Johnnie Went Home

He called to me from across the enormous, open bay at the bottom of the stairs where the  blacks would gather to cook, laugh, scheme and taunt one another and where he would sit by one of the few working radiators to keep his feet and hands warm.  He was 71, obese, illiterate and suffered from diabetes, prostate cancer, recurring heart attacks, arthritis and the insolence of the young blacks whom he said “don’t know no better”.

Johnnie was from a poor farming town in central western Mississippi on the river with a population smaller than the prison camp in which he now lived.  He had innumerable brothers and sisters that I imagined all ran barefoot around the cotton plantation on hands-on-bars1which they were, essentially, sharecroppers.  He was 12 when Emmit Till was murdered in nearby Money, Mississippi, and quickly joined the ranks of many of the peaceful protesters and activists of that generation.  He knew Medgar Evars and marched with Martin Luther King, which as far as I can tell, every American black and most whites living in the United States, did at some point.  He couldn’t understand my disdain for Sharpton and Jackson, although he granted they seemed to be more interested in politics and making money than helping “poor folk”.

He eventually moved to Memphis, married his childhood sweetheart, had a bunch of children and was active in his church, community and Democratic politics.  I enjoyed his company immensely because I felt like I was in the … Read the rest

He called to me from across the enormous, open bay at the bottom of the stairs where the  blacks would gather to cook, laugh, scheme and taunt one another and where he would sit by one of the few working radiators to keep his feet and hands warm.  He was 71, obese, illiterate and suffered from diabetes, prostate cancer, recurring heart attacks, arthritis and the insolence of the young blacks whom he said “don’t know no better”.

Johnnie was from a poor farming town in central western Mississippi on the river with a population smaller than the prison camp in which he now lived.  He had innumerable brothers and sisters that I imagined all ran barefoot around the cotton plantation on hands-on-bars1which they were, essentially, sharecroppers.  He was 12 when Emmit Till was murdered in nearby Money, Mississippi, and quickly joined the ranks of many of the peaceful protesters and activists of that generation.  He knew Medgar Evars and marched with Martin Luther King, which as far as I can tell, every American black and most whites living in the United States, did at some point.  He couldn’t understand my disdain for Sharpton and Jackson, although he granted they seemed to be more interested in politics and making money than helping “poor folk”.

He eventually moved to Memphis, married his childhood sweetheart, had a bunch of children and was active in his church, community and Democratic politics.  I enjoyed his company immensely because I felt like I was in the … Read the rest

How to Be Miserable, Forever

I have known many envious people in my life, and never found their company pleasurable.  While hatred can be satisfying for a envybrief time, even entertaining when its excess boils over into comical antics, envy burns somewhat more discreetly but far more insidiously.  While hatred often reveals itself in violent and stunning flashes, envy eats away predictably, consistently, eternally and often serves to cover up it’s owner’s shame because the emotions it brings forth from that well of victimization which it has carved out serve to block whatever remaining conscience the owner has remaining, leaving them in a perpetual state of self-inflicted pain and pity.

This life we live here, satiated in every physical way and yet so desperately hungry in the ways that matter, serves as a frequent exhibition of this pitiful vice.  I am reminded of it often as I hear petty criticisms spew forth from the mouths of those who, having been failures in whatever pursuit they began, find pleasure only in lamenting others.  No matter how far they have fallen, they always find something to resent in another, usually, more quietly suffering individual.  I am not immune from it, in fact, I am the worst of them, because having been granted by God greater fortune than most, I still find the time to wonder, indeed, seethe, why it is that I cannot compose prose like Hemingway, or music like Mozart or thoughts like Aristotle, although I would not desire any of their lives.  I am merely … Read the rest

I have known many envious people in my life, and never found their company pleasurable.  While hatred can be satisfying for a envybrief time, even entertaining when its excess boils over into comical antics, envy burns somewhat more discreetly but far more insidiously.  While hatred often reveals itself in violent and stunning flashes, envy eats away predictably, consistently, eternally and often serves to cover up it’s owner’s shame because the emotions it brings forth from that well of victimization which it has carved out serve to block whatever remaining conscience the owner has remaining, leaving them in a perpetual state of self-inflicted pain and pity.

This life we live here, satiated in every physical way and yet so desperately hungry in the ways that matter, serves as a frequent exhibition of this pitiful vice.  I am reminded of it often as I hear petty criticisms spew forth from the mouths of those who, having been failures in whatever pursuit they began, find pleasure only in lamenting others.  No matter how far they have fallen, they always find something to resent in another, usually, more quietly suffering individual.  I am not immune from it, in fact, I am the worst of them, because having been granted by God greater fortune than most, I still find the time to wonder, indeed, seethe, why it is that I cannot compose prose like Hemingway, or music like Mozart or thoughts like Aristotle, although I would not desire any of their lives.  I am merely … Read the rest

Special Night With Dad

As often as possible I host “Special Night With Dad” for each of the kids.  It’s their opportunity to have one on one time with me, doing something they enjoy together, or just watching a movie, or in the case of my teenage sons, my watching them set speed and quantity records at a local restaurant.

When you have a big family, the little ones fight for attention, and so often times their “Special Night With Dad” involves a lot of them talking to me and asking questions.  This happens even during the course of the movie they may have picked out to watch.  In the most recent case, it was Paul’s “special night” and he had chosen to watch “Hobbit 2:  Desolation of Smaug” and at the end of that movie, well past his bed time, he continued the conversation.  I thought some of you all might enjoy the very entertaining conversation that ensued.  Thanks to #1 for editing help.

 … Read the rest

About the Singing

A few people noticed that I was tapped to do some singing for Holy Week and the Triduum.  It is a long and ugly story but the short version is that Father assigned it to me as penance.  That may sound bad, but it’s actually an improvement for me.  My normal penance is to watch Son #9 so the rest of the family can participate in the liturgy.  He and I wrestle in the narthax and engage in other forms of physical and mental challenge of one another.  Sometimes I win.

Anyway, a couple of people expressed an interest in hearing some samples of the singing, no doubt hoping it would be bad enough to go viral with their mockery penned high on the comment list.  The Wife assures me that my singing is “not THAT bad” and that I manage to “blend” well with others.  (Certainly that cannot be said of me in other contexts!)  If you hear the tenor, you know that’s not me, that is The Organist responsible for the execution of my penance.  If you hear a baritone singing well, that is me.  If you hear a baritone singing poorly, that is someone who should never be allowed to sing in public again, penance or not.

Here are a few samples from Holy Thursday.  I’ll load some samples from Friday and Saturday as Son #1 can fit in editing time between dates.

If you want to skip ahead:

Ubi Caritas 3:54
Gloria 8:10
Tantum Ergo 10:43… Read the rest

Rebel, Revolutionary, Slave or…..Expat?

Readers may know that I dislike most of what the central government does, favor states’ rights and do not shy away from correcting widespread Yankee revisionist history about the origins and purposes of the Civil War War of Northern Aggression.  That having been said, I am among those who look upon that pitiful history of our country and learn the lessons it offers us.  Among them is this; neither peaceable or armed rebellion against this government has a reasonable chance of succeeding.

These are not the only considerations, of course.  We can look to Thomas Aquinas for some guidance on the question of just war.  It seems to me the motives could be just.  For example, I find many of the policies of the central government to be immoral and dangerous.  The fears of the founders have come true; the government they constructed is increasingly hostile towards the citizens it exists primarily to protect.  This is the nature of governments.  They understood it.  Either we do not, or, as I think is more likely, we do, and we simply want it to be ‘our’ government that we wield against them.  This is basically the argument of the Republicans now.  The Democrats have long since stopped pretending they didn’t want a all-power state a la Mao or Stalin.

In theory there could be a peaceable secession.  This would satisfy Thomas’ “means” question.  However, it seems to me the War Between the States already proved that our central government will not tolerate … Read the rest