Archive for May 15th, 2014

Mid May


Man oh man, green is such a beautiful color.

May is like a baptism of beauty. The natural world is exuberant, the very air scented, flowers coming into bloom and then fading too quickly. I get attached to a particular stand of tulips or jonquils or  cluster of cherry blossoms and then they are gone, as suddenly as they appeared, like those poetic passages in the Old Testament, the existentialist ones. But everything is happening too fast, here in mid-May, unlike early Spring, so slow and hesitant. And it seems unfair, after the long unchanging winter, tedious and cold, for spring to rush by. While I am exulted by May’s bright life and color, I realized this year that my very favorite time is very early spring, in April, just as winter fades. It is the moment before anything at all begins dying, before the blossoms start falling, before the dandelions have scattered their seed and stand like goofy-looking sentinals, before anything fades into brown and rot. That first sight of new shoots poking up, rising with the green awakening, of young leaves on the trees, translucent and tender but tougher than death, when Life is surging up from the dark, when winter meets its defeat, that moment when greenness finally triumphs.

Painting by Heidi Mallot

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*    Am I the only one who thinks many of the controversies today- and I mean the ones associated with the so-called ‘culture wars’- are really examples of scrupulosity? I understand: you think homosexual behavior is sinful, and you are uncomfortable taking photos of or making a cake for the sinners. But how is this endorsing their behavior, let alone participating in their sin? You are offering a service. That is all you are doing: taking pictures or baking a cake. I think of my own means of making a living. I am a courier. I offer a service, the delivery of whatever message you want me to pass on. I would say that most of what I deliver does not serve the common good at all. I deliver pornography, of course, but also noxious political ads, enticements to debt, crappy celebrity magazines, and a host of other odious things. But I am not responsible for how someone uses the service I offer. It is what the Church calls ‘a remote participation in evil”. That is a handy distinction in an age when the fundamental solidarity of humanity is strained by the existence of a pluralistic and fractious society, which has no consensus about first principles, or much of anything else. But do we not have an obligation to live in peace with others, as long as that is possible? And are we ready for a world where everyone decides who they will serve or accept as a customer based on their religion or orientation or race? If the courts order churches to perform marriages it considers invalid and immoral: that is when you can call it persecution. I think that unlikely, but if it occurs that is when resistance can begin.

*    And that goes the same for the issue of the HHS mandate. Leave aside for a moment that fact that most large Catholic institutions have historically supplied birth control coverage to their employees in their health plans. If health care is seen as a fundamental right, as the Church teaches it is, and thus, in the capitalist system, a responsibility of the employer, how does supplying this type of compensation differ from paying a wage? I don’t hear anyone saying that an employer should have veto power over how a worker spends his check. He may be a drunkard or a gambler or in any number of ways a wastrel. How is that the moral responsibility of the boss who writes the check? It isn’t, any more than how a worker uses his or her health care. Again, this is a remote participation in evil. And we live in a world, and probably always have, where participation in evil is part of the warp and woof of human existence.

*    I saw in the paper the other day two stories. They may have been on the same page. The first reported that the Antarctic Ice Shield is melting at an alarming, and apparently, irreversible rate. Seas, according to the scientists, will rise anywhere from four to twenty feet in the next century. The second story said that researchers somewhere had experimented with mice and found that when older mice injest the blood of young mice it reversed the aging process. Yes, you read that right. Of course there are all sorts of caveats, and the research is in its infancy. But boy, does that suggest a dystopian future- as if it weren’t dystopian enough already- where the rich ‘vampires’ pay the poor for their blood, pay them what is a pittance to the recipients but wealth to the blood ‘donors’: “Dude; I got paid a whole day’s [minimum wage] pay for twenty minutes of watching TV with a tube in my arm.” There’s the free market for you. Everyone is happy. Right? And why can’t I shake the feeling that these two stories, about the big melt and the rejuvenating power of young blood, are somehow mysteriously related?

‘Scrupes’ was a slang term in the seminary for overly scrupulous and hyperpious guys…

Icon by Ina Hecker

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