Holy Saturday

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Photo by Ned Olson

Some years ago, at least in a measure, I returned to the days of my youth. I returned to the visceral reality of this strange world called Liturgy. It’s not a world of the mind so much as a world of the senses.

 

On the whole, as in the whole of humanity – those of us who celebrate Spring in all our various ways, on the whole we are quite good at such celebration. We will dive in with our whole selves, or at least the parts that are not otherwise distracted. We will dive in whether with our finest clothes, our most sumptuous cut of meat, with all the colors of the rainbow, whether with high holy choirs in seriously tall edifices to Heaven, or rather in the raucous meeting hall with swaying choirs and clapping hands, or even in the primal orgy of the fertility rite. Even with colored eggs in the grass and sack races across the park lawn – all these most of us will willingly engage one way or another.

 

There are somewhat fewer of us who show up on Good Friday, or to some other rite of penitence or remorse, whether commemorating the pain of some fallen heroes or whether in acknowledgement of our own fault or folly. There are those too who willingly or grudgingly engage, each in our own way, the darkness of Good Friday.

 

But what of Holy Saturday?

 

I admit that it took me more than a few properly celebrated Good Fridays amongst new acquaintances as we made the gradual journey towards becoming old friends – those of us who somehow survived ourselves – a few Good Fridays were so observed before Holy Saturday began to sink into my soul. It was not just a matter of ritual, whether joyous or sorrowful, in communion or in solitude, no matter how often or how frequently repeated. It took awhile for the singular lack of ritual, for those so initiated, on Holy Saturday to sink in. It’s not that I DID or DO anything differently on Holy Saturday then or now than those things I may have done my life long. I will rise, eat breakfast, perhaps drag the lawnmower along on its first round of spring. I may drive to the store or finally get started on my taxes. I am seldom entirely alone, but also somehow neither am I quite with others in the same way as other Saturdays. Even the blaring TV or the heated family argument all seem somehow more muted on Holy Saturday. It is not ritual. It is somehow lack of ritual, on today of all other days, that somehow gives all of life a ritualistic quality. All the objects of my small existence seem, just for that one day, to roll around the bottom of the empty drum of the universe making not quite as much noise as my soul feels that they each may deserve.

 

This Holy Saturday, perhaps all the more so.

 

This Holy Saturday we await not just tomorrow’s Sunday feast, but rather some future Sunday when we will have returned to life as it was – at least those of us who survive – or just maybe by then, that somehow future Sunday beyond the abyss of this strange unearthly time, we may have moved through this liminal space and have experienced a primal transformation, a rebirth, some kind of new humanity.

Virtual Community: A contradiction in terms

Back in 2007 when I was in graduate school studying Technical Communication the idea of Virtual Community was still relatively new and the subject of much academic study. I too succumbed, at least briefly, to that siren call and read a good deal of, at that time, current research on the subject. My own conclusion: virtual community only works if it is rooted somehow in face to face community.

Well here we are – suddenly forced, world-wide, into “virtual community” and I’ve come to the conclusion that those two words really are a contradiction in terms.

VirtualBirthday (2)

Here we are sitting in on a recent virtual birthday party where my lovely wife is virtually celebrating with her three very real sons. This is not a “virtual community”. It is a very tangible, personal and intimate community with a face to face history of four decades. This little party was made possible under the conditions of “social distancing” and “sheltering in place” thanks to Apple’s FaceTime software, but what made this a precious and connecting “moment in time” were those four decades of shared experience beginning early one morning over forty years ago in a University Hospital delivery room.

Perhaps this is another of those hidden little blessings amongst all the pain and challenge of these days. Suddenly we have been prompted to use whatever means come to hand to go back and nurture long neglected relationships.

Actual Travel to Actual Places (part 1)

I have been on hiatus for nearly a half year as I make big changes to see if I can squeeze just a bit more of the big world into my little life. The effort has been extreme for me to the point where I’ve decided to set aside the cerebral travel sphere for a while in favor of an actual place where I have actually been that is actually very for away…

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I had an open invitation from my good friend Peter, whom I had met four years earlier in Italy, to visit him at home in Malawi, “The Warm Heart of Africa”. When I told him I was ready to take him up on his offer he asked me what, exactly, I wanted to see there. I was frankly nonplussed. I somehow expected him to know exactly what to show off about his own roots – the place from which he sprang – that spot of earth that he knows like no other and that no one knows quite like he does. How quickly I forget how little a fish knows of water – at least, perhaps, until that fish sees one of us mammals drown.

I answered Peter that I wanted to experience music.

Now it was Peter’s turn to be nonplussed.

I frankly would’ve been equally nonplussed at the time about what to show off of my own home. Since that time I’ve had many opportunities to experience my little world though the eyes of visitors, literally, from the world over. But this little blog is from before all that. This is about a bit of another world.

In my innocence I somehow imagined I would find another Soweto Gospel Choir behind every other bush on the entire continent. I was about to learn how music can be both utterly rare and utterly common. Peter let my innocence be at least for the time as he wracked his brain. Only much later did it come out that the best he could come up with at the time was a keyboard player of his acquaintance. Of course, a place literally on the other side of the world seems never destined offer itself as a disappointment.

Just as may be found along any highway in the world, although sometimes one needs to go many miles, one does encounter extremes…

But along that highway we also randomly encountered music, perhaps both rare and common, but very likely at least as authentic as I would find anywhere in the world.

As we drove along enjoying the Malawi winter sunshine and anticipating a relaxing day on the lakeshore Peter hit the brakes and wheeled around. As if by magic his prayers for the music I was looking for was trudging along the road in the form of a genuine gospel band.

Pause a moment and enjoy…

If I ever believed in such a thing as luck this would be one of those moments I might call everyone’s lucky day. I found my African music, Peter found something amazingly musical of his home that he could show off to me, a few boys with their homemade instruments found someone willing to pay “top kwacha” for a front row seat as they performrf. Plus, as you can see by the gathering crowd, anyone within earshot had a chance to see a mzungu make a fool of himself. There are still places in the world where such as I are still an uncommon sight.

Hopefully you too may count yourself lucky to have encountered this bit of magic in this odd corner of virtual space.

Break in Bulk

Longshoremen Leave AFL-CIO Partnership Over Obamacare

– Creative Commons

Having attended another simple but significant memorial service yesterday, I’m trying out a new nom de plume on an old poem…

Break in Bulk

A break-in-bulk point is a place where goods are transferred from one mode of transport to another, for example the docks where goods transfer from ship to truck.

The thriving town

Between power and sound

Grows rich on the bounty of friction

Til supplies and demands

Across foreign lands

Slows to a trickle of fiction

 – Babe Simple, 1973

Wisdom for the New Year

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Photo by Ned Olson

Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Finish Every Day

The old order changeth, yielding place to new, and God fulfils himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Morte d’Arthur

The discovery of new values in life is a very chaotic experience; there is a tremendous amount of jostling and confusion and a momentary feeling of darkness.

Joseph Conrad, An Outcast of the Islands (author’s note)

Be not the first by whom the new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.

Andre Gide, The Counterfeiters

Old houses mended, cost little less than new before they’re ended.

Colley Cibber

Your public identity is a contract you renew every day.

George DeMarest

The commonplace is shot through with new glory…

Howard Thurman, Deep is the Hunger

If everything were to turn out just like I would want it to, then I would never experience anything new; my life would be an endless repetition of stale successes.

Hugh Prather

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Every person born into this world represents something new…

Martin Buber, The Way of Man

A mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

[the poet] unfixes the land and the sea, makes them revolve around the axis of his primary thought, and disposes them anew.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Idealism

What goals would you be setting for yourself if you knew you could not fail?

Robert Schuller, You Can Become the Person You Want to Be

Each change of many-coloured lite he drew; exhausted worlds, and then imagined new;

Samuel Johnson (of William Shakespeare)

We live our life into a new way of thinking, not think our life into a new way of living.

Steve Buitrago

…there is nothing new under the sun.

The Preacher, Proverbs

Beauty doth varnish age, as if new-born,and gives the crutch the cradle’s infancy.

William Shakespeare, Love’s Labors Lost

Science involves groups of people sharing observations, making predictions, checking the predictions, and then making new and better predictions — all the while living in a universe that tolerates this sort of behavior.

Lucas John Mix, Life in Space

To live communally in silence is to admit a new power into your life.

Kathleen Norris, Dakota

I’ve never learned anything new from someone I agree with.

Dudley Field Malone, The State of Tennessee vs John Thomas Scopes

The more you leave behind, the more room you have to find something new.

William Bridges, Transitions

 

The Sin of Perfection

Just sharing a few words to the wise from my friend Momen…

What we often seek in perfection is freedom from the discomfort of making mistakes. In return for that freedom from discomfort we trade our curiosity, our flexibility, and the room to grow.

We can consider the trade: Do we want to live the rest of our lives in our well-defined little world, safe but perhaps stifled? Or do we wish to venture out into the unknown, take a risk, and reach for everything life has to offer?Gasworks at Dusk 1

Julian of Norwich Prays the Twelve Steps

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Step 1: I pray that I may triumph over temptation.

Steps 2 & 3: I pray Your will be done.

Steps 4 & 5: I pray that I may be healthy in body, mind and spirit.

Steps 6 & 7: I pray that my flesh and spirit be nourished.

Steps 8 & 9: I pray that I may love and be loved.

Step 10: I pray that I may live in peace and harmony with all Your creation.

Step 11: I pray that I may live in You in this life and with You in the life to come.

Step 12: I pray that I may be Your faithful servant.

Julian of Norwich (died ~1416) is credited with being the first woman to publish in the English language.

A Cynic’s Paradise

What exactly would a cynic consider bliss? In particular what would such a person consider eternal bliss? This could be a very important question for me.

As I ponder my eyes fall upon a pair of wedding candles…

wedding candles

These were lit briefly by my late parents-in-law in 1950. Sometime in the last year or two my wife burned them. No. This is not a staged photo. There they sit on the kitchen counter – only occasionally sharing the neighborhood with cleaning supplies.

Why did my wife burn them? I guess because candles were made to be burned, as perhaps lives and relationships are eventually meant to be.

I happen to believe these persons and their unique yet not at all uncommon relationship to be somehow eternal. Yet whatever earthly purpose they may have fulfilled is now history. Their effects on the earthly plane have been spent. Any eternal effects are quite beyond my true knowledge. Nobody there complained to see the candles burn that night. Everyone present seemed to think the sentiment of the event rather lovely.

I really do have no idea why these candles fall under the heading of A Cynic’s Paradise. Yet the question remains. Might there be a special purgatory for the cynic, and if so, how exactly might the typical cynic distinguish the place from Paradise?

I just may find these questions to be very important to me.

Cats Are Bilingual

Cats are nearly universally bilingual. I realize this is not news for many, least of all our friend Beau…

armchair beauphoto by Caleb Olson

Of course Beau’s first language, being from around these parts, is English. Since his ear has been clipped, I can only assume that he was at one time, before making our acquaintance, conversant in the feline lingua franca commonly known as Caterwaul. Since coming to live with us I like to think his skills in that tongue are rather unpolished. He does sneak out on occasion for a night on the town, and a buddy or two have come calling, but his command of English would seem to indicate the kind of no nonsense practicality which makes any Beau-initiated caterwaul seem highly unlikely.

Being so practical, of course, he has little need for more than a few words of English. In extremis those few words may be delivered with an amazing range of emotion and nuance, with each new inflection jam packed with one clear meaning. That word, or rather phrase, would usually be, “Feed me!”

The rest of Beau’s English consists pretty much only of the phrase, “Let me in!” He may well know the phrase, “Let me out!”, but being officially designated an Indoor Cat, even if he knows these words, he is far too cagey to ever use them.