Tuesday, November 21, 2017

When Will It End?

I'm feeling sad this morning because the accusations of sexual misconduct just keep coming.  Some of the men accused are people I've admired for decades.  It's kind of hard to believe that this is happening all at once.

But we know it's not happening all at once.  Susan Browmiller's book, published in 1975 and titled "Against Our Will:  Men, Women, and Rape," helped us understand that sexual abuse has been pervasive since time began.  It's an essential way men have exerted power over women.

Brownmiller wrote:  Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe.... Sexual coercion...is less a matter of frenzied lust than a deliberate exercise of physical power, a declaration of superiority designed to intimidate and inspire fear. 

We know that sex (rape) has been used as a weapon of war from biblical times right up to the present.    Some people of both sexes think it's just the way men are wired.  "They can't help it."  My grandma used to say "Boys will be boys."

But the vast majority of men in our society don't engage in sexual misconduct.  And even in cultures where women have no rights many men still treat them with dignity and respect.

When I woke up this morning to hear about the misconduct of Charlie Rose I said out loud "When will it end"?  But what I really want is for all of us, men and women, to say "enough."  This is not who we are.


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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Everybody Loves My Dad

Years ago, when I was getting to know Dave,  his son said to me "Everybody loves my dad."  Now, after a dozen years in, though I'm sure not "everybody" loves Dave, he does have a world of friends.

Our minister has just finished up a sermon series called "Legacy."  He was addressing questions like "What do you want to leave behind?"  and "How do you want to be remembered?"

This past Thursday night Dave and I went to the Winter Park Playhouse.  It's a beautiful little venue that produces only feel good musicals.  We, with some other friends, had purchased a block of tickets.  But when the tickets came we discovered that Dave and I weren't sitting together.  It was sad but we, of course, decided to be good sports about it.  I held up the two tickets and Dave picked one.

Our seats couldn't have been further apart.  I was against the wall on one side of the theater, he was against the wall on the other.  But the difference was I was surrounded by our friends.  When I stood up I could barely see Dave.  But I could tell he was sitting with strangers.

Sitting amongst friends and listening to the music was enjoyable but I felt bad for Dave, so after the play started I scoped out two empty seats together on the back row.  At the intermission I made my way over to rescue him.  But he didn't see me.  He was busy talking with his new friends.  They had already exchanged phone numbers.  When I told him about the two seats together he hesitated so I told him I'd go to the lobby and drop back by before the second half.  When I did he went with me but I could tell he was torn, what with having to leave this new couple in his life.

If my kids could say when I'm gone, "Everybody loved my mom," that would be quite a legacy.


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Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Florida Project

Central Florida has a horrible record of childhood poverty.  For the country, about one in 40 children lives below the poverty line.  In Central Florida it's one in 17.

Every teacher I know (and I know plenty) has kids in her class who live in hotels and motels.  That might sound exotic but this is whole families living in one room of a seedy, run down motel.  It's heartbreaking.

I also know people and groups who dedicate themselves to fixing this problem.  for about 15 years my church has been part of a group that houses temporarily homeless families until they can save enough money to pay the deposit on another apartment.

But rentals are sky high here in the land of Mickey Mouse.  So if, say, somebody breaks an arm and has to go to the hospital, that month's rent is gone.  And so is that family's housing.

Yesterday we saw the new highly acclaimed film by Sean Baker, The Florida Project.  It features a sweet, adorable, funny, happy six year old named Moonee, living with her mom in a motel close to Disney called "The Magic Castle." She is totally unaware of the dangers around her, like malnutrition, predators, speeding cars, and bedbugs.

She and her friends have the run of the place.   They're happy and carefree, full of childhood innocence. After all, they're living on the edge of paradise.  Moonee is also a little trouble maker.  She corrupts her friends into conning their way into free ice cream.  They mischievously turn off the power to the entire complex.  They start a fire in an adjoining abandoned hotel.

One of Moonee's favorite things to do is play with her Barbie doll in the bathtub.  She does this while her mom turns tricks in the room just on the other side of the bathroom door.

By the way, mom loves Moonee but she is young, paranoid, has no self control so no job, no money and no relationships.  I'm sure the concept of delayed gratification is not realistic in this case.

By the way, I know people like this.  I'll bet you do as well.

The only person in the film who is strong enough to withstand all that is happening around him is the manager, Bobby, played to perfection by Willem Defoe.  He protects his guests over and over again and they pretty much hate him for it.

Two final things:  first, the film is LOUD.  I was in so much discomfort that I took my hearing aids off and tried to close up my ears.  But I understand why we, the viewers, were made to feel this discomfort.  The guests at The Magic Castle Hotel live in a constant world of loud noise, from the roar of the traffic to the rise of nearby helicopters.

Second, I've read that the ending is highly controversial.  Moonee, who is ultimately in deep crisis, and her friend escape from The Magic Castle Hotel and find themselves, eventually, walking hand-in-hand down Disney's Main Street toward Cinderella's Castle."  That's it.  The End.

Wouldn't it be great if it was "the end."  But, Disney and Cinderella's Castle aren't real.


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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Today's The Big Day!

Today is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Martin Luther nailed up those documents on October 31, 1517.

I'm a big Luther fan and a big Reformation fan. I totally believe that we humans need to be constantly evaluating and reforming ourselves.

The main issue with Luther and his 95 theses was the church getting off the track, mainly by getting greedy.  The church was selling indulgences.  This means that you could buy your way into heaven.  I love what my minister said about this on Sunday.

Buying an indulgence was your "Get out of Hell free card."

But this is now and that was 500 years ago so what's the point?

Every local church, every denomination, and every institution in the world is constantly in danger of falling into the "greed trap."  I'm grateful we have folks around who call us into question.


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Sunday, October 29, 2017

GRATEFUL


For the last four Sundays the four ministers at my church have preached four very different sermons based on the four stanzas of the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  Our magnificent choir sang a different version of this hymn each of the four weeks.  The overall theme was:  GRATEFUL.

Which, by the way, is not only a spiritually sound concept but is psychologically sound, and an excellent tool to keep us from going crazy in these weird times.

Come thy fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, 
  never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise...

I love the symmetry of all this, what with my OCD leanings.  It's been like solving a big puzzle, trying to understand how it all fits together.

The first sermon was on coming out of the desert.  That is whatever desert you or I might currently be in.  Like worrying about finances, or kids, or if North Korea might drop a bomb in my back yard tonight.  So let's picture a fountain bubbling up out of the desert - and go with it.   

The second sermon was on getting rid of so many crazy things we count on that we know won't work and just going with our belief in God as the ultimate source.

...he to rescue me from danger...

The third sermon was about sheep.  And how they (we) wonder off from time to time.

...prone to wonder, Lord I feel it...

The fourth (and I suppose final, but don't know for sure) sermon this morning was again a reminder of the massive number of blessings God pours down on us.

...here's my heart, o take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above...


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Friday, October 27, 2017

Mindhunter

As of last night Dave and I have watched all ten episodes of the first season of Mindhunter on Netflix.  If you want a fast paced, exciting "find the killer and bring him or her to justice" kind of show, this is not it.

This is a very, very slow paced "think piece" about how, in the 1970s, the FBI began to do profiling in order to understand why and how people do unthinkable things to each other.

And when we hear some of these people share their stories it's really no wonder they've turned to what we call deviant behavior.   Mindhunter is essentially about crime solving with academics.  But the eventual goal is crime prevention.  Beware!  It's dark.  Both in content and visually.  (We can hardly see it.)  Much of it is interviews with serial killers.  Not for the squeamish.

Just by coincidence, if you believe in that sort of thing, I have just finished re-reading the # 1 bestselling "Silence of the Lambs" by Thomas Harris.  I read it the first time when it came out in 1988, and then saw the film which won the Big Five Academy Awards in 1991 for best film, producer, director, screenwriter and actor.

"Silence of the Lambs" is fiction.  But it also explores why people do evil things to other people.  FBI rookie Clarice Starling gets inside Buffalo Bill's head.  She also has great respect for Dr. Lector's intellect and rules of conduct.

I don't think he'd ever bushwhack me - it's rude, and he wouldn't get to ask any questions that way.  Sure he'd do it as soon as I bored him.

So if you, like me, must wait for season two of Mindhunter, I suggest you re-read "Silence of the Lambs."  It's full of brilliant minds, evil and good.  And this time around I was way more aware of the strong, smart, good women, especially Clarice and Catherine Martin.


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Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Good Man Is Hard to Find

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."  - Most quoted line from A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Written in 1953,  this short story is probably Flannery O'Connor's most popular and controversial.  It's also funny and grotesque.  If you read it in college you probably either loved it or hated it.

But did you understand it?

I recently reread it after 50 or so years.  This time I loved every word.   Did I understand it?  Not sure.  But I got some great insights.

First, the main character, Grandma, is a piece of work.  I'm a grandma but I sincerely hope that's all we have in common.  But is it?  Unlike "Grandma," the story has caused me to continue to self-evaluate before before somebody puts a gun to my head.

It's a simple tale of a family; mom, dad, the kids and grandma, taking a little trip.  They end up being at the mercy of three killers, who, under the direction of The Misfit, murder them one by one.

The whole family is unlikeable but grandma is the worst.  However, she, of course, sees herself as the best.

Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet.  In case of an accident anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

Grandma thinks appearances are everything.  It's important that you conduct yourself as if you come from the right kind of people.  Grandma loved the old days in Tennessee where people knew their place.

The old lady said that in her opinion Europe was entirely to blame for the way things are now.

I know that every word in this story is thick with meaning.  I'm sure the names of all the characters have significance.  The little boy is "John Wesley."  The cat, who causes the accident that eventually gets them all shot is "Pitty Sing."

Toward the end of the story, after all the other family members have been murdered, Grandma tries to talk her way out of her predicament.  She tries to bargain with The Misfit by telling him he is a "Good Man."  But then, gradually, the theology gets real, on both sides.  They discuss whether or not Jesus really raised the dead.  The Misfit says:

...if he didn't then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can - by killing somebody or burning down his house...

In the end, Grandma and The Misfit both explore the concept of God's grace.  Grandma even sees how she and The Misfit have that in common.  Just before he shoots her in the head she says:

Why you're one of my babies.  You're one of my own children.

EPILOGUE

A couple of weeks ago Stephen Colbert had guest Conan O'Brien on The Late Show.  What do we know about Colbert and O'Brien besides being wealthy, crazy talented entertainers?  They're both crazy smart intellectuals.  And, Colbert is a devout Christian.  Flannery O'Connor's name came up in the conversation.  They both said she was one of their favorite writers.  And what O'Connor story did they agree was her best?

A Good Man is Hard to Find.


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