29 April 2006

What a Slug!

A week has gone by without a single post. Not that there’s been nothing to do, mind you. In fact, the week was chock full o’ nuts, as the coffee is called. But in this blog biz, old is anything more than 24 hours. It has the appetite of the news cycle that once it was available 24-7 it needed something every one of those 24 and each of the 7. A whole new meaning for “what have you done for me lately?”

Just to use up bits and bytes, my porch is taking shape out back. The roof is about done. I had a service man in to examine our steam pipe leak and clean the AC. He’ll have to come back again to finish the job. I was never an enthusiastic homeowner, in the technical sense. The Saturday has not dawned when I leapt from the bed eager to put on the tool belt and go and fix stuff.

My karma in this area is lousy. Our first house, an antique parsonage in the hills of New England, was a regular humiliation. Even hanging a picture was a challenge because all the walls were lath and horsehair plaster. Nothing was plumb or level and every fitting and appliance was a bit of a jury rig. I did manage to refinish a table one summer, and toiled Sisyphean-like to conquer the lilac and bamboo that flourished in those shady parts. For a while I hired a young man to dig out a vegetable garden, and even built a cold frame from an old storm window. Some foxglove I planted survived for a while, but all in all it was mortifying.

So I was completely OK with being a condo dweller on the 7th floor for eleven years. The most I ever had to do was unclog a sink. That I can do, and change light bulbs. Oh, I can paint. I do good interior painting. Not fast, mind you, but pretty good.

Anyway, it is clear I need to do more roofing, beyond what was damaged. A tax refund (from selling a house in a non resident state) will help that along. And I expect the repairs to the steam heat will reach four figures with all the plumbing that needs.

See how I managed to make a pretty good post with just the yammering of daily nonsense. It reminds me of how much of life is managing life – cooking, cleaning, paying for and earning. It is hard not to see these as chores that must be done in order to live, but we all know that this is life. But somehow we get it into our sorry heads that life is glamorous stuff like travel and romance and things that resemble movies and feel like books. There should be some sweep, some panoramic vista, some expansive music shouldn’t there?

Cynical me wonders if that isn’t part of what people come in to church looking for. I remember back in 1989, on the 1000th anniversary of the conversion of Russia to Christianity, reading about the legendary story of how that happened. Here’s what I recall:

Prince Vladimir sent out emissaries to the Caliph in Baghdad, to the Grand Rebbe in Jerusalem, and to the Patriarch of Constantinople, to see which of the great faiths vying for his allegiance should be the one. They came back reporting that while they admired the piety and power of Islam, the prohibition against drink was unthinkable. Russians must have their vodka. (Or course it was not vodka then, as potatoes which are its source were unknown being a new world plant that needed Cortez to bring them back centuries later). They were impressed with the learning and piety of the Jews but could not see how they could give up pork altogether. But when they entered the Hagia Sophia church in Constantinople, and heard the singing and smelled the incense, they were sure they had been transported to heaven and so believed this was the choice to make.

I am sure I am mistaken about some details, but the last part is pretty firm. Every religion creates splendor on earth, or most of them at least. Temples of every kind, incenses, bells, songs, mosaics and frescos and carvings and pillars and tapestries and robes and precious metals and jewels and acolytes until the eye and ear and nose is enraptured.

I just bought a book today full of pictures of Saint Marks in Venice, the only solid reason to visit Venice from my perspective and my brief sojourn there five years ago. It is just the sort of place the emissaries experienced, mysterious and majestic and magical. And very unlike our daily lives.

We all want magic, and mystery, and majesty because these things feel like they matter, like the real thing. Today we get it from movies and TV and sports events and video games. But we still look for that jolt in church as well. Somehow it’s got to be bigger and better than real life to be religious.

...‘Go out and stand on the mountain before God, for God is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before God, but the God was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but God was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’…

After all the majesty and magic and mystery, what’s left and is always there in the sink with the dishes is real life. This day, also, the Lord has made, down to the wrinkled sheets and burnt out light bulbs. Rejoice and be glad.

1 comment:

Marlee! said...


the diversity poles were such a sensation!

your sermon was beautiful. everyone seemed so hyped up about it afterwards.

have a great week, i'll see you sunday when i speak in church!