Monday, April 23, 2007

I Love a Good Mystery

In trying to decide on a post today, I toyed for quite some time with discussing three articles I read in the Washington Post and Time magazine that were on some fairly depressing topics. Before I could get around to that, thankfully, I saw this article about today being William Shakespeare's birthday. Or is it? It's not very newsworthy, but then again I love these little historical mysteries.

Is tomorrow Shakespeare's birthday?

Tomorrow could be the day to blow out the 443 candles on William Shakespeare's birthday cake - not St George's Day on Monday, which has been celebrated for centuries as both the birth and death date of England's greatest playwright.,,2062290,00.html

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Day of Blog Silence - April 30

I saw this notice posted at Bob's blog and wanted to be sure to include it here. With apologies to Bob for not coming up with an original explanation, let me quote from his posting on the purpose of this day of silence:

"Silence can say more than a thousand words. This day shall unite us all about this unbelievable painful & shocking event and show respect and love to those who lost their loved ones. On April 30th 2007, the Blogosphere will hold a One-Day Blog Silence in honor of the victims at Virginia Tech. More then 30 died at the US college massacre. But it´s not only about them. Many bloggers have responded and asked about all the other victims of our world. All the people who die every day. What about them? This day can be a symbol of support to all the victims of our world!"

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Making Choices

RDL has a great post on her blog about making choices. Think of how much happier a place the world would be if we all made these kind of choices.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


A. and I just finished watched an interesting documentary on Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, known around the world as Amma; the documentary, entitled Darshan: The Embrace, followed her on a tour around her native India as she shared her teaching with the thousands who attended her rallies. Many of you may recall her as the mahatma who traveled to the United States last year and spent hours giving hugs to the people who waited in line to see her at her different appearances. In fact, at the end of the documentary the filmmakers flash a statement which says it is estimated that Amma has given 23 million hugs around the world -- and the film of the rally which closes the documentary includes the fact that over a 21-hour period, she gave hugs to 45,000 people.

This is far from the traditional style of documentaries I have seen in the past, in that there is no running commentary or narration to explain what we are watching. The genuine affection that people feel for Amma is there, however, and her love for humanity is equally apparent. She says at one point that as a bee looks at a flower and only sees honey, and a sculptor looks at a block of stone and only sees a statue, she looks at people and only sees the good within them. It would be nearly impossible to try and explain the tremendous emotion on the faces of the people who are with her, so I won't even try -- you'll just have to watch it for yourselves.

If there's one drawback to the documentary, it's that you're left at the end knowing very little about her background. We see film clips of her from earlier in her life, and learn that she has spearheaded the construction of thousands of homes and the construction of a state-of-the-art hospital in India, and that she has received the Gandhi Prize for Peace. You don't learn more, but you're definitely left wanting to learn more -- and so while I strongly recommend you see this documentary, you can also go here and here to learn more about this remarkable woman.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

KV Treasure

Talk about a remarkable story and keepsake this young man has!!

Hokie Hope

Reporters and Prison

I took a bit of time today to read through some magazines that had been cluttering our racks at home and which, for purposes of de-cluttering, I had decided to throw out. These two articles were of particular interest to me; they both deal with the imprisonment of reporters, but they are from two different decades and in two entirely different parts of the world.

"First Person: Imprisoned in Zimbabwe," by Alex Perry. An interesting story by a reporter from Time magazine who was thrown in jail by Mugabe's government because they were afraid he would write negative stories about Mugabe and his regime.

"On Not Naming Names," by Myron Farber. Farber was thrown in jail in the 1970s for contempt during a murder trial in New Jersey; he had refused to reveal all of the information and sources he had accumulated in his research of a story that culminated in bringing a physician to trial for murdering patients. The Judith Miller story of three decades ago.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Prayers for Virginia Tech

Absolutely horrific events today on the campus of Virginia Tech, and the second time in a year that violence has touched the small town of Blacksburg (about 90 miles from where I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains). I've heard many of the news reports about what happened, and even a lot of theorizing as to why it happened, but I still cannot understand it.

33 people lost their lives in an environment that should logically be one of the safest -- a college campus. With wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and violence touching the largest cities of the United States, you wouldn't think that something like this -- the worst example of this type of violence in the history of the country -- could take place in a small town in southwest Virginia. 33 young men and women, some of whom I'm sure were looking forward to graduating in a matter of weeks. 33 young men and women who, when they left their dorms or apartments this morning, weren't thinking beyond the next lecture, the next exam, or the next date.

I pray for the victims, for their families, for the many others who are in the hands of surgeons and medical staff at numerous hospitals in the area. I pray for the college administrators, grief counselors, and chaplains who will have to help the thousands of other students who have been touched by this horrific event work through their anger, their grief, and their shock.

And I pray for my youngest sister, who is a graduate of that school, lives not far from campus, and has many friends in the area. As of this writing, I don't know if she knew any of the victims, but I pray that if she did, she finds comfort in a community that will most definitely come together in a show of unity -- of family -- that will be needed to cope with the feelings and stress in the days and weeks to come.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Possible Short Story

Interesting idea for a short story: Harper Lee, J. D. Salinger, and Thomas Pynchon -- three of the most reclusive authors of all time -- decide to get out of their respective houses and meet up for dinner and drinks. Now I just need to figure out HOW to write it!! Would it be a dry meeting, or would hilarity ensue? And would people even care when they noticed these three individuals out in public?

Vonnegut Redux

An interesting interview from about a year ago; notice how adamant he is about threatening to sue the tobacco companies for not killing him fast enough, as their cigarette packages asserted smoking would do. I don't agree with all of his thoughts here, but he has some interesting comments about the political process in this country.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So It Goes - My Encounter With Vonnegut

I just read on the Washington Post website that Kurt Vonnegut has passed away, resulting from injuries he sustained in a fall a few weeks back. During my life, I only read one of his books, Slaughterhouse Five, and that for a high school English course. I can't remember it too vividly, since it's been well over 20 years since I read it, but I can remember my teacher's excitement at this tale of time travel, war, and the Tralfamadorians. I've always considered it one of the more unusual books I've ever read -- perhaps I'll pull it down again someday.

I only saw Vonnegut once in my life, in New York in November, 2003. I had taken the train up from D.C. to attend the memorial service for George Plimpton at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and following the service I was standing on the steps of the cathedral waiting to board a bus for a post-service reception at Elaine's being hosted by George's widow. As I was standing there, admiring the cathedral and basking in the New York night, I glanced to my left and saw Vonnegut standing a few steps away and down from me, waiting for his car service to pick up him and his wife. There he was, one of the icons of 20th century American literature, standing just a few feet away, quietly smoking a cigarette. Of course, being the literary enthusiast that I am, my mind was racing with options: to say how much of a pleasure it was to meet him; to thank him for everything that he had done for readers everywhere; to ask for his autograph; to tell him how important a figure he was to my high school English teacher; to take his picture without his noticing.

Instead, I did nothing. It was enough that were there together at the cathedral to celebrate the memory of a person who, while on different levels, was a friend to us both. That meant more at that moment than any feeble comment I could have made or any surreptitious photo I could have taken, and now, a few years later, I'm glad that I never approached him. He stood on the steps for a few more moments, and then walked down to his car on Amsterdam Avenue, got in, and rode off.

My memory of Kurt Vonnegut is not as grand as others we will read and hear of in the days to come, but it is a very treasured one to me indeed.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Journey Through Faith - Part One

At many points in recent years, people have asked me why I have an interest in the writing of Bishop Jack Spong, and what my thoughts are on the ideas that he has put forth. I think that before I can really answer that, though, I should explain somewhat how I have gotten to this point in my faith journey. I'll say at the outset that my journey to this point hasn't been easy, and my reasons for becoming engaged in the work of the writers and theologians I'm reading may be equally confusing. In fact, I alluded briefly to the shifting sands of my spiritual and theological life in my earlier post, "What Do I Really Know?" Today I want to take a moment to address the first part, and I'll address the specific question about Spong in my next post.

As a cradle Episcopalian, I grew up accepting the basic tenets of Christianity -- the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the miracles, etc. -- along with all of the stories in the Old and New Testaments as they were. I never really gave much thought, in fact, to the idea that the stories were in many instances metaphors for things that happened differently or perhaps hadn't happened at all. At that point in time, it didn't matter; the Bible just was what it was -- a book with amazing stories of kings and queens, common folks, rich men, poor men, prophets, disciples, sinners, and a man exceeding all other men whose life ultimately changed the course of history.

As I got older, church became less interesting as a place to discuss faith and religion, and more interesting as a place to go and be with friends (I met my first girlfriend at my church, in fact). Being a young teen, the social aspects really mattered to me more than anything. But even that phase in my life started to alter within a few years; I began to question why I wasn't getting anything out of attending church, what it all meant to me, and why I was even going to church. I began to struggle with books that I thought would answer those questions, books by writers like C. S. Lewis and Sheldon Vanauken (who attended my church and who, over the next several years until his death, graciously endured my letters and visits probing for answers to the questions that just never seemed to go away). I had debates (sometimes very contentious debates) with friends whose faith backgrounds differed from mine, and who seemed to be much farther along in their own journeys than I was in my own.

The years passed, and my search continued, sometimes taking me in directions that could have ended at points away from the Episcopal Church (I had considered both the Methodist and Catholic Churches as alternatives at various points when I became frustrated with my path in the Episcopal Church). I bought and devoured books by every conceivable writer on the subject of faith and Christianity, engaged in a four-year Education for Ministry course developed by the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee, and even began working towards a Master's Degree in Theology. More recently, I recognized that the "nudges" I seemed to receive periodically in my life had suddenly turned into shoves; as I explained to one friend, it was as if God had grabbed me by the lapels of my coat and started shaking me. At that point, I began a discernment process that continues now -- and may continue for quite some time -- to determine what my future direction (professionally) in the church may be.

Some of what I have read recently, and many of the things that have captured my attention, are very much against the grain of the Bible-just-as-it-is belief of my childhood -- things like the discoveries of the alleged Jesus family tomb and the ossuary of James, the Nag Hammadi texts and extra-canonical gospels such as the Gospels of Thomas and Judas and their place in the history of Christianity, and other somewhat unconventional topics that have come up in recent years.

More than these things, though, I've come to a phase where I've realized that my thought process about my faith has taken a very post-modern turn. I'm struggling with a change in my perception of my church, what it is doing in the world, and what it should be doing in the world -- taking what the church is teaching within the four walls and trying to find where it is living that teaching outside the four walls. In fact, one of the most amazing things about this is that I'm discovering that my mind half (the conservative political side) and my heart half (the social justice side) are no longer equal halves -- two parts of the same person butting heads.

A struggle, yes, but an exciting struggle -- a struggle that has led me to discover (through my own reading and the suggestions of others) the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, William Stringfellow, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Jack Spong, to name just a few. And that will bring me to the second part tomorrow.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Green Jacket Rests on New Shoulders

It's been quite some time since I was actually able to sit and watch an entire round of televised golf. I'm glad today was one of those days; Zach Johnson, Tiger Woods, and several others who were in contention for the green jacket at Augusta until the very end made it an unforgettable viewing experience. And while I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tiger Woods, I have to admit that I was excited to see an unheralded underdog come out on top in the end.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


No, that's not the radio station I'm listening to right now. It's not even how fast I used to drive from home to work and back (which in D.C./Northern Virginia would be an impossibility anyway).

It's my temperature.

I finally worked through a full week of interviews last week, many of which were incredibly exciting and went very well, and got through some of what I needed to get done around the house (although that list will never fully be completed). I've been thinking about several things I want to write about: expanding on my Fred Thompson post based on some thoughtful responses I received to my earlier comments; discussing a recent Mike Farrell appearance here in D.C. which got my mind going; posting some thoughts about the Jack Spong book I'm reading right now (The Easter Moment); and who knows what else.

And then last night, when I was ready to put pen to paper/hands to keyboard, I got the sniffles. I thought it was allergies -- I thought wrong; overnight, I got slammed by headaches, runny nose, inability to sleep, aches, and an overall lackadaisical attitude (thank the Lord for Blogger spell check). The four tablespoons of Benadryl that I took knocked me out at about 4:00 this morning, after flipping channels and discovering that even with 200 cable channels there's not much on late-night. Today was not much better.

I'm hopeful that tomorrow will bring me around the bend, and I can get back to my proposed list of topics! Everyone: fingers in the crossed position, please!