What Were the Odds?

Bowdoin Orient 1980

Originally uploaded by AKMA.

Within the space of a week, I posted this page from the Bowdoin Orient (the oldest continuously-published college weekly in the US), that cites the scintillating political-debate skills of Margaret Bamforth [Adam] marshalled in support of Barry Commoner for President in 1980 — and Michael Bérubé posted a photo of himself kneeling at a sidewalk star dedicated to Barry Commoner, noting that he cast his first presidential vote for Commoner in ’80.

How many people even remember that “the Citizens Party” existed? Margaret and I put a ton of energy into the Steering Committee for the Citizens Party in the great state of Maine that year. Bérubé has changed course back to voting for the more tolerable of two unsatisfactory options; Margaret and I refuse to lend our support to candidates we don’t believe in. But twenty-four years ago, all three of us hoped that we could break this logjam. . . .


More people turned out for today’s service than could fit into St. Luke’s (I’m slightly beyond the top of the frame in the second image of this sequence); the wardens were obliged, reluctantly, to turn what looked to me like a hundred or so people away. I waited outside the doors until partway into the service, when space was found to squeeze in a last handful of us. I second the headline writer: we will remember Michael with Joan, as “everything we want people to be.”

The service was tremendous: musically exquisite, liturgically profound, jammed with parishioners and former parishioners, side-by-side with friends of the Lefkows from all over. Jackie Schmitt preached a compelling sermon. We sang “Oh God, Our Help In Ages Past,” “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” “Come Down, O Love Divine,” “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” and “For All the Saints.” We greeted one another. We wept.

After sharing Communion, we prayed, “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave, we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”

Do You Think?

I suggested something along these lines of this article from the South Carolina State in response to some questions from Jordon Cooper a while back: it turns out that churches (laggards at recognizing the benefits of the Net in general and weblogs in particular) have recognized the benefits of podcasting, and now constitute a large and growing segment of the podcasting spectrum (I found the link via largehearted boy).

Congratulations to congregations that have seen this opportunity to use what they do best to their advantage; I’m delighted that St. Luke’s makes our sermons available as mp3s, along with some of the choral music (don’t miss the Biebl “Ave Maria”), and it wouldn’t take much to rig them up as podcasts.

The startling discovery that provides the take-away line for this article, however, must be repeated here: “Religious podcasters said they like the medium because it’s an inexpensive way to reach the masses.” Really?

Biting Back at Reality

Pippa and I went to the library tonight, and I took out a couple of books. Now, this seems (on the face of it) a plausible enough gesture, until you recall that the last time I went to the library I took out Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting, — a 600-page tome that I haven’t even begun reading. I thought of a couple more books I ought to be reading to prepare for my spring series of talks, and today I received twenty-odd papers to mark, with a set of final exams coming in next week.

As I wandered haplessly toward the library check-out desk, I realized that this constituted a pathetic charade: since I no longer have time to read, I go through the motions by taking books out, and then returning them a week or so later, as though I’d read them. Not only is that embarrassingly irrational behavior, it deprives other Evanstonians of the use of good books while I sit beside the stack of books on my desk, wishing they would read themselves to me while I struggle with my round of tasks.

This will not do — no longer.

I’m about to head upstairs, where I will read a chapter or two of Worship as Meaning before I go to sleep, no matter what.
I will learn to read again; I will not give in to attention entropy.

Cheerier Note

Margaret’s iBook died last week, midweek, and I conducted some long-distance pastoral care-cum-tech support. We talked through the problem and got her to Duke’s computing center, all good (apart from having to go without her computer for a week in the middle of the term). She’s been managing all right, apart from withdrawal symptoms, checking her email via webmail interface at open lab computers.

This morning she was checking her email and realized that lost among the messages from Josiah, weather updates, and helpful anatomical, relationship, pharmaceutical, real estate, and inheritance advice, was a note from the Computer Center saying that her iBook was ready. Although they had her phone number, they emailed her to say she could come pick up her computer.

And yesterday I had to open some files from my long-ago WordPerfect phase (Chris emailed me for the report on iWork, which is pretty good, so far — not perfect). I used nothing but WordPerfect for about a year and a half, and since there’s no native WordPerfect solution on OS X, I’ve been grouchily booting into Classic every time I needed something from those years. Yesterday I recalled, however, that the latest version of AbiWord is supposed to open WordPerfect filers, so I tried it and — yessirree Bob, it opens them beautifully. One more onerous use for Classic eliminated!

Another Memo

Reminder to self and readers: It’s pivotally important that we reflect on and work out our theologies concerning death — but the time to do that is when things are going well, when the road’s pretty smooth. A time for grieving brings with it other tasks.

The medievals were not simply gloomy, morbid weirdos; the skull on a medieval desk reminds us of our mortality, and of our need to come to terms with mortality, at a time when grace offers us some measure of respite for reflection and prayer.