Our Lady of Perpetual Motion

(The following text contains blasphemy and deceit, and is not recommended for children nor people who might still think highly of me. Reader Discretion is Advised.)

It all started with the question of the perfect gift. My best friend had moved to the area recently, and I wanted to give him a gift on his birthday that showed some forethought. At the time, I worked a fairly mindless job, so I spent the mental revelries of the next few days pouring over the question: “What do you get a blasphemous Satanist punk that has everything?”

He drove an old Chevy sedan he called ‘Santa Maria,’ white with a red interior, that he was trying to fill with as much religious paraphernalia as he could get his hands on, a preference to Catholic because it was fancier. He had recently discovered a Pro-Rosary group who would send anyone who asked a package of rosaries for distribution. Strewn about the interior of the car were these sturdy plastic and string rosaries, not unlike the ones the Military distributes at Mass, except these glowed in the dark. The door pockets were stuffed full of prayer cards and tracts and a cross-shaped incense box sat in the back window, waiting for a head-on collision to enact blunt judgement for this sacrilege.

The perfect answer sprang into my head and so, after work, I headed out, intending to buy two things: A dashboard hula girl and a dashboard Virgin Mary icon. I had thought that both would be easy to obtain at an auto parts store and, perhaps, back in Arizona where I was living previously, they would have been, but here in the Midwest, they had the hula girl but nothing else. Three more stops told the same tale.

I suddenly remembered seeing a tiny Catholic supply store growing up, and headed off in that direction. My hometown had a distinctly Catholic presence, and the tiny store with the odd name still existed, looking like a tiny stone cottage near the tiny town square. I had never been in the building before, but assumed that it would be like any other Christian bookstore, disinterested staff and a variety of items in bins.

As I popped the door open to the tiny foyer, I quickly realized my mistake. The front room was cozy the way a sitting room should be, dark wood and soft lighting. I almost bolted out the door, but the proprietor had already seen me and was coming around the desk to greet me, so I steeled my nerves, channeled my Protestant upbringing, and continued my quest, still hoping for a quick exchange.

In hindsight, she was probably a Nun, but I saw her as simply a kind older woman, possibly someone’s mother. I quickly doffed my hat, and explained that I was there looking for a dashboard icon. The woman seemed confused by this request, so I quickly amended with my first lie of the day. Namely, that I was seeking the icon for a friend who drove a truck over the road. He couldn’t always make it to church, and I thought that, for his birthday, I would surprise him. She questioned the choice of the Virgin Mary, but I assured her that this would be his preference. When she asked me what type of icon he would prefer, I claimed genuine ignorance.

I was shown to a case of resin iconery of a much higher quality that I had been anticipating, though exactly the right size. I was looking over the selection, judging them by shape, while the woman peppered me with questions. At some point, I must have passed the test because she suddenly vanished, only to reappear with a stack of laminated cards. “Do you think that your friend would be willing to leave these prayer cards when he stops?” I accepted them with thanks, assuring her that my non-existent friend would definitely be into distributing the tracts, so as not to blow my cover.

My heart dropped as I realized how deep in I was. I am not a religious man, and I have been judgmental about other religions in the past, but I try to be a respectful. My quest for a gag birthday gift had lead me to the dark side, and I could feel the flames of Hell gently caressing my saddened heart. At these moments, a man only has two decisions: climb out of the hole or keep digging. I reasoned that I had already come this far, so I took my shovel and dug deeper.

I quickly selected a Mary that I thought would work and attempted to pay for it. I am pretty sure that she discounted it for me, and, as I accepted my change, the woman told me something that chilled me to the very core.

“You should take something from our Gift Wall.”

I tried to beg off, but at her insistence, I found myself standing before a wall of what, at first glance, appeared to be jewelry. Instead, after the Protestant veil was lifted from my eyes, I saw that it was a wall of beautiful, well-made rosaries. Glass gems twinkled in the light of my damnation from chains forged in the fires of my deceit.

I stood before the wall with my head hung in shame, trying to think of a way to extract myself from this horrible nightmare. I realized that I had to take some beautiful chunk of someone else’s religion with me before I would be allowed to leave. I searched for the simplest thing I could find and a tiny chaplet caught my eye. Beads like pomegranate seeds and a chain of tarnished silver, it displayed a crucifix at one end and a saint’s medal at the other.

I held up my selection to the woman, “I think my Mother would like this one, ” I lied about my Protestant Mother.

“But the gift was intended for you,” the Nun insisted.

Suddenly, like an epiphany, the right answer fell from my lips, “My gift is the giving.” I could tell by the look in her eyes that I had angled her into the end of our transaction. I wished her a good day and escaped as quick as I could.

When one of my Ukrainian co-workers caught me hack-sawing a Virgin Mary statue in half, the look in his eyes felt like the dismissal of a monkey playing with filth, and I knew it was deserved. I felt a frantic energy and just wanted the thing to be over with. The resin was excessively dense (quality) and I ruined three blades before the task was complete.

The gift was well received. ‘Our Lady of the Perpetual Motion’ was a hybrid hula dancing Virgin Mary, and she was quickly mounted to a place of honor on the Satanist’s dashboard. Sadly, the sun through the front window of the car was too much for the epoxy I had selected, and the incredibly dense Mary top turned out to be too heavy for the gift to function properly.

The desecration that ensured my place in Hell was regaled to a glove box and forgotten.

No picture of ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Motion’ actually exists, to the best of my knowledge, but the end result looked something like this:

hulamary

I carried the Chaplet for years, to the point that the silver chain was polished bright once again. When I discovered that one of the beads had chipped, I retired it to a box of mementos. In recent years, I have taken a respectful shine to St. Jude and various icons of the man sit in various parts of my house, but I still like to take the chaplet out and look at it, remembering that I am something of a better person now.

I still have it, though I think that one of my children has hidden it somewhere. It looks a lot like this chaplet, though the white beads on this one are clear and prismatic on mine. Mine also did not have a “Made in France” tag.

St. Philomena Chaplet

My guilt was recently salved by the knowledge that the Saint on the medal, St. Philomena, is not actually considered a Saint and her followers are considered something of a sub-sect cult in Catholicism.

I doubt that this relieves me of my sin, but it does mean that this blasphemer made the right choice from the Gift Wall.

Russian Roulette

You learn the odds, but the dice decide. Buy the ticket. Take the ride.

One in Five are the current odds, delivered by the top of his field. What does my researcher do? She puts in a call to the top researcher in that field to rate those odds. All while holding her own against brain surgeons and an intellectual in pain and losing hope.

If you ever need a patient advocate, you’ll find no better than my dear friend. This wasn’t going to be an easy trip even if everything went perfectly.

The surgeon is saying that the success of this surgery is 20%. He has completed this exact procedure successfully more times than nearly every surgeon in his field at an Earth-shattering seven. The surgeon called for a review of those odds _has_ written books on this and is an internationally recognized expert on surgery of the cranial nerves.

Our expert surgeon is calling an extremely rare neurological disorder, in this case, ‘atypical.’ He says that the success rate does not justify the risk. He also said, “I get paid, and I love doing the procedure,” which means a book deal or, if unsuccessful, at least getting published somewhere. This is a medical unicorn. The chances of it even existing are as rare as a child being born three months premature, with cerebral palsy, thriving and raising a family. My wife, Tracy Spangler, is a miracle already… Do you test that kind of luck?

What do you decide? How can I even advise on that? These are higher stakes than I ever thought possible.

To My Dear Husband

My sweet wife. I’d walk through Hell for her, so taking care of kids and a sick lady aren’t really asking much. In less than 2 weeks, she leaves to go cross country to her second brain surgery. A dear and trusted old friend will be accompanying her to this engagement in my stead, but when you have a choice of a humble farmer and a medical researcher as your options, you don’t make the emotional choice. Plus, my spine has become so erratic with weather changes that I might risk ending up trying to make sense through a migraine while evaluating a brain surgeon.

Somehow, this woman still loves me and does not see my shortcomings.

When I got out of the Army, I had been on crutches for a year and been to Walter Reed twice. I had a paper in my pocket that we called ‘The No-Breathing-Hard’ profile that said I wasn’t to stand for longer than five minutes. I was retaught how to walk and issued a cane.

When I got out, I ditched all of that and lived my life. I walked for miles. I carried my own body weight in Merry-Go-Round horses for a summer. I carried weights in the top of a theater and threw road boxes around.

I keep this show on the road when I keep moving. This sedate home-care stuff has to be, at least, part of the problem. When I stop, I fall back apart.

Today was my birthday, and I wished on my 38 candles to get moving again.

Gypsy Rue

Today is my husband’s birthday. This year, like every year he said to not buy him gifts or bake him treats. I bought a couple gifts anyhow, and I looked forward to making him one of his favorite desserts. We are on a tight budget due to my brain surgery in Pittsburgh in exactly 2 weeks, but our pantry is full and I was exciting about making something just for him.

Instead I came face to face again with my disorder, disability, non-stop pain and the exhaustion so all encompassing that it becomes it’s own entity- the ghost owner with the switchblade stabbing into my right ear with each beat of my heart takes it one step farther and presses the fast forward button on my anxiety as well. I find myself awake, pleading with my body to shut down and nap for at least a short time, so I…

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Success in Genetics

You always find what you were looking for when you stop looking.

I recently declared the farm finished. My body is wracked with pain, my wife is flying out of state for a second brain surgery, and a lot of the care for our animals has fallen on my kid. I have arranged to start moving the extra birds to other farms (when I finally feel good enough to catch them) just as soon as I can get some apple boxes. (That’s a pro-tip, there.)

Then, I saw this rooster. Look at him!

new rooster

This Rooster is an Easter Egger. His mother was a non-breed standard Ameraucana I got in a hatchery liquidation and his Father is my glorious throwback Auburn Java Rooster, Big Red Oed.

Now, for a little background so that you can appreciate what this 4 month old rooster represents.

My plan has been for a stirring of genetics to achieve a perfect desert chicken. I wanted a dual purpose chicken, which isn’t easy to do in a Subtropical Desert. When the weather leans toward dry and high heat most of the year, the lean, efficient eggers are the breeds that excel because the pickings are scarce and the desert is dangerous.

Big Red Oed represents a branch of Java that was believed to have died out in the 1870’s after founding most of the Red Continental breeds. Mine is from a Black line, so his genetics still produce black offspring a quarter of the time, though he lends the regular black a deep, rich beetle green, even when paired with Dark Cornish.

Javas are smart and friendly, which is a strangeness in chickens. Usually, you only get one or the other. The problem (probably due to the impressive intelligence) is that they are slow maturing. At 6 months, adulthood for chickens, Big Red Oed still looked like a hen with a fancy tail.

young red

The Ameraucanas I got grew up half wild, like Big Red, but came out a little crazy. The flock had colors all over the board, some with the necessary cheek puffs, some without. I sold them off, and only kept a few. For some reason, they refuse to sleep in the coop (probably the established females drive them away) and opt, instead, to sleep on the peak of my small barn. The birds I kept were a watery red and rich blue and their eggs are about the bluest I have ever seen.

I wasn’t sure that they were even having anything to do with my rooster until they each went broody and showed up with a couple of chicks. The hens were lousy first time mothers and, since they avoid the rest of the flock, did not gain the benefit of Big Red’s fathering instincts as much as other birds.

I haven’t been out there much in the past couple of weeks due to the Monsoon season playing havoc with my spine, so when I went out a few days ago, I was startled to discover this fine rooster.

He matured quickly. That’s a good sign.

The red from his mother gained the richness from his father and it shines in a fiery orange that my pictures do not do justice to, and his blue tail is solid, only showing the a transition of blue laced red feathers on his chest and a deep red on his back, as well as blue wings with red wingtips. He does has cheek-puffs as well, which are an Ameraucana breed standard.

I could show this bird. That’s a good sign, too.

Now, how do you get people to pay for eggs when a dozen will cost you $2 at the store? Novelty! I had originally bought the Ameraucanas for their blue eggs, and as I said, these birds had the bluest eggs I have seen. Blue enough, I can assure you that, out of that motley bunch of discount birds, this is what the hatchery was working to perfect, the rest of the bird be damned.

This rooster comes off of that line… I wonder how strong his egg color would be, genetically. Will he still cause blue eggs or will it wash out to the green of an Easter Egger chicken?

The final piece is that I try to pasture my birds, which in the desert means that I lose a lot of birds to predation. Only the smart and strong survive here, as well as the quick.

This rooster sleeps outside. In a night blind rooster, that isn’t the best trait, but it also means that he is smart enough to survive outside the protection of the flock.

This is going to be a fine rooster.

This is the chicken I was trying to cause. Big and smart like his father, fast maturing like his mother, with a gimmick worked in to sell the eggs. There are still unknown variables in this equation. Will his genetics lean toward the mediocre egging ability of the Java? I know the dominance of the Auburn Javas Red plumage quite well, but how strong is this blue? Could I breed this true? The cheek puffs that the Ameraucanas have comes from the South American Aurcana (also where the blue eggs come from) and are a lethal gene that lowers the hatch rate by 25%. Would that affect this bird’s offspring?

So many variables… A masterwork, painted in birds.

Sadly, as I said, my health is just not up to the task at the moment. I already have too many roosters and not enough hens, and I am forced to downsize.

So, here’s the deal. I could easily sell this bird for a tidy sum, but since I want to see what happens, I’ll make you a deal. If you can present me with a suitable breed program to put this bird to work in, I’ll give him to you for free. (Please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery as he sleeps onto of a building and is skittish around me, so my crotchety old frame is going to have a heck of a time catching him.)

____

As always, the link to our brain surgery fund: http://www.gofundme.com/likeaholeinthehead

Thank you to everyone who has donated so far. We have a surgery date of October First, 2000 miles away. I hope we can make it.

The Great and Powerful Is

I have been asked if I believe in God and I reject the question out of hand. The question comes preloaded with a set of ideals and standards that no sane person would consider if they were laid out on the table.

The problem is one of selective blindness.

The Will of a Deity has driven people to murder and think that it is right. It has been used to enforce fear and hide secrets. Be your source recorded history or yesterday’s news, there is always an undercurrent of Divine Right. 

The belief that there is more to it than all this is the primal need of our giant brains. It has healed the sick and put people on a celestial body. The constant, relentless need to find ultimate truth has built and destroyed countless civilizations. It is a terrible yawning vacuum, this kernel in our psyche that asks, “Why?”

We each worry that question like a dog on a bone, and each world is unique based on the answers we find. We all end up with our big piles of Truths, and we constantly get at odds with others whose piles of Truth don’t stack the same as ours. Same question, different answers, and some of them might even be right.

Whether the world was created a few thousand years ago by a bored deity, or if we are the advanced carbon-based infection on a ball of rock hurtling through space, I still have a hell of a time matching my socks, even though they are all black. I always hit ‘snooze’ on an alarm clock, regardless of whether I thought that someone heard my prayers. If you’re calling out a name on a prayer chain or talking to your community, situations are addressed with an eye toward resolution.

What you have is this moment and the choices you make in it. Whether you chose ‘Good’ or ‘Evil,’ it is a choice that you are eternally making in the now. There is never a time when things have gone too far and you cannot turn back, because there is no time in the now. 

A recent study suggests that our reality is 15 seconds long. That’s it. The Great and Powerful Is simply boils down to ‘What _IS_ it that you are doing, right now, at this moment?’ Is someone watching you with an idea of final judgement? Does it matter? How would you explain this moment if asked?

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:16-19 New International Version (NIV))

That’s not a bad list. Buddha had more. It is all in how quickly you can rattle them off.

‘Nope. Not killing anybody right now. Check! Not cheating on my wife right now. Check! Not stealing nor lying right now. Double check! I honor my father’s memory (despite his best efforts) and I love my mother. Check! I wave at the neighbors and they haven’t started shooting at me. Check!’

The whole list, completed! If one of my neighbor’s were to change their mind and shoot me, I am in.

Buddha’s list, though longer, is easier to cross-reference. What should I be thinking now? Right thinking! What should I be doing? Right action with right intentions.

Be good and don’t be a jerk.

There’s the old 80’s courtroom trope where a crime investigation reveals unrelated hidden activity. If the police suddenly appeared, and you had to explain what you were doing right now, in this moment, would you be able to without embarrassment or shame? How is that different between a Theist and an Atheist?

All people have some sort of internal gauge for right and wrong, even if they call it ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ or label certain things as ‘sin.’ In the end, we understand the guidelines for acceptable behavior.  If these observances are adhered to, why should it matter so much what someone else calls their scale?

Now. The 15 seconds where every decision is made and every outcome revealed. Unless your life is a lot more exciting than mine, in the next 15 seconds, you will not be making a decision which will greatly impact the course of humanity. The age of the Universe and Quantum Mechanics will have very little impact on your next 15 seconds, nor will Origin of the Species or the edits from the Vatican.

Last I checked, you were too busy just trying to be good and not be a jerk.

If the one you admire most were to suddenly call your actions into question, what would you say? What would be your defense?

Everyone has a version of Mork’s Orson. I don’t see where that would change all that much, no matter what you believed.

So, if you still insist on knowing whether I believe in God, I would like to redirect you to the top of the page. Perhaps in another 15 seconds, I’ll have a better answer.

The Secret of Reincarnation

acala

Gather ’round, Children, and I’ll tell you how to find my next incarnation.

Yes, yes. I know that you were worried, with my poor health, but who knows how to run this organization better than me? I couldn’t leave you hanging like that. Regime changes are always a time of great upheaval. It would just be easier if I came back.

To this end, I have devised a secret test, the answer of which will be given to one person. That person will give every applicant the the test to find out which one is me. Of course, being the one who made the test, I will know the answer. All others will be given a nice parting gift of lingering suspicion.

When you find me, find me young. The younger, the better, for then I shall be granted longer time to study my way back up. Perhaps I shall reach my pinnacle sooner the next time.  Look for the spark that reminds you of me. You’ll know it when you see it.

Lock me away from all outside influences and give me only the writings of great thinkers, of which I shall list. Mix in some of my own writings for flavor. I will have a hard time remembering who I was, so this must constantly be reinforced until I no longer doubt it.

Mind you, do this with love. Still afford me every honor of the titles I hold, and continue to bow in reverence. It will be hard for me to relearn all that I know now, but it will be easier if I know that everyone appreciates the effort.

Continue that and you’ll have another me. Is it reincarnation? Perhaps. The energy that is me might continue on, and I will try my best to redirect it. If not, I have given you the recipe to make another one of me, because this is how I was made. I have made some improvements in my time in this role, and I shall pass it on with the collected knowledge of the ones who came before, in the hopes that I can do it again better next time.

On second thought, wait a while. Find me when I am a teenager. I have had some dreams of late that I will wish to pursue. I have a deep regret for what I might have missed back then…

What’s that? Yes, you are probably right, my friend. Dukkha. The earlier I start, the better chance I have of breaking free of the cycle and be changed. 43rd time’s a charm, right?

In the end, it is an ancient experiment. Pick someone with potential, give them every chance and resource to achieve in a completely sterile environment and see if you came make one transcend. Take notes and try again.

It was never about authority, though the time a reincarnated being has spent steeping in the foundations of the belief would put them ahead of most scholars, just generally.

The goal was to build an archtype. Every hereditary system uses this as the core. Kings promise to produce issue of their same caliber, and enlightened masters use this to provide a blue print to build another, only this time better.

It is a legacy of sorts, one which outlives buildings and trappings. An eternal bet against Fate, that it is just mapped out perfectly and every word is said at just the right time, I’ll win at this Game of Life.

I started out as a random kid once. This is what they achieved with that kid, and I almost made it. I glimpsed the other side and I know I can get there if I just take another route. Turn left instead of right. I am too old to make the journey again, but maybe next time…

What was that? Vote on it?! Hahaha! That is funny. An inner faction will hijack the experiment to the benefit of some know-it-all, another faction will disagree and then the thing splits apart. There is no accountability and little direction. Might as well grab someone randomly out of the hallway…

Come to think of it, that is not a bad idea. Grab the next monk that walks by and I’ll assign him the ‘Keeper of the Keys of Knowledge’ or some-such. I’ll teach him the three main precepts that I want preserved and give him the holy charge of enforcing it. Tell him that he can have a helper and that he should start a little club. I’ll give him one of these doodads here to make it feel official…

Sorry? Oh! The Test! I got a little distracted there. Yeah, don’t worry about it. We have time. If we don’t get to it, you’ll think of something…

Buddha Park