Tuesday, January 31, 2017

snow...from the past

It snowed most of the day--but soft and not too much. Just a little slippery.

So, I searched my blog for 'snow' posts. And since Sunday is the Super Bowl and I hate the Patriots so much, here's the one I chose.....

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowy Sunday II

My snowy Sunday was made just a little while ago.

The Broncos beat the  New England Patriots!

What could be better?

I have a remarkable hatred of the Patriots and Bill Belechek, their coach (who deserves his name misspelled, if indeed, as I believe, I did) and most, most of all, Tom Brady.

I don't know where my hatred of all things Patriots comes from exactly. But it is, like the Jordon River, 'deep and wide'....

It all started when Bill bailed out on the Jets, where he was supposed to coach.

And it has something to do with how many people in CT just 'love' the Patriots. (Always liked to be an outsider, you know.)

And it has something to do with how 'perfect' Tom Brady seems (whining and cheating notwithstanding). I don't get 'being perfect' since Lord knows I'm not.

So watching them lose made my day!

I should probably go into therapy about my hatred of the Pats and Tom. But until I do, I'm just going to glory in their loss today....

Monday, January 30, 2017

a nation of immigrants???

No more, maybe.

The outrage and fear unleashed by President Chump...I mean Trump...over immigration should make the statue of liberty throw herself in the harbor.

My paternal family has been here for at least seven generation--but we came here from somewhere else.

My great-grandfather Jones came over from Ireland. (His name was O'Connor but he and his two brothers got in a fight on the boat and all gave false names at Ellis Island. Not much 'extreme vetting' in those days.

Bern's father immigrated from Italy as a teen and her mother was the child of Hungarian immigrants.

The irrationality of thinking prohibiting immigration is in the name of national defense is so lame it doesn't even deserve refuting.

Ten days into Trump's 'reign', which seems to be how he thinks of it, rather than 'administration'--not much of which is going on--reminds me of some Third World Strong Man, not a president.

But people are reacting and the media isn't taking Steve Bannon's advice to 'keep their mouths shut'. And I've found myself praying more than in the past.

Prayer is good, right?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Blessed and Bless-ed

Tomorrow's lesson from the Gospels is the Beatitudes. The 'bless-ed' or 'blessed of all the counter cultural folks like the meek, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. And in Trump World such 'soft' virtues are really out of style.

What struck me and what I'll  say tomorrow at Emmanuel Church is that you can pronounce b-l-e-s-s-e-d two ways: one syllable or two.

Bless-ed, it seems to me is about holiness. The Bless-ed Virgin Mary, for example. But 'blessed' implies that the person is smiled upon in some way--that being meek brings blessings to the meek.

Just strikes me as something to notice and ponder.

Of course I'll use the lines from Monty Python's Life of Bryan when someone at the back of the crowd says, 'did he say blessed are the cheese-makers?' And someone else replies, "I'm sure he meant all those who work in 'dairy'."

Of course I'll mention that.

Friday, January 27, 2017

cognative dissonance

Bern and I had a long talk about 'cognitive dissonance' yesterday. I realized I didn't actually fully understand the term. I always thought cognitive dissonance was about something 'outside' me that didn't match with something 'inside' me. Actually, I now understand, it is about holding two irreconcilable 'inner' thoughts in balance.

Like: "I live a healthy lifestyle" and "I smoke and don't exercise". The brain is able to take those two contradictory beliefs and make them compatible. It's all 'inside' stuff. It's all making up reasons that two contradictions can actually be logical.

I think I've even used the term "cognitive dissonance" to describe how I feel since the election. The 'outer' reality, in my not fully understanding the concept, didn't match my 'inner' reality.

Now that I really understand cognitive dissonance, I realize I still have it since Trump was elected and especially now that he's my President.

I believe (at one in the same time) that the American system of government can correct any problems with those who govern AND that Trump isn't qualified or suited or psychologically able to be President.

So, I hold my breath and believe everything will be alright.

And I don't think, really, it will be. I need to face that and deal with it.

David Brooks is my favorite conservative. I even gave my son Brooks' new book for Christmas. In Brooks' latest column in the New York Times, he corrects my dissonance with logic and clear thinking.

Here it is.

When he erred it was often on the utopian side of things, believing that tax cuts could pay for themselves, believing that he and Mikhail Gorbachev could shed history and eliminate all nuclear weapons.
The mood of the party is so different today. Donald Trump expressed the party’s new mood to David Muir of ABC, when asked about his decision to suspend immigration from some Muslim countries: “The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What, you think this is going to cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place.”
Consider the tenor of Trump’s first week in office. It’s all about threat perception. He has made moves to build a wall against the Mexican threat, to build barriers against the Muslim threat, to end a trade deal with Asia to fight the foreign economic threat, to build black site torture chambers against the terrorist threat.
Trump is on his political honeymoon, which should be a moment of joy and promise. But he seems to suffer from an angry form of anhedonia, the inability to experience happiness. Instead of savoring the moment, he’s spent the week in a series of nasty squabbles about his ratings and crowd sizes.
If Reagan’s dominant emotional note was optimism, Trump’s is fear. If Reagan’s optimism was expansive, Trump’s fear propels him to close in: Pull in from Asian entanglements through rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Pull in from European entanglements by disparaging NATO. It’s not a cowering, timid fear; it’s more a dark, resentful porcupine fear.
We have a word for people who are dominated by fear. We call them cowards. Trump was not a coward in the business or campaign worlds. He could take on enormous debt and had the audacity to appear at televised national debates with no clue what he was talking about. But as president his is a policy of cowardice. On every front, he wants to shrink the country into a shell.
J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “A man that flies from his fear may find that
he has only taken a shortcut to meet it.”
Desperate to be liked, Trump adopts a combative attitude that makes him unlikable. Terrified of Mexican criminals, he wants to build a wall that will actually lock in more undocumented aliens than it will keep out. Terrified of Muslim terrorists, he embraces the torture policies guaranteed to mobilize terrorists. Terrified that American business can’t compete with Asian business, he closes off a trade deal that would have boosted annual real incomes in the United States by $131 billion, or 0.5 percent of G.D.P. Terrified of Mexican competition, he considers slapping a 20 percent tariff on Mexican goods, even though U.S. exports to Mexico have increased 97 percent since 2005.
Trump has changed the way the Republican Party sees the world. Republicans used to have a basic faith in the dynamism and openness of the free market. Now the party fears openness and competition.
In the summer of 2015, according to a Pew Research Center poll, Republicans said free trade deals had been good for the country by 51 to 39 percent. By the summer of 2016, Republicans said those deals had been bad for America by 61 percent to 32 percent.
It’s not that the deals had changed, or reality. It was that Donald Trump became the Republican nominee and his dark fearfulness became the party’s dark fearfulness. In this case fear is not a reaction to the world. It is a way of seeing the world. It propels your reactions to the world
he has only taken a shortcut to meet it.”

As Reagan came to office he faced refugee crises, with suffering families coming in from Cuba, Vietnam and Cambodia. Filled with optimism and confidence, Reagan vowed, “We shall seek new ways to integrate refugees into our society,” and he delivered on that promise.

Trump faces a refugee crisis from Syria. And though no Syrian-American has ever committed an act of terrorism on American soil, Trump’s response is fear. Shut them out.
Students, the party didn’t used to be this way. A mean wind is blowing.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

As far as I can tell....

As far as I can tell, religion may just be a crutch.

"The opiate of the people" comes to mind, for example.

And there isn't a lot of verifiable evidence about the "good" religion does. For every Civil Rights Movement driven by Christianity's love, there are half-a-dozen examples of how religion causes nonsense, chaos and conflict.

The Religion of faithful Jews and faithful Muslims in Israel hasn't yet honed out a result that gives life to all. And the religious fervor of that nation--on both sides--could be blamed for much of the decades long violence and struggle.

The dominant 'religion' of almost anywhere can almost always be seen as subjugating and harming the religious minorities. Lord knows that President Trump's attitudes toward Muslims is causing more harm than good.

Need I bring up the Crusades? I think not.

And the social issues in the good old US of A are all driven by so called "Christian values". A woman's right to choose how to manage her body, GLBT rights about everything from marriage to adoption, who businesses can decide not to serve, who should be able to vote or live here, prayer in public schools just touch the surface of what some Christians want to proclaim as 'Christian'.

Maybe religion is a crutch that can be used as a weapon. That's not far off from the Truth.

Yet, as someone who since September 28, soon to be four months, a third of a year, has had to rely on crutches and now a cane, I'm not so fast to judge crutches and canes and such.

I lean on the 'crutch' of compassion, acceptance of the stranger, love for your enemy, openness to what is new and different as the elements of my faith, my 'religion'.

You know, of course, about the word 'religion'. It is from "re"--'again'--and "ligare", which means 'to tie together." The only common English word from the Latin 'ligare' is 'ligament'--and, as one who ruptured and severed my quad muscle in September and still need a cane in January--I know that a 'ligament' ties a muscle to a bone.

Religion means, literally, 'to tie together again'.

But here's where I come down and come down hard: RELIGION is only True, only Holy, only what it is meant to be when it 'ties things together'.

Whenever and wherever 'religion' is used to separate or divide or destroy, it is not true or holy or 'real'.

Let our crutch be this: We will tie together whatever is torn asunder with our faith, our religion.

When we're dividing instead of tying together, that is not 'religion' in any way, shape or form. It is evil and destructive and masquerading  as 'faith' and 'religion'. It is anti-religion that divides and tears apart. Beware of it at your soul's peril.

Religion has been used as a weapon rather than a support for so long that many well-meaning, just, noble and longing for healing people have rejected 'religion'.

We may not be able to bring them back, but we are compelled by God to practice a religion that 'ties together' the wounds of our hearts, our culture, our nation, our world.

To do less imperils our souls as well as our dignity and our purpose as children of God.

The time is now. We are the ones we've been waiting for....(a little bit of Hopi Elder wisdom there....)

Sometimes you need a crutch for a while after something in your body has been 'tied together again'.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2 sides to my old home

I am a West Virginian, an Appalachian, a Mountaineer.

Two things today about my home state, where I got the accent people still comment on though I think I sound like a New England native.

A survey I read on line found that West Virginia is the 'unhappiest' state. It was based on a whole list of things like income, volunteerism, obesity, drug use, suicide--on and on the list went. Although West Virginia was one of the top 5 states in environment (and it is drop dead beautiful) it came in so poorly on health and well being issues that it was dead last. Lower than Mississippi, which is hard to do!

Sad place. And my last couple of visits would bear that out. A dozen years or so ago, four other adults and I took a dozen kids from St. John's in Waterbury to do a work camp in McDowell County, where I grew up. Get this, of all the counties in the country McDowell (which is MAC-dal to natives) has BOTH the earliest death date AND the oldest average age. Ponder that. No young people. Not many people at all. 70,000 when I was growing up; 28,000 now. Imagine the number of boarded up homes. I wept to be there back in 2003.

Then there's this: WVU's men's basketball team (currently ranked #18) beat #2 Kansas tonight by 16 points! Just a week or so after beating #1 Baylor! The first team since Indiana in 2011 to beat a #1 and #2 team in the same season.

WVU has lost four games this year by a total of 10 points--mostly because they suck at shooting foul shots. 3 of their loses have been on the last possession. Go figure.

West Virginia will fill your heart to brimming and break it too.

Monday, January 23, 2017

only one thing scarier....

I had a conversation tonight with Bern about two things.

The easiest first.

I asked her if someone could be a feminist AND anti-abortion.

She not only believed someone could. She believes someone can be both anti-abortion and pro-choice at the same time.

Well, that I buy. I'm one of those. I hate abortion, every one of them. I hate anything that stops someone who is conceived from being born into this confusing, hateful but totally amazing world. Never being able to love a dog. Never feeling the sun. Never hearing the sleet against the window--never mind every thing else--I hate that fetuses die.

AND, in capital letters, I support without reservation a woman's right to choose an abortion. I'm not a woman and was never faced with ending a pregnancy. So, I have no cards in the game to begin with. A woman has a right to decide what happens to her body. Period. Full Stop.

But many feminists don't believe holding those two things--hating abortion and believing in 'choice' is possible. I'm glad Bern does.

The other thing we talked about is harder.

Bern believes Trump 'denies' the 'truth'.

I wish that were true, as scary as it is in a President.

What I think is scarier. I think Trump truly thinks that what he thinks is the 'truth'.

I believe he truly thinks more people were at his inauguration and viewed it that any other--even though factually that isn't true.

I believe our President isn't just being testy when confronted with 'facts he doesn't like'. I believe he believes his 'alternative facts' are TRUE.

What does the Bible say? You can 'believe' a 'lie' and be damned????

I think that's what it says.

I hope Bern is right about both things--that 'pro-life' folks can be 'pro-choice' and deal with that ambiguity.

And I hope she's right that Trump simply 'denies the truth' instead of what I think, which is he believes his opinion is always TRUE.

We'll see on both, down the road a bit....

watching the dead

(This post has nothing to do with "he who must not be named". Really.)

I think I've mentioned that somehow--Lord knows I don't know 'how' I did it--when my computer goes to sleep I get a slide show of the photos on my computer. Most of them or 8-10 years old, so I get to watch my younger children (Josh with Cathy, Mimi still unattached) and there are photos of the twins (Morgan and Emma) as babies both in Josh and Cathy's Brooklyn apartment and in our house--with me and Bern and Mimi. So cute! My hair isn't completely brown, even that many years ago, but isn't as white as it is now. And Bern looks 35, if that.

But the eerie things is watching the dead. Not people--creatures....

I see Sumi (Josh and Cathy's dog) with Sadie (neither of whom is still alive). There are some pictures of Bela as a puppy with Sumi as well--one of the two of them in our bed.

And there are lots of pictures of the three cats we had back then: Catherine and her daughter, Millie and Lukie, who lived until last year.

It isn't morbid at all. On my screen, all those dead creatures are alive again and dear in my memory.

There's one photo of Lukie, sitting in my packed but unzipped duffel bag, asleep! I've even printed that out, after Luke finally died at 14 or so (our Best Cat ever) and it's on the side of our refrigerator. I show it to the girls when they're here and tell them "Luke was going on a long, long trip...." That, if I think of death in any way, is how I think of it. A long, long trip.

I don't know where to (which bothers some people in their priest, but, surprisingly perhaps, seems to reassure more people) but I think it must be a journey if only into darkness and silence.

Sometimes when I come to my dozing computer I watch and watch the photos moving by. And especially feel warm watching the dead creatures live again for a moment....

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"alternative facts..."

OK, you can't make this stuff up....

Kelly Ann Conway, a Trump advisor, was on Chuck Todd's "Face the Nation" today. Todd asked her why Trump's Press Secretary was sent out to lecture the White House Press corps on things that were clearly 'not factual' about the size of the crowd at the Inauguration.

Conway told Todd and a nationwide TV audience that Spicer was just offering "alternative facts"!!!

An 'alternative fact' is, I guess, a synonym for a "lie"--or more generously, an 'opinion'. I have lots of 'opinions' that are not based in 'fact'. A fact is, in my understanding, immutable. "Opinions" blow in the wind until confronted by 'facts'. Alternative facts are not 'facts'.

The Sun revolves around the Earth is an 'alternative fact'.

George Washington was the second President is an 'alternative fact'.

Five plus five is eleven is an 'alternative fact'.

Let's be crystal clear here: there are 'facts' and there are 'opinions', 'slogans' and 'untruths'. There is no category in logic or reason called 'alternative facts'.

Oh man, if it wasn't such a nightmare already, this new Presidency would be a barrel of laughs.

(I know I said I wouldn't write about the Trump folk every day--but I may not be able to keep that promise.)

Or maybe, my promise was just an 'alternative fact'.

WASHINGTON — Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the White House had put forth “alternative facts” to ones reported by the news media about the size of Mr. Trump’s inauguration crowd.
She made this assertion a day after Mr. Trump and Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, had accused the news media of reporting falsehoods about the inauguration and Mr. Trump’s relationship with the intelligence agencies.
In leveling this attack, the president and Mr. Spicer made a series of false statements.
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Here are the facts.
1. In a speech at the C.I.A. on Saturday, Mr. Trump said the news media had constructed a feud between him and the intelligence community. “They sort of made it sound like I had a ‘feud’ with the intelligence community,” he said. “It is exactly the opposite, and they understand that, too.”
In fact, Mr. Trump repeatedly criticized the intelligence agencies during his transition to office and has questioned their conclusion that Russia meddled in the election to aid his candidacy. He called their assessment “ridiculous” and suggested that it had been politically motivated.
After the disclosure of a dossier with unsubstantiated claims about him, Mr. Trump alleged that the intelligence agencies had allowed a leak of the material. “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” he asked in a post on Twitter.
2. Mr. Trump said of his inauguration crowd,“It looked honestly like a million and a half people, whatever it was, it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.”
Aerial photographs clearly show that the crowd did not stretch to the Washington Monument.  An analysis by The New York Times, comparing photographs from Friday to ones taken of Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, showed that Mr. Trump’s crowd was significantly smaller and less than the 1.5 million people he claimed.
3. Mr. Trump said that though he had been “hit by a couple of drops” of rain as he began his address on Inauguration Day, the sky soon cleared. “And the truth is, it stopped immediately, and then became sunny,” he said. “And I walked off, and it poured after I left. It poured.”
The truth is that it began to rain lightly almost exactly as Mr. Trump began to speak and continued to do so throughout his remarks, which lasted about 18 minutes, and after he finished.
4. “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe,” Mr. Spicer said.
There is no evidence to support this claim. Not only was Mr. Trump’s inauguration crowd far smaller than Mr. Obama’s in 2009, but he also drew fewer television viewers in the United States (30.6 million) than Mr. Obama did in 2009 (38 million) and Ronald Reagan did in 1981 (42 million), Nielsen reported.
5. Mr. Spicer said that Washington’s Metro system had greater ridership on Friday than it did for Mr. Obama’s 2013 inauguration. “We know that 420,000 people sed the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural,” Mr. Spicer said.
Neither number is correct, according to the transit system, which reported 570,557 entries into the rail system on Friday, compared with 782,000 on Inauguration Day in 2013.
6. Mr. Spicer said that “this was the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall. That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past the grass eliminated this visual.”
In fact, similar coverings were used during the 2013 inauguration to protect the grass. The coverings did not hamper analyses of the crowd size.
7. Mr. Spicer said that it was “the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.”
The Secret Service said security measures were largely unchanged this year. There were also few reports of long lines or delays.
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From the NY Times (probably 'fake news'.....)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

ok, ok, I'll try not to....

I'll try not to assault you every day with my opinions on the new President for 4 years. I'll try.

But today, I will.

Trump's press spokesman briefed the press today on how woefully underestimated the number of people at the Inauguration was and how over estimated the crowds at the Women's March were. Just look on line at the aerial photos and let me know.

Trump also took off the federal government's websites information about climate change today.

His speech yesterday was distopian at best and blatantly wrong at worse.

Lordy, Lordy, I hope to live four more years at least, but at this rate my heart may not take it....

Friday, January 20, 2017

LA LA Land (2)

So, I posted three weeks ago that to miss the Trumpness of  today, Bern and I were going to see LA LA Land. And we did.

And it is great!

I've never seen a movie quite like it. It is a musical movie that succeeds both as a musical and as a movie.

It is a wonderful story--right out of the dreams of la-la-land and Hollywood. And, amazingly, right out of real life.

It's worth the price of admission for the John Legend music and the opening scene. But it is worth so much more. Laughter, tears, amazement, whimsy, beauty (lots of visual beauty) love and loss.

What else would you want? Oh, a little movie magic? Lots of that too.

Must see, I'd say.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Life via the New Yorker

My latest edition of The New Yorker arrived today. OK, I know, having a subscription to The New Yorker makes me the kind of liberal elite that offended enough white people in four states to make Donald Trump President. I know, I know, but I love the magazine.And I'm proud to be a Blue State liberal elite, thank you very much....

The cover shows the President-elect (who knew I would be so fond of 'elect' since November that I can't face the fact that that part of the title goes away in two days!!!) in one of those car machines you see outside Walmart. There's an American flag on the hood and he's riding it with Secret Service people's shoulders showing on each side.

And that's my take on all this. President Obama's farewell speech Tuesday and final news conference today demonstrated what has made me adore him, in spite of his inability to truly 'rule' with such opposition from the Republicans--he is a responsible adult.

He even said in his press conference that 'no-drama Obama' was exactly who he was. A grown up, for goodness sake has been our leader for eight years.

The New Yorker cover depicts 'the Donald' as a child.

I've had two children and now four grand-daughters and I've been a child and I've known a multitude of children. And now, in my mind, one will be our President.

Even Ivanka, his wife, said in an interview that she sometimes felt she had 'two children'--Baron and Donald. And who, I ask you, names their son "Baron"? I would have named one of my little plastic men--of which I had hundreds as a child--'Baron'. But a real human being? I don't think so.

Hopefully someone will keep feeding quarters into the car ride to keep our boy President occupied and let career folks run the country.

Just me talkin'.....

Just me hoping....

OK, I don't do this kind of thing....

I tend to think of myself as "with it". Then I remember I don't have a Facebook page, I don't tweet, I have a flip-phone, for God's sake. I'm not 'with it' at all.

I listened on line to an 8 minute video of music by Marconi Union called "Weightless" because it was seen as the best 'music therapy' music ever. And I admit, my calmness after 8 minutes was a tad surprising--since I'm 'calm' already. I wasn't sure I could stand up, for example. And my Tinnitus 'crickets' were gone (and still are, an hour later)!

So, though I don't do this kind of thing, I suggest you go on line and find "Weightless" by Marconi Union and listen to it and see how you feel.

I may find a way to listen to it daily.....

Something to ponder.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Something from the past...

I noticed several people had viewed this 2009 post so I read it and thought it worth re-posting.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

wearing a collar

Several months ago I bumped into a member of St. John's, the parish I serve, in a grocery store. I gave her a hug and she said, "I don't think I've ever seen you without a clerical collar."

That's one reason for not wearing clerical garb--the black shirt and wide, circular band of white collar--you don't have to...people see you in it anyway. The truth is I haven't worn a collar for five or six years now but there was no way I could convince that devoted member of the parish. "You wear one every Sunday," she said. And I believed that's what she saw every Sunday.

I didn't stop all at once. It was more like attrition. I lost all my collar buttons at some point and being naturally abscent minded, forgot to order more. Collar buttons come in several styles--most of which don't work. I always used the ones that went through the little holes in the black shirt and opened like a toggle switch to hold the collar in place. All the other styles--in my experience--find a way to edge through the hole in the shirt on the front or back or slip out of the "Clericool" collar. That's what the kind of collar I wore was called, believe it or not, since it was made of some material that doesn't exist in nature and probably never decomposes and had little holes in it to circulate air next to your skin. I kept wearing collars after I lost all my buttons by attaching them to my shirt with small paper clips, bobby pins or twist ties I'd take from loaves of bread. The twist ties worked best, but like they do when holding bread wrappers shut, they tended to get twisted the wrong way and I'd have to seek help getting them undone.

So, a second reason not to wear a collar is how hard it is to keep up with the buttons. When dropped on the floor they were designed to be invisible until you stepped on them with your bare feet, bruising the soles of your feet and making you walk funny for a day or two. I once was holding the button I was going to attach to the back--you have to attach the front one first unless you wear a collar 4 or 5 inches too large...which some priests do, I've noticed--and swallowed it by accident. Well, it was like an accident--certainly not on purpose--I laughed at something when I had it in my mouth and down it went. Since collar buttons are not cheap, I watched for it for a few days but decided that was sick. I hope it came out and isn't discovered in my next colonoscopy. That would be really embarrassing, it seems to me.

Finally, one of the twist ties I was using broke the hole in the collar because I had worn all the paper off it and the twist tie was like a scalpel at that point. That was my last collar and since I hadn't gotten around to ordering buttons I was equally negligent in ordering collars. After that I wore black shirts without collars for a while, pretending I had on a collar, but people would say, "did you forget your collar?" a lot and I got tired of making up humorous responses.

I could, I suppose, have worn those clergy shirts that have what's called a "Roman collar" or a "tab collar"--a little piece of plastic that looks like a tongue depressor--but I've noticed most priests who wear those carry the tab in their chest pocket, like a fountain pen, rather than wearing it. The collars I always wore are called "Anglican collars" and I really didn't want to be mistaken for a Roman Catholic priest. It was bad enough being mistaken for an Episcopal priest.

Another reason for not wearing a collar is that it is a 'fun stopper'. You can walk into a really great bar at Friday happy hour in a collar and practically close the place down. Everyone is suddenly siezed by childhood infused guilt, stops cursing, takes their hands off people they aren't married to and decides they've had enough to drink. I was once at a picnic on a hot August day and an acquaintence of mine who is also an Episcopal priest, showed up in a summer weight black suit and a collar. I said to him, "did you have a funeral this morning?" He seemed confused and went on to tell me he and his family were going horseback riding after the picnic. I'd never ride a horse with someone in a collar and I really didn't enjoy the picnic with him slinking around looking clerical.

I only rode an airplane once in a collar. Airplanes and collars do not mix since whoever you are sitting with either wants to confess sins you don't want to hear or turns out to be a religious nut. A friend of mine who I suspects has PJ's with a collar on them told me that he flew from LA to Chicago in his collar and had a sensible conversation with the stranger beside him until they were landing at O'Hare. Then the man said, "what do you Do?" My friend looked down at his black shirt and felt to make sure he still had on his collar (the buttons could have slipped out over Idaho and disappeared on the floor of the plane, after all). "I'm a priest," my friend said. The man replied, "oh, I know what you Are. I want to know what you Do...."

I've used that story in several sermons at ordination services. I use it to tell the person being ordained that 'being a priest' is more about 'being' than 'doing' and you don't need a uniform.

Just last week I told the wife of a priest that I didn't own any clericals. She was somewhere between shocked and outraged. "But don't you ever want to 'be in uniform'?" she asked. I probably said I preferred being a 'plain clothes' priest, sort of an ecclesiastical detective. And the truth is, I've never much liked uniforms of any kind. People in uniform are proclaiming that they 'do' something--direct traffic, drive buses, conduct trains, fight wars, put out fires, etc. Uniforms are designed to separate out the people wearing them from everybody else. They announce for all the world to know, "I am DOING something here--give me room to do it". A priest, unless a religious service is going on--and we have these really hot 'uniforms' for those--isn't 'doing' much of anything that needs space and room to perform. So, no, I don't want to be in uniform.

Back when I was 'in uniform' I noticed that I could wander around hospitals with great impunity. I once found myself one door away from an operating theatre in what was surely a sterile area because I was lost and not one of the dozen hospital employees I'd passed since breaking through into a place I shouldn't have been had called me to account about why I didn't have on a mask and gloves and those neat little booties people wear in such places. That's really nuts, to have a guy soaked in germs wandering free in a supposedly germ free space because he had on a collar. I don't like the deference people give me when I'm 'in uniform'. I AM, after all, a priest and can inform anyone of that if they ask. But wearing the uniform forms a shield of invulnerability and provides a cloak of invisibility to a priest that I'm not sure is a good idea, especially not a step away from open heart surgery, or most anything.

(This next paragraph contains graphic language that most people thing people who wear...or could wear...collars should never write. I didn't say them, but I will write them. The faint of heart should scroll down quickly lest they be offended....)

I was coming back from lunch at a downtown restaurant a few years ago with a priest friend. He was in clericals and I had on jeans and a second-hand sports coat. I noticed how people separated to let us pass--good people, bad people, people of all shapes and sizes and colors...all except the little old Italian ladies who wanted to kiss his hand. (Not having strangers kiss my hand is another reason I don't wear a collar!) Then we met up with this crazy guy who I knew who always asked me for money. He knew I was a priest in my tee-shirt and said, drugged half-out of his mind, "Fa-der, give me two dol-lers." I said 'no', quietly and firmly and kept walking. Then he started yelling at me: "Fa-der, ya are a muther-fucker! Fad-er, Ya don't care if I go ta hell...." And kept yelling it louder and louder. I stepped a step or two away from my friend and all the people on the street looked at him like he was spitting on the cross for not helping that poor man. One of the little old Italian ladies screwed up her courage and said to my friend, "you're shameful..." I just walked along, smiling, out of uniform.

Finally, I am so liberated by not wearing a collar because of my neck. Or, more accurately, my 'no neck'. I am a man whose head rests on his shoulders. If I look up, you can see my neck, but it is really a 'no neck'. Clerical collars were designed for people with long, gazelle-like necks. They look fabulous on people with real necks. Angelina Jolee would look great in a collar. In fact she would look very seductive in clericals....Well, let's don't go there. Suffice it to say, collars were made for men and women with necks. They look like a kind of necklace on some people. On me, a collar looks like a hangman's noose and is about that comfortable.

A dear priest friend of mine had spent all morning laboriously boning the Thanksgiving turkey and was planning to come home after he did a noon Eucharist and stuff it in an elaborate way. As luck would have it, he was distracted and didn't get home until 3, after his wife had returned from work. He looked in the refrigerator and found his fully boned turkey (a feat of no mean merit!) gone. When he asked his wife where it was she told him something terrible had happened and the turkey had collapsed so she threw it out. My friend was so distraught (being naturally prone to histrionics) he began, in the good old Old Testament way, to 'rend his clothing'. He tore most all his clothes into shreds, his wife told me later, but his collar wouldn't come undone. He must have had toggle switch buttons or twist ties holding it on. So she left him writhing on the kitchen floor, choking himself with his Anglican collar.

That's a final reason not to wear one--it ruins such dramatics....

There really is no moral to this story. I wore collars faithfully for over 25 years, in spite of the discomfort and how no one really 'looks' at you on the street and how collars make some people nervous and brings out the neurosis in normal folks on airplanes. It was simply fortunate for me that I swallowed that collar button (this is the first time I've revealed that event, by the way) and cut my last collar with a twist tie. I just never got around to ordering new ones and everyone who knows me knows I'm a priest and I am perfectly happy that those who don't know me don't know that about me. And I'm lots more comfortable. Besides, I don't think the woman in the super market is the only one who sees it when it's not there!

(Just so you don't believe I am ultimately frivolous about this, two stories.
Years ago I was at a meeting with a bishop from Africa who came from a nation where Christians were being horribly persecuted. When some asked, "Bishop, what can we give you to help?" he thought a moment and said, "clerical collars so that when the people are being dragged away to prison and torture they can see their priests are being dragged away as well...."
Back after 9/11, I went several times with a group from St. John's to Ground Zero to work at St. Paul's church, serving food, praying with rescue workers, just listening to people. We clergy were asked to wear collars so people could recognize that we were there for more than giving them lunch and a bottle of water. In that case I was humbled to wear a collar.
Should such needs arise, I would put a collar on even if I had to use duct tape to hold it on....)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Open letter to my "grand" girls #7

Playing the game....

Dear Emma, Morgan, Tegan and Ellie,

I was in Baltimore this weekend with you Bradley girls' father and Ellie McCarthy's uncle Josh. We had several long discussions about the subject of all these letters--how to live in "Trump World" as liberal, progressive, proto-socialists.

My son and I have often, often disagreed but on this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, I found him insightful and well worth pondering.

MLK and 'the Donald'--no more striking contrast in two men could be drawn. And yet, King's national holiday and Donald's inauguration are separated by less than a hundred hours.

What your dad/uncle and my son showed me was this: we are beginning a four year 'game'. And we need to learn how to play it. In spite of what all the TV talking heads and pundits are begging for, Trump isn't going to change. We have 4 years of tweets to deal with. We have irrationality to deal with. We have 'no clear policy' to deal with. It won't be 'politics as usual', it will be a grand 'game' that we must learn to play.

Logic, rationality and politics are out the window. We on the Left know how to do that. What we're being invited into is a vast game that requires us to forget what we know about how to 'do politics' and to live and be and do in an alternative universe not of our making.

Direct attacks may not be the way to go. Subtlety and spinning irrationality may be the way to play the game.

When to make him react and when to merely act around him--that will be the decisions we have to make. Manipulating the Grand Manipulator is the way to go forward.

I'm not sure what all that means yet and hope I'll learn the game as I play it. But I no longer feel depressed and out of control. Suddenly Josh gave me an option. There's a new game in town and we have to learn to play it....

I'll let you girls know how it's going....

Love you so, Granpa.....

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Oh, Joe, I love you....

I just watched on-line, President Obama present Vice-President, Joe Biden with the Medal of Freedom, with 'distinction'. Only three other people have received that highest civilian honor "with distinction"--Ronald Regan, Pope John Paul II and Colin Powell. Those are all by other Presidents. This is the only time Obama has given a 'with distinction' Medal.

Biden was obviously taken by surprise. He turned his back and wiped his face with his handkerchief (of course Joe Biden carries a handkerchief, starched and ironed, I'm sure) and he also had to blow his nose. His look was one of disbelief and wonder as the President put the Medal (which is kinda tacky, I'd say!) around his neck.

I watched the three minute clip three times and wept more each time. (I have such a bad cold that weeping is not a good idea--more mucus is a mistake!)

Oh, Joe, I so wish  you had run for President.

I understand completely why you didn't. If one of my children died, I'm not sure I could get up in the morning and function, much less do more than function. I know. I understand.

But how different the world might look to me today had you been able to run for President, had Bo not died. How different the world might look to me as you prepared to be inaugurated.

And I have no doubt you would have won. Those folks in PA and Wisconsin and Michigan who turned the tide would have been your voters--not Trumps. Scranton, PA, for God's sake. You are, perhaps the 'man of the people' as no one else is.

Bless you for your service, your dedication, your ethics, your 'man of the people-ness', your tears today, your disbelief and humility and wonder.

Oh, Joe, Love you I do....(as Yoda, who is not unlike you, would say....)

Going to Baltimore

Josh and Cathy and the girls moved into a new house in September, but because I was lain up with knee surgery we haven't seen it yet.

We're going tomorrow after we take bad dog Bela to Holiday Pet Lodge in Wallingford, the best kennel we've ever known. They swear Bela is a good dog there--it''s like when you picked up your kids at a play date and we're told what angels they are (which you knew not to be true!) I guess what they mean is Bela hasn't bitten them badly or killed another animal....

We have always made good time going to Baltimore. We usually make it in between four hours and four hours 15 minutes. The last time we came home from Brooklyn it took longer than that!

I noticed at Christmas how grown up Emma, Morgan and Tegan have gotten. If I made New Year's Resolutions (I sometimes make some like "I won't drink Yak milk" or "No scuba diving this year") one would be to make sure I see my granddaughters more this year than last. The Bradley girls have never come to stay with us by themselves. I think they should this summer. Ellie isn't coming by herself for quite a while, but 10, 10 and 7 seem ages to come for a while. I could go get them and bring them back on the train.

That's something to negotiate with Cathy and Josh. We couldn't ruin them rotten in a week, could we???

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What is so rare as a day in January?

I know, I know, it's supposed to be another J-month you say that about. But nothing like a week in the teens to make 44 seem balmy....

I was walking the dog on this rare warm day when I had a crack in my brain open and I fell into 1970!

I was thinking of my early days at Harvard Divinity School. I almost didn't get to go because I got drafted. The first piece of mail I got in Cambridge was of the "Greetings..." variety. Eventually, the bishop of WV got me classified 4-D (the only category besides 4-F that wasn't being drafted) divinity and disability were the only things to keep you out of Viet Nam in 1969!

But what I thought about mostly was G.E. Wright, and Old Testament professor (or 'Hebrew Scriptures' as they're know in a more PC time). I never had a class from him but he was bigger than life and you couldn't help but know him.

He used to tell his students there were two ways to study the Old Testament: "The 'von Rad' way and the 'Wright' way!" (Von Rad was a German scholar Wright didn't agree with). Wright was "Right" and nobody questioned it. He was that kind of man.

What I remembered about him (probably because today has so much talk about 'the Intelligence  community) was seeing this boisterous, supremely confident man sitting on the sidewalk of Divinity Avenue weeping--really weeping.

For reasons beyond all comprehension but Harvard's, the CIA had a small office in the Semitic Museum on Divinity Ave. The Semitic Museum had artifacts from all over the Mid-east and especially ancient Israel. Some SDSers had bombed the CIA office and destroyed some irreplaceable, unique works.

Wright had been called, of course, before the smoke cleared. He was sitting in his suit on the sidewalk, holding a broken bowl, crying his eyes out for the Past....

In spite of his sometimes hard to take personality, that made me a GE Wright fan for life....

Funny how stuff like that is in the cracks of your brain and can crawl out while you're walking your dog....

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Wet dog

Our dog loves the snow. He hated the rain, will object to going out in the rain. But he loves the snow.

Bela is very furry--though it feels like hair instead of fur. Snow makes him just as wet as rain does, but that hasn't occurred to him yet, I don't think.

So, today he's a wet dog.

The snow started about 11 am and it's 3:30 pm now and still snowing. It's suppose to continue until at least 11 tonight.

So, we're looking at a wet dog for awhile.

He's sleeping behind me as I type, covered with a huge white towel.

Wet dogs need towels....

Thursday, January 5, 2017

taste memory

We've all heard of 'muscle memory'--which is why I can sit  here and type without thinking about what my fingers are doing. They just know what to do from muscle memory.

I think there is 'taste memory' too. I had mussels for lunch. Every time I eat mussels, I am back in England where Josh was working after college. He worked in The White Horse Pub in Chelsea. Bern and Mimi and I went to see him for a week and we must (Josh and I) have eaten mussels in some form every day. He's the only person I know who likes them as much as I do. The White Horse was at Parson's Green and had over a hundred selections of beer--mostly on tap! It was the employer of young people from all over the world who got into the UK on a special program/work permit upon graduation from college. One of his best friends was Liam, who was one of the cooks and prepared us a seven course meal (with a different beer for each course!) Liam died young. I still remember that meal--we even had a mussels course. Josh had a girl friend from Columbia (the country, not the University) who went with us most everywhere we went. I am drawn back to that visit by my 'taste memory'.

Then, did I ever tell you that I always feel loved and secure when I walk down the laundry detergent aisle in a super market? I'm sure it's the bleach. My mother bleached everything, even stuff she shouldn't have. Our apartment always had the faint odor of bleach.

That's 'smell memory'....Don't let me get started on that....

Monday, January 2, 2017

Not stupid...worse....

I found a pin for Bern for her stocking that said "Stop Making Stupid People Famous".

Bern hates stupidity, so it was perfect for her.

I only wish Donald Trump (dare I type it...? 'our next President'?) was 'stupid'.

He isn't stupid by a long shot. He wouldn't be where he is if he were stupid. Seldom do stupid people create amazing buildings, incredible golf courses and run multi-billion dollar businesses.

But stupid people also don't get elected President.

Trump's problem isn't that he's 'stupid', it's that he's an undeniable and probably terminal narcissist.

Being a narcissist doesn't prevent you from being famous or successful...it just makes it impossible for you to be a) rational, b) reasonable and c) able to engage others as equals.

A 2012 book on power-hungry narcissists suggests that narcissists typically display most, and sometimes all, of the following traits:[7]
(all that was from Wikipedia)

And it seems clear to me that most, if not all of that makes Donald Trump like the Greek character, Narcissus, who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water.

I am close to more than one Narcissist. I like them, more or less.They are 'charming' (because they want you to admire them) and 'engaging' in an odd way that has to do with always being attentive to their lives.  But I know their psychological disposition and make sure not to provoke them unless it is ethically necessary for me to be who I am.

But I've never be in a position where 'my leader' was a narcissist.

So, what comes next is a new experience for me.

Narcissists are not easy to deal with because they lack the ability to (as I said above) be rational, reasonable and see others as equals.

God help us, I'd say. And I really need to believe in a God more interested in politics than the one I believe in to get God's help in this.....

I wish he were just stupid.....

That I could deal with.

Read this book....

I read a lot but seldom recommend books since I read mostly mysteries and never read non-fiction.  People are always recommending non-fiction books to me that they say "you'd love, Jim". I've stopped telling them I don't read non-fiction and promise to look for the book they're touting at Cheshire Library. But since I never go in the non-fiction section, I never look for it.

But I've half-way through a book right now by Alice Hoffman called Faithful. And though I haven't even finished it I think you should go to your local library and check it out, or get on the waiting list for it since it's a new book and Alice Hoffman is very popular.

Don't buy it or get it on Kendal (how ever that's spelled!) Go to the library and check it out--it's probably on 14 day loan but I bet you'll read it in two days. I just started it this morning and it's 4 p.m. and I've been out a lot and I've read 114 pages and will likely finish it before I sleep. That's how good it is.

(The reason I want you to go to the library and check out a real book is so libraries don't disappear. I love libraries but like non-Smart phones, I fear for their life expectancy....)

Faithful might be one of those books that change my life or at least how I look at living.

That good....

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.