Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
Dante had Virgil as a guide. Before he had younger siblings, my oldest child had an imaginary friend named Patrick. Betsy had Tacy. Laura Ingalls depended on her brindle bulldog, Jack. All of them were companions on the way.
As we take the beginning steps of our journey through Lent, who would we take as a companion? Name five people, real or imaginary, you might like to have with you as guide or guardian or simply good friend.
- Kathleen, my maternal grandmother. One family tale suggests that she was more loving to her grandchildren (Brother Dave and I) than she was to her own daughter. My mother rarely spoke about Kathleen, but she had more positive memories of her father.
When I think of the divine feminine, I think of Kathleen. When I think of the "cloud of witnesses" who surround me (whether in spirit or reality I know not), I think of Kathleen. When I think of those saints known to God alone, I think of Kathleen.
She is a companion through many days in my life, as an icon of agape – pure, non-judgemental love. She is a companion who supports and praises. She is a companion who inspired and nourished my love of music.
- Francis of Assisi. Like Jesus, he calls me to an uncomfortable level of sacrifice. His life and discipline may seem harsh or frightening (viz., the stigmata); his life may seem a judgement. If it is a judgement, it is spoken in love.
- Gil, a friend at church. He smiles and gives me a big hug each time I see him. This past Wednesday, his wife mentioned how much he loves me. I have no idea why. I do feel a great deal of affection for him as well. Rather than try to suss out why he likes me so much, I have chosen to bask in it, and be fed by the affection. It, too, is an icon of God's love for us. We can't earn it; God gifts us with love "just because".
- Dr. Omed, who I once called Parsival. His wife calls him an evangelical atheist, a title he somewhat begrudgingly accepts. He is what I call a "recovering Southern Baptist", which is evidenced by his rejection of God or any notion of a supreme being (regardless of what name one choses for same).
Dr. Omed has known me since high school. He can call me on my foibles better than anyone. He challenges my unexamined assumptions. His own faith, that cannot be named or categorized, is also an icon of grace.
- My constant companion, the fierce wild beast, Dame Julian. St. Anthony, as well as other Desert Fathers, is often pictured with a cat. The original Dame Julian also had a cat as a companion. I have a theory why this is so.
There is no creature like a cat to keep a human humble. And their purr is an icon of the "constant prayer" St. Paul calls us to observe.
ripped it out of my body,
threw it on the floor,
then jumped up and down on it.
I've been told I don't suffer fools gladly.
And, as the days grow short,
as I mark days in black between now
and the beyond,
I suffer less gladly.
At this rate,
I'm sure to become a misanthrope.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I fought the bed, and the bed won,
I fought the bed, and the bed won.
I got my baby and the ... late sun...
I fought the bed, and the bed won,
I fought the bed, and the bed won.
Don't call me lazy, don't call me mad,
the day's not yet begun.
I'm not crazy, or feelin' sad...
I fought the bed, and the bed won.
I fought the bed and the bed won.
I shot the clock with my ... zip gun.
I fought the bed and the bed won
I fought the bed and the bed won.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Being Jesus' disciple has a cost. Bearing the cross may bring us into conflict with our own ego needs. Bearing the cross may bring us into conflict with modern notions of comfort. Bearing the cross may bring us into conflict with the morals and values of our social set.
The cross is a powerful symbol for our Lenten journey. At one level, it reflects the painful choices we must make. At another level, it may represent how we stand at a crossroad whenever we chose between our pilgrim life and the demands of the world.
It is at this crossroad that we examine how we proportion our time, talent, and treasure. A healthy human life seeks a balanced and proper proportion between work, leisure, and spirit. Only you (and God) know how well-balanced your life is!
I would not be so bold as to suggest daily minimum requirements. If there were such a thing, it would likely be our whole life. "What does the LORD require of you," asks the prophet Micah, "But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8, NASB)True humility would lead us to recognize the One who created us, created this world and all that sustains it, and whose Spirit grants us fullness of life. Owing so much, how can we hold back any part?That is my challenge this Lent: will I bear the cross, even as I wear it? Will I take an honest and rigorous inventory of how I spend my time, talent, and treasure? Am I willing to make the sacrifices true proportional giving might require?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
One of the many objects I have to remind me of Padre. Padre made this from a kit, sometime in the early 1960s. This was sometime after Kennedy became president, but before he was assassinated. Rocking chairs enjoyed popularity because Kennedy liked a rocking chair; it gave his back needed support.
You can't see the claw marks in this picture. The lady in the lower left-hand corner has left her mark on the chair. Hard to know why she responds to it this way. It endured the dust of Midland, West TX, for over two decades. But it may still have retained the scent from two dogs (Frieda and Gidget) and a cat (Sam).
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
- What is one place you make sure to take out-of-town guests when they visit?
The Bombing Memorial is a place many people want to visit. There's a pair of local parks I think are outstanding. Within the first year of Alexandria's moving here, I took her to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge.
- When visiting another city or town, do you try to cram as much in as possible, or take it slow and easy?
Depends on the amount of time I have available. When I visited Seattle for a few days years ago, I mentally listed two or three places, and made it to those (plus a few extra).
- When traveling, where are we most likely to find you: strolling through a museum, checking out the local shopping, or _________________?
Musuem, book store, or local shopping. However, if I'm attending an overnight conference (as I will in April), I'm likely to stay near the conference location.
- Do you like organized tours and/or carefully planned itineraries, or would you rather strike out and just see what happens?
With the exception of a chartered fall follage tour, and ear phone docent tours in museums, I've never been on an organized tour. Can't say I've missed the experience.
- After an extended trip, what do you find yourself craving most about home?
Her royal catness, Dame Julian.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Mr. B*sh likes to frame things as "fer us" or "agin us", so I'll make it simple:
The Iranian government is primarily Shia. The majority in Iraq (Mr. Maliki, et al) are Shia. Our forces insured the election which put Mr. Maliki (as Prime Minister) in power, so the Shia in Iraq are, de facto, our allies. They are "fer us".
Most of the insurgents killing Americans are Sunni, the minority Islamic group which enjoyed power and privilege during Saddam Hussein’s regime. They are "agin us".
If the Iranian government were providing weapons to the Sunni, they would be aiding a force they see as apostate and enemies. If they are providing weapons to the Shia, they are helping to arm our allies.
Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Many on the left are concerned that this talk about weapons coming from Iran is a replay of the WPM "intelligence" which got us into this mess in the first place. That is, there is a concern that members of the administration are attempting to build a case for invading Iran (or to run covert forays across the border).
Aside from the fact that our military force is stretched to the limit, I share this concern. I am now convinced there is no action too stupid or foolish for this administration to attempt. If B*sh, or any of his minions claimed the sky was blue, I’d be convinced the sky had suddenly turned purple.
It may be time to consider where insurgent groups really are getting their weapons. I have no doubt there’s a healthy black market from a variety of sources, including Iran. However, I’d be willing to make a small wager regarding the source of the majority of those weapons (or the components thereof): weapons depots. The very depots that were not guarded or protected following our invasion of Iraq.
Now, who’s fault is that? Well, Rumsfeld is an obvious choice, but who hired Rumsfeld?
I trust you see where this logic leads. If being the source of these weapons is grounds for attack, then there is only one logical conclusion.
The President, Vice President, and a majority of their advisers (including Ms. Rice) are enemy combatants. I do not suggest that we declare war on these people. There is a fitting and proper place for enemy combatants until the end of hostilities.
Send 'em to Gitmo.
Edited to add:Seems I'm not the only one who had an idea along these lines. See Robert J. Elisberg's satire in the Huffington Post.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Pictured is the first Tom Paxton album our family bought. Padre bought it in late 1971 or early 1972 on the strength of a record review. And it was good. Not a bad introduction to Paxton's music.
Tom Paxton was among the group of singer-songwriters in the early sixties sometimes called "Woody's Children"; that is, this group (e.g., Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Judy Collins) carried on Woody Guthrie's folk tradition, not only by singing traditional songs, but also by writing and singing new songs. These new songs would often address concerns of the common man or current political issues, as Woody's did.
How Come the Sun is a good example. The opening track, "I Had to Shoot That Rabbit", addressed the Viet Nam war as well as the sport of hunting. The title track addressed ecology as well as the folly of human warfare.
Tom Paxton was raised in Oklahoma (his family moved here when he was 11). He attended the University of Oklahoma, where he majored in drama. He returns to Oklahoma sporatically, the most recent trip being this past Friday (Feb. 9) when he performed at Stage Center.
He played two 50-minute sets. He played a lot of favorites, including his best-known songs, "Ramblin' Boy" and "Last Thing on My Mind". I didn't recognize every song he played, but I enjoyed all of them. In particular, I was pleased to hear him play "Jennifer's Rabbit" from his Morning Again album.I did hope he would sign autographs; I brought the How Come the Sun album cover in case he would.
As you see, he was kind enough to sign the album cover.
While signing the cover, he explained the child on the cover was his daughter Kate. Then he named the group on the back cover: Kate, Tom, his wife Midge, and his daughter Jennifer.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Once again, the international community and the American people are being asked to take the administration's word for it. Once again, we are being asked to trust intelligence assessments. This is one member of the American public who must say, "You didn't fool me with your ginned-up 'evidence' of WPM in Iraq, and you aren't going to fool me with a few mortar shells which may or may not have come from Iran."
I recognize my opinion echoes that of the Iranian leadership, for whom I have little affection. It is possible for them to be right on this point, while they are wrong on so much else.
I contended early on that B*sh had confused Iran and Iraq. The man practically bragged about his ignorance of the world and world affairs when he first ran for office in 2000. It seems likely that he confused two countries that are geographically close together, and whose names differ by only one letter. One really has been seeking atomic weapons (Iran); the other, Iraq, likely would have been happy to get one, but lacked the means to do so.
If B*sh had really intended to attack a country which sought nuclear weapons, and which might have desired to use them on the U.S., he really should have attacked Iran back in '02. But that ship has sailed. Even if this were a just reason for war - which I don't think it is - it's too late now. Our forces are stretched too thin as it is.Hopefully, even B*sh is not so foolish as to stretch our forces to the breaking point.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
— Koryu Osaka
I am reminded of my introduction to Zen. It was through the comedian Shelly Berman. I forget the context, but in the midst of a routine, Mr. Berman mentioned a koan (a sort of unsolvable riddle used in Zen) – one of the best known – "You know the sound of two hands clapping, but what is the sound of one hand clapping?"
From that tease, which I first heard as a pre-teen, I became curious about koans and Zen. So I was receptive when I saw Alan Watts' "Conversation with Myself" on PBS in my early teens. Later, I bought my first Watts' book, Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen. Later still, I bought Paul Reps' collection of Zen writings, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (which included the original source of the "one hand" koan).
Shelly Berman also introduced me to Franz Kafka; one of his records had a routine, "Kafka on the telephone." From this, I collected Kafka stories, and read chunks of his novels.
I guess I was an autodidact from an early age, following my curiosity where-ever it would lead. Still do, thank goodness.
Friday, February 09, 2007
I went on a retreat this past weekend, just a little east of Seminole, OK. While there, a couple of participants, who had come from Tulsa, mentioned passing the Volkswagen Graveyard. Padre and Brother Dave both owned VW Beetles. In fact, Brother Dave sold me his during my first or second year of college. I have especially fond memories of riding with Padre in his Beetle, which was a gift from his older sisters.
I was carpooling; happily, the driver had overheard the discussion and asked if I'd like to stop by. Oh yes. Yes, indeed.
The driver counted on me to act as navigator, since I was the one interested. Obviously, she was unaware of my long and colorful history of misdirection (although I have told her the story of getting lost in Kansas City). I sat with the people who had talked about the graveyard and we looked at a map of Oklahoma. It appeared as if the place was south of I-40.
I asked what town it was near, and was told "Ixl", which was not on the map we were perusing. The town, and the "graveyard" were on Hwy 48, which was a few miles out of our way. But the driver was still willing to check it out.
We left the lodge a between 11:00 and noon. It wasn't long before the driver expressed concern that we missed our exit. I assured her that it was marked on the map as a state highway, and would therefore have a road sign.
Driving east on Hwy 9 is very pleasant because eastern Oklahoma tends to have more hills and trees than western Oklahoma, and the road meanders much more than the interstate.
We finally came to the Highway 48 exit, and started north. And drove. And drove. We passed several salvage/junk yards, and the driver would ask, "Do you think that's it?" And I would respond that I couldn't see a single Volkswagen.
We passed I-40, at which point I figured my talent for misdirection had reared its puckish head. We drove. And drove. And drove some more. Lots of hills. Lots of cattle - even a longhorn. Winding road.
After a while, the driver said, "I'm going to give it x more miles, then we'll turn back." By the time we had traversed the set number of miles, we came to Hwy 56. The directions had included the fact that the "graveyard" was north of Hwy 56, so we kept on going.
Not long after we passed the intersection of Hwys 48 & 56, we saw a sign for Ixl. Ixl consists of a few houses and one quick mart. About ten minutes north of Ixl, we came to the Volkswagen graveyard. I jumped out of the car and started taking pictures (the shot above is one of about six pictures taken).
The owner of the yard drove out in his pick-up truck and chatted with us. His father had started the business, about 56 years ago. As you see in the picture, most of the vehicles are Beetles, but there are a few vans and campers off in the distance.
In the 50s and 60s, the Beetle was similar to the Model T: it was an affordable and reliable car. A person with modest mechanical skills can maintain the car with little trouble. If one takes good care of the car (primarily by keeping it fed with oil), it will last a good long time – unlike most American cars.
The story goes that Hitler designed the Beetle; this is likely Nazi propaganda. For one thing, the Volkswagen that was built in Nazi Germany looks more like a large sedan than the Beetle we loved in the 60s. However, it's probably true that he named the company "Volkswagen", which translates to "the people's car".
The owner of the yard said the place was less popular now than it once had been, although he has started collecting the modern Beetle. He told us stories of people who paid for parts, then never collected them. The saddest story was of a motorcyclist, who seemed very excited by the Beetles, and paid a good sum for one in fair condition, yet never returned. "I've always thought he must have crashed that cycle somewhere on the road."I'm quite thankful to the driver for driving out of her way to view this unique "tourist attraction". It's good to share such adventures with a friend.
Songbird admits she has been watching the latest season of American Idol. I haven't been able to watch more than 15 minutes worth. It is symbolic of the worst of American culture (appealing to the lowest common denominator), the worst of the pop music industry (playing it safe with the same old mid-stream pablum), and the worst popular vocal styling (melisma). With that caveat, here's the game:
- If I could sing like anyone, it would be myself.
Now that I've recovered from the worst of my cold, I'm so pleased that I can sing again. I know there's plenty of folk who can sing technically better than me. I know there's some who are more soulful, or whatever, but this morning as I type this, I like how I sing. I like how people respond to my singing voice. It's a gift, and I'm glad to share it.
wouldlove to sing the song "The Guests," by Leonard Cohen.
I start singing practically from the time I wake up. Some songs become "ear worms" and follow me throught the day.
Other times, I'm woodshedding a song for performance - which means memorizing the lyrics (primarily) and playing with the melody.
"The Guests" is a song I come back to frequently. I've already memorized the lyrics, which are profoundly beautiful:
One by one the guests arriveIt took me a couple of years of living with this song to realize it could be about our lives. God is the host who cries, "Welcome, welcome, let all my guests come in" as we wander through God's house mystified by the torches flaring.
The guests are coming through
The open-hearted many
The broken-hearted few.
And no one knows where the night is going
No one knows why the wine is flowing
Oh, love, I need you, I need you, I need you
Oh ... I need you now
. . . .
All go stumbling through that house
In the utmost urgency
Saying, "Please reveal yourself"
Or, "Why hast thou forsaken me?"
- It would be really cool to sing at Carnegie Hall.
Why not aim high? You thought maybe I would say "My shower"?
I have sung on stage many times. It's typically an enjoyable experience, although I rarely know how to respond to people praising my performance (beyond saying thank you).
- If I could sing a dream duet it would be with Natalie Merchant.
Which was about the fourth name that came to mind. Interesting that all the names that came to mind were female – Streisand, Sheryl Crow, Joan Baez. Why Natalie? She's the one I have the biggest crush on. And she writes some amazing songs.
I do miss Sarah, the singing partner I had several years ago. She was a class act. She was much more knowledgable about music theory than me, but she was gentle in directing me. She was a trained vocalist, but didn't disdain the pleasure of "folk" music. Our voices blended perfectly.
- If I could sing on a TV or radio show, it would be The Tonight Show.
Although I would prefer to have appeared with Johnny Carson than on the Jay Leno iteration. I'm not a fan of Leno.
However, if I were to give full reign to my fantasy, my dream would be to be a guest host - ala John Denver. Experience in leading group discussions suggests I would do well as a talk show host (if my face were TV-worthy).
I actually did serve as a guest host on a local cable-access show, so I have some minimal experience.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place;
and in the sacred name of the Triune God
he blessed myself and my house,
my cattle and my dear ones,
and the lark said in her song:
Oft, Oft, Oft,
goes Christ in the stranger's guise.
Quoted by BP Katharine Jefferts Schori in this reflection
Now, part of that tiredness may have been due to "coming down" from the steroids. The other part may have been due to my assisting with a project which was due today. I have been working straight through the day (except for lunch break), with minimal "Internet breaks". This is actually a pleasant change of pace; I'm not paid a lot, but I do like feeling that I've earned it. And I appreciate feeling useful.
Between being busy at work and cat sitting, I haven't had time to revamp the appearance of "Love During Wartime". My goal is to work on it this Saturday.
Meanwhile, I've been posting pictures from this past weekend at my alternablog, Jonah 365. Go take a look and leave a trace.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Monday, February 05, 2007
It's taken some digging, but I've found the instructions to create one's own design within the new xhtml requirements of the new Blogger. I anticipate it will take me at least a week to recreate the design according to their specs.
Another thing I lost in the "upgrade" was the Haloscan comments. I prefer this system, as people can sign a name without the requirement of a Google account.
One last thing: it's occurred to me I may have been overly enthusiastic in setting up a separate site for my Project 365 entries. This page has suffered (in a sense) because energy has been focused on the new site. I'm seriously considering consolidating the two pages; in other words, once I've fixed the layout of this page, I'll start doing Project 365 entries here and stop posting on Jonah 365.
If you, dear reader, have a preference, record them in the comments. Note that anonymous comments will be accepted.
— Alan Watts
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
- Share, if you wish, the biggest change you experienced this past year.
I think one reason I became depressed toward the end of the year is because there had been so little change. No romantic relationship; same job with same daily routine. Same words and phrases getting recycled in my poetry. Same pictures of the same cat. Same nightly routine with the same night-time soap operas and comedies. Same, same, same.
Yes, it did become a cycle of sorts. The sameness fed the depression, and the depression lowered any energy I might have devoted to changing the routine. Some changes within the past month:
- With the worst of my cold behind me, my mental attitude has improved
- This attitude has also gotten an artificial boost from the steroids I'm taking for inflammation in my Eustachian tube.
- I've started power-walking once a week at a local mall. I hope to maintain this discipline (the iPod helps), and increase the number of times I walk each week
- Talk about a time you changed your mind about something, important or not.
I am reminded of the first time I went to Kansas City, MO. I had gifted my former wife a trip to the jazz festival there, including a stay at a nice hotel. I seemed to have an exceptionally poor sense of direction. If I chose to turn left, I should have turned right, and vice versa. I even started playing mind games: "I think I should turn left, so I should actually turn right." Murphy's Law dominated, and in these instances it would turn out my initial instinct had been correct.
- Bishop John Shelby Spong wrote a controversial book [titled] Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Setting aside his ideas – what kind of changes would you like to see in the Church?
In the history of the early church, it's clear the church was not afraid of adopting ideas and images from other traditions. The earliest example of this is Paul's "To A God Unknown" sermon recorded in the Book of Acts. The church would "baptize" symbols, traditions, and concepts from other religions as a means of encouraging people to convert to Christianity.
Many today have a distrust of those "pagan" symbols (e.g. Halloween). This is unfortunate. Others refuse to engage modern culture on the grounds the church will become "polluted" by it. There's no question regarding the Christian content of U2's lyrics, as one obvious example, but might there be a Christian (or at least spiritual) layer in other popular media?
Can we find new meaningful titles for God and Christ? How meaningful is it to say "Jesus is Lord" when our popular concept of a lord is a relatively powerless figurehead? How meaningful is to say "The Lord is my shepherd" when most Americans have no experience of sheep outside of a zoo? Though the phrase "Jesus is my CEO" grates on my ears, it is at least a step in the right direction.
- Have you changed your hairstyle/hair color in the last five years? If so, how many times?
No. However, my hairstyle has changed naturally. My forehead real estate is rapidly increasing (advertising available at reasonable rates!) and I have gained a natural tonsure (as shown here).
- What WERE they thinking with that New Coke thing?
They counted on the thrill of the new, and discounted generations of customer loyalty. Fear of the new is not limited to certain denominations; the general populace tends to be resistant to rapid change.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
eustachian tube was congested, resulting in tinnitus.
I went to an ORL specialist (ear, nose & throat) a week ago Monday (1/22), and he prescribed steroids to relieve any swelling in my eustachian tube. This is my first experience with steroids.
A co-worker (whose husband is a Physician's Assistant) told me a side-effect of steroids is that one "feels good": less muscle aches, no joint pain, and so on. For me, this also translates to improved emotions. I don't mind; after being depressed from sometime in November through early January, I appreciate the change.
The first few days of the steroid script, I was just this side of manic. I had already gone almost a week without a full night's rest due to the tinnitus. The steroid-related mania made this worse: I had difficulty getting to sleep; would wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning, then have difficulty getting back to sleep.
After a week of this, my brain was pretty fried. I had poor concentration, and was beginning to jabber like a speed freak.
Just the idea of insufficient rest makes me anxious. Going for over two weeks with less than 8 hrs/night was really getting to me. So I called the Physician's Asst, he prescribed Ambien, and suggested I try half a tablet a night.
Happily, that has worked. No hangover. Still feel emotionally positive. Mental accuity and concentration greatly improved. I've been taking the Ambien every other night, on average.
I recognize that I have an addictive personality (to use the most recent politically correct formulation). I've had a history of alcohol abuse, along with less legal mood-altering chemicals. Gertrude Behanna, author of The Late Liz, aptly describes one symptom of the addictive personality as the belief that "if one is enough, twenty must be better." Consequently, I tend to be very cautious about using any mood-altering medications.
The experience of the past two months suggests to me that I may need to reassess. At minimum, if I still want to avoid prescription meds, I might want to start taking St John's Wort again (which has helped in the past).
Steroids have two other side-effects that have gotten significant notice in the popular media: erectile dysfunction and rage. I have had little opportunity to test whether I suffer the first side-effect (*ahem*), but I have a theory about the second.
When I first started taking the steroids, I felt like I was running 90 miles an hour, and the rest of world was running at 5. Everyone else was going too slow, for no discernable good reason. I can understand how a person might feel frustrated, and respond violently. I personally had sufficient accuity to remind myself that this "racing" feeling was a side-effect of the drug, and that I should not respond to reality based on it.
So, life feels good at the moment. My ear is still ringing, but it is less intense. I have hope it will resolve by the end of the steroid script. My iPod is getting a lot more use than normal, because I'm playing it at work. I use wordless music as a form of white noise to distract me from the tinnitus. I keep the volume low, so I can hear the phone ring, and am aware when someone wants to get my attention.But — a day with music is 100% better than a day without. How lucky am I that my immediate superiors (implicitly) allow me to do this!