Tuesday, December 20, 2011

GREAT DEBATE IN THE AFTERLIFE

The room was dark and still.  The curtains had been drawn as if to reflect the life  that the man lying in the bed had led.  He had been a famous man, an intelligent man.  He was a philosopher that stood above other philosophers in his time.  His arguments were told in short stories and books that he had written.  The man had gone through some changes over the course of his life and was so intelligent he was able to change even his own mind while holding debates with himself when he was alone.

When he was alone.  He was alone now as he struggled for each and every breath that he could take to stay alive.  No one was here now to debate whether he was dying or simply falling into a deep sleep from which he would never awake.  His eyes were closed but he could hear a voice every now and again of a nurse talking about how much time he had left.  Apparently they were betting in the hospital on the hour and day in which he would no longer need to be cared for.

In Heaven, God sent a messenger to bring one of the residents in to see Him.  The resident soul had been known while he was on earth as a great debater himself.  He was known far and wide as a conservative man who could argue any point on any subject.  He had always relished the test of his thinking abilities in this way.  One thing he had never debated though was the existence of God.  William Buckley was raised with a strong belief system and had held onto it until the day he had died on Earth.  He remembered arriving in Heaven and being told the God wanted to see him as soon as he arrived.

Buckley remembered thinking that although he had always believed, this place wasn't the way he had envisioned it.  He found himself bodiless and just a spirit whose job it was to praise God.  As he was led to God that first moment after his death he could feel the presence of billions of souls but could see no one.

He was led into the throne room where the great Presence of God was.  It was a fearful place but at the same time a calming place.  He then heard these words echo though his spirit.

"Buckley," God said, "I have a chore for you to do.  In about three Earth years a man's life will end just as yours have.  I want you to prepare for his arrival and debate my existence.  Go now and prepare."

Suddenly Buckley felt his spirit pulled quickly from the throne room and taken to a place where he would sit in solitude preparing for the debate God had commanded him to take on.  Who was this being that was going to arrive shortly to take on such a matter in debate?  Buckley only knew one thing.  Three Earth years went by might quickly and he had better prepare himself for the commission he had been given.  He began to think back on his past debates and figure out what arguments would he face in such a debate.  He began to form the debate in his head and carry on the arguments with himself.  It would be a greater debate than any he had fought while he was on Earth.

As Christopher Hitchens took his last breath, he found himself being pulled away from his earthly body and out and away from the earth.  He was heading towards a dark place.  The darkness was far darker than anything he had ever imagined.  He felt the restraints of earth being pulled away from him and he found himself in a non-body spirit type being.  His thoughts were coming back alive.  His great thinking ability was returning to him.  Then suddenly he found himself standing next to what he could only perceive as an evil spirit.

"Where am I?" asked Hitchens becoming a bit confused.

"Oh, you know where you are Christopher.  If not you will before long.  The boss wants to see you.  Come along", said the spirit .  Hitchens did not want to go but found he had no control over himself at that moment.  He followed the spirit into an even darker place where the evilness weighed upon him so that he could hardly stand or hear.

"Christopher Hitchens" he felt the heavy and evil spirit saying to him.  "I have been waiting for you quite awhile now.  You, sir, have been one of my greatest hopes in this silly war I am engaged in."

Hitchens could not speak because of the weight of the darkness and evil in the place where he was.  He tried to think , tried to move and soon settled in that wherever he was, he was stuck until the spirit was done with him..

"I have a chore for you.  You are a great debater, no?" the spirit asked as if already knowing the answer.  "I have set up a debate for you.  If you win the debate, I will make your time here as easy as possible.  You will be my confidant and my adviser.  The only labor you will have to do while you are here is to think, and you like to think, don't you?"

Hitchens thought that it was obvious that he was a great thinker and that he enjoyed thinking more than anything else.  Apparently the spirit read his thoughts as Hitchens was still not able to speak.

"You spent a great deal of time on Earth proving that there is no God.  You did a fine job of it.  I always looked upon my Christopher Hitchens with pride every time you won one of those debates.  You even convinced thousands who were not sure that you were right and my kingdom here has grown because of your thinking and your words."

Hitchens began to wonder what this was all about.  Of course he had argued against the existence of God.  It was obvious that there was not a God in his mind.  He could prove it too.  He had proved it hundreds of times.  He had even written books upon the subject.  So this spirit wanted him to debate it one more time.  Sure Hitchens thought.  I can do that.  I have all the arguments down to a science.

"GOOD!!", the spirits voice boomed, "You will take on my request.  Not that you had a choice but it makes it easier when I don't have to force my subjects to do so.  You have three days to prepare for the great debate.  If you win the debate, as I have said, you will be my adviser.  If you lose the debate, however,  You will have an eternity of hard labor in which you cannot imagine the pain it will bring upon you.  You will be among the lowest of the low in this kingdom that I call my own.  You will be so low you will not even be allowed to take part in battles that arise upon the earth.  If you lose, you will be sorry ever second that you ever took on the debate..  Now GO!!! and prepare."

Hitchens felt his soul like being pulled from the darkest of the dark and back into the plain dark.  He was led by the spirit that brought him to this place to a small room.  A room so small he could barely turn around in it.  He had three days to go over all of his arguments he had made in the debates on earth.  Shouldn't be a problem Hitchens thought.

The three days passed quickly and before he knew it, Hitchens soul was being dragged out of the room and on it's way to the debate.

"I hope you are ready," said the evil spirit.  It was the same spirit that had escorted him to the darkest of the dark. "You lose this one, and you will forever be in mournful pain wishing you were back on earth."

The spirits words made Hitchens shiver as they moved upward.  Hitchens noticed that the darkness was becoming a little lighter.  He could feel the weight of evil ease a little.  Finally they came to a stop.  It was a gray foggy area .  The feeling was one of melancholy.  Hitchens stood and waited to see what would happen next.  In his mind he went over the arguments he had prepared.  He had a feeling this was not going to be easy.

Then before him suddenly stood a spirit that he recognized.  It was Buckley!  Buckley stood and look at Hitchens.  He noticed Hitchens soul was bent and crooked.  He noticed a darkness around Hitchens as such he had never seen before.  Hitchens always thought that he who spoke first had the advantage and so he began the debate without direction from anyone else.

"So, it is Buckley." Hitchens voice seemed to have a hiss to it and his throat was dry.  "Seeing you here it seems that you are to be my opponent in debating the existence of God.  Before we begin, Buckley, I must warn you that I am an expert at this subject.  I do not ever remember being bested in such a debate.  Then again, I never had the opportunity to debate you on this subject until now. "

Hitchens looked over at Buckley who was standing straight and tall and studying him with a look of pity.  Buckley remained quiet which was very odd for him.

"If I were you Buckley, May I suggest that you leave right now before embarrassing yourself.  I am a much greater debater than you ever thought about being.  You stand speechless now out of choice but by the time I am done, you will be speechless because you can't argue with someone as brilliant as me."  Hutchins continued to look at Buckley who stood silent and still.  He began to lose patience.

"WELL BUCKLEY???"  Hitchens hissed loudly. "Are you going to say ANYTHING or just concede right now before you make a fool of yourself?"

Buckley sighed and lowered his head.  He then looked back up at Hitchens.

"Yes," Buckley said softly, "you were a great thinker on Earth.  Here, though, it takes a much higher level of thinking than you have ever experienced.  You did not expand your thinking to a higher level but left it at the level that you had while you were on earth.  I am afraid you are doomed, my poor Hitchens.  Doomed to an existence beyond comprehension."

Hitchens cocked his head to one side and tried to figure out what Buckley meant but his mind was growing dim and blank as Buckley took a step towards him.

Buckley raised his arm and pointed at Hitchens.

"You are here, Hitchens."  Buckley said almost in a sorrowful voice.

"AND???" hissed Hitchens.

"And that is my argument. Since you are here, you lose Hitchens. You being here proves that there is indeed a God." and Buckley turned to walk away.

Suddenly Hitchens felt his soul being pulled back to the darkness very quickly.  He reached out in desperation.

"BUCKLEY!!!!!!!!!!!"  Hitchens yelled but suddenly his mouth was shut, his lips as if they were glued together.  Further and further into the darkness he was drug until he found himself being put to work as one of the tormented.  It was not two seconds after Hitchens arrived at his post that he realized he would be there for eternity.  He had lost the debate without argument and the Darkest of the Dark Spirits had followed through on his promise.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

MEMORY OF A GOOD CHRISTMAS

For some reason I have always had a difficult time with Christmas.  I don't harbor too many memories of Christmas from my childhood.  Most of the Christmas' I do remember ended up disappointments. Looking back I can understand why things were the way they were.  Usually my little brother and myself received either a joint toy together or each of us got the same things.  It was an economic situation that required this to happen.  It often led to a bit of a let down as I received toys that were more appropriate for my brothers age than mine. I am almost sure is was the same situation with my sisters although I didn't pay much attention to how their Christmas' were going.

Mom and dad did find a way every year to get each of us kids something just for us and that did help off set the other presents that were the same as my brothers.  Then there were always the sweaters, socks, coats and hats that we would get.  Nothing is worse for a kid at Christmas than to get socks and mittens.  We knew they were coming though and so we were prepared every year to be happy with them.

I remember one year finally getting a new bike that I had been in need of for three years.  It seemed that when little brother was ready for a new bike, that was when I got mine.  Still I was thrilled with the bike and before lunch rode it over to Ronnie's house to show it to him.  That was a good Christmas.

There were other moments of Christmas I recall.  Mom and dad gave us a Johnny Lightning race track one year.  It came with little plastic helmets that you were supposed to wear while racing the cars to make the experience more real.  I remember that Christmas morning watching my brother in law Steve play with the race track while having this little red helmet sitting on top of his head.  He looked absolutely silly but he was having a good time and let the rest of us have a good time at his expense.

One year I got a book.  I never realized how much my mother and father knew about my likes and dislikes until the Christmas that I opened that book.  Not only was it a book, indicating that they knew I loved to read, but it was a book about basketball.  They had picked up on the fact that I was turning into a pretty good basketball player and played out in front of the house on my sister's goal almost everyday.  It was a revelation to me that they paid attention to what I was doing.

The best Christmas from my childhood happened a few years later.  I still smile when I think about it.  I was in Junior High School and had taken drafting as part of the shop class in the seventh grade.  It was there that I fell in love with drafting for the first time.  I had always wanted to be an artist but had absolutely zero talent.  When I began to learn how to do drafting I found that with these tools I could draw, and I could draw very well.  It would later become the start of my career as I worked my way up the engineering ladder.  Now I find the love I had for drawing is still with me but I don't draw anymore.  All the drafting and design work I do is done on a computer.  I haven't picked up a pencil to draw with for almost fifteen years now.  Anyway, back to that special Christmas.

There was a package under the tree.  It was pretty large  being about two feet wide by three feet tall and a couple of inches thick.  I do not know if my little brother was let in on this or not, but when I inquired about the big present my mother told me it was for Bob.  That present sat under the tree for a whole month with me thinking it was not mine.  I never told my little brother it was for him of course.  If I had done that I would have to listen to him brag about it all the way to Christmas when I would finally find out what he was getting.

I accepted the fact that whatever I was getting it was not going to be that big package.  I didn't let it get to me.  I pretty much put it out of my mind since it had no significance to me whatsoever.  It just sat next to the tree leaning against the staircase for a month.

Then came that Christmas morning.  Bob was handing out the presents.  There went one to Carol, one to Elaine, Another to Carol, one for Bob, another for Carol, a little one for me, another one for Carol, one for Elaine and then one for Bob.  After a few more presents for Carol and one or two for Bob, Elaine and myself, Bob took hold of the big present.  There wasn't a name on it.  Bob asked who it was for and when he did I could see a glimmer of hope in his eye.

I wasn't paying attention and so I am not sure I heard mom tell Bob that the present was for me.  Bob drug the box over to me and waiting until I took in the fact that mom had pulled a big one over on me for a whole month.  I don't remember tearing into it or opening it up slowly as I usually did.  I don't remember opening it at all to be honest.  But I do remember what was in that box.  There was a small drafting board, a t-square, a couple of plastic triangles, some pencils, a french curve and some paper.  It took awhile for it to sink in.  My very own drafting set.  I am not sure but I think I was speechless for awhile before blurting out a huge thank you to mom and dad.

That night I thought about it a bit.  How did they KNOW that I liked drafting so much?  How did they KNOW that it would be the perfect gift?  I don't remember ever talking to them about it.  Sure, when I would go into work with dad on Saturdays, he could usually find me up in the drafting room of the office.  I still don't remember ever talking to them about how much I enjoyed drafting and wanted to be good at it.

I do know this however.  Mom and dad went out of their way to be sure I got something that I would never forget.  They succeeded in that.  I still have not forgotten that Christmas.  I know that it must have been a financial sacrifice  in order to get me that drafting kit, and that meant it a lot to me then as well as now.  It probably meant a lot to Carol as well as she probably got one or two fewer presents than she normally got.

I still have a difficult time with Christmas.  I struggle to make Christmas good for everyone around me by putting on a mask and acting like I am not having problems with it.  But there was this one Christmas when five minutes made all the hassles and noise and traveling around worthwhile.

Thanks mom.  Thanks dad.  It was the best Christmas I can remember until the Christmas when Brett came to live with us and that, you will agree, is pretty hard to beat.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

GONE 31 YEARS

John Lennon was murdered thirty one years ago tonight.  Not only is it still hard to believe that he was murdered, but it is hard to believe that so much time has passed by.

John Lennon was one of my heroes.  He was so many things he became an enigma to himself.  He was an artist, a song writer, a singer, a poet, a philosopher and managed to become just another New Yorker.

He went through many phases in his life.  His songwriting went from pop love songs, to angry political and society songs, to celebration of life songs.  His philosophy changed all through his life as well.  Simply put, he was a man who was willing to look at life and the world with open eyes and unafraid to change based on what he saw and learned.

His last album before he was killed had some of the most beautiful music he had ever written.  The lyrics to the words were a look at how his life finally got to be where he wanted it to be.  He had not recorded for five years before he and Yoko released "Double Fantasy" in 1980.  The songs tell the story of a man in love with his wife and family.  A man who wasn't afraid to be who he was.  He did not have to put on a show as the outspoken Beatle.  He was simply John.  And John would walk with Yoko through the streets and through Central Park without being bothered much at all.  The people of New York had accepted him as a fellow New Yorker and it was not too strange to see him out and about.

At the time that he was murdered a person could tell that it was a new John Lennon that had not been seen before.  He had matured.  He had learned.  He seemed to finally grasp what life was about.

I found out about his death while taking a shower and getting ready for work the day after the murder.  Barb burst into the bathroom telling me that they had shot Lennon.  My initial reaction was not one of surprise.  I could imagine any number of political organizations or fringe groups that would consider it a feather in the hat to have killed Lennon.

Then I learned it was not a murder of motive at all.  It was a senseless murder.  A man who was not quite thinking normally had killed Lennon to make him famous or something like that.  There was no reason to rob the world of this man who, whether right or wrong, strived to make the world a better place.

A song that was on Double Fantasy shows how far he had come in life and how he saw his life.



WATCHING THE WHEELS - John Lennon

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I'm o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game,

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I'm doing Fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball?

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go,

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there's no problem,
Only solutions,

Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind,
I tell them there's no hurry...
I'm just sitting here doing time,

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.




Wednesday, December 7, 2011

DAYS OF INFAMY

Today is December 7 and as every American should know, although with today's education system it is in question as to whether every American does indeed know, this is the day that President Franklin Roosevelt declared as a "Day that will live in infamy."  On December 7, 1941 the Japanese Imperial Army bombed a military base in the Hawaiian Islands called Pearl Harbor.  It was a surprise attack that destroyed most of the United States Naval fleet.  It was a day though, that would forever live in the annuls of American History.  The United States rebuilt the Navy and it was at this point, I think, That the United States did become a world power.  A day that will indeed live in infamy.

I was thinking last night as I pondered the annual arrival of December 7 that this country has had many "days that have lived in infamy".  There have been points in our history that have changed the course that the country was on and changed history in the blink of an eye.  These are some of the days that I think deserve that special place in American history.  It isn't a complete list, just some of the days that came to my mind.

The first day that I thought of was back in the year 1770.  On March 5 of that year a group of British soldiers fired into a crowd of Bostonians out side of the Old State House causing casualties.  March 5 is not the day of infamy though.  It is the day that sets up the day of infamy.  If you know about my love of history then you also know that I think John Adams is probably the most underrated founding father of our country.   I admire the things that John Adams did and they way he stood for what he believed.  This was one of those times.  John Adams acted as defense lawyer for Captain Preston of the British Army.  It was not a popular stance but Adams believed that every man deserved a trial by jury and believed deeply in the innocent until proven guilty theory of justice.  The trial began on October 24 and lasted until October 30.  That was the day of infamy for on October 30 twelve men from Boston found Captain Preston innocent of all charges.  John Adams had set a mark to shoot for through the rest of the history of our nation.  It was a turning point that is still carried down through to this day.

Another day of infamy happened on April 12, 1861.  Confederate forces led by Brigadier General 
Beauregard fired upon Fort Sumter in South Carolina.  It would turn this country into a bloody battlefield across the entire nation.  It took four years and hundreds of thousands of lives to bring this country back together under the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln.  It was a day in infamy because it was the beginning of strengthening this country as one.  Almost four years to the day of the Fort Sumter battle, another day of infamy occurred.  On April 14, 1865 with the war being over due to Lee's surrender to Grant, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln.  It was a day in infamy because it truly marked the end of the civil war in a way that a piece of paper could never do.  Today, our country is united and strong and it is because we came out of the civil war and learned to grow together, work together and hammer out differences with peaceful transistion of power.

One of the biggest days of infamy that effected the entire world happened on August 6, 1945.  On that day President Harry S. Truman ordered that the world's first atomic bomb be dropped on Japan.  This action along with a second atomic bomb dropped a few days later changed the entire landscape of history and modern warfare.  This is a day that surpasses any other day of infamy.  We have seen what these weapons can do, now it takes leaders of countries that have these weapons a great deal of self control not to use them again.  So far we have been lucky.

The East Germans being a part of the communist block of nations built the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961.  It became a symbol of freedom versus State run country.  for many years, people tried to escape the wall, some being lucky and making it past the border guards but many hundreds losing their life as they strived for freedom.   The day of infamy happened on November 9, 1989.  President Reagan taking ad.vantage of a failing economy in the communist block of nations challenged the East Germans to unify and tear down the wall.  On the night of November 9 people from all over the world watched as Germans from both sides of the wall tore it down without military challenge.  It marked the end of the Cold War, a true turning point not only for our country but for the world

Another day of infamy happened in 1961.  On January 20, 1961 John F. Kennedy took the oath of office as President of the United States.  The infamy here is the fact that President Kennedy was a Catholic and many in the country thought that he would give a certain amount of power to the Catholic Pope during his administration.  He did not.  For the first time religion truly became an issue in a national campaign and in the same election, religion was set aside as a requirement for the Presidency.  Lately however with a Mormon seeking a nomination for the Presidency, the issue of religion has again raised it's head.  Hopefully we can look back on history and remember the day when a Catholic was sworn into the nation's highest office.  Sadly another Day of infamy followed this one a few years later when on November 22, 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated.  Again the death of a President brought together the country and we remained more determined to be a unified and strong country.

The next day of infamy that comes to mind happened not too long ago.  On September 11, 2001 terrorists hijacked four planes to carry out the worst attack on American soil since the Civil War.  Over 3,000 people gave their lives in these attacks.  Two planes hit each of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.  One plane slammed into the Pentagon while the fourth plane was over taken by the passengers and failed to reach it's target, which was either the White House or the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.  Once again the country was brought together nad strengthened.  I think by the time that September 11 came around, Americans had forgotten what a day of infamy was like.  I remember talking to my wife on the phone when the second Tower was hit.  I immediately knew it was a terror attack and that it would change our way of living for a very very long time.
There are probably other "days of infamy" I am sure.  These are just a few that crossed my mind.  Hopefully we won't have any more of these kind of days, at least for a very long time.

The thing that all of these days have in common is that they have strengthened the American will and the American ideal.  We are a stronger country because we worked through and survived those days from the past that still effect us today.

(I left out President Nixon's resignation.  Many of you will see this as a day of infamy when it came about that not even the President was above the law.  I can agree with that.  The part I can't agree with is that it was never proven beyond a reasonable doubt the the President broke the law to begin with.  Many of you will shake your heads at this, but that is where I stand on the Watergate scandal.)