Monday, May 22, 2017

Summer Bucket List

As some of ya'll may know, I've been going through a health challenge.   Been doing all I need to do to overcome it, praying I'm back to normal life soon, as in by this summer which we're about to go into.   As I wrote about before, I'm keeping up my new garden and daily exercise.

God willing here's some things I'd like to do this summer, a Summer Bucket List.

1.  Outing to Blue Hole Springs near Salina, OK, a privately owned Eden-like oasis park built up around a refreshingly cold Spring.   Its a must go for Okies, but a hidden gem.  I've got the low down on the details, but they are on FB.

2.  Trip to Eureka Springs, AR, another surreal spot of heaven, imo, i.e. if you can ignore certain local politics if you know what I mean.  European village-like arts and crafts, bed and breakast getaway nestled in the Ozarkmountains.  Serene, relaxing, otherwordly.

3. Beach picnics.   With Oklahoma's endless lake shores--we've got a lot--there's plenty of little beaches, some very nice out of the way hidden ones, that would make you think you weren't in Oklahoma.   A little hibachi grill to grill tilapia and salted sweet potatoes, a few towels, and some sunscreen.  Nothing like it.

4.  Set up a bird bath.  To compliment my bird feeder I made last summer.  By the time our flowers bloom and garden starts producing, it will be invigorating to see the lawn come to life.

5.  Bbq on the front porch.  Admiring the garden--God willing it is bountiful--while sipping diet Coke with Rum.  Maybe some sparklers too.

6.  Adoration chapel visits. I should already make more, but a renewed health would compel me to give thanks after thanks to the good Lord.

7. Participate in some local trad events.  You can count on them over at St Peter and Paul parish or Most Precious Blood. Hope to visit with old friends again.

8.  Hiking in Arkansas.  Maybe Devils Den day hike.   Their camp restaurant makes the best butterscotch pie.

9.  Picnic at Greenleaf lake. Then visit Batfish submarine museum on the way home.   My present nerves would prevent me squeezing through the submarine, but by then, God willing, I'm comfortable again in situations like that.

10.  More summer blogging.   To refocus daily health challenges back to my old daily past times.   Would be nice to chime in on President Trump and Church events.

Dear Readers, please keep me in your daily prayers I recover my health and can take on some of this Summer Bucket List.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Dog Today

The morning sun was streaming through the blinds.  I was curled up under the comforter, hugging my pillow.  The wife up earlier than me, as she usually is, opened the bedroom door and in skipped Peanut, my canine "man's best friend."  She leaped across the room and jumped on the bed.  One of my doggie commands I've managed to master with her is the command "Curl!" which means to curl up next to me in bed, which she did.  I tucked her under the covers, and she nestled next to me, her head on the pillow, staring up at the ceiling.

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I was in the middle of eating my sunny side up eggs, mackerel fish, and oatmeal breakfast (cue my recent blog post about renewing my lower carb diet: here), when I heard a high pitched yelp from the living room. It wasn't our mild mannered, quiet Japanese Spitz named Snowy.  Of course it was Peanut, saying "Hey, when are we going for a walk?"

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Morning walks have become a habit the last month or two, and that usually involves Peanut, and sometimes Snowy if I'm up to two dogs pulling me like a human dog sled through the neighborhood.  "Bobo, Peanut, Bobo!" I called out.  That's another command for the dogs, but one that doesn't always work, which means to me, and hopefully by now the dogs, "No bark! No bark!"

This morning both Peanut and Snowy enjoyed the walk.  It did help the wife joined in, with Snowy on her leash.  By the way, if you're a regular reader and forgot, Peanut is a Dachshund.

If you know Dachshunds, they have a particular set of behaviors specific to this species.  They love to dig their noses in the dirt, they can use said long nose to unfold any blanket and wrap it around themselves.  And they are hyper.  Peanut is hyper, especially when it comes to any opportunity to go outside.

So it was this evening going out to water the garden.  Yes, still keeping up my renewed hobby I talked about here.   A little, tolerable bark reminded me to take you-know-who outside.  One thing I have to always watch our for about Peanut, when we go outside, is her untethered compulsion to squeeze through the side gate of our front fence and head towards the nearest stray cat or dog (which we get a few of on our street).

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Peanut's been doing this.  

Right now as I write this, its just past 9pm, and I'm sitting in my proverbial Okie Armchair, glancing to my right across the room.  Peanut is curled up under her blue blanket, with her head set on part of the blanket puffed up like a pillow.  She looks tired, a good tired, because today she spent a lot of time outside!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sitting on My Perch: a Personal Reflection

Recently, as I looked out across the landscape of my little life here in Oklahoma, across this state and diocese, across the historical timeline of my own life and the last several decades, across the crisis in the Church that deepens every day even in our own backyard, I actually became very acutely aware of something.  Something I've noticed before, but not given much attention.

That something is that when I think and talk and write about life and society and church, in my mind's eye I am often "sitting on my perch" looking down on it all.

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What do I mean?  Imagine sitting on a branch in a tree looking down on people.  You have a distant, imperial vantage point in your mind to look down on everything and make judgments and prognostications.

For example, imagine this historical timeline:

1900------------1950----Vatican II, etc-------2017

I know every mind is unique and has its own ways of imagining and conceptualizing.  I often literally imagine this timeline in my mind.  And it is like I am perched up above it looking down from a distance, judging and prognosticating.  

We do have to step back and look over things objectively. When monks take their afternoon walk up the hill to look down on their monastic grounds, it affords them a brief retreat to look at their life from a different vantage point, the advantage being a moment of calm recollection.

But folks, I must confess I too often perch up high looking down.  There's wisdom to be gained, but its also dangerous.

We see so little from even the highest spots, with the highest IQs, and with the most information.  We see so little.  But we (I) pretend to see so much.

There's an awesome power and talent in being able to rise above events and geography and look out across it all with logic and vision.  Perhaps traditional Catholics, especially those who read and think a lot, as it seems we often do, have that ability, but its a powerful, potentially harmful gift, if we are not humble in our intellect.  And the older and more aged I get, the more I realize I need to spend more time on the ground.

Am I making sense?  What are your thoughts?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

More Thoughts on Friendship, part 2

I reflected yesterday and today on these posts I've been making about friendship, and was reminded of a major point Aristotle made (who St. Thomas calls "The Philosopher" by the way) about Friendship, in his book on Ethics.

In a nutshell, he said one of the main mistakes people make about friendship is mistaking what kind of friendship it is in the first place.  He delineates three kinds of friendship:  friendship of pleasure,  friendship of utility, and friendship of the good.  The third one is the ideal, which the first two should tend towards.

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He does accept the legitimacy of the first two kinds, but notes one of the fatal mistakes people make is in misconstruing the nature of the relationship.

People need people.  If your car breaks down, you may need a friend to give you a ride. If you're bored, if you need someone to just hang out with to relax, there are plenty of average folk out there that will do just fine.  That other person doesn't need to be very wise or virtuous, as long as the nature of the friendship isn't misunderstood.

I confess that has been one of my mistakes.  My Myers-Brig temperament is INFJ, which is called "Idealist-Counselor."  I'm wired to think in high ideals, with lofty, optimistic expectations.  Pragmatism isn't part of my DNA.  We're all different.  After all, there's something like 16 personality types.

Is it even possible to have more substantial friendships today, of the third kind described by Aristotle?  Not necessarily a sublime communion of holy men, but a meeting of sincere minds and hearts, united along a common path towards similar, virtuous goals, those goals being in tune with Our Lord.  The older I get in this dark age we live in, the more I realize that is a rare gift.  But likewise, I also understand more and more how important it is, so I continue to hope and search for these kinds of friendships.

They can be found.  It might be someone unexpected. Someone who may not even be religious. A coworker, a neighbor, a pen pal you meet in a forum.

But at the same time we need just pals to talk to, to hang out with, as long as there is a mutual respect of each other.  But even that is a special fortune, since "respect for each other" does require at least a basic amount of Christian civility.

Friendship.  It's a lost habit, a forgotten virtue.  But I still believe in it, as I do any other Christian truth.  I'll always seek out good friends, because being a good friend to others is part of what it means to be a good man.

What are your thoughts on friendship?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

More Thoughts on Friendship

Last night I reminisced on what I think was the best friendship I've ever had, a happy memory from childhood, and how true, lasting friendship can be a rare thing, especially in adulthood.  I had a couple readers comment about friendships that have lasted the test of time.

One reader, signed in as "Anonymous," shared how they had a friendship that was loyal and lasting despite some heated conflicts.  Their friend recently passed away, and he and his wife were able to comfort him in his final hour.  My condolences, and may he rest in peace.

Philosophers, theologians, and poets have waxed and waned about the virtue of friendship since time immemorial.  I've read some of their pages over the years. What does it mean to be a friend?  When do you know that someone is an authentic friend?  I've asked these questions many times as an adult, with all the experiences I had with "friendship."  I'd venture most of you have too, if not in such formal, philosophical terms.

I believe we need friends like we need anything.  We need food and water.  We need health care, shelter, and social support.  And we need friends.  That's a Christian truth.  It is essential to our human nature, and when we are without friends, or sincere friendships, it is like being severely malnourished or blind.

But I think most moderns don't believe this.  They think an individual is somehow fine on his own, a world to himself, a separated reality, and that if there is friendship, it is mainly for pleasure or utility.  

The Christian ideal of friendship based on mutual respect and self-giving, based on a shared wisdom and virtue--or at least the pursuit thereof--is treated as something odd if not repugnant.  Expecting friendship to be long-lasting, civilized, and loyal is almost considered a sin against modernity.  That's what I sense from most anyway.

Well, I could have easily subscribed to the pop-cultural mindset about friendship.  It would definitely have been an easier philosophy to follow.  Ironically, truth be told, if I did, all or most of those I've called friends over the years wouldn't last all that long as friends, since they haven't exactly been the most pleasurable or useful people to know.  But there was a reason beyond pleasure or utility I sought out their friendship.

For all the effort you can make in making friends, and nurturing that friendship, whether or not it turns out a success is as much partly outside of your control, as is good health or financial success partly outside of your control.  It is a myth that the best efforts always spell success; or inversely, that failure indicates a lack of effort or character.  

At least from your own perspective, whether or not the other person actually returns the friendship with an equitable respect is 100% not in your control.  That's what makes a good, lasting friendship a blessing, a fortune from God.  It's 50% up to you, but the kicker is it's also 50% up to them, and you have no control over that part of the equation.

I've been blessed with lasting friendships, but I know firsthand how rare they really are.  And as much as I must always seek out food and water, I will always seek out true, Christian friendships.  I have to because I am a human being.  

In the end, despite my best efforts, I may or may not be successful in friendship just as I may or may not be materially successful.  How poor or blessed we are in this life, when it comes to money or relationships, it is mainly up to God.  Not us.

In the end, isn't it true that what matters is becoming saints, that ultimately is why we must be true friends to others?

Monday, May 1, 2017

My Best Friend

It was a warm summer afternoon and I was playing outside, exploring the grass and trees.  I was four years old.  I looked up and coming down our cul-de-sac was a four year old boy on a Big Wheel.  His name was Randy.  He saw me running around the yard, and got off his ride and ran over to play.  The rest is history. 

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For the next 14 years, Randy and I were best friends. Maybe the best friend I've ever had.  We spent endless days, evenings, and weekends playing anything and everything.  You name it.  We were truly best friends.  True friends.  We would have laid down in traffic for each other.  I remember when his parents got a divorce, and I spent extra time with him since I could tell he was having problems with the change. He spent more time at our house, and going with us to Mass.

When neighborhood rivalries sprang up, we stuck by each other's side.  The authenticity of the friendship just was.  I didn't philosophize about it.  The loyalty didn't take long hours of discernment to commit to.

Flash forward to senior year high school.   Randy jumped off the deep end of sex, drugs, and alcohol. Looking back on it, I am sure his bad choices reflected his increasingly difficult home life.  But his departure from innocence divided us.  I was not willing to jump into the deep end with him, and in a year or two,the 14 year friendship--which was probably one of the most authentic and truest friendships I have known--unfortunately faded away forever.

The thing is Randy was not raised in a religious home.  One time coming with us to Mass, when he heard the reading from the Epistle of St. Peter, he asked if one of the altar boys was St. Peter.  When it came to religion or God, he was largely ignorant.

But for those 14 years, that friendship was the most Christian friendship I've ever known.  It wasn't a fair weather friendship, or mere utilitarian friendship.  Since adulthood, I've not been lucky enough to have such a lasting, authentic friendship.  Perhaps such is a rare gift in life.

How about you?  Have you been blessed with true friendship?