Archive for the ‘Minnesota’ Category

“Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be”

If you had never read Shakespeare, you might have missed his practical advice. About money. When a father tells his son, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Or the Great Dictum, so your life does not become one big lie. “This above all: to thine own self be true /And it must follow, as the night the day /Thou canst not be false to any man. ”

A female marriage counselor writes today an article about women, wondering why thirty percent of women in a relationship with the wrong guy, would come before God and knowingly exchange vows. In sharing the bonds of fidelity, these women were already being unfaithful to themselves. And their rationale for the hoodwinking:

Because it was “the next logical step.” And no one else is coming. It’s my last chance.
The ticks of the internal clock, the self-imposed movement of the biological clock, is ticking louder. If a woman desired kids.
Because I have “invested too much time in the relationship.” And marriage might instantly make the relationship better. Like some kind of prayer.
If it does not work out, I can always obtain a divorce. (Already seeking an escape route, as if divorce could be used without consequence.)

Tonight I was going to sit next to a relative at the Red Sox game, whose life had become a lie. Someone who has been wrestling with herself for too many months. And who was difficult to be around. And like a hitting coach, I waited for someone to come to me, before handing out advice.

In the way of full disclosure, I was another B student still trying to just get by, and not super achieve. Before grade inflation hit. Who used a library, despite the dictum, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” And I happen to be sitting next to a beautiful blonde in a bar who was a an out-of town friend of a woman I had met. And I then took in her life story. About a prevailing theme, her prevailing belief, that I am not lovable. Her every day belief which drives her. A woman who could not look you in the eyes.

Watching her wandering eyes, she told me that she had slept with 190 men in her life. And in hearing her life story, that she did not want to ever marry. But she loved sex. With an overall theme if I was listening, about a prevailing belief In relationships that “I am not worthy.” And where there was first no belief, and then no trust. In herself.

She had tried cocaine. And she could assure me that she could stop at any time. But she had to return to the restaurant where I had dinner, because she was going to return a phone to a couple who she had spent last Saturday night with. Though she did not know their names. But the guy was going to be there. And I heard second hand that she had done a line of cocaine with the couple last Saturday. And she was a single mom who lived with her three-year old son three hours from my city. And her son was teaching her a lot about life. I began to connect the dots, which were that she had been in the mortgage business which seemingly collapsed. And she had worked in New York and San Diego. And i somehow saw a line that suggested her statistics were related to what she was doing now.

In aiming for an acceptable relationship. Those women being unfaithful to themselves in bonds of fidelity, in that story in the Huntington Post, were at least trying at something. Another woman my age had witnessed my conversation. She told me the next night, before taking a call to give her own adult daughter some relationship advice, that the male bartender had told her I had been talking to a woman who seemed to sell out for a job in the escort business, and not for joy of regular sex.

There was a sense of guilt of having lost something having so many sex partners when you were young. So whatever was supposed to be communicated in union with someone was lost. When sex if used right was like a prayer.

Adriana L. Trevino

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Freshly Pressed: The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts have been in Saint Paul this summer. Since post World War II, when a couple kids found the right academic with money, The Dead Sea Scroll have been studied for insight into the origin of many Hebrew manuscripts. But all in all, no one has ever found, to the best of my knowledge, the “original” Tanach.

Does God, since World War II, ever tire of it all? When Canadian Catholics hear a different translation of the bible from the one heard in the United States. Is there one Bible written by human hands, based upon translation of ancient Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic, without error? As I told my barber last spring, the “original” Tanach did not show up as some kind of second millennium discovery like the New World. The original basis for the Dead Sea Scrolls, probably first told orally before being written down, even if divinely inspired, were written by human hands. With all of the ensuing disagreement over authority and authoritative text?

Identity. Depending upon whether you were Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, each faith recognizes what the Bible is as something slightly different from each other. Jews with the “Tanach,” not the Old Testament–or specifically the Hebrew text of the Tanach. Protestants and Catholics recognize a different “Old Testament” based upon the authoritative text read by Jesus, if there had been any particular Jewish “canon” in Jesus’ day. But many years prior to Jesus’ birth, due to that Babylonian captivity, a Greek versions of the “Tanach” had emerged, called the Septuagint.

See the John W. Martens’ piece,

Humans seeking authority, in the name of God? And then all of affect of the disagreement on His people. From age to age, from east to west? In a world where all leaders seem less and less inspired? To me.

About the treatment of the teachings in the Bible, what the Bible means determine who can marry in “the church,” or who can have a “Catholic funeral.” While Catholics, the Orthodox, Protestants long since have looked for the inspiration resting in the original text, in the original authors of the text, in every translation of the text, Catholics, the Orthodox, Protestants must think the Jews not only didn’t understand their own Scripture, but even in hindsight they can’t figure out the goatskin. And so in human history, there have been pogroms until the Great Holocaust against the Jews, the recipients of the “Tanach,” for their stupidity, about what was hidden inside the goatskin.

Tired of wrestling with identity and the theme of recognition? Over birthright and inheritance. Tired of wrestling with all of the questions about God? Or about your spouse? All of the wrestling on the authoritative issues, in a relationship? In the age of divorce? Who is the boss? Wanting to have the fun of youth again, but not wanting to spend time together having the same old fights? Because you knew what your spouse was gonna say. When the sacredness was now missing from the relationship, in the real world, if not Scripture?

And so, the proper Jewish translation(s) of the Hebrew into Greek. And then back into your current language. So that the whole Christian world prayed alike. Before taking on the Moslem world. Wrestling on the authoritative issues, over who was infallible on issues of birth control or abortion or sexual abuse. Those issues of faith and morals and human cover-ups, like some kind of Mexican police force. And all of the alimony you had to pay, to support your kids, or your church for the cover-up by the leaders. Because children were the future. And you were still trying to pass down something in the way of tradition. However imperfect the modern translation were looking to be, in the more and more secular world.

The Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts have been in Saint Paul this summer, apparently in a much better exhibit than the people of Milwaukee had, earlier this year. Or maybe it was just the view of a new Bret Favre fan who thought that the people of Wisconsin did not like or appreciate antiquity. But I have not walked the few blocks down the hill to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. Maybe because they did not sound Freshly Pressed.

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The Old Barber Shop

I got my haircut yesterday. And for the first time I found my 68 year old barber preaching. He does not know my name. I never knew, until recently, his, as he now has his name on the awning over his shop.

I still go back to the barbershop where this barber was working when I was in high school. I have learned a few things about the neighborhood, from him. Things that had occurred over the years. Like about the Bamboo Hut down the street that is no longer there. It was a massage parlor, which had been replaced by a fire station. A massage parlor with all the vices associated with the profession. Those were the things we normally talked about. Or such as how Sandy Stephens had led the Minnesota Gophers to the Rose Bowl when he was a college student at the University of Minnesota. Most people under fifty would have a hard time believing that as fact. It seemed so unreal.

My barber had been talking to the previous customer about Iran and Israel, and about the end of the world. He was reading this book called Heaven, which had accelerated his discussion. He was telling the man with the newly trimmed locks that he did not see how God would allow either Israel or Iran to blow up the world. I had been waiting in his chair for a couple of minutes, wondering where the scissors were, and interjected. I asked him how his theory about God explained Hiroshima, if you happened to be Japanese.

Born a Baptist, he now was just some kind of Christian who never danced. Born again, betting the odds that there is a God, he said he was no longer praying with Baptists, but he still went to church. He thought it was too much like those games of chance, as in gambling and playing cards.

He talked about the book he was reading, about heaven. About how everyone who ever lived was coming back here at the end of the world. And with their pets. I asked if the author was an academic. Or what his curriculum vita was. He did not know.

My barber thought that the stories of Genesis had really happened. Like the manner that he cut hair, he was, I noticed as he was lacerating my hair today at the beginning as if it was a war, a strict constructionist. There was a certain amount of violence, as he grabbed a handful. I could tell in the first 60 seconds that there must have been some kind of inner tsunami going on, that I was feeling, as an after affect to the prior customer. No one had pulled my hair like this since I was in high school. And it had been a sister.

I had my own theory, I told him 10 minutes later. About something in the Bible. After hearing about the Book of Revelation. I asked him if he really understood it. The Book of Revelation, that last book. “Your own theory!” I told him someone had to have a theory, like the author of Genesis. He seemed surprised to think a human actually wrote the book. I asked him how he thought that the Bible was created? He asked if I went to church. Or if I had a church affiliation. When I told him I had attended the closest school to his barber’s chair, he was able to figure out my religious affiliation.

Eventually he mentioned the genealogy in the Bible of Jesus involving Joseph and the House of David. I expressed my belief in the irony of all this focus on Joseph’s genealogy, when none of Joseph’s DNA ever made it into Jesus. He went on to say that there was a genealogy of Mary written in the Bible. And I begged to differ. I had wanted to make a wager, but realized respectfully that Baptists do not bet. And he had said he had never quite escaped from the beliefs of his youth. Nor had I.

The barber’s preaching, about how only a soul could be saved through the Messiah: the barber’s opening line to me when he cut his first strand was how he did not like to be judgmental. But his theory of heaven judged every Muslim, Jew, or Hindu on earth. To say nothing about all those born into a family without belief, and never went in search. I wondered about the kid in the next chair who was to be 25 years old. The barber had attempted to bring him into the discussion. The kid claimed not to have heard, avoiding controversy. Because people did not talk about this stuff on a Saturday unless maybe you were born again.

The barber’s preaching: the 68-year old who had never danced, still did not partake in those games of chance, but he had married. He told me there was no difference between the beliefs of a Baptist in Minnesota and those Southern Baptists.

The barber’s preaching, but for me, not real convincing. As I had first asked him how his theory about God explained Hiroshima if you happened to be Japanese, I left him in his muddle about salvation for the non-Christians, or about 75% of the planet. The planet where everyone including our pets would one day be coming back to, according to the author. In that book about heaven. The Creator, this God of Love, was not real generous to 75% of the people on earth, if you believed in the barber’s theology. Like the Southern Baptists had not been real generous to Sandy Stevens, and black Americans from the South, maybe because salvation in their eyes was restricted to people of the same beliefs, who looked like white barbers.

When he mentioned the Roman Catholic belief in such things as purgatory, I told him that I thought everything he had said today I had heard from priests over the years. I made reference to the fractured Christianity in all these denominations, as I had picked up a silent scorn for Catholicism. Like it might be my fault, about purgatory. If there was one. I told him, as I gave him a tip and was ready to leave, that all the discussion had today had yet to involve the various Christian dogma. Until now.

Listening. To the born again. With the perspective a lot like that Beattles’ song that was playing. As the orthodox listen, I had become one of the orthodox. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I was silently humming, as the barber’s was preaching. About games of chance, trying to figure out the house rules. But not real convincingly … to me. Or maybe for himself.

I had gone more than 13 years in my life without visiting a professional barber. Like many 18-year-olds, my fling with the unaffiliated barbers had started in college. A woman I knew cut my hair. And for free. Those unprofessional haircuts started just after I had sat in the same barber’s chair more than 25 years ago.

Having a real haircut for the first time in years. Like the Beatles affected forever the well-being of barbers, with a quietly developing hostility towards the next generation.

The family was more excited than I was. About my return to orthodoxy. And haircuts. Those thirteen years had become a family jokes. I had returned for a professional haircut when my sister got married. Yeah, she had asked. And then I just kept going. But only for the high holy days, as it were. Christmas. Earth Day. Over those thirteen years, Phil the Barber had become my father’s barber. (I think that his barber had either died or been affected by more than just the music of the Beattles.)

Yeah, I had my own theories. Now I know why there were no longer Playboy magazines where there used to be in this barber shop. And not many men waited on a Saturday for a haircut, any more. Maybe hair no longer was growing as fast.

Yeah, I had my own theories. And the Bamboo Hut was closed.

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The Duke

Live music. On a Sunday afternoon. It was Black history month and the Saint Paul Public Library put on a tribute to Duke Ellington, by The Dean Brewington quartet.

Sunday in the park with Duke. The program included a presentation by Tony Garret, discussing the historical perspective of what Duke was trying to accomplish. With his life. In the times that he was born into. As America was building a nation. In the days of Jim Crow, the Duke was doing his part building a powerful nation.

It was hard to keep together the big bands in the 1950s. After the Depression was over. After the war was over. It was because of the cost. And television came around. The presentation showed Duke Ellington with his musicians in the Amos and Andy films. Making a statement.

The Love of the music. When Duke met the prejudice of his time, his response was to go home and write. Music brought people together. Dean Brewington with his saxophone and his quartet performed the music, with a singer giving voice to her interpretation of the music sixty-some years later. It was all about the writing. And these 4 musicians working together to give a modern day meaning to the music.

There was on this Sunday a humility about it all. The program. The history. Of the performers to Duke. Of what he endured. Of the life he wrote into the music. And the music coming alive in this performance in 2010.


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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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People Watching

Expelled. From the garden. Crime and punishment. What a punishment. To be compelled to discover the world. The mountains. The rivers. Appellations for all of this. Creating artificial borders

The conflicts. Reparations. A lot like for sins, war reparations. Over time.

The “Stans.’ Those countries where the Ubis, the Pakis called home. Or the Kurds. Or the Afghans. Where rivers divide. Where mountains formed by glaciers had underground sources of water. Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan. Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan. Turkmenistan. East Turkistan, Uyghuristan, and Uyghurstan.

Muslims. In the “_stans.” There was a lot of fear about all the ___stans. After the collapse of the Soviet Union. To discover all of it. The transforming world of glaciers. As icecaps melted. Somewhere bin Laden. Amidst the snow and the wind, still howling like an animal lost off the mountain top. Looking for reparations. And people watching. Amidst the conflict.

Catholics. In Europe. In the Americas. In Africa. In the changing world. The recording of the atmosphere of otherworldliness. In search for “core competencies.” In school. In the real world. People watching.

Expelled. Charlie Weiss was expelled as coach of the Notre Dame football team. There was a time when every Catholic male in the country would care about this news story. That atmosphere of otherworldliness, in South Bend. Were concerns about Notre Dame’s recruiting reflective of problems that the Roman Catholic Church had with the current generation? Way beyond football? Was it poor leadership that had allowed the prestige of otherworldliness to slip away? Was their some kind of identity theft which had occurred over the past generation that was just be discovered now? Was it about social-issue questions. Worldly social issue questions so much focused on sex?

The best consultants use the rhetoric of personal empowerment. A messianic devotion to gurus.

“Outright shamans who sprinkle on the science like so much fairy dust.” Political polling. Politicians. Tax and spend politicians. To build. Land use and global warming. Deforestation. Attention was directed at carbons in the air, but not at the issue of land use.

“Up in the Air.” The book was now a George Clooney movie. About a new sovereign state. Based on airlines. And frequent flying. Where the world was based upon the all-important miles. Flown miles and the control of credit cards. To be compelled to discover the world.

Creating artificial borders
With the firmest tenets. Of liberty. In thin air. In places where business people called home. Airports. Smelling and breathing at the same time.

People watching. Stealth people watching. It was an inhuman time. When the nineties will be remembered as the decade of finance, of computers. And then 2009. Now more sophisticated. More jaded and knowing. Where every question comes down to economics. It was an inhuman time, with bright lights and glamour. Without a lot of emotion or human drama. But style. And now addressing that pain. With the hang over from the Greenspan cheap money era of the last decade, where all the excesses were around at sea level. Prepared for the physical deadlines, the financial deadlines, I faced now. Of the body. Of a tooth ache.

That atmosphere of other-worldliness. Prayer. On mountaintops. Smelling and breathing at the same time. With fewer spiritual pretensions than found at sea level. Oriented over time to something within. Like the melting icecaps. Of the fabled snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Swiss glaciers. Was global climate change real? Addressing the pain. Nations in Copenhagen seemed to think the clock was ticking.

To be compelled to discover the world. “Core competencies.” Now addressing the crimes. Of endangered places. And addressing that pain. From abscesses and excesses. As an imposed punishment. Of the created artificial borders. Oh to be compelled to discover the world.

People watching. Dramatically inert. Neither knowing nor caring what it is interiorly involved. What’s going on inside the borders of that face? Without my emotional response. Actors. Actresses. “She just stands around.” With a pretty, childlike face. Smelling and breathing at the same time. Without an awareness. It was December. With long stretches of people watching. Without recognizing the border. It all seemed so much like cotton candy. So what should be an appropriate expression, for an adult?

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Those Quiet Carbon Imprints

Before he became pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was quoted in America Magazine as stating that the church needs to get smaller so that it can become purer. And the plans seemed to well be underway. Actually the comments were based upon Salt of the Earth, a full-length interview to a secular journalist, as well the 1985 The Ratzinger Report, a best-selling book/interview. In an article in 2005, Notre Dame professor R. Scott Appleby was quoted: “If it’s true Pope Benedict XVI prefers a leaner, smaller, purer church as he has spoken of before,” said Notre Dame professor R. Scott Appleby, “we could see a withering of certain Catholic institutions because they’re not considered fully Catholic. This might include Catholic colleges, hospitals, and other Catholic institutions.”

On November 18, 2009, RACHEL ZOLL (AP) wrote the following:

BALTIMORE — Fallout continues from the summer controversy over the University of Notre Dame awarding an honorary degree to President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops went behind closed doors at their fall meeting Wednesday to discuss, among other issues, what action they should take to increase oversight of the nation’s more than 200 Roman Catholic colleges and universities. Chicago Cardinal Francis George, president of the bishops’ conference, revealed this week that he had formed a task force charged with reviewing the issue. Its research included a look at what church law says about bishops’ authority over the schools. The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities has planned a similar discussion of canon law and bishops’ authority at the group’s annual meeting, set to begin Jan. 30 in Washington.

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Hooking Up

Seasons. Ritual.

Kids. The step progeny. Those one sport specialists. In this specialized world.

The specialized world. The specialist working at the Board of Trade. During the hockey season. The never ending hockey season. Or name the sport. And then hockey camp. Traveling teams and these one sport specialists. Hockey moms. Married to hockey dads. For a while.

In a world without relationships. It had now become a world of polygamy, just without the vows. Awesome. With a generation which did not know how to place adverbs. Or where. Those step progeny.

“I didn’t marry nearly as many times as I could have.”

The state of the world as described in Tom Wolfe’s Hooking Up. These grown kids. The conflict in a megabyte world that kept moving fast. The desire to stay. The attraction. The urge to go. Into such a profane world. In the specialized profane hockey world. Or the real world. Of relationships. Or lack thereof.

Seasons. Ritual. Stirred or bored.

Stirred in relationship. Not for money. For others. Mr. Law. Allan Law.

Cared for. Mostly just those with a blood relationship. Or those in one way adopted. Mr. Law. See

Stirred or bored. By the seasons. The choice to either ritualize the seasons or to one day face snowballing boredom. The choice to ritualize in relationships.

Hooking Up. The specialized world was in recovery. The specialist. Even plumbers and repair people. Paying for all those $30,000 to $50,000 weddings, for kids of mostly common people. Or not. Tom Wolfe. Hooking Up.

Tom Wolfe. Back to Blood was the working tile of Tom Wolfe’s book scheduled to be released in 2009.

The desire to stay with an author, or to move on. By a reader. His literary agent. His publisher. Somewhere in the last few years, Tom Wolfe was unable to agree on terms for a new novel with his publisher of 42 years.

To write. For the profane world. Stirred to express an understanding. Stirred in relationship. When hooking was no longer a two minute penalty.

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Opening Doors

Thomas Merton related that a Tibet monk is to have replied to the question about how they train and form their novices in contemplative prayer that for the first year they are taught how to close doors. Those 365 days seemed a long time to learn all about closing doors, writes Larry Gillick this week.

Contemplative prayer. I continue to read this month that story of Abraham and Isaac. Over and over. The same biblical account that is read at the start of the Jewish High Holy Days. Year in and year out. As God wanted a stake in His Chosen People, in the human race, so Jews needed a stake in the world and all of its problems.

Wanting a stake. Have you ever had to tell a girl you loved her? And in a case when there was a darn good chance she did not believe you. And to tell a lover like God that you loved 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.

When there was pain in sacrifice. Made in seeking a stake in the world, through a girl. The girl seemed more interested in seeing something. Maybe with little real understanding how hard the business world was. The hours that went into buying a diamond. And having to listen to all of her small complaints?

What a struggle of every young guy, trying to communicate something. The ongoing struggle to profess an authentic love. And then to have your credibility judged.

Those professions of love. Like the struggle of every young guy, trying to communicate something, God seemed to have His own doubts. It seemed part of the struggle every person, guys from Mars any way, has with belief in each other. Doubts about the love professed.

Those professions of love at the end of life, to God, to loved ones. Abraham, the farmer. The nomadic farmer. In the pain of old age. Approaching a major sacrifice. If the theme of my life, like Abraham’s life, was all along all about passing on a way of life. In sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice. The little real notice of sacrifice along the way…but one ultimate sacrifice like the great fireworks display, like a diamond, as the ultimate profession of love. In appreciation for the revelations of the mystery, about the unseen. Over what seemed to be, in my perspective, the Truth. The little really noticed mystery. By the secular world.

Doors. Opening and closing doors for contemplative prayer. For these times. Opening and closing doors to focus on meaning in our lives, With training to form the next generation in contemplative prayer “With a little more attentiveness to what we are shutting in and shutting out…a little more open to surprises and also the unsurprising,” writes Lary Gillick.

Of the two parts of being a rabbi, a Tibet monk, or a priest, there was the caring and comforting people, and shaking them up and moving them to another place. The prophet role. When the experience of young people form their ideas. In schools where they share experiences with strangers and become bound. When those ideas which nourish then sustain an identity.

So what had I set out to say in this piece of art called life? Who was going to try to interpret my work of art? How would I be judged?

Rabbi Max Shapiro, the senior rabbi from 1963 through 1985 at Temple Israel in Minneapolis, the 10th largest Reform congregation in the world who, within as well as outside his congregation, challenged people to fight anti-Semitism, racism and poverty, died on October 16, 2009 at his Minnetonka home. The obituary of Max Shapiro states that he was a lifelong member of the NAACP, and he served on a city civil rights council and the Urban Coalition. Under his leadership, the social action committee at Temple Israel sent a delegate to walk with Martin Luther King, Jr., resolved not to trade with any business with discriminatory hiring practices, and became the first in the area to teach a black history course. In a 1964 sermon, he explained his philosophy of religion and civic duty, of staking a claim in a city through professions of love: “It is not enough for us to applaud or even support civil rights legislation. Judaism instructs us to do more. It tells us to take the needy into our employ! It tells us to train him for a job! … It is a religious duty! And it is imperative! For no community, no city, no nation can long endure so divided — half affluent, half despairing.”

Those professions of love. So who was worthy of this inheritance? Of his religious tradition? In old age. Of those living in the harsh godless profane pagan world? In the present moment? With different degrees of hunger, in this secular world?

The Akedah story. Sacrifice. God. A spouse. And feeling so unworthy.

When life was a profession of love? Wanting a stake. To feel needed. Trying to tell God you loved Him? That feeling, somehow always that feeling, like I have fallen short. In what was the human condition. Feeling no confidence in a profession of love through your spouse and kids. That was the male condition in any relationship. The relationship. Wanting a stake in someone. Over and over trying to say in a new way, with some degree of confidence about my own profession of love, after contemplation, what exactly this love was. The relationship chosen, with some consequential movement in the story. The ONE relationship chosen. That same accounting, year in and year out. On anniversaries. On Valentine’s Day. At year’s end. I expect that even at an old age, there was a good chance, a darn good chance, if life was a profession of love that Abraham did not believe God believed him. Even after all the things that they had shared. To feel you have come up short. On the anniversary date, with those performance reviews. Having done some pretty dumb things. Was the Akedah story really about Abraham’s feeling of always feeling unworthy? In the Akedah story.

When life was a profession of God’s love? So who was worthy of this inheritance? When asked to sacrifice Sarah’s son, in the Akedah story, was the actual mystery about Abraham in a sense a Last Judgment scene? In the Akedah story was Abraham really asking God “Why did I have all this? And why was I losing it?” It was the “Why me?” question. Had he really been “chosen?” Was Abraham really asking God in the Akedah if he really had all along been chosen? By asking him to sacrifice the son of the women he most truly loved? Was this question challenging the meaning of his life—the meaning of his love—or challenging God for all that He had given to him? And had slowly been taking away? Slowly taking away all of these blessings—this was a profession of God’s love?

The Akedah story. Challenging the depth of belief? With the pain of old age, did God truly love Abraham? Was this Abraham challenging the meaning of his life, challenging God through the sacrifice of an animal, for all that He had given to him? Professions of love once made, in seeking a stake in the world, through the blood of the best animal. Professions of love now made through the sacrifice of the son of a woman he most loved? Or was the actual mystery in this Akedah story about God challenging Abraham about the depth of belief?

Abraham. All that time spent. Reflecting on the meaning of making some kind of an offering to God, when your relationships, based so much in sacrifice, with God, with your lover, with your kin, involved not only blood, but these strange profession of love. Professions made in seeking a stake in the world, through a woman. When the woman, the son, seemed more interested in seeing something—than hearing something. About belief.

Had Abraham in the first place ever been worthy? As Isaac might have finally wondered, might have asked his father about himself. The same question. And with the strange professions of love by Abraham, Isaac might have finally wondered —about his father’s witness or his own, in this Akedah story— ‘Who in the name of God do you think you are?’

These strange professions of love. Over and over. I continue to read the same biblical accounts. Over and over. Religion was not just a recognition of, an awareness, about God, man, woman, and the universe. It was about everything. Religion was about bindings. It was more about action than words. It was about ritual. And as was said of Rabbi Max Shapiro, in passing on a way of life, “He created the most wonderful community.”

Those courtships. Training and forming their Tibet novices in contemplative prayer, with those 365 days spent learning all about closing doors. Over and over. But wanting a stake in the outside world. Contemplative prayer, and looking for meaning, in the age old stories. Those strange professions of love at the end of life. To God, to loved ones. As God wanted a stake in His Chosen People. Being moved towards opening doors. Being moved to sacrifice. And trying to work on becoming more worthy. In sacrifice. In kinship to the God, and passing on that kinship. In these strange professions of love. By these religious nuts. Let loose once again in the outside world.

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Service Engine Soon!

Mr Goodwrench Service engine. Soon! The The warning light. The fears. The knowledge that you forgot something, when that warning light came on. For two days last week, that warning light came on. Then it disappeared.

When I grew up there was this sense of belonging. I had always bought American cars, out of a sense of loyalty. Specifically either Pontiacs or Chevrolets. In an era when Japanese cars had been increasing their market shares.

When I grew up, the archbishop in Minneapolis-St. Paul was from here. I actually knew him. And then I moved to a different state where that local bishop was from my home parish. That sense of belonging does not happen much any more. Anywhere in the United States. Not since that college of cardinals started electing non-Italian popes. Not since those foreign cars came to America in great numbers. Since 1979, this was the same leadership model of the last two popes. Imports. In St. Paul, the archbishop was from Pontiac country, from somewhere in Michigan. But who really cared when the archbishop came from?

The Catholic News Service carried an Anchorage by-line on a story today, reporting that many young adults are arriving on campus increasingly having had no formal religion, without any language of faith, and expressing little interest in finding the ultimate truth. A study on religious affiliation by researchers at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut found that about 22 percent of adults 30 and younger identify themselves as “none,” not identifying with any particular religious group. The irreligious, unreligious, anti-religious, and anti-clerical now number 34 million, since 1990 having almost doubled. Not all of these “nones” are atheists. Many believe in God but don’t believe in the church, the temple, or the mosque. Barry Kosmin and and Ariela Keysar, the lead authors of the report, indicate Vermont is the state with the highest number of unaffiliated. “Every region and state in the country is showing the same trend,” said Kosmin. A large percentage of former Catholics, a disproportionate number of Catholic men, are in this category. Kids born since 1979. In a world of fast food franchises, people born in a particular place, where all thing once had been local, were reflecting the world that they grew up in.

Every five years bishops make Ad Limina visits to Rome. According to canon law Number 399, a bishop needs to report to the pope an accounting of the state of his diocese. The bishop delivers a written report on the state of his diocese as well as a renewal of his pledge of dedication to the Holy See. The Pope then delivers his own address to the bishop, offering his perspective on the challenges facing the Church in that diocese.

Service engine. Now! If the diagnosis is bad, the treatment plan is worse. About that warning light which had appeared in August. And the mechanic, from one of those franchised shops, found nothing and just turned it off. And now here I was dealing with all this. Again.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops had now announced they were turning back the clock to pre-1965, with the language of the Catholic Mass, come 2011. The pope did not care that these were the prayers used in the English speaking world for more than 40 years. Where was the owner’s manual? It had all the instruction. When leadership is imposed from afar, what was the appeal of such a world to the young. With indifferent leadership, who could identify? In their lifetime, the only thing local was the catcher who played for the major league team in town. At least this baseball franchise was locally owned, anyway.

Leadership had been from afar all of the lives of the young, with church leaders, a lot like most of the executive staff at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, coming from places far away, sent here. A lot like in the days of the British Raj, like the Brits had tried to rule India. Most of us went about our daily life not conscious of this. Who really cared when the editors and publisher came from? While the Minneapolis Star Tribune was coming out of chapter 11 bankruptcy this month. And who really cared when the archbishop came from? This was the “who really cares” generation. Because institutions no longer had a structure showing who really cared about anything except politics. Who was conservative? Who was liberal? Not since that college of cardinals had been stacked with appointments, with litmus tests over issues like Humanae Vitae. Who really cared about this community? Everyone just seemed power hungry. For their side of the tug of war. With a pope delivering his own address, offering his perspective on the challenges facing the Church in my diocese.

The declaration over time of an identity. While watching a child grow, a parent witnessed the development of an identity. It happened to people and it happened to institutions. That unstated conflict part of the institutional advancement. That part of the unstated conflict to become known. In branding. In becoming well known. Or not?

What exactly was the significance of the meaning of a brand? Now with General Motors bankrupt, what exactly was gonna happen to my brand? In the near future? Was it indifferent leadership to a changing world that had affected GM? What would happen to people in states with the highest number of unaffiliated? Getting their auto parts? What would happen to the community when government bodies like the Metropolitan Council tried to formulate plans for the future? For things like mass transit, limiting parking lots, creating green zones? When all politics was really local.

So God …. and this shared dominion that came invisibly after Creation. And through His vehicles to become well known. A God who desired a human population. The initial excitement of getting a license. Of having a car. The Model A. The Model T.

God and the movement in the story of God, with the crises to become well known. That was part of the unstated conflict in His story with his own Chosen People. In search of greater attention. It seemed a part of God’s own inner conflict. The ultimate in humbleness versus His exploding power of Creation. With the invasion of those cars from Asia. In the poetic connection of religions and the automobile.

And so God’s vehicles to become well known. In the green world … for those not realizing how you or they got here. And not realizing where you or they were going. With whatever vehicle which got your ancestors here … to this point. As it became time to choose your own model… Or not.

Limiting parking lots. Temples and churches and parking lots.

The warning light was flashing. Service engine. Soon! It once had been important to know where the mechanic came from. Did he know the Pontiac brand? In a world where once there was concern whether there would be any trained mechanics, for this part of a generation that was not choosing a model, with 22% not having any vehicle, the question was now one about movement. Yeah, the green movement had come to our shores. And in a strange way, these people were going to be going it alone. Without any kind of brand. But in need of a ride. Relying on mass transit, with no personal investment.

That Trinity College in Hartford had released a report on all of this which might suggest that this trend would have a large affect on the future of America. As General Motors goes, so goes the nation. When Your Jack Is Broke

Parking lots, temples, and churches. And increasingly, a larger share of the local population in need of a ride. But Who really cared? In a Creation when apathy was the opposite of love, what exactly would be carrying if not exactly moving this next generation and the following generations thereafter?

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