DR. MANHATTAN BLUES

 (uptempo blues)

Jonathan Osterman was a scientist
Till a lab accident zapped him to bits
It took a little time but he pulled himself together
Now his skin is all blue and he controls the weather

(chorus)
He’s the man who knows
Just what is gonna happen
That’s why no one’s got the blues
Like Doctor Manhattan
No one got the blues
Like Doctor Manhattan

He can see the future, he still feels the past
Gets the two confused sometimes, it all goes by so fast
He isn’t really human, he isn’t quite a god
But he’ll love you like three men while he’s working in the yard

(chorus)

He likes going nakeys, he hangs out on Mars
Helped Richard Nixon win the Vietnam War
He’s wiped out all his enemies, transcended all his friends
But when you’re with Manhattan, baby, nothing ever ends

 (chorus)

That’s the Way She Shows Me She Loves Me

THAT’S THE WAY SHE SHOWS ME SHE LOVES ME
A “Blind Peanut Nicholson” song

It’s a quarter past two in the morning
I have managed to find my way home
But the living room light
Lets me know it’s all right
She is waiting for me all alone

So I open the door oh so quiet
She is sitting asleep in her chair
A rolling pin on her lap
Hope she’s enjoying her nap
And she won’t hear me creep up the stairs

“Just where do you think you’re goin’?”
Comes that voice that I so love to hear
“Throw those clothes in the wash
And go sleep on the couch
‘Cause you reek of tobacco and beer.”

That’s the way she shows me she loves me
She’s concerned for my welfare, you see
And when she berates me
I know she don’t hate me
I’m a right lucky guy you’ll agree

The buffet smells so inviting
I believe I might get a fresh plate
But she gives me that stare
That knocks me back in my chair
“You’re supposed to be watchin’ your weight.”

That’s the way she shows me she loves me
My well-being is her prime concern
‘Cause if she didn’t care
She’d get out of my hair
And let me slide into hell and just burn

She tells me I should be more active
To allay her heart attack fears
Though the best exercise
Would be between her thighs
And we haven’t had a workout in years

That’s the way she shows me she loves me
And she’ll love me until my last breath
If she keeps bein’ so kind
I might go out of my mind
That woman will love me to death

That’s the way she shows me she loves me
She’s concerned for my welfare, you see
And when she berates me
I know she don’t hate me
I’m a right lucky guy you’ll agree

DE FACTO DIVORCE

DE FACTO DIVORCE
a country song
by Mr. “Blind Peanut” Nicholson of Possum Claw, Arkansas

Meet Mr. & Mrs. McNeer
They have been together now for nigh on thirty years
But over that time their love has kinda died
And now things are getting kinda weird

The fire went out a long time ago
She no longer likes the places that he likes to go
She’s taken up hobbies that he don’t understand
This happily ever after hasn’t worked out like they planned

But they still have reputations to uphold
A couple of kids in college, a house that’s still unsold
So they’ve made an arrangement, rather than split
They’ve decided to be grownups and just make the best of it

Yes it’s a de facto divorce
They can’t tell the neighbors of course
But nobody has to budge and they won’t need a judge
For their de facto divorce

He’s made himself a mancave above the garage
Sometime sleeps in a hammock out in the back yard
And meantime she’s taken over the whole second floor
And she won’t have to listen to him snore anymore

Though their romance has come to an end
They still present themselves as the best of friends
They’re housemates, not bedmates, but no one’s at fault
Sometimes two hearts can just grow apart

Oh it’s a de facto divorce
It don’t have no legal force
But it’s cheaper and more quiet, some of you might like to try it
It’s a de facto divorce

Yes it’s a de facto divorce
They can’t tell the neighbors of course
But nobody has to budge and they won’t need a judge
For their de facto
D-I-V-O-R-C-E
For their de facto divorce

My Bed at the Home (song)

When the world gets too loud
And overdemanding
There’s a place in my head
Where I find understanding
In my bed at the Home
Where I’ll someday be landing
I think of my bed at the Home

In my bed at the Home
It’s comfy and clean
And no one gets angry
And no one gets mean
In my bed at the home
I am calm and serene
I can’t wait for my bed at the Home

(bridge)
Then my nurse comes in
Her name is Elaine
The smile on her face
Is a balm to my brain
And the pills that she brings me
They help keep me sane

In my bed at the Home
The sunlight streams in
And I can’t do a thing
So I know I can’t sin
I’m just waiting till St. Peter says, “Come on in”
I will wait in my bed on my own
I will wait in my bed at the Home
I will wait in my bed all alone
I will wait in my bed at the Home

a prayer for the rich

Dear Lord, for your assistance I must now humbly ask
For You have set before me a small yet daunting task
For if I am to demonstrate Your love, as is Your wish
Somehow I am supposed to write a prayer for the rich

It’s no big deal to come up with a prayer for the poor
We only have to ask that they might have a little more
But the wealthy, well, they’re something else, a very different breed
A different type of spirit, yes, with very different needs..

But first I have to ask that You look deep within my heart
And take away the feelings that might complicate my part
Let me not speak vindictively, no, let me show no spite
No envy and no hatred in these words that I might write

Help me, Lord, to understand the great burdens that they bear
The pressured expectations that make it hard to care
Help me to remember that they’re mortal just like me
Though they have more within their grasp than I could ever hope to see

Let them not be blinded, Lord, by the glitter of their wealth;
Let them have clear vision, let them see beyond themselves
Open up their hands, their hearts, yes, open up their minds
Help them be good stewards for the sake of all mankind

Protect them from corruption, Lord, from power’s evil lure,
Help them maintain perspective, help them keep their motives pure;
Help them keep peace within their hearts, and not rely on war.
Let them understand integrity. Keep them mindful of the poor.

Lead them through the needle’s eye, and help them to let go
Knowing all things have to pass, and that everything must flow
Teach them responsibility, and help them make the switch:
And then I’ll know You’ve answered my prayer for the rich.

CIVILIZATION

(This is an updated version of a column that was first published in 2006.)

While listening to the news one day, I suddenly realized that I’ve been operating under a false assumption all these years. I had been taking for granted that I was born into a civilized period of human history.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You may remember that in the early 1990’s, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the repressive regimes of Eastern Europe, a conservative wag named Francis Fukuyama had the temerity to come out with a book entitled The End of History – as in, that’s it, everything is settled, capitalism has triumphed, there’s nothing else to be decided, game over. Subsequent events, of course, have proved him wrong on that score, and the author, to his credit, has since recanted his thesis.

“End of History”? Heck, we’re not even out of the Dark Ages yet.

Now, before you try to refute that assertion with a litany of our advances in such areas as dental medicine and indoor plumbing, let me explain what I mean by “civilized.” Here is my definition: we can be said to be more or less “civilized” as a society, culture, or species to the extent that intentional acts of violence are seen as unnecessary – that is, one would never come to a moment where one feels that one has to resort to inflicting harm or suffering on another human being. Violence might still happen accidentally, of course, or as an unforeseen consequence of a decision, but not by intention or desire… or because it seems there is no other choice.

Some reflection will show the implications of this definition. For such a society to exist in the first place, any motivation for violence would have to have been eliminated. Crime? Want? Poverty? Human needs would be sufficiently addressed, including the understanding and treatment of substance abuse and mental illness. People would have access to the resources they need. War? Conflict? Our communication skills, and cross-cultural awareness, would have been well enough developed that conflicts would no longer arise from interpersonal or intercultural misunderstandings. All theologies would have disavowed violence as a justified means of carrying out their missions. Problems of resource availability and distribution would have been sorted out, and the idea of separate “national interests” would have been permanently shelved. (Can you think of other root causes for violence? Imagine how they might be solved in a “civilized” society. Discuss. Give examples.)

By such a definition, humanity obviously has a long way to go – but to be fair, we have made some considerable strides. In most cultures violence is now regarded as a last resort, rather than the first. We managed to get rid of dueling a while ago, and fisticuffs are not generally accepted as a means of conflict resolution any more (except on the Jerry Springer show, of course). In fact, we’ve actually become a very pacifistic species in many ways. (For more examples, and the statistics to back them up, see Dr. Stephen Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.)

I think it might be accurate to say that we are beginning to get a slight glimmer of what actual “civilization” might look like – and yes, I mean to include every single one of those wimpy qualifiers – but we are also still close enough to the edge of the abyss of absolute savagery to hear its echoes. What veneer of civilization we have managed to develop is still quite thin, and is looking a bit threadbare in many places at the moment. In fact, as I write these words the headlines are full of tales of extremist groups that seem quite determined to reverse this progress and march cheerfully and resolutely back into the bloodier times of the past.

Some people might think a truly civilized society is unattainable – and maybe it is. But what I’m really talking about here is the proper application of a word. Let’s not call ourselves “civilized” if we’re not – and let’s not prematurely call ourselves “more civilized” than any other given bunch of humans.

If I’m honest with myself, after all, I can’t help but see that my own veneer of civilization is itself pretty thin. There’s not as much distance as I’d like to think between me and my “barbarian” ancestors, plasma-screen televisions and ultrasonic toothbrushes notwithstanding. I haven’t completely purged the violence out my own system yet. So again, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we’re further along the road than we actually are, or pretend that we are significantly ahead of others.

But at the same time, we should not abandon ourselves to the supposed inevitability of human violence – rather, let us keep in mind that this development is an ongoing process, a journey that can at least be undertaken, and possibly even completed successfully.

Someone once asked Gandhi, “So, sir, what do you think of Western civilization?”

And as he famously replied, “I think it would be a wonderful idea.”

APOCALOPTIMISM

APOCALOPTIMIST (n):  
someone who knows it’s all going to shit,
but still thinks it will turn out OK.
– anonymous Facebook meme

Yes. That’s me. I knew it the moment I saw the definition.

It just makes sense.  Too many delicate interrelationships have been disrupted. Too many laws – physical, manmade, karmic – have been broken, too many crimes committed against both nature and humanity, too much suffering rained down on too many innocents, just so that a blindheaded brainaddled few can get their fancies tickled.

There will be – there must be – recompense. Not for the sake of revenge, or righteous wrath, but simply because that is the way of things: to seek, and maintain, balance.

And know this: the balance will be restored, one way or another.  We may still have some choice as to how… but I see no reason to expect our present systems, shortsighted and dysfunctional and corrupt as they are, to make the right decisions to prevent disaster.

And so, in the course of that restoration, there will be some awesome hell to pay.

But on the other side of that time of fire and grief, I see seeds germinating, seeds that are being planted now as they have been for the past generation.  They are seeds of knowledge waiting to be rediscovered, and new values waiting to be realized.  They are like the seeds in pine cones that only open when exposed to great heat, and then take root in the ashes.

We will come through this, and we will come through wounded, but we will come through wiser.  There will be such lessons seared into our collective consciousness, I hope and believe, that they will be remembered and honored for generations to come. The notions of disconnection and separateness, of dominion and domination, will seem as absurd as the belief in a flat Earth in a geocentric universe does today.

So yes, I am a apocaloptimist.

Bring it on.