By Luke Ford Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Seven B Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve 1994-1997 1997 1998 1998B 1999 2000 2001 2009
Unable (through the end of '92) to find people around me with whom I shared values, I devoted much of my energy to correspondence. On cassette tapes that I sent around the world, I reflected on my life and explained my interest in Judaism.
I found that surges of adrenalin, better than anything else, raise me above my illness for hours and even days at a time. Thus, I concentrated my meager mental abilities on that which most excited me - ethical monotheism.
My first tapes went frequently to friends of my father. Most of the wise people I knew at the time were Christians.
When I look back at where I've gone wrong in life...I organize my thinking under the heading of "False gods." (Anything that comes before God and his primary demand of ethics is a false god.)
The dominant false god in my life has been the search for love.
Early in my life I read many books to gain the attention and respect of adults whom I've always admired more than people my own age. Adults are wiser and less likely than boys to kick, punch or urinate on you.
I wrote stories. Adults read them and took note of me.
I sought attention by running marathons... editing my high school and college newspapers... working for real newspapers... cable television...and radio.
I pursued pleasure, stealing money from my parents to buy lollies and sweets.
I listened to thousands of hours of rock music and chased girls.
Beautiful people splashed across magazines and TV caught my attention. I wanted sex and success.
My dream combined the fast cuts of network evening news with the smarmy brotherly love of pop lyrics and the lavish sexual satisfactions promised by creamy photo spreads.
I wished to create a world of love where all good people would lie down like lambs and screw like bunny rabbits.
I planned to be at Oxford by now, finishing my Ph.D. in economics. Instead, I'm sick and I haven't done anything for years.
I've been blessed with talents... and world-travel... and an extraordinary father who's developed my mind.... And what have I done with all that? Not a thing.
I suffer from the common intellectual tendency to put ideas before people. I better control my enthusiasm for ideas or I will destroy myself and those around me.
I fear that my enthusiasm for Judaism hurts my Christian family and friends. Why do I need to make such a radical shift? I seek in our dialogue clarity on both the universe and myself.
How do I distract myself from thinking about the great issues of life? I like to skip and jump, to wear high heels, suspenders and a bra. I like to put on women's clothing and hang around in bars. I wish I were a girlie, just like my dear papa. (Monty Python)
Between 18 and 22, I did not invest in friendship. Rather, I invested in success. Friendship is messy. In work and study, I got clear results that I could take to the bank. Then tough times hit me. I went to withdraw from my friendship accounts and I found them empty.
My journey to Judaism has been a lonely walk. I remember only fleeting senses of community - at PUC for instance, in the BITS soccer club in Australia during 1984-85, and in Rieber Hall 2-South during my nine months at UCLA. Not always based upon values, these bonds frequently proved ephemeral.
By contrast, I've sought since 1989 friendships based upon Jewish values (which many non-Jews, particularly Christians, share to a large degree).
Wednesday, 12/5/90, I drove an hour down I-80 to the Department of Naturalization in downtown Sacramento...In the big city again with its skyscrapers and ethnic diversity--African Americans, Asians, Latins, all types.... While waiting to be interviewed for American citizenship, I spotted a pale intellectual-looking man with a religious head-covering. I sat beside him and asked "Are you a Jew?"
"No," he said. "I'm a Muslim. A Palestinian. The Jews took our land. Jews treat all non-Jews as dogs."
He told me that the Christians got it wrong in believing Jesus divine but Mohammed got it all right. Though Mohammed was illiterate, God dictated to him the Koran. This revelation, written on leaves, still exists.
I passed my interview and in May I was sworn in as a new citizen. I registered to vote as a Republican.
I'm proud to be an American. This country, rooted in Protestantism and founded by ethical monotheists like George Washington and John Henry Adams, has become the freest, most moral country of modernity.
It was the first country to grant Jews full rights.
Snakes infest my dreams probably because I come from a snake-infested part of the world--Australia:
I'm standing in a courtyard at UCLA waiting in line to register for classes and receive breakfast. Some UCLA football players push in front of me.
"That's wrong," I say.
The school authorities intervene. I move to the head of the line. I get my breakfast of beans, peanut butter and toast. The cafeteria help cut up a snake. They put a bit of snake on each piece of toast. They put it all in the microwave to cook. The snake, beans and toast come out. I pick up a piece of toast and beans and the snake comes alive.
I drop my plate aghast, and the snake wiggles out of the beans and bites my foot through my tennis shoes. All is confusion. We try to kill the snake. I fear that I'm going to die and then I wake up.
I'm standing on the back porch with dad. He says that my brother Paul died. Paul rode a motorcycle that suddenly lost its back wheel. Paul flew off the cycle and hits a car, and then another car, and another car, and then a Ferarri and another car until Paul finally rolls onto the pavement dead.
Dad uses this story as an illustration for a sermon about the brevity of life and the need for God. I tell him to stop preaching. He pauses for a minute, and then preaches on anyway.
I stand on the porch and look out at the view towards Sacramento. I feel numb. I wake up.
I'm on vacation with Dr. and Mrs. Muth. I'm standing on my driveway with Mrs. Muth one afternoon watching a game of baseball.
I come into the game as the catcher. The first ball that's thrown to me, I can't reach.... It bounces away from me. As I run down the driveway after the ball, I meet a snake.
I pick up a big heavy rock and drop it on the snakes' head and kill it. I pick up the ball and throw it back. The game begins again.
As I walk back up the driveway I see a huge snake crawling away from me down the driveway to the garage. This snake is 60 feet long.... A big black boa constrictor with a little killer tail on the end.
I get a log and drop it behind the snake and it comes towards me. This is what I've wanted for some reason.
I drop huge objects on the snake, slowly killing it piece by piece, dropping heavy rock after heavy log on the snake until I think that I've killed the snake.
I talk with Mrs. Muth about my success when suddenly the adder on the end of the snake jumps up and crawls over Mrs. Muth. I hit it with a stick and it drops off Mrs. Muth and on to me.
Mrs. Muth tries to kill it but she can't until the snake reaches out and digs its teeth into me and hangs on for dear life as Mrs. Muth kills it.
Finally, it releases its jaws' hold on my hand and falls away. But the snake has left its venom, its sting and its teeth in me. (End of dream.)
Interpreting the dream minutes after waking at two am, I believe that the snakes represent career obstacles and being bitten by snakes represents career failure. Approaching death represents the greatest failure of all.
At the beginning of the dream as I'm walking into the game to play the position of catcher, I know that I'm going to muff the first ball thrown to me [which I usually did in my first few years in America when I didn't understand American sports]. I know that I'm not ready and that I can't handle it and when I miss that first ball everybody looks upon me as a failure.
I usually meet snakes (in my nightmares) while walking. This is my career path.
Although I do my best to run from the snakes or to kill them, I never succeed. The snakes always come at me at the end, unexpectedly, after I've done my best, and they bite me. I've failed despite how hard I've tried.
I'm a star on stage in a sweeping drama. Before the last act, I injure myself. Someone else takes my place in the culminating act and gets the applause when the curtain comes down. I sit on the sidelines physically hurt and emotionally devastated.
Many people read many books and gave me many explanations of my nightmares. The best interpretation came (from Robyn at the end of 1992) from The Book of Psychic Dreams.
Dreams of snakes, particularly the venomous kind, are fear dreams in which the dreamer expresses horror at being surrounded by condition from which he cannot escape. The snake represents a cunning adversary that holds power over the dreamer. Dreams of snakes also indicate a fear of anything that moves in a hidden way or of powers that one cannot cope with.
Tired of explaining Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to people, I sent out tapes of my interview on KAHI radio (where I worked in the news department for five years) in April of 1991.
Sacramento elementary school principal Pam Costa spoke on the show about her battle with CFS.
"I was lucky," said Pam. "My doctor said CFS right away.... We're making great progress with this disease but it's not enough when I now look at Luke who's..."
"Not a pretty sight," I said.
"... who's still suffering," said Pam.
"And he's not a pretty sight," said my former boss and current friend, Dan Songer (the KAHI radio host).
"After spending so many years with this man," said Dan, "I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know how to react. I don't know how to give to him. I see him and I hurt. I don't know what to do. It's frustrating."
"For me it was people accepting that I had an illness like any other illness," said Pam. "[My exhaustion wasn't because]... I was stressed out.
"The second type of support came from my boss who allowed me to work from seven until eleven in the morning and then go home to bed.
"Third... people picked up the little stuff like cooking meals, cleaning the house. That isn't little when you're sick.
"Fourth, was acceptance by other people that I can read my body... I know how much I can do... Don't push me beyond that.
"It's difficult when you're dealing with somebody who just doesn't have energy. You want to support them. I have that sensation now with Luke. I want to help."
"Acceptance by family and friends and acceptance by yourself," said Dan, "is based upon getting competent medical advice which Luke hasn't had at this pint in his story.
"I've known Luke. If he told me that he didn't have the energy to do things, I... after the first few times... to be honest with you, would have said, 'Luke, quit pulling my leg. Quit making fun of me... Let's get serious.'
"But Luke is serious and I don't know that yet. I don't know that until one day he walks in.... I look at Luke and I see the way he moves slowly in to visit with me for a while. And I can just look at the face and I know that this is not the Luke Ford I knew."
"The hardest thing for me," said Pam, "was accepting that this is going to be with me for the rest of my life."
"Did you accept that when your doctor first told you?" asked Dan.
"No," said Pam. "I don't always accept it now. But whenever I push because something comes up, I'm flat on my back.
"It's still hard to accept that that's going to happen to me for the rest of my life. A year ago, I thought I could do anything.
"[My CFS]... limits how far I choose to aspire. It limits the [personal] contacts that I'm willing to make."
"I hesitated to call you," Dan said to Pam "I did not want to contribute to your fatigue."
"A problem I have," said Pam, "is that I usually look healthy. But if I push, I show the signs of fatigue [such as slow speech and my head on the table] that Luke is showing now."
"You touched on something interesting [Dan} about not knowing whether or not you wanted to call Pam," I said. "And this is a question that we have with all people who are in trouble--should we reach out to them? The answer is yes. Always at least call.
"I have friends with cancer and emphysema who are going to die [soon]. What do you do? You call them. And if they don't want to talk, they wont talk.
"People need to reach out to people in trouble.
"[It's hard to reach out to people who are hurting because]... you don't know what to do...It's easier to sit back."
"Last week on this show," said Dan "was an 11-year old boy David with Muscular Dystrophy. What hurts him most is the reactions he gets from people who shy away from him as if he's a leper... ' Don't get too close to him [is the attitude]. Don't get wrapped up in David because...'
"I guess Luke, we're embarrassed..."
"It's awkward," I said. "That's how I was. That's how we all start out... [awkward]... You have to be taught to reach out to people. We're not naturally good.
"I felt awkward at college when I saw students in wheelchairs. I never reached out to anyone in a wheelchair. I didn't know how to approach them and so I left them alone.
"I remember one story in particular...Lisa Yamasaki who was in a car accident and is a paraplegic.
"I saw her one afternoon at Sierra College... off in the distance. I remembered her from Placer High School. She was three years below me. I talked to her once [after a gymnastic meet]. I barely knew her.
"So... I don't know how to approach her... I walk away.
"After this illness I have more empathy for the boy with Muscular Dystrophy... and Lisa Yamasaki.... Just a month ago, while I was [crumpling paper] to make a fire, I saw a whole page in the Auburn Journal on Lisa Yamasaki. She's now at UC Davis... an Art History major who's pushing on with her life in a wheelchair.
"It made me realize the difference in my life. Before CFS, I felt awkward around sick people and handicapped people because it messed up my worldview. I wanted to be one of the beautiful people."
"I think that's critical," said Pam.
"There's the key," said Dan. "It messes up our view of the world."
"It [pain] is so ugly and awkward. We want a television world where everybody's beautiful, rich and famous," I said.
"Luke, in our conversation you're talking about being a timid Luke Ford," said Dan. "Pam's suggesting that you need to be able to tell people: 'I don't have the energy right now.' "
"I find it hard to stand up for myself [in these situations]," I said. "But now with such limited energy, I have to say 'no, I can't do that.' "
"You feel you have to explain?" asked Dan.
"With people I know best I can [be direct]," I said. "But I have this inner feeling that I have to explain... that I've had CFS for three years now and I don't feel up to doing anything."
"Part of the problem of treating CFS is that what works for me won't necessarily work for anyone else," said Pam.
(During a commercial break, Pam urged me to try antidepressants which helped her. Pam didn't want to say this on the radio because it might invalidate the legitmacy of CFS in many people's minds.)
"The feeling that I have for Luke right now," said Dan, "is that even if he met someone who had all the answers... how would Luke know that he could trust the doctor?"
"When you've been ill for a long time," said Pam, "your recuperation level is much greater than a Pam Costa who gets sick and then recuperates and monitors her energy level... than a person [like Luke] who's been sick for three years."
"Sick people need one thing particularly," I said. "'Love'. Sick people don't need advice. Everybody wants to advise sick people. I've had religious advice that through the right theological formula I'll get well. I've had all types of health advice...carrot juice...celery juice...Psychological advice...How do I feel about my father?'
"Sick people don't generally need to hear that. People with cancer don't need to be told that through positive thinking they'll be able to send away their cancerous cells."
"Since you've been sick all...these years," said Dan, "do you ever worry that you have cancer and that no one has the nerve to tell you?'"
"A bit." I said.
"Did you have a problem convincing doctors that you had a medical problem?" asked Dan.
"No," I said. "I was lucky in that I never had any doctors suggest that I had a mental problem. They looked at my body, and they heard about my schedule before my illness and they treated it as a medical problem...But no doctor has yet been able to do anything for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There's no consistent therapy that helps most people with CFS.
"I've been to good doctors.... They just can't do anything for me.
"In the UCLA Medical Center I was like a kid in a medical candy store. I was a student and I got all sorts of goodies for free."
"Didn't that elevate your hopes?" asked Dan. "After all, this is the world-famous UCLA Medical Center. And so surely...."
"Yes," I said. "And with every new doctor, there's hope. Every new doctor says: 'Luke, I'll make you better.'
"My current doctor is my longtime friend Zane Kime. He brought my family to Auburn in 1980. He set up my father's evangelical Christian foundation Good News Unlimited.
"I've known the Kime family since 1978. I lost contact with them during the mid80s as I went about my manic schedule to become great....
"Dr. Kime's helped. I wouldn't be able to speak for 90 minutes without what he's done for me...."
[In the summer of 1992, Zane Kime fell off a mountain in Bishop, California to his death. He'd been climbing about 45 weekends a year.]
"You learn to pace yourself. I've only had one relapse of my illness in the last 15 months when I get those [severe] flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat [and muscle exhaustion]. [Pacing yourself] is not just physical in that I don't walk more than half-a-mile a day.... But also mental.... I've always loved to read. And the biggest pain of this illness is not being able to read.
"Whatever I do, be it studying, working or running, I do it all out.
"I have time to read but I can't read much.... The biggest pain of this illness is that it limits my ability to think.... I always have a headache and reading worsens it. Last year I read only one book. That's the first time since age six, that I've read less than forty books in a year....
"I don't read anything on CFS. I don't want to hear about it unless they've come up with a cure. I want to live as best I can....
"What do you think a person reads about if he's been sick for a long time?
"I read Victor Frankl's book Man's Search For Meaning. He was in a Nazi concentration camp....
"[Frankl writes that]... we have to discover our meaning in life...
"There's meaning in suffering. For if there is no meaning in suffering, there's no meaning in life because so much of life is just suffering. Usually we find meaning from creating and enjoying, but sometimes all we can do is suffer. Be it a person in a concentration camp, or a person with cancer, or a person badly in debt who must work 15 hours a day.... There's meaning in suffering in that it gives you the opportunity to reach for higher moral values, and delve deeper into life.
"I would not have so much empathy for my friends with cancer and emphysema if I had not been sick.... I've learned more about life in my past three years of CFS than if I'd been at graduate school studying economics."
"But why aren't you reading on herbs, vitamins...?" asked Dan.
"Because I've taken a thousand and one of those and spent thousands of dollars on every supposed cure under the sun and none of them have helped me."
"Does that mean you've given up?"
"No, I've just come to accept my illness and that there's no current cure."
"The young have dreams...?"
"You've got to get over the idea that your value depends upon the accomplishment of some specific task...that the meaning of life is found through some narrow accomplishment...be it writing a book or having children or hosting the morning show on KAHI radio. Life has purpose even if you only lie in bed.
"There are people listening now who are chronically ill and will never get well. Life isn't always beautiful and sweet and healthy. One must accept one's condition and find meaning in it.
"I don't know if I will fully recover. I had dreams of going to Oxford. But life does not depend upon getting a Ph.D.... Over the last few years I've learned about friendship."
Through my tapes, I exercised my desire to preach.
The secret of the universe is that what we each want most in life is to be treated good. Goodness must be a secret because it doesn't seem to be on anyone's agenda...Salvation, eschatology, Talmudic dialectic...Now that's exciting...But goodness gets no respect even though it's what we all want most.
Goodness is what God wants most from us. "Hear Oh man what is good and what does the Lord require of you--Only that you do justly, and love mercy and walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8.
I love Judaism because of its detailed step-by-step system for developing the human potential for goodness. For instance, the Torah teaches that we should not curse the deaf or place a stumbling block before the blind. In other words, we shouldn't take advantage of people.
One specific example of this general principle is the shopkeeper law. The Talmud states that you may not ask a shopkeeper the price of an item that you know you will not buy because it would raise the hopes of the shopkeeper for no reason. This law about not fooling people of your intentions has myriad applications. You should not read books and magazines in a book store that you have no intention of buying. You should not take up the time of shop assistants over items that you intend to buy mail-order. You should not test-drive cars that you have no intention of buying. You should not test-drive women that you have no intention of marrying. After one lecture, a woman stood up to tell Prager that she wished all men would observe that [shopkeeper] law--that is, if they had no intention of buying (marriage), they should not handle the merchandise.
From laws about quoting sources (The Talmud says that whoever quotes a source correctly brings redemption to the world) to honoring parents and honest business practices, Judaism's sophisticated legal system develops character.
I frequently ask people "Are you a good person?" Everyone answers yes. "What do you do that is good?" I follow up. Most people seem offended by the question and they tell me that their ethics are none of my business.
The ethics of people in my life are my business. I only want good people in my life. That way I'll be less cheated, slandered and gossiped about.
Twenty-year old Robyn Vandiver writes to me in 8/93: "What makes you think good people want you in their lives?"
Halacah (Jewish Law) organizes my shattered life.
Upon awaking in the morning, I say the sh'ma. Then I try to begin each day by washing my hands and face, donning my tzitzit (while saying the appropriate blessing) and proceeding to breakfast (over which I again say brachot). Despite my illness, I bless God for giving me the strength to do many mitzvot (commandments).
After eating, washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen (acts which help and honor my parents), I frequently wrap myself in my tallit (prayer shawl) and meditate for about 30-minutes. I then lie down and spend most of the morning listening to classical music.
Sometimes after relieving myself, I bless God for opening what should be opened, and closing what should be closed; for if He didn't, I'd be a wreck.
I say more brachot (blessings) over lunch, and then frequently talk to friends over the phone. I strive to say only that which is permitted and to avoid lashon hara (gossip and slander).
When talking with my parents I rarely make fun of them or contradict their opinions. In fact, when talking with my parents (and other people), I rarely say anything at all. The Vilna Gaon says that if it is meritorious to abstain from food on Yom Kippur, Tishu B'Av and other days of fasting to afflict and educate the body, how much more meritorious is it to abstain from words. That afflicts and educates both body and soul.
When I collect the family's mail in the afternoon, I only open my mail (thus observing the takkana (legal decree) by Rabbi Gershon against reading other people's mail).
If my parents are away in the evening and it is my duty to feed the dog and cat, I feed them before feeding myself.
As kidusha, the Hebrew word for holiness, literally translated means separate, I observe Judaism's laws between man and God to separate myself from those around me and elevate my life to my Maker.
In those areas of life in which human beings share the most with animals; namely, eating and sex, Judaism has the most laws. (I'm freely paraphrasing Prager, and by attributing these ideas to him, I do a mitzva. "He who correctly cites a source brings redemption to the world," says the Talmud.)
I avoid sexual temptation by refusing to touch women.
Observance of these prohibitive commandments dams up reservoirs of energy (thank you Rabbi Eliezer Berkovitz). which I use to march in HaShem's army and do His will - which is chiefly to promote loving kindness between God's creatures.
As I study and observe more and more halacah, I feel that I know what to do and not do in an increasing number of situations. Halacah develops my sense of propriety and good judgment, freeing me then to act naturally within its boundaries of ethics and holiness.
For instance, the laws of lashon hara tell me that I may not pass on derogatory information about other people, but once I know what is forbidden speech, I speak freely about my body and its angry lustful desires (my Yetzer Ha Ra). Thus Judaism elevates my behavior to God while also allowing me to be real about the not so nice parts of me.
Robyn Vandiver writes 8/93: "You still follow this pattern [of dualism] - only instead of pitting God against Satan, you pit Christians against Jews."
Ivy Harker, who looked after me when I was baby, writes from Beenleigh, Queensland Australia.
You came into my life when you were almost 18-months old...You were my little boy. I taught you to feed yourself, to talk, to be potty trained, to play games, etc....You cried out "no, no, no," in your sleep and I'd cuddle you...
Every morning you would struggle, fight, kick and cry when I tried to change your nappie and dress you. One morning I heard you cry "Naughty boy, smack me!" I talked to your parents. "Little Luke knows, even at his age, that such behavior should be stopped by me. When I don't react with a smack, he is confused..." Your wise parents said "Ivy, we trust you. Do whatever is best for Luke." Well, you were an intelligent boy. I told you that I would have to smack you and you only tried it on for two mornings with the resulting stings on the bottom. You were then all smiles, kisses and cuddles...I wished to keep you always but it couldn't be...
Of all the children I've cared for, you were the easiest... You seem to have a low opinion of yourself.... Better than being a self-righteous Pharisee, heh?...
Why obsess with failure? Failure to do what? Have you some goal for yourself that you can't reach?...
This text comforts me. "...It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jeremiah 10:23) What are we to do then, Lord? This is His answer to me. "God is our Maker and in our union with Christ Jesus He has created us for a life of good works which He had already prepared for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) "God in his grace, has given me this work to do for your good." (3:2)
That was very different from the life Paul originally planned as his goal. Great! I don't have to set myself a goal. All I need to do is choose my Master--Christ or self (Satan). Whichever one I choose will plan my life for me. I choose Jesus and totally surrender. I have peace. You can be certain that He will make your good works known to you. The only struggle is learning not to struggle, but to be at peace. "God is more interested in our being happy than in our being good."
I wonder if your fear of success' stems from your many changes of home as a child...You begin to feel at home in one place (equaling success), then you're forced to move on again. Over and over [this happens], until you have no confidence...Afraid to grasp success because you'll lose it again...
What a wilderness journey you've had!...Like Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
Some girls love you deeply. Don't break too many hearts. It's painful to get over.
An ex-girlfriend writes November, 1990.
I miss you. There are times when something inside me just cries out for you. No, I'm not saying this because I'm lonely or depressed or because it's raining. I'm saying it because I love you. Life is fine at the moment. Everything is smooth.
Remember being at your apartment? I loved strolling in the park, watching everyone picnicking, reading, writing, running and generally relaxing. I loved sitting with you by the water, watching it lap against the rocks. Remember how we had to keep stopping at each bench to rest. I loved it when you put your head in my lap and I could run my fingers through your hair.
I loved it that first time you looked at me, winked, and said "Who loves ya baby?" That flipped me right out.
You know what I loved? That once or twice when I wasn't on a time-limit. We'd lie on your bed talking and cuddling. Slowly, slowly the sun would go down, the crickets would start chirping, the lights would reflect across the river, the breeze would stir the leaves in those big trees and every now and then a runner or cyclist would go by. I could see it all through those big windows and be with you at the same time. What a bonus!
Luke, you are my best friend. I was proud to be with you. Luke is my man, the one and only. I had eyes for no one but you. You were exciting and different.
I've never known anyone like you. People I've been with have always been intellectually equal or below me. I suppose that I'm writing to thank you again for the impact you've had on my life.
In almost every situation I go through, some piece of knowledge or encouragement or challenge from you will hit me. Do you realize how that has affected my life?
I think much more now before I act. Often I'll be faced with a situation and it will usually come to mind how I would have reacted six months or a year ago. Sometimes I have to laugh. Other times I've cried in regret at the actions I've taken.
Luke, I'm still not a lady, but this bud isn't closed tight anymore. Gradually, gradually, it's opening up. Who do I have to thank? First, God, second my parents, third Luke...You may be equal to my parents. You've made me think more than they ever have.
Luke, I see your picture every day. I have it framed here on my desk. This girl will never forget the boy. He's a special guy.
It's hard for me to accept that our paths have gone in two different directions so quickly. I got angry. I've now accepted the change. I think one of the hardest things to accept was that you are more of a friend to me than a lover. I looked up to you. To lose you ripped a big chunk out of my heart.
I huddled by the fire December 1990 and looked at pictures of a girl in my arms. And another girl in my arms. And a young woman waving good-bye. I read old letters and poetry.
What You are to Me
To some you're just a rebel, they think you live for you,
Wanting to do your own thing, to prove a point or two.
But, to me you are a good guy, an angel in disguise
Someone I can turn to, intelligent and wise.
To some you may be ugly, tall and skinny too,
Ruffled hair, unironed clothes, that's all they see in you.
But to me you are beautiful, 'cause I see what's inside,
And whenever I'm with you, I only feel pride.
Remember the morning you left in a hurry? I felt like crying. I'd grown to love you.
If you remember, it was a drizzly miserable day, the kind that is perfect for curling up and reading a book. I wrote this for you:
I sit here filled with anguish
My heart cries out for you.
But I know it was for your good that you left...
Seems so silly, you know
You're a stranger, but I consider us friends...
The time we spent together...
Cherished by me forever.
Forever I will love you
Imprison you in my heart...
Somehow nature feels my ache,
Rain falls like teardrops down my cheek.
My relationship with one woman ended over a year later (in December 1990) on this note:
I hear you apologizing for constantly talking [on cassette tapes] about the differences between Christianity and Judaism as a way of release for the flack you cop from people who have a chip on their shoulder against Jews. True Luke, you are hurting innocent people.
I used to love receiving cassettes from you. They were a breath of fresh air--interesting, uplifting and encouraging. Now the excitement dies fast.
I've been needlessly torturing myself for the last few months going through 60 and 90-minute sessions of gloom. I come away feeling mentally exhausted, depressed and often hurt and angry. Why am I doing this to myself? Because I care about Luke.
I found it interesting the first few times you told me (about Judaism) but now I'm hearing the same things over and over. What I'm hearing is a bitter little boy trying to prove and justify himself.
Luke, be who you are. Take your problems to God. Hearing them repeatedly drives me crazy.
If you don't like receiving unsolicited advice, persecution, etc, then there are a couple of solutions. One, don't be a Jew. Two, convince the world that Judaism is the right way and then you won't cop anything.
Luke, I'm not against you. I'm happy being a Christian and you're happy being a Jew. Fine. I'm not going to change. If you are repeating all these philosophies to justify yourself when someone attacks you, then please find another blank tape to talk on. Not the one you send to me. I'm going crazy.
Only time will tell. Someday someone will be proven right. If only you could have had a normal childhood and been given a balanced view of religion. You are the most insecure person I've met in my whole life.
Luke, you don't have to go through the rest of your life with a big chip on your shoulder. My father had problems growing up too but today he's a real man. He gets as much if not more persecution than you but I've never heard him angry and bitter. He never pities himself. He's a true Christian, or to put it in your terminology, a good man."
I read that letter to my friend Glenn (from an SDA Christian background) with whom I had an intense dialogue through the mail. A year later (in the spring of 1992) he referred to it in his letter.
You read to me what someone wrote to you about being fed up with 15 tapes of bitterness. I can well understand that it was painful to receive that sort of response. Terribly deflating. But may I ask you in all candor whether you learned anything?
Sure, parts of your tapes are indeed thought-provoking, friendly and warm. I must acknowledge however that listening to the remainder of your communication has meant subjecting myself to a more vitriolic, insensitive and inflammatory barrage than I've experienced in many a year. People whom I count as friends do not respond to me in this way.
I am not going to wade through 15 tapes and then send you a 'Dear Luke' letter. You deserve better than that.
Luke, you don't like women who blow off their emotions and then are all lovey-dovey in an hour. Just because you have shoved your emotions down inside you and stew for days doesn't mean that everyone else should shove their emotions down inside the way you do. If yours were at the surface, you'd be able to pop off too and have it over with. So you want to impose your misery on others? You want to make them more like you so that you'll be more comfortable? What kind of ethics is that? Make other people neurotic so that you can be with them more easily? Nobody makes you stew for days. You do that to yourself. There must be something wrong with you. Why don't you just fix it?
Luke, you say that you are willing to compare Jews on any moral index. Well, how do they fare on these? Humility, ability to get on peaceably with other ethnic groups, tactfulness, respect for other cultures, graciousness, politeness, modesty. Not Jews' strong points, I'd say. Not yours either.
Glenn, you're right that humility, tact, courtesy, modesty, etc., are not my strong points. That's part of the reason that many people shun me.
I quote from earlier letters by Glenn.
You happened on Prager and because he was able to out-argue you, you bought his whole program. You accepted a world-view based on a particular religious authority because you respected the person who presented this view to you, and because it filled certain deep emotional needs of yours. Great... But isn't there a better way to meet emotional needs than through self-deception?
You acknowledge that you tend to cut off relationships before the other party has a chance to. If you have suspended correspondence with me because you thought that I was about to give you the axe for your verbal onslaughts, then you have done so for no purpose. It is true that only one person in the world has offered me as many insults as you, and that I no longer consider that person among my friends, however... you have a fundamental sincerity which she lacked.... It must be difficult for you given that you are both easily offended and gifted with such a devastating rapier of a tongue.
Glenn, good point. Many people tell me that I can give verbal abuse without at times being able to take it. One example occurred in seventh grade when I once left class crying because friends teased me about my friendships with girls. When the teacher remonstrated with my friends, they said that as I teased them unmercifully, I should be able to take teasing back.
"Are there not better ways to meet emotional needs than through self-deception?" Provocative point.
Many psychologically stronger people than I don't seem to need to bond to a winning team. Perhaps Judaism is a crutch for me. I don't feel strong enough to go through life alone.
Is that self-deception? Perhaps it is clarity that I have about myself - that I belong to the walking wounded, like you Glenn.
Come here Mr. Moral Know-it-all. Parade before me your "edifying" morals that have blessed me with this gift of castrating neurosis. Ride down the street before my house and trumpet out the ultimacy of your rules. Yes, I have swallowed them, and followed them to the utmost of my abilities. And when I reached the utmost of my abilities, then I was even more miserable and despondent than when I started. Thank you for this great gift. See now how it brings me to transcendent bliss. Watch, Mr Moral, as I draw a pump-action over-and-under 12-gauge shotgun and crawl out onto the windowsill of my garret, dangling my feet over your marching band. Your moral god offers me no rest in this life, no peace, no grace--only an unending denial of myself. If I submit to this bondage, he threatens to keep me eternally in this unhappy state. I can but close my eyes and... (it gets very dark here, Luke; I will spare you the details)... may my blood spatter your Grand Marshal car. You do not deserve to meet the sunset with clean hands.
Glenn, all feelings, including yours, are legitimate.
Your father's emphasis on grace freed me from my obsession with moral behavior to reexamine my assumptions. The SDA's firing of Dr Ford struck the conclusive blow to my Adventist worldview--and nearly my life.
You [Luke] say in your tapes that the Adventist church, like the local stamp club, has to have rules. Hence, it should be normal that anyone who doesn't follow the rules gets kicked out. That simile's outrageous denial of the cruel deception fostered by Adventism stings me.
By Luke Ford Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Seven B Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve 1994-1997 1997 1998 1998B 1999 2000 2001 2009