Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Watch Your Step

I recently read a book about the decreasing practice of politeness in our culture. Somehow I managed to not remember to record it in my reading log, so I don't remember the title or author! However she made numerous points that stick in my head and make it shake in dismay. Recently I wandered through some blogs looking for something that I eventually found, but was saddened on the way by the language and in-your-face hostility that a number of sites sported. The attitude was basically, "I can say what I want, make any claim I feel like regardless if I can back it up with hard facts, and if you don't like it, stuff it you know where." The internet provides an open forum where people can shoot off their mouth in relative anonymity and comfort, making targets of whomever they feel like, and feel no remorse for whatever damage they do to real information, people's reputations, and vulnerable areas in one's self perception. The language and attitudes are below basic decency and respect, and the authors often have no concept of what reasoned thought is. One may argue that if you can't take it, don't participate. It might sound like a cowardly course to take, but I say not so. We are not obligated to wrestle with every wild animal we cross. Most sensible, wary people give them a wide berth and are not thought any the less for a hasty "good day" and even hastier retreat from a puma we meet while walking unarmed in the mountains. Large portions of humanity seem to be dropping down below bestiality, and are more dangerous than a hungry cougar who is only doing is very best to survive. The cougar is only a dumb beast; the human "beast" is a rational savage whose intelligence has been made subservient to a self-serving ego. I can and do choose not to engage in discussions with people who choose the low road, which tends to lead through swampy, smelly areas. Others may want to try their skill at arguing with these kind of people, but the general response is not a reasoned rebuttal but a vitriolic mud-slinging intended to wither the recipient into silence. Your best weapon, the light of reason, has been thwarted by a darkened mind. So if you decide to try that route, watch your step. Manure happens.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Frigid outside, Steaming inside.

a yard
one foot deep
in snow--
even whiteness under wild wind blowing--
like melted marshmallows
on a steaming cup:
white chocolate cocoa

Monday, January 12, 2009

I am not omniscient

Sometimes I forget that the world does not center around an area two inches above my nose and two inches behind my glasses. It is easy to forget that so much more is happening around me, and in the entire universe, than what is in my range of vision or awareness. At this moment some juncos are hunkering down and fluffing up to stay warm outside my window. When I get up and walk away, it will be as if they cease to exist, because they have left my thoughts.

A few days ago a woman contacted me through facebook that I hadn't spoken to since my high school days, now over 35 years ago. She went to college, became a teacher, moved several times around the country, raised a family and is now a grandmother. It amazed me that she lived her life without me knowing about it, thinking about her, or realizing that she was even alive. And then she popped back into my life, and rattled my little world into remembering that I am only one of billions doing the same thing--living my life. All kinds of people I know are going about their business, having bad hair days, getting raises, arguing with their children, going on vacation. And they are probably thinking about me about as much as I am thinking about them... which would not be much!

It is comforting to know that there is someone out there that never stops remembering me, thinking about me, loving me. He cheers me on, lifts me up, and comforts me. He is everything that I am not. Perfect.

I often meditate on the passion of Christ. Someone once said, "When Jesus was on the cross, you were on his mind." If I were the only person in the whole world, he would still have died for me.
We are called to imitate him--to be as much like him as possible. But there is one thing we will never be: omniscient.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Deep in the Heart of Winter

How do you know when you are in deep winter? There are signs of it everywhere. The Burpee Seed catalog arrives. The Christmas decorations are put away for the season. The Christmas goodies are gone, but not the effects of them. You recognize the patterns of bird arrivals at the bird feeder--highest turnout and variety of species at noon sharp. You realize that in the summer time you can wear shorts and a tee shirt and feel overdressed for the heat, but it is a distant memory. The snow is drifting down from a flat, gray, oppressively low ceiling. There is a quietness about the house from being shut up and insulated by snow drifts snuggling up. Your hands and lips need constant moisturizing from the dry cold sucking humidity from your body. You don't do things in the far, cold reaches of the house, but gravitate and adjust activities as close to the fireplace as possible. If you're not careful you can count in days, not hours, the times you step outside for fresh air. You're not satisfied anymore with going out in a winter coat and gloves. Even boots are not enough. The fluffy red scarf gets stored in your coat sleeve when you're not wearing it, and you are gratefully for its draft-blocking quality. Going outside is an adventure--you feel vulnerable, and have a respectable feeling of reverence for those hardy pioneers. You feel like you are in an endurance contest. And how do you survive deep winter? Get out that Burpee catalog and start dreaming!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Helplessness falls between two extremes--infuriation and resignation! In the first category are things that are frustrating, like computers doing like fricking nothing that you want them to do! Also in this category is fixing anything that is beyond your skill to fix; watching events unfold that you can't do anything to stop--like towers falling on 911; and not knowing what to do in any given stressful situation. This extreme always requires some degree of anguish.

The other extreme includes things that are inevitable and unavoidable. Physical limitations that you can do little about, for instance. Sickness, body size and appearance, and raw talent that you haven't got are all a part of this. I can't stop my hearing loss. I can't hear people on cell phones. I can't hear my tea kettle whistle. I can't hear alarm clocks. I used to find all this infuriating and frustrating, but I've learned to relax about this smaller stuff. I've moved it from the first extreme to the second.

Getting older also involves helplessness. There is nothing you can do to stop the years ticking by--but you can take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually, so that the helplessness does not include panic. In fact, if faith is put in the formula, the fatality of getting older can be a comfort and release. There is a docility that can be nurtured that inspires fearlessness in the face of helplessness. Instead of being pushed off that high dive, called death, into space with no seeable bottom, we can leap and enjoy the rush of falling, trusting that whoever controls the chute will pull the ripcord in time.