The ride (after the reviving)

The following is an excerpt from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from the Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis.  I have never read this classic before and have been enjoying becoming familiar with it this summer while reading it aloud to our son.

Here, two of the Narnia children are lamenting the dead lion Aslan.

“Oh, it’s too bad,” sobbed Lucy; “they might’ve left the body alone.”

“Who’s done it?” cried Susan.  “What does it mean?  Is it magic?”

“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs.  “It is more magic.”   They looked round.  There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.

“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as frightened as they were glad.

“Aren’t you dead then, dear Aslan?” replied Lucy.

“Not now,” said Aslan.

[ . . . ]

“And now,” said Aslan presently, “to business.   I feel I am going to roar.  You had better put your fingers in your ears.”

And they did.  And Aslan stood up and when he opened his mouth to roar his face became so terrible that they did not dare to look at it.  And they saw all the trees in front of him bend before the blast of his roaring as grass bends in a meadow before the wind.  Then he said,

“We have a long journey to go.  You must ride on me.”  And he crouched down and the children climbed onto this warm, golden back, and Susan sat first, holding on tightly to his mane and Lucy sat behind holding on tightly to Susan.

https://blcasey.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/e4554-lww-book-cover.jpg?w=636

P.S.  Here is another LW&W excerpt (posted on my other blog) in which Lewis, seeming to follow the apostle Peter, tells of Aslan’s nonresistance.

Personal and business relationships

My last essay mused on (mostly internet-based) business relationships in terms of paying bills, making “profile” changes online, and the vagaries of the world of technologically delivered “customer service.”  Here, I’ll keep it more brief and deal with new/anticipated personal and business relationships in a small town.  These relationships include, but are obviously not limited to, these:

  • coworkers
  • mechanics at an auto shop where I was pleased to find that the manager knows my new boss’s boss
  • clerks at stores near where my wife will be working
  • the guy who operates the trash collection truck
  • a few men who gather early on Tuesday mornings to listen to video-based study of Paul’s letter to the Romans
  • workers at the country treasurer’s office where vehicles are registered
  • people in my neighborhood
  • yes, the neighbors across the back yard whose volume kept me from sleeping the second half of the night last night
  • staff at a nice Mexican restaurant called Maria’s

Storefront

The private party from whom we bought a used pickup truck is someone who deserves to be treated with respect.  Nor does it escape me that the people from whom we did not buy vehicles also deserve courtesy and communication.  (As I was drafting this, I realized I owed one more person some communication, not only feeling that it was the courteous thing to do, but also because he had mentioned appreciating our having followed through, keeping two appointments, unlike other “flaky” people.  I did text him before posting this.)

I did what I thought was a nice thing yesterday morning (and am not mentioning it here to pat myself on the back, but to encourage similar activities in you and me in the future).  I waited outside with our city-owned, rolling trash dumpster as the truck came to our tricky street, wanting to find out where I could place the dumpster each week so the driver had the easiest time reaching it with the truck’s robotic arm.  (It’s a very tight cul-de-sac, and I had seen him struggle last week, because of other parked cars and the narrow space available.)  I think the driver appreciated my gesture.  I am after good relationships.

My desire is to be a person that others appreciate for keeping his word, dealing in above-board ways, treating people with consideration, and doing little things that encourage others.  Once in a while, I write an appreciation¹ letter to some company with which I’ve dealt by phone or WWW or e-mail.  This kind of thing seems more significant, though, in local, face-to-face relationships.

In my town, I want to live the golden rule and brighten a few corners.

B. Casey, 8/20/16


¹ I also write “fussy” letters that object to company mistakes, bad policies, and the like, but that is beside the point here.

Carrying on personal business

The world of personal business these days is complex.

Although I’ve whittled down the number of entities with which I have business relationships, it is still time-consuming and sometimes stressful to maintain reasonable online security, revise information on the WWW, manage cookies, cache, User IDs and passwords, and more.  It can require days or even weeks to work through the list of online necessaries during the process of a move.  In order to keep things humming in a normal, responsible life in the Western world, these things are important.  We don’t want our banks or other organizations to become unhappy with us, and perish the thought of identity theft.

Ruth Casey, approx. 1990
Ruth Casey, approx. 1985

My grandmother, Ruth Casey, lived most of her days before ATMs and all her days before online banking became widely available.  I remember that she used to pay bills in person, visiting several places around town.  Even when I had some direct knowledge of her habits (when I was a college student benefiting from her good cooking and good-naturedness), I thought that was odd, but I suppose it made sense for her, given that she couldn’t have had more than seven or eight monthly bills, and all the offices were within three miles of each other.  It was simple then.

Now, possibilities for personal business seem limitless—and can be either blissfully convenient or paradoxically inconvenient.  I tend to set up as many automatic functions as I can, so I don’t have to write checks or make too many manual transactions, but sometimes, conversations are necessary.

Communication with company representatives can present challenges.  I prefer simple web forms (typically found within three or four clicks) to any other method of making changes, but 10% of the websites are down for maintenance right when I need them, and another 10-15% for some reason have decided not to offer web forms for address changes.  An e-mail or a phone call is sometimes required.

The online chat option is one that I treat as though leprous, touching it only if I feel protected.  Today, I thought I’d try an online (typed) chat again.  Pity that I tried with AT&T, which is a company that seems to draw more than its share of “horrible customer service” assessments to accompany its solid, even impressive slate of technology offerings.  Our first experience with AT&T was when it sold (then didn’t sell, then sold, didn’t sell, and finally did sell) a service to us in another city.  The service turned out not to be offered in the area, but they had sold it anyway!  The company even mailed us hardware and connection materials, and we couldn’t use them.  In a final offense, AT&T made us drive many miles to a UPS center to send the stuff back.

Fast forward 2 years.  We had a few difficulties in setting up service, but once it was activated, we had no real problems.

Now, a year later, I decide to try to correct a little problem via the online chat window.  The conversation below occurred today, 8/18/16.

AT&T: Our agents are currently assisting other customers. Please wait and the next available agent will assist you.
AT&T: Hello! Thanks for choosing AT&T Chat.
Brian: Good morning. I don’t usually have trouble with this kind of thing and do not use my att.net address as my main e-mail account, but it’s bugging me that someone at some point (a year ago) misspelled my last name, and I can’t find how to change it. I think this would be in a default “Reply-To” field somewhere.
Markell: Hello, my name is Markell. How can we assist you today?
Markell: I apologize for the inconvenience. I can help you with that.
Markell: May I have a contact number so that we may reach you via phone or text with information about your AT&T services?
Brian: Thanks. My contact # has not changed, but I do not want any information other than an answer to my question here.
Markell: You are welcome, Brian.
Markell: I’ll look into this for you right away.
Brian: OK, thanks.
Markell: You are welcome.
Markell: Just to confirm, do you want to correct the last name on the U-verse account?
Brian: I don’t know about the account per se; I don’t think it has a misspelling. The problem I notice is in the att.net e-mail reply-to address (or something similar). My last name is Casey (not Cesey).
Brian: I simply can’t find a setting in webmail that allows me to change the reply-to address name.
Markell: Thank you for all the information provided.
Markell: I am checking the information for you, Brian.
Markell: Could you please help me with the AT&T E-mail/User ID that you’re trying to access online?
Brian: blcasey@att.net. (There is no problem with logging in or access. It’s only the spelling of my name in e-mail replies that has the problem.)
Markell: Thank you.
Markell: I am checking the information for you
Markell: Please allow me 1-2 minutes.
Markell: For your security and to ensure we protect your privacy, please verify the 4-digit passcode on your account.
Markell: The four-digit AT&T passcode would have been created when your AT&T service was ordered.
Brian: I know you are just doing what you’re supposed to do, but I would like to state that this is taking WAY too long. I asked a question that could have had a fairly quick answer, and so much of this has been extraneous. Again, I am not faulting you, because I believe you have to do certain things in replying. I hope a manager sees this, though. It is frustrating to spend 20 minutes for a 2-minute issue. My passcode is [XXXX].
Markell: I am sorry for the trouble caused.
Markell: Your account has been authenticated. Thank you.
Markell: There is no option to make changes to the U-verse primary user ID.
Brian: Also, I do not need “security” and protection of privacy for the sake of resolving this particular issue. Thank you for understanding.
Markell: Do not worry. I will help you remove the blcasey@att.net ID from the account.
Brian: NO.!
Brian: Do not remove that!
Markell: So, you need to register the U-verse account again with the correct name.
Markell: Sure.
Brian: Please understand. I only need a spelling change!
Brian: Let’s just drop this, and I’ll try to get it resolved by phone at another time.
Markell: It is the U-verse primary user ID blcasey@att.net.
Markell: There is no option is available to make spell changes on it.
Markell: The ID blcasay@att.net is available right now.
Brian: It was not my error. It was someone else’s error at some point.
Markell: So, you can register it
Brian: The spelling problem is not in the e-mail address. It is in my name, as stated.
Markell: Yes. I do see that.
Brian: And … you have spelled it incorrectly, too.
Brian: Please, please, just drop this and make no changes. Please verify that my blcasey@att.net is still active.
Markell: Sure.
Markell: Your existing U-verse ID is active. I didn’t make any changes with out your approval.
Markell: That’s the reason, I have authenticated your account to provide the ID blcasay@att.net ID is available to register.
Markell: I do see that the name on the U-verse account is Brian Casey
Markell: I will help you change it to Brian Casay
Markell: I am sorry for the typo.
Markell: *Brian Casey
Brian: Thank you. I don’t know why this has been so difficult. blcasay is yet another misspelling. I have no interest in creating another account. My account and e-mail address are fine. The spelling is c-a-s-e-y. My e-mail address will remain the same.
Brian: I only want the reply name to be correct. I will wait and try this again another time. Thank you for your time. Goodbye.
Markell: I am sorry. I misspelled it.
Markell: Meantime, I just want to ask are all of your computers and devices able to connect to the Internet?
Brian: I am not interested in answering unrelated questions as I have a schedule to keep. As long as nothing has been changed, we will leave this here. Thank you again for your efforts.

Fortunately, almost all the other, recent changes have been easier than this one!  For the present, I stand by my aversion to the chat window as a methodology for customer service.

Next:  local personal/business relationships

Diversity

Words are best defined in context, and “diversity” is no exception.

Now, I might not be a fan of everything that has come from the societal, political push toward quote-unquote diversity, but I have to believe that diversity, in its purest form, is a better value than free speech.  On the road recently, I came to Harrison, Arkansas—a few miles from the site of the national HQ of the (reportedly) largest manifestation¹ of the KKK.  It was no surprise, then, when I sighted just south of Harrison a billboard that boldly proclaimed a very un-diverse message:

https://i1.wp.com/www.dailystormer.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/diverstiy-is-white-genocide.jpeg

Imagine then my lack of surprise at the “diversity” manifest in the apparently competing billboard less than a mile closer in to town.

DIVERSITY
IS A CODE WORD FOR
SALVATION

I’m not even sure what that means, but it’s clear that there is, or was, a billboard war going on.  At least the sign pictured above has apparently been displayed for more than a year, to the chagrin of most Harrison residents.  Is there racial diversity in and around Harrison?  Sure there is.  Is there a “Christian” (the quote marks here indicate affiliative Christianity, as opposed to the bona fide kind) person in the KKK in Harrison?  I imagine so.  Are there warring factions in the town’s polity?  It seems so.

In our society, racial diversity is frequently connected to justice.  It might even be assumed that a diverse group has enjoyed some measure of justice, or else it would not be diverse.  The matter is of course not that simple, but I can affirm that intentionally just/fair, kind, and dare-I-say merciful treatment of others is involved in a healthy diverse group.  Lately I’ve been confronted—based both on reading and pondering, and also by the words of a few correspondents—by thoughts of justice.  How will I as a would-be follower of the Messiah affirm the just treatment of people and even decry injustice?  What will this look like in my life?

I’m especially interested in diversity and good, kind, just action within smaller groups.  How will I do with differences in a small, local body of Christians?  In a small workplace?  In a town?  As conscientiously, intentionally apolitical as I am, I do exist within various polities, and it is incumbent on me to live in a positive, productive, peaceful way within all groups, inasmuch as it depends on me.


¹ I did my internet-writer duty and looked it up on Wikipedia.  Some northern readers might find it hard to believe that the KKK still really exists, but I already knew that.  I learned that “three distinct past and present movement” comprise the KKK, and that there is currently more than one KKK organization.

Spirit, breath, air, wind

When you drive a car all the time, never walking or locomoting in any other way, you notice certain things, but you miss others.  On the other hand, riding on two wheels permits one to notice a different set of things, or at least to notice things differently.  When riding a bicycle or motorcycle, I have sometimes been struck with various differences in terms of sights and sounds.

Air is one of the reasons one rides a motorcycle.  I say things like “I love feeling the air” and “I just wanna catch some air.”  (One riding acquaintance called me a “fellow bug-toothed rebel,” but that’s another story.)  The air may be muggy and stultifying, refreshing, or varied.  On motorcycle rides through rural areas in which various types and extents of vegetation have grown, one notices cool-air spots.

I first noticed the difference in the air back in 2003 while heading out of Atchison, Kansas on 6th Street on my Yamaha 600 Radian.  The southward route becomes Old Rt. 73, also called Sheridan Road, as it works its way toward Leavenworth.  In spots along this road, the air may suddenly drop 10 or 15 degrees. Sheridan-Sherman RdYou look around, and you notice a small farm with a horse or two, a grove, or a meadow through which the prairie wind has rolled and cooled things down for the past few hours.  You might for a short time feel ensconced by trees that have banned the afternoon sun.  The air quality and temperature can vary, and you notice it as it rushes past your face.  (You wouldn’t likely have noticed these things if you were driving a car.)

Air.  Wind.  And breath and spirit.

Typically, when one encounters the English word “spirit” in a New Testament document, the Koiné Greek antecedent is pneuma.  (The Hebrew antecedent for an Old Testament instance is likely ruach.)  This Wikipedia page may mislead (it’s not really airheady but is complicated) at the beginning, but it shows some noun connections.  Not that all these terms are exact synonyms—such precise inter-language relationships rarely if ever exist), mind you—but the words have a high correlation, so the possibility does exist, depending on the context, that several English words—e.g., breath or air or spirit—could be substituted.  It intrigues me that the life-giving air around me could be conceptually related to the very breath that the Spirit of God breathed into the first human.  Maybe I’m too far out on a weak limb here.

[Thinking of limbs reminds me of central Arkansas, where the combination of storms and tree types results in more downed tree branches in people’s yards than anywhere else I’ve lived.  And then I go back to air and wind.  Arkansas air is often the stagnant, hot, horrifically humid kind that doesn’t say “motorcycle ride” to me.  Which is one reason I’m glad to be returning to the rolling hills of eastern Kansas, where those cool-air spots are.  Looking forward to breathing and catching some wind again—maybe, just maybe on another motorcycle.]

In the temperance zone: prohibition in hymnals

Last month, a new friend¹ mentioned temperance movement (related to prohibition) songs in hymnals, & I looked at him inquisitively, not ever having seen any songs in that category.  His Methodist experience had exposed him to these historically society-conscious songs, but he later found that he had exaggerated the number somewhat.  Regardless, he did find and mail to me four (from a hymnal titled Eternal Praise for the Church and Sunday School, © 1917, Hope Publishing Co, Chicago) that show up in the “Temperance” category² in the book’s index.

These songs are curiosities in terms of political history, Christianity, and church music!  There was a cause afoot!  Here are some choice lyrics:

God’s on our side.  He will not fail us.
Rise in the strength God gives today;
Strike down the foes that would assail us
Banish the liquor-curse for aye.

I never dreamed that words like “whiskey,” lager,” and “drunkard” would appear in a hymnal.  The chorus (and title) of the above song, “A Thousand Years of Prohibition,” might even have subconsciously suggested even that the millennium is associated with the lack of alcoholic beverages:

A thousand years of prohibition! Lift up your eyes.  Behold the dawn!
The Nation’s hope shall find fruition when from our land the curse has gone.

And then there’s this song called “Down in de Bottom ob de Glass” by J.B. Herbert.  (Git ready.  This is a hoot.)

BottomofGlass2

BottomofGlass1

The above song, written in a sort of Negro dialect, showcases these choice lyrics:

[of the red color of wine]:  It don’t look good on de nose . . . de redder an’ redder it grows.

O de foamy beer, it bring good cheer, an’ it make you glad an’ gladder;
Till it pizen (poison) your hide, an’ your whole inside, an’ bloat you up like a bladder.”

The chorus warns that “dere’s snakes an’ bugs an’ dregs an’ drugs . . . down in de bottom ob de glass,” and that liquor will “git you sure, at las’.”  I have enjoyed giving two living-room performances of this song.  It really is a hoot.

The song bears a 1914 copyright date (before modern U.S. Copyright or Prohibition laws took effect) and is arranged as a solo, musically reminiscent of basso profundo solo songs like “Ol’ Man River,” “When Big Profundo Sang Low C” and “Big Bass Viol” (historic recording here—listen all the way to the end!)

Can you imagine singing songs like these “in church”?  “Hymns” are so frequently looked down on these days (even by those trying to be nice), no matter the definition used.  But some of these anti-alcohol songs are so far from any real definition of hymn or gospel song or spiritual song that it’s difficult even to imagine their having been included in a “hymnal.”  (I had to think twice before categorizing this blog post as “church music.”)  Why would they be considered Christian songs?  Well, I wonder if the temperance and prohibition causes aroused almost the same energy then as abortion does today.  To the degree that any such cause is nationalistic, I think its place in church is tenuous at best, but to the extent that it is genuinely (if over-zealously) concerned with the effects of the over-use of alcohol on people and society, I am sympathetic.

My own views on alcohol (use, ramifications, industry, advertising, etc.) in secular society are more conservative than my views on alcohol among responsible people, Christians included.  In the former, larger context, one can easily discern the damaging effects on people and the rampant waste of money.  In the other context, based on my experience (which involves not a single sighting of anyone intoxicated and a great many people who drink moderately and stay under certain radar screens), I am decidedly concerned about legalism within conservative institutions—and the resultant hiding and combativeness—and not really concerned at all about actual consumption.  I think prohibition in any manifestation is shallow and short-sighted, but living in a “temperance  zone” is definitely a good idea.

Whatever your views, I hope you find the humor in the temperance/prohibition songs.  In the very imitable (and often-imitated) words of Larry the Cable Guy, “I don’t care who you are.  That’s funny right there.”

B. Casey, 7/29/16


¹ Thanks to Dr. Richard Davies for this interesting material!

² The Temperance category of this hymnal lists 17 songs, including a few I have sung and have never thought of as anti-alcohol in their message:  “The Fight Is On” (which very well could have been conceived in the Temperance or pre-Prohibition movement), and a few others which were decidedly not originally related to alcohol:  “Rescue the Perishing,” “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and “Stand Up for Jesus.”

Why R.C.?

Image result for rc colaIf I were to choose a cola from among Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and R.C., I would choose R.C.  But this is not about cola from a vending machine or on the shelf.  This is about Roman Catholicism on the screen.

I happen to have re-met a R.C. priest again recently.  I find him to be a good man, a caring man, a good communicator stuck in a mixed-up system.  Surely there are many other priests out there like this one.  I wonder why R.C. priests are typically the butts of religion jokes and funny situations on the screen.

I also wonder why the R.C. religion seems to be the religious system of choice whenever some type of Christianity is woven in to TV shows and movies.  Take a couple of well-reputed series as examples:  The West Wing and Blue Bloods.  Each of these involves strong principal characters (President Bartlet, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry; and Commissioner Frank Reagan, respectively) who exhibit relatively committed Catholic faith and/or moral fiber.  Those “good” characters are somewhat rare in my experience, though.  Often, when a R.C. priest appears, he is a somewhat negative or sideline character.

Why does R.C.ism seem always to typify or represent the whole of Christ-ian faith?  These possibilities come to mind:

  • A large, even disproportionate number of Roman Catholics might have found their way into TV and movies.  (These observations beg other questions, such as why religious professionals are often portrayed negatively, and whether the TV and movie script writers themselves are disbelievers, lapsed, apathetic, or simply more interested in humor than anything else.)
  • The situational backdrop is often in large cities such as New York City and Washington—cities that have for many decades had large numbers of citizens with ethnic backgrounds in historically R.C. countries such as Italy, Spain, and Ireland.
  • My wife also pointed out the visual aspect as a factor:  if a viewer sees a priest in a collar, the script writer doesn’t have to explain anything; everyone knows he’s a priest.  Also, ornate cathedrals can be good for videography.
  • Despite its depth and breadth, historically speaking, Roman Catholicism is at some points just funny.  Because more people have some sense of Romanism than, say, of Baptistism or Pentecostalism, many will laugh.
  • Script writers may just be uninformed enough to assume all manifestations of Christ-ian religion have priests or priest-like figures.

As an avowedly non-Roman-Catholic type of Christ-believer, I find the R.C. slant annoying at best.  On the other hand, if the references are often going to be negative, I suppose I’d rather they relate to Catholicism—which has become, after all, a run-amok system superimposed on the first-century Way of faith.

B. Casey, 7/23/16

A jolt at Jason’s

Mistakes can be embarrassing.  They can annoy or mark us as careless.  Little mistakes may even doggedly pursue or beset us—such as the mistakes on the two introductory book pages I had written, proofed, revised, proofed, read again, published, found errors in, revised, proofed, published, and still found errors in.  (Yes, I revised it still again.)

At Jason’s Deli a month or so ago, the following table card advertised a charitable cause.  Now, the cancer-fight cause is obviously good, and Jason’s is a good place to get great salads and more, but the proofing was not so good.  See the white words in the red background below.

I don’t think they meant to have the cancer victim saying she never had any doubt she would lose the battle.  If the Kristin they’ve quoted is an actual person and not a created, representative figure, I have to think she had a jolt when she saw the table cards!

B. Casey, 7/23/16