Thursday, November 29, 2012

 This day is auspicious because of the coincidence of two major cosmic events involving people who now, God rest their souls, have moved into a plane in which their artistic and spiritual influence are felt by us as a thing of legend.  In fact, both of these men had a profound influence during their lifetimes as pioneers who the youngest among us know only by their work.

Today is the 114th anniversary of Clive S. Lewis, known to friends as Jack and to many of us as one of the first theologians
whose work we read as children.  Of course we didn't know we were reading theology when we immersed ourselves in the world of Narnia, but many of us recognized immediately the hope and longing, the seeking and fulfillment, which C.S. Lewis communicated in his fantastic other world beyond the wardrobe.

 The other gentleman pictured here of course is George Harrison, also a son of the British Isles and rather well-known for a little band that he and some friends started in Liverpool.  It was on this
day in 2001 that cancer claimed the life of this deeply spiritual and introspective artist.
During a time of civil, social, and certainly spiritual upheaval, his music of hope and longing, the seeking quest and the hope of fulfillment, touched the world. 

I wonder if, on the day George passed from us, he might have encountered Jack.  I wonder if Jack would have invited him to his birthday party for tea.  I trust that they both found Christmas, in whatever form it exists now for them.

As George once said, "All religions are branches of one big tree. It doesn't matter what you call Him just as long as you call. Just as cinematic images appear to be real but are only combinations of light and shade, so is the universal variety a delusion. The planetary spheres, with their countless forms of life, are naught but figures in a cosmic motion picture. One's values are profoundly changed when he is finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion picture and that not in, but beyond, lies his own ultimate reality."

The day I pass (as all things must) through the back wall of the wardrobe, I'd like to have tea with them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Chicken in Every Pot

About a hundred years ago, I was a personal banking officer for Wells Fargo Bank's Newport Financial Center Office located just up the hill overlooking the Newport Center and, a little way beyond, the Pacific Ocean.  As one of the first twelve P.B.O.'s in Southern California, I shared the rarefied air of coastal Orange County long before it became known as the "O.C.".

P.B.O.'s at that time served the top 20% of the office's retail banking portfolio, so in Newport Beach, my clients were the same folks who were responsible for much of the development which led to the "O.C." moniker in later years. I processed investment transactions, helped their wives open their safe deposit boxes, and get emergency replacements for their college kids' lost credit cards during Spring breaks.

One thing I never did do, however, was to be paid any more than a P.B.O. in any other part of the South- land.  So along with the tellers and operations officers I usually brown-bagged my lunch and ate in the staff room unless I had a lunch with clients or had the odd extra $10 for a cafe meal down the hill at the shopping center.

On those rare occasions, I would walk down Newport Center Drive across our parking lot and over a weed-grown dune into the back side of the shopping center, where continuing on a direct line brought me to the back door of the luxurious Nieman Marcus department store. 

What a treat it was to short-cut through that palace of ostentation!  Christmas was my favorite time of year, as they always had something ridiculous on the sales floor-one year, as I recall, they had a Rolls Royce smack in the middle of the joint where you had to physically negotiate around it to get through to the other side.  If I needed to fill up my eyes with sparkly and shiny, all I had to do was go out to lunch.

No surprise, then, that this year's Nieman Marcus catalog ad in the L.A. Times caught my eye.  Now that I am a simple-living, local-foods-eating, progressive Davisite who is contemplating raising my own backyard hens for fun and fresh eggs, LOOK what Nieman has in store for ME. The above French villa-inspired hen house (complete with library) can be mine for $100,000-delivery not included!

Can you imagine how all the chicken coop bikers on the Tour de Cluck would envy me? My henhouse would be, if not the envy of all the other backyard chicken-keepers, at least be the most expensive. Yes, and isn't the timing fortuitous.  Why, just last night my loving spouse reminded me I haven't yet made up my Santa wish list.

So I'm really glad I didn't spend all my allowance yesterday on a bunch of cyber stuff I don't need....I can put it towards a $100K chicken coop that NOBODY needs.

If there is any doubt left in anyone's mind that the 1% can cough up a bit more in taxes, look no further than Nieman Marcus' catalog.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Out of Hangers

Today is the first weekday following Christ the King Sunday.  Although not mentioned on the Christian calendar, it is widely celebrated as Cyber Monday.  Its unofficial saint is St. Steve, the saint of software and protector of apples.

Whether you bought out the place on Black Friday, shopped til you dropped in your hometown on Small Business Saturday, or are burning up the keyboard on Cyber Monday, it's very easy to succumb to the lure of holiday advertising.  With an eye to keeping a sense of perspective during these frantic shopping times, here are the ten best ways to help keep purchases down to a workable minimum:

1. If you would have to buy more clothes hangers to accommodate your purchase, DON'T BUY IT.

2. If you would have to build shelves in your garage to hold your overflow, DON'T BUY IT.

3. If you would have to amend your will so your kids won't fight over it someday, DON'T BUY IT.

4. If there's even a remote possibility that there are already six of these in your pantry that haven't yet been opened, DON'T BUY IT.

5. If it would require the assistance of one or more teenagers to figure out how to use it, DON'T BUY IT.

6. If it would only fit after you've been on the New Year's diet you know you won't stick with beyond Martin Luther King Jr. day, DON'T BUY IT.

7. If you hear Desi Arnaz' voice in your head saying, "Lucy, you got lotsa s'plainin' to do", DON'T BUY IT.

8. If you would have to reinforce the subfloor of your house to pack it all in, DON'T BUY IT.

9. If you've given more than six of them to Goodwill in the past five years, DON'T BUY IT.

10.  If your kids say, "Mommy, are you and Daddy going to have another discussion?" about it, 

The late Steve Jobs was pretty widely known as a person who lived simply, so I find it ironic that the computer and software tools that he was partially responsible for making available to consumers are being used to buy into the commercialization of Christmas and other holidays in such a big way.  So to honor St. Steve and encourage simple living, I'm going to count my clothes hangers before I go cyber-shopping.

If I have to buy more hangers, I guess I'll stay cyber-home.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

This is my New Year's Eve. It is the final Sunday of the liturgical year, Christ the King Sunday, last Sunday of ordinary time for another whole year. Christians who observe the liturgical calendar recognize that this is the last Sunday before Advent, when churches begin their 4-week time of preparation for the coming of Jesus into the world of reality (however you understand THAT) also known as Christmas.  Yeah, so I'm slightly medieval and if you want to make something of it I'll meet you on Facebook.  After the bars close.

If you've checked in here on this site in the interval between my last post, dated August 28, of this year, and today, and wondered why there have been no posts until now, it is probably because I could not bring myself to record in even as ephemeral a form as a blog anything more "permanent" than a Tweet or a Facebook quip before the election of November 6.  The elections and the run-up to them took place in what the Christian church in the west often calls "ordinary time" which doesn't in this case mean "everyday" comes from the term "ordinal" from which we also get our words "order" and "orderly".  It's a way to "order" the teaching of the church in a way that allows preachers to organize the lessons they'll preach Sunday by Sunday in a long cycle dedicated to believers' spiritual growth.

If you're interested in politics at all, you might agree that there was little order during this time. The public discourse was as far as I have ever seen from orderly.

When we talk about the lessons that come to us from scripture, a lot of today's Christians are unfamiliar with the use of the Revised Common Lectionary or the Liturgical Calendar, and that's OK. I've come to realize that it's important to realize there are as many differences between liturgical Christians and non-liturgical Christians as there are between organic farmers and conventional farmers.  Still, both types of farmers recognize the need for order.

Liturgical Christians have certain observances pertinent to the seasons of the Christian calendar which are as important to us as the use of seasonal food is to the local farmer.  The Christian calendar denotes times of celebration, times of dormancy, and times of growth as surely as the seasonal calendar points out times of plowing, times of sowing, the time of incubation and growth, and times of harvest.  It also marks time of contemplation and reflection not dissimilar to those times the farmer might pore over seed catalogs or enjoy a well-earned nap.

One would think that the need for orderly thinking is at least as important to Christians as it is to farmers.

We begin this contemplative, reflective time now, as we enter the new liturgical year and set out on the run-up to Christmas called Advent.  It's a great time to think back upon the past 51 weeks and consider how we've done as people whose avowed purpose is to bring more love, light, and peace into the world.

As a politically active Christian, I'm buggered if I can say I've fulfilled that purpose.  I've fallen 'way short of my August goal of refraining from LMAO at right wingnut Tweets.  I confess that I can no longer label or self-identify as liberal, progressive, moderately left-of-center, dead-smack-in-the middle, or even vaguely interested in labels. I shudder that I have been as disorderly in thought and reflection as the most reactionary sound-byte-spewing, Fox-News-following rightie who wakes up on the morning after the election with a piece of the country's biggest up-all-night-tea-partying-and-lost hangover.

If the past few months were ordinary, I've seen enough ordinary. There's very little order or orderly about it.  Instead, if I were thinking about the New Year and my seed catalogs, er, that is to say, the preparation of my heart during Advent, I would think about the things we have been hoping for in the inner chambers of our collective hearts.

Equality.  Cooperation.  Respect. Figuring out ways to make the best outcomes possible for the greatest number of people in this country, and leaving no one out in the cold.  We're getting ready, after all, for the most truly extraordinary time of the year, and for THAT we need to be intentional about our goals and how to get there.

It takes a little order.