Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wives, Obey Your Husbands (???)

Oh, that's going to happen! That’s what we heard this morning at Mass, though. “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18 (NSRV) Bearing in mind that Catholics come from a tradition that is not Biblically literalist, I still have to take what I read there seriously. And I’m frantically looking for a loop-hole, because I’m not liking what I’m seeing. Can I faithfully make an argument that supports disregarding this annoying passage? In fact, I will claim that not only is it true that we may disregard it, I think it is imperative that people of faith disregard it. Which in turn suggests that this dismissal of Paul (in this instance) is the faithful and orthodox act -the act consistent with God’s will for all of us.

At Mass, the first reading comes from the Hebrew Scriptures, the second from the Pauline letters, and the last from one of the gospels. The first and third readings follow a theme, but we read from the letters in a more or less linear fashion. So, the general custom is that the priest preaches on the themed readings, leaving the letter from Paul more or less out of the equation. Of course, he can preach on whatever he wants. Priests, though, being -perhaps you’ve noticed- male, wisely run for cover when this reading shows up (on the Feast of the Holy Family). Unless your parish is conservative indeed, you are guaranteed to hear a lovely homily that doesn’t even admit that we heard what we heard. Can’t say as I blame them.

Acknowledging, then, that a priest won’t -and perhaps ought not- touch this one with a ten foot pole, what am I supposed to do with it? Figure it out by myself, apparently. To reject something I read in scripture, I need a pretty rigorous argument, though. The most common arguments that you hear are anything but rigorous. Here are a few...

The Bible is conditioned by time and place. In that time and in that place, women were far from liberated, so Paul’s message wasn’t as atavistic as it seems now. Lame, very lame... Of course, the Bible is conditioned by time and place, but we believe parts of it. If you use that argument, you’d be obliged to reject the whole thing -which we clearly don’t do.

It’s prima facie ridiculous. True enough. It is, but that’s not a good reason for rejecting Paul’s claim. We believe other ridiculous things, after all. The resurrection is, on the face of it, ridiculous. People don’t live again after they’ve died. Nonetheless, we hold the resurrection as one of our most treasured beliefs. Transubstantiation is surely ridiculous, but we believe that.

So, where do I get the authority to claim that we can ignore this contention of Paul’s? I get it from God, in the person of Jesus, and even Paul admits that God outranks Paul. I believe that we can ignore Paul’s command to obey our husbands -and indeed all of his misogynist claims- because they are inconsistent with the message that we hear from Jesus.

Paul is closer to Jesus’ message in his letter to the Galatians, possibly the first of his letters to Christian communities. Galatians 3:28 offers one of the more inclusive definitions of the Christian community. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (NSRV) Clearly, those are not the only sets of opposites he might have chosen, but they cover a lot of ground. And once upon a time in his ministry, Paul was suggesting that barriers between man and women were things of this world rather than part of the reign of God.

Throughout Luke’s gospel, we see that women were an integral part of Jesus’ community of friends. Check out the scenes right after his crucifixion for some good examples. In the early Christian community in Acts of the Apostles, women were an accepted part of the circle. Everybody knows, for example, about Phoebe who served the church as a deacon. And of course, there’s Mary who is so much more than her self-effacing “let it be with me according to your word.” And from John's gospel we have "I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly." An abundant life! My goodness, that’s almost decadent, and it surely has little to do with the impoverished life of confinement and servility that Paul seems to demand.

The question in its starkest terms is whether or not the Bible teaches the inferiority of women. Is patriarchy divinely revealed and therefore God’s will for us? The institutional church certainly struggles with treating women as autonomous moral agents and partners in creation. (And of course secular society is far from free of these problems, either.) But I think scripture is in less doubt.

So, gentlemen, it’s not the case that deep down you have the right to require obedience, but, because you’re enlightened or self-actualized or something, you don’t use it. In fact, there is an empowering and challenging message for women in Scripture; we are called to discipleship, to ministry, to fidelity, and to abundant life -just like the other half of the human species.

Once, a long time ago and in this parish, this reading came up in the cycle. And, as occasionally happens, the scheduled lector didn’t show up in time for Mass to begin. Another lector who just happened to have chosen this Mass, was “volunteered” to read. She was urgently scanning the readings as Mass was about to begin, and her face fell. She turned to the pastor, and asked if there was anything to be done -another reading, any other reading, skip it... something. Please take this cup from her. Nope, it was too late, it wasn’t proper protocol... She took up her cross. She read the reading, and she started to laugh. Wives obey your husbands, indeed! You could tell from the look on her face that she was horrified; she is a person who takes the protocols of Mass very seriously. The congregation, however, was delighted. We laughed for a long, long time -as well we should. I don’t, I confess, remember the homily from that Mass, but I remember our laughter.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that make you look cool.

Here are mine for the week:

  • Amazing Grace; Anonymous 4
  • Aspenglow; John Denver
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot; Pat Benatar
  • She's Too Tough; Foreigner (a song about me? "a hard headed woman with a mean attitude")
  • Disobey; Kate Havenik (no wait.... This one's about me!)
  • Road to Hanna; Shadowfax
  • Baby's Waking; Eliza Gilkyson
  • Paint the Sky with Stars; Enya
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; Judy Garland
  • Voluntary in D Minor; Purcell via Oxford Camerata

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Carbon Diet -Thinking About Water

We're almost finished with the Slate Carbon Diet challenge. Most people are already done, but I started late. This week, we're supposed to focus on water. Saving water prevents waste and pollution; conserving hot water means fewer carbon emissions. I feel duplicitous even talking about this. I use bubble baths as therapy. At this moment, the washer, the dishwasher, and the shower are in use. We use a lot of water around here. Even when it's just me, I go through quite a bit of water.

Perhaps the re-frame of this is that there's lots of room for improvement. Yeah, that's it. Insert eyeroll right there! Here are the things I pledged to do:

  • install a low-flow showerhead
  • boil only as much water as I need for coffee, rather than a full kettle each time
  • run the dishwasher only when it's full
  • insulate the hot water heater (which is already done,actually)

I can't look anyone in the eye and promise to keep my showers to under ten minutes. And there's some household reason I don't understand for why we can't reduce the temperature of the hot water to below 120. And we've tried the tankless hot water heater. At least with the technology that was then available, it did very depressing things to the water pressure. So I didn't promise to do that either.

The good news is that the dishwasher actually uses fewer gallons of hot water than washing the dishes by hand. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that my laziness is being rewarded here, because I have no intention of washing dishes by hand!

And then there are the things they didn't ask about... like the drip under the kitchen sink. I promise I'll get someone (else) to fix that this week. But I'm not yet willing to confront the fact that on most days I take a shower in the morning and a bath at night. And if I work out hard in the middle of the day, sometimes there's a second shower in there. The only negotiable in that array is the nightly bubble bath.... and it's not really negotiable, as it turns out.

So, I'm a bit of a wuss in the carbon reduction department this week. I'm discovering a belief or a bias (or some such thing) that I want to do environmental and other cause-y things, true enough. What I don't want to do is create a life that feels austere and ascetic and minimized by the changes I've made. I'm willing to do difficult things (sometimes.... sporadically), but I don't want to create a joyless, cramped life in the process. So harmless pleasures such as bubble baths have to stay.

I hope that's reasonable rather than merely self-indulgent.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rumors of My Demise....

... are not wildly exaggerated, I'm afraid. Oh, I'm fine. There's nothing seriously wrong, and I should keep some perspective and remember that. I just got hit by a pile of work-related stuff, math-man came home from the fall semester of his sabbatical, and both kids showed up on my doorstep. And the Christmas knitting seemed to be un-knitting itself while I slept; there was always more to do. And truly, I'd forgotten how often you have to feed 22-year-old boys.

I went to Christmas Eve Mass, and sat next to Michael (from Musing's Musings) and he checked my pulse to verify a heartbeat. Apparently seeing me walk in under my own power didn't quite reassure him ;) (OK, he didn't really do this, but he did express concern.)

That's entirely enough whining. I'm back. I'm formulating thoughts for another season of blogging. They might even turn into something interesting; one never knows. Something about the links (which I intend to find or make up if I must!) between courage and compassion and using those to change the world. Up until now I've treated the little things we've done to change the world as acts of will. Which they also are. Yet sometimes I feel held back by a lack of courage. (Can we please avoid calling it cowardice? I like living in denial.) I'll get back to you on all of this, as it becomes more clear.

Merry Christmas to all of you. Happy New Year! And we've passed the solstice, so the light is coming back too. You have to love that!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Turn It Off! - This Week's Carbon Diet

Oh man! This week the Carbon Diet sounds like flashbacks of my father. "Turn the light off when you leave the room! How many times do I have to tell you?" Okay, so that's an advanced concept. Let's start a little further back in the process. Ease into this thing.

The first thing we can do is assess just how bad the energy that we use is, compared to the national average. Using your zip code, the EPA can tell you how the carbon load for your energy compares to the national average. Follow this link to check it out: EPA. You can poke around on the site and also discover if greener power can be purchased in your area.

I, however, am stuck with just reducing the amount of electricity I consume. One right answer is to turn off the Christmas twinkle lights. It ain't happening. Other suggestions include:
  • replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents
  • putting the devices that use "standby power" (e.g. the computer, the television...) on a power strip and turn them off at the switch when not in use.
  • unplug all the various chargers from the wall. I count five chargers in this room!!
  • replace appliances with Energy Star rated newer ones.

There are more suggestions at Slate magazine. Perhaps other ideas will work better for you; these are the ones I am willing to work on. We have replaced several bulbs with the compact fluorescents. This is a big old house and the ceilings are high, which means that changing the bulbs when they burn out is a royal pain in the neck. So, math-man was studious about getting those replaced as soon as the compact fluorescents were available. The real motivation was that they last longer than incandescents. Whatever the motivation, though, they really do use less power. Now it's time to get to work on the lamps. So I promise to start that process.

It's a bummer to unplug the chargers from the wall when not in use. I've promised to do it before, but haven't. I know what will happen. I'll lose the charger. This is me we're talking about. But I'm going to give it a shot. Moreover, I don't turn the desktop computer off at night, as a general rule. I just let it go to standby. I can't promise to plug all such "phantom power" users into power strips, but I can remember to turn the computer off at night. Surely. And this is the year for a new television. You wouldn't believe me if I told you how old the one (the ONE!) we have is, so I won't bother. But it's starting to die, so I can get a fancy new one, and I promise that it will be Energy Star rated.

With all these changes (and to me they don't feel easy this week) I've reduced my carbon load by the equivalent of 0.06 cars on the road. And that's assuming I stick with the changes; changing for just one day won't help in any measurable way. Sigh. THAT was edifying.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Random 10

Today's the day! The easy post ;) Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle. Tell us the first ten songs that appear -and no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork. Here are mine for the week:

  • Lothlorien; Enya
  • Love Changes the World; Tom Paxton
  • Fantasia for Lute; Weiss via Andre Segovia
  • Do You know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?; Louis Armstrong
  • Largo from Concerto for Guitar in D Major; Vivaldi via The English Chamber Orchestra
  • Strange Fruit; Billie Holiday
  • The Elements Song; Tom Lehrer
  • Down that Road; Leahy
  • Grace; Kate Havnevik
  • Galileo; Indigo Girls

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Knitting Under the Influence

Under the influence of caffeine, that is. It's possible that I won't make it. Well, let's rephrase that. I'm not planning on keeling over, or anything drastic. It's just possible, though, that I won't finish the Christmas knitting. I can count the hours between now and Christmas morning. Were I truly masochistic, I could count the necessary stitches between here and Christmas morning. This, however, is information I do not want.

So far, I'm still having fun. I still have my job. I haven't had to quit it because it didn't leave time for my knitting. I still have a family -although they're staying well out of my way these days, which is good. My friend whose birthday was LAST Friday might be a little peeved with me, though; I still haven't kitchener-stitched her present so that she can actually use it. Her granddaughter's Christmas present, though, is well in hand.

The pile of knitted garments is growing. The pile of yarn waiting its turn on the needles is shrinking. Frustration is lurking around the corner, but it's not really making a nuisance of itself yet. We'll see how it goes.

And if anyone cares... the binary scarf on knitty? The scarf in the picture and the scarf in the pattern? They're different. Oh well. I was planning on turning it into a hat, anyway. The geek on my list who would appreciate the joke doesn't wear scarves.

I Went to College to....

Hang on... there's a back story.

I'm working out, minding my own business. It's finals week here in corn country, and the gym is full of students working out some frustrations. Healthy behavior. I glue myself to my iPod and slog along on the treadmill, trying to be invisible. Actually, at a gym where the average age is probably 19, I don't have to try to be invisible. I just am. When not invisible, I'm the recipient of fairly overt pity. By and large, I prefer invisible. But all that's another story.

When leaving the gym, I'm behind a young woman -oddly, perfectly blonde, oddly perfectly tanned, sorority letters on the butt of her size 2 yoga pants.... I'm busy thinking despicable beneath-me thoughts like "I hope you grow up and have triplets, and remember then that you thought my abs were horrible." Issues? Me???? Then she turns around and I see that her t-shirt says "I went to college to find my bridesmaids."

Sigh.... what does this mean? And bear in mind that I had no lofty goals when I went to college. I went to college because that's what you did; there was no more thought than that. I'm certainly glad I went to college, but for reasons I couldn't possibly have predicted. I surely can not get on a high horse about deep and meaningful reasons for wanting to hang out in the groves of academe.

And besides, it could be that the meaning of the shirt is that she's hoping to find her life-long female friends. That would be a true gift, and could well happen. Or it could be the 21st century version of going to college to get your Mrs. degree -with a disturbing switch of emphasis from marriage to wedding. Which is it? Or something else altogether?

I know she was just trying to be cute and gave no deep moral significance to her shirt. But she chose it, over others that said something else. She didn't (at least today) choose the Abercrombie&Fitch one that says "Who needs brains when you have these?" across the chest. Nor did she choose a plain gray one. This one was along a continuum of possibilities and she plunked down her $20 for it. Why?

And how could a grown woman -impossibly old, from her point of view- be some sort of witness to other possibilities? Without being a tiresome bore, I mean.

I should probably work out harder, huh? Then I wouldn't have the energy to fret about these things.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mala lex, nula lex

Thomas Aquinas offers us this delicious tidbit -a bad law is no law. More specifically, a law that doesn't serve the common good is no law at all. Phrased more positively, law is a function of reason; good laws are inherently reasonable. We should, then, be able to figure them out.

As you might imagine, I'm stumped. Two allegedly unrelated things are happening within the U.S. Catholic church, and I can make no sense of them co-existing in the same space.

Thing 1: Ten years ago, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (google him; he's a piece of work)excommunicated all the members of his diocese (Lincoln) who are members of Call to Action and a few other groups. He did this because someone reported to him (or he saw, but I doubt that) that Catholics for Free Choice had set up a booth at the Call to Action conference. Therefore, Call to Action must be pro-choice. You're losing me on the reasonableness requirement, big guy. But hang on, there's more.

The excommunicated people thrashed around for a while. There was a bit of press. In the end, they decided to appeal the excommunication to the Vatican. Last week, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation for Bishops upheld the excommunication. The excommunicated Catholics chose to appeal because they wanted to affirm that they recognize the authority of the Bishop (That Bishop??? That's a hard sell. But they're nicer than I am.) but just thought he'd made a mistake. It didn't work.

So, in that one diocese (and only that diocese) probably a few hundred people have been excommunicated because they support reform in the church, including really dangerous and world-view shattering things like female altar servers. They, of course, don't recognize the validity of the ex-communication. Mala lex, nula lex. This is from their press release:

But we will not be silent! This excommunication letter has no effect
upon our work for justice in the diocese of Lincoln . We will continue
to attend mass. We will continue to live our lives as faithful
Catholics. And, most importantly, we will continue to act for
justice, just as Christ called us to do.

Thing 2: You want to guess how many priests known to have sexually abused children have been excommunicated? I'll give you three guesses, but you're only going to need one. Thousands of pedophile priests.... hundreds of complicit bishops.... they can all receive the sacraments. Not one has been excommunicated.

What's the message here? My membership in Call to Action is more dangerous to the church than the actions of a pedophile priest? They can't believe that. They think, perhaps, that we aren't going to notice? Sorry, boys. We noticed. Really, I imagine that they believe that imposing order on the laity will actually help solve the clerical crisis. Why they believe this truly escapes me, but I think that's it.

But, allowing this kind of monstrously warped logic to exist within a church that actually prizes reason is cowardice unworthy of the season. Mala lex, nula lex, fellas.

Monday, December 11, 2006

My Carbon Diet -Greening My Wardrobe

Oh for heaven's sake. I'm lucky to have a wardrobe -and my fashionista daughter would claim that I don't. I have clothes, but nothing resembling a wardrobe. (Imagine a sigh indicating serious angst emanating from child #1.) And now I'm supposed to be sure it's green, too???? OK. Let's look at this.

Here are the incremental suggestions that Slate and Treehugger suggest for the Carbon Diet:
  • use your dryer carefully -use the moisture sensor; clean the lint filter; use it only when it's full.
  • use the extended spin on your washer, so that clothes are as dry as possible when they go into the dryer.
  • buy organic cotton clothing
  • look for clothes with recycled content
  • buy vintage or at consignment clothing
  • buy fewer leather shoes, replacing them with canvas or hemp.

Oh dear..... I use the dryer well, I suppose. Seriously, who has time to run half-loads of laundry? I wish I could line-dry, but especially in this weather it's just not an option. But I think the only times I've purchased organic cotton it's been organic yarn for baby clothing. Maybe I have some organic-fiber yoga clothes. I do go to the local, great consignment shop, Encore Clothing.

And hang on.... there's stuff I do that's not on this list. I want half-credit, or something. I don't use dryer sheets. I bought some little fluff ball things that are supposed to last a year. They're great. I buy Ecological wool as often as I can. It's not dyed. The colors of the sheep? That's the color of the yarn. I love it. (Eco-Plus yarn is dyed. There aren't hot pink sheep, outside of Dr. Suess books.)

I think I'm failing this week's challenge. Sigh.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Random 10

Sorry for the absence, sweeties. You don't want to know. I've been acting like some cartoon character nut-case. It's not pretty. But the Friday Random 10, I can still do. I'm pretty sure.

You know the drill. Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle. Tell us the first ten songs that appear -and no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork. Here are mine for the week:

  • You Get What You Give; The New Radicals
  • Rhythm of the Rain; Cascades
  • Bicycle Named Heaven; Catie Curtis
  • Stille Nacht; Chanticleer
  • Let's Impeach the President; Neil Young
  • Hurricane Party; Cowboy Mouth
  • So Long, So Wrong; Alison Krauss
  • Firebird Suite; Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Take a Chance on Me; Abba (Oh dear!)
  • Educated Guess; Ani DiFranco

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Om Mani Padme Hum

Long story... The short version is that this is (or might be) the mantra of compassion. I need some. The world needs some.

I took a friend to the hospital this morning for some routine tests. This friend had a brain bleed about two years ago now and almost died during an angiogram. She just didn't come back from the anasthesia. So she was quite frightened of the anesthesia this time. We had discussed how pain reception could be distinct from consciousness and she could have pain management without losing consciousness. She knew how she was going to advocate for herself. Everything had been arranged in advance. All was well. The doctor chose to use general anasthetic anyway. She's fine, but that is SO NOT THE POINT. I almost feel sorry for the doctor. After I picked her up, I unleashed a hailstorm of non-compassion on his unsuspecting head. It's not my job. It's not my place in her life. It was a dumb thing to do.

And it set the tone for the whole day. The opposite of Om Mani Padme Hum is opening a can of whoop-ass, apparently. Many, many cans, I'm afraid. I was a walking testimony to the importance of meditation, or an object lesson as to what happens when you don't, anyway. This is not the day to mess with me.

Probably all spiritual traditions wrestle with compassion in everyday life. Certainly my own does and Buddhism does as well. I know what they say. But possibly the only sensible thing that the priest said last Sunday(wait... I could probably phrase that more compassionately... oh never mind.) is that it's in the end not possible to understand one's way to enlightenment. Damn.

Here's what today reminded me of. A life without a quiet center can become destructive. Quiet is necessary but insufficient. I have plenty of quiet these days. What I lack is a connection with my center. For me, that's meditation, prayer, liturgy, yoga -all tempered with the quick wit and deep love of my family. It's back to the mat for me. Tomorrow I'm starting over. Perhaps I can do my bit to create a world that's a smidge better than it was when I woke up.

Om mani padme hum.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My Carbon Diet

This week it is about diet. But first I should probably report how I did last week. I drove 25 miles. Check me out ;) It was that low because of the blizzard, I'm quite sure. But still! I turned the thermostat down more often. I found myself saying, with Brenda Daynes from Cast On, "If you're cold, put on a sweater. That's what they're for." And I ordered, but haven't yet received (and certainly won't know how to install) a programmable thermostat. But by the time it gets here, math-man will be home and he does know these things. I think those are all the changes I made.

Now... on to this week. It's food, food, food. This I can work with. It amounts to this:
  • buy locally grown
  • buy organic
  • reduce packaging
  • plant a garden
  • cut beef consumption

So, let's talk. I do buy organic and locally grown, although it's not anywhere near 100%. I am a participant in Community Supported Agriculture. I'm eating a locally-baked cookie for breakfast. Does that count? A local diner (Lincoln Inn) has these chocolate cookies wrapped around another chocolate thing... Oh my lands. I have to get these out of the house! So, okay I'll do a better job of buying organics this week. And, I'll get my apples from the local orchard, assuming that the roads out there are plowed.

Reduce packaging.... this is so annoying to me. My daughter is dating an engineer who designs product packaging. Kirk, I'm in a position to make your life MISERABLE, my man ;) Stop designing fingernail-breaking, kitchen-shears-ruining packaging. His answer is that when people stop shoplifting, he can get a different job, which is probably true. So the thing I can do, that I embarrassingly haven't, is make and use reusable shopping bags. Our local food coop doesn't provide bags, in any case; you have to bring your own. I probably even have a bag I can use until I get my act together and make a cute one. OK, that's on the list.

I'm looking out the window and considering the planting a garden thing. Under about 5 feet of piled-up snow, there's place to put a garden. But seriously, I wouldn't take care of it. I know me. I was at a coffee shop the other day and they had coffee plants out. Now if only I could have a little coffee crop ;) I could have potted herbs indoors, but I'm sure I can't find started plants in the shops this time of year. (If someone knows differently, tell me.) So that one's going to wait, in short.

And I already don't eat beef, so there you are.

The results looks like this:
  • Cutting beef out of your diet saves approximately 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year
  • Bringing your own bags to the grocery store saves about 17 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions a year.
  • Buying food and other products with minimal packaging saves about 230 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
  • Becoming a vegetarian saves 3,000 pounds of CO2 a year.

So, we're off. Another week.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow Day

Well now. It's unusual for the weather to stop us...ummm.... cold (pardon the expression), but today we have a snow day. Here's a link to what it looks like in my town: NIU Weather. It's fairly boring, because the camera is covered in snow. The camera is not on the ground. There's a freakin' lot of snow here.

So, I'm taking this day to do some Christmas decorating and to make cookies for the dear, wonderful, lovely neighbors who shoveled my driveway. Here are the trees on my street:

Stay warm, dear ones.