Flash Fiction #119

a-door

PHOTO PROMPT © CEayr

LET ME IN

It really was an unpretentious door. He remembered its far side, and thought of P.T.Barnum’s sign, “This way to the great Egress.”  Phineas said that no-one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, trusting the unschooled to exit a portal they couldn’t return through.

This door did not conceal any cheap, threadbare sideshow though. Rather, inside were Peace, Joy and Escape, everything a man could ask for, only, not the Reality which men are forced to return to.

He smiled as he continued driving to his appointment at the rehab center. He and Reality had a date.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

***

Click on the title to hear the doo-wop group, The Sensations sing about Let Me In, in 1962.

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Religious Addiction

Bible

A letter came to a pastor recently, from a middle-aged woman determined to take her own life. She has already made an attempt.  She suffers from extremely low self-esteem, depression and other afflictions.

She feels desperate, “cut off from God” and beyond divine forgiveness. Certain readers will already be saying to themselves that she needs to be “saved,” to be “born again,” and to join a church where they “preach the Gospel.”

However, this woman has already been through all that. A Theologian read her letter and felt it was quite obvious that she suffered from far too much literalistic fundamentalism already.  Like hundreds of similar others over the years, she is being tormented by the very religion she once turned to for comfort and “salvation.”

Briefly stated, she is suffering from a form of religion that is ‘bad religion.’ It’s growing and becoming very powerful in some quarters today.  It can look successful on the outside, even imparting a glazed but glowing countenance, but it can tear apart people’s souls.

This form of ‘addictive’ religiosity is not confined to circles dominated by TV evangelists or excessively zealous priests. It cuts across all Christian denominations and, in varying degrees, all other faiths.

Here are some of its major characteristics. It touts black and white answers to every problem – from hormone issues (sex), to when and how the universe was formed.  It encourages passive dependence on a host of authorities, from sacred texts, to faith leaders at every level.  It fosters simplistic, ‘magical’ thinking.  It diminishes one’s autonomy, self-reliance, confidence in one’s own inner voice and ability to grow either emotionally or intellectually.

It views all other faith stances as wrong – or even Satanic, leading to “Hell.”  Such a system whines a lot about what “miserable sinners” we all are and yet never asks itself why it leaves such incredible guilt, anxiety and loss of self-esteem in its wake.

Priest

Yes, it can produce an overinflated ‘high’ at being on the “winning side,” as “God’s elect,” but at a terrible price. This is referred to as loss of authenticity and of one’s inner convictions.  The God being served is too often a narrow, small, vengeful, tribal deity, who is nonetheless supposedly loving.

The Churchman reflected on this phenomenon as he worked on answering the suicide note. Suddenly, with a genuine synchronicity, his mail arrived with a copy of an article from Pastoral Psychology, a magazine dedicated to learned articles on various aspects of soul-care – mainly for clergy, psychotherapists and other counsellors.

It was titled “Religious Addiction, The Subtle Destruction Of The Soul.” It was written by Patricia Anne Venderheyden, a psychotherapist in private practice in London, Ontario.  Her Master’s thesis is from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, and was focused on this same issue: religious addiction.

As she told him in an interview, this isn’t a subject that has received much attention in the past. It certainly deserves it today!  She had pondered for many years, beginning with her own experiences of certain faith groups, why it is that so many in every religion gravitate to authoritarian cliques with such alacrity and yet, in the end, with such disastrous results.

She wrote: “I observed how people’s inner authority was compromised in order to fit in with a system of belief whose standards were impeccable – and unattainable. I saw people accepted into groups only if they ‘jumped through the right hoops’, dotted their i’s and watched their p’s and q’s.” The ‘addicts’ had a show of freedom, yet their proclamations seemed ‘hollow and empty.’

She saw many such persons blindly accepting the words and advice of religious elders. All critical awareness and thinking for themselves had long since been suppressed.  “The addicts wanted to be told that he or she was absolutely right, and that any form of questioning is evil.” she said.

Certainly, authorities can help someone at first, but if they are compulsively used ‘as a way of avoiding one’s own reality,’ they ruin one’s hopes of ever becoming mature in either mind or spirit. The addicts she describes are ‘religious junkies,’ obsessed with mood alteration and a quick fix to face life.

There’s no need to assign blame. Religious leaders can nurture an addictive faith unwittingly by never stopping to ask questions of the style and content of their ministry, such as: To whom does it cater, and why?  With what results?

Believers who are really avoiding the shame and pain within by refusing to tackle it, and by ‘leaving it all to God,’ need to stop and realize that the rigidity and exclusivity of addictive religion can one day leave you empty, out of touch with your real self and, hence, engulfed by fear and despair.   😦

 

FEELINGS

Scotty

The young stay-at-home mother looked out through the front window – and was devastated. There, in the middle of the street was the dead body of the family’s adorable, much-loved (and very expensive) Scottish Terrier.  Somehow he had got out, and some unfeeling fiend had hit and run over him, and hadn’t even had the good manners to stop and report the accident.

Bad enough how bereft she felt, but her young daughter would be inconsolable. Thinking of her loss, and how she would have to explain the trauma to her child, she burst into tears.

“What’s wrong Mommy?  Whyya cryin’?”  Standing there at the window sobbing, she was suddenly aware of her daughter, who had come up from the basement playroom – followed by their Scotty.  She looked back into the street – just in time to see a crumpled black garbage bag blow on down the road.

QUESTION – Is she entitled to her feelings??

Some years ago, the wife was rebuking me for a statement I hadn’t made, about an opinion I didn’t hold. She was telling me how insulted and unsupported she felt.  Since I hadn’t said what she’d accused me of, I told her that she shouldn’t feel that way.

I suddenly found that husbands, like small children, should be seen and not heard. Now I had sinned twice.  Not only did she think I’d ‘said something’, but now I was robbing her of something that was hers, something that she’d worked for, and owned, and deserved.  “How dare you tell me not to feel like that!  Don’t I have the right to my feelings?”

QUESTION – (based on my presumed innocence) Does she have a right to her feelings?

I was discussing this and related situations with a co-worker one day. He was of Turkish descent, from Cyprus.  I brought up the fact that, if a businessman meets with an Arabic official, and sits down and crosses his left leg over his right, so that his left foot points at the Arab, it is considered an insult.

I asked, “If the American doesn’t even know of the cultural beliefs, and intends no insult, then how can it be taken as an insult?”

“Oh no”, he says, “that is an insult!”  No knowledge – no intent –HOW??!!

QUESTION – Does the Turkey (and the Emir) have the right to his feelings?

A young, New-Age Mennonite co-worker went on and on about how gay people chose to be gay, and sin.  Finally tired of this attitude, one day I asked him just how he thought that homosexuals chose to be so.

He launched into a story about, “You know when you’re 12 or 13, and you first start noticing boys and girls, and you decide who you’re most attracted to? They decide to be gay”  12 or 13??!  He must have led a sheltered life out there on the farm.  I knew I was hetero by 4, when the little girl up the street taught me to play Doctor and Nurse.  Perhaps he just stopped noticing sheep.

I objected to his use of the word ‘decide’, and suggested he replace it with ‘realize.’  “It sounds to me as if they go through exactly the same development and situation as you did, only, instead of finding that they like the opposite sex, they find that they like the same sex.”

“Oh no,” he says! “I’m normal!  They choose to sin and be gay.”

QUESTION – Does this narrow-minded little twerp and his pastor have the right to their feelings about fags?

Do the Westboro Baptists have the right to their feelings when they interrupt funerals?? Do ISIS and al Qaeda have the right to their feelings about women, gays, Christians, and Democracy?  Big or small, it’s all the same.

I would never deprive anyone of the right to express valid emotions, but they have to be BASED ON REALITY. Are any of you incensed at that statement?  Tough luck – get over it.  You shouldn’t feel that way.   😉

The Dance

Fellow-blogger, AFrankAngle, usually publishes organized, well-researched posts.  Some time ago, he made a brief foray into writing fiction.  Being, among other things, a ballroom dancer, he wrote a short piece about a perhaps-reluctant couple engaging in an Arnold Schwarzenegger, True Lies-type Tango.

Another blogger picked it up, and modified it.  He changed plain text to fancy script, formatted it like blank verse, photo-shopped it onto pictures of pretty shells, and returned to Frank a piece of art worthy of framing.  Click here if you’d like a look.

Impressed with the reactions to his repost, Frank has decided to use it once again.  After the line, “The music ends.” he removed his final two lines, and has put it up for download, with the challenge to anyone interested, to write an alternative ending in 75 words or less.  Below is my version.  Click on his blog name above, to read more, or to try yourself.

afashortstorychallenge

The music starts – its tempo and rhythms define the dance. He approaches her table, and extends an inviting hand. She accepts. They take to the floor. He offers a hand and a frame. Again, she accepts, but looks away while in hold as if to say, “I’ll dance – but I’m not interested.”

They move to the music’s sharp, fiery rhythms that are intertwined with sensuality. Their eyes continue gazing in opposite directions to avoid a visual connection – yet, their bodies touch.

They dance – they move – sometimes slow – sometimes fast – but always sharp and to rhythm.

He rolls her out – they flick in unison. He tugs to rolls her back into his arms. She shrugs him off by returning to hold with her head turned away. Their steps continue.

He steps back – a lunge – a corté. She steps forward and raises her leg against his, and slowly moves it downward as a caress. He notices – she’s got his attention. As he returns her to upright, their eyes connect through a glimpse – yet each looks away.

The pace seeming hastens. The musical beat remains steady. Their moves remain sharp. Their eyes are starting to communicate to the other through glances.

She leans her body into him and her head is no longer facing away. They lock their eyes for the first time, and her eyes and face speak to him when. She places her head on his chest.

The normally sharp fans are now slow and smooth – yet still to the music’s rhythm. As she turns, his right hand slides naturally along her sleek frame. He notices the curvature of her hips. His head is not as high as he looks toward her with hopes of connecting again.

To him, her face displays desire. Her eyes are closed, but only she knows why. They are now in another place. To him, they are in the midst of passion. To her, she is the seductress who has succumbed to his fantasy.

He responds to the music’s fire with 8 fast steps down the floor. He rolls out as before, but on her return, she is close – and her right hand slowly caresses his face. The music ends.

She raises her goddess face to his.  Her limpid brown eyes catch and hold his.  He stares into an eternity of joy.  Slowly, her carmine, rosebud mouth opens, and….

BEEP – BEEP – BEEP – BEEP

Frank??  Frank?!!

Wake up!  You’re dreaming.

Turn that alarm off!  It’s time to get up and go to work.    😳

#480

Poet’s Corner

Poetry

On Thinking Of My Love

And love Thee; And need Thee; And have Thee not,
Yet the Light of Thy Presence banishes the darkness of my loneliness,
Joy and sweet Happiness personified.

But the great pinions which would fly to Thee
By dark and dreary mundane passings, are clipped.

Oh Beauteous One!  Sweet life itself Thou art to me.
Full well know I Thou art my soul,
And my heart be not full and complete without Thee.

And forget Thee?
Say nay!!  For with me always art Thou,
In both angelic face and soul,
In sweet remembrance.

Thy kind, pure person,
With ever-happy, smiling countenance
And silvern, crystal laughter,
Desire I by my side.

Yet despair not and nor will I.
Soon, Love, shall we be rejoined,
That I may again drink deep of the pure, clear stream
Of my devotion, and offer Thee

On humble knees,
The obeisance
Of my love to thee.

Phoenix-Maker Thou art; Truly,
Shaper of Fate and Fortune,
To burn away the nothing detritus
Of a nowhere life,

And from the ashes, draw,
Hot and molten, the nub of an almost forgotten past,
To be forged on the anvil of Reality,
Into a tool with which to garner a fuller future.

Guide Thou art, taking by the hand
A soul, lost in the wilds of mediocrity and suburbia,
Drawing a willing spirit past
The traps and pitfalls and morés
Of reliability, and respectability, and responsibility,

To a haven of a life to be lived
And savored and enjoyed,
Not merely observed and endured.

Friend Thou art, and much, much more.
Lover even, to give of the heart and soul and mind and body
To one so unworthy of Thee.

Treat me as Thou will,
Yet I hope it be not ill.
Spurn me not, nor leave me lonely,
For now Thou art my one and only.

In the ongoing Autumn Housecleaning, I came upon this, one of my first (and fortunately few) love poems, in free verse and archaic language.  The wife and I are coming up 48 years married, so you can imagine how old this attempt is.  Be kind to the callow 21-year-old me, who thought he could impress a woman with poetry.   🙄

#459

Obey The Law

The following are some of the laws that the universe operates under.  Get used to the idea of following them.  No-one living has found a way to get around them.

MURPHY’S LAWS

Murphy’s 1st Law

The general law on why things go wrong – “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

Murphy’s 2nd Law

If it can be assembled wrong, it will.

Murphy’s 3rd Law

If it can be operated wrong, it will.

Murphy’s 4th Law

All failures will occur at the most inaccessible location.

Murphy’s 5th Law

Everything costs more than the estimate.

Murphy’s 6th Law

Every task takes longer than you think it will.

Murphy’s 7th Law

Nothing is as easy as it looks.

Murphy’s 8th Law

If you tinker with or try to improve something long enough, eventually it will break.

O’Toole’s Law

Murphy was an optimist!

Dude’s Law of  Duality

(A special case of Murphy’s 1st law)

Of two possible outcomes, only the undesired one will occur.

Gumperson’s Law

(Incorporates the concept of desirability into a general law.)

The probability of a given event occurring is inversely proportional to its desirability.

Flap’s Law of the Perversity of Inanimate Objects

Any inanimate object regardless of its position or configuration, may be expected to perform at any time, in a totally unexpected manner, for reasons which are either entirely obscure, or else completely mysterious.

Mule’s Law: The Universal Field Theory of Perversity

The probability of an event’s occurring varies directly with the perversity of the inanimate object involved, and inversely with the product of its desirability and the effort expended to produce it.

The Theorem of the Dynamic Application of the Law of Adversity and Perversity

Some events are more likely to occur in Los Angeles or New York, rather than Miami or Chicago.

Parkinson’s Law

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

McGurk’s Law

Any improbable event, which would create maximum confusion if it did occur, will occur.

Weiler’s Law

Nothing is impossible, for the man who doesn’t have to do it.

CHISOLM’ LAWS

Chisolm’s First Law:  The Law of Human Interaction

Any time things seem to be getting better, you have overlooked something.

Chisolm’s Second Law

If you explain so clearly that nobody can possibly misunderstand, somebody will.

Chisolm’s Third Law

If you do something which you are sure will meet with everyone’s approval, somebody won’t like it.

Chisolm’s Fourth Law

All procedures devised to implement the purpose won’t quite work.

Miller’s Law

He who tooteth his own horn, maketh sure his own horn has been tootethed.

Zymurgy’s First Law of Evolving System Dynamica

Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a larger can.

(Old worms never die, they just worm their way into larger cans.)

Rudin’s Law

In a crisis which forces a choice to be made among alternative courses of action, most people will choose the worst possible one.

Shaw’s Principle

Build a system that even a fool can use, and only a fool will want to use it.

McNaughton’s Rule

Any argument worth making within a bureaucracy must be capable of being expressed in a simple declarative sentence that is obviously true, once stated.

Parker’s Law of Political Statements

The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility, and vice versa.

Law of Superiority

The first example of a superior principle is always inferior to the developed example of an inferior principle.

Katz’s Law

Men and nations will act rationally, when all other possibilities have been exhausted.

The Law Of Perversity Of Nature

(Mrs. Murphy’s Corollary)

You cannot determine beforehand, which side of the bread to butter.

Weaver’s Law

When several reporters share a cab on an assignment, the reporter in the front seat pays for all.

Doyle’s Corollary to Weaver’s Law

No matter how many reporters share a cab, and no matter who pays, each puts the full fare on his own expense account.

Westheimer’s Rule

To estimate the time it will take to perform a task, double the initial estimate and change the unit of measure up to the next highest unit.  Thus you need to allocate two days to complete a one hour task.

The Reno Rule

A Smith & Wesson beats four aces.

Peckham’s Law

Beauty times brains, equals a constant.

Merrill’s First Corollary

There are no winners in life, only survivors.

Merrill’s Second Corollary

On the highway of life, the average happening is of about as much true significance as a dead skunk in the middle of the road.

Oesser’s Law

There is a tendency for the person in the most powerful position in an organization to spend all his time serving on committees and signing letters.

Potter’s Law

The amount of flak received on any subject is inversely proportional to the subject’s true value.

Kitman’s Law

Pure drivel tends to drive ordinary drivel off the TV screen.

Goof’s Law

(As propounded by Inglesbe)

The insignificance of the error is inversely proportional to the intensity of the resulting castigation – or, the smaller the slip, the bigger the lip.

Spock’s Law

What mother tells daughter she wouldn’t understand, usually results in daughter doing things that mother wouldn’t understand.

Barth’s Law of Distinction

There are two types of people: those who divide people into two types, and those who don’t.

Friedman’s Reiteration of Crane’s Law

There is no free lunch.

FINAGLE’S LAWS

Finagle’s General Law of Adversity

Once a good thing is fouled up, anything done to improve it only makes it worse.

Finagle’s First Law

If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.

Finagle’s Second Law

No matter what result is anticipated, there will always be someone eager to (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c) believe it happened to his own pet theory.

Finagle’s Third Law

In any collection of data, the figure most obviously correct, beyond all need of checking, is the mistake.

Corollary 1

No-one whom you ask for help will see it.

Corollary 2

Everyone who stops by with unsought advice will see it immediately.

Gummidge’s Law

The amount of expertise varies in direct proportion to the number of statements understood by the general public.

Hartley’s First Law

You can lead a horse to water, but if you can get him to float on his back, you’ve really got something.

Simon’s Law

Everything put together, sooner or later falls apart.

Diogenes’ Second Dictum

If a taxpayer thinks he can safely cheat, he probably will.

Happy 100

This is my one-hundredth post.  To some of the bloggers I follow, that would be ho-hum.  The way they pump posts out, that could have been accomplished in a couple of months.  It has taken me ten months to get this far.  I started slow, then tapered off.

I knew I wasn’t ever going to set the world on fire literately.  In fact, when I started, I wondered if I would attract any readers other than the few bloggers I had been bedevilling with comments on their posts.  Like other aspects of my life, I later found that I was doing the right things by instinct, to attract readers and followers.  Seldom able to keep my mouth shut, or my fingers still, I went further and further afield and made comments on a variety of blogs.  I later read from WordPress, that this is a good way to attract followers.  I’ve never actually been told to mind my own business, although there have been a couple of curt and dismissive responses.

I try not to antagonise anyone on their home turf, even when I disagree with them.  That’s not a problem with my core group.  For as much as we are all different, it is intriguing, how much we are the same.

I sit safely in the *average* slot, as far as bloggers go.  I visit other sites which have only a couple of followers and often several consecutive posts, before anyone makes a comment.  I’m not a Byronic Man, a BrainRants or a Madame Weebles, with hundreds, or thousands of followers, and a comment thread like a papyrus scroll.  I have managed to acquire almost 60 followers, a small cloud of *likes* on each post, and intelligent, insightful and supportive comments from a nice bunch of folks.  More ho-hum, but I’m closing in on 4000 hits.

I only post every two to four days, so my normal daily readership runs from ten to forty.  My best day was 71 hits, and that was for a little throw-away acceptance speech for a blog award.  I’m not worried by it, but I am perplexed that, after ten months on the WordPress scene, I recently had two days, just over a week apart, when no-one came to visit.  I’ve had onesies and twosies, but I really got lonely a couple of times.  I had to go bug some other bloggers.

Bloggers disappear from the scene all the time.  I’m sure some of them are like me; they have a limited number of things they wish to post about and just run out of ideas.  My wife recently commented that the number of letters-to-the-editor I submit has dropped.  Of course, six to eight op/ed pieces a year don’t add much when the blog count hits a hundred.  I still write down potential post themes when one penetrates my thick skull.  I know I’ll get to my anniversary blog, but may have to space my posts out a bit more.

I’m not a rabid numerologist.  I get a kick out of catching my digital watch at 3:33:33, or 11:11:11, or 12:34:56, but I’m enough of a realist to know that blog number 100 really is no more special than number 99 or 101.  It is a small milestone that I am happy to have reached, with the support of my select little cadre of readers and followers.

I’m typing one-handed right now.  No!  Not because I’ve been viewing porn.  I think I pulled a muscle in my shoulder, patting myself on the back for getting this far.  I’ve had four blog awards thrust upon me, but that’s like contracting mono.  There are so many awards drifting around at any one time, you’d have to be a blog-virgin not to get at least one, but it is nice to know that I am noticed and appreciated.

I just visited aFrankangle’s blog, and was treated to a large dose of reality.  It was tempered with a small platter of pleasure.  I got to Frank’s site just in time to see his 1000th post.  I have got soooo far to go.  Frank also revealed that my grumpy American curmudgeon counterpart, the much respected, and until now, blogless, John Erickson, slipped and has finally fallen into the blog pool.  It’s thyme to visit the sage of Ohio at www.windycitywonderer.wordpress.com.

To all who have tolerated me, taught me, led me, and even encouraged me, I give again, a huge thank-you.  Since I have to live so much inside my head, it is pleasant to have such nice neighbors.