March 2007


Religiously Certain.

My alarm went off one recent morning as I was dreaming of eating breakfast in a ghetto restaurant and wondering how (what it would take) to turn that impoverished community around.  My alarm is a radio set to announce the world and softly, out of the ether, came the words, “Jesus knows for sure.”

I inwardly laughed as my wife hit the off switch. What He knows for sure will never be answered.  And I would dearly love to know exactly what Jesus knows for certain.

It is the certainty of religion that I question and find difficult to condone.  A systematic reading of history and science calls into question any assertions made by any religion of a divine certainty.  I laugh at Christians asserting Biblical certainty.  Folks, please read a balanced history of the church.  Most, if not all, of the tenets (and assertions) were experienced by earlier religions. And, subsequently appropriated by Christianity.   The best part to me is when I hear individuals claim that the Bible is the actual and real word of God.

Hmmm? Interesting, is it not, that the Bible was a collaborative writing project and early church officials convened and determined by committee (vote) which parts to actually include (and exclude). Humans (not God) made those determinations, humans with axes to grind and positions to maintain.  Oh, just the “true” parts are included the faithful retort.  You bet.

You’ve, no doubt, heard what the committee assigned to design a racehorse achieved.  A camel.  Ha!

Another often claimed outcome of religion is that it made the West (European culture) what it is.  Perversely (ironically), I might agree. But, again, Christianity is but a cultural and historical overlay, one of many.  The West, it’s trajectory of individual rights and freedoms could arguably be laid at the doorstep of our Greek ancestors.  Individual freedom is hardly the cornerstone of religious orders.  Anything but.

Are all religions the same? Maybe in their origins.  But religions are capable of growth and change.  Mercifully so.

One of the most repugnant (vile) of all times anti-Semite is Martin Luther. His bile was responsible for as much horror and misery as any in recorded history.  Yet, the churches (Lutheran & Methodist) spun off by his single act (The 95 Theses) have matured (and humanized) as institutions. Amen.

Don’t get too smug, though.  Western history is replete with one religious war after another. For hundreds of years God was evoked to smite foes of every imaginable Western religious sect. Fortunately (cross your fingers), the West outgrew such nonsense, of putting to death heretics, of religious wars.  Of persecution.

Currently there is a movie out titled, 300.  It is a stylized depiction of the Greeks (Spartans) fighting for their survival (and freedom) at Thermopylae against the invading armies of Xerxes (Persians).  It is considered by some historians as one of the most pivotal battles in history.  Current day Iranians (Persian descendants) take umbrage at the movie’s characterization of them.   Yawn.

I argue that one of the most important battles of Western Civilization, one that outshines Thermopylae is the Battle of Tours in 732.  Again the West was fighting the East, only this time it was for all the marbles.  So to speak.

Islamic armies had crossed the Straights of Gibraltar, captured Spain and were successfully pushing into France and Northern Europe.  But for Charles The Hammer Martel and Frankish soldiers, all of Europe (and, our civilization today) might have been lost to Islam.

I can think of no bigger horror today than residing in an Islamic-run culture.  Look around the world.  Name one (possibly, possibly Indonesia, Western Turkey, Northern Cyprus) Islamic nation you (and any woman you respect) would willingly live in.

The Islamic world is poor, backward, deprived and uneducated.  It is intolerant, unscientific, misogynistic and an insult to human freedom and creativity. And (because?), it is religiously certain.

Western religions outgrew their certainty.  At least from the perspective of warring upon one another and murdering the “infidel.”  Should we all say here, “Praise the Lord?”  I think not.

Western civilization came to its own conclusion, through hundreds of years of killing one another, that religious certainty is a sure fire formula for failure and human misfortune.

The Renaissance, The Enlightenment, humanism, democracy, freedom from religion, have all made the West the place to be.  Today, anyway.

Of that, I am certain.  Ha!

Reach Jepson at:
Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US

03.29.07
 

It’s All About Me.

I was 58 on the 19th of March.  As coincidence has it, I was recently looking for a software program in my office closet when I came across my baby-book.  It was called Baby’s Story Book illustrated by Maud Tousey Fangel with a 1941 copyright. In it are recorded (typically by the mother) the big events in a baby’s life.

My mother did such a book for me, and all three of my siblings have one, too.  Except their's still actually have an intact book cover and the pages are relatively complete. Mine has no cover and I have just a few completed pages of comments or recordings.  The unfinished pages (and cover?), lost or tossed.

In my mother’s handwriting, I know I was born Christopher Robin Jepson on March 19, 1949 at 8:43 p.m. at the Methodist Hospital. (My great uncle is largely responsible for the establishment of that hospital.) I weighed 8 lbs. 4 ozs, and measured 22 inches.

Oh, I was in Hospital Room 307.  This book, actually the few pages I still possess, have the cutest illustrations by Maud Fangel. In the book, I learned that I first smiled on April 5, 1949.  There’s this charming (nearly precious!) little drawing of a smiling, rosy-cheeked baby and the April 5 date in my mother’s printing.

It took me 18 days to smile.  I am surprised it took me that long.  My mother was beautiful. I am confident I was told the most wondrous things—that I was wonderful and life is wonderful and wonderful things await me.  Over and over again. By a beaming, loving, beatific woman.  I’ve said it before, there is no bigger gift a person can ever receive than the good mother.

Ten days later I laughed. On my father’s birthday, April 15.  I can well imagine he was involved. Dad always encouraged laughter.  I think it probably demonstrated perspective to him, to see his baby laugh. Life is fun, life is funny, let’s laugh about it. Fur damn sure.

Caveat here: Dad also said. If “It” hurts . . . Don’t do “It.”  That was the total extent of specific unsolicited advice I ever heard from my father other than the advice he gave me in the mid-70s while we both stood in his kitchen, “Don’t boink your secretary.”

Uh, okay, Dad.  Actually, I am sure I just nodded my head and wondered about the context.  But, you know, in the total scheme of things, Dad was right-on in the advice column.

According to my falling apart baby-book, I quickly held my head up. Again, in my Mother’s handwriting: Christopher held his head up the first day they brought him in to nurse.

It doesn’t take a genius to quickly figure out where your next meal is coming from.  Sure, I’ll look up for that!  And it smiles, too!  As my brother frequently says, “Call me anything . . . but late for dinner!”   We laugh.

I could turn over alone at four months and began to creep at six months.  I ate from a spoon at three months.

And then the entries quit. My last weight entry was the 12th week.  I weighed 13 lbs. 11 ozs.  That’s it. Over. Ka-put! My story stops.

And there, in my mother’s writing, is the reason why.  Under the section titled: My first tooth came through (again with an accompanying Fangel minature of a darling, one-toothed baby) are the words: The day was five months—(Mommy was in St. Joseph’s Hospital to have a disc removed.)

I got my first tooth as my mother was having major back surgery. My mother’s brother was a physician and he threatened (seriously) to murder my father if he didn’t get a vasectomy.  Which he did in 1950.  Four children had reduced my mother’s once strong spine to something else.  Still a young woman, she could have become crippled from bearing more children.  Thank goodness, huh, for birth control. Of the reliable type.

But five months into my life my mother was flat on her back.  And for the next few months, my grandmother and housekeepers were important in my life.  My mother recovered but the entries didn’t resume.  Sigh.

And, years later, all that remains are a few pages of my early moments.   And, I absolutely treasure them.

But, did I tell you, my brother and sister’s baby-books were complete and intact? In the original boxes, no less!  Yea!  Why is that?  What is it about them?  Was it me?  Don’t-cha just love a family?  If you’re lucky.

Late Gift Recommendations:  Crisp 50 or 100 dollar bills are always appreciated.  Gift certificates from bookstores.  Anything from Timothy’s.  WP’s Bocelli Garden Store on Orange Ave. has great stuff, too.  Send to Jepson, c/o Observer Newspapers.  And, thanks.

Reach Jepson at:
Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US

03.22.07

Giner Forty Niner

Is it bad for me to praise the Lord for rightwing dipsticks?  Sometimes I get too wrapped up in events and circumstances.  I get serious and a bit morose over humanity, our prospects and all and, then, wham, another bolt of comical idiocy ever so timely delivered by our over zealous, sheet-sniffing, rightwing religziods.  Thank you, God.

First, I just have to comment on that moral paradigm of righteous certainty, the majestic (in his own eyes) Newt the Mighty Stone Caster Gingrich.  Remember when our President was caught in a lie about sex in the White House and Newt Gingrich went ballistic with moral rectitude.  The very same moment that President Clinton was creating a dry cleaning bill for Monica, Newt was biblically one with his mistress, too.  In the Speaker’s office.  Literally.  It’s called a Congressional Prerequisite.  It’s a bonus for achieving longevity. Ha.  Too funny.  Yea, fur sure, I’d vote for “some integrity” like that. C’mon. Laugh.  It is sooooo human.  All of it.

Okay, on to more intellectual subjects.  Yes, indeedy.  America’s sheet-sniffing community has its undies all in a knot, atwitter, over what we should call our, you know, private parts.

I’m serious here.  At exactly what age should a male know that he has a scrotum and a notion of its function?

And, by association, when is it okay that a female knows what her, uh, hmmm, what shall we call it, um, what her “Miss Winky” is called?

First a true story.  This circulates through several layers of my family.

When my daughter, Jocelyn was born in 1970, I did not give much thought to language or abstract thought or what you name this or that.  But as a child grows and makes demands to know stuff and understand her connection to/with the world, you provide it.

It never occurred to me as Jocelyn was learning her body parts to not call her vagina what it was.  There was no stigma associated to the word, no snickering, no embarrassment, no shame, no guilt, no fear, no hiding.  That’s what it is called.  Not only that, it’s wonderful, it’s hers. Just like her arms and legs and heart and mind.

Okay, Jocelyn is maybe two and half years old, going on three when she accompanies her Grandmother Hildeen to Louise’s home.  Louise was Hildeen’s longtime beer drinking and fishing buddy.

It was at this occasion that Jocelyn made a tremendous leap forward in her deductive abilities when she said to her Grandmother, “Ask me if I want ice cream.”  I love it.

Regardless, she is standing on a chair in the kitchen and falls hard on her bottom and exclaims to Hildeen & Louise, “I broke my ‘giner!”

These two Midwest gals nearly fell out of their seats. They had to leave the room to laugh.

In those days, anytime we (wife and I) got in the car we were teaching Josie songs.  She’ll be coming around the mountain, Row, row your boat, stuff like that.  Upon hearing what our daughter had exclaimed, one of our favorites became, “There was a ‘Giner, Forty-niner and his daughter Clementine.”

So, I just laugh out loud when I hear that certain sheet-sniffers can barely utter the words scrotum and vagina without puckering up.  Oooh, all over.

Can you imagine (incident actually occurred)  a high school girl, when reading an excerpt from the play, The Vagina Monologues that she actually had the temerity to utter the word, vagina?

I am the first to acknowledge the infinite power and grace of the vagina but, frankly, My Dear, I think life goes on (Pun! Pun intended.), in spite of someone publicly saying the word.  The school wants to ban such speech, such writing.  Dear me!  I'm shocked!  Shocked.

Finally, imagine (actually occurred) a children’s book (The Higher Power of Lucky) with the, uh, hmmm, gall, to use the word scrotum. Oh, my!  Pull that book from library shelves. Immediately!!  And hang the publisher!!  (Assume the author has already been tarred & feathered.)

Did these immature cretins never learn in grade school, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?”

It’s a just a word, for gosh sakes. It’s a word!

What’s the context I typically wonder?

What’s a context?” they ask.

They don’t do context. Life is either/or.

And it is at this point that it is no longer funny or idiotic.

But as I am so frequently reminded, “God sure does love fools because She made so many of’um."

”C’mon, Everyone, sing along:

In a cavern, in a canyon,

Excavating for a mine 

Dwelt a ‘giner forty niner, 

And his daughter Clementine!

I can't hear you! 

Reach Jepson at:
Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US

03.14.07

Martha Haynie
For Congress

Every nation has the government that it deserves. Joseph Marie de Maistre

Harvard University has eliminated history as a requirement for graduation.  I marvel at this.  History courses have been reduced in our public schools, as well.  If I were king for a day and running things, I’d insist our children be daily instructed in literature, writing and history. If you have no idea where you’ve been or how we’ve arrived at where we are today (and why), how can any citizen be expected to intelligently participate in our democratic process?

Quite candidly, the electorate is, on too many occasions, not particularly bright, is seemingly easily bamboozled and has the collective memory of a turnip.  They elect men (for the most part) on the basis of whether or not they’d willingly have a beer with him (think 2000 presidential election and why Bush was allegedly elected). Not whether he is honorable, forthright, bright, altruistic, rational, ironic, learned, self-deprecating, determined or a big picture, connect the dots kind-of-a-guy.

I ask how can uninformed citizens make informed decisions about government and our nation?—They cannot. They do not.  We elect men who spout simplistic slogans or we are channeled by our churches or the local chamber of commerce or political party to elect men to office who spout simplistic slogans.  Republicans and Democrats alike.

In politics one frequently hears it said that so-and-so may be a s.o.b. but he is our s.o.b. and therefore deserving of our support.  George E. Allen

The political season is upon us. No longer is there a hiatus between elections, campaigns begin the Friday after.  I’ve a name (a person) to throw out that I would elect to any office in Florida.  I feel she would do a better job than by any incumbent now holding that office.  Better than Crist or Nelson or Martinez, Crotty or Dyer.

I’d eagerly elect Orange County Comptroller, Martha O. Haynie to any local or statewide office.  She’d make a dynamite mayor (of Orlando or Orange County), governor or senator.  She has the integrity, credibility, honesty and leadership abilities to genuinely make a difference.  Haynie is unequivocally in no one’s pocket, she understands government and has been the region’s chief accountant and bookkeeper since 1988.

Haynie has an outstanding track record and is both trusted and admired.  I do not know whether she is a Democrat, Republican or an Independent.  I would like for Haynie to run against Congressman Ric Keller of the 8th Congressional District.

Keller (Repug.) is a one-dimensional lapdog of the Righteous Right.  He pledged when he first ran for Congress that he would serve only four terms (eight years).  Guess what?  He’s renounced his promise. Understand, Keller first ran for office publicly pledging to support term limits (for himself).

Voters quickly forget what a man says.  Richard M. Nixon

Keller voted for the war in Iraq but now is against the President’s surge of forces. That’s typical of the man.  A go-along, lick-spittler of a Pillsbury Dough Boy Congressman who now sticks his finger in the air to carefully position himself (against the war) for the next election (fifth term) he said he’d never conduct.

Orlando, Central Florida, can do much better. We have a first team candidate in Martha Haynie.  She could be our mayor, our senator or governor.  She’s tested, experienced, ethical and her own person.

I can’t say that about Keller. Heck, he’s not even his own man.

Review the history of Keller’s promises (lies). Review, too, Martha Haynie’s record.

I do not think we deserve the governance of Ric Keller.  If he is re-elected, than, perhaps, sadly we do.  But with an ascending star like Martha Haynie, why settle for a simplistic, mediocrity when a genuinely bright light is available?   Draft Haynie!

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US

03.08.07