Tag Archives: Luck

I’m just a lucky so and so

While reading an online article about the new AMC series “Rubicon,” in which my brother The Actor has a recurring role, I clicked on a link to a story about the writer Anne Rice and her recent renunciation of Christianity:

Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else...In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian…My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”  — Author Anne Rice’s postings on her web site and Facebook wall on July 29, 2010

I’ll say right up front, I haven’t read any of Anne Rice’s books, or seen any of the movies made from her books. I don’t know what precipitated her “conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God.” Judging from the three links on her website that are under the label “Christianity,” she became, until her recent renunciation, a Roman Catholic. Perhaps this is news only to me.

The male-pattern balding of the Roman Catholic church has been widely documented, analyzed, and debated by better, more informed writers than I. The Boston Globe recently published an article about the media blitz that the Roman Catholic church is launching to convince people to come back. In the story, a woman was quoted as saying, “I go to church, I want to talk about Jesus, and all they seem to talk about is money, money, money.” When PW read that, she burst out laughing, pointing out that probably the only thing Jesus talked about more than money was about not being afraid.

I can’t count the number of people I know who have left the Roman Catholic church for many of the same reasons Rice states above. I know people who have left to become atheists, or to just find their own path, either in a different denomination or in a sort of ad hoc way as spiritual people who don’t have a specific spiritual home other than the wide world around them. Many recovering Roman Catholics I know have found a home in the Episcopal church. They find comfort in the similar liturgy and language, while simultaneously being surprised and delighted by the amount of intellectual, theological, and spiritual elbow room.

As a queer woman, I completely understand and agree with Anne Rice’s frustration with people who claim the mantle of Christianity while behaving in ways that, to my mind, likely would have drawn the wrath of the savior they claim to follow. Of course, there are too many examples to count, since pointing out Christian hypocrisy is easier than shooting pickles in a barrel (which is even easier than shooting fish in a barrel, since pickles can’t take evasive action.)

An example of Christian hypocrisy near and dear to my life is the battle over equal marriage. The fight against equal marriage has made curious bedfellows (pun intended) of the Mormon and the Roman Catholic churches, to name two of the biggest religious players on the anti-equal marriage team. I find it interesting, and not at all surprising, that two organizations with such tortured histories around sexuality — the Roman Catholics with their insistence on a celibate male priesthood and the Mormons’ with their legacy of polygamy (as well as their insistence on a male priesthood) — would be so deeply and extravagantly invested (to the tune of millions of dollars) in preventing committed, loving, consenting adults from being able to marry each other. It’s appalling to me to imagine the many thousands of people who could have been fed, sheltered, employed, advocated for, healed (or at least treated) with that vast time and treasure.

Whatever the subtexts for Anne Rice’s conversion to and subsequent renunciation of Christianity, I wish her well. I do wonder how she will manage to follow Jesus outside the context of a community. I don’t think it’s impossible, but going solo — or even ad hoc — at feeding, freeing, clothing, sheltering, and healing those who need such things is a recipe for burnout. Shoot, even Jesus needed a raggedy group of thick-headed misfits to keep himself going. So far as I can tell, the great majority of his followers are still a raggedy group of thick-headed misfits. A friend of mine and fellow Emmanuel parishioner refers to us as a “band of mutants.” That works, too, and not just for people at Emmanuel.

I wish Anne Rice had my luck to participate in a Christian community that includes an intellectually lively mix of skeptics, agnostics, and atheists. Within the course of any given day, I’d wager that many of our parishioners (and clergy) are each of those, sometimes all at once! I wish she had my luck to participate in a Christian community that is on the cutting edge of undoing millennia of implicit and explicit anti-Jewish bias in Christian worship and study. I wish she had my luck to eavesdrop on two brilliant, funny, queer, female Episcopal priests translating Hebrew together once a week, working their way through the lectionary’s Hebrew Bible selections; it’s thrilling and often disturbing to (over)hear how many liberties translators have taken with the texts over the centuries, and to consider the horrible, or just annoying, consequences of translation and punctuation choices.

Come to think of it, I wish EVERYONE had the luck I’ve had in travelling the crooked line of my spiritual path. Then it occurs to me, hmmm, maybe I hogged all the luck! Of course, I know it’s not only luck that’s gotten me here. My luck has been well-seasoned with stubbornness, resilience, what PW calls my “pantheistic whyheadedness,” and my continuing to work at discerning what’s worth fighting for and what I’d be better off releasing. I’m sharing my bounty as best I know how — this website is one way of doing that. And, of course, I can always make more Gay Jell-O!

“the soprano sings an intimate and gracious air punctuated by surprising unison choral outbursts”

I have so many shout-outs today, it occurs to me that maybe I should start a tradition of Shout-out Sunday here at The Crooked Line.

First, to my beloved friends from college, Martin & Heather, who are creating something wild and wonderful down in the Texas Hill Country: Madroño Ranch, A Center for Writing and the Environment. If creativity and the environment are the least bit interesting or important to you, their blog needs to be on your reading list.

Reading Heather’s blog post yesterday inspired the post I wrote here yesterday on grief, and it’s still weaving its way in and around and through my grey matter.  One of the persistent wonderings I’ve had since reading Heather’s essay about time and creativity and memory was around the possibility of being able to feel time as we’re moving through it.  As a former swimmer, I love the feel of being in water and how the texture of water changes.  Swimming in lakes in New England in the springtime, on a sunny day, the top foot or so of the water can be warm, and sometimes even feels thick in its warmth.  But if you go vertical, you find that there is a very cold, dark, sharp layer of water below.  At least that’s how it feels to me.

It occurred to me last night that music is one way that I feel myself swimming through time.  I love all different kinds of music, which is probably apparent if you’re a regular visitor to this blog, or if I’ve imposed one of my CD mixes on you.  My music appreciation has a whole new gear since my wife PW started working at this church a couple of years ago.  For most of the year, except the summertime, some grouping of singers and musicians from Emmanuel Music provides a couple of musical offerings every Sunday.  For me, this means that nearly every Sunday, I have a goosebump experience.

The title of today’s post comes from Michael Beattie’s always-evocative program notes for today’s anthem, Handel’s Chandos Anthem 7, “My Song Shall Be Alway.”  So picture this.  I usually sit in the third row of the church, just to the right of the center aisle.  I like being this close because if I’m really quiet in my head, and if no one is talking to me, I can hear sharp inhales and exhales of the musicians, I can hear the keys being pressed on the oboe, plus all the wonderful sounds of the instruments and voices blending together.  Anyway, today I was sitting there, and while I usually try not to distract myself by looking at the bulletin during the music, sometimes I can’t help it.  And there was some point during the lovely soprano solo today when I wanted to see how the program notes described it.  I found the weaving together of the soprano’s voice and the oboe, and Michael’s dancy conducting, to be particularly time-swimmy.  So I looked down at the notes, and I just as I was reading this line “the soprano sings an intimate and gracious air punctuated by surprising unison choral outbursts,” I was enveloped in one such surprising “choral outburst” and waves of goosebumps shot up my spine and engulfed my head.

I feel unbelievably lucky to hear extraordinary live music on such a regular basis, and even when the music itself doesn’t bring goosebumps, often just watching and hearing how the ensemble, conductor and chorus are working together will result in goosebumps.  Even when I’m just not feeling the music on a particular day, the luxury of watching the ensemble, conductor and chorus swim through time is inviting in and of itself, and the next thing I know, I’m doing a figurative cannonball into the pool and I’m in there with them.

Finally, completing the kick-butt church day today (“kick-butt” is a high compliment in my family of origin), one of our newer parishioners, the Rt. Rev. J. Clark Grew, took the tricky pitch of the virulently anti-Semitic gospel reading for today and basically hit it over the Green Monster onto the Mass Pike.  I love hearing really great preaching and teaching on a reliable basis.  Another reason I love sitting up in the front is because when a particularly good sermon — like today’s — is concluded, I usually hear at least one whispered “Wow” coming from behind me.  Today there were several such murmurs.

That’s it for my first Shout-out Sunday.  Since it’s been such a Heavenly Day, I’ll let Patty Griffin take us out with that very song:

160 Years

I am one of the few people I know (besides my brothers) whose parents are both still living, still active and on the ball.  Today, my mom turns 80, following my dad who turned 80 in August.  They are quite a pair:  funny, cute, smart, brave, resilient, energetic, curious, and extraordinarily loving, especially with each other.  They’ve been married almost 57 years and they seem to be more crazy about each other with each passing year.  Everyone should be so lucky.

My folks are legendary for their hospitality, their humor, their antics, the retreats that they lead, their writing, their sermons, their story-telling, their pride in all their children – even as they have struggled to comprehend or communicate with any or all of us, their comedy routines, their intellectual openness and curiosity,  their playfulness, their unabashed political and theological liberalism, and their global community of friends and colleagues that crosses age groups, nationalities, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.  The list could go on, and I invite readers, nay, the ENTIRE Internet, to add suggestions in the comments section below of things my parents are legendary for.

I’m in the home stretch of planning a party for the folks in a couple of weeks to celebrate their combined 160 years of life.  When I asked them for a guest list, they sent me a spreadsheet of more than 400 email addresses, and many of those were for couples.  Honestly, I’m not even sure how many people we ended up inviting, and I’m sure that we missed some, so contact me if you want to know when and where the party is.  If everyone who has said that they’re coming shows up, I’m pretty sure we’ll have more than 200 people there, from all over the world, and many more who are very sad that they can’t make it.

The party is partly for mingling and eating and partly to roast my parents.  When you’ve lived for a combined 160 years, there are lots of bloopers that simply cannot be retold enough.  My mother, the extrovert and hospitality queen, is terrified of the roast, and would strongly prefer to be making ALL of the food that will be eaten.  My father, the introvert and goofball, has threatened to commandeer the microphone the minute ANYone says, well, ANYthing.  I suspect that it’s not that he wants to censor the content of the roast.  He has a voracious memory, and I’m sure he wants to make sure that all the best stories get told.  Or, maybe he knows he could roast the two of them better than anyone else.  Or maybe it’s both, and a whole lot more.

I left home at 18 to go to college and have lived most of my life more than 1000 miles away from my parents.  I don’t see them as often as I would like.  I love and admire them more than I can possibly describe.  They are a huge part of why I wander through this world feeling as lucky as I do, rose-colored glasses firmly in place, thinking in just about every difficult situation “well, it could be SO much WORSE!”  My love for music came from them and has always been nurtured by them.  My tendency to talk to myself, out loud, also came from them.  I am so much a blend of them that in one moment, I can be “doing a full-on Barbara” and in the next moment “pulling a total Dad.”  Our youngest has gotten very good at pointing these moments out by simply saying “Okay, Grandma” or “Yeah, right, Grandpa.”  My response:  “It could be SO much WORSE!”

Happy 80th birthday, Mom, and a belated happy 80th birthday (again) Dad.  Thanks for bringing my brothers and me into this world.  Thanks for telling us so many stories of who you have been and who you are still becoming.  Thanks for wanting us to be fully ourselves, even when it has been (or is still) painful or baffling to you.  Thanks for sticking together through seemingly unfathomable difficulty and darkness.  Thanks for continuing to grow and change and learn new things.  Thanks for delighting in each other more and more with each passing year.  Mostly, thanks for still being alive, in every possible meaning of that word.

Here’s a little something I made for you:

“Do you feel safe at home?”

This was among the many questions the ER admitting nurse asked me this afternoon.  I just looked at her and laughed and said, “Absolutely, though maybe I shouldn’t, since I was, in fact, at home when I put this nasty gash in my forearm with a utility knife while cutting a plastic downspout extender.”  She said, “Let’s take a look at this bad boy.”  Upon removing the skanky paper towel I had been using to cover it up, she said, “Oooookay, we won’t be taking your blood pressure on THIS arm!”

Two hours later I have five stitches in my left forearm and a requirement to see a hand specialist as early as possible next week.  The scoop: the ER folks don’t think I’ve damaged any tendons, but they want the hand specialist to take a look to be completely sure.  For now, I’m on a two week course of antibiotics, I have a brand new tetanus shot that I elected to have in the same arm that I cut, and my left arm is splinted and wrapped from fingertip to elbow.
The ER folks who poked around in the wound in my arm, putting me though all sorts of finger movement tests, kept telling me how lucky I was because I didn’t appear to have done any damage to the tendons.  But after spending 2 hours in the emergency room, I had already been feeling pretty lucky.  I kept looking around thinking, “Ew, glad I’m not THAT guy.” One could argue that if I were really lucky, I wouldn’t have cut myself.  So maybe my primary luck isn’t that great, but my secondary luck is awesome.

But you know what?  I’d put even my primary luck up against anyone’s.  I’ve spent a significant amount of time this week in four of life’s great levelers:  prison (for volunteer work, so it wasn’t nearly as leveling as if I were actually serving time), public transportation, the local motor vehicles office, and, today, the emergency room.  I’ve had more than enough glimpses of how much worse my life would be if I weren’t so lucky.

Do I feel safe at home?  Yes, I do and I count my blessings every day for that.