Sunday, January 17, 2010

Botanic Gardens, Kauai Hawaii

I took this pic a few years ago when Mulan and I spent Christmas with friends in Kauai.

I've been thinking about Voltaire a bit.   In our last writing session, Jim reminded me of the poem that Voltaire wrote after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 when all the priests were railing against the people themselves for being the culprit.  The disaster occurred because of their sinfulness.  And now, 255 years later and we still have the like of Pat Robertson and his voodoo/pact-with-the-devil/Christian belief that Haiti brought all this on itself.

Here is Voltaire's poem: Poem on the Lisbon Disaster - Wikisource

And here is a good excerpt:

What crime, what sin, had those young hearts conceived
That lie, bleeding and torn, on mother's breast?
Did fallen Lisbon deeper drink of vice
Than London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid?
In these men dance; at Lisbon yawns the abyss.
Tranquil spectators of your brothers' wreck,
Unmoved by this repellent dance of death,
Who calmly seek the reason of such storms,
Let them but lash your own security;
Your tears will mingle freely with the flood.

Pat Robertson is an anomaly now.  The public is ridiculing him.  This makes me optimistic.  In Voltaire's time it the Catholic Church was everywhere and this was the general attitude. I really think things are changing.  SLOWLY. 

What shocks me is that while the mainstream may mock Robertson, they don't seem to take it a step further.  If God didn't cause the earthquake then does God cause anything? Is he a sad bystander?  Is he able to do anything about it?  Of course not.  Then why believe in any God at all?  But no one takes it that far.  It's PC to extoll the belief that God IS there to rely on, you can cry on his shoulder, you can ask for strength.   Why is that so acceptable?  

And why did the font on my blog just change?  OH!  I cannot stop and noodle with it, I have dinner to prepare.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Val, my cat, on my desk

Here is an experimental blog post - a straight-up diary of my day.


This was my day...

Got up, nudged Mulan along as she groggily got dressed for school.   Got her breakfast and made some coffee.  Helped her look through her homework to make sure everything was done.  Nudged her to finish a math page and a bonus challenge homework page.  Gave her a pre-test for her spelling quiz.  Nudged her to get her teeth brushed and especially to floss.

After she left I took the dog, Arden on a walk to Lake Michigan.  I listened on my iphone to an audio biography about Paul Durac, a British Theoretical Physicist.  I am convinced he had asperger syndrome only the biographer doesn't mention that.  I get jelous of Dirac's life where everything is arranged so he can work constantly, I wish I had a Mancy (his wife's name) who made sure I was undisturbed, had food, and could take long walks.  Today as I walk it's very deceptively icy. The sidewalks look clear but they have the thinnest layer of ice. I almost fall down a hundred times.  I don't like the cold today.   The lake is sad looking, a lot of dirty looking piled up snow on the edge of the lake. I look closer and see that what I thought was dirt is really sand.  I marvel at Lake Michigan and all it's sand.

Get home and Michael is completely absorbed in some lighting project at the house.  He is a man obsessed with lighting.  He wants to program every single light in our house so that we can stand at the door and push one button and every light we don't want on will go off. This requires a lot of work, hooking up this outlet but not that one, etc.  He is frustrated with the software for the program and it's the third incarnation of this software he has worked with. He has been up for two nights until at least one or two a.m. working on the lighting project.  I kid with him and say, when he gets it done I expect him to say with glee, "Now all you have to do to turn down the lights in the family room is log onto this website on your computer, enter a certain number, and the light will automatically dim!"  He does not like my joke because you see, it's not really a joke.

I leave and go get a mammogram. I have not had one for a few years. I, having had cervical cancer, should be more vigilant, but I have let things go.  I get to the Evanston Medical Center and read the book I am completely absorbed in. "Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver.  It's such a great book, a fictionalized account of a young Mexican American in the thirties who befriends Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and Trotsky.   I am pulled out of my reverie by a stern woman asking me to put on a gown.  The gown is awkwardly configured so even after you tie it in the places it wants to be tied, you have to hold it closed otherwise your whole front shows as you walk down the hallway to the mammogram machine.  The woman inside is friendly and I'm thankful for her warm hands as she manipulates my breasts this way and that.  I think about what a weird job she has.  I wonder if she says to people, "I just sort of fell into it."  There is no hidden meaning in that configuration of words, I just wonder if that's the phrase she'd use.

As I leave we discuss the gowns.  She agrees, they suck.

I leave and take a moment to consider that I could get a bad response on my mammogram and have cancer. I fantasize what I would do if I learned I had only one year to live.  I decide that I would just go places to look at animals and nature and the sky at night.  I would go to the Galapagos, or Hawaii and just sit and watch. I don't need to see any more people, I've seen big cities, but I've done it.  I get it.  Big vibrant city.  I crave quiet and nature without people.  I decide that I would have to pull Mulan out of school to go with me to Hawaii or the Galapagos.  Of course Michael would have to come, he'd have to shut down his business and come.  Jill Sobule would have to come too, as well as Jim Emerson.  I guess there'd be some people.   Then I think, it would be bad for Mulan to be pulled out of school right now because  she is really doing well and loves her school.  Then I remember this is all a fantasy.  I blink back tears and come back to life.

I go to my favorite bread store in Evanston.  It's Friday and I get challah.   I don't ask for challah bread.  I used to do that.  Then Michael told me that was like asking for Guinness beer.  You just say Guinness, not Guinness beer, just as you just say challah.  We like to buy challah for french toast on Sundays.   I don't have Mulan with me but I remember while I'm at this store that this was where Mulan made her first decent pun.  She said they should put a sign out on Fridays saying, "Celebrate, it's Challah-Day!"   While I'm at the bread store I also get a turkey sandwich on their popeye bread.  It's so good, it's worth all the points.

I come home and eat my sandwich while I watch some TV footage about Haiti. I get really upset.  I start to cry.  It all seems so hopeless.  What if you were stuck and had so much time before you died to know it was going to happen?  Or worse, you didn't know if your loved ones were okay or not.  Or even what just really happened out there.  This is happening to someone right now.  This makes my heart heave.

I answer a few phone calls.  I speak with a woman at Minnesota Public Radio about doing a show at the Fitzgerald theater in St. Paul in March.  It seems like it's going to happen.  Then I do some business paperwork, for example, I send $1000 to Sony for the rights to sing "Is That All There Is" in "Letting Go of God" for one year.

Then I try to write.  I decide my book of essays is not as important as "My Beautiful Loss Of Faith Story" the book i've been working on for years. I wonder if I can reach my goal of finishing it this year. I wonder how many years I've had this goal. I feel depressed.  I remember we have no food in the house and Mulan is bringing a friend home after school.   I go to the grocery store.  I buy chicken noodle soup and oyster crackers for Mu and her friend to have after school.  This is Mu's big TV day.  She cannot watch any TV during the week, but on Friday after school it's a TV free-for-all.  I also buy vegetables and after I come home, I quickly make a pasta sauce in the slow cooker.

I run to meet Mu after school, but I am a few minutes late and she is nearly home and I end up meeting her half way. She has her friend with her. Mu got 100% on her spelling quiz and I am elated.  I heat up the chicken soup for them.  Nadia comes over to watch the girls because I have a hair appt.  Michael has gone to work.  I get my hair cut really short. I really look like a nun now. And I like it.  I feel I am in "A Nun's Story" as I leave the hair salon.  I tell myself that if my hair is going to be this short I really have to remember to wear lipstick.  I love my hair dresser.  She gets my hair.

I come home from the salon and Michael is already home and working on his lighting project again. Mulan is upstairs in our room watching TV.  I make everyone eat the pasta and sauce.  It's only okay, not great.    I beg everyone to watch the Netflix movie I have, "Winged Migration."  I already saw it when it came out (in 2000) but it was so great - all about various birds' migrations across the earth.  Michael wants to work on the lighting project, Mulan wants to watch iCarly, they don't want to watch it.  I'm too tired to do anything useful.  I briefly decide to go read my book in the basement, but then rally and force everyone to stop what they're doing and watch "Winged Migration."  I really have to push.  I momentarily hate everyone and wonder why I'm doing this.   I think that if I'm going to die in a year I really must finish the screenplay that Jim Emerson and I are working on. We are having so much fun.  Working with Jim has been one of my life's great joys.  Just as I'm giving up on Mu and Michael they agree, yes, let's watch the movie together.  I suddenly feel a huge surge of love for them.

Before we watch the movie, we make popcorn in the microwave.  Michael has experimented and experimented and if you take 1/4 cup of popcorn and a dab of oil and put it in a kid's paper lunch bag and staple the top, zap it for exactly 2 minutes, it turns out great.

We watch.  Michael loves the film but is skeptical about how much they doctored itto get certain types of shots.  Mulan is rapt with the film, and so is Arden - it's the first time my dog watched most of a movie.  But when it's over Mulan announces she's thrilled she's now let out of this horrible prison I've put her in, forcing her to watch this movie.  Also, she announces that she will never eat a bird.

Ohmygod, I love my family so much.

Mulan goes to her room, Michael goes back to the lighting project, and I come in here and write about my day.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Snow, snow, everywhere...

And I love it.

Wow.  All those posts to the last blog entry have my head in constant conversation.   I think the post that I've thought about the most was the one which indicated I was breaking the question down in a poor way.  (Well, there were many posts pointing that out...)  This one broke down the debate in a different way - between religion with supernatural claims and religion without supernatural claims.   That is true.  I guess I don't normally think of or remember that there are religions without supernatural claims. Buddhism is the only one I can think of. (Not all sects of Buddhism.)   Or the Unitarian Church.

To me, religion works best as a ritual keeper and community builder.  These things are very important.  In my observations - which are mostly about my upbringing in Spokane in the Catholic church and then watching my friends who have stayed in the church - the best thing they get from their religion is the shared rituals and community.   These are the things that I really craved, in retrospect.  I had mouthed the words and didn't think all that much about the readings, I liked Bach and the candles and the idea that I had stood in this same church year in and year out on one particular day that earmarked the dead of winter or the beginning of spring - saying the same things, hearing the same songs, watching kids grow up, flirting with boys, seeing who was getting married, mourning those who had died.  All those things can be a part of a life without the supernatural.

On the other hand, the supernatural specifics of what we were all supposed to believe were, in my opinion,  a great hindrance to the development of a skeptical outlook and even general critical thinking skills.  So, the ideas we were so benignly taught had an insidious price.  We paid with our critical minds.  SOME of my friends from Spokane, for example, have - in my humble opinion - undeveloped political opinions.  Worse, they back off from any debate.  They make ad homonym attacks.  Tragically, some of them have no understanding of the tenants of other faiths, and even of their own faith.  Sometimes it seems that they are even proud of their lack of information.  Is the Church to blame?  Hmmm... I kinda think so.  I hate to say, I do.

But the rituals and community continue to give.  And I can see that it is a great value.

I think the Unitarian Church can offer this, but not at the cost of your critical mind.

But for me, I do not feel in need of the community anymore!  I like the idea of it, but not the practicality of it.  It involves a great deal of socializing and I feel that I am filled up with that. What I crave now, (and I am fifty, so maybe this is a natural thing to happen,) but I want less socializing and social obligation in my life.  I crave quiet and contemplation.  I want to learn.  I feel I am hungry to learn and read and think,  well, it's almost as if I had scurvy and were in need of an orange!  And true learning and thinking take a lot of time and quiet.  With a husband and a child, as well as a few very close friends,  I feel I am up to my ears in interaction with people.  Adding a church would put me over the edge.  Even if Mulan may benefit from it, she would have an even more frazzled mother and I don't think that is good. (I could just see myself getting caught up in it at first, volunteering for five committees, nodding "yes!" to the bake sale, and then being in the worst possible mood about it all for the next six months...  Wait! This is what being at a public school is like already!  I've so far been able to back away from most things...  But yes, I feel guilty about it.  Guilty or Angry? That's always my dilemma...)

I think me and my friends would have been better served by a Church that did not subscribe to supernatural beliefs.  We would have gotten the ritual and community but not the inanity.

But sometimes I wonder, would we stick to it if it didn't have a whiff of a real God on High?   I might not have.  It would require inculcating me about the need of community and social obligation and not about someone looking over my shoulder who could see everything.

...I wrote the above jumbled blog entry this morning and was intending all day to get back to it, reread all those wonderful posts from the last entry and rewrite it. But now it's late, and I have to fly to New York in the morning.  So I'm just going to throw this out there. It's woefully inadequate in it's musings upon this topic.

Jill Sobule and I are doing a show on Sunday night at Joe's Pub in New York and it's sold out. That is really exciting!!!!