o Jacob’s Ladder 08/14/13


(Originally published 08/14/13 at Trojan Horse Productions.)

Prayer for myself often takes the form of imagining myself climbing up a ladder out of a pit, the pit being my current circumstances of poverty and homelessness. Getting out at the top represents a return to the normal life of the American mainstream. I didn’t start with a ladder in there, but I decided to add one to symbolize the various structures and tools that others have made available to me — and eliminate the possibility of clawing at loose earth.

Here begins a list of “rungs” on the ladder that I’ve become aware I need to “overcome.” Each one takes effort, exertion, to get over. I will update this list from time to time as I learn of others.

1. Fear of the unknown. See From my diary: Learning to pray.
2. Jealousy of others who seem to be prospering more quickly than I am. Details here.
3. Times of despair. I guess, from time to time, they’ll happen. Details here.
4. Incidents of utter selfishness. Details here.
5. Moments of unusual hardship and sacrifice. Details here.
6. Cut loose the losers.
In A.A., the tasks of the alcoholic who wants to stay sober include “changing people, places and things.” As to changing people, this means first of all dissociating (or “detaching”) from people who will interfere with one’s desire to stay sober.I need to cut loose from people who would hold me back from climbing up the ladder. This includes people who would actually climb up behind me from the pit and try to pull me down.In the ghetto we also call them “haters.” But one’s most serious haters are most often those you’d least expect — friends and family members.
They drain your spiritual and material resources. They distract you from your goals — itself a drain of your emotional energies and attention.
In recent months, my most serious hater has been a man who posts on the Jewish discussion board. A playground bully beat him up in fifth grade, and he’s never gotten over it. So he comes to that forum time and again hoping to re-enact that battle, and just win this time. He latches on to a Christian, any Christian, and engages him or her in a flame war …
If you deny him your attention, he pouts and whines and stomps his feet until you do respond.
He is a leech on my attention. I need to cut him off.
——————
Such gestures go against the grain of the mores of the American social mainstream, and of Christianity as commonly understood. Matthew 5.42 — “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” — is problematic, but once I complete the learnings to be detailed in a later post, I hope to understand it better.
Some people believe that anything you have belongs to them.
When I settle in at my bunk in the afternoon, about once a week my tasks include opening a new package of peppermint disk candies. More than once, I have no sooner done this than a complete stranger is right there in front of me, asking me for some.
Vladimir and I were at McDonald’s. We stepped outside to smoke. This man met me right at the door and told me, “Give me a cigarette.” I answered, “No.” He told me, “It’s my birthday. Give me a cigarette.” I answered, “Happy birthday.” He told me, “Sell me a cigarette.” I answered, “How much have you got?” (The normal price is 50 cents. In recent days several buyers had short-changed me, and I can’t afford that, either.) He told me, “25 cents.” I answered, “I need 50 cents.” He told Vladimir, “Give me 50 cents.”
My custom used to be, after computer time at the library, to buy a cup of coffee at the wi-fi cafe. One day I had to break a $5, and went to the cashier. The man behind me, who did not appear to be in any state of need, said, “Give me a dollar.” I answered, “I don’t have it.” He said, “You’ve got five ones right there.”

on air talent, talk show host, talk radio, the homeless blogger

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