Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Truth Behind John Belushi's Final Flight


The uncontrollable end of John Belushi, as described by his agent, Bernie Brillstein, in Where Did I Go Right?

"One day in early March 1982, I flew with John Belushi from Los An­geles to Martha's Vineyard in a private jet. We had it all to ourselves. He was thirty-three. I was fifty-one. The accommodations were first class and we should have been having the time of our lives. We weren't. In fact, John Belushi no longer had a life. He was stretched out across two cramped seats in the tiny jet, wrapped up in a body bag. Our destination was his funeral.

"Everybody loved John Belushi. The problem was that he didn't love himself enough to believe he had value in the world and that he wasn't indestructible. As John's TV, then movie, career took off, and his fame grew, so did his inability to control his appetites. After he left Saturday Night Live, his life lost the discipline having weekly responsibilities im­posed, and his erratic behavior became more frequent. Total strangers gave him drugs just to get close, to be cool to tell their friends they'd done it. And John consumed it all. It wasn't just an over-large lust for life; he was trying to fill a hole inside. If God hadn't created drugs, John would have found something else to abuse. Lorne and I thought Belushi craved love and acceptance. I could identify with that. I wanted the same things; we all do. But instead of using drugs, I became a personal manager.

"Belushi could be, and often was, a great guy. The rest of the time, as he careened toward the end he was either crashed out or out of control. Those who cared about him would say, 'You're hurting yourself and the people who love you,' but he'd just try to charm his way past the warnings. When I pushed him too hard to straighten up, he'd tell me to back off.

"There's nothing more painful than watching a man you love de­stroy himself. I don't know why it happens. I'm not a psychologist, though sometimes in my job I have to act like one. I suppose there are as many reasons as there are people who [mess] up: Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of being a fake. Feelings of worthlessness. A need for love. Arrogance. Narcissism. They're played out with drink, infidelity, drugs, domestic violence, and other weird behaviors that are hard to imagine. Even performers who aren't screwed up sometimes act this way, so it's hard to tell what's going to happen or how serious it is -- until it's some­times too late."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Whatever your fear or source of pain or lack of self-esteem causes you to do that distracts you from recognizing God's unquenchable love for you, get rid of it now, before your own "it's sometimes too late" moment catches you off guard.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Avoid Viral Infections by Attending Church


Church involvement can be good for your health.

According to Social Intelligence: The Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman, staying generally healthy can come down to living life on a peaceful, even keel.

Peaceful Easy Feeling

"[Meet] Sheldon Cohen, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, who has intentionally given colds to hundreds of people. Not that Cohen has a malicious streak -- it's all in the interest of science. Under meticulously controlled conditions, he systematically exposes volunteers to a rhinovirus that causes the common cold. About a third of people exposed to the virus develop the full panoply of symptoms, while the rest walk away with nary a sniffle. The controlled conditions allow him to determine why. His methods are exacting. ...

"We know that low levels of vitamin C, smoking and sleeping poorly all increase the likelihood of infection. The question is, can a stressful relationship be added to that list? Cohen's answer: definitely. Cohen assigns precise numerical values to the factors that make one person come down with a cold while another stays healthy. Those with an ongoing personal conflict were 2.5 times as likely as the others to get a cold, putting rocky relationships in the same causal range as vitamin C deficiency and poor sleep. (Smoking, the most damaging unhealthy habit, made people three times more likely to succumb.) Conflicts that lasted a month or longer boosted susceptibility, but an occasional argument presented no health hazard. ...

"While perpetual arguments are bad for our health, isolating ourselves is worse. Compared to those with a rich web of social connections, those with the fewest close relationships were 4.2 times more likely to come down with a cold, making loneliness riskier than smoking. The more we socialize the less susceptible to colds we become. This idea seems counterintuitive: don't we increase the likelihood of being exposed to a cold virus the more people we interact with? Sure. But vibrant social connections boost our good moods and limit our negative ones, suppressing cortisol and enhancing immune function under stress. Relationships themselves seem to protect us from risk of exposure to the very cold virus they pose."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...if you were paying attention, you'll realize that we won't receive the implied health benefits by merely attending worship services. The real boost to our immune system comes from being involved and cultivating meaningful relationships. You know...not just going to church, but actually being the church.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Time to Notice the Normal


The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Koenig, not only has short definitions of brand new words, but also includes short essays expounding on things we non-poets seldom contemplate. One of those essays is so perfectly phrased, I can't even think about commenting on it without making sure you've actually read it. Here then, are the paragraphs that follow the definition of maru mori: the heartbreaking simplicity of ordinary things.

Cat in window

Most living things don't need to remind themselves that life is precious. They simply pass the time. An old cat can sit in the window of a bookstore, whiling away the hours as people wander through. Blinking calmly, breathing in and out, idly watching a van being unloaded across the street, without thinking too much about anything. And that's alright. It's not such a bad way to live.

So much of life is spent this way, in ordinary time. There's no grand struggle, no sacraments, no epiphanies. Just simple domesticity, captured in little images, here and there. All the cheap little objects. The jittering rattle of an oscillating fan; a pair of toothbrushes waiting in a cup by the sink. There's the ragged squeal of an old screen door, the dry electronic screech of a receipt being printed, the ambient roar of someone showering upstairs. And the feeling of pulling on a pair of wool socks on a winter morning and peeling them off at the end of the day. These are sensations that pass without a second thought. So much of it is barely worth noting.

But in a couple hundred years, this world will turn over to a completely different cast of characters. They won't look back and wonder who won the battles or when. Instead, they'll try to imagine how we lived day to day, gathering precious artifacts of the world as it once was, in all its heartbreaking little details. They'll look for the doodles left behind in the margins of our textbooks, and the dandelions pressed in the pages. They'll try to imagine how our clothes felt on our bodies, and what we ate for lunch on a typical day, and what it might've cost. They'll wonder about our superstitions, the weird little memes and phrases and jokes we liked to tell, the pop songs we hummed mindlessly to ourselves. They'll try to imagine how it must've felt to stand on a street corner, looking around at the architecture, hearing old cars rumbling by. The smell in the air. What ketchup must have tasted like.

We rarely think to hold on to that part of life. We don't build statues of ordinary people. We don't leave behind little plaques to commemorate the milestones of ordinary time:


But it all still happened. All those cheap and disposable experiences are no less real than anything in our history books, no less sacred than anything in our hymnals.- Perhaps we should try keeping our eyes open while we pray, and look for the meaning in the things right in front of us: in the sound of Tic Tacs rattling in a box, the throbbing ache of hiccups, and the punky smell that lingers on your hands after doing the dishes. Each is itself a kind of meditation, a reminder of what is real.

We need these silly little things to fill out our lives, even if they don't mean all that much. If only to remind us that the stakes were never all that high in the first place. It's not always life-and-death. Sometimes it's just life  -  and that's alright.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I'm not sure how all this fits or conflicts with any particular theology, but I do know our lives will be measurably sweeter and richer and fuller the more we recognize and appreciate that we are...indeed...standing on holy ground; that the world is a wondrous place; that to live is a great adventure.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Licotic Hand Luke


John Koenig's The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows has invented a word for me to use when describing how I feel sometimes when talking about the facts and logic that support my faith.

It comes from the Old English licode (it pleased [you]) + psychotic, and is pronounced lahy-kot-ic.

licotic adj. anxiously excited to introduce a friend to something you think is amazing  -  a classic album, a favorite restaurant, a TV show they're lucky enough to watch for the very first time  -  which prompts you to continually poll their face waiting for the inevitable rush of awe, only to cringe when you discover all the work's flaws shining through for the very first time.

I admit to having this exact emotion when treating a group of high-school-aged boys to their first exposure to the cinematic experience known as Cool Hand Luke. I was excited to introduce them to Paul Newman at his finest, but soon realized that taken as a whole, the film is kind of depressing.

I also admit to having something close to this emotion when sharing a bit of apologetics with one of my atheist friends and realizing they are not as impressed with it as I am.

I suppose it's very difficult, if not entirely impossible, to recreate in someone else your personal reactions and feelings...whether about faith or films or food or even if something is funny or not.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.