October 5, 2007

World Turning

Category: News — Ira @ 7:18 pm


“Everybody’s trying to say I’m wrong
I just wanna be back where I belong
World turning
I gotta get my feet back on the ground
World turning
Everybody’s got me down.”
—Fleetwood Mac, Lyrics: “World Turning”

Last Sunday (Sept. 30) about mid-morning, I emerged from my monastic cave, threw off my monastic habit, and re-entered the “real” world. Though a bit misty at the Saturday evening supper, realizing it was my last meal there, I was ready. It was time. I had rested. Reflected. Written. And now, left. The experience was one that I will mull over and absorb for a long, long time.


During that week, I did something I have not done for any length of time since leaving the Amish in the late 1980s. Something that could not be done at home. I didn’t watch one second of TV. I never read one newspaper. And that, if you know me, is just mind-boggling. OK, I did check the web a time or two when in town or posting my blog, but otherwise, nada. And it really wasn’t that bad. One just doesn’t think much about outside things while there. Not even football. Well, maybe a little. (I can’t get too outlandish with my claims, or all credibility will be lost.)

Within twenty minutes after leaving the Priory, I stopped at a little roadside diner for some breakfast and the Boston Sunday Globe. Looked like the world had kept right on turning in my absence. And churning. People blowing each other up in the Middle East. Hundreds of monks killed in Burma. The 2008 Presidential race. Hillary. Obama. Yak, yak, yammer. And perhaps the most scary thing of all; Hillary’s unveiling of her plan to pay each family $5000.00 for each child born. I’ll change my tune a bit from two weeks ago. If she wins, we are in BIG, BIG trouble. And she might well. Lord, have mercy (some Priory lingo there).

A few final thoughts on the Weston Priory brothers, as I was a bit rushed when posting last week’s blog, and may have been a bit harsh on them. The Priory is what it is, with a strong ecumenical bent. I respect the brothers tremendously. They obviously are steeped in Catholic and monastic traditions, with all that entails. Including practices we Protestants find, well, a bit strange.

While in law school, I developed close friendships with several practicing Catholics. They always told me to never, never partake in Catholic Eucharist, because that would be blasphemous. Not even the night before our Bar Exam, when I was tempted to and felt the circumstances were dire enough to justify it. But no. I was not of their faith. I understood and respected that. At the Priory, all who come are welcome to participate in communion. That means anyone. From any faith, or none at all. They would serve Osama bin Laden if he showed up, I’m sure. Murmuring words of peace all the while.

We are the sums of our experiences. The background from which I emerged was and remains insular and very private. Despite my emergence and ensuing education, some vestiges still cling. The concept of totally open communion, where those who do not profess or are even hostile to Christianity are welcome to participate in its most holy ritual, is completely foreign to me. I find it strange and disconcerting. And, in that area only, I couldn’t get past it. In my head. For that reason, and not because I thought myself superior, I chose not to participate. Of course, the brothers didn’t blink an eye, one way or the other. I was welcome to partake. Or not.

I developed a deep respect for Brother John. A quiet, unassuming man, laboring in the fields baling hay, like a weathered granite Vermont farmer. He is highly educated, very intelligent, quiet, thoughtful, and engaging. During our conversations, he had a tend-ency to stare intently at me; I felt as if he was peering into my soul. But I was open and honest with him. He invited me to come back any time and said he would like me to address the brothers sometime about my Amish upbringing. He was fascinated by that. I told him I’d be honored. And a little intimidated. We’ll see if anything develops.

On my return trip, I meandered through upstate New York and stopped at Coopers-town and toured the Baseball Hall of Fame. I hadn’t really planned on it, but decided to stop, as the opportunity probably wouldn’t show up again anytime soon. A very inter-esting place with a treasure trove of historic paraphernalia.

At Baseball Hall of Fame


Braves Team display

The first anniversary of the Amish school shootings passed this week. Several Amish families gathered quietly on Monday. Thankfully, the news media respected their privacy and did not intrude. A police spokesman made a few comments. I have been impressed with the local newspapers. In the last month, the New Era ran a series of articles following up on the affected families. Most interviewees declined to be ident-ified. And so everyone moves on the best they can. As they can. You really don’t get over a tragedy of that magnitude in a year. Maybe never. Someone asked if I would do a follow-up essay to the one I wrote after the shootings (see Essays page). I said no. I just don’t have it in me.

It was back to the office on Tuesday. It took a day or two just to get re-acclimated to my surroundings and get back into the work groove. And back to the gym. No exercise for ten days. I gained three pounds from monkish foods. I’m just glad it wasn’t more. Emotionally I was pretty much drained. My long-anticipated vacation, just whoosh, gone like that. The days move somberly into fall, and harvest. Winter looms.

I am also in a foul mood because my hero, Fred the Curmudgeon, has retired his weekly blog, FredOnEverything. Fred is discouraged and distraught, which bothers me. His writings have influenced both my thinking and my own writing a good bit in the last year. I’m very sorry to see him go and will miss him. His final blog is dark and fretful. He sees bad things coming down the pike at us. Bad days. Bad times. When a guy with his abilities throws in the towel, I get very concerned. Like the canary dying in the cage in the coal mine. Something’s very wrong. Check out his final thoughts at Fred Reed; Outstanding Curmudgeon. Click the Fred Columns link.

In my absence, strange things occurred on the baseball diamond. When I left, the Phillies were several games out of first place. I thought they would swoon and die their usual agonizing death. It’s an annual ritual with the Phillies. But no. The Mets swooned instead. So much for my pick of World Series teams. You gotta hand it to the Phillies for hanging in there, especially during September. The guys at work are on cloud nine, of course. And as much as it pains me, as difficult as it is for my fingers to type the words, here you are. Deep breath. “Go Phillies.” I’m choking here. Can’t believe I wrote that. Actually, I figure the best way to make sure they lose is to cheer for them. And they are in a deep, deep hole at 0-2 to the Rockies. But they do have my respect, unlike the vile Yankees (may they be slaughtered by Cleveland).

Strange things also happened on the gridiron, especially college football. Penn State got soundly whacked. By Illinois. I couldn’t be happier about that. Welcome to the Big Ten. And Florida, beaten by Auburn. In the swamp. It just doesn’t happen. Notre Dame at 0-5 for the first time in its long and storied history. Charlie Wise ready to be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. Who’da thunk it? The only thing missing was USC (the college football equivalent of the vile Yankees) getting beaten. That didn’t happen. Unfortunately.

But the Eagles didn’t disappoint. I loved every minute of that game. I watched it in my motel room. McNabb running around like a maniac. Or trying to. It’s hard to run anywhere when you’re getting sacked twelve times in one game, tying the NFL record. The Eagles are 1-3, just like the Jets, so there’s no crowing going on about that at work.

I am enjoying (mostly) “The New York Times Review of Books.” Seems like every issue has at least one far-left, liberal screed about something. And that’s OK. But in one recent issue, there were two. One raging against the conservative phalanx “ruling” the Supreme Court, predicting all kinds of gloom and woe. And one a serious examin-ation of AlGore and his latest boorish imbecilities. It was almost more than one can handle, two such articles in the same issue. One I expect and can take, but two, well, it’s a bit much for anyone with a smidgen of conservative leanings. Almost I fired off one of my trademark nasty letters to the editor, but thought, what the heck, it won’t do any good anyway. I’ll just vent on my blog. Why anyone would give a second’s effort to a serious discussion of a loon like AlGore just boggles my mind. I guess liberals have to prop each other up, or they would wither and drift away into complete irrele-vance. Actually, they already have, but just don’t know it.

I always glean a good amount of humor from the Review’s Personals Ads. Descriptions abound like “brainy,” “literate,” “sophisticated,” indiscriminate interest in nature, actively enjoys sunshine, enjoys Maine hiking in summer, London’s new Tate, keep returning to southern France, etc., etc. Ho, Jeeves. Where is that butler? And what say we go sailing, my dear? And stop by that cozy little cafe for a spot’a tea? Where we shall have stimulating and enlightened conversation. The whole lot sounds crazier than the cat lady on “The Simpsons.”

Last week’s blog was my first one written and posted completely on my MacBook. I was very happy with the little laptop. In the week leading to my departure, Patrick at work gave me some last minute instructions and lessons. By post time, I was very familiar and comfortable with it. Including downloading and resizing photos. Outstand-ing little computer. Powerful too. I highly recommend a MacBook to anyone consider-ing a laptop.

The Nicholas story (Sept. 14th post) continues to rumble and echo throughout the land. That particular blog has been copied, faxed, mailed and passed on from person to person more than any single thing I’ve ever posted. It has touched those who never knew him and have no idea who he was. I think I know why. From our own childhoods, we all either remember “Nicholas” or we were him. To a lesser extent, of course. We either regret our actions or vividly relive our own pain. And childhood trauma, whether inflicted or endured, has a way of surfacing powerfully when those old memories are revived.



(No Comments)

  1. Let me be the first one to say I enjoyed your musings and am glad you went to visit the monks. It seems like we all could use a quiet week with them.

    Happy birthday to Stephen today, October 6. Seems he was hard to reach via phone as they were helping at their school auction.

    About the Nicholas blog, a very dear friend of ours was given a copy of that, plus an apology as his family was the Herrforts of that time. Later they moved back to Kansas, and must say the family turned out wonderfully. Kansas is that way, very gracious and kind to newcomers.

    Comment by rachel — October 6, 2007 @ 6:27 pm

  2. One of your wishes has come true, USC got beat today. And hopefully tomorrow we will see the Yankees fall from grace. Also checkout MIZZOU.

    Comment by Andrew — October 7, 2007 @ 1:40 am

  3. And Penn State met Iowa in the battle for the cellar of the Big 10. And the winner is IOWA, 0-3 in the conference.

    Roar Lions Roar

    Ira’s response: I think you mean “Squeal, chipmunks, squeal.”

    Comment by Mark Hersch — October 7, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  4. Good to read your musings, Ira. It seems like a while since we’ve chatted.

    I was talking to my dad in OH, and he mentioned that I was to let you know that he very much enjoys your writings, here on your blog. I guess me telling you so lets him off the hook for commenting.

    Comment by pat — October 7, 2007 @ 10:21 pm

  5. Ira,
    I wanted to make a few remarks about this whole question of an ecumenically based communion. Having just read a sermon by the Rev. John Booty, printed in the Episcopal Life that addressed the same concerns, I thought I might share a few excerpts.

    “By means of this sacrament (Holy Communion) of mutual participation, we are made one…constituting as we do, the people of God…which exists over all the church, over all churches, over all divisions and all fragments- and penetrates, penetrates and enlivens and connects all churches in unity-worldwide, national, and local.

    This is mutual participation; this is Holy Communion…this Holy Communion includes all, all-all people, all creation, all sorts and conditions of people and things-all! How dare anyone exclude anyone else from this Communion…

    In our prejudice, our blindness, our folly, we behave as if we are the only ones worthy of God’s love. How sad. How pretentious. How wrong. How tragic, and yet, how true of so many of us…

    But, we are all, whether we know it or not, loved by God-included in the fellowship of love-loved by God, created to love one another and to love God in one another, and care for, and be cared for, by one another. The Holy Communion is us-all of us-all of creation.” – John Booty


    Comment by Margaret — October 8, 2007 @ 10:06 am

  6. I appreciate Margaret’s comment concerning communion.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — October 8, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  7. Comment on Margaret and Katie’s comments. Would you keep communion with someone who is openly living in sin?

    Comment by Andrew — October 11, 2007 @ 9:45 pm

  8. Comment to Andrew: the preaching should be so hot that those openly living in sin should repent, but I know what you mean. I would not want to wash the feet of an adulterer; if it only consists of breaking bread and wine, it would not bother me as much to partake, although I do think you should warn those living in sin that they are eating and drinking damnation to themselves by partaking while in sin. 1 Cor. 11:29

    Gideon, Mt.

    Comment by Gideon Yutzy — October 11, 2007 @ 11:53 pm

  9. I would wash their feet, surely Christ did something more revolting for me. Indeed, was it harsh and hot words that whispered to your soul, “repent and be free”? Agreed Communion should not be taken lightly – But if there is no room for the flawed, fallen, falling human at God’s table then where?

    The answer to Andrew – I have taken Communion with someone living in sin – myself.

    Comment by Glo — October 12, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  10. I was faced with those questions the first time I took part in open communion. I went to church as a visitor and here they were going to have communion. I said, “O horror Lord, what do I do.” Quick and right on the spot I asked myself what is communion? My conclusion was that I am free to take part in communion because as far as I know I am in a right relationship with God. It had nothing to do with my neighbor’s sin. I decided I will leave it up to this congregation, if they offer the bread and juice I will accept. This congregation never connect feet washing with communion services. I have gone back for communion many times with that group, although I was never a member and never plan to be one.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — October 12, 2007 @ 4:26 pm

  11. By keeping communion with someone living openly in sin, YOU are condoning thier sin.

    Comment by Andrew — October 12, 2007 @ 11:38 pm

  12. It has been my understanding that during Communion it is our job to open our hearts in honor and “remembrance,” not to judge the condition of others.

    Comment by Glo — October 13, 2007 @ 10:25 am

  13. Glo sounds like she believes it is alright for a Christian to continue living in sin. How are you going to deal with Romans 6 where we are clearly taught to be dead to sin and not live any longer therein, God forbid that anyone take part in communion while knowing they have sin in their life!

    Comment by Gideon Yutzy — October 14, 2007 @ 12:38 am

  14. When someone is openly and consistently living in sin, we are not judging them by refusing to open communion to them. The Holy Bible judges and we accept its judgment, in our lives and to the extent that we can see, the lives of others. All hold secret sin and each is under the judgment of the Scriptures so we must continue to confess and seek forgiveness when we fall, that is what the work of Jesus offers. Effective teaching by the church is needed to inform us and convict us of our secret sins. This is one of several good reasons why we are called to become a member of a body of believers. However, if we as a church ignore or worse, like the Corinthians, uphold the presence of Scripture judged sin in our midst without action against it, we receive the same judgment given by God through His apostle Paul to the Corinthians. That church woke up, expelled the immoral brother, gained blessing and restored the brother. They did go overboard in their enthusiasm for repentance and needed Paul to tell them that the restored brother’s sin was now thrown into the sea of forgetfulness. But notice that the sin was not ignored or tolerated; it was confronted. The church was healed and the sinner was healed as well.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — October 14, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  15. Make sure you don’t speed on the way to church, mutter hasty thoughts about your family as they make you late again, notice the striking person two rows up, eat that third helping (can’t let it go to waste)…my point is that these days we seem to be very willing to make a differentiation between big sin and little sin and then there is BIG sin…Do I think Christians should continue to live in sin no…and I’ll try to remember that as I go 85 on Rt.30…I find it very troubling that we as Christians and the church (little c) tend to macerate the sinner looking every little thing wrong that there is too often nothing left to restore…

    In honesty – I struggle with many of Paul’s teachings because they are so Roman – in the Ancient Rome sense. Artistically they were in a nutshell a great cultural Xerox – gobbling up everything and spitting it out in their own image. The more I look into the Ancients the less appealing the Roman image becomes -

    Comment by Glo — October 14, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

  16. It seems to be the unpopular thing to do nowadays, but we are supposed to love the sinner but HATE the sin with all our hearts. Things such as adultery used to be very hated, but a lot of churches just kinda look the other way. Things that today, we think are so obviously wrong such as abortion, tomorrow will be accepted in many churches. Anyway, thanks for the interesting disscussion.

    Comment by Andrew — October 15, 2007 @ 12:09 am

  17. I was going to make another comment but I think I will keep my mouth shut.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — October 16, 2007 @ 2:45 pm

  18. Please, share the thought. You have the right to say anything you want.

    Comment by Andrew — October 16, 2007 @ 8:40 pm

  19. No Andrew, I don’t want to make another comment for we are only going in circles and I don’t like to get dizzy with religious debates.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — October 18, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  20. I think it is awesome to be a servant of righteousness, Romans 6:18. Mark Hersch how are you , haven’t talked to you in years. It is good to know you are still around and doing well!

    Comment by Gideon Yutzy — October 18, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

  21. I find it humbling to be under the banner of the Prince of Peace.

    Comment by Glo — October 18, 2007 @ 11:32 pm

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