Thursday, December 24, 2015

A delightfully mundane Christmas Eve

There's been a huge amount of work to do, back at the house we moved out of, where I've finally had time to sort through 12 years of stored stuff left in the basement, including the stock from our 2005 real walk-in store.  And a lot to do at my parents' house that's now ours and getting some serious repairs and renovation. So for a couple months, I have hardly had time or energy for mundane tasks at home, except on odd days.  The Spouse has microwaved an awful lot of Mac'n'Cheese.

This December 24th, I am home, unstressed (because tomorrow's dinner was ordered ready for the oven, and you BET that's wonderful), and puttering around.  I've laundered grubby potholders.   I've seasoned some old cast iron pans.

I know they still don't look great but that was some serious steel-wool scrubbing - and I'm OK with the rough look!

One daughter is here from Up North, and we all braved the shopper crush at Kmart and I got a new vacuum cleaner bags and a nice sweater for 10.99(!). Came home and unclogged the vacuum cleaner of its impacted cat hair.  I cleaned the mat under the dish drainer.

The only Christmas-y thing I've done today was to put my grandmother's near-hundred-year-old star on top of the tree.

But earlier in the week, I did clean and paint an old metal Santa sleigh left behind in the garden shed by the house's previous owner.  Wrapped some small gift boxes for it to hold.  Crocheted little mufflers for the reindeer we got a couple weeks ago at our local nursery/garden center.  See how Martha Stewartish I can be?  OK, notsomuch.  The mufflers are just 2 quick crochet rows with a border, 30 minutes or so.  If I were Stewartizing, I wouldn't get Christmas dinner delivered!

So!  This is just my annual Merry Christmas, joyous holiday post.  Be well, have peace, and may this turn of the year bring good things to any and all who are reading this!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Linear time

Having to live in linear time -- always unable to change the past -- is both the Classic Human Dilemma, and lousy.

I know it's exactly what I need to do.

I know that if I didn't have to live with consequences, I'd never gain any wisdom.

I know it's no harder for me than it is for anybody else. Still, it would be nice for life to come with just a couple of do-over tickets.

Or one.  I'd take one.

But it might not matter even if I could.

Anybody who's ever seen It's a Wonderful Life has encountered the concept of alternate time lines, but what got my brain working on it was this book, which I bought when I was about 17, at the Intimate Bookshop in Charlotte, NC. Southpark Mall, specifically.  It was a slightly life-changing experience.

Or, one of the stories in it was. The title is "Random Quest," by John Wyndham.  It's about alternate universes. Specifically, it's about a man who temporarily trades places with the version of himself who is living out a somewhat different life in a different time-line.

This is going to get confusing, because the story contains these two "Colin Traffords" so I will call ours "Traff One".  He's the only one we meet and know, the one who tells the story.  He lives here in our very own universe, which I'll call Universe One. He works in a physics lab and gets knocked out when the test of a big new reactor goes rather badly.

He wakes up ... somewhere else. In a world both familiar and not. Some places and people are the same.  Others are different.

There's also a Colin Trafford in this alternate Universe. Traff Two, Universe Two.  He was hit by a Universe Two bus at the same moment that Traff One, here in our world, was knocked out during the reactor test.

They have swapped consciousnesses.  Traff One's consciousness -- his memories, his knowledge, his self -- is now occupying Traff Two, whose own "consciousness" now, presumably, occupies Traff One's comatose body back here in our familiar world.

So here's Traff One's "awareness," "consciousness," whatever you want to call it, in Traff Two's universe.  He finds it quite navigable but...odd.  Technology is different, less advanced.  This is the 1950's but he finds radio, but no TV.  AM but no FM.   Cars look funny.  Fashions look funny.

The big thing is that, there in Universe Two, World War II never happened.

So. Because there was no WWII in Universe Two, Traff-Two didn't go to war and therefore did not follow his war work into the field of physics. He became a novelist instead.

He also became a nasty, unpleasant sort of chap.

He also found this really great woman and married her. But he's slowly destroying the marriage.

You can guess where that's going.

Back here in Universe One, Traff-One's comatose head regains consciousness after 3 weeks. That means Traff One is zapped back here into his own world and his own time-line.

But Traff One is NOT happy to be back.  Not without Her.   Perfect Woman, whom he's now obsessed with finding.  After all, Trafford had managed to determine that both time-lines were alike until he was about 8 years old, so Miss Perfect likely exists here, but had a different life from that point, just as both Colin Traffords did.  He sets out in search of her.  Thus the "Quest" of the title.

As a teenager, I of course sighed over this "meant to be" love story.

I also was even more impressed by the fact that the exact date of my birth was mentioned. This is when Traff One first wakes up in Time-line Two, and wanders around trying to figure out what has happened.  He picks up a magazine dated January 22, 1954.

This made "Random Quest" the most important short story ever written, in my mind.

Predictably it's been made into movies (Here's part one of a modern BBC version on youtube, in several parts), but they're basically love stories.  They barely explore the uncomfortable questions of what's meant to be, or which history is the Groundhog Day type "right" one we keep stupidly failing at.  Or whether there is a "right" one at all.

The original story gives Traff One, and us, only tantalizing glimpses of these fascinating ideas, entirely aside from the One Perfect Soul Mate thing.   It took me a few years and a few read-throughs, but eventually I saw that the point of the story, made quietly, is that nothing was meant to be.

Or rather, that everything was meant to be, and is out there, being. In one alternate universe or another. Every possibility occurs. Ninth Grade physical science didn't really prep me to talk about theoretical physics, but apparently it gets into ....

Let me just type a "Random Quest" quote in here. Colin Trafford (Traff One) explains:
One was brought up against Einstein and relativity, which, as you know, denies the possibility of determining motion absolutely and consequently leads into the idea of the four-dimensional space-time continuum. ... In other words, although the infinite point which we call a moment in 1954 must occur throughout the continuum, it exists only in relation to each observer, and appears to have similar existence in relation to certain close groups of observers.
Big help, wasn't it?  Yes, that's sarcasm.  Other sci fi pieces speak of alternate universes "splitting off" but that's apparently sort of an inaccurate metaphor.  The theory seems more to say that every possibility is happening and perception of which one is "reality" is matter of where you are standing.

Trafford One can't find the moment of diversion at all.  He can only narrow the date of the split down to a guess that it was when he was around 6-8 years old.  His own life back in Time-line 1, and his alter-ego's in Time-line 2, were the same till about then.

Yet one world is not better than the other.  The story definitely does not advocate the idea that one worked out "the way it's supposed to" and the other didn't. Some people are better off in Time-line 2, while others, including himself, are much more productive and emotionally healthy in Time-line 1.  Wyndham has a lot of fun giving us inexplicable examples of differences that Traff can't track down in his mere three weeks there, so we can't either.

His titular "Quest" to find Miss Perfect allows some wiggle-room for the idea that something can be "wrong" and that the space-time continuum might, once in a long while, hiccup and make a correction.

But the idea that it's a correction is only an interpretation.  It could be just a space-time goof. Wyndham drops some cool little hints about "good" and "bad" events.

So, the death and destruction of World War II didn't happen there in the Alt-Universe? "Good."

Well, maybe. Colin glimpses a newspaper story in which Germany is conducting nuclear research -- testing atomic fission at the time of the story, in 1954. You have to wonder if the world of Universe Two is one in which the war was merely delayed.  Delayed until nukes were in the hands of Germany, and that in Time-line Two, the Axis might about be to unleash a war and win it this time.

Our world just marked the anniversary of the atomic bomb that ended the Pacific war in 1945.

A few years ago we acquired this copy of a map strategizing the Allied Invasion of Japan; the plan they'd have needed to follow if the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs had not been dropped:

Lines show the Allies pushing forward across Asia, slowly pushing enemy lines to their hoped-for 1946 mark.

My dad was 17 when he entered the Navy in 1945.  He once told my mother that if the bombing of Japan hadn't occurred, he would probably have been killed somewhere along those fronts so neatly mapped with nice little dotted lines as "1946." Or 1947.  Or...  Pushing across the landscape, as 10s of thousands more died.

So I might owe my existence to the bomb.

"Random Quest" got me thinking at an early age, when my brain wasn't yet petrified, about how the way things happen can't always be identified (with our limited knowledge)  as good or bad. As one of those who's into God stuff, I actually manage to reconcile the two, since I believe that taking the inefficient route to where my Higher Power wants me only makes it harder for me but doesn't stop me from getting there. Likewise, I think Humankind gets off-track but back on.

If the theory works the way it seems to in sci fi stories, then in some alternate time-line, I'm a glaciologist. In another, the bomb never dropped and I was never born.

And in another one, I'm a lawyer. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

But read the original "Random Quest," and let it dance with your mind.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Vice and virtue

My worst vice is anger.  Loud, obscene anger.

Second worst: ingratitude.

Best potting shed shot I have at the moment. From a rainstorm in May.
Rain has been rare enough to celebrate with photos.

This garden shed was one of my first loves in buying this house.  Turned out, it was roof-caved and rotted, and termite-destroyed, to the point that it was --not hyperbole-- held up only by its siding.

So it's in process of repair.  It's taking forever.  Everything has been shoved into the greenhouse potting-shed part, to let the workers work.  Their job is hard and brutal in this heat.  Whatever they need to do, they should do.

But if I had known it would be this big a job I would not have started any plants for this year.

My gratitude is way lower than it should be.  In a world of slipshod work and charlatans, we've found the best contractor and the best crew on earth.  We can afford it (at least, we can now that Larry has spent months doing the inside framing, by himself and saved probably $thousands).

Using the potting shed was doable until the insulation job, for which a few too many things got shoved into it, and the thousand pound, wheels-won't-roll-unless-powered-on mower took up too much space.  Insulation complete, I wrestled the thing back out, loudly damning it to fires of hell, because I wanted -- not needed, just wanted -- the much easier water source of the sink.

I am angry at this heat.  I am angry at having to get water that isn't scalding, to come out of hoses, angry at the highly temporary loss of sink access.  My anger at this lawnmower came close to getting it put out on the curb for anybody to take.

My virtue is, I guess, perseverance, because I decided it was my problem to solve, and I solved it.  I got it out.  No it does not really weigh a thousand pounds, but unwieldy and un-rollable as it was, it sure seemed to.  And I guess my sign is polite enough not to offend the crew, God, I hope, because they are working in hot, cramped conditions.

I could go into the subject of the gasket-blowing heat, tedium, AND gallons of wasted water in this drought, that are involved in using the outside hoses and hauling water for dozens of plants, but.....that's the Executive Summary.

Some self-discovery going on, too.  I have always thought I would make a great post-apocalyptic survivor, living off any grid, managing water and shelter and food like a Caroline Ingalls on steroids.  But if growing plants and accessing water is this hard for me now, when water comes right out of any faucet I turn.....that does not say anything good about what I thought would be my positive attitude in the face of hardship.

The endless indoor environment problem with Graymatter the Psychotic Cat is making my days difficult, and making indoors unpleasant, so some immature part of me feels entitled to have my way in my attempts to garden.

Right now, I kind of feel like I suk.

Scooter is a better Person than I am, since lack of access to the potting shed affected him too, but he behaved better about it.....oh.  Wait.  He did poop on our bed.  This project has royally screwed up most of his yard access and joy in life.  He deserves happiness more than anybody I know, or at least as much as my poor hardworking spouse does.  Despite not liking myself much for how angry the shed-clearing made me, I can feel good that Scooter has now got access to his birdwatching corner again.

I don't know. It's all some kind of Opportunity For Growth.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Paint out the stars

2014 was a peaceful year.  I'm talking outer peace, not necessarily inner peace, but nobody's Facebook Sunrise Placard saying "outer peace is worthless without inner peace" is gonna change my mind:  a whole year low on personal tragedy, conflict, and anxiety is very wonderful, even while I am still processing a lot of unresolved and unexplained stuff, as well as loss.

Another funeral came into our lives, a friend of Dad's, and here's where I break a former promise ;  I was absolutely not going to talk about Episcopal church division anymore.  When I said that, it never occurred to me that I didn't know everything.  

My parents were so involved in this parish, such huge givers to, and supporters of, it that their names are on a plaque in the fellowship hall.  Seeing the blasted thing is like remembering something good that's lost.

Not just because I have lost them, but because the Episcopal Church in SC is torn, and it tore at them.

The church was foundational for them.  They freakin' met at the Episcopal university club.  They were serious about it.  They taught Sunday School (they taught teenagers! I mean, that's dedication), they led study groups, they served on Vestries and as Wardens, they served on search committees and Dad founded a group to feed hungry kids.

Then the denominational unity began to erode. They kept their marital unity together, love and hurt coexisting, but their Episcopal unity came to a painful and ragged end when the splitting process began.  Mom passed in 2010, and the official division wasn't till 2012, but their parish, with many other SC parishes, took preliminary steps in earlier years, and my folks were vocally and tearfully on opposite sides.

I wrote long ago that I would not attend that church after Dad was gone.  This funeral was my first service there since Dad's funeral in August 2013.

People came up to me repeatedly to tell me how much they loved my parents, and miss them, and I kept thinking,

Dear lady! what would happen to your heart if my mom had lived long enough to reveal the level of her anger over this church breaking with TEC?  You remember my "parents" as a church unit.  Like that plaque says.

These are good people.  I have no doubt that they would still love both my parents, and that they would, if technically, admire the integrity that Mom and Dad each had to stand up and be counted.

What really blew me away is that I don't think any of them know that the plaque honors only the past, a time dead and gone, a time when they were all in this together. 

I swore off of this subject years ago.  The problem is, I got some new information.

The 2012 split was (and is) big news in South Carolina.  Local papers interviewed people on both sides, lots of "feelings" journalism, and I read it all.

Then I wrote my own letter to the editor.

I told about my sense of loss, accused both sides of "cutting the baby in half," which, I said, left out in the cold those of us who can tolerate neither First Millennium science nor Third Millennium skepticism.

They printed my letter.

But I got a very interesting reply from a member of the local TEC church telling me I was misinformed.

I had assumed the parish my parents gave so much to for 27 years, the parish Larry and I were married in, had veered to the right with integrity;  that, though I disagreed with their beef and with the division, they were telling me solid, unambiguous truth about what TEC had done and said.

I'd sat through meetings with Dad, and read all the literature that came to the house.  So I wrote that letter based on the conservative Anglican sources, without doing my research, which is not like me.  And I got rightly put in my place.  Finally, I started doing some reading.  Duh.

TEC embraces a wide spectrum of views, from the symbolism-and-myth take on the Gospel story, to "credal" theology -- in line with the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds.   So far they are managing peaceful, if sometimes a little testy, coexistence.  An ability for all to freely jaw about interpretation, but worship together.

So, yes, they have not repudiated, defrocked, or excommunicated John Shelby Sponge (Yes, I know how to really spell it)  or others who call supernatural beliefs "baggage" we need to dump.  But the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds are right there in the "What we believe" section of TEC's website.

And in the current prayer book.

And the catechism, which is also right there in the new, annoyingly gender-neutral, most recent Book of Common Prayer, basis of every church service that we alleged apostates attend, is traditional creed theology.

Thing is ;  this love of tolerance is NOT NEW.  TEC has drawn a wide circle for well over a hundred years.  It has affirmed "reason" as well as the Bible and Tradition, as the "three-legged stool" it rests on, since Richard Hooker in the 17th century, yo.  I was raised in it and never, ever was taught to be a Biblical literalist.  Back then, only boys could be acolytes, women had to cover their heads.  As those things fell away, objections happened, but never rose to an Article of Faith, division level.

Later - o yes, different story.  Stricter Anglicanism expanded. 

But nobody accused TEC of outright apostasy.  The wide circle that TEC drew to include a spectrum of belief, right or wrong, has been around for decades.

So why did the breakaway Anglicans say that TEC denied the basic tenets of the faith?

I don't know.  I know that one of the strongest and most destructive temptations in life is the temptation to lie about "the enemy" because you sincerely believe people are in peril and must, must  be steered away from it and toward your own camp; the belief that if you need to lie to save lives, or, in this case, souls, you should do it.

I can only guess that the breakaway group is THAT concerned about people getting damned to eternal punishment for non-celibate gay relationships.

I can further only guess that they seriously think that TEC's support of gay relationships is deceiving people into unwittingly consigning their souls to Satan.

The anti-gay stance will neither fly in a court, nor with the public.

Is this why they've made a claim against TEC for something much more fundamentally wrong?  Or do they really think TEC has changed on the articles of faith?

Apparently, at the last TEC General Convention, some group called for a vote that "Jesus is Lord," and the vote was refused.  I first read it in a conservative newsletter, which railed, aghast, that TEC could not!  would not affirm Jesus' Lordship, OMG!

Trouble is, that all that affirmation is right there in the still intact catechism and creeds.  The vote was refused because it was redundant and would have been followed by a series of "Further, I call for a vote on [Atonement!  Authority of Scripture!  Marriage!  yadda yadda],"  grinding the convention to a halt.

At that funeral, I spent 2 hours with people my parents loved, and who loved them, and felt like I was hiding my own division from these breakaway supporters, just as I was hiding the division between my parents, hiding the fact that my mother would have opposed their vote.

This is a lesson in boundaries.  I need to embrace the lesson.  I did not choose this battle.

I think that if the general population of the breakaway group knew how TEC does and would gladly embrace their Creed-lovin' thought and beliefs, they would not want this split either, no matter what they feel about gay rights.  The gay question does not need to be settled to keep a denomination together, it only needs to be recognized as a lesser issue than the beliefs that are the church's basis.

They've split families, they've split friends, they've stripped off the letters.  Each church seems to have dealt with the "Well, we're not them, but we're Episcopal, but not really, but...." signage differently.

One way is to paint out the stars.

I hope sincerity is driving them.  I hope it is not Pride of the worst kind.