Getting through the tight squeeze

Featured

The kidney stone

This is not your usual Views from the Edge commentary. I’ve found myself unable to write anything that might be worth passing on to others. But inspiration arrives from the most unlikely sources, like last Sunday’s painful visit to the Emergency Room. The CT scan revealed the kidney stone that became the inspiration for this quirkier-than-usual Views from the Edge piece. The doctor assured me the stone was small. It would pass with time. The nurse gave me a little bottle to save the stone when it passes.

Who cares if you pass a kidney stone?

Let’s say you’re a writer. Okay, a blogger. You’ve struggled for weeks to write a piece on the daily assault of propaganda coming into our living rooms every weekday afternoon, but it hasn’t come. It just sits there, like a kidney stone that doesn’t pass. You’re sure it will never get out, and that, even if it does, no one will care. Why should they? What you want to say is not unique. A kidney stone’s a kidney stone. You’re also bored.

You don’t believe in horoscopes, but they’re a way to pass the time. You’re a Leo.

It’s like you’re trying to move a couch into a room with a small door. Once inside, everything will work out nicely. But getting through this tight squeeze will take some doing. What needs to be released in order to move forward?

Horoscope by Holiday Mathis, StarTribune, April 17, 2020.

You’re excited! Permission has to write has been granted. What needs to be released is your fear. Squeeze your ego through that small door! Just take it outside. Forget who cares. Just do it! Put it out there! You sit down to write. Returning to the newspaper for the exact quote, you realize you had read the wrong horoscope, the one for a Libra. Your reading disability has tricked you again. You saw the ‘L’ and assumed it was for you. It wasn’t. it was for a Libra.

You go back to the paper to read the right horoscope — the one for you, the Leo.

“There was a time when you didn’t believe you could actually change your circumstances by merely observing them differently. Now you believe it, and you do it on a daily basis. Today brings proof.”

You wonder whether the people who write this stuff know something you don’t. Don’t they know that not even a Leo can change some circumstances by observing them differently?

When you pass a kidney stone, you put it in a little bottle and take it to your doctor who sends it to the lab. You never see your kidney stone again. But there are exceptions. Some folks keep their kidney stones next to the computer keyboard. What’s the use of passing a kidney stone if you can’t be proud of passing it or experience the joy of sharing it virtually?

You’re curious what else is in the Horoscope section. If you’re a Taurus, “you are mysterious, and all the more attractive for your secrets.” You like that. But by the end, you wonder whether you’re really a Pisces.

OriginalPisces illustration -- Symbole du signe astrologique des poissons.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

Just because something goes unspoken doesn’t mean it’s unspeakable . . . .

Who knows? The piece you can’t pass today may pass tomorrow. If it turns out to be unspeakable, put it in the bottle, send it to the lab, or throw it away. If what has gone unspoken seems speakable, ask yourself, “Who else cares if you pass a kidney stone?”

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 17, 2020.

P.S. Last night the stone did pass.

Black Saturday, Blackmail, and Andrew Cuomo

Featured

Black Saturday — a deafening Silence

Black Saturday isn’t part of everyone’s experience; even many Christians don’t know it by that name. They know it as Holy Saturday, the day of dreadful silence that follows Good Friday. Jesus is dead. “It is finished.” It’s dark. There is not yet a resurrection. Jesus’s words of horror hurt our ears. Not the consoling words: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Nor his reply to the penitent hanging to his right, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Nor his care for his mother: “Woman, behold your son.” and to the un-named apostle, “Behold your mother.”

On Black Saturday we remember what we easily forget on other days: Jesus’s wrenching cry of god-forsakenness. Eloi, Eloi! Lema sebachtani? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”; the thrust of the centurion’s spear opening a gash his side. “It is finished.”

Black Saturday and Shouts of Blackmail

Black Saturday feels darker this year by the ascendancy of the scapegoat mechanism at work in the trial and execution of Jesus, i.e. the consolidation of power by creating the scapegoat which must be sacrificed/killed to save the nation. But as the Alleluias will remind us tomorrow, you cannot kill love. You cannot kill goodness. You cannot kill the truth. Today’s White House “Resolute Reads” repeats the scapegoating with this quote from The New York Post:

“These left-leaning outlets don’t even care that their covering for Dems is so blatant. The Times took heat just this month for changing a headline, “Democrats Block Action” on the $2.2 trillion rescue plan, to “Partisan Divide Threatens Deal.” Yet that didn’t stop Thursday’s changeroo.

“No wonder Dems are so willing to resort to blackmail: They can count on their puppets in the press to never report it that way.”

New York Post April 9 editorial quoted in the White House daily update.

Black Saturday and Easter Sunday — Ego cannot defeat Soul

Into this Black Saturday reflection a stranger’s post arrives with a positive note that strikes a chord with me. Perhaps it will with you.

Andrew Cuomo’s Faith for All

Andrew Cuomo today is a phenomenon. He speaks every day about the coronavirus and his press conferences have become must-see tv. Why? Many reasons, but at heart he speaks to spiritual yearning in all people, a yearning that focuses not on religion and/or God, but on the truth and depth of our common humanity.

The Governor of New York State has become the voice of leadership and compassion during the coronavirus pandemic. His daily talks have become a time to hear the facts, face the reality, and listen to a calm voice of reason, hope and challenge. Beyond the arena of New York politics, about which most Americans know nothing, he has been received by the nation as a man to whom we can relate. He helps us transcend political divisiveness and helps us realize that we are all human beings.

He is a Roman Catholic, but one that many in his church would choose to excommunicate. Under his guidance, New York recognizes gay marriage and has the most humane abortion law to be found in America. It is clear from his presence that he is a man of deep faith, but also one whose faith is not determined by institutional religious authority. One might argue that his ability to speak to everyone is a result of decades of honing his political acumen, but that would be a shallow understanding. At least in these press conferences, Cuomo strikes a deep spiritual chord that resonates with most people.

To begin with, he respects everyone, whatever their religion or lack thereof, whether they celebrate Passover, Easter, Christmas, Ramadan or Kwanza, and you cannot help but feel that his respect is genuine. For public safety, however, public gatherings are prohibited. There is no exception for religious services, weddings or funerals. The kind of flagrant violation of stay-at-home policy exhibited by arrogant ministers in other states is strictly forbidden by Cuomo in NY.

Along with his acceptance of respectful others is a self-confidence that enables honest straight talk, incorporating a stature that can empathize with those who are hurting, both emotionally and physically. Essential to this data-driven attitude is a refusal to speculate, whether about the future of the pandemic or indeed about anything that might be called mysterious or mystical. His boldest statement about mystery asserted that although we are socially distanced we are spiritually connected, but he didn’t know how.

The only use of the word “God” is in the context of describing someone who risks their life for others. “God bless them”. God is also intimated in the phrase “keeping them in our thoughts and prayers”. But in both instances, the phrase seems to be more a term of popular culture than an actual assertion of faith. The closest Cuomo gets to a confession of faith is in his assertion that love wins. Love wins out over fear and anger. It also wins out over economic considerations. And to the calls by right wing voices to let the old and infirm die because they contribute nothing to society anyway, Cuomo responds with scorn and utter disbelief. No one is expendable. Loving and caring for one another is the essence of our humanity. Life is not reducible to numbers. This holds true not only for the elderly and infirm, but also for the outcast of society, the poor and the weak, those who labor for naught and strive in vain. If there is any refrain in his speaking, it is Cuomo’s prophetic insistence that no one will be left behind, that love reaches out to all and compels us to create a just society.
This is a moment, he says, for the world, for our country and state, for us as individuals. “Moment” is a word that he uses often, referring to a time in our lives when great change becomes possible. Stripped of diversions and escapes, we are free to explore our inner angels, to learn, to read, to listen in silence to the silence. The great danger, Cuomo believes, is giving in to the fear of the unknown that awaits us vis a vis both the virus as well as our own future. Too easily reason succumbs to fear and is overtaken by irrationality and panic. It is at this point that he says that this not the NY way, by which he means that this is not the human way, the way of strength, smartness, unity, and…love.

This is a message that reverberates across the country and probably around the world. It does not say, hey look at me and my needs. It says we are all in this together. And it does not say: learn how to do yoga, or meditate, or pray, or become a mystic. It simply says, appreciate the moment, accept the pain, do good, look ahead and celebrate the time when you can be together again with friends and loved ones, and, most importantly, share your love with all.

Many Americans, it seems, hear and understand. 

Carl E. Krieg, Ph.D, University of Chicago is a retired United Church of Christ pastor and professor with living in Ridgway, CO; author of The Void and the Vision: The New Matrix (2007, Wipf and Stock) and host of Carl E. Krieg’s Blog: Just Wondering.

Easter Sunday Worship Recommendations

If you’d welcome a live-streamed Easter celebration, click HERE for the 10:30 a.m. CT service of Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis, or HERE for The House of Hope Presbyterian Church in Saint Paul, MN.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Black Saturday, April 11, 7:30 p.m. CST.


Find your Fire

Fire, in this case, is passion. If you want to be a successful blogger, find your fire.

The advice comes from The Art of Blogging. I wish I’d read that before launching Views from the Edge years ago. But, hey, it’s never too late, right?

Thanks to fellow-blogger Marilyn Armstrong for the photo. I’m musing on the lily pad!

So, what, I’m asking myself, is my passion? What’s the fire in my belly? The thing that makes me tick? The thing that makes me come alive? It’s a simple question. A clarifying question. But the answer’s not so simple. Not so clear.

Writing that last incomplete sentence led me to my fire, my life passion: To see more clearly!

Life is strange. Truth is almost always strange, sometimes stranger than fiction (Lord Byron). Searching for what’s real — cutting through the appearances, illusions, shams, and socially acceptable convictions and beliefs — has always been my fire. I am naturally skeptical of things that seem normal and claims that call for my allegiance.

fish pond

garden fish pond

Since the day I plunged to the bottom of Dickie Tinsley’s fish pond after Mrs. Thomas told our Vacation Bible School kindergarten class that Peter could walk on water because he had faith, my fire has been a quest to get to what is real — to see more clearly.

I used to be a preacher man. Now I’m a blogger. According to The Art of Blogging, anyone who wants to be a successful blogger needs to pay as much attention to a post’s ending as to its beginning. I need to end not with a preacher’s declaration but with a philosopher’s query that invites readers to engage and respond from their own experience. So here’s the question that invites your response:

What’s your fire? What’s your passion?

  • Gordon, Chaska, MN, September 30, 2018.

Elijah Learns about Gravity

Video

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.

 

Tribute to Slowness

Toronto_Star_paperboy_Whitby

Earlier we published “Reflections of a Paper Boy” by 78 yr. old John Miller who still delivers newspapers as he did when he became a paper boy way back when.

John’s reflections struck me as evidence that it’s a good thing a human lifespan is short. No one wants to hear another lament about “the way it was when I was a kid.”

Like my old friend, John, I’m getting long in the tooth. I’m not as quick as I used to be. Much of what I once did I can no longer do.  I no longer wear the catcher’s mask, and i couldn’t make the throw back to the pitcher, let alone to second base to catch a base-stealer. My body won’t cooperate. And the mind? Oh yes, the mind. Never mind!

coffin_memorial

William Sloane Coffin memorial photo

But slowing down has its advantages. Civil rights and peace movement leader William Sloan Coffin. Jr. observed toward the end of his life,

“I find I am less intentional and much more attentional.”

Click HERE for information on Bill Coffin, one of the great spiritual and moral leaders of our time.

‘Attentional’ isn’t in the dictionary but it should be. Paying attention means being where you really are — a very specific place like no other — right now –– not future or past. Attentiveness to mortal things like place and time is soul food for the speed-sick mortal. The slowness of delivering newspapers on a bicycle or on foot seems good for the soul.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 20, 2018.

 

John Burroughs’ Review

Today we received notice of an unexpected review by John Burroughs.

Burroughs’ Bookshelf

Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness
Gordon C. Stewart
Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
http://wipfandstock.com
9781532600678, $41.00, HC, 190pp, http://www.amazon.com

Synopsis: In “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness”, author and public theologian “Gordon C. Stewart echoes the call of the Navajo sage and the psalmist who invited their hearers to stop — “If we keep going this way, we’re going to get where we’re going” — and be still — “Be still, and know. . . .”.

Like pictures in a photo album taken from a unique lens, the 48 succinctly presented essays zoom in on singular moments of time where the world is making headlines, drawing attention to the sin of exceptionalism in its national, racial, religious, cultural, and species manifestations.

Informed by Japanese Christian theologian Kosuke Koyama, Elie Wiesel, Wendell Berry, and others, “Be Still!” invites the reader to slow down, be still, and depart from “collective madness” before the Navajo sage is right. Told in the voice familiar to listeners of All Things Considered and Minnesota Public Radio, these poetic essays sometimes feel as familiar as an old family photo album, but the pictures themselves are taken from a thought-provoking angle.

Critique: Thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” is an extraordinary read that is enhanced for scholarship with the inclusion of a six page Bibliography and a twelve page Index. While unreservedly recommended for community, college, and university library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that “Be Still!” is also available in a paperback edition (9781532600654, $21.00) and in a Kindle format ($9.99). – John Burroughs, July, 2017, Reviewer’s Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review.

Some days are good days. Although the John Burroughs who wrote the review is not the famous naturalist of encyclopedic fame, he’s the only John Burroughs who has noticed “Be Still!”, and, for that reason, he goes to the top of this author’s friendly strangers. Every author depends on the kindness of strangers!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 19, 2017.

Tapering off my MacBook Air

The word ‘taper’ is today’s Daily Post prompt, i.e. a topical challenge to writers.

43A1720B-BC80-0060-873FBDFD04548E20Since watching last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” episode on “Brain Hacking” — an essay on cell-phone addiction — I’ve been trying to taper off how often I turn to my MacBook Air. Okay, so it’s not a cell phone, but I’m as addicted to the MacBook Air as cell phone owners are to cell phones. Time away does weird things to the brain, like withdrawal from addiction to drugs or alcohol. Since Sunday night, I’ve been trying to taper off.

apple-laptop-notebook-notesBut I can’t. Writing is what I do. I can’t stop. The MacBook Air is my lifeline, my unfailing connection with my imaginary friend, the addict’s needle, always within arms reach. Besides, like Echo in the myth of Narcissus, the MacBook Air always tells me what I want to hear – my own voice . . . except when the beep beep of an uninvited text interrupts our conversations.

I’ve been trying to taper off on the emails and texts, as well as the writing. But I don’t taper off easily. It’s not in my DNA.

Speaking of DNA, learning last week that some relatives inherited a gene that has left them vulnerable to auto-immune diseases left me wondering about my PMR, an auto-immune thing, and the Prednisone I’ve been taking for three months. No other drug addresses the symptoms of PMR.  But it’s a short-term fix with its a long list of side-effects. There’s no assurance the PMR will be gone when I taper off the Prednisone.

91d40efa6017040fa5159b5e83aa94b7Thursday’s appointment with the rheumatologist will determine whether I taper off again from 10 mg to eight from the original 20. If so, I might take it as a sign to limit the MacBook Air time to eight hours per day, or to make Views from the Edge readers happy by posting no more than eight times a day . . .  until I leave you completely alone with your brain-hacking cell phone when I taper off completely . . . into complete withdrawal.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 13, 2017.

More or Less Connected?

This morning we reply to The Daily Post’s invitation to create a post on the word “connection.”

Because Views from the Edge has been silent the last few days – my only connection has been an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder preoccupation with preparing a book proposal for submission to a publisher – and feeling no urgency to add more punditry dribble to the presidential campaign coverage, my immediate response was the antonym for connection: “separation.”

I’ve been totally connected to the book proposal; almost totally disconnected – separated, walled off – from Kay, Barclay, and the news. I’ve also been less physically present except for short breaks for meals and answering the bell Barclay rings when he needs to go outside to do his duty. I’ve been dutiful indoors with little connection to anything but the book proposal – more connected and more separate all at the same time.

Theologian Paul Tillich translated “sin” as “separation” from the Ground of Being, nature, neighbors, and one’s self. I’ve been living in sin! And, now that I’ve broken the silence in response to the Daily Post’s invitation, I’m going back to sin until the connection with the publisher is finally made – by means of the internet which has managed to produce a new paradox: wider connection and deeper separation than previously imagined.

Temporarily less connected until next Tuesday’s submission…unless Steve connects with a poem,

Gordon

 

A Sense of Decency

Pernicious Predatory Political Practices, published here this afternoon exposing a series of right-wing pernicious, predatory mailings preying on Senior Citizens, takes some of us back to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s tactics of fear and character assassination, and the famous line that stopped him in his tracks in 1944. Imagine the American people asking the same question to every political candidate this Super Tuesday:

“You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” – Joseph Welsh, Special Counsel for the Army

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN 55318

Reader Comment:

“McCarthy, Wisconsin’s Jr. Senator didn’t respond. Trump & Cruz respond F. Y. Of course Rubio, the empty suit distinguished by ambition and absenteeism, was calculating his next slur on his ‘feckless’ President Obama. Had breakfast yesterday with retired Chair of History Department. His view is close to Ezra Klein’s Germany 1933. Scapegoating, authoritarianism, desperate and uneducated voters. Hitler won.” Jim

Pernicious Predatory Political Practices

An 85 year-old friend calls with a bit of panic in his voice. “I think I’ve gotten myself into something in Washington,” he said. He’s getting mailings that look he’s part of a lawsuit.

We meet for coffee to look over the mailings. He shows me the piece that worries him. It’s a law suit. It strikes him as very official. [See the return address in the top envelope below: Congressman Trey Goudy and my friend’s name  v. President Barack Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Homeland Security Secretary Johnson]. It has a case number: 584-9760 US.

Trey Goudy

Trey Goudy (R-SC) is Chair of the Congressional Committee on Benghazi, the one who was criticized by the next-in-line to be Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), because the committee was driven by a partisan political agenda. The letter speaks with urgency and asks for money to prosecute the case.

Next He pulls from his satchel a long tube from The National Campaign to Guarantee Social Security “warning” him of cuts to his Social Security benefits and possible elimination of Social Security. Only near the end of the three page letter does the campaign identify liberals as the enemies of Social Security. The letter solicits a sum of $200 before March 10 when the National Campaign to Guarantee Social Security’s creditors expect them to pay past bills.

National Campaign - SS

Most of the mailings have the same return address:  1600 Diagonal Road, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA, the offices of the Federation of Responsible Citizens.

A search of the Federation of Responsible Citizens and other mail solicitors that target seniors led us to this podcast and article aired by Minnesota Pubic Radio in Dec., 2013.

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2013/01/03/news/mediscare-fundraising-mailers

My friend and I consulted with the MN Attorney General’s Office. We were told to tear up any such mailings. “Just throw them away. You’ll see this slow down or stop after the election.” But what about the millions of seniors who at one time made a small contribution to some such mailing, believing it was in their best interest to do so? Is there a lawsuit out there to stop this pernicious predatory political practice? Someone please say yes.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 26, 2016