Friday, December 30, 2005
Taken with available light, Wednesday afternoon.
I've been off this week - University holiday. I've spent most of my time in low drive, trying to completely kick the cold that attacked for Christmas. DJ has appreciated this time, it seems, as it has given her more opportunities to attack the hand that feeds her.
We do spend our afternoons companionably, however. She sleeps in my lap from about 2 until 7 or 8. The rest of the day, she seems normally energetic and curious, so I'm interpretting this as regulation catnapping.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
- What is the best gift you received this year?
A basket full of chocolate goodies. (I didn't receive a lot of material goodies)
- What is the best gift you gave this year?
I gave two friends a copy of Real Live Preacher's Christmas Story CD. I'd also count the toys I donated for an unknown child at Watonga or Santa Maria.
- When did you do most of your shopping/creating?
Within the past few weeks
- Did you go shopping the day after Thanksgiving (U.S.)? The day after Christmas?
Just grocery shopping, on the 26th
- What stands out already about Christmas 2005?
Locally, it's unseasonably warm.
Monday, December 26, 2005
To Amanda's right, you see a hand with what seems to be money. I regret I don't recall the lady's name, but she is actually holding play money purchased at the local Oriental Market. Part of the ritual I failed to mention (lack of recall) was tossing money into the fire while shouting "Prosperity!"
Sunday, December 25, 2005
As I mentioned last week, when I was given the duty to decorate the tree when I became a pre-teen. I made paper chains, strung popcorn, carefully hung the heirloom ornaments and the lights. All while listening to Firestone Christmas Albums. Once, I stacked four or five lp's on the record changer.
After my crisis of faith, and all that, I chose a new tradition: I chose an acquaintance's child, and bought him or her a present. I actually continued that tradition this year by buying a present for an anonymous child, at one of our less well-off mission churches.
Pretty good traditions.
What I discerned Wednesday, as I was helping Dr. Omed complete his labyrinth, is my new tradition is getting sick over the holidays. I've been fighting a cold for a month, with some success. But being out in the chill (~40°) did me in. Lost my voice. Couldn't sing when the time came. Couldn't sing last night, for Christmas service. Praying I can speak later this morning (in about an hour), when I am called to do so.
This is a tradition I perhaps need to change.
I'll have a belated Friday Cat, and further report on my visit to Dr. Omed's See later. For now, must dash to church.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
— Daito Kokushi [Zen Calendar, ©2004 Workman Press]
In other news, I am soon out the door to travel to the mystical land of Tulsa, OK, where resides the Very Rt Rev Dr Omed. He is hosting his annual Solstice Celebration.
As is traditional, we will burn our "Will Be Gones" and "Will Be Dones" with appropriate words from the Grand Atheist Evangelist hisownself. A new wrinkle this year is the small lawn labyrinth the good doctor has constructed, incorporating selected fossils at appropriate points. I'm really looking forward to seeing the labyrinth.
You may add your "Gones" and "Dones" in the comments; they will be burned by proxy.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Monday, December 19, 2005
- Your best family Christmas tradition.
At some point in my pre-teen years, I was put in charge of decorating the family tree - which was natural for many of those years. I would put several Firestone Christmas albums on the record changer, string popcorn, make paper chains, and wrap everything on the tree.
I was also strongly in favor of Midnight Mass, and the tradition of opening one present following the Mass.
- What kind of coffee I should buy today? Suggest a drink.
Starbucks' Peppermint Mocha looks interesting. Iced coffee might be good too, because nothing takes your mind off a sprained wrist quite like brain freeze.
- Your favourite carol or Christmas song.
O Holy Night
- A good name for my New Year's goldfish.
The one goldfish I've ever had did not live long. Therefore, I'm reluctant to advise on this extremely weighty matter. Given my nom de blog, however, I'm tempted to suggest "Levithan".
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Friday, December 16, 2005
- Have you ever gotten a really good kiss under the mistletoe?
In a word, no. Even though natural mistletoe grew near the apartment house my former spouse and I lived in. Such a missed opportunity!
- Do you know anyone who makes real eggnog, not the stuff from the carton? And if so, do you actually like it?
You mean the stuff I get at Braum's isn't real?
- What's your favorite Christmas party album/CD ever?
I've been missing the Firestone albums my parents had when I was a teen. Right now, my favorite is Windham Hill's Celtic Christmas, Vol. 3.
- Does your office/workplace have a party? Do the people there ever behave the way people in movies behave at office parties, which is to say, badly?
We had our Christmas party today - a lovely catered meal. I have never been to a party similar to the ones depicted in the movies.
- If you have to bring something to a party, what is it likely to be? Do people like it?
I have two things I personally cook: chili (using the Wick Fowler's mix) and three bean soup (with Polish kilbasa). Both these tend to be pretty popular. I sometimes will bring a dip from a local caterer; any one of their dishes (including dips) are exceptionally good.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Have these people nothing better to get upset about? Are there no poor to feed? No prisoners to visit? No widows and orphans to comfort?
Somehow, this shift is supposed to represent an oppression of Christians. I must admit that I, for one, do not feel overly oppressed.
Last week when I was discussing the traditions surrounding St. Nicholas, I alluded to the pagan origins of those traditions. Brother Dave e-mailed an article from Christian Century which goes into greater detail about the pagan origins of the holiday in general.
Now, I imagine Focus on the Family (FoF) has problems with Halloween as a pagan holiday. But, so far as I know, this group does not have similar problems with Christmas or Easter, both of which are usurpations (as Dr. Omed would have it) of pagan holidays. Logical consistency would suggest they would welcome any disassociation of Christ from this pagan holiday.
But see, the modern conflict is not with the old religions. Christianity more or less won that battle a little over a thousand years ago. FoF would have us believe the modern conflict is with humanists and secularists.
Along with Bull Moose and New Donkey, I believe the real threat is commercialism. As I mentioned a week ago, this is a system which suggests we can measure our worth by the number or quality of the objects we possess. By implication, this system asserts that objects have more value than people.
I should think people of goodwill — regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof — would agree this is a false teaching. Any living creature, from amoeba to human, has more value than a human-created product, however artfully made.Christ is not put back into Christmas through advertising. Christ is put into Christmas when we incorporate his teachings into our lives.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
The first thing that impressed me was her relationship with her husband. Dr. Ell (not their real name) grew up in the Seattle slums sometime around the Depression. When he came of age, he joined the navy. Ever heard the expression, "Curse like a sailor"? He proved it true. He was quite eloquent in his use of course language, too.
When he got angry or frustrated (often concurrently), he blew like Vesuvius. It took a great deal of getting used to, but I eventually did. Once he cooled down, he was your best pal.
Imagine forty-plus years with someone like that. Elaine must have had a very strong sense of self to withstand the gales.
When I met them, Dr. Ell was the director of the residency program where I work. He and Elaine had the tradition of inviting the regular staff and residents to their house for a Christmas celebration.
They lived in a nice part of Norman, the west side, in a two-story house. There was a pool table on the second floor. The dining room was as big as my living area and dining room combined. And when Elaine met you at the door, there was no question – you were sincerely welcomed into their house.
She had a relapse early the following year, and was too weak from the chemo to play hostess. They never hosted a Christmas party in their house again – at least, not of that scale.
She was not the least bit embarrassed by the hair loss that followed chemo. She wore a simple bandana or kerchief on her head, and that was enough. She would admit it was hard. She spoke without a trace of self-pity about her symptoms, the side-effects, and her chances of survival.
Once or twice, I would hear her fuss at Dr. Ell. It was the good-natured fussing couples do after years of marriage. Perhaps the annoyance was serious once upon a time in their marriage, but you could tell she had learned to accept this was one annoyance that wasn't going to change. I never heard her nag him, never heard him speak of being nagged.
They had built a life together, raised three up-right children. They visited the Amazon two years ago, and went on a cruise last year (following Dr. Ell's retirement). I suppose Elaine might have said they had a good run.
Last I heard, Dr. Ell has not been able to take it in. She has been part of his world for so long, he cannot recognize a reality without her.
My world is richer for having known her.
Monday, December 12, 2005
- I love foggy weather.
- I've read most of Tony Hillerman's books.
- I was born about a quarter-mile south-west from where I currently work.
- I'm a morning person, but I still require at least one cup of coffee.
- I'm currently wearing a "holiday" tie.
Meg, Sam, Katey, Michael, and Jonathan.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
It is an ambiguous term. Am I politically liberal? Yes, but that's not what I meant.
With some denominations, you can assume what the average pew sitter believes with a degree of accuracy. Things are not so easy with Episcopalians – there are a few things one must believe, and many things one may believe. And the definitions of what one must believe are relatively open; for example, saying "the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation" is different than saying every word in the Bible is literally true.
One priest defined it as buoys: some want to keep those buoys are far apart as possible; others want them to be fairly narrow. I like the buoys to be spaced far apart, and thus qualify as a liberal.
I tried to think of the least offensive way to short-hand this. In the end, all I could think of what the latest hot-button issue (for Episcopals as well as many other mainstream denominations), gay ordination. Then I tried to find the least confrontational way to phrase it. What I finally typed was, "I was not offended by the ordination of Gene Robinson."
Gene Robinson is an openly gay man (with a partner) who was ordained bishop last year. That ordination brought the issue to the forefront for our denomination.
When I typed it, I was aware that it could begin an argument. The lady I was visiting with respectfully said she was opposed to the ordination, but was even more hurt by the schism it has caused in the church.
Later on, trying to respect her opinion, I compared the action of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) to the US invasion of Iraq. In both instances, the United States acted aggressively without consideration of world opinion. I agree with one, and disagree with the other. In my lazier moments, I call one action "right" and the other "wrong".
I also described the church's action as being prophetic. She asked me what I meant, and we were interrupted before I could respond.
For our example, let's take another controversial action, whose heat has comparatively cooled off: women's ordination. Most denominations now admit women into the ministry. The Episcopal church was not the first to ordain women (I think the Methodists were first), but it was among the first. It's an accepted fact, and many who originally opposed women's ordination now recognize it as a blessing.
Those who opposed women's ordination cited scripture to support their case. It must be admitted that women's roles in scripture are primarily subservient in both testaments. There are exceptions (e.g., Deborah in the Old Testament), but they stand out by their scarcity. They cited Paul's admonition that a woman should remain silent in church. Their understanding of the Bible was literal.
Those in favor of women's ordination read these passages as a reflection of the culture in which they were written – considerably more male-dominated than today's. They cited the leadership roles played by women in the New Testament. For example, some of Paul's missionary trips were funded with a rich woman's money. Their understanding was dynamic; new meanings could be extrapolated based on historical and theological analysis.
As I say, today most people who now attend a church with a woman minister (regardless of denomination) recognize what a gift that ministry is. Most people recognize that the decision to ordain women was the right decision.
But at the time it was highly controversial. Many people left the church because of it. Many people in the world-wide Anglican communion opposed the action, as did the Archbishop of Canterbury. Some felt it was the right action, but at the wrong time.
How do you know the right time? Sometimes you take the action, and cross your fingers. The test of years proves whether you did the right thing at the right time. Right action is not a question of majority rule. Sometimes someone has to take the lead, however unpopular, and hope the crowd will catch up to them.
This kind of risky action can be prophetic. In this example, we learned that – in spite of Biblical and societal prejudices to the contrary – women can be leaders, can speak forthrightly in church, can be ministers.I hope, in time, that we will look at these years of turmoil concerning the "gay issue" and realize that the Episcopal did the right thing at the right time in this instance as well.
- Snow: love it or hate it?
Love it when fresh and new. Not so much when driving in it (Oklahoma drivers are especially poor when confronted with the smallest hint of the white stuff)
- First snow memory
Building a very small snow man in the front yard. There were just a few inches on the ground, but I was bound and determined to make a snow man. I don't remember my exact age - but would guess younger than 5.
- Best Snow Day ever (actual or imagined)
We'd had a nice wet snow in University Town, and someone created combination snow and ice sculptures. They were mammoth productions - eight to nine feet tall, on average. My recollection is they lasted two or three days.
- Best use of snow in a movie, song, book or poem
Do I have to settle for only one? The first that comes to mind is the short story "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" by Conrad Aiken , which is far from a comforting tale. "Night Gallery" did a version of this, narrated by Orson Welles.
A more charming use is in the movie Groundhog Day. Use of snow as metaphor for Bill Murray's character: discuss.
- What you are planning to do today, with or without snow?
Work. Blog. Play as expedient. No snow predicted today - temperatures are expected to reach 40. The mercury may reach 50 over the weekend, which will facilitate my mad plan to do some Christmas shopping.
Thanks to my new camera - which can shot 3 frames per second - I can now take more accurate action shots of the Lady. These four are selected from about ten I took last night as DJ was playing with her treat.
The treat in question was purchased at the health food store. It's a dried anchovy. She responded to it like a fish - in the first shot, you can see her batting it around.
The final shot tells the whole story - with that small pink tongue licking her delicate lips.
Remember I mentioned last Friday that I was worried about the Lady tearing up Christmas decorations? Ironically, I accidentally shut her in the closet where I store those decorations on Monday. She did not disturb them, near as I can tell.
My theory is she couldn't "see" them, because there was no light to make them glitter. Also, the space I found her was relatively small, and did not provide easy access to the tree. She did more damage to the carpet.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Perhaps. But often, and most times, there is a facial expression or verbal inflection that reflects the fact the person is expressing an opinion. There may even be an element of defensiveness present.
Not Bob. Bob expresses opinions like he's reciting the encyclopedia. Sometimes it's annoying. Sometimes it's fun to gently challenge him.
For example, yesterday he asked me what I was reading. I'm reading the latest issue of Parabola, whose theme is Fundamentalism. As I explained to Dr. Bob, Parabola is a quarterly journal which essentially carries on the work of Joseph Campbell; each issue centers on a theme, with reference to as many world spiritual traditions as possible.
This naturally moved the conversation toward religion. Dr. Bob is a Unitarian. He expressed the opinion that conservative and liberal Christians are fighting the wrong battle. Rather than fight each other, they should jointly oppose consumerism.
It's fairly popular to oppose consumerism this time of year. Many deride it with their lips en route to the shopping mall. But Bob wasn't just talking about the Christmas consumerist juggernaut. He was speaking of the consumerism that plagues us year round, the "keep up with the Joneses" mentality that began in the 50s, and has continued unabated ever since.
Bob's theory is we use material goods to validate our status. How will the neighbors know we are successful without our fancy car, or unless we build an addition to our home?
A word which has become popular in the past few years is "rankism", and I think this is what Bob was getting at. There's often this urge of proving we are better than (or at least equal to) others. This is accomplished by asserting our "rank" – which might be as obvious as a uniform (military, clergy, etc) or as subtle as the latest gadget.
So – is consumerism the disease or a symptom?
Conspicuous consumption certainly look like a disease. There are times, with certain personalities, it resembles compulsive behavior. People (myself included) spend themselves deeply into dept.
At the same time, the Christian ideal is that all people are children of God, each deserving of love, respect, and consideration. God recognizes each of us as individuals, down to the individual hairs on our heads.
Jesus spent some time turning this need for "rank" on its head. The Master washing his students' feet. Saying one had to be as a child in order to perceive the Kingdom of Heaven. Saying the first would be last and the last first.
Another way to apply rank is with our favored labels. I'm liberal, he's conservative. She's fundamentalist, he's evangelical.
This application of rank helps simplify life. It's the old game of dividing our reality into "us" and "them", where "they" are the enemy, or less than us. Ultimately giving us the justification to treat "them" as less than human, in any number of ways, up to and including murder.
So, if I can assert my rank with my car or my house, so much the better. With these highly visible material possessions, I simultaneously justify my existence and prove my superiority to my neighbor.What say you? Is materialistic consumerism the problem, or is it a symptom of "rankism"?
It scintillates cymbalically.
The symbol may be sibilant,
but it is not serpentine
nor a phallus from cave ascending.
The symbol smiles seductively.
The symbol raises an eyebrow,
lowers the lids, drops the eyes.
It peers from behind a curtain.
The symbol does not share my face.
It dances because it wants to.
It leaps wildly in dusty snow.
The symbol wears motley.
The symbol wears a turtleneck.
The symbol comes naked.
It hangs on your arm like a shield.
It caresses your cheek.
It peers into your frozen eyes.
The symbol senses second thoughts.
The symbol loves the mirror's ghost.
It hastens blue sky warnings,
melts mindful clouds,
soars from earth's core to Pluto.
The symbol is small.
It questions its own heartbeat.
It blooms like winter pansies.
The symbol is infinite.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
They both wear unique garb - Santa's heavy red coat, John's robe of animal hair. They both have curious diets; milk & cookies for the former, and locusts and honey for the latter. Finally, they are interested in problems of good and evil; Santa calls it naughty and nice, while John calls it righteousness versus hypocrisy.
Now, this series of comparisons is based on the popular image of Santa. The church remembers a man today (Dec. 6), Nicholas of Myra, who was the original of Santa Claus. Nicholas was bishop of Myra, and reports suggest he was no more concerned about drawing up lists of who was naughty and nice than John the Baptizer.
You probably already know that the folk tradition shortened Nicholas' name to "Claus", and that "Saint Nicholas" became "Santa Claus" – a tradition brought to America by the Dutch. This little bit of trivia is even brought up in the holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street.
As this article in Wikipedia relates, Nicholas lived through an exciting era in Christian history – from the persecutions prior to Constantine, to the Nicene Council.
Nicholas left no writings. We know he spoke strongly against Arianism at the Council of Nicaea , but we don't know his exact words. All we know are folk tales, the best known being that he provided dowries for three impoverished maidens in his town. This charity, and similar charitable acts attributed to him, have caused him to be associated with gift-giving.
Gifts are given on his feast day (December 6, formerly the feast of the goddess Artemis/Diana). And this, in turn, has caused him to be associated with gift-giving at Christmas.Many traditions associated with Nicholas are also associated with older, so-called "pagan", gods. One who rides over houses distributing gifts is called Wodan (or Odin) in Germanic countries.
Related to this is a recent controversy regarding Christmas trees. Some businesses and muncipalities are referring to these as "Holiday" trees, perhaps as a form of "political correctness" or in hopes of avoiding the sort of First Amendment law suits that have been popular in the past few years.
I fail to understand why this is such a controversy. This type of tree is not native to Israel, nor is there any mention of a Christmas tree in any of the Nativity narratives.
Again, the Wikipedia article makes clear the tradition was appropriated from pagan ritual (Greek, Roman, and Norse). I would think those who oppose the celebration of Halloween (as a pagan holiday) would support the effort to disassociate this "pagan" emblem from a Christian holiday.
So, why not call it a Holiday Tree? Why not allow this symbol to represent the yearnings for all devoted people of good will, regardless of their religious beliefs - or lack thereof? Who is harmed?
I heard the most amusing "Holiday Tree" on the way home last night. Elementary schools across the state have decorated trees, one of which will be prominently displayed in our state capital's rotunda.
Our state recently began a lottery (aka, "idiot tax") whose proceeds (once there are any) will go toward education. One school used lottery tickets to decorate a tree, to show their appreciation for this funding source.A state legislator, who had opposed the lottery, found this to be offensive, and wrote a letter to the school's principal. The tree has been withdrawn from the competion and removed from the rotunda.
Monday, December 05, 2005
It's a serious question, a sort of blogospheric reality check, if you will. I find myself curling my fingers in this form often - especially while watching the tube. I'm curious whether others will perceive the same form as I do.
For the moment, screen out the lovely mandala which serves as background. Screen out the fact that the hands are overexposed, or drenched by the flash. Focus on the negative space formed by the fingers.
What do you see?
Friday, December 02, 2005
My life is now divided into pre-cat and post-cat. Pre-cat, I did some modest decorating. Post-cat, wreath on the porch is it. And a few decorations at work.
- Do you display a nativity scene, and if so, where?
My nativity scene was small, and was displayed within a foot or so of my minature Christmas tree.
- Do you put a skirt under the Christmas tree? If so, what does it look like?
Even though the minature Christmas tree was artificial, I still put a white skirt around it. I always thought it was faux snow.
- Do you hang lights on the house or put them in your windows?
Neither. Padre hung lights on the house, but it seems like too much work to me. Then, there's the electric bill.... I suspect lights in the window would be as much a toy to the cat as a tree would, so that's not currently an option, either.
- White lights or colored lights on the tree? Big bulbs or the small, pretty ones?
Since the tree was just a couple of feet tall, the small ones were the best option.
- Do you have a tree topper? What sort? Who puts it on top of the tree?
There have been different ones, over the years. The last one was an angel made from local wool. She was about an inch and a half tall, and balanced perfectly on the top.
One year, we hung a stuffed bear that was riding a star over the tree. That year, the tree was closer to "life size".
Photocopy by Dr. Omed, color by Jac.
The image was scanned from my large journal. The closest poem (on the previous page) is dated 1982. This image is dated 11/7. I think the image pre-dates the poem. Seems like Dr. Omed was working at the Sex Palace Theater, and living in a walk-up hovel at the time.
If you look very, very closely, you might see "Show of Hands" typed just to the right of the hand. You've got better eyes than me if you can make it out. I can barely make out the words on the original photocopy.
The good doctor typed that line of letters his own self, on his manual typewriter. He passed the photocopy on to your correspondent, with directions to color it in an interesting way. I was trying out new ink brushes (the ink was stored in the barrel, and the "brush" was very fine plastic threads). So - I hope the result was interesting.