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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Or Maybe Not

Saturday, April 30, 2005

I never did find the actual wallet I bought, but this one is darn close. Women's wallet? You decide.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:29 AM | link | 2 comments |

What Have I Done?

Meredith and I are on vacation in Colorado. We're seeing old friends, taking in the scenery, and generally having a relaxing time.

But there's something that's plaguing my mind and making it difficult for me to really enjoy my vacation: I think I bought a women's wallet.

We were at an Eddie Bauer outlet mall store in Castle Rock, and I was rummaging through this clearance bin full of accessories, like cell phone holders, travel games, and, yes, wallets. I spied this cool looking navy blue wallet about the size of a credit card, and I looked it over, intrigued. It zips open and has a place for your credit cards, your money, and, most impressive, your change. "Great," I thought. " This is small enough to fit comfortably in my front pocket, and it will eliminate the loose change problem." The tag on it said simply, "Zip Around Wallet."

It was only $2.99.

So I bought it. I freaking bought it.

Since then, everyone I've shown it to has chuckled and said, "Dude. That's a women's wallet." I have vehemently protested, "No, it's a 'zip around wallet.'" So today I went online to set the record straight. I was going to go to Eddie Bauer's website and find the wallet under the men's accessories, thereby setting the record straight.

But the wallet is nowhere to be found. Worse, a search on e-bay for "zip around wallet" produces hundreds of results, while a search for "men's zip around wallet" produces zero.

Yeah, it's a women's wallet. But does that mean I'm going to stop using it?

Absolutely not.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:16 AM | link | 1 comments |

As I Walked Out One Evening

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dusk was really lovely tonight; the sky took on a sort of yellow glow, the kind that follows really threatening thunderclouds that don't fully materialize. So Meredith and I took a walk around the neighborhood.

I have an old friend and mentor who I know lives in our neighborhood. I'm not sure where, but when I lived here some years ago I visited his house once or twice. Since moving back I've not seen him, and that fact has caused me some guilt. We tried to get together over lunch back in February, but we both ended up being sick, and it never got back on either of our calendars. Every time I venture out around my neighborhood I know there is the outside chance that I might inadvertently walk past his house or pass him jogging with his dog; and it will be that encounter that I've been hoping for and dreading all at once.

Well, walking back up Cherry Street toward 61st, we saw a crew of people loading up a moving van in front of a house, and as we got closer to walk past them . . . well, there's no need pretending that there's some suspense here. There my old friend and mentor was, loading up his house on a warm spring evening with a bunch of friends, his kids, and his wife. They're moving to a new house several blocks away. But there it was. There they were.

We talked for a few minutes in the street, and we parted with hearty handshakes and assurances that we'll get together in a couple of weeks. But I feel guilty. I felt guilty walking away, and I'll surely feel guilty until we actually have a chance to sit down and talk, to figure out what our acquaintence means now after some years and some significantly changed circumstances.

Addendum: Adding to the awkwardness of the encounter was the fact that one of the guys helping to load up the truck was the lead singer for a band that some friends of mine in college used to idolize. They used to drive from Sterling to Kansas City to see them play at this church basement coffeehouse. Later, the band actually played at our college twice in one year, and I served as the promoter and organizer of the concert. I liked the band a lot then too, but the sound of this guy's voice had long since been shelved in my mind with memories of college. It was weird to hear it out on the block.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:33 PM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

So I'm putting together a children's lesson on John 14, where Jesus tells the disciples, "I will not leave you orphaned." Orphan. Hmm, orphan. Kids and orphan spell one thing to me: Little Orphan Annie. So I enter Little Orphan Annie into a Google search, and look what I found. A WWII propaganda poster using America's favorite little red head. The loveable, dimple-faced darling was a lot less vigilant in the musical.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 12:50 PM | link | 0 comments |

Kicking and Screaming

So I've been dragged into the technological age. At the present moment I sit in the beautiful new Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, using my brand new wireless internet card to connect to their wireless network. I gotta say, it's pretty cool.

From any number of locations now, I can connect my laptop to the internet using no plug-in at all. I'm about to write letters, plan meetings, and assemble an Order for Worship, all of which I will then email to my church email account.

For the Grand Opening of this library last weekend, Meredith and I went to a lecture by Harvard Sociologist Robert Putnam, in which he presented his research on the rise and fall of civic involvement in America over the last 100 years. What we need now, he said, is a few really good ideas from communities about how to connect people to each other. Where will those ideas come from? Who are the civic pioneers of our generation? How will this big beautiful space (and spaces like it) facilitate a greater level of connectedness among Kansas Citians.?

Updates to follow.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 12:12 PM | link | 1 comments |

The End of Ambiguity

I hate the issue. I am, by nature, averse to conflict, and so the issue causes me great anxiety. I know good people on both sides of the issue, and they all can claim some injury. I once lost a job over the issue.

The issue is the so-called "fidelity and chastity standard" for ordination found in the constitution of the church in which I minister; which is to say tthat the issue is the ordination of openly gay men and women to ministry.

For a long time I made a headlong dash to the middle whenever the issue was in play. I kept my mouth shut, tried to listen to both sides, and generally availed myself of the (now) enviable position of not having to commit either way. But that position is no longer tenable. Last spring the issue came up in an interview, and, needless to say, the interviewers were not impressed with my dash toward the middle. And who, besides those with the privelage of detachment, would be? After the interviewers told me that they didn't think I was the guy, I unloaded my indignation and hurt pride on a classmate. That classmate has since come out to me as gay. The issue isn't going away.

And so I came to yesterday's regional meeting of churches, a meeting in which the issue was on the docket. To be considered was an overture seeking to strike the aforementioned "fidelity and chastity standard." I knew going in that I wasn't going to say anything, that I wasn't going to raise my voice during the debate. Like most everyone else involved, there was very little likelyhood that my mind was going to be changed. And so it wasn't.

But I came away from the meeting frustrated that the debate over the issue proceeds along lines so general as to have little or nothing to do with the issue itself. Instead, the debate is about the relative virtues and/or vices or homosexuality and homosexuals and about the virtues and/or vices of excluding or including them in the church, with inclusion and exclusion being bandied about in the most general of ways. The issue isn't really about the issue.

Which is why my commitment to the middle, my commitment to a quiet stance of listening, is no longer tenable. Listening to the arguments made both for and against at yesterday's meeting, I was unspeakably frustrated at the ineptness of most of them. One person, to choose but one example, spoke in graphic charicatured detail about the sexual exploits of gay men, using such theological phrases as "anal trauma." How can I sit quietly and cling to the safety of non-commital and the comfort of a private ballot when those kinds of things are taking up space in the debate?

The overture was successful. The regional body of churches will now overture the national body to ask all the other regional bodies to change the policy. But by the time the vote was read I didn't care either way. The debate itself had done the damage. And it was a mere formality. There is no more debate. The issue has claimed its adherents on both sides. There is no room for ambiguity in the issue. I'm going to miss it.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 2:41 AM | link | 2 comments |

Monday, April 11, 2005

My parents got snowed in this weekend in Denver--in April! It looks like the greyhound had a good time anyway. Posted by Hello
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:53 AM | link | 0 comments |

It's Working! It's Working!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Baseball writer Hal Bodley has a piece in USA Today singing the praises of revenue sharing. It's working, he says, much to the chagrin of George Steinbrenner:

"While Steinbrenner is agitated about the rich helping the poor, the system is working, and it's making baseball better."

Bodley goes on to report that this year five teams increased their payroll by 33% or more, proof-positive that the miserly complaint about revenue sharing dollars being used for non-roster related expenses in bogus. The teams that have raised payrolls by that amount are Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Detroit, Florida, and Baltimore.

Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Detroit I understand. But Florida and Baltimore? Florida is not on my list of down-and-out teams, given the fact that they've won the World Series twice in eight years. And Baltimore is a perrenial contender for free agent talent in the off season: Miguel Tejada and Javier Lopez, two of last year's most sought after free agents, both signed with Baltimore.

There remain only two teams that have actually decreased their payrolls this season, two teams that, despite the rising tide of revenue that is raising all baseball boats, continue to be anchored to sub-par payrolls (and therefore rosters): Colorado and Kansas City.

Colorado and Kansas City.

For those who don't know, let me explain where that puts me. I live in Kansas City; I grew up in Colorado. That means that I can watch my local team, full of minor league hopefuls, or I can follow the team from back home, full of, well, minor league hopefulls with altitude-giddy stats. Seriously, if I didn't also have a family connection to the San Diego Padres, I would be in a deep, deep, baseball funk with nowhere to turn for reprieve. As it is, it's a sad situation when the team you look to to rescue from baseball doom and gloom is San Diego.

The Royals' roster of unheard-of's like Ruben Gotay and Emil Brown, Mark Teahen and Calvin Pickering (those guys are starters, by the way) is actually kind of fun to watch. For now. Pickering hit a bomb on opening day, and Brown homered yesterday. The problem is that both of those games were well out of reach by the time the young stars did anything worth watching. Stat-heads and Fantasy Baseball afficianados like me will follow these guys with interest. But by May the average Royals fan will be looking for something elso to do for recreation.

I wonder what's on at the Shakespeare Festival this summer?
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 5:47 AM | link | 2 comments |

I'm Only Gonna Say This Once

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I have avoided most of the media bombardment surrounding Terri Schiavo. I don't have cable, so MSNBC, CNN, FoxNews, and all of their cohorts don't have access, really, to my attention. But I do use the internet. A lot. So headline after headline has flashed in front of my face about it, even though I most often declined to read the coverage.

All that is to say that this comment about the case has come after an intentional two-day effort to read what's out there now that the dust has settled. I've read Andrew Sullivan, Christianity Today, and the Miami Herald, mostly.

The case against the legal procedure that finally took its' course depends upon a depiction of Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael, as at the very least a bad person and unfaithful husband. Most proponents of the view that the feeding tube should have never have been removed and should have been forcibly re-inserted have actually gone further than that, maligning him as an adulterer and even a murderer. This representation of the man can be taken as the deranged rantings of radical protesters and ignored. But that's a mistake. Because the character of Michael Schiavo is very much a part of the issue here, as it allows us to see his intent in waging the 15-year battle he has, even after starting a family with someone else.

Even if you don't follow the most extreme of his opponents in identifying Michael Schiavo with murder and infidelity, the case against him still asks you to see him as a quitter, and not just a quitter on himself, but also (and more importantly) a quitter on his wife. This, to our romantically-corrupted cultural mind--full of images of Romeo and Sir Gallahad-- is a man's unforgivable sin. Michael's actions appear to many to be a turning the back on such noble sentiments as, "Everyting I do, I do it for you" and "Aint no mountain high enough."

Consider the account, shared in an interview with Christianity Today, of John Kilner, the President of Trinity Evangelical Seminary's Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity:

"The original lawsuit many years ago, after this brain damage occurred, the husband, Michael, sued for malpractice in terms of the way the case was handled and he won an award, a portion of which went to him personally. But the major portion went into an account to pay for therapy. So it was thought that she was in a state where some therapies could make a difference. They would be expensive and they needed funding for it, but the funding was awarded.

"Ever since then, though, he started saying, "Well, she wouldn't want to continue to live." So those therapeutic interventions were not tried. And so now we have legal experts on both sides—some saying she's in a persistent vegetative state and nothing can be done, and others saying 'No, she's not, and certain interventions can make a difference.'"

Two things stand out here. First, Mr. Kilner must, as if with a sideways glance, point out that "a portion" of the original medical malpractice suit went to Michael Schiavo "personally." What are we supposed to think he did with it? Bought himself a Ferrari?

Second, the ultimate criticism comes down to the assertion that Michael Schiavo gave up on his wife, that there were therapies available that he simply refused to try. He "started saying" (in the fashion of who? Elmer Fudd?) "Well, she wouldn't want to live." Dwell on the "Well" for a minute. "Well" is filler for the sentence that lacks conviction. Was that really how Michael Schiavo handled the mortality of his wife?

Andrew Sullivan, a reputable conservative columnist and blogger, paints a different picture:

"In the first years that she was in this horrifying state, her husband, Michael, did all he could to find treatment, went from hospital to hospital trying new therapies. According to the Miami Herald, which has covered the case more thoroughly than any other outlet, 'each rehabilitation facility treated her with aggressive physical, recreational, speech and language therapy, moving her arms and legs, trying to rouse her with scents. But according to court filings, Terri was not responsive to neurological or swallowing tests.' Terri was even sent to California to have experimental platinum electrodes inplanted to get her brain going again. Michael slept next to her for five weeks. At the time, he and Terri's parents were united in doing all they could for what was left of his wife."

Or consider this description, taken from a story in the Miami Herald itself:

"In the beginning, they [Michael Schiavo's friends and family] say, Schiavo was relentless in his search for a cure for his wife. He tried therapies. He rented a house large enough for him and Terri's parents.

"He made sure she was dressed every day. He applied her makeup and dabbed on perfume.

"He went to school to become a nurse, 'because he wanted to take care of Terri,' Scott said. 'He swore that he could get Terri better. One doctor said: `Mike, you know what? There's nothing else we can do. The next time Terri gets sick, why don't you just let nature take its course?' And Mike wouldn't do it.''"

So does the decision, after pursuing a nursing career and living with your in-laws and spurning the advice of doctors, to "let nature take its' course" represent a husband's failure, a pathetic act of quitting on the one he swore to love "til death do us part?" I think not. In fact, regardless of the legal weight of Terri's spoken wish to Michael to never be made to persist on a feeding tube (which came after watching the prolonged and agonizing death of Michael's grandmother), the decision to remove the feeding tube represents the courageous and faithful act of a man intent on loving his wife.

How long could you allow someone you "love" to persist in a state of constant pain and discomfort, regardless of whether it's considered "vegetative" or not? Again, The Miami Herald:

"She suffered from bile stones and kidney stones, according to court papers, and had to have her gallbladder removed. She has 'drop foot,' where her foot twists downward, and the ensuing pressure resulted in the amputation of her left little toe. She frequently developed urinary tract infections, diarrhea and vaginitis. Several cysts were removed from her neck. Several times, her feeding tube got infected."

Is such ubiquitous medical intervention "life?" Does love require that a state such as that be preserved at all costs? Only a person on the sidelines could come to that conclusion, only one for whom a living, breathing human being is, above all-else, a political commodity to be bartered and exchanged for legislative victory.

Michael Schiavo was in the fight with his wife up to the end. More than anything, social conservatives--and their passionate protest of the course of actions that Michael set in motion with his decision to let his wife die a human death (which is an indespensible part of being human at all)--are wrong in the way that they have thrown Michael Schiavo under the bus. In so doing, they have failed to look intently enough at the face of suffering and the face of love. Instead, they have rallied the forces of political activism and pop sentimentaliy and technology to preserve something resembling morality.

To borrow a line from the end of Death of A Salesman: "No one dares blame this man."

Surely the decisions required by love and fidelity are more complex than can be contained on a placard.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 5:48 AM | link | 1 comments |

To Speak or Not To Speak

Sunday, April 03, 2005

This week's edition of The Christian Century has a thoughtful piece by Garret Keizer about the "reticence of Jesus." His basic contention is that Jesus spent a great deal of his time NOT talking, especially as it related to issues of controversey, especially the issues that people most wanted him to talk about. So, inspired by the insight, I feel compelled to, well, talk about it.

In particular, Keizer points to these six general traits that characterize how Jesus related to controversial issues:
  1. He simply refused to talk
  2. He was strikingly terse; he referred people to other sources
  3. He talked "off the subject"; In Keizer's words, "Asked to divide an inheritance, Jesus talks about covetousness. Asked about imperial taxes, Jesus talks about the glory due to God alone."
  4. Jesus answers questions with questions
  5. Jesus speaks through parables or cryptic sayings
  6. Jesus is silent on subjects we wish he would have addressed.
Before singing Keizer's praise, it should be pointed out that there are several passages in the gospels which simply refer to Jesus "teaching and preaching" (Matthew 4:23, 7:28, Mark 6:6, Luke 4:31, John 6:59), so it would be a mistake to find in Jesus an absolute model for the quiet contemplative. However, Keizer (who also had a piece published in Mother Jones this year) is referring specifically to subjects of controversey. And on this front I find his insight comeplling.

Evangelical Christianity in particular would benefit from a closer examination of this pursed-lip proclivity of Jesus. So much of what is expected of the evangelical Christian is an ability to defend a point of view, to argue, to take a stand on contentious questions, particularly those questions having to do with family and sexuality (divorce, abortion, homosexuality). On the whole, there is a startling lack of appreciation for the ambiguity that courses through controversial issues (the ambiguity is, after all, what makes them controversial) in most of evangelical rhetoric and theology.

Yet Jesus' day was no unlike ours in terms of controversey and the conservative demand for clear-cut committment to previously staked-out positions. But Jesus repeatedly refused to get drawn into other people's arguments, arguments that are too often caried out along the wrong battle lines, using the wrong terms and pursuing the wrong outcomes. Jesus, with his silence and his re-directing, points to the larger issues at stake and implicitly calls into question the motives and assumptions of his interrogators.

I have long struggled with an inability to articulate definitive positions on the sore subjects of the day. I have felt guilty. I have given myself up as a wishy-washy idealist at best and a spineless talking head at worst. But Keizer's insight gives me hope that there is a place (and a very important place at that) in the Christian life for holding one's tongue in favor of looking intently at the questions behind the questions. Behind the questions.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:02 PM | link | 2 comments |