Archive for May, 2022

pregnant with awful

May 18, 2022 4 comments

I’m knocking on your reality door again with another one of Brian Doyle’s contributions in his book One Long River of Song.  I’ve already told you what I think of him and this book he wrote.  When I read something like what I’m about to share with you, it makes me want to take all the people I really love and care about and just shake the crap out of them. Not because I’m better, smarter, perfect, or right, but because we’re not always paying attention (mea culpa) to the small things that are not very small at all. Even in marriage one plus one doesn’t make two! It makes one, and there are a lot of words said at weddings AND funerals that I’m not sure we understand very well in the moment. And… if we do grow into understanding, then it begs the question: are we serious about what we promised and cut covenant for? I wonder sometimes about you and me on this topic.

Okay, that’s enough from me.  Here’s Brian.  Thanks for checking in. —MDP

PS – I’ve cried every time I’ve read this.  Maybe more out of gratitude that my stupidity hasn’t marked my name in this story at this time in my life. —MDP


I know a guy whose wife fell in love with another man. She told him about it first thing in the morning on a summer day. She then went to start the coffee.

What did you do? I asked.

Just lay a bed, he said, listening to her puttering in the kitchen. Everyone thinks that awful comes by itself, but it doesn’t. It comes hand in hand with normal. No one talks about this. You’re watching the basketball game when the phone rings and you find out your grandfather didn’t wake up this morning. At the scene of the terrible car crash there’s a baseball glove that fell out of one of the cars. The awful is inside the normal. Like normal is pregnant with awful. We know this, but we don’t talk about it. The guy has a stroke at his desk, but no one knows because he has the door closed, which everyone takes as a sign he’s on it important call. I just lay a bed. It wasn’t heavy, like I couldn’t move or anything. It wasn’t dramatic. I was just listening. She got the coffee ready and I shuffled out and we had coffee and didn’t say anything. No words came to mind. That’s another thing no one says—that when you are completely shocked and horrified and broken and aghast, you don’t actually rage and weep and storm out of the house. Or at least I didn’t. Maybe some people do. But I don’t think so. I think probably most people are like me and just continue along, doing what they were going to do. I took a shower and got dressed and went to work. My brother says I must have been in shock, but I don’t know about that. I mean, I was shocked, sure I was. But I think it’s more that there had been a terrible car crash and I was noticing the normal. It was a Saturday, so the kids were sleeping in. I go to work on Saturdays, so I went to work. Lovely day, one of those days when you see dragonflies all day long. Dragonflies are very cool. People think you look for metaphors after something like that, but I think we just keep walking. That’s what I think. I mean, of course I thought about stuff like should we get divorced and how could she fall in love with another guy and how come she fell out of love with me, but mostly I thought about the kids. Sometimes I thought about the other guy, but not so much. I did wonder if we could ever get it together again, but not too much. I went to the bank and to pick up a suit at the tailor. I had a hard few moments there, because the tailor gave me an envelope with the stuff that had been in my suit pockets. This was my best suit, so I wore it for dates and weddings and wakes. There were a couple of Mass cards from funerals and wedding invites, but also there were two tampons just in case she needed them, and a photo of us at a wedding on the beach, and a ring our daughter had given me, one of those rings that you can make whistle. That rings nailed me. You would think it would be the photo of us beaming on the beach, but it was the ring.

A soldier friend of mine tells me the same thing happens when you are in a fight: that everything is normal, and then it isn’t, and then it’s normal again, except there are guys screaming or crumpled and not screaming. You get up cautiously from where you were kneeling, and you look around and everything’s just like it was a minute ago, coffee and dragonflies and the kids sleeping in, and then you just keep moving. It’s sort of boring, I guess, from a certain perspective.

—Brian Doyle One Long River of Song

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critique of compassion

May 4, 2022 5 comments


Jesus in his solidarity with the marginal ones is moved to compassion. Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharoah, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. The norms of law (social control) are never accommodated to persons, but persons are accommodated to the norms. Otherwise the norms will collapse and with them the whole power arrangement. Thus the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal emotional reaction but as a public criticism in which he dares to act upon his concern against the entire numbness of his social context.

—From The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

I have never considered this aspect of Jesus’ compassion. Considering his constant non-violent attack upon the blindness of the religious establishment, I think it’s prudent to concur with Brueggemann’s understanding on this. Anything we do that mirrors the nature and character of the Christ pretty much confronts that social “numbness,” ineffectiveness, and lethargy of institutional religion. Any “like Christ” witness very often exposes and looks very different to the norms and attitudes of religious churchmanship (which is a terrible sport). Actually, it might have everything to do with the chronic institutional shrinkage as a whole. —MDP

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