"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words. " ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bright Blue October

A SKY WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS

October

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

by Robert Frost (American, 1874 - 1963)
October’s Bright Blue Weather
O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And goldenrod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fingers tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October’s bright blue weather.

O sun and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October’s bright blue weather.

by Helen Hunt Jackson (American, 1830-1885)

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, October 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com


Don't believe what they tell you about
the sun never shining in the British Isles!
This is an October Sky in the South of England!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Smart Beautiful City

A CITY WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
All photos in this post ~ Astana, Kazakhstan ~ August 2017

Earlier this week, I spent two days at Purdue University's Dawn or Doom Conference, an annual event that takes a close look at both the rewards and risks of emerging technology. The theme for Dawn or Doom '17 was inspired by Professor Michael Bess's insightful, disturbing book about biomedically enhanced humans: Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future. Topics ranged from Designing Humans (think Gattaca) to Designing Food (think Monsanto) to Designing Information (think fake news) to Designing the Workforce (think Brave New World) to Designing Cities:

"Whether it was Uruk,* the first ever human city, or Sumerians throwing up ziggurats like they were temporary housing, or the social engineering dreams of the 19th century utopians or the Puritans' visions of a godly “city on a hill,” humans have always seen cities as a way to solve humanity’s hardest problems.

"Of course, reality is a different beast. Cities are notoriously hard places to manage, among other things because of the amount of information required to allow them to run at all, let alone perfectly. But that doesn't mean people don't try to build perfection. And the latest incarnation of these utopian cities are known as “smart cities” their deep and embedded technology."
~ Gerry McCartney

*Uruk, was in Sumer but is regarded as pre-Sumerian.
Ur was up the road about 300 miles.

We then listened to two speakers who explained how these new “smart cities” are going to enable us to build the technological advanced “city on a hill” of the 21st Century: Mike Langellier from Techpoint and Paul Singh from Results Junkies.


Gerry's thought - provoking introduction to "Smart Cities" brought to mind a few connections worth sharing:

1. from Song of Myself, Part 42 ~ Walt Whitman

"A call in the midst of the crowd,
My own voice, orotund sweeping and final. . . .

This is the city and I am one of the citizens,
Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets,
newspapers, schools,
The mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories,
stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate . . .

the fathomless human brain . . . "


[See also Ferry Connections & House With a Past]


2. from the novel Benediction ~ Kent Haruf

"What if we said to our enemies [or at the national level, what if we said to our citizens]: We are the most powerful nation on earth. We can destroy you. We can kill your children. We can make ruins of your cities and villages and when we're finished you won't even know how to look for the places where they used to be. We have the power to take away your water and to scorch your earth, to rob you of the very fundamentals of life. We can change the actual day into actual night. We can do these things to you. And more.

"But what if we say, Listen: Instead of any of these, we are going to give willingly and generously to you. We are going to spend the great American national treasure and the will and the human lives that we would have spent on destruction, and instead we are going to turn them all toward creation. We'll mend your roads and highways, expand your schools, modernize your wells and water supplies, save your ancient artifacts and art and culture, preserve your temples and mosques. In fact, we are going to love you.
"


3. from the musical Godspell ~ Stephen Schwartz

Beautiful City

sung in the movie adaptation,
featuring Victor Garber, Lynne Thigpen, et. al.

Come sing me sweet rejoicing
Come sing me love
We're not afraid of voicing
All the things
We're dreaming of
Oh, high and low,
And everywhere we go

We can build
A beautiful city
Yes we can
Oh yes we can
We can build
A beautiful city
Call it out
And call it the city of man [and woman]

We don't need alabaster
We don't need chrome
We've got our special plaster
Take my hand
I'll take you home
We see nations rise
In each other's eyes

We can build
A beautiful city
Yes we can
Oh yes we can
We can build
A beautiful city
Call it out
And call it the city of man [and woman]

Come sing me sweet rejoicing
Come sing me love
We're not afraid of voicing
All the things
We're dreaming of
Oh, high and low,
And everywhere we go

We can build
A beautiful city
Yes we can
Oh yes we can
We can build
A beautiful city
Call it out
And call it the city of man [and woman]
**

**A simple suggestion, as Schwartz is
not exactly known for inclusive gender.


In closing, I'm charmed by these contrasting thoughts about the men and women who populate the cities. Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) offers an expansive view, complete with quaintly agrarian metaphor:

"In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.
"

from Song of Myself, Part 20)

For others, the human density not only of a large smart city but even of a beautiful college town can be overwhelming. A hundred years before Whitman, English poet Thomas Gray (1716 - 1771) wrote:

"Cambridge is a delight of a place now, there is nobody in it.
I do believe you would like it, if you knew what it was without inhabitants.
It is they, I assure you, that get it an ill name and spoil all.
"

from the Works of Thomas Gray

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, October 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

More Dawn or Doom Links

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Read A Book About Reading

A BOOK CLUB WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Painting by Vittorio Matteo Corcos (1859 - 1933)
Book by Stefan Bollmann (b 1958)
Foreward by Karen Joy Fowler (b 1950)

Thanks to my friend Katy B. for giving me this gorgeous and inspiring book. I read the foreword and introductory material months ago, just after Christmas, and since then have had the book on my coffee table, where I pick it up at random quiet moments and study the classic paintings (plus a few photographs) of reading women, beautifully explained by author / editor Stefan Bollmann. I was delighted to note the inclusion by Bollmann of a few prints that have appeared previously on my Book Blog (e.g., Young Woman with Book, by Alexander Deineka; Reading Girl by Franz Eybl; and Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard). Great minds!

by Alexander Deineka

Speaking of great minds, thanks to my friend Katie F. for suggesting earlier in the summer that I might enjoy reading The Jane Austen Book Club, which I promptly ordered and placed carefully atop my towering "to read" stack.

The connection was right in front of me, but I missed it until, by happy coincidence, Katie F. stopped by to visit, noticed and admired Women Who Read laying out in pride of place on my table, and then exclaimed "Foreword by Karen Joy Fowler -- she also wrote The Jane Austen Book Club! Have you read it yet? No, I hadn't, but I did so right away, then re-read Fowler's opening remarks about dangerous reading women, and typed up the following favorite passages from each:

Women Who Read Are Dangerous

"Centuries upon centuries . . . women have read on -- the unacceptable books as well as the acceptable, Gothic novels in the time of Austen, Harlequin romances, horror novels, space operas, mysteries, police procedurals, chick lit, biographies . . . Now they are joining book clubs . . ." (16, emphasis added).

by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

"One might wonder why artists so often choose a woman reading as the subject of a painting or photograph. . . . the image is an interestingly complicated one. . . . She might, while the book lasts, be a completely different person from the one we are seeing. . . . She might be having trouble concentrating, or she might be spellbound. She might be escaping from boredom into a frothy romantic comedy [by Jane Austen!] . . . she might be experiencing some transformation so profound that she will never be quite the same again. At the very moment we see her, the scales might be falling from her eyes" (13 - 14).

The Jane Austen Book Club

"Austen suggests that Udolpho is a dangerous book, because it makes people think life is an adventure . . . But that's not the kind of book that's really dangerous to people. . . . All the while it's Austen writing the really dangerous books . . . Books that people really do believe, even hundreds of years later. How virtue will be recognized and rewarded. How love will prevail. How life is a romance" (141).

by Franz Eybl

"There was something appealing in thinking of a character with a secret life that her author knew nothing about. Slipping off while the author's back was turned to find love in her own way. Showing up just in time to deliver the next bit of dialogue with an innocent face. If Sylvia were a character in a book, that's the kind she's want to be" (171).

Another timely connection: As I was pulling this post together, my good friend and reading buddy Cate sent me an excellent article:

"Why Books and Reading Are More Important Than Ever"

containing these inspiring words by Will Schwalbe
"I wrote that books remain one of the few defenses we have against narrowness, domination, and mind control. But only if we read them – and then only if we spring into action based on what we’ve learned and discovered. Books can’t do anything by themselves. They need us.

"Today we need to read more than ever. And we need to act now more than ever.

"If you are reading this essay, you aren’t reading a book. At least, not this very second. But you’re probably a book reader or you wouldn’t have found your way here or clicked on the shared link that brought these words to your attention. And there’s the rub. I’m writing a piece about the importance of books for an audience already sold on the concept. And it’s taking you (and me) away from them."


additional titles from Schwalbe:

Books for Living & The End of Your Life Book Club

I had to write straight back to Cate:

"I love this essay and it fits right in with the blog post that I'm working on right now: "Read A Book About Reading." No kidding -- that's the title that I gave it before reading this essay, in which he talks about the very same conundrum of reading an essay about reading! I'll add the link here as soon as I get done! Hey I've got writing to do! As Schwalbe commands us: 'Seriously. Go! I've got books to read. You do, too.' What a great conclusion!"

Dreams, 1896

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, September 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT ~ BEAUTIFUL POEM FROM CHARLOTTE ERIKSSON ~
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST ~ THIS MONTH ~ MORE FROM CATE ~
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sing A Song About Singing

A MELODY WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
The Musicians, 1979 ~ Ferdinand Botero

"No human would enjoy my singing --
only maybe an old house that can't be choosy."

~ Jessamyn West ~
The Friendly Persuasion (50)

No doubt, it's best for me to take Jessmyn West's advice and constrain my singing to old houses and locked cars with the windows up. However, I did earn an unexpected compliment awhile back, when I was singing along with an old favorite from Marie Osmond -- "Paper Roses." Gerry called in from the other room to say that my voice was sounding really good that day! He was obviously a little confused, but I was honored that he thought Marie Osmond was me.

I'm hoping that in my next lifetime, the gods remember to endow me with
the gift of music as described in these rousing tributes to the meledious, harmonious, songful muse:

Thank You World ~ The Statler Brothers ~ 1973
I want to thank you, world, for lettin' me belong
I'm just one fourth of one small group that sings your songs
I know that there are others who have served in bigger ways
All I can do is sing your music all my days

It makes me grateful just to know, to know that I can be
Unique and fill a spot beside the other three
Without a place here in this world, I know that I'd be lost
Thank you, world, for lettin' me contribute to the cause

I may not ever stand like Stonewall Jackson stood
But standin' on that stage to me is just as good
Now I may never be a heavy or a great
But you've given me the strength, the strength to pull my weight

Oh for the part I sing is truly part of me
and it does its part to lock the other parts in the key
and it does its part to pull, to pull that sweet applause
Thank you, world, for lettin' me contribute to the cause

Oh world, you've given me a place that I call mine
Though I've stepped out of it & I've gotten out of line
Sometimes I sing the music slightly out of key
and I know I make it harder for the other three

I've always done my part the very best I could
and it's done the other guys a world of good
You've let me sing your praises, world, and harped about your faults
Thank you, world, for lettin' me contribute to the cause

It makes me grateful just to know, to know that I can be
Unique and fill a spot beside the other three
Without a place here in this world, I know that I'd be lost
Thank you, world, for lettin' me contribute to the cause
Without a place here in this world, I know that I'd be lost
Thank you, world, for lettin' me contribute to the cause
Thank you, world, for lettin' me contribute to the cause


Lyrics
Written by Don S. Reid, Lew Dewitt
• Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Music Sales Corporation
[and this retrospective of their early years with Johnny Cash]

1979

I Write the Songs ~ Barry Manilow ~ 1975
I've been alive forever
And I wrote the very first song
I put the words and the melodies together
I am music and I write the songs
I write the songs that make the whole world sing
I write the songs of love and special things
I write the songs that make the young girls cry
I write the songs, I write the songs

My home lies deep within you
And I've got my own place in your soul
Now, when I look out through your eyes
I'm young again, even though I'm very old

I write the songs that make the whole world sing
I write the songs of love and special things
I write the songs that make the young girls cry
I write the songs, I write the songs

Oh my music makes you dance
And gives you spirit to take a chance
And I wrote some rock 'n' roll so you can move
Music fills your heart
Well, that's a real fine place to start
It's from me it's for you
It's from you, it's for me
It's a worldwide symphony

I write the songs that make the whole world sing
I write the songs of love and special things
I write the songs that make the young girls cry
I write the songs, I write the songs

I write the songs that make the whole world sing
I write the songs of love and special things
I write the songs that make the young girls cry
I write the songs, I write the songs

I am music (music) and I write the songs


Lyrics
Written by Bruce Johnston
• Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

1991

Thank You For the Music ~ Abba ~ 1977
I'm nothing special, in fact I'm a bit of a bore
If I tell a joke, you've probably heard it before
But I have a talent, a wonderful thing
Cause everyone listens when I start to sing
I'm so grateful and proud
All I want is to sing it out loud

So I say
Thank you for the music
, the songs I'm singing
Thanks for all the joy they're bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me

Mother says I was a dancer before I could walk
She says I began to sing long before I could talk
But I've often wondered, how did it all start?
Who found out that nothing can capture a heart
Like a melody can?
Well, whoever it was, I'm a fan

So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing
Thanks for all the joy they're bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me

I've been so lucky, I am the girl with golden hair
I wanna sing it out to everybody
What a joy, what a life, what a chance!

So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing
Thanks for all the joy they're bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me


Lyrics
Written by Benny Goran Bror Andersson, Bjoern K. Ulvaeus
• Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Though I'm always inspired to sing along with the Statlers, Abba, and Barry Manilow, as they extol the great good fortune of their musical talent, I think a better message for me comes from the Carpenters: "Don't worry that it's not good enough / For anyone else to hear / Just sing, sing a song!"

"Sing" ~ Carpenters ~ 1973
Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not good enough
For anyone else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.

Sing, sing a song
Let the world sing along
Sing of love there could be
Sing for you and for me.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not good enough
For anyone else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.


Lyrics ~ Portuguese-American composer songwriter and pianist,
Joe Raposo (1937 - 1989)

Naturaleza con mandolin ~ 1998

DON'T MISS

More Botero on Artsy

Women at Music

Piano Paintings

*******************

AND MANY THANKS TO MY BROTHER BRUCE
for these additional connections:

"I Believe in Music"

Mac Davis

"Where words fail, music speaks."
Hans Christian Anderson

"Music expresses that which cannot be said,
but upon which it is impossible to remain silent."

Victor Hugo

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
Berthold Auerbach

And the quote that most fits with our
online musicians in residence, Post Nuclear Trash:

"Can you imagine a world with no music? It would suck."
Harry Styles

Naturaleza muerta con Instrumentos Musicales ~ 1993

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, September 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Monday, August 14, 2017

None Forbidden, None Compelled

A STREET WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Liverpool Cathedrals ~ both on Hope Street ~ painted by Ken Storey
Left: Cathedral Church of the Risen Christ ~ Anglican
Right: Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King ~ Catholic


For starters, I would like to share some inspiring, inclusive words that I have been fortunate enough to hear spoken before communion a few times, inviting all -- not just some -- to the table. I am nearly moved to tears by such unexpected generosity of spirit:

"None forbidden, none compelled"

and

"All who seek the truth are welcome here."


These kindhearted and introspective invitations stand in stark contrast to the many excluding, forbidding messages that I have heard proclaimed at various churches over the long years. "None forbidden, none compelled," is so much more respectful than the typical agenda of restrictions and requirements. And how refreshing to welcome "All who seek the truth" rather than only those who tread the exact same path. I have taken these two pre - communion blessings as personal mantras -- along with my favorite "it's not supposed to be any way" -- and continually strive to internalize the inherent value they assign to individual integrity and personal quest.

As a follow up to my two preceding Fortnightlies ("Born Only Once" & "O Ya - Ya of Little Faith"), I offer this third installment in my unholy trinity of somewhat skeptical, somewhat irreverent, somewhat rambling religious reflections.

Ironically, many people here in the States assume that Gerry and I attend the Episcopal Church (being the Anglican Church of the USA) because Gerry is from England. Actually the opposite is true: Gerry didn't become Anglican until moving to America. In England, he was raised in the eight - ish per cent of the population who are British Catholics, with their long history of persecution, going back to Henry VIII. However, the Liverpool area, with lots of southern Irish immigrants over the years, is more Catholic than most other parts of England.

My religious background, as explained more fully in previous posts: raised in the Church of the Nazarene (fundamentalist Protestant), always felt like an outsider, like a goat instead of a sheep, hated the cruel judgmentalism and the wacky emotionalism, yet stuck with it all through college in an off and on kind of way, out of loyalty to my mother (e.g. my first marriage, a misstep of my confused, early youth, took place in the Church of the Nazarene). After that, I attended for one more semester in grad school but finally resolved not to do that anymore; tried a couple of academic Unitarian services on campus, in biking distance; and visited a big impersonal Methodist church once or twice because it was just a few blocks from my house and easy to walk to.

Next came Notre Dame during the Hesburgh years, where, not surprisingly, I met many Catholics, including Gerry (who had served as a Christian Brother in England and Liberia, from age 14 - 21). While at ND, I attended various masses with friends of mine around the campus from time to time (some fancy in the Basilica, others in dormitory lounges or at the Grotto). I never really felt that Catholicism was for me -- too exclusive and sexist and every bit as judgmental as the Nazarenes, but I liked the liturgical nature of the ceremony, which was new for me after all those years of touchy - feely protestantism.

When Gerry and I decided to marry, I was willing to join the Catholic church, despite my misgivings, just so that we could have a one - church family (my father had never gone with my mom and us kids to the Church of the Nazarene; he went on his own to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Mormon off-shoot, in which he had been raised). I always felt that my parents had both been too stubborn on this issue, that one of them should have yielded to the other so that us kids could experience a unified version of religious family life. But then, for me -- not being a person of great faith -- personal faith is not the real issue, so I could easily set that aside (maybe my parents couldn't) in favor of the activity itself.

I recently read Hector Abad's memoir Oblivion, and was struck by his way of making peace with the various inconsistencies of his conflicted religious upbringing:
"There is no sense in feeling regret at something that depended so little on one's own will and so much on the circumstance of having been born at a particular historical moment, in a particular corner of the world, and into a particular home. . . . Ultimately, faith or the lack of it does not depend on our will, or on any mysterious grace received from on high but on those lessons we learn early on, one way or another, and which are almost impossible to unlearn" (83 - 84).
I can remember seeing all those Sunday school pictures of the ideal 1960's American family skipping up the sidewalk to the classic white church, mother and father wearing hats and holding hands, the kids--one boy, one girl, or maybe two of each, maybe an extra baby --cute as buttons, sometimes a puppy running along beside; and I'd think, "Why aren't we like that? What's wrong with our family?"
Something along these lines:


That saccharine little vision and, more importantly, the lack of its reality in my own childhood, is what informed my concept of why a married couple should go to the same church. That's why I was willing to do something as drastic and unpalatable to my politics as join the Catholic Church. But I was saved!

The Deus ex machina? The two Catholic priests Gerry and I talked to (one at Notre Dame, one at Purdue) were both very unsympathetic to our situation. First, we had already had our civil wedding in February 1989 before we approached the church to plan our religious ceremony for that September. The priests were cross that we had done this. And then, I had to tell about my divorce. They insisted that even though it had not been a Catholic wedding, it required a Catholic annulment (wait time, three years) and extensive counselling. I pointed out that I had just had three years of excellent counselling at a premier Catholic institution, didn't that count? No, it didn't count. How about if the counselor had been a nun? Nope. I started to cry, and the clueless priest said, "It seems that you still have unresolved issues." At that point, Gerry, my hero, stood up and said, "Our issue is with your lack of common decency." We sighed and went home. I knew then in my heart that becoming a Catholic was not for me and never would be. I had been willing, but they had just lost a convert.

However, it was not my place to tell Gerry whether or not he should leave Catholicism, after his long history with it. When, he said, "What do you think we should do?" I said, "Well, at Notre Dame, I knew a number of dissatisfied Catholics who had moved over to the Episcopal Church." So we decided to try St. John's, Lafayette, the following Sunday and immediately felt welcome. There were our neighbors from across street, who we did not know attended there! There was the couple from Gerry's work who often hosted the book group that we had recently joined -- we didn't know we'd see them there. As you can see, it seemed like a perfect fit, even before the fact. Then the Purdue Episcopal Campus Ministry advertised for an office administrator, so I took that job, and the Episcopal Church became the center of our life at Purdue (we sometimes attended the campus services, other times the more formal services at St. John's). We had a couple of months of pre-marital counselling with one of the Episcopal priests, who just happened to be a former Catholic priest! Gerry still likes to say that even though he changed church affiliation, he always knew he'd be married by a Catholic priest!

In preparation for marriage, Gerry and I completed some personality profile questionnaires to help us understand our relational issues, compatibility levels, and marital readiness. When I scored in the range of "Inordinately Realistic," I felt vindicated: at least I had learned something from my mistakes, and my counselling at Notre Dame had paid off. Peter, our ex-Catholic priest, said that women usually registered a much more romantic view of marriage, but I was even a notch above Gerry on the realism scale.

When we told my mom that we were both going to officially join the Episcopal Church, she said (in the good old spirit of Henry VIII), "Well now, isn't that the branch of the Catholic church that condones divorce?" And I said, "Well now, that's the branch we want." Ha. Still, she finally accepted that I was never going back to the Church of the Nazarene; and Gerry's parents, though they themselves are unquestioningly loyal Catholics, have been supportive of our decision.

Anyway, Reader, I married him. We joined The Episcopal Church, have been attending ever since, and have had the good fortune to regularly meet people with similar interests, values, and notions of humor. One semester, Gerry participated in a discussion group for current Episcopalians who had been raised on Catholicism, and everyone laughed at his suggestion that the group call itself "Catholics for Jesus." Ben and Sam were christened as Episcopalians and served their time as choristers. I love the literary liturgy, though I still find the patriarchal language very hard to cope with. I try to stay focused on the strengths but sometimes wonder if Christianity has been so badly poisoned by centuries of sexism that it can never be salvaged. Maybe we need to toss the whole thing out and start over again? There is plenty of room for change and it is certainly time.

Meanwhile, the spiritual quest of a lifetime continues, and surprising literary connections never cease to present themselves, decade after decade. Most recently were the thoughtful recollections of Hector Abad, as mentioned above; twenty years ago the novels of Rebecca Wells; thirty years ago the personal testimony of Langston Hughes; forty years ago the poetry Naomi Shihab -- in the following poem (and so many more) that you can find in the right - hand column on my Quotidian Blog:

SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

"Where are you on
your spiritual journey?"
you ask, your sharp eyes
thumbtacking the question
on my heart.

What can I say?
I am somewhere beyond "go"
I have not stopped.

Years have shown me
the idea of travelling
is a game we play with ourselves
to pretend we're not home.

Naomi Shihab Nye
(b 1952)
Palestinian / American Poet

******************

Another View of the Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool

Also by Ken Storey
The Liverpool Merseyside Waterfront
(cathedrals to the right)

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, August 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Friday, July 28, 2017

O Ya - Ya of Little Faith

A LITTLE ALTAR
WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS

Good Lord didn't mean for us to hate ourself.
He made us to love ourself like He do, with wide open arms
.” (140)

Don't ever worry bout bein holy, babychild.
Just keep your eyes wide open except when you sleep.
Then let the Lord's mighty vision see you through the night
.” (144)

from
~ Little Altars Everywhere ~ Rebecca Wells ~
~ more on my book blog ~

"I have been missing the point. The point is not knowing
another person, or learning to love another person.
The point is simply this: how tender can we bear to be?
What good manners can we show as we welcome ourselves
and others into our hearts?
" (346)

from
~ Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood ~ Rebecca Wells ~

************

It has been awhile since the "Ya - Ya Sisterhood" has come up in conversation, but it's been on my mind lately in connection with my recent thoughts on religious indoctrination. Even the titles -- Divine Secrets, Little Altars -- imply a spiritual inclination. I loved the vocabulary: ya-ya, ya-ya-no, gumbo ya-ya, tres ya-ya, petites ya-yas -- and my favorite angel-gals.

The plot, on the other hand, was rather far fetched for my taste. Could you really have the same four best friends for seventy years? Well maybe if your fathers were all incredibly rich and your husbands were all incredibly rich and you never had to move across the country or be even remotely concerned about making a living and could live an entire life devoted solely to personal relationships. I was straining to suspend my disbelief, but I guess that's why they call it fiction. Still I prefer for my fictional characters to be a bit more like moi, and I'm a Yankee girl raised in a humble home of modest means. So I had a few hurdles to cross and some eyes to roll before coming to a full appreciation of the divine secrets behind the antics.

For me, the most memorable line will always be when Sidda (age thirty - something) goes to visit her mother and "tried not to feel five years old. She tried to feel at least eleven" (336). Another shining moment -- as quoted above -- occurs when Sidda gives up the idea of ever really understanding her mother: "The point is not knowing another person, or learning to love another person. The point is simply this: how tender can we bear to be?"

In fact, early in the novel, Sidda's mother suggests the tenderness of etiquette, "Forget love. Try good manners” (25). This ya - ya advice is similar to Kurt Vonnegut's observation that what the world needs now is "A little less love please, and a little more common decency". Or Ralph Waldo Emerson's reminder to "treat the men and women well: treat them as if they were real: perhaps they are."

I like Emerson's "angels unawares" message here, but even more I like the face value of it, that being human is enough, being human is everything. If the sum of humanity is greater than the individuals, then maybe that sum is god. Instead of loving god (whatever that means) how about just being nice to other people. When it comes to faith, god, and religion, the quest to know (even as also we are known) can be good; but maybe a better goal is to be tender and mannerly.

In a memorable episode of Thirtysomething (can't remember which season), Elliot chastises his mother-in-law Eleanor for hurting his wife Ellen's feelings. Eleanor responds that she has asked god's forgiveness. But Elliot persists, "What about asking Ellen's forgiveness? She's the person you hurt." Why can't Eleanor be more tender? Why is she holding back?

Around the same time (1997) that I was watching Thirtysomething and reading Divine Secrets and Little Altars, a dear friend -- one of my angel - gals -- was reading The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie. She found it to be a very helpful way of looking at the heartache and frustration and occasional boredom of organized religion, and she wrote to explain some of Beattie's ideas:
She suggests acting "As If." Act as if you're happy and pretty soon you will be. Or act as if I have excellent self-esteem and pretty soon I will. That kind of thing. So if I act as if I believe in God, pretty soon I will? That could work! It's very important to me to start believing. I went to my counselor last night. Seems I have this core belief that "I am not enough." So I asked, "How do you get rid of those beliefs that you formed as a small child?" Of course, as adults, we can actively choose for tenderness as opposed to bitterness, but we can't always repair the damage done to us as children. I have a lot of work to do, and I really appreciate your thoughts and help on my issues.
In response, I shared with her the story of what had inspired me over the years and what had not. As a Nazarene kid (in the 1960s & 70s), I am definitely grateful for the singable hymns and the "fantastic grasp of scripture," which has served me well personally and professionally, as a teacher and writer. However, I never got the "strong sense of identity" or the "Nazzy street cred" that some adherents claim as their birthright (see, for example, Ryan Scott's blog post
"Nazarenes, Moralism, and _ru_p"). Instead, I felt constantly judged and criticized by my elders and my peers, perpetually weighed and found wanting. Always a goat, never a sheep.

As a child, my eyes were opened (and not in a good way) when I visited a Sunday school class for fourth grade girls. When one of the girls was excused for a few moments to run an errand, the teacher turned to the rest of us and said, "While she's out of the room, let's pray for her, because we know that she is not saved." What?! I hardly believed any of those cruel, heartless, irrational ideas from the time I was 8 or 9 years old. How do we know that she's not saved? My girlish heart was shocked then; and even now, half a century later, I remain highly suspicious of anyone who would pray for me behind my back. Don't do that!

I was exposed to numerous other severe dictates that totally backfired. Though I realized early on (by age 10) that it would never work for me, I stayed in the church, trying to remain in favor with my family, until age 26. With huge relief, I finally chose another path. I was committed to the insistence that religion has to make some kind of sense, and to finding a church where human intelligence is valued, rather than the hypocritical "please leave your brain at the door" attitude that I resented throughout my formative years. I knew that I would never want my children subjected to the criticism and judging and unnecessary shame of Protestant fundamentalism.

I also have to confess that I've never been much of prayer person, mostly because I don't know what that means. If I'm asking, who am I asking? If I'm praising, who am I praising? Yet I like doing things like reciting or singing or listening to certain prayers, poems, psalms, hymns because I like those words and I like the act of singing or choral reading or just hearing certain words or phrases. So it's not that if I act happy or uplifted I will become those things; it's just that for the duration (5 minutes) of hearing someone sing "Ave Maria" or for the duration (2 minutes) of reciting the Apostles' Creed, I feel convinced of meaning, grace, history, connection. I can easily believe that the world's most beautiful words, songs, and buildings have all been created to the "glory of God," even though I'm not entirely sure what that means. I'm not opposed to the idea that honoring god means honoring humanity, in manner of Rebecca Wells, Vonnegut, and Emerson.

My ya-ya sis replied:
I totally appreciate you sharing your thoughts on God. That really helped! What I understood you to be saying is that you have faith and you believe in God even though you're not what exactly God is or if God even exists? So it's kind of like a blind faith? And that if you pray to God that's your God? That just by doing the act (believing) it creates belief? Am I getting this? If I'm at all close, I think I know what you're saying, and I think that might work for me. I have trouble believing in anything supernatural (not concrete), but I guess if I just believe that something could exist, that is enough. Maybe?
One observation that I would add to our thoughts on God is that I'm not really trying to accomplish or grow into any kind of greater belief by the small ways in which I practice my "blind faith" (if that's the right term). It's not so much that "act creates belief" for me as it is that "act gives satisfaction" (however slight). So what I'm willing to do (and maybe this is my "faith") is go with that slight sense of satisfaction or fulfillment or participation as a worthwhile act in itself. For a specific example, let's say I take communion -- I have no belief in the body and blood and transubstantiation. In fact, I never even think about those things. But I do like participating in the ritual of having a tiny piece of bread and a tiny sip of wine with some other people that I know. I have no expectation that such an act will lead to or create any further belief; and as for the supernatural, I don't need body and blood; bread and wine is enough for me.

A little divinity, a lot of humanity. A little love, a lot of common decency. A little knowing, a lot of tenderness. A few divine secrets, a lot of little altars.

ANOTHER LITTLE ALTAR
"Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?"
Matthew 8:26, KJV

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS
FOR A CONTINUATION OF THIS DISCUSSION ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, August 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com