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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ghost Writing For the Not Quite Dead

It's so much fun to pound a keyboard 16 hours a day  till your fingers are nubs and your brain can no longer find a reasonable way to spell hyperbole. You should try it sometime. What keeps us going is the pittance that trickles over the transom and the hope that someday we're going to strike it big. We're the 49'ers of the 21st century.
Sometimes, you'd do better to sell yourself to an Arabian Sheikh as his personal toilet attendant. That'll do too. I've written better than 30 books in the past 18 months. All of them, I am told, are selling well on

Not a one has my name on it.

But I chose this life and I'm damned well going to keep soldiering on in it till I win or they bury me - one or the other. I AM WRITER HEAR ME TYPE!

I'm sixty years old. My brain says I'm 22. My bones say I'm 112. We humans were not meant to live like this. I am thoroughly convinced that we were designed to live in lakefront bungalows, to sit on the porch every evening with a nice warm dog stretched across our feet and to play banjo till the sun goes down.

It's funny how you get to a point where you're ready to wrap it all up and get on with the living forever part. I've decided that when we get back to the new Earth, I'm going to build a big old schooner and take her out on whatever's left of the ocean. I'm gonna sail from island to island sampling the cuisine and jamming with whatever passes for a local pick-up band.

I will of course, take along the Missus and the dog - maybe even a grandkid or two - even in heaven I can't imagine my kids wanting to hang out with me for any length of time. I told my Sweet Baboo about my plans. She told me that it would have to be in heaven before she'd go out on the ocean in a boat with me at the helm. Mrs. King is not respectful of my sailing prowess.

I wonder. Will our spouses be as sharp-tongued in heaven as they are here? Maybe I was imagining the kind of spouses you get in the other heaven; the one where you have to blow yourself up first and then you get 70 of them.

Man, that sounds more like the other place to me. I have enough trouble with just the one.

© 2014 by Tom King

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Elder Leiske and the Testimony of Roma Barnes

I vividly remember the warm Sabbath Afternoon in Keene, Texas, when Roma Barnes gave her testimony. 

At the time Southwestern Union College (the college later changed it's name because the girls wouldn't buy T-shirts with the school initials on them) was captained by Elder Leroy Leiske, a lovely man. He didn't have a Ph.D. and was scorned by some of the more stuffed of shirt among the church's leading lights at the time. Despite his lack of academic credentials, the man nearly doubled attendance at the school, boosted the numbers of marriages among students, beautified the campus and put the school on solid financial ground. He remembered the names of every one of his students and there were better than 600 of them. We all felt special. He's the only college president I ever saw get a standing ovation from students for walking out on stage in a chapel service. The kids loved the man.

One of the things Leiske attended to particularly well was the spiritual health of the students. He believed in the power of unstructured religion and held semi-regular testimony meetings at the church and in the college auditorium. He always seemed to know when we needed a recharge and would hold one just in time?

It had been a beautiful service and as we were nearing the end of it. Roma Barnes made her way up to the front to wait her turn to testify. Roma was basically our little town's resident odd duck and one never quite knew what she was going to say. Elder Leiske, who had fielded Roma's contributions to the service before, tried roll things up before she could get up front.

Unfortunately for the spiritual atmosphere that day, Roma refused to be denied. It became obvious that she had a burning desire to speak and looked so pathetic that anyone who didn't know Roma would have thought Elder Leiske was being mean not to let her speak. Finally, he motioned her forward and Roma took the mike. Native Keeneites took a deep breath.

I remember Leiske whispering to her about time and keeping it short. Finally, he shrugged helplessly and stepped aside. Roma wasn't entirely of this world at the time and she took the microphone with this very solemn look on her face. She wore a beige dress that hung like a sack on her down to her knees. She must have been in her late 40s or 50s by this time and she didn't believe in beauticians nor beauty products. This is not to criticize her appearance but to set the stage for her testimony. Simply put, Roma was a strange old bird. Roma's stern gaze swept over the congregation.

"I have had a terrible problem for many many years," she began. "I've struggled with it and prayed about it and finally the Lord has revealed to me what was causing my terrible problem." She paused dramatically. You could have heard a pin drop.

"Spices!" she announced shaking her head sadly. "They made me too sexy!"
Leiske went pale. A vast collective snort went up from the congregation and several crass individuals actually laughed out loud. I remember Ted Ramirez, our student body president and his buddy, Tee Chincheretta, sitting over to one side, doubled over in pain, their whole bodies shaking. Roma turned and left the podium, her warning to the saints well and truly delivered.

Elder Leiske's closing prayer was heroic!

© 2014 by Tom King

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams Was A Hero

Robin in The Fisher King

The death of brilliant comedian, Robin Williams has shocked and saddened the nation this week. Everyone's asking how could a man, so rich, so talented and so well-loved end his own life like that. He seemingly had everything to live for.

The Internet's predictable leap to judgment by the usual set of self-proclaimed experts has got us all sorts of clever answers.

  • He wasn't a Christian so he's gone straight to hell - don't be sorry for him.
  • He just didn't read the right books.
  • See, we told you wealth doesn't bring happiness.
  • He was a liberal douchebag
  • He chose to kill himself because he was a coward.
There are lots more, but this stuff sickens me and I don't want to repeat any more of it.

Suicide may indeed be a person's choice. I think of Saul who did not wish to die at the hands of the Philistines and others who took suicide as a way out of what they saw as an insoluble problem.

But the idea that suicide is always a clear personal choice is not true at all. There is evidence a-plenty that Robin Williams suffered from bipolar disorder or something closely akin to it. Bipolar is a cruel disease in which an underlying severe neurological condition causes maladaptive psychological responses. What that means is that at times your perception of the world becomes utterly distorted and things make perfect sense to you that make no sense at all to anyone else.

I have two family members who have made multiple suicide attempts over the past few years. They failed, not for lack of trying but  because family members were watching, praying and intervening when they lost contact with reality. In one case, I am certain angels intervened. Neither wanted to die, not really. It's just their perception was so distorted that it seemed the least selfish thing they could do. Later, when they weren't in the middle of a psychotic break, they could see that what they believed with all their hearts at the time was not true.

Many artists suffer from mental disorders. Many of them incorporate their illness into their art. Earnest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh, Mel Gibson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Nash, Brooke Shields, Carrie Fischer, Emma Thompson, Herschel Walker, Michael Phelps, Howard Hughes, Paula Deen, Elton John, Craig Ferguson, Margot Kidder, Sinead O'Conner and Kurt Cobain are just a few of the famous people who battled with neurologically-based mental disorders and often lost their lives to it.

Much of Robin Williams comedy was the result of his successful sublimation of his wild swings from mania to depression and back to mania. He worked it all into his comedy routines. It's little wonder he did so well playing lunatics as in The Fisher King and One Hour Photo. He'd been there, done that and bought the T-shirt franchise.  His portrayal of men on the brink of madness were heart-breakingly real for a reason. He'd been there. He was probably there at the time he played them.

I lost a good friend ten years ago to the ravages of bipolar.
He was a brilliant preacher and Godly man and incredibly creative. Toward the end of his life his brain betrayed him. He began having blackouts, panic attacks and psychotic breaks and at the last and he became so isolated that no one was there when the madness overwhelmed him and he put a shotgun in his mouth and blew out his brains.

The truth is that Robin Williams death may have been inevitable - a consequence of his bipolar.
What may be the real miracle is that he managed to hold off his own death for so long in the face of the unrelenting effort by his own brain to kill itself and stop the pain.

The number one outcome/side-effect of bipolar disorder is suicide. Those who love a person with bipolar need only miss the signs just once to lose their loved one. I know. I care for someone with bipolar. Most days are good, but once in a while it all goes to hell in a hand-basket and if I wasn't here, I could lose the person most dear to me in all the world.

Robin may have lost the fight in the end, but given the severity of the disease that eventually claimed him, his long and courageous fight against it deserves to be lauded for what it was - heroic. Like the defenders of the Alamo, Robin Williams held out as long as he could. You don't berate a soldier who died at his post.

So, Robin, go with God my friend. He sees the sparrow fall and notes its resting place. I suspect one day Robin will stand before the throne of Grace, look up into the face of God and say, "There you are." And God will say, "I have found you my child, come home with me."

© 2014 by Tom King