Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Way of St. James

At around 500 miles, El Camino de Santiago is one of the longest pilgrimages in the world.  Beginning in France, then through the Pyrenees Mountains, and across Spain, it's a beautiful but treacherous journey.  People are routinely injured and some have lost their lives.

Amazing views
What is it and why would anyone in their right mind go?  The legion is that James, brother of John the Baptist and cousin of Jesus, was sent to Santiago to bring the good news.  When he returned to Jerusalem he was beheaded by King Herrod.  His remains are now at the Cathedral of Santiago.

Originally,  people world go on this ancient Walk for religious or spiritual reasons.  But now folks from all over the world start this walk for all kinds of reasons.  My understanding is that you may not start for a spiritual reason but it will become spiritual before you complete it.

Camino in Spain
Diane on right and her sister
This morning in Forum, our church member and friend, Diane Homrich, shared her 2016 El Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage.  Diane (she was 59 at the time) walked 400 miles on her pilgrimage.  She stayed in hostels along the way never knowing who would be in the bunk next to her.  She walked through sleet and rain and forests and up and down steep hills.  She ate all day long and was always hungry.  She carried all of her belongings in a backpack, taking only absolutely essential items with her.  This included lots of duck tape.

 Her sister, a professor at Rollins College, accompanied her at some points but they did not see much of each other on the trail.

Diane kept us mesmerized for almost an hour this morning.  The consensus among every person I asked on the way out was that we all wished we had made this trip when we were young and strong enough to see it to the end.

To get a better idea about this pilgrimage, consider watching the 2010 film, "The Way," directed by Emillo Estevez and staring Emillo and his dad, Martin Sheen.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Robert Lowell

The world is absolutely out of control now and is not going to be saved by any reason or unreason. - Robert Lowell

In the end there is no end. - Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell was a great American poet.  He was born into a wealthy, intellectual family, educated at Harvard, was a prolific, Pulitzer Prize winning writer, and died in 1977 at age 60.

He was the first, best and most famous of the "confessional poets."

Another thing that set him apart from the rest of us is that he suffered severely from bipolar disorder.  He was hospitalized for months at a time.

Lowell's words below remind me so very much of a couple of people I love:

I had violent passions for various pursuits usually taking the form of collecting:  tools; names of birds; marbles; catching butterflies; snakes, turtles, etc; buying books on Napoleon...and gradually amass(ed) hundreds of soldiers.  None of this led anywhere.  

Kay Redfield Jamison's new book, "Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire:  A study of Genius, Mania, and Character" tells us a lot about his illness and his genius.   We know that a disproportionate number of highly creative people have what we used to call "mood disorders."

In the year 1917 Robert Lowell was very fortunate to have been born into wealth.  It protected him from a world that did not deal well with mental illness or even just "different-ness."  I'm grateful that we're gradually starting to understand that most of the creativity and beauty in this world is given to us by those who are wired a little differently and sometimes require a greater degree of care and understanding.

It's the light of the oncoming train. - Robert Lowell.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Back In My Day....Walking to School

The other day I was asked the question "What was the first day of school like for you?"  My answer was "I have no idea."  I can't remember much of my childhood.  Never could.  But when I saw this cartoon or (as Time Magazine calls this  combination of chart and cartoon) "Chartoon,"  I began to think about how I got to school.  Sure, we like to tell our kids and grand kids that it involved quicksand, dragons and broken glass...and in my case, who knows?  Because I don't remember.

However I do remember getting to high school.

I was thinking it was about three miles from my house.  However I just looked it up and it's 1.8 miles.  Hard to exaggerate these days with map quest and Google Earth at hand.  There were no school buses at that time so the two ways to get to Tech High School were,  one,  to walk a couple of blocks to the trolley stop.  The electric trolley took us to Massachusetts Avenue where we would have to transfer and take another trolley that dropped us off about two blocks from school.  This was a lot ot trouble because, at rush hour, trolleys were, many times, full or late.  So,  mostly I walked the 1.8 miles.  I think I should get some "Back in my day" points because this does mean that I walked 3.8 miles back and forth to school every day.

How do I feel about that?  I think all the exercise I got when I was young, middle aged and now old, is a big part of what has helped me stay healthy and vertical.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Did Albert Einstein Eat Pi(e) on His Birthday?

Today is Pi Day.  My daughter and her family have traditionally celebrated Pi Day by baking pies and giving them away, especially to the kids' math classes.

 It's also Albert Einstein's birthday.  I LOVE Albert.  Following is a blog posting I wrote several years ago.  The last part may not make sense to you because it's just silly.  But I LOVE it.


The word "Einstein" is synonymous with "smart."

What are you, some kind of Einstein?

In 1908 at the age of 29 Albert became Professor Extraordinary at Zurich. In 1933 he became Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton.

After World War II he was offered the presidency of Israel. He knew everything there was to know about physics. Recognizing the inadequacies of Newtonian Mechanics, he developed his own theory of relativity.

But, of course, you already knew all of this.

However, did you know that he did Stand Up comedy? Well, not really. But
in the '50s he had a parrot named Bibo. Really! When he thought Bibo was depressed he would tell him jokes. Really!

Following are the jokes writer Patricia Marx thinks he might have told. By the way, I LOVE these jokes.

Hello! I just flew in from another solar system, and boy, are my arms younger by an imperceptible amount. So, anyway, it's great to be here in this space-time tonight.

Take my Newtonian physics.....please!

How many physicists does it take to screw in a light bulb. Two. One to screw in the light bulb and the other to sit around and say, "Why bother. Speed of light will beat you every time."

The other day, I'm at the deli and I say, "Waiter, there's a subatomic particle in my borscht! It's enormous! Look at it go!" So the waiter says, "I'm sorry, sir, but you know what Heisenberg says about the limitation measuring two proprieties of a quantum object with infinite precision." But Werner Heisenberg was a big fat Nazi," I say. So the waiter says, "I'll get the manager."

Knock, knock. Who's there? E=Mc (2). Forget it. It's too hard to explain.

But seriously - with this hair, wouldn't you think I'd have been the one to come up with string theory?

You think you have it bad? My mother won't let me bring my girlfriend home for Thanksgiving. You know why? She says, "It's all relatives."

O.K. The other day, I drive into the city. If the universe is so darn infinite, why can't I every find a parking space?

You think you're depressed? Every time an atom bomb goes off, everyone gives me a look!

Ba Boom Boom.


Monday, March 13, 2017


If you could see your whole life from start to finish would you change things? - Dr. Louise Banks in the film Arrival.

Dave and I have discussed this question many times.  We've both decided that, first, we human beings could not handle knowing all of the tragedy and loss before us, but, second, we both would not want to change much of anything in our pasts.

We saw the Academy Award nominated film Arrival last night.  I loved it.  It's an alien film for grown ups.  It's not easy to understand but the question Louise asks in the quote above is a big clue.

Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, is a celebrated linguist who's been chosen to meet with aliens who've landed in the United States.  Eleven other pods have landed in other parts of the world.  Louise's job is to discover how to communicate.  It turns out to be through circles rather than words.  They do not experience time as linear but rather circular.

This is another clue.

All during the film Louise experiences flashbacks of her time with her daughter, Hannah, who suffered from cancer and died at a young age. Early in these flashbacks we see Louise wearing a wedding band.  Then we don't.  Who could this mysterious husband be?  Why are they no longer married?

 Louise explains to Hannah that her name is a palindrome.  It's spelled the same forward and backward.

This is another clue.

This film beautifully portrays the importance of common language.  The aliens scare us humans because Louise translates their message as "Give weapons" when they are actually saying "Give tools."  They want to give us the tools of inter-galaxy language - one that surpasses time and space.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

What Is Vertigo Like?

I have vertigo.  Vertigo makes it feel like the floor is pitching up and down.  Things seem to be spinning.  It's like standing on the deck of a ship in really high seas.  - Laura Hillenbrand, author.

Vertigo is hard to explain.  You need to experience it.  Oh, wait, no you don't!

A couple of weeks ago I was having issues and the strangest thing happened.  My New Yorker has tiny stick figure cartoons throughout the magazine with no explanation, no commentary, no credits.

And there they were.  Stick figures struggling with vertigo.  I couldn't believe it.


Friday, March 10, 2017

You Know How Women Are

Almost every morning I get up early and read for two - sometimes three - hours.  Currently I'm reading:

  • The Orlando Sentinel
  • The New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs in a version called The Message
  • Falling Upward by Richard Rohr
  • A Land Remembered by Patrick Smith
In addition, since Wednesday was International Women's Day, I decided to re-read "You Know How Women Are," a short story within a book by Sinclair Lewis.  

In 1928 Lewis wrote the book "The Man Who Knew Coolidge."  There are several monologues within the book.  "You Know How Women Are" is one of them.  The guy giving the monologue is a failed blowhard of a salesman who is trying to get his friend, Walt, to give him a loan.  He explains to Walt how he got into the mess he is currently in.  He blames everyone and everything under the sun but, mostly, it's the fault of his wife, Mame.

His explanation is funny, sad and familiar.  

In 1930 Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  His speech is excellent.  He was one prolific writer - and somewhat of a prophet.  He's been "tellin' it like it is since the early 1900s."

Look up "You Know How Women Are."  You'll like it.