Monday, December 31, 2007

State of the Blog

I just posted the final entry on Jonah 365, which began as a "sister blog" to this space. The original intent of that space was to document one particular year, 2007, in images - photographic and verbal. The year has ended, and the Jonah 365 project ends with it.

As I mention in the linked entry, Dr. Omed recently asked what I learned from the discipline of Jonah 365. In addition to the things I mention in that post, I learned that I could not effectively maintain two blog sites at once. Jonah 365 got most of my attention, and this space, my original blog, suffered for it.

The entries for "Love During Wartime" this past year have been primarily from other sources. A quick review suggests 78 were "Idée d’jour" — in other words, quotes cribbed from the Word-A-Day list or my Zen Calendar.

At Jonah 365, I detailed the top five entry labels. I'll do the same here. After "Idée d’jour", to my surprise, the next largest number is "poetry", at 28 entries - and most of those are my original poems. Sixteen entries are labeled "spirituality"; 21 are labeled "Friday Five"; and 15 are labeled "politics". Several entries have more than one label.

My goal for "Love During Wartime" in the next year is to post at least one original entry a week. It may seem a minor goal after posting an image a day at "Jonah 365", but it's a goal I feel certain I can attain.

Thanks for visiting, and follow me into 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

State of the Blog (Promo)

Tune/click in tomorrow for comments on the state of this space, as well as the future of "LDW" and its sister site, Jonah 365.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ideé d’jour

The man who can make others laugh secures more votes for a measure than the man who forces them to think.
— Malcolm De Chazal, writer and painter (1902-1981)
Yeah, but who's laughing now?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Song D'Jour: Merry Xmas

War is over. If you want it.
Are you ready to reject the war in your heart?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Song D'Jour: Hammond

The latest issue/CD of the Oxford American (Issue #58) includes this song, which has definitely grown on me with each listen. The article actually mentions the Soundstage Performance embedded here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Song D'Jour: Valencia

Ignore the vid, enjoy the music.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Don't Mess With Santa

Santa Catches Shoplifter

Someone has been very, very naughty.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Idée d’jour

A tragic indicator of the values of our civilization is that there's no business like war business.
— Douglas Mattern, peace activist (b. 1933)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Idée d'jour

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

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Haiku d’jour

The first winter shower.
  My name shall be
— Basho

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Five: Holiday Grump

Today's Friday Five was suggested by Will Smama: “Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....”
  1. dessert/cookie/family food
    The less said about fruit cake the better. Several years ago, someone gave me a book titled 101 Uses for Fruitcake as a stocking stuffer; sample uses include doorstop and building material..
  2. beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)
    Someone mentioned the other day they had pumpkin beer (for Turkey Day). I got a hangover just picturing it.
  3. tradition (church, family, other)
    It has become a tradition for shops to promote Christmas earlier each year. In time, I'm sure we'll see displays in February. Other traditions, at home or church, warm my heart.
  4. decoration
    Santa kneeling at creche. Seems maudlin and sentimental.
  5. gift (received or given)
    None come to mind, but this does remind me of a story. A former employer hosted a Dirty Santa party. An ugly vase was the traditional gag gift. Whoever received this vase was duty-bound to recycle it the following year. Part of the challenge was wrapping it in such a way that a person couldn't tell it was the gag gift.
Bonus: Song/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it.
Almost all pop covers of carols are intolerable. Kenny G, for example, can take one of my favorite carols (O, Holy Night) and transmute it into schlock.

More on the internet cat

The cat's performance in the link in the previous entry may seem familiar:

Cat Friday

The musical stylings of the common internet kitty

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

William Blake

An on-line friend at MySpace reminded me that today is William Blake's birthday (born Nov. 28, 1757; died Aug. 12, 1827). As I thanked my friend for the reminder, I commented that Blake was "my muse in eternity".

The better part of Blake's life was spent refining a mythos which would reflect his vision and world view. This mythos plays out primarily in a series of illumnated epic poems, beginning with The Marriage of Heaven & Hell and ending (roughly) with Jerusalem.

Beginning in 1981, I tried to form a mythos, titled "The Saturn Sequence", primarily in free verse. As I note in my introduction, the role of Saturn shifts from benign to malevolent to apocalyptic. As a mythic symbol, it is inconsistent.

The same accusation could be made of Blake: a character may serve a positive function (the narrative voice is approving) in one poem, and less so in a later poem. However, his overall mythic system remains consistent.

I consider Blake a muse - or a mentor, if you prefer - because I admire his dedication to his vision. His determination to create his own system rather than be a slave to another's. I admire his prosody - a poem like "The Tyger" (for example) continues to be anthologized because of its sound and rhetoric, as much as its theodicic theme.

The infrequent posts on "Love During Wartime" reflect a dry period. I find myself mostly bored with the (figurative) sound of my own voice. Blake also went through dry periods, one lasting multiple years, yet he returned with full power.

His example, and my own experience, gives me hope that my dry spell will end in good time. Blake continued to be creative in the plastic arts, as painter and etcher, during that dry spell. Just as I continue to create as photographer.

It seems to me that I may be true to Blake's example by following what he called "genius". He used this term in its archaic sense, as a sort of guiding spirit (as I used "muse" above).

Thus, one's genuis may lead through the plastic arts of paint, the liberal arts of words, or the etheral arts of floating notes. What can one do but follow?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Idée d’jour

Sell your cleverness
and buy bewilderment.
— Rumi

Thursday, November 15, 2007

First Amendment

Jim Hightower writes:
George W likes to claim that global terrorists are out to attack America because "They hate our freedoms." But we’re learning that it’s really the Bushites themselves who hate America’s freedoms.
Retired Army Col. Ann Wright and one of America’s leading peace activists, Medea Benjamin, have recently felt the bullying hate of the Bush regime. Both women have been very vigorous practitioners of our freedom to speak out and assemble in opposition to government policies, using these freedoms to protest the war in Iraq. They’ve put themselves on the line and been willing to undergo several arrests for their nonviolent civil disobedience.
This is as American as the 4th of July. Yet Wright, Benjamin, and civil libertarians everywhere were stunned to learn last August that Bush’s FBI has suddenly turned this misdemeanor into a weapon of political intimidation, using it to bar the two women from traveling to Canada… and perhaps to other nations.
When they tried to visit Canada, Wright and Benjamin were detained by Canadian customs officials and told that their names were on an FBI no-entry list. Even though this list is meant to stop fugitives, potential terrorists, and violent felons – not peaceful protesters – they were told that they would have to apply for "criminal rehabilitation" and pay a fine if they ever wanted to enter Canada.
Unintimidated, the women have since tried to re-enter, this time at the invitation of five members of parliament to come speak to that assembly. Yet, Canada’s officials have bowed to the Bushites, honoring the FBI’s no-entry list, rather than respecting their own parliament. The FBI refuses to say why non-violent protesters are on a terrorist list.
Chillingly, the U.S. media have ignored this story, but you can learn more about this blatant assault on our freedoms by going to
Brother Dave comments: "Lot more of that going on that folks know. The 'list' is now over 1 million names long and growing by about 20,000 a month."

See also:

It appears people in America are only free to speak if they agree with B*sh, Faux News, and other war mongers. There's a reason freedom of speech and assembly are the first two rights preserved in the Bill of Rights: those are the things most feared by tyrants. Note, as a glaring example, what is currently happening in Pakistan.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ideé d’jour

If you love the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.
— Lin-Chi

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Five: Extravagant Unbusyness

This week's theme suggested by Sally, who asks:
What do you do to:
  1. to care for your body
    Truth to tell, I don't take good care of my body. My ambitious plan to walk a local (mostly abandoned) mall lasted a couple of months, then petered out when I got sick early this year.
  2. to care for your spirit
    Coincidentally, I'm off to care for my spirit this afternoon. I'm going to the annual "Guitar Weekend" sponsored by my church, which will be at a camp center in southeastern Oklahoma.
    Additionally, I'm striving to reinstate the discipline of being with people more often. I hope to find just the right balance of alone time and crowd time. At least one evening a week with flesh and blood folk (opposed to those on a TV screen) seems a modest enough goal.
  3. to care for your mind
    I am devoted to life-long learning. I read every day. I read at breakfast, lunch, and during commercial breaks.
  4. to bring a sparkle to your eye
    My feline companion does much to sparkle my eye. She can bring that sparkle when she lies on my lap and purrs.
  5. to place a spring in your step
    My experience to date suggests this is a choice. The trick seems to be to force the body to lead the emotions. That is to say, one can chose to hold his head up, and to walk briskly. I have noticed that I do feel better emotionally when I do this.
  6. Bonus which one on the list are you determined to put into action?
    In addition to the discipline of spending more time around people, I hope to reinstate the discipline of walking.

Koan d’jour

Pull a five-story pagoda out of a teapot.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Idée d’jour

There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either.
— Robert Graves, poet and novelist (1895-1985)

Friday, November 02, 2007


It appears one or more robots have spammed my comments. Therefore, I have initiated word verification for my comment box. I generally don't like these verification modules on other blogs, and have resisted this move. But, after over 75 comments promoting viagra and some other spurious drug, I felt it was warranted.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Wanna Be Your Blues

I wanna be your blues.
I want to wear my black hat
and pace the lines of your calendar.
I'll strum my guitar
until I find your Coney Island street map.
I'll divide your verbs
and conquer your adjectives.

I wanna be your blues.
I'll be the obscured reflection
in your poison mercury mirror.
I'll be the trade wind routes
wrapped around your vision
like DNA ladders.
I'm your stolen alphabet,
your last will and testimony.

I wanna be your blues.
I'll be the clutched heart valve.
The fallen breath.
The thorn's embrace.
I'll be the black top cataclysm
of a thousand coffee cups.
I'll sing your dark corner.
I'll trace the varicose blue highways.

I wanna be your blues.
The dissected chords
of a regretful morning.
The melting clouds
behind desert eyes.
The last broken string
of a haunted love affair.
Written in response to this.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Idée d’jour

I am not an atheist, but an earthiest. Be true to the earth.

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, "Down the River"
As I mention, I am thoroughly enjoying this book. This line leapt out at me because I have been pondering the qualities of human nature of late.

I don't suppose being true to the earth would be the same as being true to our human nature. If the 21st century version of human nature is any indication, humans are about as far from being true to the earth as possible.

Consider: changes in geologic forms take multiple human life times. Changes in atmospheric conditions, at least until the industrial revolution, were similarly slow.

Consider: human nature seems dominated by straight lines, boxes, rectangles, and grids. None of these exist in nature; all relate to a human concept of "perfection" which has held sway at least since Aristotle.

To the best of my knowledge, a "perfect circle" does not exist in nature. Neither does a right angle, or something as perfectly straight as a plumb-line or laser beam. Even the average human body, whether male or female, does not contain a truly straight line or perfectly round circle.

Humans struggle to make life easier. We may not be alone in using and constructing tools (even some bugs use sticks as tools), but we do seem the only species who improve on the tools and methods used by previous generations.

Thus, we move into desert regions, such as the better part of southern California, and we find ways to force streams into the desert, as it were. We do not consider the repurcusions; we act as if the water is an inexhaustable resource.

In our dreams of providence and manifest destiny, we suppose that humans miles away need the water more than the mountain or lake, and its environs.

Perhaps it was when we built the pipelines from lake and mountain. The years of inexhaustable water, however, seem well behind us. The demand, measured by an increasing number of thirsty humans and artificially green lawns, has outstripped the supply. And, many scientists believe, the supply has decreased as well.

I do not judge southern California's city planners, developers, or home owners. I recognize the hubris and short-sightedness because I am also culpable. I have been equally short-sighted and head strong in ways big and small.

The situation in southern California is a striking example, however, of how our human ingenuity has played its part in creating this "perfect storm".

Ghosts in the Attic

Thunder pulls the lightening
ahead of the cold front
with the storm close behind.

The couch cover is tossed,
the floor is jumbled.
Cobwebs keep watch.

The cat dashes from
warmth to warmth
in response to the ghosts in the attic.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm a Dedicated Reader

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz
For the record, I'm currently reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, which I am loving; the latest issue of Shambhalla Sun and I just started the latest issue of the Oxford American (the music issue). Coming up soon: a Nero Wolf novel I picked up at the thrift shop and The Year of Living Biblically (I'm waiting my turn for the library copy of this one).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Idée d’jour

What men call social virtues, good fellowship, is commonly but the virtue of pigs in a litter, which lie close together to keep each other warm.
— Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Idée d’jour

Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery.
— Annie Dillard

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Idée d’jour

Zen is like looking for the spectacles that are sitting on your nose.
— D.T. Suzuki

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ideé d’jour

You cannot avoid paradise. You can only avoid seeing it.
— Charlotte Joko Beck

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Quote d’jour

His family's lives "were governed by joyless rabbis who introduced [him] to the Hebrew God, 'an abusive, belligerent god, a god who awoke millennia ago on the wrong side of the firmament and still hasn't cheered up.'"
Entertainment Weekly, review of Shalom Auslander's Foreskin's Lament

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Robert K-

June 4, 1985 - Sept. 29, 2007

Robert died last Saturday, in an automobile collision. As you see, he was very young - he just recently celebrated his 22nd birthday. His funeral was this Thursday. I attended; and served as videographer, as a favor to his family.

One of the more profound moments of the service came during the homily, when the young minister pointed to our baptismal font - a gleaming structure of white Italian marble - and said, "Robert was baptized 21 years ago today in this baptismal font. As he was united with Christ at the beginning of his life, he now joins Christ at the end of his life."

I only met Robert once. The occasion was my first time to assist at the Vacation Bible School in Watonga, four years ago. Robert needed a ride, and I volunteered. Robert had assisted at the VBS at least once before.

During our trip, Robert shared what I might expect. His favorite part was playing and interacting with the children. He also prepared me for the scheduled sweat lodge. Although he personally did not have a profound mystical experience the times he went, he knew others who had. And, even though he did not have a "mountain-top" experience, he valued the opportunity.

Robert also shared his love of multi-user on-line role-playing games (MUDs). There, he had discovered a community with whom he could easily relate. People on-line could not see how profoundly over-weight was, and thus could not judge him based on his physical appearance.

I was not so charitable. I didn't judge him because of his weight, but because his most valued community was "virtual". Later, during the VBS, I judged him because he seemed to only do the minimum required. If you asked him to perform a task, he'd do that one thing, then sit back down. I didn't even see him play with the children, compared to the other volunteers his age.

I was aware of the irony and unfairness of my judgment, even then. Most of my community was "virtual" in nature, though I could claim a valued handful of folks I could see and touch. And, in my less charitable moments, I perceive myself as one of those "only do the minimum required" types.

I suppose this is a natural response at a funeral, to repent of old opinions, or ways you may have hurt another. I trust Robert never was aware of my judgment; when I visited with him, I strove to sound interested, and he was very open and sharing.

Robert was no angel; he had his share of problems. Twenty-one and working at Braum's (where his mother also works). Still, so far as I know, profoundly overweight. He's had minor problems with the law. That trip to Watonga four years ago was primarily to fulfill a community service sentence; he never went again.

One got the impression that he had few flesh-and-blood friends. Not a negative (again, the same can be said of me), but possibly unhealthy.

The minister didn't gloss over these challenges. He mentioned how Robert appeared to be making positive strides with furthering his education and controlling his weight. He said one of the profound tragedies of Robert's death at a young age was that we would not see what sort of person he would become as he improved in these areas.

I wonder if others go to funerals and think of Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn, eaves-dropping on their own funeral? I certainly did.

I set up the video camera in the choir loft, and thus had a view of the whole church. With the exception of a open half-pew here and there, the church was full. I was later told there were 227 in attendance.

I couldn't help but wonder if an equal number of people would come to my funeral. Although many were present to show support for his parents, I imagine a fair number represented the people whose lives Robert had touched.

Can I claim to have touched so many people in a positive way? Can I claim to have served to represent the light of Christ to people all around the world, as Robert did in his MUD activity?

One more thing about that "virtual" world of friends. It represented people all over our actual globe. One of the main on-line groups Robert was involved with sent flowers to his mother. There is an on-line guest book which runs to five pages of condolences and remembrances, over half of which are from his MUD world.

May I have the grace to touch an equal number of lives.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Idée d’jour

You are what you is.
Frank Zappa, musician (1940-1993)
My minimal experience of Mr. Zappa's music does not correspond with my preconceptions or understanding of Zen. Yet, here he is, recorded in my Zen Calendar (Workman Press).

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Up-Coming Gigs

All locations in Oklahoma City, OK

Saturday, Oct. 13, Heritage Hills Home Tour; I'll be playing in the Overholser Mansion (NW 15th & Hudson).

Friday, Oct. 19, Red Cup Cafe, NW 31st & Classen, beginning at 8pm. I'll be banging my Seagull (and 12-string Alvarez) while Ben pounds the keyboards.

Saturday, October 20, beginning at 2: Forest Park, exact location unknown. Ben and I will repeat our dynamic performance from Friday night.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Recommended Reading

"To Show He Loved His Country" by George Wallace (former poet laureate of Suffolk County, NY).

Here's the first few stanzas, to tempt you to enter the MySpace regions:
to show he loved his country he locked it up. he stored it in the dark. he watered it like a flower. he protected it with a dagger and a pistol.

to show he loved his country he sent himself secret messages. he dressed himself completely in white. he cursed like a freedom fighter. he wrapped his shit in cellophane.

he was a book of saints. he spoke in tongues. he was morse code. he was a pyramid of masonic longing.

This Is Post 1958

This is post 1958, of a blog which began in April 2003. The nature of this space has changed over the years, from the "I Hate Shrub Show" to a place to indulge my religious obsession, to (lately) a space which has been relatively neglected over the past year.

That neglect has been primarily due to my focus on my "Project 365" blog, Jonah 365. As of today, there are 259 entries on that space that might have appeared here if I had not chosen to set up a separate blog for the goal of posting a verbal or visual image a day.

So here's the point. I'm just 42 entries away from number 2000 on this space. Seems an occasion for celebration. That represents a lot of writing, image editing and manipulation, and copying of striking quotes.

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to suggest an topic, idea, theme (etc) for the 2000th entry. Post it in the comments of this entry. I think this will be fun and challenging.

Idée d’jour

 I lost sight
  of the skylark.
— Yayu

Friday, September 28, 2007

Idée d’jour

You have your brush, you have your colors, you paint paradise, then in you go.
— Nikos Kazantzakis, poet and novelist (1883-1957)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Idée d’jour

What is beyond, is that which is also here.
— Ancient Indian Aphorism

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Idée d’jour

Peaches and plums don't talk, and yet the path is naturally made under their blossoms.
— Zen Commentary

Monday, September 24, 2007

Post-Communion Prayer

Eternal God, heavenly Father,
Today, we have made your offering.
Today, we became your children.
Today, we became your grandchildren.
We will live as you have taught us.
Your commandments we will follow.
You hear our prayers.
Watch over us. Stand as our defense.
Speak for our defense.
From the trees, there is beauty to us.
From the grass and herbs, there is beauty to us.
From the breeze, there is beauty to us.
From the passing rain, there is beauty to us.
From the passing thunder, there is beauty to us.
The dew will form all around us.
The corn pollen will form all around us.
Before there is beauty, behind there is beauty.
Walking in long life according to happiness,
It is completed in Beauty. It is completed in Beauty.
It is completed in Beauty. It is completed in Beauty. Amen.
This was the closing prayer at the dedication of the Oakerhater Episcopal Center in Watonga, Oklahoma. Photos are featured on this page, beginning at 261/365.

Native Profession of Faith

We believe in the Creator, the Great Spirit,
Maker of Mother Earth and Father Sky,
Creator of the seasons and of all living things.

We believe in Jesus of Nazareth, a man of God,
who lived with the courage of commitment,
who sacrificed life that the people may live,
for all people, for all ages, for us.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the action-love of the Great one and of Jesus,
who breaks down barriers between people
and empowers us to love one another.

We believe in the community
of committed and faith-filled people.
We believe it is our task
to be the salt of the earth
and the light of the world,
justice and peace-makers,
knowing that this calls us
to the sacrifice of the cross.
We believe in the power of the Great Spirit's presence
as it fills our hearts,
helping us to reach outward
in the Four Directions
To all people in need of healing.

We believe in a just world,
in equal rights for all.
We believe in resurrection,
and in a more full life
with the Creator in the world beyond.
We believe! Help our un-belief! Amen.
This was used at the dedication of the Oakerhater Episcopal Center in Watonga, Oklahoma. I think I prefer it to the traditional Nicene Creed.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Five: Decluttering

This week's theme suggested by Sally.
  1. Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?
    Sadly, I am a hoarder. Padre was an object lesson in the danger of taking this to an extreme - he hoarded egg cartons, saying he might have a use for them. He was quite upset with me when I used one to mix watercolors.
       It would seem I have not learned from this extreme example. The oddest thing I have hoarded are plastic bags; these are not recyclable. There are a couple of agencies I could donate them to, but I haven't taken the action (yet). I also have an impressive collection of old magazines, though I'm working on culling those down.

  2. Name one important object (could be an heirloom) that you will never part with.
    Padre's guitar, which belonged to his father before him.
    Will's Guitar
    It's one of the first electric guitars, made sometime in the late 1930s. It has a nice tone, even unplugged.

  3. What is the oldest item in your closet? Does it still fit???
    To answer the implied question, there are a number of things in my closet which no longer fit. Culling those is also on my to-do list. Probably the oldest is a suit jacket.

  4. Yard sales- love 'em or hate 'em?

    Hate is to strong a word. I don't seek them out. I will go to an occasional estate sale (which has the advantage of being indoors), and go to thrift shops once a month or so.

  5. Name a recycling habit you really want to get into.
    I've been recycling poetry on my MySpace page. Does that count? Relieving myself of the bulk of those plastic bags seems a worthy goal.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Idée d’jour

Monks recite the sutras,
Their voices a cacophony.

We make love; afterward our whispers
Mock the empty chanting.
— Ikkyu

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Five: Meetings, Meetings

This week's theme suggested by Reverend Mother.
  1. What's your view of meetings? Choose one or more, or make up your own:
    1. When they're good, they're good. I love the feeling of people working well together on a common goal.
    2. I don't seek them out, but I recognize them as a necessary part of life.
    3. The only good meeting is a canceled meeting.

    If you've heard me gritch about Vestry Meetings, you might have expected me to answer "c". The main problem with vestry meetings is that they have traditionally lasted late into the evening (sometimes as late as 10:30 or 11). One of the main reasons for this is the fact that the chair (a) thinks out loud; and (b) tends to get lost in his own digressions.
       This has improved over the past year, partly because the Vestry agreed to meet earlier in the evening.
       If we had an official parlimentarian, s/he would shudder at how poorly we follow the traditional Rules of Order. The most egregious example being the tendency to discuss issues without there being a motion on the floor. In my first year on the Vestry, I mentioned this to the chair. His response was that this was fairly common, and he didn't know a better way to conduct business.
       Other boards I have served on have committed the same "sin", so his point is well-taken. My vague recollection of Robert's Rules is that the intent is that committees and individuals develop ideas and motions that are brought to the central Board. This system, I think, is intended to keep the Board on task, and on topic.
       My experience, however, is that even when you have a committee system, board members still want to discuss the issue at length, and still want to offer off-the-cuff alternate resolutions.
       So, one can either be a stickler for the Rules, or strive to keep free-wheeling discussions on-point. The latter preserves a strong dynamism, which seems a worthy goal for a church board meeting.

  2. Do you like some amount of community building or conversation, or are you all business?
    Pre- and post-meeting visiting is desirable, and is often where the "real" business gets done - politicing and lobbying, if you will. The key point, in my mind, is to start and end in a timely manner - no more than five minutes late seems a worthy goal.

  3. How do you feel about leading meetings? Share any particular strengths or weaknesses you have in this area.
    I have been chair for a church group for the past two years. My goal has been to honor the agenda, and to listen more than I talk. Most days, I think, I achieve that goal.

  4. Have you ever participated in a virtual meeting? (conference call, IM, chat, etc.) What do you think of this format?
    My only experience is through attempting to conduct some business via e-mail. This works fairly well in terms of setting up meetings, confirming calendars, and introducing issues and concerns. It lacks the dynamics of a real-time meeting.
       I have also been involved in a couple of teleconferences. Those seemed to work fairly well, but I did miss the physical interactions.

  5. Share a story of a memorable meeting you attended.
    The first story that comes to mind is the time I worked up the nerve to confront our Dioscean bishop. This was near the end of my term on the relevant board, and I felt frustrated with what I felt to be a double-standard.
       The issue was the matter of churches paying their assesment (sort of a tithe churches make to the Diocese). The bishop was firm in saying that churches that could not pay their assesment, or make arrangements to be forgiven for not paying their full assesment, be changed from parish to mission status.
       The difference between parish and mission is whether a church is self-supporting: a parish is; a mission receives assistance from the Diocese. In the bishop's view, failure to pay this assesment was a sign that a church could no longer be self-supporting.
       This topic never came up when discussing one of the two largest, and wealthiest, churches in our diocese. This church had chosen not to pay any assesment because it did not agree with particular issues - primarily women in the ordained ministry, and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
       I kind of enjoyed the irony of "All Saints and Cadilacs" being "demoted" to mission status. The bishop's approach was pastoral: he felt it was more important to keep this church in the family, rather than push them out.
       I might argue that the church in question has only been nominally part of the family, but I see his point (in retrospect).

Abbey's Optimism

In a comment on yesterday's quote, Brother Dave rightly points out that I did not include the full quote. I only copied the bit that amused me, and reflected some of the discouragement I feel. I'll explain in a moment.

First, this is how Edward Abbey expressed the same thought in a letter/interview with Karen Evans (18 June 1984):
I am a pessimist in the short run, by which I mean the next fifty or maybe a hundred years. In that brief interval it seems quite probable that too many of us humans, crawling over one another for living space and sustenance, will make the earth an extremely unpleasant planet on which to live. And this quite aside from the possibility of a nuclear war.

In the long run, I am an optimist. Within a century, I believe and hope, there will be a drastic reduction in the human population (as has happened before), and that will make possible a free and open society for our surviving descendants, a return to a more intimate and tolerant relationship to the natural world, and an advance toward ... a civilized form of human society ... [elided for space].
This clarification shows that Abbey truly was an optimist: he assumed we would have surviving descendants.

I'm not so optimistic. I believe the damage we've done the world is nigh irreversible. Our "progress" goes forward unchecked. Most people in the industrialized world are too fond of their creature comforts. We prefer not to consider the consequences of our gas burning cars, or the coal that produces most of our electricity.

The damage to the ecosystem is global. People in Third World nations could possibly have survived if Industrial Society had spontaneously combusted in 1984; I'm not sure they have another fifty years to wait. Many scientists suggest that if pollution stopped today, it would take almost that long to reverse global warming.

This comes back to an off-hand comment I made over a year ago: humanity is a cancer on the face of the earth. What Abbey writes in another letter concerning cancer, seems a fit description of humans: "Delighting in nothing but multiplication, cancer ends by destroying both its host and itself."

Yes, I am feeling especially misanthropic and depressed this season. Why do you ask?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Idée d’jour

In the long-range view, I am an optimist: I think that the greed and stupidity of industrial culture will save us from ourselves by self-destruction.
— Edward Abbey, letter to George Sessions, PhD, Aug. 30, 1979
from Orion, July/August 2006, pg 49

Monday, September 10, 2007

Idée d’jour

A single stroke of the prayer bell wakes me.
Does it also awaken my soul?
— Tu Fu

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Idée d’jour

The turnip farmer
  points the way
   with a turnip.
— Issa

Thursday, September 06, 2007

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 never to practice either of them.
— Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Idée d’jour

What I know of the divine sciences and of Holy Scripture I learned in woods and fields, by prayer and meditation. I have had no other masters than the beeches and oaks.
— St. Bernard of Clairvaux
I can easily imagine Henry David Thoreau making this statement. It is somewhat surprising to read it from a saint of the Christian tradition.

However, St. Augustine spoke of there being two books of scripture, The Bible and Nature. This was also a view of the Celtic Christians. Both Augustine and the Celts acknowledged one could learn as much about God from God's creation as from the Book of Books.

Incidentally, this is the Bernard for whom the rescue dog was named.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Idée d’jour

In your heart, you already know.
— Zen Saying

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ideé d’jour

You can tell a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.
— Naguib Mahfouz

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cultural Friday Five

This week's theme comes courtesy of Sally. This week, it's another simple list, where we consider popular culture, and examples of media which have helped or challenged us in our spiritual journey.
  1. Book
    Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. The connection between Prometheus and the story of Jesus may seem obvious, but it was new to me when I read this book between junior and senior year of high school.
       It forced me to confront what I now consider a fundamental question — whether a given "myth" fits my life. Ultimately, with life experience, I recognized the death and resurrection story has resonance for my life. I also realised the reality of brokenness and the need for healing — sometimes called salvation.

  2. Piece of music
    Gorécki's "Symphony no. 3" - also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. For me, it defines the phrase "joyful sorrow"; it is simply heart-breaking.
       Prior to hearing that, the piece I would name would have been Pachelbel's famous canon. The future Dr. Omed introduced me to this piece of music, describing it as "the sound of salvation". Seems an apt description to me; he played a recording of a slide guitar version which I still count as definitive.

  3. Work of art
    Seeing Picasso's Guernica in person was a profound experience. I can't describe how it may have affected my spiritual journey. Simply enriching.

  4. Film
    Passion of the Christ. A wise person once said we can learn much from people we disagree with; it can help us clarify our position. This movie clarified my distaste for "sacrificial lamb" theology. It also clarified my distaste for what Entertainment Weekly calls "torture porn" - Passion is one example; Saw, and its immitators is another.

  5. Unusual engagement with popular culture
    Two examples come to mind: one is the movie Liar, Liar, with Jim Carey; the other is the Simpson's episode in which Bart sells his soul.
        I was surprised how each, in its way, extolled "traditional values" in ways we might not expect in popular media. Liar², for example, assumed the audience would agree lying was a bad thing. In the Simpson's episode, Bart is definitely dimished by the loss of his soul: he has no reflection, his dog doesn't recognize him, and so on.

    Bonus: Is engagement essential to your Christian faith, how and why?
    Yes. As my answers to 4 and 5 make clear, I like to consider what message might underlie different forms of popular media.
        Movies, and so on, are our popular myths. This is the language of the people; it may not exactly reflect the zeitgeist, but it gives us some clear clues.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Calvin or Hobbes?

Your Score: A Bit Of Both

You are 40% Calvin and 60% Hobbes

Calvin & Hobbes, like a scruffy yin and yang, are in perfect balance within you. Like Calvin, you're weird, a bit insecure, and can be a trouble-maker. But like Hobbes, you're down to earth and sensitive. It's a risk to say it here, after just a ten question test, but I'll bet you're smarter than most. Both Calvin and Hobbes are crafty, clever characters, and any one made from equal parts of each is a force to be reckoned with.

Link: The Calvin Or Hobbes Test written by gwendolynbooks on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
Believe it or not, I was fairly honest in all my answers.

Idée d’jour

As naturally as the oak bears an acorn and the vine a gourd, man bears a poem, either spoken or done.
— Henry David Thoreau

Monday, August 20, 2007

Remember this house

You remember this house;
You were led here by a waxed string.
You remember these stones:
The path of retribution.

You were led here by a thin string.
You remember these windows:
Their silent dolor:
The windows of broken forgiveness.

You remember this red brick.
You measured it with your wet toes.
See the imprint here
Where your shadow dare not cross.

You have walked this path.
This path of retribution.
You count the cost
When you remember this house.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Five: Word Association

This week's theme comes from Reverend Mother, who writes: "This one is patterned off an old Friday Five written by Songbird, our Friday Five Creator Emerita: Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story. [All five words come from readings assigned for this Sunday's lectionary]"
  1. vineyard
    The vineyard is a common image in both Jewish and Christian scripture. For most suburban Americans, it is about as meaningful as "sheep" and "shepherd", since it is not part of our daily experience.
       I have, however, seen a few vineyards in various stages of development. The first was one in Texas Hill Country; as I recall, Brother Dave took me there 2-3 years ago.
       Vineyards are a relatively recent development in Oklahoma. I have been to Grape Ranch, in Okemah, OK. They offer music at the same time as the Woody Guthrie Festival in July. I may go to the "Red Dirt Harvest Festival" to be held there over Labor Day weekend.
       One of the professors I work with has bought property a few miles east of Oklahoma City which he hopes to develop into a vineyard. He took me to visit the property early last fall; it's a very impressive rolling landscape.
       I no longer drink wine outside of communion, so I don't know whether these vineyards produce a decent product. I did sip a wine slushy last year – which I don't count as a fair test – and it was a little sweet for my taste. Just the fact it was offered as an option is likely offensive to true oenophiles.
       My superficial impression of vineyards are they are relatively inhospitable environments for the average human. The terrain is open and shade-free. Good wine grapes love the heat; that's why areas of Oklahoma and Texas have been good prospects for vineyards. The vines are tangled and have (to my eye) a somewhat threatening aspect.

  2. root
    This word, by intricate association, links with "radical". The word "radical", I have been told, is related to radish – whose fruit is the root. Thus, the denotation of radical is "fundamental" or "basic". Granted, the general connotation is "an extremist with whom I disagree".
       I have the impression that most people, when they talk about getting to the root of the problem, imagine there is a single cause of that problem. Furthermore, they believe that once this cause has been identified and addressed, the problem will be resolved.
       I suppose this might sometimes be the case, though I don't care to hazard a guess as to how often that might be. In botany, a root may not be singular as we commonly think of it; many plants, like most trees, have a root system. They may begin from a single seed, but some root systems are quite complex and can extend for yards.
        I suspect this application of the metaphor is more accurate than the "single cause" image. A problem may have a "triggering event", but repurcussions spread like a complex root system. Discerning the "triggering event" may be helpful, even necessary, but it will not resolve the ancillary repurcussions.

  3. rescue
    Immediate association – the Rolling Stones song "Emotional Rescue". This counts as one of the best song titles for a song I don't like.
       The popular evangelical question "Are you saved" is often understood to mean "Have you been rescued". And some individuals within the evangelical community will understand this to mean rescue from the fiery pits of Hell.
       I don't suppose Jesus meant his life and witness, or our ministry as his disciples, to be a sort of fire insurance policy. The word commonly translated as "saved" is actually closer to the modern "salve"; Jesus is talking about healing, rather than rescue.
       I think one of the main healings Jesus offers is, ironically, a sort of rescue: rescue from a "me" centered universe. Any number of religious traditions offer escape from that stiffling universe, which suggests the illness is endemic to human nature.
       My reading of Jesus' Good News suggests that the quickest escape route from my constricted personal universe is to serve others. Even praying for another can open a door, so to speak. Better to help that person in some way. Perhaps best, where possible, to work with that person to help her/him-self.

  4. perseverance
    One of my college professors insisted on emphasizing the second syllable when saying this word: "per Sehv erance". This is possibly preferable to a mispronounciation I'm often guilty of: "PER sur veerance".
        Incidentally, that professor was talking about a mideval morality play, "The Castle of Perseverance". This play is similar to the better-known "Everyman": the main character faces a series of life-challenges and temptations en route to the Castle.

  5. divided
    A house divided against itself, quoth the Emanicpator, can not long stand.
        This is as true on the micro level as it is on the macro level. That is, it is possible to experience conflict between what one proclaims on Sunday and how one lives the rest of the week. I've talked about this before in terms of integrity or congruence.
        If one's actions reflect the faith one proclaims, that person is living a congruent life. I would count him or her as a person of integrity; which is to say that her or his actions are integrated with, or reflect, what they proclaim.
        On the other hand if one proclaims love and forgiveness on Sunday, but holds grudges the rest of the week or works to harm another, it might said that person's life and profession are incongruent. That person is divided against him/her-self.
        I'll admit there are people who seem able to live this way for extended periods of time. These people seem unaware of the dissonance between their actions and their Sunday prayers. I would guess these people are lying to themselves at some level, or don't perceive particular instances as really counting.
       But I suspect that if a person is painstaking honest about whether her or his actions are congruent with their professions, they will be incapable of maintaining that tension for long. Either they will dismiss the profession (as is often the case), or they will strive to bring their actions into congruence with their words.
In the vineyard
where the fruit is pressed
where the sun ascends
where a figure bends
let us begin:

The fruit has taken root
its seed unfolds
it drinks the sun
while a figure bends
the growth begins

The sun will rescue this growth
will ignite the tang,
the tanis, the swirling aroma
while a figure kneels
the leaves begin

With perseverance
the vine ascends
the fruit descends
and a figure gathers
the harvest begins

Good fruit from bad is divided
the good is pressed
The juice explodes
soon a figure sits
and the feast begins

Idée d’jour

Zen has been used for healing people's sicknesses, but it has also been used by the samurai for chopping off people's heads!
— Alan Watts

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Yazidi “Practice Mythology”?

I listen to NPR every morning and evening, while commuting to and from work. In reporting on the recent massacre in northeastern Iraq, the Yazidis were described as "practicing mythology".

How does one "practice mythology"? Fairly or not, the word "mythology" has a negative connotation, so its use here seems a judgment of the Yazidis. It is, at best, inexact; at worst, it is a form of editorial comment.

A quick search of Google News led me to an article in the International Herald Tribune which stated that the Yazidis practice "an ancient Persian religion". Zoroastrianism seems a likely candidate; the Wikipedia article on the Yazidis mentions a few other possibilities*.

It immediately occurs to me that people like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, or Richard Dawkins might say I "practice mythology" because I am a self-defined Christian. What is more, I practice a type of Christianity which involves a great deal of ritualized activity - e.g., kneeling; this ritualized activity is shared by a number of "liturgical" churches, primarily Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Episcopal.

As a lay student of Joseph Campbell, I understand that "mythology" is not synonomous with "untruth". My reading of Campbell suggests that mythology is an attempt to express deep truths that cannot be expressed in any other way. These deep truths include questions of ultimate meaning, such as "Why am I here?" or "Why do bad things happen to good people?".

The religious tradition of the Yazidis may seem odd to us, at a distance. According to both NPR and the International Herald Tribune, their beliefs combine elements of "an ancient Persian religion" with Islam and Christianity. This may appear quaint or perverse.

This view ignores the history of Christianity, which has borrowed elements from any number of religious traditions, including the so-called "myths" of ancient Rome. Obvious examples include the celebration of Christmas and Easter, both of which occur near the time of holidays celebrating Roman gods or goddess.

Earlier I mentioned Zorastrianism, which pre-dates Christianity; this religious tradition included a figure named Mithra who died for the sake of humanity and rose again. Sound familiar?

Historically, Christianity has been as "syncretic" as the Yazadi tradition. It seems the worst sort of hubris to call their beliefs "myth" while claiming a special truth for our own.

*I'm aware a recent news story calls the reliability of Wikipedia articles into question; unfortunately, this is the best resource I have available at the moment.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Haiku d’jour

The firefly
 gives light
  to its pursuer.
— Oemaru

Monday, August 13, 2007

Idée d’jour

God builds his temple in the heart on the ruins of churches and religions.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Idée d’jour

Forget not that the earth likes to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
— Kahil Gibran

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Five: Stress

This week's questions are from Sally, and look at how one deals with the stress monster:
  1. First, and before we start busting stress, what causes you the most stress, is it big things or the small stuff?
    Most honest response - the small stuff. I tend to obsess over perceived slights and missed connections. Big stuff I seem to be able to release with a little more ease.

  2. Exercise or chocolate for stress busting ( or maybe something else)?
    Exercise is the healthy answer; chocolate is the more honest one. TV is even more likely than chocolate, though the caffinated option is my drug of choice during working hours.

  3. What is your favourite music to chill out to?
    The "Ambient" playlist on my iPod has several favorites: Edgar Meyer's "Appalachian" series; some John Fahey (notably America); Goreski's Third Symphony; a fair selection of "California Elevator Music" (Windham Hill & its imitators).

  4. Where do you go to chill?
    My recliner, which sits at an approximate 45° angle to the TV set. There is a nice park not far from my house which is an occasional destination. I keep meaning to take my camera for a walk through its gardens, but the 100° temperatures discourage this worthy outing.

  5. Extrovert or introvert, do you relax at a party, or do you prefer a solitary walk?
    A solitary walk. When I was striving to walk a couple of times a week, I used a local mall. Though I saw other people, I didn't need to interact. Like most of my ambulatory compatriots, I wore ear phones; listening to music or a podcast made this an ideal activity.
       I can enjoy a gathering of friends, but a party with a large proportion of strangers or casual acquaintances tends to be stressful. I find myself playing the part of an out-going person, which can be quite tiring.

Haiku d’jour

The shell of a cicada —
  it sang itself
   utterly away.

Definition d'jour

Pray, v. To ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a
single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
— Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), [The Devil's Dictionary, 1906]

Friday, August 03, 2007

Quote of the Day

“Oh, George Bush, don't go by the bridge! You'll just make things worse!”
— Katie Fecke (age 4), responding to a news report that President Bush would visit the 35W Mississippi River Bridge site on Saturday.
Courtesy of the folks at Shakesville.

Friday Five: Post-Pilgrimage Edition

This week's theme courtesy of Reverend Mother, who recently returned from a pilgrimage to Iona, "the cradle of Scottish Christianity".
  1. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage?
    I believe the closest I've come to a pilgrimage similar to RM's visit to Iona was my visit to the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, CO. The actual shrine is at the top of a hill. There is a path to the shrine, with plaques for the Rosary along the way. So, I very intentionally prayed the Rosary as ascended the hill, stopping to briefly meditate at each plaque.
       Reverend Mother recently posted a poem which, as I read it, suggests that any point in life's path may be a pilgrimage. The difference between a hike up a hill and my ascension of that hill in Golden, CO is intention and focus.
       I talk about my annual pilgrimage to the Walnut Valley Festival. This is not a blatantly religious event. Excepting the first year, when I began each morning in prayer, I have not engaged in obviously religious activities while there. Yet, my journey is intentional: I carefully pack, I plan what music I will listen to enroute, and the week is focused on music and fellowship. Since music is a major aspect of my spirituality, this journey can, and often has, enriched my spiritual life.
       I just finished an article in the July 2007 issue of Shambhalla Sun which suggests the primary difference between normal thought and meditation is a matter of awareness. I suggest the same applies to the difference between a ordinary trip or vacation and pilgrimage.

  2. Share a place you've always wanted to visit on pilgrimage.
    Iona seems an excellent destination.

  3. What would you make sure to pack in your suitcase or backpack to make the pilgrimage more meaningful? Or does "stuff" just distract from the experience?
    "Stuff" has distracted from the experience. Again, I think intention and awareness plays a large part. I have taken my guitar on retreat at least twice: one time playing music was a part of my prayer; a few years later, playing music distracted, in a sense, from my prayer. Same guitar, possibly even the same songs; the only difference was me, my discipline and intentionality.
       A book I have taken on retreat is the St. Augustine's Book of Prayer. It's extremely Anglo-Catholic, but I like many of the prayers included, it's small (light-weight and easy to pack), and the copy I have originally belonged to Padre – so it has sentimental value.

  4. If you could make a pilgrimage with someone (living, dead or fictional) as your guide, who would it be?
    Ummm ... Virgil? Dante? William Blake? I did start a poem, years ago, in which I played guide to Dante.

  5. Eventually the pilgrim must return home, but can you suggest any strategies for keeping that deep "mountaintop" perspective in the midst of everyday life?
    Boy, the person who could develop successful strategies for that could make a mint!
       Thing is, we already know the way. Being fully awake to each moment is hard work, so most of us chose to be fully awake for relatively brief periods of time, for retreats or pilgrimages.
       Previous pilgrims, such as Brother Lawrence or Dorothy Day, suggested ways of finding the sacred in the ordinary, in quotidian activity.
       It is humanly possible. Thing is, we're easily distracted (oo, pretty!), and sometimes we're lazy.

Cat Friday

From the archives: the Lady when she was about six months old. Reverend Mommy recently posted some shots which suggested the framing technique used here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Now is the time
this is the place
where her hand counts the cost

Now is the time
this is her hand
placed in her lap

This is the place
now is her hand
where her breath costs

Now her hand is a bird
this is the cage
placed in your heart

Placed among hollow walls
this is the moment
now, when you wonder

The time is shadows
beneath her eyes
her head on your shoulder

Her face is the place
now is the wonder
where the wound rests

She dresses the wound
in its tender place
where time meets time

This is her hand
now is her time
where you finally sleep

Placed in her lap
this is the tender place
Now is the time

Idée d’jour

You can't outhate a fundamentalist. They will always win.
— Yossi Klein Halevi

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jonah Warhol

Inspired by work Ms. Birdie did with a recent photo, I decided to try to spin a recent self-portrait into a "Warhol".

I can say, in all humility, that I think Birdie came closer to the mark than I did.

My Blog Addiction

62%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?
Honestly, not as bad as I thought it might be.

Today's Koan

Does your pain feel pain? Is your fear fearful?
This koan is adapted from questions asked by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the July 2007 issue of Shambhala Sun. He writes:
Have you ever noticed that your fear is not afraid even when you are terrified? Or that your awareness of depression is not depressed; that your awareness of your bad habits is not a slave to those habits; or perhaps even that your awareness of who you are is not who you think you are?

You can test out any of these propositions for yourself any time you like simply by investigating awareness—by becoming aware of awareness itself. It is easy, but we hardly ever think to do it because awareness, like the present moment itself, is virtually a hidden dimension in our lives, embedded everywhere and therefore not so noticeable anywhere.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Madona & Child

I created this from a picture taken sometime around 1982. The subject is Lissa and her son Blake. I played in Photoshop, incorporating ideas gleaned from Reverend Mommy and Birdie.

Ideé d’jour

... transcendent goals like peace and justice are always made possible, or rendered impossible, by the patterns of the human heart.
— Krista Tippett, in her new book, Speaking of Faith (Viking, New York, 2007)
I strongly recommend Ms. Tippett's radio program of the same name, available on-line at

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Idée d’jour

There are no holy places and no holy people, only holy moments, only moments of wisdom.
— Jack Kornfield

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Five: Floods & Droughts

This week's theme suggested by Sally.
  1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event – what was it and how did you cope?
    The first thing that comes to mind is the year the creek flooded less than a block from the rental house we lived in, sometime between 1963 and '65. The water came up to our front steps, and Cousin Jenni went swimming in a one-piece bathing suit. My poem "Year of the Flood" memorializes my memories of that time.
       Coping was not an issue, not that I can recall. Houses on the north side of the street (closest to the creek) received significant water damage. We were on the south side of the street; as I say, the water didn't come higher than the porch.

  2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming?
    Very important. Whether or not we can turn back the damage done is certainly a question, but I think we owe it to ourselves, and to our heirs, to try.
       There is a quote, supposedly from Native American tradition, to the effect that we have the world, its environment and resources on loan from the next generation.
       In this sense, then, we are renters. We are leasing these resources from the next generation. In which case, one could argue that we have been very poor tenants indeed.
       No matter that the damage began innocently, with hopeful naivite about progress and comfort. Nature has given us any number of warnings of the wounds inflicted - beginning with various forms of cancer. Yet, we persisted on our path of progress with a sense of manifest destiny. Some of us persisted with the notion that there would be no reckoning, no balance due; and that, if there were, someone else would pay it.
       It's well past time to treat our little corner of creation as we would hope a guest would treat our home.

  3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree?
    It seems to me the issue of stewardship is a profound opportunity for evangelism. I would argue that the task for Christians is more in action than in words. Or, as St. Francis reportedly said, "Preach at all times. When necessary, use words."
       We preach through our vote, and through letters to Congress. We preach through church-based recycling programs. We preach through living the smallest carbon footprint possible. We intentionally struggle with decisions between attending our local church, regardless of comfort or denomination; or attending the church we called to be part of, even if the commute is 8-10 miles away from our house.
       Here's another example: the Cathedral most often uses plastic plates and eating utensils. Plastic stays in the landfills forever, effectively. There are some biodegradable alternatives to styrofoam, but I don't know whether plates are made from any of these materials. I have been told, from a trusted source, that biodegradable detergent is the best alternative.

  4. On a happier note:
  5. What is your favourite season and why?
    Spring. In Oklahoma, the temperature tends to be very temperate, between 65 and 71 degrees. A variety of colors come into the world. Also, predominantly low humidity.
       Second favorite is Autumn, for much the same reason. The only draw back to spring and autumn is that these seem to be seasons with significant triggers for my allergies.

  6. Describe your perfect vacation weather....
    As described above.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Idée d’jour

The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist."
— Maria Montessori, educator (1870-1952)
Today's quote is dedicated to Pam.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Movie Review: Babe, Pig in the City

In brief: don't bother

I rented "Pig in the City" on the basis of someone saying they preferred it to the first movie.  The person in question definitely does not have the same taste as me.

I often choose which movies I’d like to watch based on teasers and previews.  If I don’t like the teaser, which is supposedly been edited and produced to display the best qualities of a movie, then odds are good I won’t like the movie.  The teasers for "Pig in the City" made it look like an episode of "Lancelot Link".

I was 15 when Lancelot Link aired. It was a spy show spoof done with chimpanzees. I think I got through a few minutes of one episode before I dismissed it as a one-note gag. Sure, there were some puns and slapstick, but the main gag seemed to be in the chimps performing human functions. The same applies to this film; the only difference is in the number and variety of animal species involved.

The story here is even more thread-bare and unbelievable than the first movie. Babe flies to a generic American city (a combination of L.A., Seattle, and others) to save the farm. She ends up a dingy hotel which accepts animals (via the backdoor). Infinite complications ensue, which include an animal taking advantage of Babe's naivité.

The film includes a pair of slapstick set pieces. The second set piece not only feels long, but seems demeaning to the actress playing Mrs. Hogget. Much of the intended humor derives from her size and weight.

In conclusion: I'm sorry I rented this movie. Hopefully, the next film in my Netflix que will make up for it.

The Russian Agent

The Russian agent stepped out
from behind the blue sky curtain.
He held the gun firmly in his hand.
The oak wardrobe stood in the corner.

Downstairs, the guests were chatting.
The prime minister was already sleeping
in the library. Champagne
and triple-aged scotch.

Stars over the patio.
Horse-shaped hedges reared
in half-moon shadow.
The senator’s wife laugh
echoed across the yard.

The Russian agent heard fireworks.
The wife heard a shot.
The hedges heard a starting pistol.
Drinks were spilled.

The oak wardrobe stood in the corner.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Idée d’jour

Think sideways!
— Edward de Bono

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mowing Music

This is what I listened to on my iPod while mowing the lawn this morning:
  • Suzy Thompson, "Mean Old Bed Bug Blues" and the title track from Adam and Eve Had the Blues
    I learned of Suzy Thompson through Sing Out! magazine. Her music seems very much in the tradition of the jug band revival of the early 60s. She's got a dynamite voice, and plays a mean fiddle
  • Pink, "Dear Mr. President"
    I haven't heard any of Pink's music aside from this track, which I gather is unlike most of her style. Happily, this is a topical song with a shelf life of only a few more months.
  • Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"
    I learned of this track through Entertainment Weekly's "Down-load This" feature. It combines some rap and soul elements, hearkening back to the best of Marvin Gaye.
  • The Shins, "Phantom Limb"
    Another song featured in EW's "Down-load This". The tune seems to echo elements of "Power Pop" as practiced by Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello back in the 80s.
  • The Bird and The Bee, "I'm a Broken Heart"
    The arrangement owes much to the Beach Boys, circa "Pet Sounds". The happiness of the melody belies the melancholy of the theme: "I try to make the best at happiness / I'm a broken heart ... / My love is bleeding..."
  • The Good, The Bad, and the Queen, "Kingdom of Doom"
    A pit of dark pop that reminds me of Costello, circa Armed Forces or Imperial Bedroom
  • Borne, "The Guide"
    iTunes has a weekly free tune of the week. "Kingdom of Doom" was one, this is another. It reminds me a bit of Styx; it's not awful, but it isn't great either. I don't mind keeping it on my iPod - it's OK background for mowing. But I'm not interested in hearing more.
  • Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"
    I've recommended Ms. Winehouse before. She's got a real good sense of 60s soul, right there with the Supremes. She might not be in Aretha's territory, but a couple of You Tube clips of her singing with just a guitar have convinced me she's the real deal. The production on this album is great, but she shines even without the production.
  • Dar Williams, "The Christians and the Pagans"
    I forget where I read about this tune, but it sounded like fun. Dar Williams has gotten a lot of press, in places I respect, as an alt-folk artist. While the song is just as much fun as I thought it would be, Dar Williams is an acquired taste I don't yet have.
  • Jonathan Byrd, "The Cocaine Kid"
    A talking blues that reminds me of Dylan in the "Freewheeling Days". The words and the rhymes role out of this guy at a furious pace.
  • Johnny Proctor, "All Creatures of Our God & King"
    Another Beach Boys tribute. Mr. Proctor used multi-tracking to harmonize with himself ala "In My Room". A fun and sweet take on one of my favorite hymns.
  • The Sevens, Pearl O' Shaughnessy's (et al, medley)
    I think this came from a Sing Out CD. Just a bouncy medley of Irish jigs
  • Marvin Gaye, "What's Going On"
    Speaking of soul, Marvin is where it's at. It wouldn't be hard to draw a line from "Rehab" to this, but "What's Going On" has more in common with Barkley's "Crazy". Both songs have some interesting production values - e.g., the party chatter at the opening of "What's Going On", the strings in "Crazy". "What's Going On" is blatantly topical - it's almost impossible to listen to the lyrics without thinking of the late 60s - but it still holds up. You can enjoy it, in other words, without a history lesson. "Crazy" may not be topical in the same way, but it can lead one to reflect on the dichotomy of sane/crazy in new ways. It could be a love song, or it could be addressed more universally.
One day I might arrange these songs in a different order; there are times the play list is bit jarring. But I like all but one ("The Guide") almost equally. On the whole, it is a play list that is just plain fun.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Idée d’jour

Words may express it,
Words cannot hold it:
The way of letters leaves no trace,
Yet the teaching is revealed.
— Dogen

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ideé d’jour

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
— T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ideé d’jour

I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.
— Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
Do I belittle my own soul when I say I hate B*sh? Does the person in question qualify as a "man"? Would Will Rogers have liked him?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Five: Harry Potter

This week's magical theme suggested by Reverend Mother.
  1. Which Harry Potter book is your favorite and why?
    Probably the first. This is not to disparage the remaining books in the series - and I have read all but the penultimate book (The Half-Blood Prince). The first book charmingly creates a world very much like our own, and thoroughly describes a more-or-less parallel magical universe. If this book had not done its job so well, the series would not be as popular.

  2. Which character do you most resemble? Which character would you most like to get to know?
    On my bad days, I resemble Harry at his fussiest (see Order of the Phoenix), with none of his positive qualities. On my good days, I think I resemble Ron: a loyal friend who is slightly less adept than the hero.
       I'd like to visit with Ron or Hermoine. I admire Hermoine's sense of justice (see Chamber of Secrets).

  3. How careful are you about spoilers?
    I'd rather not know what happens, but I'm not going to commit Avada Kedavra if someone makes a slip.
       Since I've taken my own sweet time about reading the series (I have yet to begin Half-Blood Prince) spoilers must be accepted as a fact of life. But, as the first option suggested, the journey is more important than particular points along the way. I've recently learned which charecter dies in Half-Blood Prince, for example, but I don't think it will spoil my enjoyment of the book.

  4. Make one prediction/share one hope about book 7.
    The good guys will win, and the bad guys will lose. Ms. Rowling has said the series is primarily about death, and has announced that two major characters will die in the final book.
       It seems safe to assume that Lord Voldemort will be one of those two people. A number of people have persuasively argued that Harry Potter will be the other character to die.
       One of the dominant themes of folk tales and myth (no question that this is a type of modern folk tale) is that death is not the end. As a rule, even if the hero dies, his or her legacy continues in some manner.
       The series has not been overtly Christian, in the same way that C.S. Lewis' Narnia series is, yet it does evoke a morality that is, at least, consistent with orthodox Christian teaching. See, for example, see Reverend Mother's two sermons inspired by the series.
       So, while Harry may not resurrect (as Aslan does in LWW), he will conquer death in some fashion. 

  5. Rowling has said she's not planning any prequels or sequels, but are there characters or storylines (past or future) that you would like to see pursued?
    Hagrid's history.

Idée d’jour

A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.
— Dogen

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Idée d’jour

... we live in dark ages whenever we become preoccupied with power.
— Paraclete Press, in promotional material for Light in the Dark Ages by Jon M. Sweeney. The book is a "popular history" of the Middle Ages, with a focus on Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi.

If this definition be true, then we are currently living in a very dark age, indeed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

At the Movies

A correspondent recently asked what movies I've seen lately, and which ones I would recommend. With that in mind, I created the following table.

Dark HabitsPedro AlmodovarNo 
Monster HouseGil KenanRent
The DescentNeil MarshallNo
3 WomenRobert AltmanNFAL
Bad EducationPedro Almodovar OK
United 93Paul GreengrassRent
Orphic Trilogy
  • Blood of a Poet
  • Orpheus
  • Testament of Orpheus
Jean CocteauNFAL
Into the WoodsStephen Sondheim Rent
Pan’s LabyrinthGuillermo del ToroBuy

This table lists nine movies, and one trilogy, that I have recently watched. They are, more or less, in inverse order of when I watched them. All were seen via Netflix, with the exception of Pan's Labyrinth, which I originally saw in the theater.

The rating system is fairly simple: No (don't bother), OK (neither great nor aweful), NFAL - "Not for all tastes" (I enjoyed it, but recognize the movie is not exactly commercial), Rent (definitely worth renting), and Buy (so good, you'll probably want the movie in your permanent library).

I hope to flesh out the reasons for my ratings over the next few weeks, as time permits.

I will say, by way of introduction, that watching Cocteau's Orpheus Trilogy gave me a new appreciation of the work of David Lynch, and may have prepared me for non-linear (or practically non-existent) narrative, as found in Altman's 3 Women.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Idée d’jour

The knife does not cut itself, the finger does not touch itself, the mind does not know itself, the eye does not see itself.
— Zen Saying
This saying inspired the poem which appears immediately below.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I Am Not I

I am not I.
I am not my hazel eyes,
that change shade with the seasons.
I am not my thin hair.
I am not my gray beard.
I am not my thin mouth.

I am not that reflection.
I am not I.
I am not my voice.
I am not my thoughts.
I am not my desires.
I am not my nightmares.
I am not my dreams.

I do not see my eye.
I am not that twinkling eye.
I am not my shadow.
I am not the one you see,
or the one you think you see.
I am not I.

I am not the song.
I am not the singing.
I am not the slender fingers
on my guitar fretboard,
nor the fingers that
pluck each string.
I am not the harmonica moan.

I am not the prayer
or the pray-er.
I am not my breath.
I am not that distant figure.

The finger does not touch itself.
The eye cannot see itself.
I am not I.

Idée d’jour

What is to give light must endure burning.
— Viktor Frankl
As a survivor of the Holocaust, Mr. Frankl perhaps had an accurate sense of what it means to "endure burning", and could count the cost.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Oakerhater VBS, Pt Two

The Oakerhater Vacation Bible School began in earnest on Wednesday. The theme this year was "Peace". This is the same theme chosen for our local church's VBS. It was chosen partly because two of our main leaders were also leaders of the local church VBS.

No question, giving young people some tools and guidelines for living in peace is important. Perhaps even more so in a small and economically depressed town like Watonga.

The curriculla was primarily designed by my friend Pam. Each day focused on a different Biblical story which illustrated a different form of peace or peace-seeking.

Pam began the time on Wednesday by asking the children to join her in some simple relaxation techniques. You can do one right now, while you read this blog entry.

First, breath in as deeply as you can. Then, breath out as slowly as you can.

If you're anything like me, or like the children at this VBS, you might have been tempted to make a sound as you breathed. There is something so satisfying and real about making a little "uhhhhh-uh" sound as you inhale, and a "whooooosh" as you exhale.

But you don't need those noises. Try it. Inhale as deeply as you can, without making a sound. Then exhale, also silently.

If you do this breathing exercise a few times in a row, you may find yourself feeling calmer – more peaceful – than you felt prior to the exercise.

Each day, Pam would tell a version of a Bible story which exemplified or illustrated peace. The story for Wednesday was the story of creation. Just the way Pam told the story helped me feel peaceful. The final day – the Sabbath, the day of rest – was also a gift; a day devoted to being peaceful.

The story on Thursday was the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Quote d’jour

...I am not a Buddhist. And the Buddha would not have minded this in the least. He would have been happy to hear it. He was not, himself, a Buddhist. He was the thing itself: an enlightened being. Just as Jesus Christ was not a Christian, but a Christ, an enlightened being.
— Alice Walker, "Suffering Too Insignificant for the Majority to See", Shambhala Sun, May 2007, 55.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Extraordinary Event

Received via e-mail:
Something quite extraordinary happened at The White House [on Monday, June 25]. It was covered in the news, but barely. The lack of media attention doesn’t diminish the uniqueness of the occurrence however.

Yesterday, the 2007 Presidential Scholars were received and welcomed at the White House. It’s quite a remarkable collection of young adults. Each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were represented by one male and one female high school senior selected for this honor. It would have been quite a brain trust assembled to be addressed by the President of the United States at the event. But that’s not what was extraordinary.

Although it was not officially part of the ceremony, one of the Presidential Scholars handed George W. Bush a letter. The letter was brief, to the point, and criticized our continued involvement in Bush’s needless war. The letter encouraged him to realize his policies were failing and bring an end to the quagmire he helped create. The letter was signed by the individual who presented it to Bush. The letter was also signed... by every single 2007 Presidential Scholar! George W. Bush paused to read the letter, set it aside, and went on with his pre-scripted speech.

The 2007 Presidential Scholars were there representing blue states and red states. We can only assume some were Democrats, some Independents, and certainly some Republicans. The 100% consensus of the entire group was detailed in the letter to the president. Perhaps it can have some impact in providing George W. Bush with a dose of reality outside of his bubble. If so, we’ll have a group of teenagers, a remarkable group of teenagers, to thank for it.
Correction: according to this article, the letter requested that Guantanamo detainees be treated humanely.

Oakerhater Vacation Bible School, Pt One

Nine of us went to Watonga, in western Oklahoma, to offer a Vacation Bible School. Most of us arrived a little after 6 Tuesday evening. After checking in to our motel, we immediately went to the site where we were offering the VBS in order to get things set up.

A group from our church has been going to Watonga for the past seven years, I've been told, and this is the fourth year I've been involved.

We go to Watonga because it is where St. David Pendleton Oakerhater based his ministry to his fellow Native Americans in Oklahoma. This small town remains the home of our church's ministry to Native Americans.

We started setting things up between 6:30 and 7. People worked together very well, and were assertive about asking for help as needed. When it was suggested that we accomplish just one more task before we ate supper, I became assertive. My blood sugar was low, and protein and some carbs were required - stat!

We went out for pizza, which definitely balanced out my blood sugar. As we were eating, the restaurant's TV began running severe weather alerts for the area. A major system seemed to be moving towards us; in fact, we could see extremely black clouds through the restaurant's north-facing windows.

Most of us had finished eating by this point, and returned to the motel, which was just a short walk away.

I decided to sit on the hood of my car and watch the system as long as possible. As I was sitting there, a young man approached and started visiting with me.

The young man appeared to be of Native American heritage. He was in town, it turned out, for the wheat harvest. He was originally from Iowa, but now lives in northwestern Kansas. He follows the harvest circuit from Kansas through Oklahoma to Texas and back north to the Dakotas.

We watched the storm clouds to the north. I saw a lightning flash as we visited. The young man reported that the harvest in the Watonga area was not good - the rains had come too late.

He mentioned that he preferred his new home in Kansas to his home town in Iowa. When I asked him why, he said the people in Kansas seemed more down to earth. Then I asked him for an example.

He looked directly ahead, at the ever-darkening clouds. "It's like this," he said, "A couple years ago, I went back to spend Christmas with my family. My dad wanted me to attend Midnight Mass with him. I stopped having any use for church a long time ago, but I agreed to go, in order to please him."

The young man had dark hair that reached to the bottom of his collar. His muscles and upper body made clear he did hard manual labor for a living, but his clothes and appearance were clean.

"After the service, the preacher came up to me and chewed me out for being poorly dressed for the service. I told him, 'Look, I didn't come here for you. I came here to make my dad happy.' My dad was behind me; he was talking about me to all his friends. You could tell from his expression that he was proud of me.

"'See,' I said, 'I came here for him.'"

We had never exchanged names. I felt honored that he had shared this personal story with me. He didn't know I was in town for a church-related activity. He probably didn't notice the Episcopal shield – which includes a cross – on my rear window. He trusted me with his story. There was only one true response to the story:

"Good for you!"

Friday Five: Gifts and Talents

This week's theme suggested by Sally.
  1. Personality tests; love them or hate them?
    I like them. Many on-line personality tests, such as "What poet are you", are pleasant pass-times, but reveal little of one's personality.
       I find the Jungian personality types helpful (introverted, judging, etc), and have taken various versions of the Meyers-Briggs. For it's worth, though, I can never remember all four of the letters.

  2. Would you describe yourself as practical, creative, intellectual or a mixture?
    I would say creative and intellectual. Practical — not so much. Imagine if I found practical applications for my creative and intellectual abilities/talents! Imagine if I could be even a little organized in the use of these abilities! Might be in a different place. Speaking of which...

  3. It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame; have you had your yet? If so what was it, if not dream away what would you like it to be?
    I've been on local TV four times, and was a radio DJ for about five years.
       The first two times I was on local TV was as a child, on the Foreman Scotty Show (a kids' program).
        The next two times were on the news, in my guise as a musician. The first was a performance at the wedding of two of the survivors of the Edmond Post Office massacre. The other was as a musician at a peace march.
       I also directed a cable-access program, and appeared on it at least once.
       My radio work was on a local NPR-affiliate. I hosted and produced "Ambient Morning Music," which aired Saturday and Sunday mornings from 5 - 7. I also hosted jazz programing many evenings, and occasionally subbed on other locally-produced shows.

  4. If you were given a 2 year sabatical ( oh the dream of it) to create something would it be music, literature, art.....something completely different...share your dream with us...
    Would you believe .... All of the above? I've become a great believer in "following my muse". Right now, my muse seems to be more related to music than art or writing. A month from now, it might be focused on photography (which I consider an art form). Let the spirit lead!

  5. Describe a talent you would like to develop, but that seems completely beyond you.
    I am a serviceable guitarist, but there's much room for improvement. I keep hoping I can develop some serious "Finger-style" skills. The talent which seems to be beyond me is playing the piano.
Bonus question: Back to the church — what does every member ministry mean to you? Is it truly possible to encourage/ implement?
Although this is not a buzz term I've heard before, I suspect the meaning is similar to "the priesthood of all believers", the phrase sometimes used in my denomination.
   Historically, the congregation has looked to the people at the front of the church to serve multiple functions. These specially ordained people have been expected to be many things — administrator, theologian, counselor, cheer leader, etc. They are also expected to be all things to all people. So, the first hurdle to overcome is the notion that a person requires seminary training to minister. Special training may be required for parish adminstration (incidentally, only a recent addition to some seminary curricilla), or for counselling, but there's no reason lay people couldn't serve these functions.
   Next, ordained clergy must be willing to delegate and allow lay people to function with limited interference. I have often experienced a situation where a clergy person claims he or she supports lay ministry, and delegates responsibility to a person or group, then promptly reclaim control of the project. Lay people should be allowed to follow the course the Spirit leads them in, so long as it is not contrary to church teaching or polity. The ordained clergy may not always agree with the methods, or even the goals, but must allow the project to succeed or fail with limited interference. This seems to me to absolutely necessary for an effective lay ministry.
   Finally, everyone concerned must accept the reality that some in the congregation are simply uninterested in being ministers, or in being recognized as ministers. Some people come to church just to be fed, and have little interest in feeding others in any overt way. I think the reality is that these people may minister by their presence, and many minister through their financial contributions. I am mindful that Jesus appears as the person needing ministry, as well as the person serving as minister. In other words, accepting the help of others can be as much a "ministry" as offering that help.