Sunday Sermon
"I Believe in Love..."

I love my people. To their credit, they love me, even when I am being a jackass. The following story is an example of my jackassedness...

So, there was a poetry slam this weekend. My beloved platonic girlfriend loves slams, and she was planning to read at this one. Now, to be honest, I hate poetry slams. I hate the whole idea of making poetry competitive. I hate the way that the beautiful sensitive poetry (like hers) gets pushed aside, and the wretched angry 'spoken word' bullshit gets the big scores. I have explained this to her and to the Flock, and I declined to attend the last slam on the grounds that it made me bitchy and angry just being there. Not many members of the Flock actually buy into my argument against slams, and I've been pretty bitchy about that, too.

As this slam approached, even more of the Flock were planning on reading. The sign-up sheet included a Deacon, an Apostle, an Alter Boi and an Inquisitor. The pressure on me to attend was mounting.

"It's not about the poetry, it's about community."
"I hate poetry, but I go to support my friends."
"It won't be as fun without you."
"I just want us ALL to be there - you know that our time together is short."

I was swayed by that last one. In a few short months Rachel, NerdyGirl, the Apostle Ben, Raksha, the Pink Princess, and The Hopeless Romantic will all be gone, graduated. Some will be in grad school, and some will actually be leading real lives in the real world.

So I decided to go. (Here is where the jackass part starts.)

To me, there is nothing more boring than a fight that I'm not in. I knew, therefore, that the best way for me to cope with the slam was to participate. I do, in fact, write poetry but I wasn't about to subject any of my tender poems to the grinder of the slam. Instead, I figured that I'd take this opportunity to prove my point. I printed out two of my best rants from the archives of this blog, and planned to give them both a loud, angry reading.

I opened with this, and the crowd loved it - I got the second highest score in the first round. I prepared to be just as obnoxious in the second round, reading this little gem. It too was well received.

I had people coming up to me, shaking my hand, telling me they loved my stuff. I even had two PhDs from the English department at UW tell me that they liked my work. [Sigh.] Thankfully, the eventual winner of the slam presented an actual poem in the final round, and the judges, to their credit, recognized it as such and scored it accordingly.

It seemed that no one had actually noticed that my stuff wasn't poetry. No one really seemd to care that I had gotten some very high scores just by reading old blog posts. No one, that is, except Rachel. As we were walking out to the car she quietly said, "I guess you proved your point."

She had given her poem a reading so good that it even made the line, "I belive in love" come across without any snickering from the audience, but it didn't score well enough to get her into the second round. As we were driving away from the coffee shop she said, "Next time, I should rant and use profanity in the first round, then in the second round, hit 'em with the love."

I felt like I had pulled the wings off a butterfly.

That's what it was about for her - love. I could have chosen to see it that way, but I didn't. I could have bared my soul as many of the other readers did, but I didn't. Even if I had just looked at it as an opportunity to educate others about poetry, I would have been better off - but I didn't.

It's a simple rule - it's always about love. Everyday, in every situation.

Go in Peace.

“Scottsbluff, three six.”

“Go ahead Scottsbluff.”

“10-73, Highway 71, Wildcat Hills Wildlife Refuge.”

10-73; drunk pedestrian. Wonderful. It’s as cold as a witch’s tit and I’ve got to go wrestle with a drunk on the side of the road.
“10-4, advise description.”

“Late model Ford Taurus, Nebraska two one, four four two six.

“10-4, en route.” A drunk pedestrian with a car?

I was three six. It was my badge number, license plate number, radio call sign, and signature. Never “thirty-six” – always three six. Everyone knew each other by these numbers. My shift mates were seven, four three five, and our sergeant, four zero five. It was dehumanizing, but comforting as well, like you belonged to an elite club. The dispatchers would even call your wife “Mrs. three six.”

I pulled out onto the rain-slicked asphalt and flicked the top mounts on. I bumped the siren button a few times as I cleared the one stop light between me and the Wildcat Hills refuge, then opened up the throttle.

The Ford Mustang has problems as a patrol car. Once you put a radar unit, three radios, a cell phone, a video camera, a vascar unit, and a shotgun mount in it, there’s not much room for the officer, especially if he’s wearing body armor. The suspension is so stiff that every bump in the road is conveyed directly to your kidneys - UTIs were a common occurrence for some of the guys. The ground effects package looks great but it is made of fiberglass, so you leave a little bit of the air dam behind each time you drive through the median. After the guys in Lincoln drill holes in the roof to hold the top mounts, the seals usually start to leak a bit. The rear-wheel drive makes it tough to drive on ice, and the back seat is so tiny that you have to transport prisoners in the front seat next to you.

I loved that car.

In a flat out race, the Camaro would eventually beat it, but off the line, no cop car could touch it. The city cops, stuck in their Caprice Classics and Crown Victorias, would curse us under their breaths as we took off after the “big fish.” Triple digit speeders were a specialty of the State Patrol, and no one loved that sort of work more than I.

The road was wet, so I kept it between 85 and 90. The roads around the wildlife refuge are curvy, and a great place to hit deer. The accident records for this stretch of road are loaded with fox, skunk, coyote, deer, and the occasional buffalo. The fish cops (game wardens hate that nickname) put out cake and salt for the deer and buffalo everyday during the winter. It’s supposed to keep them from crossing the road in search of food, but no one told that to the wildlife. One of the deputies hit an actual wildcat about ten years back, but everyone joked that it must have been the last one.

To keep the herd animals from crossing they erected a fence in the rocky draw where they dropped the feed each day. They shaped it like a ‘u’ with the open end facing the prairie, and let the rock walls form the rest of the barrier. This also guarantees the tourists a chance to get a good picture of buffalo and deer, because once the bulls figured out that a free meal arrived every morning, they never let their girls leave the pen.

Because of the buffalo, the fence was a six-rail tubular steel beast. It was set in concrete footings, and still it leaned at odd angles in places where the big bull had used it as a scratching post. When I was still in training, one of my coaches, four three five, had told me stories about the strength of the buffalo; how they used to knock narrow-gauge railroad cars off the tracks back in the frontier days, and how they could completely total a loaded semi today. Personally, I had never seen a buffalo do anything other than stand around and chew, but four three five spoke reverently of their might when angered. He also told me how they were different than cows. They generally didn’t run from anything, they didn’t sleep standing up, and they could weigh up to 3000 pounds. Four three five knew a lot about them, and we spent a lot of time together just driving around rural Nebraska, so by the time my training was done, I knew more than I wanted to about them.

As I crested the last hill before the refuge, I saw the Taurus on the left shoulder about 200 yards from the buffalo pen, hazards flashing. As I went past it, I notified dispatch that I had arrived, then whipped around and parked behind. Two kids in Scottsbluff High letter jackets stood by the passenger side of the car. A third person lay on the ground at their feet. I grabbed my first aid kit as I got out of the car.

The kid on the ground was also wearing a letter jacket, but he was covered from head to toe in mud. As I made a quick medical analysis and treated the boy for shock, I asked the other kids what happened.

“Well, it’s really kind of stupid,” one kid volunteered.

“Were you the driver?”

“No, I was.” The other kid, tall, thin, and pale spoke up. I recognized him from local newspaper coverage of prep sports. He was a track star and a wide receiver.

“O.K., so tell me about it.” I tried to sound concerned and friendly.

“We were trying to…” the first kid began.

“He fell out of the car,” the track star interjected.

He paused, and I waited. The kid on the ground was going to make it, but he was dazed, with a broken collarbone, a broken nose, and a growing goose egg on his forehead. I could tell from his raspy breathing that he likely had some broken ribs, and his right wrist was cocked off at an odd angle, probably broken as well. The driver offered nothing more.


Both kids looked at their shoes, which bore the same mud as the victim. “We were mooning some girls and he fell out.” The driver’s voice was barely audible.

“How fast were you going?”

“’Bout 50 I guess.”

I had finished my first aid assessment. I grabbed my shirt mike.
“Three six, Scottsbluff.”

“Go ahead three six.”

“Request 10-46, 10-18.” I was requesting an ambulance, and wanting them to hurry. Even though the radio was silent, I could imagine the dispatcher bitching about the change in call codes. An injury requiring medical back up requires a different code than a drunk pedestrian. It isn’t really a big deal to change a call code, but dispatchers are generally a lazy lot.

“Is this 10-45?” She wanted to know if it should be recorded as a car accident.

“No. 10-73 is just BTF.”

In theory, radio code exists to protect crime scenes. We can talk about a wreck on the highway without every guy who owns a scanner coming out to gawk. In reality, however, the most important reason for radio code is to allow cops to talk about things that might offend the public listening in. Some code is formal, and some is invented on the fly and then takes root. BTF was such an informal code, invented no doubt by some witty trooper over coffee, but now accepted in general usage - it meant “beat to fuck.”

The kid on the ground was definitely BTF, but he clearly didn’t fall out of a moving car. For starters, this kid’s pants were still on him. He had no road rash. The one person I had seen in my brief career who had fallen onto the pavement at highway speeds looked like lasagna when we arrived. He (at least I think they determined it was a he) had been quite dead, also. If this guy had fallen out while mooning someone, his pants and a good portion of his butt should be back up the road somewhere.

Also, there was the mud. The shoulders were gravel, and the ditch was grassy. He must have gotten muddy elsewhere, then crawled or was carried to the side of the road.

I tried to make him comfortable with an orange safety blanket, but I didn’t want to move him in case he had a spinal injury. I monitored his pulse and respiration until the ambulance arrived. During these few interminable minutes, the other two kids stood by the car, muttering quietly.

When the ambulance arrived, I walked over to the driver of the car. He gave me his driver’s license and the paperwork for the vehicle.

“You guys had anything to drink tonight?”

“No. We don’t drink. We’re on the football team.” I suppose this was intended to convince me, but I played football in high school too.

“So he fell out, huh?”


“Daniel,” I got the kid’s name from his license, “you go by Dan?”


“Are you sure he fell out?”


“Let’s step back to my car, Dan.” I motioned for the other kid to stay in the Taurus.
We walked in silence past the paramedics strapping the BTF to a gurney. Once we were seated in my patrol car I ran Dan’s information on the computer. No wants, no warrants; apparently a good kid. I made a production out of getting out my ticket book.

“Dan, I don’t want to do this. You are looking at a citation for Willful Reckless Driving, Reckless Endangerment, and maybe something worse. Maybe even Vehicular Manslaughter if your buddy there dies.” I paused to let it sink in. He just stared straight ahead.

“I don’t suppose they play much football down at the boy’s farm.” The Nebraska State Juvenile facility was known as the boy’s farm, and it had a vicious reputation for hard labor and sodomy. Dan’s eyes widened a bit, and he turned a bit paler.

“What if he didn’t fall out?”

“What do you mean, Dan?”

“Maybe I made it up.”

“I’m pretty sure you made it up. Now why don’t you tell me the truth?”

He paused, chewing his lower lip. “My dad’s gonna’ kill me.”

I leaned over until my shoulder was touching his, my campaign hat just brushing his ear. I spoke in a low conspiratorial tone. “I don’t think you realize just how close you are to going to the farm and playing buttdarts with the guy with the most cigarettes. I bet a skinny blonde like you would have a boyfriend in no time.”

I got out of the patrol car and checked with the paramedics. They were ready to roll, so I helped them get packed up, and promised to meet them for coffee later.
When I got back in the Mustang, Dan looked up at me. It was clear that he had come to a conclusion.

“I don’t want this in the paper. My dad would shit.”

“I can’t make any guarantees, but I don’t give interviews, if that’s any consolation.” I was back to sounding friendly and concerned. It’s tough to do the “good cop, bad cop” routine when there is only one of you.

“He didn’t fall out,” He paused again, obviously horrified by what he had to say. He laid his head back against seat and sighed. “We were buffalo tipping.”

“But Dan, buffalo don’t sleep standing up.”

“We know that now,” he said quietly.

“Mom. Mom. MOM. Mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mommommommommommomomommomomom!”
She smells of nylon, leather, and pressed cotton, with a touch of disinfectant. Her starched nursing cap defies gravity upon the back of her auburn hair, tacked in place with copper bobby pins. Her pale hands seem almost a part of her white uniform as they guide both of our trays down the stainless steel rails of the cafeteria line. I want to push my own tray, but Mom had said she’d handle it. She chats with another nurse – I think her name is Brenda. Brenda doesn’t have any children, and so it is harder for her to ignore me than it is for Mom.

I decide that perhaps getting my request out there is the best approach. “Mom, can I have Jell-O? Mom, can I have Jell-O? Mom? Jell-O?” Suddenly I recall her saying, “I don’t know – can you?” so I change to, “May I have Jell-O? Mom, may I have Jell-O? Mom, may I have Jell-O? Mom. Mom! Mommy! Mom?”

Brenda looks past Mom’s elbow and smiles briefly at me, but Mom continues on, recounting the latest tale of which doctor was kissing which nurse, and in what room of the hospital. I am not sure where X-Ray is, but it seems to be a busy place for that sort of thing.

Together they step to the right, sliding their salads and my fish sticks toward the big black woman at the register. The time has come for a more direct approach. I grab the hem of her stiff, white uniform, and punctuate my litany with a tug for each recitation. “Mom.” Yank. “Mom.” Yank.

On the third pull, she breaks off in the middle of a sentence, spins and bends at the waist, abruptly thrusting her face into mine.

“WHAT!!?” Her sudden shriek brings conversation in the immediate vicinity to a halt, and I am certain that everyone in the cafeteria is waiting for me to speak. “Well?!”

I mumble in a tiny voice that I would like Jell-O. She sighs deeply, then says, “Yes, you may have Jell-O, but you have to eat all of your fish sticks first, ok?”

“’Kay. Green Jell-O. With whipped cream.”

Her look tells me that I am pushing my luck. Any Jell-O will be fine, I decide.

With Brenda, she discusses the “difficult phase” that I am going through at the moment, including a tight-lipped rendering of my most recent adventures, in which I pushed the cat into the full bath tub, relieved myself in the corner of the back yard, and set her bedspread on fire. The events she relates are true enough, but her assessment of my motives significantly misses the mark. She suggests that I am dealing with anger at her work schedule, when, in fact, I simply enjoy the smell of a match just after it’s lit. Don’t we all? The dog and I are at war with the cat; he doesn’t like us, and we don’t like him – enough said. As for the backyard incident, I am still confused as to why that was such a big deal. The dog pees in the yard; why shouldn’t I?

Brenda comments that, “boys will be boys,” and both sagely nod, as if boyhood is an unavoidable trial for the women of the world. Their belief in this concept, however, goes no further than lip service, as they all seem to spend a goodly amount of time trying to stop us from just “being boys.” This old saying mixes rather poorly with my absent father’s reminder that while he is in Viet Nam, I am “the man of the house.” Man, boy - neither has much meaning for me at this point.

For the next few minutes, I struggle to see the dessert section approaching. I can’t quite see over the rail, but I have eaten here enough to know that once we reach the cantaloupe slices, we are nearly there. I try standing on my tiptoes and pulling myself up by the tray rails, but finally I decide that the best course is to simply jump up every now and then for a quick look. I jump - and see rolls and muffins. Another jump – slices of ham and roast beef. I jump again – and briefly see veggies as Mom’s cool hand lands on my neck. She pulls me closer, and speaks in a low voice by my ear. “Enough. Now calm down.” Her tone makes it clear that this is not a preliminary warning. This is a final proclamation, and I know the seriousness of flaunting such things.

Once released, I resume the tiptoe approach, as this seems the least likely to draw attention, but it is not terribly successful. I find that stepping back from the line a few steps allows me a limited view of the food on the upper shelves, and the melons are fast approaching.

Brenda and Mom are now adding plates of watermelon and honeydew to their trays. Soon, I know, a small aluminum bowl of Jell-O will land on my tray, completing my lunch perfectly.

I wait, and no Jell-O appears.

I step back to check, and sure enough, there are plenty of Jell-O cups. Green, red, and even orange, all wait in rows, along with puddings of various flavors. I briefly consider changing my request to tapioca, which is half a step farther down the line, but I am already fixed on Jell-O. I look at Mom, but she is still chatting, and stepping to the right again. I can hear the woman at the register counting out change. I know from an ugly confrontation with one of the Nazis at Montessori that you can’t go back in line, and Mom is nearly past the desserts. She is long past the point, both in line and in life, at which a half-dozen jiggling cubes of green Jell-O actually matter.

The situation is growing critical – with each step, the Jell-O will recede into the distance, obscured by the doctors and interns in line behind us. Despite the echoes of hundreds of repetitions of “don’t touch anything” sounding in my head, I decide that I must get it myself.

Sliding my left hand through the tray rails, I feel about for the cups. After a few seconds, I plant my fingers in something cold. Hoping that it is not pudding, I pull the mystery dessert toward the edge.

I dimly recall Brenda saying, “Uh oh.” Mom spun, then lunged back to where I was holding up the line. I heard, more than saw, her coming, and tried to quickly complete the delicate task of pulling my selection through the rails and into my waiting right hand. The pedestal base of the cup caught on something, and I lost my grip.

Mom’s left foot, encased in a pristine, white nursing shoe, landed directly beneath the falling dessert. The cup upended, fell, and then exploded directly on her instep; a chocolate pudding bomb. There was a split second of silence as we took it in. It was on her stockings, and raised droplets the size of dimes stood on her crisp white hem. My green toughskins and tee shirt were peppered as well, but the bulk of the mess rested squarely on her left foot.

Mom’s punishments were usually like nuclear war - swift and final. This case was no exception, and her open right hand connected to my left cheek with a resounding crack. It was not hard enough to bloody my lip, but it stung like nothing I had experienced before. I drew my breath in sharply, and prepared to wail.

Mom again bent at the waist and thrust her face in mine, saying, “And don’t you dare cry.” Miraculously, I didn’t make a sound.

Things to do in Laramie on a school night...
and a snippet of Irish lore.

Sometimes you just feel the urge to beautify the world. The Ministry supports those urges - occasionally, this even takes the form of going with you to the tattoo artist and taking pictures while you are being inked.

This is before the shading and details were added. You will see a picture of the finished Claddagh here in a few days.

I'm sure that most of you know the lore surrounding the Claddagh ring, but just in case...

These rings were originally worn in the village of Claddagh near Galway, Ireland and their traditional purpose was to show marital status. How the Claddagh ring is worn sends a clear message to those who understand it (although I'm not sure what it means if it is on your spine...). Today the ring is usually interpretted a bit more liberally.

If one was courting, the Claddagh ring would be worn on the right hand with the heart facing outwards.

Today this usually means that she is single and looking.

Once a betrothal had been decided the Claddagh ring would be turned so the heart faced inwards.

We read this today as an indication that a love is being considered.

Upon marriage, the Claddagh ring worn on the left hand with the heart turned inwards, would serve as a wedding ring.

Today it doesn't always signify marriage - just that she is in a relationship.

The Claddagh ring has now become popular for men as well.
The design is usually beefed up or set into a band in the men's version - this one has channel-set emeralds as well.

Oh, and yes - she says it still stings quite a bit...

Sunday Sermon
WARNING: Set metaphor filter to HIGH

A good conversation is balanced. There is give and take in equal measure, and the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. You feel respected as an individual, and also a part of something greater than yourself. Ideas change hands, but more importantly, trust is exchanged and the relationship of everyone, each to the other, is strengthened and improved. The topic may roam far and wide, but we cover all that terrain in sync, moving as a tribe. We speak our minds and love one another for our diversity. We come away enriched and energized. Such is the converse of friends.

Alas, not all conversations are that good. Most are skewed, many are filled with sophistry and gamesmanship, and a few are a maze of dislogic. There is often no intention to hear, only the desire to be heard and obeyed. Such an exchange can become an armed conflict, a use of force that obeys no rules - and some become bitter, long-running wars. There is no Geneva Convention for conversation, no court at the Hague to try those who commit spoken atrocities, but some words and phrases are war crimes none the less. We emerge exhausted, with bloody hands and hardened hearts for our trouble. Such is the converse of predators and scavengers.

I confess that I have waged many a campaign on that battlefield. I'm not proud to say that I have fought tooth and nail over the pitted terrain created by this kind of intercourse, and limped from the field to lick my wounds without learning the lesson it offered. I'm even less proud to admit that I have lead many successful sorties on that blasted plain, and gloated over the fallen like some sick carrion bird.

Why, you may wonder, is His Sinfulness rambling on like Yoda in a PoMo remake of Return of the Jedi?

Glad you asked.

The limitations of the flesh make speech our primary way of reaching each other. We can touch a loved one, but in a sense, this is only the barest form of communication; it's like knocking on the ceiling to tell your upstairs neighbor to quiet down. Simple concepts are conveyed, but abstractions and subtleties are lost. If you don't believe me, try to communicate with your significant other about something conceptual, like your income taxes for example, by physical contact only. An entertaining exercise perhaps, but my guess is that it would lead to a pretty jacked-up 10-40 form...

Speech is more like two tin cans with a string stretched between them - it's a tenuous strand between your mind and their mind, linking however briefly, to share something.

I have been surprised at the wide quality of conversations I have been having of late. In the last week I have seen the spectrum of interpersonal information exchange, from effortless to incoherent to apocalyptic. I imagine that most of us could point to a similar range of experience (though probably over a longer time frame - the Dark Pontif does run with a fast crowd, after all...).

For how much of that spectrum am I responsible?
How much did I want to know my friends' hearts?
How much did I want to misunderstand?
How much did I want to fight?

Unfortunately, the answers for me were, not enough, too much, and a lot.

When you are done trying to itemize your deductions by touch alone, ask yourself those questions. I'm sure that the good people of the Flock will find themselves to be much less pugnacious than myself, but I figure that we all could be more aware of the power our speech holds. Be willing to hold each other as gently in speech as you would in making love.

Go in Peace.

I'm Psychic

My family is not terribly close. It is not unusal for me to go a month or more without talking to my mother, and even longer with my sister. Unaccountably, as I was drifting off to sleep last night, I got a strange urge to contact my sister. She and her husband have been trying to get pregnant for quite a while now. Months of fertility drugs and constant doctor visits had, up until now yeilded nothing, and yet I was inexplicably siezed by the conviction that she was, in fact, knocked up. I closed my eyes and tried to go to sleep, but this odd feeling was not to be denied, so I called her.

My brother-in-law (who is a great guy, despite his love of the Minnesota Vikings) answered the phone. He hesitated when I asked if she was positive yet, then said, "She just walked in the door - I'll put her on." It turns out that she had just talked to her doctor's office a few hours before my call - the blood test they had drawn around lunchtime came back positive in the late afternoon. The expected due date is October 21st.

These newly acquired psychic powers are, no doubt, a cosmic reward for my many years of clean living and self-sacrifice. Yeah, that's it. After a bit more practice, I'm going to drop out of school and move to Vegas - I figure I'll make a fortune betting on sports.

The Ministry hereby decrees that until the gender of the little wog is known, it shall be referred to as the "Dark Niece." I recognize that it could be a Dark Nephew, but I have a "feeling" about this too.

Naturally, I have suggested some possible names.
Thumbelina - because every little girl should be so lucky as to have a theme song by the Pretenders.
Grizelda - same argument, but a theme song by the Monkees will have a very different impact on a kid's life...
Amidala - who doesn't want to be royalty?
Lucille - mostly so that later in her life we can all say, "Joo got some 'splainin' to do Lucy."
Pookie - my sister has been saddled with this nickname her whole life. It's likely that the Dark Niece will be stuck with it too - why not make it official? Besides, "Pookie Johnson" really rolls off the tongue nicely.
My sister has been remarkably unresponsive to this list of Pope Tested, Ministry Approved names...

In other news, we have a new entry in the logo contest...

This fine effort comes to us from another out-of-town member of the Flock, Mischief. The Artist Theolaureate has promised us an entry, and I expect that a few more are brewing out there... soon we will have to begin the voting.

If HR Giger sent out Valentine's Day Cards...

Valentines Sermon
(If you just can't take a post on the origins of Valentine's Day, feel free to click here instead.)

Valentine's Day has come once again to the Black Vatican, complete with the giving of the traditional love-gifts; cards, chocolate, and small ponies*. Although the Catholic Church dropped St. Valentine's Day from the Roman calendar of official, worldwide Catholic feasts in 1969, the Ministry recognizes him as the Patron Saint of Chocolate and Nookie. Since the Ministry has no wish to encourage the crass commercialism of this solemn holiday, we take a look at the roots of this awkward day.

There were actually three martyred saints named Valentine - one was a Roman priest, another was bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and the third was from Africa. The first two were contemporaries, and both were martyred in the second half of the third century. Of the third, it is only known that he suffered and was killed along with a number of his companions - when and where are lost to history.

Although there is no real concensus on how the modern Valentine's day celebration came to be, it is usually suggested that Mother Church wanted to place a less lacivious holiday over the traditional festival of Lupercalia, which took place on the 15th of February. I found this charming little description of those festivities...

"In general, the ancients viewed Lupercalia as a purification and fertility rite. The ritual involved the sacrifice of goats and a dog in the Lupercal (the cave in which the wolf suckled Romulus and Remus) by priests called Luperci, who smeared the foreheads of two noble young men with the blood of the sacrificed animals and then wiped it off. At this point, the youths were required to laugh. Then the luperci, clothed in loincloths, ran about the area, lashing everyone they met with strips of skin from the sacrificed goats (called "februa"; hence the month of February). Young wives were particularly eager to receive these blows, because it was believed that the ritual promoted fertility and easy childbirth. Ovid writes, "Neither potent herbs, nor prayers, nor magic spells shall make of thee a mother - submit with patience to the blows dealt by a fruitful hand." A lottery was conducted as well, where the names of available maidens were placed in a box and drawn out by the young men. Each man accepted the girl whose name he drew as his love - for the duration of the festival, or sometimes longer. These ceremonies were accompanied by much revelry and drinking."

The lottery idea sounds like fun, but knowing my luck I'd draw the name of some angry young lesbian, and all things being equal I prefer chocolate over being lashed with freshly peeled, bloody goatskin.

If you're with someone, give them a litte extra squeeze on Monday. If you're not with someone, squeeze a stranger. A total stranger. Squeeze them tight so they can't get away. When the cops arrive, sqeeze them too - cops love hugs. Later, in your cell, give yourself a little sqeeze as well.

Go in Peace.

*Ask Raksha about the ponies...

and so it begins...

As I warned you all about a month ago, I'm making some lifestyle changes. I've been waiting for this cold to go away so that I could get back to the gym, and finally it has receded enough that I can actually break a sweat without having a coughing fit. It's time.

I want to let the Flock know in advance because I don't want anyone to be hurt by me turning down a lunch or dinner invite. I also want to let the racquetball players among you know that I'm looking for opponents. It will be my usual regimen; no booze, almost no carbs, cardio, weights, and pell work (that's hitting a wooden target with a practice sword). I will be going straight to the gym after work at 07:00, beginning Monday. Hopefully all this will help me lose weight and get more sleep.

By the way, the guy in the picture is Frank Zane. He was a big name in body building in the '60s, and was Mr Olympia in '68. I just put that up there so the gay boys would read the post...

From Mt. Olympus

Another effort by Zeus. Since many members of the Flock seem to have missed his first entry this past Saturday, I've copied it here as well.

I'm very pleased with the entries so far, but there are some of the Flock that we haven't seen an entry from yet. I don't want to put anyone on the spot by naming names (Rachel), but not everyone (Abra) has a good excuse (Ben) like Clay - his scanner is down.

In other news, Sexy Losers finally updated. As usual, it is completely tasteless and wrong, but the guy can really draw...

Life Drawing 101

Kim Dupczak, a confidant of His Sinfulness for several years now, has offered this entry in our logo contest. Note how slim and youthful the dark pontiff looks in this drawing - it's a perfect representation of life...

Keep those entries coming!

Sunday Sermon
(by Deacon Mark)

The Lesson’s of Love

“I fled him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled him, down the arches of the years;
I fled him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears…”

- Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven

How many times have you found yourself at the end of the road? The sign reads “Dead End” - you saw it as you took the turn but for some reason you thought yourself to be immune to this consequence. And how many other consequences have come your way, even though you would swear that you did nothing to cause yourself such pain? The world is not this uncontrollable, there is a reason for everything, and it begins with us and the understanding that no thought is neutral.

Our need for love comes from so deep inside our souls. Our hunger for another is sometimes all that we can feel, and the thirst for closeness comes to us at the most awkward times. What do these situations have to give to us? What might love’s lessons tell us?

Relationships are the epicenter for most of life’s drama. Our relationship with the world defines us as an individual. And as much as we would all like to be the most important person on the globe, we are sore to realize that this is just not true. Competing egos will never win; conflict always ends with loss on both sides. Everyone we meet is another soul just like us. And just like us this soul has hopes and dreams, memories, regrets, and a past. Every person is a potential gift of love. This gift can be mistreated or ignored, or we can act according to our best behavior, we can act with love.

Love is our loftiest goal. Love is the purest form of heaven that we humans have with which to gift each other. All else in our lives becomes mere framing for the portrait. Our studies, our works, our passions are mere details in the face of love’s pursuit. Without each other, all else is without meaning or purpose. Devoid of community we become slaves of our egos.

Humans were never supposed to be perfect. Humanity was never a place of sanity and truth. We are here for our own reasons, on our own missions, but the general theme has something to do with the lessons that love provides. We can learn so much from love, if only we allow our hearts to be open to its presence. So many relationships are given us from which to learn and grow. Our problem is that we continually place foreign purposes upon these interactions. We continue to screw up time and again because we refuse to learn from our mistakes.

Love is a choice; the choice to see what is true about a situation above all else. This choice is the most difficult choice that you will ever have to make, over and over again. Let’s say (just for fun) that someone comes up to you and cold-cocks you across the face for no apparent reason. You have two choices: one is to act with fear, to assume that this person means you harm, the other is to act with love, and to know that this person is not in their “right mind”, and that they know not what they do.

True love is not the fairy tale crap with your one and only Mr/Mrs Right riding off in the carriage into the sunset. True love comes in many forms but has the same result every time. Love creates more than what was previously available. In this way, love defies the laws of nature, because in giving, both receive. The rest of the world does not work in such an abundant fashion, as we have all experienced. True love is “love without conditions”; the most profound manifestation of God’s love. It says that when I give I want nothing in return. If you think about it, most relationships in your life are not built off of this principle. Most of our memories of love is really conditional love, or fake love. But the purest form of love is not a feeling but a choice to give without want of recognition, return, or rebate.

There is no one who will refuse love when it is offered without conditions. Our relationships are our source of drama because they hold the most potential of change within us. So answer the call of love, open your heart to its transforming power and allow love’s fire to change your deepest self.

“Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’"

-Francis Thompson, ‘The Hound of Heaven’


Divine Inspiriation

Not to be outdone, Zeus offers this logo from on high. Boomerangs, swords, and text lifted from the header... I like it!


Deacon Mark is a busy guy. In addition to writing his first sermon, he has found the time to create 6 entries for the logo contest! (The material in italics are comments by the Black Pope, and not Mark's fault...)

Representing the intensity of our group, or perhaps our penchant for arson.

There is something sort of frightening about this one - like a clown with blood on his big floppy shoes...

I don't want to show favoritism, but I LOVE the hat!

Peace Dove
...or is that a hawk swooping down on the heretics and unbelievers?

I wonder if the Muslims would mind...

I can see this one on a CareBear's tummy - "Zealot Bear", or maybe "Fanatical Convert Bear".

If you like the framing hands but want to put your own symbol in the middle, Mark has also provided a template, shown below.

Like the cold, black, withered heart or your Dark Pontiff... mwuhahahaha!

I've had a preview of Mark's upcoming sermon, and you won't want to miss it - it's a good one.
Maybe TOO good. He's trying to better himself in the Ministry's heirarchy... He might even be angling for my job... HERETIC! Guards! Sieze him at once!

In Theory...

Gerardus Van Der Leeuw, 1890-1950

As you near the end of your degree, they throw a capstone class at you. In the humanities, that means a theory class. Senior Seminar, the capstone for my English major was a craptastic pile of readings by Freud and Jung and Foucault and Derrida and a host of others - but I survived it. After that, I figured that I could handle any capstone class they might throw at me.

And then I met the capstone for my Religion major; RELI 4000, Theory and Method.

Below is an excerpt from one of our required readings. It comes from Religion in Essence and Manifestation, a fun little text on Phenomenology by Gerardus "Please, call me Jerry" Van Der Leeuw. The italics, seemingly random capitalization, and odd punctuation are all reproduced here exactly as it is in the original. Which isn't an original at all, but a translation from Jerry's native Dutch.

"That which those sciences concerned with Religion regard as the Object of Religion is, for Religion itself, the active and primary Agent in the situation or, in this sense of the term, the Subject."

Did he just say that the Object was the Subject? Mmmkay. The next paragraph is even better...

"Religious experience, in other terms, is concerned with a “Somewhat.” But this assertion often means no more than that this “Somewhat” is merely a vague “something”; and in order that man may be able to make more significant statements about this “Somewhat,” it must force itself upon him, must oppose itself to him as being Something Other."

I think the people who translated this are also the ones responsible for the manual that came with my VCR.

Contrary to popular belief, not all devout members of the Flock actually live near the Black Vatican. One of the cyberfaithful, Princess Blogonoke, is the first to enter the logo contest with these beautiful sketches. In her entry she writes, "if someone with more talent can draw a better mitre demon, please be my guest." Perhaps the Artist Theolaureate will be inspired by these. Personally, I'm quite fond of the hats...

In other news, this Sunday will be a Deacon's Mass. Deacon Mark is feverishly working on his sermon as we speak - you won't want to miss it!

Here we see Deacon Mark as he, um, "ministers" to the Unbeliever...

"The Master would not approve."