28 February 2008

Quotifex Maximus

There is a great danger today of our churches becoming museums and suffering the fate of museums: if they are not locked, they are looted. They are no longer alive. The measure of life in the Church, the measure of her inner openness, will be seen in that she will be able to keep her doors open, because she is a praying Church. I ask you all therefore from the heart, let us make a new start at this. Let us again recollect that the Church is always alive, that within her evermore the Lord comes to meet us. The Eucharist, and its fellowship, will be all the more complete, the more we prepare ourselves for him in silent prayer before the Eucharistic presence of the Lord, the more we truly receive Communion. Adoration such as that is always more than just talking with God in a general way. But against that could then rightly be voiced the objection that is always to be heard: I can just as well pray in the forest, in the freedom of nature. Certainly, anyone can. But if it were only a matter of that, then the initiative in prayer would lie entirely with us; then God would be a mental hypothesis—whether he answers, whether he can answer or wants to, would remain open. The Eucharist means, God has answered: The Eucharist is God as an answer, as an answering presence. Now the initiative no longer lies with us, in the God-man relationship, but with him, and it now becomes really serious. That is why, in the sphere of eucharistic adoration, prayer attains a new level; now it is two-way, and so now it really is a serious business. Then the whole of the Church, which celebrates the Eucharist, is praying with us. Then we are praying within the sphere of God’s gracious hearing, because we are praying within the sphere of death and resurrection, that is, where the real petition in all our petitions has been heard: the petition for the victory over death; the petition for the love that is stronger than death.
From Ratzinger's God is Near Us

(The shoulder is coming along nicely, thank you very much.)

19 February 2008

Under the Knife

I'll be offline the next week or two as I recover from shoulder surgery. Prayers for a quick and full recovery would be appreciated.

Rumor has it I get a DVD copy of the surgeon's camera feed. Who knows, it just might show up on the blog ...

Until next time!

08 February 2008

The First and Last Time

Yesterday was a big day for me. I had the unique experience of doing something that I have never done before, and will probably never do again.

In a couple of weeks, I will be having shoulder surgery due to some loose ligaments that don't want to keep that arm bone where it belongs. It's a relatively simple arthroscopic procedure that takes about an hour, but the recovery will be a bit more onerous, as the doctor tells my I'll have my right arm strapped to my chest for a few weeks. Needless to say, this adds a new dimension of difficulty to ordinary tasks a right-handed feller performs every single day.

It's hard to predict ahead of time just how I will be affected. Obviously, eating will require some new strategies, as will showering. I'm still not sure how long it will be until I can type or take notes. Driving a car with a manual transmission is possible (I've done it before with only one usable arm) but talking on the phone, drinking coffee, and wolfing bagel sandwiches while at the wheel are probably no longer viable options.

A former physical therapist I know refrained from getting surgery on his shoulder after working with innumerable patients in the process of recovery from this procedure. He said it was the worst and most painful recovery of all the various procedures. Never having gone through it himself, I am guessing he based this judgment on the expressions on his patient's faces and the sounds coming from their mouths while he worked with them. He also gave me a valuable head's-up on some potential difficulties to plan for.

It was on his advice that I found myself in the baby aisle at Dominick's, an utterly foreign realm of the grocery store. I can't think of a single time I've deliberately been there. Being the first of two children born only three years apart, I've never had to make a run to the store to pick up diapers or some formula for a younger sibling. My extended family all live at least a couple hundred miles away, and so for most of my life I have had little to no contact with infants. Being in the baby aisle is simply the occasion for a "whoops" and an about-face, kind of like finding myself in the "feminine needs" and "family planning" aisle at Walgreen's: I get the vague sense of being an intruder in a foreign realm. Yesterday, however, I was on a mission, and I had a right to be there.

Never having actually looked at anything in the baby aisle, its contents were of interest to me in a way they had not been before. As I moved down the aisle, looking for what I needed, it occurred to me that anyone who had no idea what parenting was about and made an educated guess based upon the supplies stocked in the grocery store would probably have an image of babies that roughly corresponded to the following conceptual rendering:

The care of the human infant, for all practical purposes, appears to the non-parent as an endless cycle of putting food in baby, making sure food stays in baby, and disposing of the food once baby is done with it. I'm sure there aren't too many parents out there who would deny this (maybe some lazy or oblivious fathers), though I'm also sure there are plenty who would contend that this is not all there is to this most rewarding vocation.

All the same, I couldn't help but be reminded of Nicholas Rostov's failure to appreciate the beauty and wonder of his own children, considering them little more than "a lump of flesh" until they began to develop beyond infancy (though Tolstoy made sure to note that he was a devoted father to them). It's a small wonder the human race managed to persist through the stages of primitive child care. Babies can be smelly and messy even now, with our disposable diapers and antiseptic wipes; imagine with what joy a new papoose was welcomed into the world when the last one crapped in the wigwam six times a day, and all they had to clean up with was a scrap of moose hide.

Needless to say, I was that uninformed non-parent who was making educated guesses about the care of infants upon the sole grounds of the contents of the baby aisle. And the above conceptual rendering is a pretty accurate illustration of the conclusions I came to.

None of this was a problem, however, because it happened to coincide with my reason for being there. You see, my physical therapist friend advised me that I had better start learning to do things with my left hand, and it would probably be a good idea to learn to do at least one of those things with some baby wipes. "Used food disposal" becomes a little more complicated when you have only one arm. Even though huge portions of the world consider the right-handed option a horrendous barbarism, and seem to manage just fine, I was glad baby care had come so far.

At any rate, while future contingent propositions are neither true nor false, it's a safe assumption that there won't be many reasons for me to be back in the baby aisle anytime soon. Parents, I salute you.

05 February 2008

{Appendix to the Previous Post}

Summer Holiday
When the sun shouts and people abound
One thinks there were the ages of stone and the age of
And the iron age; iron the unstable metal;
Steel made of iron, unstable as his mother; the tow-
ered-up cities
Will be stains of rust on mounds of plaster.
Roots will not pierce the heaps for a time, kind rains
will cure them,
Then nothing will remain of the iron age
And all these people but a thigh-bone or so, a poem
Stuck in the world's thought, splinters of glass
In the rubbish dumps, a concrete dam far off in the
Robinson Jeffers

04 February 2008

On Discerning One's Own Dissolution in the Oxidization of a Carriage Bolt

This was the product of an overexposed shot and some heavy tweaking with Picasa. It is one of my favorites so far, and though it's without much depth, it has a wonderful texture to it that's just off-kilter enough to draw me in and lose me in the slow process of reassimilation of an artifact into the cosmos.

Hope you like it.