Saturday hippie: Protests

Sometimes it was a picket line; sometimes, a sit-in; sometimes, a big march.

It’s one more element of the Hippie Trails saga.

What was your role? What do you remember most intensely?

What causes are you now supporting?

Peace~*~

Hippies came – and still come – in all varieties. Saturday Hippie is a weekly feature that highlights a counterculture awareness and spirit, including a vision of a harmonious global commonwealth on the horizon. The work and the lessons didn’t end in the ’60s and ’70s. Here’s to the Revolution, near and far.

Friday payday: The dummy was just a blueprint

“OK, Joe, what is it?”

“Can you tell me where this is supposed to go?”

“Where’s the dummy?”

“Over there.”

“Well, go get it. What’s it show?”

“Oh, I see now. Thanks. By the way, we can’t find the photo for Page Nine.” Belle rifled through all the baskets, called the photographer, walked into the darkness, nosed around, parted the light-safety curtains, entered the big offset camera room, checked the floor, and finally found the photo stuck to the bottom of Moonglow’s shoe. “Uh, thanks, I knew I’d seen it somewhere.” He spoke without moving his lips. Another twenty-nine minute delay. Paper would be late again.

Hometown_News For more of my novel, click here.

Watch out for Coyote

Of course, an approach to “little Caesars” lurking in money matters is not confined to Biblical stories alone. Gary Snyder applied it in a scholarly way in his He Who Hunted Birds in His Fathers Village: The Dimensions of a Haida Myth (Grey Fox, 1979), and Robert Bly took it to a Grimm Brothers’ tale in his best-seller Iron John (Addison-Wesley, 1990). As Joseph Campbell has argued, any myth is explosive and should not be confused with misconception.

You’ll see ways that Greek and Roman mythology can sharpen our money perspective. Money-issues wisdom can appear in the mythology even of cultures that did not have money as we know it. Consider prehistoric North America, where the widespread traditional figure of the Trickster, a supernatural figure you may find helpful at times, commonly appears as Coyote. Remember, though, with Tricksters you don’t want to get too close, because they rarely put your interests first; besides, despite their best intentions, things often go wrong. And you don’t want to let him near your daughters. Anthropologists who first recorded many of these tales found many of the “earthy” encounters too intense for Victorian sensibilities; in their scholarly journals, the text for ribald passages shifts from English to Latin. Fortunately, contemporary presentations are widely available, including Barry Holstun Lopez’ Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping With His Daughter (Andrews and McMeel, 1977).

Coyote presents an often humorous awareness of the dual-nature of labor and possessions, too. He’s a reminder of the dark side of money issues, especially the ways they often seem to spill over into sexuality as well. Beyond, however, there’s the community and continuing reconciliation – or at least acceptance.

On a hot day he gives his blanket to Grandfather Rock, then demands it back when the weather turns chilly. Tellingly, he sends his companion, Fox, to retrieve it. When he gambles, he complains unless he wins everything. For a best-dressed contest, he steals Otter’s coat.

Even so, he brings a dead girl back to life. He brings fire to the people. He creates the earth and the first humans, arranges the stars. He kills monsters and evil spirits. In short, sometimes he’s irreplaceable.

Have you ever seen Coyote in your business dealings? The contractor you’re hiring for some remodeling? The automobile dealer or mechanic?

Have you ever become Coyote?

Would Coyote make a good figure for our currency? His grinning mug on one side, his tail trotting off on the other?

 

Wednesday writer: Emily Payne

Emily celebrating with her daughter on her deaconing day.
Emily celebrating with her daughter on her deaconing day.

NAME:  Emily Payne
PLACE OF ORIGIN:  Cape Town, South Africa
CURRENT BASE:  Melbourne, Australia
FIELD: Theology, mostly
LATEST MILESTONE:  I’m working on a thesis in patristics I hope will eventually become a book.

THE CONFESSION

What attracts you to the genre you work within?

I am an Anglican priest. Writing is, for me, one aspect of living out the vocation to serve God and God’s people.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl. My brain doesn’t work in the mornings!

How does your environment affect your writing?

This is a really interesting question.  I live quite a long way from where I work (I usually use my office at work for writing, because I have a toddler at home!) and so settling down to write becomes an expedition rather than something I can do for a short time, at a whim.  It is detrimental to making good progress.

For a getaway or travel opportunity, which would be your first choice?

A city – one with lots of history to explore.  Rome or Paris or London, perhaps.

Name one thing that makes you angry.

Abuse of power will get me every time.

What do you do as a spiritual practice?

I could talk here about the daily office, and weekly Eucharist, and so forth, but I suspect you’re asking about things that are less “religious.” I sing in a community choir for musical outlet.  I try to find time to write.  But mostly my spiritual practice is about the discipline to find a healthy balance as a working mum.  One where prayer, personal needs, relationships, and work are part of a coherent whole.  I am very much still a novice at this!

Coffee or tea?

Tea. Coffee makes me quite ill.

Describe your significant other in one word or phrase.

Gentleman.

What question would you most like to ask others? (And your answer?)

I always want to ask others what motivates them? What gets them out of bed in the morning?

It seems I am an incurable optimist; I am motivated by the idea of making a difference. I come alive to something when I can see how it will benefit someone else.

ADVICE

Life is too short to spend it being bullied by others. Find your boundaries and learn to assert them!

A FAVORITE SAMPLE

A very short poem:

Lift high the lamp of sorrowful dreams.
Its quiet light comes
from a thousand yesterdays’ stars,
fallen and dimmed.
Can it yet show forth
the beginning of tomorrow’s path?

~*~

Emily, I should add, is also a fascinating blogger — one whose cover I won’t blow at the moment. Our exchanges have, however, reminded me of the place of sermons as literary models over the centuries. And her response?

Sermons as literature are rather strange, in that they are (of course) primarily written to be spoken. For this reason I know some preachers who refuse to share their texts, saying that they’re not meant to be read. I figure if I’m going to put all of that work into them, I might as well try to squeeze maximum impact out of them!

Sounds good to me!

~*~

Wednesday Writer is a weekly feature profiling devoted writers of all stripes, most of them laboring outside the celebrity spotlight. To my mind, they are the lifeblood of the literary world, both as active readers and exponents of the empowered word.

Eye on the Androscoggin

Originating high in New Hampshire before veering off through Maine to the sea, the Androscoggin River historically powered many mills along its course, from Berlin and Gorham in New Hampshire on through Lewiston and Auburn, Lisbon Falls, and Brunswick and Topsham. It is shown here at the tidal basin in Brunswick/Topsham as it heads into Merrymeeting Bay on its way to the Atlantic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Saturday hippie: Personal identity

How do see yourself back then – laid back, intense, activist, mystical? The range goes on a long while. For example, one friend denies actually being a hippie and insists instead, “I was more of a freak.” I demur. You should have seen his hair — a naturally blond Afro — or the way he danced.

It’s one more element of the Hippie Trails saga.

Tell us how you fit into the scene – or didn’t. Maybe even where you are today.

Digs~*~

Hippies came – and still come – in all varieties. Saturday Hippie is a weekly feature that highlights a counterculture awareness and spirit, including a vision of a harmonious global commonwealth on the horizon. The work and the lessons didn’t end in the ’60s and ’70s. Here’s to the Revolution, near and far.

Friday payday: The daily drill

Merry Sherry continued. Drought, liquor violations, car dealer indictments, dark-walled alleys, Laundromats, parking lots, boarded-up houses, Realtor licensing, military service notes, retirement parties, bank teller promotions, high school honor rolls, two bank mergers, grade school vandalism, claims of flying saucers, small-check forgeries, preteen beauty pageants, cheerleader tryouts, class reunions, family tensions. As soon as the editors scattered, Thumper rocked toward the elevator. Cup in hand and grocery bags under his puffy eyes, he needed a seventh coffee. He hadn’t been to bed all night.

Hometown_News

For more of my novel, click here.

Ports of entry, portals of exchange

Money is always there but the pockets change; it is not in the same pockets after a change, and that is all there is to say about money. – Gertrude Stein

*   *   *

The acerbic vibrancy of Gertrude Stein’s observation emanates from its flippant irony. For most of us, money is not always there, and there’s definitely much more to say. As for change, we’ll see it’s not just from one pocket to another. There’s another irony as well: this is the woman who insisted we look at a rose first and foremost for what it is, free of all of its accumulated symbolism, and now she appears to be brushing off a similar close look at currency and its many companions.

What I’ve encountered instead is that there are so many places to begin the discussion that it’s often hard to know which one to pick.

I’m going to suggest we revisit a New Testament story where Jesus is presented with a trick question about money. As it turns out, the incident demonstrates how relevant religion can be in helping us understand the workings of money. His reply is one everybody knows, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.” It’s one that’s so widely circulated when no longer really hear it, especially in its revolutionary dimensions. Let me say simply, my interpretation of that text today is quite opposite what I had been taught as a child.

I say it’s a trick question because it’s posed by opponents who flip him a seemingly innocent question about the coinage of his times. Inclusion of the story in three Biblical accounts – Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17, and Luke 20:20-26 – demonstrates its importance in the unfolding Gospel. What appears, on first glance, to be a naïve question turns out, on closer examination, to be loaded. And so does the answer.

First off, he demands to see a coin – and his accusers pull one from their pocket (or wherever they carried their cash in those days – money belt, maybe?) At any rate, that simple action reveals their failure to maintain a strict separation between their religious scruples and the pagan imagery they ostensibly abhored.

Pointedly, Jesus takes the coin and holds it at eye level. He looks at it carefully. It’s not beneath his consideration, but rather is worthy of close scrutiny.

In its historical setting, we are placed in the midst of a doctrinal dispute among Jews who are attempting to cope with Roman occupation. Not an easy situation to be in, then or now. The underlying confrontation centers on a graven image of Caesar, a mortal ruling as a presumed deity. Because Caesar heads both the government and the armies occupying Jewish homelands, Roman coins insult pious Jews with one outrage upon another, beginning with violations of the First, Second, Third, and Fifth Commandments in Exodus 20, and extending to the humiliation of being a conquered people. Notice, too, how the Tenth Commandment – covetousness – addresses both wealth and sex, a combination that is more intimately linked than many would admit; this commandment could be used to castigate Caesar’s court. To publicly denigrate the Roman coins, however, would cause Jesus to rebuke Caesar – a serious offense, indeed. Yet any other reply could be touted as a blemish in his religious fidelity: his opponents would argue Jesus isn’t strict enough! Further complicating the matter is the wide array of Jewish responses to Roman rule, ranging from zealous avoidance, at one extreme, to complicity, at the other. Any answer to the question, then, would pinpoint Jesus in one camp of contention, while rousing the ire of others. His religious message would be lost in partisan politics.

Observe, too, that this is framed as a moral question about paying taxes – a subject that bestirs passions in every era. Jesus, however, sees beneath the tax matter, and cuts to the heart of money.

Although we are far removed from the reign of the Roman empire, the more you contemplate the dispute, the more you discern applications in our own era, and the more you, too, may be bewildered and amazed by the koan Jesus gives in reply. In fact, Christians are so familiar with it in the imperative, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s,” that we fail to hear the implicit question: “Can you render unto Caesar only what is Caesar’s?”

A koan, incidentally, is an exercise employed in Zen Buddhism to help the student break through intellectual limitations and lead to a sudden flash of intuition. Often the problem is posed in a way that appears illogical or absurd, as this one must have seemed in its own time. Or, as the Jesuit John C. Haughey explains, “A parable is not weighed or analyzed. It is to be entered so that one’s world is seen in a new light.” That’s the intent of this story.

In drawing a sharp distinction between Caesar and God, Jesus insists that Caesar is not the God of Israel, their one God above all others. In his answer, there is an edge of flippancy: so just what real claim does Caesar have to anything, anyway, short of having his own army? Jesus stops just short of saying outright that Caesar is no God and leaves that conclusion to his listeners instead.

Some Biblical scholars, moreover, point to Galilee coins from around 24 C.E. that were restruck with an image of a palm branch imprinted across the Emperor Tiberius’ face as a concession to Jewish objections. The public demonstration in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday a few years later, then, can be seen as a symbol of Jewish nationalism and resistance to Roman occupation. Religion, politics, and money become a potent combination in any era.

This render-unto-Caesar passage is sometimes cited in arguing for a cavalier demeanor that would make cash unworthy of your attention. But the posture of the American cavaliers themselves – a British royalist elite who fled to colonial Virginia – created an idiosyncratic institution of racial slavery; any ruling class that largely avoids direct engagement in currency or personal labor is inevitably sustained by violence and injustice. A cavalier bearing, then, engenders an irresponsible system in which somebody else pays the consequences. In the long run, everybody loses.

Instead of concluding that money is not worth your examination, I concur with Jacob Needleman, who argues in Money and the Meaning of Life that most people fail to take the challenge seriously enough. To render unto Caesar, you must first perceive Caesar in 21st century America; he is active, in new garb.

Jesus effectively puts Caesar, money, and the powers of affluence in their place. In this perspective, every faithful believer faces a constant vigilance to recognize that everything is under God’s dominion. When Caesar or cash go their own directions, trouble ensues: the sin of greed slithers into the scene, inviting others.

For nonbelievers, the challenge can be cast as one of looking for other ways that money goes one way and deeper values go another.

Either way, the message comes through: you don’t have to worship money.

LifeKeep an eye out for Caesar in your dealings. He appears in many guises. For instance:

How does Caesar appear in your dealings with money?

When you pay your bills, do you ever feel they become “little Caesars,” a dictatorial force of oppression? Can you look beyond Caesar to the bigger picture, to see ways money can serve other purposes? Do you see ways money can provide empowerment, joy, or other liberating energy?

Is money ever an idol, and if so, how?

How would you put Caesar in his place? And how would you keep him there?

Wednesday writer: Jessie Crockett

Jessie Crockett
Jessie Crockett

NAME: Jessie Crockett
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Mostly New Hampshire
CURRENT BASE: New Hampshire
GENRES: Mystery, historical
NEWEST BOOK: MAPLE MAYHEM, Berkley Prime Crime, July 2014
WHERE TO FIND IT: My Sugar Grove series books are readily available in bookstores and online. I hope readers will consider supporting local independent booksellers whenever possible.

THE TELLING DETAILS

How do you go about working? Outliner or pantser?

I’ve worked generally as a pantser but am recently an outlining convert. For my work-in-progress I outlined the entire novel scene by scene. I really enjoyed thinking things completely through and am enjoying it as I write the actual story, too.

Early bird or night owl?

I like to burn my candle at both ends. If I get 5 hours of sleep most nights, I’m good to go.

How does place of residence or surrounding environment affect your writing?

I write about New England people in New England towns. I am constantly steeped in a strong sense of place and I think it is a forceful influence on the stories I choose to tell.

For a getaway or travel opportunity, which would be your first choice?

Seashore, no question. I am never happier than when I can hear the waves and smell the sea. I ache whenever I have to leave the beach.

Favorite bliss? Walking the beach in the dead of winter, scanning the waves for sea monsters and mermaids.

What’s at the top of your favorite foods list? I adore cheese fondue and Thai spring rolls.

Any favorite hangouts?

Duckfat in Portland, Maine, is one of my favorite places to eat. Everything I’ve ever tried there was sublime.

Describe your significant other in one word or phrase.

Fearless

Who’s the favorite character you’ve created?

It isn’t possible to choose just one. I have so many that I really love. I do confess a soft spot for Augusta in LIVE FREE OR DIE and Aunt Hazel in my April 2015 release, A STICKY SITUATION.

What question would you most like to be asked?

I like to be asked if I love my job. The answer is a resounding yes. I can’t think of a thing I’d rather be doing!

9780425260203

~*~

Anyone who puts the seashore in the dead of winter at the top of a list of favorites gets kudos from me. Like the ocean in the middle of the night, it’s an eerie realm far from the sunbathers’ image of perfection. Add to that Duckfat, a “cheap eats” wonder (you must try their fries, for starters), and you can bet here’s someone who gets the local details right. As for Thai spring rolls? May we suggest Khaomphums, closer to home — maybe the best in New England? In the meantime, I’m watching my maple syrup more closely.

~*~

Wednesday Writer is a weekly feature profiling devoted writers of all stripes, most of them laboring outside the celebrity spotlight. To my mind, they are the lifeblood of the literary world, both as active readers and exponents of the empowered word.