Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, January 15, 2015


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

I was in NYC, recording the audio version of the first edition of Now That I Have Cancer I Am Whole, when I learned some strange things about free speech.

HarperCollins had bought the audio rights from AndrewsMcMeel. They were going to get Jerry Orbach to read the audio version. I protested. “I like Jerry,” I said, “but he just can’t interpret what I’m saying in that book the way I can.” “Send us a tape,” HarperAudio replied. I did. “You’re right,” they said. “You’ve got a better voice than Jerry. And you’re a lot cheaper.” [They did NOT mean singing voice. Orbach was a great Broadway musical star before he was a detective on “Law & Order.”]

So they flew Helen and me to Manhattan, and put us up in a hotel, from which we went out in the morning to buy tea from a pushcart. And in the studio I sat in the same chair where Tony Hillerman and Hank Aaron and The Countess of Romanova had sat the week before, recording their books. It was neat.

But in the recording, we kept hitting snags. Not like the Countess. She wore a leather dress, and stirred her hot chocolate with the ear piece of her glasses. Each time she shifted position, the engineers had to have her start the sentence over because the noise was audible on the tape. They were pleased with me. I sat very still. They called me “one take.” Except for the singing parts.

Yes, I wasn’t Jerry Orbach, but there are some songs in that book. I had adjusted a lot of songs to use for myself and other cancer patients. “Chemo-pusher’s Ball.” “After the Chemo’s Over.” “You Light Up My Life.” [radiation] “Cancer’s Gone,” to the tune of Edelweiss. And that’s when they would go crazy in the control room and yell, “You can’t use that tune; that belongs to Richard Rodgers.” Or somebody else.

So I would have to adjust on the spot, changing the tunes to old folk or Gospel songs which were not owned by anybody. Like “No more cancer,” to the tune of “Oh, freedom.”

“If you were using the material of others for satire or pornography, that would be a protected free-speech right,” they assured me. “But you can’t use other people’s material if you’re using it to help people get well.”

Free speech is a funny thing. And its limits are sometimes in funny places.

Let me be clear: I sympathize entirely with the French folks who were exercising their free speech right--a human right, although it is not honored as such in many places--to do cartoons critical of others, including religious people, and the religions themselves, and were murdered by terrorists because they exercised that free speech right. I totally condemn the people who killed them, both for their murdering and for hiding behind religion to justify their hate and cowardly actions.

But I’m thinking about the Epistle for this coming Sunday, in the 6th chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. I realize this is a slightly different context, but I think it applies. Paul says, “All things are lawful for me,” meaning as a follower of the Messiah, he no longer has to keep the religious rules-dietary and such-of his people. They no longer apply. “But not all things are beneficial.”

In other words: I don’t have to keep these rules when I am with these people, but since it is respectful to them, and doesn’t diminish my freedom since it’s my choice, I’ll abide by those rules.

Free speech is a good thing. It covers some things that are not so good, though, like pornography and being disrespectful. Just because it is lawful doesn’t mean it is beneficial. If you use your free speech to criticize, you have to expect a reaction, and in a world of violence, where guns and bombs are plentiful, and violence of all sorts, including war, is glorified, it is not surprising that some people who feel that they cannot be heard any other way will use violence as their response to what they see and hear as disrespect.

I am a religious person, a follower of Jesus, whom I call the Christ, even though I follow better in theory than in practice. I don’t want my religious faith disrespected. However, I respect the free speech right of people who do want to be disrespectful to me and to my faith. I shall answer with free speech which is respectful to them, because that is what is most beneficial. And I shall continue to mourn those who have trouble knowing the difference between lawful and beneficial.

John Robert McFarland

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]

I used to keep a careful index of all the things I told in this blog so that I would not repeat. That has become unwieldy. Now I just trust to memory. Sorry about that.

I have also started an author blog, about writing, in preparation for the publication, by Black Opal Books, of my novel, VETS, about four handicapped and homeless Iraqistan veterans who are accused of murdering a VA doctor, n 2015.

I tweet as yooper1721.

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