Robotic Jellyfish to Start Killing SOON…

It should come as little surprise that the industrious and efficient German people have chosen to vie with the Japanese to determine who gets us killed by robots first. It’s vaguely hypnotic in its movements, inspiring lethargy in those who view its undulations. I’m sure that’s part of its nefarious plan.

Smooth…(To all the Ladies)

A friend gave me a “calendar for educators” last December. A recent entry:

“A little girl asked her mother, ‘Can I go outside and play with the boys?’ Her mother replied, ‘No, you can’t play with the boys, they’re too rough.’ The little girl thought about it for a few moments then asked, ‘If I can find a smooth one, can I play with him?'”

This could be a problem for me–I am a bit rough around the edges. But I want to assure all the ladies out there that I’m smooth in all the right places…; ).   Unfortunately, in twenty years that may include my scalp!

Jonesing

I’m going to enter a very positive review for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”. It followed the conventions established in previous Indiana flicks, was packed with action, comedy, heart, and incredible set design.

*minor spoiler*

The scene in the nuclear testing village was awesome.

A few of the lines stuck with me, like the one Indy utters about the women after Marion and how the problem (with the other women) was that “they weren’t you, dear”. I know the feeling. I just hope the other professor’s sentiment doesn’t hold true, “So much of life is lost in the waiting.”

The Mystery of the Church

Of late, I can’t escape pondering the religious sisters. They keep appearing in reading I’m doing on U.S. Church history, in efforts to understand the nature and foundations of Catholic education, and in the audiobook sent this month.

We owe the sisters so much. From hundreds of hospitals that were built on their service and sacrifice to the thousands of schools they founded, they have been a strong and reliable thread binding American society together. Many of those schools are closing, partially because the inexpensive education provided by the selfless sacrifice of so many celibate sisters isn’t sustainable when laypeople take their place (laypeople needing salaries to support families). In 1965, there were 15,000 parish elementary schools, and 50% of school-aged Catholics went to them. The 2004 numbers stood at 6,853 elementary schools, and less than 25% of school-aged Catholics attend them.

Some say these numbers reflect a deep crisis in our culture and the Catholic church itself. Pointing to the incredible decline in vocations to sisterhoods (In 1965 there were 179,954 religious sisters. In 2004, there were only 71,486), there is much speculation for the cause. To hear some tell it, the reforms of Vatican II robbed the liturgy and American Catholicism of much of its unifying identity, and the drop in vocations is a natural outgrowth of Vatican II.

Others say the exodus from religious orders (including priestly orders–which have shrunk some 15%) came with the Council’s refusal to allow religious to marry and for women to be priests. While I don’t feel qualified to make judgments on claims concerning the liturgy (in part because I’ve only known post-Vatican II), I view assertions concerning female ordination and celibacy with great skepticism. Any man or woman who took vows of celibacy under the expectation that the church would erase them took false vows, and probably never had a vocation to consecrated life in the first place.

In contrast to “traditionalists” who would see Vatican II overturned, others proclaim the Holy Spirit is doing something new with the American church and religious sisters. I know some lovely and wonderful sisters. I’ve actively tried to encourage young women to explore possible vocations to that life.

The precipitous drop in female vocations may not have all that much to do with an overly sexualized or individualistic culture (though it is certainly both things), or with a new movement of the Holy Spirit. Much has to do with the abuse of the sisters’ good-will and mismanagement of funds. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, young men can go on a weekend retreat, eat wonderfully prepared meals, receive lodging and spiritual direction, and enjoy space and time for prayerful discernment–all free of charge.

Not so females. Having sacrificed so much for charity’s sake, the sisters are forced to ask inquisitive young women to pay for discernment retreats. Those retreats seldom receive publicity and promotion anywhere near that given to male “Come and See” weekends.   I had to hunt for 20 minutes on-line to find info for a young woman.

Young men entering formation have educational expenses paid for them. In all the cases I’ve heard, young women are expected to pay their own way, and thus have to work secular jobs while male brethren have ample (I might even say “excessive”) free-time. Do these practices seem just to you?

I do not believe the differences are warranted by the distinction brought by ordination. The Lord said, “the worker is worth (his/her) wage” and did not begrudge the extravagance lavished upon him by Mary of Bethany. I do not think He would begrudge us lavishing some due extravagance on our consecrated sisters. I think it long overdue. Instead, it seems we relegate our women (and yes, the hardworking priests out there) to the role of Martha, forcing them to work to pay a wage before they can sit at the feet of the Lord like Mary.

Quite recently, the Archbishop announced a plan to support seminary expansion in the diocese. It is wonderful more young men are responding to religious life, and certainly the faithful should support them. But the publicized plan calls for raising $30 million for building expansions, and $25 million for the endowment that supports seminarians, leaving the ladies out in the cold once again.

When vocations to religious sisterhood are in such peril, would it not make sense to strengthen, promote, and collaborate with our sisters? And given that 80% of laypeople participating in liturgical functions or ministry are women, wouldn’t it seem sound to grace their willingness to serve with attention to their formation and spiritual development?

I have found Archbishop Burke to be a holy man, and I ignore those who attribute sinister or prejudicial motives to him (you do not know the man). We are all human, and prone to a certain blindness to the “big picture” around us. Perhaps those in positions of such staggering responsibility are all the more prone to understandable ignorance.

Celibate men and women, surrounded as they are by vowed members of their own sex, do not have the perspective (or sense of compromise) that comes with married life. If God is Other, and Mystery, there is perhaps no greater opportunity to encounter God than godly, loving marriage. It stretches one, causes them to move beyond the tendencies of their own sex, and takes them out of comfort zones in ways I believe consecrated life rarely offers. That’s just my perspective on the issue, and should not be construed as an argument against celibacy. The church would be lesser without it.

Still, I’ve seen the shift that takes place in those peers of mine that are religious brothers or sisters. I have watched a few grow more aloof from the Body of Christ, less capable of intimacy, and it leaves me questioning the validity of their professed vocation.

Maybe that’s a necessary shift, but I do think celibacy and communal life requires them to make more deliberate efforts to understand the opposite sex. I have seen a very real (though subtle) sexism in some orders (ladies, do not think yourselves exempt from that statement or risk).

I find myself wishing there were an advocate to speak certain words in the Archbishop’s ear. I’ve been told such thoughts are a sign the person having them is meant to be the messenger. Still, I harbor doubts as to my effectiveness as an advocate.

This whole post was inspired by two audio recordings from Mother Theresa. They got me thinking I understand religious sisters less than ever–they are a greater mystery than before (and not necessarily the good kind)–and that thought was inspired by Theresa’s exposition on celibacy, and being “only for God”. Is my lack of clarity because I’m struggling more than ever with my own sexuality?

My “flesh calls for flesh”, and yet my heart is incapable of truly giving what another person (save one) would deserve.

Or are the sisters more mystery because I’m being drawn by God to strive to understand them–and the Holy Spirit–in a deeper form of communion? Well, I will never rest content with what I know. I know enough about my own ignorance to have the conviction I can always understand and love more deeply…

Yellowstone in my Basement

Behold my geysers! A recent storm forced the house into the basement due to Tornado warnings. Whilst waiting things out, we first heard, then witnessed the furious stormwaters geyser up from below the foundations. It was quite a sight, and elicited some funny commentary (which our landlords may not appreciate at all):

One of my housemates was particularly fond of the comment, “When you get in close, it looks humongous!” adding, “That’s what she said.”

Muppets and the U.S. Senate

Just saw this story from Monday’s Washington Post: “Senate Votes to Privatize Its Failing Restaurants”.

Bet you didn’t know the Senate was in the restaurant business, and has subsidized it with taxpayer money for years. I find it deliciously ironic that the Democratic majority is privatizing a government agency, mainly because its managed to lose $2 million dollars in the last six months alone.

In a letter to colleagues, Feinstein said that the Government Accountability Office found that “financially breaking even has not been the objective of the current management due to an expectation that the restaurants will operate at a deficit annually… All told, they bring in more than $10 million a year in food sales but have turned a profit in just seven of their 44 years in business, according to the GAO.”

And people wonder what universal government health care might look like?! That’s a 20% rate of waste just on the provider end of things. What do you think happens when people have no motivation to limit personal health care expenditures due to their own budget? Do you think they might go in for that optional tooth whitening procedure? Some bicep or boob implants–for their self-esteem of course, or as a treatment for depression. Or with the rising rates of obesity, maybe the real temptation is the easy out of gastric bypass surgery rather than diet and exercise.

By all means, if we want to bankrupt the nation and impoverish future generations, let’s go for universal government health care.

Double whammy, and hirdy-yirdy-urdy (as the Swedish chef might say).

That’s Hot…

As I contemplate trading in Nago (my CR-V) for a Civic Hybrid, I’m given pause by the release of information concerning one of Honda’s next generation vehicles. Of course there is the Honda Clarity (not pictured in this entry), their hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle undergoing consumer trials this year in California and New York (68 MPG). Then there is the CR-Z (all photos in this post), a sporty little hybrid that debuted at several recent auto shows.

CR-Z stands for “Compact Renaissance Zero”, and is a standard hybrid with very clean emissions. No word on the exact MPG, and I was initially skeptical as to whether it will actually make it to production, or go the way of most concept cars and never see time on a dealer lot.

I may end up being pleasantly surprised. One auto journal stated there are plans to rollout the CR-Z in Japan and North America in 2009. A local Honda sales manager said the CEO was so stoked about the CR-Z, he thought we’d see it in 2010 or 2011. I may end up waiting to trade in old reliable, to get my hands on a car that is so obviously an Autobot (I totally should’ve photoshopped the decal on the front).