It will be okay

It will be okay
they told her
when the lump,
that lump
turned out
not to be
benign.

Years later
after chemo
after radiation
after therapy
after tears
after unexpected joys
it turned out
to be okay,
not great
not painless
but okay.

It will be okay
they told him
when his mother died
in a car accident
during one of those
freak storms
that seem to be
more and more
common.

Years later
after the funeral
after the grieving
after cleaning out
and selling
the family home
after memories
dredged up
from the deeps
on unknown anniversaries
after tears
after unexpected joys
it turned out
to be okay,
not great
not painless
but okay.

(This is another one of the poems that I wrote in 2016, but never posted. It didn't feel finished. Perhaps I'll come back to it later.)

(Categories: )

English Spirituality and Mysticism

So...

I've signed up to take the online course English Spirituality and Mysticism.

I've taken online courses in the past, but this is the first one that I'm actually paying for since I took Grief in the Family Context back in 1999.

Things have changed a lot in online education since 1999 and I'm looking forward to this class, especially because I'm doing a lot with online education for my job right now.

Anyone up for joining me?

Random Thoughts about Social Media and the Reterritorialization of the Culture Industry.

Recently, I’ve been reading Exploring Videogames with Deleuze and Guittari and thinking about things like the culture industry, reterritorialization, and how it relates to social media and other stuff. I do not claim to have a firm or accurate grasp on these ideas.

With regards to culture industry, I’m talking about those who create, distribute, or benefit from the creation or distribution of cultural norms and artifacts. I’m taking this idea from Exploring Videogames with Deleuze and Guittari where the author talks about the videogame industry as part of the culture industry, along with other forms of art like film or painting. However, I’m wondering if we should really think a bit more broadly to include entertainment, news media, social media, religion, education, and politics, all of which are shaping our culture in new or different ways as a result of digital media. How must artists, journalists, priests, politicians, and teachers adapt to digital media?

The idea of reterritorialization is even more interesting to me. What as the borders of the culture industry shift, as people get left behind, get left in some sort of liminal space, and as others, once liminal find themselves in the center of things.

Prior to writing this, I had put down a few thoughts about things going on in Facebook. It seems somehow related.

I am starting the New Year with just over 3,100 friends on Facebook. Generally, I’ve been pretty lenient about adding friends. If I get a friend request from someone that has shared interests and shared friends, I’m fairly likely to accept the request. Yet Facebook limits the number of friends you can have to five thousand, and various people I know are hitting up against that barrier and starting to trim their friend lists. Different people are approaching this in different ways.

Just as I am fairly lenient about which friend requests I accept, I am loath to unfriend people because of what they write. I hold on to the idea that I can listen to others and learn from them. Perhaps they can learn from me as well. Perhaps we can have a dialog.

Yet over the past few days, I’ve unfriended a couple people. One person said if you are going to post about politics, religion, or sports, he would unfollow. I post regularly about politics and religion, so I saved him the bother and unfriended him. He didn’t have a lot of interest to say anyway. Another person, a devout evangelical atheist, filled his news feed with atheist tracts. He gloated about his unwillingness to consider other opinions and the fact that people who disagreed with him were unfollowing him. So, I unfollowed him as well.

Also, I’ve been seeing a bunch of people saying they are leaving social media, at least for the time being. I can understand the desire or even need to do that. Yet at the same time, it seems important for those who can stick around to remain as a positive influence.

At the Clark Art

Something stirred
in my adolescent heart
as I pondered
the pastel clad ballerinas
in a nineteenth century
Parisian studio.

What did they talk about
after their lesson?
Did they the think of boys?
Giggle?
Would one of them
perhaps
have glanced at me?

Later,
would they tug at a satyr?
Dragging him into
a wooded pond
and a watery death?

Or would they themselves
be saved
from a watery death
in an undertow?

Would they sit
half naked
for Renoir
or well attired
for Sargent?

(Another poem written and read in 2016, but not posted until 2017. It was written for a poetry group writers prompt and still feels a little incomplete)

(Categories: )

Destigmatize Loneliness

I started writing a post about friending and unfriending people on Facebook, and took a pause to read what some of my friends were posting on Facebook. One friend posted a link to an article in the New York Times, How Social Isolation Is Killing Us.

The final paragraph starts, “A great paradox of our hyper-connected digital age is that we seem to be drifting apart”. Yet this seems to overlook the fact that we’ve been drifting apart longer than we’ve been digitally hyper-connected. In 2000, Robert Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone” came out, in which Putnam explored the trend of social isolation starting back in the 1950s.

The Times article explores the negative impact of social isolation, the way we interpret ambiguous social cues, and the stigma of loneliness. It suggests different ways of addressing this.

Religious older people should be encouraged to continue regular attendance at services and may benefit from a sense of spirituality and community, as well as the watchful eye of fellow churchgoers.

A few things came to mind as I read this. First, going to church isn’t just for older people. I often talk about the importance of multiculturalism. The same applies to multigenerationalism. We need to cross not only boundaries of race and ethnicity, but also boundaries of age and value people of every age.

The catechism of the Episcopal Church in America describes the mission of the church saying,

The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

To put it another way, a key part of the church is to fight social isolationism.

Another article I stumbled across this weekend illustrates this very well. The Portland Press Herald recently ran this article: When you’re the only one who shows up to church

As we talked, I thought about the timeliness of this little scene. In an age when many Americans have abandoned the institutions they once turned to for solace and truth, there we were, a priest and a journalist huddled together in an empty church. With the light fading and our voices low, it felt almost subversive, as if even kindness were a political act.

I shared this post, urging people to be subversive, practice kindness, and wonder about what their Epiphany will be this year. After reading the Times article, I’d add help destigmatize loneliness and fight social isolation.

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