Friendship, Television

Who we know

Homicide My first online community was, a Usenet group for fans of The Best Damn Show on Television, Homicide: Life on the Street. I've still got some friends from that group. We've transitioned to blogs or Facebook. A small subset still has a private Yahoo group, but honestly I haven't written anything there in forever. I do still love the show, and Snowman and I have been watching Season 4 on DVD today.

I don't know how that became my group of people; it was mysterious. I was desperately seeking community, I guess. The group was busy enough to be interesting, but not so busy as to be impossible to follow. Hilariously, I found it the night I heard the show had been canceled. I had been watching the show for years, since before I had a computer or access to the Internet. It's a strange period in my memories. Where was I? In this house? Or the place we rented before? That's where I had my first computer, purchased in 1997 so I could take a class online at Andover Newton, when that distance learning program was in its infancy. But once you have the Internet, one thing leads to another. 

And I had a lot of time on my hands, or so it seemed, in that massive twenty-three hours my kids were gone to stay with their dad from Friday at 6 to Saturday at 5. 

I had a sort of depressingly conventional heteronormative view of the world, in which the only possible solution to my situation was another man coming along to balance the equation of my life. 

I didn't know how to meet people, not single people. I had been married since I was 22. And I knew that the other moms who kept me company during the week were not available evenings and weekends, when the daddies came home. At 36 I felt old and finished and unbalanced and out of place in the world. 

I wish I had known this me then. 

But who I knew were other mommies, people who felt threatened by my change of status. Because that was the worst case scenario, having the daddy leave. It really felt that way.

So I was grateful to have some friends in particular who lived through the gap with me, the ones who stuck by me while I tried to figure out what to do with my life and saw me make new friends and eventually date and walked beside me along the way from 1996 to 2001. 

This afternoon Snowman and I ran into one of those friends in the grocery store. Our lives diverged, mostly because when I finished seminary and started at my first call, I didn't have the same flexibility for getting together regularly. Our kids got older and didn't play together anymore.  Who really knows why we allow a friendship to diminish? I just know I'm grateful for her friendship then. 

But she's not a confidante anymore. Somehow there's too much air between us. So we talked about what our kids are doing, though I think there may have been an appraising glance at my bare ring finger. Do we all do that, middle-aged women, checking for the diamond and the circling band that signifies? Our stories feel too different now.

In the middle of strife, we think about that, don't we? Who can we trust with the whole story? Who can we even stand to tell? I heard from another old friend over the weekend, one of the first new friends who came along in my single life, someone I've managed to keep up with, mostly, over the course of twelve years now. On the phone, answering her voicemail this afternoon, I knew this was someone I could talk to, still. 

Those Usenet friends–some of you may read this–are people I'm glad I still know, even though the way we know each other is different. I like to hear the updates on Facebook and read about what someone is knitting and what someone else is watching on TV down under and see the Christmas card pictures. I treasure the memory of lunch in a top floor dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the invitation of R, which included P, who gave LP and me a box of "silly cookies." I wonder about the ones who drifted off into the ether: the one who burned CDs of music from the series and sent them out to many of us; the guy who helped me write more than one firm rejection email when I first started dating and didn't know the way to form the words; the lovely gal from western Maryland who I once met for red velvet cake at a tea shop.  (I don't remember anymore who believed Munch did it.)

It was a funny way to reach out, but it gave me the knowledge that meeting people via the Internet was maybe okay most of the time, and that led me eventually to blogging and RevGalBlogPals and many, many other people to know and love. So I'm glad I found that little corner of the Internet on a Friday night a long, long time ago. 


Die Together, Live Alone

Lost11  This post will absolutely contain spoilers for Episode 6.14 of Lost, "The Candidate." Be forewarned. I'll count it down the way we used to do on Usenet, just in case.







In a comment on my last post, Wendy asked the important question: What about Lost? We watched it on my birthday getaway, and then I watched it again with LP last night. As a person who thinks drowning is about the worst way to die she can possibly imagine, I found it hard enough to watch the first time. The explosion on the sub, the water blowing back the door against Lapidus, the limited canisters of oxygen, the injured compatriots, the idea that Hurley would bring Kate to the surface (!), the irony that Jack had to rescue Sawyer, whose lack of trust brought them to this pass, all that was enough.

Except that it wasn't, and there was Sun, so beautiful, trapped in the rising water. And even as my spouse said, "She has to tell him to leave, to take care of their daughter," I knew there was no way Jin would leave her there alone to die. 

Fans of the show on the Internet–well, fans other than this one–griped that they were reunited only to be killed, howled that Jin left his daughter to be raised by the horrible parents of Sun, decried the scene as cheesy, really just generally went ape over the turn the plot took. 

I saw in my getaway hotel room, hand lifted in the air, saying, "I am holding onto the idea that the timelines will merge, that we will see them together again, that in the other reality she is pregnant with that daughter. I am holding onto that." I said it, hand in the air, gathered into a clasping posture, because although I have expected tragedy and loss in this fight between good and evil, I want to believe that these benighted people will be redeemed and released and live on "in anotha life, brutha." 

One of the things I find compelling is the way the flash sideways and the island story, too, are revisiting phrases and motifs from the first five seasons and turning them upside down. One of the skills we learn in seminary, hopefully, is theological reflection, an exercise that asks us to consider what's happened in light of holy texts and pastoral experience and psychological understanding, to look at things from the obvious angle but to turn them around and look at them a different way, too. Since Season One, we've heard the refrain, "Live together, die alone," first from Jack in a speech on the beach to the other Lostaways. 

But watching Sun and Jin, in the flooding, sinking sub, I said aloud, "Die together, live alone." The whole purpose of the two of them has been to work through their conflicting impulses to come together and then to separate, to respond to the outside pressures and the mechanical difficulties that threatened them (a nasty father doing dirty business, the class divide, infertility) by recognizing that ultimately their love mattered more than anything else. 

I don't know if they are pieces in a game, the characters in our story. Maybe they are being played, or maybe they are simply being set up to play. For most of us, in everyday reality, we would want to see the father swim away to be with the child, bereft, yes, but devoted to the representation of his love for his wife that exists in their daughter, just as the wife had been in his absence. But this is not everyday reality. 

This is a story about LOVE, and how love makes us good, how love makes us able to sacrifice, how love breaks through in unexpected ways and allows forgiveness and redemption. 

I'm afraid it's no guarantee of a happy ending, though I hope for some version of one.

My current working theory is that the flash sideways is an alternate reality jimmied together somehow by Eloise Hawking (Widmore) to save her son's life. To try and keep the other people impacted by the island quiet, she has given many of them things they wanted, at least as she understands and interprets those things. But it's all to serve her own purpose, and her own happiness, and her own love for the man she shot in cold blood before she even gave birth to him.

That's a lot, isn't it?

She's doing all this at the same time the island is still playing out its latest dramatic creation, at the same time her son's father is on a mission of his own. He's just as ruthless, but is he driven by love?

Can love drive us to be ruthless?

Desmond is still down the well, his life preserved by the question he asked Sayid: If you get to see the woman you love again, how will you explain it to her? 

Can we really get what we love by being bad? Won't it backfire on us?

I think of Sayid much as I do Sun and Jin. Having done the loving thing in the Original Timeline, he's created some benefit for his other self, the one just arrested, the one who killed to protect his true love and his brother and their children. He's good and bad, but he's driven by love. And on the sub, with the explosives, he does good through ultimate sacrifice, which was prefigured by his cruciform body being carried from the pool in the prior episode in which he died.  

So, I'm over here holding onto hope, despite the sadness of this week's episode, despite hearing my daughter sob over Sun and Jin, sob with Hurley on the beach. I don't like Kate, and never particularly wanted to see her with Jack or Sawyer, but the embrace between Jack and Kate on the beach touched me. They're all in this predicament because Sawyer could not trust Jack; I'm eager to see how his story plays out, probably more than any of the other original Lostaways now.

I don't think the timelines will merge per se, but I hope we'll see people who ought to be together, together, in the other timeline. And I suspect we will see Jack on the beach with Faux Locke, the new force for good, trying to keep the cork in the bottle.

I welcome your thoughts and theories in the comments, even if they don't line up with mine.


“Nothing is irreversible.”

Ben I am loving this final season of Lost. Especially Ben.

Or maybe I mean, especially Michael Emerson.

But also the return of the theme of redemption that seemed so important at the beginning of the series.

I'm not going to say anything more about it in this post, because I don't want to ruin anything for people who are time-shifting.

But if you want to come down to the comments and talk about it, I'll be there.


That Show I Can’t Stop Watching

At the end of a long day, a Sunday, in particular, I find myself drawn into the odd world of fictional fundamentalist Mormons.

"No true church would leave you unconsoled," says husband-of-three Bill, trying to comfort his wife, Barb, recently excommunicated after being "outed" as a polygamist by her sister.

"I don't believe Heavenly Father works that way," she said a few weeks ago to her daughter, Sarah, grieving after the loss of a pregnancy, worrying that God had punished her for the sin of premarital sex.

Bill's brother, Joey, shocked by the murder of his intended wife, tells his mother he doesn't believe Heavenly Father is watching over him; he feels abandoned. His mother tells him he is shutting God out; God is not the one who has left the relationship.

All around this swirl typical soap opera plots and atypical, too. I mean, really, how typical can a man with three wives be? There are casinos and police investigations and murders and beautiful identical twins. Really, I would have been satisfied with the understandable tensions of three women sharing one man in what amounts to a suburban fishbowl. Can there really be some form of grace in their relationships with one another? Or is this just a way for The Man to keep women down? After an evening spent in the kitchen with my former sister-in-law, who cooked the food for which I shopped, I appreciate the cooperative nature of shared labor in the household, but I'm glad we gather around the table with our various children for the pleasure of being together and without the overhanging shadow of sharing a husband!

Mostly it's the unfamiliar use of very familiar religious words and images that fascinate me. At the end of the season, Bill claims the authority from God to begin his own church, rejecting both the orthodox Latter Day Saints and the fundamentalist splinter group in which he was raised. He serves bread and water to his family in the combined back yards of their three adjoining suburban homes.

Oh, I do believe, you are what you perceive.
What comes is better than what came before.

"I Found a Reason" plays as they share Communion.

Surrounded by wives and children who look (in my opinion) appropriately dubious, he starts a new church. He is the only one who understands what he means to do. He is possessed by the idea, the kiss of Heavenly Father that the old prophet described, the authority that no one else will give you. And even in that I find something true.

How can we start something new, in our churches or in our lives, without believing in whatever it is that ferociously?


A Few Questions about Lost on a Thursday Night

Lost cast
I'm watching (re-watching, in my case) Season 4 of Lost with The Princess, who is still looking for a new blog nickname, by the way, and we have a few questions:

  • Why do the writers of Lost associate the character Kate so closely with Patsy Cline's music? I'm very fond of Patsy and not so fond of Kate, and I don't see Kate as a Patsy-like, ill-fated, good-souled genius.
  • Despite all that, why do I like her with Sawyer? Is it possible I just like Sawyer SO much that any scene with him in it is good?
  • Or is their very simple and beautiful musical theme? (Which you could call "The SKater's Waltz," I suppose, though maybe not.)
  • Does it amuse you to know that I am a bit obsessed with this show, despite its lack of overt religious themes? (Those are usually my excuse for watching things.)
  • How can Aunt Zelda, who we love, be so hateful as Kate's mom?
  • Could we be more tired of John Locke?
  • And could we be more immediately fond of Daniel Faraday?
  • And, really, this is not a question, but since we said these would be questions, could there be two people prettier than Jin and Sun?
  • Sawyer is a good bad guy; Jack is a bad good guy. What's your type?
  • Wait! Is that Kate's music, rather than Skate's? Isn't it playing while she's with Jack? (It's still pretty. That's not a question. I wish I didn't like it if it's Kate music.)
  • Why did they even bother to shoot an episode with neither Sayid nor Desmond?
  • If you don't watch, is it possible you're still reading?
  • And, finally, why did they have to use a time conundrum? I hate that. In the immortal words of Kathryn Janeway: "Time travel. From my first day on the job as captain I promised myself
    I'd never let myself get caught up in one of these God-forsaken
    paradoxes. The future's the past, the past is the future. It all gives
    me a headache." I fear this is only going to get worse, but I think anyone who knows me can predict, I will keep watching.
Genesis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Television

They Call the Vineyard Moriah

I know, it's Wednesday, and I probably appear to have nothing to say about this week's texts. It happens that I have some ideas brewing, but I took part of the day off today since there are activities at church all weekend, and I wanted to be prepared in case I felt crummy the day after taking methotrexate. There was more Scorching Ray today, and #1 Son tells me there is no saving throw against that spell. You just have to hope the opponent will miss. So maybe next week I'll be luckier.

Jesus henry ian cusick
Meanwhile, we are watching Season 3 of Lost with The Princess, who was too young for the show when it first appeared in 2004. Tonight we saw a favorite episode, Catch-22, a flashback episode for the amazing Desmond, played by Henry Ian Cusick.

If you're not a Lost fan, you may know him better as Jesus.

I think it's safe to say he is our favorite guy on the show.

(Because we are reluctant to publicly admit how much we like Sawyer, okay?)

At any rate, he is part of my favorite couple on the show, and I love his story, and his accent. Catch-22 shows Desmond at a younger age trying to make it as a monk.

No, I'm not kidding.

Here he is with the first guy to call him "Bruthah."

And in a moment of deep connection with this past Sunday's text, the monks Desmond joins (temporarily, he washes out by drinking the expensive wine himself) have a vineyard called Moriah.

Desmond asks why they call it that? He offers a critique of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Why would God ask such a thing only to leap in at the end and solve it all?

Brother Campbell points out that otherwise it wouldn't be much of a test, would it?

And so they call the vineyard Moriah, that place where testing occurs, where last-minute reprieves do occur, where the angel of the Lord speaks to you clearly in your own darn language and you don't turn the other way thinking you are being tempted by Satan or, worse, your own weakness.

Yes, this story is still on my mind.

I'm approaching chronic illness from all sorts of angles, trying to maintain my sense of humor, employing a little denial when necessary to have some fun, yet also asking, why the heck did this happen now? Why a course of appetite-encouraging prednisone after losing so much weight? Why joint pain and stiffness when I was working so hard to get in shape?

Abraham, up on the mountain with the boy he waited for, must have wondered, too.

Desmond has to make a choice about saving one person at the risk of sacrificing another, but because it's Lost, the basis on which he makes the decision turns out to be faulty. Still, he makes the choice that is obviously right and risks having something else bad happen.

(He hardly ever buttons up a shirt, but that's another matter entirely.)

Of course, I've watched season 4, and I know that the real lesson of Desmond's story is that love is more powerful than time and separation and the efforts of bad people and the exigencies of weather and geography and crazy magic Craphole Island.

Abraham, despite having his child nearly snatched away, does indeed become the patriarch of not one, but two, peoples, so I guess that's a happy ending, too, in a broad sort of way.

Me? I'm on Moriah, wondering when in the world that ram is going to appear in the thicket, turning the story over and over in my mind and heart, because it will not let me go.

Ministry, Politics, Television

Change or Die?

Do you watch Lost? Sometimes after an episode airs, I read the comments on Television Without Pity. This is often a mistake, because the thick-headedness of some commenters raises my blood pressure. But many times someone posts a link to a fascinating screen cap, or has a better idea of what a character said than I did, so back I go.

This was one of the thick weeks. One of the worst tendencies of the group was in evidence: all the male,  African-American actors look alike.

Except that they do not.

When I complain about this to my sons, they say, rather reasonably, "Stop reading it!"

But I want those links, see above.

It's much the same with politics. The current debate, which has had its elements of misogyny, has now progressed to a not-so-thinly-veiled racism that offends and disturbs me.

Yesterday, Senator Clinton cited an Associated Press report "that found how Sen. Obama's support
among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening
again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were
supporting me."


Yes. All white people who did not go to college think alike, and all white people who went to college and don't support Senator Clinton are, what? Shiftless?

After listening to the press and talking heads and politicians pillory Rev. Dr. Wright, I want to know how we can say this race is more about misogyny than racism.

Really, it's about a paradigm shift. It's about a move from an old way of thinking to a new way of thinking that makes the generation gap of the 1960's look like a crack in the sidewalk. And it's not about age, clearly. It's about a desire to look at the world through a different lens, one that isn't about old allegiances or practices. It's a new way that leaves out those who insist on being left behind.

I guess I'm talking about church now, too. When "everyone" went to church, when in the post WWII paradigm, the Leave it to Beaver era, we could support numerous institutions and indulge in our Edifice Complex, we could be separatist without anyone drawing attention to it. Women played certain roles in churches; cultural groups had their own parishes. In my small city, there were Catholic churches "known" as Polish, French, Irish and Italian, and all those on the peninsula, relatively close together.

My Cousin Jack famously wrote the book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and I am right there with him. We can't live this way anymore. Push is coming to shove. The life of
faith, and the life of the body politic, must transcend boundaries of
ethnicity, gender and orientation. I believe it's the life to which the
Divine Source of All Love calls us.

But if I really believe that, I can't be satisfied with saying, "Let
those who disagree go home." On the ground, in a smaller church, I am trying to find a way to live it that includes everyone, that makes no assumption that people who vaguely resemble each other are the same, or that only a certain group works hard, or that I know everything about any of them.

The hard part is this: we in churches feel the general tension of the economy, heating prices, expense of health insurance, but we also grapple with an end to the culture's "protection" of Sunday morning, the declining availability of organists, the aging out of the generation that put all church events first and a demand that the things we do be not just convivial but meaningful. We don't know what it looks like. We hear stories, we LIVE stories of failures to graft the new branch onto the old tree.

I don't really understand grafting very well. But I know it's possible on trees and plants. Surely it must be possible for churches, too. I think we need to try before we cut down all the trees and start again.