Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Idée d’jour

Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much of life. So aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.
— Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Idée d’jour

All know that the drop merges into the ocean but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.
— Kabir, reformer, poet (late 15th century)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sites To See

I've finally updated the "Sites to See" section in the left-hand column. The blogroll service I had subscribed to folded some time last year, and I lost all the links that used to be over there.

It seems to me that most of the folk I used to follow via their blogs have now migrated to Facebook. In fact, my own posting has dropped off dramatically, partially due to my energies being focused on Twitter and Facebook.

I'll add more sites to the list as I rediscover them.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mrs. Lady

One of my electives in high school was Drama. I had taken Speech in junior high, and we staged a few dramas, which was my favorite part of the class.

Most people called our drama teacher Mrs. Lady. As I recall, she had earned that nickname when she had taught in a predomninantly African-American school in Arkansas. Padre told me that “Lady” was a title of respect - as in “Lady Day” (Billy Holiday).

One of Mrs. Lady's first assignments for us was to keep a journal. I used that journal to write poetry. I may have copied a few poems I'd already written just to fill out the journal.

I'd recently started writing poetry prior to enrolling in high school. You see, someone close to me attempted suicide the summer between junior and senior high. She slit her wrists — with the grain, so to speak — and I was the first to find her.

I dealt with this trauma in two ways — one healthy & acceptable, the other not so much. The healthy coping skill was writing poetry — fairly typical mediocre high school poetry, with the distiction of having blood-soaked imagery. The other was imitative in nature.

I was not sent to the guidance counselor. I was not sent to a therapist. I was going to school with my arms wrapped in blood-stained tissue, but only my fellow students asked what was going on. I lied, of course.

That journal for Mrs. Lady was my therapy.

I still remember the first time Mrs. Lady returned my journal. I had signed my poem "jac". She wrote “Are you ‘Jac’? This is very good!” I felt like I'd received a dozen gold stars.

Mrs. Lady was extremely supportive of my poetry. She sent me to a regional contest to read my own poetry (under the nom de plume Jacques Bijou). I did not place, but I treasured the fact that she believed that strongly in my writing.

Drama was in the early afternoon. Sometimes, if Mrs. Lady was having a bad day, a girl would say something like “I think Lady would really appreciate a poem written by you today.” I would dash something off, and get it delivered to her somehow.

I don't know if those poems made any difference to her. But thinking they did helped me feel pretty special.

It may seem overly dramatic to say Mrs. Lady saved my life. But I'm still here, almost 30 years later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Idée d’jour

One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. — Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer (1917-2008)

This quote was commended to me by Brother Dave.

The quote begs the question of what we mean by "morality". I suppose "morality" to be a set of commonly accepts principles a society agrees to live by. The best known is the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Or to freely translate Hippocrates: “First do harm.”

And though we naturally mistrust "situational ethics", we have come to accept "situational morality". For example, it's immoral for an individual to lie or misrepresent his/her qualifications. It's not only moral for a corporation to lie, it's expected. It's expected business practice. It's also expected that politicians and their supporters exaggerate and lie. If a mailer goes out with the wrong date for an election, it's not immoral. It's not even gross incompetence. It's a typo.

Sir Arthur's quote also begs the question of what we mean by "religion". I suppose it to mean a set of codes, liturgies, rites, and rules intended to aid our relationship with the divine. Buddhism does not necessarily include divinity, but it is still a religion, with its very own variant on the Golden Rule. If we accept my definition of religion, it would of necessity include teachings about morality. I believe "religion" in this sense precedes humanist or existentialist morality.

What I suppose Sir Arthur meant is that religion has never fully lived up to the moral codes it promotes. An obvious example is the pederasty scandals in the RC church. The extreme wealth of most main-stream churches has been a scandal since at least the time of St. Francis. All I can say, is human organizations have human failings, often enlarged by the size of the organization. This is no excuse.

We all must have code we can live by, as Graham Nash said. If we're radically truthful with ourselves we know we will often fail to fulfill the highest aspirations of that code. Yet, we keep trying. With luck, we improve.

A basic application of the Golden Rule is that we forgive the failings of others as we would like to be forgiven.