Wednesday, March 31, 2004
So I'm wandering around the seminary and I pass a stack of books. I ask another person who has been there longer than I what the books are for and they tell me, "Oh, they are free books." My eyes bug out of my head, because lying right on top of the stack are two practically brand new books. Good books too. This one, and this one. That's just the kind of thing to make my day. And, I'm getting excited for intramural softball beginning soon. We've got our first practice this Saturday and I already got my glove out! I can't wait!
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
I was flipping through my archives a second ago to find a reference for a friend of mine and I noticed that my posting of March 6, 2004, wherein I gave a synopsis/review of Kelley Eskridge's book, Solitaire, and saw that there was one more comment posted there than I recalled reading before. So, I clicked on it and much to my surprise and delight, the commentor was Kelley Eskridge herself! What a treat and a surprise to hear from the author! I suppose I should check archived blogs and comments more often. Has anything cool (which is a term that can rarely be applied to a blog site!) like that happened to you on your blog?
In New Testament class today, AKMA was talking about what he termed an "economy of signification". (Maybe someone else termed it that, but he at least used it.) The discussion that followed focused on why things mean what they mean to the people they mean them to. As an example, he used that portion of the greater constellation of Orion called Orion's Belt. Why is that when some people look up and see three stars aligned with each other in a row, that they attach to it the notion of "belt"? What is "belty" about those three stars? And to whom? If I had never heard the legends about the great hunter, could I look up at the night sky (in the Northern Hemisphere, of course), see those stars, and conclude that they represent Orion? No. I can do that now though, because I have been told by others, to whom I ascribe authority in these matters, that those stars signify Orion, the hunter, and that if I could only imagine lines drawn in a certain way, connecting those stars, then the picture would become clearer. So, which stars matter then? Well, only those that are said to matter, of course. What about those stars that fall within the perimeter of the shape we now call the constellation of Orion, but do not make up part of the intended picture? No, they don't matter because they are said not to matter. So, my signification of those stars is informed by what others have said. And not just any other person, but only those that believe they "know" this thing. So, then, the question is, does this ever change, and how so? Will Orion ever become something new? What if the middle star in his belt supernovas? Maybe it already has, and we're still waiting for it to be made apparent to us.
By way of illustration, I thought of the Ghost of FNB. None of you have any idea what that is, so allow me to explain. During my college years, I returned home to Florida every summer and winter to work at First National Bank as a teller. I discovered, over time, that there is a great rate of turnover among the lower echelons of employment in a bank. Well, during my first summer, I went to work with one other person on a Saturday. Only two tellers worked on Saturdays and then it was drive-thru only. The lobby of the bank was locked up, and presumably, no one else was there. (The potential security risks of this are apparent to me, but I guess never were to the management.) Anyway, while we were working, we heard some clunking noises and the shifting of heavy objects coming from upstairs. I decided to go investigate, again, given to the security concerns. My circuit of the upstairs compete, I returned to the drive-thru unable to report any findings. There was no one up there. Then we heard the noises again. A little concerned now, I went up again and still found nothing. I came back down. A little while after this, the noises happened again. Now we were really worried. So, I went up a third time only to find one of the loan officers shifting some file boxes and picking them up to take them to his car. He was using the back staircase and every time we heard the noises, by the time I got up there, he was down in his car. We kept missing one another. So, we laughed about it and on Monday morning told the tale, joking that it surely must have been the ghost of FNB, before revealing the actual culprit. Over the next few weeks, we developed a whole goofy story about how someone was murdered up there and now they haunt the file room and all that good stuff. Well, the years came and went and after a long time, I was one of two employees left there who knew the original story. New employees heard the story and several believed it to actually be the work of a revenant. When we informed them that it was actually just a joke, that there was no ghost, and did they want to hear the real story, we were reprimanded sharply for not believing in ghosts and told that we just didn't know the truth. All attempts to convince them that I was actually there when the "truth" happened were a failure. So, economies of signification, like all economies I guess, can and do change. If supernatural beings can be created simply by strong belief in them, as Neil Gaiman postulates in his silly book that I wrote about last Saturday, then there is a mighty supernatural force to contend with in the upstairs file room of the Fort Myers branch of FNB right now. I maintain that the mighty force is still just a loan officer, but nonetheless, one with which many have to contend!
[It needs to be stated that the above should be read in the context of the class' discussion, which was focused on the Gospel of Mark. What does this idea of an 'economy of signification' have to say about the Gospels and how they are read, taught, preached, and lived?]
From my February 10 posting most of you will know that my diocese's conference center, DaySpring, is a special place to me. Many of you who read my Blog know DaySpring as intimately as I do, and so could respond to my words with reactions, memories, thoughts, and prayers of your own. I am very excited to report that perhaps, maybe more people will be able to do so, as that February 10 reflection was recently published in the DaySpring newsletter, DaySpring Today.
Monday, March 29, 2004
I was fascinated by Paula's discussion that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has, or purports to have, the Ark of the Covenant. I was under the impression it was lost, but I guess not according to the Ethiopians. (If Indiana Jones reads this, I'm sorry man, that was just a movie.) During that discussion I was reminded of another Ethiopian story (cause I just know so many). We were suppossed to discuss the rise of Islam and how that affected Christianity and really defined some of its boundaries, but we never got around to it. So, in my despair, I thought of the story detailing how when the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH*) and his followers fled Mecca, some were captured by the Abyssians (Ethiopians) and taken before their King, who was Christian. One was chosen (I think it was Abu Bakr, but I'm not sure) to speak to the King. The King asked them if they were Christians and Abu Bakr said no, they were followers of Allah and his Prophet (PBUH). He then went on to explain their faith at the end of which, the King drew a line in the sand and said, "I am on this side of the line of faith and you are on that side. But, we are so close we can touch each other." Apparently, because of this, the King spared their lives. Now, it has been a while since I read this story, so if I got the details confused, pardon me, but I believe I captured the gist.
*Peace Be Upon Him - in deference to any Muslim readers I may have, I included the blessing here typical of their writing and speech.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Parts of the world that is, not me. Read what happened in Arlington, WA. To boot, how do you like the opening line?
I spoke briefly with Mason tonight, on the telephone. (As a sidenote, he had expressed some concern over my most recent answering machine message. He said it wasn't funny like it usually is and left him depressed so that he couldn't leave a proper message, because it wasn't predicated by his normal bout of laughter. Call back again soon Mason, I hope you'll be satisfied.) He told me of blog site address, which will be dealing with a field appropo for him: technology. If you know Mason at all, you know he's a techie nut and maybe even a techno goon. The latest gadget, he's got it or is on his way to the store to get it. That's why I liked living next door to him in college. (Well, that and plenty of other good reasons, like friendship and all that jazz, of course. I love you brother!) He mentioned his inspiration came from conversing with a computer science professor at one of the doctoral programs to which he's applied. The professor said that if you weren't surprised at least once a day by something happening in thier field, then you're not paying attention. In any event, I proudly bring you my good friend, Mason, and his techo-watch site. Though he doesn't have much time to post regularly right now, he hopes for those circumstances to change shortly, and he can live up to the being surprised once a day and reporting it quota. Enjoy!
Right before I graduated college, I announced to myself that it was time for me to take something up. Every now and again a man needs to take something up. A real project it must be, but as far as subject matter it can be anything really. Some prime examples include a particular card game, a fancy liquor, fishing, exercising, the study of a language, another attempt to consume a Bennigan's Monte Cristo in one sitting, an expensive weekly social engagement (dating), etc. You get the idea. So, I searched my thoughts and decided it'd been a while since I'd seen a good mafia flick. But, recall, I wanted to take something up, so I couldn't just go out and try (likely in vain) to find a good mafia movie I hadn't seen. This left me only one option - to take up watching The Sopranos. I was four seasons out of four seasons behind, but not to worry as my best buddy Griffin has them all on DVD. More than likely, he'd have no pressing engagements over the summer, so I knew it was a safe bet as he'd want to watch them with me. In fact, he'd been suggesting it for a while. So we did. Four seasons of the Sopranos in one summer. And I'm hooked. Now the fifth season is on and I look forward to it every week. So, to get to the point alluded to in the title, I was watching the new episode this evening and two characters were conversing over lunch. One says to the other, "Have you ever read 'Madame Bovary'?" In reply, "No, who wrote it?" "Gustave Flaubert. I think you'd like it. It's almost the perfect novel."
You may have noticed I broke a tradition of linking you to the amazon.com page appropriate to whatever book I am talking about. I won't do it here. I can't. As a matter of principle. I don't want you to even for a moment consider buying this book. "Madame Bovary" is quite possibly the worst novel I have picked up in my life. There are no redeeming qualities to it. It is not entertaining. It is not a gripping tale. Hell, I don't even think it's written very well. I've spent the better part of six years trying to forget I ever held it in my hands. And now this. One of my favorite indulgences, watching the Sopranos, has to go and not only mention it, but mention it in the context of "a perfect novel". I'm completely close-minded on this issue, so don't bother trying to convince me otherwise. That's all there is to it.
After a brief bout of forgetfulness, I have finally finished Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I took it with me to read while I was in Florida and accidentally left it there, which is indicative of how I felt about the story - forgettable. I wasn't overly impressed with any aspect of the book - characters, plot, or style. It wasn't awful, by any means, but it was somewhat less that good. I thought the storyline - the deities of every culture losing power/strength because no one believes in them anymore seeking to do battle against the gods of modern culture: media, money, internet, etc. - was weak. The idea was a good one, the execution however was poor. Gaiman takes his plot, which could have been weaved into an excellent story, down a predictable road to mediocrity. The character development was virtually non-existent, thus the ultimate predictability of the story. There were a few moments that were very interesting however and those were what kept me going through the book. However, there were plenty more times when I found myself cringing as Gaiman took what could have been made into decent subtleties and spelled them out for what he must assume to be a moronic reader. The last sequence in the book was so boring, anti-climactic, and, did I mention highly predictable, that it is no wonder I forgot it at home and had to start another book on the plane trip back. Then, when I did it back through the mail, I found I wasn't all that interested in finishing - but I make a point of seeing things through to their conclusions, so I read the final 80 pages I was lacking. Now, thank goodness, I am done and can move on to -
Robert A. Metzger's Picoverse, a hardcore science-fiction tale of a small group of scientists who, in their search for new energy sources, stumble upon the ability to "create" new universes, but on the scale of a picometer (10-12; one step below nano-). Then, it seems, they discover a way to travel into their newly created universes, completely distorting time (one second in the "real" world corresponds to years in the "new" universe, making all sorts of weird stuff possible) and space (whole new universe to explore and discover). And, well, it wouldn't be a true science-fiction novel if there weren't some E.T.'s involved. They are scary.
So, I look forward to being able to continue this novel now, and enjoy reading it.
MASON and HUDD - this one is totally for both of you, but for different reasons.
Saturday, March 27, 2004
I just finished watching a movie that I never would have picked up had it not won an Oscar. (Best Supporting Actress - Holly Hunter) The film, Thirteen, is a picture about Tracy, a thirteen year old girl in the seventh grade who is a model student and child. Until, that is, she meets Evie, the most popular girl in the school who introduces her to a world outside her bubble. It is a world of boys, sex, drinking, drugs, tattoos, and piercings. Tracy's mom is a single working mother who cannot afford to spend time with her children and the movie is largely about how Tracy and her family slowly disintegrate. It is hard for me to believe that all that goes on in the movie would be possible in the life of a thirteen year old, but the film makes it startingly and painfully real. I think it was a good movie for me to see, in light of my future ministry, to help me to understand how something like that could happen and the systems (or failures thereof) complicit in making it possible. Evie and Tracy do things that I would like to think most thirteen year old girls don't know about, but I understand that is a naive way of thinking. I thought back on when I was in the seventh grade, and realized that I was aware of drugs, drinking, sex, et al. as well; I just never acted on any of it. Plenty of people I knew did drugs, though usually they stuck to marijuana. Drinking was present but only became common in high school. Sex was the same. In the eighth grade I was in an AV class with about eight girls, all of whom I was friends with and over the course of that year became privy to their weekend adventures via their Monday morning conversations. They couldn't wait to trade stories with one another. I was a big dork then (and some would argue still am) and listened on in fascination. I think they enjoyed shocking me. Anyway, they told stories of smoking, drinking, drugs, and sex. I guess I just didn't remember that happening so young until viewing this movie. I remember those people, those boys and girls, and when I think of those categories and those persons, I think of high school. But watching this film made me remember that the foundations for those behaviors were present in middle school. I don't mean to imply I didn't have my own rebellions as a teenager, but I don't mind saying that they were FAR less problematic that the ones in this film. So, the question for me now is: how can I use this knowledge in ministry with youth?
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
In the HCLT II course, we are required to spend a few minutes at the end of each class period and write a brief journal entry about something discussed in class or the readings that we are thinking about. Thanks to Corrine whose gentle reminder today (when I was packed up, ready to go, but confused as to why the professor had stopped talking ten minutes early and no one was moving towards the door) prevented me from making a general ass out of myself, which I usually have no trouble doing on my own. In any event, as the course goes on, I will try and post these brief ponderings. Please find below, gentle readers, my first journal entry.
HCLT II - Journal Entry I
As we discussed the history of the schism between Eastern and Western Christianity and the need for reconciliation, I thought of the fact that we are really taking one step forward and two steps backwards. So ECUSA (Episcopal Church of the USA) is going to eliminate the "Filioque" clause in the next prayer book, partly to reconcile with our Eastern brothers and sisters - so what. This may help repair a liturgical/theological rift, but ECUSA broke that chasm of difficulty and difference wide open again with the consecration of V. Gene Robinson. One step forward, two steps back. I'm not saying it's on par with the sack of Constantinople, but the effect of schism and divide remains as readily apparent.
[Further Thoughts: None of the above is to say that we should not eliminate the troublesome clause - indeed, we should, given careful historical and theological study. It just seems to me that we (ECUSA) should not phrase our reasoning in such a way as to insinuate that the reason we are doing this is to reconcile with the Eastern Orthodox Church, and then fly in their face with the Robinson consecration.]
[Even further thoughts: A colleague of mine rightly pointed out that the split between ECUSA and the Eastern Orthodox Church is far more complicated that what I have stated here. I was not attempting to be exhaustive in my thoughts. These are and will be short journal entries that reflect my immediate thoughts after class. Still though, in order to more fairly represent the case, the E. Orthodox Church's refusal to ordain or recognize the ordination of women drives the wedge further as well.]
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
When doing my reading for my Church History II class, I came across a most humorous anecdotal story. The author of the article was traveling in Athens, Greece a while back and was stuck in her cab in a traffic jam. When she inquired as to the cause of the holdup, her cab driver responded that unemployed theologians were rioting and blockading the streets! I don't know about you, but perhaps America is ripe for a similar revolution.
(I make light of this because I found it hysterical. However, I am sure to those involved, it was quite serious. What must such a riot look like? Full of slanderous sayings, no doubt. I can picture it now and it looks a lot like the Episcopal church today: "Who you calling a homo-? Homoi- bastards!" [lobs heavy object in direction of offending theologian])
I have always thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of a new school term - call me a crazy madman lunatic nutjob if you will, but its true (the enjoyment part, not the rude attributes). There is just something fresh about it: I get excited by all the learning I'm going to do during the term (though I often don't relish the footwork necessary to get there), all the new books I get to read, and, though it doesn't apply as much at Seabury as it did at Wake, meeting the new people in my classes (At Wake, the added bonus to that last point was meeting all the new pretty girls, but alas, Seabury has not the abundance of young, feminine, potentially datable beauties Wake did. I'm not sure anyplace does, really.)
A whole bookshelf full of new books is really a wonderful thing. Three that I'm particularly excited to get into are: The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics (I'm familiar with the Blackwell series as I used their Judaism reader in undergrad and am impressed with them), The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity (a straight up, decent depth, history book with many beautiful plates), and Introduction to the New Testament (after several years of really focusing hard on Old Testament studies to make up for the scarcity of study in that area I had previously done, I am ready to get into the nitty-gritty of the New Testament, especially with this professor).
In no particular order, my classes are for this term are:
History of Christian Life and Thought II: 500-1500 C.E.
New Testament I
Christian Ethics I
Pastoral Care & Congregations
I really am looking forward to all these classes and am hard pressed to say which excites me more. I guess, on a personal level, the Dreamworks class seems most intriguing, in light of my Spirituality for Ministry project from last quarter about which I blogged. My bishop sent me a letter today saying he was really interested in the work I would be doing with dreams, as he is also very interested in the subject and somewhat practiced. So I have to remember to keep him updated. Guess that about wraps it up for now. After all, it's only the first day. We only had HCLT II today and I've done my reading and designed the layout in Excel for my timeline assignments. All I have to do now is fill it in with data, but the format is completed. This will save me hours if I can manage to keep up with doing it. Perhaps I'll treat myself to my bed now with my novel for a while.
Monday, March 22, 2004
1) After talking with my mother I came to another realization. She asked, "How come this cab driver was so smart and still driving a cab?" In reply, I have concluded that I should just assume a cab driver who was not born in this country has as much if not more education as I. The cab driver mentioned yesterday had an undergraduate degree in criminal law and a masters degree in history. If the driver is American, well then, its anybody's guess, but my assumption would be not a high level of education. Why cannot these folks from other lands, educated as they are, find jobs here? Oftentimes licenses don't transfer, or there is a lack of language proficiency, or just plain xenophobia. Thoughts?
2) After talking with Cliff about my post, I should like 12 hours of my life back, spent in the Gospel Mission class on the topic of racism, to be replaced by the conversation mentioned below. It was the living, breathing, real deal, not some theoretical mumbo-jumbo "-ism".
Sunday, March 21, 2004
I stepped out of the airport last night (after several hours of delays both on the ground and in the air) and was greeted by a cold blast of wind. Yep. Back in the north.
My cab ride back to Evanston from O'Hare was amazing - I am finding cab drivers in this city generally fascinating people. This gentleman was from Tunisia in North Africa. We had a wonderful conversation about the differences between America and Tunisia, political, religious, and otherwise, and even about the differences in American life between big cities and smaller cities. Our discussion drifted towards the topic of racism and how he felt that racism was so present in American culture, embedded really. He used the word "heriditary" to describe this phenomenon and though I have never heard that word used in this context, I found myself able to agree with him. He told me that in Tunisia, there are people of all different races and ethnicities and that there really is no racism. He said you will find black people with black eyes, black people with brown eyes, brown people with brown eyes, brown people with green eyes (Barbars, a beautiful people, he assured me), white people with blue eyes and everything in between. "If people have a disagreement, it is just that, a disagreement. No one blames it on race and no one feels their blood is superior to other peoples blood." We then talked about why America might be this way and settled on two conclusions: the institution of slavery in American life, and the fact that America, in the eyes of the broader global community, is really a fledgling nation akin to a young teenage boy first discovering that he has muscles bigger than his peers and wanting to flex and flaunt them. As we drew near to my apartment, he asked what I did and when I told him I was studying to be an Anglican cleric, he said that he wished I had said so earlier because we could have had a fascinating discussion on religion. As it turns out, once we reached my stop and I had paid him, we sat in the cab for another twenty minutes and had said discussion. He was fascinated that someone who was studying to be a Christian priest had such a pluralistic outlook on other faiths (particularly his, Islam). We talked about how we had each come to believe in our separate faiths and what that meant to us, taking turns sharing and listening, careful not to judge, condemn, or attempt to convert. (If only the world could learn this!!) He asked me how it was that I could believe Jesus was God and how could I explain the Trinity. I pondered that for a while and said that it would take much longer to divulge than we really had but shared with him a few tidbits. He admonished me that, in his eyes, this was the most important thing for a cleric to be able to do - tell how Jesus is God and how the Trinity works. He believes that to not be able to do so is a failing of the religion and of the priest. When we talked about Islam, he was surprised to learn that I was familiar with a lot of the Qur'an and the faith. He shared his understanding of the belief that "al'qitab" (lit. - "people of the book", ref. to Jews and Christians) were true believers in the one God, but ones that had gotten lost on the way. The arabic word he used for this sounded something like "thaleen", but I am unsure. He then concluded that he personally believed that those who really believed in the one God, no matter what you called Him (Allah, God, YHWH) would be found one day in paradise. For the Christian, belief in Jesus is belief in the one God and I can wholeheartedly agree with his sentiment and told him so. We shook hands and parted with the words, "Assalam aleikum." "Wa'aleikum assalam." Peace be with you. And also with you. This man is truly my brother and I've no doubt that we'll see each other again one day, in the next life.
What an unusual and wonderful cab ride indeed! Have you ever sat in the cab for an extra twenty minutes and had a cool conversation, the cab driver happy to turn off the meter? I had not until now. After that, I came in, cleaned up, and went to bed early. This morning I woke, on my own volition, early and decided to go to church as there will be no Canterbury tonight because NU students are on Spring Break. I went to Christ Church in Winnetka, a few miles North of me. It was a good service over all but lacked a certain feeling of vivacity that I would look for in a church. The gospel was the story of the Prodigal Son, from the Lukan account. Immediately following the Gospel, Fr. Prevost began his sermon with the question, "Who are you?" For those who know, it is needless to say I was taken back a few years to a time when that gospel story and that question were also juxtaposed, albeit in the reverse order.
Thursday, March 18, 2004
So I went in to the doctor today for the second time, to have the tests done he wanted done so he could have their results as a baseline for my file, and also to get a vaccination he suggested before I go on my trip. So, for starters, I have been fasting for 15 hours for the bloodwork they need, so I'm starving. Then they inject me with this stuff they called Breathine, which is suppossed to do something to my breathing for a respiratory test. As a side effect they said it would make me "jittery". "Jittery" isn't the word for it. Then they have to let that sit in me for a while before we continue with the breathing test, so they do the vaccination in the other arm. Hep A. It's an incredible amount of medication to inject. I'm not finicky about needles at all, I just thought it was a lot of fluid being punched into me. So, then they say we're going to take the blood, so I set my arm out there and wish her good luck. My veins are crooked and roll, so nurses can never get the needle in the first, second, or usually third times. So, she laughs it off, as do they all, and gives it a go. Nope. It rolls right away, causing me to bleed and bruise, of course. Then she gives it a go again, trying the next vein over.
There is a very loud noise in my head, from very far away.
There are two people standing in front of me.
I cannot focus on them. Who are they?
Where am I?
I'm in a hospital? No.
A medical office coming into focus.
The doctor's office.
I came for tests.
She was drawing blood.
Ah - I must have passed out. I hate doing that.
What is that terrible smell? Get those salts away from me!
"Did I pass out?"
"Yep." I laugh. They laugh. We all have a good chuckle as they lower me onto the floor. The give me a pillow, prop my feet up, give me a soda and some cookies. They make me lie there forever until I no longer feel dizzy or clammy and my pulse calms down a bit. Doc walks by the door, does a double take at me on the floor, pokes his head in, and then says simply, "Wuss." I like this guy already! Damn. What a wasted morning. So, the combination of not eating and then the medication to make me "jittery" does not mix well with drawing blood. Needless to say by the time they and I feel like I should get up, the Breathine has worn off so I can't finish the breathing test and they didn't get enough blood. But they said, "I think we'll be done for today."
So, I went to the doctor feeling fine this morning and come back feeling bad. Isn't that backwards?
Monday, March 15, 2004
A friend recently pointed out that while I personally may have no problem with people knowing both what I think (by reading it on here) AND exactly who I am, that others do have privacy issues. Therefore I have removed names of folks from my Blogroll (a term apparently meaning a list of links to other blogs I read) and replaced them with how they sign their own blogs. If this has caused anyone any undue stress, I heartily apologize. As I am relatively new to this world of blogging, I don't know all the etiquette rules yet. So thanks to he who pointed this out to me.
As a side note, not only do I not mind people knowing who I am and what I think, I sort of prefer it. I've never been the type to prefer anonymity to the limelight. As my friend Hudd points out to me often though, "Ryan, not everyone is like you." Thanks for the gentle reminders Hudd. If my bishop and C.O.M. wants to read this, then I encourage them to do so. I would rather them know exactly what I think then try to play a game of placation and appeasement. Furthermore, I'm not entirely sure that our opinions differ that greatly on many issues. So, for those who know who I am, thanks for reading me. For those who do not, thanks for being interested enough to read. And to those whom I may have inadvertantly offended by using their names, I apologize.
Have you ever noticed that when you have a week off to go home and relax, it never ends up being quite what you expected? A week's worth of relaxation turns into a rat race very quickly: all the people to see, all the places to go, all the little errands to run. For example, I have a doctor's appointment today for a physical. Turns out, this doctor (who will be my new primary care physician) does physicals as a two-part event. So, instead of one doctor's appointment I have two. Then, there is the brother's baseball game to go watch. Granted, I will definitely enjoy watching the game, as it is against their big rival and especially if Brennan gets to pitch. You never know if they'll let him or not, as he was moved up to Varsity early as a sophomore. He seems to be doing very well though. On Tuesday, come to find out, I'm traveling with my Mother to my Grandmother's house in Ocala to visit with her, my Aunt who came down from Ohio, my mother's cousin who came down from Pittsburgh, and my great Aunt and Uncle, also from Pittsburgh, in addition to my Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin who already live in Ocala and my brother Trevor who will be coming over from Stetson, where he goes to college. It will be wonderful to see all of them again, of course. Over and above familial obligations, I have friends in town that I want to see and spend time with. One was a surprise, sort of like a bonus, and the other lives here pretty permanently now.
Finally, my Father informed me that my old Scoutmaster and friend has once again assumed authority over BSA Troop 140, my old troop. They are inbetween Scoutmaster's and Guy has offered to fill in, though I suspect once he gets back into it, he might stay - he always said he'd do it again one day. And frankly, when I was in 140, we went through 3 Scoutmaster's and a host of assistants and Guy was the best there ever was and likely ever will be. He is one of the main reasons I am an Eagle Scout today. So, as a surprise, tonight I will don my old uniform, now replete with Assistant Scoutmaster patch (my current official position in the Troop - though I am never there, they keep all Eagle's on the roster as Assistants. I think its a very nice gesture.) and adult awards patches and make a surprise visit to see my friend and mentor. I know absolutely none of the boys - as my Father pointed out, the youngest ones in the Troop now were not born when I joined Scouting! Scary! Anyway, it will be very good to see Guy again.
I have the sneaking suspicion that come Saturday, I am going to wonder where my week went! We'll save that wondering for the plane.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
On Winkler Road in my home town I observed one of the best church signs (though I am generally opposed to such pithiness). It read:
"The book is better than the movie."
Friday, March 12, 2004
Here they are folks, in no particular order:
"Jennifer had her mouth open [to make a comment]." -Frank Y.
"It's because I'm having trouble breathing through my nose." -Jennifer
"Beer takes so long, though. Why don't you drink gin?" -Copeland
"We didn't know he was leaving on a jet plane either when he sang it." -Anon., in ref. to John Denver
"Come along, Frank." -Copeland, while apparently leading a semi-conscious Frank F. back into the classroom
"The way he sneezed sounded like a dog." -(can't remember)
"I wonder if he's gonna turn around three times before he takes his nap." -Dan S.
"When we renounce Jesus...that wasn't exactly what I meant to say." -Ruth, prof. of Liturgics
"Are they clergy or are they people?" -Mitch
"Who was that prospective student? He was really on top of things." -Me
"That was Bishop Scarfe." -Mitch
"I see you had my breakfast cereal today." -Michelle
"I'm thinking of the book The Sacrament of the Ever-Present Moment. It could help answer your questions." -Jenny H.
"Yes, I'm familiar with it. I've read it." -Frank F.
"Yes, well, maybe you should re-read it." -Jenny H.
"C.R.A.G. Cranky Racist Asian Guy." -Moki H.
"Well, what I would add is..." -Meredith
"No, my hand was up first!" -Michelle
Thursday, March 11, 2004
There are few things finer in the whole, wide world than to have a quiet evening to yourself, knowing that your duties are all discharged and all your responsibilities fulfilled, sitting in your favorite chair (the Great Orange Throne of Victory, of course) sipping on a Scotch and reading a good book.
Coming soon...the best quotes of the Winter Term at Seabury. Maybe you'll see your name! Maybe you'll say I don't remember saying that! Maybe you'll wish you hadn't been reminded. It's all coming to you soon on EveryDayFaith!
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
So, in our little community we pass around these silly little web-quizzes. Am I the first to find this one?
You are Marcie!
Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Monday, March 08, 2004
Jane preached some powerful words today in Chapel. Just goes to show you that simple is not always simple.
A classmate of mine gave me a very nice and very intriguing compliment today. She said that when she was in CPE, her supervisor told her, "You have the ability to see truth. That's rare." My classmate repeated this compliment to me today, adding, "I wanted to pass that on to you, because I see the same thing in you." That's really nice and I'm flattered, but I have no idea what brought it on, or really what it means. Perhaps I'll know one day, and when that day comes, I can pass along the compliment in a similar fashion.
Symbols are multi-valent. We learned that intellectually in Liturgy class but I've learned it experientially through this morning's discussion with Dan, which went very well. He gave me so much more to think about (at the close of our time he said, "You didn't come here looking for clarity, did you?"), but moreover, he gave me a few more tools with which to look at dreams. Ways of interpretation, methods, different threads to follow. That's the multivalency aspect. I want to work through a few ideas here. This will likely be more stream of consciousness than carefully organized thoughts, so readers, beware. Also, I'm not going to describe each dream, I'm just going to title it and talk about several themes or threads here, because really, this is just for me. You can read if you like, obviously, but don't bother asking for explanations. I'm not quite ready for that degree of public disclosure yet.
- The "King Kong/Mystical Lands Dream"
- What images are evoked by King Kong?
Unbeatable power, at least by conventional, "toe-to-toe" methods. A huge destructive force.
- What might some "King-Kongs" in your life be? What "King-Kong" attributes that could be unleashed might be present within you?
Not really sure. Within me, my rhetorical ability. My command over words can be extremely destructive and I need be very careful sometimes.
- What themes might the endless field of flowers embody?
No immediate danger, but a sense of directionlessness. Aesthetic beauty, but without a way out. Lost, but not lost. How do I survive?
- At the seminary, what might this field of flowers be?
The liturgy. Both the class and the actual experience. I get the feeling that there are any number of beautiful things about the liturgy, but that I have no direction through them. I sort of just keep moving and one direction is as good as the next. But, there has to be an exit because if there is not than I am really lost.
- What themes might the volcanic/lava/dragon land embody?
Immediate, heated danger. Sense of extreme caution needed or else immediate death. Very hot. Potentially explosive force.
- At the seminary, what might this volcanic land be?
The fact that I take a more conservative (to use a dualistic term I hate) stance on many issues than my classmates. This is a potentially explosive force. Caution is needed. Tread carefully or be burned. No idea what the dragon is.
- What themes might the white water river land embody?
Fast paced events. Hurtling forward, cannot turn around or go back. Some danger, though if caution is exercised it can be avoided entirely.
- At the seminary, what might this river land be?
The whole of seminary experience. I am in the raft with others and we have to work together to navigate this fast paced river. Decisions must be made well in advance to effect change of course and reach a successful conclusion. Teamwork on the journey needed.
The "Underground Marriage" Dream
- Witnessing an underground marriage first and then having the dream start over with myself as one of the marrying persons seems to suggest what?
A sense of waiting for my turn for something perhaps.
- What does the fact that it takes place deep underground, and that you must take an elevator down to get there suggest?
Could suggest going down to the gut emotional level. Theology from the gut. Idea of eroticism/love taking place down from the brain, physically. A need to travel beyond my normal realm.
- When I am in the dream as a marriage participant, who am I marrying and what images does that evoke?
I am actually marrying two people - like a polygamous marriage, but I did not instigate it. It is very clearly the one woman marrying both of the men, myself and someone else. The woman is a person from my past, but in a really weird way. She was on the fencing team with me at Wake and was the one who defeated me in the final championship round, 10-1. She is the only woman who has ever defeated me in any sort of direct competition, and quite handily I might add. Seems to suggest some power issues. Also the fact that she has enough energy to marry two men is telling. She keeps repeating, "I love you." to me. All this is strange as I never had any romantic feelings for this person.
- What might this be representative of theologically?
Well, its clearly a trinity. Thanks to Dan for pointing out that idea to me. In traditional concepts of the Trinity, God the Father and God the Son have always been masculine while God the Spirit has always been feminine. If its theological, then God is telling me here that God loves me over and over again. God may also be inviting me into relational love, either with God or with another person, maybe someone I know, maybe not. Invitation to consider eros and agape as separate but the same. Invitation to love in general.
- What might the fact that the Jewish glass breaking ritual was present in the first marriage, but not in the one in which I was involved, invoking anger in me, mean?
That there is a ritual others have partaken of that I have not, yet desire, even though I don't really know what it means. Why do we do any ritual at all? What is the efficacy of ritual?
So, that's just two dreams that are not even fully analyzed in all the possible veins. But, wow, what alot even that little bit is! Mental note: Don't forget to look at how dreams might be social commentary. i.e. Dream about me, in a position of leadership, having to shoot another leader who had gone insane and started shooting others - social commentary on leadership, violence, handling conflict, issues of firearms, etc.
That's plenty to think about for now, don't you think?
I go in this morning to talk with Fr. Dan Prechtel about the dream journal I've been keeping for several weeks now as a part of my Spirituality for Ministry class project. I really have no idea what to expect. My dreams over the past weeks have been varied in theme and content, but it really has been amazing to me to see several patterns develop. I have really learned a lot about myself from this project, but I look to Dan for guidance in seeing how God has been speaking to me via dream, if that should be the case. I can easily identify some recurring themes in these dreams, but what does that say about God? I've no idea. God called Samuel three times before Samuel figured out what was going on, after all. In any case, this will be a good preface to the Dreamwork class I am taking next term with Dan. I know many of you are far more well versed in this topic than I - do you get the feeling that God has spoken to you in dream before?
Sunday, March 07, 2004
So, you know, O Lord, that as I sit here and try to think, theologize, and write about Psalm 139, the only thing I can think about is tonight's show. Maybe I should take some all to familiar advice and "jus forgetta 'bout it."
Saturday, March 06, 2004
I have finished reading Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire, and it was one of the best books I have read recently. Actually, I have been on a string of good books, and this one just happens to continue the trend. I mentioned in my previous posting about it that it featured a young heroine, named Ren "Jackal" Segura. In the slightly futuristic world developed by Eskridge, Jackal is what is known as a "Hope". A "Hope" is someone born as the pre-designated time, in this case, the first second of the new year. Each pseudo-national entity has a "Hope" and Jackal is the "Hope" of Ko, the multi-national supercorporation that rules over the island of Hong Kong. Other pseduo-national entities include the NNA, Nations of North America. Sorry, Canada, looks like you got assimilated after all. When Jackal finds out her status as a "Hope" is a lie, she is devastated, but she keeps the secret and maintains the facade. Then, tragedy strikes. In a horrifying accident, 437 persons, including important senators as well as Jackal's best friends are killed and Jackal is blamed for the murders. Charged with 437 counts or murder and international terrorism, Jackal is sentenced to life imprisonment. She cuts a deal though and agrees to partake in an experimental program called Virtual Confinement, VC. Using electrodes hooked to the brain and a drug induced coma-like state, Jackal's mind will believe that she is spending 10 years in solitary confinement with absolutely no human contact, no amenities, and no way out. In reality, she will only be knocked out for eight months. During that time of VC, Jackal must confront her own inner demons, determine how she will survive and not go insane, figure out how to deal with the loved ones in her mind and generally come up with ways to pass the time. When she awakens, she is an entirely different person and must relearn how to negotiate the world and deal with people. But her trials are far from over - once Jackal is getting situated in her new life via a strange bar called "Solitaire" where ex-cons from the VC program go to hang out and test the social waters, her past resurfaces.
All in all, Solitaire is a very engaging book, with a well developed story, memorable characters, and a fast paced plot line, despite the years spent in VC. Check it out! As this is Eskridge's first novel, I look forward to what else she comes up with.
Now, I am onto Neil Gaiman's, American Gods, which seems entertaining so far, and will likely be exactly what I am looking for for Spring Break reading. Spring Break - only a week away! Florida, here I come!
Thursday, March 04, 2004
My friend from college (who admonished me that he enjoyed being anonymous and reprimanded me for using his name on here, for which I heartily apologize) is here for the end of this week. He has come to look at Seabury as part of his process of discerning where God is calling him for his seminary education. I am very excited that he is here for this visit and have enjoyed spending time with him. So far, he seems to like Seabury and says that he could see himself here, which is a good thing. I hope and pray when he finds the seminary to which God is calling him, he will be able to recognize that and trust in it. It's a very tough decision to have to make and I wish him all the best. For the time being though, I am enjoying his company once again. It's been too long.
I encountered a series of surprises recently, chief among them being that my Gospel Mission II final paper is due Friday, as in, tomorrow! I was under the impression it was due next week as next week is the last week of classes, but that's what I get for not reading my syllabus carefully. The paper topic is to select a missional issue in my home diocese and identify its cultural contexts. Following that, I am to make suggestions on how to effect positive change regarding the issue. The missional context that came immediately to mind was the fact that there is an overwhelmingly large Hispanic population in SW Florida (so much that the chief language being spoken in Florida is not English, but Spanish). Our Episcopal diocese does not, to my knowledge, have any spanish speaking congregations and maybe only a handful of spanish services. So I sat down to write my paper on this topic, but blanked. What I just wrote to you is the extent of my knowledge about the subject. I really don't even know how to come up with 8-10 pages of how to proceed faithfully regarding this important missional context. So, unfortunately, I had to scrap the idea for the purposes of this paper, but I did want to identify that important missional issue here.
For my paper, I decided to write on another important missional issue in my diocese: youth. As I got started, I surprised myself by how passionate I was on the subject. 8-10 pages, as well as suggestions on how to effect positive change, came both quickly and easily, but now I need to go back and make sure it's coherent. And I have to do this quickly, as I have invited several people, including my visiting friend, over tonight for a Scotch (I did this before I realized my paper was due! Go dumb me!) and thus, my evening is likely shot. So, that's where I am right now.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
So, I'm in the locker room at the Y today getting changed for my workout, and the TV is on. I look up at it to see a commercial beginning. It shows a man and a woman in bed together and kissing. The man breaks the kiss and says, "You are the most beautiful woman in the world." Then, there is the sound of a door opening somewhere else in the house and a woman's voice calls out, "Honey! I'm home!" The image disappears to be replaced with the text - "Alimony? Jackson Hewitt can help. Getting you the tax breaks you deserve." This is awful, people!! To what low state of affairs has America sunk that such a commercial would be run on TV? First of all, a man who commits such a sin doesn't deserve a tax break. He doesn't deserve much, except maybe a one way ticket to the Gulag. Secondly, as the son of a personal C.P.A., don't use a business like Jackson Hewitt or H & R Block to get your taxes done. They don't care about you...obviously, if they're encouraging adultery.
Having read the first book (Living Buddha, Living Christ) in this two book series a number of years ago, I was excited at the opportunity to read Going Home. Thich Nhat Hanh impressed me greatly with his careful, simplistic writing style that is both meaningful and very approachable. Going Home disappointed me personally, however, as it was so similar to the previous work as to be slightly boring at times. For a newcomer to Nhat Hanh’s works, I would recommend one or the other, but both seems redundant. This report however, is just on Going Home.
Quietly reminding readers every few pages of the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, Nhat Hanh gives words of wisdom and instruction on living life, from both a personal and communal standpoint. You can almost hear his soothing voice roll over you as your eyes roam across the page. I found myself extremely relaxed after each session with this book and I’ve no doubt that emotion was due to the understated contemplative style of writing. The premise of this work (as with LB, LC) is that there are many striking similarities between Buddhism and Christianity to be discovered, but that there are also many differences that cannot be reconciled. For the purpose of his book, Nhat Hanh purposefully ignores the sources of contention and focuses on ethical ways of living taught by both Buddhism and Christianity. Mindful living, peaceful treatment of others, and communion with all of creation are among the hallmarks of his topics.
Much more so in Going Home than in LB, LC Nhat Hanh strays from considerations of ethical living and delves into the theological realm. It is in these departures from his standard writing style that Christians will run into the most roadblocks in their understanding and acceptance of his theses. Nhat Hanh, in a very Buddhist fashion, equates the Buddha with Jesus the Christ and may thereby alienate some of his Christian readership. In another section, he waxes poetic on how the very qualities of the Buddha and the Christ, if we are living peacefully, mindfully, ethically and lovingly, are so inherent and deeply embedded in us, that they make us, ourselves, the Buddha and the Christ. Again, Christian readers may experience slight balking at this concept.
In its sum, Going Home is a refreshing look for the Christian reader at what may be considered “old hat” material. As such, it is like hearing the words of Christ again, in a new way, for the first time – a phenomena likely to happen in any situation, place, and from the mouth of a follower of any religion in we listen closely. At the same time, the book is a good introduction to some of the more important concepts in Buddhism (such as the Four Noble Truths and mindful living) that the curious Christian reader would find largely non-threatening. A Buddhist reader would be delightfully surprised to find so many of their own traditions and ideas in line with Christianity. Given the author’s own religious tradition, I would imagine a Buddhist reader having an easier time with some of the book’s theology than their Christian brothers and sisters. Though I would recommend LB, LC to the more exclusive (with regard to theology, not social practices) Christian, Going Home offers much in the way of furthering the inclusive dialogue between these two great traditions.
Monday, March 01, 2004
In the words of Ernest Hemingway's famous short chapter, "It rained." This is good because if it rained, it did not snow. Contrary to what Mr. Beal would have us think, it does not snow everyday in the "greater Evanton" area (which, incidentally, is reachable by car as it is not on an island). Is warm(er) weather on the way? I doubt it, going by what the natives are cautioning. It was humorous that we received a "Severe Thunderstorm" warning on the radio about 3:15 today - it lightly rained and I heard maybe two cracks of thunder, though they were more like whimpers of thunder. You folks in the midwest can have your snow and even your wind, but we Floridians have the market cornered on rain, severe thunderstorms and lightning.
Also, I've finally broken out of my weightlifting rut that I mentioned a while back. On the bench, I put up a good final set of 165 lb. today and will improve next week. Shoulders continue to impress me - a solid final set of 120 lb. deltoid presses.
Now, off to write another book report, though this one cosiderably shorter, on Thich Nhat Hanh's Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers.
I've just finished watching the Academy Awards for this past year of film-making, and wow, what a year it was for the movies. So many good films!! The only award with which I was disappointed was Best Actor in a Leading Role. That award had Johnny Depp's name written all over it!! It is somewhat unfortunate that the Lord of the Rings had to be brought to completion in a year filled with masterpieces of all kinds. Yet, at the same time, they deserve every award they got. I'd like to thank Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, their marvelous cast and fantastic crew who brought to life my all time favorite story in a way that never disappointed and for their courage and vision to do so.
While I was watching, it brought back many memories for me. Memories of a past life when I won Oscars...no, not really. But, memories of a part of my life's past. Acting. What is it about story that drives me to the far ends of emotional spectrums, that causes me to want tell it out, that causes me to want to stand in front of hundreds of people and make a life not mine, my own? Story is amazing. I love acting and miss it tremendously. I listened to all those actors and directors and casts and crews tonight talk about each of their amazing experiences and what it was like to work on such and such a project with so and so and was taken back to all the projects of which I was blessed to be a part. So, if you'd indulge me, I'd like to relive a few moments of my own and maybe thank a few folks, especially if they live in New Zealand.
...the breathless bows and uncontrollable grins of the male cast of Fort Myers High School's production of "Guys and Dolls" when us boys finished our dance number on opening night to a standing ovation and applause that shook the roof. We never thought we could do it...until we did.
...the feeling of being a nervous freshman in college, knowing hardly anyone, and deciding, "What the hell? I'll audition..." though I was not a theater major/minor and the shock and joy of seeing my name on that cast list. Here's to WFU Theatre and J.K. who gave me my first chance and to the character of dear old Prof. Dingley in Goodbye, My Fancy.
...the silence following Hilary's big moment in "Children of a Lesser God", sophomore year of college, the bonding that cast inspired, and the friendships that remain because of its power.
...the bittersweet gratitude I felt, junior year of college, when I found out that my friend and stage manager for A Midsummer Night's Dream had stepped out in front of the curtain the night after opening night to tell the audience that she and the whole cast and crew were dedicating this show to Brook Watson and myself, whose tragic losses of loved ones prevented us from performing a show on which we had worked so hard. Here's to Cary Donaldson, for his caring leadership of the cast and kind words. The gratitude I felt to my director Sharon Andrews who allowed me to perform opening night before I got on a plane the next morning to go home to bury one of my best friends. Here's to you Drew!
...needing to sit down when I received Alan English's phone call senior year of college. I had auditioned for his play and was called back, but due to a scheduling conflict I could only make one hours of callbacks, never a good thing. I left him a message hoping this would not be a problem. He phoned me back and said that was fine becuase they really only needed my to see which women I played best with, because, as he said, "Well, you're Garton." So, here's to Alan English, who allowed me to achieve my acting dream of getting cast in a lead role. And here's to Joey Picard, for writing such a darkly funny piece, which I hope I fulfilled. And here's to my parents, who flew up to see me in "Wisdom Teeth".
...so many days and nights of endless rehearsals where strangers and acquaintances slowly became family.
...the F.A.T. House.
...Brook, Sharon, J.K. Jenn, Alan, Joe, Mark, Cindy, J.E.R.F., and Nina, who all believed in me.
...the night's where we played our own little Academy Awards at the banquets. Though, Wolfgang Puck was definitely not the chef.
I love acting. I miss acting. I will always enjoy shows and those who put them on. Never underestimate the power of story.