Writers Blogk

In the virtual world of the blogosphere there are those who suffer guilt over failure to blog. This despite evidence that the world manages to get along just fine without our daily contributions. I hear of this guilt about infrequency and irregularity, though, from my more gifted and committed blogger friends, and certainly stress out about it myself when one of my several readers says, “Umm, you haven’t put anything new there in a month or so.” It is the curse of writers blogk.

Writers blogk is identifiable by several symptoms:

The syntactical blogk: Those of us born into the Chicago Manual of Style and raised by Strunk and White are just emotionally unable to write in incomplete sentences or phrases. We wish we could. We desperately envy those who can dash off a post and send it instantly into cyberspace with confidence. You know them. Their blogs are breezy and witty and wonderful – and frequent. We of the blogked are still sitting at our computers searching for the perfectly-crafted phrase, wondering if our gerunds are proper.

The grammatical/punctuational blogk: In another generation this blogk will be simply quaint, as there will be no texting-impaired people still alive. But for now, we unfortunate blogkeders cannot abandon our commitment to capital letters and words spelled all the way out. Some things are daggers into our literary souls, u no wt i mn? So we sit around doing our own spell-checking until we’ve bored ourselves into a doze.

The sheer envy blogk: Who are all those people posting perfectly spelled and punctuated, well crafted sentences and paragraphs of informative materials day after day and whose freshman composition class were they in? Ohmygoodness, did I just end that sentence in a preposition?

The insecurity blogk: It seemed like a good idea… but no, how could I possibly write about that…….

I’ll try to get back to you soon.

On getting along…

It was a special treat recently to attend several sessions of the 20th annual meeting of the North American Interfaith Network, happily held this year on the campus of my MFA alma mater, the University of San Francisco. Ever alert for a good story – especially a publishable one – I e-mailed my friend and Beliefnet.com editor to see if they’d be interested in a report. (I wrote a piece for Beliefnet’s start-up issue, and am proud to have contributed that and a few other articles for what I think is the best site around for issues of spirituality and ethics.) She replied, with kindness but candor, should anything surprising or newsworthy come up that would be a possibility, but such is seldom the case at these conferences. And I guess she’s right. What warms the heart does not necessarily make the news.
Still, it was hard not to feel a little wistful, as I sat in workshops and gatherings, about the fact that an extraordinary coming-together of so many wildly divergent faith communities, many of which are behind the splitting-apart of the world, is not newsworthy by today’s measure.
In my ice-breaking group, for example, were a woman rabbi, a former Catholic priest whose partner is a Wiccan, an avowed atheist, and an ordained United Methodist minister who works full-time with an interfaith organization (in Wichita, KS!, America’s oldest interfaith group, founded 1885 if you please.) And assorted others, including a Japanese Christian who had married a Korean politician but is now living in the U.S. because, as you might guess, that didn’t sit well with Korean politics. Stories were everywhere. In subsequent gatherings I encountered Muslims, Buddhists, Native Americans, Brahma Kumaris and others, all with wonderfully rich traditions and a yearning for peace.
There were questions – How can humanitarian needs be addressed without compromising political/religious neutrality? Is every declared faith a legitimate faith? – for which no answers were found. But there were exciting tales of answers that had been found and of possibilities for finding more. Tiny steps toward a better world were confirmed.
So OK, one group Om does not a treaty make. And the multi-lingual singing of “Love In Any Language” won’t make ancient animosities between speakers of all those languages disappear.
But has anyone come up with a better idea? That would make news.

East Coast, West Coast

I’ve been lucky to do some coast-to-coast trips in recent weeks, enjoying life on both sides of the country over that time – which included the July 4th weekend. It prompted these profound reflections on east v west that may be worth recording:
Patriotism – Flag-waving still survives, though it’s certainly not just Old Glory any more (almost as many rainbow flags abound in Atlanta neighborhoods as in San Francisco, and tony suburbs are awash in flags of flowers and turtles and mantras the specific meaning of which eludes me.) Over the Fourth I was in the N. GA mountains at Lake Rabun (check out the after-race photos, p 4, #67, 69 & 70 for testimony as to the concluding event of my recent, extended birthday celebration.) There were flags on boathouses, there was bunting on fences, and it felt altogether warm and fuzzy. Perhaps the display of Old Glory hasn’t totally been co-opted by the far right; patriotism was such a happy thing before it became a dirty word. Small-town parades proliferate everywhere too, and with flags and kids and wagons and decorated bikes galore, they are among the warmest and fuzziest still.
Oceans – Of course the ocean on the west coast is on the wrong side of the street, but it’s a mighty ocean indeed. Oceans and coasts are metaphors waiting to happen. The breathtaking vistas, the rugged cliffs and rocks and crags of the Pacific shores are a source of wonder; the serene expanses of beach and tidal grasses along the Atlantic (especially south of the Massachussetts and upwards cliffs and rocks and crags) offer an emotional counterpoint worth treasuring. Plus, sunsets and sunrises over oceans and lakes alike make one wonder why anybody ever gets mad at anybody.
Colors – Especially if you’ve just come from the San Francisco Bay area or the deserts of nearby elsewhere, the east is startlingly green. San Francisco and environs abound with California gold, but I still call it brown and the greenness of summer on the east coast is a marvel to behold once you’ve wandered afar from it.
Cellphones and traffic – They’re everywhere. At least California has followed NY with hands-free driving laws, but being a pedestrian is chancy at best in the urban U.S.. Plus this: giving way with a smile to some impatient driver who is hell-bent on getting there first, wherever in the world you’re both headed, is a fascinating experiment anywhere. Once in San Francisco I had a lane-changing SUV driver throw up both hands and laugh (which could’ve gotten us killed, but still…) Once in Washington D.C. a little old lady (I’m one too) figured I was being smart and flipped me the bird. Her life may have been short on views of sunset with the fog rolling in.

A gentle apparition

My mother, who died at 70 in 1967, made a brief reappearance here in San Francisco last week. It was during a visit I made to the bedside of Lik Kiu Ding, age 90-something (born in the jungles of Borneo he never knew exactly when.) I had not seen him in years, until learning he’s now at a nearby assisted living facility. Lik Kiu was like a son to my father, who helped him finish his education in the U.S. (at Randolph-Macon College in my hometown of Ashland, VA.) After his medical training Lik Kiu and his Chinese wife Lillian, also a physician, lived, worked and raised their family in Hong Kong, returning to the States before Lillian’s death of cancer in the ‘90s. (Her remarkable story is part of my book, Dying Unafraid.) Beaming from under his tightly-tucked blankets, Lik Kiu took my hand as I bent near, reached out one long finger to touch my cheek, pointing first to my eyes, then my mouth, then making small circles around my face. His daughter Mary, standing nearby, said, “You look like your mother, don’t you?” It’s true, I’m a double for my mother before her own health began to fail. For those few moments, trying not to cry over his still-handsome face, I evaporated. It was my mother who was holding his hand.