Most Important Job
Overflow
The stuff that spills out of my head. Half Journal, half Blog, half stream of consciousness, half meaningless blather, half....

My name is Cody Clark.
If you're interested, you can find out about me here and here. But this is the site where I am most at home. Please excuse the mess.

I love guests, like everybody else, so sign my Guestbook.

Oh and if you wish to shower me with gifts, here's my wish list.


Listening To
Wilco
United Future Organization
Thievery Corporation
Steve Reich
Fuschnickens
Mocean Worker
Bowling For Soup
Radiohead
Barenaked Ladies
Cornershop


Reading
The Constant Companion
   by Eknath Easwaran
SoulSalsa
   by Leonard Sweet
The Perennial Philosophy
   by Aldous Huxley
Peace Like A River
   by Leif Enger
Tomorrow Now
   by Bruce Sterling
An Intimate History of Humanity
   by Theodore Zeldin
Sandman
   by Neil Gaiman
White Noise
   by Don Delillo
Creating Positive Futures
   by James Ogilvy


Stuff To Do
Environmental Scanning
Work on Waitt Foundation Community Site content
Finally learn how to use Paint Shop Pro
Put poetry on website
Finish friend's tshirt
Paint more tshirts


People to See
me
Rebecca Blood
Fleming Funch
Chris Corrigan
Peter Russell
Phil Ringalda
pamie
Phil Gyford
Owen
Mark And(erson)
Bob McDaniel
Nick Bostrom
Eric
Mary T.
Margaret Berry
Eliot Wilder
Daniel Talsky
Fred from Floyd
Gwen Zepeda
Alison Hawke
Malcom Davidson
Veronica Nichols
Caterina Fake
Meg Pickard
Kurt Brobeck
Dave Trowbridge
meesh
Sarah Hepola
Matthew Sturges
Dooce


Places to Go
Building Tomorrow's Communities
Futurescan
Mondo News
Everything2
Arts & Letters Daily
SciTech Daily Review
Arts Journal
Slate
Salon
Business Daily Review
EurekAlert!
SmartMarriages
Metacritic
Red Rock Eater
Obscure Store
memepool
Techdirt
Robot Wisdom
kottke.org
Boing Boing
Daley News
Raising Hell
Internet Scout
The Marriage Movement
Shifted Librarian
Deviant Art
Beliefnet
Relapsed Catholic
Holy Weblog!
Sursum Corda
not martha



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Tuesday, December 31, 2002
New Year

Last Day of 2002. It's been a good one. Now, on to the New Year. We actually set and met most of our goals for the year here in the Clark Household. Time to reflect and pray on new goals, to revisit our vision, and to keep moving forward.

We are getting ready to have a party tonight. Just a game night with a few dozen friends. No alcohol, kids invited -- so it's not the typical New Year's Eve party setup. But it's the kind of gathering we are known for. You don't have to blow a bunch of bucks on babysitting for a night out at the Clarks. Unless you want to, that is. I can totally understand the desire for Child-Free Time. We had an emergency infusion of that ourselves last night with a hastily-called InstaDate.

And, on a relective note. Overflow is coming up on its third birthday. I've been blogging/journaling for three years. And I still don't know what it's supposed to be. I started out as a Christian-y journal. Then I discovered blogging, which was so, like, the cool new thing. And then I got kind of Futures wonky for a while. Then I came back and got all Christian-y and ended up the year contemplating my metaphorical navel. Overflow still doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up. But hey, it's only three years old.

A while back, I banished all the Futures Geek talk to another blog, but I think I might bring it back, knitting all the halves of my online personality back together. I have a major online futures project starting this year so I need to consolidate and simplify. Yeah, this is gonna make Overflow seem kinda schizophrenic, but that's more the real me.

Anyway, have a Happy New Year and stay safe tonight.


Friday, December 27, 2002
It's Still Christmas.

We've unwrapped all the presents. We ate the big dinner. All of the out of town guests have returned home. Now I feel like I can truly relax and celebrate Christmas, what with all of the stressful Giftmas details taken care of.

The only remaining gifts I have to give are the ones I wanted to make for people. I still have some of that to do. But those were the ones I didn't want to be Giftmas presents anyway. Still have a large backyard fort/swingset to finish assembling. We have some gifts to return. We have some Christmas money to spend. (And I simply must get a DVD now that I have this new DVD player I got for Christmas from my wife.)

But we still have a Christmas party to throw and one to attend, so we're still celebrating. And today is the anniversary of Mr. Freshpants' adoption, so his arrival in our family will always be a part of our extended Christmas celebration. Petunia's birthday is coming up on the 6th, so we'll always end our Christmas celebration with her birthday around Epiphany. We've got some built-in ways to celebrate and we're always finding more.

So, lessee, today is the third day of Christmas, which means we should go to La Madeline and have the roasted chicken. Three French Hens, get it? Oh and last night we went and saw "Bring In The Noise, Bring In The Funk" and skipped ahead on the Ladies Dancing, Lords a Leaping, and Drummers Drumming. Incredible Leaping, Dancing, and Drumming it was, too.

Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Starting Today


"Stay with us now, O Lord of the earth,
Make of our hearts a place for Thy birth.
Tho' our cares be great or small,
Jesus the Lord be born in us all."


So our hearts are the manger, a meager and rude place for the king to be born. But all he asks is a small space there, in our hearts, to be born. Each and every day. Born anew in us.

Starting Today. Have a Very Merry Christmas today. Have a Very Merry Christmas tomorrow. And the next day. And the next...


Monday, December 23, 2002
Stinkin' in Target

So I woke up Saturday morning and thought to myself , "Hey, I'll take the first kid that wakes up and go hit the stores early and avoid the crowds." (You gotta take at least one child with you anywhere, that's the rule. Divide and conquer, you know.) And I had just woken up so I threw on the clothes lying on the floor closest to my bed that had at least a 60% chance of matching. No shower, toothbrush, or comb touched me that morning. I even forgot to grab a cover-up hat.

Hey, who was going to see me? This was a lightning trip. This was Surgical Strike Shopping. In and out. No social interaction planned.

And then she flagged me down. My old High School friend and, surprise!, with her was the girl I took to the prom in my Senior year. She was looking good -- pretty, smart, and successful. I was really glad to see her. Really. But...


Well, some forms of embarrassment are so intense that mere prose does not do it justice. So here's my account in song:


Shopping in Target

(to the tune of "Walking in Memphis"
with apologies to Marc Cohn)

Put on my Dirty Shorts
Put Petunia in my car
Went out in the van with my grungy self
I wasn't going very far
Thought I'd go to Target for a tiny shopping spree
Hopin' no one I knew would see me
'Cause I was as grungy as a boy can be

Then I'm Shopping in Target
Pushing the cart with the wobbly wheels
Shopping in Target
And everyone can hear my baby squeal

Saw a friend from High School
I hadn't seen in years
She came right up to me in Target
Then I realized my fears
I had on sweatshirt, shorts, and sandals
My pits and breath were rank
She was smiling, looking happy
I was looking crappy
And I reaaaaly stank


Chorus:
I've got coffee on my tshirt
I've got rat's nests in my hair
It's not that I'm not glad to see you
But I hoped no one would see me there
And she saw me there in Target

Now we talked and laughed a while
And the catching up was good
And I tried to keep my distance
But she asked me if she could--
Say goodbye and hug me
But I stank in an awful way
And she thought--
"Tell me, are you a white trash child?"
And I thought "Ma'am I am today"

Chorus:
Put on my dirty shorts
Put Petunia in my car
Went out in the van with my grungy self
I wasn't going very far
Went out in the van with my grungy self
I wasn't going very far


So I chalk it all up to preparing for Christmas. I mean, doesn't being embarrassed to your very core go toward mortification of the flesh? Suppression of the ego? Dying to self? Lots of room for the Spirit now, boy!


Saturday, December 21, 2002
In the Stretch...

Wrapping up my Giftmas shopping this weekend. Gonna take the first baby that wakes up with me to the stores reeeal early to avoid crowds and punch those last gifties out.

Yep, Hanna of H-Town Bloggers was my Secret Santa buddy. It was fun, Hope you enjoy the gifts. Still haven't heard from my Secret Santa yet.

Y'all shop fiercely and keep safe out there, y'hear?


we're everything brighter than even the sun

A Cheerful Poem by E.E. Cummings. I swear this is the last one. I just wanted to end on one of his brighter notes.

if everything happens that can't be done
(and anything's righter
than books
could plan)
the stupidest teacher will almost guess
(with a run
skip
around we go yes)

there's nothing as something as one
one hasn't a why or because or although
(and buds know better
than books
don't grow)
one's anything old being everything new
(with a what
which
around we go who)
one's everyanything so

so world is a leaf is a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
than books
tell how)
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
up
around again fly)
forever was never till now

now i love you and you love me
(and books are shutter
than books
can be)
and deep in the high that does nothing but fall
(with a shout
each
around we go all)
there's somebody calling who's we

we're everything brighter than even the sun
(we're everything greater
than books
might mean)
we're everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
leap
alive we're alive)
we're wonderful one times one



What he said...

So after my ramble on the Incarnation below, I get this quote in my Daily Spiritual Seed:

"The Word was in people for this purpose, that it might divinize them
. . . The Word had to become human in Jesus for this reason, that
people both in spirit and in the flesh, from within and without,
behind and before, and in all places might have testimony (of this
goal of divinization)."
    - Hans Denck -


Yeah, what he said.


Friday, December 20, 2002
Giftmas

I am by far not the only person to use the term "Giftmas" to refer to the secular Christmas holiday. And here I thought I made the term up. Nope, I'm just one of a legion of curmudgeons, ranters, and miscellaneous Scrooges to use the term. I wonder if anyone's copyrighted it yet?


Christmas at Ground Zero

More blog mode to dilute the ponderous philosophical ramblings I've been heavy on lately:

Here's and old page that makes an oddly interesting Cultural Studies paper juxtaposing popular images of Christmas with nuclear apocalyptic angst. (I said it was odd, didn't I?) Especially interesting is the dual interpretation of Keith Haring's Radiant Baby icon.


John Cage Christmas

In blog mode: A Christmas poem by John Cage appropos of the last full shopping weekend before the Big Day.


Christmas Meditiation: That Art Thou

More E.E. Cummings, sorry...

no man,if men are gods;but if gods must
be men,the sometimes only man is this
(most common,for each anguish is his grief;
and,for his joy is more than joy,most rare)

a fiend,if fiends speak truth;if angels burn

by their own generous completely light,
an angel;or(as various worlds he'll spurn
rather than fail immeasurable fate)
coward,clown,traitor,idiot,dreamer,beast--

such was a poet and shall be and is

--who'll solve the depths of horror to defend
a sunbeam's architecture with his life;
and carve immortal jungles of despair
to hold a mountain's heartbeat in his hand


"That Art Thou." The Incarnation. God who became Man. Who came to show us the way to be God.

Our destiny is the Incarnation. We are to be God. Jesus, the Christ, showed us the way.

The way "Up" is "Down." We must be humbled to be exalted. We must sacrifice the (little s) self to assume our place in the (big S) Self. And not just when we die, but right now.

This is the white hot light at the center of our souls. It is beautiful and terrible and frightening. So frightening we refuse to look at it. Refuse to see.

Our scriptures hint at it, we sing hymns around it, we can hardly whisper it to ourselves. We dare not think it directly.

Because this truth is so incomprehensibly immense it overwhelms. This is ultimately why they killed Jesus, out of fear. He died for this Truth.

The idea of Emmanuel, God With Us, is fine with us as long as it's God coming to be with us, be one of us. But don't ask us to go be with Him, to be One in Him.

Because that Way is hard. Because that Truth is frightening. Because that Light is blinding.

life is more true than reason will deceive
(more secret or than madness did reveal)
deeper is life than lose;higher than have
--but beauty is more each than living's all

multiplied by infinity sans if
the mightest meditations of mankind
cancelled are by one merely opening leaf
(beyond whose nearness there is no beyond)

or does some littler bird than eyes can learn
look up to silence and completely sing?
futures are obselete;pasts are unborn
(here less than nothing's more than everything)

death,as men call him,ends what they call men
--but beauty is more now than dying's when



God became Man so that Man could become God and be one with Him. All you have to do is forget your very (little s) self.

And Die.

So, hey, Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 19, 2002
Another Christmas Story

If you've not experienced John Henry Faulk's touching Christmas Story, you simply must. You can listen to it here. NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday runs it every year as a tradition. I've heard it a bunch of times and I cry every time. I'm an old softy, I guess.


bonds

(a poem I wrote a while back that, for some reason, seemed tangentially related to the mind-ramble I posted below.)

some men of science say that most
of our universe is empty space, host
to the bonds between tiny particles, parts
of tiny affinities which give form
to these papers, this table, our hearts.

if tiny attractions are what give us life,
if dizzying clouds of quanta give rise
to mountains, then couldn't I surmise
that connections are what suffuse and adhere
all things to each other? does it appear
that all basic matter struggles to endear
some other matter to itself in fear
of being hopelessly adrift, its pupose unclear?

call this union of bonds what you will;
i'll call it God. and if His plan is fulfilled
in the chaos of a zillion strange attractions,
you and i are like quarks with paths and reactions
of separate flavors but with an intrinsic connection
that takes its own place in the complex direction
that the Creator, the Great Initiator, has set into action.
in His breathless web of life, like a particle
my soul finds an orbit, an elemental article
attracted to yours. and our bond claims its rightful place
in His daunting design with purpose and grace.


Emergency

More from Cummings' six nonlectures:

"Little by little and bruise by teacup, my doubly disillusioned spirit made an awesome discovery...that all groups, gangs, and collectives -- no matter how apparently disparate -- are fundamentally alike; and that what makes the world go 'round is not the trivial differences between them but the immeasurable difference between any of them and individuality.

Better Worlds are born, not made, and their birthdays are the birthdays of individuals. Let us pray always for individuals; never for worlds."


Then he quotes William Blake, "He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer."

He concludes his thought with, "for that deeply terrible line (of distinction) spells the doom of all unworlds; whatever their slogans and their strategies, whoever their heroes or their villians."

So from what I have gathered about Cummings so far, besides an apparent fondness for semicolons, is a world view that sees the Individual and the Group in fundamental opposition. He regards Individuality as the necessary and sufficient condition for Good. Conformity to groups, in the end, can only bring harm.

Here's where I have the temerity to disagree with my poetic hero. Cummings, in my humble opinion, is half right.

Individuality is a neccessary, but not sufficient, condition for Good. The Greater Good is something I believe in, but my conception and the one that I think Blake and, through him, Cummings rail against are different.

The Greater Good is not an Imposed Good which stifles autonomy and requires individuals to march in lock-step but and Emergent Good which is driven by individual, autonomous actors motivated by a common vision.

Emergence is, as far as I can see, God's modus operandi for generating Good in the world today. I can see it everywhere, from studies in chaotic and complex systems, advances in genetic algorithms and cellular automata, genetics, stem cells, and nanotechnology, complex social models like Chaords, to the resurgently popular cosmic eschatology of Teilhard De Chardin. Our human technology is at the dawn of the age where we will leverage nature's (read: God's) model of Getting Things Done -- independent actors generating emergent behaviors and patterns -- in our own technology. We have reached the edge of the modernist model of deterministic, mechanistic control and are dipping our toes in Emergence.

But for Emergence to work, it needs Cummings' independent individuals, but with a common "vision", and a set of rules and boundary conditions which direct interaction. Automata are not just mindless lock-step drones nor are they heedless self-seeking actors, they react to their environment and other individuals around them with their eyes on an established goal or vision and within a set of boundary conditions or constraints. All elements -- individuality, autonomy, common vision, and constraints -- are neccessary for a General Good. Let any one of them get out of hand at the expense of the others and that can't be Good.

And in my book, the General Good is none other than the Kingdom of God. The Body of Christ is none other than an Emergent Good. And we are the autonomous actors that, with Jesus as a vision and God's Law as a constraint, will (continue to) make it happen.

But of course, this Theory of Everything is just my humble opinion.


Tuesday, December 17, 2002
How Bill Murray is Like E. E. Cummings

I was reading more from E.E. Cummings' six nonlectures and he was briefly recounting his experiences in a French Concentration camp during World War I. Apparently he was thrown in there after writing a letter home about how the Germans were not such bad people after all. (John Poindexter would be proud.)

This was apparently while he was serving as a volunteer ambluance driver near the front lines. And then I was reminded about my favorite movie, 1984's The Razor's Edge, and my favorite guilty-pleasure film comedian Bill Murray. I gained a lot of respect for Murray, who agreed to act in Ghostbusters on the condition that they finance this remake that he co-wrote the screenplay for. If this story meant that much to him, it must be at least in some part about who he is.

Anyway, his character, Larry Darrel, does a stint as an ambulance driver in World War I and the trauma from his experiences send him off on a quest to find himself and the meaning of life. Darrel's experiences roughly (very) resemble those of Hesse's Siddhartha. And it has my favorite movie line ever, spoken by Murray's Darrel upon leaving a Tibetan Buddhist monastery where he had been meditating, seeking meaning. He said "Anyone can be a holy man on a mountain." which is, like, my rallying cry for my own homespun elbows-deep-in-the-world personal spiritual philosophy for years now.

But I digress. Why is Murray's Darrel (and therefore Murray himself) like Cummings? Well the ambulance driver connection caught my attention, but ulitmately, it's the smirk.

The Bill Murray Smirk. Doesn't matter what the boy acts in, or how serious he tries to be, he cannot get rid of that trademark goofy-smarmy-deadpan smirk of his. It suggests that, no matter how earnest he is, he has a bit of distance, a bemused perspective on life that will not let go of the little knowing smile. He looks like he gets the joke, even though there may not be one.

That's exactly the feeling I get about E.E. Cummings when I read his poetry. He gets Spiritual, he gets angry, he gets romantic, horny even, but he always retains a playful, bemused, almost childlike persepctive. That's something I'd like to have, be it from Murray or from Cummings.


Tickled Pink

This week is the third week of advent. It's the "pink candle" week for those of us with Advent wreaths. The priests vested up in pink this last Sunday, which, from my informal survey, is by far their least favorite color to vest up in.

But the pink candle amongst the purple ones remind us of something important: Joy. The homily in my parish this Sunday reminded us not only of the Joy I experience when I realize "my redeemer liveth" but also the Joy that God experiences in us when I love him back. We tend to forget that God delights in us even more than we should delight in him. He desires our love and attention as much as we, whether we acknowledge it or not, need and desire him. We are "made for each other." Destined to be together.

Sometimes, when I come home from work, Mr. Freshpants sees me and runs across the kitchen, beaming, arms stretched out, yelling, "Daddy!Daddy!Daddy!Daddy!Daddy!..." and leaps into my arms and we do a lift and twirl that would make Torvill and Dean jealous. It makes my day and erases anything neagtive from my mind in that moment. That's some kind of Joy.

I imagine that's a teensy bit of what God must feel. I imagine that's also a good example of how I must greet God, and not just on Christmas Day.

The pink reminds us that, yeah, quiet reverence is all well and good, but He wants a "Daddy!Daddy!Daddy!Daddy!Daddy!..." from us even more.


Monday, December 16, 2002
Okay, Parents...

Nap totally rocks. That's when you can swing it. The more kids you have, the harder it is to get them all sleeping at once.

Have you ever found yourself in the car coming home from somewhere at a time verging on Nap Time and you look in the back seat and the kids are nodding and you know that if they get one second of Carseat Sleep (which equals, apparently, a two hour nap at home) *you* don't get *your* nap and so you turn up the radio, step on the brakes suddenly, and call their names repeatedly just to keep them awake until you get home?

Why do I ask? Oh, just wondering.


A difficult choice

I was a Eucharistic Minister last night at Mass. I love being Eucharistic Minister. If you really believe in what it is -- the body and blood, substance, essence, and being of Christ given for my life -- then how can it be anything but a joyous thing to give to people? I smile at people when they take Eucharist from me. My smile is to say "Rejoice! It's..." which then gets added to my standard line "The Body of Christ." Or my smile sometimes says, "Hey, cheer up! It's..." before "The Blood of Christ." I try to look each person in the eye before I give them Eucharist. I am thankful to be allowed to be there at a moment of such intimacy with God. And I hope in some way that my presence and my mindful ministry might somehow enhance the meaning of that moment for the communicant. Getting to bless the babies and small children is, like, a total bonus. Did I say I love being Eucharistic minister?

Except for one thing. I miss taking Eucharist with my wife.

We go up together. We hold our hosts until the other is ready and we take ours simultaneously. Sometimes a marriage-hip priest or deacon will hold up two hosts and hand them to us at the same time. But when we take Eucharist together, it is an extra-special blessing. As a married person, I know a bit about giving my body, my blood, my essence, substance, and being for the good of another. I can know a bit of what it is to be Christ by being married. (You have to know a bit of marriage theology for that not to sound horribly presumptuous, sorry.)

And so Heidi and I stand before the altar and simultaneously reinvite Christ into our lives and marriage. We take Christ up on his offer so that we may renew our own to each other. And I miss that when I stand on the altar and hand out eucharist. It's a difficult choice. Both roles involve ministering Christ, each having it's own distinct blessing. The abundance of grace involved with ministering to a community vs. the intensively intimate journey of perfecting one's ministry to another human being. Those things don't have to be mutually exclusive, but when it comes to ministering eucharist, they are.

I have a deacon friend who attends two masses every weekend. One to be deacon and one to worship with his wife. But he has to go somewhere they don't know him 'cause if they knew a deacon was in the pews, they'd want him up on the altar and he wouldn't get to sit with his wife. When they find him out, he and his wife go to another parish. Some day they'll run out of alternative parishes and will have to find another way to worship together.

This is my only real objection to the concept of married priests -- the moments of mutual exclusion that would inevitably turn up. Someone would have to be slighted, however slightly.


Every agony is to grow

"I am someone who proudly and humbly affirms that love is the mystery-of-mysteries, and that nothing measurable matters 'a very good God damn'; that 'an artist, a man, a failure' is no whenfully accreting mechanism, but a givingly eternal complexity--neither some soulless and heartless ultrapredatory infra-animal nor any un-understandingly knowing and believing and thinking automaton, but a naturally and miraculously whole human being--a feelingly illimitable individual; whose only happiness is to transcend himself, whose every agony is to grow."

-- E.E. Cummings, i six nonlectures


E.E. Cummings (yes, you do capitalize his name.) is my favorite all-time poet. I am reading his six nonlectures and am finding every bit as uplifting, enlightening, and unconventional as his poetry. The quote above is one he ends the last "nonlecture" with and seems to sum up the whole of his body of work. I'll share insights as they come.

I am not so critical of science as he but I embrace wholeheartedly his vision for humankind -- my only happiness is to transcend myself, my every agony is to grow.


Thursday, December 12, 2002
Rediscovering Radiohead

I have been oh-so into Radiohead since last Thursday night at about 8:55 pm. The episode of CSI ended with the first minute or so of Kid A and since then The Bends, OK Computer, and Kid A have been in a very tight rotation on my CD player. They're so, like, the newest old thing. Can't get enough all of a sudden.

Does this kind of thing happen to anyone else?


Futurist's Bible Study Part 2: Watchfulness

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: "Watch!"

--- Mark 13:33-37


Being a futurist is all about being watchful. Futurists don't predict the future because the future cannot be totally known in the present. But the future can be partially known because there is evidence of the emerging future in our present culture. A futurist's foremost job is to watch out for changes that indicate how the present may be changing into the future.

That's pretty much what I get paid to do. When I do get paid for futures work that is. Future Geek speak calls this Scanning. Looking at events that happen in society, seeing if they form patterns or trends, or even, most elusively, the kind of structural systemic change drivers which might generate truly unituitive futures. We can see some of this stuff coming. But we have to watch and anticipate.

Futurists love technology. The most common futurist error is that they get overly excited and optimistic over this or that next "killer ap." But an overly tech focus is a form of tunnel vision which is a deficiency in watchfulness. Trained futurists know the acromyn "STEEP" -- Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic, and Political -- as a reminder of the kind of 360 degree view we must take of the world if we are to avoid the kind of tunnel vision typical of techno-happy soothsayers. It may have read well as a feature in Wired last month, but it may come to nothing if the social, political and other types of forces and values in the culture are not ready to embrace it. Stay Awake and Keep Sober.

When people say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
-- 1 Thessalonians 5:2-9


Predictions -- futurists like to call them forecasts -- are often intended to be wrong. Futurists anticipate many possibilities and only one, if at all, can be "right." We are "wrong" by design, and that's okay with us. Sometimes we make predictions in order that they do not come true -- to alert people to preventive action. But as in 1 Thessalonians above, the only prediction that is universally wrong is that things will not change and everything will continue as normal. Anyone banking on this prediction will surely be disappointed. That is why we must all be alert and watchful and sober. That is why I am trying to make the case that all of us Christians should be, in our own way, futurists.

That and the fact that I want to be a Christian Futurist some day.


Wednesday, December 11, 2002
Wendell Berry of Blogs

Okay, I know this is totally going to look like a blatant reciprocal link just because he said something nice about my blog, but, I mean it, I have been meaning to sidebar Fred's Fragments from Floyd for a few weeks now. I've been bumming off Sainteros' link for a few weeks, visiting Fred from Kurt's sidebar. 'Bout time I got around to linking him since he's a daily read anyway.

I, along with most of his readers, love the jaw-droppingly beautiful photos and descriptions of his Floyd County digs. But what I admire about him is his sense of place -- how he is very much a part of the country around him and vice versa. I commented on his blog that he is the Wendell Berry of the Blogosphere. It's true.

Sometimes his entries make me ache to go live in the country. But just as often he inspires me to look around at my own home and notice the delights and wonders all around me, here in *my* place. I am a suburban boy through and through. And I am tired of feeling like I should apologize for not being hip or being more "in touch with the land." Like Fred, I want to look around and celebrate my home, to notice it and appreciate it.

Hey, I like the suburbs. I like waving to neighbors. I like the earnest way kids lug their bookbags to an approaching school bus. I love to see a row of beautifully pear-shaped soccer moms lined up along a soccer field in Fall cheering a scrum of kids flailing at a ball. I love esplanades and jogging trails and tennis courts. I live for potluck dinners and garage sales and school plays. I always find money for kids raising money, no matter what cheesy crud thye've been sent out to sell. I like Scouting and community theater and locally owned businesses. Complain about strip malls all you want -- Yes they are ugly -- but they make it possible for the little guy (usually) to find an affordable place to set up shop. I like the little guy. And you can find them in the suburbs sprouting up between the Loews, Targets, and Best Buys if you seek them out.

I am certainly familiar with the problems everybody lists about sprawl and suburbs. But it's guys like Fred who get me to look around a see what there is to love around here as well. Comfort in place. Doesn't just have to be in the country, you know.


Ho. Ho. Ho.

I'm a Secret Santa this year. We got our names yesterday and, small world, I know my person! We've met. We've had coffee. She's held my baby.

That's all the clues I'm givin'. I got you somethin' good...


An Older Woman

Today's my wife's birthday. She's 26 years old...

...in hexadecimal, that is. I'll leave you to do the math.

Whatever base you express her age in, she's still older than me by six months. This is a fact I often point out to her, smiling widely as I do.

She's had a good year, one for the record books. She's adopted two children, made a new best friend, started a successful prayer group at her church, had three large, successful parties at our house, and kept three freelance clients and three children happy almost simultaneously. She's endured two family vacations, troublesome teacher conferences, caring for elderly parents, the largest argument of our marriage (Oy!), and a soupcon of existential angst with parental frustration thrown in. Most of all, she's put up with me.

But it's been a blessed year in the life of an older woman. Older, hear me?. Nyah, nyah, nyah. Older.

But she is better looking. Happy birthday baby!


Tuesday, December 10, 2002
End of Heidi Week?

(phone rings)
Me: Trajectory. This is Cody.
Heidi: You might want to stop the compliments.
Me: What ever do you mean?
Heidi: Your blog. It's a bit much.
Me: Too much, huh? Really?
Heidi: You're going to drive away all your readers.
Me: Well, I write what *I* want on *my* blog.
Heidi: Cody, even *I* hate me after reading that.
Me: Oh. (pause) That wasn't what I was going for.
Heidi: I know.

I suppose y'all agree, huh? Well, sorry, but after fifteen years I'm more in love with my wife than ever. Sue me.

So I guess that's the end of Heidi week. I mean, what can I write about Heidi that's not gushing? I can't exactly write insults in honor of her birthday.

I guess I could write about the endearingly irritating things about her, like how she puts peas *and* little crunchy onions in her goulash. Or how there's a tweny-five percent chance that on any right turn she'll brush the rear passenger side tire of the van against the curb. Or how she likes to watch the goory gooey maternity shows on TLC. Or how she has appointed herself my personal nose and ear hair cop. Or how she likes to put her cold feet in the middle of my back in bed.

Wait. I like that one.

You get the idea. I could go on like that for a while, but not long enough to fill out Heidi week. So I may be dead in the water here. I'll have to think...


Justice Ignored

Via caterina.net, This story is an outrage. Just beyond our Texas border, among the gleaming factories that supply our Wal-Marts with cheap goods, women are being slaughtered by the hundreds. Evidence points not to a single prolific psycho, but something more systematic. Something that has been ignored and allowed to continue for ten years.

Where is the Church? Where is our government? Why the silence? Why is this a story in a national paper only after ten years?


Heidi Week, Day 2: Truck Cake Manifesto

A picture tells it all:

The Truck Cake

This was the cake Heidi whipped up for Mr. Freshpants' birthday last Sunday. Yep, he's three now. It was a small family celebration with a cake and a few presents. But the cake Heidi made for Mr. Freshpants is emblematic of one of the things I admire most about my wife.

Moments after I snapped this (bad) picture, Mr. Freshpants face lit up as he saw the cake and immediately wanted "my truck." Moments after I snapped this picture, he beamed as we sang "Happy Birthday", delighted to be the center of attention and surrounded by so much love. Moments after I snapped this picture, this cake, made from scratch, which took trips to two different stores and two hours of careful assembly, was totally demolished. Aside from maybe this picture, no one will remember the cake. There is no way Mr. Freshpants is able to appreciate or remember the little touch of extra love mommy prepared for him. Mr. Freshpants is an in-the-moment kind of guy. Mommy made his moment extra special.

Heidi has a knack for making people's moments extra special. She is not a Martha Stewart type, taking extra steps to show her considerable homemaking prowess to impress guests. But when it comes to making people feel special, feel loved, and feel like family, she turns on the afterburners.

I only half joke that Heidi is a professional mom. I laugh when I say that I lured her away from a lucrative career as a PR professional in a high-rise downtown to come be a professional household manager. But the job she does is professional. that part is no joke.

She is professional no matter what she does. Now that she is a SAHM, she has totally aligned what she does in life with what she wants in life with what God apparently created her to be in life. She is focused, single-minded, and a true by-God professional at what she does. She studies, reads books, scans trade publications, even attends seminars on how to be a better mom and build a better, closer family. She's no "Super Mom" archetype. She doesn't put on the airs of a woman who "does it all." Her brownies will not make you feel inferior about yours. She wants you to be at ease in her home and yours too.

And unlike me, she does what she believes and puts touches of that in everything she does. Unlike me, she doesn't have a web page where she posts manifestos about what she believes. Her manifesto was in that truck cake. You're lookin' at it.


Monday, December 09, 2002
Attack of the Clones

I was sitting at lunch grabbing a burger while waiting for presciptions to be filled next door. Enduring a "Skeeter Burger" for lunch seemed better than making a separate whole trip to the pharmacy later on. So I was sitting there eating my little burger and my eyes were drawn to ESPN2, silent on the TV looming overhead. I don't know why, but people stare at silent TVs, no matter what's on them. I'll give you my standard "TVs left on for the heck of it" rant another day.

ESPN2 appears to be reserved for the margins of human competition, like Speed Chess and Clogging contests. Today it was College Dance competition. Fresh-faced young coeds in painful synchronization. Without the sound turned up each team I saw appeared to be doing some kind of dry-land sychronized swimming. Only the outfits were not bathing suits but Clone outfits. First came the Brittney Spears Clones. Then it was a group of Lord of the Dance Clones. Followed by a black-clad Bob Fosse Clone group, complete with "Spirit Fingers" a la "Bring it On." Each group conducted a staged interview with an ESPN2 correspondent, herself a former College Dancer I'm sure, sucking wind through the teeth of their forced smiles, trying to look like winners.

I asked myself why I was watching this. That was obvious. The teams' outfits all had the same thing in common -- they were calculatingly designed to draw attention to their, um, money makers. I am a male after all and will tend to look at spandex-wrapped females bouncing for judges, given not much else to occupy my brain.

And so why am I telling you this? Heck I don't know. I'll never get that fifteen minutes back. That little chunk of attention could have been better spent. Maybe I'm trying to redeem the experience by turning it into a writing exercise. Maybe I'm trying to waste a bit of your attention and throw it away after mine. Maybe I am just chagrined at how easy it is to spend a mindless 15 minutes, 15 hours, 15 years going through life on auto-pilot, attention jumping to each shiny bauble and bouncy bosom dangled in front of me.

Maybe I became aware of an attack. Subtle, calculated subterfuge of my mindful focus to woo my subconscious for some future commercial opportunity. Maybe what's so scary is how such a wasted few moments is so commonplace as to escape notice. So commonplace that it seems kind of stupid even to bring up. Maybe it's an awareness of costumes, contests, televisions, and restaraunts all arranged to distract me -- an immense attention-sucking infrastucture so subtle and jejune I rarely notice my precious seconds ticking away. Maybe by becoming aware of this slippage I can stop it. Maybe I can warn you before it's too late.

Nah. Bring on the dancing babes. I wonder if CSI is a rerun tonight?


Meta-Attention, redux

"God is supremely present, with total attention and total love.  The more like God we are, the more 'in Heaven' we are.  The alternative to Heaven is not earth.  Heaven and earth are not exclusive alternatives, not opposites.  The alternative to Heaven is Hell. Hell is absence, the refusal of I-thou presence, of consciousness and love."

    - Peter Kreeft, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven"


Heaven is here, now, living in God's presence.  Heaven or Hell is a matter of how we use our attention, where we focus, and how we are present. It's a glass half empty/glass half full kind of choice -- how you look at things. Or how you look away.


Heidi Week: God is a Woman

A few weeks back we did this affirmation exercise in a ministry group I belong to. You take a piece of paper and write your name at the top. You pass your sheet to your right and take the sheet from the person on your left. You read the name on top and then write one or two words describing the gifts you see in that person that they bring to the group, and pass it right again. Then when you get your paper back, it has all these compliments on it. Warm and fuzzies all around.

Except I had a hard time with it.

I read the list of kudos and could not own them. I couldn't help thinking that the nice words -- "kind", "wise", "creative", etc. -- did not reflect the real me but some ego-motivated image I project, a false mask. The real me cannot be "extremely wise" and "very spiritual." I'd like to be that some day, but I couldn't own those things people said about me.

It was a whole week or two later in prayer that I realized that I indeed did not own the things on that sheet. I had just re-read Thomas Merton saying to me that I am spoken like a word from the being of God and therefore am a unique articulation of a part of Her Being. I may not have felt right when people wrote those things about me, but they are so totally right when you speak of God. And so, though I cannot own the compliments I receive, I can celebrate how God chooses to show Himself to others through me. Compliments are simply another way to praise the God you see through others.

And I also realize that I can know God in his infinite goodness by looking at the great qualities of the people around me. This brings me to my wife.

Heidi and Petunia

This week is Heidi's birthday. It's a time that I want to reflect on all she is to me. I'm trying to make plans for a celebration and gifts, but it's hard for me because I cannot afford money-wise or time-wise anywhere close to a true appreciation of the goodness she brings to my life. So, as part of my lame attempt, this week is Heidi week on Overflow.

You may have noticed that when I talk about God I sometimes use the female gender. I try to give the feminine side of God equal time. I have no problem thinking of God as a woman because the person in my life who manifests God to me most often, whose qualities most reflect the divine in my life, who ministers more to me then any other human as Christ would, is a woman. I know that God is a woman, at least in part, because of Heidi, my wife.


Friday, December 06, 2002
I believe in Santa Claus

It's about that time of year when all kids thoughts turn to Santa Claus.

My daughter quit believing in Santa Claus two years ago. This year she, I think, is in transition, both grieving the loss of the childhood belief and developing a larger understanding of what, and who, Santa Claus really is. She doesn't "believe" anymore, but she sees the joy of keeping Santa alive in the eyes of children younger than her. She is turning from a pure recipient of Santa to a participant in Santa Claus and all he stands for.

The skeptics would say that she is complicit in telling the same lies that were told to her, but I beg to differ.

Any parent knows how to make food developmentally appropriate for their children. We heat it just right, chop into easy pieces, cut the crusts off, put the milk in a spill-proof cup. To set a toddler down in front of an adult plate of food would be frustrating, messy, and most likely dangerous. So it is with adult ideas; we chop them down to size and cut the crusts off. There's no "lie" in making ideas easily digestible for children.

Here's where there is a lot of similarity in the development of our beliefs in Santa Claus and our belief in God. They definitely start out as simplistic, magical, parent-like concepts, but considering where young kids are coming from, this is how they can best relate. Parents are their world -- care giver, law giver, posessed with (to them) unimaginable powers.

Of course, they grow up and those concepts change. Or at least they should. Parents become mere people. Santa, as you find out, was always "just" your loved ones who worked to keep the Christmas magic alive for you.

The big difference is that, while very few people persist into adulthood believing in the Childhood Santa, many -- I'd guess the majority -- of people cling to their concept of the Childhood God well into adulthood. Or they conclude that since the Childhood God is not the real God after all, God must not exist. Or, worst of all, they hate, persecute, and even kill those who threaten the childhood concept they are so desperate to hold onto.

As a parent, I still believe in Santa Claus. I am Santa Claus to those around me. Santa Claus is within me. Santa Claus is much, much bigger than me. And I get the simultaneous joy of introducing one child to the simplistic, "crusts-cut-off" Santa while I help another discover the bigger, much richer world of Christmas beyond the Childhood Santa.

Same goes, as it is turning out, for our family's faith in God.


Saint Nicholas' Day, December 6th

St. Nicholas was the bishop of the Christian Church in the Asia Minor city of Myra (now Demre, Turkey) in the fourth century AD. He is beloved throughout the Christian East for his kindness and help, both during his life and afterward. He is called "Wonderworker" for the miracles and acts of kindndess and charity which he performed. Because of this and of the many legends of his works, St. Nicholas is regarded as the special patron of children.

It was through popular telling and retelling of Saint Nicholas' legendary generous deeds that today's Santa Claus is a mish-mash which incorporates many traditions: Christian and Pagan, Old Catholic, Scandinavian, Dutch, German and English. The resulting legendary figure is very convenient for parents and retailers as the Giftmas Master of Ceremonies.

The most famous story told about St. Nicholas has to do with three young sisters who were very poor. Their parents were so poor that they did not have enough money for the daughters to get married. Some more PG-13 tellings of this story had the girls on the verge of being prostituted by the father. Regardless, Nicholas heard about this family and wanted to help them, but he did not want anyone to know that he was the one who was helping them. In one versionof the story, he climbed up on their roof three nights in a row and threw gold coins down their chimney so that they would land in the girls' stockings, which had been hung by the fire to dry. After two of his daughters had been able to marry because of the money mysteriously appearing in their stockings. That is how we have the story and the tradition of stocking full of gifts today. It later turned out to be more convenient for retailers and tiny tots with their eyes all aglow to let those stocking presents overflow and spill out under the Christmas Tree.

After the Protestant Reformation in Northern Germany, St. Nicholas was replaced for a while by the Krist Kindl, the Christ Child. So you know sometimes hear of Santa referred to as Kris Kringle. Part of the legend of Santa Claus is said to be based on the Germanic god Thor who rode on a chariot drawn by goats named Cracker and Cruncher. Not exactly a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, but you can see the lineage emerging.

The most important single source for our modern day version of Santa Claus comes from the Christmas poem A Visit From St. Nicholasby Clement C. Moore. Written for his children in 1823, the family poem was later published for the general public and included what became the now famous picture of Santa Claus by Thomas Nast.

His legend is mostly a Giftmas thing today, but I find St. Nicholas -- a leader of the Church who did good works, set a good example, and truly, personally cared for the poor -- a very relevant and much needed example for all of us Catholics today.



Thursday, December 05, 2002
Entropy of Violence

Here's a thoughtful one page comic by Alan Moore relating information, entropy, and terrorism. Another worthwhile comics project that makes you think.


It finally happened

A woman in Detroit has been infected with a strain of Staph that is totally resistant to the strongest known antibiotics. This is a rather grim landmark in medical history. The bugs have been gaining on us and have now pulled even...

Cheers.


Creature Tech

I am always a little self-conscious when I indulge my appetite for Graphic Novels. I mean, a grown man reading comic books? Tsk. Especially since unfinished copies of works by Delillo and Pyncheon languish within my arm's reach. But I finished this book the other day that redeems my entire habit -- Creature Tech by Earthworm Jim creator Doug TenNapel.

Until Creature Tech, I only had the Sandman series to justify my interest in comic books as a literary one. Creature Tech is bizarre, action-packed (like a good comic, er, Graphic Novel, should be), funny, touching, and oddly spiritual. An Iron Giant-esque spritual allegory is woven throughout, so the book has points to make about family and spirit that elevate the far-out Sci-fi plot.

I bought it on the basis of a cursory flip-through and the recommendation of the clerk, who said it was "really good." Turns out it got ecstatic reviews and has been snapped up for movie rights. That's one ticket I'll buy. I'll probably read it a few more times before then.

Creature Tech. Check it out.


poetry: Advent

In blog mode now, I found a page of Advent Poetry. Some nice stuff there. My favorite is below:

to think God came
to me
within, a larva in the fullness
of time, mine

and in His time, pupal
was the stage most love
before the Chrysalis

: Him hung up, dangling even
as if out to dry

til He burst forth His cocoon!

His soul set free (to show
us ours might likewise fly), and thus
He fluttered, everso aerie, breath-

less, that is, still as breath (as
breath withheld, not breath blown

in) for us, as an ephemera here,
but
for all time He is, the True

genus species: Monarchus christus

-- Carl Winderl


This poem appeared in Christianity and the Arts, Winter 1998.


Wednesday, December 04, 2002
River

I love this song. Every year about this time it rises up in my head and won't go away.

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
But it don't snow here
It stays pretty green
I'm going to make a lot of money
Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I'm so hard to handle
I'm selfish and I'm sad
Now I've gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I made my baby say goodbye

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

-- Joni Mitchell



Not Yet, But Soon.

To pray does not imply that without prayer God would not give us anything or that He would be unaware of our needs, but it has this great advantage, that in the attitude of prayer the soul is best fitted to receive the Giver of blessing as well as those blessings He desires to bestow. Thus it was that the fullness of the Spirit was not poured out upon the Apostles on the first day, but after ten days of special preparation. If a blessing were conferred upon one without a special readiness for it, s/he would neither value it sufficiently nor long retain it.

-- Sadhu Sundar Singh


So this is the Christmas Season. Or should I say, the "Giftmas" season. It just so happens that the Giftmas Season overlays, and therefore clobbers, the season of Advent.

Advent, which started last Sunday, is a four week period of preparation that Catholics and other liturgical traditions observe leading up to Christmas. It is time set aside to allow us to get our hearts, minds, and souls ready to receive the Gift of the Incarnate God in the form of Jesus Christ. It's a time for each of us to do whatever it takes to get ready for Him. For some of us, penitence is required. For others fasting. For all of us, prayer.

And it's darn hard to do that when everybody's singing "Silver Bells" and exchanging gifts and having Giftmas parties. It's hard to fast, to empty one's self to make room for Christ, when everyone's pushing Giftmas cookies. Giftmas makes Advent that much harder.

And Advent takes away some of the enjoyment I get from Giftmas. While everyone's singing, "Tis the season to be jolly. Fa lalalala lala la la." I'm thinking, "Not yet, but soon." People tell me "Merry Christmas!" and I think, "Not yet, but soon." Of course I reply, "Merry Christmas." I'm no Scrooge. I will enjoy Giftmas. I'm going to a Giftmas party this Friday, as a matter of fact. But I have to make an effort to remember which holiday I'm celebrating. And not give my Advent preparation short shrift. So I keep thinking, "Not yet, but soon."

My lovely wife, a few years back, spent hours making a Jesse Tree out of felt. It is about the size of a tapestry in Church and has a big tree and a quote from Isaiah, "And a shoot shall come from the root of Jesse..." And then there are 28 brightly colored, velcro-backed "fruits" on which are depicted emblems representing the stories of Creation, Noah, Moses, Jacob, Ruth, Tobias, and many of the other stories of the Old Testament that lead up to Jesus. So along with readings and prayers, and Advent wreath lighting at dinner, we read one story from the Old Testament and put that "fruit" on the tree. The kids, especially Girlzilla, like the Jesse Tree. This is heirloom stuff.

So along with Advent Wreaths and Advent Calendars and the Jesse Tree, we pray and try not to jump the gun too much. We try not to let our Advent get trampled under our Giftmas shopping and celebrations.

Dave Trowbridge brought up in another context the metaphorical example of "stroking the gong" (stop it, you.) Apparently a gong player has to get the gong resonating at the right frequency so that it makes the right sound when he hits it. This is exactly what I need to do --- get my soul resonating at the right frequency to make a more joyful noise when Christ arrives. Good one, Dave. That is a very good image for Advent.

And then there's the metaphor of Light. Christ is the Light that has come into the world. And so we need to examine the dark corners in our hearts and souls and bring them into the Light. This is what makes Advent a penitent season, almost like a mini Lent. Of course you are supposed to continually do this, but, just as you always clean deeper before important company comes by, we "clean deeper" during Advent. Getting ready for Jesus.

I almost always meditate with a lit candle. During Advent, it has come to me that I should meditate with an unlit candle, to concentrate on my own dark corners that need better lighting. On Christmas Day, though, I will meditate with not just a lit candle, but with a bunch of candles, as many as I can find and safely have lit all at once. I will buy special incense for that day. I will soak in the light and the fragrance and linger in the Joy and Love and Life of Christ.

Not yet, but soon...


Tuesday, December 03, 2002
Finer Things

Via Erica Mulherin, a wonderful looking recipe for Espresso Bean Cheesecake.

If you don't read Erica's site, doing so will add an automatic 4% to the quality of your life. Like a Mary Englebreit meets a Martha Stewart minus the pretensions and the insider trading.


Scrooge? Hardly.

Okay now's the time of year I do my annual Christmas rant. For months now, all of us have been cringing at the sight of Christmas decorations in early Fall. I actually saw some in August. No really. We all cluck our tongues and complain about how it seems like retailers bring us Christmas earlier every year, making it the beleaguered workhorse of Holidays, starting the retail sector's heavy lifting sooner than ever.

But now we're in that part of the year which starts after Thanksgiving where, suddenly, it's "Christmas" time. And the confusion starts. When people celebrate Hannuka, they don't call it Christmas. No confusion there. The people who celebrate Kwanzaa don't call it Christmas, so no confusion there. Even the people who celebrate the solstice get to keep their distinctions.

But my holiday -- the real, original Christmas -- gets clobbered every year and it sucks. It's name confusion, pure and simple.

See, what most people celebrate is a secular economic holiday called Christmas whose season starts the day after Thanksgiving and goes until Christmas Day. Now I am no Scrooge. I am generally in favor of a holiday that is about being jolly and spreading Good Cheer and showing Goodwill Toward Men. A holiday that boosts the economy with reciprocal altruism and generosity is a very good thing. And, since it is loosely draped around some Christian and Pagan spiritual traditions, it does tend to increase foot traffic in places of worship for a spell. All good things. I do not disapprove. I intend to fully participate in the communal economic holiday myself.

But let's not call *that* Christmas. Call it "Giftmas" or something. The original Catholic Christian Christmas Season gets clobbered by confusion. We don't get to keep our distinction because the secular holiday poached our name.

The Christmas Season *starts* on Christmas Day and then the celebration is supposed to continue until the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, which occurs the Sunday after Epiphany. Hence the "Twelve Days of Christmas."

When most people are taking down their trees and lights, we're still partying. We're still singing carols and feasting and having parties. Or at least we should be. If you're Catholic this should especially be true for you. Try having a Christmas party *after* Christmas Day. Wear that Christmas sweater for an extra week. Leave those lights and trees up. Keep saying "Merry Christmas." Because it still is. Or at least it should be.

Take a look at the real original Christmas and you'll find tons of ways to give Jesus his due and extend the Celebration past Christmas morning, once Giftmas has ended up in piles of torn wrapping paper.


Meta-Attention

It is crucial to know when it is appropriate to withdraw our attention from things that disturb our mind. However, if the only way we know how to deal with certain objects is to avoid them, there will be a severe limit as to how far our spiritual practice can take us.

-Lama Thubten Yeshe


Amen. We cannot thrive in a "Holy Huddle".

Our attention is a precious resource, a currency of sorts. Millions of dollars are spent to grab my attention, hold it, measure it. How do I spend my attention? From what do I withhold my attention? Whether we are "religious" or not, this sort of "Meta" thinking is an important practice for our minds and spirits.

Is my attention apportioned according to the values I embrace? Sadly, no, but I'm working on it.

I'm doing good to be aware at all. Latest theories say that I spend most of my waking hours in a subconscious pursuit of dopamine rewards, in a less than fully conscious state. It takes effort to break out of it.

You work hard for your money. How do you spend it?
You work hard for your awareness. How do you spend it?


Monday, December 02, 2002
My Thanksgiving Vacation by the Numbers

Children baptized: 2
People gathered to celebrate baptism: 80
People who RSVP'd to celebrate baptism: 120
Pounds of leftover food from baptism party: 5000
Amount raised for the Gabriel Project: $2000 (Thanks!)
Thanksgiving meals eaten: 3
Miles traveled: 900
Hours in car: 20
Average number of hours to reach Poteau, Oklahoma in one stretch: 9.5
Longest car trip Petunia can withstand without screaming uncontrollably: 9.0
Blocks from destination that Girlzilla became carsick: 2
Number of days, despite cleaning, that the carsick smell lingers: approx. 5
Number of games of dominoes played: 17.5
Number of games of dominoes won: 11.5
Number of arguments over politics/religion: 3
Number of detailed discussions of elderly relatives' health: 7
Number of restaraunts open on Thanksgiving morning in Poteau, Oklahoma: 1
Capacity of open restaraunt: 30
Number of people wanting to eat out on Thanksgiving morning in Poteau, Oklahoma: approx. 40
Number of grumpy workers for above open restaraunt: 3
Difference, in points, between the Texas Longhorns' score and the Texas A&M Aggies' score: 30 (Hook 'em!)
Number of disappointed OU fans in Okie family: approx. 45
Average time, in minutes, Mr. Freshpants stayed in his chair per meal stop: 5
Average time, in minutes, his tired parents tried to make him sit at dinner: 7
Number of Clarks cheering upon arrival at the homestead at Forest Lake: 4
Number of Clarks screaming uncontrollably upon arrival: 1
Days to recover from relaxing vacation: undetermined
Number of fond memories generated: uncountable