Saturday, April 19, 2014

The View from Saturday

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
—Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125, tr. Walter Kaufmann

And yet..."There lives the dearest freshness deep/ down things;/ And though the last lights off the black/ West went/ Oh, morning at the brown brink/ eastward springs--"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Like a House

O Lord,
The house of my soul is narrow;
enlarge it that you may enter in.
It is ruinous, O repair it!
It displeases Your sight.
I confess it, I know.
But who shall cleanse it,
to whom shall I cry but to you?
Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,
and spare Your servant from strange sins.
                                    --St. Augustine

Lent is about halfway through and my house [soul] is still a mess.  It's a crack house, a whorehouse, a poor house, a rent-controlled shack.  Every confession cleans it up a bit, but the filth comes right back.

Image courtesy of Pikkatze

I let in the dirt, knowing my LORD wants it clean.  I should dwell in a spotless tent, but I've turned it into a latrine.  Why do I return to my vomit?  Why is that more attractive than the face of Beauty?
Give me a spirit of purity, humility, patience and love, LORD.

How is your Lenten journey progressing?  What is the condition of your house?

Friday, January 31, 2014

"It's About Control..."

I remember back in Sunday school when I was 14 or 15, and Sister "B." asked us what person from the Bible we most identified with.  I don't remember whom I chose--I do remember struggling with an answer--Moses, maybe?--but most of my peers chose the famous, the strong, the victorious: Peter, Paul, David, etc.  Those people all seemed larger-than-life, how could I identify with them.  They are in THE BIBLE, after all.
Flash forward 30 years and here I am, unemployed, bounced-off unemployment insurance (for doing the right thing, I believe), struggling to find clients for my business, driving a 15 year-old vehicle that won't last much longer and wondering where is the favor of God?
As the days roll on, and possible employment opportunities or clients become just smoke, I find myself tied up in a plastic bag full of fear.  The fear expresses itself as anger at God, which morphs into guilt.  Guilt because who am I to lash out at God when I could be a Syrian refugee; I could be a victim of trafficking; I could be shot at in Afghanistan; I could be homeless like a family member of mine presently is; I could have no food in the house because of an error at the state's welfare office which has happened recently to someone I know.  In short, it could be worse.
     So, what Biblical person can I identify with now?  At the moment, I'd say Abram and Sarai in the 16th chapter of Genesis--this was before YHWH gave them new ID cards.  They had been promised offspring, even though they were already beyond the usual age of fertility.  Yet the couple kept aging and time kept blowing by like a strong breeze and they still had an empty cradle.
     They do what most of us would do--if God's not coming through, it looks like it's up to us.  Sarai tells Abram to have sexual intercourse with her young Egyptian maid, Hagar.  This works like they thought it would, Hagar is impregnated and delivers a son, Ishmael.  However, doing things their own way brings about the mythical origin of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Ishmael and Hagar are banished when Abram and Sarai's promised son arrives.

     I want to hijack God's plan for my life (whatever that might be, I'm never privy to these things) except I can't.  I can't make clients hire me; I can't produce money from oxygen molecules (I suspect I'd be a lousy counterfeiter, too); I can't do much of anything.
     What I can do is trust and let go of the fear (1 John 4:18 & Revelation 1:17-18) though that, as the proverb says, is easier spoken than acted upon.
     I cry out to God, I stare down my icons of Jesus, and I think those sounds and gestures never penetrate my roof line, but somehow when I least expect it, He comes through, He provides.  Not how I would have it done, mind you (my lottery tickets have never netted me more than $10), but little things fall into place.  Little by little, He shows me how stupid I am to doubt Him.
     His love is hard, like a solid tree trunk at times; a love to be feared because it can't be reasoned with or cajoled, but it is the strongest love one could ever conceive of (or even the creation of one million and one monkeys banging away on typewriters, keyboards, and tablets).

"It's about vision/my vision..." 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Three cubed or The Ninth Day of Christmas

 Note: This is going out a wee bit later than planned, but that's mostly due to an unplanned overnight stay in Milwaukee.
Note 2: All images from this post were carelessly cut and pasted from the internet without proper citation.

What is the best gift you've received?  Here on the Ninth Day of Christmas, we can reflect on, obviously, the number nine.
It is an amplification of the sacred number of three--in some circumstances the thrice cry of believers of "Kyrie Eleison" is heard three times.  There are supposedly nine angelic choirs scattered about the supposed nine cosmic spheres.
We do know, as St. Paul attests, nine fruit(s?) of the Holy Spirit are available for those who seek.  This fruit might be why there are nine ladies dancing.
They dance the dance of love
           They dance the dance of joy
They dance the dance of peace
They frolic for longsuffering
They waltz with kindness
They caper for goodness
They cavort with faithfulness
They gambol for gentleness
They flit with self-control (if that's not oxymoronic)

Of these nine fruit/gifts which have you received?  Of these nine fruit/gifts, which is the best?

January 3rd is also the feast day for Malachi, St. Genevieve of Paris, and Peter of Atroa.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's 2013, so where's my rocket pack?

At my worst I am misanthropic and certain technologies feed my disorder.  However, in this case, humans are much better and faster than machines.  Perhaps the lowly cashier deserves a tip jar?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Costs and Benefits

     Recently, I accompanied my son's class on a trip to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.  If you're unfamiliar with the place, it's a collection of actual buildings of historical import moved there at Henry Ford's direction.  He was trying to bring a bit of America's (and a smidgen of Europe's) history to the Detrioit area.  Of course, there is an emphasis on the Industrial Revolution and its subsequent developments and technology.
So, the narrative at the Village (OK, there are actually three--farming, handicrafts (including glass blowing, pottery, and textiles), and the wonders of mechanical energy) is all about the benefits of steam, coal, and electric power.  Nowhere to be found, however, are the costs stemming from the Revolution.  Nothing is mentioned about the home economy that was swallowed, the great migration to cities and industrial centers that created slums.  Absent as well are the ecological costs of extraction, manufacturing, and consumption.  Nothing but shiny, mechanized PROGRESS.
     Lest I sound like a crank, I was reflecting on mechanical energy when I was at my second backyard a few weeks later (I own some property a county away from where I live).  A friend and I were clearing out Autumn olive (Elaegnus umbellata) and chipping that invasive shrub to make a pathway through my woods.  We were able to down at least a dozen of them (they rarely grow taller than 25 feet--these were about 4 to 8 feet tall) and had enough woodchips to create a path about 3 feet wide and over 30 feet long.  None of this would have been possible (at least in 5 hours) without gas-powered saws and a chipper.  Not to mention the milled handles on the rakes and shovels, the forged rake and shovel heads, the wheelbarrow with the plastic bucket and rubber tire, too.  It wouldn't do to forget the truck that brought us and the equipment there as well.
     Ease, speed, efficiency: these are legacies of the Industrial Revolution. We could have felled the trees/shrubs with axes, but I doubt anyone turned limbs and branches into woodchips prior to internal combustion engines.  That probably would have been viewed as wasteful.
     As with any new technology that comes along, people tout the benefits, but rarely trumpet the costs.  Cell phones, computers, MP3 players, streaming movies and music, ATMs, GPS units, they all provide benefits but how have they changed the human person in negative ways?  Why aren't we talking about this more?  We all want the new X-Box One, but we don't want to think about yet another electronic device that uses electricity and sucks our time away.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Giving Universe?

“You can’t out give the universe” –business writer posting on the internet

  A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!"
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”
--Stephen Crane

I’m not sure where the first writer gets her ideas about the universe giving anything.  When I think of the universe, or even a bit closer, nature, I picture an indifferent void.

Does the universe give anything?  Sure, it gives energy, or rather dissipates energy leftover from its creation.  But it is “giving” only because it is radiating ontologically, it can’t do anything else until all that energy is gone.

But there is no motive there; no good will, altruism, generosity.  That’s like thanking a rock one slipped into one’s pocket for good companionship.  Sure, the rock accompanied that person, but only because the rock was kidnapped grabbed. 

Neither does the universe possess malevolence.  It may seem cruel, hurtling life-extinguishing rocks from space, churning up waves from the ocean that fill the lungs of a quarter-of-a-million people and empty the life from them. 
Photo credit: Gisela Giardino (creative commons)

It just is.  Though I would argue it is a creature—one way beyond our comprehension, but still…a creature.

If there is any generosity, any gift-bestowing happening it is coming from the creator of the universe.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Neither does wickedness originate with this transcendent author as the Psalmist declares: “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You.”

I suppose the “spiritual, not religious” crowd like to credit the universe for good and bad (though they mostly talk about all the good the universe is doing, not the rising toll of deer-motorist crashes.) 

I don’t know about you, but I like to give credit to people responsible for whatever praise or blameworthy actions they perform.  It’s tough to do that with an airless, soundless void.