What’s a Word Worth?

As part of my resolution to try new things, I’ve been doing some transcription work for an on-line company.  The pay looks possibly decent on paper, but it’s factored per audio minute, so the actual rate per hour depends on how quickly the transcriptionist can complete the job.  The easiest part is the typing.  The audio quality varies a great deal per file which means the transcriptionist must have quality headphones and a flexible ear.  The most challenging aspect is discerning voices.  Many of the audio files are of group discussions.  When the participants are not evenly miked, some voices are loud and clear while most others are harder to hear or even sound muffled or mumbled.  Another challenge is understanding non-native English speakers with various accents.

I’m also finding that most people interrupt themselves.  They don’t speak in complete sentences.  They often use strings of unfinished phrases, and it’s sometimes difficult to even find a noun and a verb that convey a thought.  It seems to be common place for conversationalists to throw at each other what I would call word-paintings a la Seurat!  Fortunately the transcriptionist doesn’t have to make sense out of the recorded words!

And yet, that is the biggest challenge of all for me personally.  When I don’t see the value in something, it is extremely difficult for me to contribute any of my energies towards the advancement of it.  I simply can’t fathom why so many people believe so many of their thoughts matter to anyone else.

I realize others could say the same thing referring to my blogs!  Why does the Merry Lark need to post to the public so many of her musings?  In this case, I acknowledge the main benefit is the therapeutic value for myself.  However, as evidenced by these audio files awaiting transcription, many companies (and sometimes individuals) are paying personnel to interview people and then paying yet other people to transcribe what was recorded during the interview.  I can’t imagine being willing to pay even the fewest pennies to gather what often amounts to drivel!

The lesson I take from this? Choose my words carefully.  Continue to hone my thoughts. Speak (and write) in complete sentences!  Cherish any available silence.

Post-Establishment World

Those who think all the fake-news/ hit-pieces/ hysteria against Trump will erode his base are either stupid or delusional.  Trumpers identify with him partly/ largely because we don’t identify with establishment and we see media as an arm of the establishment.  The only way the media could influence our views would be if they presented fair debates/ discussion with multiple voices with multiple perspectives.

Dear Media, we don’t trust you.  We don’t trust your info-gathering.  We don’t trust your presentation of your highly selective “facts.”  And we don’t trust your spin/ interpretation/ summation.  All you can do now to redeem yourselves is to host original voices dialoging with each other.  I.e. shut up and let original voices speak.  Media, you forgot your purpose is to present other voices from all perspectives.  When you voice your own views/ agenda (or your moneyed-bosses), you cease to have professional integrity.

Do I believe there is any hope for a restoration of investigative journalism?  I don’t know.  Probably not in the established networks.  Front-line, honest news-gathering will probably be found only amongst the raw reporters on twitter.  Regular people who have nothing to gain reporting to regular people is where we’ll find real news.

Headache Hell

I have a headache.  A very bad headache.  The pain is so intense I feel nauseous.  I might feel better if I could vomit, but I’m not going to force it.  I need to resume taking guifenisen every day; it keeps my sinuses drained.  I haven’t been taking it because I’ve been trying to reduce costs and not take anything I didn’t really need.

It turns out I really need to keep my sinuses drained, at least during allergy season.  I don’t know what I’m allergic to in the fall.  I seem to be vulnerable to mold allergy throughout the year.  In the fall, I know I’m allergic to ragweed, but I think I’m mildly allergic to all grasses and trees, so when weeds are blooming there are probably all kinds of pollen causing me problems.  That’s why I need to take the guifenisen.  I feel like I’m running a fever.  Ugh, I hate pain!

So what is something good about this?  That it’s no worse, or no more serious.  Yes, I’m grateful for that.  Meanwhile I really wish I could puke out the pain.

Being Catholic is an “all skate!” dance

Have you ever been to an old-fashioned roller-rink?  When I was growing up, the local youth group would sometimes have skating parties.  At these parties there would be times when only the boys would skate (typically with no music and they would race as fast as possible).  “Ladies only” meant only the girls were allowed on the floor and there would be lovely music.  The lights would dim for the “couples” skate.  And of course, before the night was over, there was the mandatory “Hokey Pokey.”  But after each of these times designated for only a qualified crew, the announcer would call out “Aaaaall skate!  All skate!”  And that meant everyone was welcome on the floor.

I used to think of myself as a “conservative Catholic” until I met some Catholics who are devoted to their right-ness and their righteousness.  Also, I recently read an article about how any qualification of Catholic is just off, can’t be true.  That resonated deeply within me, like my fundamental (pitch of a string’s full length).  And all my over-tones sang for joy!  Being Catholic really is an “all skate” religion.

Why Catholics must recognize all other Catholics as Catholic, even the “bad” ones, even the ones some would call nominal or only ethnic or heretical or whatever is because of what Catholic actually means.  People who call themselves Catholic are.  Now you can debate what The Catholic Church officially teaches and all that, but when it comes to the people, there simply can be no discrimination.  There’s no way around it.  The “Catholic”-ness of the Catholic faith is this: we claim to have access to the fullness of truth and are called to share it with all people, but we don’t claim to be the authors of that truth, nor the Lord of the mission.  So, while we believe Jesus Christ has commissioned us to profess the Good News to all the world, we can’t claim to judge the hearts of anyone who appears to receive or not receive this Good News.  Maybe more importantly, we recognize God calls each and every human-being into the church, into the fold.  If God is calling everyone, who are we to screen who may hear?

I think I recognized this when I found my Home in the Eucharist, but somewhere along the way I lost clarity and part of my heart resisted seeing how every Catholic is at Home in the Catholic Church, even if they keep house differently from the way I thought Church was supposed to be.

So now that I realize Home is much messier than I’ve wished it to be, I’ve also realized I’m not all that interested in putting undue energy into tidying-up.  I.e. I’m much more of a “Mary” than a “Martha.”  I believe hospitality needs only sufficient order.  I have appreciated the Martha’s for attention to environment, but even more so I’m grateful Jesus lets anyone come to Him, and in fact the “better part” is communing with Him (rather than making sure everything is in its proper place before we can connect).

The real challenge for me in all this now is in knowing that I have RELIED on the Martha’s to maintain an environment in which I can pray or create or be faithful or serve or what-have-you comfortably.  How the Martha’s of the church “keep house” is very comfortable for me personally.  However, I recognize that it actually drives some people away, and that makes my conscience wake up and say “wait a minute, is this really what we’re supposed to be about?”

I was in a liturgy meeting recently where in the majority of the time was taken up with miniscule details about what the altar boys need to do or not do, where the Eucharistic ministers should stand before the Consecration, whether or not they should kneel, or if they should stand on a step or not, etc.  Now I understand and embrace the value of rubrics, but what I chafe against is spending all our planning time (and thinking and spirit) on it.  Rubrics can help us get somewhere, but they are not the destination.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrg!  I find that just as I’ve had to go through disillusionment about priests, and about who the church is, so too I’m being disillusioned about ministry.  Being disillusioned is actually a good thing, but going through it is painful.  And now I can’t console myself with thinking “well that isn’t how to be Catholic.”  It certainly is how some will be Catholic!  It just isn’t how I want to be.  Meanwhile, we’re all Catholic.

As most vents are likely to be, this is a ragged piece from a torn heart.

 

Hypocrites

When people preach “peace” yet denounce the Prince of Peace.

When people “love” “tolerance” yet hate the Merciful Messiah.

When people demand liberty to have “free sex” yet deny a baby’s liberty to live.

 

Expectations

I am on a retreat at a center that hosts retreats for groups and individuals.  When I booked my time here I was glad to learn that a women’s group was also scheduled for part of the time that I am here, and that they would be silent as well.  The day they were to arrive, the director found me in the hall and reminded me that they would be silent and were concerned that I should know this; she also assured me they knew I am here on silent retreat.  However, they have proved to be either not at all serious about silence or very bad at it.  When they arrived they were quite raucous up until the first mass.  Then most of them settled down.  Except for their leaders!  They stand outside my door at any hour of the day, even into the late night hours, chatting.  They sit in the lobby just outside the chapel and catty-corner to my room and chatter.  They occupy the kitchenette that I am supposed to have at my disposal for some sort of private talks.  And they chat in various other hallways etc.  If they really need to talk, why can’t they use one of their own rooms?  This is a source of enormous distraction for me and profound irritation; it also limits my physical use of much of the facility; I don’t feel free to use any of the spaces they are occupying.  I really abhor it when they linger outside my door chatting; even with “hushed” voices it is as if they are IN my room!  And they know this room is occupied because there is a sign of welcome to me, taped on the front!

There are only four ways I know how to deal with this.  1) Turn it into a spiritual exercise and ask the Lord to help me ignore them, quell the irritation within me, and direct my mind ever-more nearly to His Presence.  2) Put on some lovely but prayer-conducive music to act as a buffer.  3) Gently confront those outside my door when it is unbearable and their proximity is obviously ridiculous.  4) Make a complaint to the administration when it is time to make an evaluation.

The extra source of irritation to me is somewhat self-imposed.  I can’t help but think that they might think my needs are secondary to theirs, and thus, practically speaking, not meriting respect.  I suspect they will think this way because 1) their behavior seems to reflect that, and 2) it’s all too common for the majority to disrespect the needs of the minority.  However, it is true that I don’t know what these people think.  And even if any of them do think as I suspect, it shouldn’t stop me from respecting myself and the fact that I’ve paid for the use of these facilities.  Even so, I think it is up to me to dissolve that layer of irritation; i.e. it’s simply not my concern if they harbor wrong thinking.

I guess “venting” my raw emotions about this here is a fifth way.  Why is it so important to be “heard”?  Ha!  I don’t even know that anyone reads this blog, so it is unlikely that my voice is being heard through this medium.  Writing does however let me acknowledge my thoughts and validate my feelings about experiences.  And releasing some of my frustrated energy this way frees me to turn my attention in new directions.

So, Lord, why would You allow so many noises into my silence?  So many irritations to threaten my peace?  So many distractions to my respite?  The only thing I can think is that, beyond the pathetically ordinariness of it all, You have allowed it even in Your Gracious Love to be a special lesson or challenge for me, meant to strengthen me.

But how?  By leaning on You.  So here I come, Lord.  I’m leaning heavily on You.  My voice on Your ears, my “tears” on Your shoulder, my neediness on Your lap.

Thank You Abba-Jesus-Spirit for

  1. Music
  2. Bach, esp. the Goldberg Variations
  3. Scarlatti, esp. Sonata in D, K.491 (L 164)
  4. Horowitz
  5. Yo-Yo Ma
  6. Amazon Prime
  7. Magnificat subscription
  8. Scripture
  9. Good coffee
  10. a space away
  11. access to You through prayer
  12. the ability to think, feel, write, listen, reflect
  13. the geese that were preening along the little island bank outside my window
  14. the covering of snow over every little thing
  15. the internet!
  16. this blog!
  17. for other retreat centers that host silence well!
  18. for the passing of time and most everything
  19. Christ’s humanity!
  20. that Christ’s humanity didn’t preclude Him having human needs or becoming weak at times, or even experiencing temptation
  21. that Christ submitted everything, His humanity, His divinity, everything, to Abba’s will, and trusted that Abba is sufficient.

Lord Jesus Christ, help me.  You have helped me so profoundly through so many deep valleys.  Please help me with these little stumbling blocks too.

I’ve been reading some reflections by mothers whose children were killed in violent mass shootings.  One of them writes regarding Lent: “Forty days purposefully to embrace hunger, expose weakness, receive his mercy, and grow in the grace he willingly offers.  I give thanks for the invitation and enter willingly, confident of the miracle that awaits.”

I admit, I haven’t been expecting any miracle.  And I didn’t really think of this as a time to deliberately “expose weakness.”  However, how else can the Lord heal me, unless I uncover my wounds and wounded-ness to His healing gaze and touch?  So apparently, one of my weaknesses is to feel threatened when others “invade” “my” space.  Yes, sometimes it really is my space, and yes it really has been invaded at various times in various ways in the past.  But sometimes what feels like invasion is simply that the reality of the circumstances demand a sharing of spaces, and even that can feel threatening to me.  I suppose largely because my personal boundaries were so completely violated when I was younger.  But now that I am older and have more command of myself, I should be able to manage some legitimate sharing!  And to do so graciously and gratefully.  By the way, my apologies to any readers who might cringe at my use of “should.”  I dare to use this word with myself when I really believe it is appropriate and what I actually mean.  I nearly never use it with anyone else.  If my “should-s” to myself offend you, by all means, please edit them to a better word for your own sensibility.

So what is this miracle I might expect, Lord?  I guess the content and nature of that is up to You!  But the expectation is up to me, n’est-çe pas?  I’ve always loved it that we are called to await the Lord with “expectation,”  much like a mother expecting the delivery of her child.  So, Lord, although I don’t know what this miracle will be, I welcome Your new life within my spirit; let it be done unto me as You will.  I give my fiat.

Lighting the candle

Sometimes you just need to vent!  I know I do.  But I also want to be able to find the way through every mess to the message, I want to be grateful for the grace in the midst of the grunge, I want to at least sometimes see the silly in each struggle.  So this little blog is going to be an experiment in venting freely albeit briefly about life’s little frustrations ( and those horrible no-good very bad terrors too), but then taking time to find the divine despite the devil, and to thank God for 20 (or so) great big very good (or sweet little seemingly insignificant) graces in the face of the frightening or furious.  Even just one candle dispels the dark.  Jesu juva!