Wednesday, February 29, 2012


"the scrabble tournament is held in the crazy horse saloon, which is decorated in an english version of a western theme. the men's bathroom is marked BRAVES. I buy my 1st irish whiskey of the morning at the young dudes bad and look around the room, which is packed with 100 little card tables, each of which is equipped with 2, 3, or 4 spindly folding chairs with seats made of hospital-green plastic. some damaged person has assembled tiny darly little silver pie tins, with diameters equaling no more than 3 inches, each containing a wizened fruit pie, into perfect geometric stacks on dozens of tables where there aren't any people.

"...I secretly hate scrabble, for the simple reason that anyone hates scrabble, which is that I am bad at it, and because words aren't a game. a single word can destroy a person's soul, his faith in humanity, and other serious assets. no one who understands the exigencies inherent in language wants to waste words on a scrabble board.

"...the impact of tile on tile is muffled in a way that seems to suggest something fucked up is happening inside the bag. good letters are being exchanged for bad...I feel like every time I start to love rock and roll again my favorite singer kills himself, or else I run into some...asshole wearing black-rimmed glasses and a t-shirt that reads THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE FUTURE."

--from "letter from minehead: underacheivers please try harder: indie rock reunites on the english coast" by david samuels in the may 2011 issue of harper's magazine

I love to play scrabble. every night before we go to sleep my wife and I play at least a few hands of a game. we play a variation app on our cellphones called "wordsmith" the 4 nights a week she's staying in a little room in the center of the hub while doing her clinical experience. in our 20+ years of marriage we've owned and played multiple versions of the game, from the original board game to a special travel version to the game she downloaded to her palm pilot some years ago (and that we're likely to replace soon since the palm is dying the slow, merciless death that electronics are heir to) that we've found works best. for me, it's somewhat like an easier version of crossword puzzles cuz I don't have to make connections beyond a single letter and the words I use tax only my vocabulary and not my knowledge.

but I also dig why some people don't like the game. it can be time-consuming (sometimes we play a speeded-up version in which each of us has only 30 seconds to play--I'm especially a timehogger when coming up with words) and it can be annoying and 1 can feel pissy when a particularly well-crafted game suddenly goes titsup at the acquisition of that bastard "q" tile.

still, I don't think there are too many games that have as intrinsic an appeal as scrabble. it's a good icebreaker and a good game to play while drinking beer (hard liquor might kill off too many braincells to make it worthwhile). I've never played it while smoking herb but I can imagine that, like a 2nd summit, it would help 1 loosen up and allow the words to flow more smoothly.

Monday, February 27, 2012

white boy in harlem

here's a quick bit from a reflection paper due today in my class on multicultural foundations for helping and healing professions, triggered by a classmate's story from last week's meeting:

I grew up a couple hours north of New York City and for me and my friends there was nothing to going to The City for a day to wander and see shows and experience something outside the norm. But even we shied away from Harlem. The stories about what happened to white kids in Harlem, while we scoffed at them, still kept us from seeing what the place was like. When I was a junior our school sponsored a bus trip for a couple Broadway shows. The bus I rode on broke down in—you guessed it—Harlem. The driver radioed for another bus and we huddled inside while a crowd, looking curious, gathered around the bus. Even Chris, one of the few black students at our school, said he wasn’t going out in Harlem. Finally, Klaus, our typing teacher, bless him, said, “Why are you hiding? Get the hell out of the bus” and pushed us out to talk and mingle with people. We were surrounded by men and women who asked if we were all right, where we were from, where we were going, clucked appreciatively when we said our bus had broken down, and offered to snap photos of us together, give our driver directions to avoid the busier streets, told us stories about where we were (our bus had broken down just a block from the Apollo Theatre and that was the first time I’d heard it spoken of as a place that still existed—I suppose until this time I’d thought of it as a place that had closed down long before), and just generally helped us pass the time until our replacement bus arrived. We piled on, waved goodbye, they waved goodbye, and it instilled in me a love and fascination with Harlem. I began to see a complexity to ideas about it, where for many the place evokes danger and the ghetto but for many others it suggests hope and community. I understand Bill Clinton’s decision to have his New York office in Harlem—Clinton, justly or unjustly celebrated by Toni Morrison as our first black President, recognizes the optimism and future suggested by the best of Harlem. I suspect he feels at home there, enveloped by a community whose language he speaks and whose concerns he shares. At the same time, I recognize his and my privilege in being able, as white men, to feel safer in Harlem than many black men or women feel in, say, rural Bemidji or parts of Duluth. Perhaps because of the persistent media stereotypes about black men, most black men have a stake in proving them false, and Clinton and I can count on that, while the same may not be true for rural Minnesotans (although it also may; I know when I traveled in the Deep South I came across a lot of people, white and black, especially in Birmingham, who went to pains to disprove what had been said about them).

Friday, February 24, 2012

varying shades of gray

a few weeks ago I found a copy of bruce sterling's 2002 book tomorrow now: envisioning the next 50 years in the $1 bin at a buns & noodles in the hub and I've been impressed both by the way he writes and the optimism which his book gives me. you'd think the guy who helped define the word "cyberpunk" would be more interested in dystopia, but the world he proposes isn't a utopia either. it's like today, only moreso, and with fewer hypocrisies.

this essay on the ethics of using currently ethically-challenged technology to create more ethical technology caught my eye and strikes me as something in that same optimistic vein. I think most people like me fear that, once we have recognized and admitted our privilege, we need to give it up in order to make the changes we know need to happen. but writers from jon sobrino to karl marx to the gospel authors tell us that's not the case: we need to use that privilege to help other people. as leonard writes in relation to social networks and action, "Just because action is easy doesn’t make it irrelevant." it's easy for me to give a 30% tip to a server at a restaurant and that's certainly not irrelevant.

if it's irrelevant to do the easy action then we're stuck in the spanish prisoner's dilemma of doing nothing because for most of us the harder action is useless too. if I give up my privilege and go to work in foxconn's factories in taiwan, what exactly have I done? have I helped anyone? will I have bettered the life of the teen worker next to me or bettered the life of the single mother who would have gotten the job if I hadn't taken it? will even my life or my identification with the oppressed have been improved? it isn't necessarily a false either-or, of course; a third option is that I could forget it all and ignore both the plight of the workers and my own privilege and go on with my consumption and affluence.

jesus and marx both said that the way to personal salvation is through helping others who aren't doing as well as you are. the bodhisattva takes it a step further and actively refuses his own salvation until everyone is saved. how ironic and perfect if the way to do that is the judicious use of the "like" button.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

our origin in origen

[this is last sunday's sermon which is a revision of 1 I did 5 years ago.]

I once met up with a fellow on the trail that runs by my house. My dogs and I had been out for about an hour and were heading back home when coming from the opposite direction I saw someone I took at first to be a farmer who lives down the road who I sometimes run into. But as he got closer I saw this fellow was a good deal younger than the farmer and a little shorter and walked with a different, swinging gait.

I put the dogs on leash until he got up to us and told him they wouldn’t bite but would bark and sniff him all over. He said he had dogs too and that that was all right, so I let them loose again. We got to talking. He’d moved into the area recently and was in school, and so was his wife, and he just liked to walk heedless on the trail at this time of the morning. This was earlier than I generally walked the dogs, so I said that was likely why we hadn’t met up previously. I pointed out the direction of our house and mentioned the trail was part of the reason we’d decided on moving here.
At first I figured he’d keep on walking past once he’d met up with the dogs and we’d head on home, but he kept talking and the conversation was pretty good, so I stayed there and the dogs romped around and we talked some more. We swapped names—his is Jeremy—and eventually I asked him what school he attended, expecting to hear Stout since it was nearby, although I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear Chippewa Valley Tech or Indianhead. But he said, “Well, actually I’m getting a degree in ministry at Northwestern.” I said, “I’m at United Theological.”
So there we were, two seminarians in the middle of the woods—it almost sounds like the setup to a joke: “two seminarians, a Christian and a heathen, walk into the woods…” Naturally we got to talking about religion. Now, I was familiar with his seminary—Northwestern College is one of the more conservative evangelical colleges in the Twin Cities. Their website says their vision is to “light the way” as Christ-honoring education, business and community leaders. Alumni tend to work in what they call media ministry—Christian broadcasting (including those evangelical stations I like to listen to) and with fundamentalist newsgroups like The Religion Desk and Skylight.
Now, I was familiar with his seminary, but he wasn’t so with mine, so he asked a lot of questions about United and about liberal religion in general. He had come to Christianity after decades of alcoholism and drug abuse and found a refuge in it, a position I understand if not entirely endorse, and I said I’d come to much the same conclusions except they involved Unitarian Universalism. We’d been walking together for a while by then, and I wasn’t surprised when he turned to me and said, “I’m afraid I don’t know anything about your—Unitarianism, did you say? What’s that?”
Being a good UU I had my 10 second elevator speech ready—“what matters most is how we treat one another in the here and now”—and he took that in, and I should have been expecting it, but I guess I really wasn’t, when he followed that up with, “Why do you believe that?”
Understand, this wasn’t a hostile reaction or something aggressive. This was an example of two religious people who both took their beliefs seriously and wanted to take the other person’s beliefs seriously, so he was asking for something he could latch onto and say, “I understand that. I can fit that into my experience whether I agree with it or not.” I said, “Well, the divine inside us seems to call out for love and compassion, not only for ourselves and our own but for as many as we can help.” He digested that and then he said, “The divine?”
“Yeah,” I said. “God, the Higher Spirit, the Connective Force, the Great Unknown. We call it a lot of different names.”
“Why not just call him ‘God’?”
“Some of us do,” I said. “But a lot of Unitarian Universalists are uncomfortable with that language so we use what we’re comfortable with.”
He took that in and we talked some more, and then he said, “But you don’t believe in the reality of the Triune God?”
“Some of us do,” I admitted. “Most of us don’t. The Unitarian in our names is all about the unity we see around us, the spark that connects us with one another and with other beings.”
He nodded and then started explicating his belief in a supernatural and personally involved god that was a very articulate theological understanding of his experience and there was much of it with which I could agree. With one exception, and I pointed that out to him—I said, “You presuppose god is separate from us.”
“Of course. He created us and we have to accept him.”
I said, “Unitarians are more like Buddhists in seeing a continuity between us and other things.”
And he said, “Why’s that?” And the truth is, I could answer that for myself using my own experiences to explicate it, but I was unable then to trace the history of thought that evolved into present-day Unitarian Universalism.
We parted at the trailhead by the road that leads to my house with a hearty handshake and a shared decision that we really needed to get together to talk again sometime. And I came home and started to look more closely into the history of why we think the way we think.
I think it’s safe to assume that most of us aren’t too proficient in knowing how Unitarian Universalism started or where its ideas came from. That we are Christian heretics is a notion all of us have at least a passing familiarity with. I want to focus for a moment on the heretic part of that equation. Heretic, Jack Mendelsohn says, is a Greek term meaning, literally, “the ability to choose.” He writes
Heretics are persons of independent mind who…do not simply accept beliefs because they happen to be dominant in the society or because they are taught by their churches, but they accept them on the basis of their own testing, their own independent choice. They consider different possibilities and are able to choose.

I start out by talking about heresy because our origin begins with one. Origen, an early Christian church father who lived in the later Second and early Third centuries, was eventually outed by authorities 600 years later as a heretic. From Karen Armstrong:
Neither Origen [as the leader of the catechetical school in Alexandria] nor [his predecessor] Clement believed that God had created the world out of nothing (ex nihilio), which would later become orthodox Christian doctrine. Origen’s views of the divinity of Jesus and the salvation of humanity certainly did not conform to later official Christian teaching: he did not believe that we had been ‘saved’ by the death of Chris, but that we ascended to God under our own steam.
Armstrong points out that the important thing to remember is that at the time Origen and Clement lived and taught, there was no official Christian doctrine. It was not for a hundred years after Origen’s death that Christianity began to attain its codified status with the Council of Nicea in 325, and it was several hundred years after that that the mossyness and rigor mortis set in.
The early years of Christianity were a fervid time of idealism that, frankly, proved to be a pain to the later authorities. I keep track of these –isms by means of an acronym, like the HOMES that reminds us of the Great Lakes. I call it LiP-THAND. This stands for Liberal Christians, who don’t necessarily believe in the divinity of Jesus but believe in the teachings of Jesus; Pagans, who celebrate the interconnectedness of life and whose adherents may believe in gods or goddesses that are themselves facets of larger divine sources representing life-affirming qualitative; Theism, a belief in a single god who may be personal and supernatural; Humanists, who represent the “functional ulitimacy” of the many flavors; Agnosticism, in which religion and spirituality are intrinsically unknowable since evidence is inconclusive. There are also Naturalists, who believe that nature is all there is, and which breaks down further into Atheism, an active disbelief in the existence of a supernatural god, Religious Naturalism, for which sacredness and good and evil are a part of nature and a way of experiencing the world, Pantheism, in which all things taken together are god, and Panantheists, for whom all things are in god. The final letter stands for Deism, the belief that a so-called intelligent clockmaker has set the clockwork in motion and then stepped away. By the time of the turn of the First Millennium, all but the most conservative definition of Theism had been declared heretical.
Before we get too excited about our connection with Origen, we need to keep in mind a particularly uncomfortable example of the messiness of the way people live their lives. During his particularly zealous youth, Origen took as his own teaching Matthew 19:12, which states:
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.
Some scholars have given Origen’s self-castration an interesting twist, saying that he did so in order to be able to teach women without hint of scandal, and Armstrong goes to pains to remind us that
Castration was quite a common operation in late antiquity; Origen did not rush at himself with a knife, nor was his decision inspired by the kind of neurotic loathing of sexuality…[It] may have been an attempt to demonstrate his doctrine of indeterminacy of the human condition, which the soul must soon transcend. Apparently immutable factors such as gender would be left behind in the long process of divination, since in god there was neither male nor female.

I’m sure Origen had his reasons and I don’t see much reason not to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, it’s also worth noting that later he wrote an exegesis of the Gospels in which he fervently advocated against literal readings, specifically of Matthew 19:12. Received opinion has it that this was a part and parcel of his ascetic insistence against literal interpretation of most of the words of Jesus, but I’ve got to believe that there also has to be some niggling bit of buyer’s remorse in his strong condemnation.
Origen also introduced the notion that evil and suffering, far from being the result of the machinations of a supernatural agent—Satan—was rather the abuse of human freedom which was necessary for the achievement of good. This was seconded later by Thomas Aquinas and, a millennium and a half later, by philosopher G.W. Leibnitz, who coined the term Theodicy (theos die, literally “the justice of god”) to describe the existence of evil in the best of all possible worlds; its shadow is necessary to highlight the attractions of the world.
More importantly for our consideration, though, is the other notion Origen came up with. In the work On First Principles, Origen noted that, “One could pity but not censure a being totally deprived of all capacity for recognizing goodness and doing what is right.” Origen saw god as apophatic, that is,
perfect unity, invisible and incorporeal, transcending all things material, and therefore inconceivable and incomprehensible. He is likewise unchangeable, and transcends space and time. But his power is limited by his goodness, justice, and wisdom; and, though entirely free from necessity, his goodness and omnipotence constrained him to reveal himself.
Origen concluded that, if god is pure love and his divine punishments therapeutic rather than retributive, and if all creatures are freed by god to act on their own decisions, then everyone is redemptive, up to and including the bugaboo Satan. This is the doctrine of universalism in its earliest form. The ultimate act of Christ will be to deliver the kingdom to God and then god will be in all. This universal reconciliation or universal salvation holds that a god who is all good cannot withhold her—remember the indeterminacy of the human condition and god’s lack of gender—her benevolence from one willing to accept it, which it is the Christ’s duty to provide to all souls.
This is a fundamental of Unitarian Universalism. Everyone is capable of redemption, however you want to consider redemption to be. For me, it’s the notion that each of us can, in some sense, make up for past harmful acts, preferably to the person or being we harmed, but where that’s impossible then in some connected way. Let me give you an example. When I was living in my car people were often good to me, giving me money when I needed it, rides when I needed them, shelter when I needed it. These things didn’t manifest themselves when the need arose, nothing like that, but happened eventually and randomly. As my form of payback, I help others when I can. For instance, I once ran across a car stalled on the ramp off I-94 and a couple rummaging around in the trunk. I stopped and asked if they were all right. The man, a tall, strapping truck driver, told me they were on their way to Chicago and a belt in the engine had split and the car stopped. I said, “I don’t think there’s anything I can do about that, but I can take you to find another belt.”
Well, what with one thing and another, it took a while and three different stores for us to find the proper belt. It took me about an hour and half to get these folks back to their car. I don’t offer this as an example that I am doing things better than anyone else, although I do doubt that Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum would have pulled over. The woman offered me money for gas, for helping them, but I said, “No, you may be likely to need that before you’re finished with your trip.” They said, “God must have put you in our path,” and at one point the man, who rode beside me, did one of those little half-Catholic, half-charismatic crossing-and-delivering-oneself gestures I’ve seen among evangelicals. They shook my hands time and again on getting out. Later, on my way home, I drove by to make certain the car was gone, and it was.
This is my Universalism in action. It is because I believe in the redemptive quality, if not necessarily in other people but in myself at least, that I am willing to put myself out a little for their benefit. I told the couple, whose names were Richard and Dardonel, that it was my pleasure to help them, and it genuinely was. This is my heaven. Conversely, if there is a hell, it is also one of our own making. A Buddhist teaching holds that Heaven and Hell are exactly alike, two long tables heaped with food and with six-foot long utensils. In Hell everyone is frustrated at the impossibility of feeding themselves, while in Heaven everyone feeds the person across the table.
I haven’t run across Jeremy on the trail since that time which is too bad. He’s the sort of thinking evangelical charismatic I often argue that the bulk of the movement relies on. Perhaps it’s a part of my Universalist history to look for points of concord between me and people who might otherwise disagree with me, but I think that if we were to articulate where our beliefs merge, and they certainly do, it would be at this point: we both envision a point at which even Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum happily and willingly feed the haggard homeless and the aimless alcoholics sitting across from them. And in so doing they find themselves equally nourished.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

haunted by hayrolls

we're absolutely haunted by the presence of hayrolls here on the rim. every field has dozens either dotting it or lined up along 1 end--usually closest to the road--and there is a field every other mile. this time of year the hay smells of sweet decay, the scent of mouldering books and the tar or pitch or whatever it is that coats twine these days. the tang blends too with the odor of woodsmoke, oak or cherry or cedar or pine, that wafts off the roofs of farmhouses we pass.

when I walk my dogs this time of year I have to be ready for the sudden snap of wind that slaps me at the tops of hills until my face feels flayed. I'm taking a course in buddhism now, which is like drinking coffee with an old friend, and getting back into practice as much as I can. I practice tai chi most mornings and meditate while walking. but the monkeymind--the name zen writers give to the ceaseless roil that's in our minds--in me is strong. one is supposed to turn off monkeymind but I don't think mine has ever even slowed down. it's like a springfed stream in me, constantly refreshing and splashing and bubbling and babbling. I try to let it go by without focussing on it and sometimes that works and sometimes it is a woodpecker knocking against the walls of my brain.

I don't live in silence much--I have the radio on all the time in my car and in the house, and even when I'm walking with the dogs I have a constant litany of 1 or 2 songs rumbling through my head. today it was this tune, altho why I couldn't tell you. there's also the roar of the wind across the snow and the crows and the faroff trainwhistle to the north and the rumble of trucks on the interstate and gravel crunching under my feet. it's a symphony.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

identifying where I came from

I remember when my dad brought home our first television in 1967. It was a portable black and white set with rabbit ears. It was a Saturday morning and the first thing we watched was cartoons. Due to my mother’s influence we also watched coverage of MLK’s and RFK’s murders, the moon landing, and the Watergate hearings and Nixon’s resignation. There weren’t many books in the house aside from the World Book encyclopedia my mother bought as a hedge against our ignorance and a couple dozen assorted paperbacks and hardcover classics they’d accumulated, and the soundtrack to my growing-up was a mixture of Johnny Cash and Mitch Miller.

My parents came from rural western New York and nearby Pennsylvania and were the first of their families to go to college, although my dad dropped out after his first semester. Both became professionals, my mother a teacher and my dad a banker. My dad’s father was a factory janitor and his mom raised the six kids; my mother’s parents were farmers, although her mother had been a teacher at thirteen because she was the eldest in her area. She eventually gave birth to over a dozen children but only four lived past infancy. My folks married in their late 20s and steadily moved their ways up their respective fields until their retirements in the early 1980s. Since they thought of themselves as thoroughly modern—they’d done the Twist with Chubby Checker at the Peppermint Lounge, after all—they divided up family responsibilities: my mom was in charge of food and raising my sister and me, while my dad took care of the cleaning and laundry. Since they’d depended on gardens during the Depression, real food to my folks came out of a box or a can—only the desperately poor eat anything directly out of the ground—although they retained their love for comfort food of bread and milk. I was raised in the country, and while I’ve lived in several big cities, and in some ways prefer them, the “make do” attitude of country people I grew up with informs my decisions.

I was born in 1960 in their trailer. I was meant to be born in March but didn’t show up until near the end of May. I was supposed to emerge at the local hospital but ended up making my appearance on the kitchen floor.

My sister followed three years later but at the hospital. We moved three times between my birth and hers, and then moved another three times before I left home. Afterwards, my folks went on to move another four times. All the moves came within a single rural county. Each house was progressively larger until my final place after which they moved into progressively smaller places, often renting. Then they moved back to their home area. A few years ago my cousin who has a store in Austin, Pennsylvania, not the middle of nowhere but a place where you can see it, offered my folks his mother’s home after she’d been placed in a nursing home. It’s a converted doublewide trailer. They’ve lived there since. My mom died two summers ago and my dad has decided to remain.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

broader but shallower

last night on my drive home from class I stopped in at a buns & noodles to read the copy of century: 1969 I'd spotted there about a week before. I've really enjoyed the league of extraordinary gentlemen stories alan moore has written over the past decade, and maybe what I enjoy even more is the little visual and verbal contemporary memes he and his artists smuggle into each story, sometimes jampacked into each panel. in the most recent I twigged onto most of the big ones, like the semimajor figure of jerry cornelius who I'd expected as he's a moorcock invention of that time period (and moorcock's kane of old mars had appeared in the 2nd volume), but also the major characters of turner and pherber and jack who I hadn't expected because, unlike moore's other pilferings, they aren't literary. (I've also something to say about the uproar over moore's complaints that dc comics are pilfering from him by releasing new before watchmen comics based on his seminal work, which is this: moore is a braggart and a bully and a genius and he is right.)

at any rate, much of the little sidling things that kevin o'neill put in, like the patrick troughton dr who of that period and andy capp, were really good. but the thing I most appreciated about the book and the thing that I wanted to comment on was the nostalgia I felt reading it for an era when there were secret pockets of information and experiences that were hidden from most people (and mostly found through selfselection). some were right on the surface and freely available, like the village voice of that time and the carlos castenada books. for others, like times square and woodstock and be-ins and dope, you had to seek them out and in some cases you had to know someone who knew someone.

today it seems different, as if every experience is available at any time in some way through the internet as a repository of other people's experiences. those experiences were available, in some form, back then too, but it took time and effort and just plain luck and dogged pursuit to tease them out. I suppose I'm bemoaning the loss of a kind of elite adventurer, of which I was only modestly ever one, a person who knew the codes and where to find things and if he didn't knew someone who did and might be willing to give them out in trade.

I'm not sure I'm complaining about this change entirely--I think it's good that formerly cult tastes like occult kung fu movies or lovecraft's cthulu stories or gutbucket music can be easily found by anyone with a search engine--but there's something different in it, a patina of knowledge that can be laid over a broader but shallower knowledge. I miss the days when I could only find a gang of four album by spending time in a holeinthewall shop on a new york sidestreet and only knew about gang of four because I'd read about them in spin--in its early days, the punker rolling stone made a little more punk by its relation to penthouse--and heard a single tune on erik erikson's latenight overnight show on wdst, long after the squares had shut down for an early day tomorrow. back then I needed weeks or months to make those circuitous and accidental connections. now I can do it all, even the listening, in a half hour.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

another lousy intimation of mortality

it's not as if I need reminders of my mortality. but yesterday I woke with a tremendous gutache that took over my day and left me sleeping on the couch for roughly 12 hours. not a big deal, I knew even then, something that would take up my time for a while and then drift away, which it did.

but then I went to sleep & at 1130 my wife woke me, crying. she had yawned and heard an audible "snap" in her jaw and couldn't close it again. I thought she was waking me to tell me someone had died, she was crying so. voila, my stomach pains were gone. I jumped into clothes that smelled almost as badly as I did after a day of no showering or brushing my teeth, and we zoomed to the local rim emergency room where she was told her jaw had been dislocated. she was put on morphine and then given traction to her jaw. the sound of bone against bone was the same sound you might hear with concrete scraping together just under the water's surface, but the morphine was so potent she fell asleep during the procedure. we left there after 3 hours and today she's exhausted but healing.

between my mother's birthday a few weeks ago, my father-in-law now in his 7th month of hospice, accompanying a resident to her mother's funeral last month, visiting a friend 2 weeks ago at mayo after he'd smacked his head on a cement floor doing something very stupid that, even though we know is stupid, we do because we're human, the admission to actively-dying status for a favorite resident at the facility where I continue to fill in for chapel services and listening, and the pair of ulcers that have appeared on the right eye of 1 of our dogs (probably courtesy of 1 of the cats), it would seem I don't need any more reminders of my own frailty.

still, of course, it's not about me, and as I preached in chapel last week, it's about the resiliance of the human body and not about its susceptibility. we bounce back sometimes until sometime we don't . these are moments in people's lives that remind us or should that we are mere meatsacks reliant on a simple skin sheath to protect us from the dangers and discomforts of life. the sheath can take small pricks and big holes, although sometimes a small prick is all it takes to bring the whole edifice crashing down. if my own experience of this weekend is anything to go by, we need the occasional 12-hour crash in order to avoid the bigger 1. that's as it is.

take it easy, slow it down. death comes in its own time and we shouldn't hurry it along.