Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Untitled .. For Now

I'm not an “ism”, or an “ist” or an “ite”
Sometimes I might be in the middle
On the left or on the right
Some may on occasion extol me
Others try to pigeon-hole me
And tell me that “the Bible
Told me so”
They've figured out
What I'm about
What they don't know
They assume somehow
Well, I'm not a category or cause
Or a commodity
I'm a man
As simple and as confounding as any other
If you must insist on labels
Put 'em on cans
Don't put 'em on me
Don't put 'em on people
For when you do
Before too long you'll discover
You took the easy way out
Not takin' time to listen or pay attention
Or understand or go walkin' in their shoes
Let me ask you, friend ...
Have you been where I have been?
Seen what I have seen?
Learned what I have learned
Spent the time I spent
Playin' pick and choose
By findin' what to keep
And what to lose?
No, you haven't but neither have I
Been there to wipe away the tears that you cry
When you sat there lonely
When you had to say good-bye
Or been there to answer you
When you wondered how long or why
Nobody that walks this earth is either a this or a that
Just a Republican, Just a Democrat
The sooner we all get a hold of
And learn to respect
Thatwe're all walking contradictions
Much more than charts and diagrams
No indeed, we're much more complex
So let be me and I'll let you be you
Like Paul said, “Let It Be”
That's the least that we can do
Love your neighbor as themselves
Don't say they've got to be
Somebody else
Allow them to be
As free as you as wanna be
For Christ's sake
(And I mean it in the truest sense )
Then and only then
Can we begin to celebrate His love
For all humanity

George Gagliardi, July 2020

Sunday, July 19, 2020

From a Prodigal --- Forty Years Later
By George Gagliardi

  Hi, I’m Benjamin but my pals call me Benny. You probably know me better by a nickname I acquired several years ago -- the Prodigal Son. Jesus even told a story about me. That was about twenty years ago now. I thought maybe I might take a few moments to give you my perspective on the story, not trying to change it at all but maybe “flesh” it out a bit more. And I most certainly am not wanting to put a spin on it – truth is truth, my Dad taught me that, one of the few lessons I learned early on that actually stuck.
  So there I am, 20 years old, bursting at the seams. Dying to see what the rest of the world is like. Because I know what my world here is like, in two words – boring and dull. And I start thinking about how I can leave, that maybe there’s a way to talk Dad into letting me have my share of my inheritance now. Who knows how long I’ll live but I’m alive now and chomping at the bit to get out of this place so why not ask him. As for my brother, Zack, he seems to be content living here, working the farm, doing the chores, living a simple country life. For him that’s fine, but not for me, I want more out of life than that.
  One day I decide I’ve had it and “come hell or high water” I’m going to escape this farm and everything about it. I’m nervous when it comes to talking to Dad about my inheritance but I figure it’s not a big deal, after all I’m entitled to it. Didn’t he say I would be getting it when he died? So why not let me have it now.
  (Now let me interrupt my own narrative to point out my first bad move long before I’d even packed my suitcase – Being entitled. I was a spoiled kid who didn’t have a clue about how well I had it. I felt I deserved to have what I wanted now. This was a huge mistake on my part.)
  Well, if you remember the story, Dad gave me what I asked for – not because I deserved it but because he realized how unhappy I was. To his credit he wasn’t angry with me but I could readily see the disappointment in his eyes as he gave me my share. Me, I wasn’t unaware of his feelings but I was so excited to finally have a way to get away that I shoved those feelings out of the way in favor of leaving for new adventures.
  Next stop – the far country. – or in this case, LA.
  I won’t give you all the gory details of the rise and fall of a virginal, young, naïve farm boy with money living in the Big City – but the key word here is naive. At first I experienced the freedom I had been yearning for. I did almost anything I wanted to do – you name it and I did it. No one said I couldn’t or shouldn’t. As for the voice of Dad in my head saying no – I just ignored that. Then the money ran out, along with my so-called friends. Then it got ugly and I got desperate. I was about a step away from being homeless, cleaning out the toilets at a seedy bar for a free meal a day, when I began to think that maybe I should swallow what was left of my pride and go back home. Guys that worked for my Dad had it a hell of a lot better than I did. The more I thought about it the more sense it made. Then one night the bar got held up and I had gun pointed at me. Luckily I didn’t get shot. The guy just took the money and left.
  Man, that did it. I knew I wanted to get out of LA as quickly as possible. The next morning I got a lift as far out of LA as I could get and started to hitchhike back home.
  On the way back I had plenty of time to think about what I would say to my Dad when I saw him. It was short but sincere. “I’m sorry Dad, I messed up big time, I don’t blame you if you’re still upset with me. I’m not asking for the privileges of a son but maybe if you could let me work for you, I’d do my best to be a really good worker.”
  I must have said that to myself over a hundred times while I was out there on the road waiting for a ride. Eventually I found myself on the rural road a mile and a half from the homestead. It was the longest road I had ever walked. I was so full of dread and fear that I almost turned around. But I didn’t and I’m so glad I didn’t.
  I had my head down staring at the gravel road that led up to our farm when I heard my name being shouted “Benjamin, Benjamin. Is that you son?” I looked up and here came dad running full tilt right at me. I stopped but he kept on running and almost knocked me over. Gave me a great big bear hug – and my dad is a big, strapping guy so when he hugs you know you’ve been hugged – and was crying. So I started to say my speech “I’m so sorry Dad, I messed up …”
  He wouldn’t let me finish. “Not now. We don’t need to talk about that now. You’re home, you’re alright. That’s all that matters.” And I wept, felt his strong arms around me and hugged him back. I can promise you I have never felt more loved in my entire life than I did in that moment.
Some of the farm hands came running out to say hello and Dad told them to spread the word that we were going to have a party that night in honor of my return. I was speechless, to say the least.
Had a great time that night – laughing, seeing old friends, chowing down on Grandma’s fried chicken, recounting tales about my time in LA, (only the rated PG parts, of course) and generally basking in the joy of being home again. Home.
  Sorry to say Zack didn’t want to come to the party. I suspect he was pretty upset about Dad making such a big fuss over my being back. I figured he would have just shown up to smirk and say “I told you so.” – Zack’s like that. Too bad, really. I would have liked to told him how much I had learned. Mostly, how foolish I had been to think I knew more than our Dad when it came to what the world is really like.
  Here I am now, wiser I would hope, but honest enough to admit a few things.
  First off --when things were good in LA I was having great time and thought no more about going home than going to the Moon. It was only when the money ran out that I finally had to face the choices I had made and consequences of those choices.
  Second thing would be this, I learned things about myself, about people and relating to others – what really matters and what doesn’t. And honestly, I’m not sure I would have learned them if I’d stayed home – maybe so, maybe not. So do I advocate everyone should be as hair-brained and as reckless as I was? Nope. But I do say this, some people have to wander away to the “far country” in order to truly appreciate what it means to be at “home’ with who they are and who they’re meant to be. Hard lessons to be sure but valuable lessons all the same. Thank the Lord there’s Grace for those of us who do get lost in the “far country” and need to come home and that includes all of us.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?
By George Gagliardi

Hey, Stan ole boy, ready to go? Time to expose all your dirty thoughts.”
Stanbrick Bumble, chief researcher for The Project, looked up, looked annoyed and went back to peering through the scanscopium. Damn, the luck, leave it to his loud mouth pal to interrupt him. And just when he was so close to being closer than he'd been all week to discovering …
Stan, you can't put it off, you know. Best go and get it over with.”
Bumble heaved a disgusted sigh. “Brunswick, I do wish you …
Not Brunswick. I've changed it again.”
Yes, his friend replied, a satisfied smirk on his cherubic face. “I'm now to be called Horseshoe Muck.”
Very well, I shall call you Horseshoe Muck.” He paused. “And just how long will you keep this one?”
Oh, I don't know. Until I get tired of it, I guess.”
Bumble removed his regulation Magna-Carbohyde work gloves, placed them carefully on the table, got up from his chair and donned his lime green, company issued lab coat. He hated to wear it while he was actually working, it was two sizes too big.
Fine, he thought. If his dim-witted pal wants to change his name every hour, why should I care? What did it matter? He'd been taught years ago that names were unimportant. That was Lesson #5 in the Great Book of 10 Lessons – the first of many required readings from The Corporation. Lesson #4 was never forget your designated registry code (his was HA!2QBniptu?) and Lesson #5 was names are unimportant. If you had any questions about any of the Lessons you only had to refer to Lesson #1 – “The Corporation makes the rules and the rules are always right.” Very simple, easy to follow. Nothing to get perterbed about or to become unsatisfied with. Bumble liked things simple. Life flowed much better when things were simple – although he did think this weekly trip to the Brain Unit Testing Oxytron, BUTOX for short, seemed to come at the most inconvenient times. Oh, bother, best go and get it over with.
He and Horseshoe walked down the drab, narrow hallway and waited in line. One by one, each man and woman climbed into the skylifter and was transported up to the cold, impersonal room where BUTOX was waiting. At last it was Bumble's turn. He rode up to the top level, entered the room and after stating his name, sat down in front of the mammoth machine. He knew the routine by heart. First you removed your glasses, then you pressed your face into a soft, spongy kind of substance which helped cradle your head. As you did this BUTOX read your thoughts for the past week and examined them to determine if your brain was operating at an appropriate level. In other words, were your thoughts productive or did you spend too much time thinking about those things that The Corporation deemed wasteful.
Different colors indicated different levels, with blue being the lowest and orange being the highest. If you were at level orange you were considered a credit to the system and given what The Corporation insisted on calling “Brown Nose” points – Bumble assumed that was because the spongy substance from the BOTOX left just a tiny smudge on the tip of one's nose, if you pressed too hard.
He was proud to say that he generally tested on the orange level. Moreover he couldn't understand why his pal insisted on bringing up the fact that he earned way too many “brown nose points” – as if it were something he should be ashamed of. No matter. He was pleased that The Corporation was pleased with his record
He was mulling this over, feeling very proud of himself as he and Horseshoe walked back to their respective labs. Horseshoe spoke up.
Well, I guess you tested in orange again, didn't you mister “Brown Nose” king.”
Bumble smiled. “Yes, I did. And you?” Knowing well his pal would have tested much lower.
Just barely made the blue level – as if you're surprised.”
Bumble stopped and turned toward his errant pal, a stern look on his face. “I keep telling you not to spend so much time in the Holio-Archives. They are there to be used striclty for research and not entertainment.” They continued walking.
Oh, but Stan, you should see what I've found out about the Old World. It would curl your hair, that is if you had any. For instance there's a section on how females ...”
Bumble raised his hand. “I don't want to hear it, I don't want to hear it”. He arrived at his lab door.
If you want to waste your time and continue to stay at the level you are, that's your decision. After all The Corporation made it clear in Lesson #7, 'You are only responsible to yourself and The Corporation, no one else.' I was merely pointing out that I believe your wasting your life – I only say this because we're friends and would like to see you excel while you're here.
Besides, my name changing under achiever, I would think you would want to give due consideration to the fact that The Coporation has been known to make adjustments if needed – people do get sent to other sectors. True, you may be Zero Minus and, yes, I'm well aware that's the highest rating you can have. Even so you'd be wise to watch your extravagant behavior. That's all I'm going to say. He paused before opening the lab door.
One other thing … if you persist in these mindless explorations – I would advise you not to do anything stupid or reckless”. He cautiously looked both ways and then spoke softly. “Remember what happened to Mackelbait?”
Then he went inside and closed the door, took off his lab and sat down. Now why on earth did I say that.
Outside his friend smiled a small smile, remarking to no one in particular, “Stan, old buddy, if you only knew. If you only knew.” Then he sauntered down the hall whistling some ancient children's song – one he'd discovered while prowling through the Holio-Archives. It had something to do with the Big Bad Wolf.

Theo Love

Theo Love and the Frightened Canary
By George Gagliardi

It was Monday, late afternoon, about twilight. The sun was like a big orange ball, lazily but deliberately performing his daily disappearing act. There was a kind of nice, warm, amber blanket covering the city as the shadows made dark, jigsaw-puzzle patterns on the grey, stone faces of the skyscrapers.
Looking out my third-story window I could see the bright red blinkin’ neon “Repent or Die” sign high atop the Temple of Perpetual Guilt (and 24-hour bookstore).
Quite an operation, that place. I could tell you stories … and every one of them true.
You’d be surprised how many people wind up there. Why?
Because it gives them a chance to feel bad so they can feel good about feelin’ bad so they can feel good again … at least until their next visit.
You figure it out – but then again I’m not surprised by much in this crazy world, especially when it comes to religion. I’ve seen ’em come and I’ve seen ’em go, and let me tell you, people will do just about anything to discover the answer – whatever that means.
How do I know so much? It’s my business to know – I’m Theo Love, spiritual troubleshooter.
Like I said, nothing shakes me for very long, so when this lovely, lean blonde glided into my office, I took it in stride.
She took it in about two or three strides, but then I have a small office.
Let me describe her to you. She had a set of physical blueprints that would prompt Solomon to rewrite his song or at least add a sequel. One look at her up close and my brain was playin’ hopscotch with my libido. My sex drive was in fourth gear, and …
Well, you get the idea, don’t you?
After I stopped salivating and managed to slow my heartbeat down to normal, we talked a while. The more we talked, the more it became clear what was wrong. The girl was in trouble, “Big” trouble.
Seems someone was slowly but surely tryin’ to pull the plug on her self-image and he was usin’ the oldest trick in the book – The Put Up and Shut Up Scam.
Pretty simple, really. Some guy with a pickled set of presuppositions and a misguided mission convinces his victim that she’s bound by God to put up with his particular brand of spiritual mumbo-jumbo. Then gradually he gets her to begin believin’ that her place in matters of leadership is to simply shut up.
Poor kid, my heart went out to her, and I promised I’d do whatever I could to help her out. I meant it too.
She gave me a name, Rev. Billy Bob Coldheart. It wasn’t much of a lead, but at least it was a place to start.
As she got up to leave, I took her hand, looked deep into those beautiful “baby blues” and in my best Sir Galahad manner told her not to worry, that I’d take care of everything.
She was walkin’ out the door when I said it. Nothin’ planned, just a crazy kind of phrase that came to mind in that moment –
He’s lookin’ at you, kid.” I’m not sure, but I think maybe she smiled … and so did I.