July 16, 2013

Diaristic Wanderings

A single day off from exercising and my blood pressure bolted upwards and I was starving for the roads. Did a thirty minute run over lunch. Ran like the wind despite the heat - really shocked the heat didn't bother me given how insufferable it was Monday night, such that I elected to read inside rather than on the front porch.

Enjoyed the savor of quietude, the glory of books. Gosh this Neil Peart travelogue through Alaska, the “final frontier”, is a helluva good read. It's hard not to read the whole thing aloud to my Alaska-loving wife. I tend to think the reason so many books appeal to me nowadays is simply because it's my generation doing the writing. I share similar cultural influences with the 40-50 year old writers and thus they speak to me especially keenly.

A little rainstorm - oh so pleasant! - just ended. I read the Dispatch and avoid the Zimmerman stuff like the plague but find a delightful story of an experiment in which the famed  novelist J.K. Rowling was published incognito for a few weeks a novel under a fictitious name. How fun! It's sort of like how a king dresses like a peasant and visited the village to see what the folks really thought of him. Seems someone outed her via a tweet, after which he destroyed his/her account. Alas, secrets never last too long unless they're God's.

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Also came across an interesting couple paragraphs from columnist Froma Harrop:
But plenty of design, writing, computer programming and form-shuffling positions don’t require many hours in an office. And very competent employees often can do their real work in four hours. They sit around another four because … it’s an eight-hour job.
So they spend afternoons bored at their desks, playing video games or tooling around the Internet. They waste their time while providing no additional benefit for the employer.
She goes on to argue that the 40-hour work week is an anachronism and we would have more flexible work schedules if health care wasn't inextricably linked to full-time jobs.

Speaking of health care, I couldn't resist making a jibe at our new workplace policy. For those of us with a high blood pressure or BMI, we have to get lectured by a “wellness coach” in order to collect our HSA corporate kick-in. One lady said it's “very invasive.”   I chimed in sarcastically on the company Twitter site:

“I'm looking forward to the dental hygienist coaching next year, where we get called every day reminding us to floss.”

Probably didn't go over too well with the Health and Wellness czarina.

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Read a good dollop of Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah, the story of the Iranian hostage crisis. A bit hard to stomach; irritating, but interesting nevertheless. You know how excruciatingly long it will last and wish someone found a way to have avoided it. But this is no novel; these folks who have no clue how long it will last are going to find out, eventually, this wasn't going to be a three-day crisis.

Also read some Grace Slick autobiography. Not the most edifying of reading, although it's kind of interesting simply to see someone (anyone) eschew fame in order to wear “sweatshirts around the house.”

Says she wished the “White Rabbit” lyrics had made more clearly the fact that she thinks it's hypocritical that a generation who drank alcohol shamed those who did pot, acid, etc.. She sounds like a grind at Woodstock; less a party for her than a gig, staying clean. But of course that's probably what makes her performance of “White Rabbit” so mesmerizing, a rising to the moment.

She describes sex with Jim Morrison and I always wonder if he was possessed by the devil. The charisma of the Doors singer seems almost otherworldly, as if a Faustian bargain had been entered. The suicide-by-drugs certainly plays into it too. Morrison mirrors Christ in some respects: great following, charisma, a mystic, died young at the peak of his powers; he was a reverse-mirror in many ways: died for himself only, tried to transcend bodily limitations while Jesus grasped bodily limitations he did not naturally possess. Morrison died in the slumberous euphoria of a heroin overdose, Jesus in the drug-free torture of a Roman crucifixion.

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I'm not sure I understand how God could've gotten across the idea of his love in a better way than the Cross, short of a St. Paul mystical experience for everyone individually.  If you're going to go the “one time for everybody route” then it would seem to have to be a pretty dramatic gesture. For me, the Crucifix is the quintessential emblem of love, and Jesus himself admits this when he says, “No greater love has this: than to lay down one's life for one's friends.”

I'll have to re-read a Heather King post in which she mentioned her loathing of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ because of the blood and gore. (And one could say, with some cheek, that it didn't seem particularly helpful to Gibson's spiritual life). The Cross is the best evidence of all time of God's love for us. What else comes close? God answers every prayer but usually not in a detectable fashion. He's given us the great gift of the Bible, but it's not easy to understand or synthesize given the great diversity within it. Ultimately the giving of His Blood is the greatest miracle of all-time and it's one that everyone can share - it's the one truly inclusive miracle. Not everyone is healed or sees visions, but everyone can participate in the preeminently democratic act of Christ offering Himself to all.

I used to think how awesome it was that Medjugorje, which I believed in rather firmly in 1998-ish and now I'm unsure of, was an on-going miracle. How incredible was it to not be limited to one or a dozen appearances, as was the typical Marian apparition. I felt the same about Our Lady of Guadalupe's tilma, which continues to exist despite being made of material that should have decayed years ago.

These sorts of miracles were very reassuring simply in their stability and dependability and indeed to this day many a morning I'll look at my Guadalupe image and think about how, down in Mexico City, that image which I saw a decade or more ago, still exists.

But now I think how we have a daily miracle, a minute-by-minute miracle, occurring on the church altars of the world in transubstantiation. That reassurance I looked to in miracles was ever before me and I rarely realized it.

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As mediocre as much of Elton John's later work is, there's something to be said for giving the world what he did. Maybe you only have one or two of those songs in you to give through no fault of your own. An artist's decline is as precipitous as the athlete's and as understandable. Performing at the highest level is definitionally self-limiting. Only mediocrity can flourish across the relentless arc of time.

If everything feels anticlimactic after the peak you can say that that's the human condition, that even Jesus left the stage after the impossible-to-follow act of rising from the dead. He showed himself to a certain number of people and then - to avoid anticlimax? - ascended to Heaven where anticlimax doesn't exist, thank God.

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Tonight, the Internet let me down (sing to tune "Tune, the Bottle Let Me Down").

Dad mentioned that when he was a kid they used to say “I finny that!” instead of “I got dibs!”. Basically I took it to mean when you reserve something first. My confidence in my accessory brain, the Internet, is stratospheric but sadly I could find nothing on finny or finney that resembled the meaning of “dibs”. Sad because I'd hoped to track down whether this came from his German or Irish side. I guess that's not of incredible importance but still….

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