Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'nearer my god to thee'

Here's a song I don't believe I ever heard growing up, not even in church. Written in 1841 by Sarah Flower Adams, "Nearer My God to Thee" is loosely based on the story of Jacob at Peniel, where he had a vision of a ladder that touched heaven and earth.

Legend has it that this was the final song played by the orchestra as the RMS Titanic sank. The melody is a beautiful one, and its beauty of the song lends this portion of the movie a weighty poignance. I don't care for "Titanic," but this scene did teach me to love "Nearer my God to Thee." I love the moment of acceptance in the eyes of the first musician, and then as it spreads to his fellow players as they join him.

Their music is an act of communion as they see death slowly rising up the deck of the ship, and it compares well to the grace and acceptance of the other passengers on the ship: the mother who tells her children one final bedtime story, about living forever in the land of Tír na nóg; the elderly couple as they calmly wait for death, together in bed; the ship architect who is weighted down by conscience over his failed enterprise; the quiet despair of the ship's captain as the unthinkable unfolds around him and Death presses against the helm; and of course the loud and panicked despair of the crew and passengers as they realize there will be no escape.

There are lyrics, of course; and there are many videos available where they are capably sung. But thanks to the beauty and grace of this scene, those feel almost superfluous. Played well on strings, this tune has a staying power all of its own.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

'thus says the lord' (part two)

I feel I should say that I no longer have doubts about the fitness of our church youth group leader for that role.

If you're a regular reader of this blog -- though, to be honest, I wonder at times if I am the only person still to use this platform -- you may recall that back in June, I had some concerns about the things Paul G. was teaching in youth group. At the time, I even described his teachings as Froot Loops and suggested that the activities he was encouraging were too extreme even for Socially Awkward Penguin.

I no longer have doubts. They are resolved, and I am determined that he will not be teaching my children anything. I'm meeting with a few church leaders to make the case that he needs to be removed.

Youth group at our church meets Friday nights. Last night, he approached a few of the teens -- and it just hit me that every teen I've heard whom he approached was a girl, why are they always girls? -- with a word he had received from the Lord about what they should do with their lives. I wasn't there and I don't know exactly what happened, but since Middle Daughter was one of the children approached, I asked her repeatedly to tell me what he said. I wanted to know the wording, because that can make a big difference.

Middle Daughter is an actor. She aspires to be one professionally. Now a student at a performing arts high school, she plans to attend college in New York and launch a career performing on Broadway. She's passionate about this. If you talk with her for five minutes you'll discover that it's so.

So it's not surprising that Paul G. knows. And while it might be a little odd for him to weigh in on her career goals, that's what he did Friday night. From what my girls told me, Paul G. approached Middle Daughter and said, "I was praying, and I think God wants you to go to Hollywood."

And that is completely inappropriate.

Let's not make any mistakes about what is going on here. Paul G. has been entrusted with providing some spiritual education to the teens of a church. It's one thing to use teach doctrine like "it is impossible for the unsaved to understand the things of God," it is something else to get sidetracked into irrelevancies like six-day creationism, and something else again to get into extrabiblical mysticism like claiming authority over and rebuking spirits, and visualizing people to verbally harass at Walmart.

There is no justification or excuse that will ever cover claiming to speak on behalf of God and tell other people what they should do. And let's not be coy about it, that's exactly what he did. He may have added a qualifier like "I think," but when you are talking to someone under your authority and a potentially impressionable child, the take-away is not "I think" but "God wants."

There is nothing positive to say about this. At its worst, such talk is abusive, controlling and manipulative. Even viewed charitably, it is horribly misguided and shows a tremendous lack of good judgment. If you're going to presume to speak for God, you'd better be prepared to put your divine imprimatur on the table for inspection. I have left churches over this sort of thing.

So I am talking to the lead pastor-guy on Monday morning, more in his capacity as a friend of mine than as the pastor-guy. And then I plan to speak to the elder in charge of the youth ministry, and I expect I'll talk to Paul G. as well. I need to talk with them by Friday, because Friday evening the youth group leadership is going to talk with the parents during the youth group meeting, and I really would rather have this dealt with before Friday than blow the whole thing up on Friday. But the truth is, this has to be discussed in the open, and it needs to be clear either that church leadership is OK with this kind of teaching going on at youth group, or it needs to be clear that they are not OK with it, and are dealing with the issue head-on.

I am not OK with it. If he continues to lead youth group, my children will not attend; and I know one pair of parents that's even angrier than I am.

Friday, September 09, 2016

'thus says the lord'

Twenty years ago I was a member in good standing of Easton (Pa.) Assembly of God. That all came crashing down in one Sunday school class.

Laverne Webber, the wife of our church's pastor, was teaching a class on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is a fairly significant doctrine in the Assemblies of God; essentially it holds that there is a special encounter with God made manifest by glossalalia, the ecstatic utterance in unknown tongues.

I had questions. I still do. That's how I work. I ask questions until I understand, not to someone else's satisfaction but to my own. So I asked, and when the answers weren't satisfactory, I pressed. Other members of the class I found wanted to hear the answers too.

Well, Laverne kept leading the class, and I kept attending; and you know, I never did start speaking in tongues, and neither did anyone else in the class.

One week Laverne approached me. She had been praying and God had spoken to her. About me. The way he does.

"David," she said, "I really feel the Lord is saying you need to stop questioning, and just have faith."

I nodded agreeably, but inside I was thinking "Well, four more weeks, and then this session of children's church is done. I'll wrap up my commitment, and then I'll go."

I had helped to lead the children's ministry at church for two years. I had helped to write the curriculum because what we had been given was so stupid. They lost that commitment and support. I was headed toward a breakup with this church for a number of reasons, but two things hastened that split.

One, don't ever tell me to stop thinking and just "have faith."

Two, don't ever tell me what God wants me to do unless you're prepared to show me proof that he has authorized you to speak on his behalf. That is abusive and manipulative at its worst; and when it's at its best and just misguided, it still is the key to messing up impressionable minds.

If you are actually going to claim to speak for God -- even if you try to couch it terms of "I think God wants you to do thus-and-such" -- then you don't have the maturity to be in any sort of leadership.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Jedidiah Horca: 'Because He Lives'

We used to sing this hymn growing up at Saunders Station Presbyterian Church, though my clearest memory of it comes from 1992, when we sang it at my grandmother's funeral. I've never heard of the singer before, but this is a fantastic, folksy arrangement: no organ, just nice use of a guitar with a few other instruments lightly used, easy on the amps

Two final notes: I never got motion sickness growing up when we sang this song at church, though I do get it watching this video. Also, is it just me, or does the name Horca make it sound like the singer is going to attack the members of a mining colony?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

La problemo de esperanto

Vi eble ne scias, sed me estas skribisto.

Estas vera. Por longatempo, mi estis ĵurnalisto por unu gazeto aŭ alia. Lastatempe, mi skribis por retgazeto en urbeto proksime mia urbo. Skribo ne estas nur laboro (aŭ verko, se oni preferas) por mi. Skribo estas kiel mi adoradas Dion; estas kiel mi vivas.

Antaŭ deksep aŭ dekok jaroj, mi ekkomencis skribi romanon kun helpo de mia amiko. Iam, mi demandis de mia edzino se ŝi legvolis ĝin kaj konigi al mi sian opinon. Nu, ŝi legis, kaj ŝi konigis. Ŝi ne konigis al mi se ŝi pensis ke la libro bonas aŭ malbonas; anstataŭe, ŝi konigis al mi ĉiun eraron, kiun ŝi vidis.

Ni nekorekte literumis vorton; ŝi konigis. Ni uzis la malkorektan interpunkcian signon; ŝi konigis. Kiel ŝi pensis pri la rekonto, ŝi ne konigis. Diru min: kiun tiu signifas? Ĉu la rakonto malbonegas, kaj tiuj eraroj estis la plebona parto? Ĉu ŝia ĉefĝojo estis la eraroj, kiujn ŝi trovis? Ŝia helpo ne helpemas.

Mi neniam petis al ŝi legi mian verkon denove.

Mi ĵus pensis pri tiu, post kelka retparolado kun aliaj Esperantparolantaj.

Kiel aliaj parolantoj de la lingvo, mi ŝatas la lingvon. Mi eklernis Esperanton antaŭ preskaŭ sep jaroj, kaj ofte mi diras al aliaj personoj pri la lingvo. Mi diras al ili pri la facileco de Esperanto; la belaj sonoj, kiun la lingvo havas; la uzemeco de lingvo kiu estas por la tuta mundo; kaj aliaj kialoj por lerni kaj paroli la lingvon.

Sed kelkfojej, ŝajnas ke la plegranda problemo, kiun Esperanto havas, ne estas la malkorektaj ideoj kiun neparolantoj havas, sed la parolantoj.

Pleparto de Esperantparolantoj estas bonegaj personoj. Ili konas tiun interesan lingvon; kaj por ili, tiu lingvo estas ponto inter ili kaj aliuloj. Oni povas paroli Tagalogo kaj parolas aliajn Filipinanojn, sed kiam oni ankaŭ konas Esperanto, oni ekpovas diri kun Japanianoj, Italianoj, Usanoj kaj multaj aliaj -- per nur unu lingvo.

Mi ŝategas renkonti tiujn personojn, rete aŭ alie. Tiu estas la celo, estas kial ni lernas ajnan lingvojn. Ni ĝojas koni aliajn personojn, kaj lingvo estas la strato sur kiu ni devas promeni, se ni volas koni ilin. Lingvo estas pri komunikado. Per lingvoj, ni konigas sin per dirante la rakontojn de niaj vivoj. Kiam tiu konigo okazas, la lingvo funkcias kiel devas. Per tiu konigo kaj tiu komunikado, ni lernas kaj ni lernigas al aliaj. Ni aldonas al ĉiu alia, kaj ni fariĝas plie da homo.

Tro da fojoj, ni forgesis tiun. Mi estas ano de pluraj esperantgrupoj, kaj tro ofte mi vidas dum paroladoj fariĝas pri nur Esperanto; alie, oni skribos pri temo amita, kaj respondantoj skribos nur mencii erarojn, kiel la koniganto forgesis uzi la akusitavon aŭ malkorekte literumis vorton. Tre belajn, interesajn paraladojn ni havas!

Unue, ni devas konfesi, neniu volas lerni kiel paroli lingvon por paroli nur pri tiu lingvo. Kaj ni ankaŭ devas konfesi ke ni lernas lingvoj per uzi. Ni lerni novajn vortojn kiam ni renkontas ilin en parolon aŭ dum legi, kaj per uzi ilin. Ni venku tiun problemon per havi plibonajn paroladojn. Ni konigu nian rakontojn al alia, ni havu diskutojn pri scio, pri niaj landoj, pri vivo. Ni havas belan lingvon, ni uzu!

La alia afero, pri kiu mi skribis, ankaŭ estas problemo. Se oni petas helpon, diras rakonton, aŭ alie provas paroli kun aliuloj, estas nek saĝaj nek amuza por koncentri pri gramatikerartoj. Estas malĝentila. Se oni komprenas la senson de la vortoj de la alia persono, tiam komunikado okazas. Feliĉu, kaj ne diru neniun pri la eraroj kiujn vi vidas.

Bonus se ĉiuj memoras kiel estis kiam ni eklernis. Ĉiu lingvo prezentas defiojn por la novlernanto, inkluzivante Esperanto. Neniu ŝatas korektiti tuta la tempo. Se oni estas la instruisto, oni devas korekti la eraron, sed alie, estas bona por diri neniun, aŭ eble parolas kun la persono kaj uzas la korektan vorton, aŭ milde korektas la eraron per ekzemplo. Tiu estas plibona kaj pli ĝentila.

Esperanto esperas fariĝi la lingvon internacian de paco, sed gramatiknazioj estas gramatiknazioj en ajna lingvo. Iam, iu esperantisto tiel korektos gramatikon de alia, kaj komencigos la unua milito inter esperantlandoj.

Aŭtorajto © 2016 de David Learn. Uzita per permeso

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Trovi la kanonon

Mi ŝategas Asteriks, sed la heroa Gaŭlo originale estis
skribita en la franca.
Kiu estas nia literatura kanono?

Mia dirvolo estas tiel: Se mi volas flui en la franca, mi devas koni la skribon de Viktoro Hugo; se la rusan, la librojn de Dostoevsky kaj Tolstoj; kaj la anglan, la teatraĵoj de Viljam Ŝekspiro.

Mi scias ke estas skriboj originalaj en Esperanto, sed ŝajnas ke pleparto estas pri la lingvo, kaj estas skribitaj por novaj lernantoj. Kiam mi trovis librojn por malnovaj parolantoj, ili estas tradukitoj el aliaj lingvoj, kiel "La Bona Arbo" aŭ "La Mastro de la Ringo." Tiu-ĉi estas mia spero.

Do, mi demandas al ĉiuj: Kiujn librojn vi trovas en Esperanto kiuj estas bonaj por legi? Kiuj skriboj kaptas la speron de esperantparolantoj kaj nia kulturo? Kiu estas nia kanono? Ĉu estas?

imagaj amikoj

Mi iam aŭdis rakanton, pri knabino kiu havis imagan amikon. Mi diritas, ke la rakanto estas vera. La knabino diris ŝiajn gepatrojn, ke la amiko estis dirinta ŝin ke la amiko loĝis interne la planko de sia dormĉambro.

"Interesa," pensis la gepatroj de la knabino, sed ili demandis, "Kaj kial via amiko loĝas en la planko?"

"Ŝi diris al mi, ke viro metis ŝin tie," la knabino respondis.

Interesas rakonto, ĉu? Nu, tago sekvas tagon, kaj tempo pasis. Iam la knabino fariĝis virinon, kaj iris kolegion. Ŝiaj gepatroj decidis ŝanĝi ŝian dormĉambron. Unue ili forigis la meblojn, poste ili forigis la tapiŝon. Sed poste ili forigis la plankotabulojn por fari riparojn, ili bezonis telefoni la policajn.

Sube la tabulojn estis kadavro de knabino.

ne respekto

Mia frato Blejr neniam respektitas, ne eĉ kiam li falas el aŭto.

​Antaŭ 43 jaroj, mia familio loĝis en Forest Hills, urbeto ekster Pittsburgh. Blejr havis amikon, Akti, kiu patrino havis kabrioleto. Somertage, ŝi ofris kondukis la aŭton malrapide dum ni sidas sur la dorsoj de la seĝoj, por nia amuzo. (Mi aĝis 2 jarojn; Blejr kaj Akti aĝis 6 jarojn; kaj nia alia frato, Vilĉo aĝis 4 jarojn.)

La rajdo amuzis por 
ĉiuj ni, sed kiam la patrino de Akti turnis la ĉirkaŭe angulo, Blejr elfalis dum ni rigardis.

Poste 2 a
ŭ 3 minutoj, la aŭto alvenis ĉe nia domo, kaj ĉiuj ni eliris el la aŭto.

"Kie estas Blejr?" mia patrino demandis.

"Ho, li falis 
ĉe la angulo," Vilĉo diris, kaj ni iris en la domon por glaciaĵo.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

the library serpent

Imagination, it may said, is the spark that sets the soul on fire. When children have had their minds filled with wonder and imagination, they grow into adults with a desire to know, to understand and to make. They do revolutonary things that change the world forever, like discover gravity, invent fire, or cure AIDS. It's a sacred duty of every parent to see that spark lit and to fan it into flame whenever possible.

So yesterday, as we headed over to friends' house for dinner, I told my youngest daughter just how amazing, how epic and how utterly mythic the city library is. In many ways it is the embodiment of the Elder Edda and all its stories of the Norse gods.

"Did you know there's a giant snake who lives at the library?" I told her. "He's called the Ouroboros. He's so big that he goes all the way around the foundation of the library, and he devours his own tail."

"Really?" she asked. "Why don't I ever see him?"

"Ah, well, he's an underground sort of snake," I said. I briefly considered explaining that the snake makes books fall off the shelves in the library when he moves, but decided against it. "He stays in the ground and doesn't bother anyone."

Middle Daughter, who has exprienced this thing herself in the past, merely sat in her chair and listened without comment as the whopper grew ever larger.

"Does he ever come up?"

"Well," I said, recalling the great battle between Thor and Jormangandur at the end of Walt Simonson's run on "The Mighty Thor," "there is going to come a day when he'll rise up out of the ground and threaten the children's room. The entire library will begin to shake, and the librarians will spring to action."

"What happens then?"

"Well,the library staff will make sure the children and all the other adults will get out, and the children's librarian will grab a hammer they keep safe for that day, and she'll go out and fight the Ouroboros. For nine days they will battle, until she finally kills it. Then she'll take nine steps, and" -- I hesitated, because Thor dies from Jormangandur's poison breath, and I wouldn't wish that on any of the librarians we've had, even the unpleasant one from a few years ago, but something has to happen! -- "and she'll collapse and need to go to the hospital in an ambulance."

Thank goodness there are two hospitals in the city, not that far from the library.

"When is all this going to happen?" she asked.

"Ah," I said, "no one knows. They keep the hammer nearby, and train every new children's librarian in how to use it, in case it happens while they're there." I paused, and then after a moment's inspiration, I grounded the story once more in something she knew: "That's why the library is closed on Sundays in the summer. So the children's library staff can train with the magic hammer."

Concerned that she might be worried for herself or the other children who use the library, I reminded Youngest that none of the children would be in danger during the battle, since the library staff will have got everyone safely out of the building and to a safe distance. Maybe they'll be at the sustainable foods co-op across the street, eating vegan cookies or something. She was a little concerned when I mentiond that the library would collapse in the fight, but relieved when I also shared that there would be an even better one built to replace it. (She also suggested that any books that were checked-out at the time the library was destroyed would be hers to keep, since there would be no records left of who had borrowed what. I confess I had no answer to that.)

The story went over well. Youngest was impressed by the idea of a giant, tail-eating serpent that circles the foundation of the library, and she was especially impressed by the hammer.

So impressed, in fact, that when we came to the library today, she asked the children's librarian if she could see it.