A Hand on the Door-Latch

“Faith and love are apt to be spasmodic in the best of minds.  We live on the brink of mysteries and harmonies into which we never enter, and with our hands on the door-latch we die outside.”            Ralph Waldo Emerson

I recently heard someone quote these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson and realized how truly powerful they are.  Much meaning is contained in these spare phrases.

As with many well-crafted aphorisms and words of wisdom, there are many levels of meaning.  In the final analysis, death is the final door through which we pass, and through which we well may go without understanding what the passage means.  We’re too wrapped up in the crux of mystery to have the necessary perspective. Continue reading

What’s a Niblick?

It’s a snack!  It’s a pet treat!  It’s a salt block for a rabbit!  It’s none of the above.  If you are hearing about, or reading about, the word “niblick” for the first time, you might be curious to know what it is, or maybe you’re well informed and already know.  Is it a new dog treat, like Beggin’ Strips?  Is it a new snack food for kids?  Is it the newest MacDonald’s offering?  Does it have something to do with vintage fountain pens?  Is it a new oral medication for children?  Is it the cure for the recent epidemic of Type II diabetes?

I had once heard this word many years ago, and although I haven’t heard it tossed around regularly, I vaguely remembered it had to do with golf – in context, I had heard it referred to as a “mashie niblick.”  I think I saw the word used in a novel I had read, by an English author, with some of the action set in Scotland in the very early 1900s.  One of the characters was a golfer.  So when a coworker, a golf enthusiast, had a birthday recently, his co-workers decorated his cubicle with golf-themed pictures and quotes.  And one of the quotes referred to a niblick.  And when he said he was unfamiliar with the term, I was surprised.

Naturally, I did a search on the internet and found all sorts of references and sites to elucidate the uneducated.  A niblick is a type of golf club.  Sometimes it is referred to as a pitching niblick.  Historically, the pitching niblick was a short, wooden-shafted, pre-20th Century club.  It had a short shaft that made it the club of choice for chipping and short approaches.  In the way it was used, the pitching niblick was most equivalent to today’s wedges.  Today, a modern manufacturer makes a niblick that combines the best features of a wedge, putter, iron and hybrid to create an ultimate hybrid scoring club, or so its maker proclaims.  It is supposed to hit chip, pitch and recover with improved consistency.  Supposedly, it can be used in a bunker or on an approach shot. Continue reading

I Want a CRAFT Service Dog

Every time I turn around these days, there is some new “miracle” or modern wonder designed to make life easier.  Often it is related to computer technology, but not always.  One thing that amazes me in particular is the progress being made with various types of service animals, for the blind and disabled, and I am sure I am not even aware of all the useful options that are available.  But I am still in awe.  For instance, these dogs can be trained to detect the aura of an oncoming seizure in epileptics, or sense a change in blood sugar in diabetics.  And, of course we all know about seeing eye dogs.

For a long time now, I and some of my baby boomer friends have joked about getting a twelve year old to go with us to social events, shopping outings, plays, movies, even on vacation with us.  It could be someone’s neighbor kid(s) or some child one knows from church or temple, a bright kid with computer skills and reasonable savvy who would like to earn a bit of money and would not roll his or her eyes or get all twitchy hanging out with “older adults.”  Who knows, maybe there could even be a merit badge in it for a scout.  Their task, should they choose to accept it, would be to remember where we parked the car, where we left our keys, where we put our glasses or sun glasses (on top of our head no doubt), remind us not to leave our umbrellas on the floor next to the table in the restroom, etc.  Don’t laugh.  If you aren’t to this point yet, you will be at some future date.  Then you will think this is a good idea. 

But now I’m thinking that an equally good idea – maybe even a better idea — might be a service dog.  Trained to do the same things as one might pay a twelve year old to help with: find your keys, find your misplaced cell phone, misplaced TV remote, misplaced garage door remote, misplaced checkbook, half of a missing pair of earrings, guide you to your car at the mall when you forget what level you parked on, etc.  Oh – you didn’t know what CRAFT stands for?  It is an acronym – Can’t Remember A Freakin’ Thing.

I can picture it now.  I have a service dog named Max.  I’m getting ready to go to work or to the store and I can’t find my keys.  I turn to trusty Max:  “Max, car keys!”  Max trundles off to find my keys, which he has been trained to do, and he comes back with them in his teeth.  Or, he goes to the refrigerator and paws at the door.  I open the door, and there next to the left over pizza from last night are my keys which I had absent-mindedly put there when the phone rang and interrupted my train of thought.  Or Max returns dragging a pair of jeans, and the car keys are in the pocket.  Or, I’m at the mall and I can’t remember where I parked.   “Max, find the car!”  And Max arfs knowingly and trots off, looks back to see if I’m following, and leads me to middle of level four, Green, 4H.  There’s my Highlander.  Wow, is he smart of what?  And he even carries one of my plastic bags as he goes along.  Continue reading

Prayerful Gratitude to Soy Beans

I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are vegan and some who are vegetarian.  They are currently involved in a big social movement and national debate over “ethical eating as a moral issue.”  I know I am being catty (upfront disclaimer), but I’m waiting for the day to come when science discovers that all life forms with cellular structures, including plants, experience pain and suffering.  So when that happens, what will vegans and ethical eaters do when it comes time to harvest plants for food?  Will omnivores gloat and say “Gotcha!?”  Just my way of opining – “there is no perfect solution, so moderation is key.”  I say this with mock sagacity, while munching a brownie.  I hope no third world chocolate or cocoa beans were harmed in the making of said brownie.

In the old days, the Indians (native Americans) and other indigenous peoples used to say a prayer to the beast they were about to kill (a buffalo or a bear), to thank it for giving its life that they might have nourishment.  We might have lost something along the way.  What prayer do you offer to a soy bean for giving its life that we might have tofu, or edamame, Boca Burgers, falafel or hummus?  When that happens, and we realize we have caused pain to plants, will sucking air become the new mode of ethical eating?  Will oxygen atoms suffer when we get to that point? Continue reading

Jerry Springer, The Opera – Say What?

No, it is not a misprint.  And, yes, I really went to see it.  And yes, I really paid “good money” for the privilege.  As one professing to have an open mind, I thought it a worthwhile excursion.  A local theater known for its edgy, avant garde productions has struck yet again.  And as if it weren’t risky enough undertaking such a bizarro extravaganza, the theater happens to be across the street from an evangelical Calvary Chapel church.  How “in-your-face” can a theater company get?  So, of course, the born again Christians picketed the theater and gave it a huge amount of free publicity.

I had to know, or at least suspect, that this offering would be over the top, pushing the envelope to the very limit in every which way possible.  And I was right.  The cast of characters included Jerry, of course, plus God, Satan, Jesus, Mary and perverts and misfits of every stripe and proclivity.  There was a fetishist in a diaper and a pole dancer.  Over 95% of the dialogue was sung or “chanted” in that recitatif manner used in “real opera” or Gregorian chant.  The unholy and the sublime were juxtaposed, blended and swirled in a perverse manner worthy of a wicked spoof, and every now and then the production crossed the line into almost blasphemy.  One of the highlights was a number by God – “It Ain’t Easy Being Me.”  It was alternatingly shocking, offensive and hilarious.  There were tap dancing production numbers and choreographed obscenities.  Shock theater doesn’t get much more shocking than this. Continue reading