Sunday, November 22, 2009

nose hair

OK, what is the hair in your nose about?

I just spent about ten minutes with this little nose hair clipper buzzing away a lawn of nose hair in my right nostril. The left nostril wasn't as bad, but I had a couple of hairs in there that I could have made into a french braid. Who told hair it was alright to grow in my nose?

Once in a while I have this hair that comes out ON my nose. Somehow--it either grows very fast or I'm an idiot (take your pick)--it is about half an inch long before I notice it. And there is one hair up under my left eye that can become a relic in a few days if I don't pluck it or buzz it or shave it. What's up with hairs springing up where they don't belong? I'd like to give my nose hairs to some of my friends who are losing the hair on their head. My nose hairs seem sturdy and long and wanting to get longer.

One thing I've noticed recently is that even my nose hairs are white these days--at least the hair that sprouts from my nose and the one that flourishes beneath my eye are dark brown. I must still have some dark brown hair DNA--but it doesn't show up in my hair or beard. Go figure....

I don't yet have ear hair. I've known people who could style the hair in their ears it was so thick and luxurious. I'd hate that, plus buzzing that hair might change the tone of the ringing in my ears. It's not there right now, as I type--the ringing I mean--but I'm sure putting the little battery powered gizmo in my ear would cause a cantata in my head.

I discovered I had tinnitus one February night 5 or so years ago. I was out on the back porch smoking a cigarette and listening to the crickets. They were so loud that night I could still hear them when I went to bed. I woke up about 2 a.m. to the sound of the crickets and suddenly realized it was about 4 degrees outside and the only crickets there were were in my head.

Doctors don't know squat about tinnitus. They don't even have experimental treatments for it since it is such a friggin' mystery. I don't mind crickets in my head--most of the time I have to pause to see if they are singing--but I wouldn't want angry wasps or jack hammers. So, if I start getting ear hair I'll pluck it out rather than put the buzzing thing in my ear. (I wear my hair quiet long and one time I did find a two inch hair growing out of my left ear lobe that I hadn't noticed because I thought it was coming from my head. Pulling that out hurt like the dickins and was humiliating though I never told anyone about it...well, I guess I just did, so I am humiliated...Mr 2 inch hair on his ear lobe...what a loser....

If I won powerball I'd give a million or three to the church (I hope people from St. John's read this and know how powerball philanthropic I would be) I'd make my children rich beyond their dreams, endow someone to pick up road kill and properly bury the creatures we slaughter with our cars and set up a scientific investigation of nose hair. It's gone for now but it will be back and I'd bankroll a cure. (I'd also probably buy a low mileage Lexus and take a month long trip to Ireland--but that's just my stuff....)

Maybe we need a nose hair support group so we can talk with each other about how humiliating it is to have nose hair we haven't noticed--much like spinach in our teeth when we're trying to talk to someone we want to impress, seduce, or borrow money from. NHA--Nose Hair Anonymous we'd call it.

"Hi, I'm Jim and I have disgusting nose hair...."

By the way, in my book, all nose hair is disgusting.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Life is hard....

Someone in my family, I don't remember who, used to say, when I was whining about this or that, "I cried because I had no shoes, then I saw a man who had no feet...."

This morning, trying to call the church, I kept forgetting to add the area code, which is new for us--all calls, local or long distance, require the area code now.

I was whining to myself and the Universe and wondering why my life was so miserable..

Then I got a call from a guy who I used to know. He worked at St. John's for a while as the Sexton and then moved to North Carolina. The day he buried his wife, he sat down awkwardly in a chair and somehow broke his neck. After 6 months in the hospital he was finally out and stopped at a stop light when a kid who had stolen a car back-ended him at 70 mph, breaking my friend's back. He's back in Waterbury, living with family, getting around in a power chair, unable to walk--he's 20 years younger than me, by the way. And a few nights ago his nephew's fish tank caught on fire (I'm not even going to speculate about how a fish tank full of water could catch on fire...) and if the dog hadn't barked and waked them up, they all would have died.

2-0-3...that doesn't seem such a burden to punch in when making a call any more.

Ponder that....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What will you miss?

I once had a long talk with a friend who was going to die soon. We both knew it so there was no sense in pretending otherwise. We were standing outside in the early afternoon. It wasn't yet time for my friend to take to bed, though that was coming.

My friend and I were smoking cigarettes--don't get all moral about that, okay? it wasn't what killed my friend and we both loved to smoke.

The sky was that blue that took your breath away. The air was perfect--not too hot, not too cool. The grass was a painful green. Something magic about the afternoon, something so lovely it could make you laugh or bring tears to your eyes.

"Are you going to miss this?" I asked.

"Smoking?" my friend replied, then chuckled. We both laughed. We both knew I meant the wonder of the afternoon, but missing smoking was in there too.

After a long, companionable silence, my friend said, "I think I'll miss most all of it...."

Ever since then, from time to time, I try to notice things I will miss when it comes my time to die. Not in a sentimental or maudlin way--just clearly, so I can imprint the moments deep in my soul. Little things mostly--watching the squirrels chase each other, the sound of birds, the eternal roll of the ocean, the faces of those I love, waking up knowing my dog is beside me in bed, his back against my back, the smell of vanilla, the color of the leaves in early autumn, the taste of fresh coffee flavored with milk and sugar, the laughter of children, the tears I sometimes see sliding down the cheeks of people as they receiving communion, the scent of my wife's hair, something about the moment just before I fall to sleep and the dreams my sleep gifts me with, the day when pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the tone of a piano...a flute...a cello...the weight of my body when I sway to music, sand beneath bare feet....on and on...'most all of it....'

We could do worse, it seems to me, than notice, from time to time, what it is we will miss when it comes time to take to our bed and die.

Just notice and ponder and remember as long as we can.

People ask me often what happens when we die. I really have no clue, but after that perfect afternoon with my friend who has now passed through the magic door, I think this: the best thing would be able to remember all that I miss about being alive....

too hard on Rome? too hard on technology?

I grew up in the Pilgrim Holiness Church and as a teen, my family joined the Methodist Church and then I became an Episcopalian in college and have been ever since. (I would contend I was an Episcopalian from birth in some odd way, but how could I justify that???)

So maybe I AM too hard on Rome. I'd only known it from a distance until I married someone who was an Italian/Hungarian Roman Catholic. So, for most of my life now, I have been in contact, by marriage, to lots and lots of ethnic Roman Catholics.

Nothing in that exposure has led me to believe the RC church is the 'one true church'. (Let me add that 'the one true church' is like saying 'the perfect apple'. I've had some good apples in my time, but never one I would call 'perfect'. I've been around churches all my life and I wouldn't claim that any of them was 'one' or 'true'. ) So maybe I am too hard on Rome.

And the internet and all its manifestations as well. Maybe I'm too hard on them. I only know what I know about churches and technology and most of what I know sins and falls short of the glory of God.

But then I don't get the current rage about Vampires either, but I know I've seen young girls I'd never seen with a book coming to church and choristers with their nose stuck in one of the 'twilight' books. I believe in reading and even though I've never read one of those, I'd rather young girls be reading them than reading nothing. Reading, for its own sake is worth doing. So is religion and so is communication. So maybe I'm too hard on everything.

I don't think of myself who is too hard on things--I think of myself as laid back and non-judgemental. And, I mostly am.

But I heard on the radio a few days ago that the pork farmers are suffering because people believe, for reasons beyond all my comprehension, that 'swine flu' comes from pigs. The name 'swine flu', as I understand it, was because the virus was isolated in a pig who caught that strain of flu from human beings! So, though I'm not usually hard on things, that just seems astonishingly crazy to me--that people gave up sausage and bacon to avoid the flu....As far as I can tell, there is no ill that can't be lessened, if not cured, by a good dose of pork.

Then there is the movie that hasn't been in all theaters yet about how the world will end in 2012. I was driving through rural Maryland and heard a preacher on the radio who had already bought into the Mayan legend that the end will be on December 2o, 2012--get the numerology? 12/20 2012? He hadn't even seen the movie but was saying how gracious God was to give us all this time to repent. Good God, is that nuts or what?

Maybe what I need to ponder is how 'hard' I am on stuff. I'll think about that now....

Monday, November 16, 2009

I gave you fair warning....

I got an email from a friend about going to a Roman Catholic mass and hearing the priest declare what a great job Pope Benedict is doing in 'ecumenical relations' by welcoming Anglicans 'home' to Rome.

It was no surprise to me since I went to a funeral recently at a RC church and heard the priest speak longer about 'blessed Benedict reaching out to the Anglicans' than he did about the dead person.

By now everyone has surely hear that the Pope, waking up and having a 'Pope thought'--which is, you realize, theologically unquestionable since all Pope thoughts are--that he, in his blessedness should invite Anglicans 'home to Rome'. It plays well since it is like ET saying "ET phone home". ANGLICANS HOME TO would fit on a bumper sticker nicely.

Just to be clear: 'ecumenical' is a term that refers to dialog and co-operation between different Christian denominations. My suggesting, for example, that all gay Roman Catholic priests would be welcome to come to the Episcopal church is not 'ecumenical' a whit...and would greatly reduce the already shrinking number of RC priests. (OK, that was bad. I apologize. But me writing that to an audience of half-a-dozen or so is like a candle against the sun of the Pope trying to raid the Anglican church because we are a church that encourages disagreement and--surprise, surprise--gets it!)

I've been criticized by members of the parish I serve for being less than polite to the 'Big Firm' of the Roman Catholic Church. I've taken that criticism seriously whenever it came. No more, beloved!

The Pope went to far this time--a law until himself that he is.

I have willingly and joyfully presided at weddings of divorced Roman Catholics who told me up front that once I--through my role as a priest--blessed their marriage and gave them a second sacrament of the Eucharist, they would trudge back to Rome and become members of the parish that wouldn't bless their love. ANYONE who wants God mixed up in their relationship seems to me to deserve to have God involved. I'm more than happy to do that. But what I don't get is why they'd go back to the abusive relationship after the Episcopal Church had welcomed and affirmed them.

It is my opinion--and I'm ready for any grief this brings me--that many Roman Catholics' relationship with their church is like the battered spouse syndrome that counselors and psychologists simply can't understand. It's like the foster children I worked with as a Social Worker who wanted to 'go home' to the place where they beat them, burned them, abused them and almost killed them. I don't get it, but it is a reality.

I call Roman Catholics who become Episcopalians "recovering Romans" until I see that they have found a way to 'be' Episcopalians without looking over their shoulders in both fear and the pointless hope that things will be better 'back there'.

I often get asked by RCs, "Is this church 'catholic' or 'Christian'?" If they asked Catholic or Protestant, the answer would be the same, but what fascinates me is how many RC folks don't realize their church is, finally, 'Christian'. Anyway, whichever way the question is asked, whether it be 'catholic or Christian' or 'catholic or protestant', the answer is the same. That answer is YES.

The theological tightrope we Episcopalians walk is difficult. We are 'catholic' and, of course, Christian. We are both Catholic and Protestant. That takes some thought and pondering to get your head and heart around. Being a Roman Catholic isn't nearly that confounding, takes next to no thought and is pretty simple since blessed Benedict can wake up any morning and tell you what to do and think.

We Episcopalians ask you to think for yourself and do what God--not the church or the Pope--leads you to do. That's the difference.

Ok, I've written it down. It is eternal in the webosphere. I can't take it back. Yell at me if you wish.

Oh, just one question regarding the Pope's 'ecumenical' action--when you hear the name 'Benedict', who is the other one you immediately think of......?

to blog or not to blog?

Several people have told me they noticed I haven't posted a blog in quite a while. Two thoughts come to me out of that: first, why do people read these ponderings? and secondly, since they do, why am I so inconsistent in writing them?

I have enough ego to think that maybe, just maybe, the answer to the first question is that what I write here is of some interest and, might I hope?, some value.

The second question is easier to answer: I hate what has become of communications in this space and time. Many of the worst mistakes very good communicators have made was when they decided to write emails instead of letters or phone calls or face to face conversation. I allowed myself to be put on face book, but don't try to be my 'friend' since I've looked at my page exactly once in the six months or so it has been there. And I don't give a fig about a tweet or a twitter.

Here is the serious point to all that--other than I'm too lazy to keep up with it all and have not a little hubris about being 'unconnected' while all the world is 'connected'--all this stuff challenges and confounds my profound belief in privacy.

I read on my face book page, the time I looked at it, several notes on my 'wall'--(writing on a wall is a terribly impersonal form of communication to me)--about what people I know and love and deeply respect were up to. One of my dear friends (I mean FRIENDS, not a Face book friend) let me know she was watching Lost on TV. Another let me know they were considering having a beer or two and going to bed. A third let me know what she was in the middle of having for dinner.

I simply don't want to be responsible for keeping anyone from a beer or two for even a moment, or delaying sleep to write on my wall. Plus, I have no interest really in what anyone is watching on TV and certainly don't care about my friends eating habits enough to want them to stop eating to let me know about what it is they are eating. Now, if that sounds harsh and 'disinterested', let me tell you this: "I just spell checked this document and spell check let me correct facebook as 'face book' and 'Face book' on the same spell check." I find that mildly interesting and momentarily ironic that something called "Spell Check" agrees with (I think it was George Washington) the person who said anyone who had to be consistent in spelling has little imagination. {Plus, I just spell checked again and changed 'consistant' to consistent.}

I honestly love 'spell check' since I tend to invert letters--like, I spelled "John" Jhon until I was in high school. But the stuff people write on my wall, just me thinking and writing, seem to be things they would be better served to keep to themselves. I'll have to spell check it, but most everything people wrote on my wall was 'banal' (Hey, I just spelled 'banal' correctly!) I should go on Face book/face book and post that for all my friends...."Jim just spelled 'banal' correctly without any help!"

My tongue is in my cheek, in case you wondered, but I do ponder why we are driven to share stuff that isn't terribly interesting on Face book/face book. And tweets are eons beyond my ken. Though people tell me (I don't know if it is true) that Face book doesn't put things in third person any more, writing something that requires a limited number of letters, words, syllables--whichever--seems to defeat the reality that we all have volumes to say. Twitter would be better served to ask people to communicate in haiku (not even going to spell check that). I'd like receiving haiku from 'friends'. Maybe we could start a service where we 'hike' haiku to each other in real time. I could get into that.

All this is to explain why I haven't been blogging. I simply like having secret thoughts and pondering experiences that no one need ever know I pondered. It seems to me one of the things that make people interesting is the 'mystery' of them--how we can never know what someone else is thinking no matter how much we wish we could. I began to think that if I blogged all the time, I would lose my mystery, my private thoughts, the stuff I want to keep inside and let no one else know about.

That's an interesting question: what are the thoughts you would never, ever, not for a moment, not to anyone reveal? Every time someone says to me, "a penny for your thoughts" I reply, "oh, they're worth a lot more than that--and you can't afford them!"

I know it's not 'true', like TRUE that the Internet will suck out all our thoughts eventually, but I do believe we're leaving the barn door open by never having private thoughts. Lots of stuff on the Internet, people tell me, is cruel, ugly and untrue. People tell me, since I don't look for it, that you can find sites where people say horrible things about our President, people in the media, public figures and even their friends. I hear that blogs and stuff cause a great deal of pain (not to mention law suits) among young folks. I don't know personally, but I've been told that young people send nude pictures of themselves to each other on their smart phones. My phone is definitely not 'smart'. In fact, it is stupid--or maybe its owner is. Maybe I could be sending text messages that would be even more thoughtless than some of my emails have been if I were more adroit at the little phone I carry with me. I'm sure my phone is at least smart enough to refuse to take a picture of me naked. I hope so, though I believe, if I knew how, I could take such a picture and send it out to the world. God help us....

Any way, having gone on and on about how I think the electronic revolution has created a guillotine (I did spell check that--boy was I wrong!) many of our heads are being shoved under, I do think I will blog again.

I will seek to avoid being banal (spelled it right again!) and I will be responsible about how much I violate my privacy. And I do hope--though the writing is what gives me joy--that someone might read what I write from time to time. I don't know why, but there are things I want to share and a blog (that by the way is as unfortunate a word as 'twitter'!) is one way to do that.

So, I'm back and I have some things to say....

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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.