Monday, October 28, 2019

Schrodinger's Friend

I woke this Monday morning to find a message from my friend sitting on my phone.

Except it wasn't my friend. It was his wife. She was going through her husband's phone, making sure that everyone knew that he passed on Saturday from a heart attack.

I resisted my security worker's compulsion to ask for authentication; instead, my friend became Schrodinger's friend too, wandering within some limbo within my own mind. Still, the reality of who my friend was to me washed through me, and I replied in kind: We had much in life, station, and hobbies, in common, but above all else, he was an unassuming friend. We shared a "Hey, I was just thinking about you!" connection, and he had the uncanny timing to come and find me precisely when I felt lost or disconnected,

... and it was clear to me that all of this is what remains with me.

As I sat outside with my coffee, lost in thought over the loss of a friend, a small bird landed on the ladder behind me. It jumped up and down a rung at a time, just a foot or two from my face, pausing on each to scream at me.

It snapped me out of my funk, and I smiled on knowing Its name.

May we all be so fortunate as to find what we need embodied in our fellow human beings, however briefly, and may our hearts and eyes open to recognizing that presence everywhere and always.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Litany of the Lost

From my years of Roman Catholicism, I knew the old folks would tell you to say a prayer to St. Anthony if you lost your keys or the like, but that kitschy view from my childhood really masked a much more powerful view that I hadn't encountered before this afternoon.

More impressive than this bodhisattva-like image is the prayer at the kneeler before it, "The Litany of the Lost"
Lord have mercy.
Christ have Mercy.
Lord have mercy. 
For those of us who have lost ...
(Response after each of the petitions: "St. Anthony, pray for us.")
... our health
... our dreams
... our self-respect
... peace within our families
... our peace of mind
... our talents
... our perspective
... our trust in others
... our housing
... our initial zeal
... our innocence
... our virtue
... our financial security
... our sobriety
... our independence
... our home
... a loved one
... our faith
... civil peace 
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. 
Loving God, you have given us St. Anthony, the patron saint of the lost, as an intercessor for those who are in need of Your mercy. Listen to his voice as he calls out to You on our behalf, and grant those things which will help us grow in Your love. 
We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.
That is quite a laundry list... A thoughtful reading invites us to a deeper, broader self-examination. I wondered if any one of them could really happen in isolation without cascading into the others. Once we encounter a tear in the fabric of our lives, we can trace it and see how it has spread and how it manifests in different ways. Won't we in time see our loss reflected everywhere around us?

And if we see loss everywhere around us, is it possible that loss is inside us somewhere, waiting to be revealed?

As I reflected there, nearby, confessions were being heard ~ the Sacrament of Reconciliation ~ wherein the faithful speak with another intercessor to unburden their souls and to restore their lost relationships with God, family, community ~ with the church as a whole.

For some, Hell is described in terms of a soul's distance from God, where sin is what generates the separation. Suddenly, from moment to moment and in every circumstance, we are burning in Hell. Can you find your way back?

Sitting in the garden, I saw a broken tree branch on the ground. No amount of effort on my part would unbreak the branch or reattach it to the tree. Some may deal with this by declaring there is no branch, no break in the branch, and no tree from which the branch fell. Seeing your despair, a stranger might sit on the makeshift bench beside you and and ask what is troubling you. The groundskeeper may interrupt, seeing pieces of a new garden's edge, and ask you both to move so she can drag them off. Regardless, if you can't find your way to restore what is lost, wouldn't it be nice to know that there is someone you can trust to handle the situation for you?

If we don't deny the possibility, we may find grace again.

Monday, September 30, 2019

New Follower!

"New Follower!" "New Follower?" "New Follower ¯\_(ツ)_/¯" How do you read it?

Personally? For who knows how long, I worked in an industry that actively inoculated its members to be suspicious of new contacts, cautioning us that there was a lot of potentially career-ending paperwork that accompanied making friends with a non-citizen. "Each of you and each of those around you are potential targets." This coincided with the rise of social media, wherein anybody -- even computer programs -- could appear as a friendly stranger or even as someone you know, and those someones you know could appear as other identities online. And after that, I worked in an industry that sometimes leveraged that.

I remember one day popping open a virtual machine with anonymizing software to check a few details of a suspicious new follower and to help contain any damage that might make its way in from clicking a malicious link. What made the contact suspicious? It was primarily suspicious because it was a new follower ("Why would anyone follow?") and because it wasn't obviously machine-crafted nonsense. After all, what could be more suspicious than a potentially legitimate, authentic human being -- especially when they're so few and far between?

I honestly don't know how many hours I lost over the years scrutinizing individual contacts. What I also don't know is if I'm better off for having habitually lived that way.

This morning, my phone is off the hook with notification alarms. Yesterday, I popped open a popular social media site and I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled until the page was filled with a thousand suggested contacts. I popped open a browser console window, I examined the page's details, I wrote a few lines of javascript, and I hit return. With that final keystroke, one thousand invites were on their way...

... and the phone began to chirp: Bling! Bling! Bling!... It was quiet overnight -- largely due to "quiet hours," it seems, as the alarms resumed at 7 A.M.

It was clear that some were auto-responding and others were close by their phones or computers. Reviewing some of those early responses, I didn't recall knowing them and presumably they didn't recall me either, so indiscriminate acceptance.

There are pleasant surprises in there too, people I'd lost touch with. I see there are pending invites to people who I would never deliberately follow for any number of reasons, but who knows how it will turn out? Once that final keystroke landed, the status quo was disrupted; there's nothing to do now but handle what comes...

... which is fundamentally not different than any other day -- but maybe with a different perspective.

Now to think that there may be someone enjoying a morning coffee now, suspiciously eyeballing this rare invitation to connect, wondering what it means...