Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, April 29, 2019

One Death is a Story; Three Billion is a Statistic

[This post mentions key plot points for Infinity War but spoils no surprises in Endgame.]

MrsDarwin and I made our way out to see Avengers: Endgame the other night, making it to the theater a couple days after our oldest three kids had already seen it. It's no kind of spoiler for those who saw Infinity War that this movie has to grapple with the world created by the last moments of that prior movie, in which the arch villain Thanos, having acquired a set of "infinity stones" that give him near infinite power, snaps his fingers and thus wipes out half the living population of the universe, with the dead (including half the characters of the series) drifting off into dust on the wind. I won't go into detail on how I think Endgame did with the details this portrayal, but it did strike me that they struggled to show such a world persuasively in a movie which was necessarily going to focus on other, subsequent events.

The world we're shown here has experienced an almost unimaginable tragedy: 50% of the population wiped out in an instant. Notwithstanding the clumpiness of basic probabilities (someone will have had the coil toss come up heads for the entire family and lost no one, while other entire family groups would be wiped out without exception) it's basically right to say that everyone would have been affected. Even if their own loved ones happened to survive, the sudden loss of so much population would put every government, every economy, every neighborhood into a tailspin. Every aspect of life would be changed.

It's interesting that even with this portrayal of mass tragedy in the background, the movie managed to get more emotional impact out of the depiction of a couple individual deaths during the course of the movie than it did out of the portrayal of the mass tragedy that stands in the background. And yet, I think this points to how we as humans think about stories, and how they are conveyed to us, whether through non-fiction or through fiction.

We are, at root, very concrete thinkers. The quip allegedly made by Stalin "One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic" (I haven't researched the source of this quote, but many overly memorable quotes are fake, so I use the attribution with hesitation) actually points to a very real human tendency. Tell me that a million people died, and I instinctively imagine my own loved ones dying, and many, many other people experiencing the same tremendous suffering that that would entail. I can't really think of "a million deaths". I can only think of one or three or five, and then imagine that is somehow multiplied out beyond my ability to think.

This is why the technique, which historians have seized upon, of telling "ground level history" by selecting the stories of a handful of individual people and telling their experience of some great historical tragedy as a sort of sample of the whole. We can't really process the idea of thousands of people dying in the first hours of D-Day, but tell us about the last moments of a half dozen individual men, and about the telegrams being delivered to their families, and we mentally do a sort of calculation of "this, but much more of it". We still haven't grasped the idea of thousands of deaths. But we have some hook upon which to hang the idea.

I think this is why historical fiction, done well, can be a particularly effective way of conveying a set of events too vast to really comprehend in a human fashion. A novel like Tolstoy's War & Peace -- or to take somewhat more middle-brow modern examples, José María Gironella's The Cypresses Believe in God or Herman Wouk's The Winds of War -- follows a cast of characters which is large, but still humanly comprehensible, and follows that cast through a set of events which is fundamentally beyond the ability to follow in a human sense.

We could read about Napoleon's invasion of Russia, or the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in terms of troop movements on maps and casualty counts on paper, but it takes assigning human names and experiences to it to provide some kind of emotional understanding of the human dimension of events.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Rhapsody in Blog

In the circles I move in, there's been a lot of hand-wringing about the demise of blogging, and nostalgia for the golden days where one could write thoughtful posts which got a lot of engagement, and which in turn were linked to by people carrying on the discussion. And there's analysis: did Facebook kill blogging? Is Twitter killing Facebook? Are we all doomed to converse in snippets of 140 characters or less, or worse, an endless series of curated images on Instagram? How do we revive the blogsphere?

So here's the curious phenomenon I observed, as I was off Facebook for Lent. Blogging isn't dead. It's just being carried on by the same people who've been doing it for years, who are used to the format and have the endurance to persevere in a less of-the-moment medium, who aren't looking to move to the next big platform where everyone's congregating.

The day of the Notre Dame fire, the most significant event on the historical and cultural scene since I don't know when, I refreshed my blogroll obsessively, since I was off other forms of social media. The list of people posting instantly and thoughtfully, and with updates, were few: Amy Welborn, Brandon. We ourselves, mere pikers beside these venerable bloggers since we've been going for less than 15 years, put up three posts in lieu of updates as we thought through the event and tried to process it. Anne Kennedy and Simcha Fisher, also stalwarts with more than a decade of blogging experience, also posted rapidly and with characteristically intelligent writing.

Doubtless people were throwing out their quick takes and feels and pix on more insta-forms of social media.  But when we talk about blogging, we are talking about writing with the long game in view. There are lots of people who start blogs and flame out, either because the time commitment is too great or because there are other platforms that offer quicker hits of engagement with less effort. To be a blogger, I think, you have to be resigned to the dry spells, the long stretches of writing as its own reward.

As I've been writing letters during Lent, it has struck me that letter writing has a lot in common with blogging. I put down my thoughts, process some idea, and send it out, without expecting a response. I'm content to know that what I've written has reached its recipient, and has perhaps sparked new thoughts or clarified old ones for my reader. Probably I'll never hear about it, and that's not the point. The point is that the idea travels on, and takes root in the minds of others.

When Pope John Paul II was Karol Wojtyła, acting in and writing plays in Poland, he wrote about a style of drama called Rhapsodic Theater. This theater wasn't heavily plot- or character-driven; rather, it engaged with an idea, explored it from new angles, drew out nuances, and, by speaking it aloud, presented the Word to the audience, who, by hearing it, received it and engaged with it in their turn. Wojtyła described the longer, more rhapsodic passages of theater as "song" -- a concentrated expression of idea, presented not as dialogue but as sustained thought.

Blogging, or letter writing, or any kind of long form writing, has a stronger potential than other forms of public interaction, to be Rhapsodic because it allows for more development time. A post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, no matter how thoughtful, is quickly swallowed up by the constant stream of new content pushing old content down and out. The idea is like the seed sown among thorns, which quickly takes root and springs up, but is choked out by cares and worries and entertainment and whatever is quick and easy and funny and new. And that's not considered a flaw -- it's the nature and goal of the medium, to be ever updating.

So it's not that you have to be ancient to be a blogger. It's that the field winnows itself out over time, and those who endure are those who have proven themselves over time to those willing to put their thoughts out there without thought of reward, in the quiet belief that someone out there is reading and receiving and developing the rhapsodic idea.

Friday, April 19, 2019

By His Stripes

The prisoner sat quietly in his cell, waiting for the guards. The firelight from the courtyard flickered through the bars of the narrow window above his head, revealing scratches on the stone wall. The man reached out, traced the rough angry characters, and spoke: "Yakob."

Across the city, in a squalid room, Yakob's feverish mutterings quieted. His wife, basin and cloth in her lap, gasped as she reached out to wipe his back, torn from a Roman beating a week ago, and found fresh whole cool skin under her fingertips.

The prisoner walked the length of the cell, passing his hand over the wall. His fingers found a deep gouge that ended abruptly in a broad gash.

In a tent in a desert work camp, an elderly slave sat up suddenly and lit a lamp with trembling hands. He stared in amazement at his left forefinger, as flexible as a ten-year-old boy's, unscarred by the mark of a careless chisel slip that had nearly severed it fifty years before.

The door clanked open. The gentle step of the prisoner was not fast enough to suit the impatient guard at the door. He opened his mouth to bark an order, then stood openmouthed as the prisoner passed him. With his tongue, he poked at his cracked molar, and felt no echoing stab of pain.

In the courtyard the prisoner was shoved along by the guards. He stumbled and caught himself against a long low row of streaks on the dusty wall. In the servants' quarters blind Maryam, daughter of the gatekeeper, her fingertips calloused from brushing them along guiding walls, opened her eyes and for the first time saw the morning stars.

The growling mob hustled the prisoner to the praetorium, all except the temple guard who stood in wonder, opening and closing the hand that had struck the man in the face, the motion no longer hindered by the puckered skin of an ancient burn.

The Roman soldier sighed in disgust at the prisoner's blood splattered across his sandals. He wiped his leg with a cloth, then wiped again, searching vainly for the scars of his wound he received from the rebels at Galilee.

In her cool room facing the courtyard pool, Claudia finally fell into a deep placid sleep, untroubled for the first time in years by the terrors that nightly tormented her dreams.

As Veronica held the grimy veil against her breast, watching the condemned man stagger away from her under the weight of the beam, the blood soaked through her dress, warming and melting away the hard tender lump that had troubled her for months.

Levi fixed a vinegar-soaked sponge on a stick and pressed it against the chin of the dying man hanging above him. As the vinegar mixed with spittle and blood dripped down his arm and shoulder, it carried with it all the pain of the pinched nerves that had kept him from standing straight for so long. He reached higher, finally resting the sponge against the man's mouth. The man sipped, shuddered, strained against the nails in his feet, and gasped, "It is finished."

Hannah woke suddenly at this cry, clawed at the sheets across her face, and pushed past the shattered rock of the tomb opening to gaze at the distant hill where a bloodless man with arms outstretched had summoned her forth.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Symbol Between Heaven and Earth

Yesterday evening, Paris time, a fire broke out among the wooden timbers that support Notre Dame cathedral's exterior roof, and in the end the fire consumed pretty much the entirety of the roof. The vaulted stone ceiling beneath mostly survived. No one was killed, and while much was lost, much was preserved. As of this morning, hundreds of millions of dollars have already been pledged towards the rebuilding.

It's one of the oddities of modern technology that people around the world could watch on live video as the cathedral burned. Many feared the building would be a complete loss and expressed their feelings about this loss and its meaning.

I want to write about two particular reactions, because I think they throw a light on how we as humans relate to both the divine and to the beauty we create in this world in our attempts to honor the Good and Beautiful which is beyond this world.

First is the "fitting symbol" reaction which a number of people proclaimed, particularly while the cathedral was still burning and it appeared that the damage might be much worse than it thus far appears. This reaction was that the cathedral as a burned out shell would be a fitting symbol of what Christianity had become in the modern world. Some even went so far as to argue that the cathedral should not be repaired, because for a secular age to repair a sacred piece of architecture would be dishonest.

It is true that Christian beliefs permeated medieval and even renaissance Europe in a way that even those of us who are actively religious have a hard time doing today. This struck be when MrsDarwin and I were watching a production of Hamlet at the local college this last weekend. Hamlet is not any kind of paragon of faith and morals. Yet he accepts absolutely the idea that intentional suicide would lead to damnation and also the idea that if he kills his uncle at a moment when the uncle is repenting of the wrong he has committed, the uncle will be saved rather than damned (and since Hamlet wants his revenge to extend to the afterlife, he's intent on killing his uncle at a time when the uncle will be damned.) Admittedly, Hamlet's beliefs about judgement and afterlife are arguably simplistic, but it's significant that he holds to them without any real question, as if they are just how the world works, whereas in our modern world even many professed believers struggle with the idea of judgement and hell for anyone at all.

However, while it's true that Christianity had a centrality and acceptance in Medieval Europe which it does not now, the argument that it's somehow fitting that in our modern world a Gothic cathedral be reduced to a burned-out husk strikes me as being overly simplistic. Yes, there was deep acceptance of Christianity in Medieval France, but there were also a great many very bad Christians. Yes, the work that went into the cathedrals was in part of form of devotion, but it was also an employment and cathedrals served both as a way for the diocese to showcase its financial resources (which were often literally princely) and also as a draw to bring pilgrims and their money from far away.

To see cathedrals in their beauty as reflecting nothing but the purest faith is overly rosy, and to see modernity as not having sufficient faith to deserve a beautiful cathedral is to be too cynical. There are today still many people whose faith can be inspired by a beautiful church, an just as Abraham pleaded that Sodom not be destroyed if there were but ten good people in it, so we too should want to see the cathedrals continue to stand for the faith of the few, rather than destroyed for the unbelief of the rest. If cathedrals deserved to be burned for the unbelief of their people, then doubtless all cathedrals in all places and times would burn.

The second reaction of which I'd like to speak is the "a church is just a building" reaction. This is, of course, true. A church is just a building. There's a curious conundrum when it comes to preserving the material things precious to us. Firefighters risked their lives rushing into and onto this burning building to put out the fire and rescue relics and works of art from the flames. By doing so, they in some sense showed a willingness to give their lives to preserve a sacred and beautiful building. And yet, at the absolute level, we know that each human life is more precious than any building or relic. Even so, I don't think this willingness to risk oneself to preserve a thing of this world is misguided. A cathedral is not just stones. It is also a thing which makes concrete the work and love and belief of thousands. It is a work of art that serves as a sign. It is not of heaven, it does not, like a human being, possess the divine spark of a soul. And yet it is build to point us towards heaven and capture in some imperfect way a vision of the beauty and perfection that is God.

Thus, while Notre Dame is "just a building" it is also much more. Its value is not in the rocks and timbers themselves, but rather in the way that it points the humans who look at it towards contemplation of the beautiful and the divine. And its value is in the way that it records by its very being and construction the work and love of so many people over so many years.

We should not treat it as if it is itself a divine thing, yet we should treat it with honor and reverence because of the meaning that it conveys -- and it conveys more meaning than most other buildings.

Till Age Snow White Haires On Thee

The kids have been watching Howl's Moving Castle, which makes me long to sit down and read the book again. But alas, I have no time for that, so I'll have to compromise by reading John Donne, whose Song plays a significant role in the book (and none in the movie). Here's a post from 2007 with not only John Donne, but PoetBot.

Eat your heart out, Shakespeare -- PoetBot can say it in four words.

I've been reading John Donne lately, and here's what's been rattling around in my head:

Goe, and catche a falling starre,
  Get with child a mandrake roote,
Tell me, where all past yeares are,
  Or who cleft the Divels foot,
Teach me to heare Mermaides singing,
  Or to keep off envies stinging,
       And find
       What winde
Serves to advance an honest minde.

If thou beest borne to strange sights,
  Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand daies and nights,
  Till age snow white haires on thee,
Thou, when thou retorn'st, wilt tell me
  All strange wonders that befell thee,
      And sweare
      No where
Loves a woman true, and faire.

If thou findst one, let mee know,
  Such a Pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet doe not, I would not goe,
  Though at next doore wee might meet,
Though shee were true, when you met her,
  And last, till you write your letter,
      Yet shee
      Will bee
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Cathedral Design: The Roof That Burned, The Ceiling That Remains

MrsDarwin and I were looking at the news tonight, trying to understand how bad the damage to Notre Dame cathedral was. What seemed confusing was on the one hand the images of the fire which seemed to show the whole, burned roof collapsed amid a hollow shell of walls:

And on the other hand the first images from inside which seemed to show an interior which was damaged but not totally "gutted" as so much coverage kept saying.

Then I remembered David Macaulay's marvelous book Cathedral, which I'd read many times as a kid and watched the PBS movie of even more times. (Indeed, pulling up this link, I remembered that the story of the fictional cathedral in the animated sections begins with the old cathedral burning down, and the town resolving to build a new cathedral to house the relics miraculously rescued from the burning building.)

The outer roof that we saw burning is built of wood covered with lead sheeting, but under that is the stone vaulting which you see when you look up.

I think the lake of fire we see in the drone image at top is probably mostly on top of the stone vaulting, which acted as a fire break. Only in some places has debris broken through the vaulting down into the church below. In this picture you can see up through the breaks in the vaulting to the fire above:

The strength of those medieval stone vaults may have kept much of the fire up above, away from the interior of the church. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

A House for My Name

Thus says the Lord: Is it you who would build me a house to dwell in?

As long as I have wandered about among the Israelites, did I ever say a word to any of the judges whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?

Moreover, the Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you: when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom. He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.

2 Samuel 7:5,7, 11-13, 16

Persisting Images

Notre Dame de Paris has stood for over 850 years. I saw it for the one and only time just over twenty years ago in 1999, when MrsDarwin and I went there for Palm Sunday mass there during Spring Break of our European semester in college. I never would have thought that I would live to see it suffer a catastrophic fire.

One of the things that appeals to me about film photography is the way that it turns something as transient as an image into something which can remain for decades. My grandmother's box of photos included prints up to a hundred years old, most of them looking much as they had when first made. The four images above are ones that I took that spring day twenty years ago. After searching through a few boxes this evening, I found them as fresh as ever. It's hard to believe that cathedral roof and spire are now melted and caved in.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


This post from three years ago was apropos yesterday -- not because I was particularly restless, but because it was a glorious Lenten Friday and I was searching for the Stations of the Cross linked herein. I couldn't remember who wrote them. Charles Borromeo? Robert Bellarmine? You'll see I was kind of in the ballpark, anyway.
My soul rests in God alone,
from whom comes my salvation.
God alone is my rock and salvation,
my secure height; I will never fall.
--Psalm 62:2-3
Today is one of those glorious spring days that makes the soul restless. I want... I don't know what what I want, except that it's something other than what I'm supposed to be doing. I want to be outside. I want to be traveling. I want my children to do their work peaceably without my having to guide them. And none of these desires are bad. They're simply not the work that God has prepared for me right now.

Every Friday in Lent we go to Stations of the Cross at church. This is another experience that leaves me yearning for something else. Our parish doesn't use the meditations by Alphonsus Ligouri that I grew up with:
My Jesus! loaded with contempt, nail my heart to Thy feet, that it may ever remain there, to love Thee, and never quit Thee again. I love Thee more than myself; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Instead, we have a modern version that incorporates short monologues from various characters through the gospels. Every week these monologues grate on my dramatic soul, and instead of praying I find myself mentally rewriting them, again, and every week I go back, because this is how my parish chooses to pray together. And I wonder why there are three stations devoted to Jesus falling, and none devoted to Jesus getting up after he falls and starting again, putting one foot in front of another.

At his most restless, Jesus couldn't go anywhere. I feel nailed down, metaphorically, but he was literally nailed down as he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

The kids and I have a little prayer time each morning. After our Bible readings and meditation, we spend fifteen or twenty seconds in silence, listening to and talking to God. I call this practice, because if you don't practice prayer as you practice everything else, how will you grow? My prayer this morning was that God would show me the work that he has prepared for me today. Most of it I already know. Two loads of dishes. Some laundry, now that the baskets are finally empty of the clean clothes. Sweep the floor. Again and again, make the children go back and finish their work. Finish my own work

It's a good life, and I like it. I don't really want it to be different than it is. And so, when I feel this restlessness in my soul, I know that the end of all desire is God. I don't need a temporal change. I need my blinders off, to realize that this day I am with Jesus in Paradise, right where I am.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

15 Minutes on Thursday

(15 minutes on the timer.)

This has been a week filled with a thousand pinpricks of mortification, not the least of which was the necessity of writing to the editor of my textbook project and admitting that at least until summertime, I simply do not have the time to write, and if he needs to find someone else to handle the project sooner, he should. Ladies and gentlemen, I am so swamped. I don't understand how school parents get the kids to sports practice (every night) and juggle the small kids while there because the babysitters are all off doing drama, and then get people fed and to bed on time, and then get them up for school at dark o'clock and then go to work, while still getting the laundry done and taking the cat with diarrhea to the vet. This must be why people have 1.7 children and eat at McDonalds.

Today the older four drove themselves down to Columbus to tech the first of two performances today of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The next two are parked at home in front of Mr. Rogers (streaming on Amazon; you're welcome) while baby is finally sleeping off his fever in my bed. (All night he tossed next to me, fiery and fitful.) I'm taking this morning to nurse my sinus headache and try to salvage my voice before the press of Confirmation/Triduum/Easter, while running laundry and doing dishes and contemplating the state of the kitchen floor. Also, I'm chasing down the cat to give her her medicine, scrubbing yet another round of non-human poop off the floor, and feeding the guinea pigs that have been neglected lately by the thespians. This afternoon at rush hour the big girls will drive downtown for the final show, and I too will venture into very Columbus  with four children for an away baseball game, perhaps trading off at some point with Darwin if baby's fever comes back.

(If you are expecting a Lenten letter from me, the project will resume shortly; I was temporarily derailed by the obligation of writing letters of encouragement to all the kids in my Confirmation class.)

Timer's buzzing. Shall I do dishes? Shall I kick the kids off the computer and read to them? Shall I start dinner in the crockpot, or count on fast food this evening? Shall I worry about the girls driving on the highway in rush hour, or push that to the back of my mind because they've been fine so far? Shall I sit here navel-gazing, or take up my cross?

We who are about to die to self salute you.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Refusing to Fight or Flee

As part of the inevitable give-and-take of church politics, I sent an email carefully crafted to be polite and conciliatory, while expressing my disagreement with a decision made. This morning I received a response which evokes two reactions:

1. Rationally, I wash my hands of the issue, acknowledge that I did my best, and accept a decision I dislike, but which is not a matter of faith and morals, obediently and do my best to cooperate with what I'm asked to do, while reading the more ambiguous passages in a charitable light.

2. Physically, my body has gone into an anxious fight-or-flight reaction. I feel off my feed, my coffee is making my stomach churn, I'm jittery and nervy.

I can't help how my body responds, but I'm trying to account for it in my interactions this morning, so I don't transfer my frustration to the kids.

--The first thing this requires is prayer, lots of it, and remembering to pray before I open my mouth or physically react to anything.

-- I have to intentionally not snap at the little boys for doing mildly frustrating things that I usually can ignore.

-- I can choose to let the older girls sleep a little later so I can process in some peace, rather than getting irritated because people aren't out of bed yet.

-- I can put off a less essential, non-time-specific business call that I need to make some time this morning.

-- I can join my lack of appetite to Lenten fasting.

None of these things make the physical reaction go away, but hopefully they'll help me regulate in time without making innocent people around me feel upset. And, ideally, it imitates Christ on the cross -- taking a particular suffering into my own body and letting it stop there.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Do You Want to be Well?

Notes on reading John chapter 5: Jesus heals the man at the pool of Bethesda (or Bethsaida).
After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep [Gate] a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.
When Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed, the man does not say "yes" or give a direct answer. He has an ready explanation, a sad story about how he's a victim in all this.

But he obeys Jesus outwardly.

Jesus knows this guy is going to be trouble. He seeks him out -- he could have left him alone -- and warns him about falling into sin, about continuing in sin, that nothing worse may befall him.

The man goes and tattles on Jesus to the pious authorities -- again, an outwardly religious action, but one with evil results, since the authorities persecuted and wanted to kill Jesus.

Immediately after the story, verse 19: "The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise." We've just seen the Son healing and warning, having a direct personal encounter with the sick man. He doesn't offer the man platitudes or generic hellfire, but sees right into his soul and gives him a very specific warning tailored to his personality: "See you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may befall you." He knows this man, knows that physical healing has left his soul like a room swept clean and put in order but uninhabited (Luke 11:25). And immediately after this personal encounter, Jesus's unforced revelation of himself to the man, the man betrays him -- for what? For prestige? It can hardly be to escape punishment from the authorities, so it must be to curry favor or to establish himself as a right thinker.

The Son as mirror of the Father: Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that the Son does only the will of the Father. Do you want to know the mind of God? Read the gospels; study Jesus.

Verses 25-29: Jesus speaks of the hour when the dead will hear the voice of the Son and live. "For just as the the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself." Sounds like a prophecy of the resurrection. Death has no power over the Son because he has life in himself. He hears his own voice and comes forth from the tomb. (v. 28).

Friday, April 05, 2019

Take Me Out

Toward the beginning of Lent, I was flying high and ready to take on the world, and so, in what I thought was a moment of strength but was certainly a moment of weakness, I agreed to my 10-year-old son's request to play baseball for the parochial school. The fellow is a total rookie, has barely ever thrown a ball and certainly never batted one, but friends, my old man is a great student of the game and somehow I couldn't say no. They say a sucker is born every minute; I personally took the sucker slot for the whole week of Ash Wednesday.

Reckon to yourselves that we are not a sports family; that we have never had to follow a sports schedule; that we already have children signed up for ballet, tap, drama, taekwondo, voice, Boy Scouts, and religious ed. Reckon to yourselves that in the month since Ash Wednesday, Darwin has been away ten days. Reckon to yourself that the baby is 21 months, and that today I caught him banging someone's new toothbrush from the dentist (the one with the Stars Wars cover, not the one that plays "What Does The Fox Say") on my bathroom floor, but I wasn't worried about it because I'd just bleached the bathroom floor yesterday, because yesterday I'd come up looking for the baby and found him sitting in the toilet -- in the toilet, I say -- splashing someone's old toothbrush around, and I stripped him down and dropped his clothes in a puddle on the floor, and then after bathing baby and changing him, I came back up to gather up the laundry, and found that the cat had pooped on the wet shirt, so I dumped that in the toilet and took all the laundry down and then I bleached the floor so that it would be clean when he scrubbed it with his sibling's toothbrush the next day.

Reckon to yourself that I stood out in a cold park yesterday for an hour and a half while small fry tooled around the swings and slide, waiting for the baseball boy's practice to end, and today I have caught a cold.

Reckon to yourselves that today I screwed up the time table by ten lousy minutes, and so I missed the window to pull a child early from drama so I could go back home, pick up the other two, and go to the taekwondo classes that we've already paid for (while the new driver drove another child from tap to a late arrival at drama, because the early departure and the late arrival don't overlap).  In the end, no one went to taekwondo, and I took my budding shopper to the grocery store, where I spent more than I meant to and stayed later than I wanted to, and the upshot was that the four youngest were not in bed until 10 pm.

Meanwhile, Darwin in in Chicago, sleeping on a hotel bed, eating at classy joints, talking to people who wear name tags.

So yes, I'm feeling the slapdown of humility against my early Lenten pride, when I thought I was finally getting my life organized to do things, only to discover that I was relying on my own strength. And my own strength is mostly sufficient to meet obligations and get dinner on the table at the precise time when everyone is home, and to keep the dishes and laundry turning, but not to also do things I like, such as reading or writing.

Next week the games start -- on Tuesday and Thursday! I thought games were played on Saturday mornings? -- and then things are going to get really interesting as we have to travel around Columbus on weeknights. Especially since on the night of his first away game at a parish I've never been to, the oldest three are driving down into Columbus to tech a play for some homeschooling friends and so I may find myself schlepping three younger children to be bored in the stands -- including the 21-month-old, who doesn't need a toothbrush or a toilet to get into trouble.

Remind me of this next Lent when I start feeling uppity about what I can get done. Oh, and remind me to finally call the locksmith, so we can latch either the bedroom door or the bathroom door (I'm not particular, just so's we have one line-of-defense door that actually stays shut) so baby can't get into that toilet again.