Sunday, February 26, 2017

Not very much

Well, I wound up being partially felled this afternoon by a migraine (it started while in church, I kept hoping I could tamp it down until I got home and I mostly did, except I didn't stay to help clean up after the monthly dinner. I always do otherwise so this once is okay).

I went to bed and slept for not quite an hour. I feel some better but not great.

I also am pretty sure all my physical issues of last week were either some kind of viral or bacterial GI infection - I think I need to stop buying fresh produce from the local wal-mart; they don't take good care of it at all and I think that last batch of berries was what made me sick. Or a virus I picked up from someone, I don't know. But last evening I had chills - terrible chills, the worst I've had in quite a while. I wound up running a hot bath and getting in, and then wrapping up in heavy pajamas and getting into bed under a lot of blankets. (Funny: I didn't feel at all sick while out during the day but I suppose things catch up with a person). Earlier in the week I had stomach cramps that I just thought were my stomach being crummy. And muscle aches that I chalked up to overdoing the workout.

But considering how much better my stomach feels today....I don't always recognize "hey, I'm sick" because often the symptoms I get are low-level and could be attributed to other things. (I almost never vomit - it's been years since I got a stomach bug that made me vomit. Maybe I'd have felt better sooner with this one if I had, but I'm not going to try to make myself just to test that).

So anyway. Not getting the cleaning done I planned on doing and don't really have a lot of energy for anything else. Oh well.


I did finish "The Brutal Telling" the other night. It ended, not as sadly as I feared, but still, somewhat sadly.

One of the main themes of the novel was greed, and what it does to a person. The murder ultimately was committed over greed, and the Hermit himself was shaped and changed by greed. At one point, towards the end, Gamache and Vincent Gilbert (a side character who starts out being sort of detestable, but has somewhat of a redemption in the novel) talk about the Buddhist concept of The hungry ghost, but more in the sense of a metaphorical concept: that greed turns people into hungry ghosts, who keep seeking and devouring and are never filled.

That's most obvious with financial/possession greed, and there are two local cases that were in the news that highlight it: First, a woman who was convicted of forging judge's signatures so she could access money placed in trust for her still-minor daughter. I assume from the story the money was set aside for the girl's education, or so she would have something to start out on once she reached 18 or 21. But the mom took the money and spent it....the other case is a man convicted of killing his mother and taking her jewelry and cash.

In both cases, I look at those and shake my head: for one thing, I'd rather have a good relationship with my relatives than whatever money or goods. But in the other: how did these people not know they would eventually be caught? The woman, was a fairly simple thing for the bank to call the judge and ask, "Did you really sign off on this paperwork?"

But as Gilbert points out in the novel, the Hungry Ghost isn't solely about money:

"...Trying to fill a hole that only gets deeper. Fill it with food or money or power. With the admiration of others. Whatever."

Ouch, on that last one. Because yeah, that's maybe where I have a bit of the hungry ghost in me - I don't care so much about money provided my needs are met, I actively don't WANT power, I can control myself around food....but admiration and especially approval, I keep needing that and need to learn how not to need that so much. Or rather, to be able to find it inside myself instead.

I do think Louise Penny is one of the better "modern" authors I've read, especially in terms of bringing up things that make you think about the world outside the simple context of the novel. I suppose it's because in some ways, the fundamental morality of the stories is similar to my own - some of the things she's referred to, and the idea that it is possible to observe the evil in the world without joining it and to perhaps quietly resist it. And I enjoy her characterizations and her setting.

Also, in a chain of clicking around on the net, something from JRR Tolkien about "running away" vs. "escape," and also why I get annoyed at the people who say it's "bad" to watch cartoons/read escapist fiction/want to hang out in a figurative blanket fort at times:

“I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”

And I'd add that we are all prisoners, in a way: of our own mortalities, of the need to make a living in this world, of having to deal on a daily basis with some people who are difficult, all of that. And saying "I call a time out" to go and do something else is not the same as refusing to engage with life - and that is very much how I try to do it, to fight tooth and nail the hard bits of life but then, sometimes, when I can, draw back and rest.

This is also related to the sermon topic for today: traditionally, today (right before Lent) is Transfiguration Sunday, when the scripture about where Jesus and Peter, James, and John go up on a mountain and the disciples see Christ transfigured into some kind of amazing sight (glowing, robes shining white - and of course, in Palestine of the 1st century BC, having clean white clothing would have been difficult). And Peter, being Peter, makes some comment about, hey, let's build a house up here for you and also for Moses and Elijah (who make an appearance too). But of course, Peter being Peter, he has kind of missed the point. And the lesson writer pointed out - these men had just left scenes of great need, where there were the poor and the sick and the needy, and of course it would be understandable for them not to want to go back down to that again - leaving a place of great peace and great joy to go back into the want and need of the world is hard - but that they had to do that, and of course, that is what Christ guided them to do. And he went on to point out that sometimes we DO need those "mountaintop experiences" (and he shared one of his own, in fact, it was the one that led him to apply to seminary) so that we have the strength to go back down and attend to the world's need.

And I like that. And I think it's true: everyone needs to call a time-out sometimes and to take a breather. I think one of the things that "breaks" me is when work becomes too urgent and I go too long without a time-out to remind me of who I am outside of work. (And, of course, it's at work where my personal "hungry ghost" shows up the most: at church, people just love me because of who I am, I don't feel like I need to prove my worth to them. And with things like knitting, I can just be and not worry about winning accolades for it). I wouldn't go so far as to say getting to hang out at the knit shop was a "mountaintop experience," but it was certainly getting up on a hill above the mess of daily life for a little bit...

(Pictures tomorrow. Hopefully I will be feeling totally better by then)

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