The term “a month of Sundays”, besides being the title of an under-appreciated Don Henley song, takes on a different meaning for me. Normally it expresses a long, dreary interval. Well, it means that to me, but it also has an inverted meaning: Every month feels like a month of nothing but Sunday after Sunday. It’s like I’m in a particularly bad episode of I Dream of Jeannie.
Today I got mired in travel shows. The siren of HD is almost always enough to lure me in, but travel-related material? That’s a double-whammy. I’m utterly fascinated by the world from an anthropological view. The things that have evolved, the things that have emerged or emerged multiply independently, things which scale, and, most importantly, those features which are singular and unique.
Uniqueness is the most important because those are the things that drive back through the past most obviously, illuminating a specific timeline back to at least its own origins. But they aren’t necessarily the most interesting.
For me, the most interesting discoveries are the “conserved” patterns. These patterns can be monoclonal (single point of origin) or polyclonal (multiple independent origins, like the machinery of the mammalian eye vs., say, the octopus eye), and that’s the beauty of conserved patterns for me. I can say with some certainty that the use of cabbage as a staple of diet always arises form its general availability in a given region, but the uses of cabbage vary so wildly that something else comes into play: cultural differences.
And when you can observe cultural differences that are wildly different, discovering samenesses across cultures can be terrific fun for me: In Eastern Europe, one preparation of cabbage was as Halušky, which was called so because of the starchy dumplings added: a chopped onion sauteed in butter until soft & translucent; add a head of chopped cabbage and cook it down until it’s soft and limp; add salt and lots of pepper; add a starch (I grew up with my matrilineals adding bow-tie pasta). In Korea, kimchi is that national food…hell, it’s the national pasttime. But there’s kimchi fried rice in Korea: a chopped onion sauteed in a small amount of oil until soft & translucent; add a few cups of chopped kimchi and cook it all down until it’s soft and limp; add the juice from the kimchi to taste; add two cups of cooked rice. It’s really all the same thing.
I digress. (ya think? they all ask)
Watching a travel show about parts of Spain landed me in a segment on Ávila. Spain has always been very Catholic. Catholicism is the perfectest example of when an aggressive monoclonal cultural strain overtakes and supplants any number of cultural oddities—many of which were likely of the polyclonal variety—and rewrites the story of Time to present an artificial monoclonal origin.
I have often noticed in my life that Catholics and other Christians often take this coercion out of context, call it a Universal and proclaim it all in God’s Holy Name. Even non-theists succumb to this kind of trap, but not so nearly as often as theists.
My worldview looks at the physics, chemistry and physical chemistry present on planet earth and sees certain biological developments as highly likely (a photosensitive organ in a circadian reality, for example), with evolutionary pressures and an enormous amount of time ups those likelihoods into near-inevitabilities.
To god-folks it may seem like I’m just taking the long, wrong way around to arriving at the same conclusion that “God did it”, but subtle differences are often the most profound. Do you know algebra? Do you know the difference between a function that’s equal to zero and one that approaches zero as one variable gets larger and larger (or smaller and smaller)? As my high school analytical geometry teacher loved to say, “you don’t know your asymptote from a hole in the graph”. Oddly, that dumbass saying carries a certain wisdom here and now.
These are all things which strike deep and backward in Time, then slingshot forward again to inform an ever-mutable modern worldview. It’s like a little hit of wonder-drug and, so giddied, I hop horizontally from one place to another.
Google Earth helps.
The Catholic Mother
fucker Church reconstructed much of Europe in Her Own Image when she enjoyed a Microsoftian monopoly on thought. And we’re back to Ávila: St. Therese of Ávila is the most famous export of that town. Still. And seeing the shrines and various esoterica (including a mummified finger from her body, with a bright and bejeweled gold ring still on it!) made me wonder if this was the same St. Therese who inspired the St. Therese’s parish of my childhood and adolescence. It turns out it wasn’t. There was also a St. Therese, the Little Flower, a French girl who went from spoiled-brat to God-lover after a vision and got herself canonized for it.
I googled to discover this difference, and that led me to google the parish “back home”. I discovered they had a webpage. That was an odd evolution in and of itself: I was the guy who formatted and typed up (and copied/published!) the weekly church bulletin back when I was in Junior High and High School: It involved an Olivetti typewriter which had auto-erase and auto-centering buffers and variable-spaced typefaces—quite advanced for its time!—a drum-type mimeo-master burner (which took the finished paper version of the bulletin and turned it into a “plate” that you wrapped on the drum of a wet-ink A.B Dick contraption and ran a stack of paper thru to produce the bulletins for people to take home.
Today, if you insisted on producing paper at all, a Mac and a networked copy machine would be all it took. Imagine.
Still that webpage is a natural evolution of the original paper “product”. Such irony.
Anyway, the calendar that appeared on that webpage, listing daily and weekly Masses, church group events, etc., showed me something about the organization of a liturgical year (well, 3-year cycle) that I’d forgotten about: when a given Sunday was not a Holy Day, nor a specific celebration, it was a Sunday in Ordinary Time.
What a strange way to describe the mundane in-between. I remember, little fag that I was, despising “Ordinary Time”, eschewing the mundane for the fabulous Holy Days of Obligation, Solemnities and annual specials. Today, older fag that I am, I despise my current lack of Ordinary Time, living instead the perpetual Sunday—special in ways that steer me ever further away from the main thoroughfare of my life.
Oh, to find that onramp and get back to it.
I know that’s not to be, though, at least not until certain things are completed. I won’t go into details of my medical reality in order to flesh out this thought, but today, about two hours ago, in the midst of non-critically observing all of this, my neck spasmed in a way that felt like it was trying to twist itself off my body. Occipital tendrils of pain literally blinded me. I waited for it to pass, but it didn’t: I stood up, hoping that would help. But that just added spasms down to my lower back. I could “see” my kidneys limned in pain. My stomach decided to bitch at me for having taking my otherwise uneventful meds and left me nauseous.
Oh, it finally passed. For the most part: my stomach still feels kicked in. Pain killers rushed to my defense, like all those city-states in Europe that had constructed walls around themselves for protection.
Sadly, this wasn’t even special along any vector except intensity. This is still my Ordinary Time. And this Tuesday day might as well be a Sunday, the Catholic day of rest, of even Ordinary Time as a day away from one’s own ordinary time.
I’m tired of this ordinariness away from my ordinariness.