Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Work and the soul

This commentary by Joan Chittister on today's portion of the Rule of Benedict (from Chapter 48, "The Daily Manual Labor") reminded me of a brief conversation I had with Jules Dervaes over at Path to Freedom when I picked up my weekly vegetable order about the importance of working with one's hands to untangle the knots in one's mind and spirit. Chittister also underscores the importance of work "for the upbuilding of the community." I ask myself, "Am I getting my recommended daily allowance of manual labor?" and "Who is my community?" and "What is my work for that community?"
Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the community members should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.

There is little room for excursion into the quixotic in the Rule of Benedict. If any chapter proves that point best, it may well be the chapter on work. Benedict doesn't labor the point but he clearly makes it: Benedictine life is life immersed in the sanctity of the real and work is a fundamental part of it. The function of the spiritual life is not to escape into the next world; it is to live well in this one. The monastic engages in creative work as a way to be responsible for the upbuilding of the community. Work periods, in fact, are specified just as prayer periods are. Work and prayer are opposite sides of the great coin of a life that is both holy and useful, immersed in God and dedicated to the transcendent in the human. It is labor's transfiguration of the commonplace, the transformation of the ordinary that makes co-creators of us all.
(Online text corrected according to the paperback text of The Rule of Bendict: Insight for the Ages, p. 132.)

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Dog days

Well, it's now officially HOT in So. Calif. The enervating kind of hot. Plus I think I have a bit of a sore throat/sinus thing that's zapping more energy. Mainly, I've been regrouping after the reunion. Feeling the (comparative) weightlessness of the reunion being in the past—although there are still details I need to take care of. Playing over the days and events in my mind. Remembering things and stories and people and songs I hadn't thought of in 25 to 30 years. Wondering how to integrate it all into my present life. Catching up on a whole lot of alone time after days of intense interaction with a lot of people. Coming back to the rest of life with its challenges and decisions and possibilities.

P. S. Knowing the phrase but not knowing its origin, I did a Google search for "Dog Days" and found the following from the Columbia Encyclopedia at Fact Monster:
Dog Days is the name for the most sultry period of summer, from about July 3 to Aug. 11. Named in early times by observers in countries bordering the Mediterranean, the period was reckoned as extending from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the dog star) and the sun.

In the latitude of the Mediterranean region this period coincided with hot days that were plagued with disease and discomfort.

The time of conjunction varies with difference in latitude, and because of the precession of the equinoxes it changes gradually over long periods in all latitudes.
[Edit: definition of "precession of the equinoxes" from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 8th ed.:
a slow westward motion of the equinoctial points along the ecliptic caused by the action of sun and moon upon the protuberant matter about the earth's equator
I think I need to study some astronomy.]

Friday, July 23, 2004


From the front page of today's WSJ: "As Cash Fades, America Becomes A Plastic Nation," by Jathon Sapsford.
[T]he nation passed a watershed last year. For the first time, Americans used cards -- credit, debit and others -- to buy retail goods and services more often than they used cash or check in 2003. [...]

By letting consumers buy things with unprecedented convenience and speed, cards have transformed the economy. They have helped keep consumer spending strong even through terror attacks and recessions. When people pay with plastic, they tend to spend more -- often more than they have in the bank. Thus, credit cards also have fueled an explosion in consumer debt. It is expected to hit $838 billion this year, an increase of 6.8% from 2003 and more than double what it was ten years ago. [...]

A currency can be anything that all members of a society agree it should be. The current boom in plastic is one of those rare moments in history when that agreement shifts and one payment form overtakes another as the preferred way to pay. The first such change came sometime between the 10th and 6th centuries B.C., when Greece and India each introduced metal coins, which surpassed barter or the shell currencies of earlier times.

Coins dominated trade for the next 2,000 years, until the introduction of checks by Italian merchants in the Middle Ages. In 1690, Massachusetts became the first of the colonies to introduce paper money. Cash took decades to gain broad acceptance, but eventually became the standard of payment for the next three centuries.

The first credit card was introduced as a service for the wealthy in New York in 1950 under the Diner's Club brand. Today, U.S. consumers use plastic to buy $2.2 trillion in goods and services each year -- roughly 20% of U.S. gross domestic product.

Last year, cash was used in 32% of retail transactions, down from 39% in 1999. Credit-card usage has remained stable, accounting for about 21% of purchases during that time. Meanwhile debit cards, which take money out of checking accounts immediately after each purchase, shot up to 31% of purchases last year, from 21% in 1999. [...]

Roughly 60% of credit-card holders roll balances over each month, paying interest of as much as 22%. Because these cardholders are the most lucrative customers of the banks, critics say they effectively subsidize the remaining 40% of cardholders.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

After the reunion

First (known) official reunion in the U.S. of former pupils from a certain missionary children's boarding school in Zambia.

The reunion was held at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. We shared the campus with a football camp, a cheerleading camp, an Upward Bound science and math camp, and others. (The football coaches commented that once the cheerleaders-in-training arrived, many more passes were dropped.)

Clear and hot but not oppressive. Nice breezes. Coolish evenings.

Between 25 and 30 people ranging in age from 9 months to 75 years old. Former pupils of the school from the 1930s to the 1990s, now current residents of the U.S., Canada, Norway, Scotland, and S. Africa.

Evening gatherings to reminisce, leaf through old and new pictures and memorabilia, and watch old school films. Listening to authors read excerpts from their books/manuscripts about the school. Trip to Zuma beach just north of Malibu. Tug-of-war, dodge ball, and hard-driving game of keep-away in the swimming pool. Lingering over meals talking. Taking a 115 question quiz about the school. Morning worship service in the beautiful chapel. Hike to Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park. Evening hymn singing around the piano in the chapel.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Time out

I'm in the throes of last minute details and planning for a reunion of former pupils from the boarding school I attended as a child. So I won't be posting much here 'til the week after next. I'm looking forward to the reunion itself but will be very glad to set aside the task of preparing (and worrying) for it.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Moonlight hike

Last night I finally went on the moonlight hike in Eaton Canyon. Every month for months now I've written in my calendar to go on the hike and then never do. But the woman who lives in the other side of my duplex was enthusiastic about going, so we went last night.

We went with the "express" hiking group. The pace was pretty fast, but we did stop fairly often for the leader to point out various things along the route. The hike was about three miles roundtrip (I think) and took around two hours with all the stops. The most strenuous part was going up the Walnut Canyon horse trail.

As a bonus, the fireworks show for Sunday was being tested at the Rose Bowl, so we had a magnificent view of the fireworks. However, the moon was the real attraction. Eaton Canyon is too close to LA to experience fully being out in the wild (only at a few points along the trail were the city lights hidden), but it was wonderful to be out in the night listening to the crickets, breathing the sage-scented air, and watching the full moon.