Itching, Doctor King, and the Holy Land

So, we are in the middle of the dog days of winter, as I like to refer to them. We might be in Georgia, but I guarantee you it’s cold outside today. The humans are scratching themselves because their skin is so dry. Mike says that his skin has always itched. There isn’t a minute of his waking life when he is not itching someplace or other. He refers to it as the joke that God has played on him. In fact, he uses the itching sometimes to remind himself to meditate, and to think about God in a loving way. . He had a condition called eczema from infancy until he was in medical school,  but it pretty much has gone away. The only thing remaining is the itching. He has a skin lotion that he sometimes uses that’s made from colloidal oatmeal. It works well but Mike can’t reach his back any longer. It’s not that it’s any farther away from him than it used to be, but the range of motion of his shoulder joints has diminished. Judy got him some kind of a strap with loops on both ends. He applies  lotion to the strap, grasps one loop in each hand, reaches around behind himself, and applies the goop to his back. This works pretty well, but the lotion is so cold that Mike often would rather put up with the itching. Occasionally it disturbs his sleep, so he gets up and suffers the cold. He has some other kind of shmear that he puts on his face a couple of times a day. His face is by far the itchiest place on him. I wonder what that is all about. Michelle got him some skin lotion with the absurd name of “Yes to Carrots”. Mike doesn’t use it because it has a girly smell. Michelle was thinking it would be good because it has according to her, salt from the Dead Sea in it.

Mike and Michelle went down to the Dead Sea in 1993 when they went to Israel to visit relatives. In case you didn’t know it, the Dead Sea is a large body of water which is over 1000 feet below sea level. It is the lowest place on earth as far as elevation (or lack of it) is concerned. It is located in the desert at the border between Israel and Jordan. In fact, the River Jordan flows into it. When Mike and Michelle were there they went swimming in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea really isn’t exactly water. It’s water with a lot of minerals dissolved in it. Because of the high concentration of minerals if you go swimming in it you pop up to the top like a cork and float on top of the water with ease. Despite that fact, when Mike got in he was thrashing around like a dying fish, and splashed this mineral water stuff in Michelle’s eye. They had to get out and irrigate her eye with fresh water. Michelle forgave him though; she is very sweet. Mike remembers on the walk from the parking lot to the Dead Sea being approached by a couple of young Palestinian boys, probably around age 18. It turns out that if you’re an American you stand out like a sore thumb there. Mike recalls that they asked him what he thought about President Clinton. Mike had more sense than to get into a political discussion in that situation so he made some sort of benign remark. The boys wanted to know where Mike was from and  he didn’t mind telling him that he was from Atlanta. It was a friendly conversation. There is a significant industry at the Dead Sea in mining the mud and selling it as a treatment for psoriasis and other skin diseases. So, apparently there is something to the idea of putting Dead Sea salt in a skin lotion product. What it has to do with carrots I’m not sure.

That was Mike’s first trip to Israel. It is probably hard for non-Jewish people to fully grasp the significance of the Jewish homeland to a Jewish person.  For one thing, Jews who take the Bible as the Word of God believe it was promised to them. It seems to be a very deeply felt, gut level, maybe even a DNA driven energy force. In one sense this characteristic is not a particularly Jewish one. I think all social groups are deeply attached to a homeland. You may have heard the expression “American by birth and Southern by the grace of God.” It is on the same gene as tribalism, I guess. It is seen in cats as the establishment of a territory.  Dogs are even more territorial than we are. Come to think of it, it must be related to the survival instinct. We all need a home to be warm, raise our young, and protect our families. More about this another time.

Jerusalem  is an ancient city of great significance to people of all 3 of the Abrahamic religions. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all deeply attached to it. Mike went back to Israel when his brother was so sick and ultimately died a few years ago. He went there again with Judy the following year. Their relatives  were very warm and welcoming. One day they went back down to the Dead Sea. This time though they went to the Jordan River a short distance upstream from the Sea.. There is a location there where Jesus was said to have been baptized by John the Baptist. There is a small church on the Jordanian side, and on the Israeli side of the river there is an area for people to congregate, contemplate, and pray. Mike says he doesn’t think the river was wider than 30 or 40 feet. He said the water was very muddy in appearance. They sat on some bleachers and watched the people. Sitting quietly behind them were 2 Israeli border guards armed with Uzis. They saw 2 families there from Indiana, Mennonites, who were baptizing their children and singing gospel music. Mike’s niece went down and talked to them. She even stepped into the water. It was a lovely day. It must have been a very spiritually moving experience.

Today is the national celebration of the birthday of Doctor Martin Luther King. Mike recalls vividly the day he was shot. It was a terrible day. He was living in Madison, Wisconsin at the time. He says it was during his black hole period. I’ll talk more about this time in his life later if Mike wants me to. Doctor King was a great man who believed in the dignity and equality of all peoples. As a Christian minister he had a deep sense of the importance of the Jewish people and of the land of Israel in God’s plan. He spoke frequently about the importance of the state of Israel as a bastion of democracy in that part of the world. He was also very frank about anti-Semitism. He said “When people criticize the Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.” There is a street in Jerusalem called Martin Luther King St. If you go there you will see the street sign in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. I said a little bit about Doctor King in my blog at this time last year entitled “An Auguration.” It was published on January 15, 2017. You might want to take a quick look at it.

The gospel read in church yesterday was from John. It read: “Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him,’Can anything good come out of Nazareth (that shithole)?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ ” I added the parenthetical phrase myself, but no doubt most of the congregations across the county did so mentally. (See my most recent post, “So, What Shithole Country Do You Come From?”)  I hope you are not offended. Mike belongs to a group that encourages restraint of tongue and pen. This is no doubt an excellent principle to live by; but sometimes I follow it, and sometimes I don’t. If I have offended your Christian sensibilities, you can thank me, because when you forgive me, as you must, you get one step closer to godliness. See, it is all about Love.

Mike and Judy have started giving us wet food morning and evening. I usually don’t bother with it. I would rather catch me a mouse or something. Ladybug will eat a little bit just to be polite. Shayna Maidel goes after it like she hasn’t eaten for weeks. The whole point of this is to get some Miralax into Jackson so he won’t get all stopped up again. He has still been passing these hard dry nutmeg seed-like poos and probably throwing up more than the other cats. Of course we all throw up sometimes. We have to get rid of the hairballs, and also we need to give the people we live with something to do. All 4 of us have our own funny litter box routines. Ladybug is still very private in her personal habits. In the several years that she has lived here I don’t think she’s been seen in the litter box more than a half a dozen times. And Mike says that he’s never seen her take a drink of water.

Well, I shouldn’t natter on. I hope you have a blessed day, and take a few minutes to meditate. That’s all the news from Happy Meadows.


Author: Black Magic

Black Magic is a handsome, charming, and self-absorbed cat who lives with Mike and Judy Gordon in Marietta, Georgia. He is about 7 years old, and he will remind you at every opportunity that his grandfather was Black Jack, that famous cat who wrote his own autobiography. Black Magic has a great many opinions, and despite his natural feline arrogance, he seems to be genuinely spiritual. But the reader can decide for him/herself.

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