Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It's Almost Stewardship Time [Click to Enlarge]

Sympathy, Rather Than Contempt

In my pastoral work, and especially as I'm in a mainstream Protestant church in the Northeastern United States, I deal mostly with issues of mortality.  My congregation is older, often elderly, and some have already been told the name of their executioner.  There is nothing that more wonderfully focuses the mind than the realization of inevitable death.  For normal people, it separates the real from the nonsense.

To quote from a pop song, "The worst of life seems beautiful, when it's seen in full retreat."  Or, from Warren Zevon, when he had learned of his terminal disease, "Enjoy every sandwich".

Outside of my parish, however, I often have to deal with nonsense, especially from those who live in the general neighborhood of the church.  They complain, you see.  As none of the complainers attend our church or contribute to its mission, they think we're to serve as a prop in their New England country life fantasy™.  They see us as rather like that HO scale church that came with my childhood train set, along with a miniature depot, grocery store, and "fillin' station".

They don't realize that they've moved into a "mixed use" neighborhood and that churches aren't props, they're a form of business that works every day of the week.  That can be a hard lesson.  When they complain to me, especially when I've spent a day responding to the sick and the dying, I don't take it with any kind of seriousness.  Juxtaposed with issues of mortality, the complainers tend to garner my sympathy, rather than contempt.

In my current parish, I've received the following over the past years:

1.  Your lawn care provider is too noisy and inefficient.
2.  The lawn care workers appear to be Mexican.
3.  The Christmas creche figures on the church's front lawn need to be re-positioned so that the camel isn't as prominent.
4.  If you fly that Princeton University flag from the rectory on game day again, I will come to your house and punch you.  [Not said in jest, by the way.]
5.  There is too much traffic on weekends.
6.  You ring bells early on Sunday mornings.
7.  The gutter is bent on the north side of the rectory.
8.  Etc., etc., etc.

My responses:

1.  Then tell the lawn care business, not me.
2.  They're Ecuadorian.  Besides, they cross themselves when they pass the columbarium, so they have a respect for our facility that is not always manifest in our neighbors.
3.  It's our creche and our camel; we do with it what we like.
4.  I'm an old Marine from east Cleveland, if you want to throw down with me understand that I've been in as many fights as Mannix and I like it.  This beard covers scar tissue. 
5.  Yes, when we hold a funeral service for a beloved and involved member of the community on a Saturday morning that is attended by at least a third of the town, there will be traffic.
6.  And always will.  Just be thankful I don't ring them every morning, like many churches.
7.  So?  Your roof needs to be replaced.  That's your business, though, not mine.
8.  Etc., etc., etc.

I wade through this froth, and do so in such a way that my parishioners know little or nothing of it, so that I can promise them a stray hour each week of peace and prayer, away from the tiny vexations of 21st century life.  If you ever wonder why your pastor seems so tired, it's because he or she has been protecting you from those who, ultimately, take umbrage at the presence of proclaiming Christians and announce it through their first-world concerns.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Well, This is...Odd

This was almost "Archaeological News", but it was too embarrassing: "Just when you thought the trigger-warning trend on campus couldn’t get any more bonkers it’s reported that archaeology students are being allowed to dodge discussions of ‘traumatic’ historic events."
Yes, students whose entire academic mission is to dig up bones, pore over old stuff and work out what the hell mankind was doing / thinking a thousand-odd years ago are being warned that such excavations can uncover ‘disturbing’ stuff that might ‘traumatise’ them because ‘bones can be scary’. So they should feel free to nip out of class if it gets too much. Archaeology students being told archaeology is a scary pursuit — I think we’ve reached peak campus madness.
Thank heaven it's just University College, London.  It's not exactly an archaeology powerhouse.

Well, there is some good news:
Strikingly, the UCL archaeology lecturer says that so far none of his students has accepted his offer to leave a ‘traumatic’ class discussion. That’s encouraging. It’s also revealing. It suggests the new campus craziness, the wild allergy to difficult debate and fear of offensive texts, doesn’t always come from students themselves. It’s been institutionalised, among actual academics, to such an extent that universities no longer instil in their students the Kantian idea that one should ‘Dare to know’ but rather tell them: ‘Sometimes it’s risky to know. What you find out might hurt you. So maybe you shouldn’t know that thing, or read that book, or listen to this lecture.’ The safety of ignorance.

Everything You Know is Wrong

If the people who promote the idea that smoking bans immediately slash heart attacks were interested in the truth, as opposed to another argument for a policy they already support, a study published this month in the journal Medical Care Research and Review would make them retract that outlandish, biologically implausible claim. Looking at county-level data from 28 states, the study finds "smoking bans were not associated with acute myocardial infarction or heart failure hospitalizations."

But...but...but, it was science.   Science is never wrong, right?

It May Be Imaginary, But I Think I've Met Some People from There

This Imaginary Island Appeared in Maps for 500 Years

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Freedom of...What?

Earlier this month, an American author of fiction spoke at a writer's conference in Australia about the writer's need to step into the shoes of another and present that person's world view.  In other words, a fiction writer needs to be able to write fiction.  She thought that her speech was, in her words, rather "bland".  Turns out, in this era of the perpetually aggrieved, it was anything but.

After enduring scathing criticism from young people for whom "social justice" is now an interesting hybrid of emotionalism and toxic narcissism [the two key ingredients of nihilism, the philosophy of our times], she responds in the New York Times:
As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts — by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy. The shrill tyranny of the left helps to push them toward Donald Trump.
In an era of weaponized sensitivity, participation in public discourse is growing so perilous, so fraught with the danger of being caught out for using the wrong word or failing to uphold the latest orthodoxy in relation to disability, sexual orientation, economic class, race or ethnicity, that many are apt to bow out. Perhaps intimidating their elders into silence is the intention of the identity-politics cabal — and maybe my generation should retreat to our living rooms and let the young people tear one another apart over who seemed to imply that Asians are good at math.

What Political America Used to Look Like

2016 is not going to be one of my favorite years, and I didn't care much for '14 or '15, either.

The Real Way We Learn Our Language

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions. 

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen.
Chomsky was given way too much authority in his field, even to the extent that, should you disagree with even a portion of his thesis, one would be labeled by some noxious term.  Much of that is because he managed to turn his crackpot notions into political theory that was advantageous for ideologues.

The fact that his theory dominated the bulk of educational philosophy for the past half-century may explain why many under the age of fifty can't write a proper sentence or express a coherent thought.  It may even be why debate and discussion have devolved into screaming matches, legislative "silencing" of opponents, and the need for grown people on college campuses to have "safe spaces" complete with toys and stuffed animals.

A Young Person with Sense Wrote This

Skidmore College News: Our Campus Culture: Self-Righteousness
In debating politics and society at Skidmore, you do not have to explain why your argument is right when few are willing to challenge it. Simplistic answers to difficult questions raised in class are met with vigorous nods from classmates rather than with beckons to explain what you mean. We do not demand the intellectual best from one another when we accept quips such as “because of capitalism,” “because of white privilege,” “because of colonialism,” or “because of the patriarchy” as sufficient answers. Politics is ineffably complex, but talking points serve as an easy shortcut to social acceptance among peers who demand progressive piety. Our school motto tells us that “creative thought matters,” but it would help our student body to realize that critical thought matters more.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Now, That's an Annoying Headline

Acela Fight Splits Hedge-Fund Connecticut and Old-Money Enclaves 

Not only does it reinforce every dim stereotype about Connecticut and its residents being wealthy and entitiled, but my house is in the affected area and I'm neither a hedge fund manager nor possessor of "old" money; neither are my neighbors.  In fact, my three-year-old Subaru is currently the newest car in the neighborhood.

Friday, September 23, 2016

No Surprise, Really, Given How Short Their Arms and Legs are

Given the Quality of Most Government School Menus, I Don't Blame Him

Oklahoma student brings dead squirrel to class, wanted to eat it

Not Just the Thames, as It Turns Out

Many folks, including residents of the city itself, don't know that London is built upon seven [at least] rivers, only one of which is still visible and identifiable as a river.

The hidden rivers that shape London's streets: Fleet, Westbourne, Tachbrook and Tyburn; all these and more gave the city its form

About twenty years ago, I recall a young couple bought a "fixer-upper" in London and couldn't figure out how their indoor cat kept managing to get soaking wet while indoors.  It turns out, when the rains came, one of those dormant rivers came to life in their basement, with the waters receding dramatically and without evidence once the rains subsided.

Archaeological News: Antikythera

You will recall the Antikythera Mechanism, the computing device that was discovered in a submerged Greek ship about a century ago that is of mysterious purpose, remarkable technological sophistication, and older than Jesus.  Because of its staggering importance, the site is being explored with great care and deliberation.  Also, since it's 150 feet below the surface, only in recent years have marine archaeologists been able to spend enough time with the wreck.

Another elusive portion of this find is that no one is really sure who used the device.  Well, until now:

Scientists uncovered a skeleton from the ancient world’s most famous — and mysterious — shipwreck

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Blow Up Your TV

ABC Developing Female-Centric ‘Magnum P.I.’ Sequel Series

Are original ideas now disdained?

The Form of Theology I Know the Least


Matriarchal Medicine

In Men, Depression is Different

One marvels at the puzzlewitted-ness of this observation, as we have been told repeatedly for over forty years that men and women are [Ready for this?] different in how they seek and receive all forms of medical treatment.  Although, this is usually oriented towards the vicissitudes of being a woman in a male-dominated medical establishment.

Really, don't you just want to say "Duh!" at that headline?

Since the Depression Treatment Industry, or Big Pill, is oriented towards women, it should come as no surprise that men are not equally regarded.  However, the pervasiveness of this perspective is apparent even when writing specifically about a male issue, as the woman who wrote the article makes an odd observation in this sentence:

"And this can wreak havoc on a man’s relationships, as loved ones, especially spouses, can feel hurt and rejected."

In other words, if a man is depressed it's really hard on his wife, which is the real reason men should get help, I guess.

It reminds me of the joke that my buddy, Ben, who worked for the New York Times, once told me about his employer's world-view, as revealed through an apocryphal headline:

"World Ends Tomorrow; Women Hardest Hit"

A Portrait of America’s First Atheists

Same as it ever was:
Many readers today disapprove of books solely about men, but organized atheism hasn’t always been terribly concerned with gender parity. Slenker confessed that every place she went, she was the first woman atheist anyone there had ever seen. When the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism (4As) surveyed its membership in 1930, it was 93 percent male.
Churches, by contrast, have been a model of balance, with women even outnumbering men in terms of membership. So it is ironic that one of the traditional ways that atheists attacked Christianity was for allegedly being anti-women. When 4As founder Charles Lee Smith debated evangelist and Foursquare Church founder Aimee Semple McPherson, one wonders whether he noticed that only the Christian camp could boast a prominent female leader.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An Obituary of Note

The Rev. William Harrison Low, 88, died at his home in Canton, CT on Monday, September 19, 2016.

Bill was a priest of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and most recently was an associate Chaplin at St. Michael's Chapel at South Kent School (1996-2013)  He served in a number of parishes in Connecticut including St. Paul's, Bantam, St. Alban's, Simsbury and All Saints, East Hartford.  Additionally, he served at several parishes in New Hampshire.
The last independent, free-thinking, bloody-minded priest in the Episcopal Church.  The rest of us are, if we're lucky, in his shadow.  He was absolutely devoted to the students at South Kent School, where he will be buried, and never missed their hockey games.

Educational Administrators are Criminally Stupid

12 year old suspended from school for turning in a knife that wasn’t even his

He did what he was supposed to do and was punished for it.  I hope he becomes a criminal mastermind.

Update: More of the stupid.

Lunch Lady Quits, Says School Made Her Shame Poor Kids

It seems like government education has become another form of child abuse.

Thieves Helped Crack the Chelsea Bombing Case, Sources Say

It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief Bomber

When People Stopped Dressing Up for Church, Christendom Began It's Decline; as Did Everything Else

Indeed, the adolescent fervor for “revolution” damn the consequences duly convected into the domain of adulthood, as the feral children of the left, whose minds were polluted by the sentimental and reductive theories of the Dewey-inspired and revisionist brigades, graduated into the various positions of cultural authority—media, education, entertainment and government. Our grown-up Magikarps—timid university presidents and academic leaders, the general run of invertebrate politicians and corrupted journalists, the great majority of Hollywood and sports know-nothings—are essentially children, and children cannot hope to survive in a world without real adults, or too few adults to manage the vast playpen that has become almost coterminous with society as a whole. The commonplace adage that the inmates have taken over the asylum is fundamentally mistaken. Rather, the children have taken over the crèche.
I'm not one to talk, however, as I often dress like a surfer without a sponsor, even on Sundays.  Still, I'm beginning to think about returning to a more formal style of dress, especially in moments of pedagogy.

The Next Time Some Politician Says That Unemployment has been Reduced to 5%, That Just Includes Those Looking for Work

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Wages of Sin

In this case, greed.

The Rock Cats were a perfectly fine AA baseball team in a pleasant and fun stadium in New Britain.  Then, a collection of easy-money greedheads in both baseball and Hartford government cooked up this scheme and, lo, another financial burden is to be laid upon the shoulders of mostly-middle class and poor of Hartford.

Smooth move, guys.  Here's a fun quote: "The city is going to be on the hook for most of it," Garcia said. "The city is responsible for most of the damage."

Anonymity is a Fascist's Friend

Actor's curbside library is a smash — for most people

This is a good idea that some neighborhood puzzlewit wishes to ruin.  Naturally, the puzzlewit is able to use the bludgeoning power of the state to further his or her twisted desire.

From a related editorial, also from the L.A. Times:
Crime, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure are still a problem in almost every part of America, but two cities have recently cracked down on one of the country's biggest problems: small community libraries where residents can share books.
A fuller story from The Atlantic:
We've constructed communities where one must obtain prior permission from agents of the state before freely sharing books with one's neighbors! And their proposed solution is to get scarce public art funds to pay for the needless layer of bureaucracy being imposed on the thing already being done for free.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Unless It's a Psych Patient with an "Assault Rifle", Then the NYT Will Lose Its Mind

The right response to this constant, unending, low-level threat of sudden violence is to stay vigilant and reasonable, to clean up the damage, care for the injured, look out for one another, and elect leaders who will address the challenge with sanity and good judgment.

"Sane leaders" of "good judgement", like the ones who downplay cultural assimilation issues, promote nonsensical government agencies like the TSA, and find the motivation of bombers and stabbers to be opaque.

Paleontology News

Scientists reveal most accurate depiction of a dinosaur ever created

Actually, it looks like it would make a good pet; like my great aunt's budgie.

Hardly a Surprise to Anyone Who has Lived and/or Worked On or Near a College Campus in the Last Twenty Years

How Diversity Came to Mean ‘Downgrade the West’

Campuses are simply oikophobia factories, anyway.  Diversity programs were always primarily about dismantling the teaching of Western philosophy, literature, and culture, rather than working to include the marginalized.  Actually, all they've done is create a new class of marginalized, those separated by their preference for free-thinking.

City of Romance

Paris is a post-apocalyptic hellhole of public urination and litter. Hurrah for the incivility brigade 

That's for sure; and theft, too.  When I was there as a teenager I had my wallet lifted.  I hope that apache had a wild night with the one pound note and two shillings that were in it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

More Accent Fun

In Celebration of the Scottish Accent

No Kidding

Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet

My dad, who was a computer programmer all the way back in 1962, and his colleagues at NASA would warn about this.  This is why they preferred a closed system for the space program's computers.  In later years, as they would gather from time to time to play hearts, they would lament the whole notion of an Internet system that used public phone lines or something as vulnerable as "the cloud".

Not to get all Mr. Robot with the readers, but you have noticed the uptick in "inexplicable" power and radar outages at U.S. airports and train stations in recent months.  This news doesn't linger in the media, which is not surprising as the current government has no plan to thwart it, but it's clear that someone is attempting to build a method to disrupt communications and transportation.

Even the Bellicose Classical Greeks Understood That There Needs to Be a Neutral Ground in Society

For them, and for us, that neutral ground traditionally has been sports.  The whole idea behind the original Olympics was to bring the city-states together to compete in such a way that civic pride could be maintained and promoted without the need for mayhem, maiming, and gross mortality.  No one lost property or rights, but one could win a championship and claim bragging rights for a period of time.

When Alexander the Great, who was himself a product of a mixed Greco-Macedonian culture, conquered virtually the entire Western world, he saw to it that any hard feelings among the defeated cultures could be sublimated through organized sport.  That has remained true since before the birth of Jesus.

Except, as often is the case in a society that is declining and attempting to use the rock of nihilism as a flotation device, we have decided to politicize the last free-thinking portion of our culture in order to, once again, disrupt any form of social cohesion.  Hence, this:

Week One NFL Rating Drop Over 8%

I don't care what some millionaire athlete, raised by a white family on a Wisconsin dairy farm, wants to do during the National Anthem now that he's become aware that he's black.  It hardly needs to be the focus of so much attention or the source of yet another "national conversation about [blank]".  As with anyone, he may do as he pleases during the National Anthem.  There is nothing new or particular about whatever issue he thinks he's going to overturn through his choice of posture or footwear, and he certainly isn't going to do anything other than draw attention to himself.

All I want to do on a Sunday afternoon is watch the Cleveland Browns lose.

[Ever notice that "national conversations" are generally one-sided and designed really just to promote one world view into the public square?  They exist to teach us correct thinking, as we must all use the same words and have the same thoughts.  It reminds me of those Brown University students I would encounter during my days living and working adjacent to their campus.  Purple and green-haired people carrying clipboards would approach to ask me survey questions about some social issue ostensibly for some classroom project.  In each case, the questions' theme devolved into, "Do you completely agree with me or are you evil?"  Every single time.]

Consider what's happening in "amateur" sports in the wake of the Obama administration's oddly Freudian obsession with toilets.  It seems that the competition isn't about athletic skill as much as it is about who may be the larger hypocrite:
Before I turn to the larger issues, can we just take a moment to ponder the pathetic absurdity that is the NCAA? This is an organization, mind you, that reaps billions of dollars of rewards off the labor of disproportionately poor and minority students while imposing on them — as a condition for even participating in college sports — economic restrictions not imposed on any other college student. So-called student-athletes don’t own their time, or even the rights to their own names. The vast majority of them don’t go on to play pro sports, so they’re effectively prevented from making money during the time when their earning potential is at its highest. But the NCAA is now suddenly discovering social justice? Please.
While the NCAA — as perhaps the peak representative of progressive hypocrisy and cheap virtue signaling — is an easy target, its action raises a much more significant concern. Simply put, there are not many cultural spaces remaining where Americans can meet on more or less neutral ground — where Americans of all faiths and political beliefs can meet, unite, and share a positive communal experience.
If I were a politician, I could see the advantage of keeping our society at odds and on the verge of chaos.  Historically, the easiest path to power is to create disruption and a fictional enemy, then present oneself as the solution and the savior.  It greatly aids the powerful; it destroys the common and the society they seek to enjoy.

One of the reasons that I prefer watching European and Australian sports over the American counterparts in recent years [well, except for the Cavs, you understand] is because they tend not to be as political and, besides, I'm mostly ignorant of and apart from their politics, anyway.

I recall the work I did, the sights I saw, and the emotionally disrupting sounds I heard in the direct aftermath of the Sandy Hook slaughter.  Even though I'm basically a walking piece of gristle by this time in my life, it was having its effect.  I recall turning on the television later that week to watch some game, thinking that I didn't have to dwell on death for a few hours, when a diminutive sportscaster appeared to explain to me, in his wonderfully privileged Caucasian manner, not about the nuance of the teams' rushing strategy, but about the killings and how gun control would have prevented them.  Thanks, Bob.  Now, go back to your mansion.

Since his comments directly reflected those spoken from the White House and by other members of the Episcopal Church's preferred political party, and were clearly well-coordinated by the government's media office and their counterparts at NBC, I realized that sports, that place I went to escape from the horror of an elementary classroom covered in arterial blood and brain matter, was now just another tool in the production of correct thought.  Here was Bob teaching me how to think about what I'd witnessed, what attitude to have towards the "other", and what words I was to use.

No, thanks.  It is inevitable that my views will be influenced and programmed through the political/media matrix, but at least do so with some subtlety, will you?

Anyway, the Sydney Swans are in the playoffs, or whatever they're called in the Australian Football League, so I'll have at least ninety minutes of respite this weekend.

Numbers 10, 6, and 3 are Particularly Interesting

10 Ways The World’s Religions Have Sworn To Protect Other Faiths

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

30 Years

On this day thirty years ago, in the posture of prostration, the bishop of my diocese anointed my head and hands and then all of my priest colleagues placed their hands upon my head and made the sacrament complete.  All of them were men, as that's the way it was in those days, except for my fiancée who was, herself, a rather new priest.  I later married her, although not for that reason.

Thus, I was made priest.

My path through the church, uncommon.  I professed as a novice monk in 1982, was ordained a deacon in 1985, and became the rector of my first parish before I was ordained to the Holy Order of Priests, which was highly unusual in those days.  Actually, it's still unusual.  So is the fact that I've never served as a curate, assistant, or associate to a rector.  It's always just been me.

I've been the rector, vicar, and interim pastor of thirteen parishes; the chaplain of three independent schools, a college and a university, worked as a fire department chaplain, prison chaplain, port chaplain, Christian surfer chaplain, and seminary professor.  I've worked with both the very wealthy and the very poor.  I've celebrated the Holy Eucharist in cathedrals, large Gothic churches, and small, wooden country parishes.  I've celebrated on beaches, in the woods, in the jungle, on a bus, in a vineyard, on a surfboard at high tide, and in languages not my own.  I've lost count of the number of people whom I've baptized, the good people for whom I've read the burial office, the couples I've united in Holy Matrimony.

Now, people have the gall to ask if I'm going to retire.  Please, this has just begun.  I can hardly wait for the next adventure.

I'm taking a retreat day today.  Among the words I remember from three decades ago are these:

May he exalt you, O Lord, in the midst of your people; offer 
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to you; boldly proclaim the 
gospel of salvation; and rightly administer the sacraments of 
the New Covenant. Make him a faithful pastor, a patient 
teacher, and a wise councilor. Grant that in all things he may 
serve without reproach, so that your people may be 
strengthened and your Name glorified in all the world. All 
this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and 
the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

And, as I said three decades ago, I will do so with God's help.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Further Stray, Probably Equally Unwelcome, Observation

I've found it best never to take seriously, or at all, the social observations of actors, university professors, or millionaire athletes.  Inside their rather narrow professional bubble, I'm sure they're adequate, but in the world at large they are more superficial than Candide.  I'm beginning to think the same about elitist, isolated politicians.

Soyez calme et cultiver votre jardin.

A Stray Observation That May Compromise the Emotion of Some

In looking at an election season that resembles the lobster quadrille in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, when standard metaphors ["It's a train wreck.  No, it's a dumpster fire."] have been exhausted, I would offer one perspective based on over three decades of parish service when most of that time has been spent with the upper middle-aged and elderly, who often share their stories about chronic conditions, symptoms, medication side effects, and abilities while managing the same, that there is no shame in admitting to having a condition that requires treatment.

When I hear the explanations ["Overheated; just a cough; pneumonia; just a stumble, concussion, double-vision, fall, deep vein thrombosis, etc."], I can't help but see an entire segment of the population attempting to do what I've seen families do when a beloved member is stricken with a chronic disorder.  It does no good for the beloved to have his or her health issues minimized.

I know, too, that if I observed difficulty in ambulation, "freezing", a potential aspirational [as opposed to bacterial] cough and pneumonia, and some other symptoms in a parishioner, I would encourage them to see their physician for examination.  Although I would not say so to them, I would suspect Parkinson's Disease, frankly, as it's something that I've seen quite a bit of.

I would also point out that I've known many, many Parkinson's patients to be able to do their jobs and volunteer activities without extraordinary issues.  In fact, wouldn't it be rather helpful for a politician to use their affliction to demonstrate that such a diagnosis, when properly treated, does not mean a diminished life?

Ah, well, I'm assured by the media and the political class that no one currently running for the office of president has such a condition, so it really doesn't matter.

Namely, That You Work for the People, Not the Bureaucracy

Cuomo’s team still hasn’t learned the key lesson of Hoosick Falls

I lived and worked there for five years, fortunately before the construction of the plant in question.  I had a parish there.  I still know people who live there.  I know their children and, in some cases, their grandchildren.  I don't care that New York's preferred political party is currently the substitute for God among some Episcopalians, this is appalling by any standard.

[Big] Marine Archaeological News: The HMS Terror has been Found

Ship found in Arctic 168 years after doomed Northwest Passage attempt: Perfectly preserved HMS Terror vessel sank during disastrous expedition led by British explorer Sir John Franklin

It's the "holy grail" of arctic exploration.

So Do Surfers

Australia pays heavy cost for its policies of protecting sharks

Whenever Bi-Coastal Folks Turn Their Attention to the Mid-West or South, It Reads Like "Gorillas in the Mist"

Washington Post: A Berkeley sociologist made some tea party friends — and wrote a condescending book about them

Friday, September 9, 2016

Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon

At yet another beach where I'm going to be spending time this year.  Great.

Lifeguards, surfers rush to help woman bit by shark at Makaha Beach

Makaha was made famous by Rell Sunn, who was the subject of a modest profile in The Coracle a few years back.

Dad's Office Computer

Well, I was Planning on Diving There, Not Surfing, but Never Mind

Australian Man Dies After Shark Attack in New Caledonia

The do have good restaurants, although all of them are French.  I wondering if this is the last of the season's shark attack stories.

This is Going to Be One Whopping Class Action Suit

State admits staff knew Hoosick Falls water was dangerous

It should not be a surprise to anyone that government apparatchiks work for one another, not the members of the public.  I know it's not supposed to be that way with public service, but there you go.  In this case, New York state officials protected not the people of Hoosick Falls, where I lived and worked for five years, but the EPA.

I rather wish tarring and feathering were still a practice.

This is Why "Benghazied" is Now a Verb

On the night of July 7, seven American diplomats in Juba left a farewell dinner early and were headed back to the U.S. Embassy, anxious to avoid the city’s deepening chaos, when their two-car convoy was ambushed by the South Sudanese presidential guard of Salva Kiir. 

South Sudanese troops fired between 50 and 100 rounds at the two armored SUVs as soon as they passed the presidential palace. No one in either vehicle, which included James Donegan, the second-highest ranking U.S. official in South Sudan, was hurt or killed in the attack, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying: Three separate clusters of South Sudanese soldiers unloaded on the unarmed diplomats’ vehicles. Eventually, a U.S. Marine rapid response team from the embassy had to fetch three of the waylaid Americans and their South Sudanese driver.

Our diplomats seem rather disposable these days.

Is Every Presidential Candidate This Year...Colorful?

Green Party Candidate Jill Stein Vandalizes Bulldozer, Will Be Charged

Thursday, September 8, 2016

I've Seen Academic Gibberish Before, but This Has a Certain Splendor to It

Of Course

ConnectiCare Sues, Threatens To Exit Obamacare 

Most of my clergy colleagues wildly promoted what came to be called "Obamacare", which is a preferable name to "Affordable Healthcare Act", as the adjective "affordable" has become a bit of a joke.  Most of my clergy colleagues see themselves mostly as political operatives.

Amusingly, at the last diocesan convention, one of my colleagues suggested that we dump our rather good health insurance program for Obamacare, which prompted not cheers of acceptance, but moments of awkward silence.

It's easy to promote something that you have no intention of using.

An Observation about the Health of Candidates

If the president of the United States of America were limited to his proper role — chief executive of the federal bureaucracies and commander in chief in times of war — then we might not worry too much about his health. Indeed, if ever we are able to reinvigorate this republic and return its public and private spheres to their proper roles and proportions, that will be one of the ways we know we’ve succeeded: “Don’t worry if President Smith dies in office; we’ll just get another one.”

But we do not have that kind of presidency. Instead, we have made the president into a kind of Akhenaten, part monarch, part object of veneration in the national cult. Barack Obama has repeatedly declared himself to be the instrument — and the vessel — of capital-H History. Mrs. Clinton speaks in approximately the same way about herself. Donald Trump? “I alone.” If the presidential inauguration is to be a transubstantiation, then we ought to inquire as to what sort of body we are being nationally incorporated into. Personally, I find the prospect revolting, but that is where we are.

This quotation was of interest since we often note in The Coracle how, in this post-religious age, the human need for a subject for devotion has seen the replacement of a divine personage with that of a common politician.  Talk about reductive thinking.

An Excellent Point


Is modern traffic enforcement all about dollars instead of safety?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How is it possible to get something from nothing?

The question of being is the darkest in all philosophy.” So concluded William James in thinking about that most basic of riddles: how did something come from nothing? The question infuriates, James realized, because it demands an explanation while denying the very possibility of explanation. “From nothing to being there is no logical bridge,” he wrote.

Could it be that something is just what nothing looks like from the inside? If so, our discomfort with nothingness may have been hinting at something profound: It is our human nature that recoils at the notion of nothing, and yet it may also be our limited, human perspective that ultimately solves the paradox.

I think Christians may have a head start in all of this as we are the common philosophers who seek the answer, or the deeper questions, that exist in the everyday concerns of mortal life.

"Unknown Error" = Ignorance of Geography

Jill Stein has an event in Brexley, Ohio today, but it looks like she decided to get there by taking a scenic detour… a really long scenic detour.

The Green Party presidential hopeful will be running a few hours late since an unknown error caused her to fly to Cincinnati instead of Columbus.
Well, they both start with "C".  They are, however, about 100 miles apart.

This is More Like It, and No OCPD, Either

Surfers Reap Benefits of Hurricane Hermine

Monday, September 5, 2016

It Appears Australia has "Rustic Engineering", Too

Or, as we call it in Ohio, "hillbilly ingenuity".

Driver busted for using a frying pan as a steering wheel

Dang, It's Good to be a Surfer

Surfers who hit beach before Hermine slapped with fines

Big deal.  I've surfed right before a hurricane myself and there's nothing like it.  Consider the fine the price of a ticket to a ride. 

It's worth remembering that surfers spend hours upon hours in the water.  They are familiar with tidal pull, riptides, and, of course, waves.  They swim all day long and are literally attached to a flotation device.  Treating them like some goober who has only gone swimming in a pool is puzzle-witted.

I guess the NYPD has solved all their other issues.  Well, except for fining those guys outside of Grand Central who have turned Vanderbilt Avenue into their bivouac.

[A tip of the hat to the Geto Boys for the headline reference to their classic hip-hop hit.]

Guess the State, or No One Parties Like the Amish

75 arrested for underage drinking:
Holmes County law enforcement raid large Amish party Saturday night

If you ever travel through Ohio, buy some roadside cheese and apple pie in Holmes County.  It's second only to what you can buy in Ashtabula County.  Just watch out for drunk buggy drivers.

Profiles in Courage

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Helen Keller
Nelson Mandela
Rosa Parks
Maximilian Kolbe
Desmond Tutu
Emmeline Pankhurst
William Wilberforce
Frederick Douglass
Malala Yousafzai
Mother [now Saint] Teresa

Now, self-added to this Pantheon of the courageous and the moral, Jack Paul Klugman Krugman.  [All facts are true, by the way.]

When No One Comes to Your Games [Matches?], Try Jumping on a Lukewarm Social Controversy

Now U.S. soccer star and World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe takes a knee during national anthem in support of 49ers' Colin Kaepernick

If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?  If a women's soccer player joins a protest and no one is there to see it, is it relevant?

Clergy of failing parishes will now jump on this bandwagon, too.

I think the National Anthem has been unimportant to many in public life for about...oh, eight or nine years now.


If You're a Theoretical Physicist, this is Like Being a Teenage Girl in 1967 and Learning That Davy Jones was Coming to Your House

Physicist Creates Lab-Sized "Black Hole"

Experimental physicists would respond with a "Nah, we'll have to see it to believe it."

Space [and Physics] Nerd Alert

Astronomers using the RATAN-600 radio telescope in the Russian Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia have detected an unusual signal emanating from a star located about 94 light-years from Earth. It’s not clear if the signal is being transmitted by aliens, but the researchers say we should keep a close watch on this intriguing new extraterrestrial candidate.

It’s still too early to tell if the signal is coming from an extraterrestrial civilization, but the researchers say it’s serious enough that scientists should now permanently monitor this new target. HD164595 is practically the same size and age as our own sun, it shares a similar chemistry, and it’s less than 100 light-years away. What’s more, it hosts at least one known planet, a warm Neptune in a circular orbit. It’s very possible that other planets reside within this system.

It might be a good time for readers of The Coracle to familiarize themselves with The Kardashev Scale.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Last year, a seminary student asked me what was my greatest lament about ordained ministry.  I didn't have an answer as I really try, sometimes successfully, not to think that way about my profession, as it is easy to sink into a morass of lamentations.  Instead, I try to think about those moments of quiet ministry that are difficult to see outside of the instant, or impossible to see through the lens of lament.

However, I realized something today that was never a part of ministry until recent years.  It has to do with a quality manifest by some parents and the remarkable absence of mutuality in their relationship with their parish.

I've worked for The Episcopal Church for over 33 years.  My very first diocese was made up of all male clergy and the dress code for conventions and other meetings called for black suits.  It went without question that we would be totally devoted to those in our care.  That meant, to use language which discomfits contemporary clergy, they were our flock and we their shepherd and we did all in our power to attend to them.

This didn't just mean making sure that the liturgy and its sermons were theologically sound, or that those in hospitals, nursing homes, or otherwise kept from attendance on Sundays received the sacrament, it meant that one became a presence, sometimes ubiquitously so, at Little League games, soccer games, school musicals, graduations, and any other social occasion that included members of the parish.

I have attended all manner of such events, of course, and behind the scenes have made sure children had baseball mitts, the funds required for school trips and summer camp, and had someone beyond just family to applaud when they won an award.  That was how I was taught priesthood worked, and I've never had any experience that would cause me to doubt its efficacy.

Except I've almost reached the point of "Why bother?" after some experiences in recent years.  While I continue to attend games and school events, and even support such to the point of pledging significant parish money to the restoration of a local athletic field, I find that the parents of these children often have no interest in participating in the life of faith.  Not only do they not donate to our corporate life, nor attend on a regular basis, if at all, but they will even go so far as to sign up to read the lections or host after-service fellowship, and then not show up.  No notice, no apology.  If asked, they were "busy", you see.

The Light of Other Days

In the past twenty months, I've buried both of my parents, one who died with a terrific suddenness and the other in a far too long and debilitating battle.  During that time I have also experienced the death of my wild and fun uncle, the first headmaster who ever took a chance on me as an untried school chaplain, and the fellow who was the closest thing to a mentor as I have ever known in the scabrous trade of professional clergy.

In each instance, I have organized the funerals, sometimes the estates, and attended to the social expectations.  I have felt a stray moment of grief, but that's often subsumed by responsibility.  While I expected my emotions to, at least once, conform to common experience, I have, instead, responded as I always have in the face of mortality:  I do my job, working one stage at a time, ensuring that people are cared for and circumstances addressed.   I do so with my own as I do with my flock.

Then, there is today.

In the late summer of 1988, after three quiet and lonely years as a parish priest, I became the chaplain of Hoosac School in New York.  I was young, only 31, happy to return to teaching, and hoping that I would be an effective chaplain.  I was given a residence on campus that was connected to a dormitory of three rooms for juniors and seniors.  My proctor was one of the seniors, David, and as he was to be my student liaison with the other residents of the dorm, he was the first Hoosac student whom I met.

My years there were probably my happiest professionally, mainly because of the students whom I came to regard as "the kids".  David was a sincere and loyal proctor, helping in ways that allowed me to run a happy and efficient dorm, but also turning a blind eye to some of the non-harmful antics of his dorm-mates.  His laugh was infectious.  He was, in his whimsy, known to dress as a ninja and participate with other students in midnight raids of the dining hall's kitchen for cookies and treats.  I turned a blind eye to those antics, myself, especially in return for one of those cookies.  [Really, they were the size of hubcaps.]

In the fall semester, David asked to be baptized.  With the school's cook, who was the baker of the purloined cookies, and the dean of students serving as his godparents, we held the liturgy before the entire school body in the chapel and I happily initiated him into the Body of Christ.  Six months later, I presented David and seven other seniors to be Confirmed by the bishop at the school's graduation. While that was the last time I saw him, I have corresponded with him and with many of his classmates over the years; they never seem absent from my life.

I learned last night that David committed suicide a week ago.  He had a wife of six years and two small children.  My heart cracked.  All of the death of the past two years seemed to have reached its nadir.  I grieve for one of my "kids".  I wish he would have called me.  I wish I would have had the chance to say some something, anything, that would have helped him.  Even in their adulthood, and my dotage, they're still my kids.

A stanza from a poem I taught to David and his class when they were my students in English Literature comes to mind. It's by Sir Thomas More:
When I remember all
  The friends, so link'd together,
I've seen around me fall
  Like leaves in wintry weather,
    I feel like one
    Who treads alone
  Some banquet-hall deserted,
    Whose lights are fled,
    Whose garlands dead,
  And all but he departed!
Thus, in the stilly night,
  Ere slumber's chain has bound me.
Sad Memory brings the light
  Of other days around me.
Anyway, I'm not going to find The Coracle an amusing diversion for the next few days so, with your understanding, we'll return on Monday.