The folk of birds
flew in tight formation
as it they were one being
made of many
and I thought
is already here
made of many.
The flock of Facebook,
ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS,
through the use
of new technologies,
Earlier today, Kim asked me if I was writing my Christmas blog post. I’ve been struggling with whether to write such a blog post, and if I do, what I would write. Perhaps, I’ve already written my Christmas blog post at work, Nicholas and Isaac.
Kim always seems to want some sort of affirmative blog post around special days, talking about what a wonderful wife she is, what a great cook she is, and so on. She is all that and so much more. She especially looks for these posts at Christmas, a time which has always been magical for her, but difficult for me.
There are traditions about Christmas that are important to me. Cutting down a fir tree for Christmas with my daughters, preferable balsam, inspired by The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, which I read to my daughters when they were little. A Christmas Goose, a tradition from my early days as a parent. Hanukkah Geld, a tradition from my childhood, that I’m not even sure how it started.
Unfortunately, the past few years have seen the tradition of the complicated Christmas with my older daughters off on their own. It has been further complicated by illness and car troubles making the shopping all the more difficult.
This year, Kim and Fiona picked a precut blue spruce on their own. We are having duck instead of goose, and there was no Hanukkah geld. It is the Christmas of transition. Fiona is hoping that next year, she will be coming home from school in a different state to join us for the holidays. I am expecting big changes as I explore more deeply religious aspects of my life.
Yet Christmas is for everyone. It isn’t just for those who had magical Christmases as children. It isn’t just for those who share our beliefs, be they political or religious beliefs. On one Facebook page, people discussed where a certain presidential candidate whose words and actions seem very far from their views about what Jesus is calling us to do, would be spending Christmas Eve.
I tried not to be judgmental and posted,
Praying for everyone who comes to church on this most holy evening, that they may have life changing experiences of our God Incarnate leading to amendment of life and showing forth God's love throughout the coming year.
For me, some of the important parts of Christmas Eve was chatting with some of my homeless friends who gather near my office at work. It was donating to an organization that helps refugees as my present to Kim.
At Church, our priest Amanda talked about the shepherds, about people not ready for the coming of God Incarnate. It seems like none of us are ever really ready for Christmas, but it happens anyway.
Kim was going to get me Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor, a book that it has almost become a cliché to give to people exploring the priesthood. She couldn’t easily get a copy and got me Learning to Walk in the Dark instead, also by Barbara Brown Taylor.
It starts with “Come inside now, it’s getting dark”. A phrase Barbara Brown Taylor often heard as a child, telegraphing concern about the dangers lurking in the darkness. I thought of my childhood, hearing a similar phase, and reluctantly leaving the magical time of dusk.
It makes me think of William Styron’s Darkness Visible about his struggles with depression. It makes me think of the Dark Night of the Soul. This whole process makes me think of what a friend posted on Facebook a few days ago
It's often frustrating to be a saint-in-process. Why does it take so long for maturity, for transformation, for developing more of the elusive fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest. Jeff Peabody has a helpful thought: Jesus becoming a baby automatically put God's seal of approval on a slow process. It was quite a while from birth to baptism to beginning his ministry. Something to ponder this Christmas season.
This struggle comes to mind as I read a couple Facebook posts from a friend whose baby died this summer. All of the happy pictures of families celebrating together was difficult and she posted about Jesus coming for the bereft and outcasts. Later, she apologized for her bitterness and anger, and everyone was quick to tell her no apologies were needed.
Jesus did come for the bereft and outcasts. He came for the presidential candidates making their show of going to church on Christmas Eve. He came for those who had magical childhood Christmases. He came for those who had disappointing childhood Christmases. He came for those posting happy family pictures on Facebook and for those at the homeless shelter on Christmas Eve. He came for those in the midst of deep grief. He came for those who waited in eager anticipation, for those keeping a Holy Advent, and for those completely unprepared.
The Christmas message from the Diocese had a line that particularly jumped out at me.
the good news is that God in Jesus, born again in the mangers of our lives, is the Messiah, the Lord.
As I work on my computer, I often leave tabs open of websites I’ve visited and want to come back to. Every few days, it grows to a large list of tabs and I save them all in various word documents with, perhaps a few words about why I had the tab open, and how it related to other tabs.
Earlier this year, I participated in a connectivist MOOC which resulted in me having more such windows open. Sometimes, I’d gather the materials into a blog post. Other times, they’d just remain in my notes. The links would be not just to some blog post or other website, but posts shared or written by people I was connecting with. Perhaps I was commenting on what they were writing, or they were commenting on what I was writing. I tried being more deliberative about this during Digital Writing Month, but didn’t manage to sustain it.
I also participated in various poetry classes offered through Harvard’s MOOC. It had a nice annotation tool for annotating a poem, tagging it various ways, and commenting. You could see what the other students were tagging and saying as well.
I’ve looked for some sort of bookmarking tool that could pull all of this together. Something that a group could share. Something that you could show the links, between the pages, the writers, and various ideas. Something that people could comment on parts of an article or story. I’ve kicked around various tools. None really seem to do what I want and I haven’t been able to build a community around any of the incomplete tools.
A recent post on Facebook made me think again about the search for a good tool like this. A friend shared Genius.com’s annotations of the first part of Finnegan’s Wake. The annotations are full of links to Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov, and Kate Bush.
The Kate Bush music video reminded me of a game we play in our family called YouTube Riff Off. One person plays a music video and the next person then plays some other music video that they connect with the first video. It can create an interesting series of music videos. For example, Southern Man, by Neil Young, followed by Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd, (Well, I hope Neil Young will remember A southern man don't need him around anyhow) to All Summer Long by Kid Rock (Singing Sweet home Alabama all summer long).
Perhaps I will share some of my collections of links, and comments on them here on my blog. Perhaps I’ll do something similar for sequences from our family YouTube Riff Offs. Perhaps, I’ll find a tool better suited for this. Perhaps I’ll get others to join in. Perhaps, it will tie into my journey for the coming year.
2016 comes with so much potential.
I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Someone makes a well-meaning comment that seems pretty obvious. Black Lives Matter. Please consider whether your Halloween costumes might offend someone. We need to have more people of color involved in discussions about how we can improve education for people of color. Happy Holidays.
Someone else takes the comment as a personal affront and posts a nasty screed, and we’re off to the races. Next thing you know, we’re talking about freedom of speech, political correctness, and who is allowed to express which opinion, but the underlying issue gets carefully avoided.
As I suggested in my blog post about Halloween costumes at Yale, the underlying issue that is being avoided is how to live in a post Christian White Male dominated culture.
The latest is a selfie the Rev. Shelley Best took at a training session for educators in Hartford, where she observed the lack of people of color in a workshop discussing the achievement gap. A person in the background took offense, and now we see
There have been a lot of posts about this, like Susan Campbell’s White people can be unbearably tender.
She ends up with
I would hope the conversation would veer from “But I’m not racist!” to what it means to live in a multi-faceted, multi-cultural world. We could use a conversation like that.
Well, for me, trying to live in a multi-faceted, multi-cultural world, I like having a discussion with my wife about whether we want Thai food or Mexican food tonight. I try to respect other cultures as much as I can, but know that I will continue to say insensitive things as I try to learn about other cultures and weave parts I like into my own life.
The candidate denounced his detractors
as a brood of vipers
and was met
with similar derision
from them online.
but no one
on either side
was ready to share
their food or clothes
with those in need.
Yet in the midst of all the chaos
and mindless hatred
all passing our feeble comprehension
in this current age,