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Category: Humans

You Gotta Love 'Em
It’s Christmas, and I have decided that I should love everybody, at least on this one day. That’s the whole deal with Christ, right? Love everybody, including your enemies?

So I love Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin — even though they’ve been very naughty. I love Boko Haram and the Pakistani Taliban. I wish they hadn’t slaughtered all those children, but hey, it’s Christmas.

I love the cops who choked Eric Garner to death in spite of his pleas. I love the crazy who assassinated those two officers in Brooklyn. I love the millions of enthusiastic haters who profess to be Christians.

Still with me? This loving thing is hard work, isn’t it? It’s got to be done, though. I love that guy who cut me off on the freeway and came within an eyelash of snuffing me and my family. I love whoever is stealing my newspaper. I love Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, and Sauron, and Satan. I love everybody I have ever hated, no matter how much or how little.

You know, I have to admit this feels pretty good. Do you feel it too? On this very special day, at least, it’s as if a weight has been lifted from your spirit and all those dark feelings that have been festering inside are fading…fading…

Yeah, I know. I can hardly wait for the 26th, either.
Pray for Rain
Pray for rain! I’ve heard that plea more than once over the last couple of years, usually accompanied by a grim smile. Here in California, we’ve been held in the grip of a bad drought for a dangerously long time, and even non-believers have resorted to tugging the Almighty’s sleeve to help end it.

Now, we have finally gotten some rain. It’s raining right now, in fact, and we are assured that more is on the way, at least in the short term. Everyone is glad over this development, and thankful too. Water, after all, is absolutely essential to life. Still, I would feel a little uncomfortable actually praying for rain.

What happens if the rain just keeps coming? What if there are floods and mudslides and human misery? What if the rains swell to a Biblical proportion and threaten to drown us all? Do I then pray for the rain to stop? Might God take this reversal as a sign, not of faith, but of fickleness? Might he see my prayers as nothing more than selfish calls for Him to benefit me personally?

When I was a boy, back in the 50s, I had occasion to see some promotional literature for the ministry of Oral Roberts. This was long before there was an Oral Roberts University or his famous conversation with the 900-foot Jesus. Even in those days, though, Mr. Roberts was a strong advocate of prayer, and the pamphlet provided an anecdote that aptly conveyed his views on the subject. Once, he said, he had prayed with all his might for God to send him a Cadillac. And what do you know, there it was the next morning in his driveway — a brand new El Dorado.

Praise Jesus, but I sure hope that is not the way it works. A Cadillac, a win this Sunday for the Cowboys, a million bucks — aren’t those the kinds of things you ask a genie for? Are prayers nothing more than wishes we want God to grant for purely selfish reasons? Doesn’t that cheapen the religious connection a tiny bit? Kierkegaard saw the function of prayer not to change God’s mind but to change the one who prays. This makes more sense to me than the genie-in-the-universe model, but (as with most existentialist arguments) it leaves me more bummed than when I started. I don’t want to be changed; I want it to rain.

Under the Kierkegaard approach, at least you don’t have to worry about coming back to God and sheepishly requesting another change of mind in order to stop the deluge your first prayer unleashed. I can’t help thinking it’s better to leave the day-to-day weather decisions to God, anyway. What if having it rain here somehow causes devastation and misery someplace else? I don’t think I could handle that responsibility.

Buddhists pray, too, but I don’t think they pray for rain. They certainly don’t pray the same way Oral Roberts did because they don’t pray to a god at all. They don’t pray like Kierkegaard, either, though they do seek change in themselves. More love, compassion, humility, gratitude, wisdom — that’s what the Buddhists are praying for…in themselves. I don’t think any of that is going to help with our precip totals, but I wouldn’t want to discourage them from doing it.

Come to think of it, I don’t mind if others pray — for rain or anything else. Even the non-believers. Technically, I think you have to have some kind of genuine faith in a higher power to do that, but I won’t complain. All praying requires some form of humility from us, even if we aren’t Buddhists, and that seems like a good thing all by itself. So go ahead — wish, hope, or even pray for rain. It won’t make water fall from the sky, but it can’t hurt.
Turkeysaurus Rex
I see that they’ve discovered a tiny, new dinosaur skeleton in South Korea. They haven’t named the new find yet, but it’s definitely a theropod and a member of the family of dinos that includes Tyrannosaurus rex. It’s small, but like T.rex, it did have some serious teeth and claws. The article I read was accompanied by an artist’s imagining of the beast, and it reminded me a lot of a wild turkey.

The minisaur in the painting might even have been a direct ancestor of the modern turkey. Unlike T.rex, flying dinosaurs like this one probably didn’t disappear after that asteroid hit 66 million years ago. They lived on long enough to evolve into modern birds — including our friend the turkey.

At least I thought it was our friend. I now see the folly of that notion. But was I also naïve to think that I could coexist with the wild turkey in a relationship based on mutual respect? Recent events, I must report, have taught me that even this modest expectation was dangerously unrealistic.

That mindset, however, was the one I carried into that clearing in the woods. I was just one earthling among many, I thought. The squirrels, the deer, even the coyotes were all fellow travelers with me here on Spaceship Earth. A part of me still clings to the idea that my interaction with the turkey that day was all a big misunderstanding. A much larger part of me, however, now realizes that behind nature’s placid façade there lurk the harsh mandates of survival — and of sudden, horrific death.

I’ll admit that I could have been more attentive to my surroundings as I entered that clearing. The turkeys and I arrived at the same time, and I did notice that several of them were smaller, about the size of tall, lanky chickens. The large one, however, gave me no time to assess the situation. She came right at me, beak first and bold. My hiking companion and I gave ground, thinking to let the troop of birds go their way, but the mother turkey was having none of it.

In retrospect, I feel a bit hurt that the first thing she thought of upon seeing me was protecting her young. I was not looking for trouble. I carried no weapons. I made no threatening gestures. I wished them no harm. We had no mission there other than a pleasant walk in the woods. That she would view me as a mortal threat to her six poults is deeply offensive to me. My hurt feelings were not a concern at the time, though. That beak was coming at me thigh-high or higher, and I saw that it was time to act.

So I took off running. There was a post nearby, and I thought to do a tight turn around it and put some distance between me and my pursuer. Meleagris gallopavo intermedia, however, has particularly long legs and considerably more natural cunning than I have. By the time I rounded the post, my lead had evaporated.

So I tried a different tactic: turn and face the beast, assuming a more aggressive pose. Surely my much greater size and my threatening posture would put an end to this charade. What I failed to calculate, however, was that my broken-field running had placed me in the worst possible position — between a mother and her young. She reared back briefly, then continued her pursuit with redoubled fervor.

That’s when the real weaponry came out. If I had recognized the parental dynamic earlier, I might have avoided the attack or found a weapon of my own. But there was no time for that. Here now came the mother turkey, airborne with talons flashing and ready to do some serious damage to my sorry human butt.

They estimate that Americans consumed over 45 million turkeys over the Thanksgiving holiday. She did not know that, of course, but I doubt that an awareness of that holocaust could have made her attack any more ferocious.

I jumped back. The claws, apparently, just missed their mark. My companion told me later she was sure I’d been slashed. If I had, I might still be nursing the wounds and battling who-knows-what avian virus.

Fortunately, there were no further assaults. I took a roundhouse swing and one kick as a pathetic show of force, but the battle was already over. The course of our skirmish had turned us again, and the mother turkey was now between me and the poults. They, meanwhile, had scurried in the opposite direction, down the road and away from us. Mom, seeing them leave, followed at a high rate of speed without even a backward glance at her nemesis.

Two weeks later, as I sat down to my traditional Thanksgiving feast, my thoughts turned once more to my attacker. I found that I bore her no ill will. Like her ancestor the minisaur, she’d only done what came naturally. For the minisaur, doing what came naturally might have included making a meal of one of the ancient tree shrews of that time. That the shrew might have been a species that would later evolve into humans, masters of all the universe, would not have bothered it in the least.

So I consumed my helping of turkey, knowing that, if our roles were reversed, it would certainly have done the same. It is what our nature tells us to do. Out of respect for my fellow earthling, however, I did not go back for seconds.
Dream World
I hope all your dreams become reality.

Well, thank you. That is a very nice sentiment, but boy, I hope it doesn’t include last night’s session. It featured occasional moments of delight interspersed with this long struggle that was filled with frustration and confusion and troubling ambivalence. Can you imagine?

Oh, wait a minute. That is reality.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon