TBT/GTS#2: George “Bud” Falkenberry, Born to Act

This portrait of George "Bud" Falkenberry - a Christmas gift to his mother from his father the year he died - was sent to me by his sister, Anne Falkenberry Knight, for this profile.

This portrait of George “Bud” Falkenberry – a Christmas gift to his mother from his father the year he died – was sent to me by his sister, Anne Falkenberry Knight, for this profile.

Of all these profiles I expect to write – and as you will come to see, there are far too many – this one is the one I want most to get right because, even after more than 30 years since we last spoke across a restaurant table in the East Village, I still miss him. I miss his broad smile and the dimples that framed it, his bright eyes and sharp wit, the way he used to shake his head full of dark-blonde hair back and forth when he was happy, and his amazingly expressive face. And, the tragedy here is that we are all – you and I and everyone else – missing the brilliant work he would have done, would still be doing, for George Falkenberry was a profoundly talented actor well on his way to fame and fortune when AIDS came to call, but I get ahead of myself…

[NOTE TO MY READERS: This is the second in my series of Profiles in Grace, written to illuminate the wonderful lives led by my too-many friends who were simply stopped in their tracks by AIDS during the 80s and early 90s. If you missed it, I encourage you to read the full introduction to and rationale for this series at the beginning of the first of these profiles here: https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/tbtgts1-randall-robbins-actor-teacher-leader-friend/ ]

How We Knew Each Other:

It was the first week of the 1970-’71 school year at Birmingham-Southern College, and I was standing near the student union sharing summer stories with a friend when I saw someone I’d never seen before bouncing across the quad in a joyful, “glad to be here” way that got my attention. His gait and bearing said, loudly, ‘I’m no freshman’, so, as the newly elected yearbook editor who thought I knew everyone who had been there for more than a semester, I was intrigued. “Who is that?” I asked the person standing next to me who just happened to be a drama major.

“Oh, that’s Bud. Bud Falkenberry. He just transferred in from some art school in North Carolina. He’s from Selma.”

But, what I had seen in that fleeting moment, what I had recognized instantly without even so much as a word to go on, was something I had long since given up any hope of ever finding: a younger brother. We would come to realize almost instantly, once we met, that we were cut from the same cloth, bathed in the same waters and reared in much the same way by our upper-middle-class progressive southern parents. Our vocabulary was identical, and we could finish each others’ sentences from the start.

I was blessed with two sisters who are and always will be stars in my eyes, but the second boy my parents wanted never came along, leaving me to wonder in my youth just what having a brother would be like. Until I met George. We bonded faster than superglue the moment we met, and remained fast and cherished friends until he withdrew to the woods at the end of his run, fourteen years later. (And, for those of you who knew him in earlier times, I always called him “George” because that was the way he introduced himself to me, even though everyone, up to then, had always called him by his nickname, Bud, and many still do. I think, looking back, that I may well have been the first of his new Birmingham friends to be so honored. I suspect that after an unhappy freshman experience, he was  more than ready for a new script, a new role, a new name, and what better place to start than as a new student in a new school?)

George and I were both born to rock-solid Alabama parents – couples proud to have done their part in WWII and even prouder to have found peace in a place where they could explore their own possibilities and raise their families – who were so secure in their own selves and beliefs, that the very idea that anything “wrong” could spring from their partnership was simply inconceivable. And because they felt that way, and loved us so much, even when we began showing signs of idiosyncrasy that other parents might have found alarming, they had the confidence and wisdom to allow us the freedom to grow into our own personalities without limit, however it may have perplexed or concerned them, and however it may have been frowned upon along the ultra-conservative ground from which we sprang.

At base, I believe this was the reason that we bonded so swiftly as friends, and why our friendship only grew more firm and secure through the years. That said, there were three specific occasions that helped to confirm our affection for each other, any one of which might have been enough to keep us close for life.

The first instance happened later in the same school year and involved a road trip to Selma and that yearbook. As with most annuals, the one I produced began with a light, fun section showing candid shots of students in various activities and poses around campus, and one of those photos was a shot of Sam Hobbs, also of Selma, one of the brightest, most thoughtful and popular Seniors, caught sleeping soundly on one of the couches in the student lounge. I chose it because Sam had a great sense of humor, and he happily went along when I proposed using it.

But then, over the Christmas holidays, tragedy struck. Sam was killed while doing what he loved most – riding full out on his Motorbike across a New Mexico desert. Well, I immediately did what I could to pull the photo from the yearbook, but those early pages had been submitted months before and were already printed, trimmed and ready for the bindery. There was nothing I could do, aside from adding, at the end of the book, a black-bordered remembrance of Sam written by a fraternity brother who, as it happened, had also taken the earlier photo.

My friend Sam Hobbs taking a nap in the Birmingham-Southern student lounge. It was this photograph that made our trip to Selma necessary.

My friend Sam Hobbs taking a nap in the Birmingham-Southern student lounge. It was this photograph that made our trip to Selma necessary.

Nevertheless, I knew that Sam had paid for his copy of the yearbook in advance, and that it would have to be delivered to his family, and I simply couldn’t allow a situation to happen where his mother or father, unaware, might turn to that opening page to see Sam lying there, his arms across his chest in such an all-too-prophetic photo. So, I turned to George, who had known the Hobbs family his entire life, and asked if he would accompany me to Selma to deliver that yearbook in person to Sam’s mother. And so he did, and though it was a sad, sorrowful meeting, Mrs. Hobbs was as gracious as she could be to both of us.

And, of course, we were both somber as we were driving away, when George said, “Turn around, Tommy, and let’s go to my house. I want to show you something.”

“Okay,” I said as I made a u-turn, “What is it?”

“Vivien Leigh,” he said.

Now, I already knew that he thought Vivien Leigh was one of the finest actresses ever to hit stage or screen, so it was no surprise, really, when he told me that some years earlier he had painted her portrait – as Scarlett O’Hara – and he was rather proud of the way it had turned out.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara, by George Alan Falkenberry, c. 1968

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, by George Alan Falkenberry, c. 1968

He’d been away from home for a couple of years by that time and the portrait had been relegated to the attic, so I stood at the foot of the folding ladder while he went up to get it. It really was very good for such a singular effort, and I told him so, before he returned her to her gable and we headed north, once again, to Birmingham. It may seem a simple thing, but, to me, showing me his handiwork that hot spring day was another affirmation of our brotherhood. We each wanted the other to know our souls.

Our second bonding experience was much more straightforward and took place the next school year when we were both cast in a major school production of Marat-Sade. He, by then, was the departmental star, and there was never any doubt that he would be cast in the leading role as Marat, and I, as the only Birmingham-Southern student who played the flute, was cast as the piccolo player written into the script. I’m truly grateful for having had the opportunity to watch him work in those rehearsals and performances. I already knew he was good, and I began to understand just how talented he was.

George Falkenberry as Marat, with supporting cast, as featured in the Birmingham News, 1972.

George Falkenberry as Marat, with supporting cast, as featured in the Birmingham News, 1972.

But, of course, both of these experiences pale in comparison to the third one, which made it an absolute certainty that our friendship would be lasting. In the most studious and cautious way possible – for these were days when it was truly jail-worthy – we approached our mutual friend who we knew was well-versed in these sorts of things (after all, she did gigs with Nell Carter at Society’s Child in downtown Birmingham on weekends and knew all the local jazz musicians) to help us procure some marijuana. In spite of being a college graduate, I had never tried it, but now that I was out of a dorm and into my first apartment, the coast was clear. And George was as eager as I was to see what all the fuss was about. And so we did.

Well, we laughed for at least two weeks. We laughed at funny things and we laughed at not-so-funny things, and when we were done laughing, we made up more jokes to keep it going. Those were surely the most astonishing, uplifting, revelatory weeks of our times together and also, without doubt, the most ‘brotherly’ few weeks we were able to spend together. About the second or third day, he came into the apartment already laughing and said, “Tonto Jokes!”

“What?” I asked.

“What you call,” he then rejoined in broken English, “two-thousand pound digit?”

“What?” I asked again, mystified.

“TON TOE!,” he said, very pleased with himself.

And so, for the next two weeks, we sat on the floor of my still unfurnished Southside apartment and made up Tonto jokes. They were really terrible, and not even all that funny, but we laughed till our sides split, and then came up with another one and laughed some more. “What does prime minister’s spouse say when prime minister talk too loud?”

“I don’t know.”

“GOLDA! MY EAR!”

Childhood and Family

George at seven.

George at seven.

As the son of a drama teacher and newspaperman, George, like I, was blessed with sympathetic parents. Oh, they may have done their best to harden our skins, but, for the most part, they allowed us to bloom as God intended and we were both mindful of just how fortunate we were. But, that said, George’s family was considerably more newsworthy than mine, for want of a better way to say it, because George’s father, Roswell Falkenberry, had become the editor and publisher of the Selma Times-Journal during tumultuous times – beginning in 1963, two years before the march to Montgomery, and continuing until his retirement in 1974. Personally, I cannot even imagine the pressures he must have had to endure – the slings and arrows coming from every direction – and yet, in all that time, he remained steadfast in his support of peaceful and level-headed

George about eleven

George about eleven

integration at a time when all the forces around him were doing their best to defeat it. His stand was courageous and, really, heroic (for which he received the Alabama Press Association’s “Journalist of the Year” award in 1965 – the year of the March – for “his policy of unbiased reporting” and, only three years ago, in 2013, he was posthumously inducted into the APA’s Hall of Fame).

Mr. Falkenberry stirred up a bit of a ruckus in 1965 when he was quoted in Jet Magazine saying of Dr. Martin Luther King, that “personally, I think he’s a great man… One of the greatest men in the world when it comes to what he’s trying to do.” So, it is perhaps no surprise that it was also in 1965 when the Ku Klux Klan came calling to burn crosses in George’s front yard. He was only 14 at the time, and one can only guess at how frightening that must have been for him, but I have little doubt that he found a way to use the experience to add yet more range to his acting, to enhance his reservoir of emotions in ways that stayed with him for the rest of his life.27974780095_f932999805_o

And what a range it was! I might despair of telling just  how expressive he could be, but as it happens, George, like Randy Robbins who was the subject of my first TBT/GTS profile, also had a movie to his credit, although unlike Randy, whose part in 27361188353_d454266d69_oOrdinary People was the last best achievement of his budding career, in George’s case, the movie role came while he was still in high school, arising out of the fact that Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was filmed in Selma, and the producers used as many local actors as possible to enhance the authenticity 27873097732_964a784fa3_oof the piece.

George’s best scene is a three-way conversation between him, Sondra Locke, and another Selma fellow (who, quite coincidentally, is another good friend from ‘Southern). And even 27361661604_330ee5f72e_othough I’m illustrating here a few screen shots to demonstrate the range of George’s facial repertoire, I could have taken another twenty rapid fire photos and had another score of completely different facial expressions to show you.

After Leaving Home

Today, the North Carolina School of the Arts is a well-respected institution that has, over the years, produced hundreds of performing artists who populate the stages of Broadway, opera houses and dance companies around the country, but it was still finding itself in 1969, when George enrolled, and by all accounts his time there was not happy. And, so, the next year, he transferred to ‘Southern, which was not only the school that both of his sisters and his father had attended, but also, as fate would have it, sported a theatre

George in character during the Birmingham-Southern years.

George in character during the Birmingham-Southern years.

department that, under the august leadership of Dr. Arnold Powell, was not only as good as any small school in the country, but was also receiving national attention for its brand-spanking-new, state-0f-the-art theatre facility with a split/revolve/lift stage that was the first of its kind in the world.

George on stage with Wren Rolinson, who also moved to New York with him, smoothing the way for me.

George on stage with Wren Rolinson, who also moved to New York with him, smoothing the way for me.

And, as soon as he landed on The Hilltop, as BSC is colloquially called, George had found his home. Every college theatre department has its favorites, its stand-outs, its stars, and from the moment of his first audition for his first part, there was little doubt that he would be filling that role during his time there. He played a succession of leading parts during those years, culminating as Marat in Marat-Sade (me with my piccolo off to the side), before graduating in 1973.

His Trajectory

Following graduation, George moved in Birmingham theatre circles for a short while before striking out for Atlanta where, if memory serves, he worked with a children’s theatre company for a couple of years before finally heading for New York. We were both well settled in our minds and hearts, long before we met, that we would end up in New York City. It was, in many ways in those days, our only option if we truly intended to live our lives out to their fullest extent. The only question was which one of us might make it first. Who might be there in time to pave the way for the other?

Well, as it happened, between taking two years off after ‘Southern and then my law school years in Tuscaloosa, George arrived a couple of years before me, and by the time I rang his doorbell on March 2, 1978 – his 27th birthday as it happened; I arrived in the middle of the party and a 28″ snowstorm with two large suitcases and $350 in my pocket – he was already well ensconced, with three other Birmingham-Southern theatre graduates, in an enormous parlor-floor, floor-through on West 68th Street, only half a block from Central Park. Because his roommates, Bobby Thompson and Wren Rolison, were also my friends, and my arrival was timed to coincide with the departure of the fourth roommate, Glenn Shadix, who had decided to move to Hollywood to seek his fortune in the movies, I had a bed to use for a few weeks until I could find a place of my own. (Glenn did, in fact, make quite a name for himself in several Tim Burton movies, and returned to New York for a season, about fifteen years ago, to live with Richard and me while filming a television pilot for Fox that never, ultimately, made it to air. Unfortunately, Glenn also succumbed following an accidental fall from a wheelchair a few years ago, so even he is Gone Too Soon.)

George out and about in the late 70s. I found this photo online and am not sure whom to credit.

George out and about in the late 70s. I found this photo online and am not sure whom to credit.

To be honest, I can’t remember which school George chose for his acting classes (there were several great options in those days), but he was always busily pursuing his craft, with fellow students coming over nightly for readings and rehearsals, and he had even found a way to expand his professional network with his “day job”  – found through the LendAHand cleaning service – as the three-days-a-week “maid” of Louise Lasser, whose turn as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman had kept the country doing belly laughs for a couple of years by then. Indeed, when I arrived I was quick to comment on the original Hirschfeld drawing of Ms. Lasser hanging on the apartment wall, and was told by George that “Louise asked me if I would please hang it here since she hates it, but this

Louise Lasser by Al Hirschfeld

Louise Lasser by Al Hirschfeld

way she can say she has it up.” (I did reach out several times to Ms. Lasser for this article,  but she did not respond.)

And so, for the next six years, George and I continued to grow along our personal paths – I in the public relations arena and he with his acting. Wren moved back to Alabama and Bobby’s boyfriend, the poet Tim Dlugos, moved into the floor-through, until they gave it up in the early 80s and moved to Long Island City across the East River in Queens. At the same time George moved south to 4 East Fifth Street, where he lived in the only pink-painted brownstone in the city, as far as I know. He took the Hirschfeld drawing with him, and it continued to hold pride of place in his living room for as long as he remained there. I assume, by now, it’s back with its rightful owner.

And, then, one summer day in 1984, George called and asked me to meet him for lunch. That was a first for us, but I was delighted to do it. At that point, I was also living in a downtown apartment, so it was an easy walk to the diner where we met. And there, over salads, he was the first of my friends to tell me he was diagnosed with HIV, was already showing symptoms of AIDS, and had made the decision to leave the city and move into a friend’s country house in Greenwood Lake, NY, where he could “die in peace.” I saw many friends fall in those years, and no two of them did it quite the say way, but of all of them, George’s goodbye was the most abrupt. As he told me, if he couldn’t be his best self, then he didn’t want to be in New York, and his good friend Harry Endicott, who would be his generous care-giver for the rest of his life, had been kind enough to make the offer. I never saw him again. He died three years later.

Post Script

Unlike many of his peers,  George’s final years in the country were peaceful ones according to his elder sister Anne. “His ashes are scattered there in the lake. His last year he spent gardening and cooking, and the spring after his death, all the bulbs bloomed in profusion!

She also told me that Harry also died, a few years after George, but not before sewing a bright-blue panel for the AIDS Quilt.

George's panel from the AIDS Quilt contributed by Harry Endicott and showing his tulips by the lake where his ashes were scattered.

George’s panel from the AIDS Quilt contributed by Harry Endicott and showing his tulips by the lake where his ashes were scattered.

And the painting? Well, a few years ago, after both his parents had died, the Falkenberry home was broken up and all the furnishings divided between Anne, Rennie and George’s brother John, but since no one had a good place for the portrait, they decided to donate it to the Old Depot Museum (Selma’s local city museum) for a silent auction. There, Stephen and Carol Brooks were so enamored of it that they not only purchased it, but hung it over the fireplace in their historic home, the George Baker House,

Vivien Leigh where she now hangs over a historic, haunted fireplace. I'm sure George is pleased!

Vivien Leigh where she now hangs over a historic, haunted fireplace. I’m sure George is pleased!

which is not only on the Register of Historic Places, but infamous as one of Alabama’s most haunted places. As the story goes, a civil war skirmish took place in the yard during the Battle of Selma, and a wounded Union Soldier crawled up under the stairs to die. It is said that the blood is still visible, and the house is featured on the Alabama Ghost Trail.

I think George is delighted about that. He surely did love that painting.

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge the kind assistance of several people in the preparing of this profile, including Anne Falkenberry Knight, John Falkenberry, Rennie Falkenberry Edwards, Wren Rolison, P. Vaughan Russell, Esq., and Carl Stewart. Thank you all very much for your help.

© 2016 by George Thomas Wilson. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Angels, Death, health, Love, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

“Consider the Lilies…” 2016

27616611933_c52852c0e5_oHow can you not give your whole heart to the unlikely miracle of the day lily, a flower, as we learned from Superstorm Sandy, that takes fully two years to form and then, in one magnificent thrust of proud determination and exorbitant beauty, pops open in mere minutes to reveal itself to happy pollinators in waiting, only to completely wither away with the setting of the sun?

Of course, if nobody’s there to catch its astonishing display of frills and filigree, wondrous colors and welcoming outstretched petals, it could come and go with no more notice than that of the attending bumblebees, its years of patient effort all for naught, its resplendent, twelve-hour display never seen. Which is why, I suppose, I try so hard to catch them at their best and share them with all of you. After all, as my friend Jesus said, “…Not even Solomon, in all his glory, was arrayed like one of these.”

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Like I said, little botanical miracles, and, like Jesus said, “Not even Solomon…”

Sending with love and gratitude.

© 2016 by George Thomas Wilson. All rights reserved.

Posted in Angels, belief, biology, faith, miracles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Summer’s Bounty, June to September, 2016

 As I write this, there is hard cold rain blowing horizontal out the windows. The pool man was here earlier to tie down the cover for winter and I was reminded by the radio a few minutes ago that this weekend marks the fourth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Could there be a better time, then, to celebrate the wonders that God and Her angels wrought in our Cedar House gardens this summer? After all, these gardens found themselves under six feet of Atlantic Ocean when that great gale came, a salty saturation that wiped out pretty much everything, even including a 30′ lush southern magnolia that had cheerfully withstood fifteen Fire Island winters and become a community favorite in the doing, but couldn’t take the poison. It was one of three that I had given to Richard for Christmas many moons ago, and the good news is that, finally, last year, the least of the original trio put out a triumphant new shoot from the roots, so my love gift lives! And this year, the reborn tree actually bloomed. confirming, to me, at least, lines from a poem I wrote long ago, that “The dream is stronger than the night.”

Our triumphant magnolia blossom, hopefully the first of many more to come. The fencing is to keep the deer from eating it.

Our triumphant magnolia blossom, hopefully the first of many more to come. The fencing is to keep the deer from eating it.

Of course, gardens, like kitchens, are favorite spots for angels, so please allow me to credit my spiritual companions for much of this renaissance. They know they have my gratitude.

As with last year’s tours, I’ll start with the deck plantings and then move into the gardens around the house. Please enjoy and feel free to share. May all our storms be gentle ones in the days and months ahead.

[Editor’s note: Even I am frustrated that many of these photographs – especially the vertical ones – only show partially on my laptop screen, but if you click on any photo, it will open up in “fit your screen” mode and be easier to see.]

Decks and Such

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Entry Deck

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Pool Deck

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The Shady Side

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The Sunny Side

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And there you have it. Believe it or not, this is only 10% of the photos I had, and I know I gave short shrift to the day lilies, but that is because there were so many great ones that, like last year, I’m also be doing a dedicated day lily post as a follow-up to this one.

Thanks for visiting! Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Love to all!

© 2016 by George Thomas Wilson. All rights reserved.

Posted in Angels, faith, God the Father, Love, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hillary, Plain and Simple, by Allen Bird

TBT: Allen Bird in about 1960 posing for the yearbook on the Century High School football field. Hopefully he'll forgive me for dredging this up!

TBT: Allen Bird in about 1960 posing for the yearbook on the Century High School football field. Hopefully he’ll forgive me for dredging this up!

For several years, beginning in 1957, Allen Bird’s daddy worked with my daddy at the Alger-Sullivan Sawmill Company in Century, FL (at the time, the largest sawmill east of the Mississippi River). My mama taught Allen how to type at Century High School and Daddy taught him to play tennis. His mama sat next to me in the church choir with her delicious contralto voice, and they lived right across the street from us for all that time. After graduation, Allen served in the Navy, then got a law degree from the University of Arkansas before getting his LLM from New York University about 1973. In other words, as my sainted Great Aunt Mary Belle would have said (however judgmentally), Allen Bird is quality folk.

And, as fate would have it, after graduation from law school, he joined a small Little Rock practice called the Rose Law Firm, where he and another freshly minted attorney, Hillary Clinton, struggled in tandem for more than a decade to build the firm and their careers.

In other words, as fate would have it, I am

Ed and Mabel Bird and their three sons, Eddie, Allen and Sam (with Sam's wife, LeAnne) back in the days when we were all great friends.

Ed and Mabel Bird and their three sons, Eddie, Allen and Sam (with Sam’s wife, LeAnne) back in the days when we were all great friends.

blessed to have a childhood friend who is the perfect antidote to all the hype and bluster on the 24-hour news. A real, solid friend from way back when who actually knew Hillary Clinton during her salad days, and who, for fifteen years, worked as closely with her as pretty much anyone else on the planet. Until now, both he and I have remained very circumspect regarding this election. After all, there has been more than enough sturm und drang to go around. But, just the other day, Allen finally threw in his two cents about the bright young attorney he knew from the inside-out during those years, and as I found his words both refreshing and informative, I asked and gained permission from him to repost them here in the hope that they will also be instructive for you. That said, wherever you fall on the spectrum, I’m wishing you all a marvelous fall weekend!

From Allen Bird:

About Hillary.

Although I normally try to keep my comments on Facebook apolitical, I think I have some personal insight into her character and personality, and I have been thinking for some time about posting something about Hillary.

For over 15 years I saw her almost every day and had at least some casual conversation with her. She and I, and other partners, helped run a small business together, the Rose Law Firm. I saw first hand her creative and practical solutions to our challenges.
I was with her during the good times when things went well, and the bad times—when her husband was defeated in his run for re-election as governor. I was with her and Bill when they had disagreements, and when they celebrated.

I was neither of their best friends, but I think that I know her—and she is an honest, kind, ethical, intelligent and caring human being. I went to her when I heard she was pregnant and saw the tears in her eyes when we talked about the awesome responsibility of parenthood. Gosh, it’s hard for me to believe that she and I are both now grandparents.

I worked with her on various legal matters and saw her passion for her client’s cause and her brilliance in forming the best argument for their success.

I was with her when we had some ethical issues to resolve and never once did she veer from the path of solid and responsible resolution.

She asked me to represented her and Bill during some of the Whitewater investigation relating to the spec house they built at the Whitewater Estates. She never once asked me to do anything unethical or take any position not ethical or supported by the law.

I haven’t had much contact with her since 1993 when she and the President-Elect moved to Washington. Maybe she has morphed into something I wouldn’t recognize, as her detractors claim—but I don’t think so.

It now amazes me that her adversaries have been so successful in their campaign to demonize Hillary by constantly investigating her for the last decade and why so many Americans now think that she must have done something wrong or there wouldn’t have been all those investigations. Once we all had respect for the Congress and assumed that if the Majority Leader or others with titles said it–it must be so. Not any more.

Yes, I will vote for Hillary because I know who she was as a young wife, mother, and lawyer. I’m not afraid of a strong woman leading our country—in fact I welcome it.

I am not interested in your views of Hillary today, so don’t feel compelled to respond. All I am offering is a snapshot of Early Hillary. Take it or leave it.

I trust her to be my leader and Commander In Chief, because I know her.

Allen Bird, reprinted by permission

© 2016 by George Thomas Wilson. All rights reserved (but this time around, please feel free to share, post, reprint or skywrite).

 

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For Bastille Day: Vichyssoise Redux

Vichyssoise, cold, tasty and ready to serve with fresh chopped chives on top.

Vichyssoise, cold, tasty and ready to serve with fresh chopped chives on top.

Around the year 2000, we invited our wonderful longtime Fire Island neighbors, Guy Musquere and Daniel Meyer – along with eight of their Parisian guests – to join us for a Bastille Day dinner, and since I wanted to honor them with something undeniably French on the table, Vichyssoise seemed like just the ticket for a hot mid-July night. Now, this was a particularly risky endeavor since both Guy and Daniel were true Parisian eminences of long standing, but what the heck, you only live once, right? What was the worst that could happen? (Until it was privatized in the 70s, Guy had run the French national aluminum industry arising out of Bauxite discoveries in French Equatorial Africa, and Daniel was in his third decade of serving as Chief Curator of Versailles – yes, that Versailles – and the author of the two definitive books about its architecture and furnishings, the latter being a truly extraordinary two-volume set, much of which was written right here in The Pines. Sadly, both Daniel and Guy are gone now, but they were truly astonishing people.) (http://www.amazon.com/Furniture-Collection-Versailles-Vol-Set/dp/2878440579).

Cover of Volume I of Daniel's treatise on the Versailles furnishings of the 17th and 18th Centuries

Cover of Volume I of Daniel’s treatise on the Versailles furnishings of the 17th and 18th Centuries

Well, I’m delighted to report that the soup was so well received that almost everyone asked for seconds, and in the years since, you might say it’s become a regular part of my kitchen repertoire, and I try to do it at least once a summer. Over time I have refined it, but it has never failed to satisfy. It’s really not that hard, and I encourage you to give it a go, even if you have picky eaters. Once they taste one spoonful, they’ll devour the rest.

RECIPE: VICHYSSOISE

NOTES: Of course the main goal here is wonderful taste and texture, but a secondary goal is to keep it white. Even the pepper is white, so bear that in mind as you go, and if, as you are sautéing the leeks at the beginning, one or two bits cling to the side of the pot to the point of browning, remove them, so that when the sautéing has been done, there are no browned bits left to spoil the pure whiteness of your soup.

Also, if there is a secret ingredient here – that is, one that diverges from usual recipes but makes a huge difference in the end product – it is the little bit of bacon grease added at the start, which gives the vichyssoise such a silkiness that it is often the most commented-upon element of this dish. Also, in pursuit of that smoothness, try to avoid grainy potatoes, though a grainy white potato is preferable to a smoother yellow one, which would dull the color.

Finally, this soup should be served as icy cold as possible, so be sure to allow at least several hours for it to sit in the refrigerator before serving, or even make it the day before (it will keep for days). I always make way too much (about double this recipe) and end up putting a ½ gallon pitcher, or two, of it in the fridge, but somehow it all seems to disappear fairly quickly.

Ingredients:

4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons bacon grease
4-6 large, healthy leeks; if small, maybe even more. Should have about two cups when done preparing for the pot (use ONLY the white and very lightest green parts that won’t add color the end product. Keep green parts to add to another soup or salad if you despair of discarding them.)
2 chicken bouillon cubes
4-6 medium white-meat potatoes
2 quarts colorless chicken broth (Caution: some packaged chicken broths add caramel to give it a brownish color and that will not do when whiteness is the goal. Check label before purchasing, or better yet, make your own broth :-).)
2 quarts heavy cream
Salt
White pepper
Chopped chives

Directions:

Prepare ingredients: Clean leeks thoroughly (to keep them white, growers pile dirt up around the bottoms of the emerging plants, so sand and grime can be really deep in the stalk) and slice only the white or very light green parts into rings about 1/8” thick; if you don’t keep bacon grease around, fry a few pieces of bacon to provide grease, then strain to get out any dark bits; peel potatoes and cut into pieces as if you were going to boil and mash them and keep under cold water until you need them to avoid oxidizing (will also help rinse away some of the starch).

Place olive oil and bacon grease in stock pot or other large (10 quart) pot over medium heat (note that I always use a gas stove and know what “medium” means to me in that context, but electric eyes can burn things in a heartbeat, so adjust heat to your own levels of comfort on your own stove).

Add leeks and stir constantly until they are completely limp and transparent and are just this side of leek mush, but without a speck of brown.

Add the two quarts of chicken broth and two chicken bouillon cubes and bring to a boil.

Add the prepared potatoes and cook until beyond tender and the sharp edges of potato pieces become rounded.

Remove from heat, and using either 1) a hand-held immersion blender right in the cooking pot (my choice and much easier/neater) or 2) a regular blender or food-processor (in which case you might have to do it in two or three batches and then return to pot), thoroughly blend until there no lumps and your soup base is as smooth as possible.

Return to stove and over low heat stir in the two quarts of heavy cream and salt and white pepper to taste and heat, stirring occasionally, until cream is thoroughly integrated, but do not boil.

Remove from heat and cool, then place in refrigerator for at least four hours, eight is better.

Prior to serving, chop chives and place a teaspoonful on top of each bowl.

Bask in praise.

That’s it. Here’s wishing all of you a terrific Bastille Day, and may all your summertime wishes come true!

© 2016, George Thomas Wilson, all rights reserved.

Posted in Angels, cooking, Holy Spirit, Love, recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Recipe: The Elusive Magic Cobbler

27433837956_b59ab7464e_oI’m not sure when I first heard tell of it. Probably listening in on the womenfolks’ conversation while sitting on a folding chair in the back of the Century Methodist Church at a Wednesday night fellowship dinner (while scarfing down a paper plate’s worth of sliced ham, fried chicken, Waldorf salad, homemade yeast rolls and Elsie Hare’s green congealed salad made with chopped pecans, sour cream and celery bits).

“Ooooh, Sweet, that’s so good!” one of them might have said after tasting her still-warm cobbler. (“Sweet” really was her name.)

“Got it from my Granny back in 30s,” Sweet might have replied. “It’s so easy I’m almost embarrassed. It’s like magic! Almost makes itself.”

But, of course, nobody ever wrote down the recipe. It was so simple you didn’t need one.

Fast forward a half-century or so, and, still haunted by that so-simple cobbler conversation, I’ve Googled “easy cobbler” or some such phrase many times over, but nothing ever popped up that really looked right. Nothing ever seemed like something that fit the bill.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that is, when I finally found it. A recipe so simple and so delicious that I have remembered it from the first reading, and have now made it three times – as originally posted, doubled, and “half-agained” – and it is apparently as foolproof as it is scrumptious. Perfect every time.

And, this time, I’m writing it down for all of us. I hope you enjoy it. I know your family will.

RECIPE: Magic Cobbler

Note: The original recipe is listed as “Easy Blueberry Cobbler” on allrecipes.com, but calls for self-rising flour. It is admittedly even simpler that way, but I prefer to add my own baking powder and salt, so am taking the liberty of claiming this as mine. That said, if you are a self-rising flour person, you can do this with only the five ingredients: flour, sugar, milk, butter and fruit.

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Butter (one stick)
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 quart fresh fruit (berries, peaches – any cobbler-friendly fruit. The cobbler pictured above was made with 2/3 blueberries and 1/3 peaches)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place stick of butter in baking dish and place baking dish in the oven to melt it. Should take only about 5 minutes, but keep an eye on it because it will burn quickly if you’re not careful. (For this recipe, a 7 x 11 rectangular Pyrex dish is just right, but once you start eating it, you’ll wish you’d doubled it, in which case a 9 x 13 dish works, but be sure to place a cookie sheet under the baking dish just in case of spillage. Pie in the photo was 1 and 1/2 times recipe in the larger baking dish but didn’t quite fill it up.)

While butter is melting, sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl. Then add the sugar to the flour and stir well, then add milk to the dry ingredients and stir till smooth.

Take dish with melted butter out of oven and pour batter into it.

Sprinkle fruit over top of batter. Return dish to oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the fruit is set when jiggled. If it still looks wet, it’s not quite ready.

That’s it! That’s the whole thing! This may well be the most deliciousness delivered for the least labor ever known. Particularly good with a dollop of vanilla ice cream while it’s still warm.

You can thank me later. Love to you all.

© 2016, George Thomas Wilson. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Angels, cooking, desserts, Love, recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

First Flowering, 2016

Buttercups, Lilies of the valley and wild Geraniums announce the arrival of spring! (In 1997, when Richard first landscaped the "sunny side" of the yard, he took a regular pot and turned it on it's side, buried about a third of it in the sand and placed a light inside, which created a magical effect. Then, about four years later, we started seeing purpose built pots designed with a flat side for achieving the same look. Just sayin'....)

Buttercups, Lilies of the valley and wild Geraniums announce the arrival of spring! (In 1997, when Richard first landscaped the “sunny side” of the yard, he took a regular pot and turned it on it’s side, buried about a third of it in the sand and placed a light inside, which created a magical effect. Then, about four years later, we started seeing purpose built pots designed with a flat side for achieving the same look. Just sayin’….)

Well, it begins…. After six months away from the beach garden, we returned in late April to begin anew. This will be the fourth year since the great salt water inundation by Superstorm Sandy, and already Richard and I have been surprised by the vigor we are seeing on every side.

There are some things, of course, that only bloom in spring – Lily of the Valley,  Wisteria, Buttercups – so even though the deck planters are still being planted (impatiens should be put out in this area this week), I’m posting this snapshot as of May 21. Our oceanic micro-climate keeps the air cool well into June, which explains the late bloomers, but the temperatures catch up quickly so that, compared to most places, it’s a “fast forward” display.

Here are the first few frames of 2016. I hope you enjoy!

Photo May 21, 11 46 34 AM27224230255_8cdc215f6c_o27224158595_4a663ec5c2_oHostas!

27190003356_f0036e1db6_o26949027540_ddeec33f4d_o26949000140_a46049dfed_o27224197505_7b27dc40b0_o27224290565_fe0fd54532_o27155282661_6ce6728a1e_oWisteria and Lilacs

Photo May 21, 11 53 54 AMPhoto May 21, 11 54 24 AM (1)Photo May 21, 11 54 26 AMLily of the Valley

26947992870_73c0d6fe41_o27223212275_bb2eef3583_oButtercups!

27126311462_1c5f9e7d7d_o27126271332_f27936d8eb_oParting Shots…

27127452742_97a854ccd1_o26617659943_e5c327fea5_o26617449434_6b04687c83_oThat’s it for now, but there will be more soon. Thanks for visiting, and have a great, growing-up summer!

© 2016 George Thomas Wilson, all rights reserved.

Posted in Angels, faith, Rebirth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TBT:GTS#1: Randall Robbins, Actor, Teacher, Leader, Friend

Randall Robbins with Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland in "Ordinary People," released in 1980, his first crossover from Broadway to Hollywood. It should not have been his last.

Randall Robbins with Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland in “Ordinary People,” released in 1980, his first crossover from Broadway to Hollywood. It should not have been his last.

INTRODUCTION

My over-arching challenge here is to write this post – the first in an occasional series – in such a way that it will keep you smiling even if it may, at first, give you pause. But, I know in my heart that this is all about love, so, please dear cousin, bear with me while I introduce the inspiration behind these “Throwback Thursday: Gone Too Soon” posts and what I hope to accomplish by writing them.

First of all, I am writing them for me. Back in the days when my friends were dropping like flies, and daily life as a gay man in New York City was largely surreal, people on the outside would ask me how I was dealing with the emotional strain of losing so many close friends in such short order. “It’s not possible to really mourn for them,” I would reply, “There are just too many, and they are falling too fast, so I store their memories in little jars on an imaginary shelf in my mind, and every now and then I take them down one at a time, dust them off, and for a few minutes remember their smiles and our times together before putting them back on the shelf.”

We were all that way back then. We had to be. But all those dusty jars – all those wonderful souls – are still up on that shelf and still awaiting the proper attention they never received, so this series of posts are my way of taking them down and pouring out their contents that they may finally and forever be given the love and honor they so absolutely deserve. This is also, it seems to me, the right time to honor these memories for two solid reasons. First, only now are there enough online resources available to really research their histories (through Ancestry.com where you can find many yearbooks and personal facts, as well as many other Google-able resources that simply didn’t exist even five years ago), but, conversely, the longer I wait, the more distant these recollections become, so the sooner the better.

Secondly, I am writing this series for those of us who died. They were gone too soon and are already fading into obscurity regardless of how extraordinary they may have been or how clear it was to those who knew them that they were headed for great things – until they weren’t. Most of those who fell from HIV in the 80s and 90s, were in their late 20s or 30s, even 40s and 50s, so were well on their way to making some sort of mark in their chosen professions, and for those in New York this was even more true since almost all of us arrived from the provinces having made our way here under our own steam and driven by our own dreams. It is also sadly true that the great majority of the gay men I knew in NYC in those days had been completely disowned by their families, so if and when they got sick and were dying, there were all-too-often no mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters to come to their aid, nor to keep their memories alive once they had gone. Rejected at home, many of us had long ago learned to create surrogate families of friends to fill the need. Until the plague arrived, and one by one, our personal supports – those we thought would be our lifelong friends – fell out from under us, leaving only the few of us remaining to tell their tales once they were gone. And so I shall, as best I can. If not now, when? have no choice but to try.

Thirdly, I am doing this for you, and especially the Xers and Millennials among our friends who have, blessedly, no memory of HIV as a death sentence. It has now been 21 years since the pharmaceutical “cocktail” appeared that turned the infection into something “manageable,” so it is completely impossible for anyone younger than 30 have any idea what it was like in those dark years. Anecdotally, I was born only five years after WWII ended, yet I don’t have a clue what that must have been like, however fertile my imagination may be, so the same must also be true for those of you who matured into your own identities after 1995. Frankly, this is a wonderful thing, and I wouldn’t wish the torture of living through those days on anyone, but what you are also missing are these stories. Some are stories of brilliance, others of courage and yet others of of constant renewal of spirit in the face of such horrors, but all of them are stories that should be told before they are lost in the mists of time.

So, see, we made it through the hard part. Thanks for sticking with me. I’m only going to include this introduction once, so future TBT:GTS installments will only include the personal tribute. It is also my hope to write these memorials in a standardized way so to provide any others who might want to write TBT:GTS tributes of their own with a format to follow.

TBT:GTS#1 RANDALL ROBBINS, Actor, Teacher, Leader, Friend

How I Knew Him

Junior Class Portrait of Randall Robbins, 1939-1981

Junior Class Portrait of Randall Robbins, 1939-1981

In 1973, fully two years before actor Carolyn Kirsch originated the part of Lois in the original cast of A Chorus Line, she journeyed to Birmingham to work with James Hatcher at Town and Gown Theater choreographing the show Company, which was on her performance resume. Unfortunately, shortly before the show was to open, one of the local actors took ill,  so Carolyn suggested that Hatch import from New York a friend of hers to play the part who she knew already had it down, a tall, blonde, all-American looking fellow named Randall Robbins who had just wrapped up performing with her in the Company National Tour.

Carolyn Kirsch and Randall Robbins showing off their new pinatas backstage at the Ahmanson Theatre in LA where the First National Tour of "Company" had opened in May of 1971.

Carolyn Kirsch and Randall Robbins showing off their new pinatas backstage at the Ahmanson Theatre in LA where the First National Tour of “Company” had opened in May of 1971.

Of course, there was no budget for this, so Hatch asked me to help out by letting Randy bunk in my Southside apartment for the three weeks he would be in town (two weeks for rehearsals and one of performances). This was more than enough time to become good friends, though after those few weeks, it would be some years before we would recharge our connection when I moved to New York after law school in 1978.

Several times, over the next few years, I joined Randy for dinner in his apartment in an old brownstone on West 55th street where we would remember fun times in Birmingham, or talk about his latest show, or he would coach me on acting. Our last dinner was in early 1981. 1980 had been a great year for him with his movie debut in “Ordinary People,” and appearing as FDR all across the U.S. in a National Touring company of “Annie,” so I had expected him to be full of life and

The earliest photo I could find of Randy who was featured as treasurer of his freshman class of Seminole High in Sanford, FL

The earliest photo I could find of Randy who was featured as treasurer of his freshman class of Seminole High in Sanford, FL

enthusiasm, but found him unusually subdued. Then, as we were having after-dinner coffee, he shared with me that for some years he had been in a clandestine relationship with an NYU professor (hence the closet) who lived in the next apartment, but he was very concerned because his friend, Andrew, was very, very ill – simply wasting away to nothing – but the doctors couldn’t seem to find what was wrong with him. Shortly after that meal, Andrew died, still undiagnosed, but soon to be recognized as one of the first 100 known victims of AIDS. Sadly, Randy was soon to follow. He was the first person I knew to be infected, and the first of dozens of my friends to die.

His Story

Birth and Family: Randall Robbins (no middle name) was born in Sanford, Seminole

County, Florida in late 1939, the youngest of five children. His father, Kenneth, was a boilermaker by trade who had moved from Ohio to South Florida in his youth, where he met Randy’s mother, Signa (nee Vihlen), the daughter of Swedish immigrants, who

Yearbook photo of Randy as Sophomore Class Treasurer (second year running!)

Yearbook photo of Randy as Sophomore Class Treasurer (second year running!)

had also moved to Florida as a child of four after being born in Birmingham AL. No doubt Randy’s Nordic good looks came from his mother’s side of the family, but sadly, she died when Randy was only ten years old.

Schools: Thanks to Ancestry.com I was able to find Randy’s Seminole High School (Sanford) yearbook photos from his freshman, sophomore and junior years. Clearly both popular and ambitious, in a student body of over 3000 students in four grades, he managed to be elected treasurer of both his Freshman and Sophomore classes (’54 and ’55), and secretary of the Honor Society his junior year (’56).

Curiously, however, he is nowhere to be found in the 1957 yearbook – which should have been his senior year. I do know that he was disowned by his family at some point, and it may well have been around this time, given that his siblings were already out of the house, his father was pushing 60, and he had just enjoyed his first theatrical success, playing, perhaps ironically, the role of “Father” in that year’s Junior Class Play, “Father Knows Best.”

Randy (the tall one) gets his first taste of applause as the star of his Junior Class Play, "Father Knows Best"

Randy (the tall one) gets his first taste of applause as the star of his Junior Class Play, “Father Knows Best”

After Leaving Home: Though I have tried for several days to find more information, the years from ’57 until he first appears in the theatre databases in 1971 as a cast member in Company are a complete mystery to me and are likely to remain so. Clearly, at some point in the 60s he arrived in New York to begin acting in earnest, and he wasted no time signing on with the legendary acting coach Uta Hagen, who quickly became both his hero and his inspiration. That said, once he launched his career in earnest, he was able to keep it moving up and onward with significant success. As best I have been able to reconstruct his resume, it includes:

1971: First National Tour of Company

1972: Stock Tour of Company

1973: Westport Playhouse 6 RMS RIV VU during the summer, (this was also the year we met when he journeyed to Birmingham to appear in Company at Town and Gown)

1974: Original cast of Good News revival opening in Boston and touring nationally for a year before opening on Broadway on December 23, 1974

1975: Off Broadway: And So to Bed, a counter-intuitive comedy about the sex life of Samuel Pepys

1977: Summer run of Company at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera; then, that fall, he took on the Melvyn Douglas role in a revival of Glad Tidings at Equity Library Theatre.

Randall Robbins as FDR and Theda Stemler as Annie in a scene from the 2nd National Tour of "Annie.".

Randall Robbins as FDR and Theda Stemler as Annie in a scene from the 2nd National Tour of “Annie.”.

1978-1980: Played the role of FDR in the Second National Tour of Annie for nearly two years.

1980: Like so many of his fellow Uta Hagen students (Al Pacino, Charles Grodin, Jason Robards, Geraldine Page and dozens of others), Randy finally made the trip to Hollywood to launch his cinematic career in what would turn out to be the most honored film of the year, Ordinary People. Over the moon about getting the part, he could hardly have known that it would be both his first and last movie role, as he became ill the very next year and died soon thereafter.

Trajectory

It is, of course, impossible to say what would have been, had Randy lived and continued to hone his craft and lift his rising star, but, just by looking at his contemporaries, it is not that difficult to say what might have been. There are many steppingstones on the road to succeeding as an actor, and he had already walked so many of them: He had played on Broadway, had starred in two Off-Broadway Shows, had toured the country in leading roles in Company (over and over again) and Annie, and, yes, he had finally broken through to the silver screen in one of the most highly-honored films of all time. And he was barely 40.

Every time I spent an evening with Randy, we would also spend a few minutes honing my craft. He would have me recite some poem or other that I had written and then work with me on my delivery, turning recitation into performance. These were not lessons that I asked for or encouraged, but we always got around to them after some wine. They were really, I think, for him. He truly loved to teach, and he was very good at it.

Which is why, at the end of the day, my best guess is that he would have continued to build his credits in the movies and on Broadway, but would also have become a truly great acting teacher in the footsteps of his beloved Ms. Hagen and so many other great acting teachers who thrived in mid-20th Century New York City. Uta Hagen never stopped performing on the stage and in films, and I’m sure that Randy would have continued performing, as well, but his strongest drive, it seems to me, was to help those around him become better – better as actors, and as human beings.

So I salute you, Randy Robbins, even as I mourn you, finally, as fully as I should. God speed my friend, and may you always hit your spot.

Post Script

This may all seem very far away and long ago to you, dear reader, and perhaps the loss to mankind of this one person, however talented or bright, may not seem so tragic this many years hence, but this is only the first extraordinary story of many I hope to tell, and after the first few are taken in, a picture begins to form in the mind of just what a tremendous loss we have suffered, what a large slice is missing from the Great American Cultural Pie.

There have been, of course, other attempts to honor these memories, through the quilt and other quiet memorials here and there, particularly in New York City churches and such, and in those instances when the AIDS quilt includes squares dedicated to the people I intend to spotlight with these tributes, I will surely include those photos. But however moving the quilt truly is, many of those we lost, including Randy and Andrew, are simply not there to be found. Nevertheless, Randy and Andrew were not completely forgotten by those they left behind. In 1985, they were honored by the community as the 54th Street to 55th Street block – their block – of the lavender stripe painted down Fifth Avenue to demark the route of that year’s Gay Pride Parade was dedicated in their names. (I am still trying to get more information about this, and when I do learn more, I will edit it into this post.)

This has been TBT:GTS#1, the first of a series of occasional posts that are long overdue. Thank you for your time, your attention, and your prayers.

© 2016 George Thomas Wilson, all rights reserved.

 

 

Posted in Angels, belief, Death, faith, God the Father, health, Holy Spirit, Love, poetry, prayer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Diamonds in the Rough: Third Annual Posting

Naturally occurring diamond crystal

“We have nothing, if not belief.”
– Sir Reepicheep, Chief Mouse of Narnia, Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis)

“Do the arithmetic or be doomed to talk nonsense.”
– John McCarthy, A.I. trailblazer [1]

We are the uncut diamonds of God.

Thus I begin this third and final installment of my unintended series of observations arising from my daily prayers, which has been as much a journey of discovery for me as for anyone, since it is surely true that however much you may believe something in your heart, until you actually codify it – until you put it into words – it remains a benign knowing untouched by the light of discernment; a happy faith in something suggested or implied or impossible to avoid as other known truths come together, but otherwise unexcised, unexamined and unexplained even to oneself. And, so, as I have lit out on this new adventure – have set my sail upon the Great Digital Sea – these first three essays have turned out to be real exercises in self-clarification as I have drilled, as best I could, to the bottom of my faith to share it with you. And, while doing it has been much more challenging than expected, the marvelous bonus has been the process, itself. Like an old prospector whose faith will never wane, even in my childhood I was panning and sieving and finding nuggets of truth for my thimble that ultimately led me to golden veins of what I perceive to be understanding; veins that, once discovered, I have done my best to follow wherever they may lead. Truth has to make sense or it isn’t True, and this is the standard to which I have, at least to my own internal satisfaction, held my religious beliefs, as well. But, like I said, for these ideas to be truly real, they must be written down, so these three essays have been those writings – the pillars of my belief codified, my Christ-centered outlook put into actual words – a sincere effort to forge a golden chain of plausibility from link to link and first to last that is solid and true and aglow with the love of the God Whom I love and Who I believe loves me, loves all of us, to infinity.

Of course, there is still much, very much, that remains outside my understanding of what really is, but surely it all has to begin with an acceptance that there is nothing incompatible with the two ideas that 1) we are the beloved, known, embraced children of the personal and infallible Source of the Course of the Universe and are therefore just exactly the family of material children He intended us to become when He conceived and put into motion the processes that made us, and 2) that the earth and everything it holds has eventuated along a scientifically delineable path of growth and evolution that began with the sun’s release some four billion years ago of the very matter from which you and I and everything we touch was made, continued with the arrival of God’s own “breath of life,” to mobilize some of that matter into living beings some one billion years ago, progressed over eons into the astonishingly diverse array of wondrous creatures whose bones populate our museums and that – step by agonizing step – took their place in the great parade of earthly life from the single-celled, self-replicating amoebae of that “Original Life Moment” to the birth of our primordial human ancestors about one million years ago.[2] Indeed, I truly don’t understand how anyone who believes in the first idea – a living, loving Heavenly Father – has any choice, given all the clear, irrefutable archeological evidence that has been unearthed over centuries, but to completely accept the latter proposition.

Yet, astonishingly, this view – that God initiated what science discovers, and science confirms the wonder of His inventions – is roundly criticized from both sides. To the atheistically-leaning scientist, it is anathema. To the literalist Christian, it is blasphemy. I suppose you might say I’m swimming upstream here to embrace a confluence of ideas so easily rejected by everyone, yet I persist, because, to me, these truths are the ultimate proof of our Loving Father, and the necessary foundation of any plausible explanation for our lives on earth.

Of course, To believe in both science and God begs all sorts of questions that, in the end, must be dealt with, not the least of which is the one I just alluded to: is evolution a real, living process? Well, forgive me, but really? Of course it’s real, and I seem silly even writing such an obvious point, but if love is blind, denial is blinder, since it owes its very existence to sightlessness, and it is a tragic loss to both houses as they sail right past each other – and truth in the doing – with science insisting upon material provability of spiritual realities – a non-sequitur if ever there was one – and a great swath of believing Christians refusing to even consider facts uncovered time and again by scientists because they run counter to a poetic telling of our creation story as put to parchment by exiled Hebrew scribes nearly three millennia ago.

Yes, I suppose it is possible that God waved a magic wand and fabricated everything in six days – from the big dipper to duck-billed platypuses to Adam and Eve – and then filled His beautiful work with practical jokes in the form of dinosaur bones and ancient ruins for some whimsy of His own, but I don’t believe that makes any sense at all. As I have said before, the God I know and love is not wasteful,[3] and neither is He a jester who would steer His beloved children down some false maze of paleontological ephemera. And, anyway, how much more elegant, astonishing and worthy of His magnificent creative abilities is the other option: that He graced our planet with the beginnings of Life – the first single-celled organisms capable of dancing to His energies[4] – a billion years ago, or so, with everything required even in those microscopic creations – the full recipe – for realizing a succession of living beings, bit by bit, that we might ultimately, at long, long last, evolve organically, stably, fully, into persons: distinctly individualistic personalities capable of independent thought, creative insight, social engagement, analytical perspective, and, most importantly, active faith – a proclivity to worship; physical beings crafted from nothing but the elements all around us, yet miraculously endowed with the capacity to love and be loved, to know and be known, even by Him who so long ago planted those little seeds expressly, I believe, for the purpose of coaxing into being US: a family of earthly children to love and to be loved by in return, and to do so in such a way that we would inevitably turn out to be as marvelously diverse as possible, but every one of us exactly as He has projected us, in His image. “Red and yellow, black and white, [we] are precious in His sight….”

God’s Miraculous Little Dynamo

Now here’s something to think on: the largest unit of life ever born is much too small to see. Every living thing we do see, from the blade of grass to the blue whale, is but a gathering together of millions, billions, even trillions, of teensy cells like so many microscopic Lego blocks, but unlike those static, plastic pieces, these little dynamos of God are anything but empty, and everything but still. In 1665, when a Fellow named Robert Hooke (of the Royal Society of Fellows), first looked at a leaf through the newly invented microscope – each part surrounded by a stiff cuticle – it reminded him of a monastery laid out with rows of spare, tiny rooms, so he called those little segments “cells.”[5] But surely in all the annals of science nothing has ever been so inaptly named, for, while it may have been beyond the power of his lens to see, within each one of those “walls” was everything required – the complete book of instructions and a full set of potentialities – to assemble the entire tree from which his leaf had sprung.

And, that’s just a tree! What about people? The wonder of our making is almost beyond words. Two little cells do a waltz in the womb and that is all it takes. Only two little cells, yet everything required to make an entire person is included and, in a very short time, their descendants diversify to become bone cells gathering calcium, or liver cells cleaning toxins, or blood cells delivering oxygen harvested only seconds before by lung cells. We are so used to these things that the wonder is taken for granted, but it all happens 24/7: trillions of cells working together in perfect harmony, without hitch or hiccup, generating heartbeat after heartbeat, breath upon breath, and even thoughts that grow into more thoughts that sometimes even grow into actions: the creature’s creative response to being alive.

It was actually when I was struggling to quit smoking after decades of addiction that I came to truly appreciate the importance of our little living building blocks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever prayed for help in quitting, and, over time, that simple prayer expanded as I tried to imagine the damage I was surely doing to my body. I found myself asking God to heal, if He would, those parts of my physical self that were most afflicted by my bad habit, and as my focus sharpened over time and I realized that the real seat of the harm I was doing was on the cellular level, I began praying for forgiveness not only from the Father I was surely offending, but as well from the lung cells I was physically assaulting on an hourly basis. Of course, I doubt they are the least bit sentient, much less self-aware, but I tried, nevertheless, to truly understand their suffering, the harm I was doing to each of them, and this proved to be a useful tactic as the more I inclined my heart to such admirable workers and gained in my appreciation of their dedication and indefatigable efforts to keep me alive, the more absurd my abuse of them became, and I was finally able to stamp out my last cigarette butt nearly two [now four] years ago.

Of course, by that time, I had gained an affinity for my dedicated little cells. In spite of how little credit we may give them for the hard work they do, or how poorly we may provide for them with our deficient diets and sedentary habits, they work like microscopic Oompa-Loompas, never stopping, even for a second, from birth until the moment of their last secretions, and some of them live as long as we do![6] Physically speaking, we are nothing more than the sum total of the absolute commitment of these indomitable self-replicating, self-diverging, self-organizing, self-monitoring and self-regulating beings. Their “constancy to purpose” is staggering and their rate of success is nearly perfect – far more perfect than any of us could ever hope for – as almost all of the one-hundred-trillion of them in each of our bodies are born, live and die without error, just as I believe they were designed to do.

And, so, when I pray these days, after first asking for God’s help in aligning my mind and heart with His,[7] but before moving on to my prayers for you and all of our Earthly cousins,[8] I ask Him to align each and every one of my one-hundred-trillion cells[9] that they might absorb as much as possible of His incoming energies of Light, Life and Love.[10] And, it never fails when I reach this point in my praying – and you may believe this or not, as you like – but that I can actually feel the rush of realignments passing through me. Then, since it is far beyond my ability to communicate on their level, I ask our Father (for whom all things are possible, after all) to please give each individual cell my thanks for the astonishing work it does solely for my benefit, whether that be giving me eyes to see or ears to hear, feet to walk, or hands capable of typing this sentence.

Over a Billion Years in the Making, and So Expensive!

Of course, thanks to science, we now know that what those two little cells do when they grow over nine short months into a fully-developed infant is but a rapid reflection of the process that began over a billion years ago with those initial single-celled living beings that inaugurated the great parade of Earthly life. The simplest known living cell – and presumed first living thing on earth – is called a prokaryote, and many scientists would have us believe that it simply sprang into life all by itself thanks to a fortuitous bolt of lightning, or some such, hitting exactly the right chemical compounds in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.

cross section of prokaryote cell

cross section of prokaryote cell

But truth be known, there is nothing even the least bit simple about a prokaryote, and for any such “spark” to truly work, a whole host of very specific and diverse elements would have had to assemble themselves, unaided, into outrageously complex structures – including DNA and three different kinds of RNA.[11] And, even if, by some stroke of outrageous fortune, all those little atoms did somehow line up in all the right sequences of sequences, what naturally occurring electrochemical phenomenon could possibly have happened to transform static chemicals into living, moving, eating, reproducing life capable of evolving into us? Does it not torture logic beyond reason to believe that such a spontaneous chain of events could ever have happened? I submit that, absent the hand of God, it could not have, and of all the arguments for believing in a living, loving Creator, this one, it seems to me, is the most compelling.

Rather, I see no other choice but to believe those little prokaryotes, or something very much like them, were purposely placed by some Heavenly agency into primordial wetlands over a billion years ago, were lovingly nurtured as they grew from single cells to chains of cells to multi-celled creations that, in turn, became larger and larger life forms, each new strain more complex, more startling, more capable than the last, until, in the end, one-hundred trillion cells strong, the first true humans walked upon the earth. In other words, for a billion years and more, I believe, our Father and His angels have nudged and cajoled us forward, ever looking toward the day when we might, ultimately, become that beautiful, worshipful family of man that was His original intention and of which we are all members.

Of course, the minute you actually accept all this as fact – once you grasp that God really did ordain and create the universe, including us – you begin to realize just how dearly we cost him; how enormously expensive in energy, time, space and love we are. Our Father must truly value us greatly to have expended so much creative wherewithal on our making. The old hymn prays, “Thou art the potter, I am the clay,” but what an ambitious and strikingly daunting task our potting would seem to be. How deeply He must care to have taken so much trouble that you and I might live and breathe. Life yearns for Love, Love requires Life, and God, as they say, is Love.

Every gardener knows how precious the life of each tiny emerging bud, every new leaf, becomes as it is watched impatiently, day after day, for even the least little signs of growth. Even though we know full well that, to quote Psalm 90, “In the evening it is cut down and witherith,” we nonetheless  cannot help but love the life we nourish, that comes from the seeds of our planting. It is irresistible. How much more dear then must we be to our Father who has tended this earthly garden over aeons, ever encouraging, ever nudging, ever sponsoring our progress from those single-celled swimmers of that original miry bog into fully-developed human children that we are, a people ultimately capable of transmitting even His very own energies through the love in our hearts and light of our eyes.

In other words, making people from scratch takes time and effort and, I would posit, lots of coordination by many celestial forces to accomplish. And, of course, this is just what is required for one planetary population; for one garden of material beings. As I have said before, it seems clear enough to me that God, not being wasteful, did not make all these billions of galaxies just to beautify the night sky. If you truly want to calculate the almost unimaginable costs of making a peopled universe, our mere billion years of growth on earth is but the last and least of the expenses our loving Father must have undertaken when He decided to populate His great expanse. Consider:

►The first expense would be matter, itself, is extraordinarily expensive. To explain simplistically without getting too much in the weeds, when you split atoms and get an atomic explosion, it’s because you have released all the energy that had been holding those atoms together in the first place. And that’s just the energy contained in a few atoms! Just think how much force is required just to hold together the atoms in a sheet of paper! (Much less to make a person. One approximation I found on PhysicsForum suggested there are 100,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in a single human cheek cell. That, multiplied by the 100 trillion cells estimated to exist in the body would come to 10-to-the-25th-power atoms just to build you, give or take a few.) Now, if even you could, multiply that up to the billions of beings on billions of planets – not to mention the planets, themselves – filling the far reaches of space and all of if made of atoms. The total energy required for such a creation is beyond mind-boggling and surely incalculable, yet you, and I, and this computer and all the rest of creation really does exist because God has expended all the energy necessary to hold it all together. Unfathomable doesn’t even begin to describe it.

►The second expense on the ledger would be all those radiant energies that must be brought to bear in our universe, both those recognized by physics – gravity, electromagnetic, strong and week atomic forces, etc. – as well as, I would add, all those radiant energy gifts of God – Life, Love, Light of Understanding as explained in my previous essay (the Flow of God) – that also require a constant outpouring across all of His great creation.

► Thirdly, if you believe, as I do, that He has also created the hosts of angels who are ever and always watching, recording, urging, and guiding us to find the light and grow into our best possible selves; to help us be both more aware of God’s love and more loving of Him in return, then those costs in spirit, time, space, education and supervision must also be considered. Of course, I can’t prove my angels – or yours – are truly there, but I believe they are, even as I believe they are yet another gift from our loving Father assuring that every last one of us is sponsored and supported in every moment of every day by a cast of remarkable spiritual guardians.

►Finally, as if all that wasn’t enough largess for Him to expend on our creation and care, our Father even sent the ultimate gift – in spite of the enormous risk – when He allowed His Creator Son to be incarnated as a human being to tread the sands of His own creation, learning to know His created children from the inside-out, even while giving to us His example of a Life Perfected, our very own Uncle Jesus.

Yet, in spite of all this Divine generosity, we are such ingrates! Given all the time, effort and cost required of our Father to make us who we are, and beyond that, to give us such a marvelous, beautiful world to populate, it is hard not to conclude that we are vastly under-appreciative and astonishingly cavalier in our utilization of the marvelous gifts He so constantly lays at our feet. You may not believe that everything the Father, Son and Mother Spirit have accomplished since that first Big Bang (we can call it that, however it all truly began) has been done specifically and expressly for the eventual emergence of material children like you and me, but I do. Once you have accepted the idea that God is infallible and thus we are truly God’s intended result, what other possible explanation could there be?

But Why?

Of course, this begs the obvious question: What makes us so special? If there really is a Father God and Mother Spirit, and they really did create worlds for people to populate over billions of years, really did eventuate hosts of unseen angels out of this thing called ‘spirit’ just to care for us, and ultimately went so far as to risk even our Creator Son, Jesus, allowing Him to be born as a defenseless infant, why? Why would He do that? What makes us so incredibly valuable? What could we possibly bring to the table that is so desirable? How could it be that the Heavenly accounting book actually balances?

Well, I believe that it is not only about Love, though it is surely that, it is also about experience. God delights in experience, and nothing pleases Him more, I believe, than to join with each of us – every last one of His material personalities – one at a time, as we lead our one-of-a-kind, individual lives. After all, if God is God, He can do that. Of course, He hopes that we will lead productive lives in preparation for an eternity of loving association with Him, but even when our actions may disappoint, or our choices reject His path, our experience is still His experience, and every life lived still adds another chain of doings to that which God the Supreme has done; to the sum total of His own meaning. God, I believe, wants to do every righteous thing there is to do, to be every beautiful, good and true thing there is to be, to join with each and every one of us as we live out our material, fractured, imperfect, even occasionally iniquitous, lives, but all the while speaking in our ears, hoping for the best, filling our dreams with beauty and goodness and rejoicing with us when we reach it.

And, He does all this, insists upon a partnership with His creatures because, being above and beyond the limitations of time and place Himself, it is not possible for the Totality of Our Father to live linearly, to slice up existence into little bits of experience, so we do it for Him even as He lives through us. Even the angels, who were created whole and nearly perfect – who lovingly descend to assist us even as we ascend with their help, in time, to the Father – cannot help Him experience anything new, anything unexpected, since He created them out of His own cloth. No, it takes a random, happenstance, higgledy-piggledy sort of evolution implanted across billions of worlds within billions of galaxies to truly cover the possibilities, to ever be generating something never before seen or done or even conceived. That is why, I believe, no two personalities are ever alike. We were made to be unique and creative, to deliver a life distinctly ours in every moment of every day, and that is what we unquestionably do. Whether for good or ill, for better or worse, we inevitably deliver upon the promise of our creation, just as He has designed us. And that, dear reader, is why He loves us so much, and why, even at such great expense, I believe that He would say the scales of our mutual gifts to each other ultimately balance out.

Uncut Diamonds

Did it ever strike you as strange-bordering-on-bizarre that the most iconic and beautiful material found in nature, the diamond, is also the hardest? I remember being astonished when I learned that in elementary school. It was hard to believe that something so seemingly delicate as the glassy ring on my mother’s slender finger was basically indestructible. But the secret to both the beauty and the strength of diamonds is found in their origin: the slow, intense burn under which they are born.

That any diamond was ever formed, given the difficult and rare conditions needed, is something of a miracle. Structurally, each one is a latticework that grows from a simple square of four carbon atoms that, first, must be bonded at depths of a hundred miles underground within a narrow range of very intense pressures (45-60 kilobars), and a narrow range of temperatures that are uncharacteristically low for that depth (900°-1300° C.). And, once all those conditions are met, it has to stay put, unmoving, to slow-cook for at least a billion years. Finally, after growing for all that time, if it just happens by some stroke of extraordinary fortune to be in the right place at the right time to be thrust up to the surface by a volcanic eruption at the right speed (at least 30 to 40 mph or it can turn to graphite),[13] it may actually, one day, become anything from the sharp end of a drill bit to the Hope Diamond.

But, of course, you’d most likely not even notice one if it was lying at your feet since, when they emerge, they are just common pebbles of no particularly interest to any but the well-trained eye. They come out uneven, knobby, occluded, dirty, and most of the time without any hint whatever of their astonishing qualities; of the beauty, clarity and light they carry within.

Well, like diamonds, it has taken a billion years or more to make human beings, and like diamonds, no two of us are ever alike, in spite of our common origins. And, I would submit, like diamonds, we are course around the edges and often filled with imperfections, but that is only natural given the rough and tumble way we are born, live and die on planet earth. However, even as the eagle-eyed rock-hound sees the potential within the stone that becomes the fancy diamond, our Father also sees the jewel that we have residing within, the beautiful soul that we have nurtured together knowing that possibly, one day – perhaps while still on the earth but more likely in the ever more spiritual levels of life to come – our rough edges would become polished, our occlusions be cut away, and we might, facet by facet, become perfected into the radiant realization of our Father’s original idea.

How can it be that we suffer both for taking ourselves too seriously, and, yet, not seriously enough? On the one hand, at best, this earth, this material plane, is naught but a seed bed, a place where our original two cells might join and grow into fully-developed beings, where each of our personalities may take root and gather understanding and strength for the eternal life to come. It is a place where we can find our way to walking and talking, smiling, even loving, but even the most wizened and ancient of us is still just a baby in time, a mere infant in the universal scheme of things. No one – especially a loving father – would punish a newborn for wetting his diaper, yet, even though we are no more than infants on the cosmic level, we are terrible at forgiving each other, and even worse at forgiving ourselves. Yes, we take ourselves, and especially our perceived transgressions, entirely too seriously.

On the other hand, we don’t even begin to take ourselves seriously enough. I’m not talking now about our earthly selves, but about our real selves, our child-of-God selves, for we truly are His diamonds in the rough, each a treasure-trove of eternal potentialities long nurtured and greatly beloved. We, you and I and all of our earthly cousins across seven continents, are the result of an extraordinary billion-year effort – a process of eventuating that began in the mud of Pangea – to make us exactly who we are! And, however rough and unformed we may judge ourselves to be, however dirty and flawed we may feel, I truly believe it is ever and only the one-of-a-kind precious gem, the eternal soul growing within each of us, that Our Father sees as He waits and watches, longing for us to answer His knock and respond to His love; waiting for us to finally emerge, in accordance with His divine design, as the beautiful ascending jewels of earth we truly are.

© 2016 by George Thomas Wilson. All rights reserved.

———
[1]“He remained an independent thinker throughout his life. Some years ago, one of his daughters presented him with a license plate bearing one of his favorite aphorisms: ‘Do the arithmetic or be doomed to talk nonsense.’”
— from the Oct. 25, 2011 New York Times obituary of John McCarthy, coiner of the term ‘Artificial Intelligence,’ (or “AI”) and one of the pioneers in its pursuit, who died on October 24, 2011 at the age of 84.
[2]There are widely varying theories on when the first humans appeared. Here’s one article: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/whoami/findoutmore/yourgenes/wheredidwecomefrom/whowerethefirsthumans.aspx
[3] https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-living-water-boson/ (first paragraph)
[4] https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-living-water-boson/ (fourth section, fourth paragraph)
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Hooke
[6] 2 Sep 2005, uncredited article in Times Higher Education, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/198208.article “Each kind of tissue has its own turnover time, related at least partially to the workload endured by its cells. Epidermic cells, forming the easily damaged skin of the body, are recycled every two weeks or so. Red blood cells, in constant motion on their journey through the circulatory system, last only 4 months. As for the liver, the human body’s detoxifier, its cells’ lives are quite short – an adult human liver cell has a turnover time of 300 to 500 days. Cells lining the surface of the gut, known by other methods to last for only five days, are among the shortest-lived in the whole body. Ignoring them, the average age of intestinal cells is 15.9 years, Dr Frisén found. Skeletal cells are a bit older than a decade and cells from the muscles of the ribs have an average age of 15.1 years. When looking into the brain cells, all of the samples taken from the visual cortex, the region responsible for processing sight, were as old as the subjects themselves, supporting the idea that these cells do not regenerate. ‘The reason these cells live so long is probably that they need to be wired in a very stable way,’ Frisén speculates. Other braincells are more short-lived. Dr Frisén found that the heart, as a whole, does generate new cells, but he has not yet measured the turnover rate of the heart’s muscle cells. And the average age of all the cells in an adult’s body may turn out to be as young as 7 to 10 years, according to him.”
[7]https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-living-water-boson/
[8] https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/uncle-jesus/
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_%28biology%29
[10] [10]https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-living-water-boson/
[11] http://www.dstoner.net/Math_Science/cell1.html
[12] https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-living-water-boson/ (part four)
[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond

© 2015 George Thomas Wilson, all rights reserved

Posted in Angels, belief, biology, cells, Death, diamonds, faith, God the Father, Higgs Boson, Higgs Field, Holy Spirit, Living Water, Love, particle physics, physics, prayer, quitting, quitting smoking, religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Flow of God: Third Annual Posting

Image of the galaxy M101 from NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer Photo: NASA

Image of the galaxy M101 from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, and NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer Photo: NASA

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God…”

– Revelation 22:1

This post is surely my most presumptuous, but perhaps the most important. It is perfectly possible that, by conflating pure physics and pure God and presuming to believe that not only do Einstein and his intellectual progeny have it right, but that our loving, personal God was the one and only Original Thinker who designed and built the physical realities these Nobel physicists are uncovering – tiny grain by tiny grain – I have over-thought and under-calculated. After all, who am I, an Alabama-born, New York marketing guy who has spent most of his career promoting magazines, to discuss – or even think about – such high-falutin’ ideas as these?

Nevertheless, taking courage in the fact that Einstein, himself, was a patent clerk when he made most of his discoveries, I persist because I do believe I’m onto something here, however unprovable it may be, and as it is nothing less than a new way to perceive and/or visualize the tangible Love of God and how He delivers it, I can hardly not continue to make my case. Thus, as promised, here is the third annual posting of my second foundational essay, previously called “Living Water Boson” but now renamed and reworked in the hope of making it more appealing and accessible.

If you have, by now, read “Uncle Jesus,” my inaugural essay, then you know that my journey of faith began as a five-year-old when my Sunday School teacher, Nelle Lethcoe, told me that Jesus just wanted to be my Friend, so I invited Him to join me and my two imaginary little-old-British-lady friends for our usual afternoon tea, and into my heart, where He has continued to grow organically, if you will, for the sixty years since. And however nebulous such an experience may seem to you, life itself has reinforced our constant bilateral commitment and association to the point of undeniability as everything I came to know about Jesus and his personality in those early years has been borne out by everything that has happened to me/with me/for me since. Can angels really appear in flowered hats? Does Jesus really live? Ineffable are the realities of faith, as they were meant to be, but J. K. Rowling got it right, I think, in that last pivotal dream conversation between Harry Potter and Dumbledore, when Harry asks his mentor, “Is this real, or is this all just happening inside my head?” and the Professor looks at him with love and replies, “Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why should that mean it’s not real?”

Are the Science…

First of all, I do not believe that only the earth has intelligent life in all this great universe. Rather, I believe there are millions of inhabited planets strewn across the substance of space, with millions of millions of material creatures, much like us, doing their best to get the most out of such a life and bringing delight to the eyes of our Heavenly Father. How can it be doubted that we live in a vigorously populated universe? I’m not sure how I first subscribed to this notion, but I have always believed that the great, wide night sky is teeming with life. Perhaps it was one of the lessons I learned during those afternoon tea parties.[1] Or, it is equally possible that I simply came to believe that the velvet of the midnight sky teems with life because it is the inescapably logical extension of a larger idea: that our fatherly God, while loving and generous, is never wasteful (after all, He recycles everything) and would not have expended such a wealth of matter and energy for aeons of time across infinite space just to give us meager earthlings, so very recently arrived and rarely deserving, a starry, starry night.

“Logical,” of course, is the operative word, for while I believe God is vastly/ immeasurably/infinitely smarter than all of us combined, even we who walk and talk on the material plane do eventually figure out that to act against reason is to live in a fool’s Paradise, and if the importance of “means, ends and consequences” is apparent to even the least of us, how much more clear it must be to God. He is not irrational, however inexplicable His designs may seem from our limited view, and He never operates on a whim, since to do so might imperil His beloved children, whose evolution, I believe, was His very motivation for creating our universe in the first place. And if God is God, then the physical logic – the science – of the reality He created must, perforce, flow from Him just as surely as the joy to be found in a moving hymn or the inspiration in a sunset. In other words, the operating, actual rules of physics must also, by definition, be the actual rules of God, Himself. And if this is true, then those like me, who profess belief in Him, do our followers – and truth – a profound disservice when we dismiss demonstrated physical reality just because it conflicts with some long-held dogma or doctrine, however venerated that teaching may be. “Though science courses from the Source//Who spawned, as well, the spirit//The Source cannot be proven//So, they socialize over coffee//And miss the point.”[2]

Nevertheless, it is a rare thing, indeed, to find science contemplating the nature of God, so it was particularly refreshing a few years back when the popular media started talking about the “God particle,” also known as the Higgs Boson (though, for the sake of balance, I

Artist's rendering of the Higgs Field.

Artist’s rendering of the Higgs Field.

should here note that many scientists loudly poo-pooed the designation.[3]) Now, please allow me, for just a moment, to get into the weeds of this: the “Higgs Boson” is a “flash in the pan” sort of impossibly small particle that, in and of itself, is not all that important, but the fact that it exists, as was recently proven in the Large Hadron Collider, does matter because it proves that something infinitely greater, the “Higgs Field,” is no longer just a theory, but something real. Described as a vast circular skirt (or “sombrero,” since the scientific models show a big bulge in its center) of energy particles/waves that stretches from the very center-point of the whole mass of God’s created universe out to its very edges, the Higgs Field is a never-ending Mexican Hat Dance of universal ripples gliding inexorably across the entirety of space.

and the Spirit…

Now, having said all that, allow me to shift the light from science to spirit for a moment and consider something that might, at first, seem entirely unrelated: the oft repeated idea of “living water,” or the “water of life,” which is surely one of the most cryptic and mysterious concepts in the Bible. According to the site Openbible.info, there are twenty-nine scripture verses about “living water” and exactly one-hundred about the “water of life.”[4] Isaiah,[5] Jeremiah,[6] and Zechariah[7] all mention “living waters” in some form or another, the book of Revelation is overflowing with citations,[8] and perhaps the most famous Biblical reference of all is found in the story of Jesus and the “woman at the well,” when He, having no dipper of His own, asks her for a drink and then uses the opportunity to invite her to partake of the living water “and never be thirsty again.”[9] But, all that said and for all the mentions in our sacred writings, none of these writers actually define it. What, exactly, are all these people talking about? Just what on earth is this living water, anyway, and how the heck do we get some?

I suppose almost all of us with any introduction to Scripture have asked ourselves this question at one time or another, but probably not for very long since, this side of unwieldy theological dissertations, there is very little to go on. Many writers speak of it in vague generalities, but none explains it in any tangible way. To be honest, I never really gave the idea much thought, myself, until I backed into it when – just like my Uncle Jesus epiphany – it grew out of my ever-evolving daily prayers.

If you happened to read my “Uncle Jesus” post, you are already familiar with the part of my prayer that seeks to embrace all of our neighbors – from the neighborhood to the city to the world – having proved to my own satisfaction that it is a near mathematical certainty that nearly everyone on earth is much more related than we think – indeed, literal cousins – and more than that, that Jesus, himself, is equally certain to be our mutual great-uncle (going back about 62 generations).[10] But, this part of my prayer only comes near the end, after I have spent considerable time doing my best to align my personal, conscious will with His. In concert with my angels and to the best of my ability, I have settled over time on a sequence of thoughts and phrases that help me to attune my mindal wavelengths to His; to open my perceptions and align my motivations right down to the least whim with the will of God, until the love between us flows unimpeded in a joyful circle. Even Jesus began with “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done….”

So, I begin simply with a thank you to our Heavenly Father – whom I perceive to be both at the center of all things (“In the center of the center of the Universe//At the centerpoint of space and time//Sits the source of the course of the Universe//The Supreme, the All Wise, the Sublime.”), as well as within my heart – for the day ahead and all the opportunities and challenges it contains. Then, I ask Him to please accompany my angels and me as we go from “moment to moment and place to place, task to task and person to person,” that whatever we may choose to be, do, say, or write is in accordance with His desire; that every joule of energy we may expend is spent as He would have it. Then – and this is where, for me, at least, the science and spirit begin to merge – I ask for His help in aligning myself as perfectly as possible with the steady flow of His living water, that I might drink deeply from those energizing gifts of the spirit He sends so very far, even to our little orb of jewel-encrusted iron spinning so silently through space, isolated, idiosyncratic, but never alone.

…Two Sides of the Same Sombrero?

Now, theoretical physicists tell us that without the Higgs Field there would be no material reality at all, and that would be that; that those invisible spokes of radiating energy are the foundational warp through which the weft of coordinate forces are woven into the fabric of time and space. In other words, to go back to our earlier analogy, if those ripples weren’t constantly conducting the energy of creation on its journey outward, all of it – every star, every planet, everything down to the last atom of hydrogen – would simply cease to be. But, that said, and however true that may be, I think the physicists are underselling their idea. They’ve discovered our Father’s transport, but neglected His cargo, for this phenomenon – this flow from the very heart of God to each and every person made in His image (i.e., as He imagined) – carries with it so much more, I believe, than mere being. Rather, it arrives filled to the brim with inestimable gifts pouring ever and always out upon us, even from today unto that day long hence when we, having finally followed His generous flow all the way back to its Origin, to the Center of the Center, may find ourselves standing in awe before the very Source, Himself, to sing His praise and respond in kind to His constant, omnipresent love of us and all creation.

Just to make it perfectly clear, what I’m proposing here is that both the “matterizing” Higgs Field and that mysterious Biblical “living water” are actually the same phenomenon, merely seen through the lenses of different disciplines and different times, requiring different words to have meaning. After all, even if you were a Son of God who completely understood the science behind these concepts while living as an itinerant prophet in First Century Palestine, how would you even being to explain it to your flock without any common vocabulary of physics? Given His situation, the “living water” description is about as accurate as He could be. How else could He have described it, if His goal was to assure His followers that the love of the Father is always engaged, and the more we are able to align with it – the more we can drink in of His largesse – the more we will be able to utilize the gifts He so generously and constantly delivers?

But what, really, does this living water do? How are we affected as it flows through and around us? As I have prayed my prayers over the years, consciously striving to align myself with the Father, His mind, and His flow the better to absorb it, I have also gained an ever-growing appreciation of, at least, how I see these treasures. Consequently, while it is possible that there are more of them that I have yet to unwrap, I am settled in my personal belief that our Father has graced us with at least seven identifiable gifts, invaluable life forces to help us along. Christ asks the impossible: “Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”[11] But then He makes it at least nearly possible through these endowments that may, when fully embraced, expand our awareness a hundredfold – even a hundred times a hundredfold – thereby transforming and multiplying our otherwise merely animalistic potential into something much, much greater for our long journey ahead.

Our Doting Granddaddy God

If Jesus is truly our flesh-and-blood Uncle and, according to both of them, God is His Father (if you include that voice heard overhead when Jesus was baptized[12]), then the Source in the Center must also, by definition, be our Heavenly Grandfather, and, like all grandparents everywhere, Granddaddy God is overly generous, especially considering what an unappreciative, even unnoticing, crop of offspring we truly are. Nevertheless, our Father is Mercy, Itself – He who forgives and forgets, apparently – and we are the clear recipients of His never-ending magnanimity; his constant flow laden with gifts for His beloved grandchildren everywhere.

As I have come to clarify my understanding in each of these gifts over time, they have fallen, really, into two groups of three, plus a bonus that arises naturally from the first six. The first three are gifts of energy, and are absolutely necessary for the lives we lead: The energies of Love, Light and Life. The next three are gifts of discernment and must be gifts from the Heart of God since we could live perfectly successfully without them – biologically speaking – but not nearly as well: Our otherwise inexplicable discernments of Beauty, Goodness and Truth. Because, I presume, He wished His children to share the wonder of His vast, utterly magnificent universe – the stunning results of His astonishing artistry – He has given us the means to do so. And, the seventh? That would be a marvelous gift arising naturally from the fruits of the first six: The gift of Hope, a loving grace note adroitly placed to complete our Father’s grand embrace of every single person.

And, all of these gifts have one extraordinary quality in common: each is universally accepted as something real by everyone – even the most cynical of philosophers – but none has any provable origin. These seven gifts of God exist simply because He said so, and I believe He said so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Let us take them one by one:

The first, of course, is the energy we call Love. Now, you may not think of love as a form of energy, but, if so, you have forgotten your youth. Surely one is never more fulsome than when first flung into the throes of love. And as for the Love of God, well, that must surely predate all except God, Himself even before the “Alpha” since it is the only conceivable reason for building the Universe in the first place. You might even say the big bang was actually God’s own Love in action, and the miracle of the Love that even now continues to ride, astride His open arms, is the ability it gives Him to hold each and every one of us in His heart, one-by-one and One-on-one. “Were there not Love//Would be no fear//For there would be nothing to lose,//Would be no hope//For there would be nothing to gain,//Would be no life//For there would be no reason.”[13]

The second gift of energy riding the Father’s waves is Light, itself: physical, mental, emotional and, most mysteriously of all, the Light of Spirit. And, when I use the word “Light,” I mean it in all of its usual connotations (it is a word of many purposes). Of course, all actual light and “energies” of space (strong and weak atomic forces, gravity, the great spectrum of light energies that includes our visible light but also a great deal more) would require the Higgs Field/living water to exist in any case, but the Light of Divine flow “that passes understanding,” for those of us who believe, is also included in my definition; the alluring, consoling, protecting, adjusting, rewarding, distinctive Light of the Holy Spirit with hosts of angels under Her command.

And, the third of the energy gifts is that riddle called Life. Of course, if there were no bosons, and thus, no matter, then neither would there be any living thing. But even if the atoms and molecules required for life could somehow be assembled, I submit – in spite of recent claims to the contrary by overly optimistic biologists – that without the touch of God, the assemblage would simply sit, inert. The Love of God requires us, the Light of God illumines us, and the breath of God gives us Life.

But, even as beautifully, lovingly created as we are, without the next three gifts – those of discernment – almost all of creation’s blessings would tragically pass us by, utterly unnoticed. Truly the keys to life well lived, the discernment of Beauty, Goodness and Truth are capacities that I presume to have come from God since I can conceive of no other possible source. Consider: it contributes nothing to our evolutionary success to be awed by the Beauty of a dragonfly or transported by the colors of a sunrise, and yet we are. Goodness? Find me any other species in all the great array of nature’s diversity that has ever even approached the ideas of “right” and “wrong” – the “knowledge of good and evil” – and yet we are consumed by such judgments from birth until our very last breath. And, Truth? Well, we could discuss the “truth of Truth” forever, but no one can deny the healthy instinct that resides within each of us for telling truth from falsehood: the Spirit of Truth.

No, our appreciation of Beauty, delight in Goodness and awareness of Truth are discernments that must have come from somewhere, but they didn’t arise organically. Nature cannot account for them, only Heavenly nurture. No other beings throughout the entire history of the planet have even come close to conceiving of such things, much less attaining the levels of perception necessary to inspire the building of great museums to beauty, temples to goodness or tribunals for truth, and yet, by God’s own Grace, we, His grandchildren, have done these things.

Finally, the seventh gift of the flow of the Father is a special one because it is not carried across the universe on waves of living water like the other six, but springs naturally, unbidden, from the human heart in response to God’s constant flow: the gift of Hope. For – at least it seems to me – even the most destitute, downtrodden or abased of us, once attuned to the Father’s Love, Light, Life, Beauty, Goodness and Truth, cannot fail to find Hope there, as well. Who could remain discouraged when showered in a constant stream with such rich and wondrous treasures? Hope is the bridge that carries us safely over life’s deadly chasms, the light at the end of every tunnel, and our never-failing spiritual salve, always at the ready to embrace us with its assuaging power, to lift us up and carry us forward past the inevitable disappointments of a material life. And, I believe, the living waters of the Father are the fount of all hope.

I could, of course, be entirely wrong about all of this; simplistic and presumptuous in my analysis of the science of all these things, and I expect our cousin Dan, who actually studied with Dr. Higgs, will let me know if I’ve somehow slipped past the truth of things, but even if the Nobel Laureate’s ideas – the Higgs Field and Higgs Boson – have nothing whatever to do with the Father’s love, there is still that Biblical “living water” to account for, and however they may be borne from the Father’s heart to ours, I believe the gifts I have described are delivered on the wings of that flow.

Tools of Crystal

To receive such beautiful gifts from God, it goes without saying, is to be inspired to share them – which, after all, is why I am doing all this writing in the first place – so, once my daily prayer for alignment has harmonized my will with His as much as I can manage, I do ask for three additional gifts before moving on to the rest of my prayer: a trio of crystal tools to help me share God’s grace with as many others as possible; to help me, as best I am able, multiply the fruits of His gifts.

First, I ask for metaphorical mirrors – mirrors of all shapes and sizes – to reflect out the Light, Life, Love, Beauty, Goodness, Truth and Hope in as many directions as possible, to as many people as possible, as much of the time as possible.

Secondly, I ask for metaphorical lenses to gather the light and focus it into dark corners where evil lurks, ignorance festers, fears form and shadows linger, as well as to spotlight Beauty, Goodness and Truth wherever I may find it.

And thirdly, I ask for metaphorical prisms to unfold the light, for nothing more perfectly demonstrates our Father’s love of beauty than the rich, velvety jewel colors of His unfolded light; the rainbow of His designing; a million colors in the Divine spectrum provided for all of us. And, I put it to you that, once such beauty has been seen and appreciated by His children – has delivered a foretaste of the infinite possibilities residing in His Heavenly paintbox – the gentle pull of such a Divine Designer, Caring Maker, Generous Host, and Loving Father is well-nigh irresistible.

Prayer, as I said above, is really an attempt, for me at least, to align my mind with God’s, to do my best to see and follow the path He has placed before me that I might become the me He would have me be. And so I begin every day by asking to be optimized in His flow – that very living water of which Jesus spoke to the woman at the well – the better to see and understand His desires. Then, fully aligned and equipped, I turn my supplications to the causes of the Mother Spirit, the needs of others, and the issues of the day. But, dear cousins, that part of the story will have to wait until the next and last of this unintended series exploring my daily prayers, when we will also consider the unavoidable question: What is He thinking?!? How could we humans – frail, foolish and corruptible as we are – possibly be worthy of so much Divine attention?

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for sharing your time with me, and may our Father be with us as we continue to seek and follow His will as best we can.

GTW

March 7, 2014; revised March 12, 2016

© 2016 by George Thomas Wilson, all rights reserved

[1] https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/uncle-jesus/ , the Second Thread, paragraph 6.

[2] https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/wet-weathered-sunday/ fourth verse.

[3] The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? by Leon M. Lederman, Dick Teresi (ISBN 0-385-31211-3)

[4] http://www.openbible.info/topics/water_of_life

[5] Isaiah 58: “10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things,and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”

[6] Jeremiah 2: “12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that cn hold no water.”

[7] Zechariah 13: “1 On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.”

[8] Revelation 22:1 (epigraph); 21:6: “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”; 7: 17: “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

[9] Gospel of John 4: 1-15: “Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ 11 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?’ 13 Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ 15 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.’”

[10] https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/uncle-jesus/, the First Thread

[11] Matthew 5:48, King James Version

[12] Matthew 3:13: “13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ 15 But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; 17 and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” Revised Standard Version

[13] https://inpraiseofangels.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/love-notes

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