Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

ONE SILENT NIGHT

The doubts in the story. About each other. About their God. The movement in the story. Always the movement in these stories of the principals. The Flood. The Exodus. And having to take decisive action, to survive. So in this case there was the decree, just when you wanted to stay home. But maybe by leaving when the child was born, the locals would not talk so much about what had happened – or what was perceived to have happened. Creation

There was the mixing of the public and private concerns, as well as the innocence in the story. When you somehow were innocently born into the evil in the world. Not unlike what happened to a judge who found himself surrounded by evil, if you were bothered by all the secret goings-on, in the name of super men, if not God, in the system under the National Security Agency, after what happened to all of the innocent kids in human history. In human history up until this point.

Life and death. Did you note the theme in the first chapters of Genesis, about movement. Noah and his unnamed wife, who must have felt so very much alone. So was this a new beginning or just an ending? Chosen, with your very own personal choices about continuing life. (Chosen – the contest was fixed in my favor, in a contest between the inside against the outside world?) The doubt in the story about life – that I was loved? The sacrifices made to demonstrate love, to remove the doubt, because there always was doubt that you were Chosen, until you were so very much alone. Like Noah. Or Isaac. Or Joseph, in Egypt in times of famine. Or another dreamer named Joseph.

Again and again, as your very private life would determine the future of the world: the mystery, with the seen and the unseen. Adam and Eve. Noah and his unnamed wife, while pairing up all the animals. When you feel so very much alone, with doubt in times of annihilation, while starting over as PLACE replaces TIME as a character determined who they were; did you ever sense from the displacement the deep feeling like a charley horse of the throat when you recognize a Post Traumatic Stress disordering, about what is lost of the inheritance if not the birthright as PLACE replaces TIME, in the New Creation? The theme over who would be saved, and with the involvement – some kind of involvement – with the use of your fertility, in times of annihilation as you were so personally threatened – with or without love.

The movement, the themes, in the stories: When in hindsight it all seemed so fixed, like last night’s Ms. Universe Contest. Missing the movement in the story, with the pain and the suffering. Far from your home, with the doubt whether you really had been personally Chosen. The always and everywhere doubt over some warped sense of those who were chosen after hearing true stories of annihilation, about the powerless and the innocent. When it was clear that even God was capable of mass killing of the innocent.

The human condition: when the last person on earth you could trust was gonna have you committed to a mental institution – the motive in the killings was the human condition, and being left so all alone? And scared.

The real Jewish theme, again and again in the Hebrew Bible, is one of annihilation. Of Abel. Of the world at the time of Noah. Of Isaac, in the story on Mount Moriah. When the focus was on the innocent, when the outside world got a view within. And all of the new threats – the inside and outside threats, to the Chosen People – which came out of envy and jealousy.

The same human condition, whether the last person on earth – or the first. The doubts in times of annihilation: again and again the stories of the past – and also in the present. The realization that these were such personal stories of fertility.

Here, the Roman concern of rebellion. So a census, for registration. When in Rome, with their fear, putting down all crazy religious rebellions. When inequality threatens stability.

So the census. So the journey, surrounded by other sons of David who had to register in Bethlehem – the long line of fertility. Maybe still struggling over the concept of the virgin birth. And we never hear in the Gospels anything about the timing of the wedding between pregnant Mary and Joseph. And how would a couple not keep talking about it. About who among the relatives were never invited – and the talking about the wedding. And so maybe the relatives caught a whiff of the tension, with the innocence in the story. Of Joseph. Of Mary. And if Joseph was from the line of David, from where did Mary originate? And was she even good enough for him?

All these Latter Day Saints concerned about the private lives of this couple, as if it was anyone else’s concern. Like the shared doubt at this stage between Joseph and Mary, they are in the story, so all alone. The innocent in the story – the already betrothed Joseph, representing the House of David. Why would the Virgin Mary get pregnant – however it happened, by the God of Abraham? And then sent off by the political authorities to a place of origin to register, to enroll for a numbering.

When surrounded by so many of your kinsmen, the very same human condition, when the last person on earth – or the first – feeling so all alone? So was this a form of societal shunning, with such an unconventional marriage, before the unconventional birth? Why else could you leave a woman and her husband so close to delivering a baby so all alone, in the story? Was it about another human concern – about who wanted to come between a couple that was gonna have a baby so soon. With all of the emotion involved, wasn’t there a sense of human shame? When you woke up in a strange town, surrounded by your extended family struggling over the concept of why they were not invited to your wedding, and you were forced to explain who you were and what you were doing here, if not how long you intended to stay – together. In Bethlehem. And then this pregnancy!

When there were honor killings by families in these times, over women who conceived a child outside of wedlock. The system, with the underlying relationships which came out of fertility, which was the basis of the registration – to whom were you related? With the Roman concern over ideas of rebellion which might be fermented by crazy religious beliefs. And the Jewish concern, with the six hundred and some laws from Leviticus. So how would you explain the pregnancy?

The deepest part of Christmas which came from stories about not just transporting a culture to an old place, but then somehow planting the culture. Through the Law. So there was the long spoken of Messiah and the birthright, along with the private life of the Messiah and his parents. The missing public spectacle. The movement, in how it was coming along? When you seemed so perfect as a baby, but it was always hard to so personally live with your God in this impersonal world. On this earth. With the God who stirred and disrupted. Chosen People.

Was there doubt in the story, in this very private story? Or fear, if not anger? About how a man from the House of David was somehow asked to deliver alone the Messiah. Joseph, so all alone? And about the ‘becoming,’ it is of note that Joseph had strongly considered divorce, at some time during the gestation period of the Messiah. When, if you celebrated the meaning of Christmas, you recognized the inner split in God over exactly who were His chosen people. And the properly credentialed latter day saints excommunicated you today over such divorce action — or after an apostolic investigation, excommunicated the sisters of St. Joseph — unless they found human grounds for annulment.

The conflict over power in the story. In a variant of dealing with denial, the decree from Rome was an attempt to show their dominion over the place? Of the insiders and the outsiders, note all the outsiders who tried to become insiders about what happened at the time. There was, thank God, only the latter concern by the latter day saints about the status of Mary’s soul. Mary born without sin, but surrounded by crime and sin in the world. By all the emotional responses to fear and anger, and to punishment, in a story.

To address all the doubts in times again and again of annihilation: the stories of the past – and also in the present. In this story about what it does mean to be CHOSEN. When over and over there were stories of indiscriminate human annihilation, and real people had to decide how to rebuild lives, in relationships. The relationship part of the story, when over time you had started to so privately reveal something about Yourself. From one generation to the next. So I strongly suspect that in gestation period of the Messiah that the birthright of Abraham was at play between this couple. The same birthright with sacrifice that came out of Sarah and Abraham’s relationship.

Philanthropy—that you might have what I had, in what seemed a normal way of life. Scripture is nothing but the history of how people who went before us learned how to pray. Abraham. Isaac. Sacrifice. The strangeness of it all. A bizarre idea, to sacrifice the future, through a son. Before there was the commandment about having “no strange gods before Me.” And so began Abraham’s dialogue with God, asking questions, seeking answers if he was doing the right thing. Questioning. Really, learning how to pray, in this evolutionary process toward forgiveness which begins with the remembrance of the relationships of the father of faith, with his God and his son –the bond. And as a result, there was over time some long-developed cultural trust in the personal story of doubt – in the bond. Marrying, despite the palpable doubt in each other, wrestling with the unrecognized birthright question…and passing it on, with such emotion. Generation after generation. But with a conflict in the story between the unrecognized sacrifices by a parent for a son/daughter who followed fathers and mothers, with no idea where the future would take him/her. Or ME!

Chosen. Like in a mate. Two people from two homes try to merge their ideas, with two personalities, of what is an appropriate environment for their child. And learning each other’s strangeness. Yeah, as if it was anyone else’s concern in the private lives of this couple – whether a couple would remain kosher. With the concern of all the latter day saints about the degree of how orthodox.

The perversions of Gentile people, by the all these latter day saints, missed the discussion of the form of their orthodoxy – until they missed,and I along with them, the doubt shared at this stage between Joseph and Mary. In the first months of their new relationship. When, like any nomad, you wanted to go back to a place where you were once known – so maybe a census. Known, like God had once been. In places where you were forced to just listen. Listening to Joe Lieberman, on his tradition: until the bereaved family was ready – if they ever were ready – to talk, there was just silence. After living through the real stories of annihilation, like twelve months ago in Newtown, Connecticut, note the importance in the story, again and again, of companionship in the silence.

Silence. The movement in the story over the shared doubt at this stage between Joseph and Mary. There was such concern about the private lives of these people – as if it was anyone’s concern – and I thought a lot about the Lanza family and the cause/origin of another indiscriminate human annihilation. Like in the story of Isaac. And all the unrecognized Post Traumatic Stress Disordering that resulted, on issues of trust between both people and their God. I thought about the human condition: when the last person on earth you could trust was gonna have you killed – or committed.

When doubt met belief. The movement in the story of bonds that came from compounded belief, of a real human birth. When you were surrounded by people who shared your belief, but with all of the real human doubt between people and families. The doubt that would continue to be a theme over a lifetime, in this evolutionary process toward forgiveness which begins with the remembrance of the relationships of the father of faith, with his God and his sons — with the suffering in the potential death of Isaac and in his not described relationship with Ishmael, just as Abraham had suffered with Hagar?

In this story of relative love, the conflict is when everyone was not the same – even noting the difference in another story of a son of the father of faith, Isaac, who was going to die, and Abraham was going to live. The annihilation, in prayer, in starting over each week. After sacrificing your best.

A day of awe, dealing with inheritance, later to be too much forgotten when it came to the mystery of the issue of birthright. In this story about a Living God and about belonging in the world, but sacrificing Your best. Abraham, who discovered at the end of the story of his tremendous human longevity, in the dénouement, was — in the release of tension in the dénouement —coming back home in his lameduck days, with his great sense of shame after wounding his own fertility. When you prayers were so alive. And you wanted others to have the same experience. The story about keeping something alive with sacrifice, with a passion, concentrating on this thing called physical and spiritual love – in my own fertility – that God would never forget. ME!

These descendants of a people from the ancient Semitic population: a descendant of Noah’s eldest son, taken to a place where they never had been? And so this trip to Bethlehem, by Joseph. Bethlehem, where Jacob buried the wife he loved. So Bethlehem was about this bond which had come out of birthright, between outsiders and insiders in these love stories? Where God had lost his “strangeness.” Rachel was an outsider who never made it back to the Abraham’s homestead. That a nomad, without his own sense of place, who was supposed to resolve the crisis over belief, in a foreign land, outside the garden in the first place. With all of the anguish again this year, in Bethlehem where people are still dealing with independence and multiculturalism, along with the changing roles of power. Bethlehem, where David had been born. With all the stories of post traumatic stress disorder: when you killed a giant, despite the commandments. With still the ever growing need for a forgiveness, in Bethlehem. To confer a spirit about shared belief, in the name of God, upon a king. With all the tension in the forgiveness story. With post traumatic stress on issues of trust, for the young, unknowingly dealing with a tragic hero — after a grandfather had once been ready to take a knife to your father. Wondering first about the genetic affect and then about the environmental affect on a son, in these love stories of how God lost his “strangeness,” about the birthright which had come down one silent night to Bethlehem.

To find your people. To form institutions based upon trust. To wake up among your own people everyday, one day able to escape your shame. Note the movement that came from the shame that Abraham, that Jacob, that David all had felt so personally. And now a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, from the royal line of Jacob – note the movement toward Bethlehem — with atonement, by God for all the present, past and future annihilation. Note the movement in the story concentrating on this new tangible physical and spiritual love – in a fertility – so that somehow for all the shame, I would never forget God.

TO Bethlehem. A virgin birth. Who would ever believe? In the story of the human condition, in the story of salvation history, when God came between Chosen People. So why not have Joseph be challenged by Mary, as Jesus one day would challenge the world? Who could, who would believe in a virgin birth – like on one dark December silent night Joseph finally had? Who would believe it now? To Bethlehem, a Messiah – who would ever believe? Or who could ever believe so personally in a Messiah — with all the personal stress between loved ones in passing on a human concept of God — now? That was the mystery. The darn near impossible. God! Who could believe in the “strangeness” of God? It was always the question. Then, and now – in all the connectedness this Christmas. And for every day of the remainder of your life, the world thought you — like your wife — were the parent of the Messiah. Who could one day save this world. As one silent night followed the last one.

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Public Power in Stories So Private

The wise men. The learned men. The ancient priestly caste –king-makers, with the wealth and knowledge to travel. When you were born into something. Maybe like at the end of housing bubbles, with the bloated ego of ancient chosen people and latter day saints, in a quest both for survival, with the search for meaning.

iran2

Power. Dwelling within the Parthian empire. At the time just prior to the common era which is now numbered with the birth of Jesus, magi formed the upper house of the council of the Megistanes, whose duties included the election of the king. Adept at interpreting dreams, magi practiced astrology as well as at the time a hybrid of astrology of what is now called astronomy. Arsacid rulers were titled the King of Kings, as a claim to be the heirs to the the First Iranian Empire, the Achaemenid Empire.

And so the wise men, without any knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and their greatest commandment TO KNOW God, in order that you might have what I had, in what seemed a normal way of life.

There was the totalitarian world, with whatever your world view. As Christian. As Muslim. As Jew. How faithful would your children be about remaining kosher? Would the Catholic child keep attending Mass? Would the Jew or Muslim child maintain a kosher diet? And perhaps you had grown up in an era under the Soviet system which attempted to impose no belief, but oversaw through internal passports where you could live exactly. Or maybe you knew of modern Iran, which more and more seemed to be using the ways of Lenin for their own system of power in the Muslim world.

There was a grave threat to belief and unbelief in the days when Russia imposed the Marxism in the early 1920s. There was a grave threat to belief in the Western world, by youth born after all the mergers and acquisitions, and the take-overs in the last 1980s and early 1990s.

Hostile take-overs. Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, with the three wisdom-figures whose whole spirituality was based on interpreting those celestial beings, following a single unknown star in a sky that seemed alive – in the dark. And like in Rashi’s interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, in this story of another re-creation, God‘s spirit was hovering. These guys seemed to have come from an area like Kurdistan, if you looked into it.

And so the appearance of the outsiders in the Christmas story, in the connection of Atonement to the story of inheritance and birthrights. Did these three guys remind you of the three men who showed up to Abraham and he “ordered” Sarah to start preparing a feast? Or had it been the handmaid of Sarah, who had had this handmaid which was really nothing but a slave?

Three kings, Gentiles, asking questions, seeking answers? When darkness had been on the face of the deep. Was there shame in what the educated did not know? When epiphany is triggered by a new, key piece of information, but with a depth of prior knowledge, importantly, required to allow the leap. Was there a connection here in the story between the three Parthians to the doubt shared at this stage between Joseph and Mary, at the start of their new relationship. Was there shame in what these privileged three guys thought they knew, at the beginning when they set off. For Bethlehem?

Knowledge. As it was in the beginning. “The Lord God caused to sprout from the ground every tree pleasant to see and good to eat, and the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.” From a commandment to somehow KNOW GOD now from darkness come the three wise men who were somehow moved by God. Note the movement toward Bethlehem — with atonement, by God for all the present, past, and future annihilation. Note the movement in the story just as the wandering Jew was to become an outsider once again, there were the wise men in the story.

To take something so private public. Over and over, these stories about how someone allowed God to take them. Like He might take me. When epiphany was all about A Messiah. A bizarre idea to, on the surface, sacrifice the future, in Your son. And the involvement of the public power in the story — stopping in to see Herod. How could you miss over and over all the human shame in the story? The same things that happened to Isaac at the end of the story on Mount Moriah – when he took another way home, separate from Abraham.

So, exactly whose business was it about this “virgin” birth? Exactly whose business was it about the relationship between Joseph and Mary? Two people from two homes try to merge their ideas, with two personalities, of what is an appropriate environment for their child. And learning each other’s strangeness. Yeah, as if it was anyone else’s concern in the private lives of this couple – whether a couple would remain kosher. With the concern of all the latter day saints about the degree of how good, how orthodox, so who really knew at the time of the virgin-part of the birth? And now these three.

Who knew about this virgin birth? And who really cared? Was this just the perversions of Gentile people, by the all these latter day saints, in all of the strangeness of God, which missed the discussion of the Messiah. With the commandment about having “no strange gods before Me”, did you ever note in his lifetime the care taken by Jesus about his identity of Messiah.

Crossings. And never being the same. Scripture is nothing but the history of how people who went before us learned not so much how to pray, but to know the strangeness of God. And so this great mystery story. On this day, at this time of year, with all the darkness in the story. This “other way” is what EPIPHANY means, applying in a situation of an enlightening realization which allows the situation to be understood from a new deeper perspective. And so the experience of sudden and striking realization, without the clouds of perhaps a rather extensive language barrier?

Rashi says, in the beginning –and maybe in all the re-creations, too — if you get the small details wrong, the big picture will be wrong too.

In my own Illiad and Odyssey, I was looking at the old cemetery in the part of the city when the Jews had been segregated. So how could the God of the Hebrew Bible survive once the Jews had discovered the entire world? Once you had discovered all the people of the world. In the scattering, what would happen to the realization of One God, for such a limited number of people? Outside the Garden?

Herodotus, the far roaming Greek writer, wanted to know why cultures wage war against each other. The Polish writer Kapuściński noted that Herodotus was “the first to discover the world’s multicultural nature, the first to argue that each culture requires acceptance and understanding, and that to understand it, one must first come to know it.”

Exile. Movement. The leaving. The coming back. And the Good Book. There was this false conceit to look at the publishers of books as gate-keepers. There is no gate and there never has been one, when it comes to what gets published. It is the wrong approach… the perspective now of a publisher was that of enthusiasm – shared. The problem developed here when leaders seemed to be using someone else’s Cliff Notes. Learning how to read and how to write in the tactile world, caught in the big squeeze of a new birth canal of books….how to make the connection with kids to KEEP them reading.

Immersion reading and this “other way.” Did you feel Abraham’s presence in the story of stars when God told Abram, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings will emerge from you.” Did you remember the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah after God descended to see the righteous destroyed like the wicked — just as in the story of Isaac? Could you not hear the words of the Hebrew Bible? “By Myself have I sworn, says the Lord, that because you have done this thing and you did not withhold your son, your only one, that I will surely bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand that is on the seashore, and your descendants will inherit the cities of their enemies.”

Immersion reading versus research-based work of the academy. In the International Summit of the Book, a panelist in December 2012 spoke how in her first job involving children’s books, the job changed her view of not just what children books were, but what children books could be. There was other discussion of the transition online — all the transition online with the book — and to online resources “for our constituents.” And not all that dissimilar to the three wise men, there was the need with either books or theology then connecting that God – my God – to the future. And so there were these three kings, connecting the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, to the Father of Jesus. And in reading the stories, to somehow connect this one God to all of the world. Did you see the problem with the pope and his basis of power as to his self-interest in making the connection — or not — to the people of the Parthian empire, under Arsacid rulers claiming to be heirs to the the First Iranian Empire. King of kings. Shah of shahs. Not unlike the change in focus in the New Testament from the Old. When Christians too often felt the Hebrew Bible was not relevant — maybe like so many people born after the hostile take-overs who felt that Christianity was not relevant.

And so another CREATION STORY. When darkness had been on the face of the deep…on the face of the water – God said, “Let there be light.”


https://paperlessworld.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/heart-of-darkness.jpg”Heart of Darkness

Wisdom. It is said that despite its popular image, “epiphany is the result of significant work on the part of the discoverer, and is only the satisfying result of a long process.”

Knowledge, beyond the darkness. The goal of living was in passing something on. It was always the goal– to pass something on to the next generation. Like knowledge if not wisdom. And Mary, wondering about all the men in the story? Maybe wanting a bit more privacy from the outside world, as three wise guys were offering to interpret dreams, so that this couple might just survive. An infant Jesus, already threatened by closer kings, never a messiah until he died. With Joseph off talking about dreams, if not standing in the long line of the census, to register his belonging, if not his existence from and to the House of David. And young Mary, back at the cave inhabiting — or what modern travelers describe — a cave. Did Mary ever hear the echo of complaint of young women who objected that in this story just as in the study of history, there were no other people of her gender in this story, which made a woman feel so “invisible,” as though she did not, would not, qualify as a real person? Or in just the suppression of their own fertility at a young age?

How about the strangeness of the story? In the scene of a new mother and father with their infant, an involvement of the public power in the stories so private — with king-makers, most probably with their own servants, stopping in to see Herod. And feeling the suppression in the story, and the desire to suppress. Wise men, outsiders without much known baggage, from a world of their own independent rule, thinking to stop by the local king. And maybe escaping their own totalitarian world of bloated rulers of Chosen People and latter day saints, in a quest both for survival, with the search for meaning. For Bethlehem. Those coming from an area much closer to the Garden of Eden than Palestine was.

In the story of power and might, note the change in the spiritual direction in the dénouement of the story, from the deep emotion that came out of the story of a virgin birth, occurring in a cave. As Three Wise Men sense something that threatened a baby and a mother, there is the deep emotion in the story for every person on earth, when God is perceived to be threatened, along with the excitement when God is with us – now. To have witnesses of the initial public offering, of God manifest. To take something so private public and return home with a sense of right and wrong – there was this very real danger in the story in the discovery that God is with us every moment that they were alive. Did you feel the change in the personal connection after finding the Prince of Peace, by these king-makers? I wondered what later happened with a new sense of direction, to the king-makers? Whether they got a sense of direction in issues of justice, with the very real dangers in all the world.

To take something so private public. Did you ever realize how personal this all had been — maybe a lot like the act of reading is — or even worshiping can be? Dealing with life and death and goodness, the three wise men coming before Jesus, to try and worship a Living God. In some kind of living vedric astrology based upon both the place and the time of birth, carrying gifts symbolic of life, death, and goodness — in the gold, frankincense and myrrh somehow connected to the old stories of birthright which came out of the story of the Akedah? To somehow make a connection of their kingdom with, not the significant work of the past but in the human emotional response, Another. In Kurdistan, where in the last 30 years more than 40,000 people have died and the survivors have been so suppressed. Closer to the place where Noah built his ark, with hopes to avoid extinction so often on the mind.

Father Paolo Dall’Oglio
天主教教堂
Kenshō
Kurdistan, Kurdistan Workers’ Party
Leyla Soylemez, Fidan Dogan

Brand Yourself

The doubts in the story. About each other. About their God. The movement in the story. Always the movement in these stories of the principals. The Flood. The Exodus. And having to take decisive action, to survive. So in this case there was the decree, just when you wanted to stay home. But maybe by leaving when the child was born, the locals would not talk so much about what had happened – or what was perceived to have happened. Creation

There was the mixing of the public and private concerns, as well as the innocence in the story. When you somehow were innocently born into the evil in the world. Not unlike what happened to a judge who found himself surrounded by evil, if you were bothered by all the secret goings-on, in the name of super men, if not God, in the system under the National Security Agency, after what happened to all of the innocent kids in human history. In human history up until this point.

Life and death. Did you note the theme in the first chapters of Genesis, about movement. Noah and his unnamed wife, who must have felt so very much alone. So was this a new beginning or just an ending? Chosen, with your very own personal choices about continuing life. (Chosen – the contest was fixed in my favor, in a contest between the inside against the outside world?) The doubt in the story about life – that I was loved? The sacrifices made to demonstrate love, to remove the doubt, because there always was doubt that you were Chosen, until you were so very much alone. Like Noah. Or Isaac. Or Joseph, in Egypt in times of famine. Or another dreamer named Joseph.

Again and again, as your very private life would determine the future of the world: the mystery, with the seen and the unseen. Adam and Eve. Noah and his unnamed wife, while pairing up all the animals. When you feel so very much alone, with doubt in times of annihilation, while starting over as PLACE replaces TIME as a character determined who they were; did you ever sense from the displacement the deep feeling like a charley horse of the throat when you recognize a Post Traumatic Stress disordering, about what is lost of the inheritance if not the birthright as PLACE replaces TIME, in the New Creation? The theme over who would be saved, and with the involvement – some kind of involvement – with the use of your fertility, in times of annihilation as you were so personally threatened – with or without love.

The movement, the themes, in the stories: When in hindsight it all seemed so fixed, like last night’s Ms. Universe Contest. Missing the movement in the story, with the pain and the suffering. Far from your home, with the doubt whether you really had been personally Chosen. The always and everywhere doubt over some warped sense of those who were chosen after hearing true stories of annihilation, about the powerless and the innocent. When it was clear that even God was capable of mass killing of the innocent.

The human condition: when the last person on earth you could trust was gonna have you committed to a mental institution – the motive in the killings was the human condition, and being left so all alone? And scared.

The real Jewish theme, again and again in the Hebrew Bible, is one of annihilation. Of Abel. Of the world at the time of Noah. Of Isaac, in the story on Mount Moriah. When the focus was on the innocent, when the outside world got a view within. And all of the new threats – the inside and outside threats, to the Chosen People – which came out of envy and jealousy.

The same human condition, whether the last person on earth – or the first. The doubts in times of annihilation: again and again the stories of the past – and also in the present. The realization that these were such personal stories of fertility.

Here, the Roman concern of rebellion. So a census, for registration. When in Rome, with their fear, putting down all crazy religious rebellions. When inequality threatens stability.

So the census. So the journey, surrounded by other sons of David who had to register in Bethlehem – the long line of fertility. Maybe still struggling over the concept of the virgin birth. And we never hear in the Gospels anything about the timing of the wedding between pregnant Mary and Joseph. And how would a couple not keep talking about it. About who among the relatives were never invited – and the talking about the wedding. And so maybe the relatives caught a whiff of the tension, with the innocence in the story. Of Joseph. Of Mary. And if Joseph was from the line of David, from where did Mary originate? And was she even good enough for him?

All these Latter Day Saints concerned about the private lives of this couple, as if it was anyone else’s concern. Like the shared doubt at this stage between Joseph and Mary, they are in the story, so all alone. The innocent in the story – the already betrothed Joseph, representing the House of David. Why would the Virgin Mary get pregnant – however it happened, by the God of Abraham? And then sent off by the political authorities to a place of origin to register, to enroll for a numbering.

When surrounded by so many of your kinsmen, the very same human condition, when the last person on earth – or the first – feeling so all alone? So was this a form of societal shunning, with such an unconventional marriage, before the unconventional birth? Why else could you leave a woman and her husband so close to delivering a baby so all alone, in the story? Was it about another human concern – about who wanted to come between a couple that was gonna have a baby so soon. With all of the emotion involved, wasn’t there a sense of human shame? When you woke up in a strange town, surrounded by your extended family struggling over the concept of why they were not invited to your wedding, and you were forced to explain who you were and what you were doing here, if not how long you intended to stay – together. In Bethlehem. And then this pregnancy!

When there were honor killings by families in these times, over women who conceived a child outside of wedlock. The system, with the underlying relationships which came out of fertility, which was the basis of the registration – to whom were you related? With the Roman concern over ideas of rebellion which might be fermented by crazy religious beliefs. And the Jewish concern, with the six hundred and some laws from Leviticus. So how would you explain the pregnancy?

The deepest part of Christmas which came from stories about not just transporting a culture to an old place, but then somehow planting the culture. Through the Law. So there was the long spoken of Messiah and the birthright, along with the private life of the Messiah and his parents. The missing public spectacle. The movement, in how it was coming along? When you seemed so perfect as a baby, but it was always hard to so personally live with your God in this impersonal world. On this earth. With the God who stirred and disrupted. Chosen People.

Was there doubt in the story, in this very private story? Or fear, if not anger? About how a man from the House of David was somehow asked to deliver alone the Messiah. Joseph, so all alone? And about the ‘becoming,’ it is of note that Joseph had strongly considered divorce, at some time during the gestation period of the Messiah. When, if you celebrated the meaning of Christmas, you recognized the inner split in God over exactly who were His chosen people. And the properly credentialed latter day saints excommunicated you today over such divorce action — or after an apostolic investigation, excommunicated the sisters of St. Joseph — unless they found human grounds for annulment.

The conflict over power in the story. In a variant of dealing with denial, the decree from Rome was an attempt to show their dominion over the place? Of the insiders and the outsiders, note all the outsiders who tried to become insiders about what happened at the time. There was, thank God, only the latter concern by the latter day saints about the status of Mary’s soul. Mary born without sin, but surrounded by crime and sin in the world. By all the emotional responses to fear and anger, and to punishment, in a story.

To address all the doubts in times again and again of annihilation: the stories of the past – and also in the present. In this story about what it does mean to be CHOSEN. When over and over there were stories of indiscriminate human annihilation, and real people had to decide how to rebuild lives, in relationships. The relationship part of the story, when over time you had started to so privately reveal something about Yourself. From one generation to the next. So I strongly suspect that in gestation period of the Messiah that the birthright of Abraham was at play between this couple. The same birthright with sacrifice that came out of Sarah and Abraham’s relationship.

Philanthropy—that you might have what I had, in what seemed a normal way of life. Scripture is nothing but the history of how people who went before us learned how to pray. Abraham. Isaac. Sacrifice. The strangeness of it all. A bizarre idea, to sacrifice the future, through a son. Before there was the commandment about having “no strange gods before Me.” And so began Abraham’s dialogue with God, asking questions, seeking answers if he was doing the right thing. Questioning. Really, learning how to pray, in this evolutionary process toward forgiveness which begins with the remembrance of the relationships of the father of faith, with his God and his son –the bond. And as a result, there was over time some long-developed cultural trust in the personal story of doubt – in the bond. Marrying, despite the palpable doubt in each other, wrestling with the unrecognized birthright question…and passing it on, with such emotion. Generation after generation. But with a conflict in the story between the unrecognized sacrifices by a parent for a son/daughter who followed fathers and mothers, with no idea where the future would take him/her. Or ME!

Chosen. Like in a mate. Two people from two homes try to merge their ideas, with two personalities, of what is an appropriate environment for their child. And learning each other’s strangeness. Yeah, as if it was anyone else’s concern in the private lives of this couple – whether a couple would remain kosher. With the concern of all the latter day saints about the degree of how orthodox.

The perversions of Gentile people, by the all these latter day saints, missed the discussion of the form of their orthodoxy – until they missed,and I along with them, the doubt shared at this stage between Joseph and Mary. In the first months of their new relationship. When, like any nomad, you wanted to go back to a place where you were once known – so maybe a census. Known, like God had once been. In places where you were forced to just listen. Listening to Joe Lieberman, on his tradition: until the bereaved family was ready – if they ever were ready – to talk, there was just silence. After living through the real stories of annihilation, like this month in Newtown, note the importance in the story, again and again, of companionship in the silence.

Silence. The movement in the story over the shared doubt at this stage between Joseph and Mary. There was such concern about the private lives of these people – as if it was anyone’s concern – and I thought a lot about the Lanza family and the cause/origin of another indiscriminate human annihilation. Like in the story of Isaac. And all the unrecognized Post Traumatic Stress Disordering that resulted, on issues of trust between both people and their God. I thought about the human condition: when the last person on earth you could trust was gonna have you killed – or committed.

When doubt met belief. The movement in the story of bonds that came from compounded belief, of a real human birth. When you were surrounded by people who shared your belief, but with all of the real human doubt between people and families. The doubt that would continue to be a theme over a lifetime, in this evolutionary process toward forgiveness which begins with the remembrance of the relationships of the father of faith, with his God and his sons — with the suffering in the potential death of Isaac and in his not described relationship with Ishmael, just as Abraham had suffered with Hagar?

In this story of relative love, the conflict is when everyone was not the same – even noting the difference in another story of a son of the father of faith, Isaac, who was going to die, and Abraham was going to live. The annihilation, in prayer, in starting over each week. After sacrificing your best.

A day of awe, dealing with inheritance, later to be too much forgotten when it came to the mystery of the issue of birthright. In this story about a Living God and about belonging in the world, but sacrificing Your best. Abraham, who discovered at the end of the story of his tremendous human longevity, in the dénouement, was — in the release of tension in the dénouement —coming back home in his lameduck days, with his great sense of shame after wounding his own fertility. When you prayers were so alive. And you wanted others to have the same experience. The story about keeping something alive with sacrifice, with a passion, concentrating on this thing called physical and spiritual love – in my own fertility – that God would never forget. ME!

This descendants of a people from the ancient Semitic population: a descendant of Noah’s eldest son, taken to a place where they never had been? And so this trip to Bethlehem, by Joseph. Bethlehem, where Jacob buried the wife he loved. So Bethlehem was about this bond which had come out of birthright, between outsiders and insiders in these love stories? Where God had lost his “strangeness.” Rachel was an outsider who never made it back to the Abraham’s homestead. That a nomad, without his own sense of place, who was supposed to resolve the crisis over belief, in a foreign land, outside the garden in the first place. With all of the anguish again this year, in Bethlehem where people are still dealing with independence and multiculturalism, along with the changing roles of power. Bethlehem, where David was born. With all the stories of post traumatic stress disorder: when you killed a giant, despite the commandments. With still the ever growing need for a forgiveness, in Bethlehem. To confer a spirit about shared belief, in the name of God, upon a king. With all the tension in the forgiveness story. With post traumatic stress on issues of trust, for the young, unknowingly dealing with a tragic hero — after a grandfather had been ready to take a knife to your own father. Wondering first about the genetic affect and then about the environmental affect on a son, in these love stories of how God lost his “strangeness”. About the birthright that had come down one silent night to Bethlehem.

To find your people. To form institutions based upon trust. To wake up among your own people everyday, one day able to escape your shame. Note the movement that came from the shame that Abraham, that Jacob, that David all had felt so personally. And now a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, from the royal line of Jacob. Note the movement toward Bethlehem — with atonement, by God for all the present, past and future annihilation. Note the movement in the story concentrating on this new tangible physical and spiritual love – in a fertility – so that somehow for all the shame, I would never forget God.

TO Bethlehem. A virgin birth. Who would ever believe? In the story of the human condition, in the story of salvation history, when God came between Chosen People. So why not have Joseph be challenged by Mary, as Jesus one day would challenge the world? Who could, who would believe in a virgin birth – like on one dark December silent night Joseph finally had? Who would believe it now? To Bethlehem, a Messiah – who would ever believe? Or who could ever believe so personally in a Messiah — with all the personal stress between loved ones in passing on a human concept of God — now? That was the mystery. The darn near impossible. God! Who could believe in the “strangeness” of God? It was always the question. Then, and now – this Christmas.

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BOXING DAY

Those Christmas gifts. Who am I to have this. All of this? Those Christmas gifts.

Boxing day. The inner battles.

On a day when many were returning their gifts for something that seemed to fit them better….I went to bed reading one of the last pieces that John Updike wrote for publication in his life. About the process of writing. With an atypical use of language. The Best American Essays 2009. Edited by Mary Oliver.

The desire to do great things. Mary Oliver, the poet. The Gregory Orr piece, in this collection. Return to Hayneville.The Best American Essays 2009.

My uncle Frank. His December 23rd heart attack. The Orr piece was about a real time in his life. He had gone, just as Gregory Orr, to the American South. About 1963. It could have been him in the story (linked below). Only he was not arrested and held by police.

Uncle Frank. And his phone call today to his sister on Boxing Day. About the inner battles over the desires to do great things. The family stress. About whether he was traveling in January. To Ireland. On a day where there was a terrible ice storm in Ireland, he had figured out that he too could go nowhere. Like the Irish he would be homebound for a while. His call to his sister asked about a Christmas party he had missed today. When his brothers, sisters, nieces and nephew found out that they were not included on this journey, and who was mad at whom that they were not invited.

After your dad died, it might be
normal to be angry. When your mother took on a new role. Frank still had a few issues. With his siblings. I was to have been with him in Ireland for one week, in January. Depending on his recovery. His new defibulator was working to record his inner struggle, like some kind of seismograph.

The desire to do great things. and the “how.” Those inner battles.

About the desire to do great things. A classmate named Jorge. After recovery. And the “how.” To go on. The practicality of the inner battles. After two failed recoveries. His high profile failed business, leading the news on December 23rd. In my town.

In half the world, over shadowed by the Christian holiday Christmas, officially summer seemingly began this week. In her poem, “A Summer’s Day,” Mary Oliver states the question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The billions of dollars saved by corporations annually from gift cards and gift certificates that expire unredeemed. The sort of thinking that motivates me to put the gift card away in the drawer, expecting to find the right item more in the future. A lot like my first love, Connie K_____. Time, like it would all fit better soon. The gift of love, not on a card, but still when I had the time. When she would fit better. The inner battles. I had lost that one.

Boxing day. And that manger. The smells that surrounded the manger, of the wickedness of the animal world. The smell everywhere. There was no way the parents could rid the manger of the animals smells. A good things there were not gift cards, in those days. When the manger might fit better, with a proper timing. When it would fit better, when people, when I, found the time. Or when the world might seem to smell better.

“What are you gonna do with your one precision life?” Boxing day. The inner battles. About proper fits. And proper smells. In transition. I discovered the book The Blessing by Gregory Orr in my bookcase, further explaining a real time in his life. Looking for understanding, about proper fits in these times.

At year’s end, I was in a sense in recovery. Deciding where I would go. With my work.

Boxing Day. The inner battles, wen you can have anything. Boxing Day really had no affect on the use of gift cards? Or did it?

With time as a factor, those Christmas gifts. Boxing Day and those Christmas gifts, and what fit me. Deciding what I would do next, with my work. With an atypical use of gift cards, as if there was no deadline.

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The Hallelujah Chorus

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about a couple of kids from Saint Paul. Basil and Josephine. One hundred years late, I lived in his neighborhood. The stories in this setting seemed very real, amidst the Victorian mansions out the window. I had an excitement in reading his stories. Stories which in Minnesota were so near.

Summit Xmas There was a realness of the story of Basil and Josephine. About the promise. In good times. Stories about wealth. By this writer of the Lost Generation. The lost wealth in the gravity ridden world of the Promise of the 1920s.

Isaac Newton, in Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, investigated the motion of many physical objects, within the solar system. Newton’s first law is called the law of inertia. Me and 2009. In this economy, it was not so bad. The laws of gravity often cause crashes. From a risk management perspective, I have been safe. A moving object will not change its velocity until a net force acts upon it.

Net forces. It was 16 years ago. I passed a Bosnian woman in Munich, a refugee who had escaped war torn Yugoslavia in 1993. I gave her some change. She was not happy with my donation. More recently, a young woman in the Philippines who wanted to be home at Christmas asked for $100. A hundred dollars! The human response was to ignore such a request, especially when you could not do anything of significance. There were just too many people claiming need. The internal stress. So many refugees. Too many needs. So many wars.

Aristotle had taught that heavy objects like rocks wanted to be at rest on the Earth. Galileo’s rock philosophy was that force acting on a body determines acceleration, not velocity. Using Galileo’s rock philosophy, Isaac Newton had come up with his first law: the law of inertia where no force means no acceleration, and hence the body will maintain its velocity. Newton’s second law was that a force applied to a body produces a proportional acceleration. Or more simply, an object that is not moving will not move until a force acts upon it. It was curling season, and I subscribed to this rock philosophy. “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In this war torn economy. In real estate. On Wall Street, this seemed to address why one day those indexes were up. A moving object will not change its velocity until a net force acts upon it. Buyers looking for sellers.

Newton’s third law was the law of reciprocal actions. Newton described 329 years ago a relationship between the forces acting on a body and the motion of that body. Was this Newton’ view on his own marriage? F and -F are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. Newton explained whenever a first body exerts a force F on a second body, the second body exerts a force -F on the first body.

Brute force. The physics within the solar system. Today. Centrifugal force and gravity. Where was the world moving? About force, momentum, and position. Me and planetary motion. This is it. My position, in real events, with human life. The conversation back and forth – the questioning from the Judaic culture, in the search for answers. The questioning of God, in prayer. The Messianic Secret. To keep people in mystery, not understanding identities and what is going on. Yet, the excitement.

The physics. About the excitement in the physics at work in my life. Inside forces. Outside forces. With established frames of reference. There is a spiritual physics connected to Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. About force, momentum, and position. When an imposed force applied to a body produced a proportional acceleration.

Prayer and the spiritual physics:  Have you even been considered to have been in a position of power? When someone thought you could do something to help them? Someone who might not have been taught the the law of inertia. Even when there was no reason to give money to a stranger on the street. When you had no way to know how your philanthropy would be spent. When you never knew what was inside the person asking – but some times guessed.

As if I had enough money – or power – to help every passer-by who asked. SumitXmas2

To believe that I can still change the world. The excitement, in the season of excitement over the mystery. Not much older than Basil and Josephine, I had met a Filipina this week who was a bus trip away from home. Only she was real. She was 18, and she could not afford the twenty-five dollars to make the trip for Christmas. Her father had died within the previous 11 months. Yesterday, I gave her the twenty-five dollars to get home. She was stunned.

Christmas. Most of us absolutely desired relationships that stirred something from within. Those gifts within that most people had not figured out yet what was inside.

Real events. Amid all the stresses, there is the gift of human life. Amid all of the stress of those with whom we shared intimacy. Somewhere inside…there is proportional acceleration from holiness. With a spiritual physics, that these people were holy — or tried to be. The attempt to find some holiness, even if for a short time.

When the practice is over. About Handel’s Messiah. Real significance came when The Hallelujah Chorus was sung with a reverence by those human voices sounding so divine to an audience that had the same reverence for the meaning. The excitement was now, with others who had somehow in this world shared the same purpose in the Hallelujah Chorus. For people most dear to me. To those with whom I shared belief – that my life in the gravity ridden world has significance.

In the world outside my window, I found an excitement in the law of reciprocal actions, in an accelerated propulsion from holiness toward other people who had somehow in this world found the same meaning – that these people tried to be holy, even for a short time. When so many people, like heavy objects, like rocks, wanted to be at rest. Amidst all of the stresses out there over relationships, the mystery while undergoing an equal change based upon the law of reciprocal actions. The law of motion combined with the law of universal gravitation affected real human lives, communally in the Hallelujah Chorus, but also somewhere inside. In this whodunnit, slowly unwrapped at this time of year.

The realness, not sensed from an artificial intelligence, like on the internet or on television. The impact amidst all the stresses humbly affecting human lives, in this shared intimacy. Newton showed how laws of motion, combined with his law of universal gravitation affected real events, when heavy objects like rocks –or like me — wanted to be at rest. The excitement amidst all the stresses in this setting from those with whom we shared intimacy was in this story. Yes, the excitement was now.

Merry Christmas from Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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Now It Came to Pass….

Recognizing deadlines. The realness of the story. The humanness of deadlines. Of starts. Of finishes. In my battle with time.

Human wants. Human needs. Divine desires. The divine need . . . to share something. For others.

The realness of the story. As in any relationship, the sacrifice. The engaging with the world. In the FINITE world. With corruption. There had to be conflict. Any time the human comes in contact with the divine, there had to be conflict.

Conflict in old stories. The old stories about hunger and about fertility of the land. Stories about drought and famine, families and fertility, fighting for survival on a very personal level. From generation to generation, “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. Remnick had chronicled as a reporter for the Washington Post what had happened in Russia during the collapse of the Soviet Empire, along with the collapse of its currency. Real life stories where it was always the hunger which sent people in one way or another in search. With ruthless governments demanding documents of people, concerning where they were born and how long they intended to stay. If they survived.

It was either my teacher in first grade or second grade, a nun, who read us the story: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” And so the story began. In one interpretation . . . The International interpretation. There were other interpretations.

The King James version. “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” It sounded a lot about money.

The English standard version. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” This was like some kind of rite for selective service.

The American version was “Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled.” So much like early childhood development.

The Bible in basic English. “Now it came about in those days that an order went out from Caesar Augustus that there was to be a numbering of all the world.” It sounded like the Noah version. Where Noah went looking for mates for each species. Sex mates. The basics, before the annihilation, with the destruction of the earth, with the conflict in the story about the loss of innocent children (babies?) in what was an extermination of evil.

I never thought about the sex part of life –or the virgin birth. Not in the first or second grade . . . Even though the songs made a big deal about it. I did not recognize any miracle in a virgin birth. I was more concerned about the decree. In those days. I think the decree was emphasized to throw the first and second grade kids off. In those days, no one knew what exactly the virgin birth was.

Births. Though the sex part of life was the reason why I was here. There was a connection of course between sex and birth. Those questions, about the order of birth — who might get the birth right — were left for another day. The Who? The what? The when? The where? And the how, in what was the underlying relationship which came out of fertility, which was the basis of the registration?

The decree. Under the authority from the leader. There went out a decree, because a certain amount of order was needed, to maintain the law? To enamor a sense of loyalty, from the people? Or to figure out, for the ruling authority, how many humans there were? With a local connection, to real lives.

How can you govern, if you did not KNOW who you were governing? And so the story about being counted on this earth. By the authorities. In a story about identities. To be unknown, in a census, was to be left without an identity card? Not to be recognized. Ask the Hispanic cleaning lady what that was like. About just one of the rules implemented addressing the “how.” To become human.

And so the story that started about enrollment, registration, numbering? About empires of Rome. About what you did? With whom. When you did it? And where? But with little concern about the “how?” Where in this Promise Land – this Holy Land – was God in this census?

And about virgin births. In the middle of the numbering. How many even knew?

Amidst this Roman decree – the decree by a governmental body. Always and everywhere, government and power. Over people’s lives. Death and taxes. Starts. Finishes. To be recognized. And births. It all seemed a part of the Christmas story, in the middle of nowhere. In Bethlehem. And God wanting to be counted, but not recognized. Wanting to change the world and not be known? When the Greatest Commandment in the Promise Land was to KNOW God. Somehow.

To teach and explain how to read carefully to young students who demanded relevancy in everything? In a story about starts, which began with a birth. And a virgin birth. The tribes and their numbers all seemed a part of the Christmas story, which started with the decree. About either enrollment, registration, or numbering. The book of ‘Bemidbar,’ Numbers of the Hebrew Bible, opens with a population census of the tribes of Israel, as one by one, the Torah lists in a seemingly standard, run-of-the-mill census, the tribes and their numbers — were it not for the one aberration, as one tribe is missing from the census. The absence of the tribe of Levy with a special status, is of course not an oversight, but one of the commandments of God. Levites do not dwell with other tribes but live as an independent unit around the Tabernacle, to guard the sanctuary, with their special functions relating to the care of the ‘mishkan.’ The Levites therefore are, according to the Rashbam, incapable of going to wage war. So the purpose of the census taken, in the Book of Numbers, was to determine the number of troops in the Israelite camp. Therefore, not included in the military census, the tribe of Levi replaced the first-born — the children consecrated by God — of every Israelite family.

So, the tribes and their numbers, and the decree. And it came to pass – the what. In those days – the when. That all the world – with a local connection, for the where. To teach and explain  an interpretation. . . . or a viewpoint, to the young who demanded relevancy. To teach and explain about character, point of view, in order that a viewpoint of the reader might change. That the reader might be changed.

The story about the decree. Based upon a sense of authority, about either enrollment, registration, or numbering. To create in all of the known world, a sense of order for the tribes and their numbers. In a story about power and the power which came from the blessed bond, as ruthless governments demanded documents of people, concerning where they were born and how long they intended to stay. If they survived. To expand the Promised Land, to compete in the future – in love, with the quite personal bond – against the brutality of the Romans, who were Nazi-like in their day. So to expand the bonds – all the old themes, with the new ones – in what was going on at that point in time, in the Promised Land . . . and beyond. In this story about another firstborn son.

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Those Christmas Cards

In the air.

There was something in the air. ..two kids, two jobs, a house, a tenant, a huge extended family — what in “Zorba the Greek” Nikos Kazantzakis had described as “the full catastrophe.”

The “how.” In lives. How it all happens.

About the “how.” There were schools, colleges, to form young men and young women into whatever it was that they and their parents hoped them to “become.” With college mandates about the total number of the core requirements, and credit hours to achieve a major. Those core requirements to be identified by a department, dealing with authority. And then hours required to have a minor. To know about the world. To be known in the world. The Becoming. And what then followed after college.

Becoming. The project of becoming. How was “it” coming along? This year? It was still going on? Outside of school?

About the ‘becoming.’ And marrying. And how it was now coming along. There was no school to teach how to have a good union. Where people made their own luck –or it came in the form of a spouse. In a relationship. There was seldom ever a discussion about what a good marriage would mean. The vow to have and to hold. The vow to love and to cherish. In sickness and in health. Optimistic, cocky and vague, wrote Elizabeth Weil last week in the New York Times Magazine, concerning her own concept of relationship, and the reasons for marrying. Thinking little about the expectations in marriage, or about the reasons for being married now. There was never a discussion about what had been witnessed every day from a parent’s marriages – if the long lasting one.

Union. In a New York Times piece about her marriage, Elizabeth Weil wrote that her marriage was “utterly central to my existence, yet in no other important aspect of my life was I so laissez-faire. Like most of my peers, I applied myself to school, friendship, work, health and, ad nauseam, raising my children. But in this critical area, marriage, we had all turned away. I wanted to understand why.”

Oh, the everyday challenge of love. As two people from two homes try to merge their ideas, with two personalities, of what is an appropriate environment for their kids. Like Abe Lincoln wrote about union, which endures. So Elizabeth Weil asks, “What would a better marriage look like? More intimacy? More intriguing conversation? More laughter?” And then she asked how to reach the goal? Of more happiness? With greater intimacy? Stability? Laughter? More excellent sex? About becoming fully human?

The how. It was her idea to improve her union. Concerning the core requirements. She talked about the idea that it was over time that you really became married. Learning within the marriage institution. Over time. In friendships. In lives. In love. The mutual need. For personal experience. And few people thought about how to improve the union.

How did it all happen? The project, THIS do-it-yourself project of becoming? Becoming and the ‘how’ …dealing with a spouse, dealing with the new mandates, dealing with authority, in life. Coming from two different families, with two different concrete examples of marriage — one visible, the other invisible. One oh so very personal experience. About the right way. The visible, the other invisible, with the practical and the impractical. And that was before the idea about the how to raise kids.

In the air. Living in captivity, like the last of what kind of bird? The personal experience of – based upon scarcity, limits, and human needs. Like the project of becoming a Santa Claus? Elizabeth Weil described what can become “a barbaric competition over whose needs get met” as two people try “to make a go of it on emotional and psychological supplies that are only sufficient for one.” Elizabeth Weil wrote, “And as I lay there, I started wondering why I wasn’t applying myself to the project of being a spouse.”

A better union? What were the core requirements? Oh, the everyday challenge of love! And the full catastrophe. And spouses often assume roles of the adversary. What would a better world look like? With more intimacy? With the themes of fertility and inheritance. With the vow to have and to hold? In our shared personal experience. With the vow to love and to cherish? In sickness and in health. And the sacrifices, dealing with mutual authority. And with two different concrete examples of religious traditions, for this generation, contemplating the core requirements for spiritual needs.

With a humility about it all, the project of the Christmas cards, and reporting about how the becoming was coming along? On the Christmas cards. About the intimacy. How are we doing, learning a new perspective? Especially the men. How did we go about learning it all? How to be married? With light and darkness. With power. Generated power. In lives?

Thinking great thoughts. Having one great spouse. And writing about it all. Dealing with the spouse. In real life. Who is she/he? What is she/he? Why is she/he? In my “barbaric competition over whose needs get
met,” how long does it take to recognize? How many Christmases?

The “how.” And wanting to understand the “why.” About the how and why it all happened. In the form of a spouse. In a relationship. Visible. And invisible. This desire to get closer. With others. And to remember some parts of the story that fit into my current life. The historical part. The names of historical people. Marriage licenses. The civil registration of births. With real government. A lot like all those real Minnesota governors. Or like Herod. As some kind of land posts or mile markers. Where people made their own luck. Where ever we were. This year. This year in history. In union, with deficits. Left for the future.

The glorious tradition of Christmas cards. Living history. Who could believe how it all began? In the story about how it all happened. Did your kids believe the chronology, before they arrived? Did they even ask? About our chronology? And their personal appearance on earth.

A better union? To try to write this all down. There was something in the air – over the air. Christmas movies on television, since Thanksgiving. With the lightning and perspective…..the hero. How long does it take at the cinema to recognize which character was the hero? Who is he? What is he? Why is he? In a secular world, except for one 36 hour period, the 36 hours of attitude adjustment with Christmas music on all commercial radio, the barbaric world did not give God notice. Even if pushing only one perspective of this Creator.

A better union? To write this all down, about the framework, and the resulting pleasures. In the season of closeness and better union, what am I gonna say this day, on those Christmas cards? About this year? About the Becoming?

Before that personal experience in a 36 hour period, about a Living God.

It is a wonderful time of year to realize that it is a wonderful life. With a Jimmy Stewart-humility about it all. It is a wonderful time for an attitude adjustment. To address how are we doing? In union.

And so to write that Christmas letter. About the seen and the unseen, in the long dark nights where I live. To tell about the two kids, the two jobs, the house, a huge extended family — like what was described as “the full catastrophe,” in “Zorba the Greek,” by Nikos Kazantzakis.

Union. In the project of Becoming, to write those Christmas cards about the all-in-one package. Three in One. Thus the Christmas letter instead of the Christmas card. In Union, and how it was coming along? When the words became flesh. And what then followed. Trying to put it all into words. How to put the flesh back into words. This year.

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Glorious Morning Muffins

 
It was the start of a new day. With a cup of the best tea in the world, Taylors of Harrogate. All week long I had been eating “glorious morning” muffins. From Jerry’s Super Market.

taylor of harrogate tea I had chosen this day a mug I was given from the Jesuit Retreat House at DeMontreville. The mug was stained by the tea inside. Not badly. But often I had to work at it to remove the tea stain. It reminded me a bit of myself over the year. DeMontreville was the place I had spent one weekend over the past 14 years, on retreat. A lot of stuff happened there. Quietly. And I ended up there by accident. I never knew that I was in for 72 hours of silence.

The word “accident” is both statutorily and judicially defined, construed to mean an unexpected or unforeseen identifiable event or series of events happening suddenly, with or without human fault, and producing at the time objective symptoms of injury. For the purposes of this case study, the statutory definition is appropriate.

An accident? The synopsis was, based on credible testimony, something like he slipped from grace, fell in the mud or in some horrible pit, and felt a pull. In his groin, in this case, and the human race and humanity had been trying to recover ever since. Such is a sudden, unforeseen incident with objective signs of injury. The accident caused the pre-existing defect on the right side of the claimant’s groin to become symptomatic, requiring some kind of repair. And because of the surgical repair, the supplicant is limited in lifting and bending and has lost some ability to achieve all possible human potential.

In 1989 I had to spend some vacation days or lose them. I flew to London to Christmas shop. At this time of year I often recall the Saturday night I had dinner alone in a London restaurant. A couple was out dining at the next table. And a woman of about 30 was telling her significant other how much she hated Christmas. Hers had been a secular life. The UK was just slightly ahead of the United States as to where the world was moving. There was stress in her family. I now know a lot more people like her than I had at the time. But for her the holidays were painful. Stress was not wanting to be in the place she would be spending time.

For me Christmas was an exciting time. It was an accident for the most part. The original Christmas. Certainly this was an unexpected or unforeseen identifiable event, except to a handful of people. And my beliefs also were an unexpected or unforeseen identifiable event or series of events happening, based upon the environment where I grew up. I had no real choice. I have kept following what I was born in to. Other people get knocked off horses. Every baby was born suddenly, with or without human fault. Without any belief. I actually barely made it through that first day. Life was like that.

When it came to belief in God, there were different degrees of witnesses, bystanders, participants. And I have come to hear of the pain in life, of those with doubts. Whether there is a God. Those with doubts about people. Those with doubts about themselves. Doubt. Doubt was the focus of the two people with an apple. In the garden. When I returned from the UK I spent the Friday night before Christmas in a Chicago pub. Either Red Kerr’s or Jameson’s at the corner of Clinton and Adams. Only this time I was with 3 coworkers, approaching the pain of Christmas. One was an agnostic from Omaha. Another a graduate of a Catholic high school and Northwestern. And the third an Irish Catholic from Detroit, with a Jesuit education. But the latter friend, the oldest guy present, had lost his faith. And there was voiced pain in his struggle as he approached the age of forty. And he wanted to discuss his own wrestling match with God. Maybe because his struggle ostracized him from people he loved.

I have a long time friend from high school who is going through the same struggle. But his faith struggle is accompanied by clinical depression. He has dropped out of the social circles we had shared. And in his case it was painful to see the affect on relationships he had had since the age of 14.

Last night was the last curling match for 10 days. And last year’s skip came to substitute. He is a retired school teacher. With a parochial school education. He said as the evening wore on that he wished he had had a public school education. And it turned out that he was one of many at war with a God they once had believed in. And his battle had started over the last 12 months. The other Irish Catholic at the table, from the other team, was frightened by the discussion, departing the discussion expressing his fear to extend a Merry Christmas. The skip wanted to talk about it. He said he goes to Mass with his wife. But he has started to watch at the communion. The skip, this friend, with great doubt, but who loves the church he still attends across the river. This friend with great belief in a political party, in social justice, and with great hope in the next president. But without really offering an answer “why.”

Why social justice, without belief? Social justice without belief seemed to me superficial, like going through the motion. Fleeting. Not unlike castles built by the wealthy. It seemed good at the time and then one day it was gone, with only images and stories left behind, for people who shared a generation or two. A lot like haunted beauty. Like good health. Fleeting. I asked about the issue of evil in the world, about trust, about people like Mr. Maddoff, when you had no belief system to substitute what had once been there.

It was inevitable. Endings, that is. The world had awakened in 2008. What had we done with wealth? The wealth that had all suddenly vanished? Ended. And now, what would we do with social justice? And could we afford social justice in difficult times if we could not afford it over the last 20 years? This was earth and, it seemed to me, no one could believe in perfection.

At the only time that the world pauses to celebrate God’s arrival, his was a struggle this year. With doubt. Men and their need for answers. Sensitive men. Was it anger over endings? The end at retirement age was visible and it had come so fast?

Of evil. Of goodness. Of music. The mystery in people. My skip had given up curling this season for singing in a choir. He was still wrestling. I was not sure how often he spoke about it to people. He seemed to like the chance to talk. And he chose this topic.

Men and their need. To know the relationship between matter and gravity. In sport. Chasing the wisps of smoke. In music. Wanting to hold onto a note. Wanting pure air. As in days gone by. When there was, in days of youth, belief. Something solid. Before residual soreness had set in.

So who was this God that my friends were looking for? Who got this single girl pregnant? Her name was Mary. And only Mary really knew who was responsible. Who could believe her? The divine? Who could believe in His silent presence? She needed a husband or she likely would have been stoned to death in those times. What a lover! Most girls would have left him right then. The divine. Almost silently, God had visited. Or sent an angel to explain. An immaculate conception. What a guy! “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son. And you shall name him Jesus.” And then! And then in her 41st week of gestation, He forced her to make a trip to Bethlehem. The divine. Always and everywhere.

This to a woman God had professed love. Who was looking for a God like this? For someone who had believed, looked what happened! “Do not be afraid!” The angel Gabriel is giving out such advice. Where was God when you needed Him? Then almost silently to the world, the Messiah had come. A God who seemed to be Father, treating his own beloved during the pregnancy, in violation of the letter of the Hippocratic Oath where physicians do not deliver their own babies or treat family members. Not even in a decent room, for God’s sake! When induction of labor occurred, naturally. In damn Bethlehem. Not with any kind of warmth. In the dark. Joseph’s hands had to be cold, if he could see anything at all in what — if you have ever been there — is described as more a cave structure. (Because God had just really never made an appearance, until now?) In damn Bethlehem! Mary had to be thinking that. Look to where her belief in God had delivered. Damn Bethlehem. You did not hear many homilies criticizing God. That was why I loved Judaism. And Mary was a Jew. So this was some kind of demonstration of God’s love?

And it got worse. Just like the Passover story. Almost silently, the Messiah had come. And almost silently the Chosen People had better fly out of there. Like Passover, and those damn plagues. Mary and her new family had better take flight before the Messiah got too comfortable. It was as bad as getting kicked out of a hospital these days after any illness. Always. Everywhere. Unconditionally. To go about your routine was to too often ignore the prevalence of love in the course of the day.

No wonder these guys I knew had doubts in God. With no explanation of what was going on. Like the struggle of every young guy, trying to communicate something. God seemed to have His with a girl. Or the struggle every person has with belief in each other. Have you ever had to tell a girl you loved her? And in most cases, there was a damn good chance she did not believe you. And to tell a lover like God that you love Him? I always expected the same response. From God. From the girl. And if by some miracle you feel like you have developed some knowledge of this God, or the girl, well I still did not feel real confident in my profession of love. I somehow always feel like I have fallen short. In what I have done and what I should have done. That was the human condition. That was the male condition in any relationship. To feel you have come up short. And say some pretty dumb things.

It reminded me when I used this DeMontreville mug with the coat of arms of Ignatius of Loyola, that I needed space like a cave to go into, in retreat from the world. To think of some kind of an action plan. Just like when I went Christmas shopping. To think about what to buy. To think about what to say. Because I should have done more. But who would not have doubts? After what He asked of, what he did to Mary.

It was not so much a season of hope as much as it actually was a season of true love. I was at another place, another location. To tell a lover that you love him/her. With gifts that actually meant something. About the present times. About the lover. The one that you had come to KNOW. Even though the human condition was to feel like you have fallen short. Maybe because 10 million years after creation, after dealing with people all this time, even God had come to have doubts. But as in any relationship, an everlasting one, you kept celebrating. A true love. And you kept trying. With this tea and the “glorious morning” muffins. And with a desire for more. The human desire, a divine desire, for more.

Merry Christmas.


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Names

Bringing people together. Names. Politics. Religion.
Whom you were related to: For the Irish, it still seemed all about relationships.

The dialect was always heard from those far away. Family and friends never heard it. Unless you moved to a place far away. But others heard the dialect. Every day.

Faith, belief, religion was some kind of inner voice, unnoticed in daily life, silent to me, like some kind dialect. But apparent to others.

Religion.

Ireland was one of the first European countries in which a system of fixed hereditary surnames developed. Up to the tenth century, surnames in Ireland were not hereditary. Or so I read over the weekend. The church was the origin of a lot of those names. If you ever studied Gaelic, the influence of the church can still be seen in many common modern Irish family names, dating from the eleventh century. In the Irish language, the morning greeting, “Dia duit ar maidin,” is literally “God be with you.”

Brian Boru, possessing no surname at the start of the eleventh century, was simply “Brian, High-King of the Irish.” His grandson Teigue called himself Ua Briain in memory of his illustrious grandfather. And so the name became hereditary thereafter. The church is the origin of all of those names starting with “Mul–” a version of the Irish Maol, meaning bald (applied to the monks because of their distinctive tonsure). Thus Mulrennan (Ó Maoilbhreanainn) means “descendant of a follower of St. Brendan.” Names beginning with “Gil–” or “Kil–” (the anglicized version of the Irish Giolla) mean follower or devotee, and thus Kilkenny means “son of a follower of Cainneach (Saint Kenny).” Though common in English, place names among Irish names, in the toponymic category of a name derived from a locality name, are extremely rare. For the Gaels, whom you were related to has always been much more important than the place from where you came. Such was life on an island. The island.

Cainneach. Kilkenny, the capital of the Irish Confederacy. The Irish Confederate Wars. The conflict in Ireland which essentially pitted the native Irish Roman Catholics – the indigenous people, like in the Garden – against the Protestant British settlers and their supporters in England and Scotland, over who would govern Ireland.

Pilgrimage. Looking for roots. Connected to the past. The descendants. In silent cemeteries. At Ellis Island. In Irish churchyards. Connected to a family. Connected to a city. Connected to an institution.

In 1994, I visited Rathdowney. In southwest County Laois. It is near Kilkenny. It is quite small. To get out of town I needed to catch a morning bus. I found myself on a Saturday killing an hour at a pub. Mrs. O’Malley’s. With Irish coffee. But no booze. There were 3 area farmers in the pub. And in came a 40-year-old man from Philadelphia. He had been in here before, he said. He asked the barkeep if Mrs. O’Malley was around. She came out. She had no recollection of the Yank who had been here once before. His family once lived around these parts. Those American dialects all sounded a like. The Yank brought in his mother from the car. And then they were gone. The Irish farmers then reacted. “Ah, Mrs. O’Malley! It is great to see you again!” It was about feigned friendship. “Ah! Looking for roots.” Doing the mock-erania. Then they realized I was there.

It was the end of the season. Ireland becomes like Disneyland all summer long. It was October. And these guys were happy the never-ending tourists were gone, and the season was at an end. O’Malley’s Pub was once again theirs. So many long-lost cousins. Too many.

Names. Roots. The opening chat about a place where your family once had been rooted. Forever. Who was still here that you might be rooted to? The reason why you left was at the bequest of the oldest generation who were willing to sacrifice a young life at this age – would an eighty-nine year old lady survive a voyage? In famine. So the belief, like in the story of
The Akedah, to give everything up about this place called Ireland, that your descendants might survive. In a new place.

Tonight there was a show on the Public Broadcasting Station about archaeology. Archaeologists were always looking, in excavation. Looking always for the past. In a place, in this case in Jerusalem, a city defined by the power of religion. A place where whom you were related always was more important than the place from where you came. And so the digging by archaeologists, looking in excavation, for the historic Jesus. Archaeologists looking in places for the historic Jesus. So many places which sounded like going through just another museum, looking for a remnant from a dinosaur – those dinosaurs, for me anyway, that seemed so hard to believe in.

Oh, the sweat involved in the digging… for the past. By people unconnected to the reality of the people. In the search for the answers, searching site after site, day after day, never was there mention of the mundane. Like just another museum, and after a while, if you have seen one, you have seen them all. Not much different than the advice which I got from the farmers at O’Malley’s Pub, about where to head next, about seeing some church that St. Patrick had founded. “Have you never seen a church?” Hearing the mock-erania, about missing the real meaning from the past, I took their advice and headed to Kilkenny.

Missing in the excavations of archaeologists, with oh so sterile gloves, was what was left in the holes, now covered up. Perhaps like the realness of the people of a time …the arrangements at the time, with their unknown stress, their conflicts. Worries, along with an excitement about the comebacks. The fear about the survival of those who left. Archaeologists, looking in a place to find the miracle, in the spirituality always connected to the missing, as men vied for power based upon names, after the Age of Discovery.

There is something painful in the search — as painful to see as in the search I witnessed in the guy from Philadelphia, looking for something in O’Malley’s. As much as I enjoy history, places like a church in Cashel leave me cold, unless I had read something, knew something, about the people in the place. Was it the missing inheritance that was I sensed in the search for the Historic Jesus? How was the study by secular historians of the remnants of historic Jesus relevant, if you carried no human feeling? About the real Jesus. In Bethlehem? Human . . . divine, sharing and overcoming human suffering, and sharing human relationships with other humans. How were historic remnants, European cathedrals, museum artifacts, relevant to my life? There was mostly emptiness in so many empty European cathedrals.

To find a place? Archaeology was looking for a place that people might be moved by THEIR discovery? Archaeologists looking for some kind of missing piece of a puzzle, looking in layers below, if not within, to validate themselves in their place of work? Archaeologists looking for the historic Jesus, to help find a modern miracle, for those who had missed the story, or missed the meaning of the power in a true relationship?

The constant digging. To find a miracle in the historic? Or now … this year?

The annual revolutions of the sun always found me in new places, listening for an inner voice. The comebacks. Searching for God, in search to whom you are related, in the longing to be Irish, in the tradition, from the beginning. That perspective, in a humble old world sense. From out of recognizing my own longings, and naming these desires – in the longing – there is a Messiah … The Desire of the Nations to be saved … from human cruelty, everywhere. Like in that heritage there at O’Malley’s Pub, with that question, “Have you never seen a church?” A heritage never quite felt unless you moved to a place far away, while hoping and wondering if Mrs. O’Malley had any recollection of the Yank here once before.

It was the season about connections. Looking for roots. Connections to family and friends. To come back each year. Like the seasons revolve. Changed in the annual revolutions of the sun, by the mundane. What was always here. The food grown with the power of the sun, sold in the food markets. By the power of the annual revolutions, celebrated at year’s end.

It was the season about connections. Tagged with the power of and in relationship, to whom you were related always has been much more important than the place of origin. On December 24th, the reading which comes from Matthew, Chapter 1, is about the genealogy of Jesus, son of David, the son of Abraham. And so it goes…..Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king.

Relationship. The season was about connection. The genealogy of. And the meaning from the stories. The mystery behind Christmas, and the lights of Christmas. The power in the real stories…. where an Irishman gets power. The power in relations, and whom you are related to. As your newly-wed wife in her 40th month of gestation carried your shared past on the back of a donkey, based upon the directive of the dominant power. Bringing people together, through/with/in fertility. The connection of the past to the present, as you acquire an elevated power above others, by lowering yourself. Taking a name, as a sign of power, with the humbleness of being born meant there would be a humbleness of dying.

Taking a name, keeping a name. In this focus on the House of David, bringing all of creation together. Yet it was the humanity not of the male, but of Mary where God suddenly focused. Suddenly. With all the innocence again connected to Creation, God was like a guy falling in love. And changing all of His plans? In the mystery of the House of David. As the power of a culture was in the things shared.

The Human Condition

 

T’is the season of gifts.  To be successful in giving was to present a sentiment behind a gift:  the totality of the gift was in the sentiment.  That was the sacramental.  The significant was more than the material thing.  The outward sign. 

At a young age, I spent a fair amount of time dealing with folks at times of loss.  There had been people crying about losing a ring, however the circumstances.  Weeping.  Somehow in comparison to the magnitude of real loss after an experience, I never could quite appreciate the loss of just sentiment.  Not after what I had witnessed in a community somewhere near Devils Lake, North Dakota.  The worst loss I ever had to attend to was a man who lost his home and 5 sons in a fire about 4 days before Christmas about 20-some years ago.  I don’t recall ever seeing his wife.  That day was heart breaking.  I have thought of that event each December ever since. 

People pray a lot for “blessings.”  God is asked day in and day out to “bless us.”  The request is nothing but for a share.  To have a share, of Him and His goodness.  To be a shareholder in this planet was to be invested in what happens.  To read a quote from Father Karl Golser in the National Catholic Reporter from December 5, 2008 from John Allen, Jr.:

 

“All of creation must be reborn and presented anew to the Father through Christ.  In their cosmic dimension of the faith, the Eucharist is about offering the earth itself back to God, in the consecration of bread and wine.  Sunday is the day we live the joy of redemption.  Sunday is the day we also express a new relationship with space and time.  It’s about the return to God.  It is about the return to Christ, the parousia.”  

God was, as always, just waiting.  It was the Advent season.  In the cosmic dimension of things, the nights were long in real life.  When did God mostly meet people in real life?  In critical times:  in birth, in death, on a wedding day.  But in the stories of the New Testament, Jesus mostly met people in conditions that people wished they did not have.  Sick.  In sacramental encounters.  In conditions of sin—when most people wished they were different.  With a bit of shame.  In real life.  Seldom did Jesus meet people in the temple.  That bit of shame was why half the world did not worship much.  I had my own sense of shame about the past.  How could I have missed so much?  Wrestling with the question, Who am I?  Am I good enough?  And coming to realize that it was I that needed a savior.  Yeah.  Even me. 

 

This time of year was one about sentiment.  In the reality of things, sentimental gifts took some thought to touch the heart of someone of significance.  It was not until the days just before Christmas when we trimmed the tree on Grandma’s birthday, celebrating people in the past, in an ornament from a year remembered, that the sentiment hit home.  I did not care to do Christmas things too early.  It was hard to remember the sacredness of each ornament, the stories behind how they got here.  Those symbols of Christmas for adults only worked with sentiment.  People whose lives I had had a share.  And true sentiment could not be lost. 

There was way too much to take in, with imagination, with this Incarnation.  I seldom think of it until the horns blare on Christmas Eve in church at “Oh Come All Thee Faithful.”  And then my heart leaps.  Each year. 

Larry Gillick, S.J., describes Advent as “when we were waiting for His taking birth in our stables, taking flesh in our persons.” God in human form.  Visible.    Approachable.  In real life.