Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Big Question

This morning I was digging into the brown-sugared flesh of a grapefruit while peripherally listening to the babblings of evangelist Robert Schuller on TV. The grapefruit was intentional – Robert Schuller, not.
He just happened to be what was on, and I was too lazy to change the channel.
As coffee gurgled its way into the carafe yonder, Schuller was asking his Crystal-Cathedralled congregants What A Sermon Should Be.
I was digging away, and sort of listening.
What Is A Sermon?
“Should it be a philosophical discourse?”
“No”, he answered himself.
“A study in advanced theology?”
Again the answer was no. He mentioned several other rhetorical possiblities.
No, no, no!
“A sermon”, Schuller went on to conclude, “is an emotional therapy session.
Be still my spoon.
I turned to the television.
Finally. Finally!
I never thought I would get the answer FROM a preacher, but I realized that Schuller had just described for me, in a three-word phrase, the reason I have long since quit attending church.
I was all ears. The absurdities were rolling, as he expounded upon what he meant by “emotional therapy session.”
At first, my initial reaction was that I myself do not require a regular and repeated weekly “emotional therapy session.” A few moments later I revised that conclusion though – and I realized that I do, in fact, need this.
I think we all do.
We all need times when we emotionally re-connect with ourselves and others and [yes] even with our concept of the “divine” – it’s just that I no longer entrust that level of need to the church, or to any clergyman.
Schuller was still babbling, but in my mind, I heard Emily Dickinson:

Some keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome.

OK – fair enough – the grapefruit is now inside me, let’s move on – I kept thinking – I asked myself WHY.
WHY is it that a sermon is not a philosophical discourse?
WHY can it not be an honest [to God?] study in advanced theology?
WHY can it not address real and relevant issues?
WHY must a sermon so often rely upon dishonest assumptions, absurd propositions, and the literalizing of myth?
Why should it descend [intellectually] to being [merely] an emotional therapy session? [As Schuller’s sermons, in my opinion, are!]

And I came up with an answer.
No, seriously, I know you think that there can not be an answer, but – not only did I come up with an answer – I came up with THEE answer.
I really did.
But this blog here has perhaps already exhausted the patience of a lot of my readers. This is a page that is supposed to be about BOOKS after all…… not grapefruits and Robert Schuller.
So, please forgive my already Trollopian verbosity.
Let me use these last few seconds of your valuable time, to restate the question more succinctly:
Why is it that we so seldom hear solid philosophical wisdom in sermons?
If you have ever wondered such a thing, and want to know THEE answer, all you have to do is clickHERE.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Am Such A Dork!

This very afternoon I did not even have to move from my chair at Starbucks to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that I am probably the world's most majorest DORK!
<-- Lately I have been using an elastic band as a bookmark. [As you can see in the photo].
The novel I am currently reading [The Moonstone] can be nicely held open by the elastic on the left half of the book. Tucking each page into that elastic leaves my hands free to do other things like make a complete fool of myself.

So -- I get my coffee and sit down in this one area of Starbucks. There are four comfortable leather chairs all sort of pointing inward toward each other, with a table in the middle. I got the fourth chair, the rest are full. A guy is reading the newspaper to the left of me, and across, a husband and wife are having a chat.
I retrieve The Moonstone from my backpack and just as I settle in and flip the thing open -- SPROING goes my bookmark -- vaults through the air and hits the guy in the chest, bouncing onto the floor.
He is startled and I am already saying, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry!"
He says, "What was that?"
"My bookmark," I say.... "Oh, I'm so sorry! I can't believe that happened!"
He picks it up and hands it back to me.... and I bury myself in Wilkie Collins.
I'm still there when they leave. So that was Dork Incident #1.

Soon, some other guy sits down in the chair vacated by my previous victim and the other chair remains empty. I keep reading, minding my own business...
But after a bit, I look at my watch, and it is past 3 p.m.
As I quickly pack up my stuff, I say to this total stranger, "Wow! Some hockey fans we are, hey?"
"I'm sorry. I'm not sure what you mean!" he says.
"Well, the game. The GAME! It's already starting! And...... we're sitting here!"
By now I am walking away.

When I am in my car, driving toward home I flick on the radio to see if I can catch any live coverage of "the game".
Sure enough, they ARE talking about the Canada -- U.S.A. hockey game. It's an interview with Canadian player Jonathan Toews, who keeps mentioning how Team Canada feels they are ready for this Olympic Gold-Medal final TOMORROW!
Tomorrow! The "game" is tomorrow!
No wonder that guy looked at me like I had just fallen off the cabbage truck on the way to Dorkville!


Friday, February 26, 2010

The Best Advice...

Seems to me this is what Team Canada needs to do tonight!

Splash du Jour: Friday

Absence is to love as wind to fire: it extinguishes the little flame, it fans the big.
-- Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Getting My Rocks Off...

...of the fridgetop.
I am reading a really terrific book, Salt Dancers [1995] by Ursula Hegi.
It's the third Hegi book I have read, and I will read others. I think she is a fabulous writer.
It's a digressionary memoir-style novel about a woman named Julia who returns "home" to try and extract from her aged father a confession and apology for the years of physical and emotional abuse she suffered at his hands as a child.
At one point in the book, the adult Julia touches the pear-shaped rock that lies on the mantel of the fireplace at her home in Vermont. And she recalls how her brother Travis retrieved the rock from the bottom of the lake where they spent a great portion of their childhood.
"...when I take it into my hands, it feels dry but smells damp like the bed of the lake it came from."

I just thought it was so neat of a thing to do.
Such a neat thing to KEEP, from one's childhood.
Think of how long -- how many bazillion years that rock sat submerged in the darkness of the lake!
And now.... now I HAVE IT AND IT'S MINE.
I read it, and then I wondered if real people ever do such a thing.
Collect rocks, and attach sentimental value to them.

Then I realized that I myself am one of those people.
For the last hundred years or so I have had these two rocks [see above photo] sitting on the top of my fridge.
The significance of them for me is that I retrieved them from opposite sides of this great country I live in -- and it's a big 'un!
The first rock, the western one, is from a place called "Mile 0" [as in, "zero"] in Victoria, British Columbia, on the western side of Vancouver Island. It's called Mile Zero because this is the western starting point of the Trans-Canada Highway [the longest highway in the world, by the way!]
I retrieved it while walking the beach there. The only thing west of Mile Zero is......... a lot of water, and then Japan!
The other rock, more of a reddish hue to it, was retrieved from a rocky beach in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Admittedly, you can go a lot further east in Canada than Halifax, but, until I one day travel to St. John's, Newfoundland, this eastern rock of mine will have to suffice.
I think of these two modest rocks of mine as the Bookends of Canada.


Splash du Jour: Thursday

100% of the shots you don't take don't go in.
-- Wayne Gretzky --
Team Canada really turned it on last night and [finally, and decisively]beat
the Russians!
Way to go, boys!

Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Never say love is "like" anything... It isn't."
— Michael Chabon, in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
-- Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Main Event!

Admittedly, I have not been much into the Olympics this year.
Have barely watched any of it on TV.
Well, except for the hockey games!
Come on! You've GOTTA watch the hockey games!
And tonight is the main event. The Big Kahuna!
Canada beats the U.S.A.
I mean..... The Canucks square off against The Yanks.
The guys and I will be on the edge of our seats!
Any predictions out there as to what the final score will be?
My own guess is it will be 4 - 3.
[Do I even need to say which team has the 4 goals?]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

LOST: One Mojo

If you are a regular Bookpuddle visitor, you may notice that lately I have not been writing much on my site.
Perhaps you can relate, from time to time one just seems to enjoy floating in the current, rather than paddling?
Several personal reasons seem to have conspired, resulting in the fact that I have temporarily lost my beloved Blog-Mojo!
But I assure you, I will be back to my usual blabbatious self probably sooner than later. In the meantime, if any of you see the missing Bookpuddle Blog-Mojo wandering about aimlessly -- sneak up, sneak up ever so sneakfully -- gently toss a net over it.
[The full return address is taped inside his left mitten...]

Wishing you all a fine weekend!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Splash du Jour: Friday

Last night, my sister and her husband stenciled the above phrase onto a wall in their house.
This morning she will be going to her first chemotherapy treatment, after being diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago.
So I am not only thinking of her, but actually, I am thinking of nothing else!
Heaps of love and strength to you, Audrey!

Have a great Friday, dear Bookpuddlers!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Splash du Jour: Thursday

The truth of some promises is not as important as whether or not you can believe in them, with all your heart.

-- Michael Chabon --

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

My sole literary ambition is to write one good novel, then retire to my hut in the desert, assume the lotus position, compose my mind and senses, and sink into meditation, contemplating my novel.
-- Edward Abbey --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Magazines all too frequently lead to books and should be regarded by the prudent as the heavy petting of literature.
-- Fran Lebowitz --

Have a great Tuesday!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Splash du Jour: Thursday

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself
a refuge from almost all of the miseries of life.
-- W. Somerset Maugham --

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.
-- Malcolm X --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

When the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards -- their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble -- the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, "Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading."
-- Virginia Woolf (1932) --

Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday

Well, today's the big day for NFL football fans.
<-- I kicked it off with a big huge SUPER bowl of Kellogg's Corn Flakes.
Breakfast of Champion Bloggers!
I like to sprinkle fresh blueberries on top and drizzle some real genuine Quebec maple syrup, then sink it all in milk. Mmmmm!
I just finished eating this superbowl of cereal, and I was reminded of one of my favorite scenes in that old sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies.
It's when Jethro [Max Baer] is in the kitchen wolfing back an ENORMOUS superbowl of cereal. Uncle Jed [Buddy Ebsen] walks in, shakes his head and says, "Boy. How many bowls of that cereal have you had?"
Milk dripping from his face, Jethro looks up and says, "Just one, Uncle Jed. Filled it four times!"
Sounds like an idea. I might have another.
Happy Superbowl Sunday to y'all!


Friday, February 05, 2010

Splash du Jour: Friday

In any case, I find something repulsive about the idea of vicarious redemption. I would not throw my numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass from me; we rightly sneer at the barbaric societies that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form. There's no moral value in the vicarious gesture anyway. As Thomas Paine pointed out, you may if you wish take on another man's debt, or even take his place in prison. That would be self-sacrificing. But you may not assume his actual crimes as if they were your own; for one thing you did not commit them and might have died rather than do so; for another this impossible action would rob him of individual responsibility. So the whole apparatus of absolution and forgiveness strikes me as positively immoral, while the concept of revealed truth degrades the concept of free intelligence by purportedly relieving us of the hard task of working out the ethical principles for ourselves.
-- Christopher Hitchens --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

This is Richard Parker!

Why am I posting a picture of this feline domesticus?
This photo of the SECOND best-looking cat in the world?
Well, a reader of this blog felt compelled to send me a photo of this little guy.
His name is Richard Parker.
Not the owner.... the cat! The cat's name is Richard Parker.
It is the first cat I have ever heard of, that has TWO names, a first and a last.
Apparently, this puss was named after the Bengal tiger in Yann Martel's [2001] Booker prize-winning blockbuster of a novel, Life of Pi. [A great book!]
For those who have not read it yet, the young boy Pi Patel is stranded for 227 days on a lifeboat with this tiger when a ship full of animals sinks in the Pacific ocean. It's really a wonderful story. Martel named the tiger after an Edgar Allan Poe character from his The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838). The [Poe] book tells of four shipwrecked men who, after many days privation, drew lots to decide who should be killed and eaten so the others could survive. Richard Parker, a mutinous sailor, drew the short straw and was eaten.
I've been told that this cat, Richard Parker is a real mischievous thing.
Possibly demon-possessed, even!
Admittedly..... this is a cute, if misbehavin' Ragdoll.
But, he is SECOND cutest..... not FIRSTEST!

Splash du Jour: Thursday

You enter a state of controlled passivity, you relax your grip and accept that even if your declared intention is to justify the ways of God to man, you might end up interesting your readers rather more in Satan.
-- Ian McEwan --

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tired, But Still Reading

Lately it seems that I am so tired out from my work day that I can't even release a good blog.
Hmmm.... maybe I should see a doctor about that!
Anyhoo, just wanted to drop by and say a few words about how much I am truly loving the discovery of Joyce Carol Oates.
Have any of you read her?
Wow -- I think she is fantastic.
I am approaching the halfway point in this book called The Heart Laid Bare.
A wonderful turn-of-the-century tale of an American family of con-artists.
In January I read the Oates novel The Falls, and now this. I want to submerge myself in the plethora of her output!
Hmmm.... maybe I should see a doctor about that, too?
So, I am new to this Land of Sprawling Oates. Seriously, hasn't she written something like 300 novels or something?
I know that some of you out there love her, too.
What is your favorite Oates book?
Basically.... [if my doctor allows it] which one should be next, for me?


Splash du Jour: Wednesday

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
-- Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.
-- Alice May Brock --

Have a great Monday!