December 17, 2007

Ponderables

Please pray for Steven Riddle, who is going thru a bit of a slog right now.

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Our pastor gave a marvelous sermon on why John the Baptist asked whether Jesus was the “one to come” when John knew from the womb He was and witnessed the supernatural events at Jesus’ baptism. It was that John, the indominitable one, the one who I took as iron such that I didn’t really conceive of him as fully human, was in prison. And knew the end of his life neared and naturally had doubts considering his understanding that the Messiah would come in power and it wouldn’t end this way, not in the pagan power Herod killing him. Jesus had John’s disciples remind him of all the things Jesus had done, all the Isaiah prophecies that had been fulfilled. When Jesus said John was the greatest born of women “yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”. What does that mean? Does Mary qualify as the latter? Is the kingdom meant in the sense of the New Covenant? Or Heaven? Or in terms of mercy rather than justice?

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Winter causes a great cessation in unobligatory exertions. No working in the garden or spreading mulch or long bike rides in the country or even, lately, hikes in the woods. Excema, the dirty bastard, has climbed down from my neck to my stomach and chest, in spots. He’s a loser but he still keeps on trying. Got the tube of Elidel and still the stilleto itch on my solar plexus. Dry skin the cause. Whoda thunk it? I'm turning metrosexual by necessity, having to buy moisturizer. I mean who cares about dry skin but middle-aged women trying to look 20 again? Now I do. And I have to buy moisturizers, which before last year I thought was the biggest scam since bottled water.
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Spent a pleasant day reading, though reading admittedly provocative and not restful or escapist materials. Lots of the Pope’s Spe Salvi on hope, much of Joseph Pearce’s biography of JR Tolkien, an essay about Poe from Allen Tate, some of Tolkien’s collected letters, a taste of Updike’s “Due Considerations”, more of the warm, almost scriptural Mother Teresa book. No fiction other than a bit of “Europe Central”. Saturday was rent by the 10:30am-5:pm work on drywalling C's house. C made some jab about my lack of prowess with the drywall driver and truth-be-told I was surprised at how inept I was. For all my supposed athletic ability, perhaps mostly in my mind, I had the damnest of time hitting that sucker square. I thought later of a good response to Chris: “a man has to know his limitations,” which is his favorite quote and certainly applies to my handyman abilities.

With Tolkien, I was secretly relieved when he said in one of his letters that all of his characters in LOTR had more of what he lacked: courage. He’s obviously exaggerating his deficiency but I can’t say I didn’t like the company and it would explain how we always tend to concentrate on our weaknesses (i.e. the preacher who preaches against sexual sin precisely because he is so tempted by it). I was also relieved when C.S. Lewis, while praising LOTR said it was far from escapist literature: “If it errs, it errs in precisely the opposite direction: all victories of hope deferred and the merciless piling up of odds against the hero are near to being too painful.” Indeed.

What’s so horrible about escapism? Lord knows I could use more of it. I come back after a period of escapism refreshed and in a better mood and more able to give what paltry service to God I reguarly give to Him.. Isn’t escapism part of his plan, as sleep is? No wonder St. Basil praises God for sleep in his morning prayers.

The great thing about the Sunday read is that while I tend to perceive it as being self-indulgent, in truth it’s often helpful in focusing on others since in reading we sometimes lose ourselves in other people’s concerns. Especially narrative histories or in fiction. Flannery O’Connor once said something about how her writing was the time she thought about others, her characters, and John Updike wrote that it’s no fun to write fictional characters based on himself because it takes all the enjoyment of writing in the sense of getting to live a life not your own for awhile.

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