Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Moment of Silence

Thanksgiving Tuesday every year we come to Tallahassee to Grandpeoples Day at Holy Comforter Episcopal School, first for Caroline, now for Charlotte. While here we go to Trader Joe’s for a few things we enjoy. One is 100% Kona coffee beans, another the box of Australian shiraz. They have good frozen green beans for a third the price at Publix. A small but interesting selection of Indian frozen dinners: a lamb dish I saw last time and bought yesterday. For lunch, Linda and I will share it and the go-box of spaghetti from my chicken florentine and her eggplant florentine at Village Pizza that Charlotte chose for supper last evening. 

Interesting inflation at TJ: a key attraction of the shiraz was it’s decent wine at $2.50 a bottle, but instead of exactly $10 as I’ve paid recently, a new price, $12.95. Maybe supply responding to demand, shipping costs have gone up not that much. I bought two boxes but may not again, don’t like a sense of being caught. But it’s still cheap.  

First time we went, TJs had two brands of duck liver pate’ but no more, maybe duck lovers shamed TJ. Delicious and reminded me of friends’ recent reports of dining in France, probably as heart unhealthy an item as I love, though I don’t eat it once in five years.  

Yesterday the ten minute drive from Tassy’s house to Trader Joe’s took ninety minutes, an hour and a half, traffic was that jammed and unmoving. Hundreds of police cars, sheriffs’ cars, ambulances, fire trucks, tow trucks streaming through, all traffic stopped for them and traffic backed up for miles in every direction on I-10 as well as north and south thoroughfares. What’s this: a flag at half-mast. At Trader Joe’s the cashier told us they were honoring the funeral of the Leon County deputy sheriff shot in an ambush. It added further perspective to the Ferguson case and my contumely for the Episcopal priest comparing herself to Jesus who was arrested among other demonstrators there chanting “Killer cops have got to go” before the grand jury reported out. Politically correct, a self-righteous certitude attaches that smells foul of arrogance, prejudice and ignorance, and makes me ashamed of fellow clergy. Hatred is not a feeling, it’s how a lynch mob treats people. One wonders whether she’s heard the gospel stories of Jesus arrested, prejudged, tried and executed by the self-righteous and certain of his day. As in heard but not understood. I find no crime in this man. Crucify him, crucify him.

A calling equal to national defense, and fully as honorable, law enforcement is a vocation to the public good. An officer killed in the line of duty is reason for a traffic jam, a flag at half-mast and silence. 

Patience. Facts. Evidence. Be quick to love, slow to judge, last to condemn, and make haste to be kind.

Who has ears, hear.

Our annual Wednesday Thanksgiving Week tradition closes with breakfast at Village Inn, hugs and kisses, and driving home to Panama City. I may have blueberry pancakes. 


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Not One

e pluribus non unum

Writing on Monday evening an hour before the Grand Jury announcement in Ferguson, Missouri, I see that for all our progress over the past sixty years, we're as racially divided as ever, people no less susceptible to being whipped into mob frenzy, media more untrustworthy and ever more unbalanced in presenting biased. CNN, which for years I’ve relied on as a primary news source, has so sickened and disgusted me with the slant of their reporting on this case that from now on I will be wary of everything they say. I've changed the television channel this evening as a sane alternative to throwing a brick through the screen. 

Deeper than I knew, more utter than I realized, our racial divide is no mere point of view, but tectonic plates that grind and snap, erupt. Both sides are certain. One knows the system works, other knows the system aligned against them. On both sides, people who know nothing whatsoever have the strongest feelings in the world about what should be done. What seems so obvious to me is not to others, to whom precisely the opposite is so obvious. One side seems rational based on experience in the society, the other side emotional based on experience in the society. The experience is opposite, the societies are not the same, we do not speak the same language or see the same facts, we are as different Americas as the divides in the MiddleEast, theirs religious and historical, ours racial and experiential. 

+++   +++   +++

It is done: eight o’clock come and gone, prosecutor’s statement masterfully  presented, media questions to him posturing, shameless goading. I watched on two channels, one I once trusted, the other not, one rabid, one maddenly reasoned. Monday evening I may have learned more about myself than anything else, more than I cared to know, that I have fought with myself and lost, the battle done. I refuse to let it be so.

Watching now, too early Tuesday morning, two memories come to mind from past national crises in my lifetime. One, as our resigned president flew into exile and disgrace, is watching President-For-But-A-Moment Gerald Ford say “Ladies and gentlemen, our system works.” I am relieved to see that the system does work, works as intended, as it should, in justice, not in acquiescence to and appeasement of mobs. The other memory is from the Pentagon watching across the Potomac River as Washington burns and mobs loot after the assassination of MLK. This morning as Ferguson burns the same mobs loot, smash store windows and race home with a new television set, suggesting that for some this is what it was all about after all. 

From total naivete I see an America that seethes and stews and hates in what I had thought was progress. In time, short order, it will calm down and the media will turn to other goading and all will return to normal until this time next year.

I would say my heart is broken, but the truth is that it is inured as I see again: sadly, I do not understand and may never from the America in which I abide. We are not one.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Bus Stop

Sixty-eight reads the redline thermometer on my back porch at the moment. 68F and the trees are dripping, I couldn’t tell whether it’s light rain still, and didn’t want to know enough to walk out into the yard and get my socks wet. The thermostat in the family room is set on 67 but nothing is running because it’s 70 in here. Whether to go out on the back porch to let the fingers dance, or the front porch, or just sit here and sip coffee? I had a nice sleep, eight to two, six hours, decent for an old man, eh? some hours to go before meeting Robert for our walk. A nap later? 

A friend died last evening, her death makes me sad and wonder “what now?” for her and for all of us, self included, or is there then a now -- now being a facet of the human construct of Time -- and, again, what of all the awarenesses and memories that make each of us individuals, who and what we are and have been, does it go out with the lights? Is no more crying and pain and sorrow a passionless being or simply oblivion, or is there a difference, and does believing make so? Twenty-five years ago a parishioner friend died after choosing no more amputations for her diabetic limbs. Brilliant, agnostic, kind and gentle, scholar, professor of philosophy, she died content, peaceful and happy, believing life was over and there would be nothing more, no hereafter notwithstanding the church’s blessed assurances that she thought quaint and naive.

If mourning and crying and pain are no more, are there rejoicing and laughter and pleasure? Can there be light without darkness?

What happens when/where time crosses eternity, do we get off and wait for the bus? Not to be profound, I simply don’t know. I hope, I may believe, likely not the same as another believes, but I know not and know that I know not, and am in no hurry to be taught. Neither am I afraid of learning when the bell rings for that class. Or the bus stops for me.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

CFB no dox

Well, never begin a conversation with "so" or “well” so I hope catholic Boston College wasn’t surprised that the Lord wasn't on their side, that even with Hail Marys right up to the end, the game was predestined and foreordained. Still, it was the most exciting FSU game of the season though the Seminoles remain undefeated. Everybody's gotta hate somebody though, and as a Gator, I think I'd rather love to hate them than see them lose, because if they start losing I'll just have to revert to the Dawgs. Jimbo didn't pull his Rally Strategy that bounced him out of first place, and he had to fight for the win, which was good: I detest those lopsided debacles, this was a stomp down good 'un right up until the final seconds and fourth down when FSU got in field goal range. 

What I’d like most of all is to be able to whine about Jameis for some reason, but it’s sour grapes, if he "would have been a Gator" I would have chuckled at his antics. He selects his receiver like an eagle spotting mice and passes to him like a speeding bullet. He will go far. I hope. Soon, I hope.

Nevertheless, we have our Thanksgiving crow stewing for next Saturday and I’m going to eat feathers, feet, beak and all, but washed down with a couple glasses of delicious Argentine malbec. A good sport I am, eh? Bull-you-know-what, don’t print it, preacher, bite your tongue.

Elsewhere. South Carolina game was fairly OK at 37-12 and Auburn could have been far more lopsided at 31-7, sorry Trae. Other SEC games of interest were vanilla cupcake: there's no doxology in 55-9, 52-3, 48-14. Michigan a disappointment again but still and always MGoBlue. Gainesville: I hate it when nice coaches fall, get slammed and fired. Coach Will beat Georgia, if he topples FSU let's give him another season, eh?

Some months ago Fr. Chuck Floyd scheduled a trip to take his children and grandchildren to Hawaii so I’m filling in for him as supply priest Celebrant at St. Thomas by the Sea, Laguna Beach this morning, Nov 23 and next Sunday morning, Nov 30. Deacon Ed is preaching today, me next Sunday. Back at HNEC Dec 7, Roll Tide v. hopefully not Dawgs unless Missouri messes up against Arkansas. No chance? Think again: Arkansas 30, Ole Miss 0 and Missouri didn't do as well against Tennessee as I hoped. Anyway, go Tigers, beat Razorbacks. 

Violent storms today? Supposedly.

Sorry for the rambling nonsense.


Saturday, November 22, 2014


seascape: smell of gray

They are visible, completely outlined by their lights, two ships anchored offshore overnight. On the horizon. Couple miles out? it's hard to judge distances at sea. Merchant ships. They were there when I went to bed and they are there now. The sunsets are beautiful, sometimes magnificent, but what I like best about being here and so high up and able to see so far may be the sea, its sound in the dark with the sliding door cracked, and its ships. Even the best Navy years were the ships. 

A warship not only is but feels very different from a cruise ship. It’s no nonsense. Gray. And the smell. The smell: a Navy ship has a smell that comes back to me in this darkness. What was it? Paint? I don’t remember, paint? oil? the oil in the paint? steel, does steel have a smell? It’s not the salt sea, what then, I don’t remember, but passageways, storerooms, when you go inside, below decks, every space, every void has that smell. Best was the destroyer, fifty-five years ago, everything about it, steel, sailors and smell. 

Someone who served in her years ago wrote online that from where he lives he can see the USS TRIPOLI tied up at her dock. I can see her too, but she's at sea. At sea I used to check every one of my spaces every evening after supper. Took a couple hours. That was forty-five years ago and I don’t recall how many spaces, several dozen or more, up and down ladders, deep in the ship, some interior spaces and some against the skin of the ship where you could hear the sea rushing by, and feel it if you touched the steel. Outside your stateroom and the wardroom you wore your hat if only because coming up a ladder into the wheel of a closed hatch it gave you protection; but the smell, I remember the smell. You get used to it, but you never don’t smell it. 

It makes the rest of the world smell strange. 

Eventually it leaves your nostrils. It left me that 1971 morning as I drove out of San Diego for the last time. I wonder if those merchant ships offshore have it. If they’re as clean as a U. S. Navy warship I bet they do. It must be paint then, eh? What? The smell of gray.

Coffee this early morning, a soft chair that leans back comfortably, a warm light blanket over legs and lap, sound of the sea and lights: two ships on the horizon.

Do the ships give me wanderlust? No, not wanderlust: memories, but no longing. They complete the scene. What’s the sea without ships?


Friday, November 21, 2014

A to V

From A to V

Oh my, it’s so true. Anu Garg’s Thought For Today, “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do” (Voltaire 1694-1778). Yet at this point in life what can one say or do but press on. The thought is not all that different to my recall of our discussion at seminary thirty-five or so years ago, of Anselm’s thoughts on atonement. (a) In that one’s obligation, one’s debt to God is to live a perfectly sinless life, (b) even one sin cannot be made up for by doing good, because good is one’s obligation anyway; but (c) in God’s perfect justice, sin debt must be paid; and in that because of (a) such payment is beyond human doing, (d) only God’s own self is able to pay the debt, which (e) was paid once for all by Christ on cross.

If that’s not quite accurate, I’m not about to dig back into Anselm this morning, and I don’t buy Anselm anyway; but Voltaire’s quotation has it right. I could have done other, different, better. I could have taken another bus, boarded a different train; but here I am, bus left and missed my train, standing on the platform watching the caboose round the bend and across the heavens.

+++   +++   +++ 

Always, Anselm’s successor four centuries later, Thomas Cranmer, in the daily office  

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name.

and in Cranmer’s litany, with its theology of atonement,

REMEMBER not, Lord Christ, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins: Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.
The thoughts, the theme, Anselm, Cranmer, Garg, Voltaire, seem more appropriate to Lent than to the bursting to be free anticipatory joy of Episcopalians humming but not singing Christmas carols that Advent has evolved, or devolved, into in our time. But as we creep through the dregs of fall and on into winter, March seems a long way off. Too far, when life itself is so unsure. Or too soon. Let the reader understand.

Dearly have I loved Thomas Cranmer, but his portraits are always so dour. As though he suddenly realized the problem: he forgot to drink his prune juice. 

No matter.


Boy howdy, that didn't go where I intended. I was thinking of Bill Cosby, "poor Bill" I was thinking except that it's poor me, losing the wonderful humor and loving gentleness that Bill was to me all these years. Bill is stewing in his own juice as many a male would do if life caught up with him in the end; but it's poor me, I'll miss the Bill Cosby I loved all those years. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Like everything except Halley’s Comet, comes round every year the Feast of Christ the King.
 It was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to keep us mindful that humans are not supreme, in response to the rise of fascism and its personality cult in Europe and especially Italy. Christ the King Sunday has subsequently been taken up throughout the Christian church, including the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism generally, because we love to celebrate. Also, if the pope says it, we scoff that we're not under the pope and do it anyway because it's such a great idea. Why we don't just go home to Rome I've never been quite certain. Anyway, what happens? Denominations that don’t follow the church calendar miss it, but we sing a couple of great, rousing hymns and think ahead to Advent. 

To some the idea of a king is offensive and don’t like it even associated with God, both because of the authoritarian flavor of monarchy, the idea of beings ranked qualitatively when all blood is red and the royals take themselves ludicrously serious what with bowing and curtsying even to each other and keeping a list of who has to curtsy first; and because as to monarchy, even the primary terms are patriarchal, male sexist: king, kingdom, lord, lordship, father, son, even he, his as in “Blessed be his kingdom now and for ever” and “It is right to give him thanks and praise. And so, with a nod in that direction the church quietly shifts to neutral nouns and pronouns. Sovereign instead of king. Reign of God instead of kingdom of God. Blessed be God's kingdom (oops) now and for ever. It is right to give our thanks and praise. The holy gospel of our savior Jesus Christ according to Matthew. And such. Even the notion Queen of Heaven does not offset the overall maleness. Or the madness of getting caught up in it.

It does not do at all to scoff at the views, politics and social outlook of others, I keep reminding myself, with my scorn for those whose certitude on any subject is set in concrete different from my own. The ridiculousness of my own certainty is sure. Several times, I have tried to facetiously cast my own certainty in outrageous absurdity, but my attempt at humorous self-ridicule always misses the mark somehow, such that I come off arrogant and spoil it all, humiliate myself, and must apologize and go home embarrassed. Over the years, one of my favorites has been the ludicrousness of Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall, talking to Alice.
 In the outrageous conversation, HD uses the word “glory” to mean “a nice knock-down argument,” misusing the word such that he makes no sense. Alice calls him on it and the pompous ass retorts -- Lewis says "in rather a scornful tone" -- “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” I love that Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and especially the outrageous pomposity of HD's ignorance, and have tried several times to turn it round on myself, but my effort always fails miserably and I certainly will never try again. Not soon. 

We still and nevertheless have the Feast of Christ the King notwithstanding the contempt of many for subtle, even unconscious, unwitting male domination in the society, and their antagonism toward those who don't perceive it.

For myself, I love seven-year-old Alice and would like a grandmother for president next time. If we could get Golda Meir. She was one tough cookie.

As we learn from Humpty Dumpty, every conversation doesn’t have to flow logically or make perfect sense, or indeed any sense at all to those in the know who know they know, and to those who know not and know not that they know not. Quite often, they are one and the same. 

Thursday morning breakfast. Tuna Melt sandwich made with canned pink salmon stirred in a teaspoon of Hellmann's mayonnaise, two slices of 35-calorie thin wheat bread, and no cheese. Strong black coffee from my magic machine. Sweet (the meal, never the coffee, never, never, never sweet coffee).

A glory of Anglicanism, or at least of the flavor that I have known, is that we do not feel called to be finally definitive, and we are not in the least bothered by inconsistency.