07 April 2015

Medicine


Met with my cardiologist this morning. Even when one feels fine, this is a bit of a tense morning. One never knows what the numbers extracted from the blood tests may show.

Today all is good. My cholesterol numbers are so low I am switching to a milder medicine. Doctor actually smiled. Oh, lost a few pounds too. I have to loose more, but hey the trend is good.

So all in all, a good day! I guess a blog is as good a place as any to be thankful!

28 March 2015

Exhaustion -- Holy Week 2015


The last 4 weeks, we have been moving out of our beloved home, a flat building that we shared with our kids and grandkids, and into a small, ok, we can call it cozy, apartment. This is not a move we wanted: it is the result of a foreclosure. So there is some real sadness in this move, I suspect the next one ( probably a nursing home, we are getting old) won't sting quite as much.

We have expended all the resources we can find. But cash is not a thing we have much of these days: we turned to friends and family.

Our daughter-in-law and granddaughter have been mainstays. I am not sure we could have even begun to get this much done without them. My elder son has been a huge help.

Last Saturday, friends from our congregation, all of whom have their own lives, came and spent their morning helping us move and store a huge amount of stuff. Without them, i do not know if there could even have been a plan. Thursday, faced with a significant crunch in both time and space, we rented a very temporary storage locker and paid two men from the homeless shelter to help us move everything we then had ready. They worked very hard and appeared shocked when I payed them. I feel I owe them more.

I wish the bigots who are so upset that LaGrange is not a gated community, could have watched that movement Thursday. It was my stuff, and they treated it and every minute as though they were precious.

Now we are down to the end. Camping gear we love, some Ham radio stuff, and the food. In some ways, moving to Guatemala might be easier -- we would not be packing the frig!

Sue-z is simply wrung out, my left hip is not working, I am limping if that is the word. We have done our best and it is still not enough. But, we are done. Sometimes, we are learning, your stuff is simply too much, and it simply cannot follow you. We have been discussing dumpsters.

There is at some point, a minimum level every person, every person(!) should have. Enough space for cooking, sleeping, thinking, and storing enough clothing to get by. A space for a loved pet or a loved one. Enough income to pay for shelter, food, and drugs. I find myself on the edge. We have that minimum at a suburban level. If we can limp the car (a necessity in suburban Chicago) another year, we may survive.

Exhaustion, it is our reality. I feel as though I could sleep a week. I won't. Easter is upon us, Holy Week with its demand for devotion is here, and it is time to pray. And yet, it is the help, the smiles, the friendship and love that we recall, and will cherish. We must thank so many.

I should note that the last two days before the court order was effective, Steve worked really hard to help us close out our move. Thanks son!

Oremus! There will be time. My Bro-in-law, ever a help will be here soon. Oremus! Consider what He went through. Our problems are minor. Oremus!"





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"Oremus" literally, "Let us pray!"

13 March 2015

alone with ourselves


The title of this post is taken from this Huffington Post article. I strongly recommend the article. It is well written and makes a solid case against, "busy."

Recently, at a Vestry retreat, the facilitator told us that, "Busy is a sin." Saying that to a room full of volunteers trying to balance the demands of what medical professionals call, "ADL" that is, "Activities of Daily Living" and the demands of a church that needs everything we can bring to it, was brave. Predictably, the reaction was mixed.

Being "alone with ourselves," Christian mysticism: the rosary or prayer rope, Centering Prayer, or Lectio Divina, represents for some, a major stumbling block. But is it really about time? I am not sure.

Although one hears about time issues, "I am too busy!" the time required is not a large portion of the day. One can do either the Anglican or Roman rosary in less than half an hour. Of course, a monastic might take two hours, but one can begin the journey with twenty or so minutes. Most contemplative prayer systems suggest that one begin with twenty minute period, once or twice a day. TV & Cable viewing patterns suggest most of us can find those twenty minutes.

I think the problem is found in our discomfort when we engage ourselves and God in concentrated silence. Years ago, my spiritual director offered me a koan: (meditation puzzel) "The reason to pray is to become like a person who prays." Understand the meaning of that puzzle, which took me a while(!) and you may be on a journey,

Beginning a contemplative journey often involves moving past the mind's attempts to avoid the internal silence. The mind plays tricks, showing us flashing lights, stars, even visions of saints rather than concentrating on the silent contemplation of the divine. Tails of various side tracks are legendary among contemplatives. In fact, if you ever see three or four Zen teachers laughing together, you can guess what the topic might be.

One of the medieval saints (I do not recall which one) was told one day by two excited novices that while they were praying the rosary together, they saw a vision of Mary. He told them that next time she appeared, they should shout at her, and she would leave them to their prayers. They did and she indeed went away. Understanding what happened, helps us understand being alone with God. It is not the twenty minutes, it is the experience(!)

So is, "busy" a sin? Yes, when we mean too busy to bother with God. Jesus was asked what was the foremost commandment replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." He went on, "The second is similar -- love your neighbor as you do yourself." That and the Great Commission tell us how we should spend our time.

I read an unattributed quote: name three things more important than God. Too busy? Really?

01 March 2015

Science as Methodology


When something "new" or at least startling come into our common view, as for instance, this story about the origin of the universe, several things happen. One is that independent scholars like my son want to shout, "Of Course." Stephan has been convinced the popular science called, "The Big Bang" is based on flawed observations, flawed assumptions, and much too convenient constructs ever since he began to understand the calculus. From his perspective, physics is finally catching up with the data he has been speaking and writing about for some time.

Another thing that happens is that scientists, be they independent thinkers or university professors set about the hard work of reformulating the hypotheses in light of the new data. This can take a while, indeed years. One way to observe how long it takes for new theories to arise and enter general acceptance is to note the years between publications and recognition such as Nobel Prizes. Wrapping our minds around new and especially contrary data takes a while. It is a process that is particularly difficult for those who publish papers and books based on the old theory.

Physics has gone through the process of re-thinking frequently. Especially since Heisenberg and Einstein started shaking things up in the early 20th century, stable thinking, constant ideas have been few and far between. Biology if anything has been more fluid, as has its cousin, medicine.

Scientists, engineers, medical practitioners, and the technicians who serve them, ranging from nurses to programmers, are generally comfortable living in a fluid, evolving world. Science you see, is a methodology, not a rigid structure. We expect changes. We tell ourselves not to become attached to what we think we know. The universe, and perhaps the multi-verse, continually surprise us.

But, there are other responses. Those who wed themselves to a non-scientific, "theory of everything," those we call, "fundamentalists," "creationists," or "jihadists," see not a functioning methodology, but a broken monolith. Is there newly observed data that may obsolete the "big bang" theory? (Yes) Then clearly all of science is wrong, bring back the scriptural creation myths. None of the "facts" in those stories hold up to the light, but as the fundamentalist mindset thinks it has now proved that "science" can err, they leap to the conclusion that all problems with the stories represent error. After all, "god said so." Well(!) that closes off the conversation!

Fundamentalism can raise its ugly head in other ways, and with different revelations. Stephan's objection, that the "red shift" observation of how light travels simply fits the theories better than it could the data. Stephan would add that "Hawkins Radiation" is a construct based on the theory's needs, not the data. In a sense, the flaw in science this exposes is that fundamentalism can focus on science as well as scripture.

Science, like Liberation Theology (where I live) is subversive. Fundamentalism is always wrong. Christianity, properly understood, is transformative, does not accept the old data, and does not try to hold back human knowledge. Yes, I do know about the Inquisition, and Creationism. I claim neither is indeed, Christian.

So now we know that Einstein, Hawkins and others may have erred. Or perhaps simply worked with flawed data. Now we can observe the galaxy a bit better, we can do better. We will do that.

Theology too can take in new data. But like science we need to let go of the static universe myth. Some will, others will fail.

05 February 2015

"Open Carry" or Only in America


On facebook today, I received and declined the opportunity to support an "Open Carry" law in Texas. Declining the request was fairly easy: I live in Illinois. So this argument, in this legislature, is simply not my fight. None-the-less, I began to think about the subject.

Open carry is based on the idea that the Second Amendment grants every adult American the right to be armed. So, everyone has the right, so the argument goes, to carry a firearm, as long as it is not concealed. "Open Carry" laws recognize that right, and prohibit the State from interfering with it.

This is where my English and South American friends reach escape velocity incredulity. Yes, that is really what I am talking about here. The idea is that all citizens are part of the State's, "well-regulated militia" that may be armed, and specifically with clearly visible weapons.

Reactive fire, that is responding to an attack, is a police nightmare. Policing agencies spend many hours, and a good bit of money training using "good guy - bad guy" images to teach officers when to fire and at which targets. Open carry makes the job harder. The police may not assume that an armed person may be a legitimate target if almost anyone may have a holster or shoulder carrier with a gun in clear view.

It gets worse. If you have a shooting incident, and some of the civilians are armed, they may decide (especially in a panic situation) to deploy and possibly fire the weapons they are carrying. The potential for chaos, stampede, and accidental casualties is huge. And now the police have to try to distinguish between well-intentioned citizens and the criminals.

So where do I come down on open carry? I think it is a bad idea. But what I think may not matter much. Here in Illinois, and in a number of other States, "strict constructionist" conservative jurists have been forcing States to accept what advocates call, "gun owner's rights" based on the Second Amendment. So, even in States where the polity does not particularly want an armed society, we are getting one.

Among the great American myths is the frontier. When the society was too constraining, be it England, France, Germany, Ireland, Boston, New York, or even St. Louis, the frontier myth says it is time to move on. Lerner and Lowe captured the feeling in their Musical, "Paint Your Wagon." When it is time to move on, one paints the wagon, loads the essentials, harnesses the mules, and moves along. We have become much too settled a nation for that now, or have we?

The lunatics have captured a good part of the asylum. Congress is completely dysfunctional, the idiots are refusing to vaccinate kids, and theocrats have captured the public face of what was once Christianity. Maybe it is time to paint the wagon. I am old, way too old to start over. But none-the-less, I have been reading up on how to manage mules.

02 February 2015


One of the mysteries that frustrates those of us on the progressive side of the street, is the way so many States (typically called the "red states" in our media") generate majorities that vote against their own interests. A map now circulating on the net shows those States with the higher poverty numbers correlate with those choosing Republican government.

We are a Republic: States may choose as they wish. The head scratching for Progressives, and Democrat politicians arises because the choices are so counter-intuitive. One might think of Parisian mobs supporting the aristocrats. I am struck by the question of what Pete Carroll was thinking at the (odd!) end of the Super Bowl. It is not that one may not make choices, I just do not understand how the choices make sense to anyone.

I was surprised to note today that I have not posted since New Years. This has been an unintentional hiatus. I have written and discarded a number of things. Is that, "writer's block?" I do not know. But if it is, I hope I am over it!

31 December 2014

"Slum of a Year"


A former friend of mine's father-in-law used to say of the 20th century that it was a, "slum of a century". He would point to the Shoah, two world wars, the atomic bombing of Japan, poverty and starvation in much of the third war, and widely ascendant Marxism, before resting his case. I agreed with him then, and now.

2014 will be remembered as a slum of a year. Aside from my personal losses, home, friends, and self-image, consider the election of a luddite majority to our Congress, the resurgence of the worst aspects of American racism, Ebola which is destroying Sierra Leone, the increasingly obvious self-segregation of American populations, one word: Fergeson, emergent fascism in New York's police unions, and murder of civilian populations in Eastern Europe, and especially Syria. Throw in the very worst aspects of theocracy is Syria, Egypt, and Iran, the unbridled sexism and homophobia apparent in Africa, and like the late Mr. Feldmann, I rest my case.

In our own lives, my left hand is injured. Treatment will continue into the new year, I may yet salvage the use of my finger. We lost one of our longest and closest friends: Brian. He was a good person who deserved a better ending. His sister-in-law and we tried and at least saw him, as the ancient Kelts said, "well sped." His wife, another long and dear friend has been incapacitated by a stroke. We are transitioning away from the foreclosure of our home. Neither of us is, "handling it all well." I am not at all sure we should.

And yet through all of this, the song of St. Paul resonates. "Rejoice! And again I will say, "rejoice." And so tomorrow, I shall make a fairly nice if not spectacular dinner, served for what may be the last time on our heirloom plates. Tonight a few of us will gather with a toast to the arrival of 2015. And we will attempt to rejoice as we move along in the universe created for mankind, and sometimes ill-treated by us.

Rejoice! Today is the 8th day of Christmas!
St Laika's

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