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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Lent 2024: A respite from blogging

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday: the beginning of the Lenten season.

There have been some years when I have observed Lent on this blog.  The first time, in 2006, I refrained from posting at all.  This blog was two years old then and it was a commitment to keep the content fresh and poppin'.  So no blogging for seven weeks presented a dire temptation to write something, to write anything.  But I believe that I came through it a better person, and a better writer at that.

Then two years ago I felt the need to participate in Lent again.  But this time I went in the dire opposite direction.  After leaving Reidsville in 2016 I let this site lapse a bit (for over a year and a half!) while I was getting things in my personal life taken care of.  I like to think that I came back to this blog a different and better individual.  But the damage was done and this site still hasn't regained the audience it once enjoyed.  Still, I write.  And I was writing with passion for Lent 2022: endeavoring to make one post each day during the season.  In the end there were 47 posts made from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday... and it was TOUGH!  But it was something that I needed to do.  God showed me that He hasn't let the gift He has given me lapse because of lack of use.  That was something I needed to see, and I am thankful that He bore me through it.

Now we are on the doorstep of Lent 2024.  And once again I am going to give up blogging for the next seven or so weeks.  It's going to take something dire to bring me back to this site until then (Joe Biden resigning or being removed from the presidency will probably not cut it).  I won't be actively looking for anything to post about.  But this is time when I will be writing.  I'm committing myself to finishing at least one new chapter for my book each week.  Hopefully more than that if the Muse is feeling kind.  In the past month I've written three major chapters.  I've let confidants read some of the work so far and without exception they wildly approved and said that they want to know more about my life story.  I'll give you this teaser: "When you're driving a few hundred miles to banish demons, you can find most of what you need at Walmart."

So I'm more or less going into "radio silence" on this blog.  Probably not so much on Twitter however: that will remain an occasional chronicle of my musings and observations.  I'm also trying to see if I can achieve having a thousand followers.  I want to think that it's possible by doing it the old fashioned way: "we uuuuurn it" (as John Houseman articulated the line).

Lent ends on Easter Sunday.  This year that falls on March 31st.  Which is an important date for me.  It will be my birthday and not only that but my fiftieth!  I'm facing it with pure abandon.  Too many people, especially men, treat fifty as something they must make a deal with God to avoid the ramifications of.  Me?  I'm thankful... DARN thankful... that I will have made it that far.  I should not be here writing these words.  By many accounts I should have been dead dozens of times over by now, especially by my own hand.  I have survived too much than to not be grateful to God and the people He has put into my life for helping to bring me this far along.  I don't know what the heck I'm going to blog about come Easter Sunday but I'm going to write the heck out of it.

So, that's what's going to be up for the next few weeks.  I won't have died (you'll know if if I do though, that is going to be posted on this site) or otherwise abandoned The Knight Shift.  I'm just focusing on spiritual matters more for the next month and a half or so.  And maybe as before, I'll come out of it a better person.

See y'all in forty days.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Happy 50th Birthday to Blazing Saddles!

It was on this date in 1974 that filmmaker Mel Brooks released his western spoof upon an unsuspecting world.  And comedy was never the same again...

It's probably the number-one movie that has been said "it could never be made today."  Which makes it all the more special.  Blazing Saddles is unadulterated political incorrectness as only Brooks and his crew could have made it.

How much does this movie mean to me?  I have owned a copy of it on every home media format going back to VHS.  It was the very first DVD that I bought.  Later on I bought it on Blu-ray and today I keep it loaded on my iPad Pro (along with the complete Star Wars saga, The Thing, and Airplane! among others).

There are two movies that I distinctly remember from early childhood and each of them was run on CBS (the network our family's television was almost always tuned to) every year: The Wizard of Oz and Blazing Saddles.  Try finding a broadcast network that would show it today though!  Even HBO Max is now carrying a "trigger warning" when you watch Blazing Saddles on it.

Well, so much that could be said about this film.  I think I'll celebrate today by watching it again for the hunnerd zillionth time.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

A meditation upon Matthew 7:7

Every so often Matthew 7:7 comes to mind.  The verse reads (from the New International Version):

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
 It comes to the fore of my thoughts when I think about my own salvation journey.  How it progressed from being a person very angry and bitter toward God, to realizing that He could not have been responsible for what happened to me, to appreciating His beautiful design of the universe, to believing that I could not possibly be reconciled with Him... on until I finally allowed him into my life as my Lord and Savior.
(Some people still don't think of my life in terms like that. I suppose they will always think of me as an "atheist" even though I never truly did not believe in God.  They want me to be what THEY expect me to be spiritually.  I guess that's on them.  I know where I stand with God, and it depends on no other person.)
I very much appreciate Matthew 7:7.  It could almost be my life verse, if I needed one.  But for the past several years I've pondered it a bit more.  And I've come to also appreciate the promise it holds.  One that I believe is of great import to us as believers.
"Seek and you will find."  To me those five words are a PROMISE.  That whoever is looking for God is going to find Him.  That's irrespective of "our" expectations.  We are told in scripture that there are some who will not believe that they served Christ when they did good for others... but God knows their hearts.  He knows when they were and even now are right in spirit and aligned with His will.
We can know when we ourselves have found His grace.  We should trust others that they also have His mercy.  But all too often we have no idea whatsoever how far along a person is in his or her own journey, or even if it's begun at all.
This verse tells me that we should trust God and His perfect will, that all who seek Him WILL find Him.  At the same time, we should orient ourselves toward His will that much more, so that His light and love shines in our own lives.  That might be the only witness for Christ that some, maybe many, will ever see.  Some will see the relationship with God that they have been looking for.  Others who don't know what exactly what they are looking for WILL recognize it and want the truth of Him.  They WILL find that. God has promised it.
We should live so that we have something pure and holy that cannot be evaded and ignored.  So that others might see that, and want it in their own lives.
God made us as believers to be a big reason why people seek Him in the first place.  We should embrace that role He has appointed for us.

(Image from Bible.com)

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

God and mental illness: Why won't He heal my mind?

Obviously the notion entered my mind that maybe this could be an installment of the Being Bipolar series (which there may be much more material for coming soon).  But Being Bipolar is more about the disease itself, and is intended to be a resource for those looking for insight and information from someone who lives with that condition.

What I'm sharing now, on the other hand, has less to do with that aspect of my life than it does with others.  Although mental illness is certainly the precipitant.

It was twenty-four years ago this month that the symptoms of manic depression, or bipolar disorder, first began to manifest themselves in me.  At first it was wildly intoxicating, all the boundless energy and creativity that came seemingly out of nowhere.  I was still looking for a job post-college and failing in that but other opportunities were coming to the fore (like my time at Star Wars website TheForce.net, which gets a bit of interesting light shined upon it in the book I'm currently writing).  Long story short, I was bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm and optimism and sheer drive.  That those seemed to be peppered with moments of despair - like the horrible night that winter when I stripped off all my clothes and tried to freeze myself to death during a snowstorm with temperatures in the single digits - were inconsequential to how inflamed my uttermost being had become.

By early spring however, it was increasingly obvious that something was very, very wrong with me.

That was almost a quarter century ago.  But it seems like only yesterday.  In one way or another bipolar disorder has been in the background of everything that I have attempted or somehow accomplished despite the condition.  It has factored into my relationships (one of which ended in divorce), in my career history, in my choice to leave my old hometown... there has not been a single aspect not impacted by manic depression.

And all along, there has been one question that has been most on my mind: Why did God let this happen to me?

Two and a half decades later, I'm no closer to understanding the reason than I ever was.  But there has been a modicum of comfort to be drawn from scripture.  Second Corinthians 12:9 has the apostle Paul sharing with us that God told him "'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"  Or as my Uncle Nub once told me: "Maybe God let you have it because He knew you could take it."

The verse continues: "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."  Which dovetails well, I think, with Romans 8:28, a verse that a colleague quoted to me yesterday:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

It has taken many years to come to this place, where I am no longer angry at God for allowing mental illness - something that at various times I have described as a "hell" - to strike me.  I better understand now that this is still a fallen world, and not all the medication and counseling remotely possible is going to change that.  I believe that God is the master Healer, and that there is no disease which is not without His power to alleviate.

But even so, disease happens.  It can occur within anyone, with all its nefarious varieties.  I suppose that I should consider myself blessed.  In two months I turn fifty and at my last medical examination the doctor told me that I've the health of someone in his early thirties.  Obviously God has let my physical well-being be good.  That is more than a lot of guys in my demographics get to have.  The only real physical malady I have is anemia, something that prevents me from being a blood donor anymore.  Perhaps sooner than later we'll get to the bottom of what's causing it, because I hate being out of the running with my friends who contribute blood.  But I digress...

With time has come understanding, and I hope a little wisdom.  And it has also brought with it an appreciation for my condition.  Had the economy not taken such a turn downward I might still be enjoying a career as a full-time peer support specialist with the state's department of mental health.  That is a job you literally must be crazy to have, I often tell those who don't know what peer support entails.  I was someone who made use of experiences and intensive training toward helping other people, who also have mental illness, and letting them have a chance at full and meaningful lives.  It was the most personally rewarding work that I have ever done and I would be doing it forever if that had been possible.  I got to be of assistance to a lot of good people.  Some of whom I still keep in touch with, just letting them know I still care about them.

Some people who God has placed in my path at times, have been close to giving it all up.  Have gotten too close to the line separating want-to-live from I-want-to-die.  I've been there too, more times than I can possibly count.  And ironically I got to be the one who convinced them that their lives are worth living.  I got to be someone who saw how precious their existences are, when they could not see it themselves.

It's possible that a lot of people wouldn't be with us still today, had it not been for God letting me have a mental illness that put me in their place first.  But I don't say that to boast.  God can be glorified in even our worst weaknesses.  If some are still alive today, that's His doing and not mine.  I'm just the instrument He chose to use.

And I can and will be thankful for that honor.

I guess the catalyst for this post is that, recently, I did something rather foolhardy and potentially very dangerous.  I attempted to move out of the way of God from healing me.  Or in other words: I tried to be made whole by faith only.

And so it is that I went a few days without my medication.

There wasn't any one agency that led me to attempt such a thing.  At various times across the decades I've earnestly wondered if my faith in God was not enough: that maybe He would heal me if only I had more trust in Him.

I went off the meds and instead I threw myself into prayer and fasting.  I turned toward immersing myself in scripture.  I asked for prayers from others: something which has become a regular occurrence for me and indeed I do not believe that I would be here today were it not for prayers from people dear to me.  I covet prayer now.  Which is another irony, since once upon a time I would have likely laughed at such a notion.

I tried relying entirely on having faith in God, that He would deliver my mind from the torment of mental illness.

And in the end, He did not do that.

After two days being without the meds my thoughts began racing out of control, again.  But I tried to endure.  Sought to increase my faith.  I want to think that my faith in Him is strong enough that it weathered the torture without ceasing to trust Him completely.

I went as far as could be tolerated before going back on the meds.  Blessed relief arrived a few hours later.

So, once again, God did not heal me from bipolar disorder.

Or, maybe He did.  Maybe He still is.

We are told that Luke, the writer of the eponymous gospel as well as the Book of Acts, was a physician.  Doubtless he of all people understood the wondrous qualities of human health and self-care.  I don't know what medications were available circa 60 A.D., apart from a form of aspirin known to the ancient Greeks.  But Luke was in all likelihood well versed in their array and uses.  God gave Luke a capable mind and adept hands to be a healer.  Perhaps God was not dealing out divine intervention toward the healing of those in Luke's care, but He certainly was the ultimate Author of betterment and recuperation.

I have to believe that God gave us a beautiful thing in medical science.  Something that can not so much replace God's place in healing as it does complement it.  In the employ of those dedicated and devoted to the healing arts, medicine is by its very existence a miracle of God.  In its purest form medicine is a thing wholly given over to the betterment of life.

I can't possibly contend that medical science is something God would not want us to make the most of, if it means having better and more purposeful life.

What about when medical science fails?  I have friends who in recent weeks have each lost a loved one to disease.  Is that a judgment against medicine when it could not prevent their respective passing?  No, it is not.  As I said before, it is a fallen world.  Injury and illness have been a part of that imperfection for a very long time and barring God's intervention that doesn't look to change anytime soon.  Nothing is guaranteed.  We can only trust in God and His will, that things are going to work out for the best in the end.  And that's the absolutely best answer that I can give.  But I've seen His will work out well before.  I have to believe that His will, will manifest itself as something that gives Him the glory and proves to be of benefit to us.  God operates on a vaster scale of time than we can comprehend.  And even the failures of the best of our schemes will serve to honor Him, in the end.

Personally, I believe that this lifetime isn't all that we get.  There is more past that.  What form that takes is up to the person living it.  God knows who are His.  For the one who loves God, this life and its afflictions are not the end.  There is something better waiting for us still.  I dream of having a mind that isn't plagued by mania or depression or sometimes both at once.  That is coming, in the fullness of His time.  And that is a great comfort.

I'm not going to willingly go off the medications again.  I've tried trusting God to take my condition away from me.  For whatever reason, He has not done that.  But He has provided knowledge and wisdom and tools that can make the condition much more better manageable than it would be without those things.  Here I am on the cusp of fifty, and with each passing day I feel more like what it is to not have a mind turned against itself.  I feel younger today than I ever have, and it's because of what God has provided many scientists, researchers, and engineers with over the course of the centuries and especially the past several decades.

But of course, it never hurts to pray too.

Monday, January 29, 2024

I plan on wearing my Ghostbusters uniform on opening day of this

 New trailer for Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire dropped a few hours ago and I've watched it a few times now.  I'm getting a vibe that this might be the best film since the original.  It's hitting on all the right notes.  And hey, it even has the return of Walter Peck!

Watch it here:


Thursday, January 18, 2024

Reveal trailer for Indiana Jones and the Great Circle!

Word is breaking loose at this hour that Bethesda's new Indiana Jones game has finally been revealed...

Coming later this year it's Indiana Jones and the Great Circle.  Looks set pre World War II aka the "golden era" of the saga.  As for the "MacGuffin" of this particular adventure, there are hints of in in the trailer that went live a little while ago.

So let's take a look at it!

I'm not much of a video game player anymore (though I still want to eventually finish Fallout: New Vegas) but this might tempt me to get a new console.  Well, of course a new BioShock game would make me want that even more :-)

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

"Why We Fight": Three qualities I aspire for in my writing

I am a writer. I chronicle things.  Including both mundane and wondrous happenings in my life.

I write, laboring under the notion that examining one's own being will further illuminate that magnificent thing known as "the human condition".
I don't write for power, or money (though I have earned a little over the years).  I don't even write for "the masses".  Having a fan base never really appealed to me. I am just as happy writing for the few people who would read and understand and maybe appreciate the effort.
I write MUCH more than I let on here.  Most of my writing is for Facebook, not this blog.  But there are very few Facebook posts I make that are public.  Like I just said, what I compose isn't necessarily for mass consumption.  Even so, if you are reading these words now, wherever they are found, you are honored as much as I am thankful.
The day may come, sooner than later, when I do open myself up more for "the masses".  I hope three things will happen on that day.
First, that those who I most appreciate won't abandon me.  I promise to never let something "go to my head".
Second, is a mission that I believe God has always intended for me.  And that is to be a "flame spotter".
One of my jobs is to look for people who believe they are alone, who know something is wrong with the world and choose to live in defiance of that.  But they don't know that there are others who are just like them.  They find themselves lonely, with barely any hope.
I look for the fires.  Sometimes it calls for making myself seem ridiculous, so that they might better see me and come out of hiding long enough to make contact.  I am someone who tries to bring encouragement to those who need it more than most.
Someday I may take that to the next level.  If I ever disappear along with my dog Tammy, you will know.  Make of that what you may.
If you are one of the rare fires, I may already have my eye on you.  Be of good cheer. Alfred Jay Nock called us "the Remnant".  We are few in number, but one thing we are NOT is alone.  Remember that.  When the masses of men try their damndest to bring you down to their level, you can stand firm.  And know that you are admired by the ones who matter most.
Maybe writing for a larger audience will reach more of those who are important to me.
The third thing that I hope happens on that day is the realization that I have chosen to serve God in my writings.
It has been God all along, who has been my inspiration whenever I've written my op-ed pieces or religious essays.  I've never credited Him nearly enough.  I hope now, that I'm in a place where at long last I have real growing faith in Him, that He will be honored all the more.
I don't know how exactly but I need God to be honored with the book I'm writing.  But it has to be done with consideration.  All along it has been on my heart to make this a work that ANY person can be interested in reading.  As much as I don't like to do this, the subject of God must be treated gently.  Not too hard and not too soft.  If this was a Christian devotion things would be different.
But it's not that kind of book.  There will be a LOT of unpleasantness within its covers.  And in a perverse way that is going to be one of the draws that many will have toward my book.  I need it to be grasped though, that it has been something higher than myself which has brought me this far.  I'm going to honor that, as best I know how.
I really hope that I can finish this sooner than later.  There are things being written about that are funny, that are horrifying, that are ridiculous, that are sad, but also uplifting and maybe inspiring.  In the end it will be what it is, and more people will learn about this peculiar creature named Robert Christopher Knight and his wacky world.
I hope it will be time well spent.
And I hope that it will do honor to God and the MANY people He has put in my life along the way :-)

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Only Hope For America: A video commentary by Yours Truly

Have had a lot of thoughts over the past few days and weeks about the upcoming presidential election, and the general state of America.

If you've ever read "Isaiah's Job" by Alfred Jay Nock, and you found it resonated with you, then this video may interest you too.

Monday, January 08, 2024

The Berenstain Bears learn about sound economic policy

I knew it!  I just knew that I hadn't imagined this.  A cartoon from 37 years that I saw only once ago and I still remember it!

Around the mid-Eighties there was an animated series based on the beloved Berenstain Bears children's books.  The show ran on Saturday mornings on CBS.  It was pretty good as I seem to recall.  And often quite humorous.

Well, the other day one of the episodes sprang to mind as I was reading the news about the latest attempt to avoid a government shutdown.  It involved the Bear kiddies learning all about money.  How those little green pieces of paper don't have value on their own.  Instead they must be backed up by something with real tangible worth.  In the bears' world this happens to be the purest honey in existence.  Without that backing, as the kids' father puts it there would be total chaos.

In other words: fiat currency is a very terrible thing for a society to have.

This is wise economics from a nearly forty year old animated cartoon made for youngsters.  Even a child can understand the enormity of it.

If only more people had grasped the concept.  This country would not be headed toward the disaster it is hellbent on achieving.  It is indeed chaos and there is not going to be any avoiding it.

Here is the episode: "Raid On Fort Grizzly".  Well worth watching.

Saturday, January 06, 2024


 All this time for the past several years I've been trying to write a book.  About my life especially regarding the impact manic depression has had on it.

I've been working on a number of bits and pieces of it, going back and forth on those.  But there has never been a "plan" per se.  I've been assembling fragments but this project lacked structure.  I was stumbling around without a clearly defined plot.

For a very long time, going back even to before I left my hometown and set out across America, I've been trying to crack the basic outline for my book.  It has been something that has driven me crazy... well, you know what I mean (I hope).

I haven't had the shape of it.

Until today.

I finally cracked it.

Like a bolt out of the blue it hit me late this morning.  Maybe God was waiting to show it to me.  Perhaps I needed to be in a better place before I could be shown this.

Hot dang.  This is going to get made.  It's going to work.

I think that this is going to become something very special.

The first draft of the outline is now a Microsoft Word document.  Chapters and sections are already falling into place.

Working title of part one: "The Page", but that may change.  This is still very early.

My confidence just got a major boost.  Lord willing, I'm really going to be able to do this.

Okay, me go celebrate now.  Tonight's dinner: pepperoni pizza with a good helping of sriracha sauce (the original from Huy Fong).

So stoked now.  I'm looking forward to sharing it with others.  This is gonna be KEWL...

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Latest "episode" of my new video series

Still very early in this endeavor. Right now I am mostly working on camera angles, lighting, a better intro sequence... and my own presentation.  I used to publicly speak better than I do now and I have to wonder if the meds I take to manage my manic depression might have taken some of that away.  But there's no way to improve without jumping in and DOING it.  Perhaps I will indeed improve with time.

Anyway, here's the latest episode.  In which among other things I reveal my nearly forty years-old quest to obtain an object I've had my heart set on from the moment I saw it.  Lord willing that my book sells, I hope to get one.

Aaaand, on with the show!


Tuesday, January 02, 2024

The Knight Shift turns TWENTY!

 Twenty years ago today, on January 2nd 2004:

"Here we go, fast and furious..."

I'll be honest: I really never thought this blog would make it past the first year or so,  It would be something for me to play around with and then I'd get bored and abandon it.

This has not happened yet.

I think The Knight Shift fulfilled a need in my life.  To actively chronicle the human condition of this one very peculiar individual.  That has been a thing of evolution, that I can't but be impressed by as I look at many of the thousands of posts I've made over the years.  Especially those early ones.  I was much more writing about politics then, for one thing.  Today, not so much.  I can put it no plainer than this: politics is one thing that I have grown bored with.  I'm more of an ideas man, not an ideologies man.  Although lately the desire to be more proactive about that has been growing in my mind.

Well here this blog is, twenty years old today.  When it began I was 29 years old, married, about to be diagnosed with a mental condition, trying to make my first movie, still full of "piss and vinegar".  Today I'm about to turn fifty, writing a book about life with that same condition, am unfortunately divorced (but still hopeful for that kind of happiness), have made a number of movies and recently started writing the story for a new one, and I think I've inadvertently become more seasoned.  The Knight Shift has touched upon all of that and more.  Including but not limited to: movie reviews, recipes, documenting a run for public office, taking on a major corporation, shared the thoughts and turmoils of being a manic depressive, took an extended respite and came back to write about being on the road across America for over a year, posted lots of pics of my miniature dachshund Tammy, shared the loss of loved ones, celebrated the gaining of new ones, and... well, you get the idea.

I'm hoping and praying that this blog will continue for another 37 years at least.  I want to write about seeing Halley's Comet for the second time in my life.  The first was a disappointment.  Would love to make up for that.  A much better appearance of Halley would make a fine place to retire this blog on.

But in the meantime I'm counting on God to continue to provide new ideas, new experiences, new people from which to draw writing inspiration from.  I'll be honest, this site took a blow after Dad passed.  I lost a lot of drive about many things.  But I like to think the old mojo is coming back.  So long as there's even just one reader, I'm going to do my best to make this a site worth visiting.  You have my promise on that.

So Happy Twentieth Anniversary to The Knight Shift!  I'm looking forward to seeing what the next twenty years will bring :-)

Friday, December 29, 2023

Tammy's decoy

Last night Tammy, my miniature dachshund, got on the sofa.  And she brought along one of her Christmas toys: a plush dachshund toy, which came courtesy of my cousin Lauryn and her husband.

So she got up under her blanket, on my lap, and I noticed that she and her toy each had their tale protruding out:

Which one is Tammy??  In real life it really does look like there are two dogs in my lap.

It doesn't help resolve matters that the toy is almost precisely the same size as Tammy.  She could make serious trouble if she wants to :-D

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Twelve Years Later: Forgiving Mom

The realization hit me this morning that today is the twelfth anniversary of Mom's passing.
I've written about her before, here.  Maybe too much.   Sometimes all the hurt and anguish builds up and demands, even needs a vent.  Some people do that with art.  Or going out for a drive.  I learned a long time ago that I can't paint and I'm a threat to everyone on the road if I'm not in the right state of mind for driving.
I guess, I'm writing this to note how much my attitude toward Mom has changed in the past year or so.
There is no forgetting the things she did.  I can still hear her screaming "You're retarded!" at me.  The beatings.  The humiliations, often in front of friends (mine or hers).  Her telling me I wouldn't count for anything, and how much I believed her and maybe still believe on some level.  The list goes on.
I don't even know if I ever got a sincere loving hug from her.  She may have thought I was too deformed, too broken: the result of a birth that almost ended in my death and that close family insist made me mentally defective.
No, there is no forgetting those and more.  Mom had, as a dear friend put it, "a kernel of cruelty".
But in the past year or so, something has happened that surprises me as much anyone...
I've begun to forgive her.
It's not complete. Not yet. But maybe that's coming.
I've gradually started to let go of my anger and hatred toward her.  Have stopped letting it dominate my life, for the most part.   Maybe, even, coming to sympathize with her a little.
Because she was NOT all bad.  She did work hard to provide our family with food and clothing.  She also worked so that my sister and I would benefit from a private school education.  And there was never a bad Christmas, when Mom and Dad were behind it.  We always got nice presents from Santa that morning.
Mom did have her sweet moments, too.  They were so sporadic as to be complete surprises.  A few times she would come home from work, and having stopped at the Eden Mall along the way to get some things, and she would have a new Transformer toy for me (I so loved those little guys).  There were times when she surprised us with Domino's pizza for dinner.
I can't unfairly account for her bad, without doing likewise with her good.
Perhaps I must be content to resort to believing thus: that Mom was a very complicated person, who sometimes let the worst come out but was also capable of good.  That's the best I'll probably ever get to have on this side of the veil.
In her final year, she did once say something about how she had treated me at times.  Telling me that "wasn't the real me".  I've thought long and hard about that.  Was it just a lie, one of many that she told me over the years?   I don't know. I'll never know.   But like I just said, that's likely the best I'll ever get.  The closest to a real apology from her. I've got to do my best to accept it.
Nothing good she did will completely erase the hurt. But I can choose to overlook those, for sake of allowing myself to love the woman who, for good or bad, did bring me into the world.
Maybe writing this and sharing these thoughts will bring me closer to closure. And perhaps these words will resonate with others, who likewise are having a hard time letting go of anger and bitterness. I can tell you that forgiving someone can be a very hard thing. But it really will bring you a freedom that you've never known.
If I can forgive my mother, then anyone can forgive... and be forgiven.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Christmas 2023: Return of a Tradition

To be honest, I don't know if I should do this.  It seems like it would be more ideal to bring this back during a better Christmas.

But when would that be?  We aren't guaranteed a tomorrow, much less a holiday that could be years from now.

It's like this: for a very long time, every year in the days before Christmas, I would post an article that I wrote for my college's newspaper, in 1998.  A few weeks ago was the twenty-fifth anniversary of it getting published.  When I started this blog some years after college, that essay seemed like a good thing to make a holiday tradition out of.

I just checked and the last time I did that was in 2013.  Ten whole years ago.

In 2013 I was recently back home from spending a week in voluntary commitment to a psychiatric facility, because of depression.  Well, a few other things that preceded that too, that had also really hit home.  I don't know how I managed to eke out the tradition that year.

And then in 2014, Dad passed away just before Thanksgiving.  There was no keeping the tradition after that.

Since then I've struggled to keep the blog going at times, occasionally wondering what is the point of it.  But I always seem to make myself realize that this is, as it always has been, a chronicle of the human condition, seen through the eyes of one particular and peculiar person.  With all his strengths and weaknesses, warts and all.

And then there was my picking up stakes and traveling across America, looking for a new place to hang my hat.  It was a quest that brought my dog Tammy and I all the way to California.  That didn't work out so friends invited us to stay with them in South Carolina for awhile.  Now I'm living in a real home, and have had a serious career under my belt.  Unfortunately the current economy made me have to look for other work.  Which is very sad, because I truly loved my job at the Department of Mental Health.

 Well, I guess... things could be much worse.  Despite circumstances there is still a roof over our heads, food on the table, a car that still runs.  Tammy and I are together and Lord willing will be for many more years to come.

And for the first time in a very long time, definitely since before the worst of the manic depression cranked up in stark earnest, I've found an abiding faith in God again.

I suppose if nothing else, that by itself qualifies the return of the tradition this year.

So here it is, for the first time in a decade.  And with that I am going to take a few days off from blogging.  Allow myself a period of reflection and consideration, as much as might be possible.  Maybe it will be a season in which I can draw further close to God.  I would really like that.

Until next time, Merry Christmas.  And now...



 Originally published in The Pendulum, Elon University, 12/03/1998

Celebrating the Christmas season means celebrating the memories

Chris Knight

     Some of the best memories that we take through life are about the times we cherish the most. And sometimes, it doesn’t take much to bring back the joy.

     Last Friday as I was driving around Greensboro, the all-time coolest Christmas song ever came over the speakers.

     Who knows what this genius recording artist’s name is? Does it really matter? Whoever he is, he’ll forever be remembered as giving us the immortal sound of “Dogs Singing Jingle Bells”:

Arf arf arf,
Arf arf arf,
Arf Arf Whoof Whoof Whuf…

     Ahh... you know how it goes.

     And there’s the ever-beuh-beuh-beauh-beautiful rendition of Porky Pig singing “Blue Christmas” and the Chipmunks and of course “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Christmas at Ground Zero,” but hearing those dogs singing “Jingle Bells...” ahhhhh.

     It brought me back to the very first time I heard that: on the radio coming back from school just before Christmas in 1982. I was in third grade at the time. And it brought back memories of the Christmas we had.

     It was cold and very cloudy. I remember that because Santa had brought me a telescope and I didn’t get to use it that night. Which wasn’t too big a worry, ‘cause me and my sister had our brand-new Atari 2600 to play with!

     Another Christmas memory: To this day, I’ll never forgive Anita for the pounding she gave me in “Combat.” I don’t care how fancy Sega or the Playstation get... they’ll never touch the 4-bit pleasures of the Atari!

     There have been many a Christmas since then, and I remember each one well, for all the little things they had with them.

     I’ll never forget Mom and Dad taking me and my sister to see Santa Claus at the mall in ‘84. That morning Dad asked if I’d come with him to cut firewood, so we rode the tractor into the woods. There had been snow earlier in the week, which lay around us in the crisp, cold morning.

     Dad also brought his 30-30 rifle, why I still don’t know. After we had the wood loaded, Dad asked if I wanted to try shootin’ the gun.

     There I was, a ten-year old kid, holding what looked like an anti-aircraft cannon in my tiny hands. Well, I aimed at this tree like Dad told me to, and pulled the trigger.

     To this day I cannot describe the colors that flashed before my eyes, or the sound in my ears. When my existence finally returned, I was flat on my back in the snow, and blood was gushing from between my eyes where the scope had hit my nose from the backfire.

     That night Santa saw the bandages and said “Ho ho hoooo, and what happened to you, little fellow?”

     “I got shot, Santa,” was the only thing I knew to say.

     Hey, was I gonna lie to the Big Man? Uh-uh, no way was I gonna lose all that loot!

     The following year’s Christmas I remember for many things, but especially feeding the young calves on our farm. It would be the last year our family would be running a dairy farm, and I had started helping with some of the work around the barn.

     Dad set up a Christmas tree in the milking room, with wrapped-up boxes beneath it.

     Tinsel hung from the front doors of the barn. And there was something about the feel of the place there, that has always held a special place in my heart, as if we knew that there would not be another Christmas like this one.

     I wish there had been another Christmas on the farm, because there’s something I wish I could have seen. And as silly as some people might find this, I really believe that it happens.

     You see, if you go out at midnight on Christmas Eve, you will see all the animals in the farmyard, and in the fields, and in the forests, and wherever else they may be, stop where they are.

     And then they kneel.

     They kneel in remembrance for another night, long ago. It was Christmas, but how many people could know it then?

     Nothing remarkable, to be sure: Caesar had decreed a census through the land, and each man went with his family to his town.

     One man in particular took his wife, a young woman quick with child. But there was no room for them at the inn. So that night, in a dirty and filthy stable and surrounded by animals, a child was born.

     You see, it’s easy for us to forget. At this time of the year, we are too overwhelmed by the consumption and the material and the glitter and all the customs that come with Christmas.

     And it’s too easy for us to forget that Christmas is, before everything else, a birthday.

     But the animals, who watched over Him as He lay as a newborn babe, two millenia ago... the animals have not forgotten.

     And so they kneel every Christmas and give glory to the newborn king, and in awe that God would send His Son to live among us in the greatest act of love.

     And to teach us many things, but especially to “love one another”. And to bridge the gap between man and God.

     The birth of Jesus Christ: the greatest Christmas present there will ever be. His birth, which would give mankind the greatest present it could ever ask for.

     Who in the world on that night could know the price that this present would someday have?

     Heaven and Earth sang praises to His glory on that night. The animals have always remembered that night. And Heaven and Earth still praise and sing unto Him.

     And if you only take a little time out from how busy things become at this part of the year, you can hear the singing, too. And it is a great temptation to join in that chorus.

     And perhaps in hearing, we will not forget the real meaning of Christmas, either.

     This Christmas Eve night I plan to be outside, with the same telescope that I got for Christmas all those years ago, and trying to envision a bright star over Bethlehem. Around midnight, I’m going to take a walk over to my aunt’s farm.

     Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men.

Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”



Sunday, December 17, 2023

Tammy and me at Kitty Hawk

Today is the 120th anniversary of the first powered air flight, by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk on the  Outer Banks of North Carolina.

In May of 2017, not long after coming back east after nearly a year of traveling across America, I took my dog Tammy on a day trip to the Outer Banks.  I wanted her to be able to say (to other dogs anyway) that she has seen the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  We drove down to Cape Hatteras and visited the lighthouse, then went back north.  We spent a little while at the Wright Brothers monument, and got our photo taken at the spot where that very first airplane flight took off from:

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Got to see Godzilla Minus One last night

Many years ago an idea hit for a Godzilla movie.  There are strong doubts that I'll ever get to make it but the notion still occupies my mind whenever a film about kaiju is released.  My idea for a Godzilla film is to set it in Japan in 1954, the year the original film came out.  To treat Godzilla as a force of nature like an earthquake or tsunami.  Shoot the movie in black and white like Schindler's List.  And throughout the film it cuts to the modern day (or maybe it's the Nineties or Aughts) with survivors of the attack sharing their perspectives.  Just like the "witnesses" that were seen throughout Warren Beatty's Reds.  It would have been as close to a documentary-style film about a Godzilla attack as would be possible.

As I said, I don't expect that film to be made (or maybe someone at Toho will read this post and decide it's a good idea, in which case I will cheerfully say "Do it!").  But if that doesn't happen then I will be perfectly happy with Godzilla Minus One, which I was able to catch last night.


Godzilla Minus One is, absolutely, the Godzilla film that I have been hoping to see for a very long time now.  Yes, here is a movie that treats Godzilla as he should be: a natural disaster on ginormous legs and breathing atomic fire.  There is no bargaining with such a force of nature.  You can only do your best to brace for the destruction in its wake.  And maybe it's just me but I've long thought that Godzilla should not be endlessly fighting other kaiju.  The tendency there is that Godzilla becomes a nigh-unstoppable force for good... which runs fully counter to his character.

Let me be succinct: Godzilla Minus One is the Godzilla movie we didn't know we needed and thought we would never get.

The film begins in 1945, in the closing days of World War II.  Which I loved.  Setting the movie in postwar Japan is perfect for a Godzilla story and it immediately ups the stakes, what with the country just then beginning to recover from incendiary air raids and the two atomic blasts.  Just when the people of Japan think they might really be on the high road away from devastation, here comes Godzilla to make things even worse.

I'm stopping short of calling this post a proper "review".  It's more of just a blunt reaction piece.  Godzilla Minus One is a movie that you are going to want to go in cold when you watch it.  This movie was a sheer and quite moving delight that hearkens back and brings freshly to the fore all the qualities that one would expect from a serious Godzilla motion picture.  I had a blast (no pun intended) watching this movie and I think most of the people reading this will come away from seeing it feeling much the same.  WELL worth finding a good theater to see this movie in.

I'll close with this: No, I haven't seen Oppenheimer yet.  Real-life events have conspired me prevent me from seeing any movie this year up 'til now, with the exception of this past summer's Indiana Jones film.  But I could definitely see Godzilla Minus One being a serious awards contender.  It's a film as beautiful in its acting and cinematography as it is massive in scope.  In a perfect world this movie would be up for Best Picture at the Oscars in a few months.

If so, the gang at Toho Pictures will have well deserved it.