Namesake: For Julia, My Little Ocean Child

It would be no grand secret to say that it would have been virtually impossible for my children to not have become Beatles fans.  In fact, I dare say that I would have felt like an abysmal failure as a father if it had not been so.  And I guess you could also say, in terms of handing down things almost instinctively, it makes perfect sense in more ways than one.  For instance, though I have very little memory of my mother who was snatched from us at an early age, and though childhood and even teenage memories are for some reason a dismal blur to me, I have old film archives of my sister Kim, and my brother Mike and I, dancing feverishly in the late 60’s to anything the Beatles were currently playing.  And to be sure, this was none other than the conspiracy of my beloved Aunt Gayle and my dear Mother Agnes, who were undeniably in cahoots for the branding of us into the hysteria known as Beatlemania.

Fast forward till now, and indeed all of my sons have joined the addiction, but none quite as infected as my eldest namesake Mark.  Consequently, I grinned like the Grinch peering down on Whoville, as I watched him pick up musical instruments and play them almost effortlessly as a child, and equally so as some of the first songs he played and reflected upon were from the timeless musical catalog of none other than John, Paul, George and Ringo. And now, many moons later, I would get the news that both he and his lovely wife would name their expected child Julia, as I then shed an irrepressible entourage of tears to hear that her middle name would be the namesake of the Mother I never knew: Agnes.  That most beautiful, amazing and ever mysterious name.

The Mother Wound

And as I reflected more on the thought of this beloved child coming into the world and John’s myriad of meetings for the song, it was almost haunting then to know that at least one of the meanings was indeed a tribute to John’s equal beloved Mother named Julia, who evidently most influenced his decision to abandon all else for the sake of his music.  And what a wise soul she was indeed.  John actually tells of losing her twice, both as a young lad who was then raised by his Auntie, and then who later picked up his relationship with his Mum as a teen, but who later died in a dreadful car crash.  The fate of both of our Mothers was tragic to say the least. The difference was however being a glorious love of his Mother that John then lost, and mine of loving the mere thought of someone I only imagined from old film reels and family stories of her love for me that had vanished abruptly in the fall of 1969.  The gaping Mother wound was significant nonetheless for us both, and one which I believe explains also the restless “Ocean Child” in me, and the equal desire at least to express it in words that are perhaps inspired from the wound itself.  It is then only fitting that my little ocean grandchild Julia will carry on that namesake, and who will possibly also be one who like me, looks to the ocean like a long-lost lover longing for some sweet reunion.

Mutual Love of the Ocean

My Aunt Gayle told me not along ago that she kind of got the sniffles when she heard that I was moving to Surfside Beach.  She then shared with me that my mother Agnes loved it immensely.  This of course made me smile from ear to ear as I contemplated the thought of it.  And it occurred to me that perhaps somehow in a mystical way she left that to me, perhaps to ponder her own equal restless heart and perhaps find it, and somehow to be touched by a shadowy piece of her, and to feel the healing warmth of her love that I missed long, long ago.  It brings me great comfort to think so nonetheless, and I now long to share my love for the ocean with my beloved Julia and the comradery that now the three of us will share.  I will equally look forward to opening up to her of both my love and thoughts on God, what her namesake means, and to watch her grow into her very own individuality and to blossom into an unrivaled beauty as my late Mother clearly was.  And of course, as one who will also grow up with a wonderful Father and Mother, and into an extended family, who if they possess nothing more, are full of love and grace and peace ready to bestow upon her without measure.

Grandpa’s Hermitage

The truth is, though I speak of namesake here, and talk of the beauty of family, I am not an expert of feeling its effects outside of the grateful creation of my own, with the real hero of that being my beloved Paula, of whom I now share my “ocean child” life with. In fact, I can remember as if it were yesterday as a child, often being in a crowded room of people, and yet somehow feeling as if I was always the “odd man out”.  And though I have now grown into an old man by the sea, the reclusive nature of a soul somehow disconnected from relational intimacy outside of my own little family is now fully grown and more observable, and that which compels me to spill it out with musings on paper for perhaps nothing more than my own catharsis, or in flickering hopes of an epiphany of sorts into the mystery that is now Grandpa Prince.  I know my little Julia’s life will be markedly different than mine was, and I praise the Father above for that, and thus do not wish my unpredictable perplexity on her for a moment.  However, I do hope and pray that she shares the love of the ocean with her Grandpa, and the desire to know the unique nature of what her namesake means to those of us who will be unable to look at her without starry-eyed reminiscence of some transcendent essence of Agnes that she will possess.  But most importantly, I pray that she will always rest her beautiful head and all of her hopes and dreams into the loving arms of Jesus, who will never leave her nor forsake her, and who will always hold her near and dear to His most blessed and sacred heart.

BFF’s

Now to be sure, Julia will enter a world in a familial sense that will be drastically different than my own experience, and of that for which I am eternally grateful as I mentioned. For she will be a child armed with love and in knowing the unconditionality of that love.  A love that has absolutely nothing to do with what she becomes, or for that matter, for any namesake that she indeed carries; but one that is hers simply because of whose she is, and for who she is.  And whether or not she will look just like me, be a “chip off the ole block” as they say, have my sense of never-ending sarcasm, or share my obvious bibliophile tendencies; I cannot yet know.  However, my sweet Julia, from one ocean child to another, Grandpa will look forward to seeing you at the beach!

Selah

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christ(X)mas

Cynicism Alert

Well if it isn’t that glorious time of year again!  And no, there is absolutely no hint of sarcasm in my pen!   Seriously. I kid you not.  You know, it’s that wonderful time when parents glee with snap-happy anticipation about spending a shit ton of money they actually don’t have, and then counting down the moments until everyone tears open their presents.  And afterwards, the “fan damily” then scurry about to some in-laws or outlaws to once again get through the heart attack-ridden gluttony without having to call 911; a couple of more mandatory presents in between, and just for good measure; we’ll throw in a little bit of all too familiar ungraciousness, relational trepidation, and a good dose of leftover familial guilt just to close out this blessed day! Ah, there’s nothing quite like it. In fact, one can hardly wait till next year to do it all again.

But wait, did I just say, “Bah Humbug”?  Well kinda. But at least I didn’t add “decrease the surplus population”to it.  I’ll leave that to God.  But just for the record, there is no way that I should be in charge of the zapper button that obliterates people out of existence on any given day.  God in his infinite wisdom stores up his wrath for another day and keeps me out of the consultative loop.  Be thankful. No, but seriously, be thankful.

Genes are a Bitch

My disdain for Christmas is complicated, so let me explain.  I guess after all I inherited it from my old man.  I used to see the look on his eyes every Christmas and it literally scared the shit out of me, kind of like Clark Griswold finally unhinged in the aftermath of surviving an insane family for the holidays, and an equally negligible Christmas bonus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQXuazYI_YU, or like Neil Page finally unglued at the airport counter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWRxPDhd3d0 if you get my drift . In fact, you could see his eye veins pulsate as he looked at you, and coupled with the tone of his voice, it was a sight so palpable that you could cut it with a freaking butter knife. In fact, to this day, I swear if that ole boy didn’t have a flask stationed in every room of the house during Christmas, he missed a good damn opportunity!  And I know for sure that whatever smidgeon of joy he experienced couldn’t have lasted more than a millisecond on Christmas Day, seeing the ecstasy in our entitled little bug eyes, saving just a bit more to be sure when he opened his one damn present with everybody’s cheap ass name written on it, that ended up being a frickin tie or some generic cologne that couldn’t get you any action with two out of work hookers and an American Express black card for goodness sakes!  His response was like, “Oh gee, thanks everybody, you really shouldn’t have”!  In fact, I’m quite sure that the 26th couldn’t come soon enough, and I imagine him and Mrs. Claus partying like it was 1999 as they ushered in their new, but only temporal freedom from the sheer agony of it all.  But I digress.

To get deeper into the heart of the matter, I guess it’s summed up quite nicely in my title with the sheer “X-mas” of it all that we have come to know all too well.  In fact, though raised in a home that took fairly seriously the customary reading of the Luke 2 Christmas story, our culture had successfully conditioned us to tolerate the moment in order to get to the real shindig. The bliss of discovering whether or not we got everything we had on our list, concluding that we were more nice than naughty, and breathing a sigh of relief that Santa or Dad, or whoever the Hell it was, somehow graded on the curve.  There was also the token Christmas service, the watching of “A Christmas Carol”,“Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”, and then a stark reminder from “It’s a Wonderful Life” to get at least somehow close to the sheer meaning of it all not a moment too late for possible bargaining chips down the road at the pearly gates.  But Jesus, you know, “the reason for the season” and all, got somehow lost in the periphery; and by the day after, had come up again a day late and a dollar short of truly gripping us with the ultimate gift that longs to continually give year after year–if we but allow it.  And somehow, I guess you could say I’ve at least somewhat repeated the cycle, though in James Dean like defiance, left to my own contemplative thoughts once the trash bag of endless wrapping paper is nestled where the soon to be memory of fleeting present glory also rests: in the garbage can of grasping for meaning straws, and coming up with the same vanity and emptiness before the hysteric flimflam began.  And as much as I long to extract significance from this blessed day amidst the rigmarole of what we’ve made it, I often find myself most of the time waiting for the again depressing climax of December 26th as well, with the temptation to then light up a smoke and perhaps even bathe in the ambiance.

Let’s Commiserate

Well, perhaps you’re like me this Christmas, and you’re one who has to survive it rather than experience the magic and thoughtful exuberance of it all.  A magic like the star that guided wise Magi a couple of millennia ago to gaze upon a face and a meaning that’s only response to it was to give every bit of gold, frankincense and myrrh they could lay down at His feet of soon to be glorious good news. And a child born with the power to save mankind from both his perpetual capacity for sin, and the slavery-like oblivion to repetitively put all his eggs in a basket of smoke and mirrors, continually hoping for left over manna instead of the daily bread of contentment proceeding out of that precious mouth of God that man surely should not live without. And likewise, for a gift that is wrapped in love and peace, forgiveness, and good will toward man.  Something to which we many times have left time and time again wrapped under that oft forgotten tree.  But in the meantime, it’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas.

 

Selah

 

 

 

 

An Ocean of Fantastic Distractions

The Purpose of the Ocean View

It’s been 3 years ago now since the Prince family moved to the quiet refuge of a salt life that has been a oceanic sanctuary in and of itself, and that which makes me never want to leave the healing powers it seems to bestow upon us as we breathe in both its infinitude, and its endless array of perspective and hope for any given moment.

As I have written about before, there were many motivations for our detour here, one of which was personal, in that it was my last excuse I could muster up for not finally sitting down and writing anything this lost soul could get down on paper.  I had made a promise to my wife years ago that I would write, and was equally commissioned by many others that I was uniquely qualified to do so, and therefore should get busy doing it!  And yet as many of us know all too well, belief in one’s self, belief in what others think of you, and the action it takes to realize one’s potential or God-given destiny, are not always natural bedfellows.

The plan nonetheless upon arrival was to start a blog and eventually write a book and evolve somehow into a true writing life alongside my life as a sales dog in the world of business.  I guess you could say that in some respects I finally morphed into doing something of what I said I would…well, almost.  Indeed, I actually started the blog (check) and had a goal of writing at least 1 entrance each week.  Yet after the first year or so, I was writing perhaps only every two or three weeks.  And now at the tail end of 2018, once a month has been my most consistent “inconsistency”.  And, so it seems that fantastic distractions are not as hung up on geography as I once proposed.

Conversations with Brother Al

My brother from another mother’s name is Al.  We live an eastern seaboard apart, yet we talk on a very consistent basis about everything from politics (not always a good idea), to faith, and about the constant foray of fantastic distractions that keep good men and women from taking a shot at something that has the potential to breathe new life into their soul, and that oftentimes seems to also lie on the other side of a slimy, nasty little thing called fear.  We are both now in our mid to late fifties collectively, and we are likewise in constant awareness of both the certainty of potential that still exists for us, and the equal hourglass of sand in the days of our lives that is at least in some very real sense running out here on the “back 9”. These uniform realisms give us both reflective pause, and the additional communal “Atta boys”, reminding each other in something of a melodic harmony, that since today we are alive and well, the train has not yet run out of track, thus there is still runway for bold and more consistent attempts at what gives meaning to our lives this side of paradise.

A Song That Remains the Same

As I reflected on our meditations of late, I was reminded of a song that I first heard back in 1997 by the Dime Store Prophets.  It was a time when Christian music was in a brief state of relevance and equal talent, which has seemed to die a slow death since then unfortunately.  The song however is appropriately titled “Fantastic Distraction”, and for sure it has a repertoire of meaning to the eye of various beholders.  However, for me, it echoes quite succinctly where I’m at, and mirrors quite sadly, why many of us go to bed at night dreaming about becoming some knight in shining armor, yet wake up each day limping to a coffee pot of desperate rescue to more of our both comfortable and equally predictable distractions, which seem to be on eternal autopilot in the beds of our lives that we have faithfully and meticulously made.

The lyrics are as follows:

Michael looks up at the bottle from under a glass table
He’s mouthing words I can’t make out, something about innocence
He calls us all his best friends
And swaggers into the haze of no questions

Joy keeps a strict diet of popsicles, pop-tarts, and heroin
She likes to open the doors and go looking for Morrison
She biped and fell on Jesus
He says I’ve been walking the gardens looking for you
I’ve been desperate too
Maybe she’s just hiding from the one thing
Maybe she’s just hiding from the one thing
In a fantastic distraction
Twelve steps forward and thirteen steps back

Sonny works hard on the pavement all of the live long day
He drives home, sits down with his burdens placed where his wife should be
Turns on the tv set
And toxicates himself with gamma rays
White noise for the pain

Maybe he’s just hiding from the one thing
Maybe he’s just hiding from the one thing
In a fantastic distraction
Twelve steps forward and thirteen steps back

Moth on the window pane
Drawn to the light
Can’t find an opening
Back to the light

To say that the song speaks volumes about our current topic, is to state the obvious.  At first glance, they speak of fantastic distractions such as bottles of our favorite nightly elixir, narcotics, and wasting away on gamma rays, which are descriptive of just a few of those that can keep many of us all from the “one thing”.  Of course one is also free to insert their own distraction of never-ending choice that range from incessant entertainment, endless Facebook surfing or simply biding time in your ass imprinted easy chair, simply waiting for the light of your life to finally go out or for some other “white noise for the pain”.  The light forever longs to get in, but “can’t find an opening”, so we simply rinse and repeat.  And as I listened to the song today, it was haunting in its prophetic tone as if the weeping prophet himself was speaking across the ocean waves of my distractions directly at “yours truly”.  And then the thought occurred to me, that though I have been known to commend others to a life well lived and full of purpose, and have sought to employ it in my own life, at times the revelatory paradox from my lips is more like, “Do as I say, not as I do”.  And thus I too many times live my life “twelve steps forward and thirteen steps back”.

Learning to Number One’s Days

I heard the story once of a man who made it a practice each day of looking in the mirror and saying something to the extent of, “Today, perhaps today, you will die”.  When I first heard of it many years ago, I thought it quite morbid, yet the longer I live, I know exactly why this was his practice.  Because you see, realizing the brevity of one’s life, is indeed the proverbial key to a life lived well in the here and now, and evidently King David also knew this ancient secret as he writes in Psalm 90:12:

            So teach us to number our days

            that we may get a heart of wisdom. (ESV)

I’ve now inscribed this verse on just about every page of my prayer journal so that I see it each day as I offer prayers for myself and others.  It is there to remind me to “get busy living” (Andy Dufrane), and to stop allowing life’s fantastic distractions to keep me from being on mission with my creator by tapping into why I am here, as well as to put my own small “dent in the universe” (Steve Jobs), rather than being caught with my pants down for my final dress rehearsal.

Oh to be sure, a life of contentment and as a faithful ordinary is commendable in the eyes of the Lord, but yet this all depends on how many talents you currently have in your pocket. Perhaps it’s only one, maybe you have two, or perhaps you have been blessed with five or more.  The goal for each of us is to simply use our talents and invest them in the service of others, rather than bury them in the ground of our most favorite fantastic distractions, only to find out that life went ahead and did the numbering for us, in our otherwise preoccupied absentia from it!

Selah