White Privilege

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Trumpeter Swans
know nothing of
white privilege

White is what they are
down under and above
the down

Except for beaks
as black as ebony
on ivory

Their trumpet calls
are not the honks
of honky privilege

Proud cobs and pens
teach their cygnets
that down is up

With no guile or sneer
at loons and redwing
blackbirds

Ebony and ivory
nesting on the marsh
they share

Beyond the gates
where honkies honk
of privilege

  • Gordon C. Stewart on the wetland with the Trumpeter Swans, loons, and redwing blackbirds, June 21, 2018

Four Tubes in a Wind Chime

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Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)

That’s how the light gets in

– Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

Four old friends — we call ourselves the Old Dogs — descended last week on the Minnesota cabin by the wetland for our annual Gathering. The lyrics and recorded voice of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” became the focal point for reflection one week ago tonight. 

We gave up the illusion of a perfect offering years ago, though a stifled striving for it continues just the same. The “perfect offering” has gone underground where the sirens of perfection hide when those they’ve beckoned plug their ears to block the torment of lost ideals and shattered aspirations. None of us occupies a pulpit any longer, and the folks whose hands we once shook at the church door are shaking other hands where we once stood. Any dream of a perfect offering was cracked a long time ago, and it was the crack in our respective egos that let the light come in. 

Old Dogs from Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota know there’s a crack in everything, and we know we never were what we were cracked up to be. We’re not so sure the bells still can ring. Much of the social progress we worked for during five decades of ministry is being overturned. The separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border; the insults of neighboring nations and traditional allies; the admiration for Vladimir Putin; the twisting of fact and disregard for truth; the “fake news” war of words against the American Fourth Estate; the blatant encouragement of white supremacist movements; the shifting of blame to the opposing party and past administrations for present policies and actions; the resurgence of the Christian right and American exceptionalism, and so much more gave worn us down, leaving us wondering whether it makes any difference to still ring the bell.

Leonard Cohen’s gravely voice fills the cabin by the wilderness wetland.

We asked for signs

The signs were sent

The birth betrayed

The marriage spent

Yeah the widowhood

Of every government

Signs for all to see

I can’t run no more

With the lawless crowd

While the killers in high places

Say their prayers out loud

But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up

A thundercloud

And they’re going to hear from me

Leonard Cohen’s’ “Anthem” brought a sliver of light into The Gathering of Old Dogs. Leonard’s gone, of course, without his suit — gone home without his burden behind the curtain without the costume that he wore — but we heard his voice deep and drear and true — like a wind chime rung by a breeze from the far side of the wetland. Then came the thundercloud summoning the weary to ring the bells again while the killers in high places say their prayers out loud.

I love to speak of Leonard

He’s a sportsman and a shepherd

He’s a lazy bastard

Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him

Even though it isn’t welcome

He just doesn’t have the freedom

To refuse.

– Leonard Cohen, “Going Home”

Four lazy bastards depart for separate states to ring the bells anew — four tubes of a larger wind chime.

– Gordon C. Stewart on the Minnesota wetland, June 20, 2018

You’re reading from MY book!

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Six trumpeter swan cygnets (babies) have joined their parents on the pond next to the cabin by the wetland. Their family is intact. It’s as beautiful to behold as separating children is ugly. The swans are lucky. So am I.

IMG_9456The cabin by the wetland is a place of privilege. There are no other humans here. But the news has a way of following me to this natural sanctuary that invites a deeper silence. The world doesn’t need another political honker, I tell myself. But my head hurts keeping inside me the need to cry out against cruelty, dishonesty, and bad religion in the nation’s capitol.

I respond to Attorney General Sessions’ twisting of the Bible (Romans 13) the way Jewish comedian Lewis Black responded to Christian televangelists who pretend to know the Jewish Bible: “You’re reading from MY book! If you want to know about MY book, ask a Jew, and he will tell you! You Christians don’t see one of my guys reading YOUR book (i.e. the New Testament) and telling you what it means. Do you?”

Like Lewis Black, I’m not big on televangelists who misuse the Hebrew Bible. I’m even less fond of institutional powers and authorities that use MY book, the New Testament, to justify a policy that is beyond justification.

Romans 13 commends to its first century C.E. readers a proper respect for the civil order represented by the office of the emperor. But it is respect for the office, not its occupant, and not an endorsement of illegitimate uses of the office, nor of unjust laws promulgated by the civil authorities. To presume otherwise, as Mr. Sessions does, ignores the location from which the Letter to the Romans was written and why its author was there. Paul was in jail. Paul was a prisoner of conscience.

The current U.S. Administration’s abuse of Holy Scripture hurts my ears, even on the wetland. If you’re going to use Romans 13, continue to read beyond what you claim supports your argument. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves the neighbor has fulfilled the law. … The commandments … are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13: 8-10). A thoughtful reader of the letter penned from a Roman jail cell might conclude that it was Saul of Tarsus (Paul), who gave Cornel West his definition of justice: “Justice is love made public”.

Love made public does not separate children from their parents. Love doesn’t do it anywhere in any century. Cruelty does. Fascism does. Hypocrisy does. White privilege does. National idolatry does. Willful religious ignorance does.

Before you site MY book as your authorization for cruelty, zoom in on the scene of Jesus’ rebuke of his mistaken disciples:

“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them” (Gospel of Mark 10:14-16).

jesus-weptImagine Jesus taking the children on his knee again — the loving, crucified Jesus —in an ICE detention center on the Mexican border. Or buy yourself a ticket to the Minnesota wetland to spend a day with the trumpeter swans who do better than we at caring for children.

—  Gordon C. Stewart with the trumpeter swans on the wetland beyond our boundaries, June 20, 2018.

 

The Fireflies

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No unnatural light disturbs the night here by the wetland. It’s dark in this sacred wilderness. But last night the lights were everywhere. Click HERE for photos of fireflies, aka, lightning bugs.

THE DANCE OF FIREFLIES

Children frolic to catch you
in midair as you light up
backyards before bedtime
to watch you blink and glitter
in our peanut butter jars
until your little lights go out.

Grown-up children wake at night
in need of different jars and
by fate or chance catch
through the window a glimpse
of your midnight dance and glitter
on the wetland beyond all jars.

And children on canes and walkers
watch and wonder why we
with such little jars once sought
to capture you and make ours
the dance of fireflies that glitter
before and after our lights go out.

  • Gordon C. Stewart at The Pea Pod with the sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, herons, loons, redwing blackbirds — and fireflies. June 11, 2018.

 

FEDERAL POLICY CAUSING ATTACHMENT DISORDER

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“Not only is it cruel and unAmerican – the federal policy of separating children from their immigrant, asylum seeking parents — it’s a basic cause of future mental disorders that affect not only the victim. It’s the perfect situation to create attachment disorder.

via FEDERAL POLICY CAUSING ATTACHMENT DISORDER

  • Thanks to Mona Gustafson Affinito, clinical psychiatrist; Professor Emerita, Southern Connecticut State University, for bringing this to light.

A Uniquely Grateful Graduate

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Some people’s stories are priceless. Austin Wu’s is one of those. Austin shared his last night at Chaska High School’s commencement.

Austin is a neighbor and friend recognized in Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, published in 2017. He will begin his undergraduate studies at Macalester College in September.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 9, 2018.

Wilbur and the New Neighbors

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We have new neighbors.

They poked their heads up from under the deck outside the screen door of the a-frame. Woodchuck (groundhog) pups making themselves at home.

woodchucks

Woodchucks at the cabin

It was Groundhog day all over again at the cabin. Years before we inhabited the place, a woodchuck had decided to come inside the cabin. The humans were away when Wilbur  — we’ll call him Wilbur — abandoned the family under the deck to settle more comfortably inside the cabin. Maybe Wilber needed to get away awhile.

Kay and I come to the cabin to get away. Now we want to get away from the woodchucks — or have Wilbur and his family taken far away from us in traps baited with luscious carrots, fresh lettuce, celery, and other yummies that doesn’t grow naturally here along the marsh’s edge.

The pups are kind of cute, in a non-dog kind of way, if you love all Nature. “Something there is that loves a [woodchuck],” wrote Robert Frost one night, revising his “Mending Wall” poem when three woodchuck pups after he’d had too much wine. Or maybe Frost had just read Psalm 50, as I did this morning, the day after the pups introduced themselves to Kay: “All the beasts of the forest are mine…. I know every bird in the sky, and the creatures under your deck are in my sight” (Psalm 50:10-11).

Many years ago a woodchuck was eating all the lettuce in the Broomall Nursing Home garden up the street from my boyhood home on Church Lane. When Wade, the nursing home caretaker, complained about the disappearing lettuce, two excited eight year-olds decided to become the good stewards of Wade’s garden. With Wade’s help, Ted Bonsall and I built a box trap of wood and hardware wire, and caught the woodchuck. But, hey, what do you do with the woodchuck you just removed from the nursing home garden? Ted and I were advanced planners, we had built a large cage of wood and chicken wire in the backyard. Having succeeded as trappers, we turned the woodchuck loose from the box-trap into the large cage loaded with carrots, broccoli, and lettuce. The next morning, the cage was empty!

There’s a reason they call a woodchuck a woodchuck. It had gnawed through the wood and the chicken wire on its way to freedom, relieving us of having to answer the bigger question of what to do with a woodchuck when the snow starts falling. The woodchuck got away from us before we wanted to get away from it.

Sixty-seven years later, I wonder whether the Wilbur in Minnesota ever made a prison break in Pennsylvania.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, northern Minnesota, June 8, 2018.

She makes me content

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IMG_9456

The marsh in northern Minnesota

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays offer the perfect complement to the sights and sounds of the marsh at dawn. Like his contemporary Henry David Thoreau, Emerson expressed a profound reverence for Nature. His eyes and ears were tuned differently. Emerson’s essay “Nature” helps interpret my experience by the marsh here in northern Minnesota. It provides spiritual context to the breaking of the day.

He who knows the most, he who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come at these enchantments, is the rich and royal man. Only as far as the masters of the world have called in nature to their aid, can they reach the height of magnificence. This is the meaning of their hanging-gardens, villas, garden-houses, islands, parks, and preserves, to back their faulty personality with these strong accessories.

Like Thoreau writing at Walden Pond, Emerson invites the common man and woman to rouse from our confusion of wealth with royalty. Emerson wrote, “When the rich tax the poor with servility and obsequiousness, they should consider the effect of men reputed to be the possessors of nature, on imaginative minds. Ah! If the rich were rich as the poor fancy riches!”

The public mind does a very strange thing. While despising the one percent who disdain the poor and steal the worker’s wages, something in us aspires to be among them. We envy their Mara-Largo’s and penthouses. We want to be the ones who hire and fire. Emerson stripped away the illusion that the rich are truly rich.

Yet, despite his praise of Nature, Emerson continued to believe that we humans stand atop Nature’s pyramid as the exceptional species. In this time of climate departure, I part ways with him and turn more toward Thoreau.

Thoreau gets closer to how I feel at the Walden Pond-like site next to the wetland. I’m glad to get away awhile to be among the trumpeter swans, wood ducks, loons, hooded mergansers, great blue herons, and redwing blackbirds.

I love Nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.

Narcissus has no place here. No “faulty personality” but my own. The trumpets are the swans’. I think I just saw a daffodil bloom where Narcissus once knelt! “[Nature] makes me content.”

narcissus-flower

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 30, 2018

 

 

My Father’s Voice

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I lied. I can’t keep quiet! One more post — a follow-up to “Memorial Day 2018” — before retreating to the north woods.

Dad on board ship

Rev. Kenneth Campbell Stewart, my father the chaplain, on board ship to Saipan, World War II.

My father was the Army Air Force Chaplain leading worship for the troops on board ship on their way to the South Pacific in World War II. Dad is buried in Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Annville, Pennsylvania.

He was honored with a 21 gun salute, which, years later, I blamed for my hearing loss.
“Have you worked around loud noises? You have the ears of a forty-five year-old jack hammer operator,” said the audiologist. “No,” I said, “my mother’s deaf as a post.”

But my mother and I did listen to Dad’s preaching after he returned from the war. His words were soft-spoken. Peaceful and comforting. But there were times when his words from the pulpit afflicted the comfortable and rattled the saber-rattlers who glorified war and militarism. He preached the gospel, and, because he did and I heard it, I chose to follow in his footsteps. I chose to preach the gospel.

On Memorial Day 2018 on my way to the Minnesota wetland, I hear the echo of Taps from a bugler at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery and remember Dad and the fallen he buried. Sometimes the dead still speak.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 29, 2018.

 

Memorial Day 2018

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Views from the Edge has been silent for awhile. Given my state of mind, it probably should stay quiet longer. But Memorial Day gives the dumb a hook on which to hang some of what’s been banging around my weary head.

Flags are everywhere today. American flags. They decorate the graves of the fallen in our national cemeteries and wave in front yards across America. But things are different this year.

While driving to the cabin by the wetland here in Minnesota, I see a different flag — a blue one with the name of the current president — waving from a homeowner’s flagpole where the red, white, and blue stars-and-stripes rippled stood before 2017. The dead we honor on Memorial Day didn’t die for this substitution. They fought against it.


Trump flagThe dead are unable to see the American flags posted at their graves or hear the sobering “Taps” that honors their sacrifice. Nor can they see the other flag that has taken its place on the flag pole where Old Glory once waved on Memorial Day. They didn’t die for this.

Like the dead, Memorial Day 2018 leaves me speechless.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 28 (Memorial Day), 2018.

Mother Earth and the devil’s dung

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Pope Francis documentaryOn Mothers Day 2018, “60 Minutes” featured an interview with the film-maker of “A Man of His Word,” the new documentary on Pope Francis in which Pope Francis speaks boldly about Mother Earth, the mother of all life.

Views from the Edge visitors and the readers of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness will recognize our long-standing position that all other moral, social, economic, political, and spiritual issues pale in comparison with the stewardship of the web of life we call nature. Like Pope Francis, we have contended that the planetary crisis is not just one issue among others; it is the singular overarching challenge to everyone everywhere all the time. We agree with Pope Francis. It is a faith crisis like no other.

In advance of the release of the documentary, we offer this excerpt of Franciscan Media summaries of Pope Francis’s previously published statements.

“Our common home is at risk. Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem.

“The earth, entire peoples, and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea—one of the first theologians of the Catholic Church—called “the dung of the devil.” An unfettered pursuit of money rules.

“This is the ‘dung of the devil.’ The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home, Sister and Mother Earth.” – Pope Francis.

The Pope’s position also reminds us of another man of his word, Bolivian President Evo Morales who observed the following relation between Mother Earth, the devil’s dung” (money/greed), and the human species.

“Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.” – Evo Morales.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 14, 2018.

Grandmother’s Day

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Mothers Day brought together three mothers and one grandmother. Kristin is the mother of Elijah (11 months). Alice is the mother of Calvin (five months). Kay is the mother of Kristin and Andrew (Calvin’s father) and grandmother of Elijah and Calvin.

Kay Mothers Day

Elijah, Grandma Kay, and Calvin

It’s only a matter of time before Mark Twain’s description of his relationship with his mother will describe Elijah’s and Calvin’s relationship with their mothers and grandmothers:

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she rather enjoyed it.”

Grandma is having a great time with these little guys. Already Elijah is wearing her out chasing him around the house to protect him from his curious self. Calvin is not yet peripatetic, but he already offers his own kind of trouble. He’s huge and heavy for Grandma to carry. But, when all is said and done, when Elijah and Calvin are able to talk and look back on Grandma Kay, they will echo the serious complement Mark Twain paid his mother.

As Andrew’s picture from Mothers Day illustrates, I think she rather enjoys it.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, the day after Mothers Day, May 14, 2018.

This Unfathomed Secret

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 “At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature” (1836)

What do I know?

Is what I know back in the city — outside the gates of the forest — more “knowledgeable” than the knowledge of the forest and the farm? Is knowing different from imagining? What is the relation between knowledge and imagination? Are they opposites, kin, companions, enemies? Is one kind of knowledge superior to another? Is one more civilized than the other? Are they of equal value, each in its own right? Or is it all relative, a fool’s question in this world of relativity where one person’s perspective and opinion is as good as another’s, one person’s truth and wisdom another person’s fanciful imagination and foolishness?

Publishing “The Bovine Chorus” yesterday brought the questions to mind. After a day seeking knowledge about the loud mooing that overwhelmed the bird calls on the wetland, I realize my imagination got the better of me. The last conversation was with a retired dairy farmer. “Probably needed to be milked,” he said. “They’ll let you know! Or the farmer was taking a calf away. They can be really loud!” Memory flashed back to my dairy farmer friend Bruce, who showed up on Sunday with a broken hand from having punched a cow. What does a city slicker know about cows and the life of a dairy farmer!

I wasn’t always a city slicker and I’m not much of one now. If I were, I wouldn’t prefer this remote cabin on the wetland. It’s less civilized here. Some would say it’s less knowledgable. Others might say, more given to faulty imagination. Like imagining a bovine herd singing Friedrich Handel’s Magnificat to celebrate a cow birth in Bethlehem only to learn from my old musicologist friend Carolyn that Handel never composed a Magnificat, so far as she could recall, and from my new retired dairy farmer friend that the mooing was probably a protest by cows whose udders ached or who lamented a calf being kidnapped from the holy family.  

“Woe am I!” say I, like Isaiah overwhelmed by the smoke that filled the Temple. “I am a man of unclean [stupid] lips!” [Isaiah 6:5a]. I know nothing worth knowing. My imagination has deceived me. Remember Carolyn back in the city, and the retired dairy farmer. And then there are the books I’ve brought here from the city. Birds of Minnesota and Wisconsin and Colin’s Birds of North America and Greenland with pictures that help identify the Brown Thrasher feeding on the ground and train the eye to distinguish the Trumpeter Swans here from the Tundra Swans, and Mute Swans. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays on history, nature, experience, politics, et al., and The Book of Common Prayer bring the wisdom of the ages that ground me in both nature and tradition, knowledge and a better imagination, a pair of spectacles alongside the binoculars next to the wetland in the time of climate change. I read Emerson again.

“We nestle in nature, and draw our living as parasites from her fruits and grains, and we receive glances from the heavenly bodies, which call us to solitude, and foretell the remotest future. … Literature, poetry, science, are the homage of man to this unfathomed secret, concerning which no sane man can affect an indifference or incuriosity. Nature is loved by what is best in us. It is loved as the city of God, although, or rather because there is no citizen.” 

The Bovine Chorus

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It’s quiet this morning just after dawn. I ponder the line “Happy are they who know the festal shout!” [Psalm 19:15]. A sound I’ve never heard here interrupts the bird calls and my daily reading.

The single loud moo from miles to the west drowns out the sounds of the wetland. A few minutes later the solo becomes a bovine chorus!  A festal shout — celebration perhaps? A bovine Handel’s “Magnificat“? Perhaps a mother has given birth to her calf? The herd is cheering!

Minutes later the shouting is over. The mooing stops. But I heard it — both the solo and the herd — the strange interruption of the wetland’s native sounds. An osprey flies overhead. The sounds are as they were before: the woodpeckers’ pecks and red-wing blackbirds’s song. All is quiet again. The cattle are lowing; the poor baby sleeps!

Maybe the wind has shifted. Or perhaps the Madonna and the rest of the cows are sleeping after the exhaustion of the birth and the festal shout. Or maybe my ears had tricked me. I think of Otis Moss III’s reflection on singing the blues and “the gospel shout” [Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World]. Only those who sing the blues can shout the gospel (i.e. good news) shout.

Then I drive into town. Had I been hearing the festal shout followed by the cattle lowing? Or had the bovine chorus ended in tragedy? “Probably a wolf or bear!” says a stranger at the hardware store. “Cows can raise quite a ruckus; they can become very aggressive when a bear threatens the herd.”

Whether the sound rose from the blues or from joy, my imagination prefers the festal shout, the bovine Magnificat. I could be wrong. The guy in town could be right. Whatever it was my ears heard this morning, I want to take it one step deeper: before and after the shout, there was and is the Great Silence from which comes every sound.

  • Gordon C. Stewart on the wetland, May 8, 2018

Elijah’s first time at the park

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Elijah, a usually confident, bold,11 month old, animated, happy-go-luck jokester of the last few months, was dramatically transformed as soon as we arrived. Instantly he turned into a watchful, tentative, cautious and slightly intimidated new little guy.

This persona was rare for him and a sight to behold. He was almost—if I could say one so young could be instantly so sophisticated—humble. He began computing this new playground environment right away. When lowered to the ground outside the car (no stroller for baby today), equipped with his brand new sandals, (and brand new hat!) it was as if he forgot how to walk. He was tentative, almost clumsy. I get it how new sandals could freak anyone out—but this was more than coordination— Elijah was processing information and it was taking all the “hard drive” his little brain had on board. All brain cylinders were required. You could almost see the wheels turning, experiencing every morsel of new information inside his gaze, one newly captured gaze after the other. The kids. The equipment. The mommys. The daddys. The wind. The sun. The grass. The sidewalk’s cement. 

He required carrying, the “walking thing” just wasn’t working. Mommy was up higher in a more controlled setup, providing more time to figure this whole thing out. The look on his face was precious beyond measure. He was just plain serious. His confident persona was nowhere to be found. 

We first chose to sit by a gray “teeter-totter” contraption. It looked like metal, but was made of some polymer material that would not absorb the heat of the hot sun, would not sting the skin on little grasping fingers. Elijah needed to sit on mommy who sat on the teeter-totter. He was all eyes. It became clear that moving slowly would be required in this new world of park. Intuitively we chose not to look him in the eye. He was grounding himself, it was not a time for him to be distracted. I took some pictures of course—this precious face could not escape record. He sat on Kristin’s lap, his left arm held snug to Kristin under her protective right arm. This way of facing outward would be less exposed. I must say he wasn’t scared in the classic sense of being afraid. There was no sense he was ready to cry. Definitely okay with him to be right where he was. He was definitely in his own body—but his body was attached to his Mom, his safety net of record. 

IMG_6678The whole time in the park his mouth never cracked a smile, it never even opened. It stayed solemn, determined, right in the center of his gaze. The only animation of this whole experience was when he decided the leather molded baby-swing he had been lowered into, which he accepted initially, was really not that much fun after all—way too far away from mommy. Right after that, though he was ok to be seated in the big molded chair hung onto an overhead glider-thing (new high tech park!), because he could see mommy right in front of him.  She taught him to hang onto the chains right beside him—indeed, like a big boy.  

 

Elijah never cracked a smile the whole park experience until walking towards the car to go home. Still being held by his mom, he finally gave out a little tiny smile as Grandma made a funny face like her routine baby-joke. It broke the serious persona and he began to return to his old self again.

Elijah joy IMG_9566

Elijah’s smile

The whole park experience was classic Elijah—he is fundamentally a full-time observer. I thought to myself “I bet he is going to sleep well tonight—an exuberant but exhausting first trip to the park!”

  • Grandma Kay (Kay Stewart), Chaska, MN, May 6, 2018.

One day tells its tale to another

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It’s quiet this morning. The only sounds are from the birds.

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The wetland by the wilderness cabin

Redwing blackbirds feed on the cat-n-nine tails. Woodpeckers peck the trees. Canadian geese honk to stake their claim to what remains of the beaver lodge. Trumpeter swans blow their trumpets to shoo away the geese. The loons warble a primordial language, an echo of a time we cannot remember but dare not forget. The first sounds from a primordial Silence.

At daybreak at the edge of the wetland, I read from The Book of Common Prayer (BCP):

“One day tells its tale to another

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

Although they have no words or language,

and their voices not heard,

Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.”

[Psalm 19:2-4]

The Good, Good Earth: Our Island Home

The pale blue dot — our island home

I come to the wetland on this “pale blue dot” (Carl Sagan) in a vast universe to hear the primordial echo away from the human crowing, honking, and pecking that hurt my ears back home. Barclay, the ever faithful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel companion, lives by his own natural rhythm at home as well as here at the cabin, but his wagging tail and constant smile here tell me he prefers this place where the only sounds come from the air and the wetlands.

Barclay smiling

Barclay smiling on way to the cabin

Barclay professes no particular creed, yet he seems to know better what my faith tradition, ducks, geese, swans, and loons know:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament God’s handiwork” [Psalm 19:1] and “the whole Earth is the Theater of the God’s glory” [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion]. With the help of The Book of Common Prayer, hearing aids, and binoculars, I sense it too.

Glorify the [Primordial Silence], O springs of waters, seas, and streams,

O whales, and all that move in the waters,

All birds of the air, glorify the [Primordial Silence],

Glorify God and praise God forever. 

[“Song of Creation” excerpt, Morning Prayer, BCP, p.89, amended by GCS]

  • Gordon C. Stewart, The Pea Pod, Northern Minnesota, May 6, 2018.

Elijah Learns about Gravity

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Enjoying a snack with his Mom yesterday, Elijah learned about gravity.

Mom, what happened?

You turned the bag upside down.

So?

You can’t turn it upside down unless you want the snacks to fall to the floor.

Why?

It’s called gravity. Gravity pulls everything down.

Uh-uh!

Uh-huh!

Uh-uh!

Uh-huh!

Uh-uh! Doesn’t pull me down! I’ll just reach for my snacks!!! Nothing takes me down!

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, May 2, 2018.

 

The Eleventh Commandment

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“Thou shalt not even think about using a chain saw.”

IMG_9456At the cabin next to the wetland we love quiet candle-lit evenings by the wood-burning stove. The candles are easy. We buy them. The wood for the fires is harder. We gather the logs and the kindling from the surrounding woods, drag them next to the deck, and break or cut them into pieces to fit the dimensions of the small wood stove. In a week or two, a friend and I will get out the chain saw to cut up large oaks that have fallen in the woods. But that will come later.

This morning Kay and I gathered what we could carry from the woods and were breaking the breakable pieces into kindling. It felt good to be making progress on our first spring work day. Barclay, the five year-old ever cheerful, light-chasing Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was entertaining himself on the ground above the septic system. He doesn’t know there’s a sceptic system under there, and, if perchance he did know, wouldn’t care as long as there were light and shadows, squirrels, chipmunks, birds flitting around him and soaring over the wetland. Back by the deck, Kay and are enjoying the creative act of turning twigs into kindling and tree limbs into logs for the wood stove. It occurred to only one of us to stand at the edge of the pile instead of in the center of the cluster branches twisting every which way. The other who is typically less aware of his surroundings suddenly lost his balance and hit the deck, so to speak.   

Unruffled by my failure at even the smallest of tasks, I lay still for a moment as Kay rushed to my side, asked if I had hurt myself, and extended a loving hand to pull me to my feet. Barclay never noticed. Then came the eleventh commandment:

ten commandmentsThou shalt not even think of using a chain saw, for in the day that you use it, you shall surely die! 

“No chain saw for you,” said Kay. “Don’t even think about it!”

  • Gordon C. Stewart writing from the wilderness, April 29, 2018.

The Beauty of the Swamp

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Quite serendipitously, you might say, The Pea Pod — the-small A-frame cabin by the wetland — became ours last August. It came into view in an internet search for an affordable lake or river-front property within easy driving distance from the metro area.

cabin IMG_6563Before stepping foot on the property we thought it was on a small lake, not a swamp on outskirts of the Silvan Shores Association. We immediately fell in love with the quiet serenity of the place and the simplicity of the wood cabin.

We soon learned that some of the Silvan Shores folks gather regularly at the association’s clubhouse at 10 A.M for coffee and conversation. Although we’ve chosen the Pea Pod by the wetland as a full retreat from all things civilized, we want to be good neighbors, and it’s a chance to meet others and pick their knowledge who who to call for various homeowner matters. At our first coffee hour Kay and I introduce ourselves by name and by the property’s location next to ‘the wetland’ just north of Turtle Lake.

Oh! You mean ‘the swamp’!” says Judy. We all have a good laugh.

Call it what you will — swamp, wetland, or marsh (remember Sydney Lanier’s “The Marshes of Glynn”?) — , the little cat-tailed not-quite pond with the trumpeter swans, great blue herons, mallards, loons, and beavers next to the equally unenviable cabin is its own sacred place for two peas in a pod.

This morning, eight months months after the ‘wetland’ turned into a ‘swamp’, I wake with the morning sun and see the beauty of the wetland other folks don’t get to see. Oh, they too might have a fat robin making her nest in the oak tree outside their patio doors, but they don’t experience dawn next to the beaver lodge and the loons paddling by in plain sight while the mallards, wood ducks, and the buffleheads greet the day with play near the wetland’s far side.

We prefer the wetland to the five lakes of the association. There are no boats here on the swamp. No motors to disturb the silence. No water-skiers. No anglers. No noisy humans. Within days the Trumpeter Swans will break the silence. The only oars on the water belong to the waterfowl and the flat tail of the beavers. It’s an uncivilized place that reminds us of the incivility of civilization and the beauty of nature’s frailty and glory.

  • Gordon C. Stewart at the Swamp, April 29, 2018.

Elmer Fudd’s Earth Day

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Burning Bush

“burning bush” in Autumn

This year, on Earth Day, something has stripped the bark from the burning bushes of our homeowners’ association. It’s sad to see the butchered bark of these beautiful burning bushes.

It couldn’t have been rabbits! The bark isn’t only stripped near the ground. There are lots of rabbits here at Village Point, but rabbits aren’t like squirrels. They can’t climb two feet from the ground. But, like Elmer Fudd, some of us are a little slow on the uptake. “They didn’t have to climb,” said a friend. “We’ve had several feet of snow!”

Darn those wabbits!

So, here we are on Earth Day 2018 celebrating the natural web of life on which the rabbits, the burning bushes, and human beings depend. But I’m confused which to prefer: the bushes or the rabbits.

Elmer Fudd: Got you, you wabbit stew, you.
Bugs Bunny: Look, Doc. Are you looking for trouble? I’m not a stewing rabbit. I’m a fricasseeing rabbit.
Elmer Fudd: Fwicasseeing wabbit?
Bugs Bunny: Have you got a fricasseeing rabbit license?
Elmer Fudd: Well, no. I…
Bugs Bunny: Do you happen to know what the penalty is for shooting a fricasseeing rabbit without a fricasseeing rabbit license?

Burning Bush bark

“burning bush” stripped bark

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., EPA regulations are cast said as frivolous; big oil and coal are back; the Paris Climate Accord is trashed; the lakes, rivers, oceans and forests become part of Elmer Fudd’s stew pot on Earth Day. Everything is fair game for wabbit stew!

So, we are left to play the part of Bugs Bunny with Elmer Fudd, putting the question to Director of the E.P.A.Scott Pruitt and all climate change deniers:

“Do you happen to know what the penalty is for shooting a fricasseeing rabbit without a fricsaseeing rabbit license?”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 22, 2018

 

 

 

 

Grandpa, do I need lawyers?

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Oh, my! Why would you think you need a lawyer, Elijah?

IMG_0255I didn’t say ‘lawyer’, Grandpa. I said ‘lawyers.’ Sometimes you don’t hear so well or just don’t listen. But that’s okay. So, how many lawyers should I have? How many do you and Grandma have?

Right now we don’t have a lawyer, Elijah. We don’t need one.

Why? 

Well, we don’t have need for one, and our lawyer retired, so she’s no longer practicing law.

You have to practice to be a lawyer? Can we practice being lawyers?

It’s confusing. Practice doesn’t mean trying, like trying to walk or say ‘Grandpa’ or throwing the ball to Barclay. It’s a different kind of practice.

FredTrumpArrest

Fred Trump

Yeah, and you can’t practice alone if you’re a lawyer, right? I’ve been watching Ari on The Beat. Michael Cohen’s a lawyer and he has lots of lawyers. President Trump has lots of lawyers. He keeps hiring and firing them. So how many lawyers should we have, Grandpa. You need at least ONE.

Okay, I see where you’re going. But Grandpa doesn’t need a lawyer right now. Neither does Grandma or your Mom. We’re not in any trouble.

I’m in trouble, Grandpa. ICE is coming to my daycare! I know my rights under the Constitution! But Juan and Carlos don’t have rights like me. Their parents don’t either. We’ve been practicing what to do if ICE comes to our daycare. I’m going to be a lawyer when I grow up!

Good for you, Elijah. But before you think about practicing law, let’s practice saying ‘Mama’ and ‘Grandpa’. So far ‘Uh-oh!” is your only word. You need more words, not more lawyers.

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, April 21, 2018.

Barbara Bush and President Chance

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The day following former First Lady Barbara Bush‘s death, we offer these clips of Chance (“Chauncey”) Gardiner, the gardener of a rich estate whose simple answers are thought to qualify him as the political leader who can fix the world. Barbara Bush had no use for the current occupant of the Oval Office whose world is shaped by television, as was Chance Gardiner’s (Peter Sellers) in Being There (1979). “I like to watch,” said Chance.

In February of 2016 the former First Lady pulled no punches. She said she was “sick of him [i.e. Donald Trump]. He doesn’t give many answers to how he would solve problems. He sort of makes faces and says insulting things. He’s said terrible things about women, terrible things about the military. I don’t understand why people are for him, for that reason.”

First Lady Melania Trump will attend the former First Lady’s funeral. Whether the candidate for whom Barbara Bush had no use will pay his respects is still an open question as of the publication of this post. Maybe he’ll stay home to watch it on Fox.

Thank you, Roger Ebert (RIP) for your review of  Being There. Thank you, Chance (Peter Sellers), for your clairvoyance. Thank you, Barbara Bush. RIP.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, Minnesota, April 19, 2018.

Elijah’s first word

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Elijah and Kristin are home alone again today, snow-bound by the blizzard that’s hit Minnesota. Elijah is entertaining himself with the car Grandma gave him. His Mom looks on as Elijah’s speaking his first word — well, not exactly a word. Or is it?

“Uh-oh!”

Elijah’s daycare provider only speaks Spanish. “Uh-oh!” is the universal language at daycare. It’s also becoming the first word of those trying to keep up with Elijah at home or at Grandma and Grandpa’s. It’ll be a long day for Kristin. Say a prayer there won’t be too many reasons to say “Uh-oh!”

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, April 15, 2018.

Elijah’s Splish Splash

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Elijah emptying a drawer.

The sound of a big splash came in the split second his Mom turned her back in the bedroom. Elijah had scurried down the hall a few feet to the bathroom, just a quick crawl or walk from the bedroom and his favorite dresser drawer. He’s walking now and he’s into everything. Every drawer. Every light socket. Every everything.

“SPLASH!”

Elijah loves water. He loves his bath. He loves his rubber ducky.

“SPLISH! SPASH!”

Elijah’s no Bobby Darin. He wasn’t taking his bath. There was no rubber ducky in the toilet. To a 10 month old, the whole house is a playground.

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, April 14, 2018.

 

Ruminations of an Old Paper Boy

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INTRODUCTION: Views from the Edge publishes this reflection of John D. Miller, a fellow curmudgeon who looks at where and HOW we’re getting our news these days. John is serious, but he always has a twinkle in his eye. The links and photo have been added by Views from the Edge.

I was twelve years old when I got my first real job. I became a paper boy for The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin. It was an afternoon newspaper.

CapTimesMy bundles of papers would be dropped off at a certain place on the east side of the city. After school, I would fold them and put them into a big wire basket I bought for my bike. It was first business expense I ever had, but I did not know that at the time. Besides, Uncle Sam would not have cared.

I would peddle my papers in a six-square-block area between East Washington Avenue and East Johnson Street. About a third of the families in my entrepreneurial domain were subscribers.

On Sundays there was no Capital Times. Instead, I delivered The Wisconsin State Journal.The Times strongly leaned Democratic; the Journal was Republican. On Sundays, everybody in Madison was a Republican, I assumed.

This employment lasted for a year, until our family moved from the East Side to the West Side. Then, instead of peddling and reading The Capital Times, I just read it. When you’re in eighth grade, you don’t peddle papers any longer, for heaven’s sake, especially on the west side.

It is surprising that my parents, particularly my father, subscribed to the Times rather than the Journal, because they were Republicans. But Dad went to work before the State Journal could arrive. Neither he nor Mom had the time or inclination to read the paper in the morning, if there was one in our home to read. They wanted their news as fresh as possible in the late afternoon or evening when they sat down to read the paper. (This was before television came to Madison.)

In the nearly seventy years that have passed since I was a paper boy, the newspaper business has changed dramatically. In medium-sized cities, like Madison, there used to be at least two competing newspapers, a morning one and an afternoon one. In large cities there were three or more competing papers.

Now, in nearly every community large enough to sustain a daily newspaper, there is only one  paper, which is half the size it used to be. It also has well less than half the number of subscribers it used to have. Perhaps there might be another small struggling competitor on life support.

* * * *

My wife and I live in The Seabrook, a Hilton Head Island retirement community. When we first moved there, we had a young woman who delivered our Island Packet and USA Today to our door.  Before we moved to the retirement home, we also subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. I gave it up, though, because it was taking me at least two hours every morning just to read three newspapers, and I decided that was obsessively ridiculous.

After a while, our faithful, always-on-time young woman took another job. Then the papers began arriving at 8 AM or 9 AM or noon, or maybe not at all. We and our geezer neighbors were complaining. Geezers have taken a lifetime to learn how to become experts in the new avocation of their golden years, and they do it well.

So, unbeknownst to me, my wife called The Packet and said that if they would deliver all the newspapers for our entire retirement community to the door of our retirement building, WE would deliver the papers. Later, after I recovered from my shock of learning about my new journalistic position, she informed me that it is a community service, which it is, sort of. Its main drawback as a community service is that it begins at an ungodly hour each morning.

Thus, a year and a half ago, not long before I became 78 years old, I became a paper boy once again. I guess I’ll be one as long as I am able to wheel my sturdy wagon down the halls of The Seabrook.

* * * *

Since 1951, when The Capital Times depended on me to get the news to citizens in a six-square-block area just west of the East High School in Madison, Wisconsin, the news business has changed enormously. Television came in, much later cable network television came in, the Internet came in, and Facebook et alalso came in.

When cable news and the Internet were launched, newspapers started to lose subscribers. It was because they were an arm of the “cool media,” and thus were old-fashioned. Who knew?

In 1964, the Canadian philosopher and student of media Marshall McLuhan published an essay about the then relatively new medium of television. Soon thereafter he wrote a book which expanded on the essay. He intended to call it The Medium Is the Message.

When the proof for the book came back to him, the title has been miscopied. The typesetter had written The Medium Is the Massage. McLuhan was so delighted with the mistake that it became the new title for his book.

McLuhan’s thesis was that television is what he described as a “hot” medium. That is, it creates a symbiotic relationship between the individual and the screen. This does not happen in the print media, he said — newspapers, magazines, and books. The reason he went with the typo in the title is that he said that television “massages” us as the print media do not.

Most of us would probably agree with that. Surely that is correct for most of us. However, it should also be alarming to us, especially if we are easily massaged by television.

Furthermore, we would have to acknowledge that movies, live theater, speeches, lectures, and similar experiences affect us in ways that are markedly different from the way the printed word affects us.

On the other hand, for some of us there is something about reading words on a printed page that the hot media can never match. I shall call it “The Tactile Transfer.”

The word tactile has to do with touch. Physically to touch something is to engage in a tactile act of communication.

Reading is a tactile activity. We have to touch the pages to keep the newspaper, magazine, or book open.

But there is more to it than just that. Psychologically and mentally, some of us find reading a “hotter” way of gathering and storing information than the supposedly hot media provide us. By touching whatever we are reading, a transfer takes place to our memory and our brain. Reading, to us, is “cooler,” in the late twentieth century sense of that word, than it is for us to watch television or a movie or a play.

Only when I began writing this essay did I finally realize after several decades why I object almost so irrationally to the “technological media.” I would rather get my information from something I can actually touch than from the images or words on a screen, which I cannot touch; I can only touch the screen. The words are less “real” if they are digitalized than if they are imprinted onto paper.

I cannot scientifically explain the Tactile Transfer, but I can verify that for me it has happened for my entire life. For that reason there were many years I subscribed to as many as a dozen or fifteen magazines at a time. For the same reason I have read countless hundreds of books. Let me touch information with my fingers, and it transfers into my head far more readily than if I see it on a screen.

* * * *

Democracy is in trouble because newspapers are going out of business all over the world. For Tactile Transfer thinkers, that is a tragedy. We are convinced that all of us need newspapers and magazines. Everybody needs to touch printed news; it is the only news you can be fairly sure in accurate. Television and other such technological media will not be sufficient for us.

But why should democracy be in trouble if newspapers, magazines, and books become far less frequently employed as media for dispelling information? It is because we then will be forced to rely solely on the “hot media” to learn about the news of the world. And, as we have seen in the last few weeks, the Facebook debacle suggests that the hot media cannot be trusted as much as the “vetted media.”

To “vet” the news means that there are editors and experts and academics who look at news stories before they get publicized to determine whether what is proposed to go press or to go “viral” is accurate. To use a phrase much in the news for the past couple of years, is it fake news or is it real news? Is it truthful, or is it deliberately misleading?

Viral “news” can go out instantaneously from any computer operating anywhere in the world. There is no mechanism for checking its validity. It need not be accurate, and often it is not.

Nevertheless, increasing millions of people, perhaps in order to avoid having to pay for their news, are getting their news on-line. It is increasingly evident that they are not getting the straight scoop, to use a term of newspapers from long ago.

News that puts smudges of ink on your fingers is far more likely to contain vetted, accurate news than the Internet or your cell phone. Very unfortunately, hot media people have not yet widely admitted that. And until that happens, democracy will be in trouble, because elections can be won by means of what must be termed “genuinely fake news.”

All over the country most afternoon newspapers have gone out of business or have merged with the morning newspapers in those communities. Previously, one paper in those cities leaned toward the Republicans and the other toward the Democrats.

A friend emailed an article from The Washington Post that she had read on-line. Because it was from the Post, I considered it well vetted and thus reliable.

The article was entitled A once unimaginable scenario: no more newspapers. It was written by two Canadians, and it referred more to Canadian newspapers than American ones. They noted that two major newspaper publishing companies in Canada have gobbled up most of the newspapers there. They said it is predicted that one of those mega-journalistic enterprises will have fallen into insolvency within five years.

The writers also said that since 1994, American weekday print circulation of newspapers has gone from 60 million subscribers to 35 million subscribers. In that same period, advertising revenue dropped from $65 billion to $19 billion. No wonder newspaper corporations are consolidating or going bankrupt.

Who will uphold verification and balance in the news when newspapers are gone, the two writers wondered. Who will differentiate between vetted news and truly fake news if no professional journalists are involved in that process?

Many decades ago The Capital Times gave up the ghost in Wisconsin’s capital city. Now the Wisconsin State Journal is neither Republican nor Democratic; it is too much a blandly independent newspaper.

* * **

This morning I started my paper route in The Seabrook at the Fraser Center, our nursing wing, as I always do. The people there are up earlier than nearly everyone else in our neck of the woods.

When I walked by the nursing station, I saw a very elderly woman sitting in her wheelchair by the desk. She is 103 years old. I have known her for 39 years.

I asked her what she was doing at the nurses’ desk. In a typical humorous whispered aside, yet also with some degree of seriousness, she told me she was being held hostage there. A nurse overheard her, and said she had become confused, and had been trying to get out of bed. So they were keeping an eye on her until she became herself again, as she always does.

I tried to assure her everything would be all  right, but she seemed skeptical, and not altogether convinced. So I gave her her paper, and went to deliver papers to other patients. When I came back, she was busily scanning the pages of The Island Packet, as she has been doing for the past half-century, seeking the tactile transfer.

Old folks still love to read the paper. Too many people under sixty years of age do not. Part of the reason so many newspapers are going under is because too many of their elderly subscribers are going under the ground, and too few younger citizens are filling the gap.

It is dangerous for anyone to rely solely on the Internet or even on network televised news or cable news networks for their news. It behooves all of us as citizens to read newspapers and news magazines.

Being a paper boy was my first job. Being a paper boy may also be my last one. I’ll keep doing it as long as my elderly lower limbs will carry me.

Maybe McClatchy Newspapers should hire only old paper people to deliver papers. They are the ones who still believe in newspapers, and read them, and they want to read them early. However, no applicants should assume they will able to retire and live happily ever after in a retirement community on the remuneration thereof.

Nevertheless, as my wife correctly reminds me, it is a community service.

  — The Rev. John M. Miller has been the pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island for fifteen years. Prior to that he was the pastor of First Presbyterian Church from 1979 to 1996.

 

Grandpa, am I safe?

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Ten (10) month old Elijah has been listening to the news at his Spanish-speaking day care provider’s.

Grandpa, What’s a tweet?

Well, Elijah, a tweet is something like a chirp. It’s real short.

Marissa’s short but she doesn’t like tweets.

No, not short like “not tall”; a tweet is short like a flash.

IMG_0255Yeah, that’s what Marissa’s worried about — a flash, like the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico and tweets that make her cry.

Is Marissa Puerto Rican, Elijah?

No. She was crying a lot about tweets before Maria hit Puerto Rico. “Maria!” she’d say every time a tweet showed up on CNN about ice coming to the dock to round up kids here in Minnesota.

I think you might have misunderstood, Elijah. When Marissa says “Maria!” it’s like praying. She’s calling for Mary, the mother of Jesus. And ice isn’t frozen water like we still have around the docks here in Minnesota. She’s talking about ICE and DACA, not ice and docks.

So we’re safe around the docks?

Yes, but you need to be careful. The ice is starting to melt around the docks and you could fall in.

I’ll tell Marissa and all the kids at day care. Stay away from the ice around the docks. Stay away from all tweets. Just say “Maria!” every time CNN talks about another tweet.

  • Elijah and Grandpa, Chaska, MN, April 8, 2018.

 

 

 

 

Elijah and his cracker

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Does 10 month old Elijah already enjoy a sense of humor? Can he say “bang”? Does he know what he make a quick recovery with his grape cracker? Click the video of Elijah and his cracker to judge for yourself.

I rest my case!

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, April 7, 2018

MLK: We Have a Choice

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MLK imagesCACBW2T7This 50th Anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, we offer an excerpt from Dr. King’s own words from the pulpit of Riverside Church exactly one year before his death, April 4, 1967. Today is the 51st Anniversary of “Beyond Vietnam.” April 4 is a double anniversary.

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this often misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu, Moslem, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

‘Let us love one another; for love is God and everything that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth no knoweth no God; for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.’

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the God of Hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: ‘Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.’ Unquote.

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’ There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Kayam is right, ‘The moving finger writes, and having written moves on…’ We still have a choice today, non-violent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

The “Beyond Vietnam” speech and the assassination seem like yesterday, perhaps because they’re both happening 51 and 50 years later to the day. His voice and the shot echo down the corridors of time. “Tomorrow is today.”

Click HERE to listen to Dr. King’s first words at Riverside Church: “I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me with no other choice.”

“We still have a choice today….” – Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside Church, NYC, April 4, 1967.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 4, 2018.

 

 

 

28mm portrait of a smiling man from Trivandrum

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Joshi Daniel’s portraits often capture the joy we wish for others and ourselves. This portrait of a smiling man from Trivandrum brings a smile. Joshi and I knew each other years ago at The College of Wooster. So blessed by your wonderful work, Joshi. Thank you for the gift.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 3, 2018

Joshi Daniel Photography

A 28mm wide angle black and white portrait of a bespectacled smiling man from Trivandrum, Kerala, India Parameshwaran | Trivandrum, Kerala, India

Pictured here is Parameshwaran. This was taken for the 28mm Portraits Project. To find out more about this Project, click here.

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Easter and April Fools’ Day

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Mosai023-medium

Creation – Day 5 (detail), mid-12th Century, Palermo, Italy,

Today is Easter Sunday and April Fools’ Day. Easter celebrates the victory of life over the power of death, or, as a Medieval hymn put it, “Now the green blade rises from the buried grain. April Fools Day dates back to the 1500s when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar. Those who forgot that April 1 was no longer the beginning of a new year were called “April Fools”. They were fools because they were living in the past.

The threat and reign of death in the midst of time plunge us into death’s grip long before we die. Though the canonical Gospels’ descriptions of the resurrection vary in their details, all of them make it clear that a cruel state execution has met its match and more. The evidence is an empty death garment and armed guards who “quaked and became like dead men.” Those who issued the orders and followed them are made to look like fools. A new ordering of things had begun.

However one interprets the resurrection — physical or metaphorical — the Easter story is intrinsically theological and political in the most profound senses of both words. It proclaims of the victory of life over the moral power of death exercised by ill-informed institutional power and authority.

A participant in last week’s Lenten Series “Be Still To See More Clearly” asked the question you may be asking. “What’s theology got to do with politics?” I answered “Everything! Theology is intrinsically political and all politics is theological. What did Jesus preach? He pointed beyond himself to the Kingdom of God which is here in part but yet to come in fulness. A kingdom is a society. Societies are people. Jesus’ good news was the society that is not captive to the up-down world. Jesus was the model of non-exceptional ethics and morality. He was not a prisoner of the politics of death. He insisted that there is only ONE house with many rooms and called his disciples to live and die for the house that unites us all as the benefactors of creaturely interdependence.”

This Easter and April Fools’ Day a case of the shingles keeps me away from the hymns of glad rejoicing and publicly expressed hope for the world. This morning’s news from the Washington Post reminds me that the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world is as real as it was two days before Easter. On Easter morning tweets went out repeating the folly of Good Friday.

Trump says ‘no more’ to DACA deal, threatens to cancel NAFTA to force Mexico to secure the border.

President Trump said on Twitter that there would be no deal to legalize the status of millions of “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, stating that the U.S. border with Mexico was “getting more dangerous” and directing congressional Republicans to pass tough new anti-immigration legislation.

Trump also lashed out on Twitter at Mexico and threatened to “stop” the North American Free Trade Agreement in retaliation for Mexican authorities not doing enough in the president’s estimation to secure its border with the United States. – Washington Post, April 1, 2018.

This Easter and April Fools’ Day many husbands will leave their golf clubs home to sing the hymns of love’s triumph over the moral power of death. One can always hope there will be one more. Stranger things have happened before at the 19th Hole.

“Now the green blade rises from the buried grain. Love is come again.”  Christ is risen! Happy Easter. No joke!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Easter and April Fools’ Day, Chaska, MN, Aril 1, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday Kind of Grief

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Good Friday is not a happy day. It’s a day to stand at the abyss of hopelessness and to turn what Otis Moss III and his father Otis Moss, Jr. call “pathetic grief” into “prophetic grief” that lifts up others.

Good Friday is a day for heart-felt reflection. A day to stop talking. A day to listen carefully to the Gospel readings and the Requiems of Gabriel Fauré or Maurice DurufléA day to let the tears well up in us. A day to stop pretending. A day to experience afresh the pathetic grief that links us with all the world until is becomes the prophetic grief that turns the world right-side up.

I wish you a meaningful Good Friday.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Good Friday, March 30, 2018.

Elijah’s Resuscitating Smile

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Elijah’s smile resuscitates the child in Grandpa

“The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into [Grandpa] again, and [Grandpa] revived.” – First Kings 17:22, NRSV.

ElijahByLouisHersent

Elijah returning resuscitated child to his mother,Louis Hersent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Elijah does for me what the biblical Elijah did for the widow of Zarephath. Just when I think I’m an old has-been without a future, he brings the child in me back to life.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 26, 2018.

 

 

 

Truth Be Told

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Steve Shoemaker

Steve Shoemaker

Steve Shoemaker rushed into mind today. I searched for what Steve had to say on Palm Sunday here on Views from the Edge. Little could Steve have known in 2012 that Palm Sunday in 2018 would be topped off by a “60 Minutes” interview with a porn star refuting claims of “fake news” coming from the man in the Oval Office.

The Donkey: a Kid’s Verse

The coats the folks are throwing down

sure make it hard for me to walk

especially carrying this clown

whose feet are almost to the ground.

“Hosannah King!” is all the talk,

but this guy seems to be as poor

as I am–no one could mistake

him for a Royal–he’s just a fake!

They wave palm branches, and they roar,

but my long ears can hear the real

parade across the city square:

the General, the Priests, the score

of war horses–the whole grand deal.

This pitiful parade will fail

to save a soul, and soon the yell

will change from “Hail!” to…”Kill!”

[Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 28, 2012]

Jesus and Barabbas

Release of Barabbas – artwork by Wenceslas Coehergher

The donkey that carried “the clown” stands in deliberate contrast to Caesar’s war horses. All these years later, Jesus of the donkey and the donkey continue to speak truth to power. Today I lay my coat on the road for the humble king of kings.

Thank you, Steve. RIP.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday, March 25, 2018.

 

 

Silence on Palm Sunday

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Centuries after the original Palm Sunday parade, the silence has been broken again.

Some [of the critics] said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’” – Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 19:39-41.

Yesterday, the students spoke. The NRA was silenced.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Palm Sunday, 2018

 

 

March for Our Lives

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Yesterday’s conversation with the rheumatologist took an unexpected turn. “I need some positive energy,” he said. “The kids from Parkland are amazing. I’m going to the march to the State Capitol tomorrow.”

The weather forecast called for heavy snow in Saint Paul. “I don’t care,” he said. He was going. No matter what! He would be there at 9:00 a.m. and stay until the crowd disperses in the afternoon. (Click this link for CNN’s coverage of the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. and around the world.)

“I’m so tired. I want to do something positive,” said my doctor. “The younger generation will lead us. You stay home! It wouldn’t be good for you. I’ll do the marching for both of us.”

Leaving the doctor’s office, I felt better. My thoughts turned to Siyahamba, the marching song that helped end Apartheid in South Africa. This morning I found Siyahamba‘s hopeful sound in this children’s choir in Westminster, Maryland.

He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31 [NRSV]

Thank you, Doctor. Thank you, Isaiah. Thank you, students from Parkland. Thank you, all who will march today in the light of God.

Siyahamba! March for our lives!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 24, 2018.

 

‘Code Red’ in America

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Our democracy is in serious danger. … 

“This is ‘code red‘. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.”Thomas Friedman,”Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting Us Now,” NYT.

Thomas Friedman is known for being careful with his information, fresh in his analysis, beholden to no one. Friedman does not play partisan ‘Chicken Little‘ to gain an audience. Friedman’s NYT column calling this American moment ‘Code Red’ and the following conversation with Larry O’Donnell took place a month before yesterday’s disturbing news that on April 9 John Bolton, a discredited right wing hawk, will replace H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor.

I never thought I’d see this day in America. Just when I think it can’t get worse, it does. Unless Congress stops it, Dr. Strangelove will be the president’s right hand man in the White House Situation Room.

Sunday night ‘60 Minutes‘ is scheduled to air Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stormy Daniels. Stormy claims she’s telling the truth. It will be the irony of ironies in a democratic republic if it should come to pass that a truth-telling pornography star alerts Congress and the larger public to the threat to democracy in the White House?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 23, 2018.

Elijah in the Mirror

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Yesterday Elijah discovered himself in the mirror. He recognized the image as himself. He couldn’t be more delighted.

 

He shows no sense of shame. Or guilt. Or grief. He’s getting a kick out of himself. Meanwhile, Grandma is on the other side of the room recording the moment for posterity. When Elijah reaches a stage when shame, guilt, and grief threaten to sink his spirit, we’ll pull out the video to remind him of his lovable, adorable self.

Between now and that day which will surely come, we enjoy Grandma’s video, and pray the rest of us find our way to similar joy looking back at us from the mirror.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 22, 2018

Elijah looks in the mirror

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Elijah is toying around with a mirror. He sees himself as he is. But we don’t know whether he knows it’s his own reflection or wether he believes the image in the mirror is a magical friend. He can’t tell us. He doesn’t yet talk. Except with Grandpa on Views from the Edge.

Grandpa, look in my mirror! You’ll see me!

Wow, Elijah, that’s so cool that you can see yourself. But if I look in your mirror I won’t see you. I’ll see me.

Uh, uh! It’s MY mirror! I’m the only one who shows up in my mirror. I’ve never seen anyone else show up in my mirror.

I understand. Mirrors are like that. People who look in a mirror see only themselves.

Yeah, I’m adorable! Everybody says I’m cute!

You are, Elijah. You are. And we’re not making it up. We all think you’re adorable. You make people smile.

Yeah, I’m exceptional, Grandpa! Some people don’t make others smile. They make people sad. Or mad!

I know. But you’re not exceptional. Some people who think they’re exceptional start tweeting early in the morning before they look in the mirror. I think they’re not very happy and they make lots of other people unhappy, too.

Elijah and conceal and carry

Elijah and Grandpa talking about the mirror

Yeah, not like you and me, Grandpa!

Well, it’s not quite that simple, Elijah. Grandpa’s had days when he had a hard time looking in the mirror. I’ve cut myself shaving! I didn’t like what I saw after I’d made other people unhappy. Someday you’ll look in the mirror and be sorry for something you’ve done.

Uh uh! It’s MY mirror! I get to see me just the way I am. Yesterday Grandma said I could be president!

 

  • Grandpa Gordon with Elijah, Chaska, MN, March 18, 2018.

 

 

 

A Stormy Night in the Cuckoo’s Nest

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Robert Mueller

Rex Tillerson is out at the State Department. Mike Pompeo is in. So is Stormy Daniels, waiting to tell her story on 60 Minutes. The White House’s email this morning was deafeningly silent about Tillerson’s firing, directing the public’s attention to the president’s visit to the border wall with Mexico today.

As a long time proponent of a foreign policy of respect for the sovereignty of other nations, the pursuit of peaceful solutions to international disputes, and global action on climate change, and a critic of crony capitalism, it is leaves me more than a little disturbed to find myself in the same camp with a former Exxon CEO, the FBI, the CIA, and Generals and Admirals of the U.S. military establishment who refuse to settle down in the White House cuckoo’s nest.

Rex Tillerson is out the day after publicly paying heed to America’s closest ally’s claim that the Russians are responsible for the poisonings in Britain. That the president and Tillerson disagreed on strategic matters is no secret. Nor is the allegation that the Secretary of State called his boss “a ___ moron,” an allegation Tillerson deflected but never denied. Why the president waited so long to fire him has been a head-scratcher explained perhaps by the respect Tillerson commands from Wall Street, multinational corporate leaders, global capitalist free trade proponents, and, yes, even moderate climate change action advocates. All have looked to the former Exxon CEO as one Trump cabinet member who a least understands complexity and respects measured responses and careful planning required before things like a meeting with Kim Jung-un.

170629123255-trump-tweets-assualt-on-brzezinski-1024x576The president often tweets after a stormy night. Perhaps the timing of the Tillerson firing less than a week before Stormy Daniels’ scheduled 60 Minutes interview is an ill-considered attempt to circle the wagons around the cuckoo’s nest before Stormy and the Mueller investigation findings shut off the television in the White House bedroom.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 13, 2018

Women’s Day Tribute to Two Women

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Celebrating International Women’s Day we celebrate two artists whose female identity was kept in the shadows because only men were published.

So far as the general public knew, Mel Bonis was a guy, another Mel like Mel Brooks and Mel Torme. Only later did it become known that Mel was a woman, Mélanie Hélène Bonis (1853-1937), composer of more than 300 compositions, who had shared the piano bench with Claude Debussy at the Paris Conservatoire.

Then there was the poet Lydia H. Sigourney (1791-1865) who first published as L.H. Sigourney before she “came out” as a woman. Lydia did unthinkable. She started a seminary for women.

Her poem “To the Ocean” are the very first words on page one of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness.

Therefore, I bend to thy resounding tides,

And list the echo of they countless waves,

A lone disciple, if perchance, my soul

That poor shell-gatherer, on the shores of time,

May by thy lore instructed, learn of God

  • L. H. Sigourney (1850)

Thanks for dropping by on International Women’s Day.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 8, 2018

 

Elijah Rocks!

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“Breaking Silence” brought requests for more from Elijah, my nine-month old grandson. Today, we’ll let Elijah “speak” for himself from his carseat. He’s enjoying a “conversation” with his Mom. Turn up the sound and enjoy Elijah and Kristin.

 

Elijah is named after the prophet Elijah for whom a seat is left empty at every Seder, the Jewish celebration of Passover. But it’s not just the Jewish community who leaves an empty chair for Elijah.

Thanks for coming by. Elijah rock, Shout! Shout! Keep hope alive!

Grace and Peace,

Grandpa, Elijah, and Mahalia, Chaska, MN, March 8, 2018.

Breaking Silence

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quote-hope-and-fear-cannot-occupy-the-same-space-invite-one-to-stay-maya-angelou-76-81-50Views from the Edge (VFTE) has fallen silent lately. Maybe you have too. The reasons for silence are like the hairs on our heads. Who can count them? The silence on Views from the Edge is both unintentional and intentional.

Unintentional Silence

Finishing a novel requires full concentration to the storyline and every detail. Fiction is like that. It creates the alternative universe that exists only in the writer’s head.

Intentional Silence

The real world has left me speechless. There is nothing that has not been said. Some of it bears repeating, but I feel no motivation to add to the silos into which our public discourse has fallen. Observing a world of madness much stranger than fiction has left my spirit bone-tired.

Why speak now?

I feel a need to stay in touch, to say hello to readers of Views from the Edge. So, “Hi!” You need no reminder of “the edge” from which we view the world. If you’re new here, a quick look through the site will tell you who we are and why we publish.

Today I break the silence to speak again from my experience. My memory is long. A child of World War II, I am aghast at what I see today at the center of American life. I can’t believe my eyes. In Germany in the late 1930s, the Third Reich displaced a democratic republic (the Weimar Republic) by systematically eroding trust in democratic process. Facts became falsehoods. Alternative facts replaced truth. The far right replaced the conservative right, painted the left as evil, and shrunk the middle ground essential to sustaining a democratic republic. Braggadocio and nationalism replaced humility and statesmanship, destroyed the lengthier policy discussions essential to democracy, and frayed the threads of civility that held the German people together. A loud far-right minority who had mastered the craft of theater bullied its way into the seats of power, promising to make Germany great again with boisterous appeals to national exceptionalism and Aryan racial exceptionalism, a fictional creation with no basis in reality. Those who disagreed or whose very existence threatened the national and racial exceptionalism were dismissed, painted as less than human, and sent quietly away the night in freight cars without public attention.

I was raised to belief such a thing could not happen in America. I now wonder whether I was wrong. The parallels seem obvious. But I also see signs of hope that the party that holds power in the White House and both houses of Congress may yet come to its senses. If its own sensibilities fail to lift the nation from the darkness, there are increasing reasons to hope that the Mueller investigation and the stream of White House staff resignations will lead the nation toward our better angels.

Why not speak now?

By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
    but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.
Whoever belittles another lacks sense,
    but an intelligent person remains silent. [Proverbs 11:11-12]

Not wishing to add further to the belittling that comes from my own head as well as from the world around me, and hearing Maya Angelou’s wise counsel that hope and fear cannot occupy the same space, Views from the Edge invites hope to stay, and chooses to remain silent. But then … you never know. My grandchild Elijah may yet have something to say. 🤓

Thanks for dropping by.

Grace and Peace,

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 7, 2018

 

Hardening Our Schools

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Donald Trump and I were baptized and confirmed in the Presbyterian Church. I went on to become a Presbyterian minister. Donald went on to become President of the United States of America. Speaking to the nation’s governors yesterday in the aftermath of the latest school massacre in Parkland, Florida, Mr. Trump called for turning grief into action.

“Most importantly, we want to discuss the public safety in schools and public safety, generally. But school safety. We can’t have this go on,” the President said.

“But we will turn our grief into action,” President Trump continued. “We have to take steps to harden our schools so that they are less vulnerable to attack.”

The Presbyterian churches of our youth taught us the way of Jesus. They told us road to invulerability leads to the loss of the good. Hearts of flesh reacting in fear become stone. They reach for whatever weapons the reptilian brain leads us to believe will make us less vulnerable to attack.

I was raised on an old text that looked forward to hard hearts turning to hearts of flesh. Cold hearts turning warm. Violent hearts turning peaceful. “I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” are the words the writer of Ezekiel places on the lips of God. And then there was the puzzling logic that strength comes out of the mouth of babes and sucklings.

Pondering the tragedy of escalating violence in American society often leaves me speechless. I observe and listen. I hear the students crying, “No More!” and want to join them. After turning over the money-changers’ tables in the Temple, the authorities and those who presume themselves righteous criticize the children who have been cheering for him. When the critics tell him to silence the children, Jesus asks, “have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?” Shouts of goodness and truth are pouring from the mouths of America’s youth.

But I also know how quickly emotion can turn to despair. I hear the NRA and ask how anyone raised in a church, synagogue, or mosque can embrace the money-changers the NRA bankrolls, or the simplistic morality of “good guy”s getting rid of “the bad guys” it uses to make the case for the least regulation of military-style weapons.

And I hear impractical dreamers like me wishing we could wipe the world clean of all firearms and weapons more dangerous than a caveman’s club. But quickly realize none of has any more answer to the question of how to “fix” this than the Genesis writer had for why Cain picked up a rock and slew Abel.

I don’t know much. But I learned as a child in a Presbyterian Church that hardened hearts will not conquer hate; hearts that harden etch evil in stone. All these years later, I can still hear 90 year-old Mrs. Thomas teaching our first grade Sunday School class at Marple Presbyterian Church. I find myself wondering whether there was a Mrs. Thomas for Donald at First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica in New York City.

“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.” — Jesus of Nazareth, Gospel According to Matthew 34:33-35.

Taking steps “to harden our schools so that they are less vulnerable to attack” moves us farther down the road to the heartless world none of us wants. Where’s Mrs. Thomas was we need her?

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 27, 2018.

 

Grandpa, Come quick!

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What’s happening, Elijah? You just turned nine months last week. How cool is that?

Elijah 9

Elijah at nine months.

Yeah! That was last week. I’m home in my crib. There’s no daycare today. I’m scared!

There’s no reason to be afraid, Elijah. Your Mom’s going to work but Grandma’s coming to take care of you today. No need to worry.

Uh-huh!  We’re being surveilled, Grandpa! They’re watching us!

Oh my! I’m so sorry you’re afraid, Elijah. But listen to Grandpa. Trust me. No one’s surveilling you. You’re only nine months old. Has Mom been watching “Homeland“?

They are too, Grandpa. We don’t watch “Homeland“. We don’t get Showtime.

Okay. Good. So you don’t watch Carrie Mathieson and Saul Berenson and all that CIA stuff.

Right. Mom likes to read a lot. We don’t watch much TV.

So what makes you think you’re under surveillance?

I don’t just think it, Grandpa. I KNOW it. I’m not making it up. I have hard evidence.

What’s the evidence? How do you know someone’s watching your every move?

IMG_9901-2There’s a camera next to my crib, Grandpa! Right here. I’m looking into it right now. I can’t even sleep in privacy! You gotta get us outta here! You and Grandma go to U-Haul and move all the stuff out and tell Mom not to come home. We’ll feel safer at your house.

It IS a strange world, Elijah, and you’re right. That camera is a surveillance device. But it’s not what you think. It’s not the FBI or the CIA or ICE. Your Mom put it there to keep you safe when she’s in another room.

I knew it. I have no privacy! Nick Harkaway speaks for me:

“Yes, you are under surveillance.

Yes, it is odious.

Yes, it should bother you.

And yes, it’s hard to know how to avoid it.”

Okay. I get it. I understand why the monitor bothers you. But some things can’t be avoided at your age. Some things really are for the sake of your safety. No one’s spying on you. Mom just wants to watch you so nothing bad happens to you.

You’d better check out your computer, Grandpa! Edward Snowden said the NSA may be watching you right now while you’re talking on the internet. Shut it down, Grandpa! Be safe! And remember. I’ll always be here for you in your old age, if they don’t get me first.

Thank you, Elijah! So happy we can chat like this. Happy Birthday.

— Grandpa Gordon and Elijah, Chaska, MN, Feb. 26, 2018.

 

 

 

 

A Presidents’ Day Reflection

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Other writing has pushed Views from the Edge to the back burner lately, and when I do start a post here, it feels like yada-yada-yada. John Buchanan’s Hold to the Good piece on Presidents’ Day  is more than yada-yada-yada. It moves the discussion to higher ground.

via Presidents’ Day

Elijah’s ninth birthday wish

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Elijah in high chair

Elijah in his high chair

Grandpa, my ninth birthday’s coming up next week! Are we going to have a party and stuff?

Well, Elijah, we only celebrate birthdays annually. That means once a year. You’re going to be nine months old, not nine years old.  The day you turn one year old, we’ll do something special for your birthday. I promise.

That’s not right! I have to wait for my presents?

Not necessarily. Grandma and I love to give presents. Do you have something special in mind?

Yeah! I’ve been thinking a lot about it. So can I have it now?

Sure, what have you been dreaming about?

Safety.

Okay. What about it.

Can I have a bomb like Kim Jun un and the President?

Oh for heaven’s sake, Elijah, where’d you get the idea you could have a bomb?

The Second Amendment, Grandpa. The right to bear arms!

Remember our discussion yesterday about the origins of the Second Amendment? 

The Supreme Court doesn’t agree with you. The Supreme Court says I have the “right to bear arms”. “Arms” are weapons, Grandpa, so why are we just talking about guns? Arms are what armies and state militias have. I’m stickin’ up for my rights! This is America, Grandpa! We get to protect ourselves. I need a bomb to protect Mom and the family!

  • Elijah and Grandpa, Chaska, MN, February 16, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandpa, Do we conceal and carry?

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Grandpa, do we conceal and carry?

Well, sometimes Grandma and I carry your bottle when Mom’s away, but we have no need to conceal it. Why?

I’m not talking about bottles, Grandpa. I’m talking about guns. Do we conceal and carry guns?

n_msnbc_brk_douglasteacher_180214_1920x1080.nbcnews-ux-1080-600We don’t, Elijah. We don’t carry guns and, if we did, we wouldn’t conceal them. We like to be open. People who conceal things have something to hide.

That’s not what people in Congress are saying! They think everyone should conceal and carry. Grandpa, do I have to go to school?

Yes. When you’re older you’ll go to school. You have to. Every child in America has to go to school.

I don’t want to!

Sure you do. It’s just like daycare but you’ll be older.

School’s aren’t not like daycare, Grandpa. I saw it on the news. All those kids in Florida got killed. Kids shouldn’t have to go to school. They’re not safe. That’s why the NRA wants conceal and carry to protect us from the bad people.

Okay, now I’m getting your drift. This is really sad. 

Yeah! If I have to go to school, I want to conceal and carry!

Hmmm. I see. You think your school will be safer if everyone conceals and carries so you can get the bad guys.

Right. Exactly. I’m not a Democrat any more. I’m a Republican!

I see. That’s your right under the Constitution.

Yeah! I’m going to exercise my Second Amendment rights!

Well, let’s stop and think about this before we decide to carry anything but your bottle. The Second Amendment isn’t the only right in the Bill of Rights. If we keep going the way we’re going, the Second Amendment will be the only part of the Constitution left. America will become a mass firing range.

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Grandpa, that’s awful! Can I please have my bottle before I open my lemonade stand?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, February 15, 2018.

 

If you see a turtle on a fence post…

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It’s not every day a stranger gives one a lift. When they do, we owe them our gratitude. Last September Peter Wallace, host of Day1, invited me to Atlanta. In December we recorded Day1’s radio program for the the second week of February for first Sunday of Lent.

My thanks to Peter and Day1 for the privilege and my thanks to any of you who choose to  take a look or open an ear. Here’s how to access it.

  1. Click THIS LINK to open the Day1 website.
  2. On the top right hand of the page, click on the link “Launch Day1 Playlist”.
  3. A window will open showing the last three episodes of Day1.
  4. Click on “Gordon Stewart: He was With the Wild Beasts” and you can stream the program on your computer.

The 40 minute podcast is in three parts: 1) an interview with Peter Wallace, 2) the sermon for the First Sunday of Lent (“He as with the wild beasts”), and a follow-up dialogue with Peter.

Readers of Views from the Edge may remember the earlier post about the complete stranger who helped me navigate the Atlanta Metro system on my way to the 10:00 a.m. appointment at the Day1 studio. As the old saying goes, “If you see a turtle up on a fencepost, you can be pretty darn sure it didn’t get up there by itself.”

Grace and Peace,

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, February 15, 2018.

 

 

 

Two Little Boys with Matches

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Happy Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.

Remember when you used to play with matches and your mother told you not to? Remember when you aimed a toy gun at a friend and your father told you not to?

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Maybe not.

Maybe the adults in your home never told you “No”. In that case, you may understand what it might have been like growing up as a child who would lead the United States or North Korea, playing with the bigger matches that can light the fuses of nuclear holocaust on Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.

Saint Valentine’s Day celebrates love; Ash Wednesday observes our mortal nature. Love and death are side by side on February 14, 2018 when wine and chocolates coalesce with dust and ashes.

Is it too much to hope today that two adult boys with matches will be parented by nations that impose the discipline they lacked as little boys? Is it too much to pray they put away the “sticks and stones” they throw across the Pacific Ocean, burn their match sticks into ashes before they burn the house down, and send each other a Happy Valentine’s Day card and some chocolates?

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Ash Wednesday ashes and Saint Valentine’s Day chocolates

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Ash Wednesday and Saint Valentine’s Day, Chaska, MN, Feb. 14, 2018.

 

 

 

Addition by Subtraction: Leveling the Playing Field

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Today levels the playing field. Our differences make no difference today.  Whether you are religious, agnostic or atheist is beside the point today. All the quarrels and distinctions are beside the point.

“One is still what one is going to cease to be,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre in Nausea, “and already what one is going to become. One lives one’s death. One dies one’s life.”

Today is Ash Wednesday, the leveler. The eraser. The reminder that we are mortal. That I am living my death as you are living yours and dying my life while you are dying yours.

This year more close friends and classmates are closer to dust and ashes. As I ponder the meaning of it all, my appreciation of the religion into which I was born increases. “I have always said that often the religion you were born with becomes more important to you as you see the universality of truth.” — Ram Dass. Born into and raised in the Christian faith has led me to the universality of truth.  Today the church’s practice reduces the size of my ego. Ash Wednesday levels me to a universal truth: the baseline of zero.

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Ash Wednesday ashes

The imposition of ashes — “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” — is the reminder of the universal truth of our shared mortality.  Wisdom embraces the math of addition by subtraction: the erasure of every source of hubris and division. Today, I will offer my forehead for the imposition of ashes and pray that in the citadels of power someone else will experience the same, for the sake of life itself.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 14, 2018.