April 24, 2014

The Hills Tell One Another



Listened to Jack Nicholas lamenting the sad state of golf, how there are something like 28% fewer golfers today than 20 years ago. I thought it odd to evangelize for golf, a mere game. I suppose it's that the game gave so much to him he feels beholden to give something back to the game. Gotta dance with the gal that brung ya.

He said the reasons for golf's declining popularity are threefold, and I can readily attest to the veracity of all three: 1) takes too long 2) it's too expensive and 3) it's too difficult. He joked that he's been involved in making things worse for golf on all three fronts, presumably by designing difficult, expensive golf courses.

I definitely think sports in general take way too long. Two hours should be the max for any sporting event, including golf. People complain if Mass goes five minutes long but sit through three-and-a-half hour pro football games/marathons. People don't even have sex, self included, for that long.

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A Blake poem on Spring!:
Oh thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Through the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

The hills tell one another, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turn'd
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth
And let thy holy feet visit our clime!

Come o'er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our lovesick land that mourns for thee...

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Yesterday I captained the cubical chair, all decks on hand, all hands on deck. After morning tidy-me-ups, I heeded headlong into the back-brains of SQL, exerting massive effort over the course of the next eight hours. An uphill climb with buckets of dendrites being burnt along the way, filling flagons of pitied lights. Oh so much angst, of obstacles encountered at every turn but overcome, steadily, over the hours.

So just massive, brain-numbing exertions that made me suitably hungry for beer and stories. Have enjoyed a spot, here and there, of readerly delight in the eves. Specifically last night's oasis of Rick B's novella. Just what the doctor ordered: a sense of place (north Florida) that reminded me at times of a John D. MacDonald novel and a sense of humor, often long-lacking in “serious” novels.

Also been galloping through the Pete Rose biography. Compulsively readable, and it's amazing how much I've forgotten about Rose's story. Part of it is that several have said that Pete is “unknowable” (including his old skipper Sparky Anderson). They said the same thing about Ronald Reagan. In both cases you have these charismatic figures who achieved amazing things despite humble, unpromising backgrounds or abilities. You wouldn't think Reagan could've been as effective as he was, nor Pete either. They both had some drive and yet are said to be “all surface, no depth”. Is it a lack of perceived depth that makes people unknowable? You'd think it'd be the opposite.

Also read me some more of that fine entertainment book on country music. In the latest chapter we find fictitious names assigned to what surely is ahem (famous country singer's name retracted) trying to sleep her way into a record contract. The producer, a sleazy type, had a clapper hooked to his bed-in-the-wall. He claps, the bed springs down for action. They get into bed and a later there's a thunderstorm and the thunder causes the bed to spring back into the wall, leaving them stuck. They have to break the bed to get free, and in the ensuing fracas the guy loses his attached-like-glue toupee. "Julie" laughs like crazy and now she's got something on him; he produces her records even though they fail for like ten years before striking gold. The industry applauds his tremendous patience when, in truth, it appears he just didn't want her letting the cat out of the bag about the embarrassing incident. Sounds almost like an urban legend, but can you make something like that up?

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I remember hearing that Fr. L charged a dollar for his bible studies because he said "people don't respect anything free."

And here it is in print, a 17th century author quoting a philosopher from the thousands of years ago:
"The King of Fez and Morocco spent three pounds on the sauce of a capon; it is nothing in our times, we scorn all that is cheap. 'We loathe the very light' (as Seneca notes) 'because it comes free, and we are offended with the sun's heat and those cool blasts, because we buy them not.' This air we breathe is so common, we care not for it; nothing pleaseth but what is dear.“
I wonder if Jesus had to pay so dear a price, his suffering and death, that we might not take salvation lightly.

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Read the intro to Anatomy of Melancholy and Pullman states that the opposite of depression is not happiness but energy, and that energy is contagious. Which suggests why people with energy are seen as charismatic - we want some of that energy to ward off depression. I'm not sure I buy into that opposite of depression being energy theory. I've been happily tired and energized depressed/frustrated/angry. There's a link between anxiety and depression and anxiety has about it plenty of energy, albeit negative energy.

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On Good Friday I read several translation of the heart-rending 53rd chapter of Isaiah, the seemingly half-hidden suffering servant chapter. So many Old Testament books of law, prophets and wisdom and lo and behold, stuck towards the end of one of forty-six OT books, a few paragraphs of what would become hugely significant in hindsight. As in many cases, God likes to hide a bit, likes us to search that we may find. Like finding Easter eggs.

The chapter reads like a fifth gospel and it's interesting that they sure didn't make the same “mistake” in the gospels as Isaiah. The suffering servant theme is huge in all four gospels, with the Passion taking up a sizable portion of each. No missing the message of the cross there.

Jesus famously gave the example of leaving the 99 sheep for the one, but He did one better: He left himself, so to speak, for the sake of the sheep. In other words, God lost himself, or forsook some of his divine power, in order to catch the lost. I'm under the distinct impression that God loves us.

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Picked the new Updike biography and there's a line about how Updike's mother tried teaching elementary school and walked out on the class that first afternoon! She couldn't control the class. And it made me wonder about what it is that makes some people able to control a class and others not. Is it that the kids, like dogs, can smell fear and react accordingly?

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One thing I've learned over time is people are far more complicated (and fragile) than people think. I'm certainly shocked by events and actions that seem inconceivable. For example, a Catholic writer, uber-Catholic, who left his wife and four kids for another woman. Words can't express by how shocking that event now maybe eight-ten years ago was. I was under the naive impression that traditionalist Catholics, the kind who are so obedient to the church to the point they avoid artificial birth control, would find that sort of mortal sin impossible. And on the other end of the expression I would've bet, oh, $10,000 that my wfie's neice Natalie would never have become Catholic. The common denominator of most of these folks is they are young, under 35. The young seem to have the advantage or disadvantage (as the case may be) of radical change. At least in my limited experience.

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Novelist David Eggers in "The Circle":
“What had always caused her anxiety, or stress, or worry, was not any one force, nothing independent and external…It was internal: it was subjective,: it was not knowing….it was not knowing the consequences, the future. If she knew these, there would be calm…She could know, instantly, the temperature in Jakarta, but she couldn't find one man on a campus like this?”
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One of the things about childhood is how it all sort of becomes conflated. Everything seemed to happen in my memory around the age of ten, even though in actuality that's between age 7 and 13. It seems important now to honor the memory by trying to put a date on a given era or incident. For example, when were driving to a wedding in Louisville when the Tanya Tucker song “Delta Dawn” came on the radio? When was I on the way to baseball practice with Dad when the song “Billy, Don't Be a Hero” came on? When did my sis and I intentionally mis-sing the lyrics to Barry Manilow's “Weekend in New England” only to be surprised by Mom's horrified, negative reaction? (In hindsight understandable: we changed every time Manilow sang “love” to “hate”, i.e. “With you I could bring out / all the hate that I can” is probably not the funniest bit ever).

Most of these dates, even rounded off to years, are lost to me but for the fact that we have the Internet now and the Internet tells us when the soundtrack to our lives, i.e. our music, came out. So I can pretty easily tell what year my sister and I satirized “Weekend in New England” by searching for when that song came out.

It's a harmless enough exercise if perhaps not particularly meaningful, in assigning dates to these anecdotes. But maybe given as a whole it'll might reveal influences and patterns.

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Easter felt particularly celebratory given the astonishing spectacle of a whole family converting to Catholicism, i.e. my wife's neice and family. Perhaps a tiny bit of triumphalism reared its ugly head today because I went to the family gathering mostly to hear the backstory of the unlikely event of a blue-collar couple, raised mostly unchurched, joining the Church despite the rather significant obstacle of spending every Monday night for seven months receiving catechesis.

“And a little child shall lead them,” is operative here, perhaps fittingly so. Their middle boy in second grade (of three boys) learned about Peter baptizing a “whole household” and he asked why all of them can't get baptized instead of just him. And so they did, almost a year later. The husband said that his youngest, who was giving fits and crying all liturgy -- until the third dunk in the baptismal pool when it seemed the Holy Spirit came into him and he was an angel the rest of the time, going up to strangers afterward and hugging them fiercely. Quite out of character for him according to the father.

Strangely, it's nice to feel humbled. It's nice to feel inspired by other people, to see what the family went through to become Catholic. I feel humbled when I listen to music that I could never produce, or when I see people striving for a noble goal. At the very least it makes me think the world isn't completely going to hell in a hand-basket.

I entertained the idea of skipping Holy Thursday mass on account of the Easter Vigil but really now, how can one pass up the most inspirational Roman Catholic liturgy on the calendar?

Oh the irony of THE mass of the year, the mass of the Last Supper, is not a day of obligation. Only the serious and hardcore show up and perhaps that's the intent of not making it a day of obligation. This is a marquee day in the church and it's amazing to me that Ash Wednesday is more crowded. As it says in the eucharistic prayer for today, “On the day he was betrayed, that is, today….”.

The readings were powerful. I thought about how the Passover was celebrated so strongly by the Jewish people, how they were celebrating God's saving action, saving them, as it were, from His wrath. Their most holy celebration is one celebrating not the creation of man, nor any sort of miraculous event that could be attributed at least partially to man (such as David's victory over Goliath or any of Israel's military victories), but pretty much God's action alone, God saving his people by recognizing the blood of the lamb on the lintel.

And there's ever something moving about a celibate man and priest, who theoretically has little physical contact with people as compared to say, a mother or a father, is there washing the feet of the teenage wise-acre and debutante gal. Among others. He says it's very “humbling”, and is for all priests, which was interesting to hear.

Appreciated the “Godincidence” of an answer to my question about how Jesus fulfilled the odd Psalm expression, “I can count all my bones”, albeit it's gruesome. From a Catlick website: "Describing the scourging of another first century man named Jesus—Jesus ben Ananias—Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, relates how his bones were 'laid bare' (B.J. 6.304)."

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Seems freaky to see this on First Things after reading that Jack Gilbert poem on appearances:
"Even beauty must be stripped of its surface in order to become an intelligible object of contemplation. As he writes in De virginitate, “The man who has purified the eye of his soul is able to look at such things and forget the matter in which the beauty is encased.”

Also read a bit of the introduction to Guissani's American Protestant Theology. Specifically:
Reason is the energy that calls us to recognize the reality of the world as a sign: “Reason, in order to be faithful to its nature and to the nature of such a calling, is forced to admit the existence of something else underpinning, explaining everything.” Quoting St Thomas Aquinas, Guissani calls for a necessary revelation in order to “render this salvation more universal and more certain.”

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"I have to work because it keeps me from feeling miserable....guilty-miserable, you know. When I write I know I'm doing what I'm here for." - Shelby Foote's explanation for how he overcomes the problem of not wanting to write but perhaps applicable to sin since we feel the guilt-hangover afterward.

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