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Our Daily Bread

Because there's money to be made from anything, something called Our Daily Bread exists. It's a pamphlet of pre-fab daily devotions for Christians, and if you know me, you know I'm not interested.

My mom knows me, knows I'm not interested, but never gives up. She reads Our Daily Bread every day, and she's been pushing it at me for the past year or so. 

When she visited last July and again in August, she always wanted to talk about Jesus, and every day she asked me to read Our Daily Bread with her. The first morning, I politely declined, so the next day she asked more pleadingly, more insistently, and I declined less politely.

Since her visits, we've talked on the phone, of course, and she's read the day's Our Daily Bread to me a few times. It's a rudeness, but only a small one, and I haven't (yet) been rude in response. I don't listen, is all. I read the newspaper or look out the window until the words stop, and then tell her again that I'm not interested.

Today I wondered what was in an envelope my mom mailed to me, and of course, she'd mailed an Our Daily Bread pamphlet, with this note:

I am sending you Our Daily Bread and hope you will read it. Just take TWO minutes when you get up or go to bed. I'll probably look up the Scripture that goes with each day's lesson. You can too if you choose. But I'll be happy if you just read each page each day, and you will be too.

I love you so much and whether you believe it or not, God loves you even more than I do. He wants you to love him.

Remember, Doug, it's always nice to worship with other Christians, even Christians you've never met before, and to sense the warmth of Christian love. If you still don't wish to attend church services, you might want to sing "Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love." That hymn is a little glimpse of what Heaven may be. "When we part… we shall still be joined at the heart."

Love, Mother

Good God, is it any mystery why I tend to put off opening her letters? She knows I don't believe and I've told her I never will, but her nagging testimony to God's greatness never ends, so here's an entire letter about God. Did you notice? There's nothing in it about me, or her, or our lives. Only about God.

She's sent lots of letters just like this one, but this is the first with a copy of Our Daily Bread. I looked at the cover, and what-the-hell opened it (just to make Mom happy?).

It's intended to be a few minutes of reading every day, "inspirational," it says, which sounds great — most days I could use some inspiration. It's 100% God-based inspiration, though, as if it's impossible to be inspired by beauty, by nature, by art, by friends, by human kindness, bright ideas, or anything except an entity which doesn't exist.

I read two entries in the middle of the pamphlet, April 15 and 16, and found this laughable assertion:

In the early part of this century, a group of lawyers met in England to discuss the biblical accounts of Jesus's resurrection. They wanted to see if enough information was available to make a case that would hold up in a court of law. They concluded that Christ's resurrection was one of the most well-established facts of history!

No further details are provided, about these unnamed lawyers' remarkable assertion. Are you convinced? I'm not. Like all other religions, Christianity is based on faith, not evidence. I know the difference, and prefer evidence.

Another day's entry starts with a slam at the ancient Aztecs' "tragically misguided pagan rituals," offering their gods "human blood to drive back the darkness each dawn." For the faithful, it's inspirational to criticize other faiths?

I don't know whether it's true or false that the Aztecs offered human sacrifice. I'm not an expert on ancient civilizations, and not traipsing to the library to research it — but we've already established that Our Daily Bread isn't a credible source, and their next sentence is an out-and-out canard:

Human sacrifice is abhorrent to us — and even more so to God.

Excuse me? Are you talking about the God I grew up with? Ever heard of the Crusades, or even Christ on a cross — what's that, if not human sacrifice? For that matter, what's dedicating your life to God, except the sacrifice of your humanity?

There's a story where God orders Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abe gets the wood stacked high, ties the boy down, and he's ready to light a match before the Lord says, "Gotcha, I was only kidding." It was a test, see, to find out whether Abraham truly loved the Lord, with 'love' defined as following orders, no matter what.

Two quick thoughts on this. First, an omnipotent God would know the answer without a test. And second, obeying whatever the voice in your head commands, with no conscience or common sense — that's Charles Manson or Jim Jones.

No need to test me, God. There are no voices in my head, and no commands to kill because you say so.

OK, enough about Our Daily Bread. I gave it a chance, against my better judgment, but it's worthless to anyone but the faithful, and I tossed it into the trash.

Mom, 

I'm still not a Christian, and still have no interest in Our Daily Bread. I've told you this a hundred times, so it would be lovely if you'd drop it.

See you Monday!

Love, Doug

Yeah, I'm flying to Seattle, and visiting Mom and the family next week. I'm looking forward to it... and dreading it. 

From Pathetic Life #12
Thursday, May 11, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

16 comments:

  1. None of my business saying this, but your mother. Thats all I'll say. But your mother.

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    Replies
    1. It took 55 years, but I think we're on good terms now, me and Mom.

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  2. I have no idea how far we've come, but some distance, I should think, from microbes in the mud three billion years ago. We walk, we talk, and, on our best days, we love.

    I have a friend who is an experienced counselor. I once asked him, "How many of your clients (he has around 40) are in your office because they were somehow mistreated as children?"

    He answered, "All of them."

    We all deserve to be loved for whoever we are and, in fact, BECAUSE of whoever we are. Not on someone else's terms, but on our own. I'm sorry you drew a mother who can't do that. You have, for whatever gaggle of reasons, lived your life on the run (creating your own happy, loving home while you were running from your unhappy one, then, sadly, losing it as all things end.

    Now you're going "home" but that's just a place on a map. My parents are long gone, although I am well blessed to have a loving sister, so the concept of home is a funny one for me even though I live in a city in whose General Hospital I was born. I hope you can make peace with your surviving siblings. My own experience is very rewarding in that respect.

    In our three billion year journey, parents have learned that love and affection is the best gift they can give their offspring. Judging our own children just spotlights us for the assholes we've become.

    I just hope that whatever "happy" means, you'll find some of it in Seattle. I hope you get there. But I never pray.

    love,

    John

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    Replies
    1. I know exactly what you man, man, and everyone's injured, or almost. There's nobody I've known who didn't get at least *some* serious trauma as a kid or young adult, except the ones unwilling to talk about it.

      I never deserved it at all, but I was loved for more than twenty years. Nobody deserves love, and that's what we all have in common — that's why everyone deserves to be loved.

      Me and the siblings are on good terms, so no worries about that. Even me and Mom — being none too bright, it took me forever to shrug and chuckle at it, instead of letting it chew me inside out. I'll be living within an easy bus ride of Mom, and I'll see her often, and she'll sing hymns at me and nag me to come to church, and I'll probably get some good writing material out of it.

      I'm planning to enjoy my time, however much or little is left. Hope you're enjoying yours.

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    2. Well said. For whatever reason, when I was reading your comment I was hearing Paul Simon's American Tune in my head. So here are the lyrics; I'll link to a decent audio version if I can find one. . .

      johnthebasket


      American Tune
      by Paul Simon

      Many's the time I've been mistaken
      And many times confused
      Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
      And certainly misused

      Oh, but I'm alright, I'm alright
      I'm just weary to my bones
      Still, you don't expect to be bright and bon vivant
      So far away from home, so far away from home

      And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
      I don't have a friend who feels at ease
      I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
      Or driven to its knees

      But it's alright, it's alright
      For we lived so well so long
      Still, when I think of the
      Road we're traveling on
      I wonder what's gone wrong
      I can't help it, I wonder what has gone wrong

      And I dreamed I was dying
      I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
      And looking back down at me
      Smiled reassuringly

      And I dreamed I was flying
      And high up above my eyes could clearly see
      The Statue of Liberty
      Sailing away to sea
      And I dreamed I was flying


      We come on the ship they call The Mayflower
      We come on the ship that sailed the moon
      We come in the age's most uncertain hours
      And sing an American tune
      Oh, and it's alright, it's alright, it's alright
      You can't be forever blessed
      Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
      And I'm trying to get some rest
      That's all I'm trying to get some rest

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    3. . . . and here's a video from shortly after he wrote it. I'll follow that with an unamusing anecdote about the war-scarred history of the song.

      John

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE3kKUEY5WU

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    4. Paul Simon was a musical guest on the first SNL after 911. He sang The Boxer after The Mayor introduced the police and firefighters and made his speech. According to rumor, Simon told Lorne Michaels that he'd already written the appropriate song for the occasion, if there was one: American Tune.

      Michaels agreed and the two of them agreed that it would be a little on the nose for a grieving country. But it's true: Simon wrote the song twenty-five years before the event, then couldn't use it when the event eventuated.

      Well, I promised it would be unamusing.

      John

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    5. Smokes, John. I know that song well, from Simon & Garf albums on vinyl 40 years ago, and I was hearing it as fitting what silliness I'd said, but smokes, John. Do you think it would've been too much right after? Seems so perfect.

      The media moment that comes to mind, for me at least, after 9/11, was Letterman's opening when he came back. Simon could've topped that if he'd sung this. Smokes.

      You always know the music, and I ain't asking and in fact please *don't* unmask yourself, but I like to imagine you're Lester Bangs but not really dead.

      Speaking of Lester, did you know he's in ISFDB (sci-fi database) for his posthumous interview with Jimi Hendrix?

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    6. Well, I guess if The Human League can stage a comeback, Lester can, but since I'm a huge Canned Heat fan, Lester's soul was not rechanneled through me (Lester got fired from RS for trashing Canned Heat, but to be fair it wasn't the original lineup).

      That sentence ought to be taken out and shot.

      The question in 2001 was, "Who speaks for America?"

      Rudy spoke for New York, but how does America answer him?

      Johnny Carson and Walter Cronkite were both alive but long retired. We had a new President who could sound folksy, but it had been a difficult election.

      SNL and Letterman probably spoke for many people under 50, but the rest of America was all out of spokespeople. We had fragmented -- maybe always had been along racial and economic lines -- but fragmented in a more profound way. In retrospect, 911 was the first notable event that showed that we could no longer pretend to be one country. Those who weren't of the SNL or Letterman generations must have felt even more alone than the rest of us.

      But real healing starts with angst. Radical Rational Emotive Therapy: Simon should have sung the damn song.

      I knew American Tune was coming, and he started strumming The Boxer. What the fuck? Had Lester been alive, this would have killed him.

      jtb

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    7. By the way, there might be no such thing as trivia. Simon wrote American Tune partially or fully in response to the writings of two great Americans. Can you name them with your eyes closed?

      Yeah, the tune and harmonization are based on Bach and HIS stuff is based on music written hundreds of years before his time, but I'm talking about the lyrics which, I can assure you, Bach didn't write.

      jtb

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    8. By the way, here's the encore of the Human League modest comeback in a medium sized facility in Stockholm. Rock on, Lester.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDeQclyiNt4

      jtb

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    9. Curiosity — did you think as Mr Simon was singing, "WTF The Boxer, why isn't he singing American Tune?" Or is your opinion an aha moment from later?

      It's probably unwise to have any celebrity speak for America, but it's a celeb-driven culture and Cronkite and Letterman did it well.

      Can't guess what I might've said for posterity if some jackass reporter had stuck a microphone in my face on September 12 2001... I remember being worried that Bush was the wrong combination of stupid and evil, and he'd probably do the wrong things, but even in my most pessimistic moments back then I couldn't have foreseen how enthusiastically he'd take a catastrophe and make it worse.

      > Simon wrote American Tune partially or fully in response to the writings of two great Americans. Can you name them with your eyes closed?

      I can't Google with my yes closed, so nope, can't name them. He was inspired by...? Or did he actually borrow words or theme from someone? I guess he was inspired by whatever hit him, same as any of us, but what inspired Simon? Dunno.

      Never much been inspired by the Human League. Proto 1980s pop. I don't want to diss 'em if you love 'em, Lester, and they're certainly not unpleasant. "Don't You Want Me Baby?" doesn't make me reflexively reach to push a button and change the station, I like it. Just, it's background music to me. As memorable as yesterday's breaded frozen-then-broiled fish.

      Canned Heat, on the other hand, was the real deal. "Going Up the Country," man.

      I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away
      I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away
      All this fussing and fighting, man, you know I sure can't stay

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    10. > Curiosity — did you think as Mr Simon was singing, "WTF The Boxer, why isn't he singing American Tune?" Or is your opinion an aha moment from later?

      At the time. Everybody was watching SNL including me. I was, and remain, a pretty serious Paul Simon fan, and I swear I know the lyrics to half his songs if only I could sing. So, yeah, I was waiting for American Tune. And I yelled at the TV.

      You probably know that a Human League vinyl was found spinning silently at the end when Lester's body was discovered. That's the reference.

      I don't like the idea of people being fired because of their opinions, but Lester was an opinion writer. I guess he couldn't get fired for much else. Mopery? Repeated tardiness? Fucking Jann's wife? I happen to think that "Boogie With Canned Heat" is one of the 10 best American albums. It's not the one Bangs got fired for dissing, but come on, it's Canned Heat. They just playin' da blues.

      American Tune was written shortly after Nixon was re-elected, after Simon had been reading about the Watergate-related goings-on in and out of the White House by Nixon and his henchmen. Simon was influenced by the writing of Woodward and Bernstein. Of course, being Paul Simon, he created his own America in song before he mourned its loss, so the song is a distant cousin twice removed from the Watergate stories. He talked about writing it in the middle of some long-forgotten book that I've since sold or loaned out. I don't see it in my modest library.

      great my keyboard is failing...faili ...fa...

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    11. Sorry the keyboard crapped out. The words are still lovely. Woodward and Bernstein, eh? The song sounds so sad, like he was surprised to be doublecrossed. He's of a different era when people perhaps expected decency from their leaders. For me, expecting the doublecross is habit. Not many people worth looking up to. Not Nixon, for sure. Maybe not Woodward and Bernstein.

      Lester died playing Human League, and I wonder what the band thinks of their accidental involvement. Music to die for.

      I want to read Bangs' review of Canned Heat, but I'm not finding it...

      Delete
  3. Damn, I guess you get either 0 or 2. There was a time when I couldn't stop at 1, but that was long ago and far away.

    jtb

    ReplyDelete

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