Lonely life, lonely death…the church might learn?

Friday, 30 September 2005

Another DOA yesterday. Apparent OD, probably suicide. This one was just getting life back on track, too. Living in a halfway house, about to get out. But didn’t. It wasn’t ruled a suicide yet, but it’s a distinct possibility.

I was struck again by the absolute loneliness of death. Everyone dies alone, whether surrounded by loved ones or in an empty apartment. I’ve seen more of the empty apartment variety, honestly. Even if it’s expected it’s sudden. And in those hours of shock immediately following that death, that unnatural act, the same things are almost invariably said: “If only….” Fill in the blank.

But at this moment I’m struck by some of the beauty of the halfway house. It’s not a place you want to end up, but it’s a far sight better than many places. Each has a room to sleep in and to keep some personal items. There’s a common shower, a common family room, and a common dining room. It’s a place you’d inhabit because you’ve seen worse. But it’s a place you’d inhabit because you’re stepping back from that abyss in which you used to live. You’re there because you’ve been there, but you’re not there anymore, and someone is giving you a second chance.

And honestly, I think this place is the epitome of community. And I think the church could take some lessons.

When I pulled up I didn’t quite know what the place was. I met a couple of the residents outside who were mourning together over a pack of smokes. They pointed me inside, where I found the body and the officer working the scene. I nosed around for the information I needed, and went out to the common room where some fellow residents were mourning together. It broke my heart and lifted me up at the same time to watch them together. The heartache and empathy that they expressed together was unlike almost any I’ve ever seen. But when I stop and think about it, it makes sense.

They were like forgotten Nam vets. Not like your neighbor, the one you’re talking to while watering the lawn and you learn he’s a Nam vet, and all of a sudden you switch into your most sympathetic and respectful and awestruck nodding as he tells you. These are like the Nam vets you don’t notice as you walk by. These are like the guys who have taken up post around the Wall, to keep faith with their fallen brothers–the forgotten patriots you hope not to see as you pass so as to keep guilt at a distance.

They’re bound together by shared experience. They know what it is to hurt. There’s an honesty about the pain, about weakness and human frailty that sits like a weight upon them. They don’t pretend it’s not there. They acknowledge it. They admit it. They own it. And they share it. They take it seriously, and they work to support each other in it. They all know that they’re there because they are weak, and they need that place. They need shelter and they need that community because they’ve been written off by most of society–even by their families in some cases. They become family to each other. And they, weak as they are, are stronger together.

And death just dealt a palpable blow to that community.

We could learn from this as a church. We tend to play death off like it’s no big deal, like it’s just a doorway to heaven. It’s not just anything. It’s death–the cessation of life. It’s as unnatural a thing as they come. It’s the ripping of soul from body, a state human beings were not intended for. The soul goes to rest for a time while the body is subjected to decay. It aches and pleads for resurrection. And it has to wait.

But there’s more. We go to church and, just like every other corner of our lives, we seek to maintain an image that nothing’s wrong. What the church might look like if we came as the broken people that we are, with all of our baggage, with all of our weakness and the knowledge of our frailty. Like it or not, we are wounded, broken, battered people, and the church is there to pick us up, to bind up our wounds, and to be a refuge for us. It’s the place where, if it happens nowhere else, we can stop living in the denial of our self-righteousness and self-justification. It’s where we can fall, bloodied and bruised at the foot of the cross, to be picked up in the nail-scarred hands of our Lord Jesus. And there he heals us, taking our wounds upon himself. And there at the foot of the cross we can look left and right, and see our brothers and sisters, who have been just as bloodied, just as downtrodden as we have been. And we can know, “Yeah. We’ve all been there. And by God’s grace we’re all here now.” And we can show that genuine care and intrusive concern for our brothers and sisters, because we’ve been there and we know what it’s like. And we know full well our need for the Savior Jesus.


Blog Psych- / Soci- ology?

Friday, 23 September 2005

It occurs to me that there is a master’s thesis just waiting to be written on blogger psychology. It’s a new enough phenomenon that it’s just begging to be studied by some idealistic and energetic grad student. And it’s probably important, since now it seems that blogs are the wave of the present in the area of how people get their information on world events/politics/religion/who’s pissed at whom/et cetera/ad nauseum.

So who are the bloggers? What makes them tick? What makes them post? What makes them so sure that people want to read what they have to write? And to all of the above, Why?

I find these to be fair questions–in fact, fair enough that I have asked myself these questions on numerous occasions. And to be sure, most of them get asked each time I look at the Blogger TM Dashboard. In part these questions keep me from posting more often.

And I know how few people actually stop by to read. I’m likewise ok with that.

My own observations over the past several years of blog reading and the last eight months or so of active blogging lead me to some observations that beg the question, “Why?” Below are some, in no particular order.

  • Bloggers tend to be temperamental. They don’t have a lot of patience with others, at least with others with whom they disagree.
  • Bloggers tend to be rather egocentric. This, I’d argue, is intrinsically related to the above observation. Blogging feeds egocentrism. Bloggers may develop followings of loyal readers who in turn fulfill a need on the part of the blogger.
  • Bloggers are by and large anonymous. I’d submit that this is part of the attraction to this particular communication vehicle. Even when actual names are used, the distance enjoyed by the internet connection produces a synthetic anonymity, if you will.
  • Blogger anonymity (real or synthetic) tends to limit inhibitions, thus fueling temperamental and egocentric behavior.
  • Bloggers may show some signs of addiction when it comes to the act of blogging (e.g., feeling a compulsive need to check comments, leave comments, write about something else that peeved them, etc.)
  • Bloggers seem to revel in their identity as a subculture, and in fact, in their many identities as micro-cultures within the blogger subculture.

I’m making observations. My questions are based largely on these broad observations. I’m also intrigued by the interactions between bloggers and commenters. Many of the same obsrvations may be made of commenters. Yet I’m still curious as to the why‘s of it all.

In part I would further argue that the medium of the blog allows people to act according to the reptilian brain. And, as always, I could be partly or entirely wrong. Should you stumble upon this scribble I invite your comments.

It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day

Monday, 19 September 2005
My pirate name is:
Captain Jack Vane

Even though there’s no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you’re the one in charge. You tend to blend into the background occaisionally, but that’s okay, because it’s much easier to sneak up on people and disembowel them that way. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.

Homer, Marge, and the NHL

Friday, 16 September 2005

Homer: Do you want it done right or do you want it done fast?
Marge: Like most Americans, I want it done fast!

That may not quite get at it, but it’s about where we are with the new rules for the 05-06 season. You can check out the video explanations here. It’s enough to turn a fan’s stomach. If you don’t care to look, I’ll summarize the new rules below:

Defense is basically a punishable offense. Don’t even bother trying to defend. You’ll end up in the box.

The attacking/defending zones are four feet longer, taking two feet each from the neutral zone and the area behind the nets. Add to this the fact that,

Goalies are no longer allowed to play the puck in the corners. Behind the net they’re now restricted to the newly-developed “trapezoid zone,” the breaching of which earns them, wait for it, a two-minute minor.

The red centerline is now a decorative memorial to an earlier day when it actually meant something. That’s right, it’s only there for show. Gone are the days of the two-line pass.

Ties are now also a thing of the past. There will be a winner in every match, decided, if necessary, by a shootout. Someone’s going to come away from each one with two points, even if it kills us.

What’s the point of all this, you ask? Simple. Apparently hockey wasn’t gratifying enough to the fans. They wanted to see hockey games with football scores. They prefer to watch marquee players score goals rather than teams functioning as well-oiled machines; dump-and-chase goalfests over blood-and-guts zero-zero ties where you knew getting that far was a tremendous feat.

This is just going to do for hockey what the NBA has done for basketball.

Star Wars Theology

Monday, 12 September 2005

Anyone else sick of people trying to explain the Christian significance of the Star Wars trilogy-plus-three? Five minutes with an internet connection ought to be enough to debunk the whole lot of them.

George Lucas, along with many other writers/directors, has openly admitted that a good deal of his inspiration for the story came from Joseph Campbell’s 1948 work entitled The Hero With a Thousand Faces. In this work, Campbell depends in no small part on Carl Jung’s proposed phenomenon of “the collective unconscious.” This, he claims, is the part of a person’s unconscious which all human beings hold in common. He further suggests that this collective unconscious holds within it human archetypes which give way to mythological characters such as Buddha, Krishna, Hercules, and even, he suggests, Jesus Christ.

Jung and Campbell may certainly be employed in an attempt to secularize and psychologize Christianity away. More to the point, that Lucas used such a source makes it obvious that the philosophy of Star Wars was crafted so that it would resonate with most religious worldviews.

I’m certainly not done with my search, but a quick rundown of some of the names in the trilogy-plus-three are certainly interesting:

Dagobah: lived there Yoda did; dagoba is also a Buddhist shrine containing Buddha relics or writings.

Yoda: short green Jedi master; etymology uncertain, perhaps Sanskrit for “warrior” or Hebrew for “knowing one.”

Padme: beautiful wise princess, obsession of Anakin Skywalker, mother to Luke and Leia; also the fourth and fifth syllables of the Buddhist mantra om mani padme hum.

Darth Vader: nothing big here; Dutch for Dark Father.

Sith: those from the dark side of the force; from Irish mythology, the underground defeated fairies, including the banshee.

Qui-gon Jinn: Jedi master, trained Obi-wan Kenobi; jinn are smoke spirits in Arabic tradition, including Islam.

Jedi: the monastic order of warriors who use the force; from Japanese jidaigeki, dramas about the Samurai.

This is only a very small list of the ecclectic sources for the characters and places in the series. I’m a fan. It’s a great set of movies (generally). But inherently Christian it is not.

In Memoriam

Friday, 09 September 2005

Dr. Oswald Hoffmann died today after a battle with illness. He was 91. God comfort his family with the promise of the resurrection.

RCC Question

Monday, 05 September 2005

My neighbor, a devoted Catholic, steeped in the traditional veneration of the saints, threw me a curve ball the other day. Now I have heard the promised blessings of saying the rosary faithfully for a given length of time or doing various ritual Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, and Glory Be’s. This one was new to me.

Apparently there’s a prayer that he’s been taught to pray against abortion. I can’t argue with that one. It’s a noble prayer, that God would hinder and ultimately end this barbaric, murderous practice. But this one came with a promised blessing, too. He told me that if he does it daily for a year, all the children who are aborted in that time period would become his children in heaven.


I’m gently having the conversation with him still. But has anyone heard of this one? (Does anyone read this?) Like an email chain letter these have no Scriptural basis. But I’m hard pressed to find anything like this in the Roman Catholic Catechism, either. Where does this stuff originate? I’d like to meet the guys who perpetuate this stuff.