What is the difference
Between your Existence
And that of a Saint?
The Saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the Saint is now continually
Tripping over joy
And Bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.
I think composer, philosopher, musician, and poet John Cage would appreciate that — the concept of Surrender, the chess game, the deluded thinking of the player who thinks he has it all under control. Cage famously used chance to help him decide which way a musical composition would go, and told us, “When we don’t know what we’re doing, we do our work very well.”
I wish I’d thought to make a Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz
The best I could come up with was the giraffe.
Be sure to let him in before the bishop;
He made me laugh.
(originally published in The Christian Century)
I’ve used this from time to time in my Technical Communication class, for an assignment called Poem Revision (aka, as a student put it, “the poetry destruction assignment”). The idea is to take a poem and revise it into formal, technical prose — since Tech Writing is the opposite of poetry, it’s a useful exercise.
So I make it a memo, FROM: God TO: St. Peter RE: Dr. Seuss. And so forth.
I don’t run on Sunday, haven’t for years except for the extremely occasional Sunday race. It’s best for me to have a day off from running, so I resist it when the Dead Runners Society initiates yet another 100-day challenge (run at least 2 miles for 100 consecutive days). After all these years, I think I know what’s best for my body (and maybe even for my mind).
So yesterday, it being Sunday and the traditional day of doing so in our culture, I practiced spirituality. First, I raced out of the house at 0-dark-30. OK, actually it was 9:00 a.m. when I went to the wonderful Sunday morning Bible study at Holy Trinity Episcopal. My friends Lanier and Kathy lead the study, during which we focus on the four Scripture readings that will be used in church service, starting at 10:30. Generally the four readings have a thread, and yesterday’s was the idea of a shepherd taking care of sheep. Ancient Israel, of course, was a herding culture, so parables about sheep would take root and have currency. And in 1st-century Palestine, of course, the herding culture continued.
Then, after church service (which went very well, I thought — our organist\music director toned down his overplaying a bit, a welcome event). We also had a guest preacher who was spectacular in a very quiet way — his subject was Ordinary Time (which the Episcopal\Anglican & Roman Catholic churches use to refer to the time between Pentecost and the beginning of Advent). He limned the theme of how ordinary people can do extraordinary things in Ordinary Time. During his sermon, I started to think about why it was working so well, since he wasn’t pounding home his points with volume, etc. I realized he was speaking quietly yet very clearly, the effect of which was to make us all lean forward and listen. And his content was excellent, his words eloquent. I told him so afterward and thanked him.
Then a different kind of spiritual practice. I went kayaking on the Santa Fe River in the afternoon, all alone, and I mean all alone since I didn’t see a soul on the river (or a body either). Very quiet, saw no alligators (mighta just missed them — they blend in so well). Quite a few birds and turtles — even saw a short bird fight over territory. As usual with fights between animals in the wild, no damage seemed to be done to either combatant, just lotsa wing flapping and squawking, and then one bird flew away.
On the Dead Runners Society big list this week, we were discussing race goals — essentially, perfection and imperfection. Our friend Diane McManus is racing a half-marathon soon, and she’d like to run a sub-2:00:00. She listed some times she’d done in races recently, and on that basis prevailing view ranged from “Totally out of the question” to “If everything goes well that day, Diane, it could happen.”
Don’t think we’re done with the discussion yet (which will probably go on until Diane actually DOES the race and reports on it). But I got to thinking about setting goals, reasonable ones, and all the problems that arise out of perfectionism: first, it’s an impossible standard for us mere mortals; second, it’s a good excuse to NOT DO SOMETHING AT ALL if we’re fearful that we won’t do it perfectly. (Third might be that our perfectionism can lead us to expect perfection from others and to criticize or castigate those who fall short of perfection — uh, everyone.)
When I go out to train, I have a goal in mind — a mileage goal (not so much a speed goal, though I do like to do a decent pace, a consistent pace). But lately I’ve been able to split the middle between pushing myself even if I feel tired and listening to my body and doing less. I don’t usually reset my day’s goal until I’ve done about 10 minutes because I know that in the first 10 minutes my body is asking, “Are you freakin’ crazy?” After 10 minutes, reevaluate.
I don’t expect perfection, and I’m happy that the Dead Runners Society has come up with the concept of RPR, or Recent Personal Record. No good can come from comparing my 5K time now with my 5K time when I was 25.
The longstanding tradition of accepting imperfection comes from all different strands of religious beliefs and practices. This is a broken world, and we’re all broken people. But we can get better, or keep enjoying ourselves (as I do out running and training for tri’s). Or we can accept Samuel Beckett’s words: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
This is a mama alligator I saw on the banks of the Santa Fe River while kayaking last Spring with Nancee, her daughter Lauren, and Lauren’s boyfriend. Lauren took the picture — and once I looked carefully at the pic on a big monitor, saw that there are 6 baby gators on or near mama alligator. No wonder she was scowling at us!
It’s been pointed out to me that scowling is the normal gator expression. Maybe so, but in retrospect I’m glad we didn’t get closer — we thought we were just looking at an alligator, a fairly normal occurrence (though not always) on the Santa Fe River. We had no idea, we 4 people and 3 boats, that we were getting perilously (maybe) close to a mama gator defending her babies.
So, when I went running this morning the temperature was high 40’s, and the air was dry and pretty calm (light breeze). Things went pretty well, better than the sluggishness of late, which inspired the “Must be the lack of caffeine” limerick (see previous posts).
How-some-ever, if I’m to do the Austin half-marathon in February, as part of the Dead Runners Society World Conference (see the link here: http://drswc2012.info/), I’ll have to ramp up the training.
Shouldn’t be hard — the weather in Gainesville in December and January is most inviting, at least for this runner: cool, dry. It’s a welcome relief after slogging through yet another unbelievably hot and humid summer (which here in Gainesville, goes from about late April through early October).
That’s why I’m heavily exploring the idea of retiring in North Carolina.
My running friend, Diana, who lives in Philadephia, was born as I was in 1950. She says we should refer to ourselves as Vintage 50s — hence the name of this blog. In the days, weeks, and months to come, I’ll be posting about running, religion, triathlons, training, books, and movies. That is to say, the things I’m interested in (and maybe even knowledgeable about.
My running this week has been sluggish — I’ll get 20-21 miles, but it’s been a struggle. Could be the weather, could be random, could be a number of things. But maybe it’s the fact that I’m reducing my caffeine intake (from 5-6 cups per day to about half that).
No offense to you caffeine folks out there — just wanted to see if I’d sleep better, etc. Just an experiment of one.
Here’s a limerick:
It must be the lack of caffeine
That make me so easily seen
It used to blaze by
Like a shooting-star sky
But now I’m so slow it’s obscene
In an earlier post, I mentioned that I’d been doing a scholarly study of religion since the 1980’s. I read Elaine Pagel’s book “The Gnostic Gospels,” and Thomas Sheehan’s book “The First Coming.” Both Pagels and Sheehan are university professors and scholars in New Testament. So I read through a number of their sources–including the 19th century German scholars who devised the Three-Document Hypothesis for the origin of the Gospels (Bultmann, Harnack).
In short, the Three-Document Hypothesis says that Mark is the firstt Gospel, with Luke and Matthew using a lot of Mark; BUT where Luke and Matthew diverged from Mark, the German scholars hypothesized another source, which they named “Q” (“quelle,” or source). Since they worked, the “Q” source has been both somewhat discovered and subsequently assembled (from its appearance in Matthew and Luke).
It’s more complex, but there it is in brief. I did a good bit of reading, but one cannot really be a scholar of the New Testament without reading Greek and Hebrew, which I cannot — so I have to stand on the shoulders of real scholars. Nor do I read German, so I must read the German scholars in translation.
Oh, well. Sigh. We do the best we can.
From time to time I’ll post about religion, which I practice as well as study — I’ve been doing a serious scholarly study of religion since the 1980’s, read many of the scholarly sources about Christianity (my religion of choice), and find that there’s much to say.
I’m a seriously practicing Episcopalian, so serious that I actually considered becoming a priest or deacon and talked to my bishop about it. I was born and baptized Roman Catholic, practiced that through high school, and “reverted” to it for a few years starting in March 1999 after years of being away.
More on that later.