The Writing Hour

It is 4 AM, the writing hour. This is often my best writing time, but these days, I’m usually asleep at 4 AM. Today is different. Yesterday, while out doing yard work, I got stung by yellow jackets. I took some Benadryl last night to try and keep the itching down, and it mostly worked. I slept pretty soundly until a little while ago. I woke up, put some more anti-itch cream on the stings and tried, unsuccessfully to get back to sleep.

Work has been very busy for me, these past few weeks, as has my campaign for State Representative. On the home front, I’ve been swimming, kayaking, playing Ingress, and researching various topics. We’re getting ready for Falcon Ridge, and beyond that, for Cape Cod. Much of this is fodder for several blog posts, that most of the time, I’m too tired or busy to get written. I will try to write some of these and line them up to be posted over the next several days

Weeds

Saturday, The Rev. Amanda Katherine Gott posted on her Facebook page a comment about doing online research on garden weeds for Sunday’s sermon. The lesson appointed for Sunday was the Parable of the Weeds

"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, `Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, `An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, `No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

It seems like I’ve always heard this parable preached about in terms of fire and brimstone. Indeed, the following verses include, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” While it is good news that the causes of sin will be destroyed in the end times, for those of us focused on God’s forgiveness and loving kindness, it doesn’t sound so much like good news.

My relationship with weeds has always been a bit different from that of the sower in the parable. I commented, “’One man's weed is another man's wildflower’. I grew up on Euell Gibbons and we often ate many forms of weeds from Oxalis to lambsquarters”. Although I didn’t really see how it related to the Gospel.

Another person posted a link to a great article, Why We Must Learn to Love Weeds. It contained many thoughts along the same line as I was thinking. It quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson saying a weed is “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered”.

This was in line with the direction Rev. Amanda took in her sermon. She talked about the weeds in her garden, which turned out to be Oxalis, the same weed I grew up eating. It is not for us to judge who the weeds are, we should leave that to God. Those people in our lives that we think of as weeds are people whom we have not yet discovered their virtues.

As she explored these sort of ideas in more depth, she said something else that particularly stuck with me. I love mixed metaphors and she mashed up the cup running over from Psalm 23 with the cup which is either half empty or half full, depending on one’s perspective. What matters, she went on to say, was not trying to pin blame on others for why the cup is only half full, but finding those whose cups are empty and sharing what we have with them. I thought about my current foray into electoral politics. I thought about friends who are going through tough times right now, through spiritual crises, people who can’t do church on Sunday morning because for them it is too cliché.

The cover of our church bulletin lists ten reasons you might like it at our church. Several of these reasons were well illustrated on Sunday

You’ll hear sermons that you can actually remember the next day.
You don’t think that religion should be based on fear and driven by rules.
You are seeking acceptance and affirmation of who you are as God’s own beloved.
You want God to be relevant to your life and you want your life to be relevant to God.
You’re looking for a community where there is diversity in the way people look, the way people talk and in what people believe.

I pray for my friends on spiritual journeys that they might find God’s love for them and how to share that love with others.

The Kayaks

It’s been a long few months. At home, my uncle suffered organ failure and passed away a few weeks later. At work, I’ve been dealing with an ex-employee who is going through a tough time right now causing much stress to people I work with. In the news, the reports of fighting seem to have gotten worse. I try to muster energy for my writing, and for my campaign, and it just isn’t there. My birthday passed, with a celebration at work, but nothing to speak of at home. One of the things I was looking forward to, receiving lenses for Google Cardboard still hasn’t happened. I’m told they are in the mail and I have all the other pieces, but still no lenses.

Saturday, I went through the motions. I ate my morning oatmeal, mowed some of the lawn, and went to the dump. I tried to rest a little. I felt a sense of futility and ennui rising. I’ve been reading some of Chinamanda Adichie’s short stories which I find enjoyable, but also adds to the sense of futility and ennui. My eyes have been twitching, and my stomach has been uneasy.

Around lunch time, Kim came in with the local weekly newspaper. On the back was an advertisement for kayaks on sale at a local clearance store. The price seemed really good, and we checked out the details. The more we looked, the better the deal seemed and we ended up driving over to the store and buying two eight and a half foot kayaks.

These are inexpensive recreational kayaks. They are lightweight and came with all the necessary gear. We managed to get an additional, unexpected discount at the store. I put the roof rack together in the parking lot, loaded the kayaks, and off we went.

At home, I grabbed Fiona and we went to a local pond. Lake Wintergreen, in Hamden is about a mile long, and we paddled the length of the pond and back. It was a pleasant evening, and a necessary treatment for ennui.

Sunday, Kim and I went to church and afterwards, we headed off to visit Lake Wintergreen again. Now, my muscles are sore. The twitch in my eye, which had subsided is back, but now I attribute it to fatigue instead of stress.

When looking at all the suffering in the world, at times it can be challenging “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, but a kayak can certainly help.

Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet

Today, I submitted a comment on the FCC website concerning proceeding 14-28, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.

I wrote

To the extent that the FCC is accepting comments on Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet via the Internet itself, it would seem that the Internet is a core part of our democratic process that should be protected against discrimination or allowing one group of persons perferred access above and beyond another group of persons. As such, it seems obvious that the Internet must be considered a common carrier and any efforts to give one group of persons perferred access such as faster delivery of packets, is determinental to our democracy.

For more information about submitting comments, see How To Tell The FCC Exactly What You Think About The Proposed Net Neutrality Rule.

The FCC has extended the filing deadline since the amount of comments they were receiving crashed their website.

Conveying Wisdom

Recently, I received a candidate questionnaire from the Connecticut Realtors Political Action Committee. Their first question is:

Connecticut presently permits eighteen distressed communities to add an additional local option conveyance tax on home sellers. This tax should be repealed as it is regressive tax that unnecessarily increases the costs of selling a home in Connecticut. Would you support repeal of this regressive local option conveyance tax?

A regressive tax is one where the rate decreases as the amount subject to taxation increases, yet as I understand the local option conveyance tax, it is a flat rate no matter what the selling price is. I wonder if they really meant to say that it is a tax that hits poorer people harder since their homes are often a larger percentage of their wealth.

It raises some interesting questions. Does this tax hit poorer people harder? What sort of effect does this tax have on communities in terms of house sales, house prices, economic opportunity or the health of the community? Would changing or eliminating this tax make health and opportunities more equitable? How would it affect house opportunities for different people or how would it affect smart growth plans. If such a tax were removed, what would be used to replace the money necessary for our already cash strapped communities?

I’ve read through their Public Policy Statement which doesn’t seem to address these issues. I will follow up with them to see what they have to say on these topics.

On Facebook, today, a friend, Miles, posted a link to the Thai Life Insurance Company commercial, “Unsung Hero”. Please, take a moment to watch this commercial and think about commercials in the United States.

With the link, Miles posted,

America today seems to be all about money. I don't think that was always the only thing we valued, and I hope we find our way back from that delusion.

Just before his post was one from Zephyr Teachout. Zephyr is running for Governor in New York State. I met her through Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign over a decade ago, which is also how I met Miles. They live on opposite sides of the country, but share a lot in common.

Zephyr posted

Over 1,000 ALL-VOLUNTEER Teachout-Wu petitions came in this weekend from Long-Island!

These are teachers and parents who are determined not to allow Governor Cuomo to keep taking money from schoolchildren to give away in tax breaks for banks. Your committed fight for our children and future is inspiring. Thank you.

They volunteers are the unsung heroes that the Thai Life commercial talks about. They are those who have stepped away from the delusion that money is the only thing of value.

Another friend, Ed, posted a picture of an Italian Renaissance painting at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, talking about visiting the Met as being a wonderful way to spend the day and after that, my friend Elia posted a cartoon with a signpost. One direction pointed to Truth, Justice and Wisdom. The other pointed to 99 cent burgers. The crowds were all headed towards the burgers.

Perhaps the crowds will vote for my opponent in the election this fall. Perhaps the crowds in New York State will vote for Zephyr’s opponents in the fall, but I will stand for Truth, Justice, and Wisdom, for Unsung Heroes and appreciating the arts, even if all I do is to get a few more people to sit back and wonder what their lives are really all about after all.

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