A Gift

My friends and family have always said I have a gift: my voice. When I was in elementary school, I sang soprano in the Florida Boy’s Choir.  I enjoyed the performances, the dressing up, the beautiful music–I got a good taste.

I went on to other pursuits after that, but my gift called me back again. In 9th grade, I returned, this time to a co-ed chorus.  We did a few token latin pieces, but as can be appreciated for young teenagers, our teacher kept us emersed in popular tunes that she knew well like the Beach Boys and the Beatles.

I continued on in high school, where my teacher exposed us to Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals and permitted us to create our own choreography. It was interesting.

Then my dad talked to the manager of the Florida Boy’s Choir, who said Florida State University was one of the top schools for music majors.  We took a trip up to Tallahassee, and I fell in love with the hills and trees.

Florida State University Westcott Center
Image via Wikipedia

I started out trying to get into University Singers while being totally unprepared.  They made me sing the National Anthem– I learned my lesson, and stayed away from that group.  I sang in the Chamber Choir and the Gospel Choir, having some interesting experiences in both.

From there on out, it was just church choirs, which was my least favorite.  And indeed I eventually faded out of there.

Now I just brighten the ears of the person in the pew in front of me.  And in that I find very fulfilling and enjoyable.  As long as I spent on the stage, I think that it really was not for me.



Our world is a world of contradiction. Everyone, no matter what they espouse to believe, contradicts their beliefs in their thoughts, words or actions at some time in their lives. Anyone who claims otherwise is not being honest with themselves or others. Skeptics have a term for this: hypocrisy. And skeptics use this term like a silver bullet to try to shoot down anyone who tries to be a better person, influence others in a positive way, or make this a better world in general.

Even though I don’t like everything about the Christian religion, the history of the universal church, or even God himself (or herself), I do claim to be a Christian. To some, the fact that I can claim to be a Christian, yet criticize all parts of Christianity, leads them to conclude that I am a hypocrite. Or the fact that I do things that are not according to the Christian faith, leads them to the same conclusion.

The funny thing is, it is because I am a Christian that I am held to this high standard. This is understandable, since Christians do strive to be better people, and do try to help others improve their lives, but it is not realistic. Anyone inside or outside the Church who thinks that Christians claim to be or should be better than anyone else, is misinformed or confused. The only person that a Christian measures himself against is himself, and that measuring stick changes every day, every moment, since Christians are normal people, as tempted and corrupt as everybody else.

Another misunderstanding by non-Christians is the giving and receiving of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an easy ticket to non-stop hypocrisy. Forgiveness is the basis for transformation of all relationships. Instead of being angry, bitter and filled with hate towards others and towards oneself, a Christian chooses forgiveness instead. There is a word that Christians use that is also connected to the “how” and the “why” of forgiveness—grace.

Grace is something that is completely foreign to and rejected by many non-Christians because of the “how” and the “why”. The Christian understanding is based on belief in the sacrificial death and resurrection (three days later) of Jesus of Nazareth, whom we believe to be God, and the love exhibited by his sacrifice, which purpose Christian’s believe is to pay for the guilt of all humanity. Christians believe this sacrifice could only be made by God himself, who came to Earth as a completely innocent man.

No hypocrisy there.

Love and Devotion

Today a friend suggested to me that it was ridiculous for me to show a poem that I had written to my wife, simply for the reason that she would not appreciate the dark humor in it. Admittedly, my wife is, for the most part, a bright and cheery kind of woman, although, as my friend aptly described, she is a little rough around the edges. At first, I was shocked. I didn’t know what to think. I did not reply, but simply left the verbal victory to my friend, who knows both me and my wife equally well, though, as I thought about it later, not well enough.

The really sad thing about my friend’s comment is that he completely discounts the very foundations that I consider essential for marriage: commitment, dedication, devotion, connection, love, hope, trust, etc. “So,” I had to ask myself, “does he think our (and possibly every) marriage is simply a marriage of convenience, something we felt like doing one day, and have just been too lazy, or perhaps, to blind, to undo?”

And then I had to reflect on my friend a little bit, who doesn’t seem to have any of the values I’ve listed, due to his own upbringing, which lacked many things we all take for granted—not just those things, but so much more. But the saddest thing that caught my attention was one aspect in particular, which you may have already guessed: love.

When two people fall in love, there is something there. And then when they commit their lives to be together, there is supposed to be something there. And when they stay together for going on 14 years, as we have, it is hoped, though not taken for granted, in this age of high divorce rate, that there is something there. I hope that what is there in my marriage, what is exhibited to my friend, but what, perhaps, his broken radar does not pick up, is what is supposed to be there, what is supposed to be the strength of a relationship: love.

And if what my friend doesn’t understand about our relationship is the love that we feel, we practice, and we exhibit to him and all our other friends, then he also cannot conceive of the commitment, dedication, devotion, connection, hope, trust and many other virtues that come alongside love. And as far as my poem goes, my friend does not understand that because of all these things, the very first person who I want to share my poems, essays and any other creative writing with is the person who I share everything with, no matter how much she will dislike, misunderstand, not appreciate or any other “negative” reaction you can think of. Of course, a positive reaction is always nice, but what is most important is that I have shared a part of myself with the one I love most in the world. Anything else is, as my friend is fond of saying, “icing on the cake”.

Three GSBs

I did not know the man who first held my name in my family. My paternal grandfather is a mystery to me. I have seen pictures, heard stories, but that’s all. He died delivering the mail on New Year’s Eve when my father was in college. I believe he must have been a very good man, because my grandmother is a very good woman, and her children were and are very good people. I know he made a career in the military, and his family travelled the world like many military families. He served during World War II. I have heard stories, like I said. He was the first Gordon Sinclair Bowman in my family. Even though I did not know him, I consider myself blessed, privileged and honored to carry his name.

I do, however, know my father, another very good man. My father also served in the military, though not as a career. He served during another war, Vietnam. He went to college, then married, then had two boys. Sometime later my parents divorced, and still later my father remarried. He worked with numbers most of his life, in offices. He is a very hard worker, and very generous. He serves his church diligently as a head deacon, and he will do anything for you, if you are in need. He volunteers all the time, and often does “good turns” simply out of habit. Although he could not be with his children the entire time they were growing up, he always tried to be with them when possible, and tried to make the most of the time he was with them, as he still does. I love my father. He was the second Gordon Sinclair Bowman.

Both of my grandfathers, my father and my father’s brother (my uncle) served in the military. My maternal grandfather used to tell me war stories. He encouraged me to join ROTC in high school, put in my two years in the military and then go to college on a military scholarship. I did not join ROTC, because by the time I was in high school I was a loner and just wanted to do my own thing. I did not think about what I’d do after high school until half way through my senior year. I recalled my grandfather’s words about the military and decided to take the military vocational exam. All of my family served in the Army, so that office is where I went. When I filled out the application, there were some questions about my health. I have had asthma my entire life, so I put that down under health conditions, thinking nothing of it. As soon as those recruiters saw that, they looked stunned and hurriedly told me they could not let me take the exam because the Army did not allow individuals with asthma to join. At a loss, I began to consider college as my immediate “Plan B”. I visited the college preparatory office at my high school (half way through senior year, mind you) and announced that I would like to go to college. The college counselor looked a panic, and we began to consider my chances for acceptance at that late juncture. She advised me to bring up my grade point average and told me I needed to take the S.A.T. I eventually applied to several colleges, mostly in the State of Florida. My test scores were high, and I earned an academic letter that year, so I was lucky enough to be accepted to a few colleges. My father took me on what was to be a tour of colleges in Florida, but I made up my mind after the first college we visited. Nestled in the hilly, tree-filled college town and Florida capital of Tallahassee, Florida State University was to be my home away from home. I grew to love Tallahassee so much that after I met Jackie, the wonderful woman who would become my wife, and who also loved Tallahassee, it became my full-time home. After spending way too long in college (it took me 8 years to graduate and then I spent a short time in graduate school), Jackie announced to me that it was time to get “a real job”. I looked at the Tallahassee paper online classifieds and thought I found something in which I had experience. I had done some graduate work in the School of Information Studies and had worked as a student assistant in two of the libraries at F.S.U., where I had learned keyword indexing for online search engines. The ad in the online classifieds was for an “Indexer”, but did not give a job description. When I went for the interview, I impressed the supervisor with my summary of the task of his “Indexing Department” by using the name of one of my graduate courses: “Information Organization”. I got the job and my jaded trainer summed up the task a little differently: He said “we move shit around”. So, I’ve been “moving shit around” now going on 10 years and am now the administrative assistant for a different supervisor. I’ve enjoyed working at the leading legal publisher for cities, towns and villages across the country, Municipal Code Corporation, which just happens to have its headquarters right in “good, old” Tallahassee, Florida. In my free-time I squeeze in a little creative writing on WordPress. I am Gordon Sinclair Bowman III, known on WordPress as “gsb3”.

Sometimes I Freak, Part III

Sometimes I freak when I go to church. When you step into a church somehow you feel like you should be on your best behavior. That’s not really a Godly feeling or sentiment, since I believe that God accepts us exactly as we are, wherever we are, but that is how I was raised. In fact, growing up, my mother was ruthless in spurring me and my brother to get ready and stop goofing around on Sunday morning. What was important was looking good by being on time, behaving well, answering questions intelligently and in a spiritual way—basically, putting on a front. Lord knows my family was falling apart at the seams in every way, with my grandmother passing away, my parents’ separation and eventual divorce, and my mother’s undiagnosed mental illness. All was not well in the Bowman household. And those feelings come back to me today as I step through the doors of a church, any church, even one as positive, inclusive and accepting as mine. I wonder what deviant thoughts people suspect me of (well, actually, I am quite the skeptic), what deviant acts I am guilty of that separate me from other Christians and from God, what rebellion I am in that alienates me from the same. Going to church is something I want to do, but at the same time, I do struggle with these things every time, and it compromises my experience on the whole.

Sometimes I freak when I try to pray. Yes, God and I are not on the best of terms—haven’t been for a long time. In fact, except for when I pray with others—my wife at the dinner table and the occasional attempt at a weekly prayer partnership, my male prayer partner, something I initiated this year as an attempt to get closer to God because of my lack of an intimate relationship, and the occasional prayer with my Sunday School class and with the congregation in the sanctuary—I am not on speaking terms with God. I know after that enumeration of instances it doesn’t sound bad, but I guess I am a perfectionist, and I realize how far I am from any kind of daily routine which would bring me into any kind of genuine intimacy with God. Being alone with God is a frightening experience for me. Feelings of emotional and physical abuse from childhood along with visions of an angry Yahweh of the Old Testament conjure a being to be faced that is not the loving, caring Jesus that spoke to the disciples in the upper room that fateful night and told them that when we see him we have seen the Father, because he and the Father are one. When it’s just me and God (and I have to admit it is always the vengeful Father that I envision in my mind, not the gentle Jesus), I just freeze up. Gone are the soothing thoughts of “come to me ye who are weary, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Instead it is a booming God that stares down at me and demands to know every sin I have committed and has come to punish me for them in some crazy sadistic way that makes me cringe and from which I yearn to escape. Not a great relationship, obviously.

Sometimes I freak when I open the Bible. I’ll admit, it’s intimidating. Yes, there is a lot of wisdom there. Yes, I believe it is divinely inspired. Yes, I believe there is potential for healing, instruction, direction, inspiration, grace, forgiveness—all that. But you know what else there is? God. He is there, waiting, behind those words. For what? I don’t know. But the potential scares me. I have read the entire Bible many times over, and if there is one thing I know for sure, there is power behind those words. And the thought of being overpowered, perhaps in a scary way, is what keeps me from those words. I have been overpowered, many times, in absolute terror, and I have run from figures of authority, figures who were supposed to be trustworthy caretakers, symbols of love and support, that have turned on me like a viper lunging for its prey. Is God like that? My intellect tells me no, but my heart, and my body, are not so sure. After all, if humans, blood, family, can be tyrannical, how much more can God? And there is something else—God is all powerful. Do I want to surrender myself to an all powerful tyrant? Do I want his thoughts to be my thoughts? No, not by a long shot.

Sometimes I Freak, Part II

Sometimes I freak when I walk into a room because I know I will be in that room for the next 8 hours and be faced with tasks with impossible deadlines and impossible expectations for how those tasks are to be done. Yes, I’m talking about my job. I am an indexer and an administrative assistant. Well, I can handle the latter easier than I can handle the former sometimes. As an indexer, I create complex reference material for legal material that is published by my company. The only problem is that most of the time either the job comes to me already late or, if it is on time, it still must be done yesterday because we don’t have enough people in our indexing department to handle all the work that comes from two or three times as many editors and is proofread by twice as many proofreaders. Yeah, we indexers are the red-headed step-children of the Supplement Department. And as far as the administrative assistant duties, well those have to be kept to the minimum, despite my boss’s duties which are enough for three or four people, her being the Indexing Supervisor, Deputy Director of the Supplement Department, and serving practically full-time as a regular indexer, just to keep our inventory moving for those impossible deadlines. And let’s not forget the impossible expectations. No mistakes. This, despite jobs that come to us full of mistakes and in styles that vary almost as much as the thousands of customers we have. It’s fun stuff, really.

Sometimes I freak when I go to a party. “Why?” you ask. “Parties are fun!” Well, they are partly fun for me, but it is very inwardly forced. First of all, remember that I am an introvert. Second of all, did I mention that I am bipolar? Well, if I’m in a good mood and manic, it’s cool. I can move with the masses. But if I’m depressed, anxious, or in a mixed episode of manic-depression, meaning I’m depressed, excitable, anxious, sad with racing thoughts and intense energy—not a good recipe for party-going. And I really can’t control how I’m going to be. I don’t like crowds, and I don’t like pretending to be happy when I’m not, which is exactly what people expect of you at parties. Otherwise, you get lots of questions like “Are you okay?” and “What’s wrong with you?” More fun stuff, I assure you.

Sometimes I freak when I visit family. And this goes for blood-relatives just as much or more than in-laws. Visiting family is really a mixed bag for me because I live pretty far away from my blood-relatives so I have to use annual leave, and either have to drive a long distance (from North Florida to South Florida) or fly on a plane (San Rafael, California for my aunt, uncle and grandmother or Rochester, New York for my brother and his family). So I’m taking a vacation to see people I want to see because they are my family, but who I don’t want to see because they are my family. Wouldn’t it be fun to take a cruise, just my wife and I? Or travel to the Grand Canyon or something by ourselves? The last three big vacations I took were all with family: San Rafael, Davie (for my dad) and Miami (for my mom), and then a while back there was the big trip to Disney World with my wife’s whole family. In between, I did go to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival which was headed by Pearl Jam (I’m a big fan), but there was the fact that we stayed with my friend’s family and spent some time visiting other family members—always got to be some family in there. That was okay, of course, because my friend is like family to me, and her whole family is so gracious and welcoming that you feel like one of their family, but then again…they are family. There just seems to be no escaping it.

(To be continued…)

Sometimes I Freak, Part I

Sometimes I freak when I walk into a room. There are many reasons, many people, many places, many situations, many thoughts, many feelings. One is my self-image in the context of each of my personal relationships. I see my reflection in the face of another. My existence, in relationship, is a scary thing. When someone beholds me, they have a range of reactions: polite interest, positive engagement, intimidation, reluctant acknowledgement, jealousy, boredom, irritation, and you get the idea. So if my self-image were based on the apparent reactions and/or facial or bodily expressions of those I come in contact with, I would be a very confused person. Although my self-image is not solely based on the reactions and expressions of others, when it happens all the time, it does begin to wear on you. You begin to succumb to its persuasion almost despite yourself. Something deep down inside says, “Is that me?”, “Is that how I make others feel?” and finally, “Is that how I am?” But like I said, it seems to be quite a range, so part of me says, “It must be them, not me”. And in a job like mine, there are certainly all kinds of people, with all kinds of personalities, all kinds of hang-ups, and, occasionally, some very interesting, gifted, delightful people. Those last ones, they’re the ones you most want to go with, and go to, if the need arises.

There are other reasons that I freak when I walk into a room: Animals! My wife loves animals: dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs…and horses! The more the merrier! Only one problem: I am not an animal lover. I am really a loner, so an empty room is my friend. So, when I come home to our current menagerie: 2 dogs (1 young female chocolate lab, 1 old female Chihuahua), 2 cats (1 young male red tabby, 1 old female calico), and a male grey cockatiel with highlights of bright yellow plumage…I feel quite outnumbered, surrounded, and it’s hit the moving target with the male human.

Then there’s my wife. The sweetest, most sensitive, caring spouse one could hope for, and the first thing she wants to do is give you a great big bear hug and a smooch as soon as you walk in the door after a hard day’s work at the office that has made you want nothing but some peace and quiet and to be left alone. And she’s singing, or blaring music, or blaring the television. Just what an introvert like me looks forward to on the drive home from PRISON!

(To be continued…)

A Religious Background

Well, let me say first off that I do have a long religious background. I was raised in the United Methodist Church in Miami, Florida. The interesting thing is, being raised in this church did not interfere whatsoever in me keeping an open mind and resisting stereotypes and prejudice, as is possibly the case in some places. After all, Miami is a metropolitan city and a virtual melting pot of ethnicities and an international gateway to people from all parts of the world.

Although I was a child, and like a child, I took part in teasing, cruel jokes, and other immaturity typical of children all the way through adolescence and even young adulthood (and some for the rest of their life), I have learned to think for myself on most subjects, simply by intellectualism, reading a wealth and variety of literature, and by meeting a variety of people from all walks of life, all of whom usually dispel any stereotypes I held onto, even if just a little bit in the back of my mind.

I think we all have prejudices and stereotypes. In some ways, it is a survival instinct. We try to separate the “good” from the “bad” and those who are in “our group” from those who are not in “our group”. It gives us a sense of safety and security, even if this sense is mostly a delusion. I think all minorities and groups who are persecuted by society benefit from “circling the wagons”, so to speak, in order to get support from those who are of like minds, hearts, and bodies, and gaining power from being in a group.

Now, I say all this right off because I really think that, although religious groups can do these things, and maybe some of them do, I don’t think they are really any different than any other group in as far as whether or not they are religious. Now that’s not to say that if they are made up of people who are already very prejudiced and stereotypical, that they won’t reflect those traits in their religious group, but the prejudice and stereotypes do not originate from the religion.

Coming from a religious background as I have, I must say I have learned a lot of very good lessons through the church. I’ve learned to care for the hungry, the homeless, disaster victims, those who suffer from the ravages of war, those who are persecuted because of their race, sex, religion, etc. And yes, discrimination does still exist in our world, and in the church, and this problem is mostly due to one thing: reverence for the canon of scripture.

Scripture contains some pretty harsh things said against homosexuals, and even worse, these things have been blown way out of proportion by our culture in America and across the world. Homophobia is rampant everywhere. That is a challenge for today’s society that still must be overcome.

I want to end with the greatest thing that religion, my religion, has taught me. The man, Jesus of Nazareth, was the greatest man that ever lived. Anyone that has any doubts should read the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four books will give four different, sometimes overlapping, perspectives on who Jesus was, who he claimed to be, and what he means to Christians. I can tell you in short that Christians believe Jesus to be the Prince of Peace, Holy Lamb of God, Son of God, sitting at the Father’s Right Hand in Power and in Truth. Christians believe that in dying on the Cross in complete innocence, Jesus paid the ultimate price for the sins of the world, thus enabling us all to attain everlasting grace and peace. Salvation is something that is hard to comprehend without faith, but basically it is the attainment of forgiveness for guilt and condemnation that we earn by falling short each and every day of what we could be, what we were born to be, what God created us to be. With salvation and God’s grace and forgiveness, we can come a little closer to becoming his vision for our lives.