Tuesday, April 26, 2005

And now for something completely different . . .

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924. Part One: Life XXVII I ’M nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody, too? Then there ’s a pair of us—don’t tell! They ’d banish us, you know.    How dreary to be somebody!       How public, like a frog To tell your name the livelong day To an admiring bog!

Anyone Can Think this Poem is Sad and Noone Disagrees

92 (95 Poems) i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling) i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true) and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart i carry you heart(i carry it in my heart) ee cummings

Monday, April 25, 2005

Cheeky Monkey

I took little Miss Blondie to a baseball game. She was dying of boredom until she realized there was a prize to be gained: a baseball from one of the men warming up in the bullpen. Never mind that it was the team playing against the team which had given her a free ticket for reading so many thousands of minutes. She had a goal: cute guys with something she wanted. She's eight. I didn't know whether to be proud or embarrassed as she held her tiny glove over the barrier and yelled for the pitchers and catchers to give her a ball PLEASE!!! Such stick-to-it-iveness, such feminine wiles, such audacity. She did not give up even though they ignored her and the fifty other kids who followed her lead and began chanting for a ball. But blonde girls always win (at least they did when I was a mousy-brown haired girl), and the catcher gave her a smile and--the coveted prize--a ball. With profuse thanks, she held her trophy high and beamed with pure joy. I couldn't be sad for all those brown-haired boys and girls who didn't win because she's my daughter, so I felt like I won, too. Once the ball was in hand, she was determined to have it signed by EVERY single member of the opposing team. Her defection was complete. Indulgent parent that I am, I let her. It was a nice day, there were no male-gendered family members chomping at the bit to race everyone else home. We stood outside the locker room door, and she and her little blonde cohort caught each one of the players leaving and reeled them in. They were glad to sign; fans of any age are nice. It didn't hurt that they were breezy little blonde girls who didn't care that the team had lost. Goal achieved, ball signed, last car out of the parking lot. We headed home filled with the joy of conquest. As her father and I debriefed the day, we shared concern that she is too preoccupied with beauty and getting what she wants. But there are two sides to that coin. I don't think I ever had the guts to do what she did. To risk humiliation or disappointment because I wanted something so single-mindedly. At least I don't remember it. Maybe she didn't win because she was cute or loud, maybe she got the ball because she was tenacious. Probably a combination of the three. I guess my job is to help her take that quality I lack and use it for good and not evil. We have a friend who, in addition to being blonde and beautiful, is good. Her name is always trotted out in these conversations about beauty and character--WWCD? She is a model my cheeky monkey would do well to follow; she is tenacious about all the things that matter in body, mind and spirit. If my girl grows up to be even a little like our dear friend, she will be successful. As for beauty, I am attracted to it too. I admit to thinking the same thoughts about the pitcher from whom she was trying to win the ball. She came by her love of beauty honestly. It's part of who we are, and our challenge is to love beauty in all its forms, not just physical (especially male). To worship the One who gave us the beauty not the beauty itself. My cheerful one is who she is, though, and I'm proud of her for being more than I am. I'm charmed because she's beautiful, not just in her face and body, but in her joy at life, her doggedness, and most of all, her chutzpah.

A Shower of Ideas

Why is it that creativity happens at the most inopportune of times? I can sit in front of the green glowing thing on my desk for hours and have not one single original thought, and then I go take a shower and the floodgates open. With the stream of water comes a torrent of ideas I cannot dam up. And worse, I cannot remember. How shall I catalogue the genius that flows when the water hits my body? For as soon as I dry off, the ideas have dried up as well, and I can barely remember my times tables let alone the pure wit that visited me as I washed up. Cruel muses. I shall hire an assistant. It will be his (or her) job to listen to me talk aloud and jot down my ideas in very neat handwriting (too damp in the bathroom for a computer). I laugh with glee at that thought, for who would sit in a small, clammy bathroom jotting down the rantings of a middle-aged woman talking to herself and fancying it to be inspired? More laughter then because of course my assistant would need to be pleasing to look at as well as excellent with pen and paper, and I sincerely doubt there are any Orlando Bloom look-alikes clamoring for this particular job.


This one, this Gandalf to my Frodo, laughingly derided himself for eschewing ritual in true independentfundamentalbabtist form then practicing it in his prayer life. He prayed in the same order every day (me first of course :) and felt that God was having a laugh at his expense. Perhaps He was; no He definitely was. I began to think about rituals, for I too had written them off as bad in theory while practicing them every day. I realized that it is the rituals that save us, or at least me, when we cannot save ourselves. The Protestants, always doing what their name says, left ritual behind because it had become empty and formulaic--devoid of the meaning they so desperately sought in their lives. Then a splinter group protested against the rituals the Protestants had developed and formed their own club, again seeking meaning. But they too, fell into the trap of rituals, for is it not a ritual to have the same order of service every Sunday, to have the same schedule every week, to be expected to wear the same thing as everyone else? Rituals, all (and less meaningful than the original ones). Admit it. If you won't, I will. So I found a church that revisits the rituals: the Lord's Supper, Advent, Lent. They are rich with meaning if we seek the substance within the form. If we allow our hearts to be quickened by what they represent. I have picked up the baby that someone threw out with the bathwater and found it to be beautiful. And then there are times when our hearts (my heart) cannot attain to the level of pure worship, and we fall back on ritual. It can become a barrier to knowing God, but it can also be the vehicle that propels us toward Him until we have the strength to rise and speak our hallelujahs. Each day I perform a ritual. Only God and I know about it. It is an act of obedience to Him that has long since become ritual alone. The substance beneath the symbolism is dead and my heart with it, but I do it in hopes that God will restore not only my heart but the worship behind the ritual. In due time; in His time. I know it is the ritual that saves me because it calls me back to what is true, what is right, what is lovely. Had I no ritual, I would have no reminder to walk in faith as Abraham did. I would gradually slip away into the sea of despair. It is my little practice that moors me with the anchor of faith that God will reappear. I do it for Him whether I feel like it or not and know that He hears the deepest part of me worshipping. Worshipping with a ritual.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Playing Now in the Theatre of My Mind

"Tell Me Where Is Fancy Bred" (From "The Merchant of Venice") Tell me where is fancy bred, Or in the heart or in the head? How begot, how nourished? Reply, reply. It is engender’d in the eyes, With gazing fed; and fancy dies In the cradle, where it lies. Let us all ring fancy’s knell; I’ll begin it – Ding, dong, bell. Ding, dong, bell.

nobody,not even the rain, has such small hands

LVII (from W [ViVa]) somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond any experience,your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose or if your wish be to close me,i and my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending; nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility: whose texture compels me with the color of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing (i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens; only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody,not even the rain, has such small hands ee cummings

and number one on my charts

I always used to freak myself out with this one: in Just- spring when the world is mud- luscious the little lame balloonman whistles far and wee and eddieandbill come running from marbles and piracies and it's spring when the world is puddle-wonderful the queer old balloonman whistles far and wee and bettyandisbel come dancing from hop-scotch and jump-rope and it's spring and the goat-footed balloonMan whistles far and wee It still gives me chills. (from Chansons Innocentes, I)

it's all in your perspective

10 (from 95 Poems, 1958) maggie and milly and molly and may went down to the beach(to play one day) and maggie discovered a shell that sang so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and milly befriended a stranded star whose rays five languid fingers were; and molly was chased by a horrible thing which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and may came home with a smooth round stone as small as a world and as large as alone. For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) it's always ourselves we find in the sea ee cummings

anOther blast fromthe past

29 (from 50 Poems, 1940) anyone lived in a pretty how town (with up so floating many bells down) spring summer autumn winter he sang his didn't he danced his did. Women and men(both little and small) cared for anyone not at all they sowed their isn't they reaped their same sun moon stars rain children guessed(but only a few and down they forgot as up they grew autumn winter spring summer) that noone loved him more by more when by now and tree by leaf she laughed his joy and cried his grief bird by snow and stir by still anyone's any was all to her someones married their everyones laughed their cryings and did their dance (sleep wake hope and then)they said their nevers they slept their dream stars rain sun moon (and only the snow can begin to explain how children are apt to forget to remember with up so floating many bells down) one day anyone died i guess (and noone stooped to kiss his face) busy folk buried them side by side little by little and was by was all by all and deep by deep and more by more they dream their sleep noone and anyone earth by april wish by spirit and if by yes. Women and men(both dong and ding) summer autumn winter spring reaped their sowing and went their came sun moon stars rain ee cummings Maybe it wasn't adolescent angst after all; those words still grip me all these eons and miles and scars later. To my anyone from your noone.


49 (from 95 poems) Here is the poem that my faulty memory sputtered out: 49 (from 95 Poems) noone and a star stand,am to am (life to life; breathing to breathing falming dream to dreaming flame) united by perfect nothing: millionary wherewhens distant,as reckoned by the unimmortal mind, these immeasurable mysteries (human one;and one celestial)stand soul to soul:freedom to freedom till her utmost secrecies and his (dreaming flame by flaming dream) merge--at not imaginable which instant born,a(who is neither each both and)Self adventures deathlessness

Thursday, April 21, 2005

You're Not Getting Older, You're Getting . . .

I can literally feel myself aging as I wait for pages to load on my dial-up Internet service. We live in an age of instant gratification, and I have to admit I like that. Waiting stinks. The lines on my face increase, the gray clashes with the colorist's scheme on the palette of my pate. My blood pressure rises to boiling. Getting digital would cost more, but it might prevent the inevitable stroke waiting in the wings of my impatience. I run from side to side on the teeter totter of economy and self-preservation. Which will win? Today it's self-preservation. I know I need to be more patient. It's at the top of the charts in the list of "what it takes to love" in 1 Corinthians 13. I've even been schooled in the mountains of waiting and had fair success in the scaling of them. But it's in the molehills of patience where I fail. The snippy tone instead of a kind word to my children; the smile instead of the one-fingered salute to yet another egocentric suburban driver; I fail again and again and again. I'm not getting older, I'm getting what I deserve for my impatience--more impatience. The old saying "God give me patience and give it to me now" is killing me softly with his song. I wish to be patient, but is there a website at which I can order it, charge it to my maxed out credit card and have it delivered to my door by the cute FedEx man? If so, URL STAT SVP. In school, I hated failing tests. I was a would-be perfectionist. I wouldn't always study, but I would always want a perfect grade. Yet in life, I fail tests everyday. The test of having to wait to speak a calm word, the test of sitting quietly while the webpage loads (and loads and loads and loads), the test of using intentional or unexpected stalls in my day for eternal benefit like praying or meditating instead of swearing and tapping my fingers agitatedly. The world doesn't revolve around me (or so I tell my kids, meaning, it doesn't revolve around you, it revolves around ME), but I keep failing the tests God gives me to learn that. I keep hoping He'll change the play book and it will revolve around me. I guess we all feel that way. So the opportunities to learn patience keep coming. Thank God. Thank Him that He IS, unlike I, patient. And whether I believe it or not, He actually wants me to pass the test. Maybe that's why there are so many retakes. One of these days, I'll actually be getting not just older but wiser, and like the old timey commercial says, not older but better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

It's a Small World After All

I just found out I know someone who lost a loved one in the train accident that occurred in January in California. A man tried to commit suicide by leaving his car on the train tracks. He bailed out at the last minute, realizing he didn't want to leave life, but he took that decision away from eleven other people. A family I know lost a dear uncle, and their lives will never be the same. It struck me that the strands holding the universe together are so interwoven we cannot see all the connections. Occasionally, however, we get a sense of the oneness that binds us. The game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" is not that far off. Reminds me of the ee cummings poem from '95 Poems' (1958): No one and a star stand am to am Flaming dream to dreaming flame . . . It's all so interconnected, and yet we feel so isolated. Such is life on the Bent Planet, no matter how small it seems.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Oh Say, Can You See?

His Italian roots are showing. My nine-year old son got back his quiz on "The Star Spangled Banner" today. He wrote "Oh say, can you see by the don's early light?" You toucha the light, I breaka you face.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Fool on the Hill

I watched Larry King last night for a few minutes, but I could not stomach the president of the American Athiest Soceity (or whatever they call themselves). I kept expecting (hoping?) for her to fall over dead in an evident judgment from the Sovereign of the Universe. And yet, as far as I saw, He did not--allowing her to breathe His air to and walk on His firmament to blaspeheme Him. I wanted action!!!! Punishment!!! Then I remembered the words of George MacDonald's poem from The Diary of an Old Soul, June 13th mediation: Faster no step moves God because the fool Shouts to the universe God there is none; The blindest man will not preach out the sun, Though on his darkness he should found a school. It may be, when he finds he is not dead, Though world and body, sight and sound are fled, Some eyes may open in his foolish head. Humbled, I removed my judge's robes and was thankful that I too had been spared the judgment I so greatly deserve.

In Search of Self

On recommendation from someone whose opinion I value highly, I am reading Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning." My favorite part, so far, is found in his preface to the 1984 edition. It reads like this: "Don't aim at success--the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run--in the long run, I say!--success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it." Wow, that's just about all I can say, wow.

Mmmmmisplaced Mmmmmodifier

I am sitting here on hold waiting to talk to a virtual banking representative. Is the banking virtual or the representative?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

All in All It's Just Another Branch on the Wall

I sat and waited in line today, as is my wont, outside the cleaners this time. Am I dirtying the air as I idle waiting for my clean shirts? That quandry is for another day. The squat brick building was basking in the bright afternoon sun, and I found myself entranced by the light and shadow on the brick and even more by the vine that was just beginning to bud on that sere surface. The leaves, faintest of green, burst their baby heads out to revel in the light. And I wondered, how does a plant get that tenacious? And secondly, does school always have to be in session, God? If a little tendril, a vine that looked dead two weeks ago could cling with a death grip to the side of a building, pushing itself into the mortar and brick, what could I be if I would set my mind to it? I guess I must ask myself if I'm willing to be that "stick-to-it-ive," that able to make something from seemingly nothing. More to the point, am I willing to let God cast the seed of me into the most barren of places and to bloom where I'm planted? To live for nothing more than to bring joy to Him because He's the one who cast the seed there and caused it to grow against all odds? I know the questions are not mine alone. They are yours, and ours, but most of all, they are His. How could they be anything else when they are begotten by a vine on a brick wall at the dry cleaners?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

You've Made a Fool of Everyone

I just finished reading a novel for my book group (The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini) which I felt dragged to, kicking and screaming. I'm not normally drawn to books of that sort, but once begun, I was swept into its universality and spat out at the end knowing I am much more like the protagonist than I'd like to admit. He, Amir, spent his early life being jealous of, vindictive to, and failing to protect the innocent who would have died for him (Hassan). "For you a thousand times over," his servant/friend/brother told him. And though betrayed again and again by the one he loved, Hassan never stopped loving, never ceased believing, never gave up the hope that good would prevail. As the heroes in the "Hall of Faith" of Hebrews 11, he" died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar." Hassan set his love upon Amir and deemed him worthy of that love, regardless of whether Amir's actions, words or feelings lived up to his devotion. Another interesting facet of the story is the meaning of the character's names. Amir means prince. How little like a true prince among people Amir acted, and yet how much like a prince often truly is (e.g. Charles in charge): spoiled and selfish. Hassan means handsome. An ironic name to give to a hare-lipped Hazara. And yet, he was handsome in his unselfish devotion to everyone is his life, especially Amir. That type of devotion is often thought of and portrayed in literature and film as weakness. We mock those whose hearts are pure, who are willing to look beyond the faults, to turn the other cheek. We see ourselves as superior to them, more highly evolved. We nudge, nudge, wink, wink with droll irony. Picture Jesus at his trial and crucifixion. He didn't defend himself, he (like Hassan) was willing to suffer pain and degradation for his friends. To the spectators he was the ultimate wimp. Like Amir, perhaps we assent intellectually to unconditional love, but when it comes our way, we turn uncomfortably. Is it because to be unconditionally loved reveals us for what we are--imperfect, in need of an affection that sees us for who we really are and still cares? Our pride gets in the way. How dare that person love me in spite of my faults? What faults? What's more, it never seems to be the one we want the love from who loves us. Amir didn't desire Hassan's love; he wanted his father's. Are we not the same? It's never quite right. God loves me? That's nice, but I want so-and-so to love me. I'm the Amir: give me what I want. But in the darkness of night or the haggard face of the early morning mirror, we long for someone to know our true selves and not turn in horror, the love Hassan had for Amir. He knew that Amir knew his secret, he knew Amir betrayed him, and yet felt somehow he was at fault for not loving Amir enough. He forgave even when the forgiveness wasn't desired. In the end, he was the one who lived with joy amid the poverty and pain because he was handsome--in his soul. Amir finally learned to receive the love that had been offered to him his whole life, and the novel ends hopefully. We, too, must learn that being loved unconditionally is not the bondage we deceive ourselves into believing it is, but rather the freedom we so desperately seek. Accepting the love that loves who we really are and hopes for who we can be brings solace to our hurts and repairs our brokenness. When we learn that God's love--accepted and embraced by loving His Son--is what we need, we actually reveal to be fools those who still seek their hearts yearnings in everything but the Love that Will Not Let Us Go.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Wild Yams (Not to Be Confused with Wild Grapes)

Having an eight-year old in the house is like having a free subscription to the Comedy Channel, without the F-word. My daughter flitted through the kitchen this morning in all her blonde glory. She stopped at the fridge to peruse the shopping list for the health food store (to which she had previously added the words "Hot fudge" and "Caramel"). With a shriek, she told me there was no way in the world I could force her to eat wild yam. "Okay," I responded, "It's not for you. Why won't you eat wild yam?" "It's gross!" She wailed. "Alana, do you know what wild yam is?" I asked her, knowing she wasn't a big tuber fan, but thinking her response was a little off the charts." "No." "Well, what do you think it is?" "It's some kind of wild cow." I disabused her of her notion, and we both laughed. Relating the incident to her father, his response was that passion without information runs in the family. How true. What endears her to me the most, though, isn't that she's a cheap laugh (though she is with high frequency), but that she can laugh at herself. That's a gift from God not many people have. Too often my pride gets in the way of realizing what everyone else already knows about me: I am quite ridiculous. Today I will try to take a page from my bright one's book and sail through life filled with zest, able to laugh at the silliest of things--me.

If I Was a Rich Girl

Gwen Stefani took the time-tested Fiddler on the Roof lyrics and glitzed them up for our modern age. Now, if I was a rich girl, the first thing I'd do is look up someone from another musical: Henry Higgins-- to help with with my diction and grammar. Alas, rich people like Gwen with their homespun hood dialect don't got no need to talk right. She and Eminem make their money sounding like the downtrodden, even though they are choking on their own wealth. One of the ironies of life, I guess. I kept finding the "Rich Girl" lyrics stuck in my head after watching the Pepsi commercials pimping free iTunes in every third bottle. I am addicted to iTunes, but not enough to drink Pepsi. So I bit and I bought the Rich Girl song. iTunes is taking away my retirement ninety-nice cents at a time. But it feels so good. It's interesting to listen to the lyrics of songs. If you have ears to hear and a heart to learn there's much to glean. The song talks about the thrill of having all the money in the world, but the singer realizes, in the end, it matters not at all without the love of the desired one. "All the riches baby, won't mean anything All the riches baby, don't bring what your love can bring All the riches baby, won't mean anything Don't need no other baby Your lovin' is better than gold and I know." Jesus referred to that in the Gospels. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Matthew 16:26) We seek after so many things--fame, wealth, security, even love. Those things have their place, but each of them is a counterfeit for what is real, what is better than gold. None of those things will fill the God-shaped hole in our souls. We are forever dining at the banquet of plastic fruit, forever sitting in C. S. Lewis's barn of "The Last Battle."* He offers us the Water of Life, the Bread of Life, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and we spit it out and call it straw and dirty water. We'd rather eat the ersatz because we prepared the meal ourselves. We clutter our souls with everything that doesn't fit and refuse to embrace the only thing that does. In the second part of "Rich Girl," Eve sings, What? It's all love What? Give it up . . . What happened to my life? Turned up side down . . . You know you can't buy these things There is a lesson to be learned, at least from where I'm sitting. Give it up--I can't buy me love or anything else that really matters, for that matter. But if I take what Christ offers, then I become the Rich Girl I've always wanted to be. It's on a grander scale though, like moving from my Easy-Bake oven with the forty-watt bulb to cooking on a brand new Jenn-Air. It's seeing the New Narnia and wanting it. Or believing, as Gwen so aptly put it, "Your lovin' is better than gold and I know." *In “The Last Battle” the final Chronicle of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, Aslan the Great Lion, welcomes Lucy and Edmund and Peter and their colleagues to the New Narnia – to what we might call the Promised Land – or Heaven. It’s an astonishing place where everything is more real and substantial than anything they had ever known. It is a place so rich in depth and color that the mere sight of the most ordinary thing takes your breath away and makes you weep for the sheer beauty of it.   But then, in the midst of all this splendor, the children see a group of miserable dwarves huddled together, convinced that they’re sitting in the rank stench of a barn – a place so dark they cannot see their hands in front of their faces. Lucy is so upset that the dwarves are not enjoying the New Narnia that she begs Aslan to help them see. Aslan replies, “Dearest, I will show you both what I can and what I cannot do.” And as he shakes his golden mane, a sumptuous banquet appears before the dwarves. Each dwarf is given a plate heaped with juicy meats and pies and trifles and ices. Each receives a goblet filled with the finest wine.   But when the dwarves begin to eat, they complain: “Doesn’t this beat all! Not only are we in this stinking stable, now we’ve got to eat hay and rotten cabbage!” When they sip the wine, they sputter, “Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a donkey’s trough!” These dwarves, Aslan went on to explain, had chosen suspicion instead of trust. They were prisoners of their own minds. They could not see because they would not see Aslan’s gift of a New Narnia. And so, amid indescribable beauty, he could but leave them alone to the hell of their own devising.   (Thanks to Rev. Alan Jackson for his synopsis: http://www.westminsterpres.com/sermons/sermon_02-13-05.htm)