Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Feed Me

Lately I've been haunted by the aching, languid tones of the fractional anthem we've been using in church:

1. The bread which we break, alleluia,
is the communion of the body of Christ.

2. One body are we, alleluia,
for though many we share one bread.

So it's a particularly good time to think about the meaning of the Eucharist in the context of the lectionary. This Sunday we come to the feeding of the 5 thousand. Sarah Dylan Brewer who tackles the lectionary weekly with real gusto has a great meditation up. She counts three miracles, and the least is the multiplication of the loaves. The big two are that people were willing to sit down with eachother--even with the rabble and that they didn't worry about where the food came from, whether it was properly kosher.

I particularly like her characterization of Jesus as a party animal. I've been trying to find a paragraph to extract, but I can't decide what the money quote is. Just read it for yourself.

Somebody should invite this Maryland based webminstress to the Via Media conference they're threatening to hold this October. I think it's about values and vision or something like that.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Making Health Care Happen

The marvellous Matthew Holt, proprietor of The Health Care Blog on Why Hillarycare failed. He explicitly rejects Clinton's own self-assessment (as reported in the New York Times) that she failed, because she rejected incrementalism and tried to do too much too fast. Matthew's basic thesis is just the opposite. Hillary didn't move fast enough.

Matthew says that Hillary dawdled by spending 6 months on a fact-finding journey with Ira Magaziner when there was 10-15 years of good research outlining what the problems were. What Hillary failed to grasp was that she had a very narrow window in which to act. Coming off of the recession there was a lot of insecurity about not having healthcare, and there was a sizable chunk of people who felt that the system needed to be completely revamped. So, it seems to me that we need to be ready to move when the next opportunity presents itself to move for universal coverage which is why I'm puzzled by the conclusion to Matthew's piece:

"Once we get it done, then we have a while to worry about sorting out the system to the purists' satisfaction later. So will you all still please stop arguing about what it should look like!"

I take his point that we'll have to work the kinks out over time, but I still think that we ought to have a few options on the shelf ready to go. We should have a basic single payer option, some sort of managed competition plan etc. and we should think about which current stakeholders would benefit from the different types. No insurance company--other than the Blues who might still play a role processing claims--would line up behind single payer, but the doctors might prefer it. So we need to figure out who our natural allies for each proposal are, and when the country's mood is right and the allies are mad enough, we need to strike. In the meantime we need the Democratic party to adopt a few of those plans and to have the borad outlines of a best and second-best option. We can't have every presidential candidate tackling it from scratch.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

I fear the niceness of this man

I've seen nina Totenberg talk about John Roberts twice on television. On TV she's more of a pundit and somewhat less objective than she is on NPR. The first time she was on Nightline with Ted Koppel, all decked out in a white pearl jacket, probably beamed in from some black tie event. And then she was on Meet the Press with Tim Russert this morning. Both times she described Judge Roberts as nice. He will sail through his confirmation hearings, because he is so nice. And he is all-American too, having served as the captain of his highschool football team. I'm sure that President Bush loved that. He may be an egghead, but he's a jock too. That makes it all right.

No one is ever described as kind or generous or, heaven forbid, good. It is always nice, and I hate this quality. Rarely does it seem to be something positive. More often it's an absence of something bad, and in John Roberts' case I fear it. The man is smart. He kept his head down. He's never betrayed his passions, and I am sure that he is charming. He will smooth his way through. The two Joes (Biden and Lieberman) will love him. All this niceness will mean that all the establsihment Democrats will get behind him. Now maybe Roberts is the best we can hope for from a bad situation, but I fear that his being nice will make it easy for the Senators in Washington to make nice, and whenever that happens, it seems that the rest of us get screwed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

To My Blogging Friends

I haven't forgotten about you. I intend to add a proper blogroll any day now. I'm still figuring out how this whole blog thing works.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Further thoughts on ecstasy--the non-drug version

In a comment on my post Extraordinary Moments in Ordinary Time, Jo asked me to expand a bit on my mystical experience. My first stab wasn’t as clear as it should have been. So, I hope that I can be a bit more direct. (My apologies for the delay. The haloscan counter wasn’t registering the comment properly, and I didn’t guess that Jo had commented here until she posted a link to my post on her own blog.)

First I’m going to muck around a bit with the order of her questions in the hope that this will allow be to be a bit clearer. First

Why is it different than just reaching a moment of clarity?

I can only say that this particular religious experience wasn’t a moment of clarity. I tend to think of “clarity” as being a concept related to a process of ratiocination, as intimately tied up with thinking. My Chaucer moment wasn’t about thinking at all; it was an ecstatic experience. By ecstatic I do not mean “joyful,” although the experience is one that I treasure. By describing it as a moment of ecstasy I am calling attention to the way that the moment was ec stasis, outside of where I had been set both physically and temporally. In other words it was outside of space and time and so intense that it was beyond rational thought. Second,

Why should a spiritual experience be so sensory?

I’m a little bit uncomfortable with the use of the word “should” here. I don’t want to suggest that a spiritual experience needs to be sensory in order to be authentic. I think that moments of clarity, i.e. moments of clear thinking, are perfectly valid spiritual experiences. In fact, if I were on a diocesan discernment committee, I might find someone with a history of thinking good thoughts over many years more temperamentally suited to the ordained ministry and an altogether healthier person. As I said above my experience was an extra-rational, ecstatic one, but I firmly believe that there are many varieties of religious experience and that there is plenty of room for non-sensory, rational experiences under any decent definition of the term. I’m not even sure that I would describe my experience as sensory. I think it would be truer to say that I was outside of my senses, though not crazy, which point brings me back to Jo’s original follow-up question:

Can you tell us more about what you saw, and what you think about the visual aspect of spiritual experience?

I don’t know that I saw anything. There was no great vision. What struck me was how profoundly unvisual the experience was. I didn’t see anything in particular except, perhaps, some swirls in the dirty window. It wasn’t brought on by the beauty of the built environment. I wasn’t in a great cathedral or in a tiny chapel. I was in a dining hall, and I was staring at the tiniest, least impressive window in the place. I think the most remarkable part of the whole thing was how little it had to do with sensory input. The room wasn’t particularly loud or uncharacteristically quiet that evening. There weren’t any special odors; there was just the greasiness that always hung in the air. This wasn’t brought on by any smells or bells. And indeed, I wish sometimes that it had been, because I value the physical environment—the built, the natural and the human landscaped. I celebrate visual culture, and I want to promote the role of beauty in ours, but that’s not what my moment of fire was about. I felt simply-for an instant-that time had stopped and had no meaning.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

So the format did change

Ah, so I see that the template updated, and I've lost my commenters' comments. I was afraid that that might happen. So I cut and paste them into a note on my computer. Maybe I'll re-enter them manually. And now I learn that haloscan comments do last longer than 4 months. It's just that the count registers them as (0). This is supposed to be idiot-proof, right?

Cut and Paste Blogging

I'm trying to change the formatting here, but it doesn't show up when I republish. I'd also like to dump haloscan's comments now that blogger allows pop up comments. (I didn't realize that haloscan's comments became inaccessible after 4 months.) I don't really want to hack around with the code. I love languages and might have liked to be a programmer, but this is supposed to be a simple hobby.

Why does it require so much effort to modify these things? It's free ice cream, as Brad DeLong would say, and I shouldn't complain, but this is really a pain. Why can't I do this visually? Here's a bleg. Can anyone explain to me how I re-enable blogger's own comments but keep haloscan's trackback features? I'd really like to get the pop-up option to work. I even created a sample blog without haloscan comments, and it won't let the comments pop up, even though that's what I checked off or ticked, as the English would say. And in the thoroughly American sense, I'm pretty ticked off about that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

U.S. Airmen banned from London

Their commanders have told them not to go inside the M25. Their civilian relatives are being strongly urged not to go into the city. How absurd. I thought that those comments about British stoicism in the face of terrorism were horribly clichéd, but the hysteria of the American military in England reminds me how much truth there is in that cliché. I do wonder whether the British are all that stoic. Really, I think it's just that we Americans are wimps in comparison.

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