Wednesday, February 28, 2018

I Should Have Read the Book First

. . . before it got carved up!
. . . and before watching the movie!
Book Sculpture ~ Rachel's Hobby

Any Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl fans out there? I need to read this book!

The movie has a great subplot of mini parody movies that some viewers might actually enjoy more than the movie itself. I tried to find a youtube clip of just the mini - movies, but no luck. This explanation about the making of them will give you some idea.

The titles alone are hilarious!

A partial list follows:

• “Anatomy of a Burger,” based on 1959’s “Anatomy of a Murder,” directed by Otto Preminger.

• “Ate 1/2 (Of My Lunch),” based on “8 1/2,” directed by Federico Fellini.

• “A Box O’ Lips, Wow,” based on Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.”

• “The Battle of All Deer,” based on “The Battle of Algiers,” by Gillo Pontecorvo.

• “Breathe Less,” based on Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless.”

• “Burden of Screams,” based on Les Blank’s “Burden of Dreams.”

• “Can’t Tempt,” based on Godard’s “Contempt.”

• “Crouching Housecat Hidden Housecat,” based on Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

• “Death in Tennis,” based on Luchino Visconti’s “Death in Venice.”

• “My Dinner With Andre the Giant,” based on Louis Malle’s “My Dinner With Andre.”

• “Don’t Look Now Because a Creepy Ass Dwarf Is About to Kill You!! Damn!!!” based on Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now.”

• “Eyes Wide Butt,” based on Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.”

• “Hairy, Old and Mod,” based on Hal Ashby’s “Harold and Maude.”

• “La Gelee,” based on Chris Marker’s “La Jetèe.”

• “Gone With My Wind,” based on Victor Fleming’s “Gone With the Wind.”

• “Grumpy Cul-de-Sacs,” based on Scorsese’s “Mean Streets.”

• “It’s a Punderful Life,” based on Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

• “The Janitor of Oz,” based on Fleming’s “The Wizard of Oz.”

• “The Lady Manishness,” based on Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes.”

• “Monorash,” based on Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon.”

• “My Best Actor Is Also a Dangerous Lunatic,” based on Werner Herzog’s “My Best Fiend.”

• “Nose Ferret 2,” based on F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu.”

• “Pooping Tom,” based on Powell’s “Peeping Tom.”

• “Rear Wind,” based on Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.”

• “Rosemary Baby Carrots,” based on Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby.”

• “Senior Citizen Cane,” based on Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.”

• “The Seven Seals,” based on Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal.”

• “A Sockwork Orange,” based on Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.”

• “Vere’d He Go?” based on Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”

• “2:48 p.m. Cowboy,” based on John Schlesinger’s “Midnight Cowboy.”

See further: A guide to fun movie references in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl / Austin Movie Blog: "Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has slipped in lots of sly movie references . . . related to the director’s past — his association with Martin Scorsese . . . ."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

An Admirable Sense of Priorities

Illustration of the Holy Family
​From The Besancon Book of Hours
15th Century France
Among our perrenial favorites is this card from Gerry's Auntie Jan. Inside she has written: "A Saint Joseph with an admirable sense of priorities, holding the Baby so that Mary can do a little reading!" Don't you love that? Meanwhile the donkey appears to be nibbling Joseph's halo!


To close out the holiday season,
I re-read one of my old favorites:

by Holly J. Burkhalter

and then tried something new by the same author:

Good God, Lousy World, and Me:
The Improbable Journey of a Human
Rights Activist from Unbelief to Faith


Additional serious non - fiction for the New Year,
including suggestions from Beata, Cate, Dodie, Heather:

Rising Strong:
The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.

by Brené Brown

Life Without Envy:
Ego Management for Creative People

by Camille DeAngelis

Dare To Forgive:
The Power of Letting Go and Moving On

by Edward M. Hallowell

Make Peace With Anyone: Breakthrough Strategies
to Quickly End Any Conflict, Feud, or Estrangement

by David J. Lieberman

Anatomy of the Spirit:
The Seven Stages of Power and Healing

by Caroline Myss

Daring to Trust:
Opening Ourselves to Real Love and Intimacy

by David Richo

Becoming Wise:
An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

by Krista Tippett

Friday, December 15, 2017

Everything by Kent Haruf

The Main Street of Fictional Holt, Colorado
~ IRL Salida ~

For more information on
American novelist Kent Haruf (1943 - 2014)
see my post

"Not the Husband, Not the Fathe

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

The Tie That Binds (1984)
"Now I don’t pretend to think that a mere stretch of six years is anywhere near enough time. But I suppose if that’s all you’re given and no more, then six years will have to do. In the end that’s what Edith Goodnough had: she had six years of what you may call fun. Or good times. Or better, just the day - in, day - out mean rich goodness of being alive, when at night you lie down in the warm dark pleased with your corner of the world, and then you wake the next morning still pleased with it, and you know that, too, while you lie there for a time listening in peace to the mourning doves calling from the elm trees and telephone lines, until finally the thought of black coffee moves you up out of bed and down the stairs to the kitchen stove, so that once again you can begin it all afresh, with pleasure, with eagerness even” (165).

Where You Once Belonged (1990)
"At Holt County Union High School -- it was redbrick too and three stories high as the grade school had been, but it stood at the south end of Main Street and it was more ambitious architecturally; it had square turrets at both ends and the roof was red tile so that it looked a cross between a prison and somebody's notion of a Mediterranean palace; you could see it from a distance, risen up above the stunted elm trees and hackberries, standing alone at the end of Main as if blocking passage out of town, the practical and symbolic notion of what Holt County thought about higher education, standing there for fifty years and more until in the middle 1960s it was condemned and they tore it down and sold off the old redbrick for backyard patios and borders for zinnia beds and replaced it with a new low one - story pedestrian affair that had a scarcity of windows . . ." (24 - 25).

Plainsong (1999)
"Let me see if I can stand up. Slowly she began to rise from the chair, pushing back with her fisted hands against the armrests. They wanted to help her but didn’t know where she might be touched. At last she stood erect. It’s ridiculous to get so old, she said. It’s stupid and ridiculous. She took up her canes. Stand back so I don’t trip on you. . . . She shuffled into the next room and came back carrying a flat and ragged cardboard box and set it on the table and removed the lid, then she showed them photographs that had been much-handled in the long afternoons and evenings of her solitary life . . . there was a photograph of . . . a slender woman with dark wavy hair in a white gabardine dress.

Who’s that? they said. That lady with him.

Who do you think? she said.

They shrugged. They didn’t know.

That’s me. Couldn’t you guess?

They turned to look at her, examining her face.

That’s how I used to look, she said. I was young once too, don’t you know.
" (148 - 50)

Eventide (2004)
"She got up from bed with the sheet around her and followed him, watching him drive away on the vacant street, seeing him pass under the corner streetlamp, then onto Main and out of sight. Shadows from the lamp were like long stick figures thrown out behind the trees and all along the street were the quiet mute fronts of houses. She sat down in the dark room. An hour later she woke shivering and went back to her bed. . . .

And farther away, outside of town, out on the high plains, there would be the blue yardlights shining from the tall poles at all the isolated farms and ranches in all the flat treeless country, and presently the wind would come up, blowing across the open spaces, traveling without obstruction across the wide fields of winter wheat and across the ancient native pastures and the graveled county roads, carrying with it a pale dust as the dark approached and the nighttime gathered round
" (224, 300).

Benediction (2013)
"Sounds like a mixed blessing, Lyle said.
Dad looked at him. Yes sir. Lots of things turn out to be blessings that got mixed up.
" (78)

"All life is moving through some kind of unhappiness, isn't it.
I don't know. I didn't used to think so.
But there's some good too, Willa said. I insist on that.
There are some brief moments, Alene said. This is one of them.
" (194)

"Well, you sure got you a real fine nice big house here. You done all right that way, didn't you. This is a real nice big pleasing satisfying house you got here.
I worked for it, Dad said.
Well sure. Of course. I know, the old man said. Had some luck too, I believe.
I had some luck. But I worked hard. I earned it.
Yeah. Sure. Most people work hard. It's not only that now, is it. You had you some luck.
Goddamn it, I had some luck too, Dad said, but I earned the luck.
" (227)

Our Souls at Night (2015)
"Aren’t you afraid of death?
Not like I was. I’ve come to believe in some kind of afterlife. A return to our true selves, a spirit self. We’re just in this physical body till we go back to spirit.
I don’t know if I believe that, Addie said. Maybe you’re right. I hope you are.
We’ll see, won’t we. But not yet.
No, not yet, Addie said. I do love this physical world. I love this physical life with you. And the air and the country. The backyard, the gravel in the back alley. The grass. The cool nights. Lying in bed talking with you in the dark.
" (128 - 29)

"You can't fix things, can you, Louis said.
We always want to. But we can't. . . .

What did you tell me? Something about not being able to fix people's lives.
That was for you, she said. Not for me.
I see, Louis said.
" (144, 151).


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Happy Bookgiving

This classic, as seen in a shop window in Dublin a couple of years ago, would make a great gift. I should have gone in and purchased it, but alas I was trying to travel light and passed up the chance. Looks like amazon has a few vintage copies as well as a re-released edition.


These quaint old - American holiday books,
in reprinted editions make great gifts:

"There is a spell on southern Salem [NC], the spell not of a dead past but of a living one, constantly revitalized, so that as one walks these uneven red-brick pavements, one is haunted by memories of long-past Christmases, thoughts of those far times, when in secrecy and fear, the Hidden Seed kept its feast of candles and of anthems, thoughts of happier festivals in Saxony where young Count Zinzendorf offered the heretics the refuge city of Herrnhut, thoughts of brave long-ago love-feasts right here, when a tiny, intrepid band of colonists sang its Christmas chorales in the midst of endless miles of wilderness, while wolves nosed and howled at the cabin door. Along with these Moravian memories come thronging recollections of one's own childhood Christmases in all their unforgotten wizardry, so that here in Christmas Salem, I seem to be walking again the midnight aisle which leads through a great wood of fir trees looming black beneath high stars." ~Winifred Kirkland



And for the biblio - anglo - philes on your list:

Book ~ Charlecote Park
An almost idyllic reminiscence of growing up
in the Elizabethan / Victorian grandeur of Charlecote Park,
as told by the last family of children to live there:
"One by one the children would grow old enough to being dining regularly with their parents in the evening. None of them would enjoy it. All this lay ahead. But the children knew that the summer holidays just past were probably the last of a kind. . . . So very much was always expected of the children of the house . . . they knew they were growing up because of the childhood memories that seemed to be accumulating behind them. When they were together, they quite often began sentences with, 'Do you remember--?' " (63, 84, 97).
Their childhood innocence is overtaken by a
growing awareness of gender and social inequity,
the coming of World War I, and the fruitless resistance
to the inevitable arrival of the 20th Century:
"The last carriage left; the park gates were shut. A great silence wrapped Charlecote Hall again; the whole place seemed to sink into sleep, as the sun went down. Even the cooing of pigeons and the occasional notes of other birds had ceased. Only the gentle sound of the River Avon continued. It was difficult to believe that the world outside this world was not also at peace" (111).
". . . The house remembers . . . " (126).

Matching Gift Tin
Charlecote Gatehouse

Yes, I do in fact own one of these tins, purchased as a souvenir
in 1979, when I visited Charlecote on my first trip to England.

[Another old house book by Philippa Pearce ~ Tom's Midnight Garden]

Sunday, October 29, 2017

October Light, October Heavy

A Series of Postcards from Victoria:

31 August 2002
The East Window ~ by William Morris
Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin
Great Brington, Northamptonshire

"I visited Althorp as well as this church
where Diana's father / family crypt are.
It was elegant, moving, poignant
-- an interesting and sweet experience.
Up the Republic!"

2 July 2002
"I never have felt any connection to Spain, to the
Spanish language, to Silver City. But Paris . . .

21 September 2002
The 13th Century Chancel
Dornoch Cathedral
Sutherland, Scotland

"Happy Autumn Equinox! How I love fall
. . . beautiful sweater weather.
DIY is a fact of life: painting, steaming wall paper,
removing carpet, hanging blinds, new flooring.
Madonna christened her son here -- it's lovely."

27 September 2002
"Happy Autumn! Is it beautiful in Philly in September?
I start teaching on Monday . . . not overly excited.
I really do envy you your freedom, and while I know
you have responsibilities, they're such lovely ones.
I just feel . . . so very weary of attitude . . .
But don't you just absolutely love this time of year:
Is the ghost in the window?"

28 October 2002
"Happy Halloween!
Happy Samhain!
Happy All Souls Day!
Happy Dia do los Muertos!
Happy Wiccan New Year!
Have a marvelous & scary time!
Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo!

Well, it wasn't Paris, but I enjoy being back in Romania.
Next year I am doing the Transylvania Tour!
I didn't see any ghosts, but I certainly met a lot of odd people.
It has triggered a renewed interest in ghosts and paranormal activity.
What's your take on the afterlife?
Are there famous haunted sites in Philly?"


I responded to all the postcards at once,
sometime in late October 2002

Dear Vickie,

I still laugh whenever I read your card from the summer: "Spain . . . Spanish language . . . Silver City." Such a brief yet far-reaching list; seems to say it all! How was it spending the summer there, in Silver City, I mean? Well, and Spain too if you found yourself there? I know what you mean, though, how is that Spain and Spanish didn't make it onto our academic landscape? Is it just our Brit - Lit snobbery? Hmmmm.

How are your DIY projects coming along? I know that they can be very stressful . . . not like those chirpy little shows on the Learning Channel! Gerry thrives on his Home Depot projects (he loves that place!) and always feels hugely satisfied upon their completion. Me, I just do what I'm told and vacuum up the aftermath!

Have you come across any new ghost poems yet? How did you like "Edith Conant"? I'm so glad that you went to Althorp. Was Diana's ghost there?

You asked about Priscilla, my lace house ghost? I've just changed her bow, and she is hanging bravely in the entry foyer, a bit bedraggled, like Faulkner's Miss Emily or Miss Havisham. Maybe I should spruce her up a bit, get her one of those Betsy Ross caps that all the colonial ladies wore. I feel pretty sure that at night, she can glance out the window and see Wm. Penn, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin out on Pine Street -- so close you can just about reach out and touch them. It wasn't all that long ago, was it?

Here in Philadelphia, I often have the eerie sense that there are plenty of ghosts in the woodwork! Not to mention dozens lurking right outside the door! I was hoping to make some of the old occupants feel welcome to stop by and pay a visit from the afterlife! Looking over all the old real estate records for the house, going back to 1805, seemed like an appropriately mystical exercise for Halloween, when the veil between the two worlds is stretched to its thinnest.

Just finished The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Gerry and I both enjoyed it, especially the dual setting: the Midwest (which for better or worse I can always relate to) and Philadelphia (always very intriguing to read about fictional characters living in the very houses that you walk past every day of the week!). He does a great job of describing Philadelphia in the autumn:
" . . . the October angle of the yellow light, the heart-mangling intensities of the season" (p 315).
I loved Franzen's novel for all the beautiful and beautifully accurate descriptions of autumnal Philly. It really is so lovely now, truly the best time of the year. All I have to do is walk outside and glance upward to be filled with the significance of Samhain.

Teaching? Yes, at times it can be such a drain on the spirit. Can you pick texts that you will enjoy for yourself? Movies, poems, novels? Shall I send you a list of my recent favs? You are right that I am so lucky to be at home with my flexible schedule and my piano, and my books, and my e-mail, and my grocery store just around the corner, and my kids across the street in their little brick school house. I can live without practicing my profession, though at times I do feel rather useless and non-contributory, and non-revenue-generating. Still, it's hard not to love such a great life.

Even so, Gerry and I have lately been haunted by the feeling that it's time for a drastic life change of some sort and that waiting for the accepted retirement age might be too late. What then? At any rate, after our travels this summer, I think we have ruled out leaving Philadelphia for the cozy hometown life of southern Missouri! It was quaint to visit but too sad and, as you so rightly point out, there's no going back, only forward. I'm not sure why we are feeling so restless here in Philadelphia these days. We were determined to make a go of it in the city and we did. Then we were curious to try moving right down into the heart of things (from 48th St. to 3rd St.). Now we've done that. Things are not altogether better here, just different. E.g., the city services are better, the historical significance and beautiful architecture; but the taxes are high, the park bench loitering is worse (hey - no park benches to speak of in our old neighborhood, thus no park bench loitering). The good things about city life are intensified here, but so is the bad side.

So now the question is do we commit to city schools for the boys and enjoy the life we have made here for the next few years or move ahead to that new goal, whatever it may be? Should we re-locate to the UK? Gerry always swore that he would never go back. The puzzle is how to know whether you're leaving, in good faith, the path that has no heart or just randomly walking away from the meaning of life. The logistics seem so complicated. Whatever happened to Simplify, Simplify? Where is the quiet life and the big bowl of cabbage soup that Pasternak longs for at the end of Zhivago?

I've been reading an autobiography, Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck, who is awaiting the birth of her Down Syndrome Child. She says
"I did, at long last, realize that it didn't really matter what anyone else's opinion of my decision might be. What mattered was that I had made a choice that felt as though, in the end, it would bring me to the place I needed to go."
I guess that's what it means to make a decision. If you had all the information you needed before the fact, then it would be obvious; it wouldn't even be a decision. I know the truth that all of our choices add up to where we find ourselves at the present moment, yet I still find it impossible not to play the "shoulda coulda woulda" game inside my head. Probably not too healthy, but so seductive.

Well, that's enough heavy - duty introspection for now! This was supposed to be a short light-hearted note to let you know that fall is in the air and that I received and loved both of your recent post cards: Dating Advice from Colgate Toothpaste -- hilarious! And the Cathedral where Madonna's little son was baptized -- v. touching!

Enjoy the season of "yellow light" and "twilight"!
XOXO, Kitti


"The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky . . . "

~ W. B. Yeats ~ "The Wild Swans at Coole" ~

Autumn Birches, 1916 ~ by Tom Thomson, 1877 - 1917

Golden Autumn, 1895 ~ by Isaac Levitan, 1860 1900

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Cate: Books & Cats

Another good one from Bruce ~ thanks!

And another book - based photo essay from Cate,
who loves the public library more than anyone I know!

The Book Table -- and Coloring Stuff!
And yes they are all being read or have been. Lol.

Kitchen Table:
Launching pad for library return today.

Close - up of Titles
A few annotations:

Fingersmith: Fabulous!

The Woman in Cabin 10: Good twist
but could have been a novella.

I Am Pilgram: 5 ***** Stars!

Since we Fell: Reminds me of Expats,
a book from last summer's list (see below). A must read.

The Expats & The Accident
Chris Pavone

Dark Places [also Gone Girl]
Gillian Flynn

The City & The City
China Miéville

Blood of the Oak

Elliot Pattison

Stuart MacBride

Summer Pics of Cate Reading With Her Sweet Pets
~ Dear Mrs. Tyla (RIP) ~
Also Mr. Duffy & Baby Sammy

Sammy = Samuel Manjushri Diamond DeLong
Manjushri is for an enlightened being of higher "prajna" or wisdom.
Diamond is for the Diamond Sutra.
Every Sutra begins with, "Thus have I heard."

For more insight & input from Cate,
see also my Fortnightly Post ~ September 14
Read A Book About Reading

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Old Reliable Teaching Anthology

The HBJ Reader includes so many great essays, by Eudora Welty, Langston Hughes, Barry Lopez, Isak Dinesen, Lewis Thomas, George Orwell, Alice Walker, William Styron, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Stephen Jay Gould, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Bertrand Russell, Barbara Tuchman, Loren Eiseley, and Paul Tillich

I recently took it off the shelf to reread a couple of long - time favorites: "Salvation" by Langston Hughes and "The Riddle of Inequality" by Paul Tillich. Despite Tillich's inconsistent use of inclusive pronouns [see my note below*], his observations have always helped me to appreciate how I take my mental health for granted, how, even in the worst of times, I don't know my own strength.


final paragraphs from
"The Riddle of Inequality"
Chapter 3
in Tillich's book
The Eternal Now

We cannot tell somebody who comes to us in great distress about himself -- "Make use of what was given you," for he may have come to us precisely because he is unable to do so! And we cannot tell those in despair because of what they are -- "Be something else," for the inability to get rid of oneself is the exact meaning of despair. We cannot tell those who failed to conquer the destructive influences of their surroundings and thence were driven into crime and misery --"You should have been stronger," for it was just this strength of which they were deprived by heritage or environment. Certainly they are all men, and freedom is given to them all. But they are also all subject to destiny. It is not for us to condemn others because they were free, as it is also not for us to excuse them because of the burden of their destiny. We cannot judge them. And when we judge ourselves, we must keep in mind that even this judgment has no finality, because we, like them, stand under an ultimate judgment. In it the riddle of inequality is eternally answered. But the answer is not ours. It is our predicament that we must ask the question, and we ask with an uneasy conscience -- why are they in such misery? Why not we? Thinking of those near to us, we ask --are we partly responsible? But even though we are, the riddle of inequality is not solved. The uneasy conscience asks also about those most distant from us -- why they, why not we? [You can see here why I was reminded of Bertrand Russell's "Three Passions."]

Why did my child, or any one of millions of children, die before he had the chance to grow out of infancy? Why was my child, or any child, born crippled in mind or body? Why has my friend or relative, or anyone’s friend or relative, disintegrated in his mind, and thus lost both his freedom and his destiny? Why has my son or daughter, gifted as they were with many talents, wasted them and been deprived of them? Why do such things happen to any parent at all? And why have the creative powers of this boy or that girl been broken by a tyrannical father or a possessive mother?

None of these questions concern our own misery. At present, we are not asking -- why did this happen to me? It is not Job’s question that God answered by humiliating him and then elevating him into communion with Him. It is not the old and urgent question -- where is divine justice, where is divine love, for me? It is almost an opposite question -- why did this not happen to me, while it did happen to another, to innumerable other ones, to whom not even Job’s power to accept the divine answer was given? Why, Jesus asks also, are many called but few elected? He does not answer the question, but states simply that this is the human predicament. Shall we therefore cease to ask, and humbly accept a divine judgment that would hurl most human beings out of community with the divine and condemn them to despair and self-destruction? Can we accept the eternal victory of judgment over love? We can not, nor can any human being, though he may preach and threaten in such terms. As long as he is unable to visualize himself with absolute certainty as eternally rejected, his preaching and threats are self-deceptive. For who can see himself eternally rejected?

But if this is not the solution of the riddle of inequality at its deepest level, may we go outside the boundaries of Christian tradition to listen to those who would tell us that this life does not determine our eternal destiny? There will be other lives, they would say, predicated, like our present life, on previous ones and what we wasted or achieved in them. This is a serious doctrine and not completely strange to Christianity. But since we don’t know and never shall know what each of us was in a previous existence, or will be in a future one it is not really our destiny developing from life to life, but in each life, the destiny of someone else. Therefore, this doctrine also fails to solve the riddle of inequality. [My note: As I've always suspected, what is the use of learning the lessons taught by time, if we have no consciousness of our accruing knowledge and no ability to carry it on to the next life?]

Actually, there is no answer at all to our question concerning the temporal and eternal destiny of a single being separated from the destiny of the whole. Only in the unity of all beings in time and eternity can there be a humanly possible answer to the riddle of inequality. "Humanly possible" does not mean an answer that removes the riddle of inequality, but one with which we can live.

There is an ultimate unity of all beings, rooted in the divine life from which they emerge and to which they return. All beings, non-human as well as human, participate in it. And therefore they all participate in each other. And we participate in each other’s having and in each other’s not having. When we become aware of this unity of all beings, something happens to us. The fact that others do not have changes the character of our having: it undercuts our security and drives us beyond ourselves, to understand, to give, to share, to help. The fact that others fall into sin, crime and misery alters the character of the grace that is given us: it makes us recognize our own hidden guilt; it shows us that those who suffer for their sin and crime suffer also for us, for we are guilty of their guilt and ought to suffer as they suffer. Our becoming aware of the fact that others who could have developed into full human beings did not, changes our state of full humanity. Their early death, their early or late disintegration, brings to our own personal life and health a continuous risk, a dying that is not yet death, a disintegration that is not yet destruction. In every death we encounter, something of us dies, and in every disease, something of us tends towards disintegration. [My note: Precisely! Here is John Donne's message -- see below -- nearly word for word, but without the metaphor of clod, mainland, and sea.]

Can we live with this answer? We can to the degree to which we are liberated from seclusion in ourselves. But no one can be liberated from himself unless he is grasped by that power which is present in everyone and everything -- the eternal, from which we come and to which we go, and which gives us to ourselves and liberates us from ourselves. It is the greatness and heart of the Christian message that God, as manifest in the Christ on the Cross, totally participates in the dying of a child, in the condemnation of the criminal, in the disintegration of a mind, in starvation and famine, and even in the human rejection of Himself. There is no human condition into which the divine presence does not penetrate. This is what the Cross, the most extreme of all human conditions, tells us. The riddle of inequality cannot be solved on the level of our separation from each other. It is eternally solved through the divine participation in the life of all of us and every being. The certainty of divine participation gives us the courage to endure the riddle of inequality, although our finite minds cannot solve it.


* from John Donne's “Meditation XVII”

This bell calls us all. . .
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
When Donne says "man" does he mean women too? Hard to say. I rarely make that assumption, since I don't believe that most male writers, apart from a few exceptions, deserve that benefit of the doubt. Yet something inside me wants to embrace Donne's otherwise humane message.

I still remember reading Donne's famous passage to Ben and Sam in their early teens and young Ben, bless his raised consciousness, saying, "Mom, those are sexist pronouns."

In despair and resignation, I answered him, "Yes, I know, but, lo, after all these centuries, dare I edit the Master John Donne?" Heaven knows I'd like to, and it wouldn't be hard to do. It we didn't live in such a broken world, those male writers would have done it right in the first place. Can the damage ever be undone? In my linguistic frustration, I have indeed taken the liberty of slyly editing whatever needs fixing: William Blake, D.H. Lawrence, The Holy Bible, numerous Psalms and Hymns. Bird by bird. Pronoun adjustment may not right all the wrongs of the world, but it's a place to start.

I know Donne and Tillich should have been able to do better, but even Martin Luther King, Jr. failed miserably when it came to the use of inclusive pronouns. Another learning experience for the boys and me was listening to recordings of King's speeches every year on MLK Day. I had to do a lot of oral editing for them: changing "men" to "people" and "brotherhood" to "humanity," and so forth. King never says "men and women," only "men." Once or twice, in reference to children, he says "little boys and little girls" but that's it; grown women weren't on his linguistic spectrum. I'd like to think that had he lived on, he would have sooner or later eliminated the sexism from his language. But so many others still haven't and apparently don't intend to, as if it doesn't matter. We need a constant reminder of that line from "The Spinx" by Muriel Rukeyser (another old favorite from teaching days): "When you say Man . . . / you include women too. Everyone knows that. / . . . That's what you think." It's certainly not what I think!