more about this soon --- but it's a winner! Damn, I don't miss Facebook. I have made more face-to-face amends for stuff I've typed than any other area of my life. Growing isn't easy. But I'm so totally not giving up my preppy handbag. :)
(There's not really a point to this blog post. Mostly a brain dump, and I hope the Ben Stein piece will reach more eyes. As a writer, there's supposed to be a one-or two sentence takeaway possible afterwards, right? this doesn't meet that criteria, but I'm very sad and wanted to share.)
I've just heard the news about Robin Williams' grappling with the beginnings of Parkinson's. It's a comfort to know he was sober, according to his wife, and it makes sense that physical sobriety is in fact unbearable without a program of recovery. To an addict, the toxic (for us) substances are the solution, not the problem. Strictly speaking, "the problem" begins when the drugs run out or stop working. Also, other people seem to have a problem with our ... antics.
Among the attitudes I encountered while asking friends and family the Weed Question, there was an almost un-nameable strain of, "Stoned losers are always going to be stoned losers, so who cares." This stung ~ as a former stoned loser and an escapee from addiction, I couldn't reconcile my own experience with such extreme dismissal of the human journey. In my mid-teenage years, after writing off notions of family and faith as naive, but before meeting judges and hospitals, I was given the benefit of men like Mr. Eddy --- who somehow intimated that I was made for better stuff than even the best dope around. Notably for those who love him, Mr. Eddy is in his third decade of living with Parkinson's Disease. I think of Robin Williams, with John Belushi hours before his fatal overdose in 1982, and the decades of public joy and productivity which followed -- all created by an addict saved from the trash heap.
As to the Parkinson's Disease, facing certain physical decline is often touted as a reason for "assisted suicide" and abortion. We hear fallacies about being 'productive' as the measure of a life. I think of John Paul the Great and his witness of a holy death. I want to blame the culture of death for its utilitarian treatment of people, but blame belongs other places, too: misapplication of psychoactive drugs, highbrow culture, Hollywood, lowbrow culture, selfie culture, Major Depression, the Sexual Revolution (see utilitarian treatment of people), and predictably, the whispering plunder of the Devil himself. Lower power indeed. Like Bob Dylan says, You Gotta Serve Somebody.
Before despair comes desperation. When desperation is shared, it recedes. By the same selfie culture which pierced his blameless daughter, Robin Williams' privacy was finally so desecrated that his options for spiritual salvage seemed to close in on him.
With a few kids who have a flair for dramatic, we've begun conversations about the ultimate isolation of the performing arts. They can be fulfilling, noble and ordered to the good, sure --- but the risk of becoming a 'thing' to surrounding caretakers, pawing fans, or well-intentioned managers seems ever-present. No matter our affection or connection with an artist, it's not my Christmas morning that will be empty without Robin Williams. He was someone's Daddy.
NB --- I have to link it again --- every word of Ben Stein's take rings true, from where I sit. I wasn't a big fan of Robin Williams' raw comedy because of the hints of sex-tinged stuff that put me off, even as a kid/before I could name or recognize the "blue" as blue. My preferences aside, his talent was so grand and generous, his range so vast, that his loss feels like a hunk of the earth dropped away. I guess it has. Addiction has only three ends, unless arrested ~ jails, institutions and death. May God help me to be less selfish. To reach for Him through sharing my needs with others, and doing my best to meet theirs.
has at some point made the following discoveries (I'm in list-making mode!):
No Time for Politics, Charles Dana Gibson
10 an abandoned egg or diaper, rotting away in her motorcar. 9 Most existential worries are helped by raucous play and a pot of coffee. Laughing with friends is a great clarifier. 8Real men are necessary, mysterious and easy to please. Ditto little boys. 7 This! 6 Speech impediments are (extremely) cute and (mostly) temporary. 5We don't need to recreate the wheel. (or is it re-invent? I am so bad at the idioms.) 4 The Divine will be protected in our midst as it first was in human form ~ by a Mother. 3 Serenity comes at a price, but is always a bargain. 'be joyful because it is humanly possible" -Wendell Berry 2 There remain five steps to laundry: sort, wash, dry, fold, put away.
And stuck on the fourth step, I remain. 1 The seasons of life are fleeting, even when they don't eat their oatmeal.
(copied from his blog here) OK, so the title asks two focal questions plainly enough. Let’s begin with the first, “Is the Church a clubhouse or a lighthouse?”
Many, it would seem, want the Church just to be a friendly place where people can gather. Many of these same people get angry when the Church shines the light of truth on something. They declare that the Church should just be open and inviting. They object when She is challenging and points to the demands of the Gospel.
But the Church has to be more than a clubhouse otherwise She is no different from a bowling league or the Moose Lodge. She is most certainly meant to be a lighthouse, a warning of danger giving light to those in darkness. But in doing so, She is also risking that some who are accustomed to the darkness will complain of the Light of Christ She reflects.
Here then is a focal question: clubhouse or lighthouse? Of course there does not need to be a radical dichotomy here. There are surely social aspects of the Church wherein She builds community. But mission needs to be first and it is our mission to be light that actually builds community since we are focused on one goal, not merely individual interests.
Another and even more provocative image is in the video from Ignitermedia.com, which asks if the Church is a cruise ship or a battleship.
Many, it would seem, surely think of the Church as more of a cruise ship: one that exists for my pleasure and entertainment. “Peel me a grape!” seems to be the attitude that some bring to Church. The video does a good job of pointing out how many think of the Church as a cruise ship by listing the questions many ask of a luxury cruise liner.
Do I like the music they play in the ballroom?
Do I like the captain and his crew?
Is the service good?
Am I well fed?
Are my needs met promptly?
Is the cruise pleasant?
Am I comfortable?
Will I cruise with them again?
It is true that our parishes ought to work very hard to make sure the faithful are effectively served and helped to find God. Good sermons, excellent and obedient liturgy (including good music), a beautiful Church, and dedicated clergy and lay staff are all important. God deserves the very best and so do His people.
However, it also follows that the world does not exist merely to please me. No parish we attend will ever be exactly the way we want it. No priest preaches perfectly every Sunday. The choir does not always sing my favorites.
Some people stay away from Mass calling it “boring,” or saying they aren’t being fed. But in the end, it’s not about you! We go to Mass to worship God because God is worthy, because God deserves our praise, and because He has commanded us to be there. God has something important to say to us whether we want to hear it or not. He directs us to eat his flesh and drink his blood whether we like it or not. We must eat or we will die. Holy Mass is about God and what He is saying and doing.
The video goes on to suggest a better image for the Church—a battleship. I was less impressed with the questions given in the video comparing the Church and a battleship, so I’ve added my some of my own as well.
Is the ship on a clear and noble mission?
Is the ship able to endure storms at sea?
Does the captain submit to a higher authority?
Are the tactics and moves of the enemy well understood by bridge crew?
Does the bridge crew have proper training and experience?
Are the general crew members equipped to succeed?
Is the general crew well trained in the available weaponry?
Does the general crew cooperate with the captain?
Are they taught to be disciplined and vigilant?
Are they rooted in (naval) tradition yet well aware of current circumstances?
Are they at their posts?
Do they take the battle seriously?
Does the ship have adequate first aid and medical help?
Is the crew properly fed?
Some dislike any military imagery in reference to the faith. But pugna spiritalis (spiritual battle) is a simple fact. We are besieged by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are called to engage in the battle and, by God’s grace, to persevere through to victory. Our weapons are the Word of God, the Teachings of the Church, the Sacraments, and prayer. We cannot win on our own; we must work together under the authority of the Church, which is Herself under God’s care and authority. We are rooted in the wisdom of tradition and, guided by the Pope and Bishops, we are to apply that wisdom and our training to these current times. Peter’s Barque has endured many storms yet has never sunk. She is a sure, steady ship on a clear and noble mission.