Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Human Pincushion

Through a series of unfortunate accidents I dropped a box of pins and needles in a dimly lit area of my carpeted living room. Lizzy witnessed the whole thing and without moving to help me pick any of the pins up, knowingly said, “Dad’s going to step on one of those pins”.

“No”, I corrected as I desperately crawled around on my hands and knees, “we’re going to pick them all up. No one is going to step on a pin! Now please help me!”

I think she reluctantly picked up ONE pin, but upon doing so, shrieked in pain as if she had been stabbed with a harpoon and gave up.  She told me she was just a kid and it was dangerous for kids to pick up pins. Besides, she pointed out, she wasn’t the one who dropped them.

Insolent child.

Still, even without her assistance I thought I had gathered up all the pins.

I was wrong…as tends to happen.

Sure enough, a few days after I drop the pins, I get a frantic, angry phone call from John. He is in agony. He has stepped on a needle and it’s inserted so far into his foot that only the eye of the needle is poking out.

I can hear Lizzy, the little traitor, in the background saying, “I told mom this would happen.”

I don’t know why I’m the first person John calls in such situations. First remove the needle and if you need medical assistance, go to an Emergency Room. Do not call me. I cannot help you.

But of course he is not phoning for help or advice. He, with his little sidekick, Lizzy, is phoning to place blame.

In a barely controlled voice he asks me if I know why he stepped on a pin.

“Because you don’t look where you’re going?” I answer helpfully.

“NO!” he screams abandoning all pretence of self-control. “YOU dropped pins on the carpet and didn’t pick them up!”

My cell vibrates at the intensity of his rage.

“Where are you getting your information?” I ask, as if I don’t know.

“LIZZY told me!!!”

“Lizzy is 6,” I say, “who are you going to believe, a 6 year old or a grown adult?”

John cannot believe my lack of contrition and yells, “The 6-year-old!”

“Does it really matter why at this point?” I ask. “Don’t you think you should remove the foreign object from your foot before worrying about who is responsible? Also, you have to be responsible for your own feet. Surely, you can’t blame me for where YOU decide to tread!”

In frustration he hangs up.

A few days later he has stepped on another one of these pins and I receive another one of his phone calls.

It occurs three more times in the proceeding weeks. Each time I am not home and each time he phones me on my cell to freak out and demand that something be done. Short of ripping up the carpet, I don’t know what more can be done.

He doesn’t know either, but he does know that with every pin that punctures his foot, his resentment for me builds, as does his fear of entering the living room. His god, the TV, is in there, though, so I’m not too worried about it. It isn’t like he can avoid his place of worship.

A few weeks of this and he tells me he can’t take it anymore. He does not think he can survive another pinning. And even though I have not admitted (and never will) to any culpability in the matter, he is still suspicious that the scatterbrained clumsiness I am notorious for is responsible for the pins. Because of this, he thinks it’s only fair I offer up some sort of restitution. Failing that, it would give him great satisfaction to see ME step on one of these pins and collapse to the ground writhing in pain, develop an infection and possibly die.

I tell him that is a terrible thing to wish on anyone, especially his wife. And as punishment, he's left me with no choice but to put The Curse of the Pin on him.

“You already DID!!!” he sputters.

I suggest to him that if it was me who kept stepping on pins I’d start wearing slippers. I would also avoid the area where I suspected the pins were strewn.

For some weird reason, even though it fills him with dread, he cannot keep himself away from the vicinity of the pin carnage. This perverse fascination is in fact why he keeps stepping on the pins in the first place. Look and ye shall find.

Eventually he does listen to me and takes to wearing slippers. He also makes an effort to stay away from the area in question, but he simply can’t do it. Nevertheless for another week he is fine. No more pinnings. It seems he has managed to retrieve all the wayward pins with his foot.

“See?” I brighten, “something positive has come out of this. Now the kids won’t step on a pin because you’ve already done it for them with your foot! You’re a good dad!”

My words of praise do nothing to dissolve his simmering rage, which he’s outwardly been trying to control since I put the Curse of the Pin on him. Although he openly scoffs at such things, he isn’t fooling me -- not with his “controlled” rage or his disbelief in my abilities. Secretly, he isn’t so sure my curses aren’t real. 

And sure enough, a few mornings later he wakes up with a stabbing ache in his back. This is nothing new, mind you, and as a rule I more or less ignore his physical complaints. He worries and complains about back pain constantly because when he was 19 he got into a bad car accident and fractured his spine. His doctors at the time warned that as he got older he may start to experience chronic lumbar pain and other associated symptoms.

As a result, John is constantly on high alert to ANY discomfort in his back no matter how minor or imagined. This time, however, he says it is “different” and excruciating enough that he can’t go to work.

For the rest of the day he lay on the couch moaning about how he needs to go to the doctor and get some painkillers, but he never makes a move to actually do this.

It is not until later in the night at maybe 9 or 10 o’clock that I get another one of John’s by now customary phone calls while I’m at work. From his pressured tone and rapid breathing I know immediately this has something to do with pins.

I am correct.

It seems John had reached around to scratch where his back hurt and in doing so pricked his finger on something sharp. There was blood. He nearly fainted when he realized what it was.

It was the tip of a pin.

You have no idea how disappointed I am that he never went to see that doctor about his “ailment”.

Every time I think of this whole pin situation I am thrown into a new fit of hysterics. As a consequence, John has stopped speaking to me.  He is beside himself with  anger that I’m not taking it more seriously. He says with utter conviction that if he hadn’t felt the pin when he did, he probably would be dead right now.

Ignoring the fact he had wished figurative death on me only a few days ago, I laugh and say, “Don’t be absurd. You can’t die from being stabbed in the back with a pin. A knife, sure, but a pin? I don’t think so, there Pincushion”.

I’ve now taken to calling him Pincushion.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Doctor at my Window

I stand at the window and watch three overly confident male physicians strutting below. They walk like the Sultan of Brunei, ridiculous, repulsive little men with big egos and an infinite capacity for self-gratification and entitlement. 

Their confidence is derived from a boys club of debauchery, deception, exclusive opportunity, inherited privilege, an engorged sense of superiority, astounding hypocrisy and the celebrity-like worship of a misguided, misinformed populace, not to mention a seemingly endless supply of female insecurity that fuels their rutting preoccupations. Swine.

The differences between the paltry Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and the semen-driven doctors are ones of mere degree. The Sultan is at the extreme end of wealth, indulgence, self-glorification, human exploitation, greed, lechery, indifferent cruelty, contrived intelligence and spiritual emptiness. He is purely a temporal animal who will return to dust and disappear into nothingness once he dies, which hopefully is as pleasant an affair as the deaths of those who no doubt will be lost to torture, stoning, complications of punitive amputations and brutal floggings under his rule after he helpfully introduced Sharia law to Brunei, laws which he and his equally repugnant, pedo-looking, herpetic brother are themselves guilty of breaking on a regular basis. Sadistic pigs.

As for the doctors, perhaps "sadistic pig" is a bit harsh, but "rutting swine" seems accurate enough. All three of the doctors I am currently surveying from my window are married, but none are particularly discreet about their frequent romps with infidelity or in any way ashamed of the lives their more or less open cheating has negatively impacted. 

If you're going to indiscriminately fuck a bunch of women, at least don't be married with a gaggle of kids when you do it. Don't do it when you've taken marriage vows and don't do it when you've taken a Hippocratic oath not to use your position of authority to prey on the vulnerable. And if you can't manage any of that, at least be upfront with the young ladies you're violating so they know exactly what they are getting into and don't harbor any illusions of happily-ever-after with you.

In addition to devastated families, all this pompous infidelity and casually tossed aside, single-use female bodies has been responsible for at least two suicide attempts, as well as countless psychological problems and the occasional jealousy-induced criminal act. Although, I guess if you were the kind of man who stopped to consider how your actions might devastate another person's life you would not be indiscriminately fucking a bunch of people like an insentient Energizer Dildo on permanent recharge in the first place.

"It's amazing how these guys get away with what they get away with in this town, " I turn to Belinda, thoroughly disgusted at the mere sight of these men everyone else is so smitten with (other than of course the people whose lives they'e ruined, but even they seem remarkably forgiving).

Belinda happens to be one of the smitten ones, which I suppose is part of the reason I like to comment on them, just to needle her. It injects some adrenaline into an otherwise paperclip and blunt pencil kind of a day, where only casual business attire is allowed, not like a blue jeans Friday. 

It's the kind of day where the biggest catastrophe is that Lenore used water straight from the tap to fill the Keurig yet again, even though she's been told repeatedly to use the purified water from the cooler. This infuriates Belinda: "So help me, if that cute water-boy stops coming in here because of damn Lenore making management think we don't need weekly water deliveries anymore, I'll KILL HER MYSELF!"

Basically my contempt for a philandering penis with an equally ineffectual medical degree is distracting Belinda and saving Lenore's life. You're welcome Lenore. 

"Look at them preening like ugly peacocks who have no idea how hideous they are," I continue with as much disdain as I can possibly muster, "I hope one of these incessantly squawking crows dive-bombs the one in the middle, your friend, Dr. Suna". 

I don't look at Belinda but I sense I'm getting under her skin. This particular "lady doctor" is one of her favorites. They have a good, flirty working relationship that makes me want to stab my hand with one of the plastic forks I keep on my desk any time I'm in the same room as one of their giggly interactions. 

Belinda takes a deep, steadying inspiration before addressing me. She will not let me see that I'm getting to her. 

"That's because you're a man hater. I find him amusing. He's funny and smart and knows his stuff. He goes out of his way to answer questions and makes his patients feel at ease. Who cares what he does in his personal life."

This is a refrain I've heard many times and I don't agree with any of it, which Belinda knows. I, however, decide to ignore the "what a person does in his personal life has no bearing on his professional life" non-sequitur. And I'm more or less desensitized to the bogus "man-hater" label, so I should ignore that, too. It's a bullshit label, but as I've gotten older and wiser, I've taken the stance that if it keeps assholes away from me then I will no longer look this gift horse in the mouth. Serendipity.

In truth, the only thing I really hate is redundant, scripted speech that everyone mindlessly delivers like dumb-struck lines in a poorly rehearsed, ill-conceived episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians. It's only more absurdity and contrived reality, but without the Frankenstein-esque plastic enhancements and over-compensated playhouses that gobble up an unfair share of space and resources. 

Also, the Lamar Odom sleazebags in this contrived reality are named Bill, Bob or Joe, use crystal meth cut with rat poison, a.k.a. the poor man's coke, and get their illicit sex not from fancy legal brothels in Nevada, but from strung-out single mothers with deadened souls, who have lost their kids and fill the void with IV drug use and degrading sex acts at $10 a pop, performed in darkened back alleys or bed-bug infested motels that rent by the minute

With these hateful ruminations running through my mind, I correct Belinda, saying, "I'm not a man-hater, Belinda, only a hater of despicable behavior. It's not my fault most of that despicable behavior happens to come from men. Don't blame the observer."

Belinda gives me her signature look, which tells me in an instance she doesn't believe or agree with a word I'm saying.

But this is how we do things so I solider on: "Also, why does Suna always have to come in here bragging about what a great life he's having with dramatic tales of his travels and conquests? Shut up. I'm already not enjoying my life over here, I don't need some pretentious douche-bag rubbing it in with one of his drive-by self-aggrandizing stories."

Then, as if by cosmic cue, Dr. Suna comes slithering into the room. Belinda glances at me in alarm, worried he might have heard us talking, not that she would have anything to worry about. I'm the only one voicing discontent with the status quo.

Besides, he doesn't know he's Dr. Suna. Granted, my pet name for him is not very original, but it makes me laugh with malicious delight almost every time I use it. Sultan H-Ass-Anal, Lamar O-Dumb and Dr. Suna aren't the only ones who need their cheap thrills. My form of cheap thrill, however, is free and will not spread disease or further unravel the moral and intellectual fabric of civilized society.  And anyway, the name Suna is fitting. He is a backwards, lax sphincter and portal for fecal matter.

In any event, he must sense I don't care for his stench and bypasses me completely as if I don't exist, going straight for Belinda. He is all ingratiating smiles, with a "favor" to ask, but first he wants to show off pictures from his latest trip: kite-boarding with his Stepford wife, Mrs. Doctor Suna, in Venezuela. You see? I am an equal opportunity "hater". I dislike shitty men AND their consenting victims. 

Unfortunately (for Belinda, who as it turns out is a non-consenting victim), the first picture that appears is a close-up of a Pap smear in progress. Dr. Suna laughs off the mistake and jokes, "Oops, gyne-porn". He then continues to swipe through the pics as if it's no big deal that he's just traumatized Belinda's eyes for the rest of her life, or that he's violated some unnamed woman's right to privacy. 

He keeps swiping until he comes to the images of his wife risking her life surfing rough tropical waters, apparently for his viewing pleasure. As Belinda struggles to restore her composure after being eye-raped with that unexpected visual, she stammers, "That looks dangerous!"

Dr. Suna jokes again that this latest wife might be quiet but she's a daredevil; willing to try anything, that one. "She'd surprise you", he says with a salacious grin. Anyway, if she did die in some freak kiting accident, not a problem, he goes on. He likes to "trade in for a new one every 7 or 8 years" anyhow, so bonus! Saves him messy divorce proceedings. Suna appears quite pleased with how funny he thinks he's being, oblivious to how uncomfortable he is making Belinda, who laughs politely but who I can see is mildly horrified by this entire situation. 

I imagine she is reconsidering right about now that I may not be off the mark regarding Dr. Suna after all. Pustule.

As for me, in addition to being happy Suna himself continues to prove my low opinion of him is correct, I'm also happy my unfriendly "hater" persona pays off once again. Of the two of us, Belinda is the only one with the closeup of some stranger's atrophic cervix forever burned in her mind. Not a pleasant thing to be carrying around in your head. My own conscience is clear.

Dr. Suna mercifully finishes up his slide show, asks for the favor he could have done himself, and  turns to leave when Lenore's best friend, Henrietta, comes bustling in.

She blocks the doorway so Suna can't easily leave and asks him if he is interested in sponsoring her for the women's shelter fundraiser she is helping organize. She understandably assumes he is a perfect fit for such a fundraiser since women's issues are his specialty, not to mention the thing that has provided him with wealth, prestige and privilege. Even more to the point, it's the thing that's given him a sultan-like status in this community, reminiscent of his anal-twin-flame there, Sultan H-Ass-Anal Bolkiah, and a free pass to fuck around without consequence as much as his Viagra-controlled erection allows. As such, you'd think he'd want to give back somehow.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. I man like this does not humble himself. It has to be done for him, either through divine intervention or by another more advanced animal on a stronger branch of the evolutionary tree. Now, if Henrietta, Belinda and everyone else around here looked beyond superficial nonsense, they would know this intuitively and NOT AT ALL assume Suna, being the piece of shit doctor that he is, would humble himself. 

Sure enough, much to my smug satisfaction, he answers Henrietta with, "Women's shelter? What about men? Is there a shelter for men who get beat up by women?"

He makes this asshole statement in the context of a recent murder/suicide of a domestically abused mother at the end of her rope, who had just left her violent husband with their severely autistic son in tow, no support, no money, no job, and nowhere to go other than a shelter she couldn't get into because it was full. This woman may have even been his patient.

In light of the above, Henrietta is shocked silent at Suna's response, an unusual situation for her, normally a total blabbermouth. 

With Henrietta's uncharacteristic silence, Suna realizes he might have taken what he later explains is another one of his hilarious "jokes" too far. He shrugs and throws a crumpled $20 bill at Henrietta, which as far as I'm concerned is no more charitable than had he flung a nail clipping at her head. His 20 bucks is that inconsequential to him. If anything, when this son-of-a-bitch "gives" any amount of money away he's doing something for HIMSELF, not any one else, certainly not any one in need. It causes him NO hardship whatsoever.

Suna trounces off without a care after this, shoving pasted Henrietta, who looks a little lost now. After he's gone, she sheepishly admits she had expected him to give her at least $100, was counting on it.

In renewed disgust, I dig through my Old Mother Hubbard purse, and to my surprise manage to scrape together $36.85 to give to Henrietta. At the same time, Belinda digs through her slightly fiscally healthier purse and between us, and with Suna's pathetic $20, Henrietta leaves with more than the $100 she had come for. 

I look at Belinda expectantly.

"Okay, okay," she says in partial surrender, "you win. He's an anus...but I still like him".

Without another word I return to my desk, to the fork, and stab myself. The fork bends against the back of my hand and a couple of the tines fling off, hitting me painlessly in the face before falling dramatically to the floor.

Belinda watches my sorry display of self-harm, unmoved, and drying asks, "Feel better?"

I don't look at her as I bend down to pick up the broken-off fork bits and say, "I think I've made my point."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Deafening Silence

There were 12 children in total, some step-siblings, some half and some full — all mashed together like misfit puzzle pieces forced into a distorted family portrait.

Papa Phil did not father all twelve, but they all had at some point been under his care. The women who gave birth to these children, two of whom were once Papa Phil's wives, had all been lost to one of booze, madness or death.

Papa Phil knew he could not raise a pile of motherless kids by himself, so he took yet another wife, Muriel, when the youngest of the dozen was still in diapers. Muriel herself could not get pregnant, but desperately yearned for a baby and was thus immediately smitten with the youngest of the children.

The older kids, none of them Papa Phil's biological offspring, were more or less ignored by Muriel and terrorized by Phil. But it was a silent terror. Silence like this is loud and oppressive — it defies logic and the laws of nature. The unsaid things are the scariest things — the things no one wants to acknowledge.

The silence was therefore free to slip in between the ketchup sandwiches made with stale bread, through the soiled sheets, and around the creaking floorboards late at night when children should be soundly sleeping. They should not be wide awake concentrating with ever cell of their being on some bedroom wall shadow until the silent thing is done.

Silence becomes an odd comfort when it accompanies everything one does. It is like a prison guard the prisoner comes to rely on, even after the bars have been left unlocked and the guard eliminated.

Maryanne, a middle-aged adult now, resented the guarded silence. Her siblings, by comparison, went on seemingly unscathed with a regimented existence. Maryanne could not understand their refusal to talk about what had happened to them because it consumed her. She could barely handle it, the thought of Papa Phil having gotten away with his crimes, aided and abetted by muteness. 

There did, however, come a day when she could no longer tolerate the dead air and spoke up. 

In the midst of the resulting bedlam, suicide, addiction, homicidal rage, financial ruin, prison, insanity and death screamed forth from the silence like a million unleashed demons. All their carefully patched together lies, their precariously assembled lives, decimated in the honest passing of a fleeting moment, with the mere utterance of a few words and the vulnerability of a simple therapeutic confession.  

In this new, unanticipated dystopia Maryanne's old trauma had become, she understood too late that there are some noises that should never be released from the silence.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mormons are in the Building

Belinda calls me over to the window. She looks perplexed as she watches a Mormon twosome approaching the building. They always march in pairs.

"Why would the Mormons be here?" she says in a near whisper.

She sounds scared.

"Well, there are numerous reasons why they could be here, Belinda. It's not like there's a law forbidding them from entering the building." I laugh. "Why? Do you think they're coming for you?"

It turns out the thought has crossed her mind. 

They seem to seek her out where ever she goes, especially at her home where they come knocking on a regular basis, which is partly her own fault. If you feed a stray it will invariably come back. Sometimes, if you don't set up firm boundaries from the outset, the stray will go further and muscle his way right into your house. Make himself at home. 

But make no mistake. 

He is not interested in having you domesticate him. He is using you and will come and go as he pleases. But you're an innocent and will think with self-satisfaction that he's grown to love and respect you. He has not. He mocks you when you aren't looking. 

The Mormons kind of work like that, although I imagine they are for the most part unaware that they are mocking anyone. They believe they are the righteous ones and that it is the rest of us who are confused, not them. Also, they have a manual of strategy and are prepared with circular reasoning to confound you even more.

If you're not careful, eventually, if the Mormons are successful with their door-to-door, boots on the ground, planting seeds of cognitive dissonance and confusion strategies they will lead you right from your home into theirs, which is more of a lair than a "home". You won't know what hit you and they will have a new brick for their wall. 

I don't know how effective their approach is, and I would be interested to know their success rate, but you see Mormon and not to mention Jehovah Witness pairs everywhere so they must be catching at least some of their prey. But they are nice enough people, so if you are going to be drawn into a cult-like scenario anyway, you could do worse.

Belinda, however, is too much of a contrarian to ever be lured into a cult or be persuaded by fundamentalism of any kind. She will never be one of their caught prey, but it doesn't stop them from trying. They mistake her natural curiosity, compassion and willingness to listen and engage with them for weakness they can exploit. But Belinda is no saint and as it turns out she's the one exploiting them, even though exploitation was never her intention and she feels bad about it. 

After Belinda's initial introduction to the Mormons, which amounted to several hours-long conversations standing in her doorway, she wanted them to leave her alone. She had no plan to use them for her own means. She isn't that kind of a girl. Belinda is a giver by nature, a leaver, not a taker and definitely not a receiver. 

Basically, the Mormons charitable ways are changing Belinda, corrupting her.

And it wasn't that she didn't enjoy those early marathon conversations with them, helped by the fact they were mostly young, attractive, affable males in handsome suits who darkened her doorway. But it was getting to be too much. There are some repetitions in life that are pleasurable every time you experience them like laughing at a Seinfeld repeat, but the same conversation with a self-assured religious weirdo intent on converting you is not one of life's pleasures -- at least not as far as Belinda is concerned. 

Personally, I enjoy the weirdos. 

But you have to have boundaries. Even Patience has a right to die, especially after a long life of self-control. She gets tired. Give her a break. 

In other words, if you are going to have weirdos, especially religious ones, in your life, be kind, be amused, be willing to accept they might have some insight to share, but do not be a doormat. Or as I like to call a female trapped in the role of lipsticked-android, one programmed to obey and conditioned to accept abuse: a Dormata.

To avoid becoming a Dormata yourself, you unfortunately have to at some juncture allow your patience to run out and override your programming. You must have it within you to slam a door in someone's smug face, hang up a phone mid-sentence when you realize the superiority of the prick on the other end is beyond reason, and scream at a person whose willful stupidity has reached a level of absurdity that no longer amuses you and now pisses you off. 

And if all that fails, you're sick of taking the highroad alone, and you don't have the brain or inclination to think up some Machiavellian scheme that will ruin the person's life and have him end up in a mental institution, hypothetically speaking, or destitute and living in a little fucking rodent-infested hovel, again hypothetically speaking, shove that asshole down a flight of stairs, along with all his belongings and a few of your own you no longer want. Kill two birds with one stone that way. 

You will also help out the oxymoronic men's rights movement by justifying their otherwise "hilarious" argument that there is a critical need for transition house funding to shelter an epidemic of raped and domestically abused men. Keep them safe from all those scary women wielding a broom with one arm and doing biceps curls with the weight of a nursing baby in the other.

But don't actually kill a bird or a person and there is no epidemic problem of women raping and assaulting men. People are way too literal.

Belinda is too decent of a person, however, to even be rude to a Mormon never mind physically hurt one. Her favorite tactic when dealing with potentially awkward social interactions is avoidance, which I support. Despite the bravado above, in reality I'm more a neurotic Dormata like Belinda than a trigger happy black mamba snake, although if I'm pushed hard enough things can get ugly. There is a lot of suppressed rage swept under my doormat patiently waiting for an opportunity to express itself.

With regards to Belinda, a woman who is neither abuser nor victim, when avoidance is impossible because the Mormons, for example, see her peeking out her curtains, she reluctantly answers her door. But she likes to steer their conversations away from dogmatic themes to secular ones. Up until recently, this worked well and the Mormons would follow her lead. 

They would spend most of their early conversations discussing topics such as the weather, geography, tourist attractions, local wildlife, the state of the public school system and "children these days".

At some level Belinda knew their willingness to skirt the real reason they were talking to her was because they were first establishing a good rapport ( an essential ingredient in any relationship where one side has an agenda that doesn't include brute force) before going in for the final kill. 

So she was not necessarily surprised when they started slipping in their true agenda between commenting on the rain with interjections about "God's plan", suggestions that her "good feelings" were a direct result of the Holy Ghost working on her at that very moment, and testimony of the divine authority of one Joseph Smith. Most alarming to Belinda was their mention of the second coming, which they seemed to imply could happen at any moment. Did she have her spiritual house in order?

To help with that spiritual order, they invited her to pray with them and Belinda, feeling like a deer caught in headlights because she isn't the praying type, apologized, saying she couldn't pray right now because she had groceries in the trunk of her car that she had to bring inside. Her ice cream was melting. 

They offered to bring the groceries inside for her and that was how it started. From then on, any time the topic got a little too "religiousy" Belinda would say she had to go. They would respond by offering to do something for her, she would reconsider that she really "had" to go just yet and would relent, allowing the Mormons to do chores for her, which they did with a smile. How could she resist such cheerful, free labour? She couldn't, especially since her house was looking pretty spiffy as a direct result of their volunteer work.

Nevertheless, there came a day when she had had enough of the Mormons. Belinda had no more errands for them and she was worried if she continued to let them come around she'd end up at their church because she had no more excuses left and didn't want to hurt their feelings. She felt she was at risk of becoming an accidental Mormon.

As a consequence, the last time they asked if there was anything they could do for her, which by this time she felt guilty if she didn't come up with some chore for them, instead of drumming up business in her own house, she blurted out that her brother, Jimmy, had recently bought a house across town and needed help with renovations.

Fast forward to several hours later and Jimmy is furiously trying to get a hold of Belinda. It is an angry text, phone call and email Belinda has been expecting. She doesn't answer any of this and ever since has been in self-isolation-lock-down mode. Nothing will make her open her door now. Nothing. 

She knows she no longer has to feel guilty because the Mormons are occupied with Jimmy now -- Jimmy, who like Belinda, having been raised in the same household by the same parents, finds it hard to be mean to nice people, no matter what their cult-agenda. At least she thought the Mormons were busy with Jimmy until seeing them outside our window.

"You really thought all their time and energy was being spent on one potential convert, Belinda?" I look at her doubtfully.

"Yes, I did. His house needs tons of work." 

She seems to be hyperventilating and goes mute, her mind slammed shut by sheer panic. 

I reassure her that we are behind three password-protected, security doors. The Mormons aren't getting in without permission and there is no conceivable reason to give them permission. She is safe.

Then the phone rings. Belinda screams.

Damn Mormons.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Frozen Watch

Theresa's watch is frozen at 6 o'clock. It has been stubbornly keeping the same hour for 40 years. When asked why she holds onto the timepiece, Theresa says, "Why, it's a good watch! It still keeps the time."
Then she smiles and starts humming. No one is sure of the tune. Her eyes glaze over and just like that Theresa is gone, lost in the ancient maze of her disconnected memory.

The Meadows staff and the occasional visitor where Theresa resides do not pay her much heed. She is a harmless, crazy old woman now, her brain scrambled with powerful psychotropic drugs and electroshock therapy.

"Be careful about spending too much time with those head doctors," she likes to whisper during rare lucid moments. "They're looking for crazy and they ALWAYS find crazy."  She sputters and laughs until the light of cognition goes out and drool escapes from the corner of her mouth.

Time froze for Theresa with the ring of a bell. It was her neighbor at the front door. He was cradling some sort of limp, bloody animal in his arms – road kill, maybe a dog. Theresa could not tell; there was so much blood.

She does not know what happened after that. It is as if someone came along and hit the eject button right before the climactic scene of a suspenseful movie. The psychiatrists call it "psychogenic amnesia", but Theresa doesn't understand their psychobabble. She pretends to listen intently, if her sedatives don't make it too difficult to concentrate, but in truth she is wondering about her son, Billy.

She furtively glances at her watch: Oh dear, it's dinnertime. Billy is officially late. He should have been home at least 15 minutes ago, so he'd have time to wash up before supper. Billy's father will not be pleased.

Theresa looks up at Dr. Olson, "I'm terribly sorry sir, but I must go. My son is waiting for me, and I still have to get the pot roast out of the oven.”

She attempts to get up to leave, but in her chemical restraints she finds her legs don't work like they once did . She doesn’t struggle or fight to stand. Instead, she relaxes back into her chair and calmly folds her hands into her lap, but not before checking her watch again. 

She sighs, "What could be keeping Billy?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Beautiful People

Brittany needed another $100 for the Louis Vuitton handbag she had to have. Every credit card was over its limit and she had exhausted her other usual avenues for borrowed money, except Jezebel, her sister.

Jezebel had a fat savings account, but despised what she referred to as "the beautiful people".  She wouldn't allow anyone to use a dime of her money, not even a dime that earned interest, towards beauty propaganda. And as far as Jezebel was concerned, Louis Vuitton was propaganda.

Brittany did not understand Jezebel. Jezebel was beautiful, despite her black, thick-rimmed glasses, matted hair, refusal to wear deodorant or cosmetics and clothes that added bulk to her otherwise slim frame.

Perhaps Brittany wasn’t as smart as her sister, but it seemed to her Jezebel's righteous contempt for beautiful people was like a wealthy person's contempt for wealth. Don't lecture the poor money can't buy you happiness if you've never been starving, and don't tell the ugly beauty can't bring you popularity if you've never been marginalized by ugliness.

What cruel twist of fate, thought Brittany, was this? She should have Jezebel's beauty. She should be the one with all that disposable income. She should possess Jezebel's ingenuity and shrewd business sense. It was all wasted on Jezebel. Oh the things Brittany would do if she was Jezebel! 

"Of course you don't understand anything!" Jezebel snapped, startling Brittany out of her bitter ruminations.

"You're nothing but a slave who doesn't know the strength of her weakness. You support a master and don't realize you're doing it...with your expensive fashion you can’t afford."

Brittany felt insulted even though she had no idea what Jezebel was even talking about or if she should be insulted. Normally at times like this Brittany would tune her sister out, but she really, really wanted that bag. She would grovel, if necessary.

Jezebel picked up on Brittany's desperation and in a rare, spontaneous act of compromise offered, "I'll tell you what, if you pick all the blackberries in my yard and do the canning I'll give you the money for your meaningless...trinket."

“That sounds like a lot of work," Brittany complained, "and I don't know how to make jam!"

"That’s fine," Jezebel replied as she thrust a recycled bucket towards Brittany. "I'll oversee everything you do. If you want the purse bad enough, you’ll do what I say — you’ll do the work."

Brittany hesitated — some part of her feeling like she was prostituting a piece of her soul, but that was silly. 

She took the bucket.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Digging through Ashes

Alfred was dead, but his ashes still carried the blame for present day miseries. There was much speculation regarding the madness of Alfred. Some said he was schizophrenic and manic-depressive, while others argued he was simply a crazy alcoholic. Most everyone agreed, however, that at the root of Alfred's problem was an inheritable genetic code that could be passed along to those who came after him like a hot potato nobody wanted to be left holding when the music stopped.

Jean knew firsthand the far-reaching impact of Alfred's insanity. She, like all his descendants, was scrutinized for even the slightest hint of mental instability. Jean, who considered herself a time traveler of sorts -- an amateur family historian -- could not accept the gossip. She was obsessed with uncovering the truth about her great-great-grandfather.

It was impossible to reconcile the handsome man in the black and white photo with the madman Alfred was said to have been. He had a James Dean smile and a flirtatious tilt to his jaw that gave him an air of charisma. Indeed, it was rumored he could exude such magnetism that people became light-headed just from being near him. This was the man Jean's great-great-grandmother, Marla, had fallen blindly in love with. But Alfred had a dark side.

He was prone to severe melancholy, paranoid delusions and hallucinations. He used moonshine to silence the chatter inside his head, but it only made things worse, especially for his wife and children, who were terrorized by his psychotic rages.
The situation grew so desperate that one night Marla slit her wrists, attempting to divert Alfred's attention from their baby girl, who he was drowning in a barrel of rainwater. He was convinced the infant was demonically possessed. Both Marla and the baby died, and Alfred was locked away in an insane asylum until he took his own life. The remaining children were orphaned off to relatives and their lives forever tainted by their father's sins.

Jean had to discover for herself if Alfred's madness was truly inborn. She was thus compelled to travel back in time to the Saskatchewan farm where Alfred was raised. There, she found Ruby, 101, who was in possession of a child-sized coffin meant for Alfred when he was nine. Jean looked at the coffin, as if it was a time machine, and listened to Ruby describe how Alfred was expected to die of rheumatic fever, but miraculously survived.

"But he turned strange after that," Ruby confided in a low voice, "always talking to himself and banging his head."

Jean, who had been leaning in as she listened to Ruby talk, sat back in her chair now, thinking of Alfred and his fried brain. She thought of how his "recovery" from near death brought him out of one hell that included child labour on a struggling farm and physical abuse from a particularly sadistic father into a new kind of hell. This new hell consisted of long stints in various mental institutions starting from the age of 12 and continuing off and on for the remainder of his life. 

He was  subjected to every kind of "treatment" and shamed with every kind of stigma. He was plagued with dark rage, crippled by overwhelming guilt, tormented with derogatory internal voices, debilitated by delusions that were impossible to differentiate from reality and in the end this cauldron of confusion was what ultimately killed not only him but his wife and infant daughter. He was not born mad, Jean thought with bittersweet realization. The world made him that way through virus, abuse and circumstance. His ashes were no more to blame than the dying embers of a previously out of control fire ignited by human folly and stoked by ignorance. 

Alfred and his dubious legacy of present day miseries could finally be put to rest. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015


There was her old love George to think about of course. But it was her new love who now occupied her mind and quickened her pulse. George was probably more reliable, but he'd lost his allure. Eve knew every part of him, having dissected and studied his body from his largest limb to his smallest molecule.

She was surprised to discover there indeed wasn't anything under the surface of George, other than normal anatomy. Perhaps he was a little too fatty beneath the skin and around his organs, but otherwise George was an unremarkable specimen, just as he'd said when begging for his life. What Eve could not understand, what ate at her brain until she could not sleep for even an hour was why would George beg for such a meaningless life? What did he care if he lived or died? What was he holding onto? More to the point, what was he hiding?

Eve did not believe George  when he claimed that a 40-hour work week, weekends off, annual vacations, the occasional night out with the guys, a hot meal, a cold beer and a warm female was all he needed for contentment. She didn't think it was possible. Didn't he ponder the mysteries of existence, the purpose of life, the unknowns of death? The dilemma of evil and darkness versus goodness and light? Can one exist without the other? Disorder as opposed to order, the battle between science and faith, the need to find a common ground, facts versus theory? Resilience versus suicide? Didn't he yearn for an ethereal connection with a soul mate, a life partner, someone with whom to maneuver through the mystery and confusion of it all? Didn't he feel compelled to consider the nature of God, the nature of the cosmos?

How could George walk around knowing at any moment he would die and not wonder why? More perplexing to Eve was how, under these hopeless circumstances, he could be content? No, Eve could not understand any of it, so she grew suspicious of George.

What if he was a demon in disguise, planted by Lucifer to trick her? Or even worse, what if God was inside George and she was being put through some kind of test? What if George was trying to lull her into complacency before cannibalizing her? She could not live another moment not knowing. It was either him or her. Survival of the fittest. She had to be sure he really was merely an uninspired man, unaware and uninterested in the divine. She had to find out if God was mocking her.

How unsatisfying George's vivisection turned out to be, then. His autopsy was equally unfruitful. God was nowhere to be found. Eve was so disheartened all she could do was throw George's remains in the meat freezer.

She'd have to be extra meticulous with her new love, Dylan. He was a beautiful specimen, a thousand times more appealing than George had been. She sensed there was a wealth of hidden knowledge within Dylan, waiting to be uncovered. And with a quiver of excitement, Eve picked up her scalpel, licked her lips and went on an expedition.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Waking up to Terrorism since 9/11

I woke up this morning to yet another story of ISIS barbarism. This time around they have strung up four hog-tied men, set them on fire and stood back to watch with sadistic satisfaction as the men burned to death. 

These Islamic terrorists are a cancer of a vestigial organ (orthodox religion) humanity no longer needs, if it ever did. And I am sick of waking up to horror stories of its metastatic spread, of its mutated spawn, religious fanaticism. Where are the counter-terror missionaries? The Boondock Saints? The Inglorious Basterds, the glorious ones, too? The heroes? The heroines? You cannot reason with a diseased rudiment that evolution has no more use for and is trying to  leave behind in the sludge. You also can't ignore a tumor like this or think it away. If left unchecked it will grow, it will kill everything. It (Islamic terrorism) therefore needs to be permanently excised for the sake of advancement of the civilized world.

This bizarre situation where we keep waking up to the handiwork of radical Islamic reprobates started the morning of 9/11 and has not stopped since. I know I am not the only one who remembers what she was doing on that terrible day. But as for me, I was viciously ripped out of a deep slumber in the early hours of September 11, 2001, by the sound of my cousin's frantic voice blasting from my answering machine (in the days before voicemail). 

In the blurry-eyed haze and confusion of being suddenly ripped out of a dream, I thought I heard her say that a town near me had been "hit" and I should turn on the TV.

Totally baffled, I did as she suggested and turned on the TV. It took several minutes before I realized what I was watching was not some action film. Hijacked planes were literally being flown into the World Trade Center. 

It was a surreal experience and I was someone on the other side of the continent watching this scene of death and destruction from a poor resolution television set. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be there.

Actually, I can at least imagine it. The media has MADE SURE of that. We have been inundated with images, videos and news stories of this same terror from 9/11 onward.

One of the worst images, or maybe even THE worst image my brain has been subjected to without my consent over the past 4 years, and is now burned in my mind forever, occurred at maybe 2 or 3 in the morning when my son was a newborn. I had gotten up to nurse him in a rocking chair in my living room and innocently turned on the TV. I was hoping to find something light to watch, some levity. 

Instead, I was sucker-punched with a closeup of Nicholas Berg in an orange jumpsuit being decapitated. I quickly changed the channel when I realized what I was watching, but it was too late. The sound of him screaming as the knife cut into the first dermal layers of his neck will, like the image of him in that orange jumpsuit, be forever etched in my conscience. 

I have thought about this terrorized man I never knew and the guttural despair in his scream many times over the years. I feel like his memory and everything his memory represents (the fight for freedom) has not been adequately honored, adequately avenged.

In addition to being brought to innumerable tears at the thought of Nick Berg and the casualties of 9/11, over the years I have also shed many more tears while sitting in front of a monitor. Sometimes the tears stream down my face as I sit back speechless in my chair, a little stunned, a little angry, a little sad. This morning was no different. I haven't been desensitized and I don't see how anyone with even a fragment of a conscience could be.

A feeling of hopelessness washes over you and the naive part of your mind, the inner child who craves a savior, cannot help but wonder where the true God is in this story.  All this unconscionable terror can turn a person of faith into an apathetic non-believer, which if you believe in spiritual warfare may well be the final aim of the evil that permeates these stories of terror.

As for me, I do not accept that the dark side of human nature we currently see represented by Islamic terrorism is sanctioned by the Highest Order (whatever that is).

It isn't that humanity has been deserted in some pitiable temporal state as the cosmos sit back and with mild bemusement and disdain watch us pummel each other into extinction; it's that we've been entrusted to work our way out of the darkness on our own, like the autonomous sentient beings at least some of us want to be. Not all of us are puppets on a string. 

But that does not mean there are no puppets. Every last vile piece of jihadi filth masquerading as a human being is nothing more than a mindless puppet, albeit an extremely dangerous one.

I would not want anyone to purposely seek out ISIS propaganda because I do not think having their brutality constantly playing in humanity's collective consciousness is healthy or conducive to an ultimate goal of world peace and minimizing suffering for everyone as much as possible; however, if like me their stagnant, primordial bullshit has already been forced on your mind and soul against your will, the same way they force their disgusting bodies on innocent girls, then I would direct you to consider just how stupid these ugly little programmed trolls look and sound in their videos. 

Their stupidity is too scripted to not come to the conclusion that they are puppets of some greater puppet master, one of stupidity, debauchery and suicide. Only creatures controlled by something else kills themselves into annihilation like an unconscious malignancy, which is what the Islamic State, a death cult, is doing. 

They celebrate destruction and torture, murder masses of people, enslave women and children, blow historic sites and monuments into nothing and prostrate themselves at the imaginary feet of a bloodthirsty myth. They don't belong on this planet. They should be remanded to their child molesting prophet and dictator god in whatever afterlife hell they fantasize. Allah, please come and fetch your alien spawn.

Ultimately, though, the Islamic State and its puppets are a disease in need of a cure. You can keep keep cutting out the metastases, but without that cure there is always a risk of an unwelcome return. And you cannot leave a cancer like this alone to do its thing. It's unlikely to cure itself. It is not going to have a "change of heart" and suddenly develop a sense of altruism, not without a lot o "help" anyway. The men who were recently awarded the League of Honor knew this instinctively when they tackled and immobilized an armed Islamic terrorist on a train travelling to Paris with over 500 passengers on board. They risked their own lives for the greater good and this time the greater good won.

And finally, with the arrival of these brave men on the world media stage, for us non-puppets, who think about things like justice, world peace, human rights and the evolution of the human spirit it feels like just maybe we can start to hope. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Syndrome of Excess: The Devolution has Begun

It seems everything else in nature other than the thing infecting her (human ignorance) is aware we are fucked if more people don't wake up. Even our biology suspects something cataclysmic is in the works and is freaking out, as evidenced by the confused state of affairs our bodies have become. 

It's this weird situation where children are suddenly coming down with illnesses and ailments of old age, such as diabetes, morbid obesity, heart disease, brittle bones and the brain atrophy normally associated with dementia, to name but a few. Meanwhile, the old are increasingly living into their 90s and beyond in better health than the youth who should be their surviving descendants, but at this rate will never make it. It's like Nature's laws and assigned roles are reversing, going backwards; even the seasons are confused. We are seeing snow in the summer and scorching heat in the winter.

This is not a good situation at all, as destructive, barbaric decisions are often born from confusion -- this at a time when we already seem to be destructing or devolving, depending on your perspective (all the hunching over computer monitors, big and small, is beginning to curve our spines back into our pre-upright stage). That's a dangerous kind of synergy.

The parasite is turning on itself like an army of cancer that's figured out its host's cellular creed and is hacking ceaselessly at the security switch. It won't stop until it figures out how to turn the switch off permanently, steal the genetic code and devour everything, laying the entire human race to waste. Extinction.

Indeed, the Canadian Cancer Society is forecasting a dramatic 40% surge in cancers over the next 15 years. And that's not the only place the surge is predicted. We are seeing it in all sorts of diseases, including ones we thought had been either eradicated or nearly so. We are entering an era of renewed epidemics, including an epidemic rise in a deadly cluster of conditions known collectively as Syndrome X. 

The metabolic signs of Syndrome X include hypertension, excessive blood sugar, high triglyceride levels or otherwise abnormal cholesterol values, as well as an expanded midsection. A combination of at least 3 of these risk factors leads to serious illness and premature death.

It's a syndrome of excess, which interestingly is also the same syndrome that is ushering in our premature demise on a global scale. We take too much from each other, whether it's the individuals we interact with, the social groups we belong to, or the nations we spring from. Not only that, we take too much from the animal kingdom we rely on and the natural resources that sustain us. 

And we don't return the favor. 

We take and take and take, gobbling everything up like a mindless Pac-Man leaving nothing but darkness in its wake. And like our other insatiable appetites and expanding midsections, our greed is starting to extend beyond the limits of what is attractive. I imagine from the cosmos humankind is beginning to look pretty ugly right about now, like a former beauty queen who has fallen out of favor with good health in exchange for a lifestyle of vodka, cigarettes and Big Macs.

We've gotten so greedy that we are no longer satisfied with just gorging on the Earth until there is nothing left. We now have our hungry eyes set on space exploration and exploitation. And we're not ready. We should fix our own home before we go rocketing off to invade someone else's.  Our technology is outpacing our humanity. 

No one should be opposed to space exploration for the sake of science, discovery and opening the collective consciousness to new possibilities; however, when the desire to go into space is driven by the same greed that is weakening our planet to the point where we may cause our own extinction, the thought of space "recreation" becomes a tad alarming

The natural (or if you believe in such things the supernatural) world is also alarmed, as evidenced by some unusual phenomena we've been seeing, such as planes falling out of the sky for no clear-cut reason, or in the mysterious case of Malaysian Flight 370, disappearing from the sky altogether, as well as strange, unpleasant, ear-piercing sounds or "skyquakes" being recorded around the globe with no satisfactory explanation (and there are too many recorded examples and firsthand accounts for this to be cast off as a hoax). And if you want a more extensive list of other recognized bizarre phenomena check this out: 25 Strange Phenomena within this Decade that have yet to be Explained.

With regards to our technology outpacing our humanity, take Sir Richard Branson as an example. People seem to love him, his lifestyle and his philanthropy, but that still doesn't negate the fact he is a greedy man, just like the rest of the mega-rich, and isn't satisfied with just conquering the earth; now the animal has its sight set on space. 

Learn to control your greed (which is really nothing more than a base evolutionary urge that more evolved members of humankind are not ruled by) before you attempt to climb up the evolution ladder. We don't want your egomaniac greed on the ladder. It doesn't propel us, it drags us down and if you insist on moving up the ladder before you've advanced past your basic urges, urges such as uncontrolled lust and greed, then there will be consequences. 

This was precisely the case when Virgin Galactic attempted its first test flight into space. Tragedy and death. But has that made Branson and company pause and reconsider what exactly is motivating them and why, as well as the ethical implications? No, it has not, other than perhaps a split-second of self-reflection Branson quickly shrugged off. He clearly does not care. Action speaks louder than words. If his venture fails and more people needlessly die, he can go back to his private island with his ridiculous title and self-gratify with his equally ridiculous, equally entitled and equally irresponsible wealthy friends. 

Fuck you, "sir" Richard Branson. Go fly another kite with another dumb, naked model, you wrinkly, self-indulgent asshole. It all boils down to that doesn't it? At the root of EVERYTHING, that is really the only thing these animals care about: Naked, submissive females, even when it comes to scientific discovery and space exploration! 

They sexualize absolutely everything. For example, one particular abomination of decency that goes by the name "Pornhub" is currently crowdfunding a space mission to film a couple of lesser evolved cretins sexually degrading each other for all the world to witness while in orbit. If that's progress, we are screwed in more ways than one.

It's strange that the rest of the natural world seems to sense we may well be permanently screwed and are entering into a kind of "end of days" scenario and yet we, who are supposedly the "brains" of the operation, are not seeing it.

The signs are everywhere. What's with the denial? 

The clues couldn't be any more blatant than if an enormous Frankenstein hand reached down from the clouds and hit humanity upside the head with a big whack heard around the globe and an exasperated voice of thunder calling us all damn fools!! We've entered the Age of the Idiots

We are the idiots.

The animal world sees it and is becoming desperate over what to do about us, the idiots, ruining it for EVERYONE. They have become so alarmed by our pomposity and complacency that they've resorted to simply attacking us in some instances (the sudden spike in shark attacks is just one example). In other instances, they attempt a more gentle approach by modelling the Golden Rule, such as the recent story of a rhino risking its own life to lift a baby zebra out of a pit of mud.

Even creatures that generally do not attack humans are joining the fight. Seagulls are dive-bombing pedestrians in the street in retaliation for their fallen comrades, the crows, who are now infected with West Nile virus and are dropping dead from their perches.

In addition to shark attacks, bizarre stories are springing up around the world's waters of other sea-life, such as dolphins and sea lions, attacking human beings in retaliation of their fallen comrades, the whales whose corpses are inexplicably washing up on both east and west coasts, transforming beaches on every coast into mass graves.

The deer are charging pedestrians out walking their dogs, or in one case killing a farmer tending his herd, in defense of the squirrels who are dying from THE PLAGUE of all things. The plague!

There are numerous stories around the globe of thousands of dead fish washing ashore; in some situations there are so many of these dead fish that at first glance it looks like an expansive pebbled beach, but on closer inspection the realization dawns those aren't rocks, those are dead bodies! It's a fish holocaust. 

A similar baffling situation is happening with enormous flocks of various bird species dropping dead from the sky. We have moved beyond simple canaries dead in the coal mine.

Mother Nature seems to have sent out a kind of "call to duty" to the spider kingdom as well, much to the dismay of arachnophobics everywhere. The spiders have answered the call and are busily draping nature and her trees in huge protective webs. 

Then we have the wind: In addition to the other signs that something is amiss in the world, stories of massive windstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes wreaking havoc all over the place are impossible to ignore. Just this morning in the province where I live, half a million homes woke up to darkness after a freak overnight windstorm knocked electricity out throughout the lower mainland.

And I won't get started on the massive fires and droughts happening throughout the world, including again in my own province where it seems everything beneath me (I live in the north) is either on fire or in drought.

So in summary, not only do we have all four elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth now engaged in this cosmic Game of Risk in which the number one enemy is human stupidity, but even "theoretical" phenomena seems to be turning a curious eye towards us. Let us all hope this curious eye is one of peace and redemption, interested in nurturing us out of our present Heart of Darkness (i.e. the absurdity of evil) into a better, kinder, more homeostatic way of living and NOT one of angry annihilation. 

I personally choose to think of this curious eye or "Pi in the Sky" the way Yann Martel suggests in Life of Pi or maybe in the way Bette Midler does in her beautiful rendition of From a Distance"God is watching us from a distance, instruments marching in a common band, playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace".