News and Reflections

I’ve developed some new health problems of late. One is hellacious gas that makes me swell so big that it’s obvious, another is pain in my groin, and the third is pain in my left jaw. I had a CT-scan last week to see what the groin pain is about; I’m taking two drugs for the gas (they’re not helping much); and Kirk (my internist) suggested a fatter tooth guard (I’ve slept with a tooth guard for thirty years) for the jaw pain.

I’ve also gotten to where I go out in the backyard in my underwear. It’s usually for only a moment to take out the trash or empty the compost, but sometimes it’s for a little longer. The people in the house behind me live higher up, and they have a home office in their windowed back porch, so they can clearly see me. I just figure that, hell, I’m as covered-up as people would be at the beach if the beach in Oregon wasn’t so cold.

Another thing I do is to walk around naked indoors with the blinds raised. Peggy doesn’t like this, so she’ll come along and close them. It
’s not that I’m an exhibitionist, it’s that I don’t care. The thought that I live in a society that watches movies with gratuitous nudity (nearly always on the part of young females), but objects to neighbors in their underwear or naked in their own houses is something I’m unwilling to honor.
Peggy took a trip to the coast with two friends last week, and one of them came back with food poisoning. The diarrhea got so bad that her husband had to go to the store and buy her some diapers. I laughed to think that he never dreamed he would have to do something like that when they were young and he mistook her for a goddess. I also knew that he was mad about her going on the trip (because of the expense), so I hoped he was kind to her while she was sick.

I’m better than most at observing people closely enough to know what they need. A common example would be that if Peggy and I are in the kitchen, and she washes her hands, I’ll hand her a towel, so she won’t have to get one off the hanger at the end of the counter. Peggy doesn’t watch me like I watch her, and it sometimes hurts my feelings that she doesn’t know I need help when it seems so obvious. I think to myself, how can she not know? The reason, of course, is that she isn’t paying attention, but how is it that I pay attention, and she doesn’t? I know she loves me, but I also know that she’s often oblivious to my needs, and I can’t put the two together.

The Lane County Fair is in progress, and I live across the street from the fairgrounds. I have a double driveway, and people need a place to park, so I sometimes flag them down and tell them to park in my driveway. Yesterday, about 3:00 in the afternoon, I did this in my pajamas because I saw someone who was trying to fit his car into too small a space and who was old enough that I wanted to spare him and his wife a long walk.

Other kinds of charity I engage in are that I give money to street musicians as long as they’re not so bad that they hurt my ears, but I’ve yet to give a penny to a panhandler. Peggy has strong feelings against giving money to beggars, so she was surprised when I started giving money to street musicians. “They’re at least trying to earn it,” I said, “and it is only a dollar.” I also help people when I happen upon someone who needs help, and I give money to various charities—Public Broadcasting, Sierra Club, Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, all but the first of which are considered dangerous by conservatives. I only give a little more than what will pay for membership, but I tell myself that I will make up for it when I’m dead. They’ll need the money as much then as they do now.

A month ago, Peggy and I were visiting Mt. Angel Monastery when we met a traveling homeless man with a husky. He wanted the monks to let him camp in their woods, but they said no, but that if he would go back into town, the nuns at the convent might have a place for him. It being unusually hot that day, Peggy and I did something that was extraordinary for us, we took him and the dog into town to the convent and left him in the care of a gruff but hopefully caring nun. He could tell that we weren’t completely happy about helping him, so he said that he would be okay with walking, but I said that it wasn’t him we were helping, it was his dog because his dog was suffering in the heat. Indeed, if he hadn’t had that husky, he would have been on his own.

I find in the music of Taizé a feeling deeper than words and a place where doctrine is irrelevant. Tears roll down my cheeks. I find it hard to even walk, and I’m in a daze when I try. It’s as if the key has been found to some lock within myself, yet I’m not a believer, and even Taizé is powerless to make me a believer. Still, Taizé represents to me what religion should be, that is a source of peace, beauty, and inclusion. I trust that the people who wrote it and are performing it are reaching out their arms to me rather than consigning me to hell. If all Christians were open-hearted this way, non-Christians might even respect them
Many atheists regard religion as a weakness at best and a mental illness at worst, and this leads them to reject religious art and music. For years, I was this way, and I still won’t purchase the “gospel” music that I grew up with, although I’m moved by some of it. My reason for avoiding it is that it contains too many statements about blood, belief, and heaven for me to relax into it. Also, I know that the people who I went to church with as a child would want to exclude me from enjoying it just as they exclude me from their churches, so I’m content to leave their music and their churches to them. 

I shared the video link with my Christian friend, Robert (Rhymes with Plague), and since the words of the first selection mean grant us peace, he asked who it was that I thought would grant me peace. I often feel that believers are trying to convince me that I’m not a real atheist. I wish they were right, but I’m as real as it gets regarding non-belief in the supernatural because I can’t look at the misery that pervades our world and see God in it. Still, when it comes to what is in my heart, I can’t completely let go of religion either because if it’s not true, then what’s the point? This world alone simply isn’t enough for me because it contains so much sorrow and because every life ends in death. Even the good I experience is like a dessert that I only get to taste before its taken away (I refer mostly to my relationship with Peggy). 

P.S. If you’re open to being consumed by this music, you need to lie down and be still, but I have no thought that my atheist readers will be open to it. I just think they’ll feel sorry for me because I love it.

Peggy is also an atheist, and last week when we were hiking atop Indian Ridge and enjoying the view of mountains from Hood to Thielsen (about 250 miles), I asked her if she had rather live with the sadness of knowing that we will be soon separated by death, or would she prefer to believe in something that she now considers a myth. She said she had rather believe. I’ve always thought that the desire to believe was indicative of weakness, but issues of strength versus weakness become less important as one’s need (if not one’s desperation) increases. I can hardly condemn a person for believing that which I too would believe if I could.

Peggy is in awe of the fact that I can stop-up a toilet instantly because, if not for the toilet paper, she couldn’t stop one up in a week. She doesn’t exactly envy me my talent, but this doesn’t prevent me from grunting, pointing, and curling my biceps if I drop a major bomb while she’s around. In June, we spent the night at Oregon Garden, and I stopped their toilet up just as we were leaving our room. There was no plunger, and I was too embarrassed to leave the problem to them, so I unstopped it with my hand.

One of our schnauzers would eat used dental floss, and it would  make his shit come out like a rosary. This would absolutely scare the dickens out of him, so Peggy would have to take the end of the floss and pull. There are some jobs that I am happy to leave to her, especially in public where I try to look the other way and pretend I’m alone.

If I wrote more personal posts like this, more people would like my blog. It’s not that I don’t know how to please people, but that I write about what occurs to me and in the way that it occurs to me. I lost two long-term face-to-face friends (and, therefore, a surrogate granddaughter) recently because of a post (, and that was very hard for me and even harder for Peggy, but I couldn’t apologize because here is where I am who I am, and people can either like it or not. Maybe this makes me sound hard, but my goal is to present to my readers the best gift that I can give, by which I mean the gift of myself at my core. If they reject that, they’re rejecting me, and there is really nothing I can do but to let them go.