Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Thought of the Day

      If we weren't such a stupid people in thrall to our "smart" phones, we'd be rebuilding the US passenger railroad system for the day, not far off, when the grand entitlement of Happy Motoring rather suddenly vaporizes for a significant chunk of the population. The lack of interest in that project is really something to behold. Politicians who systematically "de-fund" the rail corridors, which is the case here in the Northeast, do it because they are as clueless as their constituents about what's really coming down. Rather, both the politicians and the public place their bets on "self-driving cars" powered by an as-yet-to-be announced sovereign replacement for liquid hydrocarbon fuel. The net effect of that stupidity is that your children and grandchildren will lead lives in which they rarely travel more than ten miles from home.

                                                                                                                --James Howard Kunsler

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Susan and I get the USA Today newspaper. It's not a great paper, and we almost did not renew this year, but then it occurred to me that without that paper I won't be able to keep up during the fantasy baseball season. That I cannot abide since I'm determined to win at least one of the two leagues I'll be in this year. I've had enough break-in period now. It's time to get serious.

But back the paper . . . I'm in the habit when I sit down to read it in the mornings of handling the "state-by-state" page this way. I read the entries for all the states I've lived in. (Can't devour the whole thing. Takes too long. Besides it's mostly "Like, who cares?") Anyway, this give me a bird's eye view every day of the run-of-the-mill going on in the country, just the everyday stuff, which, I would submit is not a very uplifting exercise usually. But today was kinda bland. 
  • Alabama -- the state's at war with electronic bingo. They just shut a casino down and are suing three more. What the hell is wrong with electronic bingo? If you're going to have gambling casinos, doesn't make sense to me.
  • Florida -- Dufuss Tea Party Governor Rick Scott has decided he's gonna take the federal Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Health Care Act despite his histrionic announcement some time ago that Florida was not going to. What kind of dummy is going to turn down 3 years of 100 percent funding of Medicaid from the fed? This move covers an additional 900,000 people in the state.
  • Louisiana -- A judge has stopped the town of Homer from abolishing its police force. Apparently the meeting of mayor and board of selectmen that decided to do it took place in violation of an open-meetings law in the state. There's more to it than this, you can bet.
  • Maine -- The governor signed a bill keeping data on the state's concealed weapons permit holders secret. It was a hurry-up measure to head off a request by a newspaper, which later withdrew the request.
  • Mississippi -- The first lady is going to visit an elementary school in Clinton later in the month puffing nutritional improvements in school lunches.
  • Missouri -- State lawmakers in Jefferson City endorsed bills honoring Stan Musial and Andy Gammon by naming the new Mississippi River bridge after the former and a stretch of I-70 after the latter. (Gammon died working on the bridge.)
  • Oklahoma -- In one of the extremely rare instances of good sense, the state legislature passed a law making it illegal to text while driving.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Course Correction

You know what? This new way of approaching blogging isn't really working for me. I need to be on more often, but I have to shake the demon that bites me on the neck if I don't post every day. Truth of the matter is, it distresses me to see that my daily readers are down to about half a dozen from the usual 18-20. I'm sure some of you out there have concluded that I have pretty much run out of things to say. Not so. Don't think that will be so till I can no longer type or speak. So once more a course correction. It's my intention to resume more frequent posting. Not doing it but once or twice in a week gives me too much leeway to kick the can down the road, too easy a rationalization that I'm delivering what I promised, when in fact what I'm doing is avoiding a task that, though ultimately very satisfying, is taxing in the way that all creative endeavors are.

Bottom line: expect to see me here much more frequently. The world is passing by without my commentary? No way!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I didn't listen to Obama's State of the Union address last night. My daughter, wife, and I spent the whole day driving back from Baton Rouge, where we had gone to attend the funeral of Susan's mom. It was a miserable ride back. It rained virtually the entire way, and by the time we got back in Oklahoma it was cold as well. The last thing I wanted to do was listen to a speech by a politician . . . any politician.

Susan, as well as her whole family, is doing well. This was not a death that was unanticipated. Indeed, Sadie Coco Gremillion's passing from this plane of existence to the next was protracted. I cannot tell you how many years now we've been expecting to be her last. And until just recently, it was not clear how long she would survive. All of which leads me to the melancholy observation that about the only thing on the face of the planet that unifies us as human beings is death. Nothing else has its power to mystify, to terrify, to put us in our place. And nothing else--except perhaps pain--is as universal. Death is the one thing we all understand, and our understanding of it, at least on a certain level is perfect. So funerals are a tribal kind of gathering. Not only do we gather to honor the past life of the one who has died, and in this case that was something to celebrate indeed, but we gather to acknowledge the future . . . our own and that of everyone else who is there. So rest in peace, Meme. You have finished the race, a good and faithful servant.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Some Thoughts about Church

This year (of our Lord, as they used to say) 2013, I'm going to cross the Rubicon of being 70 years old. In my mind, and that's the only one that really matters, it's a demarcation between aging or late middle age, and old or, less starkly, elderly. If you never could quite think of yourself as old, I submit that once you're into your 70s, you can stop fooling yourself about being anything other than elderly. All of this has been a matter of some considerable amazement to me, for we all can remember when we were young and thought about ourselves in the distant future at say, age 65 or 70, the notion seemed completely preposterous.

Even more preposterous are projections we make when we're younger about anything that's going to be true of our life when we get old. For example, except for my 5-6 year period as a near-atheist, I was a church-going Catholic. At age 45, I was ordained as a permanent deacon in the church and for the next 25 years faithfully performed my ministerial duties. And before ordination, I got involved in several different kinds of ministry. I was what could be honestly described as a "religious" person. The point of all this is, if anyone would have told me then or even ten years ago that at the age of 69 I would be out of the Catholic church (and of course out of ministry as a deacon) and not only that, but a member in good standing in a Protestant congregation . . . why what a truly absurd notion. Catholicism was supposed to be a life-long thing. But of course, what do you know about life when you're in your twenties?

Fact is, what you know about life at the stage I am now is only incrementally more. What you don't know is massive by comparison. And that's kinda the bedrock assumption of the little church community I belong to now, a United Church of Christ congregation that embraces a vision of Christianity that comports in just about every respect with my own. For years I silently reflected on the absurdity of my official standing as a member of the Catholic clergy, not because I didn't believe in service. Indeed, service was the only thing that made sense about it. The doctrines and dogmas certainly didn't. It became increasingly evident to me that if I were put in a position of saying yea or nay to a host of Catholic  theological propositions--redemption by Christ's blood, virgin birth, eucharist, Trinity, not to mention the easy ones like papal infallibility, exclusion of homosexuals, etc.--I would be saying either "nay" or "hey, let's talk about this" to just about all of them. I'm the last kind of person to let any proposition go unexamined. And the fact is, just about every theological notion I was taught to believe simply didn't stand up to examination.

Which I might have been able to abide--after all, I had found these propositions problematical for years--but I could not abide the overbearing authoritarianism of the institution and in the light of the massive still unfolding (after years of doing so) sexual scandals, the sheer depth of the hierarchy's hypocrisy and cruelty to children. The massive decades long cover-up of rampant pedophilia among the clergy. I heard a story on NPR the other day about the viciousness of the Irish nuns to the young girls they imprisoned in so-called "Magdalene laundries." Is there no end to these revelations of how un-Christian the Catholic church was and still is? 

It became just impossible for me to stay. So I left, and burned the bridges. I'm now with a group of people now who follow Jesus but who don't have dogma, who accept anybody who comes to our church no matter who or what they are, who believe in peace and social justice, who believe that God is still speaking to humankind, and who embrace a progressive vision of Christianity that we pray eventually will take root in the churches that look to Jesus as the model of how a human being should live his life. I'm not looking back, and I'm old enough now to confess that the future is out there in all its mystery. I don't have clue what it holds.