BELIEF

And what, then, is belief? It is the demi-cadence which closes a musical phrase in the symphony of our intellectual life.

American philosoper Charles Sanders Peirce, from How to Make Our Ideas Clear

The word “God,” so “capitalised” (as we Americans say), is the definable proper name, signifying Ens necessarium*; in my belief, really creator of all three Universes of Experience.

*Necessary Being

Charles Sanders Peirce, A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God, 1908

MAY’S BEGINNING, POEM’S BEGINNING, NO SPECIAL RELEVANCE

Between me and the sunset, like a dome

Against the glory of a world on fire,

Now burned a sudden hill,

Bleak, round, and high, by flame-lit height made higher,

With nothing on it for the flame to kill

Save one who moved and was alone up there

To loom before the chaos and the glare

As if he were the last god going home

Unto his last desire.

-“Man Against The Sky”

-Edward Arlington Robinson

APRIL

The end of April, actually. 2022. Every kind of feeling, every memory, fear, regret, maybe hope.

There was a lilac behind our house on Neponset Avenue. It bloomed about now. Someone pulled it up, gone. Also the swamp maple my brother Doug decided to plant, supported by a broom stick when it was new and fragile. It grew and grew. It’s gone.

April, the cruellest month. So said the poet. Months, every month can be cruel.

Those gone, not forgotten. Missed. The wind chime jangles gently. It is cold up north. I took Diane to the airport before dawn. She texted, “cold, Wry very cold.” She probably meant, “Very, very….” But wry. That says it, too.

Someone posted an old Ch 12 WPRI, Providence newscast on FB — Monday, March 30, 1987. That was four months before I arrived there after my time at Channel 7/ Boston. I was noon anchor. It was a good two years, though I’d expected to be at Channel 7 for the rest of my career. It did not work out that way.

I am missing a reunion of broadcast people in my old neighborhood this Saturday night. I am sad at that. But my solitude here — maybe at last I can sort out some things. Aren’t we always trying to sort out things?

Monday, March 30, 1987. The edge of a lost April. “Boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The past in which that was written is far, far past.

I walked alone in the nature preserve, exotic birds near me, hot, breezy.

I try to call my brother Bill in his confinement, aging, infirm yet, my sister-in-law tells me, in good spirits, having come back from the hospital , recovering –thank God — from a bout with a mild strain of the Covid virus.

Thank you, God, for everything.

I must make spring feel better than this, even if no roses are blooming in Ukraine.

April this year is on the edge of sorrow. Sadness.

MARRIAGE

There are words signifying human arrangements or states of life which should never be emptied of their true meaning. Marriage and all that it signifies is such a word.

This remains true even if every soul in our culture succumbs to the temptation to treat marriage merely as a fungible civic “institution” or solely as means to a beneficial personal financial end. It becomes a mere human contract, and, compared to a contract to buy or sell land, is perhaps not nearly as serious or consequential.

The word marriage in our culture still implies love, intimacy, total, “ideally” unbreakable commitment between human beings. I think many would agree that it should be “sacred,” however one wishes to interpret that word. In the religious culture I embrace, it is one of seven Sacraments. It is prohibited to regard it merely as a civic, possibly temporary and reversible arrangement. It is eternal. It must be borne through all human trials of sickness or poverty. The universal evidence reveals it to be a source of enormous joy and fulfillment for multitudes and a natural and desireable state of being for all humanity in all times.

The Catholic Church and much of the secular culture still regards marriage, of necessity, to be between a man and a woman. And religious and non-religious peoples alike probably never expected that fundamental fact to be upended.

But that’s where we are in our culture. There is no telling where it will lead us.

Marriage is also fundamentally supposed to be about new life — children, family. This comes about through an intimacy that God-oriented people regard to be special and sacred and, in Catholic teaching, reserved only for the sacramentally married. The culture at large flaunts this shibolith in a spirit of indifference, even mockery, and in the name of “progress”. Like all the most special and sacred things that exist, the powerful human drive for intercourse can be grandly abused, but remains an infinitely serious form of human expression. No one, even the most unreligious and secular-minded, denies that, though many deny that abstinence is possible or desirable, sometimes regarding it to be “unnatural” in the wake of the so-called “sexual revolution”. (Whenever I hear that line urging us to “crown our soul with self-control” from “America the Beautiful”, I believe I’m hearing lyricist Katharine Lee Bates propounding the pre-modern understanding of how we should deal with everything from anger and hunger to sex. I guess that was the “old” America, “from sea to shining sea.”)

But in the new, still beautiful America, we have gradually embraced polymorphous means of being intimate, and unnatural means of conceiving children. No telling where this will lead us, either.

Sex, seen as merely a primal impulse or appetite, has largely been “divorced” — another troubling word — by much of the whole world’s culture from marriage. So has the necessity of procreation as a unific, inseperable aspect of sex.

So many, like me, are either guilty bystanders or active, sinful collaborators in this cultural unraveling –which millions define as “progress”.

Random sexual, temporary parings between the male and the female of the species are, based on scientific evidence, premordial. They are common in the animal kingdom. But the arrangment called marriage is for humans and involves a number of human norms and understandings. Sometimes people, regardless of their age, come together in this bond out of shortsighted immaturity and emotional infirmity. ( I ain’t preaching. I’m as frail and shortsighted as the next person.) We all know about those early, ill-considered, half-forgotten marriages. Those who engaged in them failed to grasp the seriousness or nature of the journey upon which they were about to embark – or didn’t know their future spouse as well as they thought they did. The list of problems goes on.

But, as it happens, the most thoroughly secular marriage I ever attended took place in a grand stone castle above a beautiful, mist-shrouded Massachusetts beach between two atheists, at least one of whom (the male) I know to have –to this day — an utter, insistently reasoned disdain for religion. He is a professor of philosphy.

Nonetheless, the Introductory Address at that wedding by the “celebrant” in the presence of a Justice of the Peace read as follows:

“In all cultures and at all times, people have entered into matrimonial union in recognition of the mystery of love, the power of moral commitment and the enlightening force of communication which connect them and give meaning to their lives. “

Further, that address went on to speak of “(L)ove, the fundamental bond which ties the human family together and which gives us hope for a world in which peace and community reign….”

Beautiful! And very serious, and true. This was well over thirty years ago. That couple is still married.

But I would submit that this atheistically-oriented address ( which, in my book, qualifies as a “prayer”), recited in the presence of the bride and groom, though they were never referred to as “bride” or “groom”, nonetheless invoked a number of theological concepts, e.g., “the mystery of love” and “hope” which Catholic Christians regard to be a theological virtue along with charity, often rendered as “love”. And “family”, too, is a bond that Christians or other religions see as of divine origin.

If there is no God, why should love be a “mystery”?

I have attended Christian marriages that did not seem so steeped in the beauty of things I, for once, see as of divine origin. In everything good thing we mortals do, if it is worth doing, there is an echo of eternal truth.

But then there is cohabitation — or marriages that are mere cohabitations. Here is where two humans can experience endless, deep, psychological and spiritual lacerations, live in a state of mendacity and illusion, anger, recrimination, sexual and emotional objectification, financial ruination, trapped like addicts in one another’s emotional grip, aware, however subconsciously, that they are merely hostages to one another. It is a nightmare, a horror. True love is obscenely mocked and strangled.

Then someone comes along and says to the unmarried, “you two should be married.” They cite Social Security benefits, scold a person who would deny the other party both the SS benefits and tax benefit. If the “mystery of love” is baffling, so, too, is the mystery of modern cohabitation among those we might diagnose as “codependant.”

It is understandable that those well-meaning kibitzers should be baffled– not realizing that they are urging those two souls to make a horror permanent; seal the bonds made of fear and emotional infirmity, born of what we have come to call, again, co-dependancy.

God help us. God help them. God help me, as a matter of fact.

To be single, alone, living and responsibly maintaining our own orderly, charitable lives, possibly experiencing lonliness, but bonded to all those we love and even find it necessary, through circumstances of our own making, to support financially — even to our own detriment and for as long as we live — this is truth, integrity and reality.

A decision to do so is every bit as essential as the decision to marry. Like true marriage, it is a state of life that can bestow true peace, engender true love. I, for one, believe this.

I pray for it.

God hear my prayer. God care for those I love and with whom I hope to escape all illusions, all disorder. Let me be an instrument of your peace, your love and your truth. And of divine and human — reality!

Amen.

HIS PASSION, OUR PASSION

It’s been a so-so Lent for me. Always falling behind in prayer, distracted by periodical reading, disorganized, lazy as ever, and, therefore, scatter-brained as ever in matters both material and spiritual, pestered by temptations and unworthy thoughts and angry bouts, and deeply worried to the point of agony and persistent anxiety about finances.

This morning, having fallen behind in my spiritual reading regimen in the several valumes called In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez, I am called in today’s reading to meditate on Christ’s Agony in the Garden. What’s always driven home to me about that, the opening moment in Christ’s Passion, is how the disciples, despite their best efforts, fell asleep when Christ needed their comfort and support the most and for them to keep a vigil. He warns them to stay engaged with The Master unless they be put to the test. I don’t want to be put to the test. I better stay awake with Christ, keep a vigil, pray to be spared the useless agonies sin inflicts upon us, pray to the Holy Spirit for His gifts, especially Understanding, and especially over the coming Holy Week.

Today , 4/8/22, is neice Mary Beth’s 62nd birthday — she for whom I once served as babysitter. I must call her, chat with her, as well as entering the obligatory greeting in Facebook, along with the thread of other well-wishers. But I am ever-mindful, where my family is concerned, that just about all of them long ago abandoned the practice of the faith. I’ve got my own spiritual row to hoe and reparations to make….but I believe it is my role to pray for their conversion and perhaps, only with the greatest of subtlety, suggest that they consider the time of their lives, the short duration of this earthly pilgrimage — and all that stuff. (We’ve all heard it before, right?) And that goes especially for my brother Bill, caught up in his own emprisoning agony, confined to a bed in a rehabilitation center, angry, yearning to go home where, though he does not know it or, more likely, cannot accept it, he is unlikely to return — and perhaps now suffering from dimentia, as an added burden, and lashing out.

God help him. Let me help him. He is first born of Bill and Jo Wayland. Somehow, I want to help all of us.

But let me, finally, by urgently mending the broken state of my own scandelous life, speak to them with my actions, not so much with my few careful words.

The day is far spent….

The night is dark and we are far from home.

Amen.

RAGGED END OF MARCH

Last day of the month.

You will remember the minutes crowded with meaning, the moment of pain, the aimless hour;

You will remember the cities, and the plains, and the mountains, and the sea…

RESURRECTION

Kenneth Fearing, 1935

My brother Bill was born the year this poem was written. Bill is confined to bed, recovering from a broken hip, in a double occupancy room in a North Andover, MA rehabilitation center. He seems to have slipped into demensia and might speak to me or his wife in a kindly or a nasty manner, depending on his mentally variable mood. His prospects for ever getting out into the world again are thinner than he knows or can ackowledge. We three brothers, the twins and I, do our best to comfort him from afar. Two of us — Doug in Denver, I in Florida — are very far away;

We all wonder what earthly fate awaits us, with our beloved sister already five, going on six years gone. Have I ever fully registered (“processed”) or mourned that death?Bill’s two sons are in far-off Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay area. It is all so sad and so worrisome on this last day of March, 2022.

One morning in 1940, 5-year-old Bill, in the Boston subway with our mother, heading in-town for a shopping trip, standing apart from her, became momentarily frightened, crying, wondering where his mother went. The passengers, all certainly gone now, were warmly observing and ready to comfort and intervene in a small child’s moment alone in the world, the way every Ukrainian child refugee must feel now, staying close to their mothers, if their mothers have survived, in this catastrophic war that is taking the world back to 1939, 1940….

Mother of God, intercede for us, protect us.

The tragic sense of life is everywhere this last day of March. April hours away; what Eliot called the cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire

And I will miss a deadline for an important writing project, desire beginning to fail me. Memory strong, but not necessarily of the events of recent years that are speeding by.

We must begin again, if we are able, at every moment of our lives. And may my brother Bill find some comfort where he lay at this hour, so helpless, the first-born of Bill and Joe Wayland on September 16, 1935. We’ve been raised to believe that we all have an angel watching over us, even when we are sinning, most especially when we are sick.

I did get a priest for him. And I got word back that he was grateful.

OF THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH

A man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong….I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy.

Socretes, as quoted by his student Plato in the Apology.

Socrates had been accused of “corrupting the youth” of Athens and was, as such, to become an ancient — and perhaps the first — victim of the “cancel culture”.

As to the calculation of whether he’d live or die — they killed him.

ASH WEDNESDAY, 2022

Because I do not hope to turn again

Because I do not hope

Because I do not hope to turn

-T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

To turn our hearts towards God, to be converted, means that we must be prepared to use all means to live as He expects us to live.

Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God

A pure heart create in me, O God; put a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 50

Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto thee.

T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

FLIGHTLESS AT THREE O’CLOCK

Oh, what a terrible feeling!

I speak, I write — of a gull, probably a juvenile, absurdly walking about, flightless, a wing out to the side, probably broken. Diane said, “he’s been attacked.” There are many feral cats in this world of mobile homes. I emptied a cardboard box from the shed of its assorted tools and gadgets. Diane found a kind of sheet. The wild bird sanctuary said, bring it! Catch it and bring it. After parking the car (we had been driving into the park on the main street when we saw it and were forced to swerve around it), I looked back up the street and saw it crossing back across the street, bewildered by its inability to fly, as vulnerable as a creature can be. By the time we’d gathered the box and sheet, it had gone from sight. I’d seen it turn down a street. We cruised. Diane yelled at me, “you’re going too fast.” I yelled back. I yell a lot these days. Up and down the streets, very slowly, we went. No sign of her. I somehow think it was a “her.” She had a black head, white and gray body. She was small. One does not see many gulls in the park. There are woodstorks, egrets, moscovy ducks, blue heron…then the common domestic, non-tropical birds, the bluejays, mocking birds, grackle by the hundreds, it seems. Sparrows, perhaps, now and then, a migrating robin, crows, of course. And gulls. But so close too the Gulf it is odd we don’t see more.

I felt so sorry for this little gull. But we could not find it. The box remained empty. Her fate, unknown.

Later, after dark, I walked two miles in darkness, cloudy skies, a congenial and cossetting sense of mystery all around me. I felt, for a change, that I was doing something healthy. In the clubhouse they were playing pinochle, a Monday night ritual. Lights on, warm, pleasant gathering. I walked by. Diane was in there. I glimsed her standing, talking, perhaps telling people about the poor gull.

Where did she go?

It was about three o’clock when we saw her. I was not having a great day. They were having the worst kind of days in far off Ukraine. Stopped to tell the parked handyman of our search for the wounded gull and he said, “you have too much time on your hands.” It was an offhand comment (speaking of hands), not intended to wound. It was a man’s world’s quick judgement, one of his typical mordant appraisals as he walked, smiling, back to his truck. I’ll bet he’d have stopped for the gull. The person in the vehicle behind us, a truck, also slowly swerved around it as the flightless creature, used to soaring so high, circled in the middle of the grimy street, is time in the skies probably gone forever. (I think I’m well into what they call the “pathetic fallicy” here — the attribution of human emotions or attributes to animals. I think the handyman, no logician but filled with common sense and used to fixing things, was trying to “fix” me in that regard. Or maybe this is all an act of “projection”. Perhaps it’s me that’s feeling “flightless”now.)

Three o’clock. All that was good about this day, was that hour when time seemed to move more slowly then suddenly speed up toward darkness, and the hours when there would be more LESS “time on our hands” to to have the luxury of thinkinig about the gull; a time when we must parepare to do serious work on serious earth on the coming serious days.

While people are suffering and dying in Ukraine and who-knows-where-else, it is important to be able to — forget. Is this, by chance, what Kierkegaard meant when he wrote, “If a man cannot forget, he will never amount to much”?

At three o’clock it was neither sunny nor dark. There were clouds and a sprinkle of rain, then muted light.

Where did the little gull go? There are cats, which is to say, danger, everywhere. But they will fall prey, too, too…STOP!!

I must forget. But it must be terrible to be a bird and suddenly find yourself unable to fly. She would not survive.

I’m surviving, thank God. And I’m still in search of my wings.

SNOW, SLEET, RAIN

Sun here on this long peninsula. In the geographical north, by degrees, it grows cold, slick and late February bleak. Here? Well….

The moods, the memories, the tempermental weather of white and gray, the anxieties, the mitigating prayers, the high clouds over the Gulf, the little pieces of caught convertion, the despair, the hope, the search, unrelenting, for the God Who, somehow, destined this journey for us — all this daily sweeps over us in sunlight or in darkness, in waves and gusts, in great oceanic breakers. We stand on the shore….

Words, The Word. Help. Let them, let Him, come to us — on the shore.

“We turn toward the town…the glassy lights….” Wallace Stevens, The Idea of Order at Key West.

Fragments.

February 25, 2022.