Confession and other silliness…

confessionalConfession is good for the soul of gossips – that’s the way the expression should read.

This is a paragraph from an unpublished manuscript entitled Elizabeth Parsonage:

That was where the pastor met with people – in the study; it was a safe place, almost officially so. A confessional, but with a couch and chairs and a desk and shelves lined with books. Sometimes the books were about the Bible, sometimes about theology, but ever since the 1950s they were more and more about feelings and relationships and marriage and love and how to handle rebellious children, but they didn’t seem to help much. It was like they were commentaries but not solutions like they seemed to promise. This book could save your marriage. Follow this advice and your teenage girl won’t hate you. But they didn’t work, at least not as much as one would wish. People would come to the study and spill their guts as if the pastor knew as much as God knew, and they’d say everything with the promise that Nothing would leave this room. And if the walls could talk they’d tell you things about divorces and pregnancies and hatred and tears and deaths and scandals and sickness and pettiness and revenge and although most would be curious about other peoples’ troubles, any real human being listening to what the walls had to say would be in tears and tell the wallpaper to shut-up.


And this is a little something which, I confess, means more to me than it should…

Confessor Cat
There’s a black cat that visits my home every day,
walking carelessly toward my door, toward me
looking at it out my window, with eyes that flash
bright when lighted, then quickly darken again.

And when I see it, I count my sins, unprompted
I rehearse the errors of my ways while the cat
slows and gracefully sits, staring at me like it knows
what races through my mind, and how I’ve erred.

It isn’t hurried, nor is it asking anything of me;
there’s no deep-seated memory from my youth,
no intuition of the deities of ancient Egypt,
just a feral beauty at ease without need of home.

My mind races through the rights and wrongs
without a tally, and the black cat waits just long
enough for my silliness to end; and because
gifts are exchanged, I now feed my confessor
in sacramental pâté, but first returning thanks
for the privilege of a conscience assuaged
by the simple act of being seen by a black cat.

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Boredom is cool…

bored spaghetti o'sThe word doesn’t begin to appear in dictionaries until the late 1850’s, and it was first used to describe the influence of industrialization, mechanisms, and technology. Boredom is our problem, exacerbated by the experience of connectivity.

Boredom has three uses: weariness with repetition, leisure time, and alienation resulting from impersonal social existence (a Marxist idea, but still an idea – It’s most closely associated with early adulthood – from high school to early college years, and then it reappears in mid-life crises. And it is most often described as a dissatisfaction with life (as in, the quality of life), Boredom is what we call the feeling that something is missing or we’re missing something.

And boredom is cool… sort of… if you think about it…

David Foster Wallace

When David Foster Wallace wrote about
boredom, he did so in a tedious way – shaking an
angry fist at the storm as it roared around,
daring to be consumed, defiant enough to breathe
in the air of monotony and exhaling the
excitement of crafting a three-page sentence;
immune to tedium but not unawares,
certain it would be unpublishable except for the
reason that he was David Foster Wallace.


The word is new,
a product of the industrial revolution,
to capture monotony and
the small-mindedness
which would rule us with reasons to
bemoan our own
passivity, daring others to
divert us with things we’re told
are meaningful, convinced
by others to desire,
and the greatest loss is the will to
choose for ourselves
what will be loved
in the new melancholy of boredom.

Such is life…

Distractions are as ordinary as, well, distractions. So many things blink, flash and scream for our attention; so many things are distracting. In our ‘get something done’ world, anything that distracts is a problem.

How do distractions work? They take advantage of impulses, lack of control, reactions in-the-moment – thoughtlessness, instinctive, knee-jerk kind of responses that make us wonder Why did I do that?!

Remember that Facebook update from a friend saying, “I’m signing off Facebook for a week (or month, or year, or forever) because it’s too distracting” – but it’s nice that they leave a note to explain why we won’t see hourly updates of what the kids are doing or what lunch looks like. That all-or-nothing approach to eliminating distractions seems like it should magically solve the problem. But it doesn’t.

BrokenFence_smallThe old rabbis (are there any other kind?) told a story about distractions that is a little different from our all-or-nothing solution. It’s about building fences – those binary, all-or-nothing, either/or reactions to distractions, impulses and what we should probably just call life.

We’re sure fences should work, but they don’t…

Such Is Life

In the Talmud, so I’m told,
there’s a how-to about how to
control impulses which get
the better of us all, ever day;
it goes something like this,
build a fence around it –
that impulse which distracts
and makes us forgetful
of the right ought of duty
in pursuit of the wrong ought
of desire and appetite,
and when that fence
doesn’t work, which it won’t
build another fence around
the fence, and when it fails,
which it will because all
fences fail, look at the mess
of fence-building you’ve
made all for an impulse
that was probably harmless
and now build a fence
around fence-building
before you forget
what’s truly important;
for such is life, my friend.