Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stephen Scobie, Gospel

I was prompted to read this book, finally, after three years of seeing it on my shelf, by a friend's coming out about the depth of her atheism. I'm casually out myself, have been for years, but it has never been the cause for me it's becoming for her.

In spite of my atheism, though, the challenge of belief, especially Christian belief given the riven nature of Christ (divine/human), fascinates me, and that's why I continue to pick up books like Stephen Scobie's Gospel. That's additionally true when it's contemporary verse; I don't read testimony.

Two things about this long poem make it something I'll come back to again: Scobie's decision to focus on the young Christ's relationship with Joseph, his father-not-Father, and the (there's no other word for it) loveliness of its lines.

An example. When the young Christ loses track of time while debating scripture in the Temple, and his parents come looking for him, worried at his long absence, Christ is surprised by their worry: "'It's all right,' I said, 'don't you know / I must attend to my father's business?'" Meaning God, of course, but the boy's allegiance to Joseph is strong, and he hurts Joseph with that word "father." These lines are among the ones that will keep me coming back:

It just slipped out, immediately
I wanted it back. Joseph was stunned,
the hurt like a hammer all over his face,
he turned away, stepped back, looked anywhere
for somewhere to go. And all my heart
went aching after him, and followed him

another twenty years. (p.13)

And then much later the kindness of wanting to tell the soldier nailing his hand to the cross that he's holding the hammer wrong, will hurt his back. As I say, lovely.

(Scobie, Stephen. Gospel. Red Deer, Alberta: Red Deer College Press, 1994.)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Paul Honore, In Praise of Slow

I wanted this book last Christmas, but I had to buy it myself after one of my students reviewed it for the nonfiction class I'm teaching this semester.

Gist: slow down. Take your time, and you'll live more richly. Eat slowly and well, and you'll enjoy it more but weigh less. Spend more time on sex (hurrah!), and it'll be better for both of you. This sort of thing.

It's a rallying cry and commonsensical and such a relief. I want to get behind it, and talk about how much I enjoyed peeling my own carrots today, from my garden, that I'll cook into soup tomorrow with chicken stock I made myself from the saved and frozen bones of various chicken meals we've had over the last month or two.

But I can't get behind it. Not the way I'd like, because it reads like a wealthy person's manual for a hobby that looks like social justice but ends up snobbish. I want to live more deeply, pace Thoreau's "deliberately," but remember that Thoreau had friends he could stay with, and no real need to live that way. Honore's case studies, too many of them, are people who got far enough ahead in wealth accumulation that they could coast on their wealth; they see their lives as downshifted and simplified, but there are those who would see their downshifted lives as luxurious.

Damn boomers, I say. I say it too often, but today I mean it.

Live slowly and deeply, friends. I'm continuing to try that myself, as I have been for the last few years (in spite of my punishing work schedule), but if I think of Honore's cases, I get cranky, and that doesn't help me reach the depth of calm I'm looking for.