God, Gott, Dieu, Yhwh… and Allah.

God by any other name is still Creator. To borrow further from Shakespeare, “Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself,…”

According to Genesis mythology God created the heavens and the earth, light and dark, the plants and animals, and then humanity in God’s image and likeness. God toiled for 6 days and then “rested” the 7th day. Perhaps a more accurate description is that God either retired or took a sabbatical because from that point forward humanity took up the task of creating. We created nations, language, and religions… religions that define god in our image and likeness. In my country most call the Creator “God”. My German paternal grandparents named the Creator Gott, and my Lebanese/Syrian maternal grandparents (who were Christians) prayed to Allah. “Allah” is not a word unique to a theology, it is merely the Arabic word for God and the Arabic language predates Islam by centuries.

Humanity created all that divides us and in our division we imagine that the Creator takes sides in wars, politics, and sporting events. We created rituals that we imagine are necessary to communicate and entreat with the gods that we created. If God is universal, all powerful, and all-knowing then I doubt that God is confused by the names that we choose or the manner by which we address or invoke God. I doubt that God favors one archaic ritual over another, one nation over another, one political party over another, or one baseball team over another.

If there is a Universal Creator (a topic for another time), then I pray that God comes out of retirement and begins work on the 8th day to create peace, love, understanding and respect among those God created on the 6th day.

Peace Everyone. Pete

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Before we left the States for Spain to walk the Camino in 2013, I had declared my expectation that I would walk each and every one of the 815 kilometers, my pack on my back. I have since come to learn that such expectations are an endurance hike, and not a pilgrimage. In my case, being forced off for a few days because of illness created both a disappointment and an opportunity for reflection. I have learned from the experience that there can be no disappoint if one sheds all expectations.

I have wondered how this might have played out 1,000 years ago in the early days of the Camino de Santiago Compostela:

Expectations and Disappointment, a Parable. 

Somewhere on the Camino, the year 1013, a weary and travel worn Perigrino surrenders the burro which he has ridden into town to a shopkeeper. The Pilgrim then slowly hobbles across the village square, entering the imposing granite church that is the axis of the community. Confessions are being heard. Our Perigrino, adorned in his tatters, enters the confessional booth, and begins to recite the prescribed formula:

Perigrino: Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been one day since my last confession (Confession was a lot more popular in the 11th Century) and these are my sins. I have had impure thoughts, and I have broken my vow to the Blessed Virgin and St. James.

Priest: The breaking of a vow is a serious matter; can you tell me more?

Perigrino: Father, I am a Pilgrim walking the Camino. I made a vow to Our Lady and St. James that I would walk the entire Journey assisted only by my own two feet. Earlier today I stumbled upon a rock and found that I was unable to continue. A farmer took pity upon me and gave me the use of a burro upon which I traveled this day. I have just surrendered it to the farmer’s brother, a shopkeeper on the square.

Priest: My son, your sin is not the breaking of a vow, but in possessing such arrogance as to presume to tell our Lord what your Camino should be. God in his infinite Knowledge and Mercy provided you with a burro to continue your journey, but your disappointment, fathered by your expectations, has no appreciation for God’s Grace…. A serious sin indeed.

Perigrino: For my sin I am heartily sorry Padre, and I willingly embrace your penance.

Priest: My son, for your penance you shall go to the river, and divesting yourself of your robes. You will bath and clean yourself of all expectations for your pilgrimage on the Camino.

Perigrino: Excuse me Padre, but is it not more common to just require that I recite 3 “Our Fathers” and 5 “Hail Marys”? Besides I have already bathed this year.

Priest: So my Perigrino! Do you now also impose your expectations upon the penances that I give?!? By the way, I almost forgot, what were the impure thoughts?

Perigrino: Uhm, well, I don’t really know. I have always given 2 sins, and since my parents are both dead I can no longer use “disobedience”.

Priest: I see. Well, for the impure thoughts you could have had you get your 3 “Our Fathers” and 5 “Hail Marys”… and after you bathe, wash your clothes and line your cod-piece with fresh herbs. I

think that your odor is delaying the Second Coming of Christ.

The Pilgrim was true to his word. He recited the prescribed prayers, bathed, and washed his clothes. Unfortunately, some habits die hard. As the Perigrino was searching for fresh herbs to line his cod-piece, he could be heard to declare, “I swear by the Blessed Mother and St. James that I will complete the rest of my pilgrimage without further interruption!” Soon thereafter the Pilgrim chose a three-leafed vine-like plant to line his cod-piece.

Peace Everyone, and a Buen Camino! Pete

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Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the human mind. When we are presented with a scenario that lacks details, we often supply them from our expectations, our experiences, and our belief systems. In the face of a reported “drug deal gone bad”, a carjacking, or other newsworthy event, if important details are lacking we tend to unconsciously supply them to complete the picture. The mind conjures up details of age, gender, and race. The quest to know the details is the natural tendency of an inquisitive species. It drives our explorations, it drives our scientific inquiry, and it even drives our theologies.

Creation stories, such as presented in the Old Testament, are not only a story about Creation, but examples of the creation of a story. Imagine if the transcribers had known the structure of the solar system, galaxy, and universe. Imagine if they had known the relationship between mass and gravity, time and light. Those “knowns” would have been interwoven into a story that still included created aspects to explain the important unknowns.

As a child in parochial elementary school I was never satisfied with answers like, “Well Mr. Schloss, it’s a mystery”. I was once sent to the Principal’s office because I persisted to question how God could allow non-Christians in China to be condemned to eternal damnation when there was no opportunity for them to know Christianity. I sensed then, as I have come to believe in adulthood, that there is a point where fair inquiry becomes offensive to those who have abandoned fair inquiry.

When we declare natural or human tragedies to be “punishments from God”, or the results of an election, a war, or even a football game to be evidence of “the will of God”, we abrogate our humanity as inquiring beings. Worse yet, we abandon our free will to be agents of change and we become guilty of a great moral failing by pretending to be human in all but mind and deed.

Peace Everyone. Pete Schloss

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Years ago, I read that if a frog is cast into a pan of boiling water it will immediately react to save itself and jump out of the pan. However, if the frog is placed in a pan of cool water and the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will remain in place oblivious to the fact that it is being cooked.

I have accepted this account on faith but I still wonder if it has ever been experimentally proven. I would never consider torturing some poor frog to satisfy my curiosity, however recent events have brought me to the realization that the sacrifice of a frog is unnecessary since I have the example of a teacher, my father.

My dad began teaching in 1949, which was the year that he and my mother married. By 1959 they had brought 4 sons into the world, of which I am the oldest. My mother was also a teacher, but she chose to stay home to raise the children until I started high school. Dad’s teacher’s salary, supplemented by summer work and the small stipends he received for coaching football, basketball, and track, were the family’s sole source of support. From his income, my parents provided our family with the following:

• A custom-built brick home in south suburban Chicago

• Parochial grade school educations

• One newer car and a second older car

• A camping trailer that we used for annual summer vacations, traveling throughout the United States and Canada

• Excellent health and dental care

• Undergraduate state college educations for the children that included our tuition, books, room and board

My dad was not a financial wizard, he was a teacher. Teachers in the 1960’s, along with firefighters, police officers, factory workers, truck drivers, and a myriad of other professions, were the pillars of middle class America. The real strength of the “American Dream” was not in the strength of our military or the wealth of the “top 1%”, but in what average workers could accomplish for themselves and their families.

Had something suddenly occurred in our society to deprive these workers of their ability to provide for their families in the manner that I have described then there would have been a declaration of a national emergency to address the crisis. In other words, the frog would have immediately reacted and leapt from the pan of boiling water.

Unfortunately, the America of my youth was bathed in a pan of cool water. The temperature of the water has gradually risen over the last 50 years to the point that the middle class of America it is being cooked out of existence.

As for the experiment, frogs need not apply. We have enough teachers, firefighters, police officers, factory workers, truck drivers…

Peace. Pete Schloss

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It is June 26, 2015. I woke up this morning with my wife of 38 years at my side, it was the start of just another day.

As with most married Americans, we have come to take for granted the tax benefits of marriage, the property rights associated with marriage, and the protections offered to us as a married couple by our Social Security contributions. I have never questioned that my wife would be at my side in the event of a serious illness or injury or that she would have the opportunity to express my wishes to my physicians if I were rendered silent. None of this changed for us today because this was just another day.

There are some voices raised in anger and disgust about this day when nothing has changed for them. They cry that god will wreak a vengeance upon us, and that life as we know it will end… even though for them nothing has changed.

There are those among us, our friends, co-workers, brothers, sisters, even our children, who woke up this morning and it was not just another day. Much changed for them in this land of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Those things of marriage that I have taken for granted for the last 38 years are now afforded to them without regard to the gender of the person that they are bonded to by Love. It’s about time… and welcome to my club.

Peace, Pete Schloss

Footnote: On June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was established in all 50 States as the result of the ruling of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.

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I was recently reminded of a series of events that occurred some years ago. These events present a lesson in how we view and act upon what is “really important”.

A school nurse was confronted with an emergency involving one of her students. The student (of divorced parents) had become seriously ill and was exhibiting respiratory distress secondary to a severe allergic reaction. The nurse administered first aid to stabilize the child and called for an ambulance. The nurse then called the child’s mother and informed her of the unfolding events. The ambulance arrived and the child was turned over to the care of the EMT’s who rushed to the hospital. The child responded well to the treatment and the episode would have ended there with a “they lived happily ever after” conclusion. Except…
The following day the child’s father arrived at school and asked to see the nurse. When he entered her office he unleashed a tirade upon her for her failure to call him. When he paused to take a breath the nurse interrupted to ask, “Sir, isn’t it enough that I responded efficiently and professionally to render aid to your child? Isn’t it enough that I stabilized her and called for emergency assistance? Isn’t it enough that you can still enjoy the company of your child and that a tragedy was averted?”
The Father continued his criticism of her failure to call him, never once expressing any gratitude for the life that she had protected. He concluded with the assertion that he intended to report her to the school authorities. She asked him to please do so, and the meeting ended.

We choose our priorities. The nurse chose to intervene and (possibly) save a life. The ambulance EMT’s chose to respond to the 911 call. The hospital emergency room staff chose to continue to minister to the needs of the child. Divorced or separated parents may choose not to notify each other of their child’s emergency. Finally, the father chose to criticize the nurse’s failure to call both parents, and he also chose to withhold gratitude.

What were the motivations behind each participant’s priorities in this bit of real life drama. What are the lessons to be learned? Just asking…

Peace! Pete (Originally posted July 15, 2014)

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Recently, I have been largely silent on social media, but not idle. For many weeks I have been designing and implementing a new website. This is the third time that I have undertaken this foreign task. My first effort, over 15 years ago, was little better than a few pages of “stick figures”. My second served me well for the last 10 years, but it was time to make a change that more accurately reflects the shift in our focus, post retirement. This new site will be my venue and “voice” both on and off the road, while Facebook will remain my primary outlet for displaying pictures to my FB friends.

The site is not yet in perfect harmony with my expectations, however it is better than 90% the way there. I have purchased a “real camera” that I hope to make extensive use of. I have not yet worked on posting images with my “Thoughts” site, but there will be time to work out those bugs so that a few select images may occasionally appear with my “Thoughts”.

Your encouragements have provided me with the motivation to dedicate hundreds (literally!) of hours into working on this. I hope that it serves Christine and me, and thus all of you as well. I invite you to use the tool that I have included on the site to sign up for email notices of future posts.

-Peace! Pete

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Some of you women know who you are. Many of you do not. Resilience is being able to withstand or recover from difficult conditions. Certainly, there are resilient men, and books have been written about resilient children. However, my focus is upon the resilience that I have observed and learned of in so many women that I have encountered here and throughout my life. You are women who have risen from the ashes of personal and family tragedies. You are women who have hit a wall in life and rather than stop, you have reinvented yourself and moved forward. You are women who have placed your personal goals second to those of another person, adjusting and adapting without complaint. You are women who have persevered.

Your resilience is not necessarily about being successful. Sometimes it is just about enduring. Enduring the patronizing words of a car salesman, or the dismissive attitude of a contractor. Enduring the distinction that when a woman raises her voice she is deemed “shrill”, or just a bitch, but when man does he is seen as strong and assertive. I have been told that it is having to work twice as hard as a man in order to receive 70% of the pay that he receives for the same job. It is listening to your brother being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, when most assume your sole ambition is to be a wife and a mother. You are an indispensable part of our political, business, and religious institutions which traditionally create headwinds, if not barriers, to your advancement. You endure and then you move on.

I see your resilience. If anything I have said resonates with your life experience then please take a moment to congratulate yourself… you are resilient.

Peace. Peter Schloss

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