My father would have considered himself a patriotic man. Even though he never served directly in the military—the government having considered his engineering skills to be important for the Manhattan Project, instead—he certainly respected those who did. And he loved our country.

But I think he, along with many of his generation, knew that love of country is too important to be taken too seriously. I hope his National Anthem story makes you smile today.

Washington State being a Land Grant college, we were required to take two years of Reserve Officers Training Corps. Even though there was a war in Europe, the ROTC program was not taken very seriously.

I played in the ROTC band and we spent fall and spring practicing music and marching as we played every Friday for the ROTC parade. The hardest part of that life was playing for parading units at a rate of 120 steps per minute rather than the 160 steps per minute for the college marching band.

In the wintertime we received training in close order drill but it still was rather easy military training. Every spring an ROTC encampment was held during the daytime. During the encampment we attended no classes and went home at night. The Engineering and Infantry units spent the day with military procedures and problems and the band sat on a hillside in the shade and practiced its music. A favorite pastime was to wait until there were large groups marching and then play a waltz.

The only time there was any trouble came one time when we were serious about what we were doing. We were practicing The Star Spangled Banner. That brought down the wrath of the military people because everyone had to stop what he was doing and stand at attention.

In 1941 things became much more serious, but I was no longer involved.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 8:43 am | Edit
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"I don't believe in Climate Change."

"I can't believe I live in a country where so many people don't believe in Climate Change."

What is this, a new religion? Since when did scientific theories take on the status of gods?

By turning scientific theories and investigations into a matter of faith—all sides are guilty of this—we usually miss the point, which in the case of climate change could be a fatal mistake.

Bear with me here.

It is unlikely in the extreme that an asteroid of disastrous size will hit the earth in any time frame mankind should worry about. But NASA is watching, and working on possible ways to deflect any space object of significant size that threatens our planet. They're not panicking, but they're observing and preparing.

On the climate change issue, we're doing the opposite. That particular "asteroid" might not be the disaster that is panicking so many people—or it might just smack right into us while we're busy squabbling and calling each other names.

"You pitiful, moronic, flat-earthers! You stick your heads in the sand and care more about making money than about the health of our planet, not to mention all those people who are having their homes and their livelihoods washed away."

"You elitist idiots! You censor opposing viewpoints, know nothing about the lives of the working class, and would put our culture and our families at risk for the sake of some unproven computer models."

And somewhere, in a place where glaciers and icebergs don't stand a chance, Satan is laughing.

We argue, sometimes with good reason, over questions about the changing climate: It this something new, or a recurring phenomenon? How much of the change is due to manmade causes, and how much is natural? Which measurements and which computer models are most accurate? How much can we trust computer models? 

If you believe the questions are all settled, you don't know science. In science, questions are only settled until contradictory data comes along. Close your mind, and you close the doors to knowledge, growth, improvement, and all that is good about scientific inquiry.

Whatever the truth is behind all these questions, what should be do about it? Should we let nature take its course (man is, after all, part of nature) and simply adjust to the changes, as we have since the beginning of time? Or should we, as responsible, rational human beings, observe, prepare, and (without panic) take reasonable measures to deflect this incoming asteroid?

We don't need all the answers to take action, but we do need to start pulling together on this. Right now we're too busy throwing insults at each other and letting our own beliefs blind us to what other people are saying.

If I were the president of the United States—and I know many of you are convinced that I could do a better job than our current president, so pay attention—here's what I'd do. I would assemble a group of leaders (I hesitate to say "committee," but I guess that's what it would be) representing a wide variety of perspectives on the loosely-defined subject of climate change. Much care would be taken creating this group, because they would need to be able to work together without acrimony. I would begin by polling a large variety of leaders, asking, "Make a list of people who challenge your position on climate change, but for whom you still have respect, and with whom you think you could work together for the common good."  If a person responded that there is no one in the opposition whom he or she respects, that person, no matter how renowned, would be excluded from my committee. As much as possible, I would balance opposing viewpoints, because the committee as a whole must have credibility with all the American people: we all need to believe our position is being heard—and so do the hare-brained idiots who oppose us.

The purpose of this committee would not be to rule on the unanswerable questions, but to consider what can, and what should, be done to mitigate the changes we are observing. If the changes are due to human actions, of course it is our responsibility to see that we minimize the harm ("we" being everyone from individuals to corporations to governments). But even if they are 100% due to natural causes (excluding man), isn't it the nature of rational man to attempt to make beneficial changes to natural phenomena? We build fires, domesticate animals, invent air conditioning, develop vaccines, improve agriculture, use umbrellas. The question is, how to get the most benefit with the fewest negative consequences.

This is a sample what I would want the committee to consider:

  • What undeniable climate-related changes have happened? Stay away from speculation, such as "Global warming is causing more (or fewer) hurricanes," no matter how tempting; stick with clearly documentable facts, such "Glacier X has retreated by Y meters in the last 40 years." Consider everything from sea levels to weather patterns to geographical and biological changes, and come up with a list that everyone on the committee can agree on.
  • Do these changes point in a specific direction? How do they compare with previous trends? Are they accelerating or decelerating? Again, pare the answer down to something all can agree on.
  • What is the reliability of the various computer models used to make predictions from these trends? This will be tough to agree on, given our experience with hurricane path prediction models, but no one said being on this committee was going to be easy ... just important.
  • What are the probable impacts of these predicted changes? Consider everything.
  • What changes can be made that will slow the progress of harmful trends? This is to be a dream list, from the accumulated efforts of individuals to corporate actions to governmental edicts, of what could theoretically make a difference, and how much of a difference each might make.
  • What is the probability that each of the above changes could actually be implemented?
  • How effective would the resulting partial compliance be?
  • What would be the risks and costs associated with those changes? Consider job loss, price increases, economic and governmental instability, national security, anything that would negatively impact compliant individuals and nations.
  • What can be done to help those who will be impacted by present and future climate changes?
  • What can be done to help those who will be impacted by efforts to mitigate climate changes?

The most important job of the committee would be to speak with a single voice to all the people, with their diverse views on the issue of climate change. The members must hammer out something that they agree on, if there is to be any hope that the rest of us will pull together.

What's the best climate policy? One that people will get on board with. Most people are willing, even proud, to make sacrifices, if they believe (1) the cause is important, (2) their actions will make a difference, and (3) the sacrifices are not unevenly distributed.

NASA's efforts to prevent a catastrophic asteroid crash are based on the idea that a small push, given in the right way at the right time, can deflect even a massive body. If they were to push at the wrong time, in the wrong way, or when a push was unnecessary, they could set up a worse disaster still. If they were to spend their time squabbling over how to do the job, the asteroid could easily get too close for even a massive push to make any difference.

Let's find a way to do this, and do it right.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Edit
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Delivery by drone is here—or rather, in Switzerland. Swiss Post and Matternet—which despite the name's similarity to Matterhorn, is based in California—have set up the first autonomous drone delivery system.

I remember a discussion, back in the late 1980's, I believe, about how much the world had changed during Porter's grandmother's lifetime, from the beginnings of automobiles to the Space Shuttle, from the invention of radio to television as a major social influence.

Being not at all prescient, apparently, I remarked that there had been no such dramatic changes in our own time. Sure, there had been improvements in technology, but they were incremental, rather than major breakthroughs that changed the lives of ordinary people. The space program seemed to have sputtered; we weren't flying excursions to the moon, let alone anywhere else. We had personal computers, e-mail, a very primitive version of the Internet, and even primitive mobile phones ("car phones") ... but these were very limited, the province of nerds and hobbyists. They hardly touched the lives of ordinary people.

Little did I know that we were poised on the brink of astonishing changes. I had forgotten two important factors: (1) we were still young back then, and (2) the other technological changes we now take for granted, like cars and airplanes and television, did not have a major impact overnight. They, too, started with a very limited, if enthusiastic, user base.

Excursions to the moon, on the other hand, seem as far away as ever.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 8:19 am | Edit
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Our children, who grew up in Mickey's Backyard, and whose favorite of all the Disney World parks was always EPCOT, may enjoy the memories evoked by this National Geographic article about the Netherlands: This Tiny Country Feeds the World.  (Thanks, Eric, for tweeting this.)

In a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the starship Enterprise. From his perch 10 feet above the ground, he’s monitoring two drones—a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air—that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. ... The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Van den Borne’s fields reliably produce more than 20.

Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Since 2000, van den Borne and many of his fellow farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses, and since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent.

Seen from the air, the Netherlands resembles no other major food producer—a fragmented patchwork of intensely cultivated fields, most of them tiny by agribusiness standards, punctuated by bustling cities and suburbs.

Climate-controlled farms enable a country located a scant thousand miles from the Arctic Circle to be a global leader in exports of a fair-weather fruit: the tomato. The Dutch are also the world’s top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables overall in terms of value.

The brain trust behind these astounding numbers is centered at Wageningen University & Research (WUR), located 50 miles southeast of Amsterdam. Widely regarded as the world’s top agricultural research institution, WUR is the nodal point of Food Valley, an expansive cluster of agricultural technology start-ups and experimental farms. ... Ernst van den Ende, managing director of WUR’s Plant Sciences Group, embodies Food Valley’s blended approach. A renowned scholar with the casual manner of a barista at a hip café, van den Ende is a world authority on plant pathology. But, he says, “I’m not simply a college dean. Half of me runs Plant Sciences, but the other half oversees nine separate business units involved in commercial contract research.” Only that mix, “the science-driven in tandem with the market-driven,” he maintains, “can meet the challenge that lies ahead.”

Could this be the start of a new, more sustainable, Green Revolution?

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 18, 2017 at 7:44 am | Edit
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altThis wise, and heartbreaking, letter appeared in this morning's Hartford Courant. If you wade through to page A7, you can see it online here. (Click the image to see it larger.)

The writer is 99 years old, and his grandfather fought for the Union side in the Civil War, with the 62nd Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. My own great-grandfather was a sergeant with the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry and participated in all the principal battles fought by the Army of the Potomac, including Gettysburg, where there is a monument to his regiment that Porter has seen, though I have not yet had the pleasure. Nathan Smith died six years before the 50th anniversary reenactment in 1913, but I have little doubt that he would have been one of those veterans who "respected what each had done for his cause."  In the words of President Woodrow Wilson on that occasion,

We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten—except that we shall not forget the splendid valor. 

That caused me to remember a line in C. S. Lewis' The Last Battle: “Has not one of the poets said that a noble friend is the best gift and a noble enemy the next best?”

One hundred years later, for all its progress in other areas, America has regressed in its ability to recognize valor and goodness in the opposition. After World War II, we quickly made peace with the Germans and the Japanese (were we ever seriously against the Italians?) and have much respect for them today, if not for some of their past actions. But we can't seem to make peace with our own history and people. God help us.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 2, 2017 at 9:09 am | Edit
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The Great Courses presented a contest this morning on Facebook: You're stuck on an island with the full Great Courses library and a way to enjoy them. Would you go with engineering/ homesteading to try to get off the island, or would you take advantage of the free time and enjoy your favorite subject?

I love this sort of challenge, and you all know how I try to get double duty out of my writing when I can, so I'm posting my answer here as well:

This is a fantasy, so I will dispense with all the worries about necessities, assuming that food, water, shelter, and whatever else might be needful—such as the equipment, power, and connection necessary for enjoying the Great Courses—will be readily at hand. I will assume that I am stranded, but not lost, and that I can anticipate rescue in a year. I will call this my Sabbatical Year—a time for learning and growing in preparation for living a more full and useful life upon my return.

Even with no distractions, a year is not long enough to experience all the Great Courses, nor even all that I would be interested in. But it would be sufficient for acquiring a great education, and one of the blessings of this fantasy would be not feeling the pressure I do now to make the most of limited time and money. I would not rule out any subject, but would attempt to sample broadly. Who visits a buffet and eats of only one food?

Perhaps I would start with astronomy, because this would be my best opportunity ever to gaze at a sky unburdened by light pollution. Then something from biology, geology, and oceanography, so as to understand my surroundings better. At that point, I would probably be in the mood for some health and exercise courses, to supplement my exploratory walks around the island. Those walks would also be a great opportunity for pondering the questions raised in the philosophy and religion courses. I would choose math and physics to keep my brain sharp, and music, art, and literature for my soul. Interspersed with all that I'd probably include a foreign language or two, and some lighter courses like cooking and travel.

Wait. Is this really a fantasy? In degree, yes, but not in kind. In real life, I do have to be concerned with food, shelter, power, and above all, time. Distractions abound. But the choice is still mine: the Great Courses are available, and I can take my Sabbatical Year one hour at a time. Learning and growing in preparation for living a more full and useful life can still be mine, even here, even now.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 10:34 am | Edit
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I can't help it. In the 60's we were taught to "question authority," but I think I was born to question popular opinion. Hence my probably foolish need to wonder how we who aspire to be tolerant and understanding choose to apportion those qualities of mercy.

When someone commits a hateful, despicable act, we usually respond by asking what it was in that person's life that drove him to such desperate measuresWas the school shooter the victim of bullies? Did the man attack his former workplace because he had recently been firedWas the Islamic terrorist driven over the edge by his country's repressive policies and grinding poverty, or by American bombings, or by Hollywood's aggressive immoralityWas the abuser himself abused as a childWhy do they hate usWithout justifying ill behavior, collectively we seem to feel a need to understand, to mitigate, even to excuse the otherwise inexplicable actions of our fellow human beings.

Except.

I'll admit to have been having far too much fun with our 10 grandchildren to catch more than a few, fleeting references to recent newsWhat I hear disturbs me almost as much as the events themselvesSuddenly there seems to be a class of actions and ideologies—and a thousand times worse, of people—from whom we are withholding any attempt at understanding.

That the ideologies of white supremacy and Nazism are heinous I will heartily agreeBut I will not, I cannot, condemn them more than a hundred other appalling ideologies that our society seems much less anxious to repudiateIt isn't honest, it isn't fair, and it isn't right.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 22, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Edit
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Supposedly—I add the qualifier because I have so little trust remaining for news stories, even from multiple sources—supposedly, Arnold Schwarzenegger said this: If you choose to march with the flag that symbolizes the slaughter of millions of people, there are not two sides to that.

I suppose we can grant him a little leeway for artistic license. It's hard to be nuanced in a sound bite. But the ignorance of history represented by such a statement is frightening. If you're going to ban flags that have overseen mass slaughter, you need to take a much more thorough view. The U.S. flag cannot be excepted. According to Dante, even the flag of peaceful, neutral Switzerland, which I proudly wear this morning, bears its share of guilt.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 21, 2017 at 8:01 am | Edit
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Here's a warning for those travelling to Canada:

I was prepared for the border agent to ask if we were bringing firearms with us into Canada. I was surprised, but not unduly so, when he asked if we had any alcohol. (Oops. I neglected to tell him about the 2 ounces we had in the first aid kit.) But I was flabbergasted when he asked if we had any knives, including jackknives. It's a good thing we weren't planning a picnic. I'm also glad I had left my larger jackknife behind (prescience?). Fortunately, my Swiss Army keychain with its one-inch blade (which the TSA thinks is dangerous) was allowed to pass the border, but he did examine it thoroughly. I was shocked.

Does the Second Amendment cover knives? Not that those who wrote it would have dreamed anyone would object to a knife, which in their day even small boys carried with impunity. (Before you jump on me, I KNOW our Constitution doesn't matter in Canada. But if the Canadians are freaking out over knives, can the U.S. be far behind?)

I had expected more hassles crossing back into U.S., but it was a piece of cake. She looked at our passports, asked us where we were coming from, where we were going, and how long we had been in Canada, then wished us well.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 10:10 am | Edit
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The New York Times story begins like this:

There is a story in the Hebrew Bible that tells of God’s call for the annihilation of the Canaanites, a people who lived in what are now Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian territories thousands of years ago.

“You shall not leave alive anything that breathes,” God said in the passage. “But you shall utterly destroy them.”

But a genetic analysis published on Thursday has found that the ancient population survived that divine call for their extinction, and their descendants live in modern Lebanon.

It's an interesting article. What's frustrating is the implication that there should be anything suprising about the discovery the Canaanites did not die out.

Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament shows that if there is one thing the Israelites did not do, it was wipe out the Canaanites. Some they couldn't defeat, some they deliberately let live, some they were tricked into not destroying. They intermarried freely, despite prohibitions. So if there was a point in bringing up the out-of-context quotation, it's beyond me.

However, it does give me a plot idea for a behind-the-scenes fantasy story, with angels and archangels and "all the company of heaven" working in realms humans know not of, in which it is discovered that among the Canaanites there is a genetic mutation that will lead inevitably to some future, horrific disaster. The Israelites, a small and apparently unimportant tribe, are chosen as earthly agents to be groomed and trained for the job of making sure the mutation dies out, that no trace of that particular DNA is left to be passed into the future. But they fail, and disaster is hurtling towards us....

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 7, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Edit
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I found these adorable Ariel swim fins at Toys R Us, and couldn't resist them for our mermaid-obsessed granddaughter. They were on sale, and I thought $14 wasn't unreasonable, because—well, because I am a grandmother, I suppose.

At the same time, we needed an auto booster seat for our grandson. I found this cool seat at Walmart. The cost: $13.

A seat designed to keep a child safe costs less than a pair of child's swim fins?  More than 13% less, actually, since there was no sales tax on the car seat.

It could mean that the fins are vastly overpriced, but I prefer to think that the manufacturer and the state are conspiring to put travel safety within everyone's reach. You can spend multiple hundreds of dollars for a child's car seat—but you don't need to.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 23, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Edit
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It's time once again to give thanks for Willis Carrier, who made living in Central Florida something people might actually want to do. My grandparents, who lived two blocks from the beach on the Atlantic Coast, where there was almost always a cooling sea breeze, managed fine without air conditioning, but the center of the state is another matter altogether.

I've written before about the Carrier story: Weathermakers to the World. Today you can read a celebration of the 115th anniversary of that great invention on The Occasional CEO, the author's blog. Item #3 is my favorite:

3. I have a lot of favorite stories from Weathermakers, but this might be the best. It was on a foggy evening in 1903, on a train platform in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ... that Willis Carrier conceived the idea that he could dry-out warm, humid air by passing it through water—specifically, fine droplets of a cold water spray. This spray could create a far larger surface area for condensate than metal pipes, and had the distinct advantages of cleaning the air of dust, and avoiding the nuisance of rusty pipes.

To this day, it's difficult to convince some people that a good way to dry air is to force it through water. 

If you happen to be in Pittsburgh and want to visit the spot of Carrier's famous insight, have a meal at the Grand Concourse Restaurant at Station Square.

That rang a bell, and I checked my records: We had done just that, back in October of 1998, when we passed through Pittsburgh as part of Janet's Grand Circle College Tour. This was also the occasion when we met Heather's friend Jon, who would later become our son-in-law. Desirous of treating the college students to a nice meal, we followed someone's suggestion and ate Sunday brunch at the Grand Concourse. At the time I had no idea of its momentous history.

I was shocked by the high prices—$20 per person—which shows how long ago 1998 really was. Or possibly the cost reflected more on the difference between Pittsburgh and Orlando, in which case I am all the more grateful to Willis Carrier for his work to make Central Florida habitable.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 17, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Edit
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A long, long time ago, in a world even my siblings don't remember,  my Girl Scout leader taught us this little song, always sung as a round: 

Make new friends, but keep the old;
One is silver, and the other gold.

Since my time, additional words have been added, definitely not an improvement. I do hope today's Girl Scouts aren't learning it this way; the skin of my mind crawls just reading it. The original two lines are profound and pithy; the addition, simply ... well, here's a verse for you to judge:

Silver is precious, 
Gold is too.
I am precious,
And so are you.

Take that, Gollum.

Which brings me around to the point of this post.

Books are my friends. New books can be silver, but there's true gold in wonderful old books read again and again.

I haven't read The Hobbit since 2014, and I was shocked to discover that the last time I read The Lord of the Rings books was at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. Incredible. My other Tolkien reading goes back to before I started keeping track! As part of my next edition (not yet established) of the 95 by 65 project, I'm including a Tolkien spree, beginning with The Hobbit.

That's where I found these words of wisdom from Gandalf, perfect for those of us who waste valuable sleeping hours fretting about the future.

alt

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 10, 2017 at 10:06 am | Edit
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Some days I feel for Don Quixote. It may be just a windmill, but it looks like a giant to me.

Partner.

It was such a good word, and now I'm beginning to loathe it.

alt

(Definition from Merriam-Webster online.) To me, the word "partner" has always meant definition 2a: one associated with another, especially in action. That actually covers most of the other definitions as well. My daughter and I make up a team on WordChums; we are partners. If together we owned an ice cream shop, we'd be business partners. If we decided to rob a bank to finance that ice cream shop, we'd be partners in crime. It's a good, descriptive, practical word.

But lately I've been seeing it used as in the following two quotes from a book I read recently.

We need to understand how we can support and connect with our partners, sons, fathers, brothers, friends, and children....

Certainly women—mothers, sisters, partners, girlfriends, daughters—also shame men about their masculinity and power....

Do you see what's happening here? Mother/father, son/daughter, sister/brother are recognized as distinct entities, but husband/wife is gone. Even the inclusive "spouse" is gone, replaced by "partner," definition 2d, which is not at all the same thing.

Certainly my husband is my partner in that sense, as well as in the more general sense of 2a, and for that matter most of the other definitions. But "partner," in more recent usage, is far too broad a term, boiling down basically to "the person I'm having sex with on a regular basis."  The marriage relationship is so much more than that.  (I tried substituting "the person I love and am living with," but as that can include children and other family members, it's clearly not what is meant by this sense of "partner."  Sex seems to be the obvious distinction.)

Most pernicious, it seems to me, is that "partner" loses the ideals of exclusivity and permanence. Marriages may fail at either or both, but the intent and the ideal are there from the outset. Partnerships are generally formed for a limited, specific purpose, and with the understanding that they can and probably will be dissolved at some point. A nation's allies will change; dancers will "cut in," my daughter may decide to she wants to be on her aunt's team for the next WordChums game; maybe a business partnership will split into two or three different companies.

One term implies a lifelong, exclusive commitment—not only to a person but to that person's family and especially to any children of the union. The other implies that eventual dissolution is normal and even to be expected. They are not interchangeable.

That's a giant worth battling, even if the world sees only a windmill.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 2, 2017 at 9:28 am | Edit
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Our church prides itself on its reputation as the most liberal church in our diocese.

That our diocese itself is somewhat of a traditional haven in an Episcopal Church that, frankly, has gone off the rails, is a major reason why we have not been driven to another denomination. The dismal state of the American Episcopal Church is not just my opinion, but that of most of the world's Anglicans. However, contrary to what happens in many denominations, the very structure of its services keeps it from going too far 'round the bend in any direction, and enables people of great diversity to worship freely together. I would hate to lose that.

Why, one might ask, do we not seek out a parish that is more in line with the diocese and less with the national leadership? After all, a church that was our home for many years, and which we still hold dear, is just that. It would be disingenuous not to mention that it is 45 minutes away, and our current church less than 10. But there's another, more important reason for being where we are:

We don't fit in.

I don't mean we feel unwelcome. Ours is a friendly church, and almost unmatched in the way children are respected in the service. A nicer bunch of people than our choir you'll not find anywhere. We share a lot in common. But there's no doubt that when it comes to many political, social, and theological issues, we are among a small minority.

One of the greatest dangers facing America today is that we don't know each other. We hang around, in both our real and our virtual lives, largely with people like ourselves. A community of empathetic people is important, even essential. That's the success of 12-step programs and other support groups formed around a particular need. We all need the encouragement of people who have been where we are and are going where we are going. We need a place to be at home, to be ourselves, to be fully accepted, to share inside jokes and to let down our defenses.

But too much of that can also lead to insularity and inbreeding. While we're not likely to forget that there are people who disagree with us, we're all too likely to forget that they are no less human than we are. You think that's crazy? Look at America today. We have become a nation of divisions that each think the others subhuman.

Is there a remedy? The best I can think of is to get out of our comfortable circles and work together with "the other" on something constructive. To find opportunities to meet together on common ground, to see each other as people with jobs and families, with trials and victories, as people who bring us meals when we are sick, and to whom we take meals in their need. People with whom we can learn that discussion is not war, difference is not division, and disagreement is not hatred.

Church, where we already have much common ground, and choir, where we have common work, are obvious places for us to find this interaction, at least at this stage of our lives. Is it frustrating at times, and lonely? Yes. But I've been there before, many times.

Who am I kidding? I've been there all my life. I've never fit in. I grew up a nerd, was the only girl in some of my classes and activities, always preferred classical to rock music, was considered an anomaly by my peers for refusing to lie to my parents, was a feminist until it became popular and then jumped ship, and developed decidedly unconventional attitudes towards birth, childrearing, and education—even in homeschooling I was philosophically an outsider among outsiders. So I'm accustomed to it.

And if I'm not going to fit in, our church is a great bunch of people not to fit in with.

Wait, that didn't come out at all the way I meant it.

They're a great bunch of people, and they don't mind if I don't fit in.

For now, this is where we should be. Will it always be so? Only God knows. As long as we are only swimming upstream and aren't fish out of water, I'm okay with that.

And hopeful for America.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 12, 2017 at 10:24 am | Edit
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