Archive for September, 2009

Goddess Grate

I still pray before eating when I sit at a table. When I eat in front of the tv I sometimes dive right into my food.

My life has changed so much in the last 39 years. I’m nowhere near what I thought I would be when I was younger but the person I am is far better than I could have hoped. By ‘better’ I mean ‘happier’ and ‘more contented’.

I grew up in a family where the meals were taken together at a table. You did not miss a meal unless you were so sick you couldn’t walk to the kitchen. Before every meal one of the four of us kids would be delegated to say that go-round’s blessing. By the time we were six or seven we were expected to come up with something unique to us. Until then the pray-er would be allowed to say grace using this sing-song prayer:

God is great
God is good
Let us thank Him
For this food. Amen

As liturgies go it’s a fine one. Theologically sound, it captures the Almighty’s omniscience and benevolence. It teaches us gratitude and cements the idea of God as the ultimate provider. But I’ve heard that prayer so many times, said so hurriedly before tacos and slowly before meatloaf that I don’t often think of the words anymore. Even back then as a child it became known as ‘the lazy prayer’, with my parents telling us we had to say “more than godisgreat”, because that was how the prayer was known in our house. All one word like that, run together.

This is the harvest time now. Yom Kippur and Samhain and Sukkot and all the other rituals whereby we remember that the mundane things like the food we eat are the steam left on this earth by the breath of something greater than us. We subsist day to day because of the share we take in things beyond our control. Even if you are atheist you at some point come to the realisation that weather and time are outside human ability and have great effect on what is there for our consuming. As a Christian I like very much the idea that I can freely talk with and meditate upon That Who Is Greater than the greatest forces of this earth. Storms and flood and fire can ruin us, but all those are less than this God who exists beyond all things.

An old friend in remission from cancer once wrote me a thing that only those who are ill for a long time can truly comprehend fully. That in these hard dark times there is something wonderful about the closer a person can grow toward the almighty. It’s true. In that way this sickness is a remarkable gift, a chance to spend time in conversation with the I Am. To move beyond the singsong rhyme of liturgy into a higher and closer walk.

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The Lost Symbol: A Review

A few days ago I decided to write my reactions to Dan Brown’s latest novel while I read the book. Those more detailed notes deal with my reactions to certain philosophies and plot points as I encountered them. It was my version of yelling back at the tv.

This much shorter review is my take on the book as a whole.

If you enjoy ‘Lost’ or fast-paced thrillers a la Jeffrey Deaver and Clive Cussler, chances are this book may be a nice way to kill an afternoon at the beach or a long layover in Cleveland. It’s got quite a few gotchas that move you through the story.

Once the story gets underway, that is.

Dan Brown’s books come in two parts. There’s the thriller element that puts an unlikely hero in a series of unlikelier breakneck situations, propelled from behind by powerful forces. Then there’s the Pop Philosophy 101 element drawing the hero and reader alike to progress through the esoteric symbology through to greater understanding. The book is at it’s best when it combines both elements in equal part. Unfortunately it is often unbearably uneven. Tedious explanations about Masonic ritual and lore weigh down the first quarter of the story. Later on the narrative suffers from overlong chase scenes which suffer from a lack of framing. (I call it the X-files Problem. If your audience has no idea how the building or ship or city is laid out, they can’t visualize or contextualise the progress of the heroes and villains.)

But there are plenty of pages to suck you into this world where intellect fuels the engine of desire. Those parts salvage the book. I recommend it to anyone who wants to relive the Dan Brown Experience.

Sadly the most striking lesson to take away from The Lost Symbol is that marketing is the current ruler in the publishing universe. I’ve read scores of books along the same speculative lines as Brown. They’re better-written and more fun to read. The only thing they lack is a multimillion dollar ad campaign.

So while I think this average book may be a fun way to pass the time I recommend you also try Umberto Eco, Charles Palliser, the non-sigma James Rollins, Neal Stephenson and Michael Gruber for starters.

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I’m still doing my blogging via iPhone. It’s like sewing by hand. The stitches aren’t as precise and a previously simple task takes forever.

I can’t ‘more’ tag the last article and don’t like how much space it takes up. You’d think the WordPress For Iphone app would support HTML commands. There’s likely some reason beyond my ken that it doesn’t. But still. I remain dissatisfied.

Yes, I’m still slogging thru Brown. Even at 42% of the way thru the book I see his big twist as obviously as if he had sent me an email about it.

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My computer and I have both spent the last two weeks running more erratically, taking longer to get things done and enexplicably shutting down.

The computer went to MacAuthority. I went to Amazon and bought a book to pass the time until my next tune up at Vanderbilt Rheumatology of Cool Springs.

I figured–erroneously–that the latest Dan Brown page turner would be good for taking my mind off things. Seeing as how after a week with the book languishing on my Kindle I am STILL only 21% of the way thru…

I need a place to vent while I read this book. I can’t keep sending nm and bridgett and Aunt B snarky emails every 5 minutes and if I did this on Twitter I’d lose the seventeen followers I have left after that one time I tweeted about my nudity.

So I’m hunting and pecking away this blog entry on my trusty MacPacifier, the iPhone. Look for frequent updates.

1. I should start off by clarifying that brown’s book is basically a primer of stuff I’ve read literally HUNDREDS of scholarly books and papers about. So I’m coming at this the way my Dad would watch LA Law when I was a kid.

2. 13% We Meet Katherine Solomon & Are Introduced To Noetic Science

I wonder if Eckhardt Toile and that woman who wrote The Secret will sue for plaigarism. Because that’s all this stuff is. Then as I think about it it’s more like the Mood Slime business in Ghostbusters 2 where the bad thoughts of all the New Yorkers brought the demon back to life. At least Ramis & Co realised the humour in it. This business where Katherine Solomon’s ‘loving thoughts’ make water freeze into pretty, ordered crystals is ludicrously funny, but Brown treats it as the hope for mankind.

Come to think of it, this also owes a not small debt to L Ron Hubbard.

3. 21% Good Things Come In Small Packages

I’m a nosy person. If anyone gave me anything in a sealed package for safekeeping the FIRST thing I’d do is open it. This comes from growing up watching Miami Vice and Godfather II.

Also, I’m getting sick of reading about how well Dr. Robert Langdon has stayed in shape. Do men over 40 really spend this much time telling other men how good they look? Men over 40 who ARENT meeting in bathroom stalls at rest areas?!?

4. 29% Story Progresses Subserviently To Selectively Stupid

I was trying to just let this go, but I can’t. The Bad Guy goes by the psuedonym of Dr. Christopher Abaddon.

I don’t expect that to raise a single red flag for most people. But according to Brown, his heroes have had miles more classical education than I have. And even I can tell you that when I hear or read the name “Christopher Abaddon” it is like meeting a guy who calls himself Goody McEvilson.

“abaddon” was originally ‘the place of destruction’ and then later came to also be the name of the demon who guarded that place. So calling yourself ‘Mr Abaddon’ is like saying ‘Hi, I’m Hell’s chief demon.’

If I, a philosophy major and middle-class autodidact knows that, don’t you think a 33rd degree mason who has studied the Zohar in its entirety would catch on? And maybe not ask the dude in for tea?!


From the first minute I saw IIIX885 I yelled ‘Turn it upside down’. You see, I didn’t need any fancy nonsense about Runes and mixed symbology and the history of Arabic numbers.

Because when I was in third grade all the guys were typing ‘58008’ in their Casio watches and turning them upside down to chase us girls on the playground and make us read it outloud.

It spells BOOBS.

6. 39% A Book On Mysticism Fails To Even Attempt To Understand Christian Mystic Teaching

What fundamentally yoinks me about Brown is his patronizing tone. In assuming the position of a revered Harvard prof as his alter ego, he repeatedly uses the device of remembered Freshman lectures to bring his audience up to speed. While I agree that many Christians are not taught about classical thought and semiotics and therefore are unknowing about things like the rites of other faiths, that’s no excuse for an author to talk down to his audience.

When Brown tries to talk about CHRISTIAN mystics, he flat out gets it wrong.

In one passage he mistakes the directive of Luke 17:20 (the Kingdom of God is within you) entirely. Brown interprets that to mean that mankind is God’s equal. He tgen goes a step further, claiming that Christiams who deny equality with God do so out of willful ignorance to the meaning of the text.

I am a Christian Mystic. I have completed the rites of initiation into this mystical religion. My mind has been opened to its great truths. Because of that I can tell you that this passage means that those who are saved by faith in the atoning blood of Jesus’ sacrifice are recepticles for The Holy Spirit. This spirit enables us to be both of this earth–walking and talking alongside everyone else–yet at the same time able to converse DIRECTLY with God. It enables us to see things as God sees them. It is what helps us to live holy and apart, to renounce sin and do as God would have us do. It is why we, naturally selfish and vain, are driven to give our lives to make the world a better place.

Having God’s kingdom dwell in you is an exquisite sadness that creates a feeling of alienation in this world. Having God’s kingdom dwell in you is a peace and goodness that defies logic.

It is a mystery. Only in being part of this mystery can you fully understand. And when you understand you know just how far short of the magnificent God we mankind truly are.

7. 51% Brown Enters My Wheelhouse

I assumed Albrect Durer would show up eventually. Sure enough, here he is. And so is the first mention of Christian Mysticism. Brown describes it as “a fusion of early Christianity, alchemy, astrology and science.”

That’s like describing a cheese as “a fusion of milk, humidity, bacteria and time. ”

Any Christian Mystic–from St Paul to Julian of Norwich to TS Eliot to me–would tell you that those things are incomplete pieces of the larger truth, fully understood only at the unitive state. I talk often about how philosophy is the mother of all modern discipline and how the war between science and religion is the petty squabbling of siblings arguing over an inheritance they don’t understand. That is the essence of Christian Mysticism. And that is why Brown’s tossed off definition is so incomplete.

8. 56% No Drug Dealer Talks Like That

9. 57% You Just KNEW Aleistair Crowley would show up!

10. 66% LOTR

A secret only fire can tell…

Honestly, for as smart as Brown claims his characters are, they are always selectively stupid if it serves the plot.

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This is my insurance biography. I think the time has come to tell this tale. I warn you it’s long, but I think it’s important now that we’re at this stage of the Insurance story. The short version is that the Senate proposal now under discussion is planning on taxing my current insurance plan (i.e. my family and my husband’s employer) to pay for health care. I’m not happy about that. Read further and maybe you’ll understand.

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Doorbells? Really?

I’ve written a cranky post about my health, and while it’s true that I do this blogging gig ‘for me, not for you’ as bloggers tend to retort when commenters get snifty, I do like to not make this a place that depresses people day after day.

So I decided to write a post about my favorite things–the stuff I’d smell in a cauldron of Amorentia. Of course I’d smell books, that unique scent of paper and ink and glue and plastic that lets you know you’ve got hold of a new story. I’d also smell a hot, buttery caramel so smoothly rich and salty sweet, with a tang of vanilla. Without a doubt I’d also smell the scent unique to my garage–raw wood, Simple Green cleaner, rubber, metal, bike lube all underlaid with the musk unique to my husband of nineteen years.

I used to sing My Favourite Things from The Sound Of Music. I would sing that song all the time. To this day I have to say that I harbour one huge disagreement. “Doorbells” are not any of my favourite things. I suppose in the time that song was written, the sound of your doorbell ringing meant carollers or company or a special delivery. Nowadays, in spite of the whole “this is a no-soliciting community” thing, a ring at my doorbell is more likely to be someone from AT&T trying to sell me an upgrade or a kid from a disadvantaged neighbourhood trying to sell me magazines. So no, I’m no big fan of doorbells.

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I am awake.

This is a problem.

I am awake at 11:00am on a Wednesday.

This almost never happens, because I take my shot on Tuesday night, which means I sleep from 2 hours after I get the shot until Wednesday night at 5 when I try (and sometimes fail) to wake up for a couple hours to be polite to my husband before I sleep again until about 2:00 Thursday afternoon.

I am awake because the pain woke me up. If the pain is worse than the medication, it’s a bad pain. And I’m in this bad pain because of the rain. And I’m glad for the sake of all my trees and grasses and flowers and vines that we’ve at last got good drinks for them.

But seriously…my whole body feels like a throbbing bruise joined together by rusted nails. My long bones ache into the marrow. I hurt so badly that my pillow was soaked with tears when I woke up and there are half-moon cuts in the meat of my hands where the nails dug in during my unconscious hours.

This, my friends, is arthritis.

When I was a kid I’d see arthritis commercials and they’d be some old guy wincing while he held his hand and then taking Bayer and smiling while he threw a football to his tow-headed grandchild. I got from those commercials that arthritis was a minor nuisance, like hair that had grown a little too long in the back.

When the doctors told me I had arthritis I was annoyed because I didn’t think they diagnosed me right. Arthritis is a minor nuisance and this–this hurting too bad to wear clothes, literally–was not minor.

Then I read about it and found out that yes, indeed, this is a type of arthritis and it does behave this way and it is in many ways worse than cancer.

And today I can’t even sleep through it like usual.


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