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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Get Happy

I think it’s possible to have arms-length friendship because that’s what I experience at work.  My supervisor (boss) and I are good friends, yet this doesn’t violate our professional relationship—we both know who's boss.  This understanding is what frees us to be friends.  Liberty would not be possible if we ever confused friendship with organizational equality—our working relationship does not prevent us from truth-telling equality on a personal level.  This undercuts my understanding of co-option.  Co-option is often touted in organizational literature as a tremendous problem in the integrity of oversight.  People who have the responsibility of professional independence are supposed to lose that independence of judgment through such things as friendly discourse, having meals together in which one side or the other occasionally treats, exchanging reasonable gifts at Christmas, sympathy and well wishes at times of grief, illness, or celebration--and so forth.  All these things which make living a delight (not to say deeply meaningful) are possible so long as the realities of rule are maintained.   Again, to be specific based upon personal experience, my boss came to my wedding, he expresses concern if I am ill, I enjoy the admiration and friendship of his wife, we exchange Christmas presents, to put it again simply, we are friends.  Yet this does not burden us, but frees us to be honest and truth telling.  My boss got on my case one time for being drowsy at work, for example.  Our friendship did not prevent him from confronting me when necessary.  I have nudged my boss now and then about things needing attention at work.  Difficult confrontations are facilitated by trust (not to say love) and a close working relationship.  In short, I think co-option is a sophisticated sounding concept that has serious problems.  It assumes that niceties that bring comfort, trust, and honesty to human relations are incompatible with organizational responsibilities.  I’m glad to know that’s not true.

I might add that this is also true I find at church where my Sunday school teacher is a friend to all, but in class is always in charge.  Don't sell short the human capacity to comprehend simultaneously the paradox of designated leader and personal friend.  Relax and rejoice--that's a great thing for everybody.  We are not regimented like ants, we are a special species, and we are made to be free and loving in mind and spirit.  Generosity is always possible and is the hallmark of humanity. Co-option is only a problem in appearance, not reality. This is not a friendship or human relationship problem; it is a personal problem in which individuals do not take their proper organizational roles seriously. It is important to get a true take on what redounds to organizational malfunction.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Explosive Differences

Wars are essentially fights over control.  Therefore, to end wars it will be essential to find ways to legitimize control.  Democracy is an attempt to legitimize control and therefore obviate the necessity of war within the democratic state.  The Civil War in the US stands testimony that this is not always successful; irreconcilable differences based on tradition and belief tore the country apart.  The War was an attempt to reestablish control which was partially accomplished.  But, of course, control was not complete and compliance was in many ways successfully avoided.  The moral imperative of civil rights took decades to establish itself and to finally become enforceable by the sword of the state.  For the most part, unrest over living conditions in democracies fall short of rebellion against the legitimacy of the state itself, but rather register protests over the policies of the current representatives.    Protests are made in an effort to right the ship, not overturn it.

Alliances among states are a way to extend control beyond borders for protection and influence in the wild west of international relations.  Irreconcilable differences still exist here and hence mutual enmity becomes simply a reflection of extant reality.   Skirmishes and battles result.  Tremendous resources of all types are spent.  Driven by the deep human need for reciprocity, commitments tend to become unlimited.

A current wedge in human relations is cultural differences.  One culture is highly codified in behaviors that the opposing culture leaves to individual discretion.  Both sides derive a sense of righteousness and pride form their different approaches.     Tradition and belief form strong psychological imperatives for both camps.

The question arises, is the world big enough for both views?  Can both sides agree to disagree (like opposing parties in a democracy) and refrain from armed conflict?  Of course it cannot, because there is no overarching power or mechanism of legitimacy to enforce compliance;  additionally one side finds illegitimate any mechanism based upon representative democracy.    The present conflict is at base a zero sum game and the goodwill requisite for a nonbelligerent solution does not and cannot exist under current conditions; negative reciprocity will rule during this protracted and costly engagement.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Saint Petersburg & The New Jerusalem

Today I was very proud of our City.  This was Scrub the Burg day and hundreds of youth spread mulch, pulled weeds, painted, and did other chores all about the city.  I ran into a group of the youth at TASCO lab.  They stopped there to cool off, take a break, and get water.  They were obviously having a good time and working hard. (In the afternoon, I saw a video complete with music of many of their activities done in the morning.)  Needless to say, there were boys and girls, and races of all types represented.  What made me especially proud was when a Parks Leisure Services manager came by.  He had on a Scrub the Burg T-shirt, and obviously because of his sweat and general appearance had been working hard; but he bore a happy frame of mind.  I said to myself, “Now there’s true leadership—not a forbidding potentate behind a big desk directing the youth to work, but getting out and being with them during the hottest and most humid part of the day.”  Sometimes I have felt that Saint Petersburg is the New Jerusalem.  Days like today bring this feeling back.  I don’t know why we want to think future bliss will be all ease and mauve.  I suspect that there is lots of work ahead in bold, primary colors.  From work flow creativity, generosity, and sharing.  In other words, the byproducts of work are essentially spiritual.  I suspect this dimension is a fundamental purpose of Scrub the Burg day.  It is certainly of equal value as spread mulch and pulled weeds. 

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Will It Last?

My blog today is something I wrote on 2/25/1999:   Will it last? --So far it has.


Will it last?
This feeling I have that at its core,
My country is better than the credit it gets.
Am I the only one daily amazed by the depth and breadth
Of simple kindness and humility before a common mortality?
Maybe it's where I work--at a civic center rather than an abortion clinic.
Maybe it's where I go to church--where people greet, not simply meet.
Maybe it's where I went to school--a professor I love could think lowly on his feet.
Maybe it's the family I'm in--family reunions bring everyone in.
Maybe it's the city I call home--a little sad but with deep wells of hope.
Maybe it's the young friends I have--they teach me everything old.
Maybe it's the friend that died--unscathed in my love by tragedy.
Maybe it's technology--I've never been convinced that it's a prison guard.
Maybe it's that my patriotism's bought and paid for by the goodies I get.
Maybe it's my health, my time of life, subconscious defenses, a little instability.
Whatever it is may it continue day by day until I'm dead,
For it does make a difference how I'm treated and the faces I meet,
And the sense of a purpose etched from the beginning of history,
A Promise Land, a place where people council in prayer,
To do better than exist and just get by,
But to trust and triumph in a Divine Will.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Majority Rules, When It Shouldn't

We are on an international trip in a closed compartment with poor ventilation. Some decide they want to smoke; others don’t. So a vote is taken and those who do want to smoke outnumber those who don’t. In this instance majority rule should not prevail even though there is no state jurisdiction to appeal to. The health and safety of the minority must somehow prevail in importance. In this instance one must appeal to natural law. The majority has no right to harm a minority, and this is so by natural law. Of course in our situation without a state jurisdiction there is no one to enforce the law. But in situations where there are states, the duty clearly resides in the state of jurisdiction. Controversy will arise where the comfort and desires of the majority are posed against the needs and safety of the minority. Comfort and desires must not prevail. What is politically correct must not prevail. In the United States the Bill of Rights is often appealed to. Perhaps in this case the 9th Amendment would apply. “Rights retained by the people” would seemingly include the right for health and safety not to be needlessly jeopardized. “In 2000, Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn gave a speech at the White House on the subject of the Ninth Amendment. He said that the Ninth Amendment refers to ‘a universe of rights, possessed by the people — latent rights, still to be evoked and enacted into law....a reservoir of other, unenumerated rights that the people retain, which in time may be enacted into law.’” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution)

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Piety Profiling

I have a friend that recently went through a job application process with a law enforcement agency.  Besides a lengthy questionnaire about minute details of personal history and numerous references, there was a polygraph test full of skepticism and intimidation.  One would have to be forgiven in thinking the agency was looking for humans who were raised in a vacuum with its collateral of untried virtue.  I couldn’t help but wonder if Jesus could work there.  (Jesus, it will be remembered, got into trouble with the authorities for breaking religious code.)  The law enforcement agency seemed to be looking only for sins of commission (Have you broken any law or code?) and totally ignored sins of the heart—sins of omission when selfishness and prudishness destroy a more generous human spirit.  Give me the generous soul who has a spotted record any day over the parsimonious prude without a blemish.  I would be wary of the end result of piety profiling.  The agency might get what it deserves—piety without a person inside. 

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Getting Sloppy (Rationale Creep)

When I break the law or moral code it is usually the result of getting sloppy.  For instance this year I got a traffic ticket—a moving violation for not stopping at a stop sign.  How this developed was I began to get sloppy.  Stop signs on residential streets near my house and those near my work became very familiar, and I began to roll pass them without fully coming to a stop.  My intent and rule of action became not to stop unless I in advance saw traffic coming.  This then spread to other stop signs on busy and strange streets.  My personal rule of action no longer jived with state law.  I felt satisfied, since I was applying a rule, though just not the legal rule.  (The convenient rationale--as long as I applied my rule religiously, the state law didn’t matter.)  Often rationales are appeals to rules—simply our own self-interested rules.

At Publix this week I got a cart full of groceries, and put some soft drink cartons on the bottom rack of the cart because there was no room on top.  On checkout, I forgot about the drinks and didn’t realize they were not charged to me until I got out to the car.  I was tired (and sloppy) so drove away without paying.  My immediate rationale (and there is always a justifying rationale) was that Publix prices are more than their competitors on certain items, so this unpaid for item was just getting me justice.  Nice!  I shoplifted out of a sense of justice; just another phony rule of reciprocity.

Yesterday I got an atomic clock for my home.  It monitors the temperatures at two locations, the clock location and a remote location.  Both sensors require batteries—a total of 4 AA batteries.  I was at work and decided, since I sometimes run errands for my employer and don’t get paid (the reliable rationale), I would use their batteries in my clock.  This became another instance of getting sloppy on the back of selfish rationales.

Luckily amends are possible.  It was a relief in a way to get caught by the policeman for running the stop sign.  My rule was a dangerous rule, and it was only a matter of time before it ended in a serious accident.  I felt relief (as well as other emotions) the moment I saw lights flashing behind me.  I can still make amends at Publix and work.  This is necessary primarily to affirm that my rationales were purely selfish justifications, and to help avoid sloppiness and rationale creep in the future. 

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Monday, July 26, 2010

In Defense of Christian Expression

Last year I took a writing composition class at Saint Petersburg College.  In class we viewed a YouTube video that had caused quite a bit of criticism on the internet.  One person wrote: “I don’t need any further explanation as to why Christianity sucks….”  The video is called “The Renewed Mind is the Key.”  I wrote a defense of the performance based on my view of the Christian church.  I may have overstated the homeliness of many church activities.  There are exceptions; where I attend now incorporates professional musicians that are flawless and awesome in their performances.  Nevertheless, many churches cannot afford this or they do not have the professional talent available.  My hope is that you will first VIEW THE VIDEO and then READ MY RESPONSE.


 -------------------------------------

Wayne Standifer
YouTube Response
June 4, 2009

I would like to defend the “Renewed Mind is the Key” presentation as a form of religious expression.

The performance was not perfect.  But perfection can be hard to measure.  For example, I have a friend who is in the contemporary church choir at First United Methodist Church in Saint Petersburg.  He is now thirty years old and has been mentally retarded since birth.  Does he do a professional job singing and playing the tambourines?  Would he be the subject of ridicule on YouTube?  To a large extent perfection is in the eye of the beholder.  I rejoice every time I see him perform.

But I'm used to less than perfection in the church.  I have gone to church most of my life.  My father was a Methodist minister and my brother and sister-in-law are Methodist preachers.  Throughout the years, I've heard many sermons (not all of them perfect--even after I achieved a degree of understanding).  I've heard many Sunday school lessons by volunteer teachers who were not from Harvard and less than perfect.  I've heard many solos and duets unfit for the Broadway stage.  I've heard pianists and organists who occasionally missed a note. I've seen many talent shows in the church social hall that required a bit of generosity to call good.  I've even been to covered dish luncheons and suppers that, while nourishing and delicious, would not fit the characterization of fine cuisine.

But perfection in church misses the point.  The church is a human and divine institution.  It has all the foibles that afflict the human race.  It is largely home grown and attempts to call all members into service.  And since most of the congregation is doing its best, an attempt is made to substitute patience, love, and goodwill for criticism.  If this means occasionally overlooking imperfection, so be it.  It's a good bargain.  The performers of “Renewed Mind Is the Key” probably performed in front of a friendly audience.  And that makes all the difference.

It could very well be that the performers in “Renewed Mind” are not professionals.  Their regular jobs may take them far from rehearsal halls.  They may be doctors, lawyers, business people, or janitors.  If their YouTube performance represents an audition for Broadway, I would have to say “Do not give up your day jobs.”  But I do not see them as pretenders to professional perfection.  I see them as amateur practitioners of the faith doing their best to praise the Lord.

Something that needs to be addressed is the lyrics of “Renewed Mind is the Key.”  Surely we can attest to the truth of the main idea:  The renewed mind is the key.  Does anyone dispute that?  How many times have we heard that attitude is everything? We have to get our minds right and everything else will follow.  But of course these lyrics have another dimension.  They are making a theological statement.  “The Renewed Mind is the Key to the Christ in Me.”  In other words this evolves very quickly into a treatment of Christian grace.  As in the song “Amazing Grace,”grace is the phenomenon of being blind (“I once was blind, but now I see”) to our sins and then being made to see them (and be saved) by the grace of God—we have a renewed mind with Christ in us.

Here, we are talking about the power and grace of God. But the characteristics of human perception can be said to run parallel to the theological understanding.  Most everyone has seen at one time or another perception pictures in text books.  There is one that depicts a young maiden and a hag, another that depicts the profile of two faces and a vase in the center, and a third that depicts the head of a duck or rabbit.  On first glance, you might well see one figure but not both.  You might see the hag or the maiden, the faces or the vase, the rabbit or the duck.  You may be temporarily blind to other perceptions.  But on further inspection, or if someone points out the alternative figure, then you see them both and will continue to see them both.  It is mystifying that the human mind can be blind to something obvious to others.  But once the image is fully seen, it can't be unseen.  No matter when you come back to the pictures, you will now see with new eyes—you will see the whole.  This is a lot like Christian grace works. 

This perceptual phenomenon of blindness creeps over into large areas of life, and it seems strange—almost bizarre.  For example, looking back we can see the great harm financial derivatives caused.  Professional people, people who it would seem should have known better, did not see the financial havoc that the anesthetization against risk would cause.  The stock market flourished and most of the pros said “buy.”  Then, suddenly, everyone seemed to see the danger and the stock market plummeted.   Of course human emotion—in this case fear—played a part.  Emotion can be a driver of perception.  Many, no doubt, have come to the grace of God out of the fear of an empty and pointless life.

Most every perception has a motive or emotive force behind it.  In the examples of the figures mentioned above, the motive force might be an intellectual curiosity or the fear that you will see yourself as a dolt—others can see the alternative figure, so why can’t  I?  Of course, the greatest perceptual drivers of all are love and hate.  How do they operate?  We can see this through two examples.  Say there are two boys with similar bikes.  One boy loves his bike, and the other boy hates his.  We can see that perception is everything.  The boy who loves his bike will think well of it and see great potential and use still in it.  He will have patience with it.  If repairing it, he will make sure he has the right tools so as not to strip the threads.  He will maintain his bike and be kind to it while driving, avoiding potholes and road hazards.  The boy who hates his bike will see it as a pile of junk.  He will have no patience with it, kicking in the spokes with little provocation.  He will use any tool that is handy, stripping the threads of the bolts if it needs repair.  He will seek out potholes to ride over and ignore road hazards.  Such is the great difference between the modalities of love and hate.  These emotive forces are applied to many perceptions and even fields of study not usually associated with love and hate.

 It is time to revisit “Renewed Mind Is the Key” and perhaps see it with a renewed mind.  


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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Today in Church

Today was the first of a new sermon series on American Idols.  The scripture lesson was a tough one: the testing of Abraham by God by requesting he sacrifice his son Isaac.  David Miller, our pastor, showed a clip from Lord of the Rings that included the line: “I am not here to rob you; I am here to help you.”  That is God’s purpose in the first commandment; “you shall have no other gods before me.”  He is not here to rob us, but to help us.  Freedom comes only when no other gods or idols are placed before God.  In Sunday school we learned the importance of treating others as equals, as Jesus came to us and treated us as equals: “I do not call you servants any longer; because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15).  We should avoid all pretensions based on knowledge or accomplishments, and put love first.  Another lesson challenged us to extend our love and concern beyond our circle of friends.  The lesson taught: “God calls us to be present even to the stranger.”  Another lesson came from Psalm 126:3 “The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.”  This lesson emphasized the important of personal experience; viewing a photograph of the Grand Canyon pales in comparison to our experiencing it in person.  We should strive with Bible study, prayer, and communion with the faithful to appreciate God more fully.  Our final lesson for the day sought to make us more sensitive to the trials of others, and to “bring goodwill into life’s trying moments.”  We were encouraged to replace a condemnatory attitude with one of due regard for factors in the situation unknown to us or misunderstood.

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My Brother, Bob


This is my brother, Bob.  He is mayor of Orange Park, FL, and is a handyman relating to all matters, including hearts and minds.  I am proud of him.  He thinks hard work is fun.  I try to tell him it's not, but he's an older brother so hard to discipline--with his wife Linda, he's painted my house inside and out, installed appliances and shelving, installed an automatic garage door, and did other grueling work, laughing and singing the whole time.  This craziness has afflicted him all his life and is not restricted by race or creed.  He does a lot of church work, and as a seminary student in Atlanta during the sixties, he personally met Martin Luther King's father, and interviewed Martin at Ebenezer Baptist Church.  He said his father reminded him of our father (also a minister) who taught Bob & me simply to do our best.  Senior citizens now, Bob and I are counting our blessings daily and wish to show our gratitude to God for the privilege of life.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lula Mae’s Greatest Gift to Kathy & Me

The most outstanding characteristic of the service was the unity and bonding shown and felt by all; and for Kathy and me personally, the unobtrusive welcome by the congregation and the full acceptance into Lula Mae’s family, with no barriers at all—in other words, race had no dominion.  Perhaps, in the last analysis, this is the best gift Lula Mae bestowed on us. 


Today at 11 AM at Mount Zion Primitive Baptist Church, Saint Petersburg, FL, the family and friends of Lula Mae Mathews gathered for a service of love & memory.  The family was represented by about 50 people (men, women, youth, and children) who all sat in a reserved section (except for Jerome Mathews, her son, who sat on the same pew down from Kathy (my wife) and me.  Other than family, there were approximately 100 people in attendance.  The service lasted until about 2 PM.  The service included gospel music, prayers, poems, a testimonial by Niki (Lula’s grown grandchild) who challenged us to overcome divisions, scripture reading by Jerome, eulogies and recollections (some 10 people from the congregation participated before the pastor had to limit this part of the service—one eulogy was given by her mother and one was given by her son, Jimmy), a sermon by Pastor Warren (and a closing alter call).  It was a celebration of the life of Lula and a time of remembrance, grief and healing for family and friends.  Often unconditional love was celebrated.

In his sermon Pastor Warren asked us to think of the most pertinent question we could think of.  He said that there would probably be a variety of answers.  But the most pertinent question is who do you place your ultimate trust in, who do you worship, the Almighty God.  It brought several verses to mind, but foremost it reminded me of this: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).  In short, the question is raised--are we following the will of God now and throughout our lives?  There was an alter call after the sermon and several came forward to give their lives to Christ.  All that came forward were women.  The preacher noted that it is harder for men who sometimes think they would appear less as men (less macho) for showing a need for Christ.



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Friday, July 23, 2010

A Regular Party Animal

Party: “a social gathering for fun:   a social gathering to which people are invited in order to enjoy themselves and often celebrate something” (Encarta Dictionary).

I have a friend that describes a very serious meeting (say someone is called on the carpet in order to receive a reprimand) as “holding church.”   This is completely foreign to my idea of church.  Church to me is where people go “in order to enjoy themselves and often celebrate something.”  This is done in word and song and celebrates God’s constant love as revealed by Christ.  Church does not ignore reprehensible aspects of human nature, but it is purely an invite for overcoming and victory.  We celebrate forgiveness and renewal.  Sunday school is the same.  It is highly social in character and celebrates the lives of all in attendance (frequently with refreshments and birthday celebrations).  The class has lessons, but these are positive and seek to empower and to cultivate the art of living—which is a call for joy and celebration.  Church and Sunday school are for me social gatherings for fun and celebration and are by definition a party. 

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

When it’s Not Funny



It is painful to be chosen last.  You know the scene. Out on the playground children gather round to choose up sides.  The best players are chosen first.  Finally the last few are chosen.  In baseball I was always chosen last.  When I was finally chosen, I was always assigned right field where few balls were hit.  But being chosen last, or, worse, not chosen at all, is not limited to sports.  It might apply to almost any situation—selecting members for a team project in science class or choosing who’s not going on a ride around town as the car fills up.  Because it can happen in so many different ways, I believe that at one time or another everyone has experienced this pain of being left out.  They have usually experienced it already while they were very young.  And in most cases, they don’t forget it.  At least one incident is “pictured” or modeled in the brain as an enduring reminder.

I believe that God uses these “left out” experiences and the pain they cause in a very important way.  One of the basic tenets of the Christian faith is to “love your neighbor.”  We are to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Those are fine sayings but they mean very little if we somehow don’t feel them powerfully in the gut.  We will not feel them in the gut unless we have empathy.  Empathy “is the identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives” (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992).  But where does empathy come from?  I think it in large part it comes from being hurt on the playground by being left out while we were young.  Such incidents plant a seed deep within our minds that is called forth when we see something similar happening to someone else.


Empathy does not only accompany Christian golden rule behavior but is an essential basis for patriotic behavior as well.  A central tenet of our republic is “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”  But what does it mean, “all men are created equal.”  It is obvious that all are not of the same size, health, intelligence, sports ability, etc.  Furthermore, the wording suggests much more is meant than just a narrow political equality.  The most important meaning of the "equal" phrase is that all men (& women) should have empathy for one another.  It is a declaration of and a call to empathy.  Men and women are equal in that all can experience life, liberty, and happiness.  They can experience joy or pain, most especially the pain associated with being chosen last—the pain of injustice even when it is just—when the best players are chosen first.  Empathy impels us to temper justice with mercy because we realize that pain is unavoidable.

This raises a question.  How does one explain mean behavior?  Rather than showing compassion & mercy, some will ridicule, taunt, and tease the inept player.  This may not be all a bad thing.  Surely it is important for everyone to develop something of a tough hide.  We need to learn how to accept criticism gracefully and understand we can’t be good at everything.  It’s a sign of maturity to be able to laugh at one’s own shortcomings.  But we are all aware of the difference between kidding and ridiculing.  Kind kidding has mercy in it and is an attempt to ease embarrassment by a friendly acknowledgement of the obvious.  Mean ridiculing has a desire to hurt in it, a desire to put down and dominate not only in this little game, but also in everything always.  You’re not only a lousy player, you’re a lousy person.  The compassionate at heart remembers their own pain in similar situations and seeks to ease the pain through friendly humor.  Those lacking compassion remember their own pain in similar situations and seek to make others feel their pain through ridicule.  It’s an attempt to “get even” and disown their own pain rather than share a healing experience.

But why do some people attempt to “get even” for their painful experiences and others seek to heal?  I don’t think we know the answer unless we turn to religion.  And of course, it cannot be the “rules,” laws, or tenets of Christianity.  They can only point the way.  They cannot take us there.  It’s a matter of the heart & gut, not only the mind and understanding.  My answer is that it is only by the grace of God alone that we are compassionate.  Only he can make us unselfish enough to be compassionate.  We must ask and pray that He leads us unto righteousness; that when we see pain in the eyes, voice, or demeanor of another, that we seek to heal their pain and ours (both ours from empathy and from memory), rather than seek to get even and make them feel our pain through verbal aggression.  Again this should never be thought to preclude the kidding that we all enjoy and that shows we trust and like one another.  Nature has made us very adept at picking up on others’ attitudes.  Ridicule, meanness, and cruelty are evident to us when we see it.  We have to force a laugh.  We know it’s not really funny.

So it may be true in a way that Christians never laugh.  They never laugh at the attempts to destroy another human being whether it goes under the name of disrespect or “just kidding.”

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bloom Where You’re Planted

I had a Sunday school teacher once (Andy Hines) who had a favorite saying: bloom where you’re planted.  This is an extremely important concept especially when one considerers the lack of control we exercise in our lives.  I’m not in the hospital today, but I could be tomorrow.  I have a good work environment today, but no environment is guaranteed.  I live in a comfortable home today, but a storm could blow it away tomorrow.  Much (of where I am, what I do, and where I go) is outside my control.  In many ways, I am planted at any given time in a given set of circumstances.  Even when I make an effort to change circumstances, all these efforts may meet with limited success.  So in the short run and to some extent even in the long run I can be seen as planted.  The crucial question is one of attitude.  What will my attitude be when I find I am more or less fenced in?

A positive, constructive, creative attitude is encompassed in the phrase: bloom where you’re planted.  The alternative is to atrophy out of defensiveness or bitterness.  Nourishment requires a spiritual perspective—you have an eternal purpose where you are.  You have a calling to choose life and make a difference. 

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Curse

The other day I was at a friend’s house, and I was using an adaptor of mine to attach his phone memory chip to his computer.  After leaving his house, I could not find my adaptor anywhere—I thought I had put in on the car seat but could not find it.  Aggravated, I thought something to the effect that if it had not been for my assisting my friend, I would still have the adaptor.  In short, I was blaming my friend (even thinking maybe he had kept it).  Today, I was getting in my car and noticed the adaptor on the corner of the seat.  This is my curse.  As soon as I blame others for something mislaid or lost, like cosmic retribution I find the item just where I laid it.  Used to I had children and youth in and out of my house all the time.  I can’t tell you how many times I blamed them for taking something that I couldn’t find, only to find it later right where I had put it earlier but had forgotten where it was.  Oh the sense of betrayal I felt on first noticing the missing item.  Finding the item was always a mixed blessing—finding it was a plus, but my previous attitude, based on a groundless lack of trust and mean spirit—was a negative.  It seems that when I blame others, more likely than not it boomerangs. 

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Monday, July 19, 2010

We Shall Overcome….. Frequently

The value of wit is inestimable.  I have a co-worker (supervisor) that has a ready wit.  He is firmly committed to happiness and victory, and personally will not accept gloom or defeat no matter what challenges are presented.   He is wry in that he makes consummate use of irony.  He is droll in that he constantly sees the mundane in fresh ways.  Laughter flows intermittently throughout the day bringing to mind the quiet tranquility of a bubbling brook, lifting the spirit.  I am thankful that in this vast universe, I am blessed to be here witnessing this indomitable aspect of human nature.   Where there is laughter, where there is strength, where there is skill, where there is character, hope and confidence abound and the challenges of the dark and difficult are overcome with a light and deft finesse. 

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Soldier’s Duty

Kill your enemy before they kill you--
Self-defense became the rule,
Fear became the steadfast fuel,
It was kill or be killed….
Now you must resolve
Any disconnects between virtues learned in peace,
And the paramount realities of war. 

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Today at Church

The sermon was on the words in the Lord’s Prayer:   “And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.”  The minister, David Miller, pointed out that we live in a broken world and are in need of salvation.  In Sunday school we were taught not to build our lives or poor foundations (as on sand).  Only what we do for God will last.    Another lesson was from Psalm 96:1 “O sing to the Lord a new song: sing to the Lord, all the earth.”  New songs can be unfamiliar and risky, but we need to “Declare his glory…great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: (Psalms 96:1, 3, 4.).   New songs can require creativity, persistence, and courage.  Next we were taught to be generous.  One way of being generous is to create new songs—to be creative as the Spirit leads us.     We learned that “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).  We were taught we should realize “You are not locked in!”  We are not locked in either spiritually or emotionally.  We need to step out in faith.  Bill, in his closing prayer, prayed that we be ready at any time to die—we need to keep our spirits as much as possible at all times free from sin, resentments, etc.—and not to die with these burdens on our hearts. 

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Another Conversation with Teico

Sonnet 66 (Shakespeare)
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold desert a beggar born….
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctorlike, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill.
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone….   (emphasis mine)

Let me give you three ways America is—in simple truth—wise.

1) A wise country is not simply right, but is right in significantly helpful ways.  My father once told me of an incident when the United States sent a plane thousands of miles to pick up one person.  “That’s the kind of country we live in,” he said.

2) Another example of our national wisdom is in understanding that creativity is not a characteristic that should be confined to the arts.  Rather it should be pervasive throughout society…..  There is an almost constant drive to do better—in the private sector, in the public sector, in the interfaces and interchanges within all sectors.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of creativity is not increased productivity but the sense of accomplishment, freedom, and generosity creativity brings.  The checks and balances design of American society fuels helpful creativity with discipline.

3) Finally, our nation appreciates that paradox and irony can arise from the heart--from what Yeats called the rag and bone shop of the heart.  A central paradox of human experience is addressed head-on from day one.  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

I introduced you to my young friend Teico last blog with the bicycle-repair example.  Well, one day a rap song we were listening to stressed equality.  And Teico duly reminded me on hearing the CD: "Equal, Wayne."   Everybody knows somehow that the Declaration is saying something profoundly true.  There is no question that equality under the law (fair due process) is an essential maintenance item.  Effective legal equality rests upon a widespread acceptance of the Golden Rule—the rule of empathy.  A society without the bedrock of human empathy upon which to lay the foundation of legal equality is destined for a nightmare of perils.

But, as important as equality is Teico, I'm glad to say that the Declaration does not stop there.  It also says, "They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."  We first talked of equality.  But is that what we really want?  Is that what we really need?

Yes, of course, before the law and so forth.  But Teico, if you want to be equal with me, why do you spend so much time striving to be different from me?  (And Lord knows, I try to be different from you.)  The truth of the matter is that equality is just kind of like the socks we get for Christmas.  I mean, we do need socks, but we're really looking for something more--something SPECIAL, something JUST for US. And that is what "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" is all about.

Equality is just the launch pad.  The drive to be SPECIAL is at the very heart of humanity.  The society that can guide, encourage, and celebrate the right kind of creativity will flourish beyond imaginings.  In all disciplines inspiration will come to our aid.  It may not sound very rational—wanting to be equal and special at the same time.  But wisdom is not always rational.

My response to the charge that America lacks wisdom and sophistication can be summed up in a few brief statements.  If this criticism means we are charged with being significantly helpful, charged with being tirelessly creative, charged with being irrational in accepting the equal-special paradox-- then I say, “Guilty as charged!”  You may call it “simple-minded” if you like; I call it “the simple truth."

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Notes to Teico on the Essential Character of Love




Tough love is not the exception, it’s the rule.
Teico. “As you fix your bike be a lover not a hater.”

·         Don’t hate your bike and abuse it.  Don’t call it a piece of junk and kick out spokes.  Like a good artist, respect your material.  Regard it with a certain dignity.
·         Haters love to simplify.  But they simplify from the outset by projecting their prejudices.  Take time to trouble shoot.  Don’t make snap judgments.  Earn your simplifications by effort and study.  Let them be conclusions not prejudices.
·          Lovers are tolerant of complexity.  They know that most things are complex.  Haters want the simplicity of their prejudices.
·         A hater does not want to accept ownership of problems.  A lover accepts the problem as a challenge and even as a way of getting satisfaction from a job well done.
·         Teico, haters never believe in the long run.  They want quick fixes even though it does more damage to the bike.  Doing something the right way is important to the lover.  They believe in eternal verities.
·         What goes for bikes goes for every disciple I can think of.  The modality and methodology of love is everywhere the preferred and most effective course.  Pure Science is based on it…but what about competition, even war itself?  Now we’ve all heard the commandment to “love our enemies.”  I would submit to you that that is the best way to win a war—even a hot war.
·         Ask yourself given the modalities of the lover vs. hater, who would be the better warrior?
·         Who would have the greater grasp of reality, endurance, and commitment?  I wish I had time to discuss them, but I can’t.  But from what I’ve said you know pretty much what I would say.  In short, I would find that “Love your Enemies” turns out to be a pretty precise description of effective behavior.
·         And, indeed, effective behavior is what the modalities of love bring us in the last analysis.  Just the way the world is made—in its complexity, hidden nature, and surprises—modalities of love will take us there, modalities of hate leave us stranded in disarray and disappointment.

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Family Portrait



Mother (Kathy)      -      Son (Alton)      -       Father (Wayne)

My Bouts with Battiness


This paper was written in Joyce Fleming's English Composition I class at Saint Petersburg College.  It was an assignment to write a narrative, and fortunately Joyce (who knew all of us by our first names by second class) gave us broad latitude.  This was a great opportunity for me to put down on paper what I had experience during My Bouts with Battiness.
====================================
Wayne Standifer
June 16, 2009
English Composition I
Narrative
My Bouts with Battiness

It is very simple, really.  I believed things that were untrue.  I believed in widespread conspiracies. I think of Carl Sagan's quote that science is paranoid thinking applied to nature. The emotional and intellectual energy derived from seeing relationships confirmed (even if unreal—especially if unreal) is remarkable and can be fantastic. Not only was I paranoid, I was also in my own mind connected to the powers that be, or I should say, The Power that Is.

My mental illness started in the spring of 1980.  I had been living in south St. Petersburg near Bartlett Park for about six years. I was 36 years old and had been recently employed by the state of Florida.  I began to see that dilapidated cars were parked in strategic places about the neighborhood.  I saw that undercover agents moved into apartments near mine and played their music loudly and feigned violent domestic arguments.  Convinced this was an undercover operation, I typed all the evidence down in about five pages and took it to Mayor Corrine Freeman.  She graciously heard me out in her office while a man in a gray suit stood in the background.

The point of no return came in early May.  I began to think that literally everything related to me. Birds sang or flew by because I was there sitting on a park bench.  Jet planes from MacDill were a sign as they flew low over the neighborhood during air shows at Albert Whitted Airport or other special events.  People I met on the street represented people I had known growing up.  While I was driving in my small pickup truck, if I saw any construction work such as putting in drainpipes along the roadside, then I interpreted this as a sign and tribute to me.  Emergency vehicles came by if I made a mistake in interpretation or made a wrong turn.  I had a class at USF Tampa campus. On my way to Tampa driving on the interstate every car that passed by had something (like a bumper sticker, tag, whatever) that was meant to communicate something to me.  When I got to the campus, I parked and walked through the library and the humanities buildings. Each stop along the way was like a station of the cross and represented something in my life.  (This suggestion that I was Jesus troubled me somewhat since I knew it would be blasphemy to think I was Jesus. Nevertheless, I suspected I was.)  I found my classroom in a third building, but knew I did not need that marketing class anymore and left. On the way out I noticed the Sun Dome and knew that one day the dome would be named in honor of me.

That evening I lay on my bed and read Shakespeare laughing hysterically at his double entendres.  Jet planes from MacDill were flying low overhead.  Suddenly, I dropped the book and lay rigid for a while (but my feet trembled for a moment).  Then I said in an automatic and forceful fashion, my head turning slightly and my jaws working to punctuate every word, that “I am Jesus Christ” (my side suddenly burned), that “I am William Shakespeare,” that “I am Saint Joan” and several other luminaries that I can’t remember now.  Then I said I was someone whose name I did not recognize.  The people in the apartment upstairs said it sounded like a group of people downstairs, but they knew I was having mental problems and called the police.  The police came.  They looked around the apartment. Earlier, in an attempt to get my bedroom situated exactly as required by the heavenly powers (I just felt that things had to be positioned in a certain way), I had pulled my 22 single shot rifle out of the bedroom closet and leaned it against a table in the front room.  The police took note of the rifle and my mental state and put me in the back of the cruiser to take me to Horizon Hospital.  On the way there I began to speak in tongues in a rapid fire, staccato fashion. Neither I, nor assuredly the police, knew what I said. 

I stayed at Horizon for about three weeks.  I took Thorzine as a medication.  I was interviewed by the Secret Service since I had mentioned Jimmy Carter (who was making a visit to Saint Petersburg) and since I had the gun.  I loved Jimmy Carter, however.  When an agent said “I’m Jimmy Carter”, I took him as a mystical stand-in for Jimmy Carter and gave him a hug. While I was at Horizon on the morning of May 9th, the Summit Venture (an empty phosphate freighter) crashed into the Sunshine Skyway Bridge during a violent rain squall.  The bridge collapsed and 35 peopled plunged 150 feet to their deaths ("The Skyway Bridge Disaster May 9, 1980," ).  I saw the news coverage of this on TV.  I thought the whole thing was staged for my benefit and did not really happen.  (During this episode I thought that I was undergoing some sort of initiation test into a secret police organization--perhaps even for the Saint Petersburg Police Department.  But as a policeman told my mother, "we don't recruit that way.") A project I had at this time was to try to arrange my hospital mattress to accord with a diagram I had in my mind.  The diagram was originally given to me several months earlier by a friend who said it was a little joke.  It was written on a page from a notepad and was drawn in black ink with a broad line pen.  It was a profile of a dog's head looking at a triangular figure divided into three equal horizontal sections and topped by a cantilever.  Underneath was the caption, "A structure like this will please the dogs in muddy rainy weather."  Trying to replicate this figure, I placed my mattress on the window sill in my room. A hospital attendant gently told me that I could not do this.

While I was in Horizon, I lost my job with the state.  When I was released to a half-way house, I was still convinced of many of my delusions. But nevertheless I deeply desired a job and through CETA (a federal program to help people get jobs) I got a job with the City at Bayfront Center.  This job turned into a regular position and now some 28 years later I still work for the City.  Over the years my medication and diagnosis have changed. My first diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia. My current diagnosis is bipolar disorder. My current medication is Prolixin.

I have had several (about four or five) reoccurrences of mental illness since 1980.  My experiences during these occurrences include going into a dime store with some boys I was mentoring and buying every watch in stock and handing them out to passersby’s on Central Avenue.  Also I would go "automatic driving" where I would leave the house not knowing where I was going.   I would make every turn on impulseand somehow not get lost.  (Of course I knew the area and directions north, south, east, and west. So the extent to which this was really driving blind is open to question.) One time I went to Hudson (I didn't know where it was) and walked out on a beautiful point surrounded by sea.  Another time at night I got on the interstate went to Tampa and beyond, somehow ending up in Saint Petersburg again.  I went to Tampa many times late at night—around 2 am. I would play loudly the Beverly Hill Cops soundtrack (I especially appreciated "New Attitude" and "The Heat Is On") and would have a worshipful experience riding with few other cars at that hour on the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.  The towering buildings downtown were all lit up and beautiful.

Once with the mentored boys (about five of them in their late childhood and early teens), I went to Bennigan’s near Tyrone Square Mall.  There was no table for us to sit so they sat us at the bar.  The bartender did a great thing. He mixed dry martinis for the boys. Shaking them and carefully and slowing pouring them into each glass.  Of course, what he shook and poured was thin “dry” air.  There was nothing in the shaker but air.  I gave him a $100 tip.  Then, feeling sorry for the other bar tender, I tipped him a $100 as well.  The boys and I then went to see Home Alone (1990).

Music and movies have special meaning when I am sick.  I saw Thelma & Louise (1991) and was transported to a spiritual realm with the song “Part of Me, Part of You.”  The “grand illusion” referred to in the lyrics I assumed was the real world, not my ill perceptions. Another time (in Jesus mode) I called in to work and referred to my disciples (my co-workers)—calling them by their biblical names (which I could not repeat now).  In Jesus mode I also drove out to the Saint Petersburg Pier late one afternoon and parked near the turn-around by the entrance.  I got out of my truck and told the security guard who was standing there that I was Jesus Christ and this was the second coming.  He asked me to please just move on. I insisted on my perceived truth. He finally called the police and the police took me to a mental hospital. My truck was towed and impounded.

My last experience happened in 1999.  Then, I was running for President of the United States. I thought I had to give a speech in San Francisco.  I drove to the Tampa International Airport. I bought a first class ticket to San Francisco and walked to a coffee shop.  I sat down for a time then leftleaving my ticket on the table.  I walked to a waiting area, and then decided it was important for me to walk through a door marked in red "Emergency Exit Only." I walked through this door and down the steps. I was stopped by security. They called the police and I was taken to jail.  I stayed in jail about a week and a half.  It took several days for them to determine that I was mentally ill and to transfer me to an appropriate cell where I began receiving medication.  The aftereffects of my sickness came when I had to deal with the obligations created during my illness—a later court appearance and additional bills to pay.

This time (in 1999) while I was ill I went to Bradenton to visit my mother who was in a retirement home.  I took her to a flea market in Palmetto and bought her and her friend (who remained back at the retirement home) a couple of cowgirl hats.  I was amused by thinking of them being interviewed on television (after all I was running for President) wearing the hats.  Also this time two of my friends from church met me at a sports bar to discuss my chances for being President.  They were very polite.  So was Andy Hines, the president of Florida Progress—I knew him also through church. One time I went to his home.  He invited me in and we had a discussion around his dining room table. Another time he met me at The Chattaway.  Of course, I was completely out of touch with reality both times, but he was very kind. My preacher also met me at The Chattaway.  He held the door open for the waitress and had a few kind words for her as we entered. I said something to him privately that this was what it was all about. I would rather die than see these courtesies violated.  He bought me a Rubin sandwich, which I found too greasy and spit out of my mouth.

During my later illnesses, my mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  I picked her up several times at the retirement home under this condition.  One time we went to Tampa, and I checked us in at two hotels in one evening. We would go to the room, sit down for a few minutes, then leave.  The occurrence that I most regret was the stress I put my mother through on a trip on US 19 and throughout some neighborhoods.  I was going fast with the CD blaring.    She was terrified, at one point trying to open the door to get out.  I was laughing and laughing.  If I could take one thing back from all my illnesses, this would be it.

My mother was before her Alzheimer’s very helpful and sacrificial.  She loved me dearly during her last years.  My brother also, though he lived in northern Florida, would travel to Saint Petersburg to visit and assist.  My illnesses were also always undergirded and protected by friendships.  From the first occurrence in May of 1980 when my friend (Carl Jordan) called the police then came to visit me in the hospital, to my wonderful co-workers at the City (Clay Smith. Jeff Foreman, John Twine, and others) who supported me and took me for help and then welcomed me back once the delusions were over, I have nothing but lifelong appreciation and thanks.  I also think of the boys I've mentored over the years and how they welcomed me back.  Finally, I'm grateful for the fact that I lived in a metropolitan area where great mental health services and professional police services were available.

What effect do these experiences have on my daily life when I am more rational and normal—like now, I trust?  The experiences have given me a great respect for the subconscious.  There is much below the surface of our thought—more than we can possibly imagine.  Dreams, alone, should give us this insight.  But basically during the good times of reason, I think very little about the bad times of illusion.  Yet I have an appreciation for the immense psychological power the “high” that can come from paranoia when we begin to connect the dots.  It’s a warning that to keep sane can take a little effort.  And what can I say about the savior complex, the belief that I was Jesus Christ? That's a tough one.  I think of Yeats' phrase from "Under Ben Bulben" "...When sleepers wake and yet still dream,/And when it's vanished still declare,/With only bed and bedstead there,/That heavens had opened."  Let's just say that relating to the Almighty during these times of illness has made my faith more solid.  Finally, as for running for President, I would recommend it to everyone.  How many of us would secretly at times like to be President?  But to admit it would bring great embarrassment—even shame.  Well, because of my illness all of my friends and co-workers knew that I wanted to be President.  Guess what? The world did not come to an end.  People accepted me back into the worlds of friendship and work.  I was embarrassed and ashamed for being such an egomaniac (especially for the boys, who needed strength and steadiness, not a mentor with character flaws).  But in a way this bizarre display was good for the soul.  It served as kind of a confessional. It has given me greater freedom to be myselfnot selves, mind youjust myself.

Friday, July 16, 2010

When Government Ownership Is Right and Privatization Is Not

Two primary sectors of society are government and private enterprise.  They have two different roles (one regulative and the other creative) and they run the risk of forfeiting their own proper roles if they try to usurp the role of the other.  Yet it is common practice for government to run programs that are creative.  Common examples of these include park and recreational programs on a local or national scale, sports and civic venues, various projects to help the homeless or those in poverty, education, health services, water-sewage-garbage services, streets and roads, police & fire protection, military services, space and aeronautics programs, mail services, etc.  Government is also an accessory to the creative sector in many ways.  It strives to create a positive environment for maintenance, development, and growth of the creative sector.

The primary rationale for this entrepreneurial government activity is that the creative sector does not find sufficient incentives to accomplish these wanted and necessary tasks.  Left entirely to the market and the creative sector, these tasks would not get done or would have marginal success.  Often the return on these investments is either nil, intangible, hard to monetize, or very long term.  Yet the need and desirability for the services persist.

Therefore the governmental role, in addition to regulation, is to foster and promote the public weal in ways that are creative when market limitations prevail.  This means there are times when privatization of government creative activity can be largely artificial and even to a certain extent phony--when underlying realities have not changed and true ownership and responsibility remains with government.  Then, privatization can be purely dogmatic or an attempt to insulate government from responsibility and accountability.  Under these circumstances it is preferable for government to engage in activities directly and not attempt to devise an arms-length relationship through privatizations when that is essentially a sham.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Overcoming Pretense

Sometimes I think people keep too many secrets.  They know it when their self-imposed silences impress even themselves as being a form of deceit.  The master of deceit is the devil, and he creates all manner of guilt and self-intimidation from these morally indefensible silences.  Most secrets people want to deep six have an exaggerated power over them.  The basic problem is that they don’t trust others.  They feel if they should tell the truth, they would find themselves shunned and alone.  This very seldom happens, at least among friends (and not just intimate friends).  Most people with any experience know that life does not follow storybook perfection.  Occasional failures, character weaknesses, foolishness and fears (often unjustified) are common to all.  In most every case, people respect individuals more for telling the simple truth.  And when they tell the truth, the devil and his deceit no longer have power over them.  In addition, they are honored by their friends for candor.  Of course, I don’t mean that one should be proud of a checkered past, and tout it as an exhibitionist—endlessly trumpeting their glowing sins (besides, if they trumpet them, then they do not qualify as the secrets I am referring to).  But there comes a time when people quietly are prompted from their innermost soul to confide (and they know when this moment comes).  Then they should confide and be free, sending the devil (instead of themselves) running to hide.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Heaven Is in the Details

Today I was researching Event IDs on Google.  These Event IDs came from an event log in the Windows operating system.  It always impresses me what goes on in the background while a computer is running.  To me, just the sheer number is awesome; and to think that each detail is following strict protocols and rules.  It got me to thinking of a human brain, and how while I am enjoying an ice cream cone, millions of details following strict rules of physics and chemistry are in progress.  Me, I tend to dislikes lots of rules.  Sometimes I call it red tape and find myself in not so quiet rebellion.  But I had best get used to the idea that without very strict and exact behaviors of things, I would not be able to enjoy an ice cream cone, much less type right now.  So, loving God I pray teach me patience with little things that require great detail and precise exactitude—and even, and this is the hard part, make me as grateful for the detail required as for the output enjoyed. 

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Pint Size State

The sword of the state simply means
The state has the power to regulate
And back it up with all it takes;
This is a role it cannot abdicate
And remain the state

The citizen’s role is large and great
To create, vote, and speak
But the role of the state it cannot take
The sword of the state it must not usurp
For then citizen it ceases to be,
And becomes instead a mini-state

Oh brave new world that attempts to make
Man and gun a mini-state
Forfeiture of roles etched in heaven
It seeks to level with gun metal.

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My Own Take on Why Jesus Chose Men Apostles

The most interesting thing about Jesus’s growing up years is that we know so little about them.  Even though he became a popular and notable figure in adulthood, there is no record of anyone claiming friendship with him as a youth.  No best friends came forward to share in the fame—a most notable thing.  This leads me to speculate that Jesus had a lonely childhood and youth—with an absence of best buddies from his peers.  He was thus probably somewhat lonely and needed to fill the unfulfilled need to have the close male companionship he missed in his youth.  My speculation is that Jesus chose close male associates, apostles, for this primary reason.   He needed them as much as they needed him.  This, of course, views Jesus as someone with very human needs.  But believers have long held that Jesus was fully human, as well as divine.  Jesus found his own humanity and maleness in the humanity and maleness of others.

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