Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Kindness is a Bribe

Ah, kindness. God has been incredibly kind to me. Yet I still see His kindness through well trained habit: I'm a tool, and kindness is how He persuades me to do things. Basic manipulation.

History. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I always thought that well-behaved people would get attention, but no. Well-behaved children get left alone. The bad ones get attention they don't want. What's the secret for getting good attention? Beats the flock out of me.

I learned never to ask for help. See You Love Me for Breezze's comments on a similar situation. People "speaking the truth." Gargh. First learn to recognize truth, then walk in it, then maybe you'll be competent to speak it.

Sometimes help is no kindness anyway. Sometimes people just have to go through a process of learning how to live. This is difficult. I know I never did it very well, until I met God when He brought me back to Himself.

I have all these years of habit. I'm suspicious and cynical. I always look at the gift horse's teeth because I don't want to be saddled with the maintenance expenses. God starts raining his kindness down on me and I naturally, automatically, think that there's an ulterior motive. He's just doing this for what he can get out of me. Use me up and throw me away.

Paul got along with that, but I'm no Paul. I've never had a life. Is it too much to expect that I might get one now, when it's almost too damned late?

What's the truth? The truth is that God was kind to me long before I was in any position to do anything for Him. He could also do anything I can do, better than I can do it. God continues expressing His steady kindness to me, regardless of my response. If that's a bribe, it's an odd kind of bribe.

How has He been kind to me? In many ways, small and large. I could write a long list. A few instances will do for now. I came to Los Angeles in 1984, broke and broken. God gave me a job here, in a place where I met the people I now work with. I could have ended up doing the same work in other places, but I got just the right one. Why was this important? Who I work with is more important, at least to me, than what I do. If I can't stand my co-workers, I rapidly lose interest in showing up, and that has killed more than one job in my history. I ended up in the one niche where I could belong because of my peculiar skills, and make enough money so that I didn't have to worry about paying the bills. So, I stayed. Stability.

Stability led to saving money, and that led to becoming interested again in photography, and that led to buying a medium format camera. That led to needed a professional lab for processing and printing, and that led to meeting Steve Cohen, and that led to conversations in his lab. Those conversations eventually came around to sand sculpture, which led to Steve organizing a show for the Sierra Club. Now, I hadn't done a sculpture in 7 years. Depression and various other factors. So, if he wanted slides, I had to go to the beach and figure out if I could still make sculpture. I did an experiment in June of 1994, and found that, yes, I still could sculpt. I stayed with it. Later on that year I quit psychoanalysis, and just about quit living altogether. What kept me going? The promise of sand sculpture.

Sand sculpture was the bridge I used to get over the next several years. My job was OK, other things were moderately interesting, but I lived for sculpture. The opportunity to be purely creative. When I came to the end of that bridge, the man whom God used to start the process of bringing me back met me on the beach. Doing a sculpture. That contact led to Mosaic, and that led to continued life. God's kindness.

Since then, His kindness has been more subtle, more detailed, and constant. My response has been fear. Kindness only comes before the axe falls. He waits for me to turn and ask Him what's going on. Last night on the bus I finally got rather tired of the ongoing conflict around the question of just what the heck I'm for, and He gave me an image of sand sculpture. Creativity. That's my unique ability. To bring, as one man thanked me for on the beach last Saturday, beauty into a world that worships ugliness.

What was my response to God's expression of kindness? Anger. I was upset, crabby, irritable. "Don't you dare manipulate me!" Since then we've had more discussions. God's kindness is no bribe. It's His character. He can no more help being kind than I can help breathing. This is a very good thing because He would have offed me for disrespect. What He really does is continue to hope, continue to teach me, continue to guide me and give me kindness whether I accept it or not. He started first by giving me His Son, Jesus, and He just keeps going on from there.

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