Friday, January 29, 2016

Where Were We?

So, where were we?

Where were we before weird candidates for President became our primary source of entertainment? I know there had at one time been a coliseum filled with crazed Romans who liked this kind of thing, but that place is in ruins, and those people lost their empire. I thought we had moved on.

Where were we before God became a weapon in the hands of tormented idiots? I know we used to fear the dark and worship the sun, but I thought we had moved on.

Where were we before sex became complicated and regulated and bound inextricably to some dreamlike notion of family values? I know it used to be more animalistic than poetic, but I thought we had struck a balance that respected the playful and fluid essence of sex.

Where were we before our workdays smothered us so thoroughly that those moments when we laugh deliriously and deeply become memorable and identifiable and able to be counted on the fingers of one hand? I know that even tending a rose garden is work, but when did we stop singing while we work? That was a tragic day in the life of anyone alive. And, if you never sang while you worked, that is even worse.

Where were we before we convinced ourselves to pay more money for stuff than we have in our pockets? When did we begin to think that all that stuff was necessary? When did we accept debt into our lives, which is really just a form of slavery?

Where were we before we stopped using our beautiful bodies as they were designed, and started going to a gym to do the things we should be doing all day long? I know we used to eat good food in its natural state, and not too much of it, but we became too smart about food production for our own good. We wanted sweeter everything, and we gave it to ourselves. When did we throw out the instruction sheet to our bodies?

Where were we before we wholeheartedly and completely gave our thinking and feeling to machines for simulation? I know we used to use electric toasters because that was easier than holding bread over a fire pit, but when did we vacate our feelings and thoughts by making them simplistic and universal and accessible in an off-the-shelf way? When did we stop being quirky and unique? When did we decide that it is good to be part of something big?

So, tell me again. Where were we?

Marco Rubio Is No Kennedy Catholic

For the last fifty years, Roman Catholic politicians have been talking “ChristianLite” when invoking God. That changed in the last Republican presidential debate before the Iowa caucus, when Marco Rubio boldly worshipped his “Jesus Christ, who came down to earth and died for our sins.”

Most of us have not heard that kind of theology since the days when, as children, we had to memorize the answers to all those perplexing questions in the Baltimore Catechism. Little Marco obviously learned them well, and his pious proclamation on the floor of the debate should put tears of joy in the eyes of every American cardinal and bishop who have in him a candidate they can control.

We have had all sorts of Christian presidents, including one – Taft – who did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. We have had a few who were disinterested in religion – Andrew Johnson, Hayes, Lincoln – and we have had exactly one Roman Catholic president - John F. Kennedy - who adored Marilyn more than Mary. In Rubio, we would get the real Catholic deal, and this should be frightening to any God-fearing American man or woman who is disinclined to bind the country under the yoke of the papacy.

The most startling aspect of Rubio’s debate proclamation is his clear belief in the pre-existence of Jesus Christ. Rubio believes that the son of God existed somewhere in the universe (in heaven maybe?) before he “came down” to earth to fix the mess we have made. In Rubio’s belief, Jesus wasn’t just a twinkle in the eye of God but rather a real guy waiting in the wings, or on the bench, for his chance to be born and die. Like God the father, Jesus had been around for all eternity, killing time with his dad somewhere outside the boundaries of time itself, until he got the irresistible urge for his brief Middle Eastern saga.

When I was a child in Catholic grade school and menaced by the Sisters of Mercy, I did not cotton to this bit of theology. It seemed to me to be downright stupid for God to pre-arrange something like the passion, death and resurrection of his only son. The script of any episode of I Love Lucy made more sense to me, concurrently schooled as I was by early television, than did the idea that the life of Jesus Christ was, in literally excruciating detail, inevitable. I kept this heretical opinion to myself, and recited the words of the Creed just like all the other kids, figuring that they had not yet realized the nonsense of at all.

There is a second aspect of Rubio’s debate proclamation, the notion that Jesus had to come down here to take on our sins.  As a child, I had serious problems with this. Why couldn’t God just snap his fingers to clean up our sins the way ladies on the television make their kitchen appliances sparkle with a quick swipe of something new?  Why couldn’t he just clear the table in his workshop? Like every other kid in my hometown, I had an Etch A Sketch with which I could make any design I imagined and then simply flip the toy upside down to erase it and start over again. Surely God in his infinite brilliance could do even better than that.

Also, I never felt that I had been born bad, or that without redemption by Jesus I would go to hell. In second grade, I pestered Sister Josephine about the idea of baptism. “You mean we were born with sins already inside us?” When she nodded yes, I could see in her eyes that she knew I would be trouble. (She eventually left the convent, married and had her own kids. I wonder if she had them baptized.) The seven-year old heretic, I kept my reservations private while I made my first Confession and received my First Holy Communion, carefully keeping the host from touching my teeth because Jesus, who had been floating eternally in space and had then taken on human flesh, was now a piece of bread that I had to eat in order to get to heaven where all of this stuff would finally be explained.  

How would we do with a president who energetically spouts his belief in the literal particulars of Roman Catholicism? Not well. He would have to dismantle same-sex marriage. He would have to say that it is okay to feel gay urges, but sinful to have gay sex of any kind. He would have to make sure that children are adopted only by couples consisting of one man and one woman. He would have to get LGBT teachers out of classrooms. He would have to insist that Americans keep every sex act open to the possibility of procreation. He would have to reverse Roe v. Wade and instruct all Americans that abortion is murder. Worst of all, he would appoint Supreme Court Justices guided by “Jesus Christ, who came down to earth and died for our sins.” So many awful words to be added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

The Bee Or Not The Bee

When you talked merrily about your tendency to hoard, describing stacks of magazines you’ve acquired by dint of subscription, I didn’t laugh. I’ll tell you why. Suddenly grave, I thought of a close friend of mine who hoardes. Brilliant, but incapacitated and suffocated by all that he has held onto. Driving away from his disastrous home, I always believe that the right man could have saved him from this. 
Isn’t it okay to rely on friends and lovers we do not wish to disappoint? To entrust to them our improvement? Isn’t it okay to do the right thing only at the urgings of friends and lovers? Isn’t that why we maintain friends and lovers, because without them we would drown in ourselves? Isn’t it not a source of shame that our friends and lovers resolve for us those terrible flaws that we cannot fix in ourselves? Isn’t that the design of human interaction? Isn’t that the one good lesson of Jesus? He needed friends and lovers! He called them disciples! They saved him more than he saved them.
Last night around 9PM, a large bee soared high enough into the ocean-slapped black sky to enter my open windows and careen about my place finally ending up in the glare of the inverted glass bowl of the ceiling-mounted light fixture in the kitchen. That bee was alone, with none of its hive to say to it, “You’re in trouble. This is not the sun. This is just a thing they call a light bulb. Do not go to it. Get out of here. You’re confused. You flew too high. What were you thinking? You need to come home.” What they didn’t tell that bee was that it was too late. 
In the morning, when I got up out of bed and headed to the coffeemaker, I looked up at the light fixture, and through the frosted glass of the bowl, I saw the curled remains of that bee. I haven’t had the heart to get out the ladder, unscrew the fixture and dump it out. A year from now, it will probably still be there, over my head, like a sword. I expect to daily learn something from the sight of this, as do those who repeat rosaries. Or not.