Friday, July 27, 2007

Missing Ingredient

I’m broken-hearted tonite.

While I’m an introvert, I work, like most of us, with people. By that I mean I work with them as souls and spirits, not just as bio-machines that are little more than extensions of the copier or workstation. So … I get to know who they are in the core of their being. I get glimpses of their central convictions and the things that offer them hope. I get to share a little bit in their burdens and their disappointments. I also get to see, sometimes, the demons that plague them and the longings of their heart and the dreams that put wings on their feet. It is a curse. It is a blessing.

For three years I have invested in a very gifted someone who has been lingering on the edge of hope. This has included prayers and pleadings and conversations and challenges and encouragements. Today I learned that it has produced no hopeful fruit. That someone walked away and proclaimed it all to be meaningless.

My broken-heartedness does not come from my time and effort being wasted, because I don’t believe it was a waste. It doesn’t come from the dissatisfaction of no return on investment. It comes from watching someone turn away from light and peace and promise and hope, and choose a path filled with quiet, appealing, smiling deceit and progressive blindness.

This can only lead to being lost in the wilderness. And it breaks my heart.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sound and Smells

“Now divine air! Now is his soul ravished! Is it not strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?”

Much Ado, Act II, scene 3.

I think Benedick speaks for me here. I love Benedick in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Such a stalwart bachelor who is secretly, slowly caving to his affection for Beatrice. When he makes the statement above, Benedick is listening dispassionately to a love song which several of his friends were swooning over. In his quizzical comment on the poor resistance that we display against the emotional power of music, I think he surreptitiously touches on something mysterious and mystical in the world. It IS strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies. It is a curious thing that certain forms of music move us profoundly in the spirit.

This is a powerful mystery. A physical action at one location can have and often has an emotional and spiritual response in the soul of rational creatures. Really, how DOES the plucking of a string, which results in a vibration of “sheep’s guts” and air, and triggers a vibration response in our ear, evoke from us longings and joys and remembrances and unseen pleasures, and even fears? Ever hear the tones in a well-crafted air-horn? Frightful. They are only sounds, … but frightful, fear-generating nevertheless.

There is something mysterious about these things. And quantification only goes so far. Vigen Guroian, orthodox theologian and avid gardener, finds the same thing in fragrances. He likens them to the viewing of colors. How can you describe a color to someone who hasn’t “experienced” it. How do you describe aromas to someone who hasn’t had the privilege of smell? But its more than that. It’s not just being able to describe the fragrance of something. Fragrances and odors move us. What does the fragrance of lilac or lavender or gardenia or alyssum do for you, or to you? How about coffee or a good wine? Ahh, yes. Tokens of paradise.

There is a plethora of things that we moderns easily lump into a mere physics category; the physical action of vibrations or organic molecules or light waves, when in reality they are so much more. Each seems to be a portal into something of the mystery in the Universe. Frankly, it IS strange, however true, that sheep’s guts hale the souls out of men’s bodies. But no stranger than the beckoning fragrance of a rose making us long for something eternal.

Today’s influences and soundtrack:
Vigen Guroian, Inheriting Paradise
John Mark, Gospel
John Barry, Out of Africa
Coldplay, X & Y

Monday, July 9, 2007

With a Twist

Labyrinthine. This is what makes for a good story. It must be labyrinthine. There must be twists and turns and dead-ends and switchbacks and a destination; and perhaps there may need to be a string that one can follow to find one’s way out or back. Umberto Eco* asserts that three labyrinths are needed. A spatial labyrinth, whether it be a city, a building, a cave, or something Minos created to confound his enemies. The hero and the reader must run the risk of getting lost and having to fight his way through. Secondly there must be a relational labyrinth. People are a puzzle anyway, but a good story involves several personalities whose lives are intertwined and one risks getting lost in the matter of who affects who and who is the culprit and who is the anchor and who is the stooge and so on. Thirdly, there must be a psychological labyrinth. The hero must be sorting himself out as he sorts out where he is, where he is going, who he is dealing with and what difference it makes. Who he becomes is more important than where he is getting.

Labyrinthine. This is what life is. We would like life to be straightforward and simple with the destination clearly in view and all the pathmarkers printed in reflective silver. But it’s not. Even for those who know without doubt the final destination, the labyrinth must be walked through. And it is probably a good thing. How boring and dangerous is the predictable life with no sudden turns, no startling obstacles, no exhausting uphills. Without these things we wouldn’t have surprising vistas, satisfying solutions, or victorious summits. Nor would we have the call to courage, the labor of creativity or the demand of endurance. Without the labyrinth, would we become anything? Merely having a map and compass does not get you to where you are going. They only give direction. You still must walk. Who you become is more important than where you are getting.

With all of its switchbacks, dead-ends and unexpected twists, involving the multiplicity of personalities and the discovery of oneself, life is a wondrous story.

*notes – Umberto Eco. 2001. The Name of the Rose. Harcourt, Brace, Janovich. Pp. 528-530.

Today’s influences and soundtrack:
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Alexander McCall Smith, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
John Mark, Gospel
Nightnoise, compilation including Hugh, Hourglass, Bridges

Friday, July 6, 2007

Stouts and Starts

The half-finished stout on my desk is a local brew that doesn't quite match up to the Irish products I've had in the past. For the moment it will do, as it provides a kind of distraction while I mull through this post.

The reason I'm starting this is because of a suggestion that "it builds community where most people are living." I doubt that actually. I live next to a redneck who doesn't care a lick about the Internet, and across the street from a guy who is a year away from retirement and doesn't care about the Internet, and behind a couple that who are never home to use it even if they had the Internet, and I suspect they are all pretty typical of most of the folks within a fair radius of this keyboard. The community I know chit-chats in the evening at the property line about tomatoes and burned out front lawns and the improvements they're making to the kitchen floor.

My dread, of course, is that this will simply be one more thing that takes time and requires regular management.

My computer requires more time of me than I wish to give it. Sadly, it is a useful tool.... so I use it. Tragically, it threatens to control my mind and my time and my life and my finances. Between viruses, spyware, software that gets zapped by static electricity, security filters, firewalls, and who knows whatever else, many of my daily resourses are consumed by this thing. I don't even want to go into how much time it cost me yesterday while I adjusted a database just so I could get an accurate report from it. Just to set this blog up tonite cost me an hour and a half. Tell me ... do you really have that kind of time to throw away? If today was your last day on earth, would you have wanted to waste an hour and a half schmoozing with your computer? This thing is a toaster for heaven's sake. Who in their right mind spends their evening with a toaster?

But since I believe there is some benefit to come from this, then let the games begin....

The stout is finished, its last bitter aftertaste lingering on the tongue. A good end to a good day.