Not Our Doing

December 18, 2012

An alarming occurrence in the wake of the Newtown shooting has been to blame it on a lack of god or a lack of faith or something like that. Certainly, there’s been some blaming of those who don’t believe.

I don’t think I can add any kind of context to what happened. I don’t think I can say something new about it. But I can say that the idea that my family and others like us bear any kind of responsibility for a society in which this happens is offensive. I could quote statistics at you and point out who, in this country, tends to have violent tendencies, but I won’t. I don’t want to do that today. Instead, I want to make a series of statements.

We are, generally speaking, pacifists. There is no gun in our home. Nor will there be unless the world changes radically and terribly.

I have a three and a half year old daughter. The children who were murdered were not much bigger than her. Last night, she woke up sick. She vomited. It was a rough night. But right now, especially, I can’t help but hold her tightly and take note of her smallness. She is gossamer. There is nothing to her at all.

It is true that I do not believe in god. Or anything supernatural. Not many people seem to understand what that means to most of us who think this way. It means that we are on our own. That we must hold ourselves accountable. That any good that is done is our responsibility. And so is any bad. It means that we must be aware of the fragility of our own lives (there is nothing after) and of the lives of those around us. To take a life like that… There is no idea of a better place.

I never feel up to the task of writing about these kinds of enormous events. Especially when they are so horrible. But I have to speak up about this. I’m a nonbeliever. I am not a monster. Everybody wants to place blame. Please be careful where you place it.

Crazy Together

December 12, 2012

Because I wrote about the sudden and new growth in my tumor several months ago, here is a short update:

All is well. Newest MRI shows no growth. Doctor and I both think it’s getting smaller. Me: Okay, so I’m not crazy to think it’s getting smaller. Doctor: If you are, we’re crazy together.

That’s a relief.

One-Off Christmas Songs

December 7, 2012

I love Christmas. I have always loved Christmas. I love it in a deep and meaningful way that is completely inexplicable given my irrelegiousness. If you want to know my general feelings about Christmas for non-believers, you can go here.

This post, however, is about one of my favorite aspects of Christmas – the music. When I was a little kid, I wore my dad’s Christmas record out. I had a little portable turntable and I would listen to them by myself in my room. One of the things I’ve been delighted by as I have aged and learned more about music is the occasional discovery of the one-off Christmas song. That is, a Christmas song that was released on an otherwise normal album and that, ideally, is listenable during all seasons. Here are my five favorites:

1. Christmas Must Be Tonight by The Band – This is the most straightforwardly religious song on the list. Of course, like all of Robertson’s dabblings in Christian imagery, it treats it more as myth than sacred text. And it works. It’s a very nice song (I especially enjoy the “demo” cut from Northern Lights, Southern Cross). Anyway, it’s The Band and they are on. And it rocks and I like it.

2. Getting Ready for Christmas Day by Paul Simon – A track I just discovered, this one is from Simon’s most recent album So Beautiful or So What. It has, at it’s center a 1941 sermon of the same title. It is, like so many Simon songs, relentlessly catchy and filled with fabulous off-center lyrics (I’ve got a nephew in Iraq/It’s his third time back/But it’s ending up the way it began/With the luck of a beginner/He’ll be eatin’ turkey dinner on some mountaintop in Pakistan).

3. Mary by Lou Barlow – This is the only song on the list that might actively offend someone, but it is hilarious. This track puts forth the idea that we have the whole story wrong. It opens with the line, “Immaculate conception, yeah right,” and goes on to tell a story narrated by Mary’s adulterous lover where he extols her brilliant coverup of their indiscretion (Joseph will wander, but you know he won’t leave).

4. Greensleeves by McCoy Tyner and Derek Trucks – A reworking of Coltrane’s classic version. I could easily have chosen that, but fewer people know about this one, and it’s great. Tyner is glorious as ever and Trucks, who has ended up in a very Southern-rock niche with the excellent Tedeschi-Trucks Band, gets to show off his wonderful jazz chops.

5. Happy Days and Auld Lang Syne by Richard Thompson – Not, strictly speaking, Christmas-y, but holiday enough for me. Richard Thompson can add melancholy to anything and as someone who finds New Year’s Eve quite overrated, I enjoy the spin he gives to a phrase most of us can’t help associating with that occasion.