WHO ARE YOU?

© 2018 Bill MurphyMan Question
The first blank on any application is usually for your name. But name alone is never enough. After name comes mailing address, city, state, zip, e-mail address, etc., etc. But still, this truly doesn’t tell anyone who you actually are.

Perhaps to better understand who you are, we should first ask the question of what you are, beginning at the your beginnings.

No doubt, you were given your name at birth. But birth was not the beginning of what was to become you. Contrary to what some find difficult to accept, you began at the time of conception – when a single tiny cell from your biological mother joined with a single cell from your biological father. Nothing else was added to this initial union of two single cells to make you anything other than who and what you are today.

Around 9 months after your conception, you were born into this world. Welcome.

There are very few organisms which are more fragile, helpless, and utterly dependent than the human infant. Left unattended in the finest luxury hotel that money can afford, and surrounded by wealth and extravagant plenty – if none was there to care for it’s needs, the infant would soon die. This is what you are – a needy creature!

Our neediness continues. But we don’t want to think of ourselves as needy.  Yet we are.

9 months in the safety of a mother’s womb is only the beginning of our neediness. We are dependent upon others for educating us on how to survive and how to thrive. We must be taught to talk, encouraged to walk, and this is only the beginning of civilized social knowledge and indoctrination.

Usually around the age of 12 to 15, the semi-adult human begins to believe they know everything necessary to succeed in the adult world. They are confident they have all the answers. Instead, they’ve not yet begun to face all the questions they’ll confront in life.

This is a particularly difficult time in a youngsters life, especially in our modern, if-it-feels-good-do-it, permissive society. During the late teens and early twenties, countless painful mistakes are usually made, some which leave deep and ugly scars. Today, teen suicide and murder rates are at an all time high.

Sometime around the mid 30s or early 40s, a somewhat foggy understanding of just who they might be, finally dawns upon the human creature. We call this maturity.

It sounds as though I’m not painting a pretty picture of humanity, huh?

Sadly, this is often the case of who we are, or rather, who become! You see, this is not at all who we actually are, or who we should be.

There are two schools of thought as to who (and what) we are. The first generally accepted thought is that we are all one big lucky accident. According to this belief, at some far point in pre-human history, our ancestors were nothing more than a slimy mass of inorganic chemicals sloshing around on the ocean floor. And then by some stroke of accidental luck, a certain ‘critical mass‘ was achieved, and life happened. It was they say, one grand and monumental fluke. Then over the eons, this living, slimy mass of goo re-created itself by morphing (in stages) into something better – we added fins, backbones, legs, lungs, etc. A few eons later we found ourselves growing wheat and corn and having babies.

There was never a PLAN for this to happen. It was all one big happenstance… which has never stopped happening. So here we are today. We’re still having babies right and left, and buying and selling – or stealing – one another’s wheat and corn.

In the grand scheme of things, only today really matters. After all, everything is only an accident anyway. Tomorrow, POOF, everything might be gone anyway.

With no central plan, mankind faced a lot of unhappy chaos. So, to keep things well oiled and running as smoothly as can be in this accidental world of turmoil and self promotion, mankind saw a need for order and purpose. The slime that became mankind, felt a need for reason. So he created a false purpose, and imaginary reason, a pseudo understand of what and why. This calmed his spirit, and soothed his troubled mind. Now all oiled up and covered by reason, he suddenly felt comfort in this artificial security blanket that humanists call ‘religion.’ Intellectuals tell us that man created God.

So, what’s my point?

The point is, what’s the point in life? If it’s all one big temporary fluke anyway – what’s the point in that? According to ‘intellectual’ thought, you and I my friend, are nothing more than super-slime, living a dead-end life, a fleeting life with no rhyme or reason or purpose, and someday – poof – it will all be over. The end. Nada. Period. Then you and I will return to the chemical state where this life all began in the very beginning. What comes around goes around, nothing has really changed.

That’s a comforting thought, huh? NOT!

Call me a fool if you wish, that’s your prerogative. But… I choose to believe there is a reason and a purpose behind life, a reason for yesterday, today, and tomorrow – a rhyme, reason and a purpose – and a plan. I also believe that this plan is far larger than you and I can imagine. And furthermore, because of this simple fact that there is a plan in place, there must be, and there is – also a planner.

I cannot accept as truth that I am simply an accident. I am not a fluke. That’s like saying that if you put enough monkeys in enough room with enough pencils and paper – in enough years, one of them with write like William Shakesphere. No! I’m not an accident.

This is not a grandiose and prideful statement, for I believe the same about you!

I believe that all things are a grand CREATION, and that they were created by a supreme CREATOR. I choose to believe that I am some small part of all of this, and that He knows who I am! Some choose to call this creator God, or a ‘deity.’ I call Him FATHER.

The thing is, life is not some monumental accident, and neither am I. I have a reason for being. I have purpose. My Father has a plan, and I have a small part of His much bigger plan.

That’s who I am!

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PONIE

Horse copy© 2018 Bill Murphy

I was 12 the day that Ponie walked onto our property and into our lives. I was the first to notice the dirty, yet beautiful colt which came from who knows where, and was to alter or lives forever.

Ours was small dirt farm/ranch, mostly dirt, of 30 something acres, nestled in a small valley surrounded by low mountains. We were the only homesteaders in the valley, our closest neighbors over the hills were at least 30 miles distant. But we loved the simple farm-life, and quiet isolation. It was as if our family was alone on the earth.

Dad said that Ponie looked to be about a year old, give or take a few months. Obviously, she was well accustomed to people, because she approached us willingly. It was as if she was seeking us out. No doubt, she’d walked away from her own home. But who’s?

Trips into town were few and far between, and then a 2 day trip. On Dad’s next trip into town he inquired about any missing colts, but learned of none. He left a description of Ponie at several locations, taking care not to give too much detail, lest someone, using details they didn’t previously know, might come claim and take Ponie from us. There were never any inquiries.

We all loved Ponie. I thought her eyes were her finest feature… they seemed to be unnaturally large. ‘Cow eyes,’ Mom called them. But perhaps Julia, my older sister by 3 years, loved Ponie best. The two bonded quickly.

Julia had a soft and tender heart. Perhaps it was because of her frail and sickly early years. They say she spent her first 2 years almost constantly in Mom’s arms. Julia was a voracious reader, and wrote the most beautiful poems. She soon developed the habit of taking tablet and pen, and riding Ponie off into the hills to think, write, and as she put it: ‘to become’ – in peace and solitude.

Early on we learned that Ponie had one unusual trait. She was afraid of thunder – and terrified of lightning, especially if both were close. The first storm which visited our humble farm after Ponie arrived, reviled this. That summer night, over the thunder, we could hear her wails coming from the barn. Julia and I raced to her side. We found her cowed in the corner, trying to bury herself under the hay. Oh how our hearts broke at the sight. We snuggled next to her until the storm passed.

It was a freak storm which changed our lives. Far stronger than most, it roared over the hills to the northwest as if out of nowhere, suddenly, and with unbelievable strength. It ripping our land with terrible winds, while heavy rains plunged daylight into darkness. Yet this night appeared to flash into day – with every brilliant explosion of lightning. The accompanying thunder was deafening. And – Julia and Ponie were out there somewhere! Hours earlier, she’d ridden out to her writing place.

Dad grabbed his heaviest coat, and his lantern, and headed toward Julia’s spot. He was gone for hours, or so it seemed. The storm was just beginning to wain, when we saw Dad’s lantern thru the rain. Ponie followed close behind. As they drew neared, we saw Julia, draped across Ponie’s back. Dad stopped yards from the house, and shouted for us to stay inside, but Mom raced past me and to Julia’s side. I’ll never forget her agonizing screams. I thought they’d stand there in the rain forever. Looking back, I’m glad they did. The rain bathed most of the blood away.

Soon, Julia’s lifeless body lay on the table. She looked as though she was sleeping. It was the first time I’d witness a lifeless person, and this was my beloved sister! As I stood over her, not knowing what or how to think, I noticed the deep imprint of a horses‘ hoof on her forehead – Ponie’s.

I’d not noticed that Dad had walked away. There was another crack of thunder, but I quickly realized that it was the sound of a shotgun blast. I raced to the door, to see dad standing over the body of Ponie. I’d lost two of my closest companions that awful night. Mom and Dad were never the same again. They seemed to age daily, right before my eyes.

I was too young then to understand, but looking back now, I can see why Dad took Ponie’s life that night. We all do what we believe is best. We all act and react to events beyond us, and beyond our ability to change. Even Ponie had.

Julia had been compelled to ride out to her hallowed spot, to put on paper her thoughts, her desires, her plans, her hopes, and her prayers. Her keen focus on these things, I know, blinded her to the fast approaching storm.

Ponie surely reacted in terror to the sudden storm that summer afternoon, and in her inability to cope, she had somehow struck Julia. It was not something she would have done otherwise. Her action was simple in-bred reaction.

And Dad, in his helplessness to face the being which had taken his beloved Julia from him, had forever removed Ponie from his sight.

I now know that each one involved, Julia, Ponie, and Dad, were each simply doing that which they were apt to do, that which they were compelled to do, that which their hearts and lives led them to do. There was no right or wrong involved, no guilt or innocence. They were simply doing and being themselves.

It was a painful lesson for me to learn. We each have our personal lives, our unique dreams and ambitions.  If we were all alike, this would be a most boring world. But sadly, many people never learn this simple lesson. When I am just being myself, someone want me to be like them. They never realize that I perhaps, might wish that they were like me. Can’t we just be ourselves?

I miss Mom and Dad. I miss Julia. And I also miss Ponie. While it lasted, Ponie brought joy to all our lives.

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The illustration above that I chose to use for Ponie was painted by me, for my grandmother in Carthage, Mississippi in 1953, when I was 12 years old.  Bill Murphy 

 

 

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PERCEPTION and OPINION

machine-1776925_1280© 2018 Bill Murphy

Newton’s third law of physics states that: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The output reaction force can be readily calculated by knowing the force of the input action as stated in the measurements of mass (weight), speed, and the direction of the force.

It would appear that Newton’s law can also apply to HUMAN interaction. Some call this karma. However, the input and output forces in human interaction are not as easily calculated, owing to the vast amount of variables which always occur with human interaction. Perhaps the greatest of these variables is PERCEPTION.

The word ‘perception’ has its root in the word ‘perceive’ which usually refers to perceptions in vision. However, one can also experience perception in all of the human senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing as well as sight. Perception is basically defined as : a mental image of something, or your personal concept of something.

The origins of opinions lie in perception.

Perceptions are not necessarily true and factual. Perceptions are based upon past experience and or beliefs and personal observations. One’s concept of what is true reality, by nature of its origin, is susceptible to change and modification.

A personal example: The commonly accepted opinion is that paper mills stink. I, on the other hand, based upon pleasant and happy memories from my childhood, of visits with my favorite aunt who lived in a paper mill town – love the ‘pleasant’ aroma of a paper mill. My perception has become my opinion.

Perceptions vary widely from person to person and from item to item. It’s much like attempting to define what is ‘up’ and what is ‘down’ or what is ‘hot’ and what is ‘cold.’ Because these are relational items, they are perceived differently from one person to the next. It is therefore impossible to judge which perception (which opinion) is more or less ‘correct’ than the next. We tend to accept the ‘average’ or ‘norm” of an opinion as being as being ‘correct.’

But truthfully, in the arena of perception and opinion, few things are absolutely ‘correct.’ What is too loud for me can easily not be loud enough for others. What may be too salty for you, may not be salty enough for me. And abandoned soft drink soon becomes ‘hot‘ whereas the forgotten cup of coffee beside it has become ‘cold.’ Perception is important!

This does not mean that I am wrong (in my perception/concept/opinion) and you are right. No! Neither does it mean that I am right (in my perception/concept/opinion) and you are wrong. It does mean, that these divergent perceptions are just that – opinions.

It has been said that we all have a right to our opinions, and that may be true. But rights, MUST have certain restrictive limits, otherwise, my ‘right’ could trample over yours, and yours could trample mine. A degree of give and take is required to maintain peace, harmony, and goodwill.

Yes, we all have rights. But all rights come with responsible. And here lies the roots of discord, resentment, and misunderstanding. Many find it difficult to recognize the fact that others, with perceptions other than their own, have a right to those personal perceptions. And some, who believe their own perceptions to be superior to those of others, discount the perceptions and concepts of others – based purely upon their personal opinions.

This is the result of personal opinions crossing the line from observations, concepts and opinions – and becoming judgements. And we know what God says about judgement.

 

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WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW

Tab Bottle© 2018 Bill Murphy 

What the world needs now is a healthy dose of individual responsible. Hey, a RESPONSIBILITY PILL would be great!

The truth is, each of us already have that responsibility! If you’re breathing, you HAVE responsibilities. The problem is that far too many folks either shirk their responsibilities through selfish denial, or are completely blind to the fact that their responsibilities are ever present, following them like a shadow which they choose to ignore.

We all have responsibilities, and we’re responsible for what we do about them. That’s life. In 1624 English poet John Donne wrote: No man is an island. That’s the honest truth in a nutshell! It was as true then, as it is today.

I suppose that what we need is a required responsibility wake-up pill.

Newton’s third law of physics states that: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It would appear that Newton’s law also applies to HUMAN interaction, more specifically, cause and effect interactions. Some call this karma. People who fail to recognize and accept their responsibilities are seemingly blind to the basic life principle of cause and effect.

CAUSE results in EFFECT.

EFFECT results in…

AFFECTS – Things which AFFECT our lives. These effect induced affects in turn often result in a whole new set of CAUSES. It can become an endless cycle, but the reasoning is not complicated. Let me explain from a life experience of my own.

I was around 20 at the time, living paycheck to paycheck, and it was less than 2 weeks before Christmas. Driving at night, on a 2 lane country road, I took a foolish chance and passed a slow vehicle on a hill. On the downhill side, sat a county trooper, who promptly pulled me over and issued a ticket. This ticket cost me money I didn’t have to spare.

The CAUSE: I Foolishly and irresponsibly, passed on a hill. (Against the law).

The EFFECT: Receiving a traffic citation, which I was responsible for paying.

The AFFECT on my life: I now had far LESS money to fund my Christmas plans and responsibilities. Oh how I wish I had taken a responsibility wake-up pill earlier that day!

I look around me, at my own life, and the painful memories of unrecognized or un-acted upon responsibilities. Oh how I’d like a do-over of those lost opportunities. And I see my own children, grand children, and great-grand kids, making similar mistakes. I want to scream out, STOP, LOOK… and RECOGNIZE what lies ahead. NOW is the time to do something responsible about it!

Yes, what the world needs now is a responsibility wake-up pill! That reminds me: I think its time to get my prescription refilled.

 

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MY NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE

Grim Reaper 2© 2017 Bill Murphy

I wrote of death in March of last year… DEATH AT AN EARLY AGE. It focused on the death of others.

Few of us, with the possible exception of combat military personnel, law enforcement, and firemen to name a few, ever face death up close and personal – then to have him turn and walk away.  I have, and it was a sobering experience.

I can’t remember the year, but Carol and I were on a weekend a trip to Birmingham to visit my sister and her family. Just east of Meridian, we stopped at the visitor’s center near the state line. It was around 9 or 10 in the morning, a bright and beautiful day. Numerous cars were in the parking lot as we parked and went inside. An elderly gentleman stood in the hallway outside the restrooms, no doubt waiting for his wife. NOT. He was the lookout. I walked past him and into the restroom.

It all happened in a flash. Out of nowhere, a rough hand grabbed my shirt collar, shoving me roughly against a sink. Something hard and cold was pressed against the back of my neck. A gun? It could have been a wooden dowel for all I knew, but his words convinced me not to take a chance on gun or wood.

“Quick,” he shouted, “gimmie your wallet, and your keys. Don’t turn around.” he said harshly, “and make it quick – or I’ll kill you, dude, ya hear?” He repeated this threat of death 3 times within the short space of time the attack was underway.  I complied.

What was I thinking you ask? Amazingly, it was NOT fear. Nor was it anger. Actually, what I felt was SURPRISE. I distinct remember thinking, So this is the way my life ends?

Then he yanked me backwards, and shoved me into one of the stalls. “Stay here,” he shouted again, “Stay for 5 minutes. Peek outside, and I’ll kill you dude!” And then there was silence. I think I waited only a minute, maybe less. Then I walked outside where Carol stood.

She will tell you that I can be easily rattled. But not that day. She said she could not believe how calm I was! “I just got mugged,” I told her. And relayed the whole story.

We quickly found the security guard, who’d seen nothing. The sheriff was called, who helped us get back into our locked vehicle. Carol’s purse was inside, so we still had keys. We drove a few mile up and down the highway, thinking we’d find my wallet the thieves had tossed out the window, but we didn’t. They got maybe $20 in cash, and no more. We immediately called and cancelled the credit cards.

This was an amazing learning experience for me. I was brought face to face with death, and yet, just as God promised in His word…

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

During the whole episode, I was NOT acting and thinking like Bill Murphy normally acts and thinks. The harsh and threatening words of the thief didn’t bring dread and fear – instead, they were miraculously overshadowed by peace and calmness!

There were not two in that bathroom that day, but THREE. Although I entered empty handed, God brought me His rod and staff!

 

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WE DODGED DHS

My Family@ 2017 Bill Murphy

In our home state of Mississippi, DHS stood for the Department of Human Services, which was once tasked with the awesome responsibility of protecting innocent children from neglect, abuse, and sorry parents. Today that agency is the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. Carol and I somehow missed their attention on numerous occasions. Whew!

Our 4 girls are rather close in age, averaging 20 months between birth dates, so ‘big sisters‘ were never all that big, nor helpful. It was often like having quadruplets.

Our first parental semi-catastrophe occurred in 1970 when Lois was around 6 months. Carol and I attended Southside Baptist Church in Jackson, and were Sunday School teachers for high schoolers. Down the hill behind the church, was a softball field. We’d planned an after church picnic and ball games for the class. The teenage girls clamored over who would ‘take care of’ baby Lois.

This day, in the hectic rush to change clothes, transport food and equipment to the field, etc., Lois somehow ‘fell by the wayside.’ At the ball field, a full 15 minutes later, someone asked, “Where’s the baby?” She was just where we’d inadvertently left her, in her carrier, on the back steps of the church! Oops.

Several years later, it was Molly’s turn to be abandoned.

We were then attending First Pentecostal Church. Sunday night service was ‘the’ service of the week. We were present and accounted for at 6 PM, and considered it a ‘short service’ if the final amen came by 10. Sunday nights didn’t end there. It was either a late meal at Shoney’s, or else 3 or 4 families gathered at someone’s home for coffee and sandwiches. That particular night, we were the host. Molly as about 3 or 4 at the time.

All of our girls had friends from church, so they often as not rode to the after-church gathering with another family. We’d been home several minutes before anyone counted noses – are realized that Molly was not accounted for! The last time we knew where she was, she was fast asleep under the pew. Oops again.

A quick call to the church, and the person locking up for the night made a dash to the already locked sanctuary. Molly was none the wiser – still sleeping peacefully under the pew. Poor neglected child.

Some time after this, we were on vacation in the Smokey Mountains. See the photo above. The kids loved to hike, and we found a trail. Earlier, it had rained rather heavily, but we braved the soggy path anyway.

Shortly, we came to an ‘obstacle.’ The trail crossed a brook, with no bridge. A large, round log, perhaps 12 to 15’ long spanned the water. And what had once been a picturesque babbling brook, now, because of the heavy rain, was a mighty torrent rushing down the mountain side. Yes, we did. One by one, Carol and I walked our precious children across the wet log, several feet above these mighty rapids. If we’d slipped and fallen, our bodies would not have been found for days – and then, many miles away. Yes, we all made it. And no, we never told our parents about this foolhardy adventure.

We also lost Liz in crowded New Orleans in the French Quarter, for a long, long 2 or 3 minutes – when she turned left at an intersection and we walked straight. She was around 12 at the time. That was a heart stopper!

I’ll save the best (or should I say worst) example of our parenting decisions for last.

I can’t remember the exact year, but Tricia and Liz must have been around junior high age. Carol’s sister, Mary Ellen, and her family lived in Humble, Texas. We made the 450 mile trip several times each year, often leaving after 5 PM of Fridays and returning home in the wee hours of the following Monday. It was during this period that Carol developed her NASCAR/Indianapolis driving skills.

We left Mary Ellen’s late in the afternoon on our way home. This was in the days before cell phones and mobile internet. We had a CB RADIO! It was fun talking with the truckers.

While still inside Texas, we happened upon a trucker going our way… his destination that night was Jackson, MS! He was driving at a good, steady, speedy clip, so we stayed in his dust, chatting away continually. Soon we knew all about his kids and family. We even stopped for coffee, and met him face to face. I think he enjoyed our human company a few yards behind his rig. He had his dog beside him as a traveling companion.

Somewhere along the way, one of the kids made the remark that they wanted to RIDE WITH THE TRUCKER. You see where this is going.

It was finally decided that this utterly foolish idea was, perhaps, plausible. At the next truck stop, we pulled in, and exchanged two of our children for his dog. Looking back, I’m thinking what you’re thinking – WHAT WERE WE THINKING?

At the time, it really did seem like an educational adventure for the kids. I’ve never ridden in an 18 wheeler myself! But my 4 daughters have. Oh, we did have his license tag number!

After Liz and Tricia had their turn, and were safely returned to us, Lois and Molly had their turn in the big rig! The story doesn’t end there.

Sometime just before midnight, we arrived in Jackson. We followed him to the truck stop, not far from where we lived at the time, and brought him home with us, where Carol made a hot breakfast for everyone. Then we returned him back to his truck.

Amazingly, all 4 girls turned out amazingly well, in spite of their ding-a-ling parents … and without assistance from DHS.

 

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