Scattershot: Epiphanies on the Way to Enlightenment

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Maybe everyday is Saturday morning.”
—Drive-By Truckers*

A STAR IS BORN

One of my favorite new traditions at my church, First Presbyterian, is the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany — climax of the Christmas season often brushed aside by Protestants but embraced by Catholics happy to keep their holiday lights bright on winter nights — when the Three Wise Men finally found Jesus, realized his Divine Nature, and showered the Messiah gifts of frankincense, fruitcake, and Amazon gift cards.

For the past 3 years, we have drawn blind our Epiphany Star, a five-pointed cutout of yellow construction paper emblazoned with the 1 word to serve as our mantra and meditation for the year. Mama drew Neighborliness and a friend drew Gratitude. Both wonderful things. Yet, they didn’t pack the prophetic THIS IS A SIGN FROM GOD punch of mine.

My star said, REBUILD..

If you read about my 2020 on the skids, then you know I am in the process of building my life anew, picking up the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle ripped apart by a lively mix of addiction, insanity and incarceration.

I’m doing real good, y’all, mostly by learning a lot about the brain. Basically, about what went wrong and how to repair it. When you are ingesting Chernobyl quantities of rocket fuel in order to eclipse the sun, you are choking off the prefrontal cortex. That’s where our higher selves exist and where we employ executive functioning. Full of fear and loathing, a brain besieged by chemical romance hijacks the amygdqala and keeps it at full-tilt frenzy while breaking the glass in case of emergency.

But the brain, as complex and over-evolved as it may be, is like other muscles. Use it or lose it. And regular exercise can work wonders. The simple acts of switching up the hand you use to text and brush your teeth generates new pathways, a concept called neural plasticity enhancement. Routine and exercise (as well as tripping on mushrooms, according to several studies) are among the best practices for putting your neural plasticity in a positive direction.

That’s why it felt so dang good to get back to the downtown YMCA. “Y people are good people,” daddy always said. So when I went back last week to work out for the first time since COVID’s quarantine, it was good for body and soul. Oh yeah — good for the ol’ prefrontal cortex, too.

All the aforementioned psych-science is powerful stuff, for sure. But it pales in comparison to the life-affirming healing that can come only by following God’s guiding light to a better place, A place where you are not separated from yourself. Not separated from your higher state of being.

Einstein said that the notion of science and religion being mutually exclusive does a disservice to them both. I’ve come to the conclusion that science will end up proving religion, not dismantling its philosophies. While I have more than my share of heathen tendencies and hedonistic pursuits, my Christian faith is my bedrock foundation. My beloved church never wavered in showing God’s grace to me even in my darkest time.

So when I spied the command REBUILD for my 2021 Epiphany, I knew I was forging ahead on the right path, one made for my steps alone..



PATRIOTISM, PIETY, AND PUTTING ON A SHOW

Since I’m getting all church-y this Saturday, I’ll confess that I got choked up while driving my truck around town and listening to the presidential inaugur\ation live on NPR.

The lump in my throat didn’t show up during such sentimental splendor as watching the Fire Chief from South Fulton — the Georgia city where the entire criminal-justice system is run by Black women — lead the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance reciting both verbally and by sign language. And it didn’t come during the trumpet solo by that cute kid (also from Georgia!) who played his horn for health-care workers in the Atlanta area this past year to achieve what’s described as a profound positive impact on our over-worked front-line COVID fighters.

Lady Gaga’s got some pipes and who doesn’t love ‘God Bless America,’ especially when sung by a peacenik wearing a dove pin. Garth Brooks is a total madman I’ve loved since 8th grade and he did just fine on the national anthem. (Looks like Trisha’s feeding him too much, though.)

But those two performances didn’t make my eyes water. It was hearing that Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden were attending Mass together at St. Michael’s.

It takes hope in a hopeless world. Carrying on this tradition, coming right after 4 years of the boner-pill Beezlebub guiding our nation’s moral compass, brought about healing while delivering hope. At least it did for me, as I hope it did for y’all.

MY WEEK IN SOCIAL-MEDIA SCREENSHOTS

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Much ado about nothing from one man typing high above beautiful downtown Columbus, Georgia, at Electric City HQ of the 4th floor of the Heritage Tower, Scattershot is a weekly feature composed ECL Editor Frank Etheridge. It rambles on while reflecting on the week behind.

Lady Columbus watching over us from Heritage Tower.
** Taken from lyrics in the song, “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife”
by the Dive-By Truckers, a band that gives me infinite inspiration

About the author

Frank Etheridge

Native son and veteran journalist Frank Etheridge is Editor of Electric City Life, dedicated to documenting the news and culture of Columbus, Georgia.

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