Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Couldn't Resist This One...

One morning a man came into the church on crutches. He stopped in front of the holy water, put some on both legs, and then threw away his crutches.

An altar boy witnessed the scene and then ran into the rectory to tell the priest what he'd just seen.

"Son, you've just witnessed a miracle!" the priest said. "Tell me where is this man now?"

"Flat on his butt over by the holy water!" the boy informed him.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Music Recommendation of the Day

After a break of several days, consisting in large part of a guys' weekend in Florida, I'm back and trying to catch up with everything (including posting here and reading the many other blogs I keep up with).....

While driving in to work this morning, I was listening to some music from one of my favorite jazz vocalists, Susannah McCorkle -- a marvelous singer who, tragically, took her own life in 2001. (I'll interject here that I would highly recommend just about all of her albums, with the best track on any of them being her version of Antonio Carlos Jobims' "The Waters of March.") I first heard her music entirely by accident several years ago -- rather than flying from Atlanta to Mobile on one of my trips, I opted instead to rent a car, and just happened to hear her while flipping channels and catching the Auburn University radio station -- and was immediately captivated. Hers is one of those amazing voices you only hear on those rare occasions in your life -- intimate, soulful, emotional, heartfelt. And the lyrics tug at your heart and make you think -- the lyrics from "The People That You Never Get to Love" being a perfect example of making you think, not necessarily with regret, about how different your life would have been if you hadn't passed up on those opportunities to talk to someone standing right in front of you.

She put her life into those songs -- a life that ended far too soon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Making a Profit Off the Tragedy of Others

During my daily lunch ritual of channel surfing, a commercial came up advertising the 2001-2006 World Trade Center Gold and Silver Clad Commemorative coin -- which includes silver "miraculously recovered from a bank vault found under tons of debris at Ground Zero." This coin, which features a pop-up skyline of the World Trade Center (it actually sits up along the edge of the coin), is available for the low price of only $29.95 (normally $49.95, and not including shipping). If you're curious, you can see the coin here. Oh, and the company selling these is contributing $5 of each coin to an officially sanctioned 9-11 charities and memorials.

Perhaps I've been blinded to this sort of practice for much of my life, but when did America lose its sense of decency and begin to do everything imaginable to profit off of the tragedy and misfortune of others? I think it's commendable that they are making donations to these charities from the money they make from sale of the coins, but it takes a bit away from it when you read in the advertisement, "To mark the fifth anniversary, $5 of every 2001-2006 World Trade Center Commemorative order is donated...." Why not more? Why wait ten years to contribute $10, or 20 years for $20? The overhead on the production of these coins can't be that high; certainly they could afford to put more in the hands of the funds set aside for the families of the victims.

And there's something that sticks in my craw about crafting these coins from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. In my mind, Ground Zero is -- and always will be -- a gravesite; making a coin from silver found under the same rubble where thousands of innocents died to me is comparable to casting memorial plaques from the steel of the Titanic's hull. I wouldn't want the graves of my family desecrated in order to make a quick buck, and I don't think it should be from the remnants of what was once a proud symbol of New York.

Just a few thoughts from the midst of my lunch-hour outrage.....

Monday, August 21, 2006

Prenatal Sibling Rivalry?

I got a phone call from my wife -- sibling rivalry between our little girl and our as-yet unborn has already reared its head. Our daughter had asked Amy to carry her from the daycare center to the car, and her mommy obliged. However, the not-here-yet child didn't like that at all -- and began kicking furiously. Mary Breeman couldn't feel it, but Amy sure did.

I've heard for a long time that babies still in the womb are sensitive to a lot of external stimulation -- music, voices, laughter, and such. Is it possible that they are also sensitive to the presence of an older sibling that they're not quite ready to deal with?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Each of Us as a Parable?

Here's a brief quote from the Episcopal theologian William Stringfellow that I wanted to post today to prompt some reflection (and possibly conversation).

"So, I believe, biography (and history), any biography and every biography, is inherently theological , in the sense that it contains already -- literally by virtue of the Incarnation -- the news of the gospel whether or not anyone discerns that. We are each one of us parables."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Love Doesn't Get Much Stronger Than This

While trying to decide what to write about today -- our trip to Williamsburg this past weekend, the latest exploits of my daughter, prattling on about life in Washington -- I received an e-mail from my wife which follows. I don't think anything on earth could be a more powerful demonstration of love. Once reading the message, which is a recent article by Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated, be sure to click the video link that follows -- and if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your heart, I don't know what will.

"Strongest Dad in the World"
[From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly]

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

"He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way,'' Dick says he was told. "There's nothing going on in his brain.''

"Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described "porker'' who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks.''

That day changed Rick's life. "Dad,'' he typed, "when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!''

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters.

"No question about it,'' Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century.''

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

"The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, "is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.''

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

And for the More Traditional Folks, Some Horowitz....

If Gould is too extreme for you, here's a bit of an alternative -- Vladimir Horowitz performing the third movement of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto.

Either way, Gould or Horowitz, you can't go wrong.

Music In Lieu of the Spoken Word

I decided to take a break from writing today and instead share some music. Glenn Gould was -- and is -- one of my favorites, and this is one of his finest recordings.

Variations 1-7 of his 1980 recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations".....

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Winter in August

I think my sister has been reading my mind, with all of my thoughts lately about the heat here in Northern Virginia. She was sending me some examples of her photography, and this was one of them. It's well worth sharing -- and enjoying the wonderful images and emotions it brings up.....

What Does Gatsby Have to Do With My Family?

As we start to recover from this recent heatwave, I keep coming back to the scene from The Great Gatsby where Jay, Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan have driven in to Manhattan to find something to do away from home. Not being able to think of anything, Daisy says that it's too hot really to do much of anything, and so they head for (presumably) the Plaza Hotel and rent a room for the day. The next scene cuts to the five of them wilting in their room with the windows open and some sort of fan running, but not unfortunately finding any relief from the heat.

There's something that I've always enjoyed about that scene -- being able to live a life where the worst thing you have to worry about is that it's too hot to goof off in the big city, and so you compensate by renting a lavish room in a world-class hotel and having an afternoon slip away, borne only by gin and gossip. As I've gotten older, though, my opinion has changed considerably -- although it still holds a certain appeal for me. I can't imagine living a life where I've got nothing to do and nowhere to do it.

My friend Julie over at JulieUnplugged recently posted an entry about the idea of taking a vacation away from marriage, and there was lively discussion from many of the readers of both the pros and cons of trying to do something like that. In thinking about in the days since, it occurs more to me that trying to vacation away from marriage and family is trying to escape from something that makes life really wonderful. Leaving the spouse and children in an effort to find time to go somewhere and to do nothing (or something different from the normal routine) is to leave the people that help complete your identity. Throughout much of Gatsby, Tom and Daisy are taking a vacation away from each other -- Daisy with Gatsby and Tom with Myrtle -- and doing so leads to a tragic set of circumstances.

Vacations are nice, and as an introvert having a little time to myself to recharge is extremely valuable. But trying to escape from your life -- even as glamorous as it sounds through the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald -- isn't something anyone who truly values all the gifts they have with their family should attempt.

(But there's still something pretty cool about those parties over at Gatsby's......)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Love of a Child

While reading through the second volume of Frederick Buechner's autobiography, Now and Then, I ran across an amazing quote that is one very eloquent demonstration of how powerful the love of a parent for a child can be. It's definitely worth posting here and sharing with everyone; I'd be interested in any comments from readers here who are also parents.

"'He who loves has fifty woes ... who loves none has no woe,' said the Buddha, and it is true. To love another, as you love a child, is to become vulnerable in a whole new way. It is no longer only through what happens to yourself that the world can hurt you but through what happens to the one you love also and greatly more hurtingly. When it comes to your own hurt, there are always things you can do. You can put up a brave front, for one, and behind that front, if you are lucky, if you persist, you can become a little brave inside yourself. You can become strong in the broken places, as Hemingway said. You can become philosophical, recognizing how much of your troubles you have brought down on your own head and resolving to do better by yourself in the future. Like King Lear on the heath, you can become more compassionate. Like the whiskey priest, you can become a saint. But when it comes to the hurt of a child you love, you are all but helpless. The child makes terrible mistakes, and there is very little you can do to ease his pain, especially when you are so often a part of his pain as the child is also a part of yours. There is no way to make him strong with such strengths as you may have found through your own hurt, or wise through such wisdom, and even if there were, it would be the wrong way because it would be your way, not his. The child's pain becomes your pain, and as the innocent bystander, maybe it is even a worse pain for you, and in the long run even the bravest front is not much use.

"What man and woman, if they gave serious thought to what having children inevitably involves, would ever have them? Yet what man and woman, once having had them and loved them, would ever want it otherwise? ... To suffer in love for another's suffering is to live life not only at its fullest but at its holiest ... The small beat up face I saw for the first time that January morning in 1959 actually was the face of the world if I'd only had a saint's eyes to see it with."