Sacred Music Friday: Nunc dimittis, Gustav Holst

Earlier this week I mentioned the Nunc dimittis (Now, Lord, let you servant go in peace). Here is an absolutely stunning setting by Gustav Holst.


many ways

One of the ways I deal with the stress of the work world is to turn to Buddhism. I subscribe to the Daily Dharma from the good folks at Tricycle. Last week they offered a quote from one of my very favorite Buddhist teachers, Jack Kornfield. He tells us:

There are many ways up the mountain, but each of us must choose a practice that feels true to his own heart. It is not necessary for you to evaluate the practices chosen by others.

That second sentence made me, um, sit up and pay attention.


Miss Manners a Buddhist?

Well, probably not. But this is how I got there.

I mentioned Miss Manners in my blog last week. I realized that even though we get her once a week or so in the San Francisco Chronicle, I haven’t been reading her. I started again, and I forgot what a treat I had been missing. She is both practical and witty.

There’s a another aspect to Miss Manners which I see very consistently.

A woman wrote in saying that she lived in a condo where half the residents spoke Spanish. She talks about going into the exercise room to work out. She said, “The only other person there was one of my neighbors, whom I did not know, who had the TV tuned to a Spanish-language station. Would I be justified in asking her to switch to an English-language station, or in insisting on such a change by changing the station myself?” Miss Manners response was, “Assuming that you don’t mind alienating a neighbor, and probably a minimum of half of your fellow residents when word gets around, on what grounds would you make such a demand? By Miss Manners’ count, half of the occupants of that room wanted the Spanish station, and that half was there first.”

Another individual wrote stating that he (or she) had read that it was not acceptable to invite only half of a couple to a social event. The questioner stated, “Isn’t part of entertaining finding a good mix of people to invite? It seems to me that sometimes that might not include inviting significant others.” Miss Manners responded that while the way around this is to design events that are only of interest to one member of the couple, she admonishes the questioner for having an attitude of “making clear to your friends that you can pick interesting people for an evening better than they can for a lifetime.”

To a woman who wanted to ask wedding guests to wear a choice of five specific colors to the ceremony, Miss Manners responded, “…trust them to dress themselves. Miss Manners begs you not to think of your wedding guests as part of your decorating scheme.”

What do all of these responses have in common? They all admonish the questioners to let go of their egos. And how Buddhist is that?


liturgy and its variations

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know how important liturgy is for me, and that I have made a deliberate decision to be part of a liturgical denomination.

While I was listening to The Catholic Church: A History from The Great Courses, an engaging series of lectures, by the way, I therefore paid special attention to the comments on liturgy.

One comment that caught my attention is that Catholics sing “Lamb of God” before Communion. Lutherans do as well. In the Episcopal Church we go straight to the Communion music.

Catholics, according to the professor, William R. Cook, say the Nicene Creed each week, as do Episcopalians. In the Episcopal Church it is after the sermon. Lutherans sing the hymn of the day at that point and don’t say a creed every Sunday.

He mentioned that a non-Latin rite in the Catholic Church shares the Peace before Communion, as do Lutherans and Episcopalians. The vast majority of the Catholic Church is in the Latin Rite, and they share the peace, I understand, later in the service.

The Lutheran Church sings an Alleluia before and after the Gospel. Episcopalians sing a hymn related to the reading.

Episcopalians say the confession most Sundays. Lutherans say a confession occasionally, but it’s not integrated into the normal Sunday liturgy.

Lutherans end the service with “Thanks the Lord and sing his praise,” or the Nunc Dimittis (“Now Lord, let your servant go in peace…”). In the Episcopal Church the service ends with a hymn.

It’s not that these differences are important in any way, but I do find it interesting to see how the three main liturgical denominations in the United States vary in their practice.


continuity or…

One of my favorite people in the world of blogs and Facebook is Tahoe Mom. We have a number of things in common. Probably most important, our spiritual values are very similar.

Another thing we have in common is that we both lost our first spouse and both married people we’d known from before that marriage. In my case, I lost my first wife, Ruth, to a ruptured brain aneurysm in 1989. Terry and I were close friends in high school, but never romantically involved. We reconnected in 1991 and got married in 1994.

Reading Tahoe Mom’s blog, I can see how she sees her life then and now as one seamless whole. For me it’s one of discontinuity. I see my life before as a different world and a different time. Ruth was a school teacher, but her identity was that of a new age practitioner. I was in Religious Science (not to be confused with Scientology). Terry has long been in high tech hardware sales in one form or another. Today I am an Episcopalian.

The change was not overnight. I was still in Religious Science when Terry and I got together and she supported me as I got my practitioner’s license. I began to move to the Episcopal Church at the end of 1996. But where I was in 1989 and where I am today seems to me like two different worlds.

One difference with Tahoe Mom is that she was married to her first spouse for much longer that I was to mine. She had children with him. He died when the children were adults. Ruth and I were together for seven years, and married for less than that. No children of our own, although we had two from her first marriage during the summer each year.

I am extremely happy where I am today, and I would not want things to be any different than they are. At the same time, I have to admire Tahoe Mom for her experience of continuity.


Secular Music Friday: Feeling Better

This is from Holly Near’s second album, A Live Album, released in 1975. I’ve always loved the song, for a couple of reasons. First, it reflects the realities of high school in the 1960’s and 1970’s. (This is not to say that I was on the football team nor that I ever had the prom queen on my arm. Neither scenario could be further from the truth!)

The real reason I like this song is that the message resonates so deeply with me. It says that where we end up is not necessarily where we thought we were going to be, and that where we did land is many times far better than what we were planning.

Watch the video on its YouTube page to see the lyrics. They’re in the text beneath the video.


a question of etiquette

Perhaps this is a question for Miss Manners.

For many years in a restaurant when a man and a woman (couple or otherwise) dined together the check always went to the man unless it was obvious that the woman was the host. As the feminist movement gained strength that practice changed, I would say in the 1970’s, and the bill was usually put in a neutral spot on the table.

So here’s the question. We frequent an Irish pub at lunch and the waitress knows us well. I always pull out my American Express card to pay the bill. Last week she put the check directly in front of me. Since she knows us and our habits was that appropriate?

What would Miss Manners say?


do we need a new television?

There was a news article some months back that talked about the sales of high-definition digital televisions. It said that sales were flat in the previous year and consisted mostly of people replacing their existing digital TVs with the latest model.

I got a chuckle from that, because we’re not even on our first high-def digital television. We still have two old-fashioned analog TV’s in the house that work perfectly fine.

Well, mostly. For a few years now I’ve noticed that on our local PBS station the left and right side of the picture has been getting cut off. I’m seeing that more and more frequently now on other channels as well. A recent San Francisco Giants game was on Fox, and the entire left half of the score box in the upper left of the screen was cut off.

So it’s probably time to upgrade. But not right away. We’re getting solar and I just had an unplanned computer replacement. Maybe after we get our tax refund next year.

We can manage well enough until then.


on leaving

I wrote last Thursday about how my manager was taking early retirement, and how the site at which I was working was closing and I was becoming an official teleworker.

Friday was my manager’s last day. On Wednesday of last week I left my cubicle for the last time. It was a sad day.

I packed up the few things that were left in my cube and went to the cafeteria for lunch one last time. The cafeteria was quiet, as more and more people have moved to other sites. The staff was familiar though. Sodexo has done a good job of retaining employees and the two people at the cash registers, Jorge and Iris, have been there since I moved to the site in the spring of 2000. I went through Iris’ line, at the station that was once staffed by the late, gregarious, beloved Betty.

I ate outside, looking out at the volleyball courts. Those courts were well-used by some very serious volleyball players who regularly took extended lunch hours to play no-nonsense games. One the most intense and serious players was a slim, fit woman with long brunette hair. She held her own well with the men. Wednesday those courts were empty.

I had my annual physical on Wednesday afternoon, so after lunch I took everything downstairs to my car and packed my laptop into my briefcase. I pulled my nameplate off the fabric wall, turned and took a long look at the empty cubicle, and then left the building for the final time.

On to the next chapter as a permanent teleworker working for my new manager.


Roddy the Cement Mixer (or practicing patience)

If you’re around my age you may remember having Little Golden Books which your parents read to you. They were small books that were available at the five and dime in an amazingly large variety of titles. (Remember the five and dime?) Each one contained a single story. If you’re closer to my parents’ age, you probably remember reading them to your children.

One of my favorites was “Roddy the Cement Mixer.” It was about a little girl who wanted a pool in her back yard and the anthropomorphic cement mixer truck that helped make it happen. Roddy’s task was the very last and she had to wait for all other kinds of things to happen. Her father had to dig the hole for the pool. (Which the picture showed him doing so with a hand shovel: something that seems rather odd in retrospect.) Then he had to put in the steel reinforcement bars, and various other things had to happen. The girl was impatient and tied a ribbon onto Roddy’s bumper so he wouldn’t forget.

Finally the time for Roddy to show up arrived and the girl got her pool.

It reminds me how I feel about going solar with our electricity. A lot of things have to happen before the solar panels are installed and the electric meter swapped out. The design has to be done, a permit needs to be obtained and so on. Fortunately I don’t have to worry about anyone not remembering. I get weekly phone calls from a woman named Felicia who keeps me updated on the progress.

It’s still hard to be patient, but it helps to remember that little Golden Book and know that I’ll be hearing from Felicia soon.