December 8th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
If Star Wars was what made an otherwise happy outing into something despised – I still can’t stand that damn dragon – what does this enduring memory from my childhood tell me about myself? What does it tell me about the difficulty of maintaining a thankful disposition? What does it say about discontentment and the anger that so often accompanies it?
The only reason Star Wars came to bear on that afternoon was because I believed I was getting it instead of Pete’s Dragon. Falsely, but believed whole heartedly nonetheless. If I don’t see that poster on the way in, Pete’s Dragon might be one of my all time favorite movies … ahhh, maybe not, but you get the point. When I expected one thing and got another, I was pissed. This was an isolated incident, so how does it translate to an overall state of ungratefulness? Do I live with a general belief that I deserve something more? My life is Pete’s Dragon when it should be Star Wars. There’s a word for this. Entitled. It’s an ugly word. It’s what gets some turning to an absurd line when special demands are denied: “Do you know who I am?” Yeah yeah, I know who you are. Now, get your ass back in line like everyone else.
And so what is at the root of Do you know who I am guy? The question itself is revealing. Isn’t it what we believe about ourselves? More specifically, our belief in the self-aggrandized version of ourselves. An inflated sense self-importance? Somehow, we’ve gottin’ it in your heads that we are more important than others standing in line. And as deplorable as that sounds, isn’t this more or less the default setting for all of us?
I got news for you self, and it’s not really news: You’re not that important. One day, sooner than you think, you will be no more. And when that day comes, if you’ve lived well, a few will cry for you. And just as their tears dry, so will the memory of you evaporate. And if you understand this, you’ll know this isn’t sad. It’s not tragic. You’ll let go of self-importance. Cease from asking, “Do you know who I am?” You’ll not need a lifeless statue erected in your name to realize that you are far more valuable than you’ve ever dared to believe. Nor will you need the idiocy of a discolored, bronze image, staring blankly into nothing, a glorified perch for birds to be comforted by the reality that you’re far less important than your fragility has demanded. And maybe, forgetting that you deserve anything, forgetting that you’re entitled to more than they, you’ll sit back and be thankful for Pete’s Dragon.
And c’mon really, how much better is Star Wars than Pete’s Dragon?
December 3rd, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Pete’s Dragon was one of the great disappointments of my life. The partial animation, musical of a jolly dragon frolicking with a couple of kids. Really. I’m not making that up. It’s what I remember, at least. Look, it was a long time ago. And at the time, I could barely speak a word of English, let alone follow a full length film. And even if I could, I was too bent to make an effort.
I’m pretty sure it was a field trip. I don’t remember anything leading up to it. I don’t remember looking forward to it. The bus ride. Nothing. The first thing I remember of that day was seeing the Star Wars movie poster outside the theatre. My brother was with me, and I remember turning to him, wide eyed, “StaaAAH WaahhSSEH!” We were straight outta Seoul, but we weren’t living under a rock. In 1977, there wasn’t anything bigger than Star Wars. And as far as I knew, we were walking into a theatre to watch it. I wanted to run around in circles, jumping and screaming.
Barely able to contain myself, I took a seat in the theatre. The lights finally dimmed. “StaaAAH WaahhSSEH.” Into this space of unparalleled anticipation entered a fat, green, stupid dragon. “Huh? Okay, this must be … wait. What? No. No. No. No!” In the first thirty minutes of Pete’s Dragon, I went through my own stages of grief: Shock. Question. Denial. Anger. Resignation.
Pete’s Dragon was one of the great disappointments of my life. But it shouldn’t have been. I was at the movies! First time ever. And not on any day, but on a school day. Any movie is better than a day at school. There were plenty for which to be thankful, and yet it was one of my greatest disappointments. Why? Star Wars, that’s why. When I thought I was getting something better, the good I got was worse than nothing.
After a weekend of pondering the act of giving thanks, I wonder if the ease of it eludes me because I still think I should be getting Star Wars instead of Pete’s Dragon.
November 11th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Faith, if it’s real, permeates the whole of life. In fact, I’d argue that this all encompassing quality is one way to verify its authenticity. Real faith will appear in every aspect of a person’s life. There will be no “separation of church and state” nor any other separation for that matter. I realize this sounds unsettling, if not unAmerican. This is where it might be helpful to make a distinction: Although real faith cannot be separated, religion can and often does exist separated.
My take is, when drafted, the authors of the 1st Amendment weren’t worried about individual citizens living out their faith. Having fled the hostile environment created when unchallenged religious leaders get in bed with national rulers, they made it first priority to keep these traditional powers at opposite ends of the building. Separate religion from affairs of state? Where do I sign?
So, what was my point? Right. Faith … real faith, affects the whole of life. When I came to believe in a loving God, he slowly began to have a meaningful, tangible affect on my life. The more I trusted him, the more this faith stepped outside of designated places and times. The practice of my religion spilled outside of church and on the days between my Sundays. And it increasingly took the form of love. Love God and love your neighbor – things I could do anywhere and at anytime.
There’s this passage in the Bible that reads, “The religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction …” Have compassion for those in need – small or great. It’s what makes Christ, a person over whom there is great dispute, so universally respected. The religion of Jesus Christ is the religion of unconditional love.
Goes without saying I’m no where near laying hold of it, but I press on. I’m a believer.
This is it. It’s the reason why I’ve gone out of my way to keep this blog free of religious language. If real faith permeates all of life, then words spoken in ordinary life can express my faith. These posts have been about love, hope and faith. They’ve spoken of sacrifice, generosity, compassion. These are the pillars of what I believe to be the true religion.
June 27th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Facebook is like the combination of a 20 year high school reunion, bumper stickers and “What I did last summer” slide show, rolled together, streaming, non-stop in all its “Hey, look at me!” glory.
I don’t know … maybe it’s just me. I am going to be forty-five this year. Anyway, you can follow me on Twitter @theRealCookedGoose … just kidding.
March 6th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
I confess that I have a condescending attitude toward the Oscars, like the whole thing’s beneath me or something. I dismiss it as a beauty pageant of sorts – a popularity contest. The red carpet, posing for the cameras in their Versaces, all the “who’s who” hoopla. Entertainment reporters who are – let’s face it – not real reporters going on a gluttonous butt sniffing frenzy. What does any of this have to do with art?
Like I know something about art. That’s why it’s a confession; I’m aware that my disdain for the glittery Hollywood ball is wrong. I of all people have no right to look down on anything. “What have you done that’s so great that artists being recognized for reaching the heights of their craft is beneath you?” A good question to which I have no good answer.
Over the years, my misguided attitude has kept me from tuning in. This year, my teenage daughter wanted to watch the Academy Awards. My wife and I have always felt that in parenting “blocking access” needs to be used sparingly. “You want to watch? Sure, let’s watch it together.”
Other than Ellen DeGeneres being surprisingly good, the show pretty much went as I expected. Ho hum. Then it happened. In the Best Supporting Actor category, a ten second sample of Jared Leto’s offering flashed on the screen. The transvestite Rayon’s sorrowful, tortured, solitary moment in front of a mirror was stunning. Wow. Give the man his Oscar.
January 24th, 2014 § 1 Comment
Through the glass door adorned with various beer ads and other non-descript stickers to a slight incline onto the main floor. On the left were the two top sliding glass door freezers packed with bags of ice and ice cream; on the right was the back of a small, waist level news stand … no, really a magazine rack. All I remember of it were the Hustler and Playboys tucked away in the corner … forbidden fruit blinking neon on the drab tree. Beyond it was the wall of liquor. Literally, a wall – front to back , top to bottom, a distilled menagerie of the establishment’s namesake. To a ten year old boy, it might as well have been decorative … the sweet tooth there long before a taste for spirits.
Sometime around 1980, my Mom and Dad bought their first business. Being Korean immigrants, naturally they bought a liquor store. The thought of that store still fills me with that warm, bountiful feeling of anticipation … you know that feeling you get as you step into your favorite “all you can shove down” buffet. Yeah, that feeling. I still see the afternoon lighting coming through the store front windows, the lighting of my after school foraging. Oh, and the happy dilemma: “Do I go Mars bar or Snickers? And do I couple that with RC Cola or Pepsi? or do I just go crazy today and grab that Big Stick that always seems to call my name.”
My first time in Hillis Liquor, as it dawned on me that by extension all this was mine, I remember feeling that in some small way I’d arrived in life. Candy, soda, Big Stick, Funyuns, and porn: I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
January 6th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
In my last post, I wrote a favorite, recent quote. I failed to cite the person from whom the quote originates. To add insult to injury, I misquoted Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel. The correct quote reads:
Don’t be so humble – you are not that great.
September 26th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Jury Duty. Two words none of us want to hear. Yet feeling the paternal eye of civic duty, I made my way to the County’s Superior Court Building. Through the metal detector and onto the Jury Pool. Looking around, I thought to myself, “With all these people, what’re the chances I get on a jury?” Not likely, I happily surmised. “The day is shot, but with a little bit of good fortune, I’ll be back to my own grind by 3 PM.” Not so fast. Once called into the courtroom, before I could warm the seat I’d taken, I was called up to the row of alternates. As the Judge proceeded to give us a primer on what was expected of us as potential jurors, I did the math. I was third alternate. Not in the box, but not looking good.
The attorneys excused three, and that was that. Juror number 12. It took me all of a minute to accept my fate. If this was the seat for which I’d been chosen, I was going to do my part. These people: the plaintiffs and the defendant, the attorneys, the judge, they were all counting on me and the other eleven members of the jury to do our very best in rendering a just judgement. So, I determined that I wasn’t going to fail them because I was too busy whining about inconveniences.
The case was a relatively minor one over a traffic accident. After all the evidence was presented, we went in to deliberate. The consensus was that without actually being there we really had no way of arriving at any certainty. The evidence as best we understood it seemed to point to the defendant not being negligent. After we cast our vote, I told my fellow jurors, “I’m glad this wasn’t a 25 to life case. If rendering a decision on a couple thousand dollars is this agonizing, can’t imagine what a felony case is like.”
During a lunch recess, I sat out in a courtyard adjacent to the Court building and thought to myself, “This immense institution with all it’s countless mechanisms, this multi-million dollar fixture of our society exists because people cannot get along.”
April 10th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
We’re sitting in the line up this morning, “line up” is surf lingo for the area just off shore where the wave breaks. And my brother turns to me and says, “We invested in a buff juicer.” Now, there’s nothing delicate about my brother. From his overall appearance to the way he drives, he is the very antithesis of refined. Growing up, he was the brawler. The dude shovels his food and throws back his beer.
“You bought a what?”
“One of those industrial strength juicers. Hey man, it’s nice. You should get one.”
After trying to take in this picture of my bro getting all vegetable, I ask, “What that set you back?”
He tells me what he and his wife ponied up for this juicer. As I get to taking a mental inventory of all the things I’d rather buy with that kind of coin, like a Scotty Cam Putter for instance, our buddy sitting next to him, whose only slightly more refined – to give you an idea, lately some of our friends have taken to calling this guy “the Gorilla” – turns to me and says, “Hey, you should get the ____. It’s rated higher than mine or the one your bro got.”
I’m thinking, “You got a juicer too.”
And then they go on and on about all the stuff they put in their juicers.
Back on land, changing in the parking lot to get off to work, and we’re still talking juicers. It occurs to me, “This has nothing to do with refinement; nothing to do with lifestyle.” Aha! It’s middle-aged man talk. The frivolities of youth give way to the ambitions of life. The ambitions of life, released with a sigh give way to talk of kids, colonoscopies, and yeah, juicers. “Damn, you guys know how to party. Listen to us, ‘Hey, man, come over. 6 AM. You bring the oranges, and you bring the carrots, and I’ll have all the green stuff. And don’t ring the bell when you get here; do not wake up my wife.”
You better believe I’m gonna take a look at some juicers. Hell yeah!
In life think it’s important to closely carry with us the reality that none of us is here for long.
March 26th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Know thyself. It’s the ancient Greek aphorism. Oh, man. Only if I could. For most of us, the self is the most important thing in the universe. And most of us, dare I say, all of us have been hard at work making ourselves who we think we ought to be. We will employ every device at our disposal to achieve our creation. Our masterpiece. The whole business is toxic – rising out of the sludge of fear and dread. Even the mildest of unbalanced attention to self, even when manifested in good is in the end, unbalanced. But one of the most dangerous device is illusion: The formation of a genuine belief that you are somebody other than your true self.
I don’t think anyone lays perfectly over their self-perception without creating some distortion. But you can get a little 3D affect or you can get “Not even in the same ballpark”. I’d like to get to only a little blurring, minor deviation. To know myself. And I’m learning the only way to do that is to care less about who I think I ought to be and more about who I really am. Ironically, to become true to who I really am, I need to care most of all about others. It’s what makes it tough.
“Oh, man. You ready? You sure you wanna see this.”
“Yeah, pull back the covers. Damn the illusion. Wake me up! Even if it kills me. Better to die than use people for my absurd creation.”