Wednesday, December 29, 2004

"Crap on a Stick", or "So, Tsunami", or "When Bad Things Happen to Everyone"

This response to a post on a forum about the killing of "Dimebag Darrel", the former lead singer of "Pantera." My poster- friend also has just lost a friend and musician who died Christmas Eve, not from violence but heart failure. The question, as I understood it, was "why is all of this stuff happening" - which is a simplification of what she was asking, but the one that I reacted to:
I have to say that the events of this holiday season have me in a pretty deep "funk", to say the least. I've been reading at (a link from Tom's blog) - there's a collection of links under Tuesday's heading, "TSUNAMIS AND THEODICY" that struggle with this subject from a mostly religious perspective. I think that it is one of the most incomprehensible things that we deal with - this feeling, and the teachings of many - that we are immortal, while the life and consciousness that we call experience is fleeting and fraught with uncertainty and peril. Is is real, or simply a series of beliefs? Today, I don't really know. I just feel alone.
Specifically, our society is not doing well with "the mentally ill" at all these days. The well-meaning opening-up of mental institutions and policies of the 1970's has resulted in several things, not the least of which is a nearly-hidden population of street dwellers, secure in nothing but their freedom to be ignored and uncared for. From what I have read, this individual displayed several characteristics of mental illness, but who then is responsible for reporting it, making sure that he was evaluated? Even then, claiming that Pantera had stolen his music is not cause enough to remove him from circulation . . . and only the police have carte blanche when a civilian even points a gun at them. Shifting gears to a silly example, the behavior in "The King of Comedy" with Robert Deniro and Jerry Lewis - - it is often a very fine line that can separate our aspirations and desires from criminal action.
I'm rambling now.
I'm looking for meaning amidst the chaos, myself. Any clues you could spare would help.
"Ever feel like the world was a blue suit, and you were a pair of brown shoes?"
- George Gobel, appearing on "The Tonight Show"

Friday, December 17, 2004

Not a Creature was Stirring

The rat is gone. It brought excitement, it brought excrement, it brought us together in a special way for nearly two weeks, and now it’s over. I think.
Fade to a Sunday afternoon not long ago. Each member of the nuclear family is doing their own thing, which for me was a nearly engaging football game, which actually means a nap. My focus shifted quickly to the sound of hurried steps down the hallway. “There’s a Rat in the cupboard above the microwave,” she said, with all the certainty of one who’s security has been shattered in an instant. “It looked me in the eye,” she shuddered at me. The message was clear. I now had to offer, at minimum, sound advice, or, more to the point, DO SOMETHING. This was not the last time that this creature would interfere with my favorite pastime.
After a measured period of strategizing ways to safely encourage our rodent raider from his elevated position to the great outdoors, it became a matter of holding a large box in one hand while poking a broom handle into the cupboard, while balancing on a stepladder. It became obvious that I would not be able to balance both myself and a box filled with cookbooks, chip bags, chewed-empty peanut shells and rat poop; it became a matter of taking what I could hold, backing out, tying the doors shut, sorting the box empty (outside!), and repeating until the cupboard was bare. Guess what. No rat.
The plausible and popular theory was that El Vermin had escaped the way he’d gotten in, which had to be the gap between the vent pipe going through the cupboard roof and the top itself, leading to the attic. It was quickly sealed with foam, the mess was cleaned up, and our apprehension was tempered by a sense of security. Until the next morning,
as two fresh “presents” appeared on the kitchen counter. A call to an exterminator, fulfilled several uneventful days later, revealed no evidence in the attic of our freeloader or his extended family, and his expert opinion was that we had successfully withdrawn our invitation to this opportunistic drifter. All was well again.
Wednesday night. Children all snug in their beds, and “The West Wing” engages us as we recline. Suddenly, what I’ve come to recognize as the “heebie-jeebie” sound from my beloved severs my reverie. She calmly informs me that she’s just seen a rat run from the cat food dish to what has to be under the oven. While she says this, she sees it repeat this trip. The next hour is spent, kitchen door open, other doorway blocked, removing the boards from under the cabinets, moving the stove, finding the smelly calling cards of our guest, but no rattus rattus. This guy is good. Possible pathways are temporarily blocked, and a commitment is made to solve the problem in the morning.
Morning comes, and the day is spent rooting around, adding barriers, foaming the smallest possible ports of entry at pipe openings and outlets throughout the house. Aside from the original vent, I don’t see where this relative of the gopher in “Caddyshack” is getting in – or out. It’s not anywhere in the kitchen, if it ever was, now.
I go to bed, shortly after the children do, with the satisfaction of a day’s work done well.
My dreams are shattered to reveal my mate standing over my side of the bed – I’ve come to recognize this, over our time together, as - not a good thing. She’s just had the nerve shattering experience of sending a rat – the rat – from under her desk into the Living Room. I believe the word “peeved” comes to mind.
Peeved, I groggily make my way to the Living Room, festooned with the furnishings and decorations of the Christmas Season. Grabbing a broom, and enabling the only possible means of exit to the front door, which now stands open at 11 p.m., I begin disturbing furniture. One, two trips around the room produce nothing. I shake the lit Christmas tree, momentarily wondering if I’m going to have a rat jump me like the raccoon in “Christmas Vacation.” “Joy to the World” as sung by Clark W. Griswald, rings in my ears.
We have a few cats that grace our lives. Cleo has been summoned, and she wanders around the room, contributing absolutely nothing. Olie (no I don’t remember why he’s named “Olie”, he just is, o.k?) has been banned from the house for reasons relating to his need to mark territory within what is clearly ours, not his. He now watches this late-night show with interest from the front porch. At this point, he is a welcome addition to the hunting party. Pee all you want, buddy, just GET THAT RAT!
Third trip. It’s time to start dismantling the furniture. The next – to – last cushion from the couch reveals a tail, which quickly disappears into the superstructure of the couch.
Man of courage, I pick Cleo up off the floor and toss her onto the couch. She stands up, looks at us, and walks back under the table and sits down. Thank you so very much.
I grab the handle to unfold the sofa bed-works, and it runs out from underneath, heading for the door and Olie, accompanied by the aforementioned encouragement from my helpmate, behind the barrier to the Family Room like a picador waiting in the wings of an arena. Seeing Olie, our perpetrator dives under the stack of guitar cases behind the piano. I can see him trying to be small. The good news is, now Olie is interested.
I encourage the rat out into the open, whereupon he heads back to the couch. I’m tired, and I’m tired of this. I go to the couch, give it a yank, and the meteor streaks out, past Clio lounging, toward the door, and BAM! Olie fulfills his destiny. Taking the prey within his jaws, he trots out the front door. Picking up, putting away, we make it to bed about 1 or so.
I want so badly to think that this is over. I guess we’ll find out tonight.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

She's My Girl

I mentioned in one Private Message to this fellow - the one that is apprehensive about his unborn child - that I thought that my daughter possesses some "spiritual gifts" that set her apart from the rest of us. My correspondent asked what I meant:

It's hard to explain, of course. Here's an example. We were selling some kittens through the newspaper. In the course of a few hours, we probably had 8-10 different groups of people come in the front door to see them. This kinda scruffy looking guy (to me) walks in the front door, and here comes Emma, full speed down the hallway, and she just throws her arms around him. He gets down on the floor and she just hugs him and won't let go. He then explained that he has a younger brother with DS. She knew.
She has a sense and an empathy for certain people. She's only 5, and she cannot speak more than about 8 words, but she communicates love and compassion in ways that defy description. People are drawn to her, not repelled. You cannot meet her without smiling. I've seen her melt the hardest people I know. Understand, she is also a stubborn little girl, and it is often very hard to deal with her. She pulled over the Christmas tree a couple of days ago. It's like, the highs are higher, the lows are lower. But it's so much better than I expected when we got the news when she was born. She's my girl.

Why, Again?

I then received a Private Message from the same guy, asking me how God could allow babies to be born with defects, etc. I may be repeating myself with this one, but it's same song, third verse. By the way, his wife is pregnant with their first child, pre-ultrasound. There was concern in his post :

I'm glad you PM'd me. I was afraid that you'd think I was picking on you.You have to know that I've asked myself those questions until I can't ask them any more. I'm no theologian, but here goes.I think that sin, defined as separation from God, exists and affects everything we know. That includes genetics, be it from pollution, poor choices, or our gaining knowledge and expertise with manipulating it without ethical consideration. The Old Testament describes "the sins of the fathers will be visited on the subsequent generations" (something like that, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about). I think that this was a way of stating that our actions do have consequences, but I don't think it means that we can take liberties in ascribing stuff we see to prior things we might not approve of, if that makes any sense. Speaking personally, we had our daughter when my wife and I were both 40. The possibility exists that the DS was a result of our age. Does that make us responsible? Yes, in a way. How many healthy babies are born to 40+ year olds in this world. A lot. Am I being punished for something, or did I just win some sort of twisted lottery? Should I feel guilt about what may or may not be, ultimately, my fault? I sincerely don't know.It is so easy to get messed up by semantics. I once thought, "will I recognize my daughter in heaven, if she is "made perfect", would I be able to know it was her? Then I thought the reverse - would she know me?" - as I'm pretty imperfect here, too. How am I to know that she is not more "God-like" than I am, with her simple mind, capacity for love and acceptance that she shows everyone?Just as one can stare into the stars of the Milky Way in the desert (something I love to do), I think that our lives, sin, our direct choices, those things that we can't control, the good that we do, weaves a web that we can't really unravel. That's the best explanation I've come up with. We do the best (usually) with what we have.There's too much that happens, I think, that defy any explanation. That goes for miracles, as well as the bad stuff. I sat in a Sunday School class, about 10 months after Emma was born, and heard an old friend give God the glory for helping his family find his daughter's retainer that week. It made me kinda wonder what the hell I did to deserve this, if you can understand that. One more thing. To your first question, I think he allowed it when he introduced sin into the mix. He wanted us to have a choice to love him or not, which meant accepting/allowing the consequences of us choosing not to. I don't think it's fair, and I hope to hear an explanation from Him myself, someday.I hope all is ok with your child. My testicles lurch up into my body every time my son runs across the street in front of our house. Worrying is part of being a good parent.Does any of this make sense to you?

Ironically, Enough

The same day I read the afore-referenced editorial, I happened upon a discussion in a gaming forum, of all places, about religion, homosexuality, and the like. In response to what I considered to be a fairly ignorant post, I wrote the following, repeated here for your morbid enjoyment, if you read my blog regularly. The dilettante philosopher rails on:
haven't seen this thread in oh, say 26 pages or so. But I feel a need to comment here. As the son of an evangelical pastor, I have seen and heard enough arguments on enough subjects to kill several horses, and then beat them. As a student of behavioral psychology, I know of and agree that there is homosexual behavior in the animal world. As the parent of a daughter with Down Syndrome, I am fully aware of the impact, variation, and social stigma of genetic variation. To use a previous example, what if baldness had been labeled as sinful, evidence of wrongdoing? My daughter, in the Old and New Testaments, would have been labeled as "demon possessed", many of her behaviors could be interpreted this way to the apprehensive, uneducated mind. Thank God that she now lives in a world that is beginning to see her as a person who belongs, not a being to be warehoused.
To make my philisophical argument more plainly, DS and perhaps homosexuality are evidence of sin on our planet, not necessarily the actions of individuals. I fully accept the reality of genetic homosexuality. I think that there is an entire spectrum of human sexuality. And I believe that God loves us all. There's more, but enough for the moment. IMHO, in the New Testament, Jesus does not address homosexuality, Paul does, and I think he takes liberties with his Savior's intentions. I think we need to look to the cliche "WWJD" rather than impose the legalistic, arbitrary judgements that Christ came here to turn out (if you believe it at all).

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Christmas Pageant, Draft #1

It’s time for the Christmas Pageant.
Who will you be, this year?
Will you be Joseph, confused and unsure of what is really going on, events dictating your actions, bound by obligations, taxes, and the duties of your relationships?
Will you be Mary, amazed and apprehensive, trusting God while faithfully serving an unknown future?
Will you be the Innkeeper, showing compassion to those in need?
Perhaps Herod, threatened by the coming King, filled with jealousy and fear that truth often brings.
Will you be a shepherd, able to lifted from your everyday world and be filled with the awe of a heavenly host?
A Wise Man, maybe. Seeking after and bearing gifts to the newborn King of Kings, affirming the hope and promise of a followed star.
Christmas and the baby are coming, as sure as each day is crossed off the calendar.
What will you be bringing to the manger, this year?
Perhaps a little of all of the above?