Hello, Rachel!!!

Well, in the silly manner that one has fascination with movie stars, one of those for me is Rachel Weisz. She was fine in The Mummys, and a librarian too, but I think it was Enemy at the Gates and About a Boy that made say hmmm! The latter is on my list of favorite movies. What inspired this post, though, was some of her comments in an interview about the movie Constantine, which I am probably not going to see unless a roommate brings it home on DVD one day. Regarding evil she says:

ItŐs about the capacity that we as human beings have to do good or to do evil. Good and evil occur on the earth, and we have freewill. We can choose. But there is also a question of predestinationŃGodŐs will. ThereŐs a tension between these two things, and itŐs in a state of flux. ItŐs one of the biggest questions you can ask. For me itŐs a question that is unanswerable. We canŐt say to what degree weŐre in charge. We donŐt know these things. ItŐs a mystery.

I know a five point Calvinist would not be pleased with some of the wording, but, hey, its really quite a knowledgeable statement. Any other Christian would be quite happy with such a framing.
On a question about humanity’s alienation from God and each other, Weisz replies:

The breakdown of the relationship between man and God, and the breakdown of nuclear families É society is moving more and more toward very alienated individuals. Individuals are on computers all day, and [theyŐre] not interacting with other human beings, not being part of a church, not being part of a community. TheyŐre [interacting] less and less. People are alone and alienated. Playing computer gamesŃfor me, thatŐs a very alienating thing to do. Anything where youŐre not in relation to family, friends, community, God É thatŐs alienating.

So yes, I think the movie is holding up a light to something thatŐs happening in the world, even though itŐs a completely supernatural kind of [story]. But it is the world, isnŐt it? ItŐs a world with supernatural edges that take over. I would say [the movieŐs] a comment on that.

Again, pretty good. Also, if you like this type of analysis, there is spades more at Jeffrey Overstreet’s Looking Closer site.

Intros-The Sacred Diary-Adrian Plass-The Door Magazine

This is the second of a newly formed “Intros” vein to the blog. The first was the post about Nick Hornby and How to be Good. Well, this intro is to an even more delightful and insightful friend, at least in my estimation. I was introduced to The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37 3/4 in Pakistan many years ago by British friends. My sister-in-law Kelley was introduced to it independently in Bloomington, Illinois. And her and my brothers and several people to whom I have introduced it all enjoy it thoroughly together through shared quotes, much as one enjoyed The Princess Bride in the late 80’s.
The Sacred Diary is a fictional diary of a very average man who attends a charismatic house church in England. It is about the odd assortment of people who attend the church and his long suffering, winsome wife and wickedly witty son. It is about the foibles of those of us who have one time or another approached the Faith in highly fundamentalistic, unyielding ways. For me, though I have not attended a charismatic church, the book was a breath of fresh air. In fact, in some significant ways it simply allowed me to simply breath period, principally as a result of needing to breath from laughing. It is a poignant book.
It is followed by at least three sequels. The Theatrical Tapes of Leonard Thynn and The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal are also very good, though dim in my memory. The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass: Christian Speaker Aged 44 3/4 is almost as good, in some places better, than the first. There are some instances in this book, however, where, for my tastes, Plass takes the sarcasm a little too far.
Speaking of taking the sarcasm too far, meet The Door magazine. This magazine used to be called the The Wittenburg Door a long time ago. Even after it changed its name, it consisted of satire of the American Evangelical Church primarilly and also of thoughtful interviews and reviews of books. Some time in the 1990’s, I think, its editorial philosophy changed. The satire became more generally focused on religion period, and became sharper. There now seems to be less constructive purpose to it. Moreover, the interviews also reflect a broader religious community. They remain excellent. I bring up The Door because they did an interview with Adrian Plass. It seems like his latest book Ghosts looks quite good too. You can browse The Door archives and see some of their interviews and takes on pop culture. The article on Buffy is pretty interesting.
To bring things around full circle, for British counterpart (not officially) to The Door check out Ship of Fools, to which Adrian Plass sometimes contributes. Finally, there is an Americanized version of the original Sacred Diary, which substitutes football for cricket and some other things. Stay away. I say that, of course, because I am a bit of an Anglophile. You will not understand some of the jokes in the original, I didn’t, but there is still plenty to relish. I guess, if you are not an Anglophile, it is possible you might not enjoy Plass, but I bet you will.

Bike Lust and My MS 150 Journals

OK, I am not crazy about the title of this post, in as much as it describes an unhealthy desire to possess something. Unfortunately, too often pairing the word “lust” with another noun describing an object I want to buy or have is the most accurate description that can be used. I am like so many, who are dabblers in things who think that if only I had this piece of equipment or clothing that would really help with __________ (fill in the blank). At its baldest, it is simply, ugly materialism I am guilty of all too often.
Having said all that, I am really excited with my new, sweet bicycle. And, I think I will be content for quite some time. Moreover, the majority of the funds for this purchase came by way of a gift, and that itself was quite hard to accept and receive with simple thanks. I am eager to give this a whirl and begin to sweat off some of the baggage of bicycle hibernation. For those of you who care about such things, here is its spec sheet, but my bike has some very nice additions.
Also, in keeping with the bicycle theme, here are the reports from my last two completions of the MS-150 charity bicycle ride.


When I find something such as a movie or a song inordinately touching I have to ask myself whether it really is touching or are my emotions out of whack. When I begin to find commercials stirring my emotions, I know it is the latter. The latter is likely what was the impetus for this post. But while niece and nephew sitting today, with a niece and a nephew down, and my adorable, smart, brave sweet niece, Maddie and I and her Grandma watching ŇMonsters Inc.,Ó it occurred to me how touching the ending of that movie is. At the end, when every one is rejoicing because the energy crisis is resolved through laughter, Sully is so sad because of a door shredded, a connection forever lost to Boo (who, coincidentally, reminds me a great deal of Maddie). His Granny Smith meets gumball of a friend, Mike, though, painstakingly reconstructs the door so that he can see her again. Watching the movie at that point, I too, want to see her again, to see if she has grown, to see if she remembers Sully. The filmmakers do it right, though, through subtlety. Sully opens the closet door and we only get to hear BooŐs delighted ŇKitty.Ó
Some doors are so tragically shredded, some doors absolutely need to be, sometimes its had to tell the difference. All too often, I find myself reaching for the glue.

The Contours of Grieving

Hi Neil
I havent heard anything from you since a long time—-there is a lot to share–pl confirm your availability on this adress.
Hi Neil
How are you?I asked you to get me all possible information about URBANA-2006–being held at St Loice–kindly find all information for registeration.
I did not answer either of these emails, and I don’t know why. The sender of the them? My 57 year old cousin from Pakistan, a man full of life and love. A bright spot in our frequent visits to the dusty metropolis of Lahore. His children, and son especially, loud, jovial bundles of energy, now grown into a handsome man and two lovely young women. Ruth is married and Asher will wed this April. And Honey’s marital status I don’t know because I have not spent the emotional energy to keep up, to love more fully.
That is why I think I did not answer those emails. It takes energy to be involved, to connect. Some of that, perhaps more than I care to admit, is laziness and selfishness. Another part, though, is sorrow, a grieving at loss of connection, of the existence of distance, of the distance that reaches back to a shared past.
Today, my father called to tell me that Ansel had died of a heart attack. I don’t know of his current weight, though the man certainly enjoyed his victuals, but he also smoked. And the purpose of this is not an antismoking tirade and many who smoke live to a ripe old age and that is all true, but still…it is worth a thought to cut back on those sticks. My weight is every bit as problematic.
Whatever the reason, though, and I hope there are some illuminations of those counsels of God in eternity, the man who was the spitting image of my father, who was his favorite nephew, who whistled us through the bazaars of Lahore, who was so jovially injured when a peanut seller smacked his hand as took a sample, who flew kites from the postage stamp of his roof in one of the greatest kite cities in the world is now gone from us and with the Lord. And his family will have to sorrow through a ceremony that should have been so joyous. My brother Adrian, today, goes up to be with a former student who lost his two month old daughter. God, I hate death.
You know, this is probably my most honest and raw posting to date. The others have been principally recyclings of older thoughts. I am grieving, but it is a complicated thing with more nuances then I likely know of.
I did not cry when my father told me. I did not, in fact, feel much sorrow at all. It was not until I talked with my brother that I did. And then, it was first for my inability to cry, to feel, to empathize with anything more than just lip service.
The two greatest sorrows of my life have been the death of my mother at sixteen and the loss of a relationship to which I had given my all at a few months shy of turning 32. I only realize now as I type this that there is an odd symmetry to the gap between those ages. The first occurred on August 3rd; the second on August 1st. And, it likely speaks volumes that I can produce those dates without any thought.
That is perhaps appropriate, though, because I am fairly certain that the deep grieving for my second loss has a great deal to do with a lack of healing from the first; that something of what I was looking for in my relationship with my girlfriend is what I am so missing from the loss of my mother.
And my inability to grieve today, my initial ability to grieve only at my own hurts, yes, may be a reflection of my selfishness, but it is also a reflection of just how deep those previous losses go.
Percy Talbot asks in the Spitfire Grill:

Do you suppose if a wound goes real deep
the healling of it can hurt almost as bad as
what caused it?

Well, these are some of my reflections on the contours of my sorrow. I am chastened because of its sometimes selfishness, suprised by its depth, and thankful for the often healing power of tears.
The picture is for sweet Ansel at home with the sweet Lord Jesus. I will fly a kite with you again one day, my brother.