Thursday, May 18, 2006

Last Stand

Current mood: nerdy
can someone please tell me why i want to see the new x-men movie so badly? i didn't act this way when superman came out, or batman, or wonderwoman. and no, it's not because halle barry is in it; not entirely at least. i think. hm...


and for whatever reason, this woman drives me so absolutely and subtely wild with desire i say 'arch your neck; close your eyes. shine your hair. drop your hands. YES! you've become a venus, a woman, and i am entirely at your feet. you've done it but with grace nonwithstanding. amazing--this is the construction of fantasy.'


*postscript--
Ah, y'all, just my point Ballo...our fantasies are fabrications of reality molded into an experience we control...dress this way, look that way, do this thing. comics i think are the ultimate fantasy source...or at least they were...for boys who want to fight things and be heros and save cities and get girls. better than books, cause they're pow-bam-kazoom instant, or just to escape from a mundane life of school, parents and restrictions. sexual fantasy plays out as we get older, and the reality of our restrictions begins to irk us. the feeling of control of circumstances and scenarios is intoxicating. it was just interesting how marvel plays up on fantasy not just in their storylines but in the characters they create.
But then again, maybe i'm full of shit...ha! thanks faith, alex...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Single Mother's Day

Current mood: drained
at mass tonight the priest asked all the mothers to step out into the aisle to be recognized. a girl who was sitting behind me, who looked to be my age, timidly stepped out with the middle-aged and older women around her. i wonder how she felt. maybe she had a husband at home with the kid; maybe she had given a child up for adoption; maybe she's raising it herself. she didn't seem to wear the same expression of appreciation or pride the other women did; she didn't seem ashamed or anything-- it looked like she was just waiting to sit back down. in any case she seemed displaced, like the samaritan woman at the well. it reminded me of the discussion tim and i were having last night over a bottle of wine with kelly, about our inconsistencies (and how kelly was always calling us out on them) in religious practice. tim said he finds it strange i should be drawn and commit myself to a religious structure that i obviously struggle very hard to conform myself to. we talked for a long time about religion and human nature as we got progressively drunker (which kelly was quick to point out). anyway, after mass, after all the crappy christian pop songs, i saw the girl leaving, walking up connoroe st. i followed her since i was going the same way. i imagined her walking home to change diapers and cook dinner while all the other non-fornicating young adults at st. mary's make their way to the rec. hall for a film discussion group, afterwards eating potato chips and socializing. tomorrow night they will get together for their faith-sharing group, while the girl goes grocery shopping at the acme, maybe. to tell you the truth i don't know what that girl's deal is, all i know is from what i garnered at church she is a mother. but as i watched her turn left on silverwood, i really fucking admired her, and part of me empathized too, since i've been feeling like a black sheep myself these days too, slipping through the cracks. i'm fucking tired. but its nothing compared to the tired single mothers must feel.

"it's a hard life for a man with no wife." -B"P"B

Currently listening:
I See a Darkness
By Bonnie Prince Billy

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reflections on Crosswords, Autonomy, and Being Alone

Tonight after tutoring in Germantown I came home and sat on my stoop, drank a beer, and worked on yesterdays crossword. I thought today was going to be my day. But I got hung up on four letter fabulous diamonds, and pentathalon events ending in double E, and I just couldnt see them. The crossword is a mysterya head-slapping, next day realization mystery when the answers are revealed, when you see how everything fits togethereven when you were trying to push words in there that didnt fitand how the right words were right under your nose.

When I was young my dad and I would play tennis a lot. My dad used to use a wooden tennis racket with a long neck and the cover would be held together with wingnuts. my racket was a really cheap dunlop from k-mart that performed more like a squash racket than a tennis racket. it was also beat to shit from me hurling it to the gods and cursing a ripe storm whenever i lost a game. i was more competitive back then, but it was more from the frustration of coming so close to beating my dad--my biggest and most admired adversary at the game--and never being able to do it no matter how i tried. (my mom was good competition, but i was able to put her down more than once (not as quick on the toes)) my dad was always very consoling at the end, but also never played down so i could win. anyway, those fucking crosswords are the same deal...so close, no cigar. to this day i haven't been able to piece it all together and claim a win. my life, in crosswords terms, is never complete, day in and day out.

what does this have to do with being alone? a lot, really--from my perspective at least. the last few months i have felt better than i have in a long time; much more solid and self-accepting, content and appreciative. i've also come to terms with the fact that i'm single and it might be like this for a while. it seems funny to say, since really i have been single for most of my life and it seems like my baseline or something. it wasn't like this six months ago, though--just ask jason or jeremy or the cashier at the wine and spirits in manayunk. i was sad. i was off. i wasn't happy being alone like i usually am and with the slew of weddings and christmas parties and third wheel nights in olde city. but like i said, the last few months have been really good and i'm grateful for everything in my life so no, thank you, i have my own sharp cheddar to go with my port wine.

the thing is, tonight my balloon settled softly in the grass on my front yard. i came home and was sad. my research, which i had been absolutely immersed in for months, was tied and bundled at 3am this morning and sent off to my prof via email. i felt like an empty nester. sure, it kept me busy but it was more than that--i had adopted my graduate work this semester as something that gave me real, passionate purpose. it seems silly, but i could come home from work and spend the evening doing research and developing a ethical praxis of drug use that has yet to be developed by contemporary Catholic ethicists. it felt important, and i believed in what i as doing. i would learn and learn, for hours, and pray and pray. then after feeling like i had put a good nights work in, i would curl up on the couch with a bowl of icecream and maybe some tea and watch an episode of The Office of The Simpsons and feel very content. the next morning i would wake and sit in prayer, then head to work to goof around with all the married folks, and feel grateful for the life i have.

i'm still grateful for that life of course. but like i said, it feels like something has changed tonight after sending that paper off. its as if it was my buffer, my shield to keep real relationships at bay. because the scariest thing in a relationship is the loss of control. and i am a control freak. Jesus said to Peter, "Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." the loss of autonomy. i have not met anyone yet that i have felt inclined enough to sacrifice that for, for real. but i also don't want to meet that person who has the answers to those last four clues on the crossword and then tell her, "well, thanks for that; i'll see ya," because i want to sit on the bus or on my porch and do them alone. shit, if i meet someone i can do the crossword with that seems like a clue to something in and of itself. i wish she would have come over tonight to help me, though. it would have been nice to have the company.




Currently listening:
Time (The Revelator)
By Gillian Welch

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

True Fishers of Men

*this is being reposted from the bulletin i sent out.


i don't know about anyone else, but i'm really getting worn down by these ads posted all over myspace for some site called "true." i don't know anything about it other than the fact that it must have something to do with prostitution.

now i'm all for cleavage and all that, in its proper place. but these cyber bitches are getting all up in my space, at 9 in the morning, and at work no less, uninvited, day after day, when all i want to do is play with myspace. they come up in these huge ads--one bent over with her ass stuck out, the other lying on the ground with her chest on half-display. is this the price to pay to play on myspace?

now ladies, this is probably a non-issue for you all. but you know how men work. if you don't believe me, observe a guy standing on the sidewalk. observe an attractive woman walk by said man. as if his head were on a string, said man's eyes will follow said woman's ass almost unconsciously. this will happen on average nine times out of ten. men are wired. men's mastubatory fantasies are also surprisingly specific and sometimes obscure, so that when advertisers like the aforementioned peddle out a rotation of models, in varying poses, with different hair color, etc., it's akin to trying to hook a fish; the more varied their lures, the greater their chances of having one take the bait. if they don't hook a fish with one, they cast out another. and fish don't think about it when their swimming towards the hook, cause, well, fish, like men sometimes when blood has been inadvertently diverted, don't really have any brains. and that's what advertisers bank on.

the thing that worries me is with seeing ads like this, day in and day out (can you remember the last time you went a day WITHOUT being on the internet? and no, the weekends you went camping don't count) is it like talking on a cell-phone everyday not realizing the radiation waves are giving you cancer? are we men becoming sexually calloused?

anyway, the heads of this prostitution ring obviously know how men work. in fact, they are probably men themselves! (devils!) the thing that bothers me, though, is that Tom, our myspace bigbrother, the one who works through the night updating us on recent scams and temporary system maintenance, seems to be in cahoots with these pieces of shit. i can just see it.

Newsweek: "Tom, you started out creating myspace to bring twenty-somethings together on the web. Now it seems you're running some kind of syndicated cyber whore-house. What happened?"

Tom (indignant): "Hey, I'm not doing this gig for free you know! I've got car payments!"

It's as if Tom and Craig grew up on the web together. both became huge...but only Craig stayed true to his ideals, without a single mastubatory pictoral advertisement to be found anywhere on craigslist. boring? a little. retaining its integrity by saying Fuck You to sex-peddling (and other) advertisers? absolutely.

let me just say that i don't live in a closet (i have a one-bedroom apt., 12ft ceilings, hw floors, etc). i know that sex sells, and i know that it comprises 50f the megabytes being transmitted over the internet today. but 99f the time i'm also confident that when i open up my yahoo mailbox, i won't have to deal with any soft-porn advertisements being thrown in my face. i wish myspace could take a similar approach. i just want to be "in touch" with my "friends," not having to play the role of odysseus tied to a ship mast as i update my blog. i'm all for being turned on by women. but it's insulting to men's sexuality, these sneaky methods of consumer exploitation (of course they are exploitative of women too, but i'm coming at this from a different angle).

so men, tighten your belts and try to sail through best you can. the cleavage is only going to get deeper and the asses curvier. be 'on' the site but not 'of' the site. and if these tired cyber-sirens are still distracting you from updating pictures or writing a kick ass blog entry or turning in your TPS reports, just let me know. i have plenty of anti-depressants to help reinforce the buffer between your head and your pants.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

A Bodily Reflection [explicit]

*just a heads up that this may be somewhat offensive to some people. however, if you can keep your mind open for the duration of the read, there may be something there worth pocketing.

i was on the computer this afternoon surfing around when i ripped this healthy south park fart, not even thinking twice about it. then i realized two things: i was alone; and i was on some holy religion-related site when the dreadful chair-shaker occurred. and then it occurred to me...ah. this is my faith.

i remember reading (in the Confessions maybe, or a lecture) that Saint Augustine was amazed at all that is, all that existed, so much so that he went as far as to say "everything that is, is good." meaning all that God has created is good--because He has created it--and that there is nothing that is not good because everything has been created by God. It's a Catch-22, but one that when reflected upon unlocks an invaluable guide to living: relax. there is nothing to worry about. keep your eyes open.

but that's not what i really wanted to spin here, these noble Borders self help maxims. what i really wanted to say about Saint Augustine was that, in addition to being amazed by the moon and stars, he was also amazed by farts...his own and others. the fact that we can pass gas through our system as a result of some abnormal digestive blip and out through an orifice in our backside--and the fact that it makes a sound akin to a musical instrument!--completely amazed Augustine. if you ever run out of things to be mesmerized by, or places to travel to, just reduce your scale. there is as much of God's handiwork in our ability to make noise with our gases as there is in the mountains of the himalayas.

in the Summa, Aquinas speaks about the natural appetites--that is, food, drink, sex, as just that,--natural. they are also necessary for survival, and so Aquinas does not object to procurring pleasure from such activities, albeit while exercising the virtue of moderation. however, Thomas does not extend that dispensation to activities which are not necessary to human life (which is the grounds on which i asserted that the pleasure experienced in heroin use is morally unjustifiable. i used a pool of heroin users versus other drug users because the intensity of the high is most akin to that of debilitating orgasms; and because the anticipatory, ritualized 'foreplay' that is such an integral part of heroin use closely mimics the foreplay that takes place preceeding sexual intercourse as a means of maximizing pleasure. while Ecstasy may have similar qualities to that of a full-blown orgasm once ingested, there is no accompaning anticipatory ritualization in its use.)

back on track. we were talking about the 'natural' functions of eating, drinking, and having sex. but these are not the only natural bodily functions of human life. we blow our noses, clip our fingernails, grow hair (sometimes in strange places), sweat, and bleed. and cry.

and since our lives are not always on full display, we deal with certain personal functions in private. Augustine recalls the Cynics of his time trying to prove their point that there was no immodesty inherent in sexuality by having public sex in the squares. unfortunately (for them) many found that they were unable to 'perform on cue,' akin to the modern day porn star and his oft-required fluff daddy, reinforcing Augustine's assertion that sex was best kept in the bedroom as a private act.

we do the same thing with expunging our bodily waste, i.e. 'going to the bathroom.' we go into rooms, into separate stalls (or at least with dividers for urinals) if we are in a public restroom, and do what we need to do. we certainly don't talk about it--a social faux pas--unless you're purposefully trying to be crass (ie, south park, with talking shits coming out of people's mouths and all kinds of fucked-up shit like that, where do they come up with this stuff? and why do i laugh so hard when i watch it?), or super honest (as with a good friend--"*um, dude, would you mind coming in here and taking a look at this. something doesn't look right." "HOLY SHIT DUDE What did you eat for breakfast a fu#*ing THANKSGIVING TURKEY!?"

and so i think...of the first time Jesus 'went to the bathroom'...except that back then there were no bathrooms to go to. you just shat on the ground, or in a hole. the King of kings, taking a dump. could you imagine trying to get used to that? and yet men like Augustine see and are amazed...that God in the sky would take flesh and sit in the stall next to us. we are embarrassed that God should have to do something so dirty, so undignified in order to be with us. but augustine did not see it that way. nor did jesus himself. could you even BE human and not go to the bathroom? for if crying is beautiful, then farting is too...and taking a shit is a glorious event because it allows us a moment to sit and imitate jesus. we drink and glorify his blood, and hang sculptures of indignity above our doors to remind us of his death. but sometimes i need to remember his life, and so maybe from time to time now--after farting, alone, on a holy website--when i am on the can i will reflect on my own dignity as a man, and on the indignity of God subjecting His son to such a thing as being a man, and on augustine smiling whenever he hears people fart, reassuring them that they are beautiful and in their body, with all its undesirables, lies an irreplaceable communion with the Divine. i will not be hanging portraits of Jesus on the toilet on the wall...but i will reflect on it in my heart. stop and think about it: God took a shit on our earth. when i reflect on that, i have never felt such love in my entire life.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Prayers With Augustine

5 Oct 2005--Continence the pale queen of wales
If one asked to be shown the will of God and was shown the will of God in answer to his prayer, why would he not sell all he has and buy the pearl of great price? What keeps him fettered? Is it the cares of the world? Yes. The vines that choke and cling to scraps of clothing as if they were serpents attempting to rip flesh from a cow trying to make his way through a barbed wire fence, striking at him from the backside.

And they call out

Are you going to dismiss us?

For though they rip and tear, they bring with their bite the masochistic pleasure of poison injected into the system, flowing to all parts of the body, seizing the will like a frozen engine. It is injected like a drug, and becomes habit, and habit seizes down most fiercely on those trying to escape.

And so it was true that

"the higher part of our nature aspires after eternal bliss while our lower self is held back by the love of temporal pleasure. It is the same soul that wills both, but it wills neither of them with the full force of the will. So it is wrenched in two and suffers great trials, because while truth teaches it to prefer one course, habit prevents it from relinquishing the other" (VIII.x)

And in my worldly life all
was confusion.

The pleasure of poison is the pleasure of the whore, because it is so wholly opposed to the pleasure you offer us. It is in opposing your willand in that act!that we attempt to pleasure ourselves.

But for the man who has been shown the light of Illumination; for one who has been fast asleep and in darkness, the light blinds. It holds one in awe of your presence, as if you were a UFO come down from some foreign place to visit us for a brief instant. And after such illuminations it becomes impossible for the man in full conscience to full partake off the pleasures and comfort in things that differ from what was illuminated.

"And in their midst was Continence herself, not barren but a fruitful mother of children, of joys born of you, O Lord, her Spouse" (VIII.xi)

But what of the chains that bind me from doing your will, O God? Do I even strain against them so much? For if I applied half the will that I do know you would work behind me to wrench and break them to free me from the constraints of my own deranged will?

For if I came face to face with you Lord?
How could I look at myself in the mirror again?
How could I lie with a harlot while Continence herself stands beside the bed?

The hound has eyed the moon and begins his pursuit.

From me! he cries, as it crashes through the window
And vanishes into the air at the command.

* * *

And yet the will of God is insanity to men! How many saints have gone mad preaching your Word, O Lord? Is it best for us to keep our mouths silent, our words of your Truth bound tight? For men call us crazy, having drunk too much wine. But you reveal Truth to little children, who confound men by their innocence. Make my heart clean, O Lord, my innocence an ivory cloak. Hide yourself from my sins and help me to break the chains that bind me fettered and in a world of confusion. Send your saints to walk among me.

Give me Continence. But not yet.

Currently listening:
Catalpa
By Jolie Holland

The Old Man and the Ether

so i decided to muck around with the bike yesterday, see what i was going to have to order to get her started. it was a beautiful day. i grabbed a beer and did an inventory after dropping the battery in. no connection when i turned the key. i found some 20v fuses and replaced the main and starter fuses. under the seat i also found an ancient bag of road tools that i neglected to notice before. best yet was a deep socket bit so i could pull the sparkplugs and check them. after i changed the fuses i got some juice but she still wasn't firing. the choke is frozen and i'm a little hesitant to force it. i open the tank and drop a siphon tube in to pull out some of the fuel from last year i never bothered to bleed, but it was dry as a bone. i'm sure the petcocks over the course of months were leaking enough to drain the whole damn tank. so i'm thinking at that point it might be worth running up to the gas station and putting a half gallon of fuel in just to see if it's the plugs (best case) or the carbs and/or jets (worst case). that's i looked up and saw the old man.

i may have written about the old man across the street in some previous post on a nightly adventure with my junkie neighbor. my other neighbor kate and i sit outside on the stoop and rather than watch television we drink wine and watch the old man do things--when he is out of the house, that is. the classic event is lawn-mowing. the old man has a pretty nice hump going on, and moves kinda slow and his house is literally falling apart, but fuck if he's going down in an old folks home. and if you tried, the old man is the kind of guy who would be sitting on his porch with a shotgun. thats what i fucking love (woops...heart rather) about roxy...you've got white trash neo-nazis picking fights with the yunkers at hogans, you've got two point five condos going up down the street and then you have this old dude and his wife (kate maintains that its his sister...no one knows) living in this haunted house with a plywood roof, shit all over the porch, overgrown grass, and an eerie red light in the foyer that sets an ambiance to the whole thing.

anyway, when the old man mows the lawn its great, its a hoot. he'll push the mower foward for three feet, then let go of the self-propeller, rest, then push it another three feet. the grass is so damn high that it takes a good long while. one time he got pissed at the lawnmower for some reason and took a swing at one of the plastic chairs on the porch. kate and i watched cinematically. he was yelling some things. then he came back and turned the chair back over, sat down, crossed his legs like cosmo kramer and lit a cigarette. he took one drag of that cigarette and i swear he didn't put it to his lips again until the entire khattam thing burned to the butt. the whole time he stared out from the shadows and kate and i stared right back at him but i don't think he really saw us. he was somewhere else. God i would have loved to know what was going through that head.

so anyway, this guy's kind of an urban legend (at least among me and gary and kate and joe). he's got kindof a white amish beard, but only on his chin. his pants, of course, are up pretty high. he wears a black capped hat and has all sorts of shit in his shirt pockets, pens and notebooks and tire gauges and such. the only time in three years ive had any genuine interaction with him was when i chased a taxi down for him and his (sister?) that had gone past their house. they said thank you.

but this day here he was, here we were, him amazed that it is a three cylinder, asking whether it's a two stroke or four stroke ("it's a four. two's are illegal now, you know." i tell him. he is amazed, esp. when i tell him its because they pollute more. he says that is ridiculous.)

he asks, in genuine dialogue (cause you know sometimes how old men just like to talk like you're a piece of wood or something spinning some old tale about remembering their first penny-farthing bike--"back then, (in 1890) we didn't have "tires." we rolled around on khattam cast iron rims. now those bikes were made to last, not like these newfangled pieces of junk with their "chains" and their "brakes." ) ...he asks if it's turning over and i say no, i was about to get some gas though.

"you need some starter fluid. that's what you need. back when i was your age we used ether, but they don't let you use that no more." (yeah, no shit. can you say "meth lab fireball?")

wow, that's amazing, i said. he tells me "now where's your air filter?," and i show him. i take off the wingnut holding the casing and we both say, "well, this can't be it, there's no filter in there." but sure enough that's the housing...have i been running the bike this whole time without an air filter? i could have sworn i had the guys replace it the last time i was in. oi. well, in any case the old man tells me to soak the airfilter in ether or something like that, i say okay. maybe he'll invite me over some day and i'll bring over some beer and we'll sit on his porch. maybe he'll be grateful for some male company and for the chance to get away from his nagging wife-sister. word, maybe, O.M. and i will get real tight. he'll lend me his truck when i need it and i'll introduce him to my girlfriends. hopefully too we'll become such good friends that he deeds his haunted house over to me so i can live out my dream of settling down in roxborough and raising a family with little tykes running around in the 1/4 acre yard, a beautiful garden, and a portrait of the old man over the fireplace. and everytime i use ether to clean the air filter on my 1927 Indian, i'll think of him and the way he got pissed at the grass for growing some fast and beat the shit out of that plastic chair.


Currently reading:
Silence
By Shusaku Endo

Yuppie Field Trip

Current mood: sleepy
so, my date this afternoon was...interesting. i met this woman for coffee at Colombe on main st. the only thing that really made me nervous was that in an email the previous day, she wrote that she would call me on my 'sell' phone.. i'm a believer that the usage of grammar says a lot about a person. and when you think about it, with all this online stuff and dating services and whatnot, the only other thing besides a picture you have to go on sometimes is what (and how) someone writes. but whatever. maybe it was a funny real estate pun. however, in getting caught up with grammar i apparently overlooked the part about her having an eleven year old daughter. woops.

but it was a nice day. we walked along main street and talked. we made fun of the catholic young adult group in center city we both used to go to and talked about our conversions. it was actually really nice to talk with someone who was in a similar place in the church as i am. then she said that she loves SUVs and spent 45 minutes in Pottery Barn shopping for pillows. oi.

anyway, i asked her if she wanted to go to mass in germantown tonight but she had stuff to do so we parted ways and i decided to go to st. lucy's on green st. instead of going all the way up to the shrine (our temporary home until the cracking dome at st. vincent's can get fixed).

st. lucy's was a big open generic church, and there weren't many people there, mostly aging couples and old ladies. hearing the squabbling between the old couple in the pew in front of me over some thing, i looked up and took stock. about 8 pews up was a woman with a huge ass and her husband with a grey military hair cut. then another couple, same general deal. then the older folks. and i could not help thinking how the FUCK do people survive living thirty-forty-fifty years under the same roof with each other. in the same bed. going to the same church. together. every sunday. experiencing passionate relationships cooling over the years into dinner table discussions about what color to wallpaper the bathroom, or dropping casual comments about butterball turkey being on sale at the Acme because what else are you going to talk about. i was reading an article in the inquirer today about married people who live in separate houses. i think that's bullshit. but then again, from the time i was 10 years old my dad would tell me (usually after a fight with my mom) "robbie don't ever get married. things kind of end when you do." of course he didn't really mean it. but the compromise bit, that was a hard one to swallow, and it still is, for everyone i'm sure. but apparently coupling up outweighs any downsides of marriage or so many people wouldn't be going for it. fuck if i'm driving an Expedition though.

Currently listening:
From Under the Cork Tree
By Fall Out Boy

Thursday, May 4, 2006

The Indignity of Death

good evening. won't you join me for a glass of wine? or perhaps a non-alcoholic orange Krush? it is a gorgeous spring evening--everything is either white, pink, or kelly green. something somewhere is chirping and someone is smelling intoxicatingly like perfume. undergrads in short pleated skirts chirp away on their cell phones and boys with backwards hats and swishy shorts play pick-up baseball outside of tollentine hall. i have just finished my last day of class. let me tell you about it!

Personal Ethics 8340. for the duration of the semester we have explored action theory, debates between proportionalists and physicalism, and contemporary topics such as personhood and right-to-life issues. if someone auditing the course could gleen anything, i would wager it would be that there are no black and whites in life...only shifty shades of gray.

and then there is my professor. you know the way kevin spacey responds on meeting jane's friend angela? that was close to my reaction upon meeting my professor, sans the sexual fantasy part. but her attractiveness was enthralling, i think in part because she embodied a synthesis of elegance, intelligence, good sense, taste, ease, maternal sensitivity, family devotion, professionalism, godliness, and attractiveness that was, well, attractive. she spoke about her family, her husband, and even brought her 1 year old son to our first class because she couldn't get a sitter (he threw his bottle at me, easy target in the front row). she was probably mid-thirties, grey hair and irish skin, and wore sleeveless dresses that accentuated the shape of her body, a woman's body...in fact, as far as i was concerned in this classroom, the very epitome of a woman's body, or at least everything i love about a woman's body. during lectures she would walk from one end of the whiteboard to the other, then come around and gently hop up on the desk, and cross her legs. it was not seductive or anything like that, just casual. the fact that she wore pretty much the same black pumps every class made her seem that much more sensible and, in effect, attractive.

i really was mesmorized by her lectures, hanging on to her words. when you respect someone, you tend to respect more what they speak. and so unlike my biblical archaeology course last semester, where my huge insane cat-crazy cane-carrying spinster of a professor spun her insane theories on Torah about the Fall and licked shards of biblical artifacts from palestine, i paid attention. i didn't skip class, or go out for discontented cigarette breaks. i was literally captivated by the material and her presentations--and her. i did experience a similar captivation by an austrian professor i had in an exegesis course two years ago...he was the nicest guy and extremely competent in his field (Romans--could you imagine devoting your entire professional career to one book in the Bible?). he was attractive too, i guess, but i don't think that had much to do with it (or did it--do attractive people hold our attention better?). anyway, i don't play that field, so i guess its a moot point.

tonight was our last class. in fitting finality, we discussed Death, and the work of paul ramsey and karl rahner. my professor made reference to nicholas wolterstorff's 'lament to a son,' which wolterstorff wrote after his son was killed in a mountain climbing accident. he wrote of how hollow it felt receiving religious condolences like 'your son is in a better place' and 'it's for a reason.' he responded with indignation at the attempts to fill this hole in the universe which his son had inhabited with trite religious phrases. wolterstorff wrote of deliberately refusing to be consoled, nor to even take refuge in faith in order to find meaning in his son's death. i have not read the book, but my professor said something to the extent that the one thing he really wished was simply for someone to sit with him on 'the mourning bench.' because even if it was for a reason, darlene (my prof.) explained, even if it does fit into the grand scheme of things, "that totally unique composition of a person, which occupied a particular space in the universe...there is a hole now. and i can't touch him. so in that light, the fact that his death is 'for a reason' is somewhat irrelevant to me right now--when all i want to do is touch him." she described how her son has this thing he does with his left eyebrow, where it flutters up sometimes more than the other one. "that is the stuff that is gone forever when someone dies."

darlene expounded on ramsey's critiques of contemporary ways of dealing with death (primarily in his critique of the 'death with dignity' campaign). the first is explaining death as 'a natural part of life,' which ramsey regards as a trite 'generic mortality' (and in contradiction to Christian anthropology). the second explains that death is not a natural part of life, and can only be experienced experientially (which is metaphysically impossible, e.g. Plato's Law of Contradiction), inducing dread at our demise.
ramsey's third response to the problem of death is the Christian humanist response; that is, Death is an enemy, an indignity to the human person, because it severs the coherence of body and soul, the unity which makes us human.

when we brought Rahner into the discussion, the theological gaps began to fill in. ramsey's view that death begets sin denotes that it is Christ's resurrection that saves us; rahner asserts that it is Christ's death that saves us, because death is God's 'no' to sin--Christ's death on the cross changes the possiblity for our own death and ultimate salvation (our Fundamental Option, in Rahnerian terminology).

by the end of this discourse, these two theologians--one protestant, one catholic--had inadvertently complemented each other in a way that gave me a real, true ecumenical theology of death that made Life seem that much more rich. for catholics, in falling into the trap of trying to earn salvation through works, in frees one of the self-loathing that comes from never being 'good enough,' the trap of self-improvement, the neurosis of perfectionism and guilt, and the pitfalls of pride. to shift and devote one's energy more into a devotion of abandonment--knowing full well you'll never get it right no matter how hard you try so rather than trying to huff and puff your way into good graces, let yourself by loved by One who wants to love you more than anything. it's so easy it's difficult, it seems. protestants for their part...well, i'm not quite sure about the 'knowing' with certainty that you are Saved. it is something i would like to pray about. but i do know one thing...to be loved, with no strings...that is a very freeing feeling, something i hope everyone has the chance to experience.

so now i'm nursing a beer at my desk. i wish you were here to sit on the porch with me. we could talk about love, life, death, and God, watching the moon wax and wane, like our theories, and plans for the future.





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