Archive for September, 2014


September 28, 2014

I mentioned Dis a couple of posts ago, working from memory of what I learned ages ago as a Classicist.

I then went to see what people would find if they Googled the word, and what they would find is not what I remember being taught.

I asked my mother, also a former Classicist, and she agreed there’s some text or texts, author or authors, we read that talk about Dis in terms we might understand as referring to “godhead.”  She couldn’t remember the text(s) or author(s) either, and The Oxford Classical Dictionary I have didn’t have an entry.  The Liddell & Scott Ancient Greek dictionaries I pulled out only referred to Zeus under Dis, but my Lewis and Short Latin dictionary gave the godhead meaning as the first meaning.  My Oxford Latin Dictionary gave the meaning I found when I Googled something like “Dis religion,” a reference to Pluto and the god of the underworld, which Lewis & Short gave as a secondary meaning used later.

The perils of internet learning, the perils of aging memories.

I leave it for real live Classicists with a good and current feel for the concepts that lurk behind the words (and better working memories of where to find what) to sort this out.

In any event, in my use of the term, I meant godhead.


Bunny redux

September 27, 2014

I was putting something away earlier today, and I came across, while doing so, a photo of a rabbit in my yard from a couple of years ago.  And I thought, “Gee, I don’t think I’ve seen a bunny in the yard for a long time [and I have enough clover in the lawn to feed a whole colony of rabbits].”

My mother called just now and I was staring out the window, and sure enough, there’s a bunny right in the same place as the one in the photo, between the back walk and the big garden.

Layers of divinity

September 26, 2014

My sense of the spiritual world is that there are what we could call layers and that the highest layer is what some people would call God or Dis or Source.  The essence of the highest layer I think permeates through all the succeeding layers, including into our own, into our material world and into ourselves.  I think it’s very difficult for a human to comprehend the highest level.  I think when we try to, we often resort to coloring it with imagery that brings it down to a lower level.

I may have written this before, but I want to say that what Jesus was trying to say could be taken to be about mistaking the “son” for the “father,” about mistaking one layer for another, about mistaking a “personal God” with anthropomorphic characteristics for the highest layer.  The father-son concept would then be a metaphor for how there is connection between the layers.  Encouraging people to fall in love with a being they could identify with even more than with a more abstract concept could be a way of trying to help people who have trouble achieving spiritual union find the emotional posture to do so.

But the “father layer,” in my view, is not the ultimate layer.  I think Christianity conceptualizes that it is the ultimate layer.  I think a “father layer” is also, and too much, dependent on the person’s need to relate to a being who can be related to in human terms.

I wonder if the teachings got misunderstood.  I would take the father-son idea and the idea of accessing the father through relationship with the son as ways to help achieve spiritual union, but which need to be replicated up the chain through the layers of the spiritual realm to the more abstract layers.

As always, take what you like and leave the rest.

I wrote this after reading Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation for today.

Waiting for someone to change

September 25, 2014

I was reading what Gail Collins and David Brooks had to say, in one of their Conversations on the NYTimes website, about people who want their spouses to change.  (They decried it.)  And I thought, “Well, what about the situation of old in which on the wedding night after an arranged marriage, one spouse discovers the other is way too young to have sex?”  In that case waiting for change I think would be seen by most people as a healthy response.

On some sort of continuum, that might be one extreme, towards the other might be expecting one’s grown spouse to enjoy team sports to the same extent as oneself, or to like cats, and then at the very end of that extreme might be things that involve superficial behavioral change (like replacing the toilet paper roll when it’s used up).

I realize these Conversations are meant to be light and airy, but I get distracted by underpinnings (cultural or class assumptions, worldview or thinking constructs) to the humor when I see flaws in them.  Kind of similar, but in a different direction, to the engineer in the joke who points out to their executioner what is causing the guillotine to malfunction.

They’re back!

September 22, 2014

At least some of them are, that is birds at the Res.

The water level is markedly lower, and I saw two herons just now.

Maybe avian word has gotten out that conditions are improved.

I also saw two turtles sunning themselves on a rock protruding from the water.

Finding the Achilles’ heel

September 22, 2014

Once upon a time there was some sort of yogi.  He enjoyed his talents and gifts, maybe a little too much.  Or maybe he just became too self-conscious and nervous about how it was he was able to do what he did.  Or maybe nothing he did or didn’t do had anything to do with it, but at some point in time he ceased being able to connect with his power source, and his abilities became hollow shells  —  he could no longer be the wise person he had formerly been, but he found he could fake it.   Maybe he thought it would be temporary, and so he justified developing work-arounds to get him through the desert of not being able to actually do what he used to do but look as though he were.  In any event, he didn’t admit to anybody that something significant had changed and that he was no longer the person he used to be.  [Actually he was the same person, he just wasn’t the person who could currently do what he used to do.]

This went on for some time, until one of his former students figured out a way to verify for herself that he was using superficial mental processes instead of participating in the flow.

She dyed her hair, she lived among the poor and down-trodden, she became herself one of them.  And then she went to him.  He of course didn’t recognize her, he just dealt with her as someone who made him feel uncomfortable.

Instead of engaging, he ducked.

While superficially his dismissal could be processed in other ways, she could perceive that it actually covered over the nervous fear of a child who is in way over his head.

So she left things at that, because she at least had the ability to perceive that while she could make the situation worse, she couldn’t make the situation better;  for that, the inner little boy needed to be grown up, and for that, he needed to feel safe enough to grow up, and to facilitate that, the only thing that could possibly help was for her to leave as he wished her to do.

While she still had the difficulties in her life to deal with, she had satisfied her need to verify what she had suspected on the basis of other indications:  that there was something going on that was not as it seemed.  She had also found a basis for the discrepancy.

It wasn’t just the evidence of a single incident that confirmed her suspicions, it was also the way the yogi tried to manage the aftermath.  There were many things he could have done afterwards to adjust what had happened, but all he did was more of the same.

The former student felt bad, not just for herself but also for her yogi, too.  She found that she could feel gratitude that he was in this world, that she could accept that he was doing his best, and that she could learn that she didn’t have to condone the particulars to feel that gratitude and compassion or that she had to express that gratitude or compassion in a way that would contribute to the problem, regardless of what anyone else said.  She also didn’t have to pretend that things were other than they were.

What she did have to do was to wait and to listen, to hear what would come next.

And, of course, she missed the way her yogi had been before, that was a sadness in her heart.

Absence of water fowl

September 20, 2014

I have seen very few water fowl on the reservoir for months now.  I have no idea why.

It is true that there is invasive plant growth on part of the water’s surface, even though they removed a bunch of it earlier.  And it’s only very recently that they began to lower the water level in the reservoir for the season.

There was also some sort of overflow of some sort of yuck into the reservoir in the spring, I think it was, which I learned about when I reported to the Friends of the Reservoir (or whatever they’re called) seeing dead fish.

Anyway, there are no swans, virtually no geese or ducks (maybe a handful on the swimming beach?).  No heron or cormorant.  It’s kind of eery.

I am hoping that with a lower water level, the birds will return.

I do see fish swimming around.

I guess we will have to wait and see.

Goofy outtake

September 20, 2014

I did indicate that Jordan took more than one picture of me yesterday.  Here’s what happened when he tried to make me laugh.  He succeeded — but for some reason that resulted in my closing my eyes.


I also noticed when I looked at the picture up on a computer screen that I blend right in with my home decor — did not think of that when I was getting dressed in the morning with no thought of doing this.  The wallpaper predates our ownership of the house, so I’m not sure it’s just that “those are my colors.”  The shawl colors matching the dining room colors (the room is behind me to my right) I can see as having to do with my particular taste.   I love sculptures in which the figures can be seen emerging from the block of stone or wood from which they are carved — maybe I’d like to think of this as a sort of live version of that.


Updated avatar

September 19, 2014




The second picture I posted a few years ago.  It was taken about 3o years ago.

Today Jordan took a couple of new pictures of me, and he selected the top picture above as the “mommyfacebook” picture, so I could update my avatar on various websites.

For some reason the new picture reminded me of the older picture, so I dredged it up to compare.

I guess I am not sure what I think of the comparison.  Probably that I feel more different on the inside than seems to be reflected on the outside.

And I am not sure what to make of that.



When grass looks dead

September 19, 2014

This year I learned that while some patches in my back lawn looked similarly dead, the symptoms were being caused by different problems.

One was dryness and scorching.  It seems that the top of the lawn, near the back retaining wall, is more exposed to sun, perhaps on account of tree removal elsewhere, than it used to be.   We apparently didn’t get a lot of rain either, and there is “ledge” not far beneath the dirt, I am told, so I guess the whole thing dries out easily.

That area has come back from its dormancy with watering.

Closer to the house the patches were being caused by grubs.  I have had this problem in that area before, had it treated and replanted, but the little critters are back, and we’ve had to, again, pull up the dead stuff, take off a layer of dirt, treat with some sort of chemical product, put in new soil, and then seed.

What we were shown was that in the dry patch, the roots are still there.  In the grubby patch, the grass just pulls right away without application of real force  —  the roots are gone.

Why is this interesting to me?

It reminds me of the problem of trying to differentiate between spiritual emergency and mental illness or between dyslexia and cognitive impairment or between viral sore throats and strep — all kinds of situations in which a differential diagnosis makes a big difference in terms of choosing an effective treatment.

It also reminds me of the problem of calibration, another factor that is relevant to finding a helpful response.  Some people become calibrated for people with low pain thresholds or high drama affect, and they become callous to anything short of hysteria.  I’ve encountered doctors and nurses like that, some of whom were apologetic after they discovered their misjudgment.

On the other hand, I am leery of putting too much emphasis on diagnostic category, either.  That can turn into a proxy for getting stuck in the problem and not doing what can be done to improve things:  “Oh, it hurts to walk because I’ve had surgery, I’d better stay in bed, I’m just a post-surgical invalid.”  Or, “I’m not sure what the correct diagnosis is, so I won’t bother looking for strategies that help.”

Of course, if the patient says, even calmly, “This really hurts too much,” it might be well to see if there isn’t actually a complication that warrants a different response.

The other reason the lawn issues catch my attention is that, just as there is a New Testament metaphor about the soil on which the seed is cast, there is, I believe, an issue about on-going upkeep  of the crop  —  if the grass begins to die, we may need to be careful about finding out the cause, because that may make a difference in terms of what response will be helpful.  Watering a patch destroyed by grubs won’t help, reseeding a dry patch is an unnecessarily intrusive intervention.