December 30, 2015

My bunk spot is a melting pot of what clearly appears to be several distinct subcultures of inmates here at Bastrop FSC. It would take too long for my short attention span to describe all, so let’s start with the surprising large segment that I’ll refer to as The Biblicists.

 

Biblicists can usually be found anywhere reading their Bibles. With them might be as many as three highlighters. Their time spent “in the Word” would put a seminarian to shame. (I am assuming that seminarians still read the Bible often which is probably fallacious as we all know they are currently reading Brene Brown.)

 

Should I encounter a Biblicist and in the unlikely event make eye contact, I might say, “How’s it going?” To which he will reply, “Forgiven, blessed and highly favored.” To which…I got nothing. I simply awkwardly check my shoes and slowly walk away. Now one might assume this Bible reading serves as a road map leading to a life changing spirit of love and grace. The answer lies in the Parable of the F...

December 24, 2015

I think it’s good for the soul to attend at least one Christmas program annually just because you want to and not from any sense of obligation. My first choice would be the Chamber Singers Christmas Concert in Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University. Since I am currently an inmate at Bastrop FSC and my travel options are, shall we say, somewhat limited, my second choice is the Chapel Christmas Program here at the camp. So Sunday, December 20th, I was right there, second row, middle seat.

 

Now this year’s program, like most Christmas pageants, was not without its share of pre-opening night drama. The inmate asked to write the script abruptly quit in early December citing “creative differences” with the organizing committee. While I was not privy to the disagreement, I do have a vivid imagination about such things. I wonder if it could have been that the writer was edging in an unsuitable gender neutral direction or maybe he wanted to hold the wise men at the border for proper FBI...

December 21, 2015

I recently awoke at 3:00 am. Being a typical aging male baby boomer, I decided it would be a very good idea to make a trip to the bathroom. Climbing down from my bunk as quietly as possible, I made the 30 foot trek to the urinals, some of which were working. Upon arrival I was surprised to see one of my roommates washing his face. It would have been impossible for him to do this any louder. This seemed odd to me, but not as odd as hearing someone in the shower. I badly wanted to know who, but that would have been weird. With the three of us awake, two quietly awake, that left the remaining 87 roommates asleep.

 

On my way back to bed and now more awake, I was amazed at the sounds coming from the dimly lit room. There were monologues in English, Spanish and gibberish. The exact topics though were inaudible from the sound of the snoring.

 

With snoring, a solo can be problematic, but a choir is oddly not so bad. The snores came at me from all directions, upper and lower bunks, staccato and n...

December 17, 2015

Were I not an inmate at Bastrop FSC, I can say with absolute certainty that I would be in a movie theater the weekend of December 18-20 watching the latest Stars Wars movie, which supposedly takes place 30 years after the death of Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi.

 

The Vader story is the classic myth of the hero’s rise, fall and ultimate sacrificial redemption. It’s a story that’s been woven through the fabric of our culture as long as we’ve been able to communicate–told and retold with “a thousand faces” as Joseph Campbell would say. It represents our best. I’ll be eternally grateful to George Lucas for keeping the myth alive and in my heart and completely surprised if J. J. Abrams is not up to the task he appears destined to take on.

 

The Jedi Force is for me one of the best practical pictures of the Holy Spirit, the mysterious leg of the Christian trinity, which is sometimes hard to define in layman’s terms. A quietly powerful spiritual force of love, goodness and comfort that one ha...

December 14, 2015

 

The doors to the Chow Hall kitchen at Bastrop FSC open at 5:00 am Monday through Friday and 6:00am on weekends. First to arrive are the two cooks and the CO [correctional officer] in charge of the kitchen for the morning. I roll in at 5:30am on weekdays and 6:30am on Sunday. Invariably I’m greeted with “good afternoon” or “where the hell have you been?” or something unprintable, even though I arrive exactly when I’m supposed to every day.

 

While my job is now vegetable prep for all meals, I usually work with the morning crew which is the A Team. Theoretically I should have all my work done by noon when the afternoon B Team starts preparing for 3:00 pm dinner. With my new job, I’m responsible for preparing all the fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, pasta salad, potato salad and cole slaw. As I mentioned before, I have always just assumed all these things simply self-prepared. The morning crew complains that I’m slow, when they are not complaining about something else. I think of myself more...

December 13, 2015

My favorite quote from the movie A River Run’s Through It is, “A Methodist is just a Baptist who can read and write.”  However, if you if you have a question about the Bible, seek out a Baptist. A Methodist though might be good at discipleship training. For social justice, seek out a Franciscan Catholic. To learn about evangelism, seek out a member of the LDS Church. For which wine to order with dinner, seek out an Episcopalian. Oh wait, that’s neither fair nor accurate. It’s not wine during dinner, but Scotch before.

 

With apologies to my Episcopalian friends who can take a bad joke, the real question is who should I seek out if I want to learn about mediation? Yep, you guessed it–a Buddhist. Honestly my Episcopalian friends would probably be the most open to doing just that.

 

So that’s what I did. A small group meets for meditation every Thursday from 12:15-1:30 pm. It’s led by a Buddhist volunteer from Austin and has been a very worthwhile exercise for me. I still tend to occasionally...

December 9, 2015

WARNING: POLITICAL CONTENT

 

Remember Sidney Catts? Probably not. He was a Baptist minister who in 1917 became governor of Florida. He claimed Catholics were storing arms in a Tampa Cathedral. He was worried about a papal invasion and a new Vatican in Palm Beach. Convents were searched and anti-Catholic fraternities grew. One erected a giant cross outside Atlanta which marked the re-birth of the Klu Klux Klan which had been dormant since reconstruction. Sound familiar?

 

I recently read with interest what the various Republican candidates for President thought about allowing 10,000 Syrian refugees legally into America. For some perspective, Germany, with a quarter of the US population, is currently housing over 700,000 refugees. I was interested in what they had to say because I thought I was a Republican. I used to be, but the ones I liked are all gone. Jeb and Ted want to selectively allow “Christian” Syrians into the country. Ben compared them to rabid dogs and thinks no Muslim should e...

December 9, 2015

I’m convinced that having a certain rhythm and balance to life is vital to my physical, mental and spiritual health. But the reality is that being an inmate at Bastrop FSC represents a significant lifestyle change for me. My rhythm has been disrupted. Some inmates have for many years worked their way through the federal prison system to get to a camp, but for a 62 year old whose criminal background amounted to a defensive driving class every three years, the transition  has been challenging.

 

Developing a routine that works is a trial and error process that requires time and intentionality. After 100 days here, it could be said that I am not unlike the character played by Bill Murray in the movie Ground Hog Day.

 

The day begins with my alarm at 5:15 am. As the lights don’t go on until 6:00, I make my bed and get dressed in the dark quietly because there are 7 sleeping people within four feet of me. This was challenging at first, but now, not so much. My food service job begins at 5:30am....

December 2, 2015

Many thanks to the kind sender of “The Economist” magazine from my Amazon Wish List. I love the British un-politicized view of the US and eagerly read it each week here at Bastrop FSC, just like I did before I came. The most recent week was certainly no exception. There was a great article on Albert Einstein whose general theory of relativity was published on December 2, 1915, one hundred years ago today.

 

The general theory built on Einstein’s first theory of relativity, developed ten years earlier, which determined that time and space were not absolute. In short, someone measuring objects going different speeds would get different answers when measuring distance and time. To put it another way, the faster I travel, the slower my watch moves, compared to someone not going as fast. It’s E=mc2.

 

Noted physicist Max Planck wrote him in 1913 saying, “I must advise you against it, for in the first place you will not succeed, and even if you succeed, no one will believe you.” Nice advice Max.

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones