Both Sides Now

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all”  

-lines from Both Sides Now, written by Joni Mitchell, song by Judy Collins 

In a recent blog, I advanced the idea that the Romantic and the cynic are one and the same. The lofty, effervescent thoughts, “powerful feelings recollected in tranquility” become shattered when reality sets in. 

Lord Byron, a Romantic poet, seemed to worship nature but hated humanity, as reflected in the following lines:  

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
   There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
   There is society where none intrudes,
   By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
   I love not Man the less, but Nature more,                                                                                                              From these our interviews, in which I steal 
   From all I may be, or have been before, 
   To mingle with the Universe, and feel 
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal. 
   Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean–roll! 
   Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; 
   Man marks the earth with ruin–his control 
   Stops with the shore;–upon the watery plain                                                                                                          The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
   A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own, 

The love of nature leads to the love of humanity, says the Romantics. Byron’s poem states that he loves man less but nature more. He believes that inanimate objects are what hold people together. Wrong! 

Another poet, George Herbert wrote in a poem “For if I should,” said he(God),

“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,

He would adore my gifts instead of me,

And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;

So both should losers be. “ 

Resting in nature is exactly what the Romantics do! 

Lord Byron correctly believes that humans have made a mess of things. But where he is wrong is that by worshipping nature, things will be made right. 

Humans fell in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed. But God sent His only son, Jesus to save humanity and to restore people to the way He made them. 

It’s Jesus who brings people together. 

There are two basic commands in the Bible: 

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 

Love of God, not His gifts, leads to love of humans.   

As a recovering Romantic, I’ve looked at both sides now, where to just say “I love you” right out loud, with no basis become just an illusion of love and the relationship faltered. As a recovering Romantic, I’ve looked at both sides now, where to just say “I love you” right out loud, with no basis become just an illusion of love and the relationship faltered. As a recovering Romantic, I’ve looked at both sides now, where to just say “I love you” right out loud, with no basis for that emotion, but now need something real, like commitment or compassion, to drive it. I’ve been spending time with a special person and have been trying to reflect God to bring us closer together.  

Come Out of The Pit of Despair

Denial is the first obstacle to overcome when you have an addiction or other life destroying problem. You can’t proceed in getting your life back in order without admitting you have a problem. You can end up ruining your life and finding nothing but darkness.

After the holidays, at the Celebrate Recovery program I’ve been attending we started from the beginning of the 12 Steps and discussed denial, which, as the book we’re using states, is not just a river in Egypt.

Getting started. Step one:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. 

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18 

When addictions and compulsive behavior, we lose control and go on a downward spiral and eventually into the pit of despair.

Recently, a friend pointed out that people who aren’t on drugs can be as “sick” as people who are abusing drugs. I would use “sick” to describe people with problems as sick only in a metaphorical sense. When people are upset, frantic, they can make themselves physically sick.

I know what it’s like to be in a dark place, to feel isolated from the rest of the world – that nobody cares, that I don’t matter. Romantics (I’m a recovering Romantic) eventually get hit with the harsh realities of life, and become cynical. They are two sides of the coin. This is the case shown in lines from the Romantic poet Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean — roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin — his control
Stops with the shore; — upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

A nerd who lived across the street from me said that when you are in a blackhole, you travel so fast, much faster than the speed of light, that you don’t realize you are traveling. I’ve been there. I kept engaging in impulsive, sinful behavior, full speed ahead. I road over speed bumps, tore right through them. Nothing to put me in check. I didn’t listen to any counsel, not the pastor, not my parents, not my daughter, nobody!

Finally, I fell into the pit, the pit of despair.

What is depression?

feelings of severe despondency and dejection.

Self-doubt creeks in and that swiftly turns to depression.” -Bing

We don’t need to doubt ourselves. For the Christian, there is a loving God who accepts us for who we are. When we follow His precepts, God prospers us. And Jesus is with us always, though our good and bad times, and even when we are bad, God loves us. He just doesn’t like what we are doing.

King David fell into the pit of despair.  After feeling depressed David, as a result of committing adultery, writes “Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long?” Psalm 6: 2-3

But David confessed his sin and God delivered him: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”  Psalm 40:2

Depression is driven by a state of mind. It can’t be treated by drugs. You may feel better for the moment, but in the long run drugs make it worse because you are not dealing with the sin, as David did, that caused it. The only reason for drugs is to temporarily relieve symptoms or if you are treating a physical problem, and not a matter of the heart. Only Jesus can heal your heart.

500 Miles from Home

“If you miss the train I’m on, you will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles,
A hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles,
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.
Lord I’m one, Lord I’m two, Lord I’m three, Lord I’m four,
Lord I’m 500 miles from my home.
500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles
Lord I’m five hundred miles from my home.”

-Lyrics from 500 Miles, sung by Peter, Paul & Mary

Every time I see the car ad where a couple drives alongside a freight train and the woman daydreams about hopping the train and going wherever the tracks take them, I shake my head. She pictures herself in a boxcar. Her dog approaches and she pats the dog and soon her husband approaches. The vision jumps to the three of them sitting by the boxcar door.

What a romantic view of the world! As a recovering Romantic, I see this fantasy as silly, asinine!

During the Great Depression, people didn’t ride trains without a destination in mind because of a romantic notion. Like today’s homeless in places such as Bucks County, PA, who scout out a place to sleep, people hopped trains out of necessity.

Dreaming about hopping trains or even just, as I did as a teenager, hopping a train for a short distance, is a far cry from the reality of what the hobos went through during the depression. Just past a nursery that abutted my backyard where I grew up were train tracks. Two were for electric freight trains, and ran fast, and one was an old diesel Reading freight line, that ran slowly. On one occasion when I hopped the Reading, it suddenly started speeding up. I thought it might slow down but it kept picking up speed. I jumped, and I partly braced myself with a hand that landed on a sharp rock. I still have a trace of the scar it left.

I got off a lot easier than some of the hobos who hopped trains during the depression. Sometimes they missed and lost legs and sometimes even died! The railroads, much of which were paid for by taxpayers, hired bulls to go after the hobos, who would arrest them and beat them. This is a little like the way today’s homeless are treated when they camp out on public or private land because they have nowhere to go. During the depression, sometimes the bulls killed hobos.

Hobos would hop trains in search of work wherever they could find it, often hundreds of miles away.

Along the way, benevolent farmers who were still in business fed the hungry hobos.

Many of the hobos were farmers whose farms folded, in large part due to President FDR’s New Raw Deal, which as I illustrated in earlier blogs, favored the fat cats and hurt the average Joe. Likewise, today’s progressives, such as President BO and Shrillery-Killery and Slick Willy Clinton, contribute to homelessness. As I said in a blog awhile back, fight homelessness; don’t vote for progressives.

Today, many people don’t understand the homeless and even view them in a Romantic way. Although they may romanticize about them, they want to keep them at bay.

A term used informally today, hobophobia, the irrational fear of the homeless, is derived from hobos, the forerunners of today’s homeless.

Just as benevolent farmers shared their food with the hobos during the Great Depression, charitable people today feed, clothe, and minister to the homeless. In Bucks County, well intentioned people who want to provide much needed shelter for the homeless are derailed by hobophobic government bureaucrats.

Not all the homeless are gypsies, tramps and thieves… Many are there because of circumstances similar to that of the Great Depression.

Where do we go from here? 

The homeless could develop PMS (poor me syndrome). Or they could make the best of their situation and persevere and move forward. Encouragement, which Christians have been giving them, is something the homeless need a lot of.

I just read on pastor and Christian counselor Jay Adam’s website where he discussed the role of sin in one’s mental well being. Dr. Adams explained that not all problems are a direct result of one’s sin, which was the case with Job. However, the way one deals with a bad deck one is handed is what counts. As in the case of Job, bad things happen for a reason. Job came to realize that, obeyed and glorified God and things turned out all right in the end.

You don’t resolve problems by hugging trees or by dancing with the daffodils! You do so by going to God.

“Who provides for the raven its prey,
when its young ones cry to God for help,
and wander about for lack of food?”

-Job 38:41

We’re So Glad You’re Here

We’re so glad you’re here

We’re so glad you’re here

We’re so glad you’re here

In Jesus name…

— song sung by St. Mark AME Zion Church to greet visitors

Unlike politicians who say they are there to help the homeless in Bucks County, PA, the people at St. Mark really mean that they are glad people are there. And they take to heart that it is Jesus who empowers them to love their neighbor as themselves.

At the Sunday community meals for the homeless, whom St. Mark calls “friends without walls”, the guests really seem to feel at home. They feel comfortable taking with their hosts as well as each other just about anything, including problems they are facing.

At the last community meal at St. Mark, one of the guests decided to follow suit when one of the hosts was quietly playing an electric guitar. He started playing an acoustical guitar and singing songs, including a heart felt rendition of Amazing Grace. The hosts and other guests joined in.

This is the way it should be! The atmosphere was upbeat and comforting.

Most of the other community meal hosts reach out to make their guests feels at home. It’s not the case like Jeff Dunham’s Walter as a Walmart greeter:

“Welcome to Walmart; get your sh** and get out!”

Throughout Bucks County, the homeless feel unwanted, even hated. At this community meal, I overheard one guest remark “Newtown doesn’t like us.” But this church, an oasis in the desert of hobophobia in Bucks County, loves them unconditionally.

It is God who builds bridges between people and fosters brotherly and sisterly love. Karl Marx, co-author of the Communist Manifesto wrote that capitalism alienates people from one another, under which “the only nexus between man and man is callous cash payment.” Wrong!

The Romantics of the late 18th and early 19th century believed that nature and lofty thoughts bring people together. The thought “the love of nature leads to the love of man”. As a recovering Romantic, I understand the emptiness of this line of thinking. “Holy cognitive therapy, Batman!”

The beauty of nature, God’s handiwork, certainly comforts us and I for one, appreciate it. It is a gift from God.

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.

Psalm 19, 1-6

The problem with the nature freaks, as in the line in George Herbert’s poem The Pulley, is that “Man will worship my gifts instead of me (God).”

I can’t see the Bucks County Rangers standing outside of the woods where the homeless live, gathering together like Christmas carolers singing

“We’re so glad you’re here

We’re so glad you’re here…”

Maybe they would do this for the homeless (feral) cats who live in the gated community in the woods across from the homeless shelter in Levittown.

Of course, except for a particular rogue ranger, known as Ranger Dick, aka Officer Fife, the rangers are only carrying out the callous, asinine policy of the Bucks County Government. One ranger even goes against the grain, not accepting the cop out that he’s “just doing his duty.” He has a heart, questioning “where are these people going to go?”

Good question!

Walt Disney’s Jiminy Cricket said “let your conscience be your guide.” It’s God through the holy spirit who gives us the ability to tell right from wrong. The church needs to continue to influence society.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

2 Corinthians 5:20