POST-MORTEM


I have been having way too much fun lately, or I should say I have been working way less than usual lately. That feels slightly dangerous somehow, but I have accomplished SOME things, including importing a ton of music into itunes as my new-as-of-8-months ago laptop would not import the library from my old laptop in spite of turning on "home sharing" and trying every other solution known to man and 'itunes help."

Anyway, I had a truly lovely birthday, not least of all because of you incredibly kind and generous readers, which believe me, warmed my heart!

I forgot to bring my camera to the Sqirl Cafe, plus am somewhat anti- recording and reporting upon every single second of our lives. However, my friend Maudie shot the pic above of the aforementioned (in previous post)  Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Bowl: Sorrel Pesto (nut free), Preserved Meyer Lemon, Lacto Fermented Hot Sauce, Black Radish, French Sheep Feta, Poached Egg (7.25). 

We each had a rhubarb lemonade, too, followed in my case by a Guatemalan coffee and espresso dark chocolate chip cookie, plus a luscious two-hour conversation, and let's just say 61 isn't looking too bad so far. 


I usually go back home to New Hampshire each summer but for a variety of reasons am not going to this year. So I feel very homesick for the smell of the salt air, the waves crashing on Rye Beach, the narrow streets of Portsmouth, and my annual dose of fried clams. Also, the water lilies on the salt marshes, a special July treat.


Which made going to the Norton Simon Museum later in the afternoon especially gratifying. As I always do there, I visited Van Gogh's "The Mulberry Tree," which he painted in between time at the asylum and cutting off his ear (he committed suicide eight months later). I perused "Beyond Brancusi: The Space of Sculpture." At the museum store, I bought two coasters painted with Dutch tulips and a bookmark, plus jotted down a ton of titles I'm going to look for at the library. 


And before hearing Beethoven's Op. 131, I enjoyed a halcyon interlude wandering the grounds. Which include a large pond dotted with--thank you, God--water lilies. 










ALSO, QUESTION, PEOPLE!! Has anyone had trouble getting onto the blog? I've had a couple of reports lately that it wouldn't load, or loaded excruciatingly slowly. At least one person was using Windows 7: any other Windows 7 users out there who are or aren't having a problem? Thank you.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME


...maybe Mom hummed this song the morning after I was born...

Welp, I am 61 years of age today. Bloody but unbowed. And very, very grateful....

My dear friend Maudie is taking me for lunch at the Squirl Cafe. From a review when the place opened last fall: "[Proprietor Jessica] Koslow is especially pleased to offer Kukoho Rose rice from Koda Farms, a proprietary varietal bred during the mid 20th century. (Read about the history of this family farm. Really, please do. It's fascinating.) 'I've never had anything like it,' Koslow says. She's serving the grain as hot or cold porridge underneath a dollop of seasonal jam and a sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts, or in a savory version with sorrel pesto, poached egg, blistered San Marzano tomatoes, preserved Meyer lemon and feta."
Quintessential ridiculous-to-the-sublime hipster L.A., in other words, and what will tip it over to the sublime is that the food will be great. And the weather will be beautiful.

After that I plan to hie over to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, there to survey the art and hear one of Beethoven's Late Quartets, Op. 131. If the Late Quartets don't get a person musing on eternity, nothing will!

Morning Mass will have tied it all together.
Thanks be to God.





THE NSA

L.A. CITY HALL
VIEW FROM THE NEW GRAND PARK

We are now paying taxes so that the NSA can have access to all our telephone calls, all our emails, all our faxes, all our financial information, and everything that we do or say electronically.

Does that not strike us as profoundly anti-freedom, anti-truth, anti-beauty and thus profoundly anti-Christ?

Here’s why the NSA is abhorrent. Because any reasonably affectionate, reasonably intelligent human being with a mind, heart, soul,  and spirit has a sense of him- or herself as essentially of value, essentially precious, essentially inviolable. Because in civilized societies we recognize—up to now, we have recognized it ourselves by constitutionally protecting it—a right to privacy.

The issue isn’t whether we have anything to hide; it’s that some essential part of our humanity is violated, is lost, when personal letters, words we say or write in confidentiality, or pain, or anger, or joy, are subject to prying eyes.  

“I know some folks that don't mind their own bisnis,” Flannery O’Connor wrote on the flyleaf of her childhood journal: no-one knew better that we are Temples of the Holy Spirit; physically, emotionally, psychically.

"Properly understood," writes Fr. Ron Rolheiser,  "chastity is precisely a question of having the patience to bear the tension of the interminable slowness of things. To be chaste is to not prematurely force things so that everybody and everything, each within its own unique rhythm is properly respected." The NSA is abhorrent because it’s an offense against chastity. It is a rape and a brutalization of what should be sacrosanct in the name of “security.”

Have we resolutely ignored for so long that we should at least be trying to carry out the simple Gospel message--Love thine enemies, Turn the other cheek, Resist not evil--that we are no longer able to tell our own lies from the truth? Are we so invested in our monomaniacal pursuit of power, property, and prestige that we are now willing not only to sell our souls but to PAY some billionaire private contractor to cart them off to the slag heap?

To be sure, we need to govern ourselves, organize ourselves, come together for the common good somehow.  I don’t know what that way is, but I know a government that spends 50% of its budget on figuring out how to kill people isn’t it. I don’t know where we draw the line but I know that when we have branded Edward Snowden a traitor is to cross it.

Snowden’s “crime” was to tell the truth. His crime was to corroborate what the whole world already suspected. His crime was to say "Here is what we are doing--spying on each other and everyone else--and I believe the American people have a right to know and to vote on whether that accords with our Constitution."

That our government, armed to the teeth,  has launched a global manhunt to bring down--and by bring down I mean possibly torture and kill--a guy  who has never brandished so much as a water pistol would be comical if it weren’t so scary.

I keep thinking of the opening scene of George Orwell’s 1984. In his apartment--in what should be his sanctuary, his home--Winston Smith is desperately trying to find a corner away from the microphones, the bugs, the cameras. He is about to engage in an act punishable by death. He is trying to record his thoughts, his conscience, his heart, in a personal diary.  

"WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH"

If we are willing to pay our government to spy on us, we have already lost the war on terror. When our very thoughts are monitored, we have already passed over into a form of totalitarianism: profoundly anti-human, profoundly anti-life. 

How long before it’s suspect to be a Democrat, a Republican; an intellectual, a Catholic? To have had an abortion; to have had a baby? How long before it’s suspect to be too poor or too rich; too happy or too sad?

Always, humanity has depended upon the lone individual who holds out, under penalty of death, for the sanctity of our rooms, our thoughts, our inmost hearts.

 “For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder, was he writing this diary? For the future, for the unborn."
 

I GOT TO GO TO THE BALLET THE OTHER NIGHT...


THE LEPER IN ME



Recently I gave a talk at the end of which I read a piece about walking around my LA neighborhood of Silver Lake and pondering the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The piece ended like this:

"All over the world, all day, every day, people are suffering, and here comes Barry, the homeless schizophrenic and hopeless alcoholic who wanders up and down Sunset Boulevard, one grimy hand clutching a plastic bag holding his worldly belongings, the other held out in a perpetual plea for booze money. What to do in the face of such suffering? What to do with your brokenness, your feebleness, your weakness, your own suffering and doubt and loneliness and fear? You give Barry a couple of bucks. You make sure to shake his hand and thank him, because this is Christ. And you keep walking--to Mass."

Afterwards, my contact person observed,  "You don't fit in any category! Let's face it, most of us aren't going to shake hands with a homeless person! And yet you talk to the homeless and..."

"Love the Church?" I interjected.

I talk to the homeless BECAUSE I love the Church--and don't get me wrong. I don't shake Barry's hand out of some conscious decision to kiss the leper, and certainly not out of virtue. To live alone, work alone, and mostly worship alone is to be a kind of leper myself. I shake Barry's hand because I desperately need a human being to touch me

I certainly do not stand to receive a physical touch at Mass, where, during the Kiss of Peace, most folks can barely bring themselves to acknowledge one another's existence. I abhor touchy-feeliness as much as the next self-respecting person, but come on--it's the Sign of Peace. It's the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the celebration of the life and death of the incarnate God who in the greatest miracle the cosmos has ever sustained, took on human flesh, and pitched his tent in our ragtag midst. Not that I don't understand, but it is a bit disheartening when the person next to me reluctantly proffers a limp hand and looks over my head, unable to muster the terrible vulnerability required to look a fellow suffering human being in the face.   

"We are all rather blessed in our deprivations if we let ourselves be," observed Flannery O'Connor. I'm so poor I long to shake Barry's hand. I'm so poor I need Christ.  

ST. BASIL'S CHURCH
KOREATOWN, L.A.
I ATTENDED MY FIRST MASS HERE, AND THOUGH I NO LONGER
LIVE IN THE HOOD, WENT TO NOON MASS ON THE FEAST OF ST. THOMAS JULY 3 AND
GOT TO VISIT WITH FR. TERRY,
MY FRIEND WHO LIVES AT THE RECTORY THERE

TIME







FROM A RECENT WALK,
IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
“Events are not successive but contemporaneous in an absolute way: contemporaneous and simultaneous, and that is why prophets are possible. Events unfold themselves before our eyes like an immense canvas. Only our power of vision is successive.”
--Léon Bloy

"The term we are looking for might perhaps be found in Proust. He has characterized as 'instants of eternity', of perpetual adoration, those moments when man succeeds in 'fixing the time which nothing fixes.'

Yet it is less a question of 'fixing the time' than of passing to its frontier or beyond it.

'I have gathered the smallest atoms of time into ever-more-substantial textures,' wrote Mallarmé. To give substance to that thin thread of water or sand that runs between our fingers--that is our sole problem. It is this that inspires the mystics, as it inspires the poets. 'The contemplation of time is the key to human life,' says Simone Weil.'"
--Philippe Diolé, The Most Beautiful Desert of All

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."
--Albert Einstein

I'M CONTRIBUTING TO A NEW PODCAST!

TARA ROBINSON
CHECK OUT HER WEBSITE!
I'm thrilled to announce that I'm a contributor to an amazing new podcast. Hosted by Corvallis, Oregon " gal Tara Rodden Robinson--whose credo is "Do More of What You Love"-- The Tara Show is a unique blend of conversation and story. We'll be exploring topics ranging from leadership, sports (I will not be on that show, unless to discuss my athletic prowess as a walker), personal productivity, faith. spiritual growth, and much more.

Check out our first episode on iTunes  or visit us on SoundCloud, or word just came in, listen right here!



Tara first contacted me a few weeks ago when I was in Palm Springs. "Would you have a moment to talk on the phone sometime in the next week or so?" she emailed. Starved for company, I responded, "Hell yeah-- what're you doing right now?"

We had a lovely chat, and right away I was totally intrigued by the sound of her show. Plus she is one of the few people I have ever met--Catherine Kolpak of Magnificat being another--who does what she says she's going to, when she says she's going to, is conscientious, clear, responsible, responsive, and is simply on it, man.

Within a week we were having our first interview and two weeks later she had pulled the whole thing together,  added ambient sound, edited, spliced, mixed, and had the first show, which comprises five or six segmenets, up on itunes! I love people like that. Plus, she has all the marketing savvy yours truly lacks and, among other things, already has urged me to raise my manuscript-editing rates.

Interestingly (or not), I got all hot to start my own podcast a year or so ago, and the general tenor was similar. "This American Strife," I thought to call it. I'm sure "The Tara Show" will be much more attractive to many more people, which demonstrates, one more time, that God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.

I'm tickled pink to have been asked to be a part of this venture and very much look forward to soaking up the wisdom and wit of my fellow contributors, who for this first segment are family therapist Avrum Nadigel,  Rev. James Lamkin from Northside Drive Baptist Church in Buckhead Atlanta, Rabbi Evan Moffic from suburban Chicago, and sports-and-life coach/leader Otis Henderson.

So congrats, TRR. I mean this is a woman who unearthed an audio of T.S. Eliot himself reading the stanza from Four Quartets where the phrase "shirt of flame" occurs. Need I say more?


BED



Can I just say I love summer so much I can hardly stand it?

Sunday I went to Mass and for a hike in Griffith Park and then I came home, crawled between the cool white sheets of my bed, and lay there all afternoon, drinking iced tea, dreaming, and reading. If that is not a foretaste of heaven, I can't imagine what is.

All outside my windows are trees.

"Tranquil foliage that really is lived in, a tranquil gaze discovered in the humblest of eyes, are the artisans of immensity. These images make the world grow, and the summer too. At certain hours poetry gives out waves of calm. From being imagined, calm becomes an emergence of being. It is live a value that dominates, in spite of minor states of being, in spite of a disturbed world. Immensity has been magnified through contemplation. And the contemplative attitude is such a great human value that it confers immensity upon an impression that a psychologist would have every reason to declare ephemeral and special. But poems are human realities; it is not enough to resort to "impressions" in order to explain them. They must be lived in their poetic immensity."
--Gaston BachelardThe Poetics of Space

J'habite la tranquillité des feuilles, l’été grandit
(I live in the tranquility of leaves, summer is growing)

--Jean Lescure