I apologize for my lack of posting and complete unresponsiveness to e-mail. My work situation right now is such that I have to spend all of my time at work actually working and blogging on my lunch break is no longer an option. Also all the traveling we've been doing the past six weeks has left me completely exhausted. A lot has happened in my neighborhood and the world over the past few weeks that I should have something to say about, but I just haven't had the time to put anyting down in pixels. Here's the short version.
Work - I should start a workin' blog. It would be called Close Enough for Government Work and chronicle the foibles of public employees in a big city government bureaucracy. I could write about trying to produce reports for the eyes of barely literate public officials, providing training on Web-based reporting systems for non-profit delegate agencies with no internet access and not a single computer literate employee, and union work rules that do not allow Spanish-speaking public employees to conduct trainings in their native language. Not to mention the Orwellian environment you encounter working on a Federal program that the Federal administration wants desperately to kill. It would be fun and informative. But I would get fired.
Play - My wife scored tickets to a big fundraising shindig for Planned Parenthood. Barack Obama and Sara Paretsky (author of the V.I. Warshawsky detective novels) were there, as were two people I voluteered with for the Kerry campaign in Wisconsin. The whole thing was basically a big liberal pep rally. Apparently I got tanked.
The good Senator is much better looking in person, if such a thing is possible. Swarms of young feminists flocked to him when he entered the hall to the extent that the other side of the room emptied out. It was like the Beatles at Shea Stadium.
Senator, Gap model, future President?
When he runs for president, he's going to have a lot of volunteers.
Boston - We spend the weekend in Boston for the wedding of two of Trope's college friends - a Hindu from Morocco and a white girl from the Midwest. The union hasn't always been the most popular among all members of the families involved, so the festivities were an elaborate attempt to reconcile the "needs" of the different families - there were American traditions and Indian traditions and many costume changes. It seemed to go off very well, in the sense that no one lit themselves on fire in protest, or even fought while I was there, so I guess the whole thing was worth it. My old friend Jon, who is the chaplain of the small liberal arts college so many of us seemed to have attended, headed up the Western part of the ceremony, in which he brought together the history of the couple's relationship with his knowlege of their spiritual journeys, beginning with an accout of his journey with the groom to a Lakota sweat lodge a few years ago. I thought he did a great job.
The Indian part was more complicated. It was almost two hours long, and involved chanting, tying the bride and groom together and throwing rice and vegetables into a sacrificial fire. I couldn't follow everything, but it did involve an offering to Ganesh, which I can appreciate.
Ganesh has the head of an elephant. This is because when he was young, he startled his father, Siva, while he thought he was alone in the woods, and Siva ripped him apart. Repentant after the fact and desperate to keep his wife from finding out, Siva tried to put him back together but couldn't find the head. So he did what any self-respecting deity would do, and ripped the head off an elephant and stuck it on his son. Needless to say, Parvati noticed.
I remember Ganesh fondly because one time in college Tony and I realized that we were not going to get our Historiography papers in by the drop-dead due date. We had not slept in at least 24 hours. Tony explained that Ganesh was the remover of obstacles and would clear a path for us, and produced a box of animal crackers from the convenience store. We set the elephant cracker atop the window sill, and broke the other crackers before him, beseeching his assistance in not failing out of school. The papers were late, but the professor accepted them anyway - miraculous enough for government work, I guess.
Anyway, it was a good trip. Trope loved it because there was string, and henna, and friends. I had a good time because the food was good, and Jon was there, and we mostly hung out with Trope's old drinking buddy, who's a lot of fun. Also I got to walk around Boston - there will be pics here whenever I can be bothered to get them off the camera. But I was really not feeling the spirituality, in part because I wasn't sure they were either. As they noted themselves, the whole thing felt like a seminar on the various things they've explored on their spiritual journey. And I respect what they were trying to do in blending all the different traditions. But a seminar explicitly reserves judgement about the truth of the subject studied to the students. Perhaps they were trying to include something for everyone in abbreviated form - a full-blown Indian wedding apparently involves at least five days of partying and dancing with everyone you've ever met, a tradition I could really get behind. But not an event I would have been able to attend.
But I got the feeling that a ceremony that reflected more of their real feelings and beliefs - I have talked to them enough to know they have them - would have meant more to me than the seminar - like approach which touched on several different beliefs without taking a stand on any of them. I could be wrong - perhaps as students of religion, they just find all the different forms fun to play with while content, other than the marriage itself, was beside the point. The whole thing did make me want to get to know them better and find out what they really believe about things. But in the context of my ongoing grudge match with religion, it wasn't much of a truce. Jon can embrace the truth in all religions without taking a stand on the truth of them. I can't. If religions are just metaphoric language to express eternal truths, than I'd prefer to dispense with metaphor and speak plainly.
The weekend was interesting to say the least. But I'm glad when we got married we didn't do that much to try and please anyone but us. Perhaps we were just too lazy, but we weren't that concerned with anybody's needs but ours. And our friends were there, and most people had fun, and the process lead us to a new church and a so many new things. Six and a half months later, I'm still amazed we pulled it off.