Thursday, September 8, 2016

Religion and Politics

Cover photo by Corbis

Continuing last month's focus on politics and religion, here are two more titles, both recommended over the summer by my brother, The Rev. Bruce L. Carriker.

Beginning with Religion:

The Preaching Life
by
Barbara Brown Taylor
~ (b. September 21, 1951)

53: "Ours is an historic faith. We believe in a God who acts in time, who began acting long before we came upon the scene and who will continue acting long after we are gone from it, which means that our present trust is sustained by memory on the one hand and hope on the other."

56: "The disparity between the vision and the reality was wrenching, like looking at a wasteland through a window painted with flowers . . . the reality had not yet caught up with God's vision, but it would." [As in "Science does have all the answers . . . we [just] don't have all the science."]

57 - 58: "I did not have to settle for memorizing . . . or reciting . . . I could take the text apart and put it back together again without harming it, ask questions and challenge the answers without being struck by lightning. The word of God turned out to be plenty strong enough to withstand my curiosity. Every time I poked it, it poked me back. Every time I wrenched it around so I could see inside, it sprang back into shape the moment I was through. In short, the Bible turned out not to be a fossil under glass but a thousand different things — a mirror, a scythe, a hammock, a lantern, a pair of binoculars, a high diving board, a bridge, a goad — all of them offering themselves to me to be touched and handled and used."

62: "Like a lifeline strung from the beginning of time to the end, [the Bible shows] us a way through all the storms of culture, nature, and history . . . the way to the Word beyond all our words, in whose presence we shall be made eloquent at last."

67 - 68: "There are no solo sacraments. We need one another. . . . If, in touching or being touched by these ordinary things, we believe that we are being touched by God, then we can no longer draw a clear line between the secular and the sacred in our lives. Every created thing is a potential messenger, sent to teach us more about our relationship with God. . . . Sacraments are our road maps home. God may not need them, but we do."

69 - 70: ". . . the word of God calls for a response with some human daring in it."

71: "When I say "We believe . . . " I count on that to cover what I cannot believe on my own right now. When my faith limps, I lean on the faith of the church, letting "our" faith suffice until "mine" returns. Later, when I am able to say, "We believe . . . " with renewed confidence, I know that I am filling in for others who are indisposed for the time being, as they filled in for me. My decision to say the creed at all is a decision to trust those who have gone before me, embracing the faith they have commended to me."

74: "At first it looks like the door out of the church, but as we walk through it we discover that it is the door into the world, where Christ may yet be found and followed."

53: "That is the God who walks toward me in the Bible -- not only the God of the past but also the God of the present and the future."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Moving on to Politics (and Religion):

Not forgetting that in fact, way back in 2012,
my brother suggested that we all read this one!

Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction
by
David Kuo ~ (June 26, 1968 – April 5, 2013)

David Kuo started working with George Bush (the Second) in 1998, as deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. But not until 2003 does Kuo draw the conclusion that "The president had made great promises but they hadn't been delivered on. Worse than that, the White House hadn't tried. Worse than that, we had used people of faith to further our political agenda and hadn't given them anything in return" (243). Kuo is dismayed by the various so called "compassionate measures" that had hardly any effect, positive or negative, on anyone but somehow made it seem to the religious right that the George W. Bush Administration had just done something generous for his followers.
As for Bush himself, Kuo writes, "I was surprised by the brazen deception and I was crushed by it, too. That same passion for the poor I first heard in Austin was in his voice and in his eyes. But the passion was a passion for talking about compassion, not fighting for compassion" (249).

Kuo's narrative is revealing, but why does it take him so long to realize these truths? How could he remain deluded for so long? If only I could reach back over the years, and share with David Kuo this excellent advice from Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey: "When people show you who they are, believe them." He could have saved himself a lot time.

Last Month's Post:
Harry Leslie Smith (Politics) & Barbara Walker (Religion)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Politics and Religion

We all know that Miss Manners, Linus, and nearly everyone else advises us to avoid discussions of politics and religion, but -- throwing caution to the wind -- here are a couple of eye - opening titles from my more serious summer reading.

First, politics:

Book at amazon
Photo at thinkupstream.com


I have been a fan of Harry since reading his remarkable 2013 essay "This year I will wear the poppy for the last time." Last month, I took some time to read his Last Stand (you can read it in a day) and felt that I had discovered a latter day Orwell. I like Harry's politics, courage, and honesty in speaking from the heart of a lifetime of experience. I agree when he writes that "It is both anti - democratic and immoral when life doesn't get materially and socially better for the majority. . . . For over a generation, British society worked together for one common aim: measured prosperity for everyone. To achieve it, free health care and education were provided to every citizen to even out the playing field of life" (105, 124).

Any time that "social democracy is placed jeopardy," Harry speaks up on behalf of the populace (155). He is living proof that aging does not lead inevitably to regressive politics. He observes that "Many people who are younger than me presume that because of my age I have a default setting which makes me, among other things, a lover of dogs, suspicious of immigrants, wary of welfare benefit recipients and distrusting of those who possess piercings and / or multiple tattoos" (66). But no! They'd be wrong!

When one of Harry's younger relatives points out that "The world has changed a lot since you were a boy, "Harry draws the opposite conclusion: "Though I didn't want to disagree with him, it seems to me that the problem is that it hasn't changed enough" (72).

Of the elderly, Harry writes, " . . . we are not so different to you. I still have many of your familiar worries, from how to pass the time of day to how to pay my rent. Like everyone else, I grumble about money. I think I have too little; that my pension is shrinking while the cost of living is rising. Like you, I have some regrets. Why didn't I ever learn to swim or speak French? Why didn't I buy that computer stock? Like all of us, I worry about my children, despite the fact that they are halfway along in their own lives" (8).

He provides a voice of reason amidst all the nonsense: "When I watch the news of television -- and it doesn't matter which broadcaster: BBC, Sky, CNN, Fox or CBC -- it all sounds tired, deflated, as if it had been written by a lobbyist or government policy maker. It seems contrived and fake, like the newsreaders are in on a joke that eludes their public. I can be in Yorkshire, Albufeira, New York or Toronto, but the message is always the same: health care is too costly, education must be about job training, immigration is too high [and so forth]. It can't ever be about making a more informed citizen because culture is too costly in a world content with scripted reality television shows and blockbuster zombie movies. . . . I will never understand why the daily rags castigate the poor and label them scroungers with a vigour that should be reserved for corporations . . . Yet these voices that ring so loudly are media creations, and only exist to create discord, mayhem and hatred . . . " (18, 9, 127).

Harry Leslie Smith
follow on facebook ~ listen to interview

Now for some religion:

“The Bible is a human product:
it tells us how our religious ancestors saw things,
not how God sees things. "
Marcus J. Borg

"It is not Christianity, but priestcraft
that has subjected woman as we find her.
The Church and State have been united,
and it is well for us to see it so."
Lucretia Mott

"Whatever the Bible may be made to do in Hebrew or Greek,
in plain English it does not exalt and dignify woman. . . .
we say that these degrading ideas of woman
emanated from the brain of man,
while the church says that they came from God."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton

"In practice the Mother of God or Queen of Heaven continued to occupy the same position in the Christian pantheon as in the earlier pagan one, even when churchmen officially declared her nondivine (though somewhat mysteriously miraculous). Medieval Mariolatry provided some degree of comfort for downtrodden women, although it could not assuage their pain more than just a little, since churchmen declared Mary exempt from the supposed crimes and disadvantages of mortal women. Mary was sexless, sinless, and absorbed in her relational role of mother to the exclusion of all other roles. The God who had impregnated her without pleasure had usurped all her earlier functions, such as creatress, lawgiver, judge, protectress, nurturer, spirit of nature, inventor of the civilized arts. The church insisted that the multitudes who worshipped her as divine were not really doing any such thing, simply because the church had forbidden them to view her as a true goddess."
from The Skeptical Feminist:
Discovering the Virgin, Mother, and Crone

by Barbara Walker

~ also an influential knitting expert ~

Next Month's Post:
Barbara Brown Taylor (Religion) & David Kuo (Politics)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

443 Robinson

"Our moments have blotted out theirs.
Maybe this is a necessary element of domestic living --
maybe it's the only way we can co - exist comfortably
with each other's past lives, each other's ghosts. . . .
it's not really our house at all is it . . .
It's like we're just the top layer.
And one day there'll be another layer right on top of us, squashing us down. . . . There are whole pieces of the past that lie just around the last corner,
closer perhaps then we'd like to think.
We may choose to forget this, but the house doesn't.
The house has seen it, done it, felt it all before."


from
Home: The Story of Everyone Who Ever Lived in Our House
by Julie Myerson (23, 16, 46)
~ see previous posts: The Top Layer & Our Island Home ~

******************

Indeed, some talented people
have preceded my family in this house!


Novel by Charlotte S. Scarcelli
Illustration by her friend Marcia Smith - Wood


Seascape by Ralph Scarcelli

Landscape by Ralph Scarcelli

History of Purdue

Purdue interveiw with Robert W. Topping:
"West Lafayette. I lived on Robinson Street. As an aside, I think my dad bought that house in 1911 for three thousand dollars. They recently remodeled it and it recently sold for four hundred thousand. It was a big, big yard.

"Had to walk to school. We walked home for lunch. That’s a long way from up on Grant Street, clear down to Robinson and back."
~ see previous posts: House Sisters & House With A Past ~

Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Sometimes a girl just needs to read a good book!"



"Amazon.com Announces
the Most Well-Read Cities in America"

An exciting headline and an impressive list of cities, but a totally silly ranking system based on sales data. Unfortunately, many of the more popularly purchased titles don't exactly qualify as literature (not even with a small "l" let alone with a capital "L"). They may be marketed and consumed in book form, but Tidying Up? Shades of Gray? coloring books for grown - ups? a Texas barbecue cookbook? C'mon amazon! We expect better! We know how to read!

Books / projects such as these, no matter how interesting or trendy, don't really make a person or a city "well read." But then again as Gilda Radner used to say (Was it Roseanne Roseannadanna? While looking at magazines in the beauty parlor?): "Sometimes a girl just needs to read a good book!"

In fact, the list of "well - read cities" includes some of my favorite spots, although no place that I actually live or have lived. As my friend Katie suggested, perhaps Philadelphia didn't make the list because folks there buy more high-brow books! Could that also explain why Indianapolis made the list but not West Lafayette? To claim a spot on the real list, how about if Amazon tracks down the cities where the most people have read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ulysses, or War and Peace?

While amazon may be tracking all the latest trends, my many well - read friends have given me so many excellent and timeless suggestions that I will never run out of summer reading ideas. I have more than enough to last well into the fall and thru the winter and even into next summer!

Awhile back (I'm always way behind), my friend Diane suggested the following audiobooks for "light" listening while driving or exercising -- complete with her "five star rating system":
THE TENDER BAR ***
J.R. Moehringer

THE HISTORY OF LOVE ****
Nicole Krauss

A LONG WAY DOWN ***
Nick Hornsby

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE ****
Jonathan Safran Foer

TALK TALK ***
T.C. Boyle

DRY **
Augustun Burroughs

MORAL DISORDER **
Margaret Atwood

WE ARE ALL WELCOME HERE ****
Elizabeth Berg

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN ***
Cormac McCarthy

THE GOOD LIFE ***
Jay McInerney

THE PROBABLE FUTURE ***
Alice Hoffman

THE MERMAID CHAIR ***
Sue Monk Kidd

ON CHESIL BEACH **
Ian McEwan

THE ABORTIONIST’S DAUGHTER ***
Elizabeth Hyde

NEVER LET ME GO **
Kazuo Ishiguro

A GIRL NAMED ZIPPY ****
H. Kimmel

DIGGING TO AMERICA ***
Anne Tyler

My friend Heather's "three best books of Summer 2008":
OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA
Michael Pollan
[also recommended by Tammy Knox Sandel]


A GOOD INDIAN WIFE
Anne Cherian

THE GOOD FAIRIES OF NEW YORK
Martin Millar

Latest from Cate:
THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTO
Mary Hogan

And this from a couple summers ago
Deep South Summer Reading List

Monday, May 30, 2016

Preponderance of War

Two years ago, I was working my way through several books about the Battle of the Little Big Horn. All were of great interest, but what drew all the perspectives together for me was a more recent text that I came across a year or so later. It was late September (2015) in The Wonder Book Store, one of my favorite spots to visit with my sister Peg and nephew Dan in Frederick, Maryland. In keeping with the season, Wonder Book had a display table featuring title after title in various shades of autumnal orange, where I found:
The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn:
A Lakota History

by Joseph M. Marshall III

I appreciated the clarity of Marshall's history and some beautiful expressions of Lakota philosophy. For this post, however, I'm thinking of a most curious rationalization of a community's "need for war." I can't help thinking about the warmongering sentiment of those elders and their apparent readiness to sacrifice their offspring to the gods of war:
60: "The ultimate proving ground was warfare. A man who consistently demonstrated courage and good sense during the stress, chaos, and confusion of battle would likely do the same off the battlefield. Lakota society had long ago learned the necessity of the warrior. Life was not worth living unless you were compelled to defend it now and again, according to many elders."
********************

A month later, when visiting my brothers Dave and Bruce, another echo -- negative this time -- of humanity's "need for war" caught my attention:

The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
by Robert A. Heinlein
"The second - best thing about space travel is that the distances involved make war very difficult, usually impractical, and almost always unnecessary. This is probably a loss for most people, since war is our race's most popular diversion, one which gives purpose and color to dull and stupid lives. But it is a great boon to the intelligent man who fights only when he must -- never for sport."
********************

Then came December (2015) and a somber day for reading
Voices From Chernobyl:
The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

by Svetlana Alexievich
complete with some welcome skepticism of the "need for war":
"And suddenly I catch myself filming everything just the way I saw it filmed in the war movies. And then I notice that the people are behaving in the same way. They're all carrying themselves just like in that scene from everyone's favorite movie, The Cranes Are Flying -- a lone tear, short words of farewell. It turned out we were all looking for a form of behavior that was familiar to us. We wanted to live up to the moment, and this is what we remembered. The girl is waving to her mom in a way that says, 'Everything's fine, I'm brave. We'll win!'


. . . And I imagined myself making that same gesture: we'll win! We're warriors. As far back as I can remember, my father wore military clothing, though he wasn't in the military. Thinking about money was bourgeois, thinking about life was unpatriotic, the normal state of life was hunger, They, our parents, lived through a great catastrophe, and we needed to live through it, too. Otherwise we'd never become real people."

from "Monologue About War Movies"
Sergei Gurin, cameraman
in Voices From Chernobyl (109)

"A feeling of oppression but also of carrying out a necessary task -- that lives within us, the need to be where it's difficult and dangerous, to defend the motherland. Did I teach my students anything but that? To go, throw yourself on the fire, defend, sacrifice. The literature I taught wasn’t about life, it was about war: Sholokhov, Serafimovich, Furmanov, Fadeev, Boris Polevoy. . . .


. . . We already felt like it was wartime. It made a lot more sense when three suddenly appeared lines for bread, salt, matches. Everyone rushed to dry their bread into crackers. This seemed familiar to me, even though I was born after the war. I could imagine how I’d leave my house, how the kids and I would leave, which things we’d take with us, how I’d write my mother. Although all around life was going on as before, the television was showing comedies. But we always lived in terror, we know how to live in terror, it’s our natural habitat."
from "People's Chorus"
in Voices From Chernobyl (140)

[see previous posts "May Day Parade" & "Ammonia Avenue"]

********************

Finally, over Spring Break, I read Chinua Achebe's classic novel of the old world versus the new -- Things Fall Apart. While not quite the same as the "need for war," what I couldn't help noticing in this story of late 19th Century Nigeria was a preponderance of guns. Whatever elements of Western colonialsim the Ibo tribe may have spurned, they did not hesitate to embrace the gun:
" . . . Ezeudu was to be buried after dark with only a glowing brand to light the sacred ceremony.

But before this quiet and final rite, the tumult increased tenfold. Drums beat violently and men leaped up and down in frenzy. Guns were fired on all sides and sparks flew out as machetes clanged together in warriors' salutes. The air was full of dust and the smell of gunpowder. . . .

. . . Darkness was around the corner, and the burial was near. Guns fired the last salute and the cannon rent the sky. And then from the center of the delirious fury came a cry of agony and shouts of horror. It was as if a spell had been cast. All was silent. In the center of the crowd a boy lay in a pool of blood. It was the dead man's sixteen-year-old son, who with his brothers and half-brothers had been dancing the traditional farewell to their father. Okonkwo's gun had exploded and a piece of iron had pierced the boy's heart." (123 - 24)
Live by the gun, die by the gun. On this day of gun salutes, may I suggest that the "need for war" has seen its day on this planet. It is time to find something else to live for, something else to make us strong, something else to make us proud.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Until We Seek Until We Find Ammonia Avenue

". . . we can't all move to the moon . . . "
from Voices From Chernobyl
(100)
by Svetlana Alexievich (b 1948)
Nobel Prize in Literature ~ 2015

So Many Memorable Passages:

61: "Is there anything more frightening than people?"

164: "And still we had a great time on May 1.
We came home late at night, and my window had been
blown open by the wind. I would remember that later on."

173: " . . . maybe the moral is simple . . .
You should come into this world on your tiptoes,
and stop at the entrance? Into this miraculous world . . . "

193: "And then the conversations begin again, until midnight. First about him, the deceased. But after that? Once more about the fate of the country and the design of the universe. . . . We’re metaphysicians. We don’t live on this earth, but in our dreams, in our conversations. Because you need to add something to this ordinary life, in order to understand it. Even when you’re near death."

213: "We read Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov, went to each other's houses, had endless talks in the kitchen. We wanted something more from life. What? Somewhere there were movie actors -- Catherine Deneuve -- wearing berets. We wanted freedom."

214: "And the May Day parade? No one forced us to go -- no one forced me to go there. We all had a choice and we failed to make it. I don't remember a more crowded, cheerful May Day parade. Everyone was worried, they wanted to become part of the herd -- to be with others. People wanted to curse someone, the authorities, the government, the Communists. Now I think back, looking for the break. Where was it? But it was before that. We didn't even want to know the truth. We just wanted to know if we should eat the radishes."

******************

124: “Show me a fantasy novel about Chernobyl--there isn't one! Because reality is more fantastic.”

168, 191: "People didn't understand. They'd been frightened over and over again about a nuclear war, but not about Chernobyl. . . . We'd been afraid of bombs, of mushroom clouds, but then it turned out like this . . . this wasn't like anything else."

180: "The apocalypse — nuclear winter — has already all been described in Western literature [and music, e.g., Ammonia Avenue], as if they were rehearsing it, preparing for the future. The explosion of a large number of nuclear warheads will result in enormous fires. The atmosphere will be saturated with smoke. Sunlight won't be able to reach the earth, and this will ignite a chain reaction -- from cold to colder to colder still. This man - made version of the end of the world has been taught since the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century. But atom bombs won't disappear even after they destroy the last warhead. There will still be the knowledge of atom bombs."

Cases in point, of post - apocalyptic fiction, prefiguring (or attempting to prefigure) the real thing:

1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) ~ Philip K. Dick ~ I have always meant to read this precursor to the movie Bladerunner, if for no other reason than to make sense of the bizarre title. No matter how many times you've seen the movie, try reading the book then re - watching the film with the text fresh in mind, in order to see how much the screenplay has been altered from Dick's original novel.

It was quite touching to overhear the replicants discussing the nature of fiction and the mysterious concept of imagination:
" . . . pre-colonial fiction."
"You mean old books?"
"Stories written before space travel but about space travel."
"How could there have been stories about space travel before — "
"The writers," Pris said, "made it up."
"Based on what?"
"On imagination." (150 - 51)
Made it up! Imagine that!

The movie devotes little time to one of the more important themes of the book -- the human desire to own a living pet, as a status symbol, if nothing else, in this nuclear - damaged world where animal life is so scarce that most pets are battery - powered imitations. Thus the query, if humans dream of real sheep, do androids dream of ersatz sheep?

At the close of the novel, Rick Deckard finds what he at first believes to be a lone living specimen of an extinct variety of toad:
237: "The toad, he saw, blended in totally with the texture and shade of the ever - present dust. It had, perhaps, evolved, meeting the new climate as it had met all climates before. . . . only the top of its flat skull and its eyes projected above the ground. . . . The eyes held no spark, no awareness . . . But it had moved."

238: " . . . he felt its peculiar coolness; in his hands its body seemed dry and wrinkled -- almost flabby -- and as cold as if it had taken up residence in a grotto miles under the earth away from the sun. Now the toad squirmed; with its weak hind feet it tried to pry itself from his grip, wanting, instinctively, to go flopping off. A big one, he thought; full-grown and wise. Capable, in its own fashion, of surviving even that which we’re not really managing to survive. . . . Life which we can no longer distinguish; life carefully buried up to its forehead in the carcass of a dead world."
As John Isidore explains: "Even animals -- even eels and gophers and snakes and spiders -- are sacred. . . . Insects . . . are especially sacrosanct." Spiders have become so rare that any one of them might be "the last spider . . . The last living spider on Earth" (161, 210). A similar reverence for animals is repeated throughout the testimonials recounted in Voices From Chernobyl, from dogs to bird, all the way down to flies, wasps, and cockroaches (see my previous post "Birdwatching"). Chernobyl actually has a lot in common with Androids, in a weirdly ironic way.

2. Roadside Picnic (1972) ~ Arkady & Boris Strugatsky ~ Similar to Androids & Bladerunner, this 1970's novel of existentialist science fiction -- in which alien travelers have stopped by Earth for a brief visit, leaving behind a contaminated Zone -- bears a fictional but striking resemblance to real - life Chernobyl. In the novel (and the related, but very different, movie Stalker) the aliens have left behind a scattering of curious debris -- copper discs, batteries, metal hoops and bracelets -- much as careless Earthlings might litter the site of a Roadside Picnic. Did the aliens even notice that they might be disrupting someone else's habitat in a potentially harmful, even devastating, way? Perhaps not.
131 - 132: “A picnic. Imagine: a forest, a country road, a meadow. A car pulls off the road into the meadow and unloads young men, bottles, picnic baskets, girls, transistor radios, cameras . . . A fire is lit, tents are pitched, music is played. And in the morning they leave. The animals, birds, and insects that were watching the whole night in horror crawl out of their shelters. And what do they see? An oil spill, a gasoline puddle, old spark plugs and oil filters strewn about . . . Scattered rags, burnt-out bulbs, someone has dropped a monkey wrench. The wheels have tracked mud from some godforsaken swamp . . . and, of course, there are the remains of the campfire, apple cores, candy wrappers, tins, bottles, someone’s handkerchief, someone’s penknife, old ragged newspapers, coins, wilted flowers from another meadow . . . A roadside picnic.” [Ellipses in original text.]

128: "How do you think it is all going to end? . . . for humanity as a whole. . . .

"That depends on our luck . . . We now know that for humanity as a whole, the Visit has largely passed without a trace. For humanity everything passes without a trace. Of course, it's possible that by randomly pulling chestnuts out of this fire, we'll eventually stumble on something that will make life on Earth completely unbearable. That would be bad luck. But you have to admit, that's a danger humanity has always faced. . . . You see, I've long since become unused to discussing humanity as a whole. Humanity as a whole is too stable a system, nothing upsets it."

132: " . . . what makes us great? . . . Is it that we re-created nature? That we harnessed forces of almost - cosmic proportions? That in a brief time we have conquered the planet and opened a wndow onto the universe? No! It is that despite all this, we have survived, and intend to continue doing so."

139: " . . . statistics is a very precise science, despite the fact that it deals with random variables. And furthermore, it's a very eloquent science, very visual."
3. Only Begotten Daughter (1990) ~ James Morrow ~ A feminist revision of New Testament Christianity, with a futuristic (2012!) New Jersey - Philadelphia setting, featuring not a nuclear annihilation but one of fire and brimstone.

The novel opens with some clever parallels: Murray Katz & his daughter Julie = Mary & Jesus; Georgina Sparks & her daughter Phoebe = Elizabeth & John the Baptist; New Jersey = New Jerusalem; The Garden State = The State of Israel; Atlantic City (that "burning, outsized Monopoly board") = Anti - Christ; the lighthouse beam = the Star of Bethlehem; the three paramedics = the three Wiseman (64, 125, 151, 29, 35). Instead of “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here” written over the Gates of Hell, it's "All Hope Embrace, Ye Who Enter In" flashing across the entrance to Dante's Casino (64, 127, 169).

Julie Katz is not just a "flash in the pantheon" but may be the one to bring "a new religion, a faith as apocalyptic as Christianity, fierce as Islam, repressive as Hinduism, smug as Buddhism" (57 - 58); or, better yet, she has come "to rescue the masses from nostalgia . . . [to] topple the empire of nostalgia" (110-11): "My mother is outside the universe . . . the God of physics . . . The tragedy of my species . . . is that it does not live in its own time. Homo sapiens is locked on history's rearview mirror, never the road ahead, bent on catching some presumed lost paradise . . . the human race is destroying itself with nostalgia . . . My mother wants us to live in our time. When a species fixates on the supernatural, it ceases to mature. . . . You must live in your own time! . . how can you bring about utopia with one eye cocked on eternity?" (94, 100, 118, 160, 186).
103: "In the beginning was the Word, but now God's vocabulary was growing. The first Word was an English noun, savior, but the second would be a French verb, savoir, to know: at long last . . . we can know things. Three more years of college, and then she'd buy a word processor (no, Word processor) and publish her covenant of uncertainty, declare her kingdom of impermanence, topple the empire of nostalgia -- teach the truth of the heart. The heart was a pump? Yes, true enough, provided one meant: at the present moment in history, pump is the best metaphor we have for what a heart is."

104: "And the kidney was a filter. Earth orbited the sun. Microbes caused disease. Yes! The time of her ministry was at hand. She would take neither the high road nor the low, but a byway of her own devising; she would beam her message onto every television screen in creation, etch it onto every phonograph record, smear it across every printed page. In the beginning was the Word, and in the end there would be a million words, ten million words, a hundred million words, all authored by the only begotten daughter of God herself."

138: "You wanted the masses to embrace reason and science. It will never happen. They can't join in -- there's no point of entry for them. . . . The problem is, only a few people get to be scientists. You see the dilemma? Given the choice between a truth they can appreciate and a lie they can live, most people will take you - know - what."

[And from Chernobyl, 181: " . . . humans do not accommodate science very very much -- they get in the way of it."]

90, 187: "Science does have all the answers . . . we [just] don't have all the science . . . that's the beauty of science. It's self - correcting. It welcomes new data." [And perhaps grants us access of knowledge already revealed but not yet known.]
P.S. The human dilemma:
"WELCOME TO FLESH.
UNCERTAINTY ZONE AHEAD."

(312)

Could it be . . . Ammonia Avenue?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Challenges: Special K & Ten Favs

The Novel Reader by Vincent Van Gogh
See more Paintings of Readers

A few months ago my niece Brittany challenged her facebook friends and family to play the "First Letter of Your First Name Game." Thanks Brit, for getting my mind going on an otherwise lazy day! Here are my results, complete with a few readerly references:

My Name ~ Kitti

Girl's Name ~
Kevy ~ from favorite junior high novel,
A Crack in the Sidewalk by Ruth Wolff

and

Kezia ~ from favorite short story sequence,
"Prelude" by Katherine Mansield

Had I ever become the parent of twin girls, wouldn't
Kevy and Kezia have been the perfect names? Yes!
Boy's Name ~ Kerry
Animal ~ Kitten
Color ~ Khaki
Movie ~ Kill Bill (I would never watch this movie!)
Television show ~ Kotter, Welcome Back (inverted)
Something you wear ~ Kilt (have never worn kilt!)
Drink ~ Keifr (would not drink this stuff!)
Food ~ Kelp (would not eat!)
Something found in bathroom ~ Kleenex (ok, use lots!)
Occupation ~ Keyboard Player
Hobby ~ Knitting (right, Cate?!)
Game ~ Kick - the - Can (Clover Meadows)
Place ~ Kingdom Come (or Kiev)
Country ~ Kenya (Mumbi!)
Reason to be late ~ Kept getting distracted . . . by facebook challenges!
(Peg, remember this one?)

Author(s) ~
Franz Kafka
Nikos Kazantzakis (see below)
Ken Kesey
Sue Monk Kidd (see below)
Stephen King
Barbara Kingsolver (see below)
Rudyard Kipling
Milan Kundera
Poem ~ "Kubla Khan"

Novel(s) ~
Katherine ~ Anya Seton
King Dork ~ Frank Portman
Kitchen ~ Banana Yoshimoto
Kite Runner ~ Khaled Hosseini

and, cheating a little bit:

Karenina, Anna
Kisses, Parachutes and
~ Erica Jong
Song(s) ~
"Keep Christmas With You"
"Killing Me Softly"
"King of the Road"
"Kiss Me"
"Knowing Me, Knowing You"
"Kumbaya"
"Kyrie Eleison" (aka "Carry a Laser")
Play ~ King Lear

Musical ~ Kiss Me Kate, Kismet

Fictional Character ~ Knave of Hearts

Four-letter word ~ Know

Still Life: French Novels
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Also awhile back, my friend Milly wrote to say "I have been challenged by a couple of people to list my ten all-time favorite books. Impossible! I have put together a short list in no certain order of books that I loved! I challenge Kitti to do the same!"

Here's Milly's List

1. To Kill a Mockingbird ~ Harper Lee
2. Wuthering Heights ~ Emily Bronte
3. Me Before You ~ Jojo Moyes
4. My Losing Season ~ Pat Conroy
5. The Diary of Anne Frank
6. Gone With the Wind ~ Margaret Mitchell
7. The Orphan Train Quartet ~ Joan Lowry Nixon
8. Reach for the Summit ~ Pat Summitt
9. Plainsong ~ Kent Haruf
10. Rome Sweet Home ~ Scott Hahn

Still Life with French Novels and a Rose
Vincent Van Gogh


Here's My List

I'm going to be a copycat on
1. To Kill a Mockingbird

and since Milly mentions Pat Conroy, I'll add
2. The Water is Wide (also, the movie Conrack)

3. The Master and Margarita ~ Mikhail Bulgakov
4. Out of Africa ~ Isak Dinesen
5. The Last Temptation of Christ ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
6. The Secret Life of Bees ~ Sue Monk Kidd
7. Animal Dreams ~ Barbara Kingsolver
8. The Alphabet and the Goddess ~ Leonard Shlain
9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn ~ Betty Smith
10. Mrs. Dalloway ~ Virginia Woolf

So hard to stop at ten!

Blossoming Almond Branch
in a Glass with a Book

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