Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Fun

Divine Love is Gift-Love. C S Lewis The Four Loves
I've been doing this 29 Days of Giving Challenge for a few weeks now. It was a challenge for me because I really didn't have much opportunity to leave my home. However, by participating in this challenge, a new awareness was brought to my activities. I came to recognize how many small things I do for my loved ones to make their lives a little easier, a little happier. Whether it wsa something simple, like cleaning up after the puppies, or something more complicated, like not sharing news that could wait until a better time, I found myself giving far more than I had realized. It has helped me get out of my head and be gracious with myself all at the same time.
Snowdoll misses her puppies. She started scratching when we started sleeping apart to help her stop nursing. Then when they started leaving, she scratched more. So much more that we had to protect her from herself. Don't let this fool you. She's still terrorizing Romanov.

You might be able to hear Rob, clapping his hands for them to stop in the background. If you can't you can still tell when it happens because they do stop. At least for a little bit.
Aries Horoscope for week of August 28, 2008 My Aries friend David's acupuncturist diagnosed his current condition as an "encroachment of phlegm in his triple heater." That's also an apt metaphorical description of what's going on in your psyche. Your internal engine -- the fire in your belly -- is a bit clogged by a sluggish stream of swampy, snotty feelings. I suggest you take action to purge this creeping effluvia. A good way to start would be to do what Gestalt dream workers do: Imagine that the effluvia can speak, and ask it to tell you what it wants.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Touching the Divine ed and int by Gay Hendricks and James Twyman

Touching the Divine: How to Make Your Daily Life a Conversation with God edited and interpreted by Gay Hendricks and James Twyman includes the full text of the brief Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a summary (of sorts) of The Cloud of Unknowing. It is the fifth book in the Transformational Book Circle and I remember how the discussion boards were less than kind when discussing this particular book. I was surprised because a lot of the responses had to do with the book being “too Christian.” Even then I had to laugh because obviously these readers had not noticed or did not mind that the previous three books all included frequent quotations from the Bible and were written within the context of Christian teaching. I confess to having already read the writings of Brother Lawrence so I knew what to expect and even debated rereading it but I wanted to do so within the context of this book collection. How would the teachings of Brother Lawrence align with the new thought, law of attraction, teachings of the previous three? In short, they don’t. Lawrence writes about the suffering of Christ, expounding on how God uses suffering to strengthen the soul. Yes, even bodily illness is addressed.
Worldly people . . . see sickness as a pain against nature and not as a favor from God. Seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress. . . I pray that you see that God is often nearer to us and present within us in sickness than in health (51).
I can only assume that those members who were expressing their offense on the discussion boards are happier when someone misquotes the Bible or even makes up verses that don’t exist. I can understand that. It is easier to only hear what you want to hear than it is to question what you believe and/or want to believe to be true. More interesting to me, however, was the opportunity to read Brother Lawrence’s writing from a different perspective. The previous times I read it, and I’ve read it through nearly ten times if not more, I would say with confidence that I was a believer, a born again Christian. Now I am reading this same text with a self-awareness that does not include the Christian label. I still respect the teachings. I even continue to agree with them. Their truth crosses the limitations of dogma. What he says of prayer, of the challenges one has in maintaining one’s focus on God, is similar to what I have read in Buddhist books on meditation. His adoration and love of God is evident in every page. And his examples, rather than being drawn on the hearsay of some of the previous books where the author “knew a woman who” or “heard of a man who,” Brother Lawrence’s focus is on his own experience. The one time he writes about another, it is traditionally understood that he is being humble and in actuality the “he” of whom he writes is himself. The letters that Brother Lawrence wrote are of a more personal but less gentle tone. I felt uncomfortable reading them given that the very first one clearly states that what he is sharing is meant for the eyes of the recipient only. I suppose it is not very different from reading the published journals of a famous person but that didn’t make it any more comfortable for me. The inclusion of The Cloud of Unknowing is merely an excuse to include a brief discussion and suggested application of the centering prayer that the anonymous author of the text shared with his readers. Very little of the text is actually included, which is obvious just from skimming the table of contents for the book which is clearly dominated by the writings of Lawrence. I was a little disappointed that more attention was not afforded The Cloud of Unknowing because I have never read it and looked forward to exploring this classic text. That’s okay. I found it online. But I do confess to feeling a little mislead by the cover’s indicating that both texts were featured when really only one is featured and the other is merely mentioned. The accompanying cd is another failed attempt at enhancing the text. This one was downright annoying as Gay Hendricks would simply not shut up. The content repeats what is explained in the fifth section of the text. While explaining to the listener the purpose of the intentions before beginning the Centering Prayer, he would say the intentions aloud and then encourage the listener to repeat them aloud. In the time it would take me to inhale, he would start talking again. This happened again and again. Say the words aloud. Go ahead. Now. Quick. Before I talk again. Say them, I dare you. It would have been nice if he could have paused for more time than it takes to take a single breath so that the listener might actually begin the experience. And after reiterating that the listener need only spend fifteen to twenty minutes on the Centering Prayer, he continued talking about how to sit, how it is not necessary to do this longer than the recommended amount of time, when it is best to do the Centering Prayer. In other words, he kept talk talk talking about what the book had already explained. Here's a thought: How about creating a cd that leads the listener through first hearing the intentions, repeating them aloud to themselves a few times, then let the cd fall into a timed silence, fifteen or twenty minutes, as recommended so that the cd, instead of redundantly explaining what the text already does, could be something useful that the reader can use to complement what the text shares? So I guess this is a mixed review because I very much liked the Brother Lawrence material, felt slightly cheated that The Cloud of Unknowing was not included at greater length, and absolutely think the cd is a waste of time and adds nothing to the experience.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel

Jonathan Ames, in his graphic novel Alcoholism, has created a protagonist who is narcissistic, self-destructive, and only slightly self-aware. When Jonathan A., the character in the novel, proclaims himself self-destructive, it is pages after any reader would have come to this same conclusion. Unfortunately, whatever insight Jonathan attains is shattered by his desperate need to hurt himself in an attempt to end his pain. Despair is absolutely the perfect word for this graphic novel. As the protagonist strives to redeem himself from his latest fall from grace, the reader is already aware that he will fall again and hard. The novel begins almost where it ends. Through flashbacks, the reader is shown how Jonathan becomes an alcoholic. Young and reckless, he gets drunk with his best friend, unable to hold his liquor and dependent upon his friend to hold him up as he drinks himself into vomiting blackouts. That he knows he has a problem is not enough to stop him and, although he claims to want his parents to confront him, he never makes any efforts to confront his own drinking habits. For anyone who wonders what rock bottom looks like, the reader gets to see Jonathan’s rock bottom time and time again. There is a saying that when an addict hits rock bottom, the addict pulls out a shovel and starts digging. If this graphic novel were not fiction it would be a powerful argument for the truism as the reader sees Jonathan A hit rock bottom and then dig deeper into his addiction. There is little hope in the pages. When he finally goes to rehab, it is a memory, told from a present where we already know he’s woken up in a compromising position. No matter how many people he loses in his life, he will end up waking up from yet another blackout, trying to piece together how he got here from there. The novel’s conclusion is ambiguous, leaving the reader to decide whether the protagonist will ever find peace. Frankly, I didn’t like the protagonist enough to hope he would. I simply didn’t care. Dean Haspiel adds a layer to the story telling that elevates this graphic novel from being a tedious piece of humorless self-deprecation. Haspiel’s noire style drawings reinforce the idea of despair, with stark visuals hammer home the bare bones message of the story. This is despair drawn in angles, sharp visuals, shadow and light. The drawings compliment and complement the story that Ames has created, as the graphics of a graphic novel ought to do. It is hard to say that I liked this graphic novel, easy to say I did not hate it. How does one like a story about someone who is unrelenting and pretentious in his supposed desire for redemption? Seemingly driven by his ego, the reader is left to assume he is driven by his id. There is nothing redemptive about the character and the despair is only lightened by failed attempts at humor. I never smiled while reading the story. My appreciation for this graphic novel is that Ames has created an unsympathetic character whose story is at least intriguing if not unsurprising. But when reading other books about addiction, I have at least walked away thinking how fun it might have been to party with the addict. I never felt that way about the protagonist. Ultimately, Jonathan A comes across as a tedious frat boy who knows he needs to grow up but never figures out how. Still, I cautiously recommend it because it is interesting; a curious attempt at something that maybe is not resonating with me. I plan on giving my copy to my daughter so I clearly didn’t loathe it. I just don’t know how much patience a reader has to have to enjoy the story but I can say that it takes little to appreciate how well Haspiel has visually communicated the emotion of Ames’s words.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays Always

Every dream I've had has had puppies in it. I even woke myself up because I was whimpering in my sleep and my dream interpreted my whimper as the whine of a puppy.
And so my daughter, knowing I needed a little cheering sent me pictures of her cat.
An amusing aside, regarding the cat, Raven. He was actually supposed to be my cat. Someone I loved ended our relationship and because he was allergic to animals when his former roommate approached me about his needing to get rid of the cat before he moved to Canada I immediately said yes. It was my way of accepting that the relationship was well and truly over.
The only problem was, the cat had been raised by men so he had no desire to be my cat and followed the boys around relentlessly. However, Marc was a bit too loud and moved to fast for the more mellow leanings of a cat. And because Rei would meow and mew along with Raven whenever he made noise, he soon bonded with her.
Raven is a quirky kitty and fit in perfectly with our family. And he adores my daughter. I can't say I blame him. I adore her too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

And Two More Say Goodbye

With the family's permission I am sharing this, a painting done by the "mommy" . . . a portrait of the "daddy."
It grew harder and harder to let them go, regardless of how confident I may have felt about the love the puppy would receive.
When I was told that C, aka Junpei, would now be called Sasha I was thrilled. I know that it was not "all about me" but it was so nice to know that the puppy they carried home would carry a name so close to my own.
I was not home when the final puppy left our home. Formerly Wrinkles, aka Panda/Teddy Bear, left with her family. Her name is now Pinky and she will be loved because there are so many people there to give her love.
When I came home I saw the emptiness, listened to the silence, lay down . . . and fought not to cry. I failed. The tears rise with the kind of relentless that comes with grief. And that is what this is--a small loss. The puppies are in the world and they will grow beautifully and become as wonderful as their mommy and daddy.
PS: Saila, be sure to click the link to the painting and read the bio. *hugs*

Because I Never Thought About It

One of the new families asked about the puppies' sleeping patterns. I realized that I have no clue because when there are seven of them, some are up, some are down, some are playing, some are just lying around quietly watching. It's hard to say with any certainty. There are only two here and although they will both be gone I can at least track the puppy pattern for the first part of the day. 7am: Puppies were up and playing a bit by the time I finally left the bed. 8am: Puppies have eaten and are playing. 9am: They are still playing, running around, jumping up on one another, dragging toys from one room to another. 10am: Are they finally settling down? Maybe. 11am: Puppies were both asleep by 10:15 and are still sleeping. 12pm: Puppies are still asleep. 1pm: Puppies are awake with a vengeance. They have been up for 30 minutes and are running all through the house. 2 pm: The puppies have collapsed. Both are sound asleep. 3 pm: One puppy has gone home and the other, after getting more attention from the family that was taking home her sibling, fell asleep. I left the house at this point but odds are, all things considered, she would have slept until the evening, around 6pm when she would have wanted something to eat. Then she would have run around, played, done the usual damage that puppies seem insistent upon doing, and then she would have fallen asleep. Some time around 10 or 11 she (and her siblings) would be up and playing again but settle down fairly quickly. Add in one or two wake ups in the night, depending on how well everyone was sleeping, and repeat. The day in the life of the puppies. This post will be edited throughout the day.