Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010.08.31 Man on Beach

I’m sitting by the sea on the beach with a book, my favorite activity other than sitting at a computer with writer’s zeal.

It’s my father’s birthday today. Happy birthday Dad. If you were alive you’d be 99. How old are you in heaven’s time? I still love you. Love travels. As I post this it’s my older son’s birthday. He’s 43 and a good dad.

I can’t help hearing, seeing, observing, then riveting on a man, no a family, to my left. Dad + Mom + daughter + daughter + son + son + baby son. Breeders. it’s not an unattractive grouping though perhaps too numerous in a time we aim for zero population growth.

What catches my eye is the father-son, Dad & Tim, duo. Tim is about seven, the penultimate child so far. He plays in the sand. Dad wants Tim in the water. Dad begins the campaign coaxing “Hey Tim. Tim. C’mon in. Tim. This is great.” Tim doesn’t want to go swimming. Dad escalates from persuasion to force. He runs up on the beach. Tim runs away. The chase is on. Tim screams, screeches, No, Dad. No Dad. Dad. We know the end in this battle of wills, this legendary drama that will repeat itself over and over, day after day.

Mom sits on the beach cuddling son # 3, kissing the top of his fuzzy head. Is she trying to infuse the littlest with love enough to face his future with dad? Or is her placidity compliant? My teeth meanwhile are gnashing.

I admire Tim's determination and pluck. By day 4 he is tamed. Now he goes into the ocean, plays at its edges calling out, laughing, exclaiming how much he loves it. All is well. A good life lesson has been learned, but what lesson and who learned it?

On day 5 dad begin to call loudly to 8-10-month old Mickey (pronounced My-kee) inviting him into the water. Start’ em young, the saying goes. But mom holds fast.

I debate strategies: appeal to mom? deliver a domestic violence lecture to dad? flash my credentials to back up the obvious? call the police,? pray for divine intervention?

I do nothing. Why? My mind supports me with all kinds of cautionary tales and possible scenarios. The truth is: my fear overpowers my conscience.

The one I pray for is myself.

Later I pray for dad who likely was once a boy like Tim, coerced, violated and helpless, his will discounted along with his fear.

I do this because I know that if dad finds a healing of his ways Tim will have fewer wounds to heal, and the healing of the universe will have begun—anew.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spiritual Bites

To readers of this blog and I hope you are enjoying and numerous! FYI: I will be on vacation and will not post again until I return September 1.

This is a test to see if I can resist the temptation. If not I shall blame Godde!


In the meantime I leave you with spiritual tidbits.

-God/Godde et al is not a product—yet! Let us resist enabling the US of Consumerism with our brands.

-Kids are natural consumers. Remember trading cards? Today they collect, then trade, little curly elastic bracelets in different multi-colored shapes, some more desirable than others. All this is done with amazingly adept advertising and bargaining skills. Plus, they can wear their products and play games with them. So perhaps the Creator endowed this survival instinct?

-Some people think that parishioners put consumerist expectations on clergy and churches who struggle to comply and live on the edge of burnout. (See, for example, NY Times August 7 op-ed “Congregations Gone Wild” by Jeffery MacDonald (http://nyti.ms/awE2ZA )It’s true to a degree BUT the responsibility for healthy spiritual community is mutual. WWJD?

-A young nun once asked her Mother Superior what she needed to be a good nun. Mother said, “You need just three things. Great creativity, great questioning, and great determination.” A wisdom tale for religious. For all others? Same.

-Snails have beautiful houses. I saw one recently—a rich brown shell with concentric green and gold swirls. Perfect. Poking out from her front door was a tiny craning dully grayish antennae’ed head, and from her back door stretched a flattened tail of sorts, “wagging.” The inside, “the real snail” was in stark contrast to her outer shell. Unprepossessing looks. Imperceptible movements. Death soon. Countercultural image.

I wonder if the hard-to-spot shining pearl of a sacred Soul/Self that lies deep within and is source of our best, some say divine, selves and our most holy efforts is really as dull-looking, simple, unprotected, and limited as the snail’s innards? Perhaps we have confused inner and outer beauty. Perhaps we assume that the “real me” the true spiritual me within LOOKS just like our glittery possessions and adornments—only brighter.

I know it’s only image and metaphor and appearance but.............. have a snail’s pace rest of summer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wisdom of the Psalms at Age 72

It’s my 72nd birthday. It’s also my spouse’s birthday but he’s a mere 69. I don’t know what 72 should feel like but I feel fine and glad to be alive and past the paternal death line.

My dad died when he was 71—way too soon for the length of my love.

Ours had been a love-filled but not always peaceful relationship. Dad was an alcoholic and a master putdown artist whom I loved with all my yearning heart. I remember the mix of sorrow and fear I felt. I hadn’t said everything I wanted to and it was about to be too late. Were there enough I love you’s anyway?

The psalmist gave me a birthday present, a prayer line to describe what I had felt and feel now as I age and contemporaries begin to get sick big. Some die.

“IF I WALK INTO THE THICK OF MY SORROW, YOU KEEP ME ALIVE—AGAINST THE WRATH OF MY FEARS." (Psalm 138:8)

Now how true and wise is that!? I don’t know about you but this verse as it is rendered in a new translation by Pamela Greenberg is emotionally true in general and personally.

Think of it. Think of how partnered love and fear are in your heart. Think of how intimate love and sorrow are in your breast. If you truly love someone you immediately fear loss of that love and you touch your sorrow.

Of course we don’t dwell on these feeling connections because we have the psychological capacity for denial, a gift that can hinder one’s capacity to face truth and heal, and also a gift that can shield us from truth before it demands our notice. I for example never knew about alcoholism until I had to know it was a danger. Even when I knew I resisted. I didn’t want to feel the fear and the sorrow of the death of love.

Other translations of 138:8. 1) NRSV Bible: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.

2) Book of Common Prayer: Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right hand shall save me.

3)The Psalter, Liturgy Training Publications: When I face an opponent, you keep me alive. You reach out your hand, your right hand saves me.

The difference is marked. Greenberg’s translation internalizes the prayer language. ENEMY is translated WRATH OF MY FEARS.

I find it true that when I feel injured and deeply sorrowed by something I don’t understand, something I think unjust, I feel afraid, imagine all kinds of enemies and blame externals first, then myself.

How do you cope with such times? Does Godde by whatever name keep you alive? How?

I pray volumes over days and months, often in writing. It brings me back to myself and to Godde who casts no blame but simply listens and keeps me ALIVE AGAINST THE WRATH OF MY FEARS so I can WALK INTO THE THICK OF MY SORROWS.