Monday, October 28, 2013

Panis Angelicus (for Madelyn Francis, who bakes it)

We are grateful that the divine influence is promised in our hardest times (“peace I leave with you”).  We acknowledge that the divine makes extreme joy possible and sustainable (“in thy presence is  fulness of joy”). 

Between these two is a spectrum (sometimes specter) of chronic chronic-ness.   So much is said—and rightly so—of divine involvement in extreme states that the everyday experience may lead us to ask if we are watched over and loved even if we are not in abjection or ecstasy.  In other words, just what are the ninety nine sheep doing, grazing days away?

The resolution of the everyday experience perhaps lies partly in the invitation to ask—no, demand (?)—Give us this day our daily bread.   The injunction in the middle of time looks back to a miracle of earlier sacred history:  Manna,  a magic bread that was so consistent that the miracle became an irritation.

 The fact that amazing phenomena are repeated so regularly and abundantly—from sun rises to human births—is more cause for awe, not less.  And as our Father gives us this day our daily bread, his hand is on every loaf—and every life.

Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

If change were easy, no one would need to--they would have already

Team pull-up asssitance with Hadassah, 15. Her three-year-old brother is overdue for this change and seems less than willing to keep still.  Then, my monologue about how in a better world . . .  what?  I would be a faster diaper changer?  He would already be potty-trained?  Hadassah responds to the tension:  We don't know about these better worlds.  This is the world we live in.  We make our better worlds.

A conscientious and thoughtful believer, Hadassah later tweaks her statement, starting to talk about the better world of the afterlife in the divine presence.  She's right.  On all points.  Her first three statements make the last possible.

Do we know about these better worlds?  They can be infinitely regressive.  Fast diaper changes. Completed potty training.  No need to ever potty train at all. And then, what else do we not want to be inconvenienced by?  What if this were all eliminated?  Would that be a better world?  And how do we know that there are no diaper changes in future worlds?

This is the world we live in.  I accept this without comment, although it is easier to state the obvious than it is to accept it.

We make our better worlds.  Ah, yes.  Have we ever wished to call in someone to replace us?  Nicer, more altruistic and compassionate versions of ourselves so we could go on a long vacation? We have to be our own replacements.  Nothing else would serve the other or ourselves as satisfyingly.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Listen Carefully, As Menu Options Have Changed

The following is an incomplete menu of choices.  If you want to talk to a live person, your call will be redirected to someone who has a template screen in front of her to help you navigate your problem. 

Press 1 to have me ask how you are doing.
Press 2 to ask me how I am doing.
                Press 1 for the polite answer. 
                Press 2 for an ambiguous answer.
                Press 3 for an angry answer that blames you for asking.
Press 3 for comments about the weather.
                Press 1 for a complaint.
                Press 2 for an obvious response.
                Press 3 for a comment on someone else’s weather tragedy.
Press 4 for my opinions on trending news stories.
                Press 1 for gun violence.
                Press 2 for bullying.
                Press 3 for auto wrecks.
Press 5 for my political thoughts.
                Press 1 for affordable health care act.
                Press 2 for complaints about congress.
                Press 3 for debt and deficit.
Press 6 for sports.
                Press 1 for local sports. 
                Press 2 for NFL.
                Press 3 for performance enhancement violations.
Press 7 if you have a request.
                Press 1 if you need help.
                                Press 1 if you can wait.
                                Press 2 if I can delegate your request.
                                Press 3 to be told to figure it out for yourself.
                Press 2 if you need money.
                                Press 1 for fundraisers.
                                Press 2 for school expenses.
                                Press 3 for personal luxuries.
                Press 3 if I’m not listening to you.
                                Press 1 for an explanation.
                                Press 2 to ask me to stop texting while you are talking to me.
                                Press 3 to ask when we can talk.
Press 8 to review these options.

Can we free ourselves of automatic thoughts and automated responses?  Can we commit that when someone talks to us she gets a live person the first time every time who really does value her and her call?  Authenticity comes easier to some than others, maybe, but if we desire it, we will be more likely to have it than if we don’t.

Hi!  Here I am.  How can I help you?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Books as Tongs

There was some unpleasant trash in the Community Center parking lot this morning.   For the sake of the public I wanted it moved, but I didn’t want to touch it.  Having no plastic bag to do the work,  I used an old maintenance  log from my glove compartment.  This booklet acted as a pair of tongs with which I could pick up and carry the trash to the can and drop the whole thing in. No need to even sanitize my hands.

Now for the analogy.  (When the analogy breaks down, let’s agree to both get out of it and walk the rest of the way home together.)

 Books are like tongs with which we –-readers and writers alike—can pick up difficult things and deal with them responsibly rather than letting them lie and cause distress, harm, or simple aesthetic offense.

More reflection on the idea of books as tongs brought me to Isaiah, the poet prophet.  When he receives his call he has a vision in which he admits  weakness and the weakness of the people with which he lives.  At this point the text reads: 

 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me
My story started with unpleasantness—or more neutrally, human realities--and books as remedies, or tools for working with them. With Isaiah came another view of the analogy:
Books are like tongs with which we—readers and writers alike—can pick up a single, purifying idea and accept it as part of a process of becoming more compassionate, inspired human beings.

Emily Dickinson says "The truth must dazzle gradually or every man be blind". Similarly books can be used to pick up truths over time so we can desire and assimilate them rather than being harmfully consumed by them.

Finally, we could think of books as salad bar tongs, but that would end in ranch dressing.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Which Presupposes They Are Wise Choices

Today I will neither resent nor defend my choices; I will live them with mindful compassion.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ultimate borrowing power

No Annual Fee.  No Finance Charge. No Payments.  Ever.*

Live richly with your library cards. And go ahead--max them out. 

*Some restrictions apply.  Late fees charged for past-due materials and the interest (in quality media) gets higher the more the cards are used.

Monday, October 21, 2013

One domestic art

If you aren't playing with a full deck (or all the Scrabble tiles), you may live with children. Poet Elizabeth Bishop writes "the art of losing isn't hard to master."  One thing family life helps us lose is material attachment.