Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lent is over, are our actions and commitments?

Lent is over (obviously).
The actions, thoughts, things, that we give up for Lent, now we pick them back up again? What was the point of whatever we did for Lent if we then revert to our old routines? Was it just a time of trying out being a better person and now we slip, slump, back into our old ways?

Wednesday after Easter Day, I turned on the radio while I was ironing shirts. I had given up for Lent listening to the radio while I “worked” or did chores. The quiet time gave me time to think more. It was nice to be able to have some quiet time to think. Yes, I missed listening to some music and to some news reports, but not all of them. Should I keep the radio off after Lent? It did take me a few days to return to the habit of listening while busy with something else. Actually, I quickly discovered that there wasn’t any music on the radio that I wanted to listen to at that time so I put in a recording and listened to some music that I had not heard for many months.

My friend Grace used to give up book buying for Lent. And, within a few days after Easter Day she would visit the store and purchase all the books that she had been wanting during Lent. It seemed to me at the time that she was not giving up books for Lent, but just postponing the purchase of them. Grace died a few years ago. We miss her spirit. Yes, she was a regular book buyer, but that is not the part about her that we miss. I sometimes wonder if she was able to read before she died all of the books that she purchased. I rather expect that there were many unread books in her apartment at her end. She was, after all, a book lover.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter creep

I write a weekly letter to my granddaughter who lives far away from me. It is a way in which I try to stay connected to her life. This is a portion of this week’s letter.

It is Holy Saturday as I write this. Traditionally this day has been for the Church a day to kind of hold our collective breaths. It is the part of the observance of remembrance about Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection. On this day, symbolically, Christ was dead and in a tomb. We all kind of held our breath from the time of his death yesterday until his Resurrection tomorrow.

For some, a few I think, today remains a quiet day of meditation, but for many congregations this is a day of preparation for the Easter Vigil service which will be held this evening, where the fast of Lent is broken and the light of Easter is celebrated.

I have two thoughts about this change to Easter Vigil on Easter Eve. One thought is that it feels like “Easter creep.” Easter has not remained on Easter Day. It has crept over to the night before. This creeping to the night before then puts the figurative breath back into Holy Saturday. We don’t need to hold our collective breaths while we remember Christ as being dead and buried, because we are preparing for the big celebration this evening. I am uncomfortable with “Easter creep.”

My second thought is that since so much of the world has given up on religion, that religion just does not mean anything to so many people today, that for those few of us to whom it remains an important part of our lives we seem even more anachronistic. We have become a quaint little sideshow that has no meaning to the lives of so many people. This both saddens and worries me. Whether they will recognize it or not, there is a very real spiritual side to life. By not being aware of it, open to it, or studying to learn from it they are short-changing their lives.

I read in the news earlier this week of a request for volunteers to help in a park this weekend in hiding “Spring Eggs” for the Spring Egg Hunt for the children. They couldn’t even refer to it as an Easter Egg Hunt. They have taken the Christian observance and tradition, removed the symbolism of new life from an egg, and made it a public fun event with evidently no more meaning to it than a fun little adventure for the kiddies.

Pretend that a new fad began that involved numbing our tongues so that we could not taste food. I certainly hope that such a fad does not begin. It would not be long until individuals and groups of people forgot that food had taste. They would eat without enjoying the flavors of the foods, the sweets, and saltiness, the bitterness of beer, the tartness of rhubarb, the hot spiciness of jalapeno peppers, the tangy flavors, the mixture of flavors in a butterscotch, chocolate ice cream Sunday. Neither would we receive the warning of very bad tasting food that has spoiled and is not good to eat. “Have you tasted this (or, “Please taste (or smell) this and tell me what you think…”) is it bad or spoiled, or do you think that it is okay to eat it?” Those aspects of food would be there but we would not be aware of them. Our lives would be less enjoyable and more fragile without the awareness that flavors in foods give us. I see religion and faith and acceptance of the spiritual realm in which we live as similar to food flavors. They are there whether we acknowledge them or not and life is in so many ways enhanced when we recognize them and grow in our understanding of them.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Singing for the non-listeners

This evening the community choir with which I sing is performing at a benefit event. The local food bank is the recipient of a “soup bowl” event. Their publicity for it includes: “Buy a unique handcrafted bowl for a minimum donation of $15 get it filled with soup and bread, listen to music while dining with your neighbors!” according to the events listing. All proceeds benefit the Ballard Food Bank.

The choir will be the “listen to music” portion of the fundraiser. We have a few songs that are part of what we have been learning and practicing for our spring concert in May that we will be performing this evening for the fund raiser. I expect the performance to be quite different than what we are used to. Mainly, people will not, in my humble opinion, stop, sit, and listen to the performance. I expect that they will continue purchasing bowls, eating, and talking with their neighbors while we sing as a musical background. There are some tricky parts to the music, and one very funny piece of music, but to appreciate them an audience must be quiet and attentive. And, for us to perform them our best, we need it to be quiet enough so that we can really hear all of the other parts of the music that other choir members are singing. I don’t expect that to happen tonight. Well, we will see what comes.

It’s just N and me at the store today. About half the Saturdays we will have another staff member to help with the customers, orders, and sales, so we are a little short-handed today. I will need to leave early in order to get to the fundraiser in time to sing. This means that N will run the store for an hour or so by herself, and then close the store and finish the end-of-day accounting work, deposit the day’s cash and checks in the bank night deposit, and head home by herself.

In the early years of the store it was just part of our routine that one of us could manage the store, but that was when business was much less. I hope that N will be okay after I leave her this afternoon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A life immersed in spiritual matters.

(As part of a letter this week to my granddaughter I included this thought that I share with you now.)

I was surprised, and a little disappointed that Marvin did not include his thoughts about God, God’s actions in his life, or much of anything spiritual. Reading his book reminded me that I the world I now live in is a world where most of us live, talk, write, and read about spiritual matters. I was reminded again, that most of the world does not. I think that “most of the world” is missing out on an important aspect of all of their lives by not talking, writing, or reading about the spiritual experiences in their lives and the lives of others. It would be like talking with a famous sports star and only talking about sports. If I were talking with a sports star I’d be interested in their thoughts about the rest of their lives, including their spiritual experiences, not just what they are famous for. They are famous, but they are also humans like the rest of us. I’d like them to share their humanity with me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Self publishing or book publisher?

There is the continuing, eh, “situation” that I experience with self-published books. It evokes a few thoughts.

This morning I noticed in one book that I’m reading, Desmond Tutu’s, and his daughter Mpho’s Made for Goodness their pages at the back of the book, “Acknowledgements.” Without permission can I display some of it near the beginning?…”We thank God for the skill and sensitivity of Doug A… who is not only our editor but also a writing coach in disguise… We owe him a debt of gratitude for his many readings of this manuscript; for the gentle wisdom that has helped us to create a better “best” than we started out with.”

Recently I’ve read a couple of books by local authors who have self-published their books. Reading them it is obvious to me that they have not had the expertise of an editor or professional proof reader.

Dennis Michno, author of A Priest’s Handbook told me some years ago that he and the publisher went through an exhausting 40 revisions of his book before it was published. A Priest’s Handbook has remained in print for many years, now in it’s Third Edition, certainly due to its value to clergy, but also no doubt to the many revisions that made it excellent and “right.”

I wonder in this age of “me,” when we not only “get to” but expect to do it, whatever it may be, our own way, if some of us write the book that is in us and that we think the world needs to see without going through the tedium of many rejections by publishers or revisions that an editor and professional proof reader may require before it is ready to be published.

Those book publishers that have editorial staffs and proof readers reject many books. The famous author whose books we love to read and offer to others, Madeleine L’Engle, has described the thirty or so rejections from publishers that she received before a publisher accepted her first novel.

Some of us write our books, then pay a publisher to make, on average less than 100 copies. That is certainly different from the book publishers.

Book publishers also have distribution pathways that bookstores rely on for knowing about and for ease of ordering books. Why should we as bookstores spend the extra effort to find and purchase ten different titles from ten small, unheard of self-publishers, and receive a smaller profit on them when we can easily purchase twenty-five titles from known publishers from one book distributor, receive better terms of sale, and receive those books quickly through a method that we know and use frequently?

From a bookstore’s perspective there is more to writing and publishing and selling a book than many recent authors may consider.