Thursday, March 31, 2005

 

I'm fighting off an intense dislike for everyone who is contra-Terri Schiavo or Christianity in general. I'm laid low by the insults by being called an idiot by colunmist/bloggestress Nall (by virtue of being on the Christian right), by the Protestant anti-Catholic minister who can't find a good word to say about the Pope, by Chris Matthews. I shouldn't take it personally because it is most certainly not about me. Being called an idiot shouldn't phase me. It is about Terri. It's about the Church. It's about Christ.

Collecting insults from tv/blog pundits eventually just wear at you unless you respirate them out in prayer and journal. Praying for them may sound condescending given my own beams but it is spiritually medicinal.

Nall blog-hates the Christian right. Most days I don't visit her site, but see my blog title. But we can't fight fire with fire. By definition a follower of Christ can't spew hatred for hatred. A conservative radio host in Cincinnati said this morning that he's been getting hate mail you can't believe from pro-Terri Christians concerning the Schiavo case, littered with G-d's and m-f's.

Chris Matthews this morning reacted viscerally to Don Imus's saying simply that he liked Sen. Santorum. Matthews was outraged that Sen. Santorum recently said a prayer before that Schiavo special Senate session because they didn't have a chaplain. He said it shows we're heading towards a theocracy. So Matthews is okay with having a chaplain say a prayer before a senate session but not a senator? The paranoia and hysteria over Christianity these days is surreal and beginning to seem demonic.

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The common flippin' cold. How bad can that be? Yet I always have vague imaginings that it's strept throat, a nascent pneumonia, a vast decline.

I'm always impressed by my low threshold for pain. I almost made it through the winter unscathed but now have a cold now and it's fellin' me. I think women deal with pain better than men because they have that monthly cycle thing going on and because men (or at least I) can go through vast quantites of time feeling no pain. And that's not even while drinking.

Speaking of drinking, I need a Guinness iv. I had a single Guinness last night and it was nectar of the gods. Nothing soothes a battered consitution and aching sore throat like a cold Guinness.

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

 

Spent Saturday afternoon wandering the confines of Half Price Books. I was looking for a Joan of Arc biography. I’ve been increasingly fascinated by her and a recent Discovery show led me to wanting a bit more information behind her decision to disregard her voices and leap from a sixty-six foot tower while imprisoned. (She survived the fall, which is a sort of metaphor for our spiritual life – our sins are not always fatal.) I found a biography but didn’t buy it since I can find it cheaper on the internet. Still, I wondered amid the print and amassed numerous books which were eventually defragged to just four (spent $20).

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Sleep hath been restored the last couple weeks. The anti-allergy medicine I was taking seems the likely suspect. Know Claritin, no sleep. No Claritin, know sleep. At least for me it’s worked thusly. Sleep has been so delicious that I’m reluctant to leave the world of dreams. They seem so damn interesting, at least until I wake up, when they seem disappointingly banal. For example, I dreamt we named our intramural basketball team “The Solzhenitsyn’s” only because we felt if we lost at least we’d have the compensation of being able to say we could spell Solzhenitsyn (sp?). The world of dreams has that compellingly deep engagement to figmentary things.

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Saw a 1948 picture of Uncle Bob at Grandma’s place today. He looked thinner, smaller and more Connaught-y than I expected (the latter is laughable – I expected him to look like the Byrnes’s?). He intrigues me more than most of my ancestors because Grandma said he was a good person, because he drew a very lovable young lady to him in marriage (who told him he'd have to quit drinking for one year if she'd marry him (he refused and never married)), and because he was a very functional alcoholic. Anyone who can make not just a living but a good living while drinking heavily earns my interest if not necessarily my admiration.

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Like a dog dripping drool from its lips in tenderloin anticipations, so did I come to this desk wanting to “drop the leash”. Ready to let fly some pent-ups from anecdotes stacked like IHOP ‘cakes.

Two gilt-swords opened new territory in my closely monitored, barbwired soul: one was that “we’re in this together”. The everlasting lie is to assume that our progress is our own responsibility. I got a glimmer of God saying cheerfully “we’re on the same team here. I may be the judge, but I’m not a neutral observer.” And I knew for a sliver that my job is to do the best I can. It’s a joint effort. Also I can’t hold myself solely responsible for the conversions of people I scarce know, or even people I know well. My tendency is to always consider it a fact that if Catholics acted like the receivers of unparallelled gifts, as we are, then no one would be other than Catholic. This tendency, while having something to recommend it, is a recipe for personal disaster. And while it’s true that the only thing wrong with the Christianity is Christians, the fix is not instanteous. There’s no “saint in a day – just add water” formula.

The other beauty mark on the day was the consoling Easter homily of the gentle priest at St. Ann’s in Hamilton. While I regret missing Mass at my own parish on Easter, I am rarely disappointed at St. Ann’s. With a burst of song the jubyls began: “Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Our triumphant holy day!”. Oh and to say the Glorious Mysteries on the Glory Day! To begin with the Mystery of the Resurrection on the Feast of the Resurrection!

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

 

At the risk of sounding like I'm into phrenology, somehow the respective lawyers of the Schindlers & Schiavo look the part, don't they? The cherubic-faced Shindler lawyer & the hardened Schiavo counsel.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

 

Leaving nothing unpublished, even if it's already published, vol 2:

When I begin flagging energy-wise I have 2-4 tablespoons of nutritional Brewer's yeast in milk at breakfast. This allows more latitude in my "sins" of sugar/caffeine/alcohol.

Of course, the problem is if I'm low on energy I don't have the will/energy to eat right. The very definition of a viscious cycle.

But don't do as I do, do as I say.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

Following my policy of leaving nothing unpublished, even if it's published elsewhere, here's a comment I made on m'Lynn's blog:

Walker Percy is so much more lyrical than O'Connor. His prose is dreamlike and sensuous. O'Connor's is so intense and relentless that like Recovering Owl I need break. O'Connor's letters ("Habit of Being") though are beyond wonderful. I sense O'Connor was a much better Christian alas. At least that's what Shelby Foote said about Walker in a collection of letters I read between the two of them. Foote said something like "you're not a Catholic writer like O'Connor".

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Monday, March 21, 2005

 

One of the things I'd hoped for was that St. Blogs become a network of pray-ers. But our influence sometimes seems marginal at best. Three bloggers once on the brink of Catholicism - Crystal, Thomas of ER & Camassia - appear to be shrugging indifferently. I know conversions are the work of God but it is hard not to grow discouraged when prayers seem long unrequited.

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Sunday, March 20, 2005

 

The ALS patient died yesterday.

He worked at my wife's shop.

He was brave and gentle and heroic as
his muscles failed one by one by one
over years until he lost breath
and there was suffocation.

I wanted to cry bitter tears for this
man I scarcely knew
just for the outrage of it
this macabre death
this slow freeze.

The butterfly flies aloft now.

Pray for me John.

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He was too glad to see my wife. That was my first thought. My second that he looked the part of uninteresting social climber, a typical corporate aspirant. Probably read management books and acquired sleep at night by counting the commas in his paycheck.

He had opaque oval blue eyes and wore a gay green party hat on his head. He had a cat-like alertness that seemed to implicitly say: "I am more alive than you!". This passed through my mind while being introduced to him, before I could dismiss them as uncharitable thoughts.

"This is Eric...this is the one I was telling you about who read "Dawn to Decadence".

I looked at him with renewed interest, curiosity even. So this was the dedicated reader my wife spoke of. Who'd read the magisterial Jacques Barzun, the wise man of history who'd written an 800-page book describing the fall of the West from 1500 to the present.

"You two are exactly alike," my wife said.

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Our long national nightmare - winter - is over. The air is temperate; one can relieve oneself on long hikes without risking frostbite of the urinary tract. The dank smell of earth hangs over the landscape like the hawks that return from climes warm. Tell me, why do we call someone of low intelligence a bird-brain when birds have the sense to get out of Dodge when it turns cold?

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Friday, March 18, 2005

 

I’m so ready for some deep reading (no theology, politics – those nerves have been plucked). “Out of Africa” comes to mind. Something soft and warm and challengingly unchallenging. I haven’t sunk my teeth into a good long read in awhile. Sure there was an hour or two with William Trevor last weekend, and that was healing, but I have greater need for reading than I’ve been giving it. And certainly I can’t go Mon-Fri like I did this week without reading. Where do the nights go? I don’t know, they gets squirreled away quick enough.

Got to thinking about my past. I’m amazed at how I’ve changed from my Thoreau days when I felt no responsibility. The results of course are the same – I’m little use to anybody – but now I’ve got the guilt. Yea. Ach, well, Elvis is dead and I don’t feel so good myself.

I've been remembering the sweet times at Sanibel in '03 for some reason. Though the beach was cool, there was time spent rhapsodizing on the sun deck reading Russell Kirk. Reminds me of youthful outings at the old Benninghoffen pool in Hamilton and the sun deck of the old place where there was the sun batter’d us and the quiet lulled us. The beach at Sanibel was too windy, the gulls too gully, and walkers too walky. There was also something special about the moment on the porch beside the shade tree overlooking the pool. Sometimes a vacation is worth it for the ten minutes it imprints on your memory.

I wonder how important books are to a vacation. Is it the Kirk book that “made” the ’03 Sanibel trip and the Pearce Oscar Wilde bio that made Hilton Head ’04? Perhaps. But I do remember some warmth coming off that Sixth Pence book that gave a gilt edge to the cruise.

The problem with January vacations in general is they put you behind the black ball. You’re behind the curve vacationally-speaking. You become stingy through February, thru March and even into April and May. It’s only June, July & August that you let the floodgates open. But Feb-May is a burdensomely long stretch attended, at least in February, by meager light levels and cold temps.

Whine, I'll serve no whine...as it's said of the military grunts in Lipsky's "Four Years at West Point": "they're only happy when they're complaining".

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Imagine my surprise when my company (who I tease, but who has been very generous with me) gifted me with something called a "Cell Mate". I'm thinking, oh, great, who will be sharing my cubical? But no it turns out it's a thingie that clings to your dashboard and holds your cellphone in place.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

 

Had interesting discussion with a co-worker, a daily Mass goer who described her frustration at the fact that her previous parish priest was a child abuser but was generally beloved and forgiven because he was gregarious and warm and all those things people apparently want in a pastor. Their current priest is less liked because although he's a good administrator and dutiful and thoughtful, he is more reserved.

I'm glad I was able to bite my lip and not say what I was thinking. I was thinking that his gregariousness should've been the first clue that he was cheating on his vow of celibacy. (You know the joke about how women know when their man is cheating - he's suddenly happy.) The most gregarious males are the ones who have regular sex. Adulterers are often charming. JFK was charming because he was living off the thrill-drug of sexual addiction. Some refer to the Black Dog of depression; what color is the dog - the burden - of horniness?

Sex makes men happier, so the celibate priest lives with a sort of handicap, which, of course, is a part of his heroism. Celibate priests are more necessary than ever if only to prove it can be done. So give me reserved faithful priests any day of the week.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

 

Got linked by Disputations today, which is like being called before the Inquisition: the purpose isn't to praise but to damn, and the best you can hope for is to escape with your life. Which I think I did, more or less, especially given I'm David against Goliath...

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Saturday, March 12, 2005

 

Spent another night tackling the blocking pillows. How frustrating to have to work for sleep! An oxymoron if ever. Part of it is knowing that the next day is our St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and I wanted to have a full rest behind me. Alas if wants were satisified we’d all be our own faeries. Especially where sleeping is concerned, the most Zen-like of activities. One must die to yourself to sleep, die to your thoughts, die even to thoughts of sleep.

Sleep is always much more difficult when I’ve not read much or exercised much. We watched a movie and most movies stimulate without satisfying. Books satisfy me, I rest in the print, like when reading William Trevor’s shy stories of Hibernia, sucking at the teat of Irish nationalism, familiarizing myself again with the touchstonic figures of rurality replete with anachronistic tinctures like ‘meanness’ for ‘stingy’, to whit:

‘That was my turn,’ Lairdman protested, just a little late.
She wouldn’t care for such meanness, Boland though. She’d notice when it began to impinge on her, which in time it would: these things never mattered at first.


Trevor writes in “Third Party” of the dull provincialism of '40s rural Ireland. And perhaps there is something to the dullness of the provincial American life, rife with trivialities, that requires some level of physical activity and mental activity to sufficiently tire mind and body in order to sleep. The level of discourse on IMUS or O’Reilly is surely higher than what I’d find in my ancestral pub in Ireland, no? Would we not be talking of racehorses, of gambling, of the local politicians? Perhaps I go too far in ascribing banality to strictly American life in a television age. There’s a longing awakened when I read Trevor for something more, for classical music, for Shakespeare, even while I know that these things shouldn’t be used as means to an end – i.e. a good sleep - and even while knowing that these things are as dirt before the real mission in life.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

 

Watched Dan Rather's last broadcast and somehow I expected a Nixonian moment: "you won't have Dan to kick around anymore". But none came.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

 

purblind joy
at an unexpected half-day
earned at the elbow of late-night overtime
Jack pulls rank dismissively
buries me till midnight
but foals a day off!

the day’s middle-hours exploited
her middle-thighs
wondrous to behold
or hold
whichever comes
first.

the sky the shade
of blue-white the sun
still regnant
Burbank on the radio
accompanied by Pogues and the scent
of laundry in the middle-distance.

The maples are budding and
I hear birds I can’t recall--
things are happenin’ jack!

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Winter is a kind of Lent in and of itself. Denial is a way of life in a season that, by definition, limits. There are no caressing breezes of the south wind, no consoling visions in green. The dirt is hard, iced, not compliant to your ancestrally-conditioned hands, hands made for feeling the soft body of earth in an Ireland made temperate by the surrounding seas.

Embedded in late winter comes Lent and I feel sorry for those in the Southern Hemisphere. The Church was tailor-made for Western Europeans, the feasts all placed for maximum benefit to the Northern Hemisphere. Dec. 25 rightly comes near the equinox when light begins to increase; St. John the Baptist’s feast rightly comes just when the light begins to decrease to give witness to “I must decrease and he must increase”.

Lenten prescriptions are just that – prescriptive. Healing. Much as I am loathe to admit it, I’m thinking that at some point spiritual progress can’t be made without the purposeful withdrawal of inherently good things, like eating, blogging. There are few better ways to assert who is the Boss. That only God matters. Lent is cleansing. I’ve learned this Lent not to try to be who I am not. I am not Tom of Disputations, who is learned and seems focused only on the things of God. His particular charism is more OT prophet-like than mine. I yam what I yam, says Popeye, but so is the “everyman” Christian from the gospel reading last week. He received his sight, but only in degrees.

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Willie & Waylon sing: "Back in Luckenbach, Texas, ain't nobody feelin' no pain".

True, because they're all drunk and don't have jobs.

(Just teasin' Texans, so save your emails. :-)

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

 

I'm a sucker for quirky little things in songs. Like in Dwight Yoakam's great "Guitars, Cadillacs,..." where he sings "another lesson 'bout a naive fool who came to Babylon...".

Only he pronounces "naive" the way I did as a kid, rhyming it was "rave". There's something a little naive in that, hence the kick.

Another simple song I enjoyed was Travis Tritt's "Here's a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares". There's a line about his ex's "sordid affairs", which sounded near enough to "assorted affairs". For some reason I liked the latter better.

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Friday, March 04, 2005

 

Saturday morning last and I couldn’t find a fishing show. Man, it’d been so long since I’d seen one. All I could think was 150 channels but no Saturday morning fishing shows.

I finally found some atrocious “Bass Master”, the Hollywood-ization of fishing shows. The producers apparently watched too many NBA pre-games because it was all rock music and spot lights and stage sets. Nary a lake or river to be seen.

I’ve had such a hunkering for the simple life lately. The Daytona 500 was like a salve. I miss my country music days, the line-dancing, the summer days of wine & gardens. The quiet tendrils of the tomato plants spiralling around the stakes, giving off the scent of memory...

***

In spring the valley hints of rain,
the sky torn till rains
water the thirsts
of newborn plants.

In summer trees grow rings
of girth, leave leaves
big as your hands while
grasses muffle steps.

In fall colors grow festive
restive, a bullion soup
of hue falling at your feet
like seraphim before the Throne.

In winter, oh winter,
what is winter for?
He wondered at
leaves dead, composted,
only to grow again.

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All the angst over what is historical and what isn't in the bible seems a bit beside the point, doesn't it? Do I treat Genesis 1 differently than Luke 9? No. It's all inspired. Is it my business whether God chooses to teach through a story or through a historical occurrence?

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

 

GK Chesterton offers the sage advice that we only drink when we're happy. I've found that to be wise since alcohol tends to accelerate the prevailing mood. The obvious deal-killer in this is that I'd rarely get to drink! Fortunately St. Patrick's Day approaches and that great Irish music always puts me in a good mood, as does my friend Ham o' Bone. Slainte!

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The enigmatic Gregg the Obscure returns after a 15-month break from blogging. He mentions that "refraining from blogging was very difficult" and I'm sort of awed by the discipline it must take to quit blogging cold-turkey for that long. My Lenten regulation is not to blog before noon and that actually feels onerous, if you can believe that. KTC admits to being a publicity hound, as am I, and said she could never handle a SiteMeter. I gave Sitemeter up for Lent and it was the sort of sacrifice that paradoxically feels like a burden lifted.

Blogging has taught me that I can't handle fame and that I should avoid it (though I suspect that won't be a problem *grin*). The lust for recognition, for "attaboys", is something I never felt in my real job. But I do feel it in blogging, oddly enough. What inexorably happens is you begin to substitute human props for divine, and that is precisely where madness begins.

I wish Gregg the Obscure had "said more words" concerning what led his to his decision to forego blogging. He did mention his energies could be better used elsewhere, and that is understandable. I certainly feel the same way. But I think what drives over-blogging is that lust for hits, for recognition. So if you salt-peter the drive by taking down SiteMeter and limiting blogging time - with a stopwatch is how Julie of Happy Catholic does it - then it seems you can do it without it taking too much of one's energies. Or so I think aloud.

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