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Mitch Albom's done gone and did it again

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The First Phone Call From Heaven

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Author’s Note: Does anyone other than myself remember the old Barney Miller Show? I’m sure there are many of us out there. Well then, do you recall the episode when Sergeant Fish showed up late one morning looking more depressed than usual?

“What’s the problem?” asked Barney, Fish’s friend and captain of the detective squad.

“I failed to qualify at the pistol range,” Fish shamefacedly admitted.

Barney listened while Fish lamented time gone by.

“Barney, I don’t get it. I was young for so long.”

Pretty much captures the essence of becoming a "young, older person" which I too experienced a few days ago when I turned sixty.

A friend who had come by earlier to help with the Busch Triplets asked me in a teasing tone how I felt about becoming an “altekacher”. I had no immediate response but would now like to take this opportunity to dedicate these remarks to Renee Ransenberg-Gale, my friend and neighbor.

Best-selling author Mitch Albom, unencumbered by the medievalism of religious dogma, relies upon his "G-d-ful", faithful characters in his recently released The First Phone Call From Heaven to do the “religion talking” for him. How he does it reminds us we could rid the world of religious dogma of any and all sorts if mankind were only to live by the words of the psalmist and prophet:

"I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. (Ps. 121) and ...

“It hath been told thee, Oh man, what is good and what The Lord doth of Thee
to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with thy G-d.” (Micah, 6-8)

Sadly, we have yet to learn the meaning of either lesson, and it just may be that we won’t until after each of our individual lives in this world has ended but not before, I suspect, we have gone "face to face" with the unique faith challenge that awaits each and every one of us.

Deceptively labeled and marketed as The Truth, religious dogma has invariably led to the dehumanization, persecution and murder of those whose belief differed from that of the fellow armed with salvation, sword and dagger.

If indeed each man is on a journey while alive in his life then we are all fellow travelers and, as such, still en route to our destination. The problem is not so much with the destination. If it turns out to be different than what we thought or the wrong place entirely, then we'll have eternity to figure it out.

At day's end, if we but remember that from a single putrid drop each of us began and to the dust of the earth we'll each return; however extraordinary we may think our capability is to ascend to the mountain top regardless of its height, it is rather the creator of the mountain top-not its climber-to Whom we should be guiding others.

The author's provocative blend of the language of clarity, overlain by a brief but deeply incisive layer of commentary (“The news of life is carried via telephone. … most milestones of the human journey, good or bad, are foreshadowed by the sound of ringing”) results in a prose that, at times, reads like poetry-to which the honest reader can only concede, "Well I'll be a son of ... There it's been right in front of my nose all the time" while the reader/writer mutters: "Darn! Why didn't I think of that?"

Well, the first answer that comes to mind is you're not Mitch Albom-an acknowledged master in the use of the English language to express the co-mingling of emotion and dialogue to create scenes of extraordinary ordinariness. Albom draws his reader in with an almost undetectable subtlety, such that it might be more accurate to say he draws his reader “within”. It’s as if you’re seated at the author's side watching while he taps away at his keyboard. Talk about the best seat in the house. The Bears fifty-yard line and the Cubs/Sox dugout seats? Forget about it. Don't even come close.

Friends, I’ve more to say about this book. I received my copy from Guri, Hallel and Zmira’s mom for my birthday. Do get yours, yes of course, at the usual places.

Adieu.

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