Saturday, April 21, 2007

Flags at half mast all over town...

Stushie, over at Presbyterian Bloggers, made this. He's made lots of nice stained glass window-ish pieces, but this one he said we could use if we wanted to for meditations on this week's events. WOW.

The school colors are in the flame (yellow and orange).

On my walk home, this is the passage that came to me, a passage of text that I come back to again and again (thank you Jay McInerney.)

You are a republic of voices tonight. Unfortunately, that republic is Italy. All these voices waving their arms and screaming at one another. There's an ex cathedra riff coming down from the Vatican: Repent. Your body is the temple of the Lord and you have defiled it. It is, after all, Sunday morning, and as long as you have any brain cells left there will be a resonant patriarchal basso echoing down the marble vaults of your churchgoing childhood to remind you that this is the Lord's Day. What you need is another overpriced drink to drown it all out. But a search of pockets yields only a dollar bill and change. You paid twenty to get in here. Panic gains. (Bright Lights, Big City, p. 6, by Jay McInerney.)

I kicked a newspaper box today. I yelled at it. It was this paper (pdf. file) Nowhere above the crease (the part of the paper seen in street boxes) did it even mention what happened in Virginia on Monday. Okay, already I'm a republic of voices, because it did--but the headline was "Public Safety vs. Right to Privacy." Hello? The focus of the article is how the privacy of the information that Cho was mentally ill somehow is the reason he got away with murder. Great reporting. An editorial on red tape in the corner of the front page. If you've been paying attention at all, you know by now there's a Federal law saying that folks that have been labeled "a danger to themselves" can't buy guns. There's a big bruhaha on how Cho bought not one but two guns.

Contrast that with this front page. (pdf. file) The article starts off talking about Cho's mother. Humanize the story. Let us know that we are all just people. Apparently (did you sense the pause) it's one of the articles you won't find online. That's okay, I need to buy the paper today anyways.

I took a walk this morning. It was the first morning walk in a very long time. I couldn't find my disc-man, so I heard the mourning doves. (I do not like mourning doves, but that's another story for another day.) I walked past grass glistening with dew and I couldn't help but think of the most optimistic verse of the most pessimistic prophet:

18 So I say, "My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the LORD."

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.

21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him." (Lamentations 3:18-24)

It reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkin's poem, God's Grandeur:

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;5
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;10
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

I wrote a paper on this poem my sophomore year of college. Sister Maureen is gone by now, I'm sure. But I still remember her comment on my paper, "Why not end it well, the way the poet does?" Because after the poet laments that man smudges and leaves nature bare, the Holy Ghost broods with "warm breast and with ah! bright wings."

Let that sink in for a minute.

The exclamation point is the poet not being able to contain himself, akin to Elizabeth Bishop's "write it!" in One Art.

A few weeks ago, I had dreams several nights in succession that I was with the man I was to marry. A different man in each dream, a different locale. I was not yet married, but its immanence was implied. This week I have dreamt of loss and gain. Last night I dreamed that Boston had come back, that we, along with the cast of Friends, were trying to catch a train to Buffalo. And it depended on me wrapping a gift correctly. I woke to realize it was a dream, she is still estranged.

My father is apt to quote Blaise Pascal: "I apologize that this letter is so long. I did not have the time to make it short." This post is doing that. My mind is a republic of voices and while I do not have a shortage of space, I do have a deadline: I must be at work in an hour and ten minutes. I must be driving for thirty of those minutes. I had a large breakfast, (which I ate part of with Babs at Tazzo!*) so I'm not hungry, but I have to fix food, as I will be the only person in my department and not able to take a meal break.

I am angry. That co-workers this week by Wednesday were citing the news blitz as too much. That the Tribune-Review would think an editorial on the front cover was good news coverage. That when I first sat down to start this post, a neighbor was using some noisy thing, requiring me to close my window.

I am sad. I am confused. I remember as a child, being sent out to the front lawn of our school in Tegucigalpa because there had been a bomb threat. We would sit there, wondering if that bump was a buried bomb. But we were children, children who for the most part were very safe. We had dogs, for watching, and night watchmen who paced our quiet streets while we slept, and we had to go through security to visit our dads at work. But we knew nothing of gunshots, or blood. We had two TV channels, 5 and 7. No Internet, no email. The Miami Herald was a day old at best when it reached us.

Sort of a Latin American Mayberry? Not really. We didn't go to Nicaragua for Thanksgiving the first year we moved there because of the war there. But what do I remember most about El Salvador? That the great towels came from there.

Get to the point, my brain yells. And yet, I cannot. I do not want to think that I live in a world where all the pundits can talk about is gun laws and campus security.

This morning when I walked the stairs (I pray for families when I walk the stairs in Highland Park, the stairs above "Lake" Carnegie) I prayed for the 33 families of the deceased. I prayed for Ted Bundy's mom.

My time is up. It's 12:01 and I have to think about a shower, some lunch, and what to wear.

*more on that later. How I love my little neighborhood café.


weirdbunny said...

For us in Britain people don't carry guns, nor do the police. However there are some special police that get called out with guns is special circumstances, but very rarely. I find it hard to imagine that you can just go to a store and buy a gun.
However knife culture here is also increasing.
My prayers go out to America at this time. God bless.

paula said...

I hope you're feeling better today, SL. I know its all so sad and confusing.

I try to focus on the outpouring of love and care I see rather than the act of violence. Its the only way I can be, I know its very Pollyanna of me but it gives me peace.

Sarah Louise said...


I think you're right on target. Pollyanna-ish isn't a bad way to be, especially in this world.