Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Visitation

I dreamed of peanuts last night. At least, I suppose it was peanuts, because it was a type of nut with a shell that might collect and crunch on the ground. In the dream, I didn't know the name of the nut. Honestly, I didn't worry about the name. I just enjoyed eating them.

Odd thing is, I didn't go to bed hungry. My diet might lack variety; it might lack the daily recommended amount of one vitamin or the other; but, on average, I eat three times a day. And, on many days, plenty of snacks between. Honestly, how I remain relatively skinny is a mystery to me.
In her comment on my previous entry, Ms. Candide suggests that I am projecting my own lack of joy on Christmas consumers.

That may be true. It may be that Sam has formed a picture of me as a sort of dour fellow. A fellow who does not take much joy in life. And it's true that I've hit a rather rough patch the past few months. With the days shortening, I'm sensing a return of depression (maybe a pinch of SAD). So, when I encourage the generic reader to seek sources of joy, Sam might say that I'm preaching to my reflection.

Not the least bit unusual.

On the other hand, I had supposed that I was reciting a bit of received wisdom. Seems like many sit-coms and commercials are built around the premise that shopping at this time of year is unpleasant, or is stressfull. Do I know any of this from personal experience?

I avoid Christmas shopping during peak times or places because I'm not comfortable in large crowds. So, that's the source of my stress.
In seeking sources of my own joy, I joined a St. Andrew's Day Parade at lunch today. St. Andrew was one of the original 12, and is also the patron saint of Scotland. The parade was sponsored by a growing community of Christians who are rediscovering and embracing Celtic spirituality — in particular, St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, St. Luke's United Methodist Church, and First Christian Church.

The parade was preceded by a brief non-demoninational service. Of special note was this proclamation:
Today we proclaim the sacred streets of Oklahoma City to be for us hallowed ground. Joining our voices in harmony we celebrate our gratidude for the rebirth of our beloved city. Processing together in unity we give thanks for the sanctification that comes from joining our hands in celebration of our common life.
We were led by a group of group of bagpipers from St. Luke's, at 15th and Robinson, to St. Paul's, at 7th and Robinson. We were only 30, so perhaps not much of a parade. But it was grand. Gayle visited with me as we marched to St. Paul's. Then we had a lovely lunch of soup at the Cathedral. We were joined at lunch by Canon Hampton, two members of St. Michael's, Norman, and a member of Emmanuel, Shawnee. We all had a lovely visit.

I didn't think to ask for a lift back to St. Luke's. This wasn't pride, but a misplaced sense of not wanting to be a bother. Still, the walk was good for me. The sky is a clear blue that seems to thrive best during Oklahoma winter days. The wind was brisk, but not so hard as to cut through me.

I feel better now than I did when I began this entry (at 6 am). You know, I keep telling myself that the best cure for depression is to seek people to be with. But I often don't feel like I have the energy to be around people. So the cycle continues.

But today, I was with other people. Some I've known for a year or more, others I just met today. All were fellow pilgrims, and accepted me as one of them.

Lk 1:39-53

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Annunciation

The world of advertising has been preparing the consumer for Christmas since at least Halloween. Expecting store to change their displays at Thanksgiving is as anachronistic as a plum pudding. Complaining about it has also become old hat, although surely one of the few things that states both red and blue could agree on.

There is at least one ad I've seen that almost captures the traditional meaning of Christmas, from a nation-wide toy store chain. The tag line is something like "There is no pleasure like seeing joy on a child's face; even better is knowing you put it there." Obviously, the message is that you will put joy on a child's face by giving him or her material goods purchased from that toy store. But, at least it directs the buyer's mind to people outside him/her-self.

If there is a time of year Americans exemplify the "quiet desperation" Thoreau spoke of, Christmas is it. Look at the faces of your fellow shoppers: I imagine you'll find very few smiles there. Come Christmas Eve, many of us will sing of "comfort & joy," yet I expect we'll be hard pressed to find many concrete examples of either comfort or joy prior to December 31. When much of the joy will be fueled by alcohol, which somewhat cheapens the emotion.

Like many churches, the Cathedral had a special service the morning of Thanksgiving Day. What made it unique was the fact that the service included a baptism. In his sermon, Dean Back made an off-hand remark to the effect that our souls were like infants.

Indeed, many Orthodox icons represent the soul as an infant. Celtic tradition holds that when one looks into an infant’s face, one perceives the face of God. In fact, the infant is one of those "thin places" where heaven and earth meet.

As the liturgical season of Advent begins, that is the announcement we need to hear: "Your soul is an infant. Nourish it for growth."

Each of us needs to find those things that nourish our souls. For me, it may be great music or art. For you, it may be shopping for your grandchild. I would suggest two guidelines: that the activity be other-directed, and that joy be found in it. For joy is the spark that warms and nourishes the soul.

Lk 1:26-38

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Clover Eyes

I bathed her eyes in clover
before the dawn was born.
Her heart was forged in silver
once captured in a storm.
She smiles in August dewlight
upon my dancing hands.
They measure rose-hawk nightflights
and pray to love again.
She comes to me so softly,
lays her head upon my chest,
then flows out into the slip-stream
where she will take her rest.

Card mailed to Sam, 13.Nov.04

Friday, November 26, 2004

Friday's Cat

Sorry, World
I submitted this to the Sorry Everybody site late last week. It has not yet been added to their gallery.

Maybe the anger is contrary to their message? That's fine, if that's the case. The anger is honest, however, and it feels good to express it.

The image of Dame Julian is a couple of weeks old, so she may seem slightly smaller here than you remember her being last week (the "Andy Warhol" homage).

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

My Birthday, by the numbers

  1. Cheri, at the office, baked a pina colada cake
  2. Debi took me out to lunch at Gabriella's; marvelous food, good company
  3. Gathered with friends and like-minded folk yesterday evening (though the event was not connected with my b'day)
  4. Conducted a meeting, and remained calm
  5. I only thought about the assasination of President Kennedy once, and was not consumed with melancholy at the coincidence that he was murdered on my eighth birthday
Not so positive
  1. No birthday cards, not even from my co-workers
  2. I generally lead "Happy Birthday" for others, but it just felt too queer to lead it for myself. I started the group off, and they quickly went off key
  3. Actually, that was quite amusing
  4. I bought my own birthday presents
Honestly, not so bad. I'm a year away from the half-century mark, and it amazes me that some of this stuff even mildly ruffles my feathers.
By the way, here's what I bought:
Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac: Celebrating Nature & Her Rhythms in the City
Folkways: A Vision Shared - A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly
Madeleine Peyroux: Careless Love

The Folkways cd is quite old; it was originally released in 1988. I bought it because I was jonesing to hear Dylan sing "Pretty Boy Floyd" again (I once had the tape, and lost it).

The Peyroux cd is new. I heard her interviewed on NPR a couple of weeks ago, and they played a couple of tracks then. If you've ever wondered what it would sound like if Billy Holliday sang Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love," then this is the cd for you. But, her singing is more than mimicry or gimick. You can tell this 20-something woman really feels it. The jazz combo is a bit too nightclub for my taste, but Madeleine's singing makes up for it. Recommended.
Canon Joplin was at that meeting I mentioned; it was a debriefing of the people who facilitated "Faith Sharing" as a pre-convention event. She was quite complementary of my part in making that a reality.

Just think: three years ago yesterday, Mother Joplin officiated a house blessing for the place I currently live. When I think of the years which preceded that house blessing, and the years that have followed, I marvel. I give thanks for every step. I give thanks for Brother Dave and Sistah Linda, who helped with the house down-payment. I give thanks for Dr. Omed, who listened as I bemoaned lost love unattainable love. I give thanks for Pam, who generously shares her time & friendship.

I give thanks for Elsie. Our relationship could not survive over long distance, but I give thanks for the time we did have together.

I give thanks for you, dear reader. Without you, I'd just be muttering to myself.

Idée d’jour

If privacy is outlawed, only outlaws will have privacy.
— Phil Zimmermann, cryptographer (1954- )

Monday, November 22, 2004

Jonah Smiles

Jonah Smiles
Today is my birthday. This picture is my birthday present for those (e.g., Sabbathing Sam and Natalie) who fear that I don't smile enough. I'm the balding fellow near the top of the picture.

The picture was taken sometime this summer, which explains my short-sleeved shirt. It's a silk and cotton blend. Which means, per my previous entry, that it's not kosher. It's not quite as comfy as I thought it would be either. But it's purty.

The shot is a detail from a picture which was included in Sunday's bulletin. The picture is of a group who gather every Sunday morning to read and reflect on St. Benedict's Rule. We also meet the second and fourth Monday of each month.

As this picture shows, I may need more practice smiling, but I do smile.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

More Recommended Reading

Both of today's readings have to do with the issue of "gay marriage," or same-sex unions. The first, directly; the second, tangetically.

First, read Elsbeth's impassioned essay, “Mrs. Omed Doesn't Care What You Believe.”

Then, read Real Live Preacher's “Where Is the Man”. This is the tangetical reading. It is part of a series in which Rev. Atkinson (RLP) retells a Bible story, and fills in some gaps in the retelling. A sort of Christian midrash, if you will.

The story here is perhaps one of the best known in the New Testament: the woman caught in adultery, normally placed at John 8:1-11. Some translations place it at the end of John, some place it Luke. So far as I know, this is the only story in the NT that doen't have a fixed home.

For me the point of the story is that we are all sinners. Or, if you prefer, all of us have fallen short of perfection. Elsewhere, Jesus advises a person to be more concerned about the huge cancer on their own soul before worrying about the speck in somebody else's eye.

So, where do our fundy friends get off striving to enact their prejudice against the (perceived) sin of homosexuality in state constitutions? Or worse, the national constitituion? Are one of them capable of picking up that stone?

How can my Episcopal brothers and sisters say this is the one sin that bars one from the ministry? Are any one of them free of sin?

I wondered for some time why this is the one sin that bothers some Anglicans so much. Aside from the obvious controversy of anything sexual, I can think of only one: the fact that the person persists in his or her sin. If a person concludes their sexual activity was indeed a perversion, and enters into a hetrosexual relationship, that person may be ordained. Or, even if that person sincerly believes their sexual preference is innate, they may be ordained so long as they don't act on that preference.

The first option seems alright, except for the fact that it contradicts twenty years of psychological theory (Anglicans are generally friendlier toward science than the fundies). The second option is just cruel.

Something that may be translated as "homosexuality" is mentioned about four times in the Bible (both testaments). The first, and most infamous, and Leviticus. I say "infamous" because there are so many things in Leviticus most modern Christians ignore. We eat pork. Women go to church during menses. We wear clothes made from a variety of fabrics (some totally unknown during Biblical times).

The fundies have a justification for this cherry-picking, of course. Something about Peter and being released from the dietary laws. And, apparantly, they've drawn a similar conclusion about social laws, such as women being unclean during menses.

Let's skip stuff like that. Let's go to the big ten. Do you know someone who truly honors the Sabbath? Our Orthodox friends, as I learned from The Rabbi of 89th Street, refuse to travel on the Sabbath. Their synogues, or other places of worship, are within walking distance. They won't fly on the Sabbath.

Do you know anyone who takes the Sabbath that seriously? Does one of our fundy friends? They tape their religious broadcasts on Sunday (the Christian sabbath), which means that they encourage others to work on that day.

Some fundies would ignore the Old Testament altogether, saying Christ's sacrifice released us from that old covenant. Yet, the divorce rate is highest among our fundamentalist brothers and sisters. In Matthew especially, Jesus condemns divorce. Paul has a pretty low opinion of it as well. It's even worse if the person remarries.

So, all those fundies who have divorced and remarried are persisting in their sin.

No wonder Brother Dave and Dr Omed think Christians are hypocrites. Because so very many are.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Friday's Cat

She really is a work of art!

Proptor Chorum

I suppose when I say Gen. Powell lost his credibility after the U.N. fiasco, I may be preaching to the choir. I suppose saying things look very bleak in Iraq is preaching to the choir.

I suppose challenging all those Red folk to question the reasons for attacking Iraq is so much wasted breath. Few stop by this space in the blog hinterlands, after all.

What's so bad about preaching to the choir? Sometimes, the choir needs encouragement.

And, who knows? Maybe someone outside the choir will hear, or rather truly listen, mark your words and seriously consider them.

If I say the so-called justifications for entering this war do not rise to the level required for a Pre-emptive strike, few would disagree. However, I would go further, and quote Brother Dave:
The invasion of Iraq is a PREVENTIVE war not the PREEMPTIVE war the regime has taught everyone to say. Under existing international law and the UN Charter, PREVENTIVE war (I think you might do something bad some day so I'll whack you now) is illegal. Therefore, it is very plausible to argue that every act flowing from that invasion is also illegal.
Hear that? "Every act." Not just the prison abuse, not just shooting an unarmed prisoner in the head, not just the things that the grunts get blamed for. No, this goes all the way up the chain of the command.

Every act is illegal. Every act, every death, is the responsibility of those who ordered the initial attack. Every act, an impeachable office.

I will not say innocent blood is on the hands of each person who placed a check in the Republican column. America was sold a bill of goods. Many people bought it, sincerely believing the goods were quality merchandise. I've done the same, under different circumstances. We're human. We make mistakes.

The choir saw the mistake early on. The choir must befriend the congregation and show them the facts. Challenge them to study both sides: not just the Drudge Report, but Talking Points Memo as well. If they're truly hardy and open minded souls, send ’em to Buzz Flash

I'll preach to the choir. But, I will sing my sermon. My high tenor voice carries over the din of the madding crowd. I have no control over who hears my song, or how they interpret it. I can only pray that the spirit of my song will touch their heart, and teach it to walk in paths of beauty.
This is a day of peace.
This is a day of peace.
This is a day the Lord has made.
This is a day of peace.

Quote d’jour

[We must let] the deep compassion of the soul shine like a lighthouse beacon onto our world's rocky and dangerous shoreline. I know I am not that great beacon. I am only the old woman who lives alone in the lighthouse and cares for the light, cleaning its great clear lenses, tending to its stores of energy, making sure the light does not go out. Forever, as long as I can.
— Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run With Wolves

Thursday, November 18, 2004

What I'm Reading

I just finished reading the latest Harry Potter book (Order of the Phoenix); which, in trade paperback, is 870 pages long. I've started the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, which runs a little over 700 pages. And, I'm over half-way through The Rabbi of 84th St, which is 200 pages long.

Did I mention that I often read more than one book at a time?

Sounds like an eclectic reading list, nu?

The biography of Rabbi Nesser has obvious spiritual overtones, and Karamazov is a recognized classic of proto-existentialism, but what the heck is Harry Potter doing there?

The Potter books, like most fantasy, involve a classic battle between good and evil. And, as in most fantasy, good typically wins. Order of the Phoenix, the most recent entry, is famously darker than its predecessors. But the novel still ended, for me, with a hint of hope. And, let's face it, if the series ends with the bad guy winning, there's going to be a slew of upset parents and children in the world.

Harry Potter, or the good guys, will probably ultimately win. But Harry Potter is decidedly not the same boy we started the series with. In this latest novel, I kept wondering why his friends stick around. The boy is described as shouting, or snapping at, his friends on a frequent basis. Why do they stick with him?

It turns out that Potter has some sort of psychic connection with the dark wizard, Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents. So he is being infected by evil, in a manner of speaking. This explains Harry's petulant behavior to the reader, but the other characters don't know about it until a little half-way through the novel.

For me, this is where spirituality becomes practical.

Convention planning committee, posed with bison
For in pondering why people would put up with Harry Potter, even though he's often unpleasant, I have to wonder why people put up with me — even though I have my unpleasant moments. We're buds, right? I can be as honest and self-revealing as I dare?

Alright. I am still learning to manage my temper. I've learned the triggers, I've learned some appropriate ways to express the true feelings anger so often masks (fear, insecurity, etc). But I still have a ways to go. It's common that I think I've got it mastered, when it comes out sideways in some wild passive-aggressive manner.

Yet, people still call me friend. They still care for me, flashes of anger and all.

This came home to me recently. Following a meeting of the group that arranged the Faith Sharing event for convention, I admitted I was the most overly-serious person in the group. And Gayle said, "I know James; I love you anyway."

Prior to this time, I hadn't considered Gayle more than a casual friend. But, to hear her say she loved me (in that agape Christian sense, no doubt) - a door opened in my heart.

People like me for what I am most of the time. They don't judge me for what I'm like when I'm under pressure. And you know what? I'm probably not as bad under pressure as I think. Some people have even told me I chair a pretty good meeting (if you want it to end on time, I'm your man).

I really do try to accept people right where they're at. If they tell me something about themselves, or their goals, I tend to believe them. I give folk the benefit of the doubt until the preponderance of evidence convinces me otherwise.

I suppose the characters in the Harry Potter books like him for who he is most of the time. The reader is just seeing how he responds under pressure. But, in theory, the other characters see him at times the reader does not. They see him in class. They know he treats people with respect. They admire his knowledge, and his willingness to share it.

Not a bad way to travel in the world.


The General Who Cried "WMD"

Give me five reasons I should believe this. Honestly, I suspect it is true. But given the fact that this "good soldier" fell on his sword, and compromised his integrity, to present questionable evidence before the UN, I'm inclined to question it.

On the other hand, I suspect Gen. Powell has a calendar in his office where he is counting down the days until he leaves.

While I'm here, and thinking tangetically to the topic of the cabinet of our handsome leader's second term, let me draw your thoughts back to the second debate, which was in a "town hall" format. You may recall that one of the "undecided" citizens asked GWB if he had any regrets from his first term. His response was telling, in light of recent events: he only regretted appointing certain people. He didn't name names, but it was generally assumed he meant folk who had spoken out against administration policies or had disagreed with him.

Now, he's going to use his "political capital", and a Repugnant-controlled Congress, to pack his cabinet with yea-sayers.

Excuse me, I've got to watch that cartoon again. Depression imminent....

A Word From Our Sponsor

Judy sent me a link to this Fiore cartoon. For those who believe I don't smile enough, I laughed out loud when I watched it.

You will want to turn up the volume a pinch, in order to fully appreciate the cartoon

It's work safe, so long as your cubicle is relatively isolated, or your office is one of those "blue islands" I hear tell of.


About Nov. 17

In re: my previous post.

As it turned out, "fear" was too strong a word. But yesterday did develop into a very interesting, sometimes stressful day.

Many days are rather slow, and I have to dream of things to do. Those are days when my blog writing is especially prolific (if uneven).

Other days, I have one main project, and I have the luxury of focusing primarily on that project.

Yesterday was one of those days where I thought I could focus on one project, and have some time left over for a personal project, but circumstances led elsewhere. I'd work on one thing, then get called off to do something else. It was definitely a "one step forward, two steps back" kind of day.

The chair of our department was in a micromanaging mood yesterday, and this was one of those circumstances that prevented me from focusing on the project I thought would get top priority for the day. When she came to my desk five minutes before my normal lunch time (12:30), I did not demure; I gave her my full attention, and collected the information she requested immediately. However, when she asked that I do some photocopying for her, I did ask if it could wait until after I had lunch.

By the way, she most likely has no clue when I normally go to lunch.

I went to lunch at 12:45 (no great sacrifice, there), but decided I couldn't afford to take a full hour (a luxury we state employees are afforded) because I had a meeting to set up for at two. I was all prepared to read more of the Rabbi book, when I ran into Judy in the hospital cafeteria. Judy is the editor of OU Medicine magazine, which is published by the OU Medicine Alumni Foundation.

Judy had also been having an interesting day, as it turned out. But mostly, we talked about books and politics. Judy is also a liberal Democrat, so we could commiserate and vent freely.

Later, yesterday afternoon, I visited with Aimee, in the Office of Research Administration. She also had been having an interesting day.

It's too early for the full moon, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Seventeen Reasons to Fear November 17

  1. Woke up with a woody
  2. Maybe you were dreaming of her
  3. Can't have her
  4. Also woke at 12:30 a.m.
  5. Didn't start obsessing for about 30 minutes
  6. Tried prayer. Was distracted by obsessing. Prayer. Obsession. Prayer. Obsession. Somewhere on that see-saw, you got bored with it all, and fell asleep.
  7. It's raining
  8. It's cold outside
  9. The clouds are prison guards
  10. It's Wednesday
  11. Did I mention you were only obsessing about why you woke up?
  12. Throat hurts from eating too much sugar
  13. Can't have her
  14. It's dark outside
  15. Arthritis in your left pinky joint & in your back
  16. You have to go to work
  17. Words fail you
  18. GWB is president. The world is coming to an end.
  19. You can't have her.

Idée d’jour

My aim is to agitate and disturb people. I'm not selling bread, I'm selling yeast.
— Miguel de Unamuno, writer and philosopher (1864-1936)

Man, we need some of that yeast!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Idée d’jour

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title.
— Virginia Woolf, writer (1882-1941)

I'm not sure I know my past by heart. There is much lost to my memory, especially anything earlier than the age of six. And there are days I feel like I hardly know my own title.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Postcards (&c)

Postcard, and draft Pictured: twin postcards. One realized, one in process. On the left, the card I received from Sam about a week ago. As you might imagine, I praised its charming home-made quality as well as the verse. You probably can't read Sam's poem, but I believe it is her right to share it (or not) as she chooses. Her poem is a Vietnamese verse form called Luc-Bat; not having read previous examples of this form, I'm very impressed with the product. I'm also impressed by Sam's knowledge of non-traditional foreign verse forms, and her willingness to try them out.

On the right, you see a draft of the poem I mailed Sam on Saturday. Having less confidence in my skills in the plastic arts, I sent Sam a commercially-produced card. This time, I sent her a picture of a brindled cat - who might be a cousin of Dame Julian. Her use of a rhyming verse form inspired me to try something more formal. As I explain below, I didn't aim for a particular verse form. Instead, I started with a rhythm, and tried to see if I could maintain that rhythm for more than six lines. For most of the poem, my rhyme scheme is ABAB.

With the exception of the first two lines, most of this was written at the public library. I found a quiet corner, and started writing. Writing at home is problematic, as my kitten perceives the moving pen as an invitation to play. You ever tried concentrating on scansion while your pen was under attack?

But, in a typical authorial delaying tactic, before I started writing, I picked up some books from the "Newly Received" shelves. One was the book of Gary Snyder poetry, which I quote below. I checked out the other, The Rabbi of 84th Street : The Extraordinary Life of Haskel Besser. I'm over half-way through this biography, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Recommended.

After I went as far as I could with this little study, I moved to a table near the magazines to begin the painstaking process of translating my chicken scratching into neat printing on the card to be sent to Sam. Although I am almost as self-conscious about my printing as I am my cursive, there have been fewer complaints about the former.

Being so close to the magazines, I noticed the headlines on last week's Christian Century: “What Would Buffy Do?”, along with a couple of other titles caught my eye. The Buffy article was actually a review of a book of the same name (along with The Gospel According to Disney; in brief, the reviewer seemed to appreciate books which strive to dialogue between Christ and popular culture.

There was also an editorial responding to the Eames report concerning the ordination of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. The editorial basically said the U.S. church erred in acting pre-emptively. It's a troubling question. I have argued against the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, and I believe the issues have some similarity. At the same time, I think all the hub-bub about ordination of gays or recognition of same-sex unions is disproptionate to the weight of the issue. It's a question I'm still pondering, and will no doubt return to as I work on it.

Idée d’jour

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
— Albert Camus, writer and philosopher (1913-1960)

It's kinda hard to picture the guy who wrote "The Myth of Sisyphus" and The Stranger as having said something so romantic and hopeful.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Moral Christian

With appreciation to William Blake

The Moral Christian cries ‘I know it all’
& there his Soul takes her Fall.
For, when Jesus comes with compass wide
& measure's him by his own Soul's pride,
Then he shall utterly be lost
& on Pride's torment be tossed.

Why were Adam & Eve from Eden cast?
Have we learned naught from our past?
T’was not from Knowledge, but from its desire
That the Angel was sent with sword of fire.

Jesus died for our sins, not our minds
Yet today I often find
Those who crucify their mind for his sake
& of Moral Commandments partake.

Say as you please, these
Are like the Pharisees:
Cruel lawyers who chose
To have their faith in neat rows
Of firm commandments, unchanging Laws
Which never was the Master's cause.
God's Love they would enumerate
& with a compass draw its boundary
& thus they seal their fate
As they pass judgement on me.

Does not God's Love speak to each Heart
In its own tongue? Are we not all part
Of the Holy Ghost, who lives in every soul
That we may be alive & whole?

The true Saints are those
Who heed their Holy Ghost
As She reveals that Love
Proper for each moment. Love
Is not fixed as is Moral Law —
Love is superior by far.

Love changes with each changing face
& so spreads, to save our race.

Some would call it sympathy,
But that is not the word for me;
‘God is Love,’ I sang as a child
And only now is its meaning revealed.

This is the Revolution I seek most:
When each Heart & Soul heeds its Holy Ghost.

I sent my poetic postcard to Sam yesterday. In a back channel e-mail, I described it thus:
The text is something of an etude; which is to say, a little study or practice toward some sense of meter. I started with a line - inspired by my Photoshop trickery with the pics of DJ and clover - and tried to maintain a regular rhythm and (semi) regular rhyme from there. Not much of a plot; perhaps a couple of interesting images. Otherwise, trying to rediscover word music.
For some reason, this reminded me of another time I just wrote for rhythm and rhyme. The result, as you see, is the mirror-image of those awful didactic moralistic Christian poems preserved on certain greetings cards, and the Chicken Soup(®) books.

As the dedication indicates, I had been reading quite a bit of Blake's rhyming verse. His notebooks are full of doggerel-like etudes. They are equally full of flashes of brilliance and insight. My guess is I was steeped in things like “Auguries of Innocence” and “The Everlasting Gospel” when I wrote this. I would never claim that this measures up to even the least of Blake's doggerel. I'm just admitting that his rhythm and rhyme were bouncing in my head as I wrote it.

I will say that my theology has not changed much since I wrote this. I still believe that, when our life closes, we will measure ourselves by the same compass we have used when judging others. The plumb-line, to use the Old Testament figure, will be how much we have loved; not how much we have judged.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Quote d’jour

The men & women who
died at the World Trade Center
   together with the
Buddhas of Bamiyan,
   Take refuge in the dust.
— Gary Snyder, after Dennis Dutton, Danger on Peaks, pg 102; ©2004, Shoemaker Hoard, Washington, DC


Frost on dying grass;
blind windows face fog-washed streets:
green November morn.

Postcard sent to Sam, which she just received yesterday. You see, it's a bit of a drive from her front porch to the little general store where the post office is.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Theme & Variation

To make plain things I alluded to in the previous post
DJ in Clover
The Diocesean Convention for the Episcopal Church in Oklahoma is this weekend. Official business began this morning, and the convention ends tomorrow afternoon. The Diocese of Oklahoma includes the whole state. You may be familiar with the controversy concerning the ordination of Gene Robinson as bishop; you may be aware of the so-called Eames Report. Unless you live in (or near) Oklahoma, you may not know that our bishop voted in support of Robinson's ordination.

Oklahoma is one of those "red states" which voted for an amendment to the state constitution which not only refused to recognize "gay marriage", it also denied the possibilitiy of any sort of "domestic partnership." So, you can imagine how controversial Bishop Moody's vote was in his home state. A number of Episcopal churches have lost members because of it.

Each year, the convention is hosted by a congregation — one year, a congregation in the southern half of the state; the next year, in the northern half. This year, the Cathedral played host.

As you may recall, I was involved in a process called "Faith Sharing", in which people shared stories of how they experienced God in their lives. This was something different than your typical conversion story, or come to Jesus tent revival. The idea was to look at significant times in your life, and discern what your experience of God was during those times. I was part of the inaugural group, who then became leaders of other groups.

These groups have been very successful. The decision was made, around June or July, to offer a sample of Faith Sharing to those attending Convention. Last night was an unofficial pre-Convention dinner, and Faith Sharing was served along with dessert.

I was among the people "responsible" for coordinating the volunteers and planning for this part of the dinner. I confess that I've been increasingly anxious as the date has approached. I've been a bit of a grump, and maybe a tad testier than normal.

And now it's over. Based on the half-dozen comments I heard last night, it was a positive experience for the conventioneers (about 171 attended dinner, and most of these participated in the Faith Sharing workshop).

It seems to me a good step towards healing the rift the ordination of Bishop Robinson opened. Also seems instructive as a way for Episcopalians can do evangelism.

Friday's Cat

She doesn't care about Arafat. She'd rather play in clover. She doesn't know who is president. She doesn't care. She just wants your undivided attention. She's not watching television. She's watching you.
November clover
She hears you hiss. She's not fooled, but she is startled. She didn't know you were bilingual. You just need to work on your accent. She certainly does not understand your language. It meant nothing to her when you told her you would be late getting home last night. All she knows is the sound of the garage door rolling up, then down. She knows the sound of the food bag opening. The sound of the cabinet, as you open the door to get her treats.

She doesn't know about your stress. She doesn't know that stroking her fur helps relieve that stress. But she doesn't mind the attention.

She sees the world as a playground. Can you take lessons from her? For you, the world is a too-tight garment. Can't you ease the world off your shoulders just a bit?

It's been an anxious few weeks. Much of that time, you chose to see yourself as being "in charge" of something. At every turn, people had different visions, and circumstances beyond anyone's control created roadblocks. But the event happened last night, and it all worked out. The comments you heard where positive.

Someone asked if you enjoyed yourself. And you asked yourself, once again, ‘What does joy feel like?’ Just as you've asked yourself, any number of times, ‘What does love feel like?’

You might as well as ‘What does feeling feel like?’

Biting the hand
She knows what it feels like when you play with her. She knows how it feels when she curls in your lap and you scratch her head. It feels good. That's all she needs. It feels as soft and warm as a purr.

It's good. And that's all she needs to know.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Idée d’jour

I love my country too much to be a nationalist.
— Albert Camus, writer, philosopher, Nobel laureate (1913-1960)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Idée d’jour

Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.
— Frank William Leahy, football coach (1908-1973)

Prairie Johnny

Johnny was lonely,
went to live with prairie herds.
His dusty hair —
His moon-washed teeth —
His diamond eyes —
are all water marks
in tender river beds.
Johnny runs all day,
dreams & fears faded away.

5.Nov.04, card sent to Ivy A.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Off-hand, I'd guess Jim Behrle didn't get the memo about the FBI monitoring weblogs. Within two entries (Sunday, Nov 7 and Monday, Nov 8), he threatens a certain leader's life, and suggests the performance of an aberant sexual act with same leader.

In other news, Augustine envisions our handsome leader as being a rocking horse winner (see entry for Nov 6). Pay especial note to the demiurge masquerading as JC.

I'm watching for some credible information that Diebold made good on its promise to deliver Ohio to our handsome leader, but have yet to see anything beyond suspicions and free-floating paranoia. Either of which seem appropriate responses to the times, but I prefer to maintain a skosh of sanity in this insane age.

Until such information comes to light, I will no longer use deragotory terms when referring to our handsome leader. Can't quite call him "President", though he appears to have won the popular vote and the electoral college. But, I won't call him Busch or "Resident" anymore. Nor even "Chimp".

I'll stick with "Handsome Leader" or "Chickenhawk-in-Chief" henceforth.

After all, I'd rather not receive a visit from the FIB or the SS.

I Paid Off My Car

I got to thinking about this a couple of weeks ago: my former spouse (aka ex-wife) moved to Seoul, South Korea nine years ago. She will have been there a decade come September 2005. Considering the state of American-North Korean politics, her remaining there reflects an astounding bravery. Or bull-headedness.

We bought a small boxy Geo Metro in 1993 or '94. Since she had (on average) 3-4 part-time jobs, Mary did most of the driving. The old car we had been driving was becoming less and less reliable, so we decided to get a new car. The Metro was the only thing within the loan guidelines the Credit Union had given us; although it seemed to me like it had come with a Happy Meal, it still seemed like the best deal we could get. After a series of relatively unreliable cars, I felt new was the way to go.

Aside from the car loan, we had a healthy share of consumer debt, and we were just barely making it in the middle class life style. Often, Mary felt like she was running to stand still. Those three part-time jobs, and all that driving, was wearing her out. Plus, she was becoming hungry for a little adventure. One of her part-time jobs was with ESL (English as a Second Language); this is a subsidiary of a world-wide corporation. One of her co-workers had become head of a school in Seoul, and offered Mary a position. This one position would pay much more than the multiple part-time jobs, thus giving us an opportunity to pay off some of that debt.

After Mary had been in Korea for a little over a year, my work situation changed, and I eventually accepted a position in Oklahoma City. So, I started a daily commute of about 22 miles each way, driving in that charming little black Geo Metro. Happily, my work schedule was such that I missed rush hour, but I was racking up miles on the car.

When the car finally gave up the ghost in early 2000, there was still a balance due on the loan. By this point, Mary was no longer sending money home to help pay off consumer debt, so I was paying this loan along with that debt on a salary a few hundred dollars above the poverty level. Securing a new loan was going to be a challenge.

Initially, the loan officer wasn't going to go for it because I had one too many late payments on the existing loan. She ultimately sent me to the Credit Union's president. After reviewing my financial situation, Larry and I agreed on what sort of monthly payments I could withstand, and arrived at a loan amount based on that. Part of the agreement involved my going to Enterprise Auto to purchase the car; at the time the Credit Union had a special arrangement with this company.

The best car the loan amount would buy was a basic Ford Escort. No cruise control, no cd or tape player, no power windows. Just the basics, ma'am. Of the items I just listed, the only one I've missed is the cd/tape player. And I've even learned to live without that.

By this time, I had moved to Oklahoma City. I was filing for divorce — making the obvious end of my marriage official. So, I wasn't putting the miles on this Escort that I had on the Geo Metro (obviously, I have little brand loyalty). I had successfully paid off much of that consumer debt, but was still struggling to get by on what a family-owned bookstore could afford to pay me.

I found a new position in the summer of 2000. Once again, I'm working on a college campus, as I did when Mary & I first met. But, I'm earning considerably more now, with semi-annual cost of living increases. Thanks to this improved salary, I am now paying a mortgage (rather than rent), and have successfully paid off the upside-down loan on the Escort (which included the balance of the loan on the Geo).

I tell you what: when I received the official paperwork from the Credit Union, I did a little dance.

Idée d’jour

A fly that lands on a carabao feels itself to be higher that the carabao.
— Filipino proverb

And a president who receives only a little over a hundred more votes than his opponent believes he has "political capital" to spend. <Feh>

Monday, November 08, 2004


introit lionel pitchblende
prize chapel circumstance
buzz dominican apply
tee bedtime pareto
infelicitous athwart hannah
sideband log virtuosity
economic gingko shudder
orthonormal rosenthal
resiny deportation evanston
specular cadenza
disciplinary ballet frontal
lighthearted stationarity
rude baud aaron
bookie lackadaisic deliquescent
argo downbeat adams
aboveground bessemer
antoinette cofactor concertmaster
mayst coextensive decipher
viceroy acolyte cry
vote gm slumber eulerian
lucid glue practice ahem nitrogen
advantage gape wehr
gadfly afterglow flatbed
eventuate kill
chromatogram diploma elite
hackett realtor cannot diluent
bindery crabapple continental
potomac bare efface mignon
proposition smash brookside
This is an admittedly impulsive langpo-type experiment. It's a "spam poem". That is to say, this is a list of words which appeared at the end of a Viagra spam e-mail I received this morning. The words appear in exactly the same order they did in the list; all I have done is break them up in to lines. Is it poetry?

All I know is that it embraces the mystery.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


Do not forget joy
Embrace passion
As you judge, so you are judged
Ponder your heart's mirror
You are good, you are evil
You are darkness, you are light
You wake this day
to choose between life & death
Choose life
Choose heart peace
Choose Holy Breath
Choose the Holy Walk
Went to a workshop by the Rev. Alison Newell on the Ignation Spiritual Exercises yesterday morning. The first session utilized Contemplative Imagination, in which one imagines himself in a Biblical scene. The scene was a section from Luke's account of the passion — from the triumphal entry to the cleansing of the temple (Lk 19:35-46). The scene was read to us twice, then Rev. Newell suggested some questions and/or individual scenes for us.

One of these was Christ weeping over Jerusalem. We were asked to invite Christ into different areas of our own lives that needed healing. I pictured Christ in international situations (e.g., at Arafat's bedside), and in more personal situations (e.g., my home and workplace). This bit of automatic writing, in Christ's voice, came out of reflections on those personal situations.

Considering the fact that I've been tempting myself into a severe depression, I think I needed these affirmations right now.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Idée d’jour

Patience is also a form of action. -Auguste Rodin, sculptor


Photo by Daryl Wilson, ©Prairie Production Company, Tulsa, OK
I'm mailing postcards to Sam and Ivy on my way to work this morning.
Both are touristy picture postcards from Oklahoma — Sam's, a picture of roserocks, and Ivy a picture from the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve (shown above).

At the top of the notebook page, you see the haiku I sent Sam. It's based on an image which came to me yesterday morning, on the way to the car to drive to work. I sat up in bed, wrote the lines I had been repeating to myself in my bedside journal (pictured here), then copied onto the postcard.

Just below the haiku, you see a false start for part three of "Plague House". Since I couldn't make a quick in-road on that, I decided to try something Ivy mentioned early on in this process: a correspondent wrote a poem inspired (or responding to) the image on the postcard. So, in the spirit of postcard poetry, I wrote the first draft directly on the card to Ivy; she will get to see the deletions and so on. What is recorded here is a "fair copy", which will be typed into this space once Ivy acknowledges receipt. I did include an eye rhyme and concluding couplet, just for Ivy's amusement.

It does help having a deadline, of sorts. I've really enjoyed the cards and poems I've received from Ivy. I look forward to seeing what the correspondence with Sam will produce!

Friday's Cat (et al)

DJ, 11/05/04
I didn't think I'd have any pictures to share with you today, because I failed to take any last night. But Julian, being almost a big a ham as I am, held this pose long enough for me to get this shot this morning. Made me a little later than normal getting out the door, but it's worth it.

Her eyes are actually an emerald green. The weird blue glow in this picture is no doubt an interesting reflection off the back of her eyes. I chose not to doctor this variation on "red eye" because I think it looks rather cool. I did do a little doctoring on the afghan — can you tell?

Interesting thing about that afghan — it was a gift from my high school sweetheart's mother. My house must seem jam-full of sentimental objects.

Back to DJ: She's proving to be a tough customer. It looks to me like she's pulling her own stitches out. The result is not a pretty sight (not going into detail). She's scheduled to go to the vet this evening, so I'm rather anxious to hear what he has to say.
Recommended Reading
This is totally unrelated to cats (or rats), but I definitely wanted to direct you to Dr. Omed's reflections regarding the recent passage of the anti-gay amendment for Oklahoma's constitution.

Like so many similar measures before it, this was titled a "Defense of Marriage Act". How is homosexuality a threat to marriage? Homosexuality has been recognized at least since Freud; it's been more overt since the Stonewall riots of the early 70s and the AIDS plague of the 80s. In all that time, there has not been a single report of a homosexual proseltyzing straights.

Some have claimed that homosexuals would try to convert our children, or would turn them gay by abusing them. But the majority of child sexual abuses are committed by heterosexual men.

I would think the greatest threat to marriage is divorce. And, ironically, the same fundamentalists who see the (perceived) sin of homosexuality as a grave threat are not nearly so threatened by divorce. I don't know whether our Southern Baptist brothers & sisters perceive divorce as a sin, but I'm aware that their denomination suffers the highest percentage of divorce.

I ask again, as I have in the past: assuming homosexuality is a sin, what makes it worse than any other human sin? Why single this one out?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Plague House, II

Casandra throws the dice.
She studies the suburban patchwork
as the ancient ivory rolls
across manicured lawns.

Sister Midnights holds vigil
in certain circumspect alleys,
then walks off with her bag of secrets.

And, oh yes, he receives the signal:
it's an arrow from the shadow
across the Bloody Harvest Moon.
The text of the most recent poetry postcard to Ivy; she acknowledges receipt in a comment posted below. An early version may be discerned in the scrawl posted last week.

It's almost Friday, and I need to generate a last card for Ivy, and a first card for Sam.

Nothing like waiting til the last minute, eh?

Idée d’jour

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
— Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

Based on Tuesday's election results, it would seem the former outnumber the latter.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Idée d’jour

No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back.
— Turkish proverb

In two years, we'll have a chance to decrease the Republican majority in Congress. That's our next great task.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


I got to the polls at about 6:45. My polls are at the Gaylord YMCA, just off east I-44. Oddly enough, this building houses two precints, 703 and 705 (mine is the latter).

I was among the group that was able to stand indoors to wait for the polls to open (7 a.m.); within three to four minutes, people were lining up outside. Had a nice chat with a gentleman named Ron, who was two people in front of me. Ron is a nurse at one of the hospitals on campus, and recognized me.

Oklahoma being a "winner take all" state, my litte vote for John Kerry is likely to get lost in the deluge. But, to paraphrase Ghandi, though what you do may seem to be of little significance, it is important that you do it. It was also important that I vote Democratic in the Congressional elections, so there's some slim hope they will gain a majority. Though I have little regard for Mr. Carson in the Senatorial race, I do have some slight hope he will win, and will be — at least — less crazy than Coburn (his opponent) or Istook, who currently serves in the House.

I was able to vote against the lottery (I think it an inefficient way to raise money). I voted for an increase in the tobacco tax, part of the proceeds of which will be used toward a Cancer Center. I've been assisting with a grant application that will be part of that proposed Cancer Center.

I voted against the state constitutional amendment which would define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The amendment would outlaw any recognition of same-sex unions, and would not recognize gay marriages from other states. Aside from being discrimatory, the proposed amendment is redundant — there being (unfortunately) laws on the books which already cover these matters.

So: follow my lead, and the lead of Dr. Omed. Vote!

In the words of this week's Entertainment Weekly, if you don't vote, you'll be hunted down by ravening wolves.