Because most of us are rational, we not only loathe the guy running our government. We also really want to know how he became such an awful person. We all know people — some of us are those people — who grew up with abusive parents. Desperately poverty. Rich and privileged, lower, middle, or undefined class. One of many children. An only child. Male. Female. Other.
Most of us turned out okay. Even those who have (had) (still have) a lot of issues were never completely loathsome. All of us had a few good points. Someone thought we were okay.
But then, there’s Donald J. Trump.
So I thought I’d run a little survey.
His father was a pretty ugly guy in his own right. A racist slumlord, I’m sure he passed his beliefs to his kid. But other people have rotten parents and they don’t grow up just like them. Rich and poor, children can grow into decent people, no matter how they began.
What made the difference? If it wasn’t a contract with the dark one? A television renewal failure? What happened to turn a rich asshole into the pit of evil?
I was still trying to figure out if John Oliver was really going off the air, or it was the end of this season, or we’d just missed the final few minutes of his piece because we have a stupid DVR that clips the final few minutes. Instead, the Sports News Final came on.
It was retribution for Bruins fans. They lost. Bigly. All five games. So I left it on until finally one player admitted that the other team “played better than us,” and no amount of analysis was going to change that. This was the hour that I spend trying to find all the missed typos in new posts and that usually takes me about an hour.
Garry goes off to bed because he has a DVR in there with all his favorite old westerns on it … plus a bunch of 1930s and 1940s black and white movies he loves which I don’t love nearly as much. He watches with the headset on and he is finally happy. No one is going to ask him to do ANYTHING. He has found true peace.
At some undetermined point, the Bruins concluded their apologies to all their fans and it being late Sunday night, a preacher came on television to announce that God has a plan.
For everything. Every single thing.
Everything you think. Every illness, every idea, every mistake. Everything. Effectively humans have no control over their lives because it’s all part of God’s huge, gigantic, amazing plan that covers everything, everywhere forever, amen and probably the Bruins will win next year.
After a while, the harangue got a bit intense and I had to turn it off. I was getting ready to yell back at the television and ask about cancer and pain and death and Donald J. Trump, but I have found that yelling at the TV isn’t nearly as effective as I want it to be.
I gave the dogs their final biscuit and went into the bedroom. I made Garry remove his headphones and told him that God has a plan.
“Okay,” he said. “What brought this on?”
“The Bruins lost five to nothing and then there was a preacher and he was shouting how God knows every idiotic idea in your head, every ridiculous thing that might happen to you or me or anyone, so no matter how painful or scary life is, IT IS ALL PART OF GOD’s PLAN.”
“What were you WATCHING?’ he asked me. He then pointed out that on television they were singing Shall We Gather At The River with the ultimate intention of hanging someone.
I pointed out that this too was part of God’s plan and Garry said I should stop watching that stuff because it was ruining his viewing experience.
So, I wrote this instead. By the way — they hanged the guy. Not to worry because it was all part of God’s plan. I know because they told me. On television. So it must be true.
This is one of the few posts I wrote more than four years ago which I occasionally republish without changes. For some reason, this one seems “just right.”
My favorite cartoon – by George Booth— was originally published in The New Yorker. It shows a man sitting in front of a typewriter. Dogs are everywhere A woman, presumably his wife, watches from the doorway. The caption reads “Write about dogs.”
My home is full of dogs. Anyone who comes to visit must compete with the dogs for the comfortable chairs and the best spots on the sofa. (Come to think of it, we have to fight them for the best seats too.) That’s the way it is. The dogs are family.
If we have guests who are old, frail or allergic, we do our best to accommodate their needs. We put the most rambunctious, smelly, and hairy dogs out of the way if we can, but that depends on the weather. Basically, if you don’t like dogs, you’ve come to the wrong house. People who don’t like dogs are not frequent visitors.
That’s fine with me. I prefer the company of most dogs to most people. There are lots of reasons to prefer dogs. But the two big ones are love and honesty.
Dogs love you completely, totally, and without reservation. They don’t care about your social status or education, whether you are young or old, ugly or beautiful, rich or poor. They love you completely.
Your dog will never betray or abandon you.
Dogs are terrible liars. Not that they don’t try. Every dog will do his or her best to convince each human to give them treats. Your dog will tell you she needs a biscuit now or will collapse from hunger. This is not particularly convincing when the canine in question is a beefy pooch who has obviously never missed a meal. Eternally optimistic, all dogs figure it’s worth a shot. It’s a dog thing. You never know when a biscuit might fall your way.
When the performance our furry kids put on in hopes of getting a tasteless dry biscuit is especially hilarious, we relax the rules and give them a little something. After all, they don’t have hands and can’t grab one for themselves. Now and again, they need to get lucky because they’re cute and we love them.
Dogs lie, but their lies are simple and transparent. There’s no malice in them. They just want a biscuit or maybe have you throw that ball. If they don’t get what they want, they love you anyway.
When it comes to love, dogs are the best. They “get” love and think you are wonderful. They think you are wonderful every day of their lives. When they are dying, the last thing they will do is look at you with love in their eyes, wag their tail one final time and try to give you a kiss.
I have spent my life lurching between my quest for God and an equally ardent quest for the best dog food at the most reasonable price. When times have been hard and we’ve had to choose between food for us and food for our furry children, the fur kids always win.
Our dogs do not suffer from angst. They don’t worry unless supper runs late or biscuits are forgotten in the bustle of a day’s activities. If such a catastrophe should occur, they know exactly where to present their grievances and apply for redress.
Dogs live close to their deities. They hang out with their gods on the sofa. They get biscuits from them in the morning and evening. If life is circumscribed and a bit confined, it is nonetheless good.
Sometimes one of their gods gets angry and yells at them. That might make them unhappy for a few minutes, but the gods of their world don’t stay angry. Our dogs have kindly and loving gods who are inclined to scratch them behind the ears and talk to them in soft voices.
We are gods to our dogs and as such, we set laws for them to live by. Don’t poop or pee in the house.
Do not chew things not given to you for chewing, especially not anything containing batteries. Don’t jump on old people or babies. Don’t growl at delivery people. Don’t stay up late barking. Abide by the law and all will be well.
When rules are clear and understood by all, life runs smoothly.
The human side of the contract is more complicated. It’s harder being god than dog.
We pledge to care for them all the days of their lives. We keep them healthy. We love and nurture them. We feed them properly, make sure they get exercise – though they don’t get enough of it and neither do we. We keep them warm and dry in winter, cool and dry in summer.
If we force them to go outside to do their business, it is because they are, after all, dogs.
Every evening, for at least a little while, their gods climb down from heaven to play on the floor.
Our dogs don’t fret about the future. They live in a joyful present. When their time comes, we will make sure they pass gently out of this world. We promise to keep them as free from suffering as is within our power.
That is our solemn contract. We live up to that pledge because we really are gods to our fur children and must never let them down. Pets teach you a lot about the divine contract.
I have not found a religion to follow and it isn’t because I haven’t tried. I have flirted with many, gave a solid try to at least three (formal) religions, though arguably Buddhism is the most informal of formal religions.
Christianity is great — if you don’t look at it too carefully. At one point, I figured it must work because so many people follow it. But then I tried to figure out what Christian actually meant and I got lost between sects and more or less gave up. A row of people all attending the same church can’t agree on what it is, so how am I supposed to figure it out? Also, Christianity requires you to accept Christ. If you can’t do that, you are not a Christian.
If I had to pick a single God, I’d pick Ganeesh. He’s the writer’s God and I appreciate that. But to get Ganeesh, you have to buy at least a piece of Hinduism … a religion far too complicated for me.
I might as well stick with Judaism. Judaism is the original legal system and everything in it is weirdly logical. Even the illogical has its own logic. I like all the laws and the rulings. I love the courts and how you can take your case to an actual jury. I am glad “repentance” doesn’t fix everything. I’ve always considered that a cheat. Be a really horrible human, but repent and hey, you’re good? Bugger that.
Judaism has laws you need to follow. You can be as repentant as you want and apologize your heart out, but it won’t get you past the guard at the gate. Judaism is about work.
Note that nothing in Judaism indicates if there is a Heaven or a Hell. Whatever good works you do may get you into heaven. But quite possibly, they won’t. The stuff you do is for your own sake, good or bad. There’s no guarantee of a reward to come. You get to choose the kind of person you want to be. There’s something deeply existential about this.
Judaism is about work. If you really get into it, it is work that never ends. From your first breath in the morning to closing your eyes at night, there’s always something you need to do. I admire it greatly, but I don’t live that way. If I were to pick a religion, that’s the one I’d pick, but I’m not picking.
I’m sure I will never take the leap to faith. It isn’t because I don’t believe there is faith-worthy shit happening. I’m sure there is. I’ve had too many experiences I can’t otherwise explain. The problem is I’m not sure what I’m supposed to believe. Is there a god? Many gods? No gods but a giant thought? Is it magic? Who is in charge? What does prayer have to do with any of this? Why do churches exist? What’s with the whole dogma thing? Do gods exist because we worship or do we worship because there is a god or gods?
I’m never going to have answers, so I’m never going to walk a defined path. It isn’t because I haven’t spent most of my life searching for answers. It turns out that you can search from childhood to old age. And still not get the answers.
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