Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Feathers and flowers

By the way, William Shakespeare is generally thought to have been born on this day in 1564—444 years ago.

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes;
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown....
            – The Merchant of Venice

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spring and All (title of a poem by William Carlos Williams)

Before we leave our home of 25 years in a few short weeks, I'm looking around at our glorious, last springtime here...[click on a photo to enlarge it]

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

103 years ago today

My father was born on this day in 1905. Over the years of my own adulthood and middle age I've seen so much of my father in my own mannerisms of body and speech, and yet he remains largely an unknown man to me. That is, though I perhaps knew him as well as most men know their fathers, I feel that there's more about him that I don't know and never even suspected than that I did come to know.

Somehow, beginning as a bookish teenager, I felt there was a kind of divide between him and me, a division that afforded me much grief of longing, particularly during my late twenties and my thirties, when my own children were young. I felt a mysterious need to connect with my dad, to somehow get on the same wavelength of understanding and feeling. It's hard to define what the "connection" would have been, or exactly what was missing that I thought needed to be there. I never felt that the connection got made or the missing parts got filled in. At some point in the final years of his life (1976-1980) I accepted that they never would. I even convinced myself that that was okay, even though I don't really think it was.

Could it have been a simple failure to really know that he loved me, or a failure on my part to really appreciate him, to understand to what extent his life had consisted of pleasure, to what extent of pain? He grew up the oldest child of a large family. At an age when I was reading books, attending school everyday, preparing for college, he was working a mule in the fields (in Arkansas) to help feed his brothers and sisters. That is, he didn't have my "advantages," and ironically it was probably those very advantages that constituted the gulf that I felt divided us. My so-called advantages pushed me into a world more of the mind and the imagination than of everyday, present reality.

Anyway, Dad, I just wanted to tell you again, as I did my best to tell you almost thirty years ago, that I love you. I still love and always will love you, even if my understanding of you was imperfect and my memory of you is at best an approximation of who you really were. And thanks again for everything.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

25 years later: ready to let go

We'll be downsizing soon (moving to a smaller house on a smaller lot), and I've spent much of this weekend removing from our attic the rest of the boxes (mostly) that I didn't bring down last weekend. Much of the stuff I found up there had been...well, "stuffed" is the appropriate term...stuffed up there soon after we moved in in 1983. And not thought of since. Until today. And today we're mostly doing what we might have done twenty-five years ago: throwing it away.

I'm naturally wondering what we thought we were keeping it for. Probably not for any practical reasons, but just in order to buy some time to distance ourselves from the past it represented so that we'd become ready, someday, to let it go. And today, indeed, we're not feeling much attachment to any of the stuff at all. We're long since ready to let it go and be done with it. Dusty boxes, moldy paper...faded or forgotten memories.

My wife did set aside her tassel from the mortarboard she wore for high school graduation (45 years ago), however. And I set aside my "Youie Journal" from 1989, intending before I recycle the paper to try to read and understand what I was experiencing that manic summer when I imagined that The She-God fancied me.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What happened since then?

Today a friend wrote and said unto me:
While reading this (from your "A history not of God, but of the idea of God" post)...
..."create a sense of him for myself." For several months now I have much enjoyed the freedom from any such sense whatsoever. If it's "obvious" to some that God exists, it's just as obvious to me that there's no such X.
...I remembered you used to believe in "the goddess," a concept you had arrived at yourself. So at least up until or at that time, I can only imagine you must've had some sense that there was some kind of "higher being." What happened since then?
And what I wrote back and said unto her I would like to share with all readers of this blog:
I realized that I was wrong. Before that, I was still laboring under the apprehension that there might be "God," and I preferred to think of her rather than of him (or it). The goddess was also my way of thumbing my nose at the he-god people. But over the course of time I realized that there seemed to be no little justification for going the full monty and thumbing my nose at the whole god concept. Not that thumbing my nose was the object, but I do admit seeming to need to go through such a phase. I think I resented how most of world civilization seems to have conspired to foist god-belief onto everyone, from the cradle.

The real advantage of throwing over the god concept is that I no longer have to bear the burden of its baggage. Everything is much simpler, sort of à la Occam's (or Ockham's) razor. It seems more and more obvious to me that most theological constructions (which can become church dogmas) are attempts to apologize for (in this context, that means create rationalizations for believing) things that seem pretty far-fetched (if not downright stupid or even immoral, such as animal sacrifice, not to even mention various shameful practices regarding slaves and women, the latter being considered a sort of slave themselves, or at least a class of property belonging to men).


In order to remember what the heck I was going to do before I got distracted, I've finally had to resort to the technique of the character Leonard in the movie "Memento" (2000: Christopher Nolan). You may recall that Leonard had a short-term memory deficit particularly severe for someone trying to find the man he thinks killed his wife. He was continually writing down clues and appointments as he tried to piece1 things together. (Leonard, by the way, was played, appropriately, by Guy Pearce>.)

Not only is my short-term memory not what it used to be, but also, in this e-mail and telephone and open-office-door age, I am continually being interrupted, even on a good day. And besides, I've always liked the high-energy way of trying to do several things at once. I still can, except that, more and more, some of the things I'm juggling fall to the ground and roll under a table, where they may or may not be discovered.

So...make a note! Put it where I can see it! Check the pile! Don't let the mementos accumulate! Keep on top of things! Don't lose my ass!

And good luck!
  1. Ha! Minutes after posting this, something didn't feel right in my addled brain, and I finally realized that I'd originally written this as "pierce"; of course, now that I've corrected it, my parenthetical about Guy Pearce isn't nearly so effective.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy new year, those April Fools among you!

According to my old friend Pennell Rock (who was in the class ahead of me at Yale):
Did you know that before Pope Gregory in the sixteenth century, the new year used to begin on April 1? Those who did not get the message that the year now started on January 1 and continued to celebrate it with the arrival of spring came to be known as "April Fools."
And, as Pennell also says:
So all blessings and best wishes for the new year!
Learn more about Pennell and his life of sensitive reflection.