Sunday, December 16, 2012

St Sebastian Tattoo Step 3

So, this picture was also added to FB.  It is the first picture taken after the third visit at Have Fun Be Lucky for my tattoo.  Final step planned for January 5.  There is a building unfinished off to the left (around on the back of my calf) and there are some touch-ups to be done.  Much credit goes to Emily for all her work and the entire creative process since our first discussion last February.

The tattoo now has a well defined shaded cloud area that cuts the light post and the addition of color, but what is mostly gray (with some sepia tones) gives the entire tattoo a "darker" appearance.

I like that in general.  Martyrdom is not a happy subject although saintliness is.  And, having someone chained to a lamppost with two arrows through him is not a happy subject either.  The symbolism is all positive.  This creates an interesting contrast.

This is a good weekend for contrasts.  The tragedy in Connecticut at a societal level versus all things good at a personal level.  The readings in the Catholic church this weekend were about shouting for joy and rejoicing in the Lord, followed by questions John the Baptist on "what should we do"?  Certainly and uncertainty?  Joy and bewilderment.  Our priest even worked the  question of "what should we do" into how people might cope with the tragedy in Connecticut--asking what we can do to heal.  As individuals.  As a nation.  As a church.

Life is full of contrasts.  This is simply another weekend in which they are clearer than ever. And another weekend at the end of which I hope for signs of the brighter rather than the darker moving ahead into the future.  Another weekend during which I ponder, the country ponders, and the world ponders.  And a weekend at the end of which I hope that contrasting visions of how to solve the problem can be brought together in a meaningful way with compromise where necessary to make the world a better place and a safe place for all who care.  However, I am not confident that will occur.  I'm not even sure I'm hopeful that will occur.  I know it is possible, but I have seen little evidence to suggest that it is probable.

Do I lose hope?  No--being an eternal optimist.  Yet another contrast.  Such is life.   

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What I found in my 7:26 pace on Saturday?

Saturday, four days ago, I went out with a plan to run a 7:37 pace for 13.1 miles on a foggy morning.  (The fog wasn't planned--just the state of the world.)  I wanted to see if I could keep that pace by myself in a non-race setting so that if, four months from now, a friend wanted to pace just under 1:40 for the half marathon that will be run a week before Boston I'd be able to help.  I learned a lot on Saturday morning.  First, after nearly 4 years of very serious running (and a total of seven since my return to fitness), I still can't pace very steadily.  Second, left to my own devices, even in a non-race setting, I probably need to slow down a little to get on pace.  Third, running in the fog is a lot of fun. There was a point at which I literally could not even see the lights on the other side of Lake Montebello (at least the long way across the lake) as I ran around.

I also learned that after a run like that my legs would still feel heavy two days later, but were just fine three days later as some friends and I enjoyed a wonderful track workout yesterday morning.  And one of my friends enjoyed banana bread--using my recipe--after the run.

It just so happens that last week, I was also engaged in conversation with a rabbi who is working on an introduction to a book featuring the writings of a dear friend and colleague who passed away two years ago.  In conversation with the rabbi I mentioned my interest in bib numbers, race times, and paces and spiritual meaning of them.  She introduced me to gematria which also has to do with numbers and spirituality.

It occurred to me that in my long list of other things to do this fall, despite running several very meaningful races, I had not blogged much about spirituality and numbers.

So, in the spirit of the red thread, I believe that one reason I crossed paths with this rabbi was to bring me back to my own spirituality.  And, I thought about the pace I ran over the weekend. It was faster than what I expected.  Of course, fundamentally that means it was different from what I expected.  And, when things turn out differently than what I expect, I tend to look for meaning.

So, I looked for something using the numbers in 7:26.  Something unexpected.  A reminder of something important.

I found Wisdom 7:2-6.  (So, I kept the colon where it was and just added a dash.)  First, it was useful as it led me to read the background of the Book of Wisdom.  At least on the Catholic page, it focuses on the "profound knowledge" and "intense devotion" of the writer who brought God's word to light.  Here are the verses preceded by "And in my mother’s womb I was molded into flesh":

in a ten-month period—body and blood,from the seed of a man, and the pleasure that accompanies marriage. 
And I too, when born, inhaled the common air,and fell upon the kindred earth;wailing, I uttered that first sound common to all. 
In swaddling clothes and with constant care I was nurtured. 
For no king has any different origin or birth; 
one is the entry into life for all, and in one same way they leave it. 

First of all, the ten-month period doesn't reflect a misunderstanding of human gestation. The interpretation is lunar months.

Second, why do I value these verses?  Well, it is a reminder to me.  I run fast--but I am no different from anyone else.  I have opportunities fall into my lap--but I am no different from anyone else.  I work intensely--but I am no different from anyone else.  I work long hours--but I am no different.  At the end of the day, I came into the world and will depart like everyone else.  At the end of the day, I am subjected to the same forces, the same laws of nature, the same everything as everyone else. And when all is said and done if there is a hereafter that involves judgment, I will be judged just like everyone else.  Recognizing that, I, just like everyone else, need to make the decision as to what I will respect, what I will follow, what I accept as the rules and morals that guide my life and then to live by them and bring out the best in myself and in others based on those principles.  It is not what people see or what the world values that matters.  It is that I am a part of something bigger, that there are values set by a power greater than any human, and that I respond to and am guided by those that is important.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Red Thread

I was asked to write some thoughts about a colleague who passed away in January 2011.  The person asking for my thoughts about my wonderful colleague who was taken from the world much too soon and completely by surprise to all concerned described the request as an effort to help her to write a "red thread" chapter for a book that otherwise will focus on my colleague's writings.  Of course, referring to Alison simply as a colleague sounds so distant and shallow.  She was actually a very good friend and that is more meaningful than "colleague" alone ever could be.

More importantly, I had to look up what "red thread" meant. I honestly don't recall hearing this expression before.  Googling, I found the following website:

It describes a red thread as "connecting those who are destined to meet".  No matter when or where.

The website also offers a thought on brining human systems into order.

This is an interesting way of thinking about Alison.  Someone who knew so many people from so many different walks of life for different reasons.  Someone who meant different things to different people but had, I suspect, one thing in common in all cases--her willingness to listen, her willingness to be supportive, and her expectation that each of us would be willing to challenge ourselves in the same way and to the same degree she challenged herself.

It is interesting how a simple two word phrase can get a person thinking.  And thinking deeply about the importance of one relationship that is now only a memory (albeit one that remains alive in so many ways) and the importance of all relationships that include support, listening, and challenges.