Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bible Studies Pay Off

A very odd story is emerging out of Cincinatti today. Evidently, a man on trial for using a stolen credit card has been set free because he has a strong knowledge of the bible. Sound bizarre? It certainly does to me!

Eric Hine was arrested for using a stolen credit card at a drug store. His attorney requested his client be given a low bail because the client was a regular attendee at church.

Judge John Berlew decided to quiz Hine, asking him to recite the 23rd Psalm. After Hine was able to recite all six verses of the fairly famous psalm, the judge decided to one-up the lawyer: he released Hine on his own recognizance. He did issue a $10,000 appearance bond, indicating that Hine would have to pay $10,000 if he didn’t show up for court. Still, at present, Hine owes nothing to the court.

Now personally, I do not believe that knowledge of the Bible makes you any more honorable or trustworthy then a person who has minimal knowledge of the bible. But certainly, this seems an odd criterion for releasing a criminal. Either way, you have to figure that those Sunday school classes have really paid off for Eric Hine. So next time you think of ditching religious school, think again!


Posted by Scottage at 11:40 PM / | |  

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Nomad: The Path Begins

They say the toughest part of writing a book is the first chapter. This chapter needs to capture the attention and imagination of the reader, and draw them into the book. I have been working on a book for many months now, but the first chapter has eluded me. Today, I found my introductory chapter.

Today, I plucked a story from the meat of my book, and worked it around to make it my opening chapter. I wound up changing the voice of the chapter, and much of the style, meaning that I will have to do a great deal of work on the chapters I’ve already written, but I like how it came out.

I’m now looking for your opinions. Would this chapter draw you in? Does it make you want to read more? I would be interested in any suggestions, opinions or thoughts you might have. So give it a read, and tell me what you think. I value your feedback.

Chapter 1: Defining the Nomad

My name is Scott, and I’m an alcoholic and an addict. No, I’m not your stereotypical trench coat wearing, wine breathed, living under a bridge alcoholic. And I’m not a living in an alley, needle sticking out of my arm, haven’t showered in a week addict. While I’m in recovery, and have been sober quite a while, I was never those people, I never fit the mold.

The truth is, I’m a lot like you, at least by appearances. I’m a business man, and actually I’m pretty good in the business arena. I’ve had good years and bad years, successes and failures, and always gotten by, just like you. If we met at a business meeting or dinner party, we would probably get along pretty well. You might invite me for dinner with you the next week, but you would be selling yourself short; I’m an excellent cook, so leave the dinner prep to me.

No question about it, I seem like your average, ordinary guy. Average height, a bit overweight but fairly athletic, brown hair, eyes, and beard, Jewish but not obviously so. I look pretty ordinary. I look natural in a suit and tie, but I’m most comfortable in slacks and a button down shirt. Pretty ordinary there. Add in a thoroughly boring name like John Smith, and I’m as ordinary as they come.

Of course, the truth is that I’m anything but ordinary; I only rarely let anyone into my, life enough to see how special I am. It’s not about the drugs or the alcohol, though they contribute to this second, hidden life. It’s actually that, from a very early age, I have been either blessed or cursed, depending on how you look at it. That has made my life very interesting indeed.

Not sure what I mean? No problem, I’ll give you an example; I have lots of examples! Try this one on for size:

I’m 12 years old at this point, which is early 1980. After a nearly fatal car accident, which I’ll tell you all about later, I push up my Bar Mitzvah by three months and try to pack a lifetime of experiences into one year, so that a year later I can have surgery which may leave me unable to walk. As part of that year, I scheduled my first trip to war-torn Israel.

As a 12 year old boy, I was fairly uninterested in the history unfolding before my eyes. On the other hand, I was very interested in the opposite sex, and particularly in these two similarly aged girls that were on the same tour as we were. I don’t have a clue what their names were, but I can tell you that we played bloody knuckles (a card game) all throughout the tour, and I played doctor with one girl in a Jerusalem hotel.

In Northern Israel, we visited the Good Fence, which divides Lebanon and Israel. The conflict between the two countries was very active at the time, and we were escorted by soldiers for our own safety. I decided it would be very impressive to pop up on the other side of the fence, and hatched a plan to impress the girls.

I told one of the soldiers that I needed a men’s room, and we walked with me to some port-o-potties further up along the fence. I got in line, and the soldier began speaking with two female soldiers stationed there. Soon I was a mere afterthought to the soldiers; so far everything was going according to plan.

Next, I went into the bathroom. When I exited, I walked away from the soldiers along the fence line, until I found a small gap underneath it. This was my opportunity! I looked around and found the coast was clear. One more look, and I dove under the fence in search of admiration from the two girls.

I was halfway through the fence when the first shot rang out, startling me. I can remember the sudden realization that this might be more serious that just a quick prank. I started to crawl backwards, but my shirt caught on one of the chain links of the fence. Then I heard the second shot, felt the rush of the bullet whizzing past my ear, and then heard the bullet hit the fence just above me.

Next I heard the sounds of automatic weapons firing back at the Lebanese side, and two soldiers pulling me back ot the Israeli side of the fence. One was the soldier who had escorted me to the bathroom, and be brought me back to my group, lecturing me all the way. It made no difference; I was too scared to hear any of the admonishments in the thick Israeli accent pointed in my direction. I was more than happy to rejoin the group, and never shared the story of my shame at the fence with my family.

The weird thing is that this was only one of many similar events in my life. I’ve nearly died 16 times to date in one tragic way or another, and scores of other “unusual” events have occurred in my life that simply doesn’t rise to this level. The incident at the Good Fence was neither the most nor the least dangerous. Rather it was just one in a string of events that came to be normal in my life. And it’s what has come to seem normal that has made me such an unusual person.

This book is a journey for me, a journey through the past to examine how this nomad came to be. It looks at my public face and private face equally, and breaks dow the stereotypes, both positive and negative, that define the public nomad. Meanwhile, the private nomad moves through adventures that would seem fictional if I hadn’t lived them myself.

The story takes me through five continents and 15 countries. It will also move through many of my own philosophies and perspectives on the ever-changing world around me. And it leads me on a path of discover and self-improvement that is sure to transform me, and may transform you a bit as well. It will certainly never be boring. So strap yourself in and get ready for a bumpy ride, as we begin to explore the life and times of this nomad.


Posted by Scottage at 11:22 PM / | |  

Monday, April 23, 2007

Moving On: Israel Teaches the World a Lesson

Don’t get me wrong, I am as shocked and mortified by the tragedy at Virginia Tech as the next guy. But a week later, and our headlines are still all about Seung-Hui Cho and his murderous rampage on the VT campus. If it’s one thing I was taught by living in Israel, it’s that life goes on, and truly honoring a victim of tragedy is accomplished by going on with your life, and living it to the fullest.

In Israel, every person has been touched by tragedy, every person has lived through the loss of a loved one. It would be all too easy for people to wallow in their misery, to spend their time mourning the dead and not move forward with their lives. But if Israelis did that, there would be no state of Israel today. Israel can’t afford for its people to be mired in self pity. Perhaps, no one can afford this luxury in today’s world.

Israel assures that people move on with their lives in a timely fashion. One of the ways they accomplish this is symbolized in the two largest national holidays: Memorial Day and Independence Day. In Israel, these days are back to back, with only 60 seconds, a siren, and the lighting of a candle standing between the two days. And the holidays are a clear sign to all Israelis to mourn their fallen victims and then move forward with life.

Memorial Day is completely somber in Israel. Music is forbidden. The television stations show a scrolling list of all the people who have fallen in Israel, that begins at sunset at the beginning of Memorial Day and doesn’t end until sunset the next day. During the holiday, sirens go off simultaneously throughout the country 3 times, and everyone stops what they are doing at that moment to remember the fallen heroes.

The remarkable moment is the transition between Memorial Day and Independence Day. At sunset, the third siren sounds, and Memorial Day is finished by the lighting of a candle. Immediately after, fireworks go off, and the somber mood instantaneously changes to one of jubilation.

Independence Day is a celebration. The evening is often marked by live music and dancing. The next day features rides for the children and an air show where the Israeli air force sends their best fighters up and down the Mediterranean coast to perform for the Israeli people. No one works on Independence Day, and the people get together to celebrate the beautiful country they have worked together to build.

Perhaps one of my most memorable incidents in Israel was watching a professional singer who had lost her son in a terrorist attack that year. She was openly weeping during Memorial Day, mourning the loss of her one and only child. But then, when Independence Day began, it was her responsibility to sing for the kibbutz, and she rose to the occasion, singing with a joy and exuberance that infected everyone around her.

Basically, Israel has made a clear statement that there must be a limit on the mourning, that the time comes when you must continue living your life. This is a lesson that the rest of the world needs to learn. Because the best way to honor victims of tragedies such as those at Virginia Tech is to go on living your life, and to do something significant with it, in the wake of these incidents.


Posted by Scottage at 3:34 PM / | |