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    Rambling thoughts on some things that matter.

    Monday, August 11, 2008, 1:08 AM [General]

    This entry and the ones that immediately follow are taken from posts on the Beyond Blue boards. I thought I would 'memorialize' and save them as journal entries since I don't get that pensive on a regular basis. Smile

    Friday night at the hospital, I spent the night with a family of a 20 year old male who was just having a party for friends and ended up dead: beaten by party crashers who didn't welcome being unwelcome. 

    Saturday night, I spent the evening with a family of an 18 year old female who, in a freak accident, had been run over by a car from which she had fallen.

    The mother, grandmother, and other family tonight brought up the big questions: after something like this, what next? How do you go on? 

    I listened to their responses for a while and then summed it up this way: It seems like there are basically two responses to the sudden and tragic realization of just how %&*$#& fragile life is. One is to live in fear of the future, worrying that any moment now, some event could end our lives or the lives of someone we love. We end up hiding from life, trying to protect ourselves and others from it.

    The other is to live gratefully (or by grace) in the moment that we have, knowing it is the only one that exists. There is only now. And we can choose to live mindfully and fully in it.

    We live because this moment is the only moment we have in which to live. We love because this moment is the only moment we have in which to love. We laugh and cry, share joy and sorrow, and so on, because there is no other time but this moment in which to do it.

    Again, I just summed up the thoughts and feelings that were floating around that family conference room. I love it when this job teaches me! And what I've learned--or been reminded of--I came here to share.

     
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    Random thoughts; part 2

    Monday, August 11, 2008, 1:07 AM [General]

    In a way, the passage from Ecclesiastes that Doxieman notes as relevant is one of my favorites, too, inasmuch as I'm a big fan of Pete Seeger who put it to music. It fits to the extent we are talking about time as quality and not merely duration.

    The Greeks made a helpful distinction in vocabulary. There were two words for time: kronos and kairos (as any product of a Jesuit education like Larry/Doxieman would be expected to know).Smile

    From kronos, we get "chronic", "chronology","chronometer" ( a fancy name for a freakin' wristwatch that means, "Boy will THIS be expensive!") It is all about time as measurable and quantitative.  60 seconds in a minute; 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, etc., etc.,  etc.

    Then there's kairos, which refers to time as having value or quality beyond simple duration. Whenever the Greek New Testament or the Septuagint (Hebrew Scripture translated into Greek) spoke of kairos it's usually translated as 'in the fulness of time'.  Actually, the concept of eternity is more about time as of ultimate value rather than infinite duration.

    This qualitative time is also behind the Eastern concept: "When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive".

    Being mindful and living in the moment, to me, simply means to be aware of time as being more than duration and having value and meaning.



     
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    Random thoughts; part 3

    Monday, August 11, 2008, 12:58 AM [General]


    Take that back to the earlier statements about living in fear of the uncertainty and dread of the future or living gratefully and graciously in the fulness of the moment.

    As I think about it--which I hadn't before--living in fear of the future is focusing anxiously on quantitative time--kronos. "Damn! Time's gonna run out There's so precious little of it left! Like sands in the hour glass, these are the Days of Our Lives!" (where the hell did that come from!?) We watch it ticking inexorably away...going, going, gone! Omigod!! I'm freaked by the transient and the terminal!!

    But mindfulness is focusing on qualitative time. There is an awareness that in this moment, eternity is present. We live in, as Paul Tillich put it: The Eternal Now. Clock time becomes a meaningless abstraction and distraction.

    Ever notice in such moments that time just seems to lose all proportion, as if it just stops? Even in this fleeting moment, this transitory point of time, eternity makes itself known and breaks through our awareness and clock time fades from perception.

    Kinda gives us another angle from which to look at eternal life.

    Kinda weird and mysterious, but much more personally satisfying than life that drags on without end. Eternal life? Fascinating and attractive concept. Endless life? Dreadful!

     
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    Random thoughts; part 2

    Monday, August 11, 2008, 12:56 AM [General]

    Doxieman noted that this all reminds him of one of hsi favorite passages in Ecclesiastes: "To everything there is a season, and time and purpose under heaven, etc." This passage rans as one of my favorites, too, inasmuch as I'm a big fan of Pete Seeger who put it to music--fits to the extent we are talking about time as quality and not merely duration.

    The Greeks made a helpful distinction in vocabulary. There were two words for time: kronos and kairos (as any product of a Jesuit education would be expected to know).Smile

    From kronos, we get "chronic", "chronology","chronometer" ( a fancy name for a freakin' wristwatch that means, "Boy will THIS be expensive!") It is all about time as measurable and quantitative.  60 seconds in a minute; 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, etc., etc.,  etc.

    Then there's kairos, which refers to time as having value or quality beyond simple duration. Whenever the Greek New Testament or the Septuagint (Hebrew Scripture translated into Greek) spoke of kairos it's usually translated as 'in the fulness of time'.  Actually, the concept of eternity is more about time as of ultimate value rather than infinite duration.

    This qualitative time is also behind the Eastern concept: "When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive".

    Being mindful and living in the moment, to me, simply means to be aware of time as being more than duration and having value and meaning.

     
     
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    Some of the "myths" the theocrats would have people believe:

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 3:56 PM [General]

    (1) THEY REPRESENT THE CHRISTIAN VOICE AND VALUES. Hogwash! Christians of conscience, drawing from Scripture and church teachings, are all over the place on every major issue facing the church and society. But for some, dogmatism trumps dialogue. There's just no room for other viewpoints. (2)CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THAT THE BIBLE TEACHES CREATION OR AT LEAST SUPPORTS INTELLIGENT DESIGN, WHEREAS "EVOLUTIONISTS" ARE ALL ATHEISTS. More hogwash. In any liberal arts college supported by mainline Christian churches--Catholic, Lutheran (ELCA), Presbyterian, Methodist, and so on--evolution is taught as the basis and organizing principle of the biological sciences. Many books supporting evolution are written by Christians who see faith and reason as two ways of experiencing reality and not in contradiction. One of the best books I've read on the subject was written by a Catholic priest. (3) THE SUPREME COURT AND THE LIBERALS HAVE REMOVED GOD AND THE BIBLE AND PRAYER FROM THE PUBLIC SPHERE. Hogwash on top of hogwash! All the courts can do is draw distinctions protecting religious liberty, which means a level playing field in which one religious viewpoint cannot run roughshod over others. When theocrats talk about religious liberty, ask them if that includes Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even liberal Christians. You'll soon see how far their view of religious liberty extends. (4) CHRISTIANS ARE BEING PERSECUTED. Okay, 'hogwash' isn't strong enough--Cowpies! I mean, TOTAL BS! Why? Because some are complaining about Nativity scenes or the Ten Commandments in tax-supported, public places like courthouses? Have you seen these things removed from any churches lately? Or seen any churches closed down for preaching their messages? This goes back to myth number three and feeds their lust for more and more power in the public sphere--a power, mind you, that Jesus rejected every time it was offered him--from the temptation in the Wilderness right up to the crucifixion when people who had been ready to follow him as a political power against Rome learned that HIS kingdom was not of this world. This is just a few. Sometime, maybe I'll point out more such myths.
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    The Bible "persecution"?

    Monday, May 19, 2008, 3:48 PM [General]

    A flap has been brewing in a nearby school system over the actions of a middle school science teacher that would seem to involve prosyletizing and teaching his religious beliefs to students. It is clearly established, and he has not denied: passing out anti-evolution materials and teaching Intelligent Design contrary to state guidelines; using an electronic gadget that gives a mild shock and leaves a mark of the cross on students' arms; leading a healing service at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting; having posters with Christian and biblical messages displayed in his classroom, and reading to the students from the Bible. The teacher, John Freshwater of Mount Vernon Middle School, has over the years received criticism from the adminstration for these things, and within the past school year has been instructed by an apparently frustrated administration to remove all religious items and references from his classroom and curriculum. He did so, with one exception. He refused to remove his personal Bible and insists on keeping it on his desk. The administration, not satisfied, is saying the Bible's gotta go too. (It should be stated that at no time has his job been in danger. Aside from the violations, he's apparently a good teacher with an excellent rapport with students. It would be a shame to lose such a teacher unless he persists in violating school policies and constitutional guidelines). Well, the Right wing, theocratic opposition is having a field day. They have come to his aid with legal support and the furthering of their agenda. We're seeing frequent letters in the local Columbus Dispatch such as this: "How can Bible get teacher in trouble? "I can hardly bleieve what I am reading. John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon Middle School teacher, is in trouble for pornography? No. Having sex with students? No. Drugs? No. For having a Bible on his desk! What country is this anyway? It cannot be the United States. Remember when the pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution?" Well, the Pilgrims did NOT come here to escape persecution. They already had that freedom from persecution in Holland where they were warmly received and had become prosperous. And once having established a colony, they persecuted folks as much as they had ever been persecuted. Same in all the other colonies, actually, except Pennsylvania and Rhode Island where real religious liberty and freedom of conscience were the rule. But that's just one distortion in this letter. The theocrats have a way of forcing an issue and distorting the Hell out of it (whatever happened to the commandment against bearing false witness?). It doesn't matter whether they are distorting the event in question, American history, science, or the Constitution and the idea of religious liberty, they are going to use their vast resources of talent and money to redifine 'religious liberty' as the 'liberty to cram my ideas down your throat with government resources and tax money.' The truth is: prayer, the Bible, and religion have never been removed from the schools. There are guidelines that state when and how it is permitted and when it is off limits. Intelligent Design has no place in the science curriculum for example, but it could be taught in a social studies course or an elective that considers other 'cosmologies'. Prayer, so long as it is not led by an adult representative of the schools such as a teacher or principal, or as part of a school sponsored event such as school program, commencement, or sports event, is permitted. The Bible can be taught as literature if approached as any other type of literature. Same for religious classics like Paradise Lost, the Holy Sonnets and essays of John Donne, and so on. In Freshwater's case, the matter of all the blatant boundary crossing is being ignored by his supporters and they are wisely making an issue of the Bible. This is where the school has crossed a boundary. Having a Bible in the classroom for the teacher to read as he chooses on his own time is permitted by the guidelines. Certainly, if the Bible can be taught as literature (and I've done it myself) than having a Bible on his desk should be no violation of anything. But, the school should back off on the Bible and reaffirm its expectations regarding the other issues, which, after all, are the REAL issues.
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    Discouraged and frustrated

    Friday, November 9, 2007, 10:24 PM [General]

    The last two days I have spent going around picking up or filling out applications for work for the holidays. Working weekends is great, and I love the night shift when most of the crazy and exciting things happen, but that doesn't pay the bills. And without medical coverage, our credit cards are outrageous since we put things like stress tests and colonoscopies on Visa and Mastercard.  I'd rather have the colonoscopy without sedation than to take a gander at the credit card bills!

    So, I've been busy with job applications. I've filled out about five over the last two days, and brought home about seven or eight more. To me, there is nothing more tedious than filling out job applications. Well, maybe listening to the speeches at the political conventions.....  So, I'm dreading the task before me right now.

    I went to Target today to do one. At Target, a job candidate fills one out right there in the store on computer. Had to wait about half an hour before the computer was free to do mine, then after finishing, I had to wait about as long before someone was ready for interviewing me. After all that time, probably over an hour-and-a-half, I find out they only want people for weekends! That is the busiest time, I was told, and the need is greatest for people available for weekend shifts. 

    I left the store, discouraged, irritated, and frustrated. I wasted that time for nothing, apparently, and to learn that it's the weekends that have the biggest demand to be filled, then I worry that that may be true at other places I am applying.  If so, this is all one big futile effort.

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    MY world seems smaller

    Monday, October 29, 2007, 7:54 AM [General]

    People for some time have talked about how the world seems to be getting smaller, such as our ability to almost instantly contact anyone anywhere in the world, our ability to travel around the world in hours, rather than days, and our own experience right here on Bnet where we have friends from other countries with whom we chat regularly and with whom we would have no relationship or even knowledge of were it not for Bnet. The world is shrinking, and we do seem much closer and much more able to influence or be influenced by--for better or worse--those at considerable distances.

    But, in another way, my own world seems to have gotten smaller, and that is not good. I look at my life and how limited it has become and it's kind of depressing. My life seems limited to my wife and dog, our family, my job, and my contact with folks here. 

    Travel? Not for about ten years when we last took a real vacation and went to New England for two weeks. We're lucky if we get to Lake Erie for a weekend once a year. We just can't afford it. Not only does it cost money to travel, but I can't afford to take the time away from work since I'm only paid for when I work.

    Entertainment? I joke that our entertainment budget consists of the occasional library overdue fine. That's actually not much of a joke. We don't go to movies. We don't go out to eat--except when we are tired, hungry, and short on time.  We don't really go anywhere that costs money.

    Fun? Well, there's the Scrabble board. One of these days I'm going to whip her behind! Though I believe I have the better vocabulary, she is more able to play using strategy and, though the games are usually close, she beats me every time. She ahs no patience for chess, and I haven't played it in years! And "Battleship" seems more for the grandkids than for us. Watching videos of programs we have taped is okay, but there is really very little on television that I enjoy watching--even with forty dozen channels on cable. We watch Boston Legal together, but that's about it. The things I would tend to watch are documentaries like Ken Burns's recent series on PBS on W.W. II, or maybe something from Nova or some other science or history program. She has little interest in such things. With my wife's health issues, there is little energy there to do much together. And, after spending about half the week doing nothing but work all night and sleep during the day, my energy level is pretty much worthless the rest of the week. Maybe the occasional walk in the park together on a nice day. That's about it. Or sitting together and reading.

    I sometimes sense her annoyance at the time I spend on Bnet, to be honest. But it's one of the rare outlets that take me beyond my immediate narrow little world. And I need that.

    What there is in my world is good. I just wish it weren't so small.

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    Show me yours, and I'll show you mine!

    Saturday, October 27, 2007, 8:45 PM [General]

    I am getting a real delight out of checking other people's default pictures or avatars, as well as the other pictures they have posted. Some are, of course, actual pictures of the members and their families. Others, who prefer to remain a bit more anonymous, still provide interesting and useful insights into their personalities, their interests, their values, and their sense of humor. I look forward to logging on and seeing what will show up as someone's default, given that many like myself, choose to change them every few days or so.  Some have really brightened my day or given me a chuckle. Others have warmed my heart. All have brought me closer to the people on line that I care about or am coming to know better as cyber-buds.  For all the confusion and annoyances of the "new" Bnet, this ability to post pictures and to have avatars is a really neat improvement over the "old" Bnet.

    Avatars...Icons....It's curious that techno-types who name these things have turned to religious language to do so. An icon, of course, is a religious or sacred image meant for one to use in meditation or contemplative prayer. An avatar is an incarnation of a God, especially in Hinduism. Are there other religion-inspired terms computer folks have used for techie terms?

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    A letter that made my day!

    Friday, October 19, 2007, 9:45 PM [General]

    I received a letter (actually it was written to the head of the pastoral care department who passed it along to me) from a woman who lost her husband back in August and I was the chaplain on duty that night. She was quite positive in her comments about that experience and had some doggone nice things to say about me! "Bob, your emotional support was very, very appreciated. Thank you so much for helping my son contact the Red Cross and his company in Italy (he was in the Navy scheduled to end his leave and return to his ship the following day). Your support and prayers made this out-of-stater feel comfortable (If I remember, the family was from Oklahoma and was visiting relatives her in central Ohio when her hubby got sick). Thank you so much for being with us that night.  I had read about pastoral care in my nursing journals but to actually experience the support given exceeded any article I'd seen. I was awed by the fact that you were with us through my husband's last hours. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry."

    Wow! I was a bit awed myself! I remember the family and "the night in question" as they might say on Law and Order. As I remember it, it was just another night like so many others of walking with a family for a short time. I can't say I get used to watching people come to terms with death or find it "routine" or "easy", but I guess I do tend to take for granted what I do sometimes. I would tend to tell someone that that's my job. It's what I do, just as some people sweep floors, some park cars, some take care of patients, and so on. And then I go home and try to muddle through the rest of my life just like everyone else.

    To read the comments from someone from "the other side of the equation" so to speak, is sobering. Not only did it give me a lift, but it gave me a renewed perspective on my role as a chaplain.  Once again: Wow!

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