Saturday, March 13, 2010

Almost-All Family Reunion 2009




Ruminations on being 70

OK, so about a year ago I vented about computers. I'll never be a geek, although I did manage to get around that particular problem.

Now, from the ridiculous to the sublime. This time, two days after my 60th birthday -- which means I'm 70, I realized with a shock) -- I'm posting some of the Big Thoughts/Questions I've been having. Some have rattled my fevered brain for a very long time and likely will never be answered. But I'm posting them to invite comment because I am always enriched by others' perspective! (Well, almost always; I'm not always the most receptive listener.)

I first wrote this (and some more) to Barbara Crafton, an Episcopal priests whose "Almost Daily eMos" I signed up for. They're wonderful -- she's a talented writer with a perceptive eye/mind and that rarest (I think, anyway) of gifts -- the ability to pragmatically discuss the concepts of "religion." The most recent email discussed time - wow, what timing, for me! - and prompted me to send off a long, rambling response to her. I hope she doesn't drop me from the eMo list!

But, here's the gist of the message. All input welcome!

--
In the innocence of my childhood and beyond, I have experienced the malleability of time. The first was a dream I had one night about a girl I didn't know, but then saw the next day at the local pool. When I told my mom about it, she said not a word, which surprised me; a devout Catholic, I expected her to warn me it was the devil -- but it was so extraordinary that I couldn't let it pass unmentioned. It was only later that I found out her mother was the Tarot reader for the Swiss village in which she grew up and mom, in her own Catholic way, likely had and ignored that talent herself. So, I accepted that time is a human invention and never paid much attention to it (often to my rue, when it came to my career.)

Similarly, coming to the conclusion as a recovering Catholic that I rather agreed with Marx's opinion of "religion" as an opiate and method of control, I concluded instead that we are all bits of an incomprehensible energy stream that we call "God." That allowed me to be spiritually attuned without being continuously enraged by the sheer stupidity of institutional "religions." It also married well with the logic of reincarnation -- and made me feel less guilty about not living up to my karmic potential when I recalled the alleged calculation by the Buddha that he had 1500 more lifetimes to go. (Might be a myth, but I've clung to it!)

But when our two daughters arrived, I again became confused about the relative benefits and drawbacks of churches. While on the one hand, I acknowledged the benefits, including: 1) a feeling of connectedness and community; 2) 'religion' is just about the only way the right side of the brain gets any attention at all in our society, except perhaps for the arts; and somehow, miraculously, it does open the door to those occasional marvelous mystical moments you mentioned, and 3) it provides the social authority to support the ethical lessons taught children. On the other hand, institutionalized religion involves so much political junk, so insulting to the brain we were born with that gives us the conscious glimpse of those mystical moments -- that I/we just could never find a sufficiently balanced church.

So, like Tevya, we concluded there was no other hand, and no church for our girls. But then again, they are growing up to be wonderful human beings with really good hearts, so I am satisfied, if a little sad that they likely have not yet been helped to have that glimpse of eternity that I don't know how to guide them to.

So -- eternity, bringing me to my point (about which by now I'm guessing you've been wondering). It's only been now, realizing I'm in "my last third," that my teenaged questions of "why am I here?" have returned -- along with chagrin that it's taken me this long to seriously pose the question. It's so easy to just drift through life. I'm unsure of the answer. It involves responsibility to myself (my therapist wished me a happy 60th and told me it was about time to have the childhood I never really had); to "God," to develop the talents I was ''given" (think I've done that to a respectable degree) and to use them to benefit the world (well, maybe some of that); to my very nontraditional family members, all of whom we all share lessons; and then, to those I'll never meet but whose spheres the ripples of my existence reach.

So, it's taken me this long of chewing on my thoughts to guess I don't have a point. Rather, I have more questions. Dang!

Is the point to live consciously, all the time (is that possible?); or is it to just notice the lessons as they come along (from where and why?) and try to respond well to them -- i.e., being more God-like, more in tune with that cosmic current? Is the single benefit of "time" to remind us that there's a perceived limit to that concept and nudge us along? Is our brain really a tool to detect one part of that incredible (truest sense of the word) stream, or is it more of a limiting factor (the Catholic church's traditional premise before Bibles were printed and, I suspect, still current.) Are we are better off to disengage it to "feel the spirit" -- i.e., charismaticism and fundamentalism? (Oh, dear, don't get me started on the "f" word!) I just can't/never have been able to accept that. Is there any way to really use our corpus callosum to link our emotional and intellectual aspects, and isn't that really the wholeness and power that our limited perception envisions as "God?" Isn't that ... uh, evolution? ... and is "heaven" getting past Buddha's 1500, and to what?

Do you believe that, reader? And if so, why do Christians keep talking about Jesus so much instead of what he represented/conveyed? I have to admit, it’s just a struggle for me to resist eye rolls when I hear someone talk about “my Savior.” A young California ‘guru’ named Patricia Sun once said, it's like having a profound mystical experience while sitting on a rock in the woods and being asked upon return "What rock? By what tree?" Why do churches still focus more on the (Single, One, True, but different people) Messenger than the message?

(In our search for churches I once found a gay/lesbian church with two women ministers. Bonanza! I should've felt so comfortable, but complained when I got home about how they just kept talking about Jesus this and Jesus that. My partner just stared at me before commenting, "Uh, honey, it is a Christian church." Guess I should've gotten the message from their name, "Christ Covenant," huh?)

Have to admit, there are times I'm not the sharpest tack in the box.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Still a typewriter, after all these years.

OK, OK, I've thrown myself into the techno whirled and I try to keep up as possible. But despite an incredibly red cardinal outside urging me to "cheer, cheer" I admit to being a bit churlish at the moment. It appears the two photo albums I posted at the link below have ... well, vanished. I mean, first the page said I had to ask myself permission to get it. I did (thankfully I was in a good mood and granted me permission) but that went downhill when I got there to find ... nothing.

Nada.

Rien.

Aaarrrrrggghhh!

Plus the desktop downstairs (the girls') needed new antivirus software, so I spent $100 to reload Norton, which promptly screwed up everything. Everything on the desktop and page is HUGE and I can't get it back to size no matter what I tinker with under Control Panel. Even after replacing Norton with another program. And forget Restore -- it's forgotten everything, apparently, prior to this event.

And the new plug-in modem for my laptop blazes away, but the computer still can't find the network that's right next to it.

Long lament -- sorry, reader -- to let you know I'll try to find the pix and upon my (dubious) success, will post the new link. Or gee, maybe I could post 'em all here. Wow, what a concept!

Where's my typewriter??

Friday, January 2, 2009

Xmas pix ... more to come ... New Year's


Some of our pix (taken by Marie J) of our NJ/NYC adventures are posted now at http://johansonmurray.spaces.live.com/. Hopefully we'll get some from Unkie (aka Santa Larry) to add. Now, if I could just figure out how to get all the ones off my phone ....

Happy New Year, everybody! We spent it at home, quietly, with friend Glenda taking a break from nursing duties at her virally-challenged-but-recovering home. Spent hours warmed by the fire (not that it was that cold) taking a fun trip down 30 years of memory lane, then went outside to holler my greetings to the world and lucked out on some neighbors' really terrific fireworks.

Previously, driving to the store to get a baguette to go with our crab cake salad dinner (with one at home unbeknownst to vertically-challenged me, of course, on top of the fridge -- where I'd put it the day before), I spotted another friend on the road, absorbed in her own thoughts. Made me wonder how many times people glanced over at me behind the wheel and wondered at my own cranky middle aged face?

Interesting to think of how other people see me in my unguarded moments. Shucks, I'm still getting used to my face, too, still expecting a 30- or 40-year old babe to gaze back from the mirror!

But I really do need to project a little less cantankerousness, eh? Perhaps I'll just practice my new meditation OM behind the wheel: O[ba]MMMMMMMMM[aaaaaa]. Ah, that's the ticket. Who'd'a thunk politics could be peaceful?

As Tiny Tim said, "God bless us all, every one." All the best for 2009. It promises to be a rough ride, but we can do it. Yes, we can!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An Extra Special Christmas

So, here it is, Christmas Eve, the night before what's supposed to be la piece de resistance, the Big Day. But we've already had a succession of Big Days!

It began 12/12, when we flew to NJ to attend sister-in-law Eleanor's (Sister Eleanor Francis) ordination as an Episcopalian priest. The ordination in the convent chapel, attended by >100 friends, family, sisters and fellow prelates, was simply wonderful -- warm, affirming (how my eyebrows did raise when the Bishop invoked the matriarchs and patriarchs), with beautiful music, vocal and instrumental. The exquisite Kyrie simply made me cry.

Second to that was the opportunity to spend some time in the convent with the sisters, getting to know a whole passel of new sisters! What an interesting, engaging lot they are, and they made us all feel so welcome. (I should explain "we" -- us'n's, plus Mom Martha and sister Bonnie from California.)

Next, we trained down to NYC for a family sojourn in Manhattan. We (this time, the nuclear "we") rented an apartment in the upper 90's, just off Park Avenue. It was warm, cozy, and quiet, being off the busy streets, with the wonderful copper cupolas of a Russian Orthodox cathedral as its view (along with a few penthouse gardens). Wonder of wonders, the weather -- sweater fine the first day -- blessed us with a snow flurry the next, and then two days later, enough for snowball fights and a winter wonderland walk in Central Park.

What a wonderful time! With my brother Larry (aka "Santa") in full host-mode, we saw Radio City's holiday show, complete with high-kicking Rockettes (and a Santa, whose bad joke sophisticated 13 year-old Remy just had to comment on a bit too loudly; i.e., "You suck!" -- Let me just die and ooze away under the rows of seats, please .... ). Sadly, Mommy Marie was felled by the flu that very day, missing the show -- but there was the DVD to compensate.

The next day, we visited the United Nations -- wonderful! -- and that night, Santa Larry scored four fabulous tickets to "Wicked." Poor Marie - again, too low to go after a day out, so he saw it (for the third time) with us. I went back the following day and got two more primo seats, and Marie and I went together that night (while Santa and girls saw "Bolt").

Of course, we had to visit Chinatown (twice) and venture just far enough into little Italy for a cannoli. Chinatown's fish market lured me with beautiful, perfectly fresh sea scallops for only $7/lb -- half of Atlanta's price -- so we feasted on that our last night in NYC with Santa Larry, celebrating his 37th wedding anniversary at the same time. Sadly, his bride was still in the Philippines, reclaiming her family's lands. We were a poor substitute, but hey! A party is a party! I will post some of the pix we took in NY on johansonmurray.spaces.live.com.

Back home to warm temperatures and our most majestic tree ever, looking forward to celebrating the season with our friends.

May you and yours be as blessed as we are in this season.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our Greece pictures link

.. and maybe other pix in future? Who knows -- I just finally figured out that I had to assign a Web address in order to make them accessible so, given my clearly advanced degree of technocratic talent ....

Anyway, enjoy! You'll want to go too!

http://johansonmurray.spaces.live.com/default.aspx

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How time do fly.

Good lord, hard to believe it's been almost a year. Maybe I'll eventually get into this blogging thing -- especially if I can ever get photos downloaded from my digital camera. (Pathetic, I know.)

And whadda year.

The last year, praise the lord, of the proof of HL Mencken's 1920 prediction: "On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

The year my impeccably badly-timed decision to flip investment houses in '06-'07 came home to roost financially. But also the year my wise and accomplished darling accepted an invitation to speak at a conference in Athens, Greece and took me along (pix at MSN PhotoShare but my links aren't working -- will insert later).

The year of our girls blossoming into adolescence while retaining such girlhood habits as, as Leonard Pitts put it so aptly,"that landfill down the hall you call a bedroom." Wow, what a trip to see their adult-ish selves peeking out now and then. Can't imagine life without the fun and fatigue of their outrageous presence.

The year of Obama. Yes, I did support Hillary. I thought Obama should take a term or two as VP learning on the job exactly what he would face to "change" the system. Then I thought Hillary should be VP because she'd be a good Prez and because I fear so desperately for his safety. (I want him in the White House or in a Prezmobile, permanently, for the next 8 years.)

But I am absolutely awed at the immense tide of populism (its grass-roots meaning) that swept him into office. I was stunned at the world-wide outpouring of joy at his election. Never seen anything like it; don't think anything like it ever happened. It makes me happy to have a leader in place with such intelligence, let alone such trans-national appeal. He literally is the physical embodiment of the American ideal, a biracial Horatio Alger (boy, doesn't that reference date me).

And that's what worries me, aside from his safety from crazies. So much is riding on his success, so many people world-wide have a stake in it. As Barbara Crofton wisely said one of her "Almost Daily eMo" emails(http://www.geraniumfarm.org/):

"Calm down. The New Testament figure of the bridegroom is Christ. It's not our president-elect.

"Still, even those who did not support Barack Obama recognize what this week's election says about how far our society has come, and the people who supported him are giddy with happiness. Everything is possible now, it seems. Change has come.

"But change doesn't really come overnight. The first-century world was not visibly different the day after the resurrection from what it had been the day before. It was the same hard place it had always been. The Way opened gradually, as way always opens: one person at a time. One heart at a time. A series of small decisions for the good, made by many people many times over. They add up."


The difference now is, having a leader to actually encourage that kind of transformation.

So, we live in hope -- hope that landfills will become neat rooms; hope that our daughters' good hearts and good minds will support them through a life full of challenges; hope that, one step at a time (and please God, a quantum leap or two) the world really will become a better place ... just in the nick of time.

A happy holiday season and wonderful New Year to you all.