Forever Neverness

Foreverness…

It appears to be a fact, unavoidable, hard and sharp, that grief, the intimate and ever-present dull throb that is a song’s note or a spoken word’s or a who-knows-what-the-next-trigger-will-be-moment away from pouring out as tears, is deeper and more difficult in the second year. It has been nine months since Sydney’s death. I guess I am three month’s ahead of schedule.

The tears of sadness that have fallen since June 9, 2018 appear to have worn away, drip by drip by each slow roll down my face, a lining that wrapped – and maybe protected – my sense of self in the midst of All That Is, like the dripping of water over stone. The image presents itself as a dark comedy with the demonic chortling gleefully and saying, “Funny how you thought your sense of self, the I that looks out from behind yourself, your very consciousness, could be the most fundamental part of who you are, inviolate.” An absurd notion which took only tears to erode.

Love has been unable to protect me from Loss. The idea that deep sadness is the result of a great and abiding love is troubling, false in my mind, and ultimately, is an overly simplistic consolation. “You grieve deeply because you loved deeply, Eric.” Oh, that explains it! NOT…

Just wait until those tears wear through the Grief of Loss so that the Grief of Neverness lays bare and throbbing and so painfully dull.

In his profoundly deep and moving Lament For A Son Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, “It’s the neverness that is so painful. Never again to be here with us – never to sit with us at table, never to travel with us, never to laugh with us, never to cry with us, never to embrace us…never to see…(a) sister marry. All the rest of our lives we must live without him (her). Only our death can stop the pain of his (her) death. A month, a year, five years – with that I could live. But not this forever….One small misstep and now this endless neverness.”

I will never share a donut in the morning with Sydney again. Yes, I have the memory of Sydney’s early childhood donut-eating technique where she would face plant and eat the donut from icing on down. Should a Memory of the Past be enough to buttress me against the Neverness of the Future? Sydney, Corinne and I used to chant “Donuts! Donuts! Donuts!” on our frequent trips to Marsh Supermarket to start our daily adventures. Though the memory of those moments is strong, the joyful, expectant and hungry cry is faint now.

The neverness of ever eating donuts with Syd again even pulls up a chair at the kitchen table this morning while Bay and I enjoy the latest and greatest yeast donut to show up in the Noblesville area courtesy of Rebellion Donuts. Balyn. Me. Neverness. I did buy four donuts this morning, initially thinking, two for Bay and two for me. Now, though, four has a different meaning. One for me. One for Bay. One for Corinne. And one for the Neverness of Sydney.

Wolterstorff writes, “When we gather now there’s always someone missing, his (her) absence as present as our presence…When we’re all together, we’re not all together.”

Welcome to Forever Neverness-Land! Where tears are always welcome and donuts are always eaten…

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

This morning’s Chocolate Chip Muffins…

Today is Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar. The beginning of the Season of Lent. Forty days to Easter Sunday – not counting Sundays.

I am glad Ash Wednesday (and Lent) is making a comeback in the Protestant world after being neglected, disabused and condemned by our Protesting and Reforming Foreparents some 500 years ago. I have written many Ash Wednesday reflections, preached a few sermons and conducted numerous Lenten Season Studies. In this thread I am going to do something a bit different than offer up a scripture passage and encourage believers to repent – whatever that may look like.

Instead, three things…

What is the hardest part of preparing for the evening’s Ash Wednesday service as a pastor? Remembering where you stored the few palm fronds you saved from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Why? The ashes that are placed on one’s forehead on Ash Wednesday are traditionally made from the palms of last year’s Palm Sunday. I remember one cold Ash Wednesday morning outside the office door of the church warming my hands over a little fire of dried palm leaves burning in a coffee can. Add a little olive oil to the crushed ashes created with a mortar and pestle and, ta da, ash soup for application on foreheads.

This Ash Wednesday morning I have no service to prepare for as I am not in the church business at this time. Rather, I will be a participant at a service tonight at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Carmel. I find myself remembering the act of the imposition of ashes on countless foreheads. It is a simple ritual. Dip the side of my thumb in a little bowl that contains the ashes. Draw a cross with my thumb on the forehead of the person before me. Speak the words. “Repent and be made whole” or “Remember that you are from dust and to dust you will return.” So many upturned faces. Faces serious. With tears. A bit of a smile. Some fear. Friends. Strangers. It is quite a privilege. To touch a person in a worship setting. Remind her or him that she or he is going to die.

To celebrate Ash Wednesday this year I made Chocolate Chip Muffins early in the morning! For my birthday last week one of my thoughtful and gracious co-workers gave me 750 best muffin recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury. (He did so because every week for the last few years I have been making and bringing in to work my now famous Blueberry or Banana Nut Muffins.) I have never made Chocolate Chip Muffins because I never really cared for them – preferring instead that those ingredients be delivered to my mouth through a cookie. Now, though, I have an interesting recipe. What better muffin to make for the day that begins the Season of Lent? Give up chocolate!?!

When Wealth – in $’s – Is Not Enough…

Yes, change…

Is it possible to hold together in the same place, i.e. in my mind, the abhorrence of wealth with the dreams of how I might spend the $350,000,000 that I am going to win tonight at 10:59 EST? Closely related to this conundrum is the question, How much is too much?

I scratch my head when economists, politicians and others proclaim that all persons should make a living wage of $15 an hour when they themselves make far more than that and can make very comfortable declarations from very comfortable surroundings about an issue where they would never make any sacrifice of ANY of their comfort to have such an economic boon to many come to pass. While I am glad my employer took the step to encourage the rest of the business world to move to a starting wage of $15 an hour, I know that this publicity stunt didn’t cost Amazon.com much at all. Human Resources got together with Accounting in order to rob Peter to pay Paul. And I am Peter, having lost my annual stock options and my monthly bonus opportunities. I personally lost about $1,800 a year or $150 a month. A drop in the bucket when you make $17 an hour. Just 5% of my annual income. No big deal.

But, hey, now I am making the big bucks ($20.25 an hour) after the compensation “adjustments” and I guess I can pat myself on the back as I step along Moral High Road as it was ME who actually DID sacrifice so another person can make $15 an hour.

The real issue, though, is not hourly wages. The real issue is how much stuff costs. My $20.25 that I earned from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. yesterday buys less than what it could buy in 1973. And, seriously, how many of a particular subset of my larger set of friends and acquaintances has tried to make do on $31,200 a year ($15 times 2,080 hours)? Good luck. Some callous folks might say, “Get a better job.” My reply is, “It already is a good job.” Remember when hourly wage folks in good jobs could have a house, a car, two kids, one dog and one cat and still hope to pay for medical bills and college tuition? (Hmmm. What were the marginal tax rates at that time, a time when roads and bridges weren’t crumbling and a human being stepped out onto the moon?)

I am one of the lucky ones. I can “live” off what I make because some big expenses are covered. I pretty much own my home. I have no debt. My daughter, like her two older sisters, has a chunk of change already devoted to her college expenses. My healthcare costs are ridiculously low thanks to working for a company where the average age of employees is pre-teen and therefore the pre-teens basically subsidize my more expensive getting older health care costs with their, “What’s a primary care physician?”, healthcare costs. AND, my life is made far more richer through the generosity of my parents. (Had to get that plug in…)

I can look at my economic situation and think pretty good about where I am at, though, in the following sense: I am doing what any loving parent would do for her/his children by going down the road of making less than my parents, before my children walk/work down that road. In other words, my daughters are of the generation that will be the first generation in our great America to make less than their parents, i.e. the generation that includes me. (Well, not me, because I don’t have a good job and really shouldn’t be thrown into the same strata as my socio-economic peers.) Like any good parent would, I am trailblazing and getting a sense of what The Land of Less looks like so that I will be able to more effectively help them through it. Of course that help will be more of the moral support help and not include much economic help.

And since I am on the topic of parental economic support, I will share why I have the antipathy I do towards wealth. My first job out of an elite university at an elite financial institution on LaSalle Street in Chicago was doing the investment accounting for a new subset of elite clients, the super-wealthy. Individuals and families with less than $250,000,000 need not apply. One of our accounts was a large set of family trusts where the beneficiaries of those trusts received their economic welcome into the family when they reached a particular age. There was quite a stir in the office in the time leading up to The Birthday Party as the family had quite a reputation for silly extravagance. We all wondered what would be splattered on the front cover of People Magazine and The National Enquirer as Junior began spending his money to celebrate his birthday at The Plaza Hotel in New York. There was no inexpensive game like Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey at Junior’s party. And, as I accounted for one 7-figure wire after another to fund Junior’s lifestyle, my dislike and horror and outright loathing of wealth grew greater. Since that time I have held to the position that a 100% tax on estates over a certain dollar amount is the only way to counter this kind of obscenity (and economic power and control) that results from the pure luck of birth.

I DO recognize as a parent, though, that if I only dwell in the Land of Less I may be short-changing my daughters some important part of the human experience that could contribute to their development as loving and gracious human beings. Therefore, of the $350,000,000 that I win tonight, I pledge to pass along $174,500,000 to each daughter. What a party!

There’s no place like…

Maple Avenue and Noyes Street, Evanston, Illinois (February 2019)

Fifty-four years old. Fifty-four years of being one of the lucky ones to call a particular address “Home.” Fifty-four years of memory…

I was born at 2560 Ridge Avenue in an Evanston Hospital delivery room. I have been told there was a snow event that day. A few days later I took my first car ride south down Ridge Avenue to an apartment building at the corner of Maple Avenue and Noyes Street – right next to the Noyes Station on Chicago’s ‘L’ (Elevated) Purple Line. I don’t remember my first home nor do I remember the sound of the L right outside my bedroom. Development psychologists would say that the sounds reverberating through my first home as L cars went by shaped my sense of wonder and the peace that I feel when I hear a train. (Just this past weekend I waited for sleep lying in my boyhood bed while visiting my brother and heard the sounds of a train whistle and the roll of its wheels in the distance. I fell immediately to sleep.)

A year later I moved (or, rather, was moved by my parents) to my next home on Michigan Avenue on the border of Evanston and Chicago. My first memory comes from my time at this apartment building. It is a very strong memory, probably because it involves four of my five senses: sight, sound, touch and smell. I sat on the stairs between two floors of the apartment building just high enough where I could see through the transom window over the front door of the apartment below. Out of the transom window came light from within, the sounds of a party (laughter and conversation), the smells of cooking (chicken?) while my butt was keenly aware that it was on the hard wood of the steps. I felt intense sadness at being outside while the party went on inside. I felt excluded and uninvited. The laughter that came out the transom seemed directed at me. I remember standing, placing a hand on the wooden railing as I turned to walk up the stairs. End of memory.

Just as trains bring me peace I have no doubt that my dis-ease and discomfort with parties starts with this memory. I am also aware that my strong sense of justice (and injustice), particularly when it comes to inclusion and exclusion, begins on those steps. Is it possible for a two-year-old to form at that early stage of being human a life’s call to purpose and mission where no human being should feel what I felt on those hard steps?

More home addresses followed. Buffalo Grove. Back to Evanston. Arthur, Illinois. Topeka, Kansas. Flossmoor, Illinois. Greencastle, Indiana. Logan Square, Chicago. Indianapolis. Martinsville, Indiana. Irvington, Indiana. Kalamazoo. Back to Irvington. Noblesville, Indiana.

So many memories. Beginning at home on Maple Avenue in Evanston. Continuing at my current home on Maple Avenue in Noblesville. More, I am sure, to come…

In the Eye of the Beholder…

Nude Under a Pine Tree, Pablo Picasso

“Many things that come into the world are not looked into. The individual says, ‘My crowd doesn’t run that way.’ I say, don’t run with crowds.”
― Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I have stood before Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam mesmerized by the immensity of the painting (12’ by 14’) and by the striding almost life-sized figures in black and white.

I have stood in front of Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg not knowing what an impact it would have on my spirituality at seminary four decades later.

I contemplated Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” at the Louvre Museum wondering why this was such a famous painting.

I have stood before da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” at the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan imagining for myself what Jesus’ last meal with his disciples might have looked like.

Twice I have stood below Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City looking upward trying to imagine how Charlton Heston created such a wonder – in agony and in ecstasy.

In the late-1980’s when I was a banker in downtown Chicago I would take advantage of admission-free Thursdays at The Art Institute of Chicago and pay a lunchtime visit. I could walk out the front entrance to my place of work at the corner of Adams Street and Wacker Drive, pick up a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese along the eight-block walk down Adams and enter straight into the front entrance of the AIC. As my lunch hour was limited to sixty-ish minutes I did not have the luxury to take on the museum stroll for very long. Thankfully my favorite room was the room at the top of the first flight of stairs after coming in the front doors off of Michigan Avenue between the famous lions.

Yesterday, twenty-nine years after my last visit, I made that same entrance and climbed the same first flight of stairs delighted that my Impressionists were still located in the very same room.

My tastes have changed. Whereas on my Thursday lunchtime visits I could sit and easily pass the time noting the differences in palette between Monet’s Haystacks, yesterday I was moved by Chagall, Dove and Picasso, and was fairly indifferent to the work of my beloved Cezanne.

There is so much beauty in the world; not just in the world of art. It is humanly impossible, for this human in particular, to see ALL as beautiful all the time. And yet, Picasso’s Nude Under a Pine Tree is not an object of beauty until I turn a corner and go, “Wow!”

“Beauty is no material thing. Beauty cannot be copied. Beauty is the sensation of pleasure on the mind of the seer. No thing is beautiful. But all things await the sensitive and imaginative mind that may be aroused to pleasurable emotion at the sight of them. This is beauty.”
― Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The Cost of Convenience…

Shipping Labels

Yesterday I received four padded mailers from Amazon. Each contained one or more small booklets that I had ordered two days prior – yes, I am a Prime Member. Each mailer was identical in size. Two plastic mailers. Two manila mailers. One mailer came from Philadelphia. One from Kansas City. One from Columbus. One from Kenosha. All were sent to the Amazon sort center in Hebron (Kentucky) which directed them to the Noblesville Postal Service for delivery to my home.

I work for Amazon. Each day I have occasion to think, “How in the world does my company make any money?” I see inefficiencies everywhere. I believe this question is endemic to all persons in all workplaces, i.e. I am not alone in sighing at my perceived sense of waste of dollars and human effort. When I return from work where I raised that question and find FOUR mailers for ONE order on my front porch, I sigh and raise the same question again: How is it possible for any person or non-person to make any money with such apparent waste?

I have an undergraduate degree where I majored in Economics and one quarter of a Masters of Business Administration in Economics. I “learned” that markets, processes, human endeavors, human consumption and human delights, if left unattended, unregulated, untaxed, unpersuaded and uncontrolled (whatever that may mean) in any manner would seek an equilibrium point of interaction that would be the most “efficient” point for that particular transaction or endeavor. (I recognize that this is a gross oversimplification of very complex and many-layered ventures and undertakings.)

In the Good Old Days of Yore I would have shopped for the same items at my local Barnes & Noble in Noblesville. One shopper – me. One store. All eight items located in the same shelf. I would have paid the listed price printed on the ISBN label less the discount for being a Barnes & Noble Loyal Customer. I would bring those items home and happily consume them in the way in which each was created to be consumed.

Fast forward to today. I paid the same list price for the items on the ISBN at Amazon – sorry, no price reduction. I received my employee discount which is roughly equivalent to a Loyal Customer discount. My shipping was as free as if I had brought the items home from Barnes & Noble of Noblesville myself – again, I am a Prime Member.

Net out-of-pocketbook dollar cost to me, Mr. Consumer, is the same for both transactions.

So, here’s the rub: How is it that Amazon.com flirts with being the World’s Most Valuable Company in this scenario?

Surely, it can’t be because of any efficiency gains created by the United States’ sole God, the God of the Free Market, and His Son, Economies of Scale and Efficient Equilibrium Who is constantly being crucified by Socialists, Market Manipulators and Taxes? Any sane Priest of Economics would say that this is exactly what is happening and defend Jeff Bezos’ right, indeed any person’s right, to interact with the Noble Consumer who is pushed around and/or pulled by the Invisible Hand of the God – or Goddess – of Whimsy.

I, once a Priest of Economics, a Follower of Friedman, a Dilettante of Dodd and Debreau and a Student of Stigler (yes, I was George Stigler’s caddy every Tuesday morning at Flossmoor Country Club during the summers of my youth), am now – and, to be honest, have been for some time – skeptical of the Holy Scripture of Economic Efficiency.

I am now declaring myself a Conservative in that I rejoice in and believe to be true that the sole measure of efficiency, any sort of efficiency, is that which gives me the most output of goods and services provided by others for as little input as possible of my own time and Being and personal resources i.e. conserves my time, my self, and my money.

I am now…conveniently…a Conservative of Convenience…my convenience.

panem et circenses

Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme

My first Super Bowl memory comes from January 18, 1976. My beloved Dallas Cowboys led by my boyhood hero, Roger Staubach, were playing in Super Bowl X against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. I watched the game in a Holiday Inn guest room in Harvey, Illinois. (The family had just moved from Topeka, Kansas to Flossmoor, Illinois. We were staying at the Holiday Inn while renovations were being completed on the parsonage that was to become my “boyhood” home.) It was a close game. Lynn Swann was named MVP; making catches that became part of his career highlight video. Roger made a Hail Mary with three seconds to go that was intercepted in the endzone. Steelers 21. Cowboys 17. And my heart broke.

Two years later, January 15, 1978, in the first Super Bowl played in a dome (Super Bowl XII), my Cowboys rode those Broncos to victory. Cowboys 27. Broncos 10.

January 21, 1979. The year of the Mean Joe Greene ad where Mean Joe turns nice after being handed a Coke by a young fan. The game was another heartbreaker. Super Bowl XIII (unlucky 13). Steelers 35. Cowboys 31. And the Cowboys were never heard from again after the Staubach era ended until another quarterback, Troy Aikman, brought them to the big game fourteen years later.

After 1979 all my attention turned to my hometown team. The Monsters of the Midway. The Chicago Bears.

The date January 26, 1986 in Super Bowl lore could be seen in many lights. Super Bowl XX was the very first appearance in a Super Bowl by the New England Patriots. The first of eleven. It was also the first appearance by the Chicago Bears. The final score was the largest margin of victory in a Super Bowl. Bears 46. Patriots 10. The Fridge took the plunge. Sweetness did not score. The Bears shuffled home, champions.

The most memorable moment of that game came from the pre-game show where Tom Brokaw interviewed President Ronald Reagan. Near the end of the interview Reagan asked Brokaw for a moment of privilege in order to share a football memory of his playing days at Eureka College. The memory Reagan shared was a story that involved himself and his good friend and teammate, Bud Cole, my great uncle. (Catch the story at 6:45.) I still remember how delightfully shocked the family was watching the telecast in the warmth of Siesta Key, Florida.

My interest in the big game has lessened such that I find the use of Roman numerals as a way of numbering the Super Bowls more interesting than any of the actual games. Much has been written about how America’s zeal for the big game mirrors the zeal of the Roman Empire for it’s games. Americans are happy – and easily distracted from what really matters in life – as long as they are served bread and games. I believe there is some truth to the comparison. However, there is A TRUTH when it comes to the Super Bowl…Americans are happiest when the New England Patriots lose.

In this corner…Naked Isaiah!

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

Chris Hedges preaches.

Read Confronting the Culture of Death, a sermon delivered this past Sunday.

Hedges informs. Hedges provokes anger (in supporters and detractors). Hedges saddens. Hedges encourages. Hedges never hedges.

Hedges speaks as one with authority; unlike the ignorant, vomiting, talking heads who spew the dogmatic views and “news” given to them by her or his media employer (FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, ETC.) and corporate sponsor (pick any corporation). A long-time war correspondent who immersed himself in the recent bitter struggles of human being against human being (Middle East, the Balkans, Central America). An ordained Presbyterian minister. Son of an ordained Presbyterian minister. Teacher. Writer. Husband. Father. Human Being. (Read the wikipedia entry for him.)

I encountered and then fell in love with Hedges’ writing and thinking when I read his first book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning in a seminary class, “War and Hebrew Scripture.” The Truth he spoke resonated deeply with me, as one who is a classically trained economist with practical experience in the world of high finance, as a father and as a person called by God to share God’s word. Since that time I have long shared Hedge’s proclamations and prognostications on Facebook, in sermons and in conversations.

Hedges speaks the same truth today as any biblical prophet spoke in times gone by: Repent or die! Pretty simple.

The question is: Of what do we repent? Hedges’ list is long…or short…depending on how you read him. His list is as follows:

Greed
Greed
GREED

Oh, and the last item on the list is greed.

Whenever I read Hedges I am always reminded of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

Number one on the List of Greed is: OUR Safety. Safety as a person, as a neighborhood, as a tribe, as a community, as an ethnicity, and as a nation. OUR Safety is SO important that the United States spends OVER 50% of its discretionary spending on military defense. FIFTY percent!!! Think about it: Would any household spend more than 50% of it’s income on an ADT Security System? ADT would sure like for us to do so. And we do. By embracing the idea that billions and billions of dollars (more than the national budgets of the next 5 or 6 countries combined!) will make us more safe. Are we? Do you feel safer? Perhaps there is a “need” to spend an additional $6 billion for a wall?

Have you traveled recently to another “First World” country? In Europe? In Asia? Germany? Norway? Japan? China? If so, did you notice (and were perhaps shocked?) how more advanced those nations are in terms of technology, infrastructure, culture, transportation, ecology, medicine and well-being? Or, do you continue to mindlessly compare the United States to “shithole” countries and thus feel good about our nation’s superiority in the world? Perhaps you declare, “Why do all the people want to immigrate to the United States?” without thinking that little to very, very few persons from other “First World” countries “immigrate” to our nation. Why not? Sure, some students from other “First World” countries come to the United States for an education…but they always return home. Who wants to stay in a “shithole” country compared to her or his own?

Hedges’ brilliance goes on and on and on…just as I could go on and on and on lifting up his prophetic declarations. I encourage you to read the sermon…or not.

Will you/we hear him? Probably not…for a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s home, hometown or country. Far easier to shrug and ask, “What can I do?” Even easier to ignore and ask, “Did you say something?” Even more easy…and saner…to point at the Isaiah wandering around naked and say, “What a nut!?!”

After all, who wants to hear, “This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited up a figure like Trump.”

How Women Named the Company I Work For…

Siurima Waiapi of the Waiapi tribe – Photo: AFP

The impetus for this post came to me the other day when I was again asked about the name of my employer. 

“Where did the name Amazon come from?  The river?”

I usually answer, “Yes, from the Amazon River.  Although the official corporate charter name is AMAZON.COM, INC.”

I might then go on to add, “However, Amazon is not the original name of the company.  The first name of the company was ‘Cadabra’ which is short for the magical word ‘abracadabra.’ When Jeff Bezos learned that people were hearing ‘Cadabra’ as ‘cadaver,’ he and others began a search for a new name.  A few domains were registered: Awake.com, Browse.com, Bookmall.com, but only one of those domains still remains, Relentless.com.”  (Click on the link Relentless.com and guess where you are directed?)  “One day Bezos went through the dictionary in search of a name.  He started with the A’s.  And, not too far in, he came upon ‘Amazon,’ and the rest is history.”1

But that is not the wholestory…

Perhaps in the story of the name “Amazon” there is a bit of herstory in the history. As always, one question leads to another question. 

“How did the river that is called 'Amazon' receive the name Amazon?”

The river already had a perfectly good name, El Río Marañón; a name given to it by the first Spanish explorers, with Marañón probably a Spanish approximation of a local tribe’s name for their part of the mighty river.  Another question.

“Whence Amazon?”

Sometimes when asked the Corporate Name Question I feel a little playful and respond with, “The name for the company Amazon.com comes from a tribe of ancient, middle-eastern warrior-women who cut off one of their breasts in order to more easily draw a bowstring.”  Imagine the look on faces with that conversation piece.  And then another question.

“How is it that innumerable indigenous tribal names for the largest river on earth become subsumed into one name which comes from an even earlier tribal period of human her(his)tory where one-breasted women rode in cavalry-formation picking off their enemy male counterparts with bows and arrows?”

Frightful, in my mind.  Imagine the warpaint on those warrior-women.  And yet, all this is not true in the factual sense of true according to current scholarly historical thinking. The idea of a group of one-breasted-bow-bearing-women-warriors comes from folk and mythical story which at one point in time was deemed historically “true.” The thinking of the scholarly historians of old was that “Amazon” is a combination of two words in the Greek language: “a” (without) and “mazos” (breast).  (Aside: Does ‘mazos’ rhyme with ‘bezos’?) It was from this mythic understanding of “Amazon” as women-warriors that the El Rio Marañón received the name Rio Amazonas.  And another question.

“How in the world does a mythical name for a middle-eastern, Scythian tribe of women-warriors come all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to the equatorial region of a newly ‘discovered’ continent?”

Enter the colonial era. The Spanish Explorer Francisco de Orellana remembered his Herodotus and the tales of the warrior-women of old when, after an attack by a native tribe where the women fought alongside the men, Orellana introduced the name “Amazonas.”

And there it is…where Jeff Bezos saw fit to give his company the name of the world’s largest river, in actuality, I work for a company whose name derives from a dynamic collective process whereby a Spanish colonialist conqueror leading an expedition in search of the Land of Cinnamon down an ‘unknown’ river is attacked by a tribe of men and women defending their homes and, as a result proclaims, “Amazonas,” which itself is an ignorant understanding by the expert historians of his era who truly believed that the name of an ancient group of fighting women was Amazon. 
 
 
 1 A summary of the naming of Amazon.com, Inc. found in The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone; which itself is a part of the story that is being added to the Myth of the Amazon.
 

Grief Described…

from “The Scream” by Edvard Munch

…or the most difficult thread to follow…

(For those who encounter this Blog and/or this post for the first time… My daughter, Sydney Marie Brotheridge, committed suicide and died on June 9, 2018.)

Warning: Grammar Ahead!

(How many times have I said or have heard the following said: “Grammar kills me!” or “If I have to conjugate one more verb I’m going to kill myself!” Needless to say, I have a deeper and more profound understanding of the significance of Grammar’s Death-Dealing Ways when placed alongside Life’s Death-Dealing Ways.)

So, in the immortal words of my high school freshman Language Arts teacher, Mr. Chip Shields: “Grammar is important. Proper grammar could save your life.” (I have no idea if Mr. Shields said those EXACT words back in 1979 but they capture the gist of what I took away from those tedious Grammar units in Language Arts.)

Two dictionary definitions: Grief as a noun and Grieve as a verb in two forms…

Grief, noun, Intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death

“I am overcome with Grief because of Sydney Marie’s death.”

Grieve, verb, [intransitive] to feel very sad, especially because someone has died

“I am still grieving the death of my daughter, Sydney Marie.”

Grieve, verb, [transitive] to make you feel very sad

“Sydney Marie’s death grieves me that I could do nothing to help her.”

I love how the Oxford Dictionary winnows incredibly complex thoughts, processes, states of being and human emotions down to a few simple words. (An aside: It strikes me that the Dictionary Method is the exact opposite of the Poetic Method. In other words, the Poetic Method takes a few simple words to create in the reader’s mind complex thoughts, processes, states of being and human emotions. I can’t help but feel that the difference is similar to a preference between: “Who’s on First?” by Abbott and Costello or “Chapter V: Advice From A Caterpillar” from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll?)

Google “grief” and you can click pages and pages and pages of “Next,” which leads me to think that Oxford’s dictionary definition cannot fulfill what a person wants when s/he seeks to live with grief. (Another aside: I think a fairly strong case can be made that Grief is more complex than Love when it comes to lived human experience. OR, and this is a novel thought for me, perhaps Grief, not Hate, is the opposite of Love. I am going to have to explore that thread a bit more…later.)

…Back to my Grief over Sydney Marie’s death which grieves me when I am grieving.

I have not found solace or solution for MY Grief in the countless books about Grief. The number of websites, let alone books, that number Grief in one way or another numbs my mind…and my heart. For example: “6 Grief Books That Actually Helped,” “9 Best Books for Dealing With Grief and Loss,” “32 Books About Death and Grief,” “11 Books to Help You Confront Your Grief” (How insane is the idea “confront your Grief”?), “Journeying Through Grief” (As if Grief is a location or an adventure), and my favorite, “I’m Dying Up Here: Books on How to Grieve and How to Die.”

Instead, give me a poem. Give me a poem.

Here are two books of poetry that currently carry me along my almost impossible and certainly insane “Journey through the Adventure-Land of Grief”:

The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing edited by Kevin Young

Holocaust Poetry compiled and introduced by Hilda Schiff

AND, more than any other, THE ONE POEM that captures the nature of MY GRIEF (One thing I have learned about Grief is that Grief is VERY personal and VERY different for each individual) is the following:

TAKE MY GRIEF… by Charla Norman
Do you want my grief,
Take it please,
Hold it next to your heart,
Feel it burn and tear you apart,
Please I beg of you,
Ease my mind,
Give me sleep for just one night,
Get the flashbacks,
The heart stopping pangs,
The helplessness from losing my way,
Can you feel my grief,
Hold it close,
It will bring you to your knees,
Your soul will yell, it will scream,
Can you hear it bellow while it takes your peace,
Your body aches, your mind stands still,
You live in the past, where things were real,
Help me friend,
I ask of you,
Take this grief,
For a day or two,
Just long enough, so I can clear my head,
So I can pretend my child’s not dead.