Things That Were- Turkey Trip Part 1

I just spent two amazing weeks in Turkey. Thought you’d like to some of the insanely cool pictures of things I did. I traveled with my wife, Mother-in-law and Brother-in-law to visit my wife’s sisters family.

Things That Were

My favorite part was seeing and touching the things that were. 2000 year old ruins.

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Hierapolis

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Hierapolis

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Hot springs of Hierapolis

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Laodicea on the Lycus

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Heirapolis

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Kurt popping up out of a 2000 year old tomb at the Necropolis.

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Glass top over an excavated temple at Laodicea on the Lycus.

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Kurt and Nathaniel

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The heat got unbearable at times. My shirt was constantly filled with sweat.

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IMG_2919 Family together at the Necropolis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Laodicea on the Lycus

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Necropolis

Finding A Way Back

My mother worked in the psych ward at St. Luke’s hospital in Bethlehem for many years. Around the dinner table she would often tell us stories of the crazy people she had to take care of. I use the word crazy because my mother did.

I was never sure what to make of her callous attitude toward her charges. I think I understand now that it was the way she needed to be to survive seeing such broken people all day, day after day. But, as a boy im-tired-of-dealing-with-the-crazies-quote-1growing up hearing your mother tell stories about the outrageous behavior of these people, and how it was such a problem to deal with them when they started screaming or thrashing, I thought what you would expect. I though my mother was callous. I thought she looked down on these people whose minds were so disordered. I had no reason to doubt it, since I had a similar relationship with my mother. Often callous.

It has been decades since I was a child, and I am sure I don’t remember all the details of my childhood properly, but the emotional impressions are there, as real as the keyboard I am typing on. Perhaps more real, considering how they shaped my life. I will be forty seven in January, and I am still learning how my childhood damaged me, and how it is still damaging me. How it will always be influencing my behavior.

I wonder how much sympathy my mother would have for me now, almost fourteen years after her death. I doubt either of my parents could truly accept how injurious my childhood was, how their decisions – or lack thereof – harmed me more surely than a knife could have, and with wounds both invisible and difficult to heal. But if she was here now, and saw what was happening to me, how compassionate would she be? What if she knew one of her children had become one of her “crazies”?

I havedepression2 not posted on this blog for nine months. Instead, I have struggled to function with even the most basic chores and tasks. I have struggled to remain myself, and not surrender to the darkness.

Yes, mom, I have depression. Real. Serious. Chronic. Anti-depressants. Therapy. Time at the hospital. Depression. I didn’t want this, but who does? I didn’t cause this. Other people harmed me. Others did this to me. Yes, mom. You were one of them. Yes, dad, so were you. I’m angry at both of you. I’m angry that you’re both dead and I can’t tell you how angry I am. I am angry, and also I am not. I’m not sure you could have done any better. It’s far too late for what-if’s now anyway.

I am not ashamed that I have this disorder in my mind. I am not ashamed to put this up on the internet where the would could see it. We shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about any illness, and illnesses of the mind are no different. It’s just an unknown, and so it scares people. What are we if we aren’t our minds? Mental illness threatens our very basic identity, and so we make it bad and dirty and don’t talk about it. But a growing number of people like me are talking about it. We are talking about it like the illness it is, and not something to mock and laugh at.

I wish my mother had lived to see me fall apart this year. I wish that, because she would also have seen how you’re supposed to love someone. She would have seen my wife love me this year in a way I’ve never been loved before. She would have seen my wife love with boundless compassion, but also with strict boundaries. But my mother isn’t here, so I turn to you, dear reader. There is a right way to care for those you love, and it doesn’t change just because they have an illness. If you find yourself dealing with someone who is hurting like I have been, think deeply about how you deal with them. If the first thing that springs to mind isn’t compassion, keep thinking.

The Changing Beat

Attributes_of_MusicMy blog has stagnated of late. There are many reasons, but the primary two are some personal issues with family members, and other writing pursuits. Either way, it’s time to focus again on this little corner of the InterWebz. To achieve this, I am starting two new features. I will continue to write more personal blogs when they strike me, but I suspect that will not be very often. Instead, I want to explore two other areas of my life and creativity; my original fiction, and my interest in music. I’ll start with the music, and get to the fiction in a future blog post. Hopefully, my dear readers, you will find something of interest.

Graphic of a digital sound on black bottomFirst of all, if you don’t already know, I have a music degree. The easiest way to explain my degree is to say I have a BFA in Vocal Performance. I have always been interested in music. My parents made me join the children’s choir at my “growin’-up” church when I was very young. I think I was only five or six. I kept singing all through primary and secondary school, and took formal voice lessons for five years in college. Since college I haven’t sung very much in a formal setting, but my interest in music has only grown. It’s safe to say I can enjoy most music. My tastes run from ancient and classical music through folk music, experimental, jazz and blues, rock and roll and up to the modern day. I like almost everything.

Over these long years, I’ve noticed something interesting about how I consume music. I tend to get obsessed with one style or, often, even just one specific group or song. I listen to that music to the exclusion of any other for a few days, perhaps a few weeks, and then it changes. I’ll find another group I love, consume them, and so forth. I usually have no idea where my tastes are going, but in hindsight I can usually tell you how I got there.

In addition to this interest in listening to music, I am also very aware of the history of music. In college there was a period when I seriously considered becoming a music historian. I tend to remember details and facts, and how one artist may have touched or influenced another. I find that interplay, the evolving web of music creation and performance, endlessly fascinating.

piano-picture-image-hd-desktop-351867Finally, I have very strong emotions regarding music. Since I’ve always been hearing music, I can often hear a song and tell you where I was when I first heard it, or how it made me feel. Music is often more than just sound. It’s an event, an experience, a time in my life that is now gone. It is all of those things and more.

So, here’s what I plan on doing. I’ve created a new Category for my blog: Music Is Manna. I am going to write blogs every week or so about music, about what I’m listening to, why it matters musically, and how it makes me feel. All of these will be under the Music Is Manna heading, so you can follow them more easily there. Also, I will be including many clickable links, like this one, to make it easier for you to hear what I’m hearing. Some of the music will be familiar to you, and some of it, hopefully, will be new to you.

Music is so powerful. Yes, we’ve all heard that before; it’s a cliche now, really. But it’s true, and I want to share that experience with the world. I’d love to hear your experiences in return. Music, to me, is manna. It is a form of food I cannot do without. It sustains me and lifts me up when I’m depressed. Just ask my wife. It permeates every aspect of my life.

Music 1And music, like manna, comes from above.

A Poem of My Life

Do you think about your childhood? Do you remember it fondly? Or was it painful and hurtful?

I suspect that most of us would say both. Each childhood is different, each person has a different life.

This is a poem about my life. I hope it means something to you.

 

The Boy

 

I took a walk today where a boy once walked,

in a dream, in a memory, a lifetime ago.

I stepped where he stepped and stood where he stood,

I stared across fields of his long-vanished youth.

And I reached out to touch him…

But then he was gone.

 

He looked somewhat like me,

Brown hair, blue eyes,

But the brown hair was all brown,

Did not yet have gray,

And those blue eyes –

So blue!

So much brighter than mine.

They had not yet seen cruelty

From lover,

From brother.

They had not yet seen someone

For the very last time.

 

His face, it was smooth.

It was bursting with life.

It didn’t yet sag and it carried no pain,

It was not yet a roadmap of worries and woes.

It was young, oh, so young, so impossibly so.

 

I noticed him smiling, though no one was near,

Well, no one but me, but I don’t count, I fear.

He smiled as he built a dam in the creek

That ran behind his house, his trailer with wheels,

With cement blocks under to hold it all up.

He smiled because he was happy,

He was free,

And had no idea the bullies were coming.

Had no idea that his classmates could be

like werewolves, like monsters, like Jekyll and Hyde,

To turn on him suddenly, hateful and cruel.

And drive him to madness, and drive him to tears,

And drive him to beg his mom, “Please, let me stay!

Don’t make me go off to school today!

They’ll hit me, they’ll hurt me, and I don’t know why!”

The car would echo with his cry,

But she would send him off to die, a little, every day.

 

I noticed his shoulders, so small and so fine,

And perfectly built for climbing a tree.

They did not yet bear the weight of a life

They hadn’t yet shouldered the yolk of a job,

And bills, and ills,

And deaths. Or worse,

Of children who slay you,

One day at a time

In discrete little pieces, all numbered and tagged.

And filed alphabetically in small Zip-Lock bags.

 

That boy didn’t know of storms that were coming,

but who ever does? Who am I to complain

That he wasn’t yet ready

To suffer, to suffer,

To suffer and cry and little by little to die,

to die.

And yet live, to live and love.

The ‘Good ‘Ol Boys’ of Gaming

4042346573_45b74490d6_oWhen I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s, I was told directly we’d have flying cars and pick-your-features babies by “the distant future of 2000”. What I wasn’t told directly, but what was strongly implied, was that we would not have racism and sexism. Now, I’ve been trying to live for years with my non-flying car, and my children were not programmed into the computer and picked up at the BabyStore. Funny thing: I can live with both of those.

What I cannot live with is racism and sexism, and yet here it is. I was rudely reminded of that today when I heard that Anita Sarkeesian, who is an advocate for a healthier representation of women in the video game industry, withdrew from a live speaking engagement because gamers threatened to murder her and commit a school massacre!

I’m sorry for putting that in bold and italics, but I am horrified today to say I am, and always have been, a gamer. I feel like that is an embarrassing title, one that I should neglect to mention in polite society because it’s become odious. And I thought we gamers had gotten past all that when we learned what showers and toothbrushes were.

Apparently not.

In an article published on the New York Times website, the details were laid out. You can read it here.

It’s now become apparent that, in spite of a generally egalitarian approach to the world held personally by many gamer-guys, there is a small but vocal – and apparently violent – male segment of the gaming community that thinks women ‘gittin all uppity’ and ‘actin’ like they’s got raits’ exists.

I don’t even know how to process this, because I am disgusted.

People, if you are a gamer and you feel this way, get therapy! If you know someone who is a gamer, especially a young man, please talk with them. The very industry you love needs females to join the ranks: Gaming isn’t a Gentleman’s Club. Women have every right to expect an industry that portrays them respectfully. After all, who really thinks that this is OK?avengers pose

And if you do, you really need to examine your priorities, because you’re a Good ‘Ol Boy in the very worst possible sense.

Rant Ends!

McWhat?!

So this thing just happened. People I know from a church I used to attend held a fundraiser to fight childhood cancer. The corporation that was hosting them is known for philanthropic giving in regards to children’s health, so yay them. Also,sock it this corporation was matching the money these people were raising dollar for dollar. Also, yay. These are all good things, and I want to make sure I am clear on this. Money raised to fight cancer = good! Here’s the problem, in three easy steps.

1) The company is McDonalds, which serves some of the least healthy food-like products on the planet and is a corporate behemoth that does everything possible to increase its profits, no matter the cost to the world or its customers. This information is out there on the internet if anyone cares to look (or ask me and I’ll provide links), but my family won’t go to McDonalds unless we have no other choice. My opposition to this company is so strong that, if I’ve been in a McDonalds 10 times in the last 25 years, I’d be shocked.

2) I made a poorly-worded comment about this on Facebook:  “I don’t want to offend anyone, but trying to stop cancer at a McDonalds is pretty much like trying to prevent hearing loss at a Megadeath concert. McDonalds serves food that *causes* cancer!”

3) People equated my less-than glowing review of the situation as my personal attack on their efforts to fight childhood cancer, resulting in name-calling, derogatory comments on my intelligence and intentions, and even the dreaded “un-friending” of me by a long-time friend on Facebook.

I have since posted a public apology, but in the eyes of those people, I have now been demonized. I carry a taint that can never be erased. I have ceased to be an *us* and become a *them*. I am outsider. I am unclean.

people-arguing-alberto-ruggieriIn America today, discussion and discourse are for all intents and purposes dead. Not one of the people on that Facebook post asked me to clarify my comment, or gave me a chance to discuss what I meant in detail. None of them actually wanted a discussion, I suspect, because that involves possibly being challenged on a belief they hold dear. I don’t really want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but since they aren’t talking to me, my brain struggles to fill in the blanks.

I am so terrified that our country has resorted to the social equivalent of slaughtering each other in the streets. Yes, my comment was ill-conceived and badly worded. Yes, I should have done something different that what I did. Yes, I am very sorry. But people say stupid stuff all the time. If I had to stop associating with people just because they did something that offends me, I’d live in a shack in the woods and never talk to anyone. This is serious, people! We are feeding on ourselves, socially, in some twisted version of Facebook Piranha. Worse yet, we are failing to have the sort of deep conversations that challenge our beliefs and sharpen our minds. You want to know why we are falling behind academically in the world? You want to know why children from dozens of countries outperform us on a wide range of academic tasks? It’s because we don’t think, we react.

When faced with a challenging situation, most Americans don’t try to understand what’s happening. Instead, they have an emotional reaction and respond based on that emotion. You do it. I do it. We all do it, with few exceptions. Here are some increasingly absurd examples of this type of thinking. If  someone cuts you off in traffic, they must be an idiot instead of a worried parent trying to get home to their child. If someone says something that offends you on Facebook, they must be an ass or an attention-seeker instead of someone scared for the damage being done to himself and others. If someone holds different political views than you, they must be uninformed or, worse yet, stupid instead of someone who has weighed the evidence and made a careful decision. If a leader makes a mistake, they must be totally incompetent, and should be fired.

hope-2-570x379_5b2a74a98dc194118606e13bfb555bea30e30e32Look, people are complex. People do things for many reasons. People are, honestly, very much like you. But they aren’t identical to you, and it’s well worth your time to seek the middle-ground. We can’t keep judging each other this way. To do so will lead to madness, or to a circle of friends that only agrees with what you already believe to be true. The Founding Fathers of the United States would be horrified (though not, I suspect, surprised) to see the way we treat other Americans in 2014. They bent over backwards to reach compromises that have made us the most powerful nation in the world. Just imagine what would have happened if those great men had refused to seek compromise, and had instead resorted to calling each other names. Where would we be now?

So I challenge you, dear reader, just as I challenge myself: Do something every day that  involves compromise, or involves getting to know another person’s views better. It’s the American thing to do, it’s the Christian thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.