Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Joy to the World

No more let sin or sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.

He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

A blessed Christmas to all my Loud Time friends.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Deck the Halls with Faux Endorsements

I wouldn't presume at this point in the presidential campaign to know for certain who I think would be best to lead our country for the next four years. But I've been seeing so much of these people on the news lately that it seems to be high time that I take what little I know of the candidates and make a preliminary endorsement for Barack Obama. {I'm still working on my endorsement for the Republican party.)

As you'll see below, this is about as uninformed an endorsement as one can manage, and really I must confess my reason for endorsing Barack, beyond his general appeal both as a champion of fresh thinking in Washington and as a candidate who recalls for me the idealistic innocence of early 1960s political activism: I have an idea for a theme song for him, and I hope by endorsing his candidacy I can convince him to run with my theme song.

Every candidate since 1992, when Bill Clinton wouldn't shut up about "thinking about tomorrow," has needed a theme song, whether they knew it or not. In some cases they've needed a whole theme mix-tape; one could argue that President Bush's i-Pod has been exposed to greater scrutiny than his department of defense. Hillary Clinton made a big deal out of her choice of theme song earlier this year, and I can't for the life of me remember what it was. That's OK, though, because the i-Pod has changed how we think about music. In the era of shuffle, a candidate needs to keep people guessing about what song best characterizes his or her campaign. It needs to be creative, poignant, memorizable and yet forgettable.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I offer Senator Obama in his quest for the White House: an eminently forgettable yet easily memorizable song for the moment, to keep everyone's thoughts on him even as we prepare our hearts for Christmas. You'll sing this song to the tune of "The Little Drummer Boy." I hope it enhances your holiday experience even as it makes you more politically conscious.

"Come," they told me (Barack Obama)
"Our future president" (Barack Obama)
As tall as the Sears Tower (Barack Obama)
He wants to fight the power (Barack Obama, 'rack Obama, 'rack Obama)
Shall I vote for him (Barack Obama) when he runs?

His professorial tone (Barack Obama)
His sixties retro suits (Barack Obama)
From Oprah feeling love (Barack Obama)
He towers all above (Barack Obama, 'rack Obama, 'rack Obama)
Shall we vote for him (Barack Obama) when he runs?

Sure, he's far too young (Barack Obama)
And dangerously thin (Barack Obama)
A junior senator (Barack Obama)
Campaigned when he was four (Barack Obama, 'rack Obama, 'rack Obama)
Still, I'd vote for him (Barack Obama) when he runs.

His veiled comparisons (Barack Obama)
To Martin Luther King (Barack Obama)
He's more like JFK (Barack Obama)
With fewer sandwiches (Barack Obama, 'rack Obama, 'rack Obama)
Sure, I'll vote for him (Barack Obama) when he runs.

PS: I'm still undecided as far as the Republicans go, but here's where I'm leaning:

Huckabee, Huckabee, Huckabee Ole!
Oh what fun it is to say the president's last name--Hey!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Steady Dismantling of My Private Mythology, Part One

I've been reading a lot by Thomas Merton lately, mostly to inform my writing in Deliver Us from Me-Ville. In the process I've gotten firsthand exposure to the vast expanse between his intellect and mine, his depth of spirit and mine. It's enough to give a guy a complex.

In other news--related only by the cognitive stretch I'm about to make, so pay attention--yesterday a coworker of mine delivered to me, with compliments from my publisher (read here and here for my neuroses concerning just such a meeting), a mockup of Me-Ville so I could see how the over will ultimately look on a book. It's exciting and wildly distracting; I keep picking it up and looking at it, weighing it, scrutinizing it, flipping through it. That's where the trouble starts, because in flipping through it I see that beyond the cover lies nothing--blank pages, substancelessness.

That's my fear, that ultimately what I write will amount to nothing more than the taking up of shelf space and the killing of trees. I console myself in those moments of self-doubt or self-awareness--still figuring out which is closer to the mark--with the thought that through what I've written some people will be exposed to some truly great thinking, some truly deep intuition about where our selves lie in relation to the Truth.

So today I thought I'd give you a little gift by quoting Merton from his New Seeds of Contemplation. Here he is being simutaneously witty and refreshingly jaded, on the one hand, and profound and insightful into the paradoxical human need for encounter with God and right relations with fellow humanity, and the sin that so easily entangles:

The contemplative life certainly does not demand a self-righteous contempt for the habits and diversions of ordinary people. But nevertheless, no man who seeks liberation and light in solitude, no man who seeks spiritual freedom, can afford to yield passively to all the appeals of a society of salesmen, advertisers and consumers. There is no doubt that life cannot be lived on a human level without certain legitimate pleasures. But to say that all the pleasures which offer themselves to us as necessities are now "legitimate" is quite another story. . . .

Just because he can buy one brand of whisky rather than another, this man deludes himself that he is making a choice; but the fact is that he is a devout servant of a tyrannical ritual. He must reverently buy the bottle, take it home, unwrap it, pour it out for his friends, watch TV, "feel good," talk his silly uninhibited head off, get angry, shout, fight and go to bed in disgust with himself and the world. This becomes a kind of religious compulsion without which he cannot convince himself that he is really alive, really "fulfilling his personality." He is not "sinning" but simply makes an ass of himself, deluding himself that he is real when his compulsions have reduced him to a shadow of a genuine person.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Overheard at Lunch

Ah, youth. I heard one eight-year-old (?) kid explaining one of the great mysteries of childhood to another eight-year-old (?) kid today. It's a bittersweet moment, I suppose, when you're suddenly pulled from the naive innocence of early childhood into a more worldly wise, perhaps less enchanted age. There are new enchantments yet to be discovered, of course, but for this one eight-year-old (?), today may have marked the end of his innocence.

"Have you ever heard of an atomic wedgie? They do it to dorks at camp . . ."

Yes, son, I'm afraid they do . . .

Both Inspiration and Cautionary Tale: Excerpts from Middling

What follows is an excerpt from the Winter 2021 edition of Middling, my quarterly newsletter on music, books, work, and getting older. I'...