Saturday, August 26, 2006

Doubting I'll Win, Place, or Even Show

Dear Horses of the Rickety Fence,

I'm a little frustrated. The bruise has gone, but the situation remains the same. The field is large and you are hard to work with. All I have is a cinderella license in horsing around and perhaps I'm not up to this challenge.

Three horses, a five acre field, no halters, and just me with a pocket of treats and a switch. Really, what do I think I can accomplish?

Cleopatra, as lovely as your name. Why are you so afraid and reclusive. I kneel before you, keeping low and averting my eyes. You occasionally circle, examining, determining whether, not I, but my apple, or carrot, or crunchy nugget is worth you apprehension. Sometimes it is. And I am swept by a wave of achievement--"I touched your muzzle this time!" Or not, I moved too quickly, and you are gone. Lovely Cleopatra, why should you come to me?

Chase, you old fellow. Perhaps too old to fool with. You are just in the way. You are not even endearing with your constant but irritating presence. Yet, maybe you have something left in you to find. Meanwhile my purpose is to set you aside in hopes of reaching the others.

Cyrus, my dear violent one. Someday you may actually hurt me with not just a nip but a real bite, or not just a rush but a strike. Then I shall regret that I ever met you. Meanwhile, you challenge me and I challenge you back. We are in a dance and if I never return to you in your field, it will be because I have fallen into my fear, or you have pushed me there.

Trainer, Novice 2nd Class

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Not a Hail, Heil, or Hello

Dear Blogger,

“Hail Satan”, you said. And lightly. And I do understand now that you were quoting a song that offers no such welcome. But how can a page bear those words? How can your voice sustain them? My ears just can’t stand it. The words tear through already stretched drums and break them in one blast.

Of course, it’s not the fault of the last straw when the back of the camel pops. Not the fault of the last brick when the pile topples. But my ears have heard too much. They’ve heard the roar of televised tumbling skyscrapers, the explosion of missiles (my missiles, my own American made, not imported from Taiwan, missiles) exploding in ancient cities, the crunch of bulldozers, Caterpillars, over homes and single bodies standing, the wail of mothers and fathers, not just one, not just one nation’s, seeking their lost daughters and sons, hoarsely crying, lifting rubble, not in hope but desperation.

My ears hear mad shouts of fault, fault, fault, like the echo of some ghostly court, but it is no game, just one terrorist liability after another, shaking the world at some level not measurable on the moral Richter scale.

And if words mean anything, which I will grant that they may not, but if they do, then this is what the word Satan means, this holocaust of craziness, this pogrom of power wielding it’s weight for ill. Enough. Too much. Even this slight welcome is more than my world can stand.

But of course you did not mean this. It is not what you said, it’s just what I heard.


Monday, August 21, 2006


Dear Angie and Tommy,

The saliva is slowly accumulating in my mouth but I can’t swallow. When I notice my cheeks, they are wet and my headache is not gone, in spite of double doses of Ibuprophen. If I were to go to the Hallmark store and would search for a card, it would not be for the most perfect one, but for the most imperfect, the black and gray and stained and torn one, with no words at all, for there are no words for this. No sympathy can move into this great pit of despairing ache. If there is something that may enter into this grief, it certainly is not words.

Yet, words are our first tools, the ones we so rely upon for almost everything. Words, the definers of humanity, right up there with opposable thumbs in lifting us above the animals, are simply inadequate for this task, which could, I believe, be achieved better by a six week old puppy that could at least crawl warmly into your laps to offer fur for stroking and eyes to look into without having to glance away under the weight of meaning.

So I offer nothing really. What would the right card say? "In this darkest night, there is the light of hope." Or, "May there be comfort in knowing that the memories will live in our hearts forever." Yes, but this is more than can be borne now. Now, the cards should only say, "Would you like a glass of water", or "I fed the dog last night and I’m taking the parakeet to my house for a few days."

This morning I listened to the chorale that sits behind Cantata 140 by Bach. This spoke a little of what my heart is feeling. It said in the notation of melody and harmony, just a little that seemed right. The words are in German so they do not interfere, though I do know that the scriptural text is Matthew 25; not inappropos. Around about the fourth line of this, the harmonies say for just a few bars, what I would like to say.

And maybe tomorrow there will be words. And after that some hope and memories.

With my love and many tears,


Friday, August 18, 2006

Neutral Milk Cake

Dear Conversely,

This is my club ID card.


Techno-Socialist Manifesto

Dear W.

Good news! He is available, and just in time for you to set up the most powerful and important position in the federal government. The Secretary of Technology, Bill Gates, will define the parameters himself. You will not find it needful to explain the position to Bill. He will be able to do that himself. You will not have to apologize for his actions, for we Americans, long ago, learned not to mess with this master of our world.

Besides, Bill has been Secretary of Technology for a long time now, he might as well have the title. Now, I’m not saying that there won’t have to be changes, and Bill will have to get on board, but I think he can be convinced. I believe he has already moved into that stage of life called “generativity.” You will only be feeding the monster for him.

Here is the plan. All hardware and operating system software becomes nationalized. In addition, certain use-critical software should be nationalized too, word processing, image manipulation, email, might as well include blogging. Then Bill oversees this.

We need to get MIT onboard and have them get those $100.00 laptops finished. Here’s the plan. Every boy and girl in the country gets one of these every couple of years. No questions asked. Laptops have to be a given. They are the new #2 pencil.

When I first learned to use a computer, this 20-something girl, Karyn, explained the internet to me as a superhighway for information. That is when I got this idea. Transportation systems are not private. Highways can’t be built hodge-podge by local companies and neighborhood volunteers. They are critical to national life. The feds and states take over. Well, what is more important to our national life today than the information superhighway. Nothing, my friend.

It is time for you to pay attention to an issue that will draw more flak than the war in Iraq. This is it. It is also something that could raise your status in the pantheon of presidents. You want to be remembered for something. You don’t want to be thrown in the waste can of presidents with Calvin Coolidge and (who was that guy?) Benjamin Harrison. This could put you on the presidential map. They might even bring in more granite for a new face in South Dakota. You would join the ranks of the lofty--George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and George W. There could be a new holiday, The Bush/Gates Technology day.

Think about it. You don’t have much more time to pull this off!



P.S. Yes, I am available to act as Undersecretary for Download Management

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

Online Petition Requesting UN to Work for Ceasefire

Dear Ricken Patel of the Ceasefire Campaign,

In accordance with your request, I am posting this link to my blog.

"As the awful civilian death toll rises above 1000 in Lebanon and Israel, people around the world are seeking a place to voice their frustration and concern. Over the last 4 days, 200,000 people from 148 countries have signed the ceasefire petition. At this rate, we could soon be the largest global online petition in history."

Online Ceasefire Petition

With hope (almost),


Scent of a Truth

Dearest Son,

I have been thinking about our last conversation. We, I think, did achieve a level of interaction that is not always attained. I wish we had more time together for such talks without interruption. But even our phones provided interruption for us, now that I think about it. We would say something wholly profound, there would be a pregnant pause, then a tin-man’s voice with news of the disconnection, or worse than that, a period of being unsure and the hopeful but prescient “can you hear me now?”

What is truth and how can we know it? You could study for a degree in philosophy, but I fear that is not how you will find an answer to this question. You will find more good questions and perspectives if you want to do that, but not an answer. For this answer, you do not study; you stalk.

When your grandparents were much younger (I was in third grade), they decided to leave the Lutheran church that they attended. In those days, or should I say, in their lives, leaving this church was like leaving home. They had attended that church since their infancy. Their parents, both sets, were part of that church, brother, friends, aunts, friends of parents. They had sung in the choir, participated in the services, taught Sunday school, led in vacation Bible school. They were respected there, for Pete’s sake. But now, in their soulish stalking, they felt they should leave that church and find a different one.

I don’t remember all the machinations. I do remember the day the trigger was pulled, though even that is vague. A visiting minister came to the pulpit of the church in this conservative old town. He, probably a recent graduate of some forward-looking seminary, was armed with a sermon whose punch line was, “God is a grunt.” I do remember that, not from hearing him say it, but from my parents’ reactions and discussions afterward, for hours, in the foyer of the fellowship hall, not with this visiting wraith, who, I am sure was whisked away for dinner at Taylor’s Restaurant, but with one friend and then another who could not, or could, understand my parents’ sense of the “last straw” in regard to this sermon, and a church that seemed to be slipping away from “sound moorings.”

Little did my parents know, that the young minister was probably not being heretical. I doubt that he was trying to communicate any Nietzchesque thoughts about the non-existence or deadness of God, but was more likely trying to suggest the fallibility of human understanding and our inability to see spiritual truths in any way but obliquely. He may have been trying to point out that language, our greatest human invention, is flawed, and little more than a series of grunts and clicks designed to put outward form, however, inadequate, to our inner lives.

Nonetheless, my parents did leave that church in the heat and ardor of their spiritual pursuit.

When I was in college, studying social work, I had my first experience with a teacher who designed his courses in such a way that everything related to process rather than conclusion. I was adrift. I could not figure this out, quick as I was to excel at learning in a rote and prescribed manner. This was a new thing and I was not ready. “What is the answer?” I wanted to know.

I’m still like that I suppose, and I’m like my mother enough to get angry in the face of those issues that, to me, are the lines in the sand that I will not step over.

But let’s get back to your hunt, for you too, want to know, want to find. I cannot tell you where to find your prey, or how exactly to do it. I will tell you how I began and that you must be ready for this search to be a process, not one with the answers laid out before you. Truth is elusive, not because of the inadequacy of truth, I think, but because of the limitation of the human being and mind. Of course there are truths that are less elusive. 2+2=4 appears to be fairly solid. Falling bodies accelerate at 32 ft per sec/per sec until they reach maximum velocity of about 135 miles per hour for a human body (hopefully equipped with parachute and rip cord to bring that speed down to 12 miles per hour prior to impact.)

But the truths we are talking about. Those that intersect with the spiritual realm are quite vaporous at times. I say vaporous, not non-existent. So you start, where you can start. You go into the woods. And here is how you do that. You set up the presuppositions. You say, “if God exists, then. . .” Later, you say, “if God does not exist, then. . .” As you study the conclusions you match them with your actual observations of the world. Is the world, as you know it more like the world you would expect if there were a God, than if there were not a God?

You know already what I have concluded, generally, as a result of this exercise in my life. But you must pursue these thoughts for yourself, not in a vacuum but as honestly as possible. Not in a vacuum, because you do have many good resources at your disposal. I recommend seeking out the advice of good people. What kind of people are good people? Well, I happen to have a survey available for you to consider if you need to identify their characteristics.

I was listening to an interview with Toni Morrison the other day. On the subject of good and evil she said, “Being good is more complicated an idea than being or doing evil. Evil gets more play, but evil is a sham, screaming like a petulant child.” That is one of the kinds of clues you look for in the course of your search. Look for patterns related to good and truth. Don’t just look to smart people. Smart is a grunt. Look for people who say stupid things but who know how to do good. That is a track. Look for love and lovers and people who can love without reward. That is a fingerprint. Look for that which is not power driven or materialist driven, that is scat, and you just might be onto something; you’re on the trail.

I love you son. Do not tire of this even when it is deeper than you can go and further than you can see.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lightening Bugs from the Porch

Dear Eudora Welty,

I told my children about sex in front of the rabbit pen. The bunnies were doing what bunnies do. The older children sensed the import of it all, but the youngest claims to this day I didn't tell her at all. Telling these top secrets at too young an age can, at times, result only in satisfaction to the heart of parents that the deed is done.

When my daughter told me in her late teens that I had failed as a mother, I immediately launched into an explication of the subject right there at the dinner table. The reaction: "Stop, stop. You are too late now." I received a similar reaction from my married children when I flew a trial balloon with them to test the wording for my next survey question. "What, do you think, is the most important element of sexual practice in the lives of committed partners?" This time the reaction was just, "STOP. STOP." (Oh, the life of the pure researcher is certainly a daunting one.)

I'm bringing this up with you because I'm reading your musings in a book titled, One Writer's Beginnings. I'm reading what, apparently, was originally a lecture entitled, Listening. You say,

"Ever since I was first read to, then started reading to myself, there has never been a line read that I didn't hear. As my eyes followed the sentence, a voice was saying it silently to me. It isn't my mother's voice, or the voice of any person I can identify, certainly not my own. It is human, but inward, and it is inwardly that I listen to it. It is to me the voice of the story or the poem itself. The cadence, whatever it is that asks you to believe, the feeling that resides in the printed work, reaches me through the reader-voice."

You ask whether others hear that voice too. Yes, I do. And sometimes I must read aloud to hear the intonations in unison and test the sound to make sure that I am hearing it right. I hear it even more when I am writing. I think that is why I've started to blog, to get the sound out of my head and onto the screen. I write it down so I'll have it for later, so I can check it and make sure it is true. If it stays inside my head, I can't, as you say, "begin the process of testing it for truth."

When you interrupted your mother as she broached the subject of sex, and instead chose to talk of lightening bugs, do you think you weren't ready to test those words for truth? Perhaps, she would have done better to read the words from a book so the voice telling you those truths would have been one other than your mother's. There are words that mothers just aren't allowed to say because testing a mother's words for truth is almost a sacrilege. It is better to say, "Stop, stop. Look at the lightening bugs."


Betsy DeGeorge

P.S. I certainly hope your read my last letter to Toni Morrison. I haven't finished with you on that subject yet!