An old-fashioned poem to my daughter Rosie on her wedding day, to accompany the gift of a exquisitely prepared trilobite fossil 450m years old, from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

Long ago, in ages grand
I fell through midnight seas so cold
Sank beneath the crushing sand
And turned into this stone you hold.
Buried deep, through countless time
I, creeping, rose to mountains high
Until the day of the hunter’s climb
Which laid me bare to human eye.
If you should make each other weep
With broken words, and miscontend,
Think of the time I lay asleep
Remember your own brief time, and mend.
And through all the days when love will flow
With blessed joy and caring kiss
Keep me near, our love to know –
Your friend Eliza and your father,

Port Charles 15th May 2010. 3.00pm last hour of the incoming tide.

I cast straight for the Barrier
Into a ripping nor’easter.
The trace drops clean
Three squidded flasher-hooks streaking for the fish behind a tank-busting sinker.
Aaah, Yes.

Away on the lee shore three little boats point stoutly into the wind
Like mechanical cows on a pasture of a green
So utterly not that of the emerald paddocks framing the bay
Luminous between the soft greys and blues of a scud-clouded sky
And the burnished green of that vast paddock of oceanic combers
Running with wind and tide
Spent from their long roll from who knows where
Like godwits from China
Almost asleep
Shrunk to knee-height
But ever beautiful, holding their swing and keeping time to the end.
Finally they stream across black diamond lava reefs
Bubble down through those giant peninsula pebbles
And sough to nothingness.
What stories they might hold
Never to be told.

Not a bite. Not a nibble.
Aaah, Yes.

I carry a small piece of treasure
To take out and look at from time to time
And marvel at and be grateful.
This is one of these moments.
What is it?
It is the knowledge that I am a saved man.
So recently a wreck, a hulk
Not so much rejected as abjected
Left in a sewer of alcohol and stupefactants
Dumbly sinking out of sight
All of my own bitter accord
Now transformed as if overnight to my original design and specifications
Restored in a trice
And cracking along under full sail before a sweet breeze with a nice bump in it.
Deo Gratias.

Now, I really wouldn’t mind a nibble.
Oh well. No dice.
Aaaah, yes.

Three nights later the full moon rises over the far ridge
Framing in silhouette a great pine tree.
Its light spreads a carpet of sparkling yellow tourmalines right to my feet.
Full moon, no fish. Common knowledge.
Purely as homage I cast straight into the jeweled sea.
Within minutes I land a fat trevally
A meal for me alone, gift from this surprise moon, never before seen.
For the first time in my long life,  in place of that old sailing ship calling me away, always away
I see the beaming happy face of the storybook moon.
It says “You’re home. Stay. Be happy.”

So I am happy, happy as a storybook moon.

God, Time & the Chosen People

Nice grand title for a small but interesting idea.
I was skimming through the papal comments about Evolution (as discussed in Mark Brumley’s “The Mystery of Human Origins: Which theories are compatible with Catholic faith?” on when a sudden concatenation of thoughts led to this: God is said to have chosen a people, at a certain point in time – the descendants of Abraham.
Before that moment of choice, we assume He had not yet made it. We see a God who is beyond and outside of time, who intervenes in history at certain points. So why not an intervention to create an …Omniverse, since we now know there are many Universes. Bang!
Then a long long cup of celestial tea, then a decision: which species, on which planet? Humanity. The human soul is created in God’s image and placed in this primordial garden, presumably somewhere on the African Savannah in homo quiensabiensis. Actually, from a paleontological point of view God’s most creative act, from our point of view, happened in the so-called Pre-Cambrian explosion, when all surviving forms of multi-celled life, and many others which did not, emerged in a once-only planetary biological flowering season.

With the body, the soul. After the soul, the possibility of behaving in a certain way, or not. The story of Genesis is very interesting on this point because it clearly suggests that God did not know, or at least did not preordain, which way the moral wind would blow. But Eve ate the apple and Cain slew Abel. No suggestion of even a Divine Nudge, much less a constant hand on the tiller.

And so, eventually, the choice of people, i.e. the descendants of Abraham.

The whole thing is shot through with events in time and space which expose the weakness because time and space are themselves created things.

Which brings me to the point. I believe that there are times in Scripture when Christ, who most of the time talked in a way which left little confusion in the minds of his apostles if not all his followers, occasionally made a point of talking specifically to us, i.e. modern, post-Einstein man.

What can the Jews and Pharisees possibly have made of the statement ‘Before Abraham was, I am?” It is just nonsense, at most a prod in the mental plexus like a Zen koan. Unless you know that there is such a perfectly real, formed thing as a time-space continuum and can therefore conceive of existence and essence outside time and space that statement makes no sense. We can of course, and understand easily that Christ was declaring HIs divinity to be outside of space and time. Jesus’ coevals couldn’t.

Indeed, this raises what is for me the most critical question in the gospels, which is to guess when Jesus was speaking to his specific time and place and when he was not. This is why I have a very un-Catholic view on divorce. Jesus prefaced His remark about this by making reference to the Mosaic Covenant, in which divorce was very easy. He said something like, “When a man and a woman come together they are one flesh, one spirit,” and that a divorced man sleeping with, or even wanting, another woman was an adulterer. He referred to the Jews using Moses’ phrase, calling them ‘a stiff-necked people.” In other words, He was setting his strictures in his current social context. Also he had plenty of advice for slaves and masters. He didn’t rail against slavery, I assume because by doing so He would have simply alienated everyone and His message would not have been heard.

However, there is also a timeless aspect to his ‘one flesh, one spirit’ message exposed by the reverse corollary to that comment, which is, implicitly, that if a man and a woman come together and are not one flesh, one spirit, then they are not truly together, or married as we now say. The woman who marries a man because she rather likes him and he is rich, or a man who marries a woman because he has the raging hots for her and the marriage is a way of having sex with her on tap are not really married. Wisely, the Church recognises this and grants annulments, something I used to consider an act of scandalous sophistry. In the Coptic Church this doesn’t happen, because the priest won’t marry a couple without a long period, commonly one or two years, of examination and instruction. A skilled priest will winkle out all the unworthy motives in that time.

"I’ll think about it…" No, I won’t actually.

It’s funny isn’t it when people say, “I’ll think about it.”
Really. You don’t say? Who thinks about anything in that way? What we really mean is, “I’ll avoid the question now and hope the next time you ask me I’ll have an answer.” Which is perfectly sensible because even if we don’t know it when we say, “I’ll think about it” what we are saying, truthfully, is, “I’ll let my subconscious process it and hopefully next time you ask me I will open my mouth and the answer will come out.” Which is how life really works, or at least mine anyway.
If I really do intend to think about something, I am forced to write about it. It’s the only way I know.
Like lots of other people, I believe, I write to find out what I think.

Wowsers and the Damage they Do

Bit of a hate rant coming up…
Tomorrow afternoon, I will subject myself to the indignity of a colonoscopy.  This consists of having an extremely highly-paid gastro-enterologist slide a flexible pipe with a light and tiny lens at its tip up your backside and all the way up your innards to the top of your colon. I do this because Mum died of colon cancer, a heritable tendency, and as long as I remain vigilant I will detect any occurence of this condition in myself early enough for it to be a relatively minor problem.
What do wowsers, that cursed breed, have to do with this?
A sampling of advice from the brochure the clinic gave me and many many websites shows that, as part of the very detailed and fairly unpleasant preparations for this rectal adventure, one must abstain from alcohol. Of course. It almost goes without saying. Doesn’t it? Tell me you’re surprised.
And because it is so utterly expected, I tried and finally succeeded in googling up the answer to that question used by so many three-year-old boys to drive their mothers to the brink of fury: Why? Why Mum? Why?
Apparently, the answer is dehydration. Alcohol can cause dehydration, which I guess is a bad thing when you’re wanting to shove things around inside. Wouldn’t want to scrape or scratch anything.

But hang on. The main thrust of the preparation for colonoscopy is to pour a small lake of special fluids down your gob until you’re so clean and flushed, and every cell in your body so saturated with liquid that any further liquid taken on board comes hosing out the other end in two minutes flat.
Dehydration? You dream of dehydration. Dehydration is Shangri La. Oh, for five minutes of sweet dehydration!

What has happened, of course, is that the wowsers have stuck their oar in again. The Fun Police have seen an opportunity to deny us the comfort of a glass or two of wine as we soak ourselves in this foul solution of caustic salts. In (almost) every brochure or website dispensing advice about the run-up to the stick-up there are authoritative and detailed explanations of why you’re to do this, take that, what effect it will have and how. Except for the alcohol bit. There, it’s just: Don’t.

You see what’s going on now, don’t you. It’s everywhere. They think, because it’s a good piece of general advice, they should spread it around everywhere, every opportunity they get. And because they are so certain they are doing a Good Thing, they pretend that it is a requirement, like drinking the two litres of MoviPrep, or not consuming anything with pips and seeds.  Which is stupid. Spraying unconsidered, unscientific do-good caveats and strictures here there and everywhere they just makes sure they are ignored by anyone with half a brain. 
Which is where the damage is done. Because every now and then the advice is important, really important, even. But it is missed. Because it looks like all the other stuff, and we ignore it, and three or five or X years later we’re looking into the grey, concerned eyes of a doctor who is saying to us – “You didn’t know this?  How could you not realise what this might do to you, and now has? Surely someone told you?”