Thursday, October 19, 2006

Electoral Process

It's the least I can do for my broken country: I volunteer one hour a week calling voters. I've divided it into 15 minutes 4 times a week, but I don't think I'll ever get used to it.

"Do you support the Democrat Ken Lucas sir?"
(Drunkenly) "All the Democrats."

"Do you support the Democrat, ma'am?"
(Matter of factly) "I don't vote." The most disturbing reponse of all!

In between, I reach the snarlers: "None of those idiots!"

and the persons tremulous from God-knows-what "This just isn't a good TIME right now!" These make me feel bad. What is it, their father's funeral? A marital argument? A souffle interrupted?

Some just hang up, or say, "Not interested." Some people respond, "Could you please take my name off the list?"

Of course few love receiving political calls (just politely ask them to take your name off the list), and it's tedious to make them, too. But knocking on doors, accosting persons on the street, and telephoning them at home are long-standing campaigning tactics. I may be living in an off-the-rails, badly governed nation, but for 15 minutes 4 times a week, I can experience that we still have a semblance of an electoral process.

Every now and then there's a fun one, like the woman who called me to ask my vote for Deval Patrick. "Don't worry," I told her, "I'm making calls for for"

"Oh, keep it up," she said, "thank you."

"Thank you, too," I said.

I haven't had an answer like that in 102 phone calls, but we still 9 15-minutes sessions to go.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ian McEwan's New One

Yesterday I had that most satisfactory of days, reading a new novel by a good writer. I read Ian McEwan's "Saturday" first in Starbucks right after buying it and then later at home in my recliner. I will probably read it at least one more time and recommend it highly.

Set in post 9-11, pre-Iraq London, "Saturday" narrates the day off of Perowne, a man who has it all: successful brain surgery practice, beautiful loving lawyer wife, palatial home in London with summers in France, plus the rebel poet daughter is publishing and the rebel musician son is getting rave reviews for his shows and albums. The whole family except for a drunken father-in-law and a senile mom are in pretty good shape.

This most fortunate of men is constantly conscious of fear of terrorism, frustration with pacifism, and the anxiety of living in a London with violence always near the surface. The brain surgeon is still a man for a' that--as evidenced by fierce competivieness on the squash court and by his barely controllable road rage. The climax of Perowne's Saturday involves men fighting men and protecting women--a phenomenon not reflected upon either by Perowne or by his creator.

In between his bursts of testosterone, the Darwinist Perowne enjoys cooking, dutifully visits his mother, and worries about his own ageing. At 48, he regrets he'll soon have to give up squash and running marathon. A man who sees himself as gentle and precise, Perowne is still very much king of the roost. What will happen to Perowne's consciousness when he seriously confronts his own mortality I look forward to in one of McEwan's future books.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Funeral at my Workplace

You'll notice in my profile that my business is "religion." For me, going to work means going into the church offices, right next to the church building.

A few minutes ago, as I worked in my office--answering email, updating registration lists, printing out an application for a prospective new hire in the church nursery--I heard the big old church bell begin to toll at the end of a funeral.

One can't exactly do work when the bell is tolling for thee, so I sat still and listened and said a prayer for the departed Christian soul, whom I had heard of but never met in this life. Naomi (as I will call her) was very old, 98.

After the tolling ended, I heard a baby crying. Then I heard adults chattering and laughing. Then silence as the worshippers exited to the Columbarium to commit Naomi's ashes.

I hope I have a baby crying at my funeral, and I hope the adults are laughing. Both seem a sign of a well-lived life and a happy death.