Week of March 28
Why, it seems like just yesterday that I was prattling on about St. Patrick's Day and Pi Day and suddenly it's the end of the month. It probably helps that the days are longer, generally warmer, and I can nap in a chair in the back yard. The importance of good napping, especially in the sunlight, is something that I cannot overstress. In fact, I should probably be doing it now, except of course I have to write this introductory piece. If a tone of resentment creeps in, or some typos, well, I have an editor to fire.
I'll probably find him in my chair in the backyard.
When I was a kid, we were enmeshed in rules and had lots of opportunities to be sinners and/or criminals. Growing up Catholic, sinning, even if just venial sins (although we didn't call it that, we had already been set up for severity of crimes–misdemeanors and felonies) was much worse than criminal activity. First, there were so many things that were put in the sin bucket, including not folding your hands correctly on the desk in school (hands should be folded, with right thumb over left and the wrist crease resting exactly on the edge of the desk, a position that should be assumed whenever hands were not being raised to ask/answer a question, wrapped around a pencil or crayon, or folded in prayer, a prime example of what we later referred to as sister-says theology), through real sins like eating meat on Friday, breaking one of the Ten Commandments, and on through a nearly infinite list of things that were sins or could lead to sin (guilt by association), whether by omission or commission.
Some of our more spirited discussions in religion class revolved around martyrdom or sin, especially after we had reached the age of reason, or reasoning. We were able to tell as early as fifth grade the students who were destined to be lawyers. I remember one discussion concerning stealing. We wondered if stealing was really a sin if you stole bread and other food for a poor family if they were starving and had no food and you had no money (the greater good argument). I think the store owner got involved somehow. We also wondered how much money a person would have to steal to move the crime from a venial to a mortal sin. I think we arrived at $75 (in 1961 dollars) as the tipping point.
This line of thinking is still alive, as seen in this March 19th headline from USA Today:
Do Catholics need to abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent when it's a feast day? (March Madness: it's not just for basketball anymore.)
Now stealing is both a crime and a sin, as are a lot of things. If you listened to our parents (and the nuns), anything that was sinful was also illegal, although if you missed Mass on Sunday you only got called into the principal's office, not slapped in handcuffs. Guess which was worse.
But we were surprised on a regular basis, like when we found out that smoking marijuana was not a sin. It was a crime, and you'd have to be pretty stupid to smoke grass, but being stupid is neither a sin nor a crime. Neither was smoking cigarettes a crime or sin (Dad smoked two packs a day, so good thing for him), but taking one from the pack your grandfather left on the coffee table was (at least it was a small venial sin, as a cigarette cost about 2/3 of a cent), and probably disobedience, as the folks probably said at some point not to do it.
So why was sinning worse than criminal activity? That's easy. You can break the law, but you have to be caught and tried. Jail is immediate, but you get out sometime. The odds are in your favor, especially if you have a good lawyer. If you sin, God knows, and God doesn't forget (unless you repent of your sins and go to confession, at which point the sin disappears behind a heavenly cloud [or somewhere]). And punishment, although delayed, lasts forever. Much like the times you were called into the principal's office.
I guess the moral of the story is, although we think of kid stuff is frivolous, it's very important when you're a kid. Also you remember it forever. Maybe that's the eternal punishment–we just thought it was fire.
Speaking of Sin and Repentance...
Lots of non-Catholics wonder what goes on in confession (now reconciliation). Frank O'Connor lifts the curtain on the practice (sort of$#41; in his short story
First Confession. It provides a lift to any day no matter your belief system.
According to The Information, Apple is trying to cut back on leaks of details of future products. How does it know this? It said on Wednesday that it obtained an internal document from Apple which outlined changes being made to its factory security guidelines for every manufacturing partner.
Leave it to Elon.
Once again, Elon Musk has done the impossible, The Independent discovered. Elon Musk has proof aliens don’t exist.
I bet the aliens told him to say that.
I've been working my way through the Tao Te Ching, a classic of classic Eastern philosophy. The passages are short, so I read one a day as a sort of springboard to meditation, thinking deep thoughts, or just letting the mists of pseudo-thought flow over me (aside: today is National Bad Fingers Day [not to be confused with National Mush-Fingers Day, which happens on Thursdays], during which my fingers forget everything I ever knew about using a keyboard, and by extension, standard spelling in English. I mention all this because in the non-parenthetical part of this sentence, I originally typed mints of time, not mists. That would be O.K. if they are those little chocolate-covered mints, but not pleasant if they're those round pinwheel mints. Now back to our original train of thought.).
The Tao offers a guide for contented living and achieving wisdom, and the way to get there is through self-effacement. But every now and again, Lao-Tsu throws a spanner in the works, as the Brits like to say, with thoughts like this:
When one recognizes the presence of Tao he understands where to stop. A strange thought, at least for Western ears, as the whole focus or point in our way of living seems to be to keep pushing. No stopping. No where to stop or when to stop. Something to think about, thus bringing us back to the beginning.
And for those of you who are reading this week's post right from the beginning, and are fearing for my immortal Catholic soul by reading heathenish texts, the general approach (self-effacement, self-abnegation) is very similar to that found in The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, beloved by my dear sainted mother, so I'm good, in both senses of the word.
Speaking of thinking...
Yes, I've said it before, thinking is a behavior I try to discourage, and I lead by example as best I can, but there is one exception. I am generally lousy at multitasking (spoiler alert: everybody is. Those who claim otherwise are a) fooling themselves and b&41; doing many things badly at the same time) but I have always been good in one area: thinking deep thoughts while staring out of a window. (I have recently, as my more advanced years sprint past me [no creeping up here!] developed a talent for walking and farting, but that's a different story). I can hear naysayers saying,
nay, that's called daydreaming, not multitasking, but I'll have you know I don't need any steenkin' weendow to daydream. I don't even need day!
Proof? I was just schlumped here (someplace between sitting up and lying down, a position enforced by the cat) and noticed that the oak tree across the street has swelling buds, the stage before the tree leafs out and drops enough pollen to coat a container ship a half-inch deep, a sign that spring is upon us. At the same time, I can see three other trees with branches still bare, a reminder that winter is still with us, reinforced by the two women who walked by bundled up against cold but stopped to look at the daffodils in the front yard. In deep-thought state, I reflected on the endless cycle of the seasons. I was also was reminded of the oak tree across the street that was cut down a couple of years ago, a reflection on the cycle of life being interrupted, a junction of the linear (birth to death) and the circular (cycle of the season). Not only profound, but geometric.
See? That's not daydreaming, that's multitasking. Daydreaming is an aimless drift, most often into future, alternate universes, rearranging this world, or no place. Multitasking, at least the way I practice it, is about recollection. There's a difference. Lot of recollection going on here.
This morning, Tony the Traffic Dude reported a back-up at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, as well as three accidents causing difficulties. This is high on my list of ways you know the world is getting closer to what we used to think was normal.
A Way with Words.
Somehow, when I was a technical writer for a civil-engineering construction company, I ended up on a newsletter mailing list from a company that sells sheet piles (if you don't know already, you don't need to know). Why it's coming to my home email address and why I haven't gotten off the list are two questions that I can't answer.
Anyway, this month's featured article is
Frequently Asked Questions on Driving Vinyl Sheet Piles. Apparently that is a thing, one that I'm having trouble wrapping my head around. I never thought I would see that combination of words in that order.
If you were wondering, there are four questions that are frequently asked, none worth repeating here.
Why can't we have nice things?
MacRumors reports that Apple is preparing to launch a new iPad mini with a larger screen, supposedly about 8". There are people who do not think bigger is better, so why?
You miss the target audience, and at some point it stops being mini. Does it then become
the tablet formerly known as mini?