Monday, September 16, 2013

The Greek Tragedy of Minnesota Sports, Denise Levertov, and Abraham/Isaac

So, yesterday I had to watch the Vikings blow another close game in the last minute. If you don't know this, the Vikings are renowned for their ability to blow late games. When they kicked the field goal to go up by 6 with around 3 minutes to go, I was pretty confident we were going to lose that game. As they say, the prevent defense usually prevents you from winning. Yet, you still cheer, even as you watch the other team drive down the field against a lackluster defense and wait for the inevitable touchdown. As I was ruminating on it, I realized being a Minnesota sports fan is like cheering for Sisyphus. If you don't know Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a deceitful king during his life, so his punishment in the afterlife was to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down right at its apex, forcing him to start the whole process over again. This is the perfect metaphor for being a Minnesota sports fan. Even when you're cheering, there's always that place in the back of your mind that is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I guess it builds character. After the heartbreak of the '98-99 season and that terrible NFC championship game, I was ready to face life's varied adversities. Just ask our good friend Marshall:

Sorry for ranting. Life's just been really tough every since Elisabeth Hasselbeck left The View. Her cogent, educated right wing propaganda just got my day off on the right foot every morning. Now who am I supposed to get that from? Megyn Kelly? So, I decided the best way to get over the multiple heartbreaks was to have ice cream for dinner. Nothing gives you that end of the weekend boost like cookie dough drizzled with dietary self-loathing.

However, I do have to say, upon arriving at the Vikings bar the table next to me was discussing the merits of Labyrinth and The Wiz, so I was duly impressed. They also enjoyed when I broke out in "Dance Magic Dance." Speaking of the Muppets (Henson Studios did all of the Labyrinth puppets), there's this:

So, I'm reading (well, listening) a very interesting (audio)book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time about a boy with Asperger's who tries to solve the case of his next-door neighbor's dog who was killed. It's all written in first-person from the perspective of the boy, and it is really marvelously done. Although, after watching Parenthood, I can only picture the boy as Max Braverman. I feel like I'm stereotypecasting, but that's the mental image I conjure, and once that mental image is there, it's impossible to erase. I mean, how many people can read the Harry Potter books now and not picture Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, etc?

So, over the past year or two, I've been loving the poetry of Denise Levertov.

She was born in Essex, England to Jewish parents who had later converted to Christianity. Her dad became an Anglican pastor and specialized in Jewish-Christian relations. She started writing early, and when she was 12 she sent her work to T.S. Eliot for critique (he responded graciously with a two-page letter encouraging her to keep writing)! She moved to the U.S. when she was a young adult and continued writing. In the 60s and 70s, she got very involved in the anti-war movement and started writing scathing poems against the U.S.'s involvement in Vietnam. Later in her life, she surprised all of her friends and converted to Catholicism and began writing beautiful religious poetry. Anyway, I thought I would share two of her poems (and maybe more in later posts) that I think are great for grad students or anyone who finds themselves overwhelmed by stress, work, and the many demands of life:

I can lay down that history
I can lay down my glasses
I can lay down the imaginary lists
of what to forget and what must be
done. I can shake the sun
out of my eyes and lay everything down
on the hot sand, and cross
the whispering threshold and walk
right into the clear sea, and float there,
my long hair floating, and fishes
vanishing all around me. Deep water.
little by little one comes to know

the limits and depths of power.

and another:

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and waters bear them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain 
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

I think all of her stuff is great, but her later poems that wrestle with faith and life are truly brilliant (in my opinion).

Speaking of wrestling with faith, this week I have to preach a sermon on Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac. How do you preach a sermon when it seems that God is acting like a cruel monster in the story? Is there more to this story? How do you stay faithful to the biblical witness while underscoring the atrocities that have occurred when people thought God was talking to them? It may be a long week. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. The one thing I'm not going to preach: God wants us to give up our idols. I guess I'm off the opinion that children are not idols like greed, unhealthy patriotism, materialism, etc. So, I'm hoping to finish before Thursday so I can enjoy the weekend up on Daigle compound (as I attempt to forgive Amy her cruel joke about using hymnals as coasters) and the following weekend on the Cape with Joe Schupbach and Kathy O'Donoghue. Let's do this!