Walls

Jack woke late in the morning after another night of sleep that felt like hibernation. Throwing his feet on the floor he bolted for the bathroom. His puffy round face and Kicking Bird hair greeted him once again as he pulled on a starched shirt covering his chest, just his neck protruding above a blue tie with brown and red fishing fly print. He usually did not wear ties, but he had a meeting scheduled and knew everyone else in attendance would be dressed in coat and tie.
Copyright © 2009 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

Thanksgiving


The Thanksgiving feast is just a day away, a singular American
tradition obsessed with consuming at a single meal more food and drink than
most central African residents eat in a month or more. We give thanks for our
abundance by eating abundantly. However, given the troubling economic
conditions, for most of us our abundance has dwindled a bit. Nonetheless, we give
thanks for all we have, just as the Puritan New England settlers gave thanks, to
the God of our understanding.

The Thanksgiving celebration evolved from the English “Harvest
Home” festival observed in early New England and was a Puritan gathering to
give thanks for the first crop of corn, squash, and beans along with wild game,
fish, and fowl that they had learned to gather, as a New York Times article by
Andrew Beahrs notes in the paper today. From what I recall of pre-American
history, I doubt that the Puritans gorged themselves because the cold of winter
was coming, if not already on them. Most of us, me included, can only imagine how daunting
the prospect of winter was for the settlers in a strange place and how they must have wondered if they
could survive on what they had grown and gathered. Some us may wonder today if
we can weather the current economic winter.

Projecting and planning is a natural human instinct. Ancestors
that survived passed on our collective obsessions and fears. Nevertheless, for
just one day we try to lay aside these evolved character traits and give thanks
for all we have.

Click – change the channel

I occasionally listen to the Neil Bortz Radio Show and have
to admit that every so often he makes some valid arguments. However, since
Obama’s election, he has stretched the truth quite thin and, I must say, the
entertainment value of the show has diminished.  

 

Bortz rattled on for several minutes today about Democratic
plans to pick on the wealthy, “tax [their] 401(k)’s and IRA’s, and redistribute
the proceeds to the poor and middle class.” According to Bortz, Democrats in
Congress have discussed this plan for the past sixteen years and now suddenly
this retirement savings tax will happen. To his sidekick/producer’s credit,
Royal Marshall had to “Call BS.”

 

Royal , WSB Radio may be happy to know that your comments
kept me listening for a few more minutes. Unfortunately, Bortz kept talking
nonsense—click.

Religion & Politics

“In
religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost
every case gotten at second hand, and without examination.”
Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)


Religion and
politics are equal opportunity offenders. Adamant disagreement arises at mere mention of either. Ideological lines are drawn and we hop to our
respective sides.  Facing each other on
opposing sides of the line we loose sight commonality and community in distorted
polarized light of belief and conviction—us versus them.  Rhetoric is hurled back and forth, and we hear
only what we shout.  The ensuing noise separates
us from Silence and Love.

Doubt and Change

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The Lectionary
readings today speak of doubt and change. The Israelites in the Old Testament
reading (Exodus 17: 1 – 7) bemoan change that Moses brought leading them from
slavery in Egypt.  They want security even if it comes with
slavery. They are thirsty, but their faith is weak that God will provide all
the need. Moses’ faith is rewarded by providing water for his people. Even
though God refuses to reveal his face to Moses, his faith is strong and he lives
his faith and changing Israel
through the wilderness.

Matthew’s Gospel (21:
23 – 32) also talks of doubt and change. The chief priests and the elders of
the temple doubt Jesus’ authority and are unsure of how to answer his question.
He talks of the change that God provides in those who they know: “32 For John
came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the
tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you
did not change your minds and believe him.”

I too live with
doubt and change. My syndical nature doubts that God exists and is indeed
working in my life. However, how can I doubt the huge change that sobriety has
made in my life? I certainly cannot take credit for that. I am grateful that
God show me grace by touching my miserable life.

Confused

I find myself at low ebb—confused, waning energy, forgetful,
and just out of sorts. I am getting away from all that feeds and motivates,
such as exercise, yoga, and most of all writing. All I seem to do is think of
and read about other’s writing successes. And I realize that I am anything but
successful. Right or wrong, I have to write. Success does not come by simply
having a desire to write—words must make their way to paper or digital code.

I am living Mike’s dilemma. He cannot pay attention and is disgusted
with the greed and incompetence. We draw on personal experience to write
fiction. Mike is drawn in and down out of his fear and greed. He is paralyzed
to act out of fear for his job. He has tried the entrepreneurial route and failed.
His job sucks his life and energy. He drags home at the end of each day unable
to lift a pen or keyboard, creating frustration and conflict. He wakes each
morning already tired after restless nights plagued by the knowledge he must
write and publish to survive as a writer and not having the energy and courage
to do so.  

Stretched to the Breaking Point

            Whether you
support or oppose the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, it is clear that the
open-ended, blank check, no timetable Bush policy cannot be sustained. The
pressures on our troops, equipment, and national budget are showing signs of
cracking. The war rhetoric is like the boy with his finger in the dike. He
believes that everything is under control. Sooner or later a real threat may
emerge that stretch our military to the breaking point. The real solution is eliminating
extremist hatred of the US
through diplomatic, peaceful action.

            President
Bush refuses to consider any timetables for withdrawal of troops from Iraq—he has
made that painfully clear during the past six years. However, the military will
eventually limit the Bush and next president’s ability to sustain current
levels in Iraq.
The administration war planners were wrong about the “weapons of mass
destruction” premise justifying invasion of Iraq
and they are wrong about a military solution in Iraq. According to a March 2004
“The Atlantic” magazine article by James Fallows,

Unanticipated U.S. ground force requirements in postwar Iraq,” a report for the Army
War College
noted late last year, “have stressed the U.S. Army to the breaking
point,” with more than a third of the Army's total “end
strength” committed in and around Iraq. “Operation Iraqi Freedom
and its aftermath argue strongly,” the report said, “for an
across-the-board reassessment”—that is, for an increase of U.S.
force levels.

The limitations of the military will ultimately set a
timetable that Bush refuses to consider. We find our country in an Iraq quagmire. A
finger in the dike and hawkish rhetoric will not change this. The sad truth is
that the Bush administration likely has enough fingers in the dike to keep it
standing until they leaves office. Then it becomes the next president’s
problem.

            The next real
problem that may be faced is a threat a nuclear Iran
attacking Israel.
So, how could the US
hope to respond? I see two options: 1) reinstate the draft—not a swift response
option—or 2) respond with nuclear weapons—swift but catastrophic.  Neither option solves the root problem—a
violent hatred of the US
by third world extremists.

            Diplomatic
and economic pressure along with expanding our world alliances has the
potential for increasing bang for the US taxpayer buck. Unbridled war
spending is drawing resources away form domestic needs such as social security
and bridge replacement, just to name two areas. There is a real possibility
that a disaster such as the Milwaukee
bridge collapse will be repeated and that social security will cease to be.

            Over committed
militarily throughout the world, the US will soon face hard decisions of
where and how to use limited military force. A strong military is necessary. So
is prudent use of this strength. President Bush has been anything but prudent
in his Iraq
blunder

Copyright © 2007 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

Journey

We are travelers on
life’s journey moving toward our common destination—death—and what may lie
beyond. Most are free, for the most part, to choose the path we follow to this
destination. We all are born into specific circumstances that limit choice. For
instance, an Arab girl born into a male dominated culture and a boy born into
poverty have much different limitations compared to a white boy born into a
loving caring middle class American family. However, regardless of circumstances,
we share a common desire for freedom of choice and control over the path that
we follow on our journey. As a white American man, I have high class and
trivial impediments along my journey. Nonetheless, my path is not without bumps
and detours. So where am I today and how did I get here?   

I am a child of
the mid-twentieth century America,
born in 1956. My parents expected me and my sister to be successful and be
emotionally well adjusted. The smiling, materialistic Ozzie and Harriet mindset
of the late 1950s and early 1960s discouraged freedom and creative expression
outside tightly drawn lines. As young boy not always able to stay inside the
lines, I was subjected special treatment and education that was intended to keep
me in line.

The first bump on
my path came at the age of twelve when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. My
parents had me tested because I had reading problems that made it difficult for
me to stay between the tightly drawn lines of the public school system. This
condition was considered by my well intentioned parents and the doctors they
consulted as a sever limitation. At first, I did not feel different from my
friends or that this so-called condition was a limitation. However, I was soon
conditioned to believe that I had a defect that must be corrected if I wanted
any chance of a “normal life.” I continually heard from adults, whom I trusted,
that I was indeed different in a negative way. I was subjected to a variety of eye
exercise treatments and tutors that felt to me like torture. I was miserable; I
had no control over the direction in which I was being shoved. Then, as if to
add insult to injury, I was shoved into a private boarding school, which deepened
my frustration and unhappiness.

During this time,
between twelve and fifteen years old, I felt social pressure to participate in macho
sports like baseball, football, wrestling, and basketball. So, with an
overwhelming desire to be accepted and normal, I did my best to join in. I was
actually a good swimmer and enjoyed it; however, I believed that my friends and
schoolmates did not consider swimming a macho sport. Bending to expectations, I
was often miserable and unhappy with my choice of complicity. Again, I felt as
if I was being shoved in a direction that I really did not want to follow.

Creativity was not
part of my young vocabulary. The tutors and private school did not discouraging
creativity, but they absolutely encouraged, rewarded, and expected logical,
left brain activity. I learned through a fear of failure to again stay between
the lines of expectation. I now realize the result of this cultural pressure eventually
resulted in undeveloped and blocked creativity that further fed frustration and
unhappiness. This grew and festered years down the road into restlessness,
irritability and discontentment; the result of addiction.

As a freshman in
high school, I had a strong desire to follow a different path. It was this
desire and a series of sports injuries led me to drugs and alcohol. I often
write about this because it is such a pivotal part of my journey. I followed
this corked, self-absorbed path for almost thirty years. At first, it provided a
welcome escape from the frustration and unhappiness I felt. It ended at a dead
end and I was powerless to change direction.

At forty three, God
opened for me a door of change and freedom from ugly drug addiction and alcoholism
that had grown to control of my life and was essentially dragging me down dark,
foggy road. During the last eight years I have slowly grown to realize that God
holds the key to what I longed for—creative freedom and acceptance. My journey
is just beginning to make sense and I realize that creativity is a gift from
God that takes many forms in my life—writing, music, and the physical movement
of swimming and Yoga practice. Continuing to grow in a positive direction, God gives
me the privilege to serve others in many of ways, such as helping those who
suffer with addictions, as I did, through AA—the fellowship of recovery that
held open a door open for me. Active participation in AA reminds me that I do
not need to backtrack on my journey.

Copyright © 2007 Mark Holmberg. All rights reserved.

I've Been Away

I’ve been away for a while. It’s easy to get out of the
habit of visiting daily. I just get lazy.

 

Jack continues to have problems. Martha may be his biggest
problem. He’ll grow out of given many years. Rachel may grow out of her problem
with me given many years also. Rachel worries me. She seems to be a nocturnal
person—sleeps all day, up all night. Something’s going on.?

 

So Cindy has decided to exercise. We’ll join Health Place—hope
she’ll find motivation there.

 

I’ve had a difficult time focusing. There are too many
distractions. Writing is too easy to postpone. It’s easier to read a story than
to write one. It’s even easier to read about writing a story than to write
one—this seems to complicate actually doing it. I have become terribly
self-concise about the literary content of my writing—about having something
profound to say. I need to head Annie Lamont’s advice to simply write a shitty
first draft. I won’t write anything shitty unless I write.

 

Story ideas:

Feed the Machine—institutions,
government, businesses tend to take on a life or their own, demanding to be
fed.

Continually Questioning
My Ability
—what have I done lately? I know I have done
good things in the past, but maybe there all a fluke—the game’s up, they
realize I’m an incompetent imposter. These thoughts kept me on the edge of
fear. Not a comfortable place—drinking/drugs eased the pain. Reliance on
faith—on the unseen and unexplainable—they say is a better way. The fear is
still there—no escaping it now

Procrastination

Procrastination, fear, anger… Anger, fear. Making a start,
to begin. Energy is drawn from me. Too many distractions—drink, don’t drink,
don’t drug forget it, maintain contact, and loose it. Focus on the free track.
Leave the rut and the things that bind—free my mind. The mind that has been
side tracked, bound, imprisoned, that is too narrow without imagination. Too
old? Save myself form that which takes my energy—my imagination. Where am I? Where
have I gone? Am I worth finding? I certainly hope there’s something there.
That’s part of the fear—the anger hides the fear. Those I am most angry with
are the most like me. Where is my soul in all this mess I call my life? Money,
or lack there of. Important things—family, freedom happiness—where did they go.
Choices I made took them away or at least made them less important. Work takes
a great deal of energy and provides money in return. Self esteem is directly related
to money. Money is necessary to love/live. Could not survive without… pursuit takes
away a part of me. There was a time I felt good about work—when I was, perceived
that I was in control. Control: a dirty word per the “program” but is directly
related to ego in the secular. Spiritual—ok to not be in control. Since I have
not been successful with control—I put value on the spiritual. A worthy pursuit
or simply default? Fear there…freedom choice. The recent election produces
fear, loss of freedom, anger frustration. Need a bigger weapon to beat the
Republicans over the head with—to show them how ignorant their violence is.
Digging a deeper and deeper hole, unaware that there are frustrated angry
people waiting to cover us. Don’t they  know we are vastly more
intelligent? The minds of the majority of Americans have been vaporized. TV is
a weapon—political weapon of mass destruction. Nobody is capable of thinking
for themselves, or wants to think for themselves. Blinded by anger and fear of
9/11. Flaying in the dark at what frightens us the most. Look at me, drawn to
secular—becoming angry and self righteous. Angry with the right/Christian
right. Where did they come from? They did not die off with Nixon—there I go
again. Knee jerk reaction. The stiff necks have made my neck stiff—renting
space in my head. Clear my head from negative crap—open to what’s buried in my
soul.

 

CITY
–community, population

            Pollution,
corrupt

                        Out
of control—heartless—cold

Interesting, entertaining, distracting

            Out there
but not wild, free

                        Kills
nature kills people

                                    Need