The Therapy of Being Compassionate

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I wasn’t always a nice guy, and I’d imagine that there’s a lot of people out there who might say the same about themselves. Not too many years ago, if I happened across a beetle traveling along its merry way, there was a strong chance that it would have a meeting with the bottom of my boot.

One day, I asked myself. . . why do you do these things? Why are you killing these bugs for no reason? You’re certainly not about to eat that spider, cockroach, ant, fly, or gnat (maybe by accident.)  Thankfully, I grew out that, but why didn’t insects deserve compassion?

I was walking with one of my coworkers one day, and he stomped a beetle just as I once would have done. I asked him, “Why’d you do that?”

“I don’t know,” he replied.

I said, “What if an alien came down from the sky right now and smashed you into the ground because it thinks you’re stupid and ugly? Me, too, for that matter.”

I’m not certain if he ever changed his ways, but I’d like to think that I planted a seed in his mind, to make him think twice the next time, which was something that nobody ever really did or said to me. We were all violent kids growing up in south Florida. It seemed like hunting birds with our slingshots and BB guns were all there was to do.

Nowadays, I try to save just about everything, even insects that I find inside my apartment. Obviously, you can’t save everything, and if you have a flea infestation. . . well, they need to die. I’m not saying that we should all be Gandhi, but if you have a choice in the matter, try to do the right thing. Everything on the planet really just wants to live; everything from a blade of grass to a fish in the ocean.

Over the past couple of years, I have begun pondering why people base an animals right to life on their intelligence. “Oh, well they’re just dumb animals anyway.” I’ve heard that one a few times. I suppose it’s a justification for themselves, suggesting that animals don’t know pain or fear, to which I reply that they certainly do.

Being outwardly kind is one of the best portrayals of yourself that you can put out into the world. Our inner selves have a choice to be as beautiful or as ugly as we choose to be, and we still have the option to change, no matter how late in life we decide to evolve.

When you know you’ve done something positive, you feel better about yourself. There are only so many opportunities in life to really test your inner strength. You only have so many opportunities to stand up and save something or someone’s life. When I pulled a blue jay from my cat’s mouth and watched it fly away, that was one of the best feelings I ever had. That was almost thirty years ago, and I still remember it well.

As for the Canadian gosling in the photo, he/she is now living the good life on my parents’ farm. My house is practically a zoo, with a wolf hybrid, three cats, two geckos, a fish, a snail, and five plants. I hope that I’ve somehow made amends for being the person I once was.

 

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DIS-POCALYPSE

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The behemoth is on the move. The leviathan hulks through the dying oceans, swallowing whole anything that dares to stand before or beside it. However, in a way, it is somehow beautiful and appealing, even to those who are gnashed between its impeccable but monstrous teeth. The flame spitting devourer smashes the famished and the weak beneath its tendrilous tentacles. Perhaps the “lucky” are consumed, becoming a homogeneous appendage of the beast.

Disney. . .

Mickey Mouse. What pain has he ever caused? For a moment, I would ask that you consider Disney as ONLY a money-making enterprise. Now I will ask you, What is the best way into a mother’s purse or a father’s wallet? Through their children, of course.

I won’t lie. . . over the last few years, the few times that I have gone to watch a movie in theaters, several of them have been Disney owned films (Marvel, Star Wars). Throughout my life, I’ve been to every Orlando theme park, and I even bought the Mickey Mouse ears. Most of their movies are enjoyable and well made, but not all, I dare say.

Herein lies the dilemma. In another 15 or 20 years. . . what exactly will Disney not own? They already own ESPN, ABC, FOX, Marvel, and LucasFilms. Basically, what it may end up boiling down to is that if Disney doesn’t like your ideas, your ideas will never come to fruition. When someone else out there may have wanted to give you a shot, you may never get one. If you are fortunate enough to be picked up by their radar, your hard work will likely be changed far from what you ever intended, and your feelings on the matter be damned.

Monopoly laws are preventing a complete market buyout of the film industry, but what the colossus cannot integrate, it will strangle, depleting them of oxygen and out of the competition. They have the money and the power to bear force on all who oppose them, and by the wayside, the competition is crumbling. DC and Warner Brothers can barely hope to compete, but then again it is difficult to have sympathy for an industry that has built itself upon a foundation of slit throated corpses.

Disney also has a knack for pushing hidden, subliminal, sexual innuendos onto their viewers, as we have all heard about and many have seen. Perhaps we can leave the perversion out of this one, leaving it as a topic for another day.

One final thing that should be taken into consideration is this. Who’s feeding you your news? Two of the hydra’s heads are now speaking in one language. Fox news for the conservatives, and ABC for the liberals. The same story is being spun by the same puppeteer to manipulate both sides of the spectrum. So, how responsible is that cute little mouse for sending our children to kill and die in war? Maybe not responsible at all, but it’s something to think about.
It’s a small world.

My Life & The Paranormal

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For myself, It has always been a slippery slope between belief and disbelief; on the fence or off. When I was around ten years old, I decided one night while staring up at my ceiling fan, lying in bed, that I didn’t believe in God anymore. By the time I made the decision, I was recovering from my mother’s death, following a freak boating accident that devastated me in ways that I may still be unaware of. It was one of the hardest things I ever experienced, as a six-year-old child, no less. I always wanted to see her again in my dreams, but I never have.

As a young boy, my childish fears of the dark were no more alarming than those of other children. Perhaps, it’s not necessarily the dark that we are afraid of, as much as what’s inside the darkness; the primal fear of being stalked by what cannot be seen. When closed into a pitch black room, we feel for the light switch, and maybe that reaction is not only for fear of tripping.

It’s difficult to reconcile the two, being a disbeliever in an almighty, whilst also holding the belief that there is something else going on. So, in my own words, I would like to explain to the best of my ability what I have experienced and the feelings that followed.

To the best of my knowledge, I have never encountered a “friendly ghost,” or entity that made me feel safe or comfortable. The very first encounter that I ever had, was when I was still a child, maybe eight-years-old. I was asleep in my bed, and in the blackness of sleep, I saw a red face that resembled a mask. There were black holes where its eyes should have been, and two black holes for nostrils. Its mouth was agape and unmoving, portraying an infinite blackness within itself.

Fearful of what I saw, I was startled awake, and I opened my eyes. It was still there, staring down at me. My body froze in terror, unable to move while it hovered above me in the blackness of the bedroom. The face eventually faded and vanished after about thirty seconds. It could have been nothing more than a wild imagination, but that’s what all parents tell their children.

Years faded from memory, and I grew into an adult. I joined the Air Force and ended up in Germany, of all places. I lived in a dormitory there, and that is where I experienced the brunt of what a real haunting was. The dorm rooms each had rolladen window blinds which had the ability to cause pitch darkness, even during the brightest points of the day, because of the 24-hour work cycle and various shifts. The rooms could be so dark that you could not see your hand in front of your face even after allowing your eyes the time to adjust.

I was working the day shift at the time. After 12 long hours on the job, I showered and crawled into bed and stared blankly toward the ceiling. The room was completely dark, with the exception of small, dim lights from electronics. Hovering above my bed, I saw something strange. It was moving almost like a cloud, swirling like smoke in a burning house. The strangest part, I thought, was that it was darker than the room and darker than anything I had ever seen. I became a little unnerved, but I figured that it was my eyes playing tricks, and I decided to roll onto my side and ignore the smoke-like figure above me.

As I rolled over, a streak of red darted across the room, along with the cloud, frightening me into a petrified state, lying on my back, wide-eyed and breathless for a short time. Then my blanket folded across my chest without ever touching it. It was one of the strangest feelings of my life, being touched by this thing, somehow. I leaped from my bunk and turned on every light in my room. From that night forward, I never slept in that room again without some sort of light on to accompany me.

I told my friend, Charles, and his fiancee, Amy about what happened. She claimed that it was a demon. I rolled my eyes at the notion, but Amy conferred with her grandmother on the topic, and demons were the general consensus that they arrived to. I tried to remain reasonable, hoping that it was a strange trick of the eyes or my imagination.

Airmen frequently moved in and out of the dormitories, and normally as parting gifts we passed down to our friends and neighbors the things that we didn’t want to bring with us to wherever we were being stationed next. My friend, Charles and his newlywed wife, were moving off-base and offered me a Quija board. I thought little of it, and considered it to be a nice piece to hang on the wall of my bedroom. I had no intentions of ever using it, and I never did. The eyeglass piece was missing, so, I figured there wouldn’t be any “ghostly” communication going on, and I accepted the gift.

Placing the board on the wooden runner in my bedroom, I parted with it and gave it little more thought. It had been a sweltering German summer with no end in sight. The dorms were aged, having been lived in for generations, and had no air conditioning to speak of. My schedule had changed, and I was working the night shift, and my normal sleeping hours were during high noon. Sweating was a fact of life, and being the hottest summer on European record, proved to be the deaths of over 13,000 people due to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Shortly after having the Quija board in my possession, within a matter of days, I proceeded to have the most horrifying nightmare I have ever experienced. To this day, I still believe it to have been a spiritual attack.

The nightmare proceeded as follows: I was myself, staring at myself in the third-person. The person I stared at looked like me but acted nothing like me. He was a murderer, an arsonist, a rapist. Myself, in the first-person, was compelled to stop him. I looked down at my hand and a butcher knife appeared. I walked up to myself and began stabbing. Once my doppelganger laid dead in a pool of his own blood, I stared down at my own chest and noticed that it was covered in deep, gushing knife wounds. In my dream, I fell over and I died, and then. . . the dream repeated itself, except that this time, I had no self-control, and the dream commenced. After 5 or 6 repetitions, I awoke and sat up in bed, freezing and in shock. I’m not sure if I remember correctly, but I believe that when I opened my eyes, I saw my own breath on that hot summer day in Germany.

I ran to the bathroom and cranked the shower on as high as I could get it. I dove beneath the stream of water, but no amount of heat could stop my jaw from chattering. I shivered in my own skin beneath the scalding hot water. Every part of my body that was not beneath the water felt like ice, and I continuously rotated my body trying to cover myself in warmth.

It took nearly half an hour before I was able to warm my body enough to exit the shower. Immediately following the incident, I ran to my friend Charles’ room and told him that I was going to burn the Quija board, believing that it was the cause of my nightmare. He had not moved from the dorms yet with his wife and shrugged with nonchalance in regards to the idea of roasting a harmless cardboard game. I later found out that it is ill-advised, burning Quija boards.

I grabbed my zippo lighter fluid and carried the board down to the fire pit. Laying it horizontally along the grills I doused it with fluid and set it ablaze. All of the fluid burned off, leaving the board unscathed. I tried starting the fire multiple times without success, and my friend’s wife grew wary that there was something supernatural afoot.

I jammed the “board game” between the grills, then only sprayed the bottom portion of the board with fluid. After nearly a minute, the board finally began to ignite. To this day, I have never seen anything burn with such intensity. It began spouting fire in cones, and X’s, frightening all of us, nearly sending Amy running in the opposite direction, staggering as she moved away from the tendrilous fire.

Afterward, I felt relieved by what I had done and hoped that the worst of it all was behind me, but instead, the haunting appeared to escalate. It eventually turned into a daily occurrence that something out of the ordinary would happen inside my room. Things would be moved from places where I had left them. Objects would fall over and roll off of my shelves without being touched. One afternoon, I arrived home from work to find that every single drawer, cabinet, and nightstand was wide open, and pulled out as far as they would allow.

Over the course of time, I spoke at length with my friends about what I was experiencing, many of whom were skeptical of what I was telling them, but they were at least kind enough to play along. They knew that I was afraid of something, which elevated my credibility with them. I eventually had my day in court, and I was able to show my closest friends some proof.

One afternoon I sat at my computer, browsing the internet. I leaned back in my chair and spun around. Staring at my walls, I noticed something; handprints. . . everywhere. They were all over the walls, and all over the ceiling. Upon further examination, I ruled out several things. First of all, they were not mine. Second of all, they likely belonged to a girl or woman by their size, which was over an inch shorter than my own fingers. Third of all, they were in places where the human hand would not be able to reach, without the hand being violently broken and jammed into the space where a wall and ceiling conjoin, or where two walls meet. I grabbed a wet paper towel and tried wiping them from the walls and they would not come off. When I showed the handprints to my friends, after all the other things I had mentioned in the past, I had their full and undivided attention.

After a while, I became accustomed to the haunting and accepted it as a normal part of my enlisted military life. I can remember several occasions where I simply barked out at nothing in my room, telling whatever it was to shut up, or quiet down, or to stop moving my s***. I remember speaking out into existence, saying something along the lines of, “I don’t care what you do. Knock things over, throw stuff. . . I don’t care, but I don’t want to see you,” because I thought I saw an apparition of a woman standing in my room from the corner of my eye.

Several of my friends asked why I didn’t ask to change dorm rooms, to which I replied, “And what am I going to do? Tell our first sergeant that my room is haunted? Yeah, that’s a great idea, if I want to be sent off for a psychological exam, instead.”

Time moved forward and my time at Ramstein Airbase came to a close. I remember thinking to myself on my flight across the Atlantic, whether or not this dark energy would or could follow me, or even attach itself to me somehow. I later discovered that something did find me, whatever it was.

I was a heavy smoker for many years of my life, and one night, in particular, I woke up from a deep sleep. It wasn’t common for me to wake up and smoke a cigarette, but on this particular night, I walked out into the living room and lit one up in the pitch dark. For whatever reason, I did not feel like turning on any lights. I felt very strange. The flame from my lighter cast a dull light across the room, and then an old familiar feeling occurred, and the hair on my neck and arms stood on end. I was overcome with a feeling of dread and felt that something was in the room with me, staring at me. I froze with the cigarette burning between my lips, shifting my eyes around in the darkness, searching for something that I really didn’t want to find. The cable box in the living room began acting peculiar. I heard a clicking sound and the cable box turned off, then on, then off, then on again; resetting itself each time to the default numbers of 88. I snuffed my smoke out in the ashtray and hurried away to the bedroom. My heart seemed to be exploding out of my chest with anxiety, but it eventually quelled itself, and I was able to sleep.

Hauntings were considerably less common for me than they were when I lived in Germany, though they did nonetheless still happen from time to time. The last haunting that I experienced, and probably one of the most memorable, occurred about eight years ago. I was asleep in bed with my back facing the edge of it. It was morning and daylight outside. I heard a rasping voice, almost like a loud whisper, say, “Mike.” My eyes opened immediately, and I was fully awake at that point. Then I heard my name again, “Mike,” and I flipped over to see who was speaking to me, and to my surprise, no one was standing there calling me. Whatever it was, it knew my name and it apparently knew me. . .

Since those days gone by, I have found the love of my life, and I married her. She’s much like myself, with her own haunting stories to tell. For the both of us and for our son’s sake, we hope that the worst of these experiences are behind us.

What does it all actually mean? I believe that there are many religions that try to interpret and find reasoning for our existence, but I doubt that anyone truly knows or understands what is happening. The universe is so vast and expansive that we may never truly know or understand the other side until after we’re dead and gone.

On a side note, if you have a Quija board in your home, I suggest you get that thing out of it.

The Subtle Decline In Exceptional Art & Talent

In a conversation with a friend, I posed a question, wondering how athletes of today, in their primes, would fair against athletes from past eras in theirs. We spoke at length on the music industry, movies, books, art, and a spectrum of other comparable topics. The consensus that we arrived at, was that previous generations would more than likely have wiped the floor with the current competition. Keeping that in mind, I would like to take my best shot at explaining how this could and would be possible.

First, let us use guitarists as an example, using such names as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton. These artists were/are some of the best musicians of modern times, and their skills and techniques are still unmatched to this day. That’s not saying that there aren’t incredibly talented people out there, but something has changed, and it would appear that the trajectory of where it’s all heading is down.

Let’s talk basketball for a moment. The #1 star in the entire NBA is Lebron James. The guy is an absolute beast on the court, but when comparing statistics, he would only be considered among some of the better players from twenty years ago, but not the best. His stats are comparable to Larry Bird’s, who was, in fact, a great player, but he was no Michael Jordan.

 Something that I’ve noticed, is that music quality overall has taken a turn for the worse. There doesn’t seem to be a demand from the general public for better music, art, or movies. Instead, the bar is simply lowered. The expectation becomes less, and lower quality entertainment becomes the norm. 

In a time where distractions are pandemic, it becomes clearer how all of this came to be. In the 1960’s you may have had a single television inside your home which broadcasted three channels. Artists would spend hours upon hours every day of every week honing their craft, becoming the best in their fields. Nowadays if you asked someone how many hours they spent practicing, you would be lucky to find an honest answer claiming more than a couple of hours a week, if that.

We all have days where we get home from work and we’re tired, our backs hurt, the kids are hungry, the dog needs a walk, and there’s laundry to fold. It’s hard to stay focused on your goals, especially when there are all of those cat videos that keep popping up in your news feed. These days it is primarily a competition for your time, and with all of the amusements that can be had, oftentimes, there is little room to truly focus on becoming your best. Perhaps few of us will ever reach our full potential, but we’ll never know how far we could have gotten if we never take the time to expand on and grow our passions.

The Wind, The Rain, & The Wedding

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I would imagine that there are few things more mortifying to a woman than finding out that the wedding you have planned and slaved over for months, is directly within the coned radius of an incoming tropical storm. This was my darling sister’s reality this past Memorial Day weekend in Panama City Beach, Florida.

The storm (Alberto) loomed in the Gulf of Mexico, taunting the mainland for what seemed like days. The nail-biting and anxiety undulated up and down with the changes to the forecast. At one point, we even felt lucky. We suspected that the storm might actually miss us! Being dead wrong would prove to be a vast understatement.

The ceremony was scheduled to commence at 5:30 PM on Sunday and guests began arriving in formal attire, on time. We all had our fingers crossed that the weather would hold out just a little while longer. Up until that point, we believed that there was still a chance to beat Alberto to the punch before it made landfall.

There was a beautiful outdoor setup, complete with lined wooden chairs, a sturdy outdoor tent, and an altar that was surrounded by rose petals and intricately woven white cloth. The marvel overlooked the intercoastal waters that were quickly beginning to white cap and churn as Alberto drew closer.

At precisely 5:00 PM absolute hell rained down upon the outdoor portion of the wedding, and the plans obviously needed to be changed. The indoor reception area became the new ceremony destination. The ballroom was well lit with extra rows of string lights along with a chandelier. Clay, flower-filled vases lined the room standing upon their white pillars.

The bride and groom prepared themselves to be wed, and I could see the look of panic on my sister’s face. Tears flowed from her eyes as the wind began to whip and rip through the outdoor festivities, knocking over the folding chairs, while pushing increasingly harder against the outdoor tent’s metal frame.

My wife and I, along with my mother and father, all offered words of encouragement prior to the commencement, and then it all began, indoors, away from the gusting gale winds that were brooding beyond the glass windows. The curtains were pulled, and the doors opened. The groom stepped forward with his groomsmen in tow. Bridesmaids followed shortly thereafter, and then my sister walked down the aisle, dropping the jaw of her husband to be.

The rest of the wedding went off without a hitch, and any other issues quickly fell to the wayside. We all ate, drank, and danced, but despite the pitfalls that were endured, my sister still left that night with her prize, a young man who truly and unequivocally loves her. As for my wife and I, we found out that we are going to be aunts and uncles to a beautiful baby niece.

When nothing is going your way, and the world seems to be pitted against you, try to be patient, because you can still get what you want, and more importantly, the happiness you deserve.

Putting Down The Remote Control

Being born in the 1980’s and coming of age in the 90’s was a wonderful time for me. The Saturday morning cartoons were amazing. Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and SEGA all came out at some point, and even computer games were starting to become a thing. I can remember spending countless hours of my life playing games like Contra, GoldenEye 007, and Starcraft, loving every single second of it.

I also spent a fair amount of time as a child grounded from doing the things that I loved. I remember making some sort of childhood pact with myself saying something along the lines of, “When I grow up and there’s nobody to tell me what to do or ground me anymore, I’m gonna play video games FOREVER!” As time dragged on and I matured into adulthood, and “adulting” happened, those plans changed.

My level of interest began declining, not wanting to spend all of my days in front of the television. I had gotten really into playing games like Destiny, and at some point I realized that they were chewing up all of my free time, not to mention that I also have a wife, son, and full-time job to manage on top of it all. It became maddening, grinding day after day, spending my weekends trying to level up, or trying to find the gun, sword, helmet, or boots that I was forever in search of. I finally decided to put down the remote control and move on.

About two years ago I decided to journey into something that I had never done before. I began writing my first full-length novel, and much to my surprise, I finished the first draft of my manuscript within five months of my start date. I never knew how therapeutic writing could be, or how much fun it was. There’s nothing wrong with being a homebody in my view, but I really enjoy the idea of doing more productive work with my time. Ever since I began on this course, I’ve hardly looked back. My only regret is that I didn’t start writing sooner.