Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | August 11, 2009

Otherwise Engaged

These days, there’s no doubt I am Otherwise Engaged. There’s blogging, and there’s real life. Blogging to me is less about following every thread, documenting every twit, or whatever some prefer to do, and more of an effort to keep track of what’s happening in the ol’ noggin’ and on occasion, making an effort here to sort out the wheat from the chaff in an incoherent way. I’d struggle for a coherent strategy, but that’s above my pay grade, so we go with what we’ve got.  Perhaps you’ve noticed that in my case, the sorting finds a lot of chaff.

So taking these things as if from the top of the do-list:

First there’s “The  Good” – the Top Rung:

The good news is that Sunday, the one-and-only and I passed the 29-year mark. So that’s 4 times the seven-year itch plus one… and still not scratching. Not even itchy. And if you know me… you know that’s saying something. Adding in the “extra” of the pre-quell years in our “five-year (longest ever) relationship” walking around with the dinosaurs, that means it’s been 34 years of dating only one person…the same person… like it’s supposed to be. Call it keepin’ it simple, stayin’ happy, and stayin’ alive…. but without a BeeGee voice anywhere… and that’s a very, very good thing.

Okay… next there’s The Middle Rung:

Lately I’ve been reading John D. Zizioulas’s “Being as Communion”. It’s tough slogging for the first couple of zillion uses of “ontology” in surprising places and then those “Ousia” folks keep showing up over and over… like they think we leave the homemade chocolate chip cookies out all the time or something… and it’s freebies… but then Zizioulas finds the wind on the starboard quarter, the zephyrs kick in, we lift up on to the stern wave, and start surfing. Things start to make sense, he even kicks in with some handy summaries… and the first thing you know… you’re “gittin’ it”. So now I’m real comfortable dropping ontology in most of my phrases… like, “Can you please pass the bread… it’s like ontologically on your left?” and stuff like that. Makes you real edified and all. You even get to look at squinched up looks on folks faces… like you’re some kind of obscure professor or something and they’re thinking: “What the hey? Do I have to know this… or is this just some b-twinky stuff  I’ll never see on the test?”

Actually, I’d say that Zizioulas’s summaries offer excellent theological notes helpful in dealing with many of the underlying complexities of the Church in a unifying way. And he seems to manage this with ample lucidity. I’m not done with my first-time through… and in truth, this book probably is worth a second or third pondering, but you do get more than you’d expect the first time through, and so I do want to say that for all those who recommended this book: Thank you! Few are the authors who not only know their subject well enough to present it clearly, but know their subject well enough to direct further research through comparative contrast to show the limitations of our current understanding. The work here is pretty doggone irenic, and seems at the same time very Orthodox… which of course comes from a guy most would say is “not very …. meaning me… so take that… with a chocolate chip cookie.

Oh… you heard that? Yeah, the guy actually points out some… er… deficiencies in our… er.. theology…. some places where we could kind of get busy and do some clean up. Hmmm. I knew there was something…. besides the scary icons, vestments, candles, fancy digs, chants, and all that bit…. keeping the potential converts at bay. So here we are… a virtual wish list for the brilliant thinkers out there. Send me the memo when you’ve got it figured out.

Finally – The Tough Stuff:

I’ll be visiting my godfather in a brief layover on a busy trip through the South the end of this week. He’s not doing well.  But I won’t be back in the ‘hood again in October, so for now though it’s a quick check-in, it’ll have to do.  A brief visit to cheer up a three-months-and-counting resident doing time as a patient rather than the chief of surgery he’s so used to being. The family gathered a while back, but as vacation time got used up, had to re-disperse. For now he’s survived a tough blow… an infection from what was supposed to be a simple injection of pain killers, but now seems the blow is just being alone. We’ll all be here soon enough, so this is a no-brainer…. and even for those of us with no training for this kind of thing.  I mean… I’m sure the training offers much, but… this ain’t about efficiency. Still.. when it comes to these things, you always wished you’d worked with hospice, hospital visiting, pastoral care or something of that sort rather than finding one’s experience limited to just the family thing…. ’cause then somehow you’d know what to do.

But maybe that’s not the point. Knowing what to do might be simply a matter of taking it too much in stride and tossing it off rather than dealing with it as the drama it is. Balance is always tough to maintain, and tone hard to set – even when everyone’s just sitting around a table feeling good, feeling happy, and wondering what to do next. Doing these things in the hospital just seems to up the ante… like “you’re on” so you’ve got to make it right. Hard to say what’s right and what’s wrong, as I’ve seen what clearly looked like each one time or another, only to find it perceived differently by the important folks in the story.

So I guess what little experience I have simply says that we have what we have, and what we’re able to manage… is still accepted no matter what it is.. EVEN when we think it probably wasn’t or shouldn’t. Anyway, we’ll just have to let the blundering begin, trust somehow it’ll go better than not going at all, and manage to offer a little company, share a few moments, empathize, and perhaps even pray. It’s the least one can do. I don’t know whether he’ll be awake, whether he’ll be open to my visit, or what, but I will be there and give it a shot. And I’m guessing the power of silence, presence, and companionship covers a lot of shortcomings on my part in this errand of mercy business.

Besides… somewhere nearby there’s a grilled cheeseburger Saturday evening.


  1. happy anniversary! Many years to you both.

    I had to laugh about the “ontologies” and whatnots. I’m reading a book that I hoped would be a simplification the works of Fr. Sophrony. However, the author still likes to throw those words around to my consternation.

    So sorry about your godfather. I hope you can bring him some comfort and friendship.

  2. Congrats on the 29 in a row, you’ve almost reached marital ontologicality! And yes for your godfather, merely being there is communion. May it be blessed for both of you.

  3. Happy 29th (again). Our 25th is looming large and we’re looking forward to a trip in the beautiful southwest thanks to Mickey Mouse’s travel agency.

    Like DebD, I’ve read Blessed Fr. Sophrony’s writings. Thanks be to God I’ve his spiritual son (my spiritual father) to interpret. :o) I have found the text “St. Silouan the Athonite” (his personal writings in part II) simple in words yet deeply sublime. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

    As for your pending visit to your Godfather, may it be blessed. Silence is the sound of heaven.

  4. Happy anniversary! God willing, we will celebrate our 20th next year.

  5. Thank you all for your comments and visits!

    Deb, thanks for the good wishes – we all are more needy and needing encouragement than we think, so thanks!

    S-P… thanks for taking a break from the turtle to check in. Twenty-nine is kind of raising the ante for 30… but then I read about some guy who’d just had his 65th… so there’s a “goal”.

    Athanasia, it’s funny that BFS’s book (“St. Silhouan the Athonite”) is one where most people in blogdom seem to like the first part best… so I’m glad to hear someone likes the 2nd and can shed some light there. I think that says something about what your spiritual father is able to share and your patience in reading these… perhaps as separate journeys rather than as part of a long slog where it quickly devolves into “Oh yeah… only another 20 pages and I get to knock out another one”.. a mode of reading that seems to accompany the “getting near the end” syndrome with long books. Truth is most of my turned down pages were in the first half, too. Says more about me than the book I’m thinking.

    Of more interest perhaps, I’ve simply wondered whether the 2nd half texts match some of the separately published writings of this saint, or whether they differ. Any idea?

    Fr. James… you realize this means we’re both sharing a 9th year this year… which I’d venture to suggest must be “augmented” in mystery… which like the jazz fans know, is just so waaay cool.

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