Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Feeling the Presence

I'm in the process of reading the short book Letter to a Man in the Fire by Reynolds Price. The book, which in actuality is an extended letter written to a young man who is forced to withdraw from medical school because of an aggressive cancer, contains a moving account of an elderly woman's mystical experience. She asserts that these experiences are infrequent but not uncommon, and then proceeds to describe her occurrence.

"...such inner events are much more common than people dare to admit. They carry their own authentication, I think, in the atmosphere of complete simplicity and great depth that surrounds them. Mine came at a time of medical stress, during some exhausting tests before an operation. I can't say 'it came' though; it was rather I went out to meet it...This time I went out along the Galilee hills and came to a crowd gathered around a man, and I stood on the outskirts intending to listen. But he looked over the crowd at me and then said, "What do you want?" I said, "Could you send someone to come with me and help me stand up after the tests, because I can't manage alone?" He thought for a minute and said, "How would it be if I came?"

I think his response to her applies to all of us. In the Gospels he makes this proposal over and over again.


Monday, November 26, 2007

What's in a Name?

Your Uncommon Name Is:

Raleigh Felton Goods

The weird thing about this is that Raleigh Felton Goods IS my real name!! I changed it recently because I thought Joker Keneza Coco Flex, my birth name, was too long.

What are the odds???


Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Sunflower and a Prayer

A few years ago I came across the following prayer in Catholic Digest and it has stayed with me ever since. For me it expresses - with great affection - humanity's deep-rooted, ineffable yearning for God. It also evokes in me a recurring metaphor that articulates this natural propensity: a sunflower searching the skies for the sun.

In many respects, we are like the awaiting sunflower at daybreak: incomplete till we see the Light of Dawn.

"Don't you ever,
You up in the sky,
Don't you ever get tired
Of having the clouds between you and us?"

A Native American prayer

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Humor

Thanksgiving Divorce

A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and says,"I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams. "We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this,"

She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way."

Happy and Blessed

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Bout of Introversion Pt. 4

No matter what you think or have been led to believe; in spite of your own self-perception and enumerated redoubtable characteristics; and irregardless of the greatness of your heroic profession, NO HUMAN BEING FULLY MATURES. That is an irrefutable and incontestable fact. Our mannerisms may have changed, our voices may have changed, who we go running to for safety might have changed, but that sophomoric quality of our characters that guided and formulated the play-ground rules in elementary school is still very much a part of who we are.

What is it like to be FULLY mature? No one knows because no one's ever been there. There are certainly degrees of maturity, but the condition of a perfectly mature individual is one that will forever be elusive to us as a species. And if you care to observe this phenomenon in a closer inspection, you will note that this type of perpetual adolescence permeates virtually every aspect of our global societies.

Just an observation.


Saturday, November 17, 2007


You Are: 60% Dog, 40% Cat

You are a nice blend of cat and dog.
You're playful but not too needy. And you're friendly but careful.
And while you have your moody moments, you're too happy to stay upset for long.

So I'm 60% Dog and 40% Cat. Doesn't this constitute an inward struggle? I guess if it came down to a choice of chasing cars or rubbing against someone, chasing cars wins 60% of the time. LOL!

If this post was on someone else's blog, I could think of a few good comebacks:)


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just Got in the mail...

I purchased a number of items a few days ago from Amazon that I had been meaning to acquire for quite sometime. On top of the traditional activities that surround the Thanksgiving Day holiday, these few items add additional joviality to this day of thanks that should keep me and a few other people well entertained. You can be sure that I WILL find time to catch up on my reading, Cd's, and DVDs this upcoming holiday. These are the items:

1) Letter to a Man in the Fire: Does God Exist and Does He Care by Reynolds Price (Book)

Contacted by a young man who was forced to withdraw from medical school as the result of a persistent cancer, author and Duke University English professor Reynolds Price attempts to answer the young man's monumental questions of whether God exists and does he care about His creation. This book, although I have not read it completely, moves along quite smoothly with moments of profound poignancy. Price is a magnificent author with an aptitude for expressing his ideas succinctly and eloquently.

2) High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (Book)

Author Nick Hornby satirizes the life and struggles on a young man in London and his failed relationships (sounds like ME!!). I haven't read this book yet. Not even the first page. But it was recommended to me by a friend who claims it's beyond hysterical. For his sake he better be right:)

3) Christmas with the Choral Scholars of King's College, Cambridge (CD)

1. Ante luciferum genitus
2. O magnum mysterium
3. Puer natus est
4. Ecce advenit
5. The Coventry Carol
6. Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
7. There is no rose of such virtue
8. Beata es, Virgo Maria
9. Quem vidistis, pastores?
10. Hodie Christus natus est
11. Once In Royal David's City
12. Deck The Hall
13. Silent Night
14. Ding Dong Merrily On High
15. Hark! the herald angel sing
16. O Come All Ye Faithful
17. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
18. White Christmas
19. Wonderful Christmastime
20. The Christmas Song
21. The Twelve Days of Christmas
22. We Wish You A Merry Christmas

These songs are performed a cappella, with the first 10 tracks devoted to Renaissance music, and gradually- with the remaining 12 tracks -diversifying into traditional and contemporary Christmas music.

4) Saturday Night Live - The Complete First Season (1975-1976) (DVD)

What can I say? The original "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" on DVD. In addition to the sketches, musical acts, and short films seen here intact, this 8 disc volume offers rare interviews with the original cast. I going to love this!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Poised for the Holidays - Bah Humbug!!

Yes, Christmas is just around the corner, and I'll bet with that bit of news most of us screech a loud and bewildered "What??!" to that surprising reality. Christmas has arrived, so you may as well enjoy the flow of the Yuletide celebrations. Fighting it will get you nowhere.

Doing my bit to perpetuate the Christmas Spirit, I purchased on DVD my favorite adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Entitled Scrooge, this musical version - which I originally saw for the first time when I was ten years old - features Albert Finney portraying the misanthropic Ebenezer, accompanied by a wonderful film score of memorable tunes performed by Ebenezer himself, the three ghosts, and a slew of chanting characters. Remember this:

"Thank you very much!
Thank you very much!
That's the nicest thing that
anyone's ever done for me..."

Before you think I'm off my rocker, BUY this DVD and you'll know precisely what I'm talking about.

I love those narrow streets of nineteenth century England that are featured in this film. Snow covered and intimate, I long for a setting like the one in this film.

Hope you enjoy this holiday Bah Humbug!!


Friday, November 9, 2007

Let me throw this one at you...

The following question and hypothetical scenario that I'm about pose is not typically the type of cogitation that is relegated to mainstream Catholic discussion. Unless, of coarse, you are interested in the dialogue between religion and science, and seek answers to deep theological questions through the Book of Nature.

Have you ever heard of cryonics? Basically, cryonics refers to the low temperature preservation in liquid nitrogen of a deceased human being (or animal) for possible resuscitation in the future. If today a brain tumor kills you, your body, or at least your head, can be preserved in very low temperature conditions until the science necessary to cure your ailment and resuscitate you become available. This process of resuscitating is complex and, some leading scientists assert, impossible due to tissue damage, lack of blood, and the inherent difficulties with reviving the patient.

We are going to side-step every clinical and scientific landmine that could prevent a resuscitation of this type from ever happening and, for the sake of advancing this example, we will assume that an energizing (resuscitation) of this sort is possible.

John Doe has been dead for twenty-five years. He died in 1982 of incurable lung cancer at the age if 32, but had his body maintained utilizing cryogenic preservation. Voilà! It's the year 2007 and medicine has produced not just a cure for cancer, but the capacity to resuscitate someone who has been in a cryogenic preservation. John Doe is administered to by a team of doctors who apply the cure to his cancer, and bring him back to complete alertness. Able to speak, analyze and process information, the patient is asked, "John, what was it like to be dead? What did you see? What did it feel like?" John responds, "I felt and saw absolutely nothing."

So, here we have someone who has been dead - COMPLETELY DEAD - for 25 years and is now resuscitated, interacting with other human beings with his mental faculties energized and intact, telling those who never died that in death he felt and saw absolutely nothing. What does this say of the human soul? Does it exist? Is there life after death? Does God exist? Are we destined to eternity as a non-entity? Let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Lil' Critter

The Little Critter is back, lazy and hairy as ever! I took a few pictures of this wee-one while he was frolicking in my yard. He is soooooo lazy. I was wondering if there was such a thing as Red Bull for pups. Anybody know? It doesn't have to be Red Bull, it can be any brand just as long as it's an energy drink I can feed the Critter and wont harm him. LOL!

Just laying around...

What's that over there?!!

Get me off this thing!!

The stare...

He is a cute little guy. I've had him for nine years and NOT ONCE have I heard him growl.


Samuel Barber: Adagio for Strings and Agnus Dei

Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was an American composer who wrote everything from opera and orchestral music to choral arrangements and music for the piano. In 1936 Barber composed the piece which he is so famously known for, his Adagio for Strings. Orchestrated from his String Quartet No.1, this absolutely beautiful composition manages to express not just mere anguish, but a palpable sense of suffering at the passage of time. Barber masterfully included a time element in his piece, allowing the listener to reflect on his or her present suffering or contemplate the hardships of previous times.

Then in 1967 Barber re-arranged his Adagio into a choral piece by adding the Agnus Dei text. It truly is a beautiful marriage. With the Agnus Dei text, you can envision a Crucified Christ hanging from the cross, with life receding from His body in the final hours. This Agnus Dei is somewhat lengthy if you are only used to listening to the three to four minute secular/ non- classical music numbers, or if you have ADD.

One last thing: The Adagio for Strings has been used in the cinema before - quite poorly - by directors who wanted to melodramatically enhance the emotionality of some poignant scene. Little did they know the overkill of this repugnant combination. This piece - in my humble opinion - is best when the visual component is the image evoked by the music in the mind of the listener.

Adagio for Strings

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei text

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.


Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace.

The Agnus Dei that is being performed in the above video is somewhat feeble and cacophonous. For a truly beautiful rendition of this number see the performance by The Choir of New College, Oxford in the CD below. You'll find not just a moving performance of this Agnus Dei but many different sacred works as well!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What is Heaven?

"There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else." ~ C.S. Lewis

So what is Heaven? We talk about it all the time when faced with the reality of our own mortality or when referencing the memory of the dearly departed.

We have built Churches and amassed tremendous inculcated congregations with messages and moral exhortations about "the way" that leads us there. Theologians assert that every human being has a ontological desire for God and Heaven. Most people who adhere to some theistic belief live with the hopeful expectation that someday the ephemeral joy and decaying matter of this world will be replaced with an unshakable, everlasting Utopian setting. Yet, has any of us ever been there and returned to share his or her experience? Has any living human being ever communicated with someone in Heaven and spoken to them about the experience of living there or what the place looked like? In Catholicism the term Heaven describes the glorious "abode of the blessed", where time is absent and the just will see God directly. I find it both interesting and terrifying that so many of us have placed our hopes on something we know so little about outside tradition and personal expectations.

We could be likes of John Dominic Crossan, a former priest who maintained ties to Catholic higher education after leaving the pastorate, and acknowledge the existence of God but rebuff the existence of this "whimsical" proposition of Heaven. Believe in God, but not in an afterlife. Is this not an oxymoron?

Again I ask, what is Heaven? How do you know?