Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Real Super Hero: Dad

Reprinted from June 16,  2012

Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. Oh, never’s just Dad cleaning out the gutters.

He can’t fly. He can’t morph into the Hulk. He can’t spin spider webs from his wrists. Some mornings, he can’t even find the car keys.

But Dad is a super hero, nonetheless, and he does have super powers. Some of which may include. . .

  • Leaps from bed in a single bound--to go to a job he hates, to provide for a family he loves
  • Walks the floor with a collicky baby
  • Fixes a clogged toilet, armed with only a wrench, a plumber’s snake, and duct tape (Sure it might take him three tries, but he gets 'er done--clean-up is optional.)
  • Gives his newborn a baseball glove, a soccer ball, a hockey puck, and a hunting rifle--and that's for a girl!
  • Tells bedtime stories, complete with character voices and alternate endings
  • Adds marshmallows to Cheerios--voila!--instant haut cuisine!

• Gives up his poker night in order to see his son as a singing porcupine in the school production of “Forest Creatures Are Our Friends”

• Comes home from work dog tired but still works on the car (aka "the money pit")
• Takes the kids to church, instead of just sending them
• Stays up all night Christmas Eve putting the dollhouse or bicycle together--with parts to spare!
• Wears a feathered hat while hosting a tea party for three little girls and a stuffed walrus

So maybe he can’t fly, but when you’re little, he can lift you up in his arms and help you fly.

He may not use “church words” when the hammer hits his thumb. But sometimes he knows just what to say to make the monsters disappear from your room at night.

He may not always know the answers to the "stupid questions" on your homework, but someday you’ll be amazed at how smart he really was.

A good dad is someone you never forget. Even when you grow up and become a dad or a mom yourself. Even when he’s no longer around, he will speak to you from beyond the grave:

     “You’re not hurt. Get back on that bike and ride.”

     “Look a bully right in the eye.”

   “Always wash out your brushes when you’re done painting.”

     “Because I said so.”

     “Hey, you’re not gonna leave that mess for your mom to clean up, are you?”

     “Don’t worry, Honey. I can fix it.”

     “I love you, Son.”

The Stark Raving Mythopath salutes the unsung super heroes, dads all around the world. You guys are freakin’ awesome! You are the stuff of legends, Warrior Dads on the battlefield of  family life. Happy Father’s Day!

Photo Credits
    A deploying soldier says goodbye - Author:  Walter Singleton;
        released into the Public Domain by the author;
    Kid with dimples - Author: Nagarjun;
    Dad giving kids breakfast: © Can Stock Photo /monkeybusiness;
    Little boy with dimples - 
         confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0;
    Father/son walking in the sand - Author:  Gugatchitchinadze;
    Father and child by the sea - Source: Unsplash;
        The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated 
         the work to the public domain.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

This Train

"This train don't carry no gamblers, this train."

A whole succession of famous folk, jazz, and country singers have performed the song "This Train" through past decades. Singers like Peter, Paul, and Mary; Randy Travis; Louis Armstrong; Bo Diddly; Sister Rosetta Tharp; Johnny Cash; Bunny Walker; Bob Marley; Woodie Guthrie; Ricky Nelson; Pop Winans; and many more. Pretty much a Who's Who of the music business.

According to which version you hear, this train "don't carry" no gamblers or liars or rustlers. No sidestreet walkers or two-bit hustlers. No racists. No jokers. No tobacco chewers or cee-gar smokers. 

Because this train is bound for Glory. And basically, nobody can ride this train but "the righteous and the holy." Which kind of leaves the rest of us standing at the station, looking lost and forlorn.

I love trains and I love the catchy tune of this song. But I'm so glad I don't share the theology of these lyrics. 

Jesus said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). 

I know I'm on a train bound for Glory. But this train don't carry nobody BUT gamblers, ramblers, low-lifes, and sinners. Sidestreet walkers and cigar smokers? Oh, yes! Liars, gossips, and adulterers are welcome. People with a past? Welcome to the First Class section of this train.

It's rather like the musical The Greatest Showman, when P. T. Barnum (something of a Christ-figure in this story) scours the countryside, rounding up all the freaks and misfits he can find. A bearded lady. A contortionist. Folks who are too big or too tiny or too unusual for polite society. Barnum gives them all honor and respect and a job to do in his new circus -- a reserved seat on his circus train.

Because the name of this train is Grace. It's not by our own works but only by the grace of God that any of us is ever bound for Glory.

And this is the craziest and most surprising plot twist in all of human history. It's the greatest story ever told.

"...Everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life" (John 3:16).


Photo credits:
    Cartoon train - © Can Stock Photo / umnola;
    Gamblers - Title: "The Cheaters," oil on canvas;
       Source/Photographer Mathieu Le Nain;
       This work is in the public domain in its country of origin 
        and other countries and areas where the copyright 
        term is the author's life plus 100 years or less;
    Train in Colorado - Author Richard Fogg - owner/Howard Fogg - artist;
        Permission: The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it 
        for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed;
    Antique train - © Can Stock Photo / C_L_Fox;
    Greatest Showman - theatrical poster;
    Girl at Train Station - © Can Stock Photo / NomadSoul1.


Monday, June 4, 2018

What Did You Do Today?

I sort of wish my friends would quit asking me, “So, Stark Raving Mythopath, what did you DO today?” 

Why don't they ask me something easier, like "What's the square root of pi?" Or "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

What did I do today? So often I hem and haw and try to think of something to say. It’s usually writer friends who ask this question, and so I know that the expected answer has something to do with writing. Did I work on a story? A poem? A blog post? Research? Sharpen my pencils? Anything remotely related to writing? 

Or that failing, did I clean house or paint the living room or volunteer at a soup kitchen or make my own soap? 

Hand-made soap. Made it this morning. . .I wish!

Did I embroider new couch pillows or learn to play the French horn? 

Um, which end do I blow into?

Maybe I directed an off-Broadway musical or coached a girls volleyball team? (Yeah, right!) Or reorganized all the closets and cooked ahead for the week? 

Surely I DID something!

The volleyball team I coached. . .in my dreams!

I really don’t want to tell them the truth. That some days I don’t do much at all. There, I said it. What's worse, I really don't feel bad about it!

I do believe that I should try to forge ahead to finish the two books I'm working on. And write the occasional post for this blog. I try to hop on the treadmill most days and do some reading to exercise my flabby mind. I also read my Bible and pray. 

And some days I do a lot of writing and editing and planning.

But some days I just don't do much of anything. And I think that's okay sometimes. Not every day. But some days I seem to stare out the window into the vanishing point. Until the day itself vanishes.

But often, it's while "doing not much" that ideas come. Some pretty dumb ideas. And some really brilliant ideas. Some where-in-the-world-did-that-come-from-? ideas. Some how-did-I-ever-live-without-this-? ideas. 

Ideas for a story. For a poem. For how to re-arrange the closets (if I ever get get around to doing it). For how to take in that long skirt and add pockets at the same time. For how to be rich and famous. (The latter, alas, generally don't work.) Or the answer to the eternal question: what's for dinner?

The trick is to have a good system or at least some system to record and organize all these ideas. At home, where a computer is usually available, I have a spreadsheet. Away from home, there's a notebook in my purse. And in bed at night  in the ultimate posture of "doing nothing"  I just hope I'll remember the next day.

Mythopath jotting down ideas

The poet Archibald MacLeish wrote:
A poem should not mean
But be

And I think that sometimes. . .
A person should not do
But be
But be prepared. With your body relaxed, your batteries recharged, and your mind at rest, ideas may happen.

Image Credits:
   Woman with writing utensils - Woman with wax tablets and stylus 
     (so-called "Sappho") portrays a high-society Pompeian woman,
     This raster graphics image was created with Adobe Photoshop CS
     Photographer: Carole Raddato; 
  House Cleaning Cartoon - by H G Peter that appeared on "The Modern Woman" 
     page of Judge Magazine, 6 February 1915, Source Judge Magazine,
     Author: H G Peter; this media file is in the public domain in the 
     United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, 
     often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923  
  Hand-made soap - Soap made from shea butter;  Author: Marco Schmidt;
  French horn - Author: BenP;
  Volleyball team - Author: Hobbs21;
  Girl at window - English: Owings Mills, United States; Author: 
      Kate Williams kmw152;
  Woman writing - oil painting by Adelaide Labille Guiard;  in the public domain 
      in countries where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years;
     Statue of woman thinking - "la Pensadora" by José Luis Fernández in Oviedo, 
      Asturias, Spain;  Author: ÁWá;

Monday, May 28, 2018

Peter Pan: I Won't Grow Up!

All children, except one, grow up. 

  --J. M. Barrie

A recent poll, reported in the Daily Mail, said that this quote from Barrie is Britain's favorite opening line, beating out even Orwell and Dickens. The line, as you may know, is from Barrie's children's classic Peter Pan.

Peter Pan is the boy who never grows up  who returns to the land of reality every spring to find child recruits who want to fly away to Never-Never Land. Just think happy thoughts, and with a sprinkle of fairy dust, up you go! As long as you're in Never-Never Land, you play all day and never grow up.

The grown-ups are appalled. But what's so great about growing up anyway?

  •  Maybe we were better off when we knew dandelions aren't weeds to yank up by the roots, but beautiful flowers to enjoy.
  •  Or when we knew that snow isn't for complaining about. Duh. It's for sledding and snow forts and snowball fights.
  •  Or when we knew that the purpose of toys isn't to tidy them up and put them in a box –– it's to play and have fun.

  •  Or when we knew that the cool careers aren't accountant, lawyer, and life coach (whatever that is) but cowboy, pirate, firefighter, and — ta da! — astronaut!
  •  Can we remember when it was fun to "cook" donuts with Play-Doh — instead of cooking under the stormcloud of why-did-I-invite-all-these-people-for-dinner?

  •  When rather than blowing our top, we just blew bubbles?

Childhood is an enchanted time of our lives, and Barrie captures some of the magic in Peter Pan.

James Matthew Barrie

After starting his writing career as a journalist, Barrie then turned his attention to fiction and drama.  His friendship with some special children, the Llewellyn Davies boys, helped inspire a new character, a boy who didn't grow up. He introduced Peter Pan in a novel, The Little White Bird, published in 1902. Then he produced a play, Peter Pan –– or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up –– two years later.

Michael Llewellyn Davies,
as Peter Pan

And there may have been another inspiration too. When Barrie was almost 14, his younger brother David died in an ice-skating accident. His mother was devastated. James started wearing some of David's clothing and whistling like David did, to try to keep David "alive" for his mother. 

One night he walked into his mother's bedroom. "Is that you?" she asked.

Barrie replied in a meek voice, "No, it's no' him, it's just me." What a terrible burden for a young man to bear.

But the mother seemed to take some comfort in knowing that David would always be a child.

And when you look at it that way, growing up is a privilege that isn't granted to everyone. But we can grow up without losing our childlike sense of wonder and play. We can still make wishes with dandelions and blow bubbles to forget our troubles. We can still enjoy having stories read aloud to us. We can still get the giggles. And the wiggles. We can still find happy thoughts that make us fly.

We can keep the best of childhood alive inside of us –– at any age.

Barrie playing with Michael Llewellyn Davies

The Stark Raving Mythopath highly recommends these two fantastic movies related to Peter Pan and J. M. Barrie.

Hook (1991) gives us an updated version of the Peter Pan story as lawyer Peter Banning (formerly Peter Pan) must return to Neverland to rescue his children from the sinister, mustache-twirling Captain Hook. Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts.

Finding Neverland (2005) tells the story of how Barrie gets to know the Llewellyn Davies children and how he produces the play Peter Pan against great odds for disaster. Jonny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, and Julie Christie. 

Photo Credits:
    Children in Swings - English: Swings, 1932, 
       by Ethel Spowers - This image is of Australian 
       origin and is now in the public domain 
       because its copyright has expired - 
       Australian Copyright Council;
    Peter Pan drawing Author: N. Kasp, created on Inkscape;
    Boy with dandelion - © Can Stock Photo / shalamov;
    Cowboy - © Can Stock Photo / webking;
    Girl blowing bubbles - © Can Stock Photo / G3Rich;
    J. M. Barrie - Author: George Charles Beresford - This work is in 
      the public domain in the United States because it was published 
      (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923;
    Michael Llewellyn Davies - Author: J. M. Barrie - This work is in the
        public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas 
        where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less;
    Girl playing dress up - © Can Stock Photo / geotrac;
    Barrie and Michael playing - Author: Unknown but presumably 
        Sylvia Llewellyn Davies - This work is in the public domain in 
        its country of origin and other countries and areas where 
        the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

In Praise of Brit Lit

Okay, so tell me again why we fought the war – that Revolution thing? Um, something about tea and taxes?

As a self-proclaimed Stark Raving Mythopath, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that we ever wanted to split from the Brits. I mean, what’s not to love about the blokes? 

Sure, they may drive on the wrong side of the road and they may play football with a soccer ball, but after all. . . .  Tea and crumpets? Lords and Ladies? Royal weddings?  Downton Abbey? David Tennant? Judy Dench? Benedict Cumberbatch? What a bloomin’ brilliant place!

And when it comes to literature and stories, whole continents of wonderful words have poured forth from such a small island. Let’s see. . . .Shakespeare, for starters. 

Just for starters.

George MacDonald
And a poet or two. Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Donne, T. S. Eliot (okay, he came from the USA but moved to England), Gerard Manley Hopkins, Yeats, Dylan Thomas…..  

And mythic tales? Beowolf, Canterbury Tales, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, George MacDonald, E. Nesbit, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, G. K. Chesterton, J. K. Rowling…. And many contributors to the Arthurian legends, including Geoffrey of Monmouth, Thomas Malory, and Alfred, Lord  Tennyson. There's a whole pantheon of Big-Time Big Names on the Olympus of Brit Lit.

Beowulf, first folio edition

When it comes to literature, they’ve got at least a 700 year head start on us here in the Colonies. Even God speaks British in the King James Bible! How are we supposed to compete with that?

And don't get me started on British TV shows. Dr. Who? Love it. Detective shows like Morse, Lewis, Endeavor, Sherlock, Broadchurch, Father Brown. . . .can't get enough. 

Benedict Cumberbatch
filming Sherlock

And dramas. Call the Midwife. Pride and Prejudice. Upstairs, Downstairs. Chariots of Fire. Just a sampling, of course.

For comedy, there's Doc Martin, Fry  & LaurieAs Time Goes By, Keeping Up Appearances, and the Monty Python movies. My favorite is Time Bandits.) Again, only a sampling.

And the Brits don't have home remodeling shows (just add open concept and shiplap)  they have architecture shows with jaw-dropping glass walls, cantilevered upper levels,  and skylights that brighten subterranean marvels. Structures that make you wonder, how in the world did they do that!

And even when we want to start bragging about American poets, novelists, screenwriters, etc., we need to pause and humbly reflect that the very language we use for our creations came from that small island off the coast of Europe  all those warring Germanic tribes that finally settled down and started making book deals. Those fun-loving Normans that invaded in 1066. The Great Vowel Shift of the 1400's. Caxton's printing press. And all the yummy ingredients that were thrown into the Stone Soup to create the amazing English language we know and love today.

Seems the whole British Empire thing didn't work out in the long run, but I think the Brits have still achieved world domination – through their wonderful writing and creativity.

Image Credits:
    Revolutionary drummers -- © Can Stock Photo / magmarcz;
    Royal Wedding -- photo by John Pannell; derivative work: César;
    Shakespeare -- Source: Extrait de "L’Homme et la Terre"; Author: Élisée Reclus;
        This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries
         and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less. 
    George MacDonald --  English: photograph of George MacDonald, taken in 
        the 1800's.
        Public Domain in US because it was published prior to 1923.
    Beowulf manuscript -- by the Beowulf poet, who else?
     This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas 
      where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.
    King James Bible, 1611 -- Frontispiece -- Public Domain  -- This work is in the 
       public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where 
       the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.
    Benedict Cumberbatch filming Sherlock -- Author: Fat Les from London, UK;
       derivative work: RanZag (talk)