Gratitude 31 August

A trifecta of gratitude!

(1) It is the last day of August, yay!

(2) The Minotaur is home from the hospital.

(3) I got to enjoy the beauty of the bright white and brilliant orange cranes of the ports of both Seattle and Tacoma highlighted against the gray skies bringing us enough rain to tease us into fall.

Gratitude 29 August – Wherein She Deplores a Well-Written Book

I like reading, and am generally grateful for books. I am grateful for the book I just finished, although reading it was like indulging in a film genre I deplore: horror. Trouble is? This was a non-fiction book.

Attachment-1So, while I am gratefully deploring “The Battle for God” by Karen Armstrong; I’m pretty sure she would ungratefully deplore my used graphic today.  Tough.  I think Ms. Armstrong, for all her meticulous research and very fair minded approach, has a couple blind spots.

Armstrong peaks my tolerance meter when she suggests that people under duress from fear and economic distress feel “left behind” by modernism — the general post-Enlightenment default mode of most of the Western World.  Her discussion of American fundamentalists in particular comes across to me as a prettily written gloss for “Yes, we are fucking idiots who like to boost our ego by being assholes to others; how DARE you college kids and atheist/feminist/faggot jerks tell us no; it’s a religious RIGHT, damn it!

All in all, I DO recommend the book.  It might be better read with a bottle of Scotch near at hand instead of the coffee I used to plough through it.  I absolutely enjoyed her careful historical analysis of the religious revolution in Iran — the whole nasty business that downed well-meaning Carter with hostages he could not retrieve.  However, it was NOT Carter who set that stage with letting the Shah be an autocratic asshole to his people, driving them to religion for refuge.  However, she also describes how a well-meaning revolution descended into a reign of terror devouring many Iranians; and yet somehow misses sounding alarm klaxons for what could happen if the legal “cuffs” every came off in America.

While she discusses how the less educated, poorly employed, tech-deficient Americans embrace Iron Age mythologies because they feel “left behind” by modern secular life?  I think she should have perused the book series “Left Behind” for where those mythological dreams would actually TAKE those pitiful fundamentalist sorts.  While she DOES discuss the American Christians who openly want theocracy, complete with slavery and forced birth?  She seems to believe the “Dominionists” are more dangerous than their Islamic brothers.  I wonder?

Like many modern apologists for Islam, and monotheism in general, she repeatedly stresses the nice things the Koran says instead of discussing with complete honesty what believers in the Koran did, including plenty of “conversion by the sword” by Mohammed himself.  She notably does not address the absolutely Iron Age mentality in the holy books of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — the way women are property (whether or not they veil for their own purposes, thank you very much), children can be slaughtered for disobedience or apostasy, and wonderfully non-modern things like slavery are AOK with God (and Jesus?).

She seems to want to defuse the religious fanatic bomb without actually acknowledging that religion IS a bomb.  She insists that humans need both “mythos” and “logos” and it is her opinion that problems happen only when mythos is treated AS logos.  One of my issues with this is that she seems to think monotheism is the only viable mythos out there; and second, as she said, any mythos being transformed to logos becomes an ideology.  And that, folks, let me tell you, IS the road to human hell paved with allegedly good intentions.  Ideologies make people into a means to an end — and as a good Kantian/Nietzschean Existentialist, that is a huge no-no.

For every chapter and verse she quotes on peace and love, there is more than one for “Kill the unbelievers!” in any of the three faiths she discusses; she can list all the external pressures in the world — but that is only the making of the gun, if you ask me.  The ammunition and the will to put finger to trigger comes from the “mythos” she tells us we cannot live without!

For a woman who once called herself an atheist, Karen Armstrong has returned, it seems to an idealized fold.  She thinks a religion-free era leads to emptiness and nihilism — whether she got this from Sartre’s “god shaped hole” or Nietzsche’s dead god, I don’t know.  I think with a bit of practice, we big-brained adaptable primates could find plenty of grist for that empty mental mill — IF we could stop fearing an afterlife punishment we are propagandized, beaten, and bamboozled into accepting.  I sympathize with her personal struggle and applaud her “praxis” approach to religion  — her description of it as “ethical alchemy” enchants me.  But as a priest once told me, shortly before I, myself, abandoned the Catholic Church, “Your ethics and logic applied to religion are not in line with the bulk of religious people; they will not rise to your level.”

Note, this book came out before 9-11, 2001.  I know she has written more on the topic of religion and terror.  I am not sure I want to read more, even with a bottle of Scotch at easy reach!  I walk (gratefully?) away with the uncomfortable sensation that Armstrong believes religion necessary, even IF it is an evil, and is trying to put lipstick on a pig.  She finds criticism of her take on Islam destructive, fearing it could lead to another Islam-directed Holocaust.  I share those fears, to be honest.

But if we could see ALL religions and hierarchies based on the holier than thou sorts ordering large groups of semi-stupid people into action as dangerous?  Well, then perhaps change would happen.  I think pointing out more loudly that, just as feelings are not facts, NOR is FAITH, might lead to more societal benefit than merely writing hall passes (in blood) for religious manias.


Grateful for Green Russian! August 28th

I am grateful for a productive day over all. I picked 4 lbs of little green apples and cooked them to make apple pectin. Then I used the pulp, the pomace, of that cooking and made 6 jars of apple butter.

greenrussianBut the best? I made a simple cool vegetarian dinner – a salad I call “Green Russian.” I am grateful for that! It was delicious!

Cook 3/4 c of kashi — toast it briefly in dry pan, then add 1 1/2 c boiling water and cook for 10 minutes, gently simmer/steaming the grain.  Chop 1 1/2 c Italian parsley and put it in a strainer — tuck it under lid over steaming kashi for last five minutes to blanch the parsley. — set it aside to cool.

While this all cools?  Thinly slice 2 green onions, one fennel bulb (also cut some of the lacy greenery) and 1/2 a pound fresh mushrooms.

In a blender, put cooled parsley, 1/2 c olive oil, 2 T balsamic vinegar, and 1 T lemon juice and one garlic clove (I used garlic comfit — soft and mellow)  Blend all this till it is emerald green and smooth.

Mix cooled kashi, sliced vegetables and emerald green dressing.  Serve with boiled eggs on the side or some other protein of your choice.  Delicious with broiled salmon, for instance!

Gratitude 27 August

In my childhood, I remember many yards in various states of decrepitude. I remember hours of back-breaking labor of my own to transform such yards into something better — on my mother’s orders. I also recall the beauty of success.

Blue morningWe occasionally had flowers! Imagine.  A great favorite of mine was the morning glory in that marvelous sky blue shade.  So, in this yard  – my yard – where work is done only at my self-command?  I have planted these seeds almost every year.  And despaired.  The seeds have come up and blossomed only twice in all those years!

But I am grateful that this IS one of those years!  The vine is not thriving, it is very slow growing.  But it is blossoming and the color is bliss to my eyes!

Gratitude? August 26

rockedI am mysteriously grateful? Grateful for mystery and distraction?  I think?  I walked the Labyrinth last evening, and went out again this morning to be sure I was not imagining things.

My yard is fenced and the only gate into the back is very difficult to open from the outside.  So it isn’t as if strangers can just walk onto the Labyrinth, you see.  My sons have not been out there doing anything either.

So, note, in the photo of the counting beads atop the central monument?  A small stone — a wee bit more than one inch in diameter has been carefully set upon the monument.  By whom?  By what??

I suspect the crows.  Once upon a time, when I did counting bead strands one hundred beads at a time, the crows used to steal the shiny loops — leaving my count lackingly discoverable at cleaning times.  I restrung all beads in loops of 200 to make them too heavy for a crow to easily make off with and the problem ceased.  Perhaps the crows decided to give me something back?

Gratitude 24 August

flying monkeyToday I am grateful to be free of Direct TV.  And desiring to loose the flying monkeys upon them, I must say.

Mind you, it took some doing to be done with them.  We had a two year contract that ended August 1st. So we called in mid-July to see when we should cancel to reduce fees, etc. Well, if we cancelled before July 29, we would be charged a hefty “early cancellation fee.” Ok, so August 1st then? Yes. And so we did. But we had to send them back their equipment.

They would send a box, they said. “For all FOUR units.”   Excuse us?  We only have ONE unit for the only television in the house.  “Oh….uh, ok.”  So, the box wasn’t here a week later.  Another phone call.  “Oh, yes, we missed sending that — ok, it will go RIGHT out to you, for BOTH units.”  “Excuse us, we have ONE unit to return, ONLY one.”  “Ok, got it.”

The box came mid-month.  A box for two units, with two different serial numbers.  Another half hour or more on the phone.  Letter written as well to put in box, explaining AGAIN we only ever had one unit for one television.  Sent the damn thing back.

Then another box arrived — this one for ONE unit.  As Pepy the French skunk said, “Le sigh!”  So another phone call to ask just what they thought I should send to them since they HAD our single unit.  “Oh, never mind.” they said.

And the final bill came.  For $56.  Date on bill said for service from 1 August to 3 August.  WTF?  We had NO service on those days.  But as it turns out, Direct TV is too stupid to phrase it right; the service was actually from July 13 thru August 12 (for $89)– originally meant to be paid in advance in July.  Minus the first twelve days of August it came to the $56 and very much NOT paid in advance, because if I had?  I’m pretty sure I would not have gotten a red cent back.

Life is too complex and stupid.  It is August and I hate damned near everything.  Flying monkeys, I tell you!