Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Devil or Angel



Sunday, March 24, 2002
Isn’t that the way it always goes? Most mornings I would be sitting at my computer, gazing at the monitor screen with this blank look on my face, trying to come up with something to write about. Sunday morning however, it’s almost time to head out to Sunday School and Church and there is a flash of awareness and inspiration comes flooding in.

It was only one sentence to begin with; a phrase that rang familiar to me. “Doing what comes naturally.”  It has been my experience that true inspiration has a way of rapidly growing if one can focus. I digested that phrase as I made my way along the back roads I travel each Sunday morning. By the time I pulled into the parking lot and found a spot, I was running over with thoughts on the subject. I had to put it on the back burner then or I couldn’t have gotten anything out of the class or the service. I’m glad I was successful this time because I needed to be alert and receptive to the inspiration of others. If I hadn’t been I would have missed out on several blessings.

Have you ever wondered what a true wild child would turn out to be like?  There have been several myths spread about through the centuries about human babies reared by wild animals. I have trouble trying to visualize such a totally unrestrained, liberated being.

Perhaps you’ve never given it a lot of thought, but it seems to me that from the first breath a new human being takes in this world, someone or something is trying to control its behavior, restrain its natural wildness, or redirect natural motivations and desires. It gives me cause to wonder what the human race would have become if we had no drive to be social creatures and only did what came naturally to us.

The Bible speaks of such a time, when all men lived by their own conscience.  I agree with the picture that the words found there paint on the canvas of my mind. Some learned men speak of evolution and how it affects all life on earth. For some reason I doubt that the civilizations that exist today anyone could accurately describe as natural results. The creature known as man is always under the influence of one force or another. It’s only in that controlled state that humans can be tolerable to one another long enough to unite and work as a group toward a single goal. We chuckle when we see a cartoon depicting a caveman with club in hand dragging a female into his cave. I don’t think that image is all that far fetched.

Jim said in class this morning that one of the things he likes about the way I write in my journal is that one day I can write sweet, comforting words. Honey drips from my fingertips as I type and then, the next day, I am ranting and raving about something. I believe I do things like that because I AM a free spirit and there are times when I simply do what comes naturally to all of us, no guile, no pretense, just complete, honest behavior. You will have to admit...I’m not boring all the time. I don’t use a cookie cutter when I compose my entries. I go with the flow of life as it is for me at that moment in time. Call it wild abandon if you will. I’ll not be offended, for that is the real me. Sometimes I’m NOT in control of every aspect of my life or personality. But I can honestly say, I don’t recall a time when I was totally out of control. I probably wouldn’t like myself at all if that were my state at any time. OH! There were times when I was very close to losing IT. I don’t know what kept me in check but I’m glad that it was there and able to garner some portion of control over my natural desires and tendencies.

How marvelously were we created. That’s right...”CREATED” not evolved.  I believe there was a reason that God waited and created man at the very last. It’s almost like He took what was the best and the worse of all His other creatures and added just a minute portion of Himself into the mix. He didn’t say “Let me make man in MY image.” What is written there in Genesis tells us that He said “Let US make man in OUR image.”  Don’t you wish you knew for sure whom it was He was talking to?  There are some that believe they have figured it out. Well, I for one am not so sure that they have.   

There was a song written back in the 50’s called “Devil or Angel.” I think that songwriter may have been a Bible scholar at one time. If you know the song...think about the words.



Monday, March 25, 2002

I dedicate this entry to Monique, for it was she who was the catalyst that brought me to think on a subject I had not thought about for over six years.  She and I discussed what it means to be pro/con Unions. I did my best to express my personal views about the relationship between corporations and unions. I hope she was not offended by my words.

Working in business management for the majority of my career did not mean that I had no experience with belonging to a union. I have belonged to several and to myself they were just another hand in my empty pocket. I walked picket duty with an eight months pregnant wife whom I was fearful of leaving at home by herself. That was before the days of cellphones. She had no way of contacting me if she needed me.

I believe we were out on the picket lines for at least five weeks. Five weeks with little or nothing coming in to support us. I think we realized an increase of six cents per hour from that strike. Later I sat down to figure out how long we would need to work before that six cents amounted to the sum total of all the income we lost over that period of time. For the Union it was a very small victory. For we members it was a considerable loss. We gained two dollars and forty cents before taxes every forty hour week because of that sacrifice. A rough calculation told me we would need to work ten years to recover what had been lost.

I thought about the fact that it was a “closed shop”...in other words you couldn’t work there unless you joined the union. I never could find understanding for that excluding set of circumstances. I also noticed that it was impossible for management to give a deserving employee a raise. The union simply could not permit it. I soon discovered that the union had more rules that blocked any person from being promoted in the classification which they held. There were classifications and pay rates that were achieved over a specified period of time. If someone was ambitious and wanted to earn more, their only option was to learn and qualify for a new, higher paying classification and one could only do that if it was determined that there was a need for another person of such classification.

Later, I was asked to take a position with company management as a shop foreman. It was then that I got some true insight into just how restrictive the union was for a hard working man. As a result, there was no incentive for any man to perform above any other man in his classification. No matter what a foreman thought of any man’s job performance, there was nothing that foreman could do to reward that man in a meaningful way. Taking a man aside and telling him that his efforts had been noticed and were greatly appreciated did little to put more money in his pocket. I knew it meant something to them in other ways though. It was the best I could do as a supervisor but to myself it seemed like much too little. I had to stand by and watch a highly skilled man who had such great integrity and such a strong work ethic realize nothing as a reward for his considerable dedication to his work.

Some individuals took a lot of pride in their work...others could care less. They would do just enough to keep from being disciplined or “written up” and draw the same pay as another man who did a good days work. I’ve seen those circumstances bring a good man down. What’s the use in working hard?  It’s not going to gain you a thing and soon everyone was producing at the level of the person who produced the minimal amount of production.
The only thing I could do for my best worker was to see to it that he had the best of everything the company provided in the way of tools and helpers. If there was anything they needed and I could have influence toward them getting it, that’s what I did.

I will admit, I probably violated some of the company’s basic views about how supervision should interact with shop employees. Over the years, some of the men who worked under my supervision became more like family than hired help. They respected me and I respected them. Many of them did not need any immediate supervision. I could give them their day’s work assignments first thing in the morning and know that they would get it done by the end of the day. If they had a problem concerning their jobs or a question that would help them do it better, I made sure they got solutions and answers. If I couldn’t provide them I would find someone who could. They scratched my back and I scratched theirs.

I made it a point to get to know my men and what was important to them. I knew their wife’s name and the names of their children. I was genuinely concerned if one of them was sick or injured. Often I would call them from my home phone after hours finding out if there was anything I could for them and how they were progressing.

I took great pleasure in watching a highly skilled man do his job. It was a treat for me. They were like artists with welding stingers and heavy hammers. I recalled when I was right there working along side them. They were always willing to help someone learn a skill he didn’t possess but wanted to learn. When I first started with the company, I probably wouldn’t have made it if some of the men on the floor hadn’t helped me get over the difficult stuff. I was a quick study and they didn’t mind a bit helping someone who got it on the first go around. It wasn’t long before I was showing them a thing or two.

It has been six years since I left that job. Wouldn’t you think I would have forgotten most of those men?  I haven’t been back there since but I will be the first to admit...I miss most of them. There was one or two men I will never forget. They were truly special individuals. Rick Lyons...where are you brother? Talk about a diamond in the rough. Young, strong and eager to learn, so enthusiastic and hard working. Some of the others thought Rick was a little “slow.” Yeah! I saw them making fun of him at times, mocking him, whispering under their breath about him falling off the turnip truck and still having hayseed in his hair. He was worth a half dozen average men. Sure! I had to tell him more than once what I expected of him but when it was done, I didn’t have to go looking for him. He was right there, Johnny on the spot, with a smile on his face and a “What now Boss!”  I didn’t mind spending extra time with him. Anything I knew and could teach him I was more than willing to do. I could tell; he really appreciated it. He was never offended if I found something that he did wrong in his work. His attitude was “just show me what I did wrong and how to do it right and it won’t happen again.” I could always tell when I had done a good job training an employee. It was obvious when the other supervisors tried to get him away from me and into their department. They knew a good man when they saw him too.

When the company found it necessary to downsize their staff and I lost my job as a result, several of those special men called me at my home afterwards. Their words meant more to me than they will ever know. A couple called just to apologize for giving me such a hard time while working under me. They admitted, I had done nothing to deserve such treatment. 

I heard via the grapevine that the company has gone downhill rapidly over the last few years. Those who saw fit to do away with my job have found their own positions done away with. I do not feel sorry for them, it is the men in the shop who were the real company that I worried about these passing years. I wonder what they are doing now? I hope things have worked out well for them. I wonder if they found work in another union shop?

When I consider the amount of time I spent with some of the fellows at work over the 23 years that I worked in that shop, I think I spent more time with them than I did with my siblings as I was growing up. Is it any wonder that they seemed more like brothers to me than anything else?

Wednesday, March 27th

Ah! Wednesday..."Hump Day" as it's known by some. We have all worked hard climbing to the pinacle of the work-week and it's all downhill from here. I'm so proud of all of you.

Yeah! I doing a bit of "cheerleading" here. I feel guilty for using the term "WE" also because I am a drop-out in reality. It's different when one does not need to work. Having the freedom to choose is so liberating.

Allow me to quote Joe Pesci while performing his character role in "With Honors."  Quote: "It looks different going out than it does coming in." I believe that is on topic. He had his "hump day" in life and was in the process of making a not too graceful exit.

There appears to be a specific thread running through my daily life right now. I rented some videos yesterday and one of them..."Life as a House" had a similar theme to "With Honors."  Kevin Kline's character had been diagnosed with terminal cancer...not one of his doctors offered any treatment so in his own mind...it was hopeless.
He said to the last Doctor he saw..."What would you do if you had been told you only had a few months left to live?" She rattled off the standard list of things and then asked him what he was going to do. He said "Build a house!"

I have a peculiar fetish for certain types of movies. I am drawn to what I call "sleepers."  Most people know nothing about this kind of movie. They don't receive any hype or build-up before they are released. Somehow, they slip through the cracks of public recognition.

It amazes me how many movies have been made revolving around the same scenario. It's not a plot based on fiction but real life. I think I like the theme for that reason. A person "fritters" away most of their life and doesn't know they are doing it. Then something happens and they have an epiphany that totally and completely changes them. In most of these screenplays, time is short so the lead character must "rush" to get a few essential things done before the approaching deadline. Yes! That was a poor attempt at a play on words.

It may just be me...but I believe most of the world's religions involve a similar theme. In Christianity we call such a life altering event "conversion."  Kevin Kline had this one very special line in his script. He said "Foresight is very similar to hindsight except foresight doesn't have any future." I chewed on that one for a time. What do you think?  Was his statement true?

It may be if we accept that death is the end. It was after I wrote that last sentence that I realized...it is true whether one believes that death is the end or not. If you are a Christian, think about what Heaven is going to be like or even hell if you accept that it exists. If you believe you are going to Heaven, when you get there, what will you do with the rest of eternity?  You won't be able to influence one iota of what heaven is going to be. Your actions have no hope of making it any better or any worse after your arrival there. It will be perfect for forever.

Can I ask you this?  What's the point? It appears that this is the point. At least you won't be suffering in hell.

So with that I will ask that all my deep-thinking Christian brothers and sisters chew on this for a while and then get back with me.
I just spent thirty minutes or so searching the Internet for a Credence Clearwater revival song. Why would I be doing that you might ask?  Because this line from what I believed to be one of their songs came to me and I wanted to be accurate when I wrote it here.  Guess what? I couldn't find it.  Perhaps one of you could help me pin it down. It's going to bug me until I do figure it out. You know how those things go.

Anyway....here's the line from the unidentified line: "I know there ain't no heaven and I pray there ain't no hell."

It struck me just how miserable a view that statement is. To believe there ain't no Heaven and to not be sure whether there is actually a Hell or not. Sounds like a very precarious position to find one's self in.

Back to the point I was trying to make with my comments about Heaven and it potential to be a little boring if it's actually the way we believe it is going to be. I simply must keep going here or I know that Jim is going to get on me about leaving something unfinished.

If you are a Christian and the only thing that keeps you going is the thought that you are going to reach heaven and escape hell, I fear that my comment has the potential for taking a bit of the shine off the streets of gold for you.

I'm going to tell you, here and now, that's not what keeps me going. Certainly the thought that I could spend eternity in hell is of great concern to me and it should be for anyone whose beliefs encompass such a place. I'm telling you folks...just the fact that I have an on-going relationship with the Creator of this world and universe is enough to keep me moving. Life just wasn't all that great an experience for me before I came to know Him. I mean, I reached a point where I was about ready to chuck it all and give up on it. I hoped there was a time ahead when the lights would just go out and all there would be is darkness and nothingness. That's just how empty and uninteresting life had become. The very idea that Heaven could be the same way has no drawing power for me.  


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