to the complicated layers of screen printing. I have sampled a few in my time and “mastered” very few. I’m pretty good at sketching, not bad at sculpture. Color portraits are the worst. Watercolor is monstrous. I’m terrified of oil painting and paralyzed at acrylics. None of this stops me from attempts. But, oh, the hideous makings.

So where am I comfortable? I like working from photographs, I like the filters that some programs use. I’m never satisfied with just the filters so I use layering techniques to combine other filters, or layers of hand drawn detail. I don’t have a requirement of some percentage of hand-drawn for the art to qualify as art. I’m more interested in the final image. I see no distinction between 100 percent hand drawn and 100 percent filter. If someone else does, it doesn’t change the way I see the image. as far as media goes, I guess you could say that I fell in love with digital in 1985.

When I was teaching art appreciation, I sometimes showed students the work of modern artists, painting modern art. Many did not appreciate the abstract quality. When I then showed work from the same artists that painted more realistic images, then they showed interest. Because the painter choose to paint in the abstract, then it was more valid. I understood this, but it does not mean that it is a test for art. Prior skill is not necessarily a stepping stone.

Often the lack of traditional art ability was the excuse for the individual to not think of themselves as artists. We have lost too many artists because of this false belief. This is similar to not call yourself a photographer because you don’t know how to use a camera. The photography is in the vision! The camera comes later.

Finding the right medium is sometimes a lifelong process. It might make sense to stay with a comfortable medium and developed finer skills. It also might make sense to step into a noncomfort zone to explore a new medium. For years I have told my photography students that every good photo that they admire was likely taken by an uncomfortable photographer. I can’t prove that, but I believe it to be true.

When I analyze my own artists path, I realize that I have always seen things in three dimensions. I think that is why sculpture has been attractive. But I also see the depth of landscapes, the layers of distance, so even portraits are dimensional. The attraction of digital is undo, and the speed of variations. I have enjoyed making tribute drawings, redrawing or using filters. I have sometimes “channeled” the artist, and learned new things by the image I was making. I’m not done with my versions.

My best advice is to follow DuChamp. “Artists make art”.

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When is it Sin? When is it Evil?

A good friend posted an article by Dennis Praeger and suggested that I read it. I’m good with that. I have several of his books and I have enjoyed his writing. No red flags there… Well, maybe one.

Praeger has many books, a radio show, and he has many speaking engagements per year. He also has Praeger University.

I dunno, I see a small red flag waving when you found a university, then name it after yourself. I mean there are billions of choices, some horrible, some might even be brilliant. Settling on your own last name seems iffy. Maybe he named it after his parents?

Still, we all make choices and some may be mistakes.

In the article Praeger makes the statement that most of us haven’t come across a major mathematical formula. Good intentions minus Wisdom equals Evil.

Interesting formula, but one that I find too simplistic, therefore, it slightly misses the mark. I find that the threshold for evil is quite a bit higher.

His formula works very well for a mistake, or an error of thinking, but to classify that as evil seems harsh. I agree it can be the first steps on the road to evil, but there is still time to change direction.

I am not saying that every mistake leads to a correction. I’ve known plenty of people that have made a mistake, recognize it, and continue to make it, everyday for years. It still doesn’t make it evil.

I’m about to make some of you reading this uncomfortable. The basic definition of sin is “missing the mark”, comparable to an arrow not hitting the bullseye. It has taken another meaning in religious circles and I find that unfortunate.

We should have a word that describes our failures. A word that is stronger than mistake/error but not so strong as damnation.

I’m thinking that the original definition of sin fits the mark, perhaps that is why it is so unpopular.

Is sin evil? Possibly, evil is certainly sin, but I don’t think they are interchangeable.

Sin is an action that causes the spirit to be grieved. Sometimes we plow ahead thinking that it will somehow be resolved. Mostly it isn’t. When we analyze it enough to recognize that the action benefits you to the detriment of others, that’s when it crosses over to evil. I suppose there are small evils and larger evils.

Praeger contends that embracing communism was evil. I certainly believe it was a mistake, and I also believe that most leadership began to embrace it for their own power, and justified horrible decisions with the idea of the greater good. That tiptoes into evil. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Thank you Lord Acton. (Most folks ignore the “tends to”.)

But it would be a moral mistake to classify millions of people who once believed in communism as evildoers.

When we sin we have the option of redemption. Some of us do that faster than others. The same can be said of true evildoers but the conviction is far more difficult. It is not only a knowledge issue, it is often a deeper rooted thinking issue. It can truly be described as a personality shift. Evil is pernicious. Sin is unfortunate but we can make a change.

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Francis Bacon

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More Encouragement Thoughts

Encouragement can be found in a vast mountain lake. A reservoir filled to the brim, more encouragement than you can receive in several lifetimes. And yet it is untapped for most of us, for most of our lives.

It is the stored encouragement. The “frozen in time “ encouragement that can be found in books, in song, and sometimes even in physical places. It is encouragement that is freely accessed, and yet we don’t feel like it. It is encouragement that is available 24/7, yet we ignore it. It is encouragement that is honest and true, like scripture. Yet we turn a blind eye. Why is that?

I believe the most powerful, and enduring encouragement, comes from these static sources of encouragement. Yet we focus on the words and actions of people, as if this is the encouragement that is more important. I think that we have conflated the issue.

People, and sometimes the world, have way too much influence on our access to static encouragement. “I feel discouraged.” “Why don’t you read the Bible?”, “I don’t feel like it.” “Why?”, “Because Bill and I had an argument.”

The discouragement we sometimes get from people act as a gate, blocking us from accessing tremendous amounts of encouragement. The sad thing is that the gate is a very small item that can be opened quite easily. Sometimes it is not people that stops us, sometimes it is the world, and your reaction to the world. Your car won’t start, you can’t find your glasses, or your wallet. For some reason every traffic light is twice as long as normal, and you have hit every one. You have switched lanes five times to the slowest lane on the freeway. Sometimes the world gives discouragement. The solution in this is that you can realize that you have a choice in how you see the world.

There are some thing’s that are not a choice. Gravity brings you to the earth, fire is hot and burns, skunk spray stinks. apart from these things, and a few others, everything else is subjective. The more that you can see this, the less the world can discourage you. People, however, is a different matter.

Again, people can discourage you primarily by disallowing your access to powerful static encouragement. A curse is bad, but when a curse disables you from seeking powerful encouragement, then it’s more than twice as bad.

So, it’s possible to be less affected by the discouragement from people, but that often comes at a cost that disconnects you from society. “I will ignore you, and choose not to hear your words!”. I don’t think this the solution? My suggestion is to change the ratio of discouragement and encouragement.

Discouraging comments from people are mostly a learned pattern. There are mean spirited people out in the world, but more often there are unthinking people that are neutral to the issue, or they are unthinking in regards to discouragement. If individuals actively choose encouragement then it begins to cascade.

Encouragement is reflective, it is viral. Intentional encouragement from a person validates the individual’s choice to access static encouragement. More encouragement creates more encouragement. The ratio changes and the world is better for it. Understanding the real source of lasting encouragement keeps people from relying totally on the words and actions from people. Remove, or take charge of the gates, and let the encouragement flow.

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DuChamp

I have lost count of what I have done and how many.

Apparently my storage system is a little wacky, because I remember working on the image, and then I can’t find it. Later, it pops up like an Easter Egg.

There are worse things…

Marcel Duchamp has been on my mind. I haven’t tried a tribute work, he is too complicated. I haven’t done Dali either. Well, I tried Dali, but it never worked out. I actually had to tear it up. It offended me.

Back to Duchamp… art historians give him the title “the one who freed Art”. And they also believe “the Fountain” is the most important art work in art history.

DuChamp promoted “the Found Art Movement”. He would find an object then declare it “Art”, and it would be in his next show. It could be a stool with a bicycle tire, it could be some sandwiched items between glass.

Lest you believe that he was pulling your leg, he would often write a fifty page monograph describing the inner workings of the piece.

DuChamp was the real deal.

Art is made by artists, not defined by critics or salon/gallery owners. Not even by the public.

The art may not be liked, they may call it unworthy. But they cannot say it is not art, once made by the artist.

There is a freedom there. Art is not defined by an official medium. There was once a standard that art had to be archival. It may be a policy for some museums, but it is not a definition of art.

Things like, what is truth? What is beauty? What is art?

We should have certain knowledge about these things. Usually in our desire to “know”, we are wrong. At the very least we can work on defining our own views.

I have been going through a change lately. I no longer create art. I make art!

It seems like silly difference in words, but I’m very serious.

Everything in the universe was created at one instance. Since that time (time was also created) nothing has been destroyed. Everything has simply changed.

I have taken created things and made new things, which last for a time. I create nothing, but I am a prolific maker.

What about ideas? Nope, everything is built up. I put things together.

Of course the problem is that this is a personal perspective. I’m not saying that this is true for anyone else. It is simply what I believe for me.

There is way too much responsibility in being a creator. Too many liabilities.

Plus there is the ego thing. Putting a few things together is way more humbling.

And what about the days, hours, months that you are not creating? Much easier to take a break from putting things together. You are just resting.

Yep, I make art, and I make it art.

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Various New & Revisted

I can’t leave it alone. Gotta try reworking. And I’m really only using two different brush styles.

Okay, the last one is my grandson’s.

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One More Egon and a Klee

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Egon Studies

I wanted to revisit Egon with my Apple Pencil.

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Mucha Studies

I wanted to focus on the Mucha women, mostly their expressions, so I removed the background.s. Then I could see the faces, and naturally I took some liberties to make some changes. Changing color and line weight was a good study. I still may print these and add some color pencil.

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Tribute Mucha

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Some New, Some ReWorked

Steve Jobs had very strong opinions. Way back when the Newton was a thing, he liked it but couldn’t stand that it had a stylist. “It could get lost!”

Well, yes, Steve. It could get lost, and it did get lost periodically. But it also did some pretty remarkable screen images that my finger can’t make!

Yep, I bought and Apple Pen for the iPad Pro. It’s remarkable.

Tribute Wyeth’s Helga

Tribute Vincent

Portrait of Wyeth

Marilyn from Stills

Laura in Jerusalem

I haven’t even explored the middle basics, let alone the advanced.

I’m using AutoDesk Sketch for the first time. Nice app. I like sketching, then printing, then Prismacolor work, then scanning for more iPad sketching! Lots of layers!!!

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Been Busy

I finally upgraded an old iPad that cracked a screen. On the way to better vision, its getting hard to see detail. the doctor says its all good but I struggle. So i busted for a 12.5 iPad Pro, and I’m very happy. Still drawing with my finger but the sketches on this big screen are much easier to get. I have twelve sketches in progress and eight are as done as i can get. Two are family sketches and six are various tribute pieces or personal projects

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The Big Island

“The Big Island

Today I stepped on new earth.

Earth that rose from magma,

Mother giving birth to child,

As unlovely to look at as can

be imagined.

Yet time will pass and the child

Will change, gaining the

Rainaments of forests & grass,

While we scamper on the surface

Like small mites, barely aware

of our host.

Today I stepped on new earth,

Convicted of my parasitic nature.”

I wrote this about ten years ago. I’m still convicted of our parasitic nature on this planet. I once read that if you think of the Earth as an orange floating in space, all life, and all of our busy drama, exists in the fungus that is growing on the peel of the orange.

Wow, now that puts it into perspective!

And yes, I am a parasite on this earth. A particularly nasty one at times.

At this moment I am trying to walk carefully, barely touching the ground. I sway with the slight breeze, the sand is hardly displaced, I make no discernible mark as I move from place to place.

I just wish to be here completely enveloped.

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New Earth

I’m back in the land of new earth. Dirt that is younger than I am. Yes, I know, composting trees, brush and vegetables creates new earth. But this place belches new earth from the core of the world. The Big Island!

This really has been in the works for more than three years. Sherry bid on a Hawaii vacation at a charity auction, and we won! Stuff was happening, I was under treatment for cancer, so the plan was to reserve from the owners a week after my treatment was done.

The plan backfired because the week after radiation was finished is not the best time to travel. He graciously allowed us to cancel and set up for the following year.

The beginning of summer for the following year was the summer of the heart attack. Yikes! Cancelled again.

The next summer we went to Jerusalem, so It seemed that Hawaii was out. Nope! We went anyway.

Now I’m pondering new earth after experiencing very old earth. From dry desert to island paradise.

It will be a good week!

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In Search of Truth

Diogenes was noted for holding a lamp during the day, saying he was looking for an honest man. He often disrupted the teachings of Socrates and Plato, by bringing food and drink to their lectures. He even criticized Alexander the Great to his face. He was a founder of the school of Cynicism.

Finding truth was like finding an honest man in daylight with a lantern. It’s not impossible, but the tools you use don’t help.

Many will say, “I know the truth when I see it!” There is an element of truth to the phrase. But does this mean that a blind person cannot know the truth? Does visible evidence guarantee truth? There are thousands of magicians that hope people will only use their eyes to know a truth.

A friend often uses the phrase “sufficiency of the evidence” in knowing the truth. Yes, but when is it sufficient? Don’t most people set a limit, and when the limit is reached, then truth is found. Is it the same limit for everyone?

“I know because I saw, I know because I read a book, I read three books, I took a class at a community center, a college. I know because I have a degree, I know because I teach, I know because I once knew for certain, and now I’m not sure!”

The worst of all proof is, “I feel it in my bones!” But isn’t that the most honest answer?

I’m not an expert on Bedouins, I’ve read very little on their culture, and spent less than an hour listening to a young woman explain the Bedouin life to a tourist group. Something did ring true to me during the discussion. Bedouins have embraced technology and the modern life. They have engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. but they also have a deep connection to the “good life”, the life of a tribe. Living with little technology, sleeping in tents, tending herds, praying, and drinking strong coffee. Simple truth may be found in a simple life.

The “good life” can also be seen as the intentional simple life. The world is often too much, and causes a confusion in value systems, “What is the value of this? Is this important? If I embrace this, will I be a slave to this in the future?” These are good questions.

Why do we need a written code of conduct that determines the truth of things? Because we have been given the gift (or curse) of rationalization. All things are subject to interpretation.

Life is sacred. What about war? What about self defense? What about the impact of one absolute right, when it conflicts with another absolute right? In our culture today we handle this by making one of the absolute rights as false. Both can’t be true, so one is false. Weirdly enough, that actually might be true, but it might also be false. What are we to do? How can we know truth?

Sadly, I go back to, “I feel it in my bones”. This is dangerous because I must be honest about the things that I’ve experienced, the things that I have read, I must know that I’ve looked at the possibility that I’ve been manipulated, or that I have not seen correctly, I must look at how much that I “absolutely know” something.

“I believe, help me in my unbelief”.

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End of Trip

Jerusalem

We have been back for two or three days. Somehow with the international date line, we may have missed a day. The last few days were a blur but I will try to summarize.

It was a great trip, a worthy trip, a life changing trip in ways that were unexpected. It’s not fair to say that I was a tourist, although I’m sure the visa made that distinction. It’s also true that I was not on a pilgrimage. The truth was somewhere between.

We did many things that are on the tourist list, the ruins, the churches, and the camel rides. We also made pilgrimages to places that we have read in scripture, and our intention was more spiritual than touristy.

Mostly it was about places and the feelings that came with it. Not very scientific, feelings are difficult to analyze. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was historic and important, the Garden Tomb felt right. I can’t prove that either is the absolute reality. Yeshua was buried somewhere, and rose as the Savior.

The walls of the city were impressive and evoked feelings, does it matter that most of the walls that we see are from the Ottoman Age?

The conflict between the Israeli and Arab citizens is real, does it matter that the living conditions are remarkably the same?

The Green Line to the north with Syria, and to the west with Jordan is quite distinct. Developed and green on the Israeli side, blasted and bleak on the other side. The land is the same, the people are mostly the same. Is it intentional? Is it the result of history?

I would have expected a Green Line in the Palestinian communities on the West Bank. We traveled several days throughout dozens of villages and I saw no physical evidence. Things seemed prosperous and normal. Was I able to “feel” a spiritual or political “Green Line”? Perhaps, or was it a preconceived state?

The last day was spent going to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. I have spent nearly fifty years reading about the event. Not every day, but certainly several weeks a year. I have at times lightly viewed all the available photo graphs, I have dived deeply into the written accounts. And certainly watched most of the cinema productions.

Still, being there in person, seeing what I have already seen, was overwhelming to me. I found that my steps were quickening, the displays were becoming more of a blur. Basically after three fourths of the display, I fled the building.

There were some things that I have not seen, but some were very familiar. I thought that I would have been inured, but I wasn’t. It was just too much information with no emotional break.

I’ve been told that anyone from another country, either business or political, cannot have a meeting unless first going through Vad Vashem. The country must be seen through the lens of the holocaust.

Fortunately the last stop on our tour was with the Joseph Project. This is a nonprofit that collects clothing, goods, and furniture to be distributed to all who are in need, regardless of political, religious or cultural differences. Most are brand new donated, some are slightly used, some things are broken in shipment and need repair, and some things can’t be repaired. We sorted!

It was very hot in the warehouse, I sorted boys underwear and kitchen items. It was wonderfully healing to give something back, and to bind the wounding of the mornings experience.

We had a farewell dinner in a Lebanese restaurant in an Arab village. Later we boarded a nonstop flight from Tel Aviv to San Francisco.

Apparently we flew over Greenland.

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The Ladder

Jerusalem

I’ve been here several days, and I will stay several more. It is a city of contrasts. In many was it is like most modern cosmopolitan centers. It has traffic, noise, the bustle of people. It also has history, and history upon history.

It is a destination of pilgrims of three faiths, it has ruins to ponder for everyone. It has places to worship and think about the historical events around that worship. It also has contention between faiths, and inside the faiths. It must make God wonder.

There is no better sample than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I’m not referencing the battle for the historical truth of the site. Helena, Constantine’s mother, came to the area during the 300s and asked where Jesus was buried. Someone said, “Here!”, and she built a church. It’s been there ever since. It’s hard to see that it was once outside, the church is big, and musty, and full of incense. Maybe it is the place, maybe it isn’t.

What is the most obvious truth is that multiple denominations are responsible to take care of the place, and over the last thousand years they have learned to mistrust and dislike each other, with plenty of shoving and fisticuffs to prove it.

The saddest proof is the ladder. The way to the church is narrow with twists and turns. When you finally break out into a court yard you can see a ladder on the second story just below a window. Apparently the window at some point needed repair, hence the ladder.

The responsibility of the church changed orders, the repair was finished, but the ladder remained. The next group refused to take it down, so did the next group. When the original group that placed the ladder came in charge, the other groups refused them the right to take it down, because they had not agreed to put it up in the first place. The ladder has been there around three hundred years. They have agreed to replace some rotten wood in the ladder, but they have not agreed to remove it.

It has become to me the symbol of man’s dysfunction.

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The Garden Tomb

Jerusalem

The city is filled with wonder, places of history, places suspected of history. When the British general Charles Gordon was here, he brought a piece of land that he felt was important. People had said that this was Golgotha, the place of the skull, and the site of crucifixions. There was a twenty foot cliff that had the impression of a skull. Today only the eyes and nose are visible, the mouth is covered by the construction of a tour bus parking lot. Apparently Gordon should ave purchased a little more of the land.

Today it is assumed that the site of the crosses was near the gate to the city, were people could see the offenders and abuse them if they wanted. It would probably be in the middle of the bus parking lot.

The main parcel that Gordon bought was the garden with a large family tomb carved into the cliff side. The entire area was a working garden with a wine press. Archeologists have found the remnants of a wine press. While the trees of the original garden were all cut done during the Roman destruction, there are many trees replanted, and some that may be sprouted from the roots of the originals. It is a lovely place.

Again, there is no direct proof that this is the place, but it feels absolutely right. I can sense that this is a place of peace and wonderful expectation.

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Three Things

Okay, I have three things to ponder; living water, being hopelessly trapped and living the good life.

I am currently in the Judean Wilderness, it’s not sand dunes, it’s ankle twisting, barren brown desert rock. It’s an intimidating place, made bearable because I am in an air-conditioned bus. I know it is challenging because about every hour we get out and try to survive 105 degrees.

One of the first stops this morning was the En Gedi spring and waterfall. There is nothing but blasted earth for miles in every direct. The only visible water is the Dead Sea miles away.

From the parking lot we have been told that after a short hike towards the ridge, we will find a spring and a waterfall. Yeah right!

Two hundred yards up the trail there is nothing. There is a creek bed but it is dry as a bone. I’m becoming dry as a bone. I would have turned around but wet kids in bathing suits kept coming at me,

Six hundred yards, and I could hear water running. The sound of water running means “living water”, water that can purify, water that can be used for religious purposes.

I see nothing, but I hear it underground, I walk further and there is a hint of water in the creek bed. The sound is greater.

Suddenly there is a rush of water falling twenty feet. The pool is quite small and maybe six inches deep. I want to take off my sandals, but I fear the pebbles will make me unsteady. I wade in and I’m immediately refreshed.

Its like the desert didn’t exist. The cells of my body are bloated with the living water. I am no longer desiccated.

Water is life!

The next morning we head to Masada. It was built by King Herod as one of four hidey-holes. Not a palace to live in, but a fortified refuge to hide from the coming trouble. I suddenly have some additional PTSD. It reminds me very much of Site R in Pennsylvania, except this hidey-hole was attacked.

When Herod died the place was occupied by a detachment of Romans. They were attacked at night by Jewish Zealots. The Zealots won and dug in.

The Romans had bigger plans afoot so at first they did nothing. Then in 70 AD the war began, the Temple was destroyed and all Jews were dispersed. Some of the refugees came and joined the Zealots on Masada.

Three years after the war was over, the Romans became aware of 900+ Jews living in Masada and declaring themselves Independent Judea.

The Romans couldn’t stand that, so they sent fifteen thousand troops and five thousand slaves, to take the place back.

The Jews did not surrender. The Romans built an eight foot wall completely around the fortress on the mountain. They built huge catapults to lob great stones to the top of the mountain.

The Jews splashed in the water cisterns, telling the Romans that they had something that they didn’t. Water!

The Romans began catapulting live slaves against the walls of the fortress.

The Jews had two or three years of food and water, stored there by King Herod. They first thought they could outwait the Romans. Then the Romans started to built a great ramp up the mountain to the walls. It took several months.

The Jews knew what was in store for them, it was death or horrible slavery. They were surrounded, they could not surrender and they could not escape.

Since the pay of the soldiers was the plunder and selling of slaves, the night before the Romans broke through they destroyed all their valuables in fire, then the head of each family slit the throats all his members. Then ten men by lottery, slits all the throats of the men.

Then one man slit the throats of the nine men. By Jewish law they could not commit suicide, so only one man had to fall on his sword. The Romans broke through the next morning but there was no one there.

We walked around the ruins and pondered living and dying at Masada.

The next stop was a Bedouin village. Bedouins have been in the land long before they were converted to Islam. Some older traditions still hang on. The tribe is the family, the village is a mix of multiple families, the city is a mix with everyone. The speaker wanted to emphasize that Bedouins are a modern people with technology, medicine, and business concerns. But she also spoke of the “good life”, the simple life of living in the tribe, living in tents, and moving to better pastures. No electricity, no refrigeration, and no technology. The Good Life!

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Golan Heights

This is a place of conflict. Conflict in the past, and likely conflict in the future.

We were brought to an outpost that looks over the natural path for an invasion of Israel from Syria. It was used in 1948, 1967, and 1973. The last actual conflict occurred in 1974. Yet, the Golan Height title implies tension 24/7.

Golan Heights is a place of cherries, Druze bread, and a cool breeze.

The echoes of violence is still present. It brought forth a feeling that I haven’t really felt since the DMZ in Korea in 1973.

The tension of waiting for something to happen. How will I react, will my training overcome my fear?

Looking out towards the cease fire line lets you know exactly where it is. It’s called the Green Line because the Israelis farm the land right up to the fence of No Man’s Land. On the Syrian side there is nothing but mine fields, desert, and scrub brush.

It is a depressing sight.

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Peter’s House

The church in the air. I am in Capernaum, the famous village on the shore of the Galilee Sea. It is the town of Peter and his fishing home port.

There is a ruin of a Beit Knisset, or synagogue, and a collection of house ruins nearby. One is called the house of Peter. Interesting that we know this because the area had a continuity of families until Helena came visiting. The people had no difficulty in pointing out Peter’s mother in laws house, because it has always been so. An octogon church was built surrounding the foundation stones. It lasted several hundred years, then fell into a ruin.

A thousand years later Israel came into existence. They did not seize private property so the church kept their property. The ruin of Capernaum was being uncovered by the church and the government.

The church had a plan to build a large church with the house of Peter as the centerpiece. The Israeli government allows the possession of property but ancient ruins can’t be touched. They said no!

A compromise was to build a church over the house but suspended on pillars. The house remains underneath and untouched.

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Galilee

On the shore for several days. Ruins, boats and a kibbutz.

Largest body of fresh water below sea level. It’s the truth, but I’m not certain of the meaning. Clearly in scripture this was an important area. Even in a rough land this area was considered the Wild West, or the Wild North.

I ponder the way of the foot. It was a long time without water, but the sea was fresh, and the Jordan flowed in and out of it. The paths of humans did not stray far from it.

It’s curious about the echoes of the past in the dust of the trail. How many footsteps, sandals owned by who, traveling for what purpose.

So much fresh water, so much dry desert scrub.

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Nazareth

Many people believe that something unique happened here. They believe that Joseph, the carpenter had his shop here, and raised his family. They believe that his wife Mary was visited by an angel and something wonderful was told to her.

Nazereth is a city of churches. It’s a very modern city today, most of the ancient ruins have been carted away or covered by construction. There are no ruins for tourists. There are churches!

The two major churches are both named after the Annunciation to Mary. They both claim to be the exact spot where God’s angel stopped to tell her about her future son. The older church (1700s) is Greek Orthodox. The newer church (1990s) is Ronan Catholic. They both claim to be correct, and play politics to gain more tourists.

Interesting that some scholars say that the title Nazarene may not mean someone from Nazareth, but someone that made an oath like Samson.

There is a truth, but it is one of those cases where the opinions of some makes up for the unknown facts.

Helena, the mother of Constantine, the Roman Emporer, took a tour of the Holy Land. She was a devout Christian and wanted to see the places she read about in scripture. This was several hundred years later. Once she arrived she simply asked the locals where did this happen, they said, “Here!”. She built a church.

Hey, it happened somewhere, does it matter that it may not be exact?

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Acco

My readings of crusader history always mentioned Acre. I did not know that it was known before, and later, as Acco.

We are in Acco, on the shore of northern Israel. The area is beautiful, the sea is warm, enticing, there might even be a cool breeze periodically.

Acco was the last stand for the Latin Kingdoms that began with the crusades. Almost three hundred years of fighting, conquest, and defeat, ended here at Acco. It was an issue of math.

The knights were few, the Moslem armies were greater.

It could be said that the crusaders were never meant to be successful here. The land was vastly different from their home countries. That might be true, but many crusaders eventually were born here, generations never knew the Europe their fathers came from. This was their country now.

Pushed out of Acco they fled to Cyprus, pushed out of Cyprus they went to Rhodes. They fled Rhodes to go to Crete. They left Crete to finally end in Malta, where they stopped the advance.

We spent a few hours in the medieval fortress at Acco. It was dark and dank inside. The humidity from the sea was ever present. The vaulted ceiling could have been from any country in Europe. They brought their architecture with them.

This was the golden age of defensive walls, before gun powder. They did have catapults hurling great stone with force, but not the wall busting ability of artillery.

Sometimes I have felt the presence of history. The voices were long silent here. Too much wind, sand, and nearly a thousand years of neglect.

They have worked to bring it back, swept away the debris, but it has left the place clean of whispers, with little memory.

Still, I’m glad to have walked the halls.

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Via Maris

We are on the famous Via Maris, the Way of the Sea. For thousands of years, people, traders, and armies, moved from Egypt to Lebanon, and Phoenicia to Damascus, keeping the Mediterranean on the left, or the right, depending on if you were going north or south.

Today much of it is paved over with tar or gravel. It remains a major highway for the Levant.

Herod needed a port city to ship the wine, olives, and other produce back to Rome and other cities. There was only straight beach front, but Herod sunk barges of rock covered with Italian pumice, and that made an early marine cement. In a few short years there was a functioning harbor. Herod named it after the Roman emperor, and when the Romans took over Israel it became the provincial captital, sitting right on top of the Via Maris.

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Netanya

Landed in Tel Aviv on Saturday early evening, I bet it took two hours to get off the plane, through passport, and through baggage. And then it was another hour to get to the hotel up north.

We are on are way to Caesarea and Mt. Carmel. This is close to Phoenician turf. Weather has been great, mid 80s. In Switzerland this week it was 95. Ha!

14 hours on the plane, a two hour nap in the hotel, and now I’m wide awake. I need the six hours of sleep before heading off on the tour tomorrow morning.

Gotta say this hotel room is amazing. Two bedrooms, two baths, huge living room and a good size deck on the 15th floor overlooking the beach. Go Ramada in Netanya.

The sun is rising now so maybe my internal clock is connected, because I’m awake when I could be sleeping. Stuff to see, stuff to do.

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Spinning in Less Than a Week

In less than a week, actually in four days, we will climb into a tube, breathe recycled air, rise in the atmosphere. and the Earth will spin beneath us. It will spin showing us the Sierras, it will grow dark spinning the high desert, the Rockies will be a line of dark peaks, the plains a quiet sea. The cities of the midwest will signal us with with lights, we will go on past the coast that is East, and have the Atlantic spin beneath us with whitecap tops. The sun will rise,and the sun will light the coast of Europe, it will be French,or perhaps Spanish. The sun will be close to setting over the Mediterranean when we have Asia spinning beneath us. We descend in our tube after fourteen hours and we arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel.

It’s a lot of spinning.

For ten days we will be in a series of buses, hotels, deserts, and historic places. We will likely return changed people, tired, sunburned, eyes that have stopped blinking. I’m looking forward to this.

Every year at Passover, we say a prayer after the Seder, ‘next year in Jerusalem”, well, this is the next year. It will be a packed ten days. And I will try to document it with images and words. At least that is the plan, I’m taking enough technology to require a camel, and if somehow that fails, I have a sketchbook and pencils. (If I remember to pack them).

This might be an odd thing to do at 70, and on the backside of a heart attack. Meh!

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Fear the Intermittent

Something has gone wrong. It’s okay, nothing works forever, it isn’t a perfect world. And we have gifts, talents, abilities… We can fix things!

All we have to do is to have the right perspective. We need to approach the problem with an open mind, analyze the issue, look for the obvious, track the flow, watch for the break… Then we make the repair, replace the part, mend the tear, heal the wound.

Unless the problem is intermittent. I fear the intermittent.

This is unreliability at its worst. It is the father of instability, and for me, it is the birth of despair.

I want a world where I go to the car in the morning, I turn the key, and the car starts. It starts every time, until it doesn’t, then I fix it, and it starts again for another year or two. Then it breaks and I decide to fix it or replace it. Want I don’t want is a car that sometimes works, then sometimes doesn’t. I don’t want the intermittent flaw.

You can’t plan with intermittent flaws. Not that plans make sense anyhow. The world can change in an instant, we certainly need to approach things with a “God willing…” attitude. But intermittent throws a complete curve at you. It says that things aren’t working at the moment, but everything might be fine in a few minutes, and stay fine for several minutes, hours, or days. It’s maddening.

And you can’t fix it, because while you are looking for the break, there isn’t any. It’s gone, it mysteriously vanished. It’s the worst.

Cars, electrical appliances, anything that has three or more parts… all these things that are made can be intermittent. We just had a microwave go south, it passed through the intermittent zone on its way. It was interesting to watch. The first step was that the turntable would start to turn as soon as the door was opened. That was fine, I can adjust to that. The next time the door opened, the turntable turned and the microwave engine turned on. That’s not so good, the door acts as a shield for microwaves so that was a problem. Time to fix or replace the microwave. The next morning everything is forgotten and the door is opened, the light goes on, the cup of water is placed inside, the timer is pressed and the microwave engine starts.

Everything works like normal! My mind wakes up and I realize I’ve witnessed a resurrection. The microwave has remembered the years of faithful service, wants to continue being helpful, and has fixed itself. It works for several days, then stops dead. Complete heart failure. Because intermittent is not intermittent forever.

What is true for our appliances, for our vehicles, is also true for people. People are reliable as well, but there are times when an intermittent flaw appears. It’s not always there, but sometimes it is, and it’s hard to deal with. It’s hard to fix from the inside, and it’s hard to adjust to from the outside.

Unlike the microwave, the solution is not to replace the people. We live through the intermittent, we encourage, we find the stability of the past, and we try to extend that stability.

We learn to adjust, we learn to yield, we learn that intermittent means that this too shall pass.

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Father’s Day

It was a good day, all my children remembered, and wished me well. Mostly they remembered good things, some even great things. Some things were suspicious.

For a lot of years I had a later start in my day, so I made them breakfast and packed their lunch. They were not great breakfast eaters. Many times I had to deliver to their rooms if they ate anything at all. I suspected that my lunches were left in their lockers most of the time. Who knows what they ate?

One time, for somebody, I decided to pack a baggie of uncooked brown rice. That seemed a little light, so i also threw in a can of stewed tomatoes. No can opener. Nothing else. Later on i learned that my lunches were generally eaten, except on that day.

Sometime later i gave my son canned chili, no can opener. I am perverse.

Proof of that was the chicken feet incident. My wife had purchased a kosher chicken. She screamed in disgust when washing it for cooking. They had packed the inside with sweet meats and chicken feet. She asked me to take care of the extras. Later, when the kids were all in the next room watching TV, I was washing dishes and cleaning up. I said something loudly about the water being too hot.

Then I screamed in pain and said “Help me!”, the kids came rushing in. I had tucked the chicken feet up my sleeves, while grimacing in pain. I said I was perverse.

Then there was the mop head incident. It was some Saturday where the game was to follow Dad everywhere and bug him. I decided to duck into the garage. Sure enough, seconds later the brood was charging in. Except they found a tall creature wearing a mop on his head with outstretched claws. They fell back into the room in a ball.

Ah, Father”s Day! Good memories!

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Eidolons

At the moment of the physical death of the body, the ancient Greeks thought that the essence of the person was separated from the flesh. The eidolon.

First, we know that death is complicated. Sure, the heart stopping is clearly a good indicator that something big is happening, but not everything in the body dies on the same timetable. Apart from explosions and vaporizing, the body has a staggered evacuation.

I’ve had a thought that this two or three minute transition time is created so that we might pack up for the next event. Certain parts are not ready to go, nails and hair still want to grow, new skin cells still want their seven days.

It must be a horrible job to let everyone know that this is it. Certainly the electrical thoughts, memories, and feelings are watching the fading discharges. “Let’s get out before the bacteria gets us. They’re independent and have been waiting patiently for years. Let’s move!”

So, the concept of the eidolon is created. Somehow the lifeforce finds a way to split from the flesh, to travel on its own, but to where?

And what discharge timetable are we now on?

My thoughts dissolve in about a minute inside my flesh, how far can I get outside? What about GPS?

And for what purpose? To stand in mournful woods, and moonlit beaches? Providing wispy futures for those left behind? Why?

Nothing more is created, nothing is destroyed. Things can be made, things can be changed. Perhaps an eidolon is just change.

Change is coming… I don’t like it!

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Growing Old in Berkeley

I dunno, I think I was a sophomore in high school, so that would be 1964, or there about. I had spent the summer going without the monthly haircut. It wasn’t long by today’s standards but wow, it was long in Richmond.

That was okay, I saved the allowance and spent it on paperbacks. I was consuming paperbacks at a voracious rate.

Unfortunately my selection was determined by the library at “The Hole in the Wall” junk store.

I think the owner found most of the books in local dumpsters. I was buying books that had been thrown away. More importantly, I was reading books that had been thrown away.

I suppose science fiction was considered disposable then, because I found a lot of sci fi. This is how I found it useful to read everything by an author that I liked. Robert Heinlein was king.

Every now and then I would find something like “The Way of Zen” by Alan Watts. Powerful stuff but I couldn’t find anything else by him. Then I found “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller.

Well now, banned in Boston and sexy as all get out. And sure enough, somebody threw out “Tropic of Capricorn”. I was on a roll.

One day I scored “Sexus”, “Plexus”, and “Nexus”. I had reading material for weeks. The books were no longer sexy but banned anyway. It seemed that all were published by Grove Press. I couldn’t find a local bookstore that carried Grove Press. A clerk mentioned the only store he knew was in Berkeley.

Berkeley was only fifteen miles south, but it might as well have been 400 to a non-driver who didn’t know how to transfer from a bus.

The junk store kept getting repeats of the thrown away books. I had to brave the bus lines to go to Berkeley. After looking at a map, I found a bus line that got me to University Ave. I could get off, and easily walk the two or three miles up to the business area where the bookstore was. Or I could get a transfer and take a second bus. I walked.

The bookstore was on Telegraph Ave., the center of the college student universe. I would buy a couple of books, then walk over to the campus to start reading.

There was a guy, a student leader, named Mario Savio, and some sort of “Free Speech” organization. They talked a lot to the crowd. I was intrigued.

For the next year or so, I went to buy books from Grove Press, read on campus, then protest on the edge of the crowd. I then got older.

At sixteen I was in the middle of the crowd, being pushed and clubbed, and tear-gassed. I got much older.

At some point I read a book by Henry Miller called, “The Air-Conditioned Nightmare”. It was first published in 1945 and was about Henry Miller taking a cross country tour of the US, from an ex-patriot’s point of view. Let’s just say that Henry had a unique perspective, long before Jack Kerouac’s, “On the Road”.

I thought, I want to do that! Then my English teacher told me about the Beats, and Kerouac. I was back at Cody’s bookstore for more education. I didn’t go to UC Berkeley, but I would say that I had my education on the streets of Berkeley, and Cody’s Bookstore.

I came of age on Telegraph Avenue. Sometimes now I think I grew older too soon.

I’m in Berkeley today, not much left from those days. Bookstores are gone and replaced. Coffee shops are conquered by Starbucks and Peet’s. Change is afoot, proving that I am older and remember too much!

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Sparky Left

The power is off… again!

The utility company warned us that it would cut power in case of fire danger. There is no fire, or fire danger. Power is just gone in a patchwork pattern through the countryside.

We have no power because something broke, and it keeps breaking.

What if we are on the edge of a general physics breakdown. That mysterious quality of electricity just stops flowing.

It can’t be all bad, we had civilization for a couple of thousand years and electricity for only a couple of hundred.

I think the problem is the name we gave it…Power! Going without Power seems disastrous. We have been kidnapped by our lexicon. If we had named it “sparky” it wouldn’t seem so concerning.

Today is the third day without power for at least most of the day, I’m doing powerless things while waiting for power. I’m napping, reading, and cooking thawed food. But mostly I’m waiting. Waiting for power!

I want power to freeze my frozen things, to light up my entertainment boxes, to shine light into the dark corners of my life.

Was life so different two hundred years ago?

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Please Yield!

Okay, so this is basic driving 101. If you hit a pedestrian you immediately fail the driving test. Seems fair.

If you fail to yield you also immediately fail the test, even if you didn’t hit anyone. Ha, and if you did hit someone the very first thing you will say is that you didn’t see him! Because you are not a psychopath, you would have yielded if you had seen them.

Not so…

A thing I have noticed more and more is the lack of yielding. Yes, on the highways for sure. If I know that the other car has a yield sign I know that it will be ignored. If it is a “yield” situation, never expect it and I’m safer because of it.

But it is viral and not in a good way, it has transitioned into everyday interaction between people. No yielding… it is weak, and you will lose something. What? If you yield in traffic (which you don’t) do you lose several pistons? Are you condemned to be in the back of the line forever?

First off, you yield because you see somebody. You yield because you put somebody ahead of you. Not forever!!! You don’t lose position in the social structure, you are not forced on the “B” list for parties. Yielding does not make you invisible! Yielding makes sure that others are visible.

Yielding reminds you, “that it’s not about you!”

Yielding takes practice, you don’t have to practice to be selfish. Yielding is living life artfully. Be artfull! Make Art!

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Next year in…

I have a headlamp. I haven’t always had a headlamp, but I was told I should get a headlamp. Because it is dark in Hezekiah’s Tunnel. I am going to walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel… well, wade through the tunnel. There is water in Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

All this is happening because I will be in Jerusalem for the first week of July. Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. And Galilee. And Mt. Carmel. It will be a packed ten days.

It’s a shame that I can’t go to Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Italy, Germany, etc. I mean, once you have paid the price of fourteen hours in a plane you should go everywhere. Nope!

And ten days will still be too short. I will see the walls of Jerusalem. I will think of the Ottoman Turk workman who placed the stone where the Arabs had torn them down, where the Crusaders had built them up after they had torn them down, where the Byzantine had replaced what the Romans had built after they had torn them down, where the Jews had built them and called it Zion. I will see the evidence of history created by the people of history. It will be an exciting time.

Meanwhile, I struggle with the realities of July in Jerusalem. I am reminded of the adage, “You are what you carry!” Why is it that who I am is so heavy? I must be a lighter me. Go into backpack mode, trim the borders of my maps, shave my toothbrush handle.

Maybe I can leave most of it in the hotel, or bus. Are both of them air-conditioned?

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Colleagues

I’ve been thinking again,

Always a potentially dangerous activity. A friend of mine is considering retiring from the same college where I retired. He put in forty years, adding his years as a student. I put in forty years, adding my years as a student. No wonder we were/are friends.

It would be simple to describe the job as the things that we do, or in my case the things that I did. And often, when I think back, I do remember the details, the specifics. And clearly when someone asks what it was that I did at the college, I pick and choose, relating some aspects of my time there. But I also remember my mother. I have held at least a dozen job titles at the college, some of them related, but some of them are wildly different. When I asked my mother if she knew the latest career path that I was on, it was always the same answer. “Do you know what I’m doing now Mom?”. “Yes, you are working at the college!”

No truer thing could be said. It was amazing! If I had the money available I would have gladly treated my salary check as a bill, I would pay it in order to continue doing the work I had. I probably should have told financial services that.

So, what actually was the college? Certainly it was a place, and it would be natural to associate it with a building. But buildings change, they get old, sometimes they are torn down. The edifice that was my high school, is shattered brick in some landfill. Yes, there are memories of the bell tower and the ramps instead of stairs. But mostly high school memories are of people, classmates and teachers. It is the same with the college.

The problem arises when longtime staff no longer remember the shoulders that they first stood on. The college is people. First, it is the students, but they are gone in the blink of an eye. That’s as it should be, and it’s okay, because there are more coming. Fresh new faces with dreams and aspirations. It’s a little like a river, it’s water, always water, but it’s not the same water. And you can only cross a river once, no matter how many times you cross it.

And of course there are your colleagues, they are around longer than the students. They are the heart and soul. It is so appropriate that you have colleagues at the college. They also die and change. Some grow old and bitter, some grow quaint, some just get tired of fighting the same old battles. Yes, when I think of the college, it is not brick and mortar, it is my colleagues.

And like some battle weary veterans, I miss those that are shared foxhole members. I don’t know the replacements that show up. I can’t even remember their names. But I remember Sam Chapman, Pat Anania, Paul Pernish, Wolterbeek, Robert Pence (who always wore an ascot), Tarp, Orr, Horner, Oberst… so many others.

And they are all gone, the college I knew is gone. And one more member now is going to be gone. I miss them all.

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