Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"The Subtle Thief "- Hello!

How soon hath time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wing my three and twentieth year (or first and fortieth)

(John Milton)

Boxing Day 2006

Highlights of the holiday season this year: iDogs for both kids - definitely the hit for Christmas giving in our house; the drive from Albany, New York to North Troy, Vermont on Christmas Eve - all sun, no snow and the Adirondacks never looked more magical; the Charlie Brown Christmas CD.

Woolfoot made it to Church (sans kids, which turned out to be a good decision from a stress management point of view) on Christmas Eve. I was in Voorheesville, the pleasant old village in Albany County where my Dad and his wife live. I went to the Voorheesville United Methodist Church. They are my tribe, as Woody Allen's sister said of the Jews in Deconstructing Harry while scanning the list of names of dead passengers in a plane crash. (Woody's answer - "They're all your tribe"). The Vville church is a a turn-of-the-century number, white and steepled and with the usual dedications on the stained glass windows; beautiful brass chandelier. Friendly and not too showy. The Methodist way.

From my point of view, however, (and this is going to make me sound like an ingrate), the service suffered from that unfortunate tendency to make church friendly and accessible (i.e., hold the solemnity and any difficult St-James-version vocabulary). (See my previous post from about a year ago "Softly and Tenderly" for more can't miss opinions on modern protestant church services and my churchgoing background).

Only one actual Carol was on the menu for Christmas Eve, "Joy to the World" at the very end. I stumbled politely through a number called "Star Child" from the supplemental hymnal- never heard of it? Well, it's not likely to challenge "Joy to the World" anytime soon ("Star Child" includes the verse "street child, beat child", you get the picture). Minutes into the service we were directed to exchange "the peace of Christ" which is code for stop contemplating and go and shake hands and kiss cheeks. People, can't we save this for coffee afterwards?

The minister was a nice-seeming youngish man who made a couple of jokes and generally beamed at everyone. He had a fine loud voice and a trimmed beard. I confess (I give with one hand and take away with the other - I told you this was going to make me sound like an ingrate)to being put off by his wardrobe choice, which included a sport coat and did not include a collar. The ensemble was set off by a medallion of unknown symbolism mid-chest. The whole style-package reminded me of Dr. Zayuss (sp?) the chief intellectual orangutan in the Planet of the Apes. During the sermon, I started drifting through the said hymnal supplement, which I had not seen before. It included the expected additions of hymns in Spanish and generally reflective of the crunchy-granola branch of modern Methodism. The piece of the Sermon that I did catch involved how all of us could be wombs for God - including six-year-old children who don't know what wombs are and 85 year old men. I think I get the drift but this is not exactly one for the ages. John Milton may rest easy in his grave.

Sorry all you nice peace-kissing Methodists. Really, I was glad to have gone despite all this mean-spirited carping. Everyone was nice.

In other news:

Latest deep thinking has me considering the effects of time on us all. I will be 42 in a few weeks and feel like I am coming apart like a cheap suit. Belly expanding, joints aching. I clutch at bannisters when the wheather is changing to rain (my right knee and ankle protesting). I spent a day in November shampooing rugs at the Burlington condo and my forearm and wrist have not recovered from the day's squeezing of the trigger on the carpet cleaner. I looked around at the old people in church realizing - those people are not "other" those people are me - if I live long enough. I am half deaf, slightly incontinent, name it and its starting to give out.

And so, if we are lucky to live to be old, time will beat us down into a creaking, failing disaster of the flesh. Then, of course, eventually the flesh will fail altogether and we will be nothing but an assemblage of molecules. These will fall apart into dust. Just like it says in the Bible. Someday it will all be incinerated when the sun goes red dwarf, then what's left of these bodies of ours will be space dust. Talk about a downer.

But - but - when you run this scenario in reverse, you have to stop and think - from whence did we come? It's all part of the same picture, right? Here is the brighter aspect. From this same dust, these inert molecules, we have been assembled - almost ex nihilo (Water, dust, electricty, DNA a fabulous elegance - life). I remember seeing a documentary or maybe a 60 minutes piece as a kid where they were interviewing some European eminence - perhaps Franco Zefferelli?- and whoever it was was talking about the achievements of the artists of the Italian Renaissance. He said that their art was the product of their knowledge that they were a part of God. When I think in these terms I understand what he meant. What can be done by a human person with the confidence of being a part of the God that made him? See: Italian Renaissance; Bach, etc. All the glories of our species have their roots somehow in this fact.

In the movie, The Hours, I recall a scene where Virginia Woolf is asked by her little niece "where do we go when we die" and Virgina's answer is "from where we came." I have no way of knowing if this exchange ever took place, of course, but I think it is true - if you know what I mean.

Snow today

We had a green Christmas here at the last house, but this morning a light snow has covered the grass. Hurray! The Green Christmas was nice but this seems more like it should be. Boxing Day blessings on your heads and mine.