Thursday, October 05, 2017

Holst: Jupiter

I am a fan of all of Holst's planet series, but nothing speaks to me like Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity.

Anyone who's read my blog for any period of time knows I like Jupiter in all his aspects: King, Bringer of Jollity and plenty, Expander of boundaries and limits.

The music is so upbeat! It fills one with joy, with granduer, with expansion, at least in the first movement.

Then it quiets, but even it's quiet is joyous, and then it comes back in grand and sweeping, like a mountain vista in New Zealand. One can almost see a procession of gifts and brightly colored courtiers coming to pay homage to the king on the day of his coronation, or the day of his victory. A stately procession follows a flurry of preparation.

Just when you think the grandeur of the second movement will come to it's end, the small trilling notes of fairies and servants and swirling dance comes back in, and then Jupiter is there, proclaiming his good will and beneficence to all.

It makes me happy, puts a smile on my face. I want to dance and sing with the servants around the throne, jolly and happy in the court of the king. The two movements come together, the uproarious beginning, the trilling second movement, combine into a theme of kingship as the king leads his courtiers to the crescendo, and the end of the piece.

[Writing Prompt: October 5
Eye of the beholder
Describe what it feels like to hear a beautiful piece of music
or see a stunning piece of art.]

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Clothes Horse

There is nothing quite like wearing a good tailored suit. The cut simply falls correctly on the body, and the figure you cut, with a neatly tied tie and a pressed shirt, makes you think you can take on the world. A set of shiny dress shoes and some socks that speak to my personality, and I feel like a man about town, a captain of industry, a go-getter ready to take on the world. I can dream in a suit.

That style of dress is out of place on the farm. On the farm, I like my Romeo boots with no laces that just slip on. A pair of old jeans, a flannel shirt if it's cold, a t-shirt if it's warm. A ball cap to keep the sun from my eyes. It's relaxed, it allows for work, and it makes me feel, well, like a man of the land. Someone who works hard to accomplish their goals. It grounds me.

Even more removed is the vestments of the priest. Designed at the height of the Roman empire, the alb, stole, chausible, and cincture put me in a sacred role, a role that is outside of my every day world of suits and jeans. It sets me apart, clothes me for the work of God. In the vestments of the priest, I'm no longer myself, I am the office that I hold, and I embody the work of God in the world. It is intimate with the divine, yet set apart from the world.

At the end of the day, it's still me in these clothes. I find the different outfits bring out different parts of me, though. They emphasize the role that I'm in when I ware them.

[Writing Prompt: The clothes that (may) make the (wo)man
How important are clothes to you? Describe your style, if
you have one, and tell us how appearance impacts how you
feel about yourself.]

Sick

Great balls of fire, I am feeling ill.
Grievous wails of despair come from my mouth
Groaning, sweating, swearing, failing of will.
Gone down a bad path, my health has gone south.

Give me release, succor, a cooling cloth
Growing is my unease that this illness
Growls and rolls in my belly, ceaseless froth.
Green mucus, bane color of un-wellness

Government healthcare does not cover me
Great witch doctors have no elixir cure
Good faith healers' prayers do not set me free.
Gross fluids flowing to make body pure.

Greeting the morning of my discontent
Going to find where my superb health went

Writing Prompt: October 1
Fearful symmetry
Pick a letter, any letter. Now, write a story, poem, or post in
which every line starts with that letter.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Meditation

I'd forgotten how wonderful and easy meditation is. I just finished a 5 minute meditation at my chair, and feel refreshed and wonderful.

I also identified some bad habits I have programmed in from working. We're gonna fix that shit right now.  What bad habits, you ask?

Well, soda, for one.

Eating while reading, as well. It makes both experiences sort of throw-away.

Not meditating. :)

As I'm writing this, I'm like "I should save this for tomorrrow, so I don't overpost". Then, I wonder if anyone reads this besides me. Then I realize I don't care. I'm posting it anyway.  If you read it, enjoy. If you don't, well, there's nothing really I can do about that.

Why we write

As used to be the case, I was talking with someone and it sparked a blog post.

My friend is worried about the volume of criticism he receives for his writing, and I tried to encourage him a bit with scripture about pearls and swine, and milk for babies, meat for adults. He replied with
I honestly think that is being too generous. It implies I have pearls and meat to give. I really don't think I do anymore.
And I realized the last time I'd tried to cast any pearls was April. And that was about poetry.

There's a blogger I've been reading since 2003. He posts at least once and usually multiple times a day. Every day. Holidays. Sundays. He posts about football, politics, economics, writing, online arguments, his kids, soccer.

The main point is he posts what's going on in his head, and he does not care what others think. He may not always (or ever) be right, but he's always there. Posting.

I don't post a lot of what goes on in my head. I do care what other people think.


I worry about how my words will be taken. I'm not trying to offend anyone, but I do have an opinion. I worry that because I'm a white heterosexual male in America, my opinion will be vilified or not sufficiently whatever. I worry I'll be regarded as shallow, as too deep, as this as that as the other.

And yet here I'm encouraging my friend to put himself out there, and not doing so myself.

I see in myself Matthew 23. Especially the tomb, looking good on the outside, but dead on the inside.

I have never been the most consistent of bloggers. I doubt that will change, and I'm OK with that. I keep returning to it. I've been writing here since 2005, and this will be post 378. Out of a possible 4380 posts, that's 8.5%. So for the past 12 years, I've only written for a year, sometimes 2 posts a day, but often with long periods in between.

I find my best posts are sparked with dialogue. So please, contact me at eighthsermon@scottrassbach.net with any questions or topics you'd like me to write about, and I'll get things writing.

Cleaning House

Right before my wedding, we went to the dump.

Riverbend Landfill in McMinnville is a pretty nice place, all things considered. Sure, there's a smell. There's always a smell around garbage. However, there's also fairly clean recycling bins and a nice delivery system. It allows us to get rid of all our garbage, and being on a farm, we generally have quite a bit.

As I'm sorting the recycling and throwing out the rusty, bent chicken wire, rotten wood, and oodles of  wine bottles, I'm thinking about the things in my life that I hold. Some of it I keep because it's valuable, like the grams of gold.  Some of it I keep because it  has memories, like my great-grandfather's railroad pocket watch, or my terribly beat up Snoopy doll. Some of it I keep because it's shoved in a corner and not in sight, but not bothering me: like the extra coffee grinder or the pile of memorabilia from College.

Some of it I keep because I'm too angry to get rid of it.  Like pictures of my first marriage.

And some of it I just throw out. Like bent chicken wire.

It's much easier to acquire than throw away. Acquisition seems to make us feel like we're succeeding. However, every thing you acquire takes a little bit of our time and consciousness, when it exists in our world. There's a mortgage, or storage, or a stubbed toe when we trip over it.

Throwing away feels like a loss. And loss hurts, even when it's the loss of something that is generally considered worthless.

That chicken wire? Could be an art project. Or it could hold chickens. That rotten wood? Could be compost. Or it might burn well. The wine bottles? There's the awesome plan for making wine bottles into bricks.

However, there are only so many hours in the day, and at some point, some projects and ideas have to be let go.

[Writing Prompt: Cleaning house - Is there “junk” in your life? What kind? How do you get rid
of it?]

Thursday, September 28, 2017

September 28, 2020

[Note, this is fiction.  Note the date.]

The sun has passed it's equilibrium point, and as the month of September winds to a close and the nights get longer, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the various things that have happened.

In May, we had a wonderful Conclave in Calgary, Alberta, hosted by our Patriarch Shaun McCann, and saw the ordination of Rev. Ms. Fisk to the Diaconate.  We also had the first official Friary Day on the Thursday before Conclave, doing initiations and workshops on the more esoteric wing of the AJC. Our theme of Johannite Identity was a great success, and Elaine Pagels drew an interested crowd with her lecture on the Gnostic Exegesis of the Johannite Gospel (updated).

The capital funding for Our Lady of the Woods chapel is coming along, although I feel I'm always fundraising. We've had the building for over a year, so now we're working on walking paths and meditation areas, changing gardens to be a little more food forest, a little less just wild woods.

In personal life, the kids are doing well. Bridget has nearly completed her vet tech program, she should be done by December. She just finished an open horse show, as did Paddy: they got a few ribbons but it's all a blur to me. Tommy is spending another year in Germany, learning all about the various European weapons from the manufacturers, but he promises he'll come back for Christmas. Seamus is doing his second year at the Art Institute of Portland. He is taking part in the 21st Watch Artists at Work festival in Portland, where he'll be demonstrating his use of chicken wire, paper mache, and spray paint to make easily movable but socially conscious street art.

I've just gotten back from taking the chickens to slaughter. I think I might cut back on the next batch, as raising 50 at a time is taking it's toll. The slaughter portion of the experience always wipes me out for a day, and I don't even do any of the work. I just come home with 50 delicious chickens, and an empty chicken yard. That's the hard part, not having any chickens to feed. At least, until I get the next batch.  Paddy says even though I feel like I want less at this time, I always seem to want more by the time it comes to buy chicks, and so I compromise.

Paddy and I are doing well. We just celebrated our 3/6 anniversary (6th year married, but 3rd since the wedding). We took a few days in August at the coast with Freyja, Freyr, and Sif. (One of these litters, Paddy is going to have to win the Rock-scisssors paper contests so she gets to name a dog).

I've written about the major changes already: the loss of friends, the birth of new family members, the joys and sorrows. Like most years, a lot has happened, in the world and in my life, and I look over it all with wonder and joy and sorrow, as appropriate.

My third book in the OSF series, Adeptus Major, is almost finished. I promise it'll be done before Christmas, although you may have to wait until next year to actually read it.


As we move into the winter months, I'm pleased to once again have gone around the sun. My 48th birthday is coming up, and mathematically that's always a fun number (being divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 24, 48). I've finally gotten my weight under a bit of control, and not a moment too soon, as the knees were starting to register the extra 50 pounds. However, if the pain in my left knee keeps up, I may need to look at surgery to get it replaced. I'm hoping the yoga practice and stretching will help it out, but we'll see.

Still no flying cars, although I am planning on getting a Tesla this year. Of course, that's been the plan for 2 years running.

That's my recap. How are things in your world, this year of our Lord 2020?


[Writing Prompt: Ebb and flow. Our blogs morph over time, as interests shift and life happens. Write a post for your blog — but three years in the future.]

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Poetry challenge, day 2

This time, I had my lovely wife Paddy pick 7 words, and I rhymed them and made this:

Sometimes we are called to do our duty,
Although it can be quite challenging.
Events may lead us to find some booty,
Or Good Fortune can leave us and take wing.
And as it is written in the Good Book
Thy skin's as fair as Tawny Antelope's.
African stories, comfortable nook,
Long bubble baths with soft silky soap,
The rain beats on window pane in rhythm,
The longing to travel no books can staunch.
Remembered airport announcement hymn,
Adventurous desire soon to launch.
Seeking new horizons I advocate,
The airplane is here, I'm at my gate.

The exercise has been wonderful. I'm enjoying the creative flow of being timed, forced, and restricted. I must admit though, that this one took longer, about 18 minutes. 1) I didn't have a rhyming dictionary, which I did for the first one. 2) I was interrupted by a cat demanding people time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Poetry Month and Easter

Andrew Watt of Wanderings in the Labyrinth issued a Poetry challenge for April. It went like this:
Exercise One: Master a form

In medieval and Renaissance Ireland, historical sources indicate that the surviving bardic schools would wrap a student in a blanket after giving the student a theme and a form. The theme would be a figure from Ireland’s myth or history; the form would be one of the traditional formats of Irish poetry. We can deduce three elements from this — subject matter (theme), limitation of distractions (blanket), and structure (form).

For this exercise, we’re going to use the Sonnet as our form. There are others — ballades, odes (one of my favorites), sestinas, haiku, and more. Sonnets are good for this, though because they’re longer than haiku and they’re governed by three core rules:

1. They have fourteen lines;

2. The last words of each line rhyme, in a specific pattern: ABABCDCDEFEFGG

3. Each line has ten syllables and a gentle rhythm called ‘Iambic Pentameter’.

You are going to write a sonnet in fifteen minutes. It will be terrible — and you may find that dismaying. But that’s the point. You’re in the school of the bards — not a teacher. Do the exercise. Turn away from all distractions, set a timer for fifteen minutes, and begin.

FIRST, on a clean sheet of lined paper, write out fifteen rhymes, each word at THE END of one line — Line one rhymes with line three, line two rhymes with line four, line five rhymes with line seven, line six rhymes with line eight, line nine rhymes with line eleven, line ten rhymes iwth line twelve, and lines thirteen and fourteen rhyme with each other.

SECOND, count how many syllables are in each end word. Subract that number from ten. Count on the fingers of both hands that many syllables, speaking words aloud until you find a sentence or phrase of language that fits that number of syllables. Write that down.

THIRD, write down the first phrase that fits for each line. You’re learning a form of poetry, and learning to master it. Don’t worry if the poem doesn’t make sense. Your goal should be to write the complete poem in fifteen minutes or less, even if it’s terrible.

FOURTH, even after the time has elapsed, read the poem aloud. Circle with a red (or differently-colored pen) whatever parts of the poem sound unnatural or weird to you. Don’t bother fixing them. In all, you should spend no more than 20 minutes doing the exercise up to this point.

FIFTH, do this exercise daily for seven days. At the end of seven days, you’ll have seven poems that you wrote ‘backwards’… on the eighth day, try writing a sonnet ‘frontwards’, that is, line-by-line from first line to last line, with the rhyme scheme and ten syllables per line, in fifteen minutes or less. More than 80% of those who write seven sonnets ‘backwards’ are able to write a sonnet front-ways within the week.
I decided I'd take the challenge. My first version is here, and it was written in 13 minutes, 55 seconds. It has not been edited, and remember it's supposed to be terrible. :)

The chicken's pain causes squawks and an egg.
The crowing cock causes sunrise and light.
In the garden you did not plead or beg,
Neither would you let your disciples fight
Neither would you flee or hide, scared rabbit
But to the slaughter went the sacred Lamb.
And on this day the reclusive abbot
Gives lie to the atheist screaming "Scam!"
All good Christians gather at rosy dawn
To welcome the harbinger of bless'd spring
Green and brightly colored eggs on the lawn
The children chase and seek throughout the ring
For we do not mourn the one sacrificed
But celebrate the risen Jesus Christ 

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Reflections on Job Loss

It's been a while since I've written. This is a personal post, not a lot of deep gnostic thought here. Yet, the gnosticism is there, if you dig for it.

1) Anger: I knew something was wrong, as my manager had presented me with a 90 day plan to improve my skills. It was a panic inducing plan. Stuff I'd never heard of. Tools I hadn't used. I'm a developer, and a number of these tools seemed to be more on the engineering realm. 15 days into the plan, I'm let go.  It's not fair. I was working the plan.

2) Conflict: This is not the first time I've been let go because my skills were not where the employer needed to be. I'm angry, I feel upset that my professional skills have been disregarded, but at the same time I'm relieved.

Relieved.

I've never really liked programming. I like problem solving, I like helping folks and making their job easier, and I like building something. But programming was always just a tool, a means to an end. There are other people for whom it's an art form. For me, it was just a lucrative way to help people.

I've changed programming jobs about every two years. This was my clue by four that maybe I should do something different. I've spent the past 2+ weeks on meditating as to what that should be.

3) Opportunities: I have a lot of interests. I love to read, and to write. I love farming when it goes well, but I have to admit it's heartbreaking when it doesn't. I am concerned about farming on an industry level, as it's facing several crises in both method and worker shortages.

I'm exploring a lot of these different paths.

Outcome:

For two weeks, I've been a combination of panicked, relieved, and happy. Panicked, because the security I thought I'd found is gone. Relieved, because I don't have to get up and go to a windowless box to be bathed in artificial LCD light, doing things I don't care about. Happy, because I get up to be in the sun and the rain, facing the challenge of a new day with my intellect and my strength.

I love a challenge, and finding a new path is a big one. I am slowly carving my massive pile of unorganized thoughts into a plan, keeping what seems to work, discarding the dross. I haven't made a lot of decisions, but I have made one.

I don't want to program computers anymore.  I may do it for the occasional paycheck, but it is no longer my career.