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Not Prince Hamlet

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

That Sucks Rocks

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Here's a link to a story about rural Missourah morality gone bad. Way bad.

A principal punished an elementary school student by forcing her to collect roadside rocks in a bucket and carry them into the woods.

Here's the money quote:
"Although he has discontinued the practice because of the uproar, Doerhoff [the principal] said rock punishment was not that strenuous. The rocks, left from construction work, were small. He added that the girl wasn't in danger because she was being monitored by a security camera."

Here's the best part: a teacher who saw the student picking up the rocks complained and was told she was out of line. So she went out and helped the student, picking up rocks with her. Then she got fired.

When are people going to realize that you just have to do what you're told?
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:49 AM | link | 3 comments |

This is my job?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

There is no unanimity when it comes to answering the question, "What is a pastor's job?" I recall, prior to seminary, criticizing without reservation the pastor of the church I attended for being, as I put it, "the least pastoral pastor I've ever met." What I meant by that was that he didn't keep regular office hours at the church; he didn't make the rounds of pastoral visits to the homes of parishoners.

If I'm honest, part of what appealed to me about the call to ministry, particularly ministry in an institution like the Presbyterian Church (USA), was a certain concreteness. As a minister of Word and Sacrament, you know what you are called to do: preach the Word and administer the sacraments. Beyond that, be a good pastor. But they don't tell you what a pastor is or does. You just have to kind of figure it out on your own.

So today, being a pastor meant meeting a woman from my congregation at the public library, so that I could show her the basics of using a computer and accessing the world wide web for the purpose of looking for a job. Then it meant delivering to the office of the school district a letter of appeal on behalf of a middle school student who has been suspended for fighting. Then it meant writing a thank-you note to the church's office manager. Then it meant intervening in a pseudo-conflict between the church's preschool Director and the church's volunteer handyman. Then it meant, as I prepared to go home, helping someone start the church's lawnmower.

Almost one year in, I have concluded that, in this calling, I am my own worst enemy. Or, rather, my own conscience is my worst enemy. Or, rather, my pervasive need for affirmation is my worst enemy. If someone were to throw at me the kind of "non-pastoral" criticism I myself threw around just a few years ago, I would likely be devastated. And that's the bigger part of the problem. It's not that the work is fluid and demanding and delicate; it's that many of us in the work need solid, measurable signs for us to pat ourselves on the back. I'm starting to see that grace doesn't work that way.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 6:57 PM | link | 3 comments |

I'm Good for A Few Years Now

Thursday, May 12, 2005

My birthday is on Sunday, but the preschoolers here at the church knew they weren't going to see me then. So I was summoned to assist the preschool director with something, and found myself walking into a beautiful trap: all of our preschool students gathered in a room, waiting to sing "Happy Birthday" to me. They even sang the "How old are you now?" verse.

It had been a bit of a rough day up to that point (but how rough could it have been, really? I got to see a less-than-one-hour-old baby this morning). But after 30 or so preschoolers have wailed "Happy Birthday" to you, you're good to go.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:10 AM | link | 3 comments |

Just Like When I Was Single

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

It's 12:20 a.m., and I'm munching stale (generic) vanilla wafers after watching the last three episodes from season three of The West Wing. Yesterday I worked from 9:00 to 8:00; today from 9:00 to 8:00. This is the moment I ask myself, "What did I ever do with myself before I got married?" Because, with Meredith working nights this month, I don't know what the heck to do with myself.

Read? Write Letters? Exercise?

Nah, how about eat badly tasting junk food and watch three hours of television. Then write on your blog after midnight. Yeah, that's the ticket.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 10:19 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, May 06, 2005

From Lauren Winner's "Mudhouse Sabbath": At its core, I think, cultivating an intimacy in which people can know and be known requires being honest--practicing that other Christian discipline of telling the truth about where we live and how we got there. Often, telling the truth feels absurd." Posted by Hello


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 3:58 PM | link | 0 comments |

The Things They Saw

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The effect of tonight's Frontline piece about the Nazi deathcamps will not be clear for a long time, if ever. Having grown up under parents whose own mothers and fathers were there when the country (indeed the rest of the world) found out what had taken place in the birthplace of European Protestant Christianity, I am no stranger to the horror of what they heard. They have made sure that I am not. I have been taught, been made to hear, made to look at, and made to consider it, the most ghastly state of hell ever conceived of and carried out by human beings.

Yet this film, made up of footage shot by British soldiers who arrived in April, 1945, and narrated by stern, almost theatrical British tones (and punctuated by long silences where the visual footage must simply be ingested without the coating of a voice of explanation and description), this film is the end. None of the pictures I have seen have caused me to perceive in the gaunt faces of prisoners the faces of my family andfriends. This footage did. None of the stories I have read (from dramatic re-enactments to Elie Weisel's memoir) have shown me my own face and figure in the faces and figures of plump, defiant soldiers. This story did.

There is an inherent protective mechanism in the mediated image. We know the reality only through the medium, and so it is the medium that receives our attention first. Education, drama, and even religion have mediated to me the human disaster of Nazi concentration camps in stories and pictures and numbers and grievious condemnations my whole life. But this relic that Frontline has uncovered and projected has somehow gone beyond what everything else heretofore has done. It has gone beyond eductation to the awful truth. It has gone beyond mediated lessons to painful, un-mediated questions. How does a man construe duty to be the stacking and stacking and stacking of these starved and diseased corpses one upon the other? Can a person so tortured and treated ever believe in the genuineness of human goodness again? If what ended as systematic extermination and massacre began as a political declaration revoking "civil rights," what haunting echoes might our politics and our rhetoric produce?

These questions don't have answers. They don't necessarily have to. They only have to be considered. And re-considered. And re-considered. For, the perpetuation by such a sophisticated and advanced people of such a barbaric and unspeakable evil is the only evidence I need to be warned of what can happen when we choose not to consider such questions.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:05 PM | link | 1 comments |

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Meredith

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Meredith and I went with her sister and my mother the Ocean Journey, the aquairium in Denver, while on our vacation. I got this shot of her and a Sumatran tiger. Posted by Hello
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:03 PM | link | 0 comments |