I remember being in my office on September 11th, 2001, and my co-worker Fred saying a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. At first this didn’t strike me as anything big, I remember hearing about a small plane hitting them before, and the damage hadn’t been that significant. Fred decided to pull out his small portable TV, and we all huddled around to watch it unfold. I will never forget seeing the images of the first plane hitting and the explosion that followed. It was completely surreal. At the time no one knew what was going on, it appeared to be some kind of freak accident for sure. Our small group then decided the television set in our training facility was much larger, and would allow us all to see what was going on without being cramped into a small cubicle… standing shoulder to shoulder around a four inch screen. So we ran down to the 11th floor and watched in dismay, as the building burned. We watched in absolute horror as the scenes unfolded… and then absorbed the news that our country was under attack from terrorists. I had to run to the bathroom and on the way back to the training room, I saw my co-worker Karla nervously running out of the room with a frightened look on her face, telling me she was going to get her kids. Trying to hold back tears and clearly panicked, she quickly uttered “They just attacked the Pentagon.”
One by one the towers fell and more reports came in about other government buildings being attacked. The decision was made to send us home, and I remember my close friend Tania telling me she would drive me home. With her toddler Anthony in the back seat, we took back roads to avoid the chaos of drivers trying to reach their families, just as we were. The news on the radio was grim and frightening, so much was going on and there was much misinformation about what was actually happening. After Tania dropped me off, I logged onto AOL to see how the online world was reacting and what they were saying. Smartphones didn’t exist back then, so life “connected” was usually experienced in the privacy of your own home, something I had been doing for over a decade at the time. I had found some friends and they were freaking out like everyone else, wondering if people they knew were safe. As the day progressed more reports came in, and we mourned collectively as nation. We didn’t know what the world was going to be like the next day, and everyone went to bed that night with a certain level of uncertainty.
The next couple of days saw our nation rallying together like I hadn’t witnessed since the Gulf War. People were grouping up on street corners waving flags, holding up posters and cheering on drivers all times during the day or night. We were helping and supporting each other, looking past any and all differences to demonstrate that as a united nation, we were unstoppable. Many people initially wanted to turn the middle east into a “parking lot” or a “sheet of glass,” as descriptive examples of nuclear warfare littered conversations. However, many people realized that doing so would make us no better than our attackers, and during this time of crisis, we needed to make sure we targeted only those responsible for the pain and suffering so many had experienced. I remember interfaith services in the lobby of my employer’s headquarters, people hugging, crying and consoling each other. We were making promises to never forget and to remain united and strong for all time. Still, many found it very acceptable to demonstrate hatred and rage towards people of the Muslim faith, while at the same time professing unwavering patriotism.
Friday marked the 19th anniversary after the September 11th attacks. I started to write this post and suddenly decided I needed to re-experience the events of the day by watching it on YouTube, almost as a way to honor those lost… and the day we all joined hands. It doesn’t take a college professor to realize that September 11th changed us a country forever. We began to torture our captives to get answers and information about possible threats, while our freedoms and rights to privacy were attacked by our own government in exchange for perceived safety. Hatred was given a license to operate by many, and that permission has grown exponentially… all in the name of patriotism. The horrible events of September 11th had been burned into the collective psyche of so many, that any demonstration of anger or resentment to our own country or people, was akin to being a traitor. I remember this kind of mentality even inserted itself into my own consciousness for a while, after becoming so incredibly upset during a phone conversation I had with a guy I was courting online. I was literally scared that his anger towards the United States would cause him to be flagged by law enforcement, and I quickly found myself avoiding him at all costs. I considered him to be radical, and in retrospect, he was simply being truthful about our nation’s involvement overseas. His remarks weren’t any different from what many commentators and journalists say on the news today, it was literally just “too soon. “
I find myself feeling angered at times when I see younger people posting about geopolitics online, and what we should or shouldn’t be doing about certain situations abroad. I know it’s not fair to them, but they’ll never know what it’s like to be so aware of the events of September 11th as they unfolded live almost twenty years ago. Many of them were still watching Saturday morning cartoons and knew more about brands of cereal than they did about the names of countries in the Middle East. They will never know about how our country used to be like, how it was to walk your family members directly to the gate of an airplane, and kiss them goodbye with your shoelaces still tightly secured. They will never know how unified we were, and don’t realize the hatred they spew towards flag kneelers has part of its roots in that awful day. Their version of “freedom” is not the same as mine, and they’ll never know the world used to view us as one of the good guys, and not just a military power kicking ass everywhere. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I’ve learned when they say to “never forget” September 11th, it wasn’t about holding a grudge towards a certain faith, it was about how we felt the day after… a nation undivided.
In the early morning hours of June 9th, I found myself almost sitting up in bed, my arms reaching out into the darkness, trying to grab, or even hold onto, a female presence. I didn’t know who she was or what she looked like, only that something was concluding… a dream of some kind maybe. I didn’t put much thought into it and fell back asleep. I’m often visited or have interactions of some sort while sleeping… sometimes they are subtle, just an awareness of someone watching me or present… sometimes it’s a loud voice yelling, sometimes a whisper. Strange as it may sound, I’m seldom frightened and usually tell who or what ever it is, to just “go away, I’m sleeping.” I still wonder if the interaction that morning was actually much more than it seemed, perhaps it was even my mom… saying goodbye.
I was working from home when I noticed the phone call from my brother in Atlanta. He usually texts me, so immediately I knew something had to be wrong. I instantly thought of my mother, recent events having me somewhat anticipating this call. I wasn’t thinking of what happened much earlier that morning, but I had known for some time my mom was giving up on the battle against the lung disease that would claim her life. For over six years she had been tethered to an oxygen machine of some sort, having been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis… basically scaring of the lungs. Little by little breathing had become more difficult for her, while her desire to live less and less. About a month before her passing she had shared my post on FaceBook, probably the first time she had done so, about my Uncle Joey that died in World War II at the age of 21. “I remember the day you picked me up from school…” she had written, and I immediately knew what she actually was saying. It was like I could translate her words into some kind of higher meaning, and I began to sob at the dinner table the evening I read it. My partner Eric became extremely concerned and asked me what was wrong. I explained to him that my mom’s post was actually her way of asking her brother to come pick her up once again. I sobbed and expressed my sense of knowing she wouldn’t be around much longer.
My brother’s voice on the phone was very caring and at the same time almost professional sounding. Being a minister for a large hospice organization, he had done this many times before… although never for his own family.
“Where are you right now?” he asked with almost a quiver in his voice.
“I’m at home, I’m here.” I responded with an escalating level of anxiety as the sensation of deep concern and loss began to build up inside of me.
“Mom has passed, Bibi found her on the floor. She’s on the other line.”
My heart sank so very low. The moment my sister and I had dreaded since we were young children had finally arrived. The knowledge of how it would occur, where we would all be… it was all known in the present moment, part of my awareness… and part of my life forever. My brother connected my sister to the call and I could hear her sobbing loudly and painfully. The memory of it brings me to tears as I can clearly hear her voice… and the pain, with amazing clarity. I doubt as the years pass it will ever dull, become less loud, or become a whisper as so many memories often do. I became choked up and called to my sister, speaking about how much I loved her, how sorry I was… and that I would be over there soon to be with her. My brother began giving me instructions and for some reason, I can’t hardly remember them. He wanted my sister’s children to be able to see their grandmother one last time, but that would mean removing her body from the floor and placing her in bed. The wise decision was made to leave my mom where she was until the police could arrive an conduct their investigation.
After hanging up the phone I immediately called my partner Eric and told him what happened. The memories of calling others to pass on the information of my best friend’s death over twenty years ago came flooding back to me. This was a horrible but necessary action, one that would potentially become more frequent as I got older. Eric was completely shocked, the emotion in his voice easily recognizable. He said he would immediately leave the office and meet me at home. I ended the call and jumped into the shower… the first ever without the awareness of my mom being alive and just a phone call away.
When I arrived at my mother’s home with Eric, there were a couple of police cars outside and a female officer standing under a tree in the parking area. As I approached the front door, a neighbor approached me, masked and keeping her distance, as most concerned people do during the COVID19 pandemic. “I’m so sorry to hear about your mom, I loved her very very much.” It was easy to see the expression of sorrow in her eyes, even though she was speaking through a facial covering. I felt bad I didn’t recognize this neighbor as I was somewhat in a state of confusion. I thanked her and walked inside, immediately catching a glimpse of another officer standing by my mother’s bedroom door which was shut. My sister immediately ran up to me and we hugged, sobbing as we embraced each other. My brother Gary and his wife Ana we also there, and after embracing them as well, we all sat down, having the conversations one does after losing someone unexpectedly. What happened… who saw her… who didn’t want to see her… did she look bad and the like. It was such a bizarre feeling and at the same instance, a time of coming together and knowing this was a part of life, and that we weren’t experiencing it alone. Yes my father had passed away decades before of cancer, but the experience was completely different in every way… this was our mom, the matriarch of the family.
I don’t think two days had even passed when Eric came up with the idea of heading back to the Florida Keys, and enjoying Key West together as a family. Eric and I had taken my mom there in 2014, and she so enjoyed the drive and the food. The keys was actually a favorite place for her, having taken many road trips there with my Aunt Olga and Uncle Gene. It also wasn’t uncommon to take my mom to the Keys for spontaneous lunches or Mother’s Day, she loved looking at the water and she absolutely loved seafood. My entire family embraced the idea with a level of enthusiasm never seen before. It would be such an appropriate tribute to my mom and the very first time ever… yes ever… that we would all be together for a period longer than a few hours. It seemed like my mom’s spirit was thrilled as well, to have most of her kids together at the same time. The only possible exception would be my eldest brother Jon, whom I hadn’t really spoken with or seen in over ten years. A complicated history of family trauma, hurt feelings and anger had been keeping us apart. The question in everyone’s heart’s and minds was whether my mom’s passing would be the spark of love we needed to begin healing… in more ways than one.
Weeks passed and the news was suddenly flooding the group text chat on our phones… something we had done for several years, with an occasional lapse in participation mostly by me, in an attempt to assert my individuality and or importance. Being the youngest of five children isn’t easy at times, and I’ve often felt like an afterthought in the grand scheme of family politics and social interaction. Still, recent revelations had brought us all together with one exception, my brother Jon… and we were all missing him tremendously. “Jon and Michele are coming to the keys!” one of my brothers, I can’t remember which one, texted in a joyous excitement that could be felt in the illuminated characters on the screen. We all became instantly excited, not only because we would see him and his wife again, but the prospect of being all together for the first time in a very long while. Of course the prospect of being a family again was also on our minds, something my mom would be credited with as one of her final accomplishments. The knowledge of all this coming together with such ease and a minimal amount of effort could not be overlooked. Our family was absolutely horrible to plan anything with, and in the time frame of just a couple of weeks, had managed to locate an open resort in Key West during a pandemic, charter a sail boat for my mom’s memorial service, and reunite with my brother Jon and his wife Michele. Truly amazing, and clearly a miracle of divine proportion and design.
“Holding back tears himself, he described how my mom brought us into this world through our birth, and in her death, brought us all back together.”
I so love walking down Duval Street in Key West, it has a unique energy that has this kind of charm to it. It’s within a part of the island called “Old Town Key West” and it’s perfectly named since so many of the buildings look the same as they did a century or more earlier. As Eric and I were walking this particular Friday afternoon, I received a text message that my brother Jon was with the rest of family walking in our direction. I had a mixture of feelings… apprehension, excitement, even a little bit of anxiety thrown in for good measure. As we turned a corner, there he was, looking much the same as I last remembered him. He smiled and approached me with love and open arms. I gave him a huge hug and started to tear up with emotion, holding onto him tight and letting him know I didn’t want him to ever leave my awareness again. Michele, Jon’s wife, was there too, complete with her infectious smile and a welcome equally as warm. It was the first of many miracles that would occur during our time in the Keys together, one that I know my mom extremely was proud of. Her spirit and energy was readily felt during our entire stay, and at times I found myself looking for her as if she was somewhere to be seen.
The next day we all boarded a beautiful sailboat that my brother Gary had located online. My sister had chartered it for the late afternoon going into sunset, a perfect ending to my mother’s journey in the physical. My father’s ashes would join her too, having been stored for years in the garage and even lost at times. We had never settled on a time and place to honor him, and this seemed like the perfect place for my mom and him both. In retrospect it almost seemed like their spirits planned this from the start, as a kind of perfect farewell. My father being an avid fisherman (even commercially at one point) and my mother loving the sea, made this all seem like a carefully orchestrated event. My brother would deliver a beautiful service, dressed in his ministry robes as my mom would have wanted… and been so proud of. Holding back tears himself, he described how my mom brought us into this world through our birth, and in her death, brought us all back together. The words couldn’t have been more appropriate as we gathered together once again as a family, our bonds stronger than ever. As my mom’s ashes went into the water, the winds on the ocean picked up fiercely, as a very dark and ominous thunderstorm approached… black massive clouds against the backdrop of a beautiful orange and red Florida Keys sunset. My mother’s spirit couldn’t have felt more present, she might as well have been there in the physical, as my memories of that evening seem to reflect that very notion.
The weekend continued onward with countless expressions of gratitude from every member of my family… my cousin Barbara and her husband Tom had even joined us, and even though their religious and political alignment are in stark contrast with my own, there was no shortage of love and compassion. My mother would have wanted no less, she was such a firm believer of forgetting the past and loving everyone for the person they are. She loved my cousin Barbara very much, often recalling how she took care of her and her sister Debbie when they were babies. I guess being the little girls of her own sister, they both had a very special place in her heart. Of course this gathering had to end eventually, and we found ourselves hugging and saying goodbye that Sunday afternoon after lunch. Although something was very noticeable… we were all very different people from when we arrived to these chain of islands in the Atlantic and Gulf waters… we were a family once again with he awareness and responsibility that goes along with it. Vowing to never be separated again, we parted ways looking forward to the next time we would all be together.
Today would have been my mom’s 83rd birthday, and I could see no better tribute than to publish this account of our journey. As I put my final words together, tears are running down my face, reminding me of the love that I felt for my mom. They aren’t tears of sadness at all, they are a reminder that special people exist in our lives and when they’re gone, their memory holds a special place in our heart. As human beings we are never perfect individuals, we make mistakes as we learn and continue to grow until our very last day on this planet. My tears reflect not only the memory of my mom, but the joy of knowing what it is to be a family once again. There could be no better gift to give my mom for her birthday other than the emotion of complete gratitude… for my life and for those that surround me today because of her.
Had some left over mashed potatoes and was wondering what I could do with them. Came up with this recipe that’s quick, hearty and easy. You can even add mushrooms, celery or even cheese to it… especially as a garnish.
1 Large Onion (sweet or white) 1 Chicken Bouillon Cube or 2 Cups Free Range Chicken Broth 2 Cups Left Over Mashed Potatoes 2 Cups Water (omit if using broth) 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 4 Slices of Humanely Raised Bacon Salt and Pepper to Taste
Saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent, add salt and pepper. If using bouillon cube, add two cups water, bring to a simmer and then add cube. Cook five to ten minutes to allow the onion to soften further.
While mixture is simmering, cook four pieces of bacon in the microwave. Drain grease and chop into pieces, add to mixture.
Add the left over mashed potatoes, stirring often until thick, soup like consistency is reached. Use immersion blender to combine all ingredients.
Serve garnished with chives, shredded cheddar cheese, sour creme or all three!!!
When I make this again I will take a nicer picture. OMG this was soooooooo delicious!
When I first made the decision to pursue acting professionally, I was very blessed with great timing. South Florida had become a mecca for film and video production, all sorts of movies were being shot here, and it wasn’t uncommon to have road closures or witness planned explosions and other pyrotechnical effects. I was taking a TV commercial class in the heart of Miami Beach, with other students eager to break into the field. My instructor, Anna Panaro, taught us everything we needed to learn to become successful TV actors… how to audition, how to find agents, how to find work and even how to make sure you didn’t get ripped off. While taking the class, an opportunity was presented to me to be an extra on the set of “Random Hearts,” a film starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas. It would be the first movie set I would be on, and an amazing way to start me off in the right direction. Although the pay was only $75 for over a twelve hour day, what I learned and the memories of the experience will last a lifetime.
If there’s one rule in acting, it’s probably “be on time.” Next time you watch a movie, make sure to watch the credits and see if you can count how many people are listed. There are often hundreds, sometimes close to a thousand names on the scroll, and every single one of them is being paid. Extras like myself aren’t listed, so there’s even more people involved in the production than is actually shown. Being on time is crucial when so many people are waiting for so many people (the repetition is intentional and true) to be a part of a very intricate and well planned event. Every aspect of film making is meticulously thought out, and when so much money is on the line, the production can’t afford to have people showing up when they want to. It just can’t succeed that way. Our call time that day was 6 AM, pretty much standard for anything, be it a commercial or film, and when you arrive there are already people on-set waiting for you. Finding my way around, I quickly located the sign-in table for extras and my amazing day was about to begin.
My friend and co-worker Tiffany was with me that day, as were a couple of others from the office. While Tiffany and I wanted nothing more than to be career performers, the rest desired to be part of the excitement, and of course a shot at the possibility of meeting the leading man, Harrison Ford. We were told how to dress… bright colors, shorts and t shirts, and it couldn’t be more perfect since the day was sunny and cloudless. “Season” as it’s known to actors and the tourism industry, is the time of year when it hardly rains in South Florida, the humidity is low, and the temperatures are mild. This was most certainly a perfect day for filming, the location known as Watson Island, was a little tiny piece of detached land in Biscayne Bay, hardly used for anything at the time. Basically just a wide open space with some patches of grass and lots of concrete. A beautiful set, which looked exactly like a market place, was constructed complete with fresh fish and Latin food, all considered props and not to be eaten or touched. The term Hot Set is used to describe such a place… in other words, keep your hands off of everything and don’t mess with it.
I’m really great at taking direction, and know my place in a production. You basically don’t move a muscle unless you’re told to do so, and that’s really hard for some people to keep in mind. You need to have this kind of mindset when you’re hired for a gig, and you need to know your place in the ecosystem of the film industry. As an extra, you’re basically on the bottom rung of the ladder, and you don’t have creative freedom or a say in anything. You’re there to perform a service, which is doing what you’re told, and that’s it. As it was described to me that day, “Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to.” And that pretty much sums it up perfectly. While there’s no reason to be treated with disrespect, I have found that the bigger the budget, the nicer you get treated as an extra and an actor in general. The lower the budget and the amount of extras needed, really affects how your day is going to be. You should be prepared as an actor for this, and never take it personally unless some serious lines are crossed… it’s Hollywood after all.
After a while we were escorted onto the actual set, and placed into positions by production assistants. It doesn’t take long for you to figure out if you’re going to be in a shot, or if the camera is facing the opposite direction. Some extras have a huge problem with this, and go out of their way to be in scene, which can hurt the continuity during editing. Like I said it’s really important to listen and follow direction, so I just stood where I was told, and was placed not in front of the camera, but right next to an amazing director, the late Sydney Pollack. Sitting elevated behind the boom camera and smoking a cigar, he looked so like the traditional Hollywood you often think of. I was standing right next to the line of usual folding set chairs, custom labeled with each director’s name on them. One of the directors asked me if I needed sunblock so I wouldn’t burn, and I thought that was exceptionally kind of him. The atmosphere on the set was super nice and everyone was in a great mood which I’m sure had lots to do with the weather. The day went on and I watched the filming process patiently, and was eventually placed in front of the camera, in my “first position,” a term used to describe where you’ll return to after the shot is completed.
There’s nothing like your first time on a movie set and I was on cloud nine. I felt like part of an amazing team, and it’s awesome to hear those familiar words shouted.. “speed… background… action!” While we were being moved and placed around under the hot sun, Harrison Ford was no where to be seen. He had a stand in, an actor his height and weight, wearing the same costume, standing and sweating in the sun, while the real actor was in a trailer having their makeup and hair preserved for the shoot. Of course, there’s a part of this that has to do with personal comfort as well. Then we saw him… the star, walking onto the set and all the extras started whispering stuff like “It’s him!” and “Oh my God, there he is!” I’m really not a star struck kind of guy, and so I didn’t say or do anything, not to mention that I believe it’s incredibly unprofessional to do so on a set. Yet there he was, looking somewhat different than I had remembered, very much human and very very quiet. The scenes we would film that day did not have him speaking, he was supposed to just walk through the marketplace, his character keeping to himself while re-tracing the last steps his departed wife took. The awareness that I was literally “working” and being paid with Harrison Ford started to sink in, and that was for me, the moment that really made me light headed. It only got worse when I returned to my first position after a take, and a makeup artist walked up to me and patted the sweat off my forehead. “We can sweat but we can’t drip..” she said in a very sweet voice. Holy shit, this was Hollywood, and that was the real deal.
During the morning shoot many of us were given props… plastic cups with ice and watered down Kool-Aid in them. We were told not to the drink them, but as we socialized between takes, some of us started sipping on them without even realizing it… and finishing them. Production assistants started running around shouting “Don’t drink your drinks!!” and started re-filling them. I quickly started to make friends with the extras around me as the sight of seeing Harrison walking around became very normal, and that in itself was pretty cool. Like you were just on a movie set with Harrison Ford and yeah, it was no big deal, it was a gig as they say. Since the mood on the set was a nice one, which is not the norm as I would discover in the not too distant future, everyone was having a wonderful time and we were getting the hang of resetting to first positions, knowing what to do and not to do, getting the feel of what the director was doing… it started to seem so very natural.
Lunch time came and we had seen “Harrison” walking up and down the market place more times than I could count. That’s what they called him on-set… Harrison. Not Mr. Ford, not some nick name, just Harrison. We were told not to speak or bother him unless he did it first, and it annoyed me when I saw people not following that rule. I didn’t know what was on the menu for lunch, but we were escorted to an area, past a huge BBQ setup, to find a place to sit and enjoy our meal. The food was amazing for an extra gig, it was BBQ pork and chicken if I remember correctly, the “talent” on the set had a different area, which was mostly filled with thick steaks, etc. Still I wasn’t complaining and in retrospect, was the best meal as an extra I had ever received. During lunch I had the opportunity to sit and speak with other extras, some also aspiring actors giving me advice on who to get my head-shots done with. “Bob Lasky… he does everyone..” an actress sitting next to me explained. I was totally living in the moment, taking in every aspect of this entertainment world, where even the conversations seemed to be different. Eventually lunch flew by and we were back on the set, eager to see what we’d be doing next.
“It only got worse when I returned to my first position after a take, and a makeup artist walked up to me and patted the sweat off my forehead. “We can sweat but we can’t drip..” she said in a very sweet voice. Holy shit, this was Hollywood, and that was the real deal.”
Back in the general area of where I was orginally standing, the camera would be facing opposite me, so we had nothing to do but watch and see people walking around as if by random… Harrison silently walking and doing his thing, uttering not a word. Then something suddenly changed and the camera was going to shoot something very new. A tighter shot of Harrison walking, and for that, they would need extras directly behind him… like six to eight feet behind him. “You, you and you, follow me.” a production assistant said while pointing straight at me. I was like floored, how did this happen? I was just picked out of hundreds… what would I be doing? Turns out my job, along with my newly discovered friends Jorge and Barbara, would be to follow Harrison as his background, for the remainder of the afternoon. Yes, follow Harrison and be in the shot! Holy fuck! I was so excited because this would guarantee I would be seen in a motion picture! And I had just started as an actor! WOW WOW WOW!!! So take after take, we followed Harrison, only feet away, chatting with other as we were told to do, pretending he was just another guy in the street while we enjoyed a market place in the South Florida sunshine.
I had always seen people talking in the background in films and I wondered if they were actually saying anything. And you know what? Sometimes they are! Jorge and I, along with Barbara, were talking about our lives, what we do, basically everything while following our leading man. It was amazing and so much fun, however I could literally feel the jealousy of those actors standing around. Some people wanted so badly to be in the shot, they crossed the entire set and walked right in font of us, almost pushing us out of the way. Jorge got super upset and said “What the hell?!” and the scene was cut and reset, the offenders told to get back where they were supposed to be. We continued to do our thing, and eventually we got a ten minute break while they reset the camera. Jorge suggested we check out the rest of the set, and Barbara and I agreed since we were feeling super confident with our position following Harrison. We walked to the areas we hadn’t seen, marveling at the detail, and just taking in this surreal moment. Jorge was very handsome, and being a single gay man, was starting to hope he would show some interest in me as well. Although that never happened, I will never forget both of them and the experience we all shared that day.
As we were walking and making our way around the set, we noticed Harrison was walking straight toward us, and that awkward thing began to happen when you’re trying to avoid hitting someone and you’re both making the same movements to avoid the other… and BAM, we smacked right into Harrison Ford. “Oh my god, we’re so sorry! We’re so sorry!” we said loudly as we nervously anticipated his response. “Oh no, not at all.” Harrison politely responded as he continued on his way. Mind you those were the first words we heard him speak all day, and suddenly I realized I smacked into Hans Solo. It was him… the voice, the inflection…. all him. We must have all had the same realization because we started laughing under our breath as Harrison walked away, whispering to each other “Oh my god, we smashed into Harrison Ford!” Soon it was time to return to our positions, and follow Harrison some more, without the fear of other extras trying to steal our spot. For the purposes of continuity, we had that secured and no one could take it or interfere. We were golden, at least for a little more, as the sun started to sink low in the sky The day was over and it was time to leave.
I met Jorge and Barbara in the parking lot and he asked me if I was going to film the next scene, they had asked for some volunteers with cars to work some extra hours. I was so tired and since the day was already so perfect, I told Jorge I would skip it but thanks for offering. I shook his hand and I never saw him again. As I drove off the bridge of Watson Island and saw the City of Miami skyline, I was experiencing the biggest natural high ever. I was literally a paid actor, coming off a movie set after spending the day with Harrison Ford. Yeah that was me. I started to recite our TV commercial actor affirmation that Ms. Panaro had taught us, she was always big on positivity and I even created my first vision board under her tutelage. With my window down and the wind blowing, I began to shout out to the beautiful Miami skyline “I’m a good and natural TV commercial actor….” As I recited the words of the affirmation, goose bumps covered my arms and I felt the Universe was listening to me directly. It was one of the most incredible feelings of my life and the experience of that day will live inside me forever.
When the film finally completed post-production and was out in the theaters, my friends and co-workers had to see it on opening night. We ended up taking an entire row in theater, and people sitting next to us overheard our conversations and asked us if we were in the film. We shared our experience, and they were equally as excited, asking us the number one question anyone ever asks… “Is he nice?” As the movie played, Harrison’s character talked about the market places his wife went to, and there were scenes of him walking on South Beach, with extras placed behind him… the same distance as we were. I couldn’t believe I was about to see myself on the big screen, I was almost getting a panic attack. However the scene never came, and I learned a very important lesson about acting…. the cutting room floor. During the editing process, so much is removed, and there’s a really good chance you’ll never be seen or spotted as an extra. A couple of years later I found the DVD of Random Hearts in an airport book store and purchased it after seeing “Contains Deleted Scenes” printed on the label. Yet apparently the market place scene wasn’t even good enough for that, as it was excluded even on the DVD version. Oh well, that’s Hollywood I guess.
As I’m writing this, I glance over to the shelf on my right and see the light blue notebook from my television commercial acting class, something I hold dear to me. It’s an example of following your dreams and being able to accomplish anything you want to, no matter how strange or far fetched it may be. After completing my course, there were lots of auditions, I had a couple more experiences on movie sets, one of which was spending a day shooting with Andy Garcia on an HBO film. I was also a principle in a couple of commercials, and did camera and radio work for local news and government. I made the choice to step away from that path momentarily, knowing it would be there if I decided to return. If anything, my experience as an actor taught me nothing is impossible if you want to do it. Just do it, plain and simple, and don’t listen to anyone that says it’s too hard. I actually made more money as an actor than I put into it, but that’s not even the point. The experience and journey are priceless, and I can literally say “been there, done that.” And of course and that I worked with Harrison Ford. 🙂
One day, in a beautiful little community, a neighbor named Bob elected to paint his house with polka dots because he saw it on a tv show, and thought it would make for even greater curb appeal. It looked really cool on TV, but when he finished the job it didn’t look so great. He thought to himself “Maybe it needs some time to get used to…” and he left them on the house. His family wasn’t so sure about them either, but they went along with his idea.
As days turned into weeks, and then into months, it became very apparent that the dots weren’t working. They were horrible. The neighborhood started to complain and the exterior design of the house became an eye sore. The family was embarrassed at first, however as the anger up and down the street grew, so did their defiance. They just couldn’t admit to themselves that they had all made a huge mistake. The paint was expensive, the process arduous, and to change it back now would be an admission of their complete lack of good taste. They began to tell others that they would keep the dots, and in fact, they actually loved the dots and planned to add more in the near future. Before long, they actually found themselves liking the dots, since they had put so much time and energy in defending them, and they saw the dots as a statement of their individuality.
This angered the neighborhood even further, and one day someone threw an egg at the front door in protest. The egg splattered and quickly spoiled in the summer heat, making a huge stink. Sally, the neighbor next door, hated the dots as well, but she didn’t like the idea of someone throwing an egg at the house and making such a mess. As a form of support, she began to tell others she liked the dots also, and she wanted them to stay. At first, Sally thought this would help stop the constant bickering in what used to be such a peaceful neighborhood, but it only made it worse. Shortly after, someone threw an egg at Sally’s front door and this bothered her tremendously. She decided she would paint her house with dots as well… after all, they were throwing eggs at it anyway, and it was a painted lovely shade of pink without any dots. Sally thought to herself, “I’ll show them!”
So Sally painted her house with dots, and her friends began defending her, and soon the entire neighborhood started taking sides. Like a contagious disease, dots were going up on houses everywhere, and neighbors were fighting against neighbors daily. Dotted houses began to appear on every corner, and the neighborhood started to look pretty ugly… at least to half the neighborhood. The other half began to boast it never looked better! Someone with no dots suggested that a law should be made so that houses could only be painted approved designs, and that just made things even worse. The idea of someone telling someone else what they could or couldn’t paint on their home, didn’t go over well with homeowners with dots and even some with no dots… and so even more arguments began ensue.
One day, during the hottest of the summer months, a hurricane was forecast to hit the small town. The weather service warned everyone that this was one of the worse storms to ever hit the area, and they needed to prepare their homes, taking appropriate action such as placing shutters on the windows. At first everyone agreed and people actually stopped arguing for a while, and started shuttering their homes. Unfortunately Bob was taking way too long to put up his shutters, and when one of the neighbors brought this to his attention, he became very upset. Especially since the comment came from someone with no dots on his house.
Seeing this as yet another attempt to tell him and the others with dots what to do, Bob decided he wouldn’t put shutters on his house, and would ride out the storm as if it were just an afternoon shower. The surrounding neighbors got very upset, since if Bob’s house got destroyed, the resulting debris would affect those around him. When the complaints and concerns rolled in, Bob just stood his ground. Sally also decided once again to support Bob in protest. Clearly this was just another attempt by the neighbors with no dots to tell the ones with dots what to do… after all, they were obviously still so angry at the dots. So Sally refused the shutters, and eventually, all houses with dots had no shutters, even if they had already put them up when they had heard of the approaching storm.
Days later, the strong hurricane made landfall and hit the tiny divided community at nightfall. The high winds easily broke through Bob’s windows, shattering them into thousands of pieces, allowing them to barrel through his home. Bob and his family tried to hang onto anything they could, but it was no use. The winds were strong and they were blown out the beautiful bay window of their living room. Just moments later the structure succumbed to the high winds, and sadly the house was destroyed.
Meanwhile, Dave, who lived down street from Bob in a lovely 3 bedroom non-dotted house, was sheltered inside and listening to the eerie storm noises coming from the exterior of the home. His family was safe, having shuttered his windows and properly prepared for the hurricane which had finally arrived. Suddenly, Dave heard a loud crashing noise coming from the upstairs, and his family became very frightened. Unfortunately, Bob’s baby grand piano had flown into his roof, just one of many pieces of furniture and debris flying around since his house was destroyed. With a large hole now in Dave’s roof, the tremendous winds rushed inside and quickly destroyed his house within minutes, producing yet more debris. Little by little, dotted and non dotted houses were destroyed, as they didn’t stand a chance against the high winds and debris, which acted just like armed missles.
The next morning, the rising sun revealed the full damage of the hurricane which had passed during the night. House after house was destroyed, and corpses lay face down in muddy puddles. The tiny community was completely destroyed. There were no more houses and far less people, regardless of who had dots and who didn’t. Without any houses, the surviving residents had nothing to argue about and they began to wonder why they were arguing in the first place. After all, when push comes to shove, they were all just people… without their houses to display who had dots and who didn’t. Sadly, they gathered together and waited for the emergency response to arrive, which brought much needed supplies and water to the fractured town.
Sally was still alive, although, like the others, she had no home. She was very happy to see the assistance being provided, and the remaining members of the community all agreed that she should act as a liaison between emergency crews. She had lived in the neighborhood all her life and she knew everyone that lived there. Sally could tell rescuers where to look and how many people should be found in each house. The neighborhood placed their complete trust in her to make decisions in the best interest of the town… the thought of houses painted with dots or no dots, was the least thing on their minds. Later that evening, crews were dropping off a pallet of food rations for dinner, before moving forward to help other communities around the area. Sally met with the director of the rescue efforts and although exhausted, felt empowered and honored to represent her town. As Sally looked at the brightly collored orange uniform the man was wearing, he looked back at her and asked, “Beef or chicken?”
Not since World War II has our entire planet been universally threatened by a single issue. And although scary as hell, war is something tangible and visible… progress can be measured by battles won and people come together in song and public displays of solidarity. The war we’re fighting today can’t be seen with the naked eye and coming together in public is being strongly discouraged. We’re withdrawing into our homes, fighting a silent enemy that’s not usually deadly, but has the capacity to bring about great illness and suffering by overwhelming our already fragile healthcare system. Perhaps what’s worse than the disease itself, is the hysteria it’s causing among the population. People are hoarding groceries as if there was some finite event about to occur, like an approaching hurricane or asteroid. When in reality, we’re just being asked to stay home and watch TV, or even read a good book. Like our soldiers on the front lines during the last great war, our healthcare professionals are working around the clock trying to heal the sick, while doing their best not to become infected or infect others in the process. The planet is actually unified in a way previously unseen against this common enemy, using technology and science to help each other whenever possible. Being that our planet has been divided more than ever, perhaps this biological event is happening for that exact reason. Perhaps what Ronald Reagan said about the human race coming together due to an alien attack, will actually happen because of mother nature deciding it was time to play nice.
Today my co-workers and I texted each other, asking everyone to be safe until we see each other again. We don’t know when this will happen because we’ve been asked to work from home until further notice. Talk about a surreal movie like experience, the only thing missing was foreboding music playing in the background. There are many of course that can’t work from home, so I’m incredible thankful for this blessing. My mother is 83, and since I recently came home from a vacation aboard a cruise ship, I don’t dare get anywhere close to her. My sister visits to check on her, donning a mask and latex gloves. Of course similar stories like this are playing out all over the world, as social distancing becomes the norm. Bars and restaurants in Miami are still open, but that’s already in the process of changing as many cities decide that’s not in the best interest of public health. I went to an outdoor restaurant on Saturday with no one sitting close by, until a group came and sat at the table right next to me. One of the persons in the group was an older and very animated gay man, that couldn’t help but loudly and graphically tell everyone how he puked at a bar the night before. A perfect example of why governments are taking the actions they have in regards to limiting contact with others.
Many stand to lose a lot of money and possibly their livelihoods, since their jobs depend on interacting with the public in some way or another. However, COVID-19 as it’s been named, doesn’t discriminate… it’s equally destructive to the poor, the wealthy, and in-between. Stocks are falling as markets tank, and millionaires are losing their millions. Some might argue that those with access to healthcare stand a better chance of getting better once infected, however that’s only for the few that manage to get access in the first place. Hospitals don’t have enough beds to handle this kind of event, they don’t build massive wards that are kept empty for an event like this. They build for maximizing profit, not for biological phenomena that might never happen. In fact this virus is challenging the very systems that built this country and others like it, including those that use some form of fear or oppression to manage their population. In China for example, the death of a doctor trying to raise awareness of the virus through social media, has caused citizens to greatly distrust their government for making it illegal to disseminate information without approval. Here at home in the US, people are criticizing the government’s response… this morning I read that Devin Nunes is actually encouraging people to go out and patronize their local bars and restaurants, despite experts, and well most of the planet, saying otherwise. Tiny little virus, huge impacts.
“Yeah this is a lot like some movies we’ve seen or books we’ve read, it’s going to be scary at times, but our grandparents went through this for yearsduring World War II. “
This entire experience also brings to light how fragile we are as a species. We may have the ability to destroy our planet through weapons and pollution, but our planet can wipe us out just as effectively, and with much less damage. I truly believe that nature has a way of restoring balance when needed, and that humans are an afterthought when it comes to complex history of life on this planet. We’re brand new residents in the scheme of things, and if we don’t watch ourselves, our arrogance may cause an eviction by the landlord. It’s time to respect nature, and the delicate ecosystems that have brought us much abundance through food, shelter and medicine.
So here’s the deal, stay home if you can and try not to worry yourself sick over things which are completely out of your control. Grocery stores remain open, even in places where everything public has been closed, the exception is always food supply outlets. There’s no need to panic and buy up everything you can find, especially toilet paper. Holy shit that has to be the weirdest thing ever. Yeah this is a lot like some movies we’ve seen or books we’ve read, it’s going to be scary at times, but as my friend Karen pointed out, our grandparents went through this for yearsduring World War II. Also since everyone is paying attention to see if you cough, sneeze or are wearing a mask, try going the extra mile and showing them a smile. Maybe even say “Hello” or display the Vulcan gesture for “Live long and prosper.” More than ever we need to let others know we’ll be there for them, even if just for a phone call or a simple text message. The psychological aspects of this event are just as important as the biological. Above all, don’t panic, this isn’t the end of the world. Although it may very well be a wake up call.
I’m so tired as of late. There are so many things that need fixing on this planet, and I tend to be a fixer kind of person. This used to even manifest in my relationships… I would meet someone and if they were troubled in some way, holy crap I would catch myself falling for them almost immediately. Their good looks coupled with a hard luck story was too much for me to resist. Luckily I identified that predisposition at a very young age, so I was able to diagnose what was behind that almost magical attraction later on. Still the innate urge to be an activist, to fix a neighborhood, address a community issue, campaign for the individual that will bring about change for the greater good and of course advocating and being a voice for others weighs heavily on me. More than ever. Not being able to somehow throttle these urges when we’re more connected via technology than ever, rapidly leads me to exhaustion. With every waking moment I could be helping dogs in China, kids in Syria, Koalas in Australia, Wolves in North America… and the list goes on. I need to somehow learn how to focus my attention on something that’s important to me, and limit how much energy I expend on them. I’m not bragging about this as if it’s a badge of honor, it’s quite the opposite. It’s almost a curse of sorts.
I know where this all happened. This is all the fault of Dr. Seuss and his creation, The Lorax. I still remember the first time I ever watched the animated film in what I believe was the first grade. I remember the film projector in the classroom having issues in the very beginning, and how happy I was when my teacher got it working. This story of a creature being a voice for something that couldn’t speak, shaped me from that day forward. “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.” would be a phrase I would never forget. The only problem is now I am trying to speak for everything and everyone and while I take short breaks, I always find myself back where I started. Of course Dr. Seuss is only one part of the problem, the other is having the ability to know about so many things in such a short amount of time… yeah we call that Social Media.
If you’ve ever put yourself into the place of appreciating what a wonderful planet we live on, and how wonderful people are, you know how great that feels. You see so much light in everything and even the people you see on the street seem like they’re smiling more that usual. However spending only a couple of minutes on social media and you’ll see people talking about things which horrify you… and they might be boasting about it. I remember how gut wrenching it felt when I realized an online friend of mine was pretty much a racist, or when I was seeing family members spread stories filled with misinformation and downright lies. How could this be possible? How could so many people… special people… people you love and admire, have such skewed views of the world? They obviously need fixing too and it just so happens I’m great at that. Fuck, here we go again. Yet before social media, I never knew they needed to be fixed. They were only comfortable in displaying this side because they had found other racists to back them up and share racist ideas with…. so they were happy and felt safe sharing their true nature. Perfect, perhaps I can work with them and help them understand what’s wrong… Lord help me.
So what if, as this post title suggests, I just try to take the path of least resistance? What if I just let the world go to hell in a hand basket and sit back and enjoy everything I’ve been blessed with? I’m a huge fan of Law of Attraction, and my day to day life is shaped around trying to be in the place of allowing good things, people and experiences to come to me. The expression, “what you resist will persist”, probably came from someone that observed the Law Of Attraction working, and perhaps even consciously knew of the concept. After all, we all know of a friend or family member that’s always walking around saying “nothing ever works for me” and guess what, nothing ever does. And no one is really surprised. They’re acknowledging the presence of Law Of Attraction without mentioning it by name. So technically, if I resist all these things that are upsetting me, there will actually be more of it in my awareness. That’s just not a statement in spiritual practice, it’s mathematical. If I’m working to save the trees, then I see a lot of trees, and a lot of tree destruction to go along with it. Still, ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.
” I need to find some kind of sweet spot, somewhere I can make a difference and not feel exhausted, but also not feel like I’m just being a disconnected individual with a very myopic view of the planet. “
Law Of Attraction goes on to say, that if I’m thinking about the positive aspects of the world, I will attract other people that also feel the same way. Then all of us happy thinking people will attract cooperative components that will help us work together, almost effortlessly, in bringing about the world that we’re thinking about so positively. In other words we become the change we’re looking for, and like a magnet, attract people and situations that will help us spread this attitude… thus effecting change. And that’s amazing, because I can enjoy my blessings, sip my margarita on my cruise, and me enjoying life is going to help kids in Syria… and save trees. And believe it or not, I sometimes go to that ideological place when taking a break from my activism and fixing people. But then something creeps into my awareness… something called “spiritual bypass.” Why oh why did I need to learn about this? Dr. Ding, this part is completely your fault. 😉
The concept of spiritual bypass is super easy. It’s when you give up on trying to change or work on something… anything… a condition on the globe or even something within yourself, and use religion or spirituality as an excuse to ignore it. This can seem pretty benign at times, or even comforting. People use phrases like “It’s God’s will…” and that pretty much wraps up any feelings and or emotions for the faithful, or so it would seem, because a deity ordained it as some part of a bigger plan. No use in fighting city hall, or God in this case, it’s all good. Time to move on folks, there’s nothing you can do about it. Or, in extreme cases, spiritual bypass can be used as way of explaining some pretty horrible experiences, which is probably where it’s most dangerous. Some religions blame bad things on the devil, while others, especially in New Age circles might refer to “soul contracts” as a way of explaining why you were raped by your uncle. Yeah no shit, this is really a way of thinking in certain circles. Kind of makes it hard to express anger when you both made this deal before being born doesn’t it? Yeah so I can’t spiritual bypass my way out of wanting to help people… that would be completely contrary to who I am.
So here’s my dilemma… I can’t save the world, it’s making me so tired trying, I love Law Of Attraction, but I want to be involved and actively participate in making the world a better place. Because I’m a multipotenialite and have so many varied interests, I care about a lot of different causes. I need to find some kind of sweet spot, somewhere I can make a difference and not feel exhausted, but also not feel like I’m just being a disconnected individual with a very myopic view of the planet. Abraham Hicks often speaks of a cork floating on the surface of the ocean, and that’s the sweet spot I’m supposedly looking for. You can view the problems of the planet from there, but you’re not getting wrapped up in the problems and “sucked down” into them. But how is it possible to be involved in an issue and not get wrapped up in it? I don’t want to spiritual bypass my way through life, I want real world solutions and answers. And yet the more I practice Law Of Attraction, the better my life seems to get. And the better my life gets, the more I want to help others get their lives together and share my blessings. What a fucking mess. And please, I can hear some people saying “get off the cross, someone needs the wood.” Again I have to say I’m not trying to boast or brag about the type of person I am, because I know plenty of people just like me, and they’re much more successful at getting things done… and much much more deserving of praise. What I’m trying to do here is balance a spiritual / Universal premise, with a logistical, interpersonal, socioeconomic, environmental nightmare.
These are not good times for someone like me. I love nature and the outdoors, and as we speak our national parks are being dismantled by our President. Raped for their natural resources, I’m watching in real time as one protection after another is being rolled back in the name of greed. Clean water protections are also being rolled back, in a day when areas like Flint Michigan still haven’t recovered from their enormous dilemma. Hibernating bears and their cubs can now legally be shot, and people can import animal trophies from Africa. Gay and Lesbians are being targeted all over the country, as hate crimes rise and legislation which legalizes discrimination is being passed. Separation between church and state is no longer a thing, as evangelicals influence our President, while simultaneously screaming for satanic pregnancies to be aborted. Children are being sexually abused while in US custody, and guns are everywhere. The concept of a “well regulated militia” as described in the Second Amendment seems to escape those defending it. The line between fact and opinion has been removed, and truth has become entirely relevant. Almost half of the people reading this post will consider it complete lies, despite there being documentation and facts to back it up. And then there’s the ones that will agree with me, but say it’s been also done by the leaders I supported, never mentioning that it needs to stop or is morally unacceptable. Apparently “she did it too” or “what about what she did” is an acceptable defense or reason for allowing all of these things to continue, without attempting any kind of remedy.
This nation is extremely divided and no one wants to budge. There are those so eager to prove their point and defend their side, they are willing to turn their backs on members of their family and own community in the process. One would think that if your loved one was being placed in any kind of danger or harm by a political party, you would withhold any kind of support. Yet families with gay and lesbian members seem to have little or no issue with the ramifications of legislation that would directly affect their LGBTQ brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. This is actually occurring within my own family as I’m writing this, and I’ve found myself comfortably disconnecting myself from them without regret. Even members of the gay community have turned their backs on their own, stating publicly that they deserve it for their outspoken behavior. I have a gay friend that literally stated our community deserves this President, and sited as an example, the way they dance on parade floats. I wish I was being facetious, but I’m not.
When friends and family members are turning on each other, it’s obvious that doing the same to neighbors and co-workers is a no brainer. After all, they don’t share a fraction of the emotional investment. And then there’s strangers…. who are they anyway? We’ve seen this in play so often on the news, as many Caucasians are calling the police to report African Americans for nonsensical issues, such as walking in their neighborhood… banking on the racial friction and disparity being experienced currently by law enforcement and people of color. When you start viewing people as less than worthy or even human, simply because they don’t support your elected leader, there’s a huge problem. And it’s happening everywhere and getting worse on a daily basis. One can’t help but to draw parallels to Nazi Germany, and revisit a time in human history where neighbors turned against neighbors, and reported those hiding Jews. Not unlike the way immigrant neighbors without proper documentation are being reported to law enforcement today. Being pulled over in a vehicle for looking Hispanic and being asked to prove your citizenship, is something we only saw in fictional movies up until now.
Scary times for someone like me. It seems that everything I believe in is under attack from those pretending to protect it. I fear for the future of this country, I’m not sure how this level of division is sustainable. While we fight and argue over caring for own citizens with programs like universal health care, our rivals are growing more prosperous and stronger… because they actually provide for their population. As a wise friend recently explained to me, the age of telling your kids “there’s starving children in China” has past. The starving kids are right here and we’re being left behind on the global landscape. We’re so busy fighting, proving we’re right and concerned with what the Kardashians are doing, that we don’t realize we’re in the slow lane and everyone is passing us.
It’s amazing what can happen to a society when you threaten their concept of the afterlife. Humans are so terrified of death and the unknown, especially the finality of it, that many turn to a faith which insures their continuance of life. Even if historically and that faith tortured, raped, murdered, and continues to do so. Many if not most of these incidents aren’t even isolated, they are widespread and extremely well documented. Yet organized religion has this fail-safe that I find fascinating and I have spoken of so many times before… “follow blindly and dare not question your creator.”
Organized religion is a form of government that extends well beyond geographical boundaries which makes it extremely powerful. It’s the governance of a persons very essence, their immortal soul. Just like a political body, it’s extremely competitive, with each group stating their version is the best, and similarly, a source of war, confrontation and death. Those whom do not participate are easily and successfully labeled as outcasts. Even in our modern society, atheists are often looked upon as odd or somehow felt sorry for. Those that wish to acknowledge the forces of nature and balance for their spiritual fulfillment, are usually considered “witches” or worshippers of the devil. “Opting out” of organized religion is not something that’s well received among the masses, surely there must be something untrustworthy of an individual that doesn’t consider their status after he or she perishes from this Earth.
If you’ve ever doubted the power of organized religion, the huge sums of money and wealth behind it, look no further than your local television and Joel Olsteen at work. With a smile that looks like the work of a cosmetic surgeon, he peddles hope, books, videos and of course faith to thousands upon thousands in his stadium sized “church.” His wealth is clearly visible to others, and instead of attempting to hide it as traditional religion often does, Olsteen uses it to propagate his notion that through God and Jesus, “you can too.” When in reality, a positive outlook and eagerness to work, will often result in the same level of success.
While it may sound like I’m an atheist or discouraging participation in religion I’m not. I actually follow a multitude of faiths, as so many aspects of light and how it’s perceived by others fascinate me. There’s way too many examples of kindness and humility in the religions of our planet to acknowledge just one following. What I wish is that more people would be aware about the history and purpose of religion, and act in a way to shift it in the right direction if possible. I wish more people would remember the words of their prophets and deities and act on them, instead of listening to the institutions attempting to represent them, often with ulterior motives.
“Remember the source of your faith is available to you without a building or a dot com, it exists completely and wholly within.”
Organized religion reminds me of coveted ocean front real estate that someone realized people would pay for. Instead of turning it into a park where everyone can enjoy it freely and without cost, they built a hotel on it and charged for the opportunity to engage it. The ocean doesn’t change, it stays the same, but your experience with it is now determined by those that operate the hotel. Your view, the amenities, all arranged by the price you’re willing to pay. Make no mistake that many organized religions operate in the same fashion, monetizing a faith that existed thousands of years before them, in order to profit from the benefits. In the case of cults, they often just make something new up, creating a market where it never existed before.
Remember the source of your faith is available to you without a building or a dot com, it exists completely and wholly within. Find comfort in your own personal connection, don’t feed the monster trying to exploit it for its own financial gain. If asking questions and searching for answers is frowned upon, that’s a good indicator your desire to learn the “why?” is perceived as a threat, and you should probably move on. Your desire to learn should always bring you closer to your faith, not trigger retribution or separate you from it.