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Archive for January, 2014

Flag of the United States of America

Two highlights made the viewing of the State of the Union Address somewhat entertaining for me:  1)  Obama’s swivel-headed Secret Service Men—the one on the left, bony and bald and the one on the right, a benign appearing and rather rotund version of a traditional Dr. Watson; 2)  Speaker Boehner’s facial expressions, reflecting exactly my thoughts and sentiments.

To his credit, our President actually mentioned Israel and God.  To his credit, and undoubtedly at the behest of his advisors, President Obama stifled his customary demonizing, accusatory tone and demeanor when referring to his opposition—specifically our current U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans in general.  The 2014 State of the Union Address proved that our President can still do the one thing he does well:  Talk.  Talk.  And talk some more.  The full text of the address is available online, for the perusal and evaluation of any and all who desire to do so.

It is my prayer that those who were unable to view the State of the Union Address will avail themselves of the contents of that speech—either online or in a newspaper.  I also pray that countless individuals will measure Obama’s glib and self-laudatory oration against what the President and his cronies really stand for, the damage this administration has already done to our nation (in terms of power grabbing, lawlessness, outright lies, and continual scandal), and what the Obama gang still purports to do.

Meanwhile, it is probably a good thing that I listened to our President’s oratory, as it undoubtedly raised my blood pressure from it’s customary 106 to a more healthy 128.  Admittedly, history has produced some great orators such as the Revolutionary Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty, or give me death!”) and Queen Victoria’s famous Prime Minister, Disraeli whom I love quite simply because he was one of God’s Chosen (whether or not that mattered to him).

But I am eternally suspicious of oratory, ever since my 1940s childhood when I frequently attended our small town theatre.  Back then many movies were prefaced by a newsreel featuring impassioned orations, accompanied by a raised arm and blatantly screamed out over public gatherings in Munich and Berlin.  Although I was too young at the time to comprehend the translated words, the spirit of the oratory was terrifying to a Midwestern American child.

Today we can GOOGLE Hitler’s speeches:  endless diabolical diatribe centered on “the ruthlessness of the capitalist plutocrats” and “Jewish instincts of hatred . . . beclouding the world and inciting it against the present German Reich . . . .”

It is tremendously significant to recall that before he rose to power, like some in our government today Hitler also focused on the need to nationalize the lives of the people.  His early “platform” included a plethora of noble sounding social reforms.  As his hold over the people increased, he pursued his goal of exterminating the “physically unfit”, any unborn children who would not conform to his maniacal racial ideology, many sick and elderly whom he deemed unprofitable to the state—as well as the millions of Jews plus a great number of Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, and political dissidents:  whomever would not bow to his God-usurping authority and tyranny.

I find oratory not only suspect but potentially terrifying—especially when coming from an arrogant national leader whose policies seek to control the details of people’s lives.  My soul responds only to quiet, reasonable rationale within the freeing, life-affirming framework of the Judeo-Christian Worldview—the one and only Universal Truth.

Margaret L. Been—January 29, 2014

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My piano bar

It’s amazing how a “one-liner” can stick with you forever!  Years ago a violin teacher, Amy, shared an unforgettable one-liner which summarizes most everything I have endeavored to do for much of my life.  At a violin lesson years ago I was sawing through a seemingly boring and nondescript exercise in my Kreutzer, when Amy interjected a teacherly command:  “Play it like a love song!”

This concept revolutionized my practice sessions.  Heretofore, violin (and piano) teachers had stressed metronome-driven precision.  Now Amy was setting me free to transform even the most mechanistic of studies into a vehicle for interpretive expression.  The Kreutzer exercises came alive.  Suddenly they were beautiful—as I learned to play them with my soul as well as with my fingers.

I grew up in the era of heart-rending love songs and idealistically elegant films.  The Hit Parade featured pop classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como—and the cinema portrayed love affairs framed in romantic settings.  Though some negative-minded folks might bad-mouth my early conditioning as being “unreal”, I praise God for it.  Beauty and elegance via entertainment, along with the beauty and natural elegance which my mother modeled every single day in our home, taught me something vital about living—and endowed me with a working philosophy, as succinctly summarized in Amy’s words:  “Play it like a love song.”

No, beauty and romantic elegance are not “unreal” when we attempt to bring these qualities to the most mundane of tasks, thereby inspiring and uplifting the moment—when our concept of outer beauty mirrors a quality of the inner soul.  We are free to choose, free to create with whatever we have at hand, free to play life like a love song—therefore highlighting our material reality whenever possible, with manifestations of inner beauty.

When we reflect on our loving, creative God—the Author of beauty (material as well as spiritual)—we realize that “playing it like a love song” can radically exceed some merely human philosophy on how to live.  Although beauty and/or romantic elegance need not take the form of a 1940s Hollywood production—or, for that matter, a Kreutzer exercise—the essence of gracious inner beauty can be palpable in diverse forms as well as applicable to most every circumstance and area of life depending on how ardently we love life, how we view life, and most vitally how we think!  Again, we are free to choose.

The intrinsic character of God’s beauty materialized at creation, when He spoke the beautiful Heavens and earth into existence.  Many centuries later, an Apostle whom we revere expressed God’s command for humankind through the priority of the “whatsoever things”:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”  Philippians 4:8

Are there moments when your life exercises seem drab and routine, and your duties are characterized by metronome-driven precision?  Here’s an idea you might want to try:  Play it like a love song!

Margaret L. Been, 2014

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Let’s play that old game, per our kindergarten “work sheets” where there were a bunch of pictures and one of them didn’t belong.  Just study the above and subsequent photos and see if you can detect the “Stranger in Paradise”.

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If you guessed that the last photo is the odd one, you are right.  In the other photos, Vintage Rules—and in the one just above, well I guess you could say the bluish tin and silver plated spoons in a pattern glass spooner are sort of vintage-y, but the dominating Keurig Brewer accompanied by an assortment of one-serving beverages is definitely state of the art:  “kind of now, kind of wow”.

Normally “kind of now, kind of wow” need not apply for a place my kitchen where I do somersaults and spit wooden nickels trying to hide electric cords—while housing the necessary modern cooking accoutrements in rusty, chipped, worn out treasures.  Any left over space is committed to the display of “kind of then, kind of when” items—possibly useless to you, but intrinsically precious to me simply because of their anachronistic, aesthetic attributes.  (A mouthful; don’t bother trying to say it.)

Meanwhile, enter Christmas Day and our afternoon of family gift sharing.  Knowing my decorating propensities, one of our sweet sons and his beautiful wife took a huge chance when they purchased the Keurig for Joe and me.  Realizing that I might not even be able to squeeze the gift into our compact, efficient condo kitchen—let alone be willing to live with the trendiness of a Keurig Brewer—our son volunteered as I opened their gift:  “If you can’t use it, just give it to one of the grandchildren.”

Hmmmmmmm!  I was pretty certain that the thing would:  1) not fit physically and 2) not fit mentally/emotionally/ stylistically or however you want to say it.  But it was a GIFT!  Yes, we would have to clear off a slot, relegate some vintage stuff to our storage closet, and give the Keurig a try before passing it on.

Haaaa!  Within minutes (as soon as I figured out the operational steps from the manual) we were HOOKED!  This baby is not going anywhere!  I could bore you to distraction, singing the praises of our fabulous cups—a cuppa Jo, a cuppa tea, a cuppa cocoa depending on the mood of the moment.  And a moment is all it takes to have that steaming cup in hand!

By now, the giver of this treasure may be a bit weary of me calling him and raving over the phone about our new kitchen “friend”.  But I’ll say it one more time.  “Thank you, Eric and Cheri!”

Margaret L. Been, January 2014

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