Why Bad Things Happen to Good Parrots

    (“Why Bad Things Happen to Good Parrots” is the title essay in the author’s book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good Parrots: A Sermon Under the Mount, available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon, Goodreads and Smashwords.)       “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” The Gospel of Matthew    I   Two little spindles that could have been mistaken for dried begonia sprigs. Except they were stuck to the upper corner of our Econoline windshield. And they were twitching.   This was my introduction to the Problem of Evil at the age of five. The Problem of Evil is also known as Theodicy—a Greek word that means something along the lines of “God on trial.”   Here’s a simple way to frame Theodicy: How could a Universe created by a Being of Ultimate Goodness support, in the words of the philosopher Leibniz, “l’origine du mal” (the origin of Evil)?   Many lump Suffering into the equation as well. For even if Beelzebub engineered grandma’s shingles,…

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I Confess…

I confess…   Or as we say down here in South Carolina: I do declare…   I have never been to an “official” Wheaton College Homecoming. This might be because I’m not one much for “hot drinks” that don’t include nips of Jameson.   Also, I’m not really one to hang out these days with Evangelicals who refuse to recognize the accomplishments—much less the existence—of my many proud LGBTQ OneWheaton pals.   I gather that my little ditty is not going to be read aloud from the steps of the Billy Graham Center by Cindra Stackhouse Taetzsch, Director of Alumni and Parent Relations and Executive Director of the Wheaton College Alumni Association.   That’s too bad. She has such a lovely smile in her photograph. I would have loved to watch her read my words aloud to the gathered throng of “recognized” Wheaton alums.   But I digress. My friend, Costa Tsiatsos, asked me if I would consider addressing you with a witty message. However, he neglected to inform me where my message would be read from.   Goodness! Did I just end a sentence with a preposition?   Behold, my fellow…

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“I Have Two Boyfriends, Papa” & Other Preschool Observations

The other day I published a blog, “Stickperson-ism is Way Easier & Other Kindergartener Observations,” that included some delightful vignettes between me and my six-year-old daughter, Kat, over the course of the past year. The material doesn’t end there.   Since my daughter’s birth, I’ve been writing her letters every six months. I’ll probably give her these letters when she graduates from college, or perhaps when she gets married. Too often the museum of one’s childhood is filled with nothing more than faded photographs; I wanted my daughter to have full conversations and experiences repeated back as written words.   Another reason I started writing these letters was because I had observed a neurological phenomenon that occurred to a number of my friends who had started their own families. Some very bright individuals—some even bordering on genius—tended to become drooling dolts after their children were born. Their ability to remember anything—even their favorite beer—seemed to disappear after several years of balancing career and child-rearing responsibilities.   Thus, I suspected that maintaining an epistolary…

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Stickperson-ism is Way Easier & Other Kindergartener Observations

  Sometimes there tends to be a rather Calvin & Hobbes-like quality to the conversations I have with my daughter. Perhaps this stems from the fact that I never really engaged her with baby talk or conversation “at a child’s level”—whatever that means. I’ve always just—well—talked to her.   I don’t mean to suggest my daughter and I sit around and chat about the Hegelian dialect over a few cans of Fanta. We talk about things she likes to talk about, like princesses, the Magic Tree House series and Marble Slab ice cream. Also, the things that I like to talk about, like partisan politics, ancient history and metaphysics.   Also, I’m a single dad, so we talk quite a lot. And somewhere in the middle of all this I learned how to make the perfect ballet bun (sort of) and how to transform hot dogs and noodles into flying spaghetti monsters—plus learned the difference between ibuprofen and acetaminophen. (Ibuprofen is Tylenol, right? Advil? Sigh.)   Anyway, enough of all that. Our conversations are way more interesting than any preface I could come up with. I’ve got enough material to last several blogs. Enjoy this first…

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The Science Fair at the Edge of the Universe

    (“The Science Fair at the Edge of the Universe” is an essay from the author’s book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good Parrots: A Sermon Under the Mount, available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon, Goodreads and Smashwords.)         “The one who gave water from his water-skin, that is your own god who cares for your good name, your Lugulbanda.” The Epic of Gilgamesh   No matter the religion, scientific theory or mystic bunkum to which you subscribe, the Ariadne’s Thread of cosmology eventually leads to a closed door.   The Big Bang Prequel is unknowable.  There is no Genesis -1.   As to the impetus of Creation−the “why”−your guess is as good as mine.   Here’s one theory−no less valid than any other stab in the pre-dark matter:   14 billion years and ∞ days ago, the Demiurge concluded an otherwise uneventful Friday evening by polishing off a cosmic chimichanga.  He flopped down upon his supernal sofa and unleashed a cacophonous fart that resulted in you, me and the Sombrero Galaxy.  By the time the Demiurge awoke Saturday midday, He realized His…

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Magic Chickens, Lemon Seeds & a Universe Sans Unicorns

  (“Magic Chickens, Lemon Seeds & a Universe Sans Unicorns” is an essay from the author’s book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good Parrots: A Sermon Under the Mount, available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon, Goodreads and Smashwords.)         Before me is a lemon seed.  Dried pip.  Forgettable fleck.  It makes my heart a bit sad.  Promise of yellow, source of blue.   My daughter has a rare taste for lemons.  She devours the juicy wedges like you or I would pop orange slices.  My mouth curls at the sight.   During a recent citrus binge, she picked out all of the seeds and told me she wanted to grow a lemon tree.  We set the seeds to dry on a napkin.  The seeds migrated throughout our home and eventually came to settle on my desk on a little ceramic tray, a Barcelona souvenir with an imprint of Picasso’s “Don Quixote.”     Most of the seeds have disappeared.  A mere sneeze sends one on its way.  I expect lemon trees to crop up from my office carpet someday.   One seed remains. …   Two Decembers ago, my daughter and I were at a tree farm cutting down…

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Enough!

  Stumbled on this one the other day from the “deep archives,” from my Columbia City Paper days.  It was published on December 30, 2012, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Massacre.  Yet another public slaying today; America, borne and bred from blood.     When I visited Yad Vashem 15 years ago, I separated from my group and entered the Children’s Memorial, not realizing what it was. I was alone for some time and became overwhelmed by the infinite regress of candlelight, by the names being read of the more than 1 million children who were senselessly murdered during the Holocaust. I lowered my head against a rail and wept for some time.     Several days after, I was traveling through the Sinai Desert. I am grateful that I was able to be in a space so vast into which I could pitch the horrible sorrow I felt.     Today, I find myself confronted with such a sorrow again—and I think we all do as a nation. Only, I do not have the luxury of a desert around me. However, I do have something I did not have 15 years ago: a five-year-old daughter.     When I picked her up from her school today, I loved…

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What Follows Thus, Derives from Hither

I culled through two decades of published clips with a number of publications, and the four entries that precede this wee-post seemed the best to pop the cork on my blog.   These four articles really define my development as a writer from “there” to “here.”  I’m proud to showcase them, flawed as they are.  We are all human and in various states of…

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Where in the World is Brunel Athis?

Ft. Dimanche, Haiti. Twenty years ago, at the age of 16, I found myself roaming the tiny republic of Haiti by myself.   I was the product of an ultraconservative upbringing and had already made several “evangelism trips” to one of the world’s poorest nations.  Haitians needed “saving” by the bucket-load, I was convinced—despite the fact that the Haitian people are the most spiritually faithful people you could ever visit, no matter the unthinkably deplorable comments recently made by Pat Robertson in the wake of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake.   I had secured enough funds (by selling my baseball card collection) to get myself to Haiti and back during the break between my junior and senior years of high school.  If I experienced any miracles that summer, it was probably convincing my parents that I had enough contacts in Haiti to be considered safe.   I hopped a plane to Miami and from there to Port-au-Prince, where I met up with a Haitian friend more than willing to serve as my Sancho Panzo evangelism translator.  From there we took the nation by storm, roaming countryside villages and conducting evening evangelism tent…

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Vonnegut Lives! (a short story, of sorts)

  (“Vonnegut Lives!” is one of the stories in the author’s debut work of fiction, Birds of a Feather: Short Stories & Miscellany, available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon, Goodreads and Smashwords.)       Kurt Vonnegut stood in front of a large opal-plated gate.  ‘I must be getting old,’ he thought, ‘how did I end up here?’  He tapped the last cigarette from a pack of Pall Malls and searched his Brooks Brothers jacket for a pack of matches.   A gruff voice startled the great humorist, “Need a light?”   Kurt Vonnegut turned and noticed a barrel-chested man wearing a gossamer robe.  The robe was cinched by a belt with a key-shaped buckle.  The stranger had a thick beard and a balding head bordered by a curly, natural tonsure.  He held out a box of matches.   Kurt Vonnegut took the box of matches, lit his fag, then noticed a halo hovering above the stranger’s head.  “So this is the great clam bake in the sky.”   The stranger smiled, “I’m St. Peter, keeper of keys.”   “A pleasure,” Kurt Vonnegut replied.  “I’m Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., humanist and…

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