Thursday, June 30, 2005

Idée d’jour

The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.
— William James

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Braggart's Speech

I did not listen to the president's speech last night. I know it's not very mature, but just the sound of his voice irritates me. And that little snear - which many reports indicate were in evidence last night - makes the voice all the more intollerable.

I heard the sound bites this morning, as digested by NPR. Later, I read the text of the speech. As a number of others have noted, GWB mentioned 9/11 five times. He never once came out and directly claimed that Iraq was responsible for that attack, or even had anything to do with it. However, he said "Iraq", "September 11", and "terrorist" in such close proximity that the casual listener could be forgiven for believing there was a connection.

Not once did he mention weapons of mass distruction, which was originally the motivation for the US pre-emptive strike. Of course, if he had mentioned WMD, he might have to explain why none were found. Good reason not to mention them.

The latest justification GWB is promoting for this attack is the notion that we are attacking the terrorists on their turf, rather than waiting for them to come to our shores. Now, again, he's not coming out and saying that Iraq was responsible for 9/11; but the inference is clear.

I suppose it would be different if GWB said he has sent Americans to Iraq in order to draw terrorists there. This is a bit of logic some military analysts were purporting over a year ago. This makes as much sense as Custer going to the Little Big Horn to draw out the Indians.

Well, it pretty much worked. But Custer and his men did not ride home that night.

GWB resists the idea of an immediate withdrawal, or a time-line for withdrawl. He calls for a process many critics have called "Iraqization". In other words, once the Iraqis are competent to defend themselves, the "coalition forces" will withdraw.

While we're talking about "Iraqization", Rob makes an excellent comparison between the current situation and a similar point in the VietNam conflice. He clearly delineates the similarities and differences; I encourage you to read his essay.

Iraqization may not be the failure that Vietnamisation was. The best case scenario is the rival factions will forge some sort of coallition government, and they'll all live happily ever after. Several generations of history suggest that is an unlikely scenario.

The next best case is the division of Iraq in manner similar to the former Yugoslovia. It might be possible for these seperate states to work together in a confederation similar to the European Union.

The final option is civil war, which - given the history and the situation - seems the most likely scenario. If our forces can maintain order until 2008, our Fearless Leader will no doubt claim "Mission Accomplished", if not victory.

The civil war will be his successor's problem.


I knelt at the foot of an ancient rock tree
imagining the caverns of the day;
twelve birds rose up, circling me,
then quickly flew away.

Sylvie came to my shoulder at noon
and whispered her secret delight.
We walked the channels of the moon
then haunted the corners of night.

The fifteenth hour of the thirteenth day
and the oak is leaning southward.
Her hair dances in the shallow bay.
The leaves cark like a demon sword.

The plains of the forest are an ark
no matter where the river goes
our bodies form a tender bark
and navigate the icy floes.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Tom Cruise, Psychological Philosopher

Who cares about this guy's opinion of psychiatry? He says he's researched it. I dare say he's researched it as much I've researched Scientology.

I know this much about Scientology: its primary text, Dianetics, was written by L. Ron Hubbard, who up to that point had written primarily pulp science fiction. Kinda hard to take a religion founded by a science fiction author seriously, ain't it?

Can Mr. Cruise name three architects of psychiatry beyond Freud?

He has a right to an opinion. He has a right to spout off and make a fool of himself as much as anyone else. After he has, who gives a flip?

Oh, well. I guess this just the latest bright flashing light we can use to distract ourselves from the pain of our existence.

A commentator on NPR last week opined that modern celebraties serve a function similar to the gods & goddesses of ancient culture. They represent the best and worst of humanity, writ large. We can idolize them. We can also point to their foibles as proof that we aren't so bad.

I wonder which part in the pantheon Tom Cruise plays? Apollo?

Who was the god of town idiots?

Presidential Address

As you know, GWB will address the nation Tuesday evening concerning the conflict in Iraq. Our reporters at "Love During Wartime" have uncovered this early draft of the President's comments.
Good evening, fellow citizens.

As you know, I have remained resolute and firm in all my actions. Being president is hard work, and I think hard about the situation in Iraq every day.

I come to you this evening to acknowledge some mistakes. I have never done this before, because the freedom haters of the world would love to see some sign of irresolution in me. But Laura tells me there comes a time when sanity and truth are stronger than resolution. And I trust Laura.

I was not wholly truthful when I committed troops to Iraq. I wanted to attack Iraq from the day I came into office. Everybody agreed with me, because I am always right. Rummy wanted to wait until Saddam's check cleared, but everybody else was on board. I knew deposing Saddam was the right thing to do, we just had to find a reason good enough to convince you, my fellow citizens.

Following the cowardly freedom-hating attack on 9/11, I instructed our intelligence community to find links between Iraq and al Qaeda. I instructed all levels of our intelligence people to emphasize any indication that Saddam was seeking weapons of mass distraction beyond the ones we sold him ten years or so ago. I told them to de-emphasize anything that would tend to disprove it.

So, you see, we didn't really lie to you. Freedom haters lie; your president never lies to you. We merely emphasized the facts which would help us do the right thing.

And deposing Saddam was the right thing to do.

The situation in Iraq is hard. Resolving the situation in Iraq is going to be hard work. As president, I have never shirked hard work. After thinking really, really hard, I have decided that it's time to allow other countries to share in this hard work.

I am instructing Vice President Cheney to tell his former office mates in Halliburton that their oil and construction deal won't be quite as sweet as originally planned. If we are going to ask other freedom-loving countries for their help, we must let them share in the wealth.

I am asking NATO to send in troops. I am requesting reconstruction aid from the European Union. As the situation on the ground becomes more secure, I am requesting peace-keeping troops from the UN. Other internal businesses and agencies will be approached to restore basic services, medical aid, and the training of Iraqis to secure their own peace.

Many have talked about a deadline for American troop withdrawal. Look, this is a hard decision. Making hard decisions is part of the hard work presidents have to do. Although I disagreed with General Colin Powell on many issues, I do agree with his “pottery barn” analogy: you break the country, you are responsible to restore it.

However, the United State's involvement in Iraq cannot be endless. Therefore, I suggest certain minimal benchmarks which will indicate the Iraqi people are ready to govern and defend themselves. The first benchmark will be the successful completion of a constitution. Second, a new election. Once Iraq is ready for this election, I will offer the services of former president Carter to monitor those elections. With the formation of a new, independent, Iraqi council, the Iraqi government may request US withdrawal.

I would feel more secure if Iraqi forces were trained and able to maintain at least minimal order in their country. This would be my third benchmark for the withdrawal of American troops. As Rummy said this Sunday, the Iraqis must claim their freedom and fight for it.

Thank you for your kind attention and your support.

Good night, and God bless us all, everyone.

Idée d’jour

Doubt everything at least once, even the proposition that two times two equals four.
— Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, scientist and philosopher (1742-1799)

And if GWB says the sky is blue, you better double-check.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Idée d’jour

Religion is not to go to God by forsaking the world but to find God in it. Our faith is to believe in our essential oneness with God. "God is in us and we in God" must be made the most fundamental faith of all religions.
— Soen Shaku

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Idée d’jour

You are the light,
You are the refuge,
There is no place to shelter but yourself.
— Inscription over Buddha's ashes

Friday, June 24, 2005

Cat Friday

Luke & DJ
Believe it or not, Luke (upper right-hand corner) and DJ were adopted at the same time from the same group of kittens. The picture of Luke was taken at the time of adoption, about a year ago. The picture of DJ was taken yesterday morning.

Linen Closet
Time for a doting daddy story. Here, you see my linen closet, which is in my bathroom. The double doors are at least four foot from the floor.

A couple of weeks ago, I came home and found the right-hand door open. I didn't remember having opened it that morning, but figured it was possible. Seemed the only reasonable explanation.

That weekend, after I got out of the shower I witnessed something amazing. DJ was climbing up the drawer handles. Those double doors don't quite match, and she pushed her nose in the quarter-inch gap, and opened the right door. Then she pulled herself in on top of my towels.

That's one strong and determined cat!

She's created another hidey-hole, under the bed. Actually, she's pulled the thin covering off the box springs, and climbs around inside them.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Flower Moon

Flower Moon haiku

Idée d’jour

Having no destination, I am never lost.
— Ikkyu

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Idée d’jour

Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.
— Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Why I Pray

Early this month, Karen A posted an extended entry titled "Why I Meditate". Coincidentally, on that same day I read Barbara Crafton's reflection on the recent death of Basil Pennington. Fr. Pennington was one of the popularizers of "Centering Prayer" in the West. This is a striking coincidence because "Centering Prayer" is inspired (in part) by Buddhist practice.

It would be fair to say that Centering Prayer is nothing new. The Rosary is one means to quiet oneself in order to be "centered" on the divine. What Ron Del Beane describes as "Breath Prayer" has its origins in the Jesus Prayer described in the spiritual classic The Way of a Pilgrim. In a sense then, Pennington (and others) rediscovered a rich part of our heritage by going to India and seeking ways in which Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions might enrich our own.

As we saw in yesterday's Zen Mondo, Buddhist meditation practice is centered on the breath. I have described my own practice previously, but it essentially involves breathing in and out, and ignoring stray thoughts or other distractions. This latter point is an ideal, of course; it is almost impossible to "empty" the mind. Of the seven minutes I currently spend in contemplative prayer, there might be 45 seconds where the mental chatter is truly quiet — and that's a liberal estimate.

Karen titles her entry "Why I Meditate", and I think that's a fundamental question. I believe motivation has a profound influence on the results. If I spend time in Contemplative Prayer in order to achieve a "spiritual experience", then my ego may well provide signs of a spiritual experience - burning heart, rocking, etc. And once I have experienced those signs, I may believe that I have achieved the goal of becoming a spiritual person.

When self-hypnosis is much more likely.

I sometimes wonder about the people who pray over their meals in public. Here, in the buckle of the Bible Belt, it's not unusual to see people holding hands around a table while one person prays. And I wonder whether they remember Jesus' admonition to "pray in secret".

Jesus' point - which relates to my point about motivation - is that people who make displays of how prayerful they are have already received their reward. In other words, if what they seek is the notice of others, that is all they will achieve. If the motivation is to evangelize through their public display, then they have prayed as much to others in the restaurant as they have to the divine.

Notice that I do not make an assumption concerning the motivation of those restaurant prayers. I also pray over my food in public. The difference is my prayer is either silent, or - if shared with a friend - very brief: "For what we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful, and may we always be mindful of the needs of others. Amen."

My goal in contemplative prayer is to listen to God. I don't expect to hear God speak to me, necessarily - again, there is a risk of self-deceipt. The hope is to still expectations and daily cares, to become aware of the Divine Presence.

Because self-hypnosis and self-deceit are a persistent risk in any spiritual practice, it's important to have a spiritual director or spiritual friend. This person is part cheer-leader, part coach. This person will weep with you and rejoice with you. This person will not, necessarily, say what you are doing is wrong; they will,ideally challenge you to question your motives and always look deeper.

Someone working with me might remind me that I am neither saint nor the greatest sinner - depending on which end of the cycle I happen to be on at the time. That person might remind me that walking the walk is sufficient, especially in the dry times.

It's frustrating, but we don't ever really "arrive". The practice and the discipline are, in themselves, the goal.

Idée d’jour

After the ecstasy,
the laundry.
— Zen Saying

Monday, June 20, 2005

Word Poem

The moon teetered on her shellac throne
as he spruiked his sermon at seven
and gathered spondulicks from the faithful.
His hubba-hubba skipped a heartbeat
when he was arrested on a mopery.

Mopery mockingbirds flock at his feet
but he quickly shellacked them.
They danced in the air, hubba-hubba,
wings singing like spondulicks.
Still, let him spruik to starlight.

And thus spruik the teetering moon:
“Forego your vain mopery;
Repent your spondulick love.
You revere shellac of your own hands.
Why not hubba-hubba or boola-boola?”

He danced the hubba-hubba divine
and spruik a new psalm:
"Life is more than spinning shellac!"
The faithless mopery magpie
threw spondulicks to the wind.

Thirteen spondulicks gathered on the fifteenth day
inspired ecstatic hubba-hubba in the aisles.
His majestic mopery dangled like a crown.
He spruik the word, and it became honey
dribbling onto ancient shellac disks.

Perhaps shellac was his name,
And he earned his spondulicks by firelight.
Then he spruik the truth unknowingly.
Then she was the hubba-hubba of his heart.
If not, we are all guilty of mopery.
Definitions of the slang words used in this poem may be found at Word-a-Day.

Idée d’jour

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed, chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests.
— John Muir, naturalist, explorer, and writer (1838-1914)
A beginning student complained to his master that the meditation practice of following the breath was boring. The Zen master unexpectedly grabbed the student and held his head under water for quite a long time while the student struggled to come up. Finally, he let the student go.

"Now how boring is your breath?" he asked.
— Zen Mondo

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day

Click for larger view

I offer this processed pic to Padre's memory. As a watch repairman, I think he would appreciate it.

Father’s Day

About a year ago today, I gave Fr. Pat a Father’s Day card. In it, I shared my memories of him, and talked about why I saw him as a father. Pat died Tuesday morning, of prostate cancer.

Honestly, I know little about Pat, to have loved him so much. I know he was among those who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. I know he served as a priest for several years in the Bahamas. I know his first name was actually Edmund.

I have been acquainted with Pat since I was a young boy. He once shared the story of the first time he met me, in a church parking lot. I don't remember this time, but I know he was well-acquainted with Padre, who held him in high regard.

Pat founded "Contact", a telephone crisis line which still exists today. Padre was among the first group of volunteers. Contact was one of a couple of crisis lines which started in Oklahoma City in the late 60s - early 70s. Pat strongly felt ordinary lay people could be trained for the sort of active listening a crisis line requires, and created the venue for it to happen.

I lost touch with Pat for several years. I had gone to college and had my obligatory crisis of faith and so on, which included calling myself an atheist and not going to church. Then, in the early 1980s, I started attending St. James'.

Fr. Bill left in 1984 or so; Fr. Carroll left after serving only a year. Fr. Pat served as a "supply priest" as the mission church went through the process of searching for a new priest.

Pat considered himself retired, and acted as a supply priest primarily to help the Diocese minister to struggling mission churches. As a supply priest, he did not enter into the local church politics; he was only there to serve a liturgical function.

And so began a period of about a year and a half during which Pat and I worked closely together. I was the chair of the Worship Committee, and would relay the community's preferences for different services. I think we worked together well.

I especially remember his Panama hat, which had been given to him as parting gift from his parish in the Bahamas.

I also remember the Christmas eve service when he tried to give the acolytes advice on the best way to light the altar candles. Being normal pre-teens, they did it their way. I could hear him mutter, sotto voce, "Go ahead, ignore the advise of your elders."

The church called Father G— the following year.

Fast-forward to early 2002. I decided I needed a break from my regular church, and attended St Paul's, which is about 20 minutes' driving time closer. By now, Pat was fully retired. I saw Pat and his wife Liz sitting on the Epistle side (left, as one faces the altar) of the narthex.

I learned Pat was leading a book discussion on Writing in the Dust, reflections on 9/11 by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Pat was well-spoken and knowledgeable, but I could tell his mind was beginning to give out. He often would go off on tangents and forget where he began, get stuck on words; sometimes each individual sentence would make sense, but the string of sentences did not seem to make a sensible whole.

That fall, with the help of Brother Dave, I bought a house. I invited a number of friends, including Fr. Pat. I invited Pat because of his connection with my father — he was of the same generation, and knew Padre. Like Padre, he was a liberal; he was as upset by GWB’s lies as dad had been by Nixon’s. But it was again clear that Pat’s mental gears seemed to be slipping — and he was painfully aware of it.

Soon after, his daughter took his car. Pat developed a list of people he would call for rides, and I was one of them. I truly began to feel like he had adopted me as much as I had adopted him.

I would drive Pat and Liz to church about once a month. Early last year, he and I went to hear Marcus Borg three nights in a row.

Late last year, or early this one, he stopped calling. His daughter gave him rides to church every Sunday. Liz was physically incapacitated due to a series of falls, and transporting her was becoming increasingly challenging.

I still visited with them after church, as possible.

The cancer returned about a month ago. Two weeks ago, mutual friends were saying he would not last the year. I’m told they were giving him morphine the last week or so, in order to cope with the pain. Monday morning he was so incoherent, the priest was reluctant to give Pat the last rites.

A layperson convinced the priest that he must. How appropriate — since Pat was a strong supporter of lay ministry.

I’ve been told that Pat died peacefully Tuesday morning. His wife is likely suffering from Alzheimer’s’, but was reportedly aware of what was happening. She’s sad to lose him, but rejoices that his pain is ended.

I rejoice as well. I can imagine the conversation Padre and Pat are having right now. I can imagine Pat joining with other witnesses who have gone before, to sing praises. But he isn’t going to just strum a harp. He will also question the Most High. He’ll debate St. Peter and St. Augustine.

I can see him now, walking boldly to the throne, wearing a Panama hat.

Friday, June 17, 2005

In Production

I am working on the following, for future entries:
  • Another reflection on prayer, contemplative prayer in particular, in response to Karen A's entry about her meditation practice.
  • A reflection on the recent death of a surrogate father-figure.
  • A discussion of what inspired the "loneliness prayer"
  • A poem using the five slang terms which have appeared in the "Word-A-Day" block (to your right):  spruik,hubba-hubba, spondulicks, shellac, and mopery
Stay tuned.

Cat Friday

A Mew of Kits
A co-worker rescued a cat serveral weeks ago. Shortly after, it seemed like the cat might be pregnant. Sure enough, five kits were born on Cinco de Mayo.

I've met the brood in person. The one with the most personality is Timmy, but they're all adorable. The seal-point and one of the tabbies have already been claimed.

Does DJ need a playmate? If so, who do you vote for?
While we're on the subject, Sam has a pair of unique images. I'm not sure if I prefer the armored cat or the poetic cat. Mike, on the other hand, offers some very happy canines.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sparking Hope

It's time for a refresher course in America's history. By way of my usual paths, I came upon this: people around the world began to hear the tale of the lowly colonists who overthrew an empire for the sake of an idea, they started to come. Across oceans and the ages, they settled in Boston and Charleston, Chicago and St. Louis, Kalamazoo and Galesburg, to try and build their own American Dream. This collective dream moved forward imperfectly—it was scarred by our treatment of native peoples, betrayed by slavery, clouded by the subjugation of women, shaken by war and depression. And yet, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, people kept dreaming, and building, and working, and marching, and petitioning their government, until they made America a land where the question of our place in history is not answered for us. It's answered by us....

The true test of the American ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped by events and history, or whether we act to shape them. Whether chance of birth or circumstance decides life’s big winners and losers, or whether we build a community where, at the very least, everyone has a chance to work hard, get ahead, and reach their dreams.
This is from a commencment speech given by Sen. Barack Obama on June 4th. It's a powerful speech, which proves that Sen. Obama's oratory performance at the Democratic Convention was no fluke.

His speech uses rhetorical flourishes the like of which has been all too rare in the past five years. Furthermore, he is not afraid to confront problems:
Like so much of the American story, once again, we face a choice. Once again, there are those who believe that there isn’t much we can do about this as a nation. That the best idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government—divvy it up by individual portions, in the form of tax breaks, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to go buy their own health care, their own retirement plan, their own child care, their own education, and so on.

In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it — Social Darwinism — every man or woman for him or herself. It’s a tempting idea, because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford—tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job—life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child who was born into poverty—pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life’s lottery, that we’re the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump [to whom] Donald Trump says: "You’re fired!"

[snip]Republicans will have to recognize our collective responsibilities, even as Democrats recognize that we have to do more than just defend old programs.
I highly recommend you read the whole speech; it may rekindle a spark of hope.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Prayer in my loneliness

I offer my loneliness to you, Brother Jesus.
I offer it to you, who were well acquainted with sorrow.
You, who sometimes chose to go to a lonely place.
Only you will find blessing in my loneliness.
Only you can lift it up and fill it with grace.

I offer my twisting mental paths to you, beloved trailblazer.
I offer my subtle denials & justifications.
You, who clear a path for abundant life.
You are light for my darkness.
Only you can show that darkness is not darkness at all.

I offer my ignorance to you, blessed teacher.
I offer my hidden insecurities.
You, who found wisdom in a rock.
You are knowledge beyond knowing.
Only you can teach me secret things.

I offer my willfulness to you, divine master.
I offer my foolish choices.
You, who accepted the hard choice.
You, who confronted pain.
Only you can heal my dreams.

I offer my song to you, Christ my Companion.
I offer it to one familiar with grief.
You, who sang at creation.
Only you will teach blessing to my loneliness.
Only you can lift it up and fill it with grace.

Idée d’jour

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
— Carl J. Jung

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Idée d’jour

Gaining enlightenment is an accident. Spiritual practice makes us
— Zen Saying

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Now, More Than Ever

Jimmy Carter for President
Click for larger view

Idée d’jour

Fray Luis, who loved to escape to the peace of the countryside, wrote: "Christ dwells in the fields."

St. Teresa, busy in the convent kitchen, used to say "The Lord walks amongst the pots and pans."
— "Kitchen" Zen

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Abstract 05F09

Click for larger image

Taking my experiments with Photoshop to even greater abstractions....

Part of my day job includes being a sort of photojournalist. Tuesday evening was a reception for graduating and departing residents. This began as a picture of three people.

I divided the picture into fourths and applied a different filter effect on each quarter. My first goal is to obscure the identity of the people, since they didn't sign on to be subjects for my "art".

I then added a layer and doodled over the result. This layer then had a filter applied to it.

It is art? Well, it's interesting....

Friday, June 10, 2005

Cat Friday

DJ Montage
In my on-going effort to inject some variety into these obsessive presentations of her royal catness, I here offer another montage of her ladyship at rest.

I used a shot of clouds as the backdrop for today's montage. If you're curious about those clouds, you can see the original picture here.

No Yellow Ribbons

Late last night, Dr. Omed posted a powerful essay written by his lovely spouse, Els (scroll past the image to read "Yellow Is Not Our Color").

I find the phenomenon of yellow ribbons fascinating. As I recall, people first started putting yellow ribbons around their trees and mail box posts as a response to the Iranian Hostage Crisis in the '70s. This symbolic act was inspired by a popular song, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" by Tony Orlando, who had a popular (if schlocky) variety show during the same period.

If you read the lyrics (linked above), you'll see the song concerns a man who is being released from prison:
I'm coming home, I've done my time.
Now I've got to know what is and isn't mine.
If you received my letter tellin' you I'd soon be free
Then you'll know just what to do if you still want me....
Tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree.
It's a relatively short song, with very jaunty music which has a slight honky-tonk feel. The lyrics are practically a definition of sentimentality: there is no cost for the emotion. He says he has to know what is and isn't his (apparantly, he was a thief); he doesn't say that he has learned the difference. At the end of the song, the wife puts not one, but one hundred, yellow ribbons on the old oak tree. It's nice that she forgives him, yet the forgiveness would be more meaningful if the prisoner told us her name, what she looked like, or any other detail about her.

As a response to people being held hostage in Iran, this song makes a certain amount of sense; they were prisoners. I doubt that most people who currently display yellow ribbons think our soldiers are in a prison. As Els points out, the fact that they put their yellow ribbon near an oval "W" sticker implies that they support the war as much they support the troups.

But, unless the driver has a child or loved one in the service, that support comes cheap. The sticker costs less than five bucks. The owner of the car with its magnetic yellow ribbon hasn't lobbied for increased veteran's benefits. She didn't write her congressman to protest when the VA health care budget was cut. He didn't sign petitions to increase funds for additional armor.

That superficial patriotism is very much like the sentimentality of Tony Orlando's song. It costs nothing.

Idée d’jour

Force without wisdom falls of its own weight.
— Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Word from the Home Front

Yellow is not our color
A message brought to you by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Omed.

Idée d’jour

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence to practice neither.
— Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Idée d’jour

It is easier to make a saint out of a libertine than out of a prig.
— George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Feeling Slighted

Pam felt sad last Sunday because she thought I had given her the cold shoulder. After we'd talked it through, we agreed it was an object lesson in different perspectives.

Here's what happened: Pam and Mary were visiting near the door to the education building. I gave them a friendly wave as I passed. Pam said,"Hello, James." I replied "Uh...hi" and hurried on.

Without hearing the tones of our voices, it maybe difficult to read much into this transaction. Pam's perception was that she reached out to me in friendship, and I did not respond in kind.

For me, two things were going on. First, I had no way of knowing -
beyond subtle visual cues - how intense or personal their conversation was. I didn't want to interupt or impose myself.

Second, I was focused on a matter which had nothing to do with Mary or Pam. I was focused on catching Lee before she left. Lee and I are co-facilitating a book study (beginning this Wed), and we hadn't made time to plan. Typically, Lee doesn't stick around church very long, and it's hard to catch her at any other time. So, I believed this might be my only chance.

When I think I have a small window to achieve a goal, and feel anxious (they often go together), I can be curt. I honestly don't intend to be impolite. I simply don't always have the patience or presence of mind to say, "Hello, nice to see you. I'd like to visit, but I need to catch Lee before she leaves."

After I had explained my side of the transaction, Pam was blessedly

Before I go on, I must say that I see that most of the weirdness between Pam and me as being my fault, if fault must be assigned. I knew she felt special about John. Experience had taught me that poetry is a highly inefficient means to woo a woman if she has been previously unaware of your feelings for her. Yet, I chose to write the "Twelve Poems of Christmas" for Pam anyway.

I started the project aware that I could be hurt, and that our friendship could be wounded. I decided that letting her know how much I cared for her was more important than all that. The grace in this is that Pam still wants to be my friend. In spite of sharing my poems to her with the whole friggin' cyber world. In spite of putting her in the position of saying the feelings weren't mutual. She still wants to be my friend.

I believe most of the work here is on my side: to acknowledge what a gift Pam's friendship is, and to accept that romance isn't a possibility. Any person who has experienced unrequited love is likely to understand what hard work that can be.

I consider it an additonal grace that Pam is willing to be present as I do this work. I don't imagine that it's significantly easier for her than it is for me.

I've filled almost four pages of my bedside notebook just to tell you this much. Believe it or not, I've shared all this so I could tell another story.

I got to experience Pam's side this past Saturday.

I can't be nearly so detailed about the history, although I have alluded to Sarah in previous entries. Simply put, Sarah and I loved each other, but she chose another (coincidentally also named John). For many good reasons, we agreed it would be best if we didn't contact each other after we broke up. We tacitly agreed to remain cordial whenever we did happen to see each other.

Sarah and I both belong to the same folk music club, which met this past Saturday (the club meets the first Saturday of every month). I always have mixed feelings about seeing her. I'm glad to see she's doing well and all, but I also mourn what was lost and what can never be.

After pruning my left middle finger Saturday morning, I really wanted to call Sarah. She's especially good at offering care and sympathy when faced with such boo-boos. But, of course, I could not. There are others I could have called, who might have been equally adept at care and sympathy, but I didn't.

I also wanted to ask her to accompany me as I sang for the club's open mic. As you may recall (from Saturday afternoon's entry), my wound prevents me from playing the guitar. We had performed together when we were lovers. Asking her to accompany me was too much like old times for comfort.

Wanting to see her so much made it all the harder when I actually did see her.

Now, as it happened, there were storms in OKC on Saturday. I later
learned the area where the club meets was under a tornado watch. I
didn't do a head count, but there were less than 20 people at the meeting (less than half of normal).

When I came through the door, Sarah slightly nodded her head, as if to physically acknowledge my presence. But she never said "Hi" or
"How are you." In fact, it seemed as if she turned away from me every time I came near.

And I still feel sad.

Oh, I realize there's all sorts of possibilities, which have little to do with Sarah's fellings toward me. But since I choose to honor that commitment not to contact her, I can't call (or e-mail) to talk it out.

I have to work through this sadness on my own.

I can hardly imagine a lonelier feeling.

Idée d’jour

Life is like an earthen pot.
Only when it is shattered does
it manifest its emptiness.
— Vegetable Root Discourse

There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
- Leonard Cohen

Monday, June 06, 2005

Haiku d’jour

Lark on the moon, singing —
sweet song
of non-attachment.
— Basho

Sunday, June 05, 2005

i got them mean ol' watergate
buggin' blues again, mama

Well, some friends of mine down the way,
they didn't have anything to do one day,
so they all got together and they did say,
"Let's help Richard Nixon win
this campaign someway."
So, they though they'd check out
every ding-dang fool
who wouldn't vote for Nixon this year.
They said, "Let's make a list
of these enemies - of the nation -
of you and me."
Well, they got Joe Namath
and Bill Cosby too,
and some of those high-fullutin'
news paper reporters and,
brother, they got you and me too.
Well, time passed, and
things was goin' slow and
whaddya know -
they decided to investigate
Daniel Elsberg.
And it just so happened his psychiatrist's office
was right next door to the
Democratic National Headquarters.
They figured, well it's best
we make two trips at once -
save time that way -
so they all got together
and they did say:
"Don't be late
Gotta rob the Watergate"

Well, they were don' pretty well,
plantin' bugs and
diggin' in the garbage pail.
Like I say, they was makin' good steam -
until the policemen came in.
And they said to these men:
"Whaddya think you're doin' up here!?"
And my friends, these men said -
they looked into the policemen's eyes -
they were very calm -
they were not shy -
and they said real low,
calm and cool:
"Executive Privilege!"
"Don't be late
Gotta rob the Watergate"

Well, my friends, Tricky Dicky found out;
he began to run and he began to shout:
"We can't let the facts of this get out!
I wouldn't be elected, that's for sure."
He said, "We can't let the public know this!
Why their faith in the government would be destroyed."
Well, Nixon, there's just one thing
I've got to say to you -
even though just one thing'll never do -
these are my wise words,
so listen closely:
Remember Checkers!
"Don't be late
Gotta rob the Watergate"

Now, my friend, John Dean,
one day he was feelin' low and mean.
So he went in to the pres-i-dent
and he did say:
"I'm tired of your mysterious ways
and all this scandal you've been draggin' me through.
I'm tired of doing all your dirty work,
so I'm going to quit.
And let me make this perfectly clear:
I'm going to tell on you.
I'm going to tell the prosecutor
and tell the senate too.
So long!
That's what you get for saying:
"Don't be late
Gotta rob the Watergate"

Over thirty years have come and gone
since I first wrote this song
and I often think of the junior congressman
who became vice president
then ran for president
and lost.
When he ran again in 1968, he won,
and won in '73 too.
I don't know about you,
but I kinda wonder if his spirit's come back.
I wonder about the lies that led us to Iraq.
Is our current man
following the famous Nixon plan?
Lie and lie, and lie some more
if they don't believe you,
show 'em the door.
One we sang "Don't be late
Gotta rob the Watergate"
Now it's:
"Don't turn back,
It's time to invade Iraq!"
First four verses, July 17, 1973.

Missing Watergate Poems

With the revelation this past week that Mark Feld was "Deep Throat", there seems to be a considerable amount of Watergate nostalgia in the air. In that spirit, I offer a handful of poems I wrote the summer of 1972. The summer of the "Watergate Hearings", when impeachment seemed very likely.
I was 17. So, read the poems in that context.

an edited transcript
of the Missing Whitehouse
Watergate Poems
we knew he was
when he didn't even
maybe the doorway
at (unintelligle)
where the click
click zzzpt
no, he th
ought, it was
wrong, it was
definitely an (pro-
fanity for posterior)'s
laid out in front
like some strange
come over here,
have some tap
in your mouth
honey, or
expletive will
the fan
turn left
wrong (inaudible
maybe doorknob
(expletive) it

oh, mother,
what have i done
that i must
carry a gun?
i still recall how
you took care of me,
cradle lullabied
me in your arms,
but now all i see
is the dark
grey smash!
bang battlefield
as things are
own hereand
goodbye, mother,
i pray that
i have been a good
i remember with this
goodbye who it is who
taught me to trust an
believe an to salute
who taught me the
ways of a business suit

the jester in the
hound's tooth jacket
does not smile or smirk
but straight-faces his
television screen with an
executive scowl
sneers toward the press' quarters
in chains
as the choir of the citadel
he draws his dietary collar
up to his neck
and he watches
his hair thin and
magically turn grey
'i grow old, i grow old,'
he says,
'i will hide in South America'
and he scowls again
as an old man on the hill
leads the citadel in song
in singing

the jester ha ha ha
laugh at him
he destroys his own life
ho ho ho
and the choir laughs
the jester grabs his
   woof waterwaterwater
   gate open the
ha ha
read the paper yesterday
didn't resign
i didn't resign, the jester laughed,
ha ha ho ho
the choir the choir cho
oir choir is sing
don't worry off key
washington is burningburningburning
Eyes Only

Idée d’jour

Don't be consistent, but be simply true.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Brick (Thick As A)

Click for larger image

This is one of two bricks Pam gave me for Christmas last year. I'm fairly certain that Pam painted them.

There is one element Pam did not put on this brick. That's the red blotch just below the dove's head. That's my addition. Blood.

Got a little excited and careless doing yard work this morning. Nipped about a 16th inch from my left middle finger with the pruning shears. Hurt like the dickens.

You have any idea how hard it is to type with a bandage on one of your fingers? Teaches you patience at a whole new level.

What's really hard about this is that the folk music club is meeting tonight, and I've been practicing a piece (on the guitar) for the past two weeks. I might be able to type with a bandage on my finger, but fretting the guitar (which most do with their left hands)? Not happening.

So - I'll punt. Probably sing something acapella.

Quizilla Confirms the Obvious....

You are a Folkie. Good for you.

What kind of Sixties Person are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

DJ as Art

Click for larger image

I've been having all kinds of fun creating my own kind of art using Photoshop. This image was created using Photoshop Elements.

In the original photo, DJ is sitting on a plastic bag (one of her less expensive toys), and in front of my guitar case.

Elements has an artistic effect called "swirl" which I applied to the plastic bag. I then used the magnetic lasso to select the bag, and applied a plug-in filter called "Electroplate". The tiny bit of white you see at DJ's paws is what's left of the plastic bag.

I then selected DJ and applied the angled brush stroke to her, then the watercolor filter.

Finally, I selected the area behind DJ, erased the guitar case, and created the blue background using the multiply and color burn functions on my brush.

After I re-sized the picture (432x324), the image was 411K. Using the "Save for Web" function brought it down to 28K. Not print quality, but web-worthy.

Critiques are welcome!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Behind the Curtain: Brasileiras No. 1

"Brightmusic" is a local chamber orchestra which offers several free concerts during the fall and spring. The musicians are mainly drawn from the local Philharmonic and two universities (Univ. of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Univ.). The concerts are offered at St. Paul's Cathedral, which just happens to be my home church, and is an acoustically ideal venue for this type of intimate performance.

I went to the final concert of the season on Tuesday, May 17. The concert was dedicated to the work of J.S. Bach and Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). I brought my Moleskine Journal® along in hopes of writing impressions as I listened to at least one of the pieces.

Villa-Lobos was born in Brazil, and studied composition in Europe. Like many other composers of this period, he strove to integrate folk music and the classical form. For the latter, he used Bach as his model, and wrote a series of concertos titled "Bachianas Basileiras". There are at least nine concertos in this series; the best known is probably No. 5, which was recorded by Joan Baez.

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 was performed at this concert. The first two movements are given titles from Brasilian folk tunes: I. Embolada (Introduction), which is a sequence of verses typical of the repentistas (improvising poets and singers of northeast Brazil who pit their skills against one another at great speed); and II. Modinha (Preludio), a sentimental love song. Of the third movement, Conversa (Fuga), Villa-Lobos wrote: "The kernel of the initial theme is characterized by the transfiguration of certain melodic cells typical of-and dear to-the old serenaders of the Capital (here meaning Rio de Janeiro) ... it conveys, first, a Bachian spirituality, and then a conversation between four chorões whose instruments fight for thematic primacy."

With most of this background in mind, I started writing the first images which came to mind as the music was performed. An additional influence was the couple sitting next to me.

Gil and Jean are at least ten years older than me. They joined me about ten minutes before the concert. Jean had forgotten her glasses, and they shared Gil's throughout the concert. Almost every time I looked over, they were holding hands or smiling at each other. So, this very charming romance played its part as I wrote.

The next morning, I typed the lines from the journal. I wrote some additional lines for the third section, but otherwise I did only very minor tweaking.

Re-read the poem.

Friday's Cat

Many moods of DJ
These three pictures were taken last night. In the top two, DJ is trying to repeat her new trick: flicking off the light switch.

Since we were late posting a cat picture last week, here's another view of our honored feline:

DJ at Rest
The above was taken on Memorial Day, in the midst of a prodigious four and a half-hour long nap.

Idée d’jour

You can out-distance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you.
— Rwandan Proverb

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Votes Are In

Late last week, I mentioned Nancy and the assignment she gave her regular readers. I'm a relatively new reader (just stumbled on her blog early last week, via the comments at Bread & Circuses), but I decided to play anyway. Much of the assignment involved self-promotion, and I don't shy away from self-promotion.

The original assignment was posted here, if you need a refresher. The first assignment was to select your favorite entry on your own blog. Your fellow commenters would vote on their favorite, and that one would receive a prize.

Nancy has tabulated the votes, included her own preferences, and Phil's "Musical Interlude" is the winner. But I feel like a winner.

Here's what Nancy says about my entries:
Jonah from "Love During War Time" submitted two excellent posts: "Year of the Flood" and "Brasileiras No. 1". When I first got home from the reunion, I started reading entries. When I clicked on “Year of the Flood” I must admit that my first reaction was "I'm not in the mood for poetry." However, I read both posts and just loved them. In fact, I have been thinking about them for a few days now, and have gone back to reread them several times. They both kind of haunted me. I highly recommend a visit to this talented writer.
My goodness. My rapacious ego will be feasting on those final two sentences for several days.

Thanks for your kind words, Nancy, and thanks for the opportunity.

Idée d’jour

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.
— Jack Kornfield

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Hat No. 2

Click the image to see what it looked like before I started tweaking it in Photoshop.

Idée d’jour

You can't make a date with enlightenment.
— Shunryu Suzuki