Diversions, Dastardly Deeds, and Directions

Hello from another airport,

I can honestly say in 40 years of flying I had never had a pressurization issue in an airplane. That streak as now ended. We could not reach cruising attitude and they had to divert the plane. The most important thing is they managed the issue professionally and calmly, and while there is some inconvenience, we are all safe and sound. There is so little we actually have control of when we fly. Yet, most of us hop on the plane, walking down that jetway without a second thought. I have probably flown somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 in my life. I have only had two issues: this one and way back when I was only 18 and a tire blew out on landing. That was actually more frightening than today was for me. So now I am in a cab and they are actually taking us to another airport. I think I will be writing American Airlines a very long letter. I know that flying is still more efficient than other modes of travel, but my experience with American and its partners over the past two weeks has been anything but stellar.

As I sat in the various airports today, the continued unfolding of events around Paris and throughout France are mind-blowing to me. How does someone created such hatred within himself or herself that they deem it appropriate to kill another person because their opinions differ? I believe in principle, but how does that principle, or adherence to a particular set of beliefs, create the justification to kill another? I find this particularly egregious when we use our faith in any God or prophet as the rationale for such heinous actions. First, let me note that America has engaged in such behavior, both in the Civil War and in the Japanese Internment Camps in WWII, so we are not blameless. Furthermore, while I do believe in the importance of national security, some of our actions post-911 are currently problematic for me. I don’t care what Former Vice President Cheney says. I was speaking with Marco yesterday – it is now Monday, by the way – and we discussed the various manners in which countries seem to respond to actions such as what occurred in Paris, Boston, or other places. The manner in which governments are responding to terrorists incidences seems to be more strident. BTW, if you have not read Fareed Zakaria’s blog over the weekend, it is an outstanding read.

Having been in Auschwitz barely a week ago, there is little doubt in my mind the extreme consequence of the espousal of hate can be. As I am sitting and listening to NPR this morning a story about another form of human bombing was noted. In Nigeria, the terrorist organization had begun using adolescent girls as bombers. How do you convince a 10 year old that such an action is reasonable, acceptable, or appropriate. I find it incomprehensible that a 10 year old can develop such hate for another culture or group of people. I have written so much about our difference in cultures and how those cultures affect both our identity and our practices. Certainly there are times the difference in culture has to do with daily practice; sometimes those differences have to do with language and how we use words differently. I am pondering some of that even as I write this. My travels during this break and my experience with Lydia and language has once again reminded me how language can open doors, but it can also create barriers. As I sit here in a Starbucks drinking hot tea and trying to overcome what I have found is double pneumonia, I have been working on syllabi all morning,  but I have also been pondering what this coming semester will hold for me. Lydia’s presence in my life had more value than most might imagine. Taking care of her and making sure she was cared for in an appropriate manner was a significant part of who I had become. Lydia taught me important things. As I have noted in some previous blogs, she became my mother, and while she was a tough person at times, she had an incredible heart and a goodness to her. At some point, I will write a blog posting about the 10 years I have known her and how she has changed both my life and my perspective on life. She was the victim of, and experienced on a first-hand basis, some of the dastardly deeds that I noted in my title. The fact that her husband was a political prisoner of the Reich is one thing. The fact that she lost members of her immediate family because of the post-Czech issues of the Second World War, it is easier for me to understand why someone could grow to so dislike another that they might actually hate them. Lydia would use that work in her comments toward the Czechs, but her way of managing that extreme emotion was to eliminate them from her existence. I do not think she every again spoke Czech  in her lifetime. Is she entitled to such emotion? That is not an easy question. Are we entitled to either love or hate another? There is not entitlement. There is only our human response to our experiences. It seems the more extreme, or more affected we are by the experience, but more likely that experience will be grafted into our DNA if you will. While I am aware of what happened to Lydia’s parents, it is not something she spoke of often. In fact, she only told me of it once, and that was when we were standing in her room at Comforts of Home.

It is Wednesday of the last week of break and I have actually slept for more than 12 hours in three of the last five days. That is the most I have slept in years, but on the other hand, I think this is the worst I have felt since last spring at the end of school. While I am not generally one to jump on the Alka Seltzer or other sort of cold and flu bandwagon, I do not think I had a choice this time. I do not have time beginning next week to be sick. The last two nights I was in bed before 8:00 p.m. Last night it might have been barely 7:00. I am pretty sure that the travel schedule, which I am realizing had more wear and tear in it than I expected as well as the time I spent in Menomonie, took its toll on a body that already has its own issues. I can honestly say I do not think I have felt this badly since I had to go back into the hospital a little over two years ago because of surgical complications.

It is now Thursday early morning and my alarm went off at 3:45 a.m., and even though I went to bed before 8:00 again last night I fix it sleep very well. I think the largest period of continuous sleep I got before the alarm going off, which I was awake to hear, was maybe an hour. The fog was ridiculous this morning. While I had hoped to get more work done, that did not happen. Even as I sit here on the flight this morning, waiting to depart, I am sweating. With only a t-shirt and sport coat, I feel like I am in a sauna. I guess my body is fighting to the best of its ability. It is amazing mechanism in spite of its current frailties.

As I begin a new semester and a life altered because of the events this past month, I find it necessary to imagine what it is I am called to do and how I will prioritize all I do. I think last year might be seen as an experiment – one with mixed results, but one nonetheless I am glad I tried or one in which I participated. It is also one that I can put away as I have put away other things in the past. I am realizing that I am perhaps more like Lydia than I might have imagined. While I might not be as reclusive and, in the past, I have not knowingly pushed people away as a practice, what I am realizing more clearly is I have too often believed the best in others, leaving myself open to hurt and disappointment. I believed I needed others in my life more significantly than I perhaps do. I will be much more discerning than I have had a penchant for doing. I can only ask as the liturgy notes “Kyrie, Eleison”. It is the name of a Mister Mister song and the only part of the liturgy that remained in Greek rather than moving to Latin. For those not sure of the meaning, it means “Lord, have mercy.” I know there will be things to manage in the coming weeks, in Pennsylvania, both at school and on the home front. There are significant things to manage between Wisconsin, North Carolina, Naperville, and Northern Minnesota. I will work my best to manage as I believe Lydia would have wanted. Ultimately, it is about her desires not what everyone else thinks. I am so grateful for the staff of Comforts of Home. They continue to work with me and help plan things. I did get some of the initial pieces completed this week and I need to work with the monument company this week. One piece at a time. That is moving in a direction and that is what life is about. Moving forward and managing what life throws at you. Lessons experienced and lessons learned are simply what life is. Well, I think I might try to close my eyes and beat my present fever.

Thanks as always for reading my thoughts.

Michael

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