Friday, April 25, 2008

An Old Versus Modern (Postmodern?) Friday Five

At RevGalBlogPals, Singing Owl writes:

Yesterday I had two separate conversations in which people were musing about how much change is occurring. The WW II generation, of which my mom is a part, went from horse and buggy to automobiles, saw the lessening, or even the end of many diseases, went from widespread use of kerosene lamps and outhouses (in the country, and most folks were rural)) to a totally electrified and plumbed society. The fastest means of communication was a telegraph. The second conversation--gulp--was about MY generation and how much change occurred in the last half of the 20th century. The person said his 13 year old had not seen a vinyl record album until a few days before, couldn't remember a time without cell phones, and on and on.
As for the questions!

1. What modern convenience/invention could you absolutely, positively not live

My iPod. I not only listen to music on it—whether in the car, in the garden, or when out on a walk—but also use it for audiobooks, keeping my photos with me (instead of those chunky picture inserts in my wallet), and keep my calendar on it. Aside from my glasses (without which I can’t see) there’s probably nothing I carry with me more than my iPod.

2. What modern convenience/invention do you wish had never seen the light of day? Why?

Cell phones, especially textmessages on cell phones! Before cell phones there wasn’t the expectation that I’d be accessible 24-7. Before cell phones (especially blackberries!) we didn’t have constant interference on the church PA system. Before cell phones, I could work in my garden or go for a walk without being interrupted by business calls or children’s texts (of messages that they want me to know but don’t’ want to talk about).

3. Do you own a music-playing device older than a CD player? More than one? If
so, do you use it (them)?

I own, but almost never use, a Walkman cassette player. And I own a record player which I periodically use to listen to records that I haven’t been able to find on CD or that sound better to me on vinyl.

4. Do you find the rapid change in our world exciting, scary, a mix...or something

I find it exciting and, once in a while, scary. There’s a lot of new possibilities (good and bad) to weigh in the new technologies that are being developed, a lot of amazing things to experience and experiment with, and SO MANY things to learn how to use. I’ll never be a native in this new world but I love seeing ways in which we can become more of a positive global village because of the changes taking place. After all, without this rapid change, I’d never be able to have any contact with folks from RevGalBlogPals.

5. What did our forebears have that we have lost and you'd like to regain? Bonus
points if you have a suggestion of how to begin that process.

The wonder of time on the front porch. Ray Bradbury has a wonderful description of front porch days in Dandelion Wine:

“About seven o’clock you could hear the chairs scraping back from the tables, someone experimenting with a yellow-toothed piano, if you stood outside the dining-room window and listened. Matches being struck, the first dishes bubbling in the suds, and tinkling on the wall racks, somewhere, faintly, a phonograph playing. And then as the evening changed the hour, at house after house on the twilight streets, under the immense oaks and elms, on shady porches, people would begin to appear, like those figures who tell good or bad weather in rain-or-shine clocks.

Uncle Bert, perhaps, Grandfather, then Father and some of the cousins: the men all coming out first into the syrupy evening, leaving the women’s voices behind in the cooling-warm kitchen to set their universe aright. Then the first male voices under the porch brim, the feet up, the boys fringed on the worn steps or wooden rails where sometimes during the evening something, a boy or a geranium pot, would fall off.

At last, like ghosts hovering momentarily behind the door screen, Grandma, Great-grandma, and Mother would appear, and the men would shift, move, and offer seats. The women carried varieties of fans with them, folded newspapers, bamboo whisks, or perfumed kerchiefs, to start the air moving about their faces as they talked.

What they talked of all evening long, no one remembered the next day. It wasn’t important to anyone what the adults talked about; it was only important that the sounds came and went over the delicate ferns that bordered the porch on three sides; it was only important that the darkness filled the town like black water being poured over the houses, and that the conversations went on and on…. Sitting on the summer-night porch was so good, so easy and so reassuring that it could never be done away with. These were rituals that were right and lasting…”

Monday, April 21, 2008

Go, go, go....

The past few days have been non-stop. Between running errands to get ready for May 17th and the preparation for and doing of Sunday's Bible study on the Sermon on the Mount, there was just barely time for the timebound "spring" things that had to be done. Somehow we also managed to fit in re-sanding the back patio before putting out the summer furniture, adding topsoil and fertilizer to the soil in various flowerbeds, getting the potatoes planted, and trimming dead branches off a tree. By the time John Adams came on last evening, I was so tired that even the mismatched acting didn't bother me, though I was still glad that that was the last episode in the series.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jesus Loves You?

Here's a short little cartoon that explains part of the reason contemporary Christianity -that uses modern technology but has the same presentation of the same old message- has such little appeal to the average postmodern person. It seems appropriate in these days when the pope is visiting America.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Personal DNA

My personalDNA Report

You are an Inventor
• Your imagination, self-reliance, openness to new things, and appreciation for utility combine to make you an INVENTOR
• You have the confidence to make your visions into reality, and you are willing to consider many alternatives to get that done.
• The full spectrum of possibilities in the world intrigues you—you're not limited by pre-conceived notions of how things should be.
• Problem-solving is a specialty of yours, owing to your persistence, curiosity, and understanding of how things work
• Your vision allows you to identify what's missing from a given situation, and your creativity allows you to fill in the gaps.
• Your awareness of how things function gives you the ability to come up with new uses for common objects.
• It is more interesting for you to pursue excitement than it is to get caught up in a routine.
• Although understanding details is not difficult for you, you specialize in seeing the bigger picture and don't get caught up in specifics
• You tend to more proactive than reactive—you don't just wait for things to come to you.
• You're not afraid to let your emotions guide you, and you're generally considerate of others' feelings as well.
• Never one to be found in chic boutiques or trendy clothing stores, you take an extremely practical approach to getting dressed.
• The control you feel over your life is empowering to you-- you believe in your abilities and acknowledge your shortcomings. Explanations of the world that focus on destiny or fate don't really interest you. You take responsibility for what goes wrong in your life, and also for what goes well.

You are Benevolent
• You are a great person to interact with—understanding, giving, and trusting—in a word, BENEVOLENT
• You don't mind being in social situations, as you feel comfortable enough with people to be yourself.
• Your caring nature goes beyond a basic concern: you take the time to understand the nuances of people's situations before passing any sort of judgment.
• You're a good listener, and even better at offering advice.
• You're concerned with others at both an individual and societal level—you sympathize with the plights of troubled groups, and you can care about people you've never met.
• Considering many different perspectives is something at which you excel, and you appreciate that quality in others.
• Other people's feelings are important to you, and you're good at mediating disputes.
• Because of your understanding and patience, you tend to bring out the best in people.

And here's Kathy's results:

Kathy's personalDNA Report


Last evening we went to see “Buddy” at the Westchester Broadway Theater. The show is based on the career and songs of Buddy Holly. Since I’d never seen Holly in person, I don’t know what kind of job Pat McRoberts did playing him, but he seemed to have a lot of skill and energy as he sang songs like “Peggy Sue” or “Rave On”. Somehow I’d missed most of this music growing up; I was a baby when Holly died and, I guess because I didn’t have older brothers or sisters around playing the music of the time, never had any occasion to listen to Holly’s songs. I found myself surprised at how closely these “early rock” songs seemed to be to modern country music.

The part of the show that I enjoyed most was the recreation of the Crickets’ appearance at the Apollo theater as the first white act to perform there. I’m sure that the final numbers staged to be like those in Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom were meant to be the highlight of the show, especially since they brought on actors to play both the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens for that scene. Friends had told us ahead of time how amazing that scene was, especially the actor playing Ritchie Valens, but I didn't find it particularly noteworthy. Of the entire play, it’s not that but the Apollo Theater scene that I’ll remember.

The Bliss of Solitude

Saturday morning we were able to grab an hour to spend some time at the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden before it closed the next day. While by this point a lot of the flowers were past their peak, the beauty of these plants still surrounded me. Part of my hope of going on the last weekend of the show was that some of the crowds that have been present when I’d been there before might be gone. It was true that we didn’t have to wait to get into the conservatory. Our scheduled time just barely gave us the chance to walk from the gates to the conservatory before it was our turn to go in. Nevertheless, inside the place was still packed with people. We elected not to go with a docent, hoping to escape some of the bunching up around the orchids in this way. Instead what we found were that it was hard to spend any time enjoying the individual plants because people were so busy pushing cameras and camera phones up next to the plants to take pictures. Especially when we got to the seasonal exhibition gallery, which I always look forward to approaching since it has my favorite orchids -- blue vanda coerulea that come from southeast Asia-- I found it very frustrating.

I wanted to be able to sit in silence to drink in the beauty, since in many years these orchids have been for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth, dancing on my inward eye, making gray or dismal days brighter. But Saturday, I found myself feeling as I did while trying to experience the beauty and power of the Pieta last December. There were so many flashes going off, so many cameras blocking the view, and so many people jostling against each other to get their pictures that not only was it impossible for me to stand quietly and absorb the beauty, but I doubted if many people were really seeing, much less experiencing, the wonder of these fragile, exotic plants.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

And So It Begins...

The first crocuses are up--tiny, lavender ones!

And these don't look like much right now, but if all goes well those little brownish green things sticking out of the two ugly brown containers we've now got on our back porch will grow into 50 lush strawberry plants over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile the tiny little green twigs next to them in the white containers will become blueberry bushes that we can bring inside in the winter so that we'll have more and more blueberries each year. The beginnings of a new season's garden... leading to wonderful desserts to bake and jellies to can.

Will the Real Jesus...?

During the past few weeks, I read both Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President and Deepak Chopra’s The Third Jesus and, although it was quite by chance, I’m glad that I read them together, since each provided a balance to what the other author missed.

In The Third Jesus :The Christ We Cannot Ignore, Chopra argues that there are the historical Jesus (who lived 2000+ years ago), the institutional Christian Jesus (who as Son of God is presented in all the religious trappings of the church) and the cosmic Christ (who isn’t interested in any specific religion but wants to embrace a spirituality for all people). And it’s the latter, of course, upon which Chopra wants to focus. Nothing new in any of this, is there? Putting a focus on the inward aspects of Jesus’ teachings found most clearly in the Gnostic gospels, Chopra presents a Jesus who calls us back to a personal experience of God and to a God-consciousness that’s both personal and collective, a consciousness very similar to the concept of enlightenment that Buddha discussed, a consciousness captured in Jungian archetypes and world myths. This third Jesus stresses that “the kingdom of heaven is within you” or, as Chopra paraphrases it “the source of reality is inside you, is your essence.” All of this is a nice corrective to institutional Christiandom and a great way to connect Jesus with the postmodern world. It reminded me a lot of the writings and teachings of Eckhart Tolle, that are quickly becoming popular with the Oprah crowd and that, generally, seem to me on target. Stay in the present. Let go of the ego, the hurts and successes of the past and the worries and goals of the future. Rely on God’s grace. All very Tolle (and though I haven’t read them, I’d guess it’s also in keeping with Chopra’s many earlier books) and probably pretty close to part of Jesus’ original pre-Christendom shaped message.

But then Chopra’s The Third Jesus weakens when he begins to talk about how to practice this spirituality of this compassionate, enlightened Jesus. The individual “experiments’ he urges the reader to try don’t go very far in capturing the radical nature of living implied by someone interested in following such a path. They’re just nice, sweet experiments, nothing close to what would be the result of practicing just the statement “the kingdom of heaven is within you”, much less the rest of the teachings that Chopra presents as from Jesus.

Enter Shane Claiborne, this time with the assistance of Chris Haw. In Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, Claiborne begins by taking us through the basic story of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Writings, looking at them through the lens of politics and empires, relying I suspect on the long line of biblical “empire” scholarship that began in the 1990s. Then he takes aim at capitalism and current politics that demand allegiance to someone other than God and God’s empire, talking about what that would mean in the typical American life and for the typical middle class American lifestyle and urging those who mean to be followers of Jesus to resist oppressive structures in active ways. In the last part of his book, he gives what he suggests are practical illustrations of how to live as a disciple loyal to God’s empire rather than other empires of any kind. He talks about how to opt out of the use of money, using the trash of a disposable society, growing your own food or supporting local and CSA farmers, donating the percentage of taxes owed that would go to weapons to a nonprofit and then alerting the IRS of that fact when paying the rest of your taxes, and much more. It’s all good stuff to conjure with, but what’s missing is all the internal work that needs to go along—or probably preceed—such changes if one is really to follow Jesus’ way, the kinds of work that Chopra was discussing in his book.

So I’m glad I read Chopra and Claiborne together. Without either, I’d have a skewed, extremely partial view of Jesus and the world he was urging us all to live toward and within.

Soccer Season

Spring arrived and with it-- soccer. Last weekend Becca and her Wizards team played their first game of the season in the WYSL premier league, where the competition looks like it's going to be much tougher than in the league to which they used to belong. And we spent Saturday down at Chelsea Piers watching Dan and his team from the New York Ramblers play other teams from around the US in 11 minute 5 on 5 games in the 2008 Indoor Classic. It was the first time I'd seen Dan play soccer in almost six years. With the way the indoor fields are set up, getting pictures at the Pier isn't the easiest thing in the world, but here are a few mediocre ones from the day.

Dan's team waiting for the field