Of the Many Ways Confession Can be Good for You

This comes from facebook, but it really is too funny not to share … along the lines of things are never quite what they seem to be ….

‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl.’

The priest asks, “Is that you, little Joey Pagano?”

‘Yes, Father, it is.’

“And who was the girl you were with?”

‘I can’t tell you, Father, I don’t want to ruin her reputation.’

“Well, Joey, I’m sure to find out her name sooner or later so you may as well tell me now. Was it Tina Minetti?”

‘I cannot say.’

“Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?”

‘I’ll never tell.’

“Was it Nina Capelli?”

‘I’m sorry, but I cannot name her.’

“Was it Cathy Piriano?”

‘My lips are sealed Father.’

“Well then, was it Rosa DiAngelo?”

‘Please, Father, I cannot tell you.’

The priest sighs in frustration. “You’re very tight lipped, and I admire that. But you’ve sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months. Now you go and behave yourself.”

Joey walks back to his pew, and his friend Franco slides over and whispers, ‘What’d you get?’

‘Four months’ vacation and five excellent Leads.’

A brief mediation on chaos and anarchy

 I have always been attracted to chaos and intrigued by anarchy. Needless to say my parents found this, well, shall we just say distressing, and my friends often found it a bit disquieting. Chaos and anarchy – I just found them interesting and kind of engaging, mostly in an intellectual kind of way, I must admit.

 One of my favorite social work jokes for example goes something like this: what is the oldest profession in the world? … most people will respond prostitution. But the rejoinder is that it is social work. In fact, it is recorded in the Christian Bible! There you will find that it says that in the beginning god created the universe from chaos. … And, who do you think created the chaos? Social workers of course! (that is where you laugh, please.)

Typically we think of chaos as a state of complete disorder and confusion or as behavior that is so unpredictable that it appears to be totally random. But then there is chaos theory in math, with  applications in meteorology, physics, engineering, economics and biology. Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, think the butterfly effect. Small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for such dynamical systems, all of this creates the possibility for long-term prediction impossible in general approaches to statistical analysis and correlation.  Chaos may not be as chaotic as it appears on first blush.

 Anarchy first brings to mind visions of a society without a coherent public government. I prefer to dream of anarchy as efforts to build a productive, creative society that honors the dignity of sentient beings, that deeply respects fairness through radical empathy even while avoiding the use of coercion, violence, force and authority. Quite a dream, yes?

 So, chaos and anarchy. But where does my attraction to them come from?  Well, the other day I was reading James Michner’s book Poland. And right there on page 203 I found this passage: “in 1786 there was an old Polish truism. Anarchy is the salvation of Poland. We have always thrived on chaos.”

 I read that passage an experienced it as a balm to my soul. I felt a soothing resonant connection to my roots.  There indeed is nothing quite like finding home and connection. Chaos and anarchy are deep in my cultural heritage and roots!

 And, what pray tell does this have to do with social justice and respect for human rights? I guess just that it is good to know who you are, where your roots are nurtured, and to respect the diversity of the differing grounds that nourish each of us.

 So, go bloom where you are planted, and celebrate vast diversity of all the flowers that grace this kaleidoscope of our world.

Forgiveness, humor and Ms. Neely-Templeton

In other blog entries I have written about the importance of forgiveness and a sense of humor.  This story adds longevity to the mix … In my dreams about what a world that was structured to uphold social justice and that honored human rights, women like the one in this story would hold a very special place.  Indeed, we all should live so long as to be this kind of lady!

So, while I’m not much of a church going soul these days, once upon a time in another time and universe, one Sunday I found myself in one of the local churches – I was kind of drawn to it as the Café I set off for was closed, and the bill board said the talk (homily?) was about forgiveness – so I though, what the ‘h’ I’ll see what she has to say.  So, the good reverend launched into her talk and reminded everyone about the new testament invocation to forgive those who you think have wronged you seven times seventy times – a nice reminder I thought.  Then as she was pulling things together, she asked the congregation for a show of hands: “How many of you can say that you have forgiven at least most of your enemies?”

 Fortunately for me, I was sitting in the back, so I could see that nearly two thirds of the good folks in the church raised their hands. The minister then rephrased her question and asked, “How many of you can say that you want to forgive your enemies?”

 To that question I could see that the entire congregation gladly raised their hands, all but one gracious, elegantly poised lady sitting in the very front of the church. Well, I settled back in my seat and thanked the sweet goddess that I live in Milford, confident in the knowledge that if I mess up, the odds are pretty good that I can hope to be pardoned by my neighbors – all but one apparently!

The minister smiled a wry little grin and asked, “Ms. Neely-Templeton, do you mean that you are not willing to forgive you enemies?”
“Good, Reverend Pastor, I just don’t have any enemies to forgive,” she replied, smiling sweetly.

“Ms. Neely-Templeton, that is remarkable. And, how old are you?”

“Ninety-eight,” she replied. As if we were one, everyone in the congregation – I will confess to it, even me – we all stood up and clapped our hands with awe and respect and the generous, compassionate heart that this woman must have been nurturing all her years.  It just nearly brought tears to my eyes.

“Ms. Neely-Templeton, would you please stand up and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years and not have an enemy in the world? What is your secret for forgiveness?”

With all of her poise, grace and elegance, Ms. Neely-Templeton stood up, smiled warmly at the minister, turned to face the congregation, and said, “I just outlived the sons-a-bitches.”

 I left church that day with a radiant smile on my face and glowing warmth in the very depths of the cockles of my heart. In my world of justice and human rights, there will be a lot of folks just like Ms. Neely-Templeton.