The Light of Laughter

I was thinking about what to write for this month’s BeZine theme of Spirituality. Honestly, lately, I have felt anything but spiritual. It’s hard to feel a closeness to the Divine when you’re angry, or depressed about what’s happening in the world. This time of year is at least partly highlighted for spirituality because of the story of Mary and the birth of Christ, yet the stress of the holidays can be overwhelming…so many people are lonely, or forgotten, or living in poverty that it almost feels wrong to celebrate at all when such problems are so widespread. It can make a person question the existence of a benevolent God, question one’s own spiritual beliefs in the face of so much pain and suffering.

These thoughts made me pause, and it occurred to me that maybe when we’re down, or angry at the state of the world, or despairing of humanity is when we need spirituality most? For me, part of being spiritual is spreading light and love to as many others as possible; be a representative of the spirit you wish to manifest, to honor that divine spark inside. One of the most common precepts that crosses into almost every kind of spirituality or religious principles is that of Joy. And what is true laughter but an unfettered expression of joy?

In the same vein of laughter being the best medicine, I decided to look for humorous stories or jokes with a spiritual or religious bent and share them with all of you here (sources listed at the bottom). Please forgive me if you’ve read or heard them before. Perhaps after smiling for a few minutes, you’ll feel lighter and better able to deal with any spiritual challenges you might face. Maybe you’ll even discover ways to keep the flame alive and share the light with other candles. May you all have a blessed (and joyous!) holiday season. 🙂

* * * * * * * * *

1) Spiritual Gifts

During the French Revolution, three Christians were sentenced to die by the guillotine. One Christian had the gift of faith, believing God for big things. The second one had the gift of prophecy, and the third had the gift of helps… a real problem solver.

The Christian with the gift of faith was to be executed first. He declined a hood over his head, saying he was not afraid. “I have faith God will deliver me!” he shouted. As his neck was positioned under the guillotine, he said a short prayer and waited confidently. The rope was pulled, but nothing happened. His amazed executioners believed it was an act of God and they freed the man.

The Christian with the gift of prophecy was next, and he also refused the hood. “I am not afraid to die,” he said as he was positioned under the blade. “But I predict God will deliver me from this guillotine!” The rope was pulled and again, nothing happened. The puzzled executioners assumed it was a miracle and freed this man too.

The third Christian – the man with the gift of helps – was next. He likewise refused the hood. “I’m just as brave as those other men,” he said. So the executioners positioned him, face up, under the guillotine. They were just about to pull the rope when the man stopped them.

“Hey, wait a minute,” he said. “I think I just found the problem with your guillotine!”

2) Zen Koans for the Internet Age

• If an anonymous comment goes unread, is it still irritating?

• What is the sound of no hands texting?

• If nobody likes your selfie, what is the value of the self?

• To see a man’s true face, look to the 
photos he hasn’t posted.

3) Will it Be Heaven or Hell?

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies.
His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
“Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”
“No problem, just let me in,” says the man.
“Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”
“Really, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the senator.
“I’m sorry, but we have our rules.”

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting Rich at the expense of the people.
They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the Devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises…

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

“Now it’s time to visit heaven.”

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

“Well, then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: “Well, I would Never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above. The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

“I-I don’t understand,” stammers the senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted.”

4) Whale of a tale

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales.

The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small.

The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.

Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible.

The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah”.

The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to hell?”

The little girl replied, “Then you ask him”.

5) The Preacher’s Donkey

A man bought a donkey from a preacher. The preacher told the man that this donkey had been trained in a very unique way, (being the donkey of a preacher). “The only way to make the donkey go,” the preacher explained, “is to say, “Hallelujah!”. And the only way to make the donkey stop, is to say, “Amen!”.

The man was pleased with his purchase and immediately got on the animal to try out the preacher’s instructions. “Hallelujah!”, shouted the man. The donkey began to trot. “Amen!”, shouted the man. The donkey stopped immediately. “This is great!”, said the man. With a “Hallelujah”, he rode off, very proud of his new purchase.

The man traveled for a long time through some mountains. Soon he was heading towards a cliff. He could not for the life of him remember the word to make the donkey stop. “Stop”, said the man. “Halt!”, he cried. The donkey just kept going. “Oh, no…’Bible!…Church!…Please Stop!!“, shouted the man. The donkey just began to trot faster. He was getting closer and closer to the cliff’s edge. Finally, in desperation, the man said a prayer…“Please, dear Lord. Please make this donkey stop before we go off the end of this mountain, In Jesus name, AMEN”.

The donkey came to an abrupt stop just one step from the edge of the cliff.

“HALLELUJAH!”, shouted the man.

*** Sources:
1) https://lolwithgod.com/category/spiritual-gifts/
2) https://www.rd.com/jokes/religion/
3) http://www.clearvisionbiblestudies.com/Humor/Heaven_Hell.html
4) http://gatewaytojesus.com/humorouschurchstories.html
5) https://www.cybersalt.org/clean-jokes/preachers-donkey

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Change your view and the view changes

In thinking about this month’s BeZine theme of Hunger, Poverty and Working-Class Slavery, I was a bit overwhelmed with the scope. Each of these social issues is huge in its own right, with no one solution apparent for any of them. They are undoubtedly interconnected — with fear as a primal motivation, greed as a cause and a sorry, hopeless existence as evidence of their prevalence.

So how do we solve them?  How do we make measurable progress tackling the roots of each problem? The answers are there, but it’s up to each one of us to do our part, do the research, find the hands-on solutions that work for us, individually, to help the collective movements. Here’s an idea that you may not have thought about: it all depends on how you view these issues. Maybe we haven’t been using the right approach to solve them? What if we changed how we see the problems, not as something ‘separate’ or ‘outside of us’, but as our problem(s) too? Our problems as a global community; a huge, connected family of human beings? When you change how you view things, what you are looking at can change, too.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I don’t know about you, but in my area, there are already lots of food drives happening to collect food for the less fortunate. Find your local food bank(s) and/or churches/missions and see what they need most. If you want to make an impact that you can see the results of directly, work locally – if you have more money than time, then donate money or actual, bought food stuffs to places in your area who feed the homeless. If you have more time than money, consider volunteering to help pack,  organize or distribute boxes of food that comes in, or help cook and serve to those who are most in need of a good meal. If you’d rather make a global impact on hunger, consider joining The Hunger Project.  You can learn more about it in this short video below, made by one of my favorite people, Prince Ea.

Poverty is another one of those things that is pretty easy to quantify and observe. You have the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots”, “Us” and “Them”. Again, it’s a problem of separation. If we are to truly solve the problem, we have to look at it from all angles, not just throwing money at it in the hopes that that action will make it better. Sure, it can help, of course it can. But most people who live in poverty (not all, but most) are there because that is where life and circumstance has placed them. It’s an accident of birth. If you were born here in the United States, you’re already leagues ahead (in terms of measurable ‘wealth’) of someone born in, say, Haiti. Is it your responsibility to help those in poverty? Why or why not?  Here are a couple more videos to get you thinking from a different perspective.

Poverty is kind of a natural segue into talking about slavery. It’s hard to be anything but a slave if you’re too worried about survival basics, like where your next meal will come from, if you’ll be beaten to death by your neighbor or whether you will have to sleep outside in the elements tonight. It’s crazy to think that in the year 2017 that slavery still exists, but it does. You can call it Working Class Slavery, Wage Slavery, Modern Slavery or whatever other label you want to use, but the fact remains that even here in America, slavery is still a thing.

Alliance 8.7Did you know that there is a Global Slavery Index? The 2017 Global Estimates of “Modern Slavery” show about 40.3 MILLION people in slavery today all over the world, a significant number of whom are kids.

So what can we do to help those in slavery around the world? You can get involved in organizations like Alliance 8.7 , The Walk Free Foundation, The International Labour Organization or  50 for Freedom. They have conferences, plenty of resources to look through and useful links to lead you further in researching how you can make an impact.

Also carefully consider the consumer goods that you purchase – do some research – does the company who makes your shoes, your I-phone, your next ‘must-have’ material possession use forced slave or child labor? Do they use sweatshops? Find OUT. It’s not enough to just say “I don’t know”, because what you’re really saying is, “I don’t care”.  There are already too many people who truly don’t care. That’s why there are so many people still in slavery today. In 2017.

You see, we have to change our view…and look at how WE contribute to the problem. WE are a big part of the problem, because of supply and demand. If the demand for the products goes down, so does the demand for cheap labor. Here are some lists to look through. Don’t be surprised if some of your favorite brand names are listed; shareholder profits trump human lives each and every day. That sounds cold and evil (and it is) but that’s the reality of it.

List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor

Clothing Stores and Brands that use Sweatshop Labor

More Consumer Brands that use Sweatshops

Five companies that use Slave Labor

I hope you’ve learned something by reading this today. Perhaps you will be willing and able to change the way you view these problems. Now that you’re more aware, there are no excuses. The issues are big enough that we all need to change how we see them — it’s our responsibility, these are our issues, too, because we’re all connected. Let’s all do our part to make sure that the view changes. I’m willing. Are you? 🙂

Posted in At-Risk Youth, Awareness, Famine, Food For Thought, Human Rights, Hunger, Poverty, Uncategorized, Violence, War, Writing | 4 Comments

~ Gen X Musings ~

It’s time again for the 100TPC (One Hundred Thousand Poets For Change) over at the BeZine, and all over the world. It’s a chance for artists, musicians, poets, peace-keepers, activists, and anyone else who desires lasting change in the world to speak out about issues affecting all of us. I invite you to join us in a celebration of the spirit of resistance, as we try to make the world a better place.  🙂

~ © CLR 2017 ~

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The seeing place…

This month’s BeZine is all about Theater. Come on over and have a look!

It’s dim, but not quite too dark to see where you’re going. Small bulbs cast just enough light to barely distinguish faces and furniture. The smells of cut lumber, wood oil and paint mingle with makeup and sometimes musty costumes, coming together in a heady miasma of nervous sweat and dreams of success. The dull rumble of the audience murmurs from the other side of the thick, velvet curtain. It immediately electrifies the air with expectations. The cast take their places, everything is set and the bulbs in back suddenly go out. The curtain opens, the lights and sounds come up, the watchers hush and…the show begins!

***

I come by my love of the stage honestly; my mom’s creativity and extensive acting experience in her college troupe of players translated to prize-winning Halloween costumes for me and my brother when we were kids. By the time I was twelve, we had been to see several local productions of shows like Annie, A Christmas Carol and The Music Man. In high school, I became stage manager for the drama club and even had a bit part in The Miracle Worker. I painted numerous sets, gel backgrounds for the lights and found a niche in the camaraderie of the actors and the long nights of set building and rehearsals, the productions and cast parties (and the inevitable “after”-cast-party parties!). The lessons I learned then have been carried with me throughout my life and helped shape me into a better person.

To an outsider, someone who has never experienced or been a part of the theater world, there might be a lack of understanding of why it’s important.  It’s a sad, unfortunate truth that when education budgets get tight, the Arts (including theater) programs are the first to be cut. So here are just a few reasons why theater in particular should be saved and considered vital to educational curricula everywhere:

* Theater courses build self-confidence. I’d hazard a guess and say that most people don’t like public speaking. They get jitters, get nervous, have panic or anxiety attacks because they’re afraid they will mess up and people will laugh or judge. However, it becomes a lot easier when you can take on a persona, or be “someone else” up in front of people, who won’t recognize you because of costumes, makeup or a different voice.  It helps to take the pressure off, because if you mess up as a “character”, well, it’s not really you, is it? So it doesn’t matter as much. When you’ve succeeded “in character” once, it gets easier to do it again the next time. Success builds on itself, and so does self-confidence. Kids who are exposed to drama classes early in life learn to believe in their abilities (even when they’re nervous or anxious) and this can mean they become adult leaders in the boardroom, or the main presenter in the marketing meeting.

* Theater improves memory, speech and listening skills. Students of the dramatic arts are taught several, key things that they need in order to do well on stage. Of course memory gets exercised by repeatedly learning lines and movements, or keeping track of various props in different scenes. Whether it’s breathing techniques to steady nerves, voice projection to speak from the diaphragm or listening closely for a certain sound, a “cue” (spoken or otherwise), these are all things that students routinely practice to become good at the craft. It also means that they can use these skills off-stage and in other real-life situations.

* Theater challenges imagination and creativity, promotes quick-thinking. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen actors flub or drop lines! The best of them immediately improvised and somehow made it to the next cue without missing a beat. The worst of them froze until another cast member covered for them somehow (via speech or actions) and got them back on track. There are definitely times in drama class and on stage when you have to be able to think on your feet, and I’m sure there are dozens of real-life areas where this ability comes in handy.

* Theater fosters teamwork. In the end, it encourages everyone to work together as a team. From the director and cast all the way down to the stage hands, the set and design team, the lighting and sound crews, everyone has a part to play. On opening night, the production becomes this beautiful, polished creation born of the efforts of everyone involved. It becomes a shining example of the power of teamwork, and we all know how important that is in life.

From the Greeks all the way through today, it’s obvious that theater is indeed “the seeing place”. What you “see” in it depends on the lens with which you view it, and whether or not you’ve ever been exposed to it in life or developed an opinion about it. Sure, we can continue to cut drama courses from education, but why would anyone choose to? A life well-lived is about so much more than business, money or S.T.E.M. subjects. Those give us solidarity in society and enrich our minds. The Arts, including Theater, nourish our hearts and souls. And that, is just as important.

Posted in Art, Arts and Humanities, Creativity, Education, Food For Thought, Inspiration, Life, The Arts, Theater, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

~ Our Albatross is Greed, But We’re Not Sunk Yet ~

June’s theme at the BeZine is “Environmental Justice/Climate Change: Farming and Access to Water”.  It’s a good time to think about water as we are easing into summer here in North America. I know there are many, like me, who wonder if this summer will continue the trend of breaking record heat indexes, or how bad the drought will be this year?

It’s easy to take fresh water for granted when you have unlimited access to it. It’s easy not to think about people thousands of miles away who walk as much as six hours or 5 miles a day, just for clean water. Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps? What we take for granted here in the West, millions of others struggle every day to reach.

I could write a book about all the things which contribute and are causing the shortages of fresh water in the world, or how these shortages are leading to more wars and will continue to get worse as the climate changes. But I decided to write a poem instead, and borrowed a technique from another writer whom I greatly admire, Michael Dickel. I’ve inserted links inside the poem with the hopes that you’ll follow them and learn more about the water crisis that imperils the planet. Maybe it will motivate you to look at fresh, clean water with a different perspective, and even inspire you to take action(s). As always, thanks for taking the time to read.  🙂

*********

Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink…”
Prophetic words, which won’t be heard?
We’re already pushing at the brink.

We give our water to corporations,
So that we can buy it back again!
Poisoned taps, like third-world nations,
But here, in towns like Flint, Michigan.

Runoff pollution kills rivers and streams,
Water tables poisoned by mining and fracking,
Droughts and hurricanes, climate extremes,
Children die each day, from clean water’s lacking.

Sands slip through Humanity’s hourglasses,
But the future’s not fully carved in stone.
Technology may save Man’s collective, dumb asses,
Or buy us more time to correct what we’ve done.

Check out clean water that comes in a book!
Or an edible, bio-degradable sphere.
A billboard makes water from air — take a look!
A sieve that makes seawater drinkable! *Cheer!*
 
One man is walking 3,200 miles,
Another invented these portable stations.
Can you imagine the millions of smiles,
Saved, by clean water for all the world’s nations?

It starts and ends with each one of us,
Individual actions have ripple effects.
Water is life: without it, we’re dust.
Water is life. And all life connects.

~ © 2017 CLR

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To tell you the truth…

Honesty and Transparency are the themes for this month’s BeZine. I started to write about these things in relation to the current political administration in the United States and quickly realized that it was turning into a (badly-written, full of sarcastic anger) book. So instead, I’d like to ask you to consider something different, but just as important.

Image borrowed from lovethispic.com

Someone once told me, “Friends keep you honest. Good friends keep you honest with yourself.” Not only do I believe this, but I am blessed to have good enough friends who will do exactly that.  Because we’re all adept at self-deception, we all need outside perspectives that will help keep us true to who we really are. This is a good thing, because honesty and transparency are crucial for trust; it’s critical that we be able to trust ourselves in order to live our best, most fulfilling lives possible.

How do I know how to trust myself? You may ask. The answers are there, and complicated, and they may not be what you want to hear, but self-honesty isn’t always easy. In fact, I’d say it’s probably harder than being honest with other people, because we all tend to be our own worst enemies – Ego is ever present and will do any number of shady things to protect itself (and you, in the process).

The over-simplified, short answers are that there are a few things you can do to start on the journey to being more honest with yourself:

* Pay closer attention to your emotions, your thoughts and your behaviors. By becoming aware of those times when your emotions, thoughts and behaviors don’t seem to match who you believe yourself to be, you’re honing your ability to be self-aware. This takes practice, so don’t get discouraged.

* Understand that it’s a journey, not a destination, and that it’s likely to be painful. There’s a good reason that the phrase “The truth hurts” has become such a cliché. Also realize that the rewards are worth it! There is nothing quite so empowering as knowing that you’re comfortable in your own skin, living the life you were meant to…as a direct result of doing the hard work of taking stock of your personal inventory (some of you may even recognize this as the 4th step in any 12-step program: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”)

* Don’t be afraid to seek therapy or professional help with personal issues that may be holding you back. Unresolved issues and baggage will stick around as long as you allow them, and will hinder your attempts to practice self-honesty. It takes guts to admit you’re not perfect and that you may need help to unravel layers of inner knots.

Dr. Cortney S. Warren is a well known psychologist who has explored this subject in depth. Her website, choosehonesty.com has some good insights into becoming more honest and transparent with yourself. Here is a quick article of hers that was published in Psychology Today that gives a brief explanation of how to get started. And below is a very good TedX Talk video of hers that goes into more detail.

One of the most important things to remember about honesty with oneself is that it’s a continual process. We have the choice each day to honor our true selves or put on a mask. We can defer to who and what we think others want or expect us to be, or we can try to be self confident, honest and live our lives the way we think and feel we should.  I’m not advocating selfishness, but rather, self-awareness. Learn to trust yourself and be honest about who you are. It’s one of the essentials for living a complete, enriched and fulfilling life. And if you find yourself unsure about what that means and don’t already have one or two, get some good friends who are willing to keep you honest with yourself.  😉

Image borrowed from Pinterest.com, Dalai Lama quotes

Posted in Awareness, Food For Thought, Friendship, Honesty, Life | 2 Comments

Some Scientific Snippets

I’ve loved science as long as I can remember. When other little girls my age were collecting Barbie dolls, I was helping my brother find and label bugs for his bug collection.  My first science fair project in 4th grade was a very simple Skinner Box maze that utilized my two pet mice, Ebony and Ivory.  So when I saw that the theme for the BeZine this month was “Science in culture, politics and religion” I was overjoyed at the idea of being able to contribute something about one of my favorite subjects.

To be fair, the theme itself seemed a bit daunting. I mean, that’s a huge amount of stuff to choose from! I was overwhelmed.  So, I decided that I would choose something that science has influenced in each of the three categories and share a video for each one.

Image borrowed from Reddit.com

Science plays an important role in most global cultures, but in some places it has proven to be exceptionally innovative. We tend to take scientific advances in the medical field for granted here in the western world, but there are still many places that lack basic medicines, and particularly lack any kind of specialty medicine field. In Brazil, for example, they don’t have a working skin bank and don’t have a lot of resources to treat burn victims. Because of an unmet need, doctors have looked to Science to provide a way to help, by using what they do have available:

Moving on to science in politics, I’m going to use our own culture here in the United States as a prime example. The current administration is full of ties to the fossil fuels industries, climate change deniers and anti-environmentalists. The politics dictate policy and that’s very bad news for Science.  With cuts proposed to vital agencies like the E.P.A. and N.O.A.A., the removal of climate change information from the White House website, and the silencing of federal scientists with gag orders, is it any wonder that scientists both here and abroad see this as the opening salvos of a war on Science?

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Luckily, as one of my favorite scientists, Neil deGrasse Tyson says, “That’s the good thing about science. It’s true, whether or not you believe in it. That’s why it works.” Now, that doesn’t necessarily translate to power in politics, but don’t despair, because there are still people out there who care enough about science to make sure it doesn’t disappear in a short-sighted, ignorant, political purge. Here are two of my favorite men discussing how it’s more important now than ever to enlighten those who don’t believe in science and what the changing planet is trying to tell us.

While we’re doing some heavy mental lifting, let’s examine science in relation to religion. So many people think that science and religion are polar opposites that have nothing in common. I’ve heard people say that they both rely upon faith, although one is faith in things seen and the other is faith in things unseen – factual, tangible evidence vs. circumstantial and communal/personal/anecdotal evidence. There are so many arguments for each side…that I would like to challenge you to stop. Just stop. Put aside what you know or think you know about science and religion, and for just a few minutes, consider a completely different viewpoint. What if…why not have BOTH?  Wild, right? Crazy, I know.

I invite you to open your mind and watch the following TedX Talk. It’s only about 18 minutes long. That’s really not long in the big scheme of things. As for me, I believe it’s entirely possible to have both science and religion (although I personally regard it as more of a spirituality than ‘organized religion’). The point is that they don’t have to conflict, it doesn’t have to be an either/or stalemate.  There is another way.

In closing, I’d just like to say thanks for reading and I hope that I’ve given you a few things to consider.  🙂 And last but not least,

Image from Tumblr- Inspire

 

Posted in Ecology, Environment, Food For Thought, Future, Life, Nature, Past Present and Future, Politics, Science, Uncategorized | 1 Comment