Words

Life

“Not being tempted by it” 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

Tone 6

The Angelic Powers were at Thy tomb, the guards became as dead men. Mary stood by Thy grave, seeking Thy most pure body. Thou didn’t capture hell not being tempted by it. Thou didn’t come to the Virgin, granting life. O Lord, Who didn’t rise from the dead, glory to Thee.

This is the second time in my life I’ve had the distinct impression I could assent to letting my flu-like symptoms progress to death if I wanted to, which I a little grudgingly declined. I must have a death wish nagging at me. I’m told that when I was a baby I was rushed to the hospital not breathing with pneumonia. I’ve wondered if I was snatched back from heaven back then. And I remember wondering since about age four why we bother with earth when heaven is so much better.

There is a morbid sort of logic that serial killers can easily have that they are setting people free from their suffering in this mortal coil. Dr. Kavorkian has a serial killer reputation because it seems the people going to him were too able bodied still. I think people in their last stages of painful terminal cancer are often given a little too much morphine to tip them over, and having watched what lingering cancer death can do to people, I don’t disagree with that.

But I think most of us who are tempted by death, should instead occupy ourselves with improving daily life.

“Not being tempted by it”

by Andrea Elizabeth

There comes a day in the course of Covid when the grim reaper comes and asks if you are ready to die. Like Dracula, he needs to be invited in. Not this day, you shrug. So he shrugs and leaves.

Crazy crow lady

by Andrea Elizabeth

I wonder why it’s not till people get to my age that they become so fascinated with birds. Flying is the most amazing thing, should be to anyone. And that so tiny and delicate an animal can accomplish this and survive predation is nigh unto miraculous. Maybe people my age look up more, being as we’ve had enough time to learn how to walk and predict obstacles.

I have taken to sitting outside when I get up at first light, another aging characteristic. One reason is to chase off the crows who have moved in. Their constant cawing is so loud and obnoxious. And they prey on smaller birds whom I have worked so hard to attract. Throwing sticks up their tree inches them off a little, but it seems they are way more repelled by a tuna can which was left out from feeding a crying cute but soon to be apex predator feral kitten that the similarly hospitable neighbor may have since trapped and given to Weatherford Whiskers for rehoming, back to the can, tossed around in Merry’s metal food bowl. It makes a cowbell sort of sound. So about five times each morning as they get closer, I traverse my woods paths jangling loudly. They seem to hate it and fly pretty far away. It’s so sad that the other birds don’t sing while they are in the vicinity.

It’s also embarrassing that I have to leave my curlers in while I do this. Parts of the woods are visible from the road. But early mornings are more humid so….

Besides people should be staying home to enjoy their coffee and help me drive crows out of the neighborhood instead of driving past my house to God knows where.

St John of Damascus

by Andrea Elizabeth

For how could He that is uncircumscribed have a right hand limited to place? Right and left hand belong to what is circumscribed. But we understand the right hand of the Father to be the glory and honor of the Godhead in which the Son of God existed as God before all ages and is of like essence to the Father and in the end became flesh, has a seat in the body. His flesh sharing in the glory. For He alone with His flesh is adored with one adoration by all creation.

St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, quoted in The Holy Angels by Mother Alexandra

First reaction: it appeals to my enthusiasm for geometric explanations. You are called to wonder first at the geometry, then how it is transcended.

Second: I note that Jesus goes to a second realm, the body, and glorifies it. This is a little different placement than the usual teaching of Christ bringing the flesh to deity, though this is simultaneously true, especially at the Ascension.

Reductionism

by Andrea Elizabeth

Reductionism is based in the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity, as all evils are, ha. It is an attempt to control the narrative.

On the other hand, not taking large chunks of truth seriously is a way to keep from dealing with them.

Take for instance my complaint about the tennis test in my last post. The reductionist purist labels Americans as over-entertained lazy so and so’s. The avoidant, procrastinating personality says, not so fast, what if there are innate reasons Americans aren’t fit, such as our immigrant progenitors were fleeing starvation that had made their metabolisms too adept at conservation, overly available processed and sugary foods, and an emphasis on sedentary book learning and technological labor saving devices.

It’s easier to deal with laziness though, so thank goodness for reductionism, not Calvinism. Reductionism is our father, comfort is our mother.

the gold standard

by Andrea Elizabeth

Purists probably do not like the word economia. These purists are also called traditionalists, people with perfect musical pitch, and people whose measuring tapes include average benchmarks.

My first brush with these standards was when my mentally challenged brother did not qualify for special programs because he “fell between the cracks”. His scores were too high, yet he did not cope.

My second was when I got my only C in high school because the PE final exam surprised me by scoring you on how many times you could hit a tennis ball in the opposite square across the net. I had practiced a few times when given the chance during class, but I guess we were supposed to get proficient on our own time. I remember failing other fitness tests that I have since heard that Americans score way below average on compared to northern Europeans in particular. I would say that the many reasons for this need to be addressed before test day.

More recently in my Orthodox journey I have relaxed some of my fasting practices because of back and voice trouble mainly while singing in the choir. A bit of extra ground meat during fasts supports both. I am currently more seriously addressing my horrible posture through yoga stretches on my Peloton app. Spinal curvature is very complex and tied to every movement of the body. Fixing one area involves properly setting up all the other ones. It reminds me of my failed attempts to water ski. So many moving parts need to line up to be able to walk on water. Even as I sit here I am having to push my lumbar spine out, my thoracic spine in, and my shoulders back while leaning forward supported by the desk. Meat eating may cost me my miracle working abilities, but I don’t want my posture to end up like St. John Maximovich’s, God forgive me. I have discussed this with my new Priest in our new mission in Azle, by the way, and I do not eat before Liturgy.

I wonder if economia in musical pitches takes into account the particular choir members’ range. I have noticed that since eating more protein my voice and my back are stronger, also allowing me to sing a little higher and clearer.

Gold standards are impressive and a good thing to have on the horizon, but I think mercy trumps them.

Instead of venting

by Andrea Elizabeth

“It is not easy to forgive. Forgiveness is much more than laying aside claim to requital or revenge; it is love bearing pain and shame with strong will to redeem.” – Mother Alexandra in The Holy Angels quoting George A Buttrick’s “Exposition on St. Matthew”.

My Life as an Indian

by Andrea Elizabeth

I am thoroughly eating up My Life as an Indian, the memoir of J.W. Schultz published in 1906, detailing his life in the 1880’s among the Blackfeet just east of Glacier National Park. My daughter and I stayed on the edge of their reservation two nights. Glacier National Park was the highlight of our vacation.

Back when I first became Orthodox 15 years ago and went on an independent vision quest, my found spirit language was a Native American mourning song. My heart weeps this song as I listen to these stories of People who lost their lives and their children. It is such a heart-sought blessing to hear their stories from before this happened en masse. I say en masse because before white westward expansion their people were being picked off in tribal raids to kill and enslave. The care of young widows is probably the main reason for Native polygamy.

I also mourn for the loss of animals who were thriving when Mr. Schultz lived among them. They were so numerous it was easy to pick them off wherever you might be standing. Neither the Natives nor Schultz should have been entertained by his ability to shoot birds out of the sky so easily. They did not eat them because Plains People believed fish and birds were unclean. And FBI agent White, though an uncommonly humble and merciful man to prisoners, as described in Killers of the Flower Moon, should not have taken his frustration out by shooting a duck out of the sky.

Indirect venting is such a thing.

Lord have mercy on we thoughtless, vengeful, greedy, and over-consuming people of all colors. And help us learn from People whose religious view of life was so all-encompassing.

Killers of the Flower Moon

by Andrea Elizabeth

The second part of Killers of the Flower Moon, The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann, about the FBI, moved better than the first. The first part about the Osage victims sounded a little patronizing. The female reader’s put-on southern accent, unlike the male reader’s of the second part, as well as her tone in general sounded like she was trying too hard to be sympathetic. This was an expose, but tried to sound like a novel when relating the point of view of the central family of female victims. The first-name basis sounded off.

Sisters Minnie Smith, Anna Brown, and Molly Burkhart

For more information on how this mess all started with “pioneers”, read http://www.dammingtheosage.com/tag/osage-indians/

Not even the French and Russians, who had better relationships with the Native people, can criticize the English, German and then American colonists, because they had been selling out and decimating the animals with their over the top, greedy fur trade, fueled by the civilized people’s gaudy fashion market. And the native people deserve some blame too for participating in the fur trade because they wanted shiny new pots and pans.

Similar but different

by Andrea Elizabeth

In talking to my neighbor about our dogs’ complex psychology, we puzzled over how much like us they are with their issues, but how the experience is probably not the same.

Dogs and humans can both have debilitating anxiety. A person has to learn to cope with their own anxiety, but a dog’s anxiety must be managed by their human. See Cesar Millan.

Other people can help a person, but they do not have the same degree of responsibility. A spouse should not treat their spouse like they would a dog by mandating boundaries, for example. In some cultures, past and present, women were commonly viewed as property, but that is out of favor, thankfully.

The experience of anxiety may not be the same between dogs and humans either. I distinguish dogs from other animals because it does seem that there is a hierarchy in complexity of psychology, but having unsuccessfully attempted to rescue a severely distraught fly caught in a spider’s webbed crosshairs, I don’t know by how much.

Let us postulate that a basis for the differences in experience, besides being owned, and despite innate differences in sensitivities within members of the same species, is the human capacity for forethought. We share the ability to remember the past and live in the present, but the human has the responsibility to plan for the future. It is a character flaw if a person lives only for immediate gratification. This inability, spider web building and acorn hoarding being exceptions, is why domestic animals need us to own and care for them. This is the deal we’ve made with them, though they can go feral.

Forethought brings another level to our anxiety. It seems a dog is mainly concerned about the meal of the day, and once that is achieved, he’s usually good, either for a nap, or joyfully working, if trained properly. That order may be reversed as a motivation for working.

A person is not fully mature if they require to be managed by food. This is not the level of forethought that we were created for. We have to concern ourselves with next year’s food, and for eternity (learning to please a present God is another thing). The further out you can plan, the more human you are. A good atheist is concerned about food for future generations, though I do not believe he can explain his empathy very well. Dogs are also empathetic by the way, but on a sensory level, and nervousness counts as a sense. If a human’s focus on the future brings too much anxiety, a dog can be a soft, warm, sensitive, and therapeutic witness who provides a present focus.