Reflections on the New Year

December 31, 2020

I think there is nearly universal agreement, here in the US and everywhere, that 2020 was — on the whole — a very challenging year.

As we sit perched on the threshold of a new year, I am hopeful that 2021 will be better. Much better. It could scarcely be worse.

Exactly how things go from here… well, we just can’t say. If I may be allowed to prognosticate just a bit, I’m thinking that the first half of this nascent year will be rough. Very rough, in all likelihood. And then, it will get better.

How’s that for a prophetic look into our shared future?

Well, Nostradamus I am not. But I am a hopeful human, a hopeful citizen and I stand ready to do what I can to pull in the same direction as my fellows who want to help. To help to get us pointed in a positive direction and to begin to make some progress.

I am hopeful — cautiously hopeful — that we’ll be in a better place 12 months from now as we compose our thoughts about what kind of year 2021 will have been.

And I’m content with being able to “say” that tonight.

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2020 Ben Lawrence Basile

A Christmas Morning Wish for Everyone Today

A Christmas Morning Wish for Everyone Today

I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas. This piece of mine was originally posted on Christmas Day, 2007 on another site. 

A Christmas wish for everyone today

This has been a challenging year for me in a lot of ways, yet I find myself feeling even more than the usual holiday spirit right now as I sit at the keyboard, waiting for Santa to come down my chimney. Wait! I don’t have a chimney! Oh well, I still believe! Well, the part about Santa, who can say? The rest of it, I’m still pretty big on all the good stuff that we think about when the holidays roll around each year. No doubt a lot of you feel the same.

The Christmas story does hold a lot of meaning for me. I’m not quite sure if I still believe all of it, all the nuances and consequences and so on; not quite like one “believes it” when the assembled faithful say the Apostles Creed together at Midnight Mass. Some will be doing exactly that in just a few hours, perhaps some of you.

Yet it doesn’t seem at all “funny” to me that God comes to us whenever it suits his/her purpose. Not entirely sure if “he” did in that particular, historical way. Being raised in a Christian family and having gone part-way through seminary a few years ago, I do lean in that direction. But I’ve come to see some things in a different light now that I’ve spent a little better than a half-century on this planet. This planet where almost a billion people believe that God became incarnate, was born of a young woman who had never “known” her betrothed. And that his coming among us in that way was the beginning of a Divine plan to make it possible for all of his creatures to enjoy unending fellowship with him and with one another! In this life and in the next! Now that’s a story! One we humans have been telling one another for a very long time, and I’m quite sure we’ll be telling it for a long time to come.

I’ve been struggling for so many years now about exactly how much of the story still “works” for me and all of that. But what I’ve never doubted is that God, or the Divine, does come to us and among us all the time. And I’m finally in that phase of life where I’ve learned to look for it, to expect it and to embrace it. And I know that the other really big thing about Christmastime is to get a bit closer to my brothers and sisters who also bear the image of the Divine One in their souls and on their beaming faces. Some of them were raised on the same stories I was; this one about God being born of a virgin, and many others.

Some, of course, have heard and embraced and celebrated different stories. I’m not very inclined to quibble about the particulars at this point in my life. I’m quite sure that God would love to see us move a little closer together at this time of year, and to go on telling those stories; especially that one about God robed in human flesh, living and dying as one of us. And I’m quite sure that the heart of the Divine is pleased when we carry forward “his” mission to strip away that illusion that our sins, imperfections, and much less, our differences, should separate us from one another or from his Divine Heart.

Well, Christmas Eve has progressed, as it will, into Christmas morning as I’m wrapping up this little holiday message. And I’m sitting here, luminous and expectant, like a six year old waiting for Santa to appear. Like Simeon in the temple, waiting to bless the infant Jesus, knowing then that he has seen and embraced, quite literally, the Divine plan to end our sinful and deadly illusions of separateness. I’m expectant, waiting in earnest to see and to embrace the next manifestation of the Divine. In you, in her, in us. Perhaps–and wouldn’t this be a great story–perhaps in and across many countries and cultures, in four billion human hearts at once!

A wish, a dream, a fervent hope… Perhaps that’s all it is. But a hope to hold close to one’s heart on Christmas morning. God bless each of you today and throughout the year to come. May you be blessed to see the image of the Divine, of the Christ-child in yourself–and in one another.

Ben Lawrence Basile
Christmas morning, 2007

© 2007 Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Ben is not the owner of this photo and believes it to be covered under Fair Use

Solving Life’s Little Mysteries

Solving Life’s Little Mysteries

Sometimes in life, you find yourself trying to make sense of something and yet the mystery defies your attempts to explain it. I’m always putting together theories to explain such things, and sometimes those theories are spectacularly wrong. Or very incomplete.

I was in a situation like that a few years ago. The unusual thing that had been happening, that had defied all my attempts at explanation was that almost every time I entered — or left — a store, I would set off the security alarm.

It didn’t happen every time, but it happened a lot. It kind of humored me that it was just as likely to happen while entering as while exiting; in fact, that gave me an opening to try to inject some humor into this mysterious and mildly-stressful occurrence.

“There I go again–trying to smuggle merchandise into a store!” I would quip. But the not-so-funny thing of it was that I still wanted to figure out why it happened and the solution had been eluding me for a good long while.

Then one day while entering a store, the alarm kicked in, fulfilling its purpose by signaling that the gentleman entering the store and sporting a sheepish grin was up to no good.

As it happened, there was a clerk just a step or two away from the entrance. He gave a smile as I launched into my usual explanation about how that had been happening to me a lot and that I had no earthly idea why.

A light seemed to come on for this helpful crew member. He looked at me, a glint of hope shining in his eyes, and he said, “take off your right shoe and give it to me”.

I did as he requested. He took it with him behind the sales counter. Reaching into a drawer, he grabbed some kind of a tool I had never seen. It somehow looked like a pair of pliers and a small pry bar had had a baby.

Well, there on the sole of my right shoe–just forward of the heel–was a peanut-sized gizmo I had never seen.

With my inverted shoe in his left hand, and the plier-thingy in his right, the clerk deftly removed the gizmo from my now-relieved shoe and looked at me with a smile.

I can best describe my mood at that moment as a strange mixture of confusion and relief. The relief part was simply that I knew I had triggered a store alarm for the last time. The confusion part was that it was quite clear that my feeble theories about what had been happening were now all shot-to-hell.

I loved those shoes, I had bought them in my favorite thrift store about two years before this strange scenario played itself out. I love brown shoes as they matched a couple of leather jackets I wore a lot in cooler weather. They were genuine leather, incredibly comfy and had given me two years of hard use in spite of the fact that they were used when I found them in that second-hand store.

As I strode happily out of the store — with two beloved shoes on my feet and without the sound of a shrieking alarm in my ears — the gears in my over-worked brain were turning…

Although I had plainly never put together successfully a theory that explained the robust ringing of alarms, a new question popped up, seemingly begging to be answered. A question that was wrapped around the first question, which had been the focus of prodigious amounts of my time and mental energy.

That foundational question concerned how such a fabulous and functional pair of shoes had come to sit, forlornly, on a dusty shelf in a second-hand store. And in that moment, my top-shelf, methodical mind framed a theory to address that burning question, to solve the larger mystery!

To this day, years later, I’m totally convinced that the reason I was able to steal those gorgeous, hand-crafted, Italian leather shoes in a thrift store for $6.95 was that… that the first owner got sick and tired of setting off alarms every time he entered a retail establishment!

Pure genius!

The proud possessor of a beautiful mind, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2020 Ben Lawrence Basile 

Photo credit shock Fotolia

It’s National Brownie Day

It’s National Brownie Day

Yes, today is National Brownie Day! So I’ll bet you know what I was doing at 1 a.m. this morning… Yeah, you’re right. And it helped to warm up a pretty cold house, too.

I haven’t baked brownies a good long while but considering what day it is, what choice did I have?

Let me know if you’re celebrating the day appropriately, too. I seriously doubt that I’m the only one!

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2020 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile