Saturday, May 31, 2014

Whatever ...


Perfect morning for January 31, less so for May 31: 71F, 98%, Wind 0 mph. But more comfortable than the overnight temperature in the downstairs back quadrant of the house HVAC system, which has it at 78F. So this day starts outside for me. The downstairs front screen porch. I can feel the slightest stirring, and so can the dogwood tree in front of me. It was pleasant walking down for Linda’s PCNH, so here I am, coffee, MacBook, and the world around me. For today, the weather map shows one of these little hickeys:
 I don't believe it for a minute.

Yesterday we ran errands (drove errands), went to the bank and took our wills out of the lock box, we’re going to go over them, the lawyer put them in language that only a judge could understand, and possibly have them redone. Stopped by the hearing clinic to buy replacement batteries and those little dome things for my magical squealing ears. Made hospital visits. Had lunch at Chow Time. Unless there’s Peking Duck on the buffet I only select seafood items of shrimp, sushi and mussels. Or are they little clams? And four of the long green beans, which are crispy and to my taste.

Afternoon, coffee, nap, then long, hard work outside pulling vines, Linda said it’s virginia creeper, off the azaleas and off that enormous bush with the purple flowers that's down on the corner of WBeachDr and CalhounAv. Worn out, back inside, ice water and an icy Munchen bier. There’s supposed to be an umlaut over the “u” but it always takes me ten minutes to figure out how to do it, so forget it. The umlaut makes it sound like "mernt-ken" or "murnt-ken." MacBook to Google, click YouTube and the first thing that comes up is Everly Brothers’ “On the Wings of a Nightingale” and other. Too pleasant an end of day to be inside, so walked down front to MLP and watched the Bay and a ship. It has the bridge tower at the bow and a long flat deck aft; not Navy gray, it must be a research vessel. Watched it leaving port Friday morning, now late afternoon coming in through the Pass from a busy day at sea. 


Missed it today, but often see a Navy craft, a small gray ship, heading out to sea about eight o’clock mornings and returning to port about five o’clock pm. My recollection of that Navy craft is about fifteen years ago, me with all my grandchildren headed out to the jetties in a pontoon boat, and the stupid damn fool conning the Navy vessel speeding by us at such speed that his wake nearly capsized us. I could wish my sea duty had been such, out and back out and back out and ... All my Navy years I asked the detailer to send me to Panama City but was scoffed at, "not the job for you, Tom," he always said, mistakenly thinking I was a climber. My other unending request was London, which no luck either. You take whatever they assign you with the crapspeak, "this is a much better career assignment for you, Lieutenant Weller, ... Commander Weller." Come back to 2014, Bubba. Walk up into the main part of the yard and some minor yard work to close the day.

Adult Sunday School tomorrow morning, adjourning for the summer except that we will have class three times: First Sunday of June, First Sunday of July, First Sunday of August. Tomorrow, as agreed with the class, we plan to look at some noncanonical early Christian writings. I think I’ll take the Gospel of Peter and perhaps the Acts of Paul and Thecla, good stuff, both fascinating. 

TW+ still chugging along in +Time 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Mind the Gap


Queue up. 

Too often my first act of the morning -- [well, it isn’t first, is it, first has changed since we bought the dehumidifier. First, coming down the stairs, is to notice that it’s humming, OK “buzzing obnoxiously” which is good: when full it goes off, telling me to empty it -- two or three times a day, several gallons of water extracted daily from the front downstairs part of the house, which is why we bought it, to rid the place of that musty smell that reminds us we are living in an old folks’ home. See, this letting myself get distracted must be what happens as I keep climbing the fence to peer over the wall at eighty years of age. What’s there? More fence to climb, or a void, or a green valley where I can walk barefoot again, or that dead, dismal, endless district of abandoned warehouses and boarded up houses and dim tobacco shops through which the narrator of C.S. Lewis' book The Great Divorce walks at perpetual dusk in a chill, light drizzle before he comes upon the bus queue? No, I don’t get distracted, I am distracted as my state of being, where was I going with this?] is -- {after turning on the coffee makers, mine and Linda’s, walk down front for her PCNH, eight steps down, concrete path, eight steps back taking care against the wobbliness of the aged -- nobody wants a broken hip, much less to live with an old man who carelessly fell -- back inside, punch the button for “2 coffees”, decide, based on how the day felt as I went out, whether to sip coffee and blog in my chair in the family room or on one of the screen porches, go sit down, open the MacBook} -- to open GOOGLE and click on News

Clicking on News is bad news because the news is always bad. Click on it first and it colors the day gray. Scan it, yep: bad. Back arrow and click on Gmail. A treat is the occasional email from a bud, sometimes a response sometimes a new thread. If there’s that email and I open it now, it will rework my being of the moment, as in going back to sea, so I take note and look forward to coming back later. It’s a guy thing, eh? Even late septuagenarians can be guys.

Sitting up on the edge of the bed, my thought took me back to Theology 101 at LTSG. Why am I here? Larger, how and why is all that which is around me here?  



Largest, what about all that Far Beyond? How and why? Is my God too small? Who or what is God? Is God that which is within my ability to grasp (which is to say, in my image and vice versa, fitting nicely into a creedal box), or that which was/is and “spoke” from outside the infinitesimal dot before the Big Bang?

Does/did that which was/is have an Easter Basket (or fireworks barge) of Infinitesimal Dots, from which to choose one and toss it up into The Gap and speak and watch it explode, burst into a universe and momentarily Be, a brilliant flash of entertainment on some divine fourth of july? How many Infinitesimal Dots are tossed and spoken on a given evening? Below is the Big Bang of one infinitesimal dot.


Let's not leave early, let's wait and see the Grand Finale: all the remaining Infinitesimal Dots tossed at once.

Does/will that which was/is know and care about me? Boggles the mind, I don’t know. And what about this fence I’m climbing, what’s beyond? I don’t know, I am not he who knows not and knows not that he knows not, I know dandelion well that I know not. Knowledge and faith, the twain shall never meet, at least not on this side of the fence; and certainty is ignorance, the knowledge of fools. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 

Don’t let other people do your thinking.

I’m thinking: on the other side of this fence is a bus stop.

TW+      

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Today in Heilsgeschichte


Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This is our collect, prayer for today, because today, forty days after Easter Day, is Ascension Day on the church calendar. It’s a fantastic event that has been the subject of much pious art over the years, mostly through the middle ages with paintings that are described as "the disappearing feet,"





but even into the twentieth century with this startling work by Salvador Dali. 

In our less pious and more daring age, the ascension has also been the basis of light humor. 

Luke the Evangelist may have received the ascension as oral tradition in the budding Christian Church, although if that’s the case it’s hard to understand why it only appears in Luke’s writings among the canonical books. It could be especially difficult to see why there’s no mention of ascension at the end of chapter 28 of Matthew, who might be expected to envision Christ as far beyond Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5f), and Elijah (2nd Kings 2:11). 

 Luke told the story, described the event, in Luke 24 and Acts 1. He was living and writing in an age that may have seen nothing incredible about a physical body lifted into the clouds of heaven in plain sight of witnesses. Also, Luke was writing for “Theophilus,” whom scholars have never been able to identify. Theophilus may have been a Greek accustomed to mythological stories of divine acts.
In our day and age when we ride far above the clouds, rocket to the moon and back, send the Hubble Telescope to gaze into the deepest darkness of the universe, see its infinite vastness and visualize its beginnings, the story of the Ascension of Christ can stretch credence. But it was not a stretch for Luke, who begins his story with visits of angels. I’m going with Luke this morning. All I have to do is close my eyes and let the Holy Spirit stir my imagination.
TW+  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

infinitive


to post or not to post
not to post or to not post

No one likes some fool preacher ranting about current events. No one likes, much less needs, but the brain disconnects and the fingers keep dancing. In the end, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” is not about morality but about dozing off to sleep while writing my blog.

Unspeakable evil of radical Islamists spotlighted in Nigeria kidnapping young girls, daughters. Such evil could not possibly help any cause they might be pressing, but it is their way in a new world of senseless inhumanity that explodes indiscriminately in the marketplace.  

Modern commercial airliners disappearing into the night.  

Chaos near anarchy in Ukraine, warring rebels and the doubtful necessity of their massacre.

Presidential assurances, read my lips, no new taxes, end the war and bring the troops home, you can trust me on this one, Americans will soon be out of Afghanistan. The slipping and sliding, peeping and hiding been told long time ago dates of our non-departure from a land where they hate our guts, do not want our efforts, do not appreciate our sacrifices. 9/11 set our VNI in Afghanistan, but comes time to unleash unmentionable alternatives to this new permanent institution of ongoing low volume young American deaths in a foreign stone age. 

From sea to shining sea, Connecticut to California, madmen murder innocents and horrifying political paralysis prevents it being addressed, much less stopped, in a nation where rights trump morality.

A political system in which each side wants the other to fail, neither wants the other to succeed for the nation's sake.

The moving van has come. We have PCS'd into a new neighborhood, era and culture where doing what is right no longer informs our national character. The agape’ that is the selfless essence of Jesus Christ has drowned in a cesspool of selfishness and obsession with personal rights without responsibilities. The dream has perished in a death from which there is no resurrection, no hope but William Alexander Percy’s “strife closed in the sod”?


With the movie Brazil, we are in smog of our own smoking in which we refuse to not suffocate.

To post or not to post, that’s the infinitive. 

not to post or to not post

Anonymous


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

That Thy Peace


That thy peace which evermore ...

This is an odd sense: the pleasure of sleeping until five o’clock in the morning, marred by waking up, glancing at the clock and feeling I’ve been robbed of two hours of my life. But there it is, morning’s first awareness. 

It comes from long years as a parish priest living in a rectory next door to the church on a main highway, the habit of getting up very early to enjoy the only time of day I would have to myself. Before dawn, even the Deity wouldn't knock on the door requiring my soul or asking for a handout, and the tramps and transients are still sleeping it off in the motel room I paid for last night. 

More, it comes from those three months mid-October 2010 through mid-January 2011, rising as early as possible certain, because of my medical prognosis, that this would be the day to drive my Chevy to the levee, so enjoy the ride. Getting there is half the fun. 


In fact, getting there is all the fun. And, yes, I do remember. 

The Week yesterday had a religious piece that at last I can finally embrace wholeheartedly and endorse unreservedly.


Doubt is of the essence of faith, but certainty has no place in faith. Maybe the pope will convene a General Council to update the Nicene Creed, eh? Would the Episcopal Church attend and have voice and vote? Not likely. Eight-o’clockers still prefer the 1928 prayerbook. The rest are too oblivious to recite the Nicene Creed without stumbling over the filioque that we already have deleted on our own. What would I update? Everything “which passeth human knowing.”

This is what comes of getting up too late.

Time to get dressed, drive to 205, and walk.

TW+   

Monday, May 26, 2014

dammit: no tears


The Navy Hymn

Facing It
Yusef Komunyakaa, b.1947

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears. 
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s 
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.


The poet speaks of his first time seeing The Wall that honors our war, which was his war and my war, our war. It wasn’t The War, which in my father's mind was WW2, held in my grandfather’s mind as WW1. In his father’s mind The War was 1860-65 with anger, hatreds and bitterness holding on for decades after. An Episcopal priest like me, he called on General Sherman at his yacht anchored in St. John’s River. Reginald Heber Weller, my great-grandfather, was rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, Florida. Family legend is that when he returned home that day his wife Caroline Cordelia demanded, “Heber, did you go out to General Sherman’s yacht?” “Yes, dear.” Tension stirs. “Heber. Did you give Holy Communion to General Sherman?” “Yes, I did, Cordelia.” Disgusted, outraged, her angry spout, “Heber Weller: wash your hands before you come in this house.” Storms inside, door slams.

My first time seeing The Wall was that late afternoon, early evening January 1988. Just over an hour after leaving Harrisburg where we had met newborn grandson Raymond Thomas Kelly, we were on the road home to Apalachicola, and stopped because I insisted: it was my war, I had to see it. Late, not a good time to stop, the darkening day was cold, wet, raw, hint of rain, a few freezing drops. Unlike Yusef Komunyakaa, I hadn’t “said I wouldn’t dammit: no tears.” So going where Yusef remembers, my white face clenched as frozen as the black granite from which, hiding among the names lest anyone see tears, it stared back at me. 

Not a good time to stop, it was first, best, perfect, only time to stop, a personal memorial day. As Spragg wrote, "it made the day as different as if there were a death." We didn't know then, but later found out it was the day Bob Crosby died. Buried just across the bridge at Arlington, Bob, whom I assisted at the wedding of Jack's father and mother in Trinity, Apalachicola. Saturday, Bob officiated and pronounced. We blessed the marriage together. Then I celebrated Eucharist and Bob assisted. Sunday morning, Bob preached in that, my church. I didn't see him again --


I've been to The Wall. That day. Years later with Kristen’s class of Holy Nativity Episcopal School. Sunday during The Hymn.  

Memorial Day 2014
Eternal Father, strong to save
Memory takes me to sea in warships
My War
The Wall 
dammit: no tears 
I'm stone. I'm flesh


I'm not stone.

TW+ 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Adam Goes to Hell in a BMW


Crazy, isn’t it. Elliot Rodger, 22, killing a bunch of people and then himself, because, he says, “a beautiful environment can be the darkest hell if you have to experience it all alone.” Girls weren’t attracted to him, he says, and he can’t figure out why. Clearly impressed with Elliot’s life, Jon Swartz, who wrote the USA Today news article, mentions Rodger’s BMW five times.

Elliot in fact did not have to experience it all alone. One wonders (1) why Elliot didn’t just get in his BMW and drive across town looking where the girls are, girls are all over the alphabet place and millions of girls would have gotten into the BMW even with a creep like Elliot; (2) why Elliot and suicidally, murderously angry people like him are driven to kill innocent people, why they don’t just shoot themselves and be done with it; (3) whether Elliot was, objectively, a creep: some people just creep you out; and (4) why these creeps are always male.

This is Sunday, so there needs to be something religious here this morning. OK, here’s a theological contemplation and proposition. Adam is the enemy. Why, then, when he was speaking Genesis 1, didn’t God say only “woman”? Why, after he had created the garden in Genesis 2, didn’t God just scoop up dirt, make Adama and let the Holy Spirit come upon her? Why, by the time Noah came along when God was so displeased with us, didn’t God begin again with a Truly New Creation, drown the lot of us and start over as Satan suggests in The Bible according to Mark Twain?

This wasn’t my intended trail when I swung my feet out of bed onto the floor this morning, but it’s one more bit of evidence that I don’t take the trail, the trail takes me. Upon arising, I thought to ponder why, being willing to examine, revise, update and rebuild everything around us, we aren’t willing to have another go at the Nicene Creed. Instead of a bunch of frustrated old male bishops obsessed with sex and power and BMWs, a Council of Grandmothers could work it out. It wouldn’t be incomprehensible this time around. And before adjourning, they could call upon the Holy Spirit and write us males out of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 altogether, and let Adam go to hell.  

TW+ 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Guardian Kind


It isn’t hot chocolate but a k-cup of cocoa run over ice in my Panama City Beach Pirates mug, a splash of milk to top it up this lateness just before midnight. As easily, I could have poured milk with Hershey’s syrup and ice cubes. My first taste of chocolate milk on ice was at Walgreen’s on Harrison Avenue downtown Panama City. It would have been fall, winter, spring 1949-1950. A freshman at Bay High, I was walking home from school with Tommy Fidler, who went to Cove School in our class. Easy to remember the time, because Tommy only went to Bay High that one year, then off to the Bolles School in Jacksonville, a military academy. Always spit and polish, he was suited for that, I suppose, I was not. After Bolles, Tommy went to the Citadel where his freshman year roommate was Charles Duvall, who thirty-five years later was my Episcopal bishop. It’s my blog, I can go where the trail takes me, but we stopped in Walgreen’s that day for a coke. Tommy said he was going to order chocolate milk, and that it would have ice and be delicious. Never hearing of such, I ordered that too. A tall Coca Cola glass of cold milk with Hershey’s syrup and crushed ice was delicious indeed, but quite dear at 25 cents when I could have it at home for free. Cheap to the bone, I didn’t do that again except at home, many times over the next 65 years, because it is delicious. 

After Cove School, Bay Hi, Bolles and the Citadel, Tommy was in the army as a second lieutenant. He was a trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol. And he was with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. Tommy died a dozen years ago at age 66. 

This is not why I got up out of bed and came down stairs right after turning off the light. I got up because I had just finished chapter 2 of Mark Spragg, Where Rivers Change Direction. Chapter 2, “My Sister’s Boots.” Spragg’s closing of the chapter jumps 15 years ahead in his life and is startling and overwhelming emotionally. In terms of life, death, eternity and angels. The guardian kind.

And I marked on page 41. My rule with books is that I have no use for a book I can’t mark in. My habit with a book is to have a pen or pencil handy. If/when something especially strikes me, I underline it, or draw a box around it, or put a check in the margin beside it; then I write the page number on one of the blank pages inside the back cover:

Of the day Mark Bragg was dumped by his horse and, heading home on foot in his brand new boots, walked up upon an elk giving birth to her calf, “I know that I’ve witnessed something most boys have not. I know that it has made the day as different as if there were a death. I know I’ve walked through a door left temporarily ajar into a deeper part of the world in which I live, and out again.” And of his sister, always in his mind and to whom he prays as some pray to Mary or another saint, who seems spiritually always around him, he says, “Dead in the world. Alive in my heart, in this forest, just on the other side of some closed door.” A year older than Mark, his sister Cindy lived only a few months, and he knew her through his mother, his mother's love for Cindy, and for him. Cindy had red hair. In the family, Mark and Cindy had double cowlicks.

At chapter's closing, Mark ages 15 years to a young man in New York City, where he encounters an Indian waiter, a stranger who styles himself a mystic. The man looks into his palm and tells him that he is always accompanied by an auburn haired woman, that she is his sister, and her name is Cindy.   

Imagine having someone love you that much. 

I don't believe in angels. But just in case, who assigns guardian angels? Or are they just there because they love you? My father's brother Alfred is never far from my mind. Just turned 18, he died 17 years before I was born. I never knew him except for my grandmother's love for him, and for me. 

Does someone really greet us when we die, someone we know instantly even if we never knew them in life? I don't think so. See, my mind wanders after midnight.

Spragg is a gifted writer, and his writing is a gift. Like Roger Ebert’s Life Itself: A Memoir, this will be a book I read very slowly, to keep it from ending.

The trail takes me, I do not take it.

Spragg's writing touches my heart tonight. Roused me from bed.

Downstairs I came also because Linda reminded me of tonight’s meteor shower. This one is Earth moving through a field of dust laid down by a comet as it passed through this bit of space a hundred years ago. I can't see it now because Earth won’t rotate North America into it for several more hours: not sure I can stay awake. Meteor showers can be spectacular or a dud. My experience is that if I stay awake waiting into the wee hours, it’s a total dud. My moral obligation then is to return to bed and go to sleep so as not to ruin it for others.

Yawn.

The furosemide is keeping me busy too, though, so not yet.

Can someone we loved deeply, and/or who loved us, be here, around, looking after? Doubting Thomas, Jr. up at midnight praying with the father of the troubled boy Jesus saved, “Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.”

Truth, mine unbelief seems beyond help, me beyond saving. Kyrie, eleison.

Thinking of someone, I also got out of bed for another reason. When I retired from the Navy at twenty years, my ranking in my year group was near the top, or so said my friend and Michigan classmate John Shaughnessy later when he was a “detailer” in the Navy office that made officers' duty assignments. I might have stayed a bit longer, maybe half again as long, but God played his tricks and his hand and finally had His Way from which I'd escaped my sophomore year at Univ of Florida, age 19. My first day at theological seminary was my 45th birthday. Was it “God’s will” for my life? The burst of happiness that began that day and stayed with me all three years of seminary certainly made it seem like God's will. That happiness endures. But I don’t know, I don’t think about it that way, my theology doesn’t work that way, but if it did I could believe so. Especially in that no matter how happy I may have been in various pursuits of life and not wanted to change or be redirected, every single time, without fail, that I have changed or been forced to change in spite of myself, if I had an inkling that it was God’s will for me -- my father called it my “destiny” -- I have gone on to even greater happiness and joy in life. Greater joy, lower stress, more fun. Mindful of a friend who is contemplating and resisting and who probably will overthink the issue, I write this passing along my theology and experience that God who makes all things new, moves also to make life even better, more fulfilling, even happier when that hardly seems possible.

Harry Golden again, For Two Cents Plain, “put a little on top.” And He does.

TW+

Friday, May 23, 2014

MLP


Whine

Reading about English scientist Peter Higgs this morning, attracted by The Guardian article, “Matter will be created from light within a year, claim scientists,” then caught by a link to an earlier one, “I have this kind of underlying incompetence,” which Higgs said in an interview last December. 

Under my pointy dunce cap, perched on my stool facing the corner as Doubting Thomas, Jr., I have this sense that matter has already been, was indeed, created from light (Genesis 1:3f) without a collider and that, sure enough, “greater works than these you will do” (John 14:12), not to mention heart surgery and weather satellites. But what grabbed me was “I have this kind of underlying incompetence,” which with no false modesty is who I see shaving mornings. Best shave in the shower, by feel, not facing that reverse creature staring back at me, knowing me almost as well as I know myself. Plus, in the shower, you can sing. Mario Lanza recidivus.

A mild digression from this morning’s starting point, waking up reflecting about “support.” Clergy always “being there” and “being on call” to help, and encourage, and comfort those in need. A never ending vocation if only because in a gathering, which is what a congregation is -- where two or three are gathered together there is always someone in need. Neither does it end when we add “comma Retired” after "Rev’d" unlike the Navy where 34 years ago it became “CDR, USN (Retired)” and I walked away never to be called again. 

Where is this little trek through the woods going? Into the underbrush, actually, where clergy are support, and do support, and offer support, but/and we too are “sheep of thine own fold, lambs of thine own flock, sinners of thine own redeeming,” but so without the shepherd that we ourselves are expected, called, trained, educated, disciplined to be. What if the shepherd needs a shepherd? The bishop? AYFSM? Expose too much of yourself, you are dead. Find a friend online. Contemplating a vocation to the priesthood? If I were choosing a text for this nonsense, Mark 6:34, Numbers 27:17, 1 Kings 22:17, 2 Chronicles 18:16, Isaiah 13:14, Zechariah 10:2, Matthew 9:36, even Ezekiel 34:5.

Comes to mind Brer Fox cackling as he flings Brer Rabbit into the brambles. Brer Rabbit lands on his feet taunting

Everybody’s got a laughing place 
a laughing place to go ho ho 
take a frown, turn it upside down
and you’ll find yours I know ho ho

We are part of a small group of priests gone from active duty as pastor to congregations of real humans, to a new title, “chaplain to retired clergy.” Always a shepherd, never a bride.

Peter Higgs’ laughing place seems to have been only himself, lonely and quite frankly, more than a bit jaded, to read about him. He’s never browsed the internet or sent an email, or read an email. His son gave him a cell phone, but he’s never made a call on it and resents the presumption that the cell phone makes him always instantly available. Yep, Thursday after lunch I was three minutes into my deep nap when ding ding ding ding ding ding ding “Hello?”

“Please listen carefully, as our options have changed. You may have won a hundred dollar gift card to WalMart.” 

Not quite as offensive as “Congratulations! You have won a cruise to the Bahamas ...”

Click.


W

Thursday, May 22, 2014

... a madman


So What Else Is New? muses journalist, author and social critic Harry Golden as he sits in his rocking chair on the front cover of his book by that title. Harry Golden, who styled himself "The Carolina Israelite" and published a newspaper by that name, taught me to love books whose chapters are individual stories, essays, articles. I have, or had, I think I’ve given them to Joe, and one to Kristen when she was studying Judaism in America, just about every single Harry Golden book. Maybe they’re in Joe’s room on the bookshelf that we try to keep loaded with titles we think he may enjoy; he likes to read when he’s here during his December and July visits. 

So what else is new? Getting used to the idea of death, for one thing. When we're young, that old or older people die seems perfectly natural to us. When you get there, their dying around you brings grief, sometimes more than might have been expected, and one may find that it's not only because of the death of their life, but also and especially if it takes away part of your own life, even if it was just a dream, a memory, a hope, a door left ajar somehow, a light shining across the way. Death permanently turns off, even though the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock shines on. It wasn’t real anyway, was it, it was a dream, an -- idea. It was those neurons, or whatever, in the brain of one person among seven billion. So, when we die, do our dreams, the embers still glowing in our minds and hearts, just go out? They do? Just like that? Gone? Are you serious? As gone as if they never were to begin with, and as inconsequential? We can't believe that, we can't even imagine existence without us, which is why we have religions that look toward more beyond the veil. 

If that -- Schleiermacher's "sense of the infinite" -- was imbedded by the Creator, fine, well and good. But was it conjured up as we wandered the wildernesses of our history and, fearfully looking up at the stars, wondered, "what the hell?" and "what about me?"

There’s no depression here, and sadness goes away in time, even grief, that’s our experience of living as humans. It’s just that I’m determined to work through some of this while the Church is still in Easter Season 2014. Anybody who is mad enough to read these musings of a madman is madder than the madman, so I'm not bothered about what mad readers may think. Just don't call the van. This is Thursday, a walking day like Tuesday. Tuesdays I drive home down Lisenby Avenue, turn west at 17th Street, then sharp right turn into the garden where friends live. Well, they don’t actually live there, do they, but memories do, my memories anyway. Memories can be visited regardless, even if some friends and beloveds live in other gardens. There’s a Jewish tradition that after we die we live on in the lives and memories and hearts and minds of those who knew and loved us. They are where there is no pain, neither sorrow nor sighing. We are still where there is. What started this? Easter? I suppose so.

What happens to us after nobody is left who knew or remember us, or even who remembers or knew the generations who did know us? To answer, wander Greenwood among graves that have been overgrown with weeds and vines a hundred years and more. To be forgotten is to no longer be. But by then it no longer matters, does it.

So what else is new? The dehumidifier in the front part of the house is removing a couple of gallons of water a day, restoring freshness. The Blu-ray disc player arrived yesterday but I haven’t hooked it up yet. There’s an HDMI slot to run it to the TV or computer though, so what could possibly go wrong? Whatever could will. 

Where Rivers Change Direction arrived yesterday and I immediately read the first chapter “In Praise of Horses.” Mark Spragg is a gifted writer, much more to my readership style than Pynchon. From amazon.com, the book is the same as new, marked $15.00 U.S. and I bought it for fifteen cents U.S. plus $3.99 S&H. Spragg is author of An Unfinished Life which, if it’s the same style of short story essay chapters as Where Rivers, I may order An Unfinished Life next. Besides, the title rings bells at this time and moment of my life.

On the back cover of Where Rivers Change Direction a reviewer wrote, “Here is a book for women to read to learn the hearts of men. Here is a book for men to read to curse what they have lost.” 

I know about that.

TW

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Farewell


A widely scoffed bit of writing is the section of the Gospel according to John that scholars commonly call “the farewell discourse.” Starting in chapter 13 and going all the way through chapter 17, the evangelist quotes a long speech (well, it isn’t entirely a speech, is it, there are sections where the disciples ask questions or make comments and Jesus responds) that Jesus gives to his disciples as his way of telling them that he is leaving. He will be going to the Father. They don’t need to grieve; he will not leave them alone and desolate, even will continue to be with them himself. As they need guidance on how to live after he is gone, he gives them a “New Commandment,” love one another. The discourse moves through the Last Supper, he concludes by praying to the Father for his disciples, and off they go out across the valley to the garden.

Basically, the scoffing is set in a question. How does the evangelist know what Jesus said so precisely as to quote him verbatim at such great length? Especially, seeing that the writing of this gospel dates toward the very end of the first century A.D. and possibly into the first decade or two of the second century! The answer is simply that this is John’s gospel, John’s story about Jesus. If someone wants to hold that God himself dictated it to John (or whoever the anonymous writer of this gospel may have been), fine, maybe better, because that makes it actually God’s story, doesn’t it. I’m okay with that notion as long as we are clear that it’s an assertion, a human point of view, not dogma. 

The farewell discourse as a literary article, device or style is not uncommon in ancient writing. On his deathbed, Jacob/Israel blesses his sons and the two sons of Joseph. Moses makes a farewell speech. Joshua gave a farewell speech. So does the prophet Samuel. And old King David. Nobody goes back into the Old Testament to say, “Hey! How does the deuteronomist, or whoever, writing maybe hundreds of years later, know what these people said so well as to quote them verbatim and it becomes literal, inerrant Scripture, the word of God?” But, it’s the storyteller’s tale, told, repeated, established and sanctified in our salvation history as the tribes of Israel gather round the campfires on dark evenings in the wilderness. A story gets told, it becomes sacred to them. Nobody jumps up at the campfire gathering and challenges the storyteller, “How do you know what he said?” This is the story. It's our story. Listen. You may learn something. Your life may be changed in some way. If you attend carefully, you may even hear the Voice of God, the Word of the Lord. Even speaking to you personally.

TW+  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Not Again


That was insane. And a rarity that surfacing to near consciousness I sank back into the same scenario several times. Nobody is interested in somebody else’s dreams, but this my blog, isn’t it. I don’t know what my age was, but recalled into the Navy yet one more time again. Was it an anxiety dream? I wondered that every time I “surfaced.” Not a ship this time, an office in, like a bombed-out warehouse full of people milling around thousands of desks piled high with documents. I couldn’t tell my rank, which over the years has differed from such dream to such dream. Seems like I showed up with three stripes, was handed a new coat with four stripes, then had to take it off because we were not permitted to wear the uniform lest someone realize we were military. So there I was in black pants and a blindingly white shirt with black tie and everybody else dressed like slobs, so they knew anyway. My boss was Captain Hurt, whom I knew long years ago. He had worked for Admiral Rickover. My assistant was a lieutenant commander, a devious man who never gave me a straight answer and made every effort to make sure I couldn’t figure out what was going on, or where I was, or what the command’s mission was, or what my job was supposed to be. The captain phoned me every morning to ask what I was going to be doing that day. I had no idea, so made up something. One day I told him we were going to check out something “at ESO” only to have the assistant tell me later, “this is ESO” and we wandered warehouses all day. One day he took me out to walk and inspect a very long and wide pier alongside a very wide river. I saw an enormous high, wide, flat vessel plowing up the river, and commented, “That’s a beautiful aircraft carrier.” My assistant, who was trying harder and harder every day to make sure I knew nothing, responded, “Sir, that’s a barge.” As it plowed on past us I saw that it was a barge. A naval officer who can't tell a barge from an aircraft carrier does not feel very competent, even in a dream. At the end of my day on the job I was handed my bill: they were charging me ten dollars rent for my desk chair, which I never even sat in it and had no idea where my desk was. At some point, my brain, or perhaps the lower regions, roused me enough to look at the clock, 3:32 so mercifully time to get up. Not to blog this insanity. What causes this sort of dream? Maybe it was the WheatChex with a circle of dark maple syrup and whole milk I had for supper, I never drink milk at suppertime, never drink whole milk at all, and haven’t eaten dry cereal in months, because I try to eat little wheat. Jiminy. Life isn’t overwhelming, but had me extra tired yesterday. And wandering first WalMart then Sam’s looking for a dehumidifier, the eyes kept trying to take a nap.

At bedtime last night, well it wasn’t bedtime, was it, not even seven o’clock, I opened to read more of Gravity’s Rainbow. Someone was right: Pynchon goes into detail. Maybe too much. Looking at other books and writers, Glittering Images drove me so nuts with the most infinitesmal details that I never read another book in the series. With Midnight’s Children Rushdie was fascinatingly detailed and it was so good, a book I stretched out and delayed finishing as long as I could, and whatever else of his I’ve read is almost as much so. Pynchon doesn’t write about his character, he makes you become the character whom I don’t really need to know quite that well. I certainly don't need to keep smelling the tobacco smoke. This must be tertiary smoke. Also, I didn’t realize the book was going to be two inches thick. I’ll continue, but don’t intend to be blogging about it. Anyway, just as I opened the book, Linda turned on Antique Roadshow and I totally zonked, dozing off as she was saying something about, "You're going to be awake at midnight, you know." 

This morning, walk with Robert, breakfast, finish drafting our worship booklet for next Sunday and send it to Madge. Phone call to Emory. 

The teaspoon of butter swished in a large coffee has quieted early morning hunger. I don’t know about ingesting that fat though. Maybe I’ll try a teaspoon of olive oil.  

TW