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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pornography: a poem about war

War as pornography is a concept I came upon while listening to a lecture by Chris Hedges.  The phrase struck me with great force and this poem came to me as my mind quickly rehashed the last five decades.

Fifty years ago being young and filled with the knowledge that the U.S. could do no wrong I did not question the right or wrong of the Vietnam war. I opposed it, but for selfish reasons.  I did not want to go.

Fifty years later that understanding which attributes virtue to acts of war has vanished. The revelations of the Pentagon Papers were the touchstone of reality.

The wars, based on lies presented to me in the mainstream media and which have been raging in the middle east for the last two decades have only served to instill a sense of dread in me.  

"How can we do this, how can we do this?" I keep asking myself.  It must be for the money and resources available is all I can come up with.

As I listened to Chris Hedges talk and heard the phrase "the pornography of war" a poem came to mind and I wrote it.  I titled it "Pornography".  I'm not pleased to have had to write it. The reality that provides the inspiration comprises the heart of darkness.

The photograph below was taken at the Vietnam War Memorial in Portland Oregon.  It is a somber, peaceful place that caused me much reflection and sadness when I visited in 2007.

Near the exit of the park is the memorial set aside for those still missing.

unfit for young eyes
shows the triple X news of the last 50 years
has been by persuasion with lies
supported by cheers.

Parents still cry for children they've lost,
but all involved have agreed,
some must fight and some must die,
some must stay at home and cry
so the marketplace is free.

Newsprint black magic,
spells cast with words
God and country the plea,
call it anything you want:
porn is what you see.

By David H. Roche (C) 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Intercessory Prayer: a video concerning the environment

As it turns out our way of life has accomplished many things.  This video was made to illustrate one of the things our way of life has succeeded in doing.  You can read it by clicking here.

I came across this information this morning and became sick at heart. So I made the video.  What will we do when the earth is no longer able to support life?

Those reading this will most likely have died by the time that happens.  Their children and grandchildren will be left to eat the bitter fruit of progress.

There is a protest song from the 1960's which seems appropriate.  Click here to listen to "Waist Deep In The Big Muddy".

Another video on the same ecological theme which I made in the last week.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Last Week Of 2013 ( a poem)

The Last Week Of 2013

A week before the end of the month

there's no more butter,

no more ketchup

no more salt

and no more money.

In a big White House in another world

wishing Merry Christmas to all

with a smile on his face.

(C) 2013 by David H. Roche

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advice For Kings: The Bible And Beer Stamps

The bible often has some down to earth advice.  Proverbs 31: 1-7 is a good example:

There were no Presidents, or Prime Ministers when, Solomon wrote this book of Wisdom.  But they did have kings to run things and Solomon was a king.  He was a powerfully literate and passionate person. He enjoyed poetry, pursuits of the intellect and spirit as well as the pleasures of the flesh. Apparently he paid very little heed to his mothers advice. 

He possessed virtually unlimited wealth. But it seems he had the same concerns the less well off have.  He questioned if man was any better off than an animal.  Like the author of the book of Job, Solomon asked the big questions wealth could not silence.

Solomon, Job, and the bible in general encounter the condition of poverty based misery and the seeming meaninglessness and lack of purpose for human life. When a person looks back over the decades and sees he or she is only deeper in debt and much more older and tired than when they started out the question of the purpose and meaning of life seems clear.  We exist to work and pay taxes to the government even though the result is debt and misery and finally death. Many chafe at this interpretation of life. Many cannot accept that such a condition is all that can be hoped for.  But it is the 'official' answer. Don't you think the human spirit deserves a better answer?

I can't recall in my lifetime a period of more misery in the U.S. and world in general as there is now. The current state of affairs is ripe for a righteous leader to stand up and see that the people get Beer Stamps.  

It is, after all, conditions such as those oppressing 99 % of the world today that make it plain that it is time to issue Beer Stamps. It's in the bible.  It's the kings job. Or for an American, its the Presidents job to see that the poor have enough beer to make them forget their troubles. That can only be accomplished through implementation of a nationwide Beer Stamp program similar to the food stamp program already in place for the economically disenfranchised.

Below is a video I made promoting a universal Beer Stamp program.  Enjoy.

Petition your lawmakers.  Alert the beer distributors in your area. Alert the restaurants and bars they serve. Talk to everyone you meet about the need for a universal Beer Stamp program.

Beer consumption is expected to increase a minimum of 400 percent if the Beer Stamp measure is approved. This will mean a huge boon for the entire industry.  Analysis shows that at first a spike in consumption twice that estimate is expected to be reached.  Then there will be a slow dropping off to the projected new 'normal'  level representing an increase of 4 times over the pre Beer Stamp era.

Everyone I've spoken with has thought it was a good idea. If there was ever a time for Beer Stamps it is now.

Contact your representatives and get the ball, or in this instance the keg,  rolling.

(C) 2013 David H. Roche

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Furnace of Affliction" Some thoughts about suffering and a new video

I made a video titled “Furnace of Affliction”.    Just click the title it goes to 'Dimensions' my YouTube channel. It took longer than it should have to settle on a title.  I finally decided to use the bible verse I had included in the video.  Isaiah 48: 10.  You can read the entire chapter here.  It is set in a specific historical context but the meaning I draw from it has little to do with the historical  or current context.

I interpret this passage in a spiritual way enabling an expanded vision to appear.  While reading the chapter I remembered how in the New Testament it is written that Jesus spoke truth to the church authorities with verses like this.  He showed them no quarter and declared them dead wrong and dangerous.

I had been fascinated by the references in the bible using fire as a means of describing God’s being. The bush burning mysteriously in the desert, and God's spirit  is described as a flame of fire. Fire has a mystical as well as practical side. It is that consideration of fire I'm thinking of.

Think about the flame.  What you are seeing ceases to exist upon your seeing it.  The flame is what happens during a change of state.

What we see in the writhing flames is the struggle for extinction. The top of the flame is the end of the game for the flame... poof' its gone.

However if you look down to the fire below it seems to be much the same and if you look back to the top, there it is, about to extinguish itself.

What's going on?
Why does flame rush continually toward extinction,
but there is always more flame?

Along with this inexplicable activity of the flame I have also been wondering about 'human suffering'.  Many have wondered about this, some have given up their religion as a result of God not responding to their suffering in a way they felt God should with endless questions such as "If God is a God of love, why did this happen, why did that happen..." " Why?" becomes the biggest and toughest question ever asked.

Here's how I understand it. Life is supposed to hurt.  It's not supposed to hurt because that's the way God intended it, it's supposed to hurt because reality demands that it hurt. It's hard to buck reality.  Can you imagine life in a society created by an economic system built on interest / debt and taxation that did not hurt? So it must hurt.  Those are the rules.

Both Jesus and Buddha  recognized the universal problem of suffering. Both provided an unlikely antidote to suffering.  In this antidote you are set on a course of self discovery.  

The parables of Jesus are a deep mine of spiritual treasure. You can read them here. CLICK

There is a short book of wisdom attributed to the Buddha.  The Dhammapada.  The Dhammapada  can be read here.  CLICK.  Upon reading these two works of spiritual insight you will realize their, Jesus and Buddha's, approach to the endurance, end and experience of suffering is unexpected to say the least.  Their ideas are quite similar none the less. Each teacher maintains that being transformed by a radically different conception of self identity is the only way out.

The apostle Paul describes the solution as a mystery.  

"to make all men see
what is the fellowship of the mystery
which from the beginning of the world
hath been hid in God,"

The art and video was made by myself.  I wrote the article.  
Links to external sites are links to information other people have provided I make no claim to ownership.

David H. Roche (C) 2013

a Clear Running Water state of mind

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mysteries And Dreams From Before Time

The images in the video,with the exception of my stock characters and backgrounds, were made in the month of December 2013. They are the result of mediating on the meaning of the "Kingdom of God" Jesus spoke about. I began to consider the topic as it is associated with the spiritual nature of the human being.

Jesus was apolitical.  He demonstrated that position several times.  One of them was in his encounter in the desert and the temptations of Satan. Another in his 'render unto Caesar' statement. I always had the idea that Jesus was not the least bit concerned with the existential turmoils in day to day life.  He offhandedly dismisses the problems of life with the thought that each day comes with all the trouble you need.  As if to say; "Well yes life is made up of a lot of suffering.  Did you expect something different?"

I have come away from reading his statements feeling as if Jesus was in possession of information he desperately wished to communicate. It didn't seem to bother him that he was homeless. He felt he was in possession of information so important he must spread it until he was executed.  He insisted his knowledge was something which abrogated and transcended temporal political, social matters. He repeatedly said his Kingdom was not of this world.  What world was it of? What did he mean?

The ancient literature from many cultures represents the physical world as being in the midst of, helped by and often at the mercy of spiritual beings. Literally, these spiritual powers are said to be all around us.

How are such realities described in 21 century jargon?  The gains in the knowledge and recognition of 'consciousness' as the basis of being for all things may be helpful in understanding what Jesus understood as the basis of the message hidden in his parables.

Jesus, as Christ and Lord, is represented by Paul the Apostle as being the sum of all knowledge, which is a fitting way to describe the origin of all things. These of course are metaphors.  Metaphors of something Paul also said was so real no one has ever imagined, or begun to imagine what it, the spiritual world, is like.  But, Paul claimed, it is more real and better than can be imagined.

All of these mysteries point to the ultimate mystery of 'being': the place before time where dreams come from.

Mysteries And Dreams From Before Time

Monday, December 09, 2013

I Remember You ( a reading of a Christmas story )

I posted the story in text and it has gotten a lot of  readings since November 18.  I decided to make an audio version with art to reveal the Christmas experience.  If you would like to download it to share I have made a podcast of it at Buzzsprout.  You can get to it by clicking here

The story should be understood as a commentary of current events.  Consider the Pawn Broker Goldfarb to be the banksters who have removed hope from all who live on earth. They are the ones who put people on the street, starving, cold and homeless.  They are heartless, bloodless bastards, but considered to have all the rights of living, breathing, suffering human beings by the United States Supreme Court. This means you are screwed.

Christmas is a time of hope and peace.  Your can still have hope.

The President is eating well this Christmas season and has heat in his house.  Is that your experience?  Are you able to afford the necessities of life?

May Christ be a light in your heart this season. There is no hope in this world controlled by the people who control it now.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The President Has Trimmed The Christmas Tree ( a poem) UPDATE

The President Has Trimmed The Christmas Tree

The President has trimmed the Christmas tree
a symbol of hope
for those so cold it hurts.

Poverty hurts,
and hunger hurts too.

Congress took food from the mouth of the poor
and now it hurts even more
since the President has trimmed the Christmas tree.

a poem by David H. Roche

After writing this poem, which I edited this morning, I got an email from the White House telling me all about the wonderful Christmas and good food the President and his family would have.  This note came along with it.  

Here's what we're doing for the holidays:
Folks across the country are getting ready for the holidays. We're celebrating here at the White House, too -- and we want you to be a part of it.

Go ahead and look at it.  It looks to me like there will be a lot of good food to eat. I didn't notice any ice on the White House windows.  That means he can afford to heat as well as eat.  Not everyone in this country can afford both. He must be doing well for himself.

I woke up this morning with an old Bobby Darin tune "Artificial Flowers" running through my mind.  Take a listen.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Sunrise On A December Morning (art by nature, photography and video by me)

Ice frozen on the windows makes a surreal forest like scene. Each time the temperature cooperates these fantastic designs appear overnight. I took the pictures, but the design is made completely by nature.

I worked on them some and turned it into a video.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Ballroom of the Moon: a video Christmas Card From Jack and Qkjea (update)

Christmas is a time when a large number of those living on the earth make special note of the spiritual dimension of life.

In the Christian worldview there is understood to have taken place a dramatic breakthrough from one dimension, the spiritual, into another dimension, this one.

This has had startling and long lasting effects. Christians understand Christmas is a time when God is represented as having come to aid and bring relief to those living on earth.  It is a story of hope, peace and joy.

I made a video with Jack and Qkjea titled "Ballroom of the Moon".

It's a fanciful peace built around the spiritual suppositions that arise from the teaching of the Kingdom of God which Christ re-introduced into the human meme pool in a most astonishing and tragic way.

Christ brought knowledge he scattered like seed throughout the consciousness of the human mind in the first century.  It is still bearing fruit to this day. It has a liberating, refreshing, rejuvenating impact on those in whom his teaching is cultivated.

The purpose of inserting this knowledge into human consciousness was so that the mind might be transformed  by knowledge and understanding and its possessor transferred into the spiritual dimension.

It may be necessary to let go of church and doctrine before recognizing Christ's voice.  Doctrines often function like obstacles limiting your ability to come in contact with the life and vitality Jesus said were in his words.

Christmas, by virtue of its reminder of God's solidarity with the world of flesh and blood, allows the opportunity to consider the meaning of your life, the fact that you exist.

How did that happen? How is it you are even reading this page?  How do you know you are reading this page?  The answer is: Because "I am." 

Because "You Are". The Christ in Christmas opens up this mystery. But he's hard to discover in doctrinally constructed belief systems.

Christ is a Spirit

Spirit is like knowledge, it is intangible and at the same time real. Spirit is like water, it will get into anything given enough time.

If you are real God must be too. The only earthborn critters known to vocalize about God have been humans. What is God?  God is that which is recognized as having existence prior to us and knowledge beyond our comprehension but which we imagine exists. The concept of LOGOS is a starting place to begin the inquiry. You'll see how nicely the concept of LOGOS moves through human inquiry fitting into the meaning attributed to Christ. You may be able to intuit how this is spiritual and why the universe is ultimately a friendly place.


Below is a video I made with the thought found in Revelation 13 verse 8.  Jesus is said to be the "Lamb" slain from the foundation of the world.  This statement by John indicates the eternal purpose of God is one of peace, and reconciliation.  Atonement.  The video fits in with the Christmas theme.  The babe in the manger has not expressed the extent of God's commitment to the created order until he is revealed as the slaughtered Lamb of God.

Merry Christmas

Friday, November 29, 2013

Crime and Punishment: re-thinking the message of Christ in the Book of Revelation

"Crime and Punishment" is my take on the New Testament book of Revelation.

It seems clear to me from the parables of Christ that his teaching was intended to open the minds of men and women to a greater understanding of the meaning of their existence.  This story (in the previous link) he told of the wayward son who wasted all his father gave him is generally taught as a story of forgiveness.  However it is more than that because it reveals that the son is not merely forgiven but a child of the house he left. He was always the son of the Father, he would always be the son of the Father. And that never changed. He may have ended up in the gutter with a meth pipe in his mouth, but he was still able to come home freely to his Father. His Father did not lay any guilt trips on him when he came home. The purpose of Christ's teaching was to show those who were wallowing in misery the nature of their own being that somebody, their maker, thought they were worth something. Not only that, he didn't hold anything against them.

The activity of the Christian Church through the ages is evidence it never understood what Jesus was talking about. It made 'politically correct' decisions enabling it to harmonize with the status quo orchestrated by the secular state. Thus the Church became Babylon, the whoring wife of Christ, who declared his kingdom was not of this world.

Christian doctrine has, in my way of thinking, turned Christ into a joke. It presents a God who will send a man to burn in hell forever if he has failed to confess the theft of a candy bar as a child. The English executed people for offenses like that at one point in their history.

They never claimed that the judge loved them while he was hanging them for petty theft or that he was  'merciful' for sending them to the hell hole of Australia. It was representative of the justice of the elite classes defending their private property. These petty thieves were people that needed to be gotten rid of. The book "Orphans of History: The Forgotten Children of the First Fleet" by Robert Holden is an eye opener.  It gives a look into that history of Great Britain which claims the name of Christ and his religion as theirs. The book is hard to find, but I suggest getting a copy and reading it.

The video below is the result of meditating on the meaning of Christ apart from sectarian interpretations.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Few Minutes With A Bunch Of Coots (nature photography)

Coots, sometimes called Mud Hens, are fun to watch. The coot is mainly an herbivore. But not entirely.  In the video you can see it diving.

The camera, a Canon Rebel, did a good job.  You can actually see the silvery body of the coot coming up from under the surface in one of the video clips. They stay underwater quite a while. Not as long as cormorants. The coot dives down and fetches vegetation which is a large part of its diet.

They have ruby red eye eyes and their adult feathers are slate grey. Their feet look like chickens feet that tried to be a ducks foot and gave up when it was half way done.  When they congregate in the yard they look like a flock of black chickens.

They're fun to watch and quickly learn if they can expect a hand out.

a Clear Running Water state of mind
Photographs, video and article by David H. Roche
(C) 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Grandma I Hate Climate Change

A video I made about the decisions to dig coal for export to be burned in foreign countries because it is profitable.

Friday, November 22, 2013

They Chose Carbon (updated)

Updated 11/23/2013

"They Chose Carbon" is meant to be received as a metaphor referencing the values of the status quo. Human civilization stands at the edge of the abyss created by natural consequences, human choice and cosmic fate. Karma blossoms are soon to bloom,  Having sown to the wind, the harvest is a whirlwind. 

These are lessons I was taught about being responsible for my behavior. It is a principle embraced by many spiritual perspectives from Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism as well as the traditions of Christianity and the Jewish religion. I have added links to sacred texts from the different spiritual traditions the human race has developed throughout its endeavor to figure things out. They make insightful reading and I remark frequently to myself how they resonate with the things Jesus taught.

Do humans bear any responsibility for the choices made with regard to caring for the environment? In particular the issue of carbon which is a topic of public conversation at the present as represented by this New York Times article by Justin Gillis titled "Heat Trapping Gas Passes Milestone Raising Fears" published May 10, 2013. 

The independent news program Democracy Now has been on the scene reporting on the United Nations Climate Change Summit again this year.  Click to find out the information Amy Goodman and crew are discovering and revealing to the rest of us.

I suppose the answer one arrives at will be different for people who hold different views of the nature of humanity and therefore themselves. I did a search to find out how the Tea Party felt about this climate change issue and found an article by Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian of October 24, 2010

Is there a moral responsibility that goes along with existence with regard to maintaining the viability of the earth?  Put it another way and ask, "Is it immoral to make the world uninhabitable for others?"  In the end does it matter what we do?

Why is this inquiry necessary?  Many voices have set about to convince you of one point of view or another. Confusion is the result of many voices.  Being confident of any information from a politician or special interest group is like believing your priest, pastor or banker. They will tell you 'right' from their point of view. But are they credible?  Do their rules correspond to the reality that is your experience?

I would suggest the use of common sense.  Common sense is an attribute we all have when our minds are not awash in a maelstrom of information from meme makers and propaganda bullshit artists in positions of supposed authority in government and media. Remove yourself from the babel.

Once you are centered in yourself you can discern what's on the end of that long newspaper spoon William Burroughs informed us of.  That galvanizing moment when you realize what it means and who it is that is feeding you full of fears and creating a world no one wants to live in.
Okay I made the video below. You can decide if I should have taken the time.

Article video and art by David H. Roche (C) 2013

a Clear Running Water state of mind

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Remember You: short fiction by David H. Roche

I Remember You

by David H. Roche

written 8/28/06

revised 11 /18 / 2013
(C) David H. Roche

a story inspired by a song titled "I Remember Loving You" 

Hauling himself up into the freight car as it lurched abruptly he stumbled sprawling against a wall where he turned, pressing himself into the corner and slid down to the floor.  He blew slowly on his fingers, warming them and drew his battered suitcase close to his side hunching forward to save the meager heat of his body inside his coat.

The glare of the freight yard lights flashed through slats in the boxcar door.  Shivering he attempted further to pull inside of himself to escape the cold.  But it was impossible.

Across from him there was the outline of another man huddled in the cold.  He saw the bright orange dot of a cigarette suspended in darkness.  As his eyes adjusted he saw  he had two companions; a man and small dog. 

The train gained speed. Despite the rattle and the jostling he acknowledged his companions with a wave. Settling back he drew inside of himself to control the trembling. There was nothing else but the cold that made him aware he was alive.

The two of them sat across from each other as the train moved. When the train slowed, creaking and jerking to a stop his companion rose, swaying and crossed the length of the car sitting down next to him.  The dog followed, lying alongside of him with his muzzle on the man’s thigh. "Name's Jack,"  the man said.

He looked at Jack.  They were about the same age as far as he could tell.  He reached and stroked the dogs head and said:  "Gabriel; call me Gabe."

The two sat next to each other, their shoulders rubbing as the train jerked again, lurching abruptly picking up speed. Jack reached into his pocket drawing out a bottle and handed it to Gabe saying: "This'll keep the chill off."

Gabe took it thankfully unscrewing the cap taking a swig.  The liquid burned all the way down his throat into the pit of his empty stomach where it settled like a pool of hot lava.  He savored the burning and quickly took a second swig, and another before handing it back.  "Thanks.  I don’t touch it often; sometimes it gets out of hand."

“Yeah, that can happen.  But here's to a merry Christmas anyway."

"Christmas?", Gabe said.

"Yeah, it's Christmas Eve.”  Jack looked at him:  “You didn't know?"

"No. God, I didn't know.  Christmas?   Well, merry Christmas I guess."  Gabe sat quietly, rocking and swaying with the motion of the train.  The whiskey went from his stomach and into his brain the way a mellow summer afternoon becomes an all-encompassing ambiance. After a few minutes he asked:  "What's his name?"

"Ah, the dog. He’s Harry. I named him after the President.  He's tough as nails  ... an honest pup.  I can always count on him."

"Got three of these," Jack said patting the bottle.  Found a box sitting behind a truck outside a liquor store, snatched them before the driver came back.  I figured it would make for a nice Christmas."  He sipped from the bottle and passed it to his companion.  "Glad I got someone to share it with, Christmas and all."

Gabe repeated the word to himself, "Christmas."  It was more in wonder than anything.  Wonder that he hadn't known. Wonder that what had meant so much before could pass unnoticed now.

They drank together shoulder to shoulder sharing the warmth in the bottle and their bodies as they rocked in place with the motion of the train.  Gabe took a half empty pouch of tobacco from his pocket, removed a pinch and spread it along the crease of a rolling paper.  He'd done it many times and none spilled as he moistened the seam and put it between his lips. He struck a match and after taking a drag handed the pouch to Jack who took it saying; "Thanks.”

The two men sat talking while they smoked, passing the bottle back and forth.  Jack was coming from New York and heading to California or maybe Oregon hoping to find warmer weather and pick fruit and maybe get a room.  He had wanted to get going earlier in the year but ended up in jail in New York and had just been released a week before. 

"I’m not really going anywhere", Gabe replied.  "Just some place warm enough for my clothes."

"Any family?"; Jack asked.

"Yeah, I got…”, then stopped. “No not really.  None I can go and see, so I guess not." 

Gabe pushed back into the crevice with Jack where the corners made a ninety degree angle and settled into the comfort of the alcohol.  Already the numbness from the frigid night was vanishing, replaced with an imitation of warmth as the amber liquid radiated like a hearth inside of him.

"How's it going Harry?"  He stroked the dog’s head absently but his thoughts were drifting without his will back to another Christmas Eve. 

It was a Christmas Eve four years before that Gabe remembered as the whiskey and conversation released him from his preoccupation with the cold reality of the boxcar. 

The first bottle was emptied and the second opened.  Gabe spoke absently to Harry.  Harry nuzzled his snout into his master’s lap and gave a sigh. 

Gabe's thoughts went their own way as the three rocked back and forth together in the semi-darkness.

He remembered the Christmas Eve that had brought him to this place in time.  He didn’t want to.  But his memories were a cascade that seemed to have no end.  His mother, and Sherry came to mind; both gone forever from him now. 

The ring that was to be Sherry's had been his mother's engagement ring.  It was a two carat diamond in a platinum setting. It was the only thing of value he had.  But he had come on hard times and had to get a loan against it at Goldfarb’s pawn shop.   He had made weekly payments.   As Christmas approached he made double payments from October on and had it all paid off except for the last payment he was going to make that Christmas Eve after work so he could take it home to Sherry.  It was an engagement ring for the second time.  The thought of Sherry's face when he would put the ring on her finger that evening had made him smile all day.  That's what he told everyone when he stopped at O'Leary's for drinks after work. 

He had gotten carried away and forgot the time.  When he looked at his watch he knew that he'd have to hurry.  By the time he got there it was just past closing but he saw Goldfarb locking the door and turning to go down the street.  He ran up behind him and called:  "Sol.  I'm glad I caught you.  I need to get my ring."

The pawn broker continued walking and didn't turn to acknowledge him.

"Hey Sol," he called again as Goldfarb continued without responding.  "I was afraid I'd miss you, wait up."

Goldfarb turned slowly and looked at him with eyes absent the light the living have and said: "I'm closed.  See me after the holiday."

"Sol.  It's me, Gabe Walker; I've got the last payment.  Just open up and let me get the ring.  It won't take more than a minute."  Gabe grabbed Goldfarb's sleeve, "I need to get my ring tonight.  It's an engagement ring for my fiancĂ©.  It's Christmas Eve."

"I know who you are and you're late.  I'm closed and I'm going home. We have a celebration tonight.  You should have gotten here earlier.  See me after the holidays."  He removed Gabe's hand from his sleeve and walked away.

 Gabe grabbed him again and held on.

Goldfarb turned to him with the same lack of emotion he had cultivated during 40 years behind the counter in his shop.  He looked at him with the same eyes he used to view those whose humanity he refused to recognize as he took their money and sold their possessions when they couldn’t redeem them:  "It's not your ring until you make the last payment.  It's my ring until then.  I'm closed.  Good night, have a merry Christmas."  

He yanked his arm out of Gabe's' grip, turned away down the sidewalk into an alleyway leading to his car behind the storefront.  Gabe watched him as others hurried home to celebrations and families.  His anger rose and turned into despair.  "The hell I will you god damned piece of shit."  He ran after him down the unlit alley and jumped on his back dragging him down.

The two men struggled but Gabe was stronger. Goldfarb, older and weak from decades behind the counter was no match for the younger man whose strength came from manhandling swine carcasses in the slaughterhouse five days a week.  Gabe subdued him quickly and went through the older mans pockets.  Finding the keys he ran to the pawnshop leaving Goldfarb on the ground.

Once inside he went right to where he knew the ring was and grabbed it.  He placed the last payment along with the keys on the counter, and left.  He gave a fleeting thought to Goldfarb as he passed the alleyway and almost went in to see if he was alright.  But then said to himself: "The hell with the god damned bastard," and walked past. 

What had made him snap?  Whether it had been the afternoon drinking, the anger at Goldfarb or the thought that he would come home empty handed to Sherry who deserved more than he could ever give her.  He had never been able to figure it out and he had run it through his mind a thousand times.  But what he did know was that he had taken the ring and left Goldfarb in a heap, gasping for breath in the dark.

Sherry had been as happy as a girl is when the man she loves gives her a diamond.  But the day after Christmas Goldfarb's murder was front page news.  Apparently there had been a witness.  The police had also lifted a fingerprint from the jewelry counter. Gabe had a record and it wasn't long before they knew who to look for.

A few days later there was a flashing red glare across the walls of their flat.  He nervously pulled the curtain back and looked out the window.  There were two Chicago Police cars stopped and two cops in the street below were looking up at his apartment.  He didn't have time to explain. And in the cold rumbling box car he could see Sherry standing there trembling and scared repeating: "What's going on Gabe?  What's going on?"  He had run out the back door of the apartment and down the stairs. She had heard a knock at their door and found the police standing there. 

Running for his life, dashing through alleys, across busy streets, and over railroad tracks he ended up in the freight yards and found himself in a boxcar.  The next day he was in Idaho.

Jack nudged his ribs rousing him from the reverie and offered him the bottle again. He took it gladly, gulping it.  Settling back more memories filled him. The rocking of the car settled him and the cold seemed only to be outside. The warm glow inside gave him comfort and distance from everything.

Behind his eyes he saw Sherry again and now she was telling him she was pregnant.  He remembered how she was scared. But he had taken her in his arms and swung her around in the center of the parlor, they ended up giggling, kissing and laughing.  That was the summer before Goldfarb's death.  They would be married before the baby was born and they began to make plans and choose names.

But by the next summer he was in California and by October had made his way back to Chicago hoping to find Sherry and their child.  He found out where she was living through friends who told him where she was, warning him that the police were still asking about him.  They told him something more. She had married one of his friends who promised to look after her.  And the baby was a boy.

In the frigid night images passed behind his eyes and leaked down his cheeks.  The plans they had made and the happiness they had felt were like the leaves of autumn after a glorious summer.  But summer was gone, none the less.

He had gone to the neighborhood where she was living.  After walking the street all morning he saw her pushing a carriage and stop at a market.  From the doorway of a tobacco shop across the street he watched her talking with Graziano, the grocer.  There was a forlorn sensation in his chest as she bent and lifted his son from the carriage. She jiggled him on her hip as she talked with Graziano and selected produce.  He wondered what she had named him. 

He wanted to rush across the street and take her in his arms, but he didn’t. 

In the cold night air he felt the desire as vividly as he had felt it that day. He bent his head and wept, his body shaking uncontrollably. 

He felt Jack's hand on his back. When he opened his eyes, he saw in the flashing lights from outside the expression of the most supreme kindness in Jack’s face.  Without words his eyes conveyed the deepest sympathy and tenderness.  .

In the grubby, rattling boxcar traveling through the night a transcendence of some sort had occurred.  A light in the darkness was turned on.   He pressed his face against the filthy fabric of his companions coat and cried until he couldn't cry anymore.  The comforting arm was a refuge. As his sobbing slowly ended he heard Jack's voice:  "Christmas is always hard for men like us,"  and offered him the bottle again. 

"Yeah, Christmas is always hard," Gabe answered.  He took the bottle and drank deeply finally passing into something that resembled sleep. 

When he opened his eyes he was cold and hungry.  The train was stopped at a siding.  He couldn't tell where it was; only that it was a little warmer than the night before.  They rolled cigarettes and sat side by side smoking silently.  Jack opened the third bottle, took a drink and handed it to Gabe. 

Around daybreak the door of the car was drawn open and a disheveled visage appeared in the opening struggling to climb in.  It was a woman.  Jack scrambled to the doorway grabbing her hand, pulling her into the car as the train began to move.  She sprawled forward onto the floor and sat up.   Harry approached her cautiously, wagging his tail slowly, and sniffed her.

There was a wild look in her eyes.

"Merry Christmas", Jack said.

She said nothing until after looking back and forth between the two men and the dog, ascertaining they were all who were in the freight car with her.  Her first words were:  "I could use a cigarette". 

Gabe handed her his pouch.  "I'm Gabe, he's Jack, and that's Harry."  He pointed to the dog.  "Jack's going to California or Oregon.  I'm just going."

He waited for her to say where she was headed, but she offered nothing.  Finally she said; "I'm Angel.  God, it was cold last night."  She trembled, shivering as she looked back and forth at each of them.  "The bastards in the jungle wouldn't keep their hands off me. Every time I went near the fire they started pawing me.  You know, like I’ve got time or interest in that!”  She made her point clear by fixing her eyes on theirs as she spoke.  “I couldn't sleep because I had to keep my eye on them.  Finally I knocked one out with a rock and left.”

"The jungle can be rough if you're a woman and got no one to watch out for you." Jack said and pulled the bottle from his pocket handing it to her.  She took it without hesitation and gulped quickly.

"About thirty, had been pretty ... but beat up now."  Jack thought.  Her face was smudged and darkened lines filled creases below her eyes. She was less than thin looking ravished like a milkweed in tatters at the end of summer.  She sipped, shuddering at the burn of the whiskey.  Then waited a moment and took a larger sip and another before leaning back against the side of the car between the men.

Becoming comfortable with her new companions she said: "I've got some food."  She took a mashed loaf of white bread from inside her coat and laid it on her lap.  Then she took out another equally misshapen loaf and laid it next to the other one. 

The men's eyes opened wide.  Jack said: "That looks awful good Angel.  I’ve had nothing but whiskey for two days now."

"It's better than nothing, here."  She picked up the loaf and broke off a piece handing it to him explaining with a laugh:  "The grocer chased me down the street, but I never looked back.  I just kept runnin'.  I'm not gonna starve when someone's got more food than they need."

"There's a lot who don't have anything and a few that got more than they need;" Gabe said.

Jack took the hunk of gooey white bread and pulled it apart with his fingers letting it dissolve in his mouth.  Angel took another piece from the loaf and passed it to Gabe.  Jack passed the bottle.  They ate and drank silently together.

"Here Harry."  Angel put a piece of the bread in front of the dog.  He devoured it and looked  into her eyes imploring her for more.  She gave him another piece and he ate it just as quickly.  She patted him and he lay down resting his head on her leg, never taking his eyes from the remaining bread.

"Angel remembered you Harry, even if I didn't.  Sorry old boy."  Jack stroked the dogs back and Harry sighed deeply.

"Got a family Angel?"  Gabe asked.

"I had a man and a son; a baby boy."


"His father killed him, the son of a bitch.  He shook him cause' he wouldn't stop cryin'.  He was only hungry and the bastard couldn't afford a place for us to stay or a meal.  He just shook him till he snapped his neck.”

"Bastard is right.  But why are you here?"

"I couldn't stay with him after he did that and he was all I had after he killed my son.  I buried my baby in a jungle in Idaho and left the damned bastard there.”

"So where are you going?"

"Hadn't thought about it.  Right now I'm just goin' I guess. I'm sure I’ll find out." 

"I think we always find out at some point," Jack answered as much to himself as her.

Gabe said: "Yeah, I guess that's what I'm doin' too.  Don't know if I'll ever find out though."  He was silent for a moment:  "I try to make sense of it all and I can’t."

The train jerked abruptly, began moving and picked up speed. The freight yard passed in a blur and the morning light brightened, flickering through the door of the car illuminating Angel's face as she passed the second loaf to her companions. Each man took the loaf and tore a piece from it.  The loaf was shared between the four of them until it was gone.

"You got to keep going' " she said.  “Ain’t no use in stopping cause it seems everyplace you stop is bad’.”

Gabe answered: "Some people got a place to go.  Jack's going to California, or someplace out there to find work.  Others like you and me are just going, going away from everything, not to somethin'."

"Well" she said, "the way I see it we're all going to something.  Sometimes you can't tell from where you are but that’s what you’re doing.  I think you don't find out till you get there.  Maybe we're always there and don’t know it. In any case we just got to keep going and take what we got now.  This might be all there is.  We'd be mighty poor if we threw it away looking for something else if this is all there is.”

They sat silently together until she let out an piercing cry and crumpled onto her side in pain rolling over with her head landing in Gabe’s lap.   Her long coat opened. It wasn't until then that the men saw she was pregnant.

"It's time!” she cried. “Oh God no, don’t let it be time.”  Her face twisted with fear and pain.

Jack helped her stretch out on the floor and took some soiled clothes from his bag placing them under her head. He spoke soothingly to her: "I know what to do.  I delivered two babies in one night in a jungle in South Dakota.  As long as nothing goes wrong there ain't nothing to get excited about.  You're gonna be alright Angel."  He stroked her matted hair and his voice reassured her as the train with its cargo traveled on. 

Gabe cradled her head as Jack tended to her.  The fear in her eyes vanished by degrees as she listened to Jack’s voice. Slowly she realized that he knew what to do.  She screamed and her body contorted.  Some time in the afternoon before the sun went down she gave birth.  Jack poured the remaining whiskey on his hands and rubbed them together catching the babe as it was pushed out into the world. 

He opened Angel's blouse and laid the baby on her chest, quickly covering her with her ragged coat. 

Clasping the new life to her breast she asked:  "What is it?”

"It's a boy," Jack said.

"A boy, a baby boy!"  She began to cry but her tears turned to laughter and she clasped the unnamed infant tightly.laughing and crying on the floor holding her precious son as the train rocked them back and forth.

Gabe got up and went to another corner to give her privacy as she nursed the infant.  He sat and rolled a cigarette, gazing in astonishment at Angel and the baby boy lying in a pile of dirty clothing on the filthy floor of a freight car on Christmas Day.

They were going that’s for sure; he still didn’t know if they were going someplace or just moving.  But it seemed to him now that they were going together, all five of them; Angel, Jack, Harry, the unnamed baby boy, and himself. 

Something had changed.  Something had happened. They had been thrown together with their separate needs, helping each other with the little they possessed.  He wasn't able to say what it was he felt.  But it was something to do with hope and the quality of human kindness.


I took the time to collect some photographs and art and read the story to put on YouTube. It's something I enjoy doing.  Here it is.  You can listen as I read story above.  I made some slight edits to remove some of the clumsiness.  I most likely need to do more work on it.  But the story seems to me to be a compelling and humanly spiritual story.

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A practitioner of the art of living with the intent of learning how to die without fear.