Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | March 4, 2013

Psalmthing to do here, there and everywhere

So it’s been a while since the ol’ blog and I have seen each other.

“Yo’ blog. How’s it goin’?”
“Mmmm. I sort of ‘member ya… but betcha don’ l’member my password, huh?”
“Nah… I got it. One or two dead animals, old cars or something and we’re ‘IN’.”

Life’s been busy. Darling D’s nursing class had a “can’t call it capping day” service… something referred to now-a-days as a “Commitment to Excellence” where the head of the school carefully followed that title (and quickly) with the distinction: “…excellence… whatever it is YOU take that to be.” So yes, of course we were there… which of course means as well that I was puzzled. See the thing is… I doubt many of these women are slackers as the school tells them “we’re training you to be leaders in your field”… ’cause no one’s going to say, “Nah…. seriously… you’re dead meat day one you’re outta here. But we’ve got your tuition, we’ve produced a highly qualified grad, and hey… that’s your problem.” Only I wonder, what if you ARE a slacker? Like the nurse the other day at the nursing home that won’t answer call buttons? Yeah… kind of like that. I mean, what if YOUR definition of excellence means bonbons, a glass of wine and the phone off the hook? Don’t we want our nurses to meet the patient’s definition, the doctor’s definition, and hospital’s definitions of excellence? We start with someone else’s demands on us, and that pulls us forward, we learn, we “invest” and we digest their standards until we’ve internalized it into our own. Our standards of excellence come later… AFTER we’ve learned to do excellent work meeting someone else’s, and then someone else’s…. and so on until our experience distills into our own sense for what ought to become our normative.

Don’t know ’bout you guys, but when I’m lying on a cot awaiting my own dinging, danging donging dead bit, if I’m up for one last Oreo / Fritos and Dip / Popcorn… whatever… I’d like to think the old step-and-fetch-it button doesn’t turn up the cold police officer in that (now) old Bud Ice commercial where she says, “I even had an ambulance towed…” as they cut to the motto: “Yeah… that’s cold!” But hope only takes you so far, and the question isn’t so much whether I’ll be able to duck, or whether I’ll be able crawl over to the Oreo thrown at my head now lying on the floor, but whether we can modify the three second rule when I get there… or at least have time to ponder the trade-off: “Hmmmm… let’s see… distinct possibility of highly infectious LONE cookie consumed pronto…. versus time running out on chancing one’s remaining lifetime on trying to catch a re-throw… “

Whoever said the hard decisions are over when you get to the nursing home had no idea what they’re talking about. And what’s more likely… hey… what’s the odds of an interruption in the a slacking between (re-run) Friends (episodes)? Long enough to throw a second cookie? Not a chance.

So there you are… and instead of calling for that second cookie, you scoop up the one you find, pick up the old Psalter… “Yeah… I remember this… this David’s blog thing… only now it’s my own prayer life… and that could come in handy ’bout now. Hmmmm. Yep… here it is… bookmarked just like I left it. You could think of it as sort of my own prayer life’s commitment to excellence… whatever I take it to be… or leave it to be, or not be…. and all that.”

Seriously? What other standard is there? Hmmmmm. Fortunately things are better than my jest suggests… perhaps.

But here’s the thing, and as usual, I”m sure I’m late to the party here, but this just kind of came to me a couple of weeks ago and it seems to work for the Psalms. Simple enough, too. I’ve tried reading them like the Prokeimenons… where I take a line and repeat it after every subsequent phrase as a chorus. Sometimes we move on and pick another as things go on in some of the longer ones and the tone changes as you hit a new line that… well “rings”, but mostly the first phrase will do. And yes, it takes longer to go through, but since I’m only doing one set (a third) of a Kathisma a reading… that’s typically only 3 psalms, and doesn’t really add that much time. But if you try the approach, it seems to help pull more of the power and tone of the poetry out and lay it before you… just as the Polyeleos does in Psalms 134/135. And no, it’s not that very high level of memorizing the psalms… but it is engaging the text more closely, and seems constructive. Who knows where it leads if one has the courage and stamina to do it “enough” so that it works its magic. But of course like “cook until done”, I have absolutely no idea what could possibly be enough…. enough “…for what?” Precisely.

So as for me? Unlike the kids in the back seat, the only thing I know is that I know I’m not there yet.


  1. Matins has always been my favorite service, it got more favoriter when we moved to the Russian tradition where the Psalter, Polyeleos and Canons were actually done. I gained a whole new appreciation for the Psalms.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: