Subtitle: a Monday rant

Sub-subtitle: an admission of a personal pet peeve

confess - regret

I don’t know (or if I once did, I don’t recall) who was the first person (even the second, thus close enough to claim being the first) to make that insightful observation of human behavior, saying, in so many words, “As far as I can tell common sense is far from common.”

By common sense, I’m not referring to that Aristotelean category concerning that inherent animal and über-useful capacity to employ varied senses to perceive collectively (or commonly) the nature of the surrounding environment, say, the proximity and speed of approach of a potential predator. Nor am I thinking of that native human (given our desire and need to be in relationship) sensory awareness of others.

Rather, by common sense, I mean that garden-variety-everyday-we-know-it-when-we-see-it-even-if-we-can’t-explain how-or-why shared human rational ability to perceive and understand situations and circumstances and to respond reasonably.

Closely associated with common sense, I think, is common courtesy; that human trait of civility in relations with others, expressive of one’s respect for others’ (and one’s own) individual dignity.

My pet peeve?

(I digress. I understand the peeve-part, from “peevish”; connoting a behavior, habit, or trait that provokes my ill-temper. But why is my peeve my “pet”, which I generally associate with something favorable or valuable? Thus I think my peeve is the pet behavior, habit, or trait of another that riles my viscera. Oh well, back to my point…)

I hate it (and I don’t use the word carelessly, but rather candidly descriptively) when folk don’t respond to my communications.[1] For, when this happens, I usually feel the hurt of disregard.

And when it happens and happens and happens, I also usually think afresh that common sense and courtesy ain’t that common.

However, I also usually recognize that my pejorative judgment of the other person is precisely that, a pejorative judgment of the other person; and, doubtless, with no information from the other person, inherently unfair to the other person.

So, also usually, I don’t spend too much time (some time, yes, but, again, not too much) pondering, wondering why the other person didn’t respond. For truth to tell, as I’m the only one I know thinking and feeling what I’m thinking and feeling, the issue is with me.

And also usually where I end up is recognizing again one of my soul-deep needs for acknowledgement of my person. The roots of this need trace back to my formative years and what I’ve discerned was a lack in my adolescent individual psychosocial development. And, as I believe that the one person I cannot escape is me, this, my need and deficiency is something I’ve been working on for years and, I trust, will continue to work on until I die.

I still hate, well, don’t like it when folk don’t respond. But I also know it’s not really about them. It’s about me.



[1] In a faintly related way, this, for me, is in the same group or class of (or perhaps classless) behaviors as one’s not replying to an RSVP, but then showing up. But, in such an instance, at least the person does appear; her/his arrival and presence being, however late and unexpected, a demonstrable response.


Of life in the still-Christian South (a retired cleric’s occasional reflections)…

“Bless your heart”

Living in the South for the past 2½ years, how often have I heard this phrase? Dwelling in the realm of time and space where much is measured numerically, though I cannot truthfully say “countless times”, truly I can say, “I’ve lost count!”

And hearing it daily, repeatedly in many a (every?) setting, I have learned that this über-utilitarian aphorism has manifold circumstantial uses and contextual meanings; the majority of which fall into two major categories…

As a pitying or insulting negative judgment of a person, whether behind the back or to the face. For example, “She/he/you had such good intentions, but her/his/your performance was sadly underwhelming, bless her/his/your heart.” When employed in this instance, usually the speaker arrives at that closing phrase with lowered tone and soft voice, having the effect of tempering the harshness of the critique and, at times, masking barely the passive-aggression of the criticism.

Blessedly, I have heard or overheard these three words used far more as an expression of earnest kindness. One does a good deed for another and the recipient of that grace says to the giver, “Thank you and bless your heart.” A loved one dies and one, seeking to offer a word of consolation, says, “Bless her/his and your heart.” In each case, the phrase oft is uttered with a breathy sincerity that infuses, inspirits the words, in the first instance, with genuine gratitude and, in the second, with sincerest sympathy. And in each case, the phrase oft is preceded by the sacred word, “God”.

I digress…

A word, as a symbol, points beyond itself to a reality (at times, in the instant moment of its utterance or script, unobservable), which the word, both for the speaker/writer and the listener/reader, brings into the view of the mind’s eye, thus, giving shape to and making sense of the reality. In this act of communication, usually, indeed, I think, always the speaker/writer and the listener/reader, each with her/his own experience and perception, do not, cannot mean the same thing. Hence, the necessity of their engaging in deepening interaction, frequently (always?) entailing the employ of more words to define the one word.

That said, here in the South, I discern a remarkable similitude in people’s use of the word “God” in reference to a reality, indeed, a Being, thus, not something, but rather Someone to whom is ascribed the agency of the power to create and sustain life. Moreover, in Christian circles of faith, I observe that folk speak and write of God in various ways, yet, again, with a notable likeness, as the principal actor on the stage of the universe and the primary protagonist of scripture’s sacred story as revealed through the life and mission of the people Israel, in the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and by the eternally illuminating presence of the Holy Spirit.

In this, I experience an inner, spiritual, nearly ineffable resonance; indeed, a kindred person-to-person blessing of hearts.

a-Lenten-prayer-a-day, day 24, Tuesday, March 28, 2017

my-hands-2-27-17Note: As a personal, spiritual discipline, I write a prayer for each of the forty days of Lent; each petition focusing on a theme, truly, relating to a care or concern weighing on my mind and heart, at times, vexing my soul and spirit…

On words and prayer: O Lord, daily and day-long, I employ audible speech and written text to journey across the landscape that separates me from others; and they, too, with me that we might meet and communicate. So, also, in prayer, I set out to trek the terrain betwixt this earth and Your heaven, betwixt me and You with words spoken and scripted, as are these. (Yea, even when I seek You in the hushéd appeal of my heart, my call, my cry takes shape in human language.) Yet, surely, I need such not to address You Who dwells in the sheerest silence of the immenseness of eternity, You Who are the Silence of Everlasting Mystery. Yea, then, O Lord, in Your Love, teach me to speak in the tongues of angels.[1] Amen.


[1] My reference to 1 Corinthians 13.1a (my emphasis): If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels

freed to be(come)

At an early morning klatch with two friends over vanilla lattes (I had my regular, boring black coffee) we, per custom, talked about current events, our families, health concerns, and job-related issues. coffee

After nearly an hour, our, really their conversation shifted to religion and spirituality. For the next few minutes, I was a privileged listener as they shared vulnerable, introspective words about their journeys. (Some details I knew. Some, not. Nevertheless, I was reminded that knowing something about another is not the same as knowing another.) I was touched, moved at my core. With their permission, I share their testimonies.

“I was born into a church-going family and raised never to question my beliefs, which weren’t really mine. As soon as I could choose, I left church. Later, almost by accident, I stumbled through the door of one in my neighborhood. It felt warm and welcoming. For the first time in my life, I was invited to question what I believed or what I thought I believed. I feel liberated to find myself in ways I’ve never known.”

“My parents were pretty eclectic. They dabbled, sampling a bit of this and that. We moved a lot, too, resettling every few years. I learned tolerance, but I wasn’t sure I believed anything. Here’s where my story’s similar. When I grew up, driven by some vague yearning for connection, I looked for a church. I found one. Teaching the faith is central. Still, questioning is encouraged, even expected. ‘Liberated’ is a good word. I now understand that I believe and what I believe. And I’ve gained a new, deeper sense of myself.”

This morning, thinking of my friends, I reflected on these words: Do not remember the things of old. I, your God, am doing a new thing.

Isaiah prophesied to a captive people in Babylon, who longingly remembered the centuries-old flight to freedom of their forebears from Egypt. Isaiah called the Israelites not to look back to that exodus, but forward to their release from bondage, declaring that this new thing would be liberation and transformation. In that first exodus, the people passed through desert that remained desert. In this new exodus, the people would pass through wasteland remade: “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” river in desert2

Did rivers flow in the desert? Probably not. But that’s not the point. The prophecy wasn’t about wilderness, but people. They were to be transformed. Freed to be and to become who they were created to be: “I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, those whom I formed for myself to declare my praise.”

My friends, liberated from their pasts, felt transformed. Or perhaps they, believing themselves transformed, felt liberated. I don’t think it matters. For a commonality of their experience, one that works in either direction, is community, which, bearing gifts of challenge and acceptance, grants freedom to be and to become.

This I continue to relearn through the communities in which I, paraphrasing a prayer, live and move and have my being. I am challenged by criticism earnestly given and praise honestly bestowed. I am called to be truthful about myself, to live authentically; more honest, present, responsible, response-able, and when I fall short to try again.

As it was for Israel, for my friends, and for me, so I believe for all: People make a person.

This word, though not daring to call it prophetic, is important for our cyber-connected, hyper/über-cluttered warp speed world. Though community and communication derive from the same root, meaning, to share, we have numerous ways to connect without seeing faces, hearing voices, touching or holding hands. We live moment to atomistic moment, in tightly spiraling, largely non-concentric and separate circles; disengaged from others and ourselves, except in those moments of seemingly random collision that pass for human encounter.

As I believe my friends discovered, it is a radically counter-cultural and ever new thing to seek one’s self and life in community, discerning afresh the truth of that paradox: We can be and become fully our individual selves only with and through others.