106 and counting…

Dad & me, Tuesday, 7-29-86, Charleston Int'l Airport

Note: Today would have been my dad’s 106th birthday. William John Abernathy (August 7, 1911-April 27, 1996) and I had a difficult relationship; one fraught with the daily tension and enduring mutual resentment of the clash between his irresistible force of an alway-authoritarian, at times, arbitrary disposition and my ever-immovable object of adolescent rebellion (which continued well into my adulthood). O’er the years and o’er many trails of solemn reflection and trials of sober regret and sincerest repentance for my great part in our brokenness, I’ve come to understand, love, and respect my father. Today, the thought occurring (Why? I’m not entirely sure) to leaf through one of my journals, I found this forgotten (and astonishingly dated) twenty year old entry…

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Thursday, August 7, 1997: On Sunday evening, August 3, Pontheolla and I attended a Healing Eucharist at the Washington National Cathedral. At the time worshipers were invited to come forward, we went and knelt at the altar rail. I asked “to be delivered from my long held bitterness against my departed father so that I can be free and so that he might be free!” I was anointed with oil and received the laying-on-of-hands by the celebrant, Ted Karpf, who prayed a prayer for my healing. I experienced then and continue to experience an ever-deepening sense, spirit of relief and of release. I wept a single, slow-moving tear of thankfulness as I sat with Pontheolla, holding hands, praying my healing would abide.

Ironies, painful and heart-rending, abound…

Ted had preached a homily, speaking eloquently and provocatively of the human condition, which finds self-worth in work and does not (cannot!) hear and respond to God’s gracious word of worth in being…simply being. Ted couldn’t have known that he was speaking so directly to one of my life’s issues, hurts, questions! (I pray my healing will abide.)

Moreover, the service was held in the War Memorial Chapel. Perhaps what I perceive as the irony of setting a service of healing in the place memorializing those who have died honorably in defense of country in times of war, if not intentional, was, at the least, purposeful. Verily, those who have endured the wars of acceptance and rejection in wounded, broken relationships need healing, for they have died a 1000 deaths and perhaps have killed others a 1000 times in those recurring mental scenarios of vengeance. (I pray my healing will abide.)

 

Photograph: Dad and me at the Charleston (SC) International Airport, Tuesday, July 29, 1986 (one of the few pictures of my father and me in which we are more or less smiling)

“and” – a personal reflection on human behavior

Donald Trump’s unremitting Twitter tirades about anything and everything that irks him and anyone and everyone who besmirches him and last week’s release of an 2005 Access Hollywood video of his hot-mike (didn’t he know he was being recorded?) self-revelatory ruminations about his view of women stirs in me a number of thoughts.

One. The difference between the public square and one’s private space. In the former, our social mores and laws (rooted, flowering, and ever-evolving throughout an ongoing human history of life lived in community) demand more of us in terms of civility and that nebulous designation (though, I think, most know it when they see it) of “common decency.” In the latter, we enjoy more freedom and, indeed, oft take greater liberties to say aloud and show outwardly our innermost thoughts and feelings.

Two. The occurrence is frequent enough to be commonplace when the boundary evaporates between the public realm and our private worlds and we say and do in communal space what ought to be cloistered (again, in the light of a shared sense of civility and common decency) within the our most personal spheres of existence.

Three. When that happens, and with Mr. Trump’s aforementioned vulgar tour de force in mind, I find myself responding in two vastly dissimilar ways: shock and sympathy (yes, sympathy). I am shocked at the crudity of his language and, even more, his brutalizing dehumanizing objectification of women. I sympathize, looking at myself through the bright lens of searing self-confession, as I recall moments when I exhibited in word or deed less than virtuous attributes of compassion and care, less than righteous attitudes of love and respect for the God-given dignity others.

Four. At the risk of seeming to trivialize Mr. Trump’s comportment as an object lesson, I am led to a renewed consideration of what constitutes – not mature (for I view the word as wholly subjective, its definition easily given to individual experience and example, observation and opinion), but rather – healthy and helpful (meaning that which benefits, indeed, blesses all) conduct.

Five. One idea among many (and speaking always and only for myself)… Healthy, helpful behavior commends, commands that I, concerning my thoughts and feelings, my wants and needs, develop and maintain knowledge (that they exist) and understanding (how they manifest themselves) and express them in ways that strengthen and sustain my relationships with others, verily, that strengthen and sustain others, both of which only others can confirm.

Six. What for you constitutes healthy, helpful behavior?

Seven. Asking the question of myself, I will continue to think about it. More to come…