Beachcombing at Miramar..

             It’s important. From Richard Bode’s Beachcombing at Miramar:

“I have a choice, the same choice that faces every man. I can live a frivolous life, trying to impress others with the house I live in, the clothes I wear, the car I drive. I can strive to be a success in the way of the world, seeking the admiration of others, reveling in their jealousy. I can seek domination over my family and fellow workers in a vain attempt to hide my own deficiencies. I can seek fame, which is the most elusive pursuit of all, for it has no substance and soon vanishes in the air.

“I can indulge in endless prattle about my friends and neighbors, dissipating my life’s energy a little at a time. I can wallow in self-pity, refusing to accept responsibility for my own circumstances. I can manipulate others into taking care of me, which is the way of all petty tyrants. I can complain about boredom, as if it were up to those around me to inject excitement into my day.

“These are the patterns of the living dead, people who have forsaken life, who are willing to squander their most precious gift, because they refuse to face up to the reality of death. If they wanted to live, truly wanted to live, they would rise up in a resurrection of their own making and commit themselves to the life they have.”

Google Earth (and Sky)

Like most people, I’ve looked at the rooftop of every place I’ve ever lived, flown from Texas to Paris a dozen times, and tried to see what my kids were doing in NYC and Boston. Google Earth never ceases to fascinate.

And apparently, it never will. Recently added to the program is the ability to explore the skies. (And you can get it here: google earth (and sky!)) You can choose specific coordinates, a particular planet, star, or region. Or, you can see the sky directly above wherever you happen to be at the moment, as I’ve done in the pictures below:

Here’s where I live. Right in the middle of the picture is a fairly empty block, with a D-shaped driveway. That’s me.


Directly above me, is this:


And deep, deep above me is this. To get there involved flying through what looked to be a snowstorm of other galaxies. But, I made it:


I don’t know much about the sky, but I’m learning. And Google is helping- a lot, from my layman’s point of view. Google is continuing, from my point of view, to “not be evil.”

Mother Teresa..

A collection of letters from Mother Teresa to various confessors is due out next week. Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, is already fueling many blogs and other on-line commentaries, the writers of whom are attempting, from quotes already published in Time, to use Mother Teresa to support their deep, solid, and impenetrable beliefs.


In her letters, Mother Teresa expresses doubt- in her faith, in her calling, and in God. “Where is my Faith,” she writes in a confessional letter to Jesus, “ — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness and darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith.”

To a friend and confidant she wrote, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”

Fundamentalist Christians are weighing in already, pointing out that the Roman Catholic Teresa was trying to worship a “false” Jesus, a non-biblical Jesus, according to their strict standards of biblical literalism. Hers was a Jesus, they say, which was false to begin with- a caricature perpetuated by a Church bent on survival.

Some atheists have already begun to claim Teresa as a secret supporter of their position of non-deistic rationality. Some have already called her a hypocrite, giving lip service to belief, while harboring doubt.

Both groups are making the kind of mistake that is easy to make when the world is viewed in the mechanistic manner both groups base their viewpoints on. Most fundamentalists see the universe as a machine, manufactured piece by piece, by God, for the benefit of humankind; and many atheists see the universe as random collection of stellar accidents, devoid of transcendent and sacred meaning beyond the moment.

Mother Teresa, on the other hand, lived down in the mire with the rest of us. She lived where the call to alleviate suffering in the lives of others felt so real that she could ascribe the voice of Jesus to it. But she worked in the arenas of life where it seemed impossible for a God of love to have ever been present.

I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?”

Hers was not an either/or position. Her doubts did not rise from the rigid and moribund philosophies constructed of doctrine and paper and words etched in rock, that both the accusing fundamentalists and the Teresa-claiming atheists live their lives within.* She was human, a human filled with doubts just like the rest of us, but one who had the courage and vulnerability to write of them. Unlike many of us, however, she poured herself into that “emptiness” anyway. She didn’t flee from it; she didn’t reject it. She alleviated suffering. She waged peace. She acted in human, healing love, as her Order still does.

Mother Teresa may well have felt ignored by God. But, because of her, many many have not.

*For the record, I am speaking here of those fundamentalists and those atheists who are making the Teresa-noise at present. The strident ones of both camps are making fools of themselves (I think) and do not reflect those fundamentalists who truly do try to follow Jesus, nor those atheists (and there are many, many) who couldn’t care less about adding new trophy heads to their walls, but just live- congenially and rationally.

Excuse me (again), while I deal with this (again)..

You’ve listened before (here), so I beg your indulgence again. It’s about my Mom.

My niece, her granddaughter, is getting married next Saturday. We had successfully (we thought) kept all information about the wedding from Mom, so that she would forget about it and so we would not have to take her.

But she found an invitation. Apparently it had been in that place where her hearing aids disappear to weekly, and from which they reappear after she makes call after call after call to my wife and me to help her find them. We look, we give up, then tomorrow they are back in her ears. Another of the endless Alzheimer mysteries.

So now, she wants to go to this wedding. She called six times yesterday to tell me that.

“Do you know who’s getting married?” I ask.

“Oh, you know, is it your cousin? You know, those people we visited one time,” she answers.

“Do you know when it is?”

“It’s tomorrow, I think, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s the 1st of September.”

“The 30th?”

“No, the 1st. Write it down.”

“OK, the 3rd.”

This morning she called with a terrible headache. She has “never had one this bad before” which is an almost daily refrain. I’m screaming into the phone, because she has lost her hearing aids- again: “There are aspirins in the top drawer of the dresser.”

“Let me look.” Three minutes later, she returns to the phone. “Where did you say they are?”

“In the top left drawer of the dresser. In a white dish.”

Another two minutes pass during which I can hear dishes being moved around, which are nowhere near the dresser. “I’m sorry, I just can’t find them.”

“I’ll be right there.” I hang up. I curse.

She stays about ten minutes away in an assisted-living home. I go into her room. I find the white dish sitting now on top of the dresser, and the aspirins are spilled everywhere. I give her two of them. She chews them and says immediately, “That’s better already.”

“See you later, Mom.”

“Thank you. I’m going back to bed. Do you have my hearing aids at your house?”

Driving back, I think the only way I can get through the next several months or years of this terrible goddamn disease is to consider Mom to have died about two years ago. I know-“horrible, horrible”- but this woman is not my Mom. She’s not the woman who made cakes and cookies for everyone in time to send them for birthdays, Christmas, and out-of-the-blue days when she just simply felt like saying, “I love you.” She’s not the woman who would send cards to a hundred different people, always on time, or who would arrange Monday lunches at the church for the 50-60 people who just needed a place to eat, in community with others. She’s not the woman who drove every Saturday to sort out clothes for needy people at the welfare building, or who visited shut-ins almost every day, or who would walk two miles every day in the woods with neighbor ladies.

I miss that woman- my Mom- terribly. And I’ll treat this woman who is left lovingly and with respect, but I just don’t know what to do some days. I want my Mom back, and I know she can’t come back and I don’t want this woman to suffer and so I am left to pray and to hope for that which sounds so awful that I can’t even write the words here.

But it’s true, and it’s a real prayer..

Beauty Over the Years..a video

This is a fascinating compilation of Hollywood actresses from the 20s through today..It is the same format as the collection of women in art which was popular several months ago. But it is revealing in some interesting ways, too:

1. There is a “sameness.” These are beautiful women, but they are within a narrow definition of beauty. It is a standard that has more to do with genetics, but there are millions of teenage girls who struggle outside of that standard, and millions of teenage boys on fruitless quests to find it.

2. Sophia Loren still wins. Hands down. Don’t even try to argue with me.