Friday, February 17, 2017

Notes From My Knapsack 2-23-17

Notes From My Knapsack 2-23-17

Jeff Gill

 

Dudgeon, high and low

___

 

Are you offended?

 

No, I'm not asking about what so much as if. If you are, in general, offended.

 

Some folks just don't get riled too quickly, and others are easy to stir up, quick to retort, hasty in their comebacks.

 

There's a phrase, somewhat archaic, mildly mysterious in origins, that you can use when someone is ready to go off half-cocked or on full automatic at any time, and that's when you say someone is "in high dudgeon."

 

There's an etymology that's tempting to follow in the Granville area, because it has to do with a Welsh word for "resentment or indignation," and would fit the usage as it's used today for a person leaving a room "in high dudgeon." But none other than the Oxford English Dictionary says a lengthy and scholarly version of "whoa, not so fast, bub."

 

What we do know is that in Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and earlier English usage, a dudgeon was the hilt of a dagger: "I see thee still, And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, Which was not so before." So.

 

"High" dudgeon, and the application of the term in the following century or two, seems to indicate a person who walks around with a hand on their hilt, always ready in the "high dudgeon" position to pull their sidearm and brandish it aggressively.

 

High dudgeon would be like an armed person walking around with their hand on the butt of their gun all the time. Not quite threatening, but not altogether reassuring, either.

 

Rhetorically, on TV cable news, online in all manner of venues, social media and otherwise, it seems like everyone is walking around, metaphorically, ready to draw and fire. On a hair-trigger, or locked and loaded all the time.

 

It probably doesn't help much that so many of our metaphors for dispute and debate are not just militant, but weaponized. Look through the ones I've used so far, and you can see the view down the sights. "High dudgeon" is only quaint and less violent sounding because our context has changed, and people, mostly gentlemen, don't walk around with a dagger in their belt as a part of being dressed for the out-of-doors. But in its day, it had as much a message of "kill or be killed" as "two go in, one comes out" does today.

 

I would never tell someone who is offended or concerned these days that they're wrong (for one thing, I value my life too much to do that). But I do wonder about what our alternative paths might be to talk about opposition and interest and ultimately policy in terms that are other than high caliber, major impact, mushrooming or armor-piercing language.

 

This may be my Quaker heritage showing through, but on all sides of the current political swirl, I hear speech aimed at the other side's positions that sounds awfully violent and martial. What if we were looking for ways to express differences or reconcile opposition that picked up on a different set of images and methods?

 

It's instructive to me, at least, that as I try to come up with some new terminology, I just keep coming up with different ways to rally the troops, charge the ramparts, or decimate the opposition (look up the roots of that last one, yuck). Do you have any ideas? From art, biology, architecture, dance?

 

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him how you think we could speak differently about differences at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Faith Works 2-18-17

Faith Works 2-18-17

Jeff Gill

 

Things I Didn't See Coming

___

  

Recently a tech company created a charming video based on "The Jetsons," updating that 1962 cartoon's opening with 2017 special effects, and our own particular view of "the future."

"The Jetsons" purported to be how we'd be living in 2062, and some of what they presented has already come along, even though we're still way behind on flying car technology. Self-driving cars are apparently just around the corner, with all that a two-dimension transformation will bring our society.

That makes me think, as a pastor and a leader in church community life, how changes affect us. I just read a good essay on the prevalence, in some circles, of a Sunday 11:00 am worship service. The question wasn't so much about Sunday as it was THAT particular hour: 11 o'clock. It's not Biblical, it's not even all that historically traditional . . . and it seems to be rooted basically in a village and town model of a largely agricultural community where morning chores and time to travel meant 11 was the hour. Sunday school, recall, is another non-Biblical innovation, if innovated in the middle 1800s and becoming common around the early 1900s.

So it's a hundred years old, but that doesn't make it an eternal necessity. Anymore than 11:00 am on the signboard is. Or any other particular time of day. So many churches now have Saturday evening services to usher in Sunday, or Sunday afternoon worship, and so on. 

When I was a kid watching the cartoons on Saturday morning, I couldn't image there would be a time when you didn't have Bugs Bunny starting the weekend… or that you could watch cartoons on your lap any day or time of the week. The shape of entertainment and weekends have changed, but church, not so much. Should it? In some ways no, but in many ways, maybe so.

That debate about religious essentials is an old one, and I'm not sure I want to get right into that side of the question, so I want to change the subject even if it's just a quarter-turn on the dial, and ask this: what did I not see coming, what has changed in our society and circumstances that weren't anticipated, at least by me, and what might that tell us about how to move our feet to keep standing firm in shifting sands ahead?

I want to offer a few of my own "things I didn't see coming" this week, and would be happy to hear some of yours, although I know I've got enough to carry on to a second week already . . . but let me know which topics come to mind for you under this heading.

One big surprise for me in the last thirty years has to do with debt. Credit cards were already widely used in the 1980s, so the cashless society was not exactly a surprise. What has been a source of continuing amazement to me is the general acceptance of debt. Dave Ramsey has made a career out of arguing against it, and teaching people how to work back out of it, but the need for his work has been a testimony to just how much headway the basic trend has made into our lives. Every time I think personal indebtedness is starting to creep back down, it seems to make a resurgence. Mortgages with less than 10% down, reverse mortgages, crushing credit card payments that are still not touching principal, loans of a wide variety of mechanisms mostly not well understood but still widely used: helping parishioners deal with debt is a huge issue I didn't see coming.

Likewise gambling. Las Vegas existed when I was a kid, and Atlantic City came along, and then the casino boom exploded right here in Ohio. Lottery and gambling vacations and slots just a forty minute drive from my house: this touches every family, and not in a good way. The Methodists spoke out against it to the end, but it's over, at least for this generation. Gambling is simply accepted, by everyone, as a fundraiser, an activity, a vacation program, and a tool for paying public obligations (like education) -- and we're all expected to play. Not gambling makes you a very odd duck indeed. Not that I mind being that sort of fowl, but it didn't used to be odd among clergy & Christians.

What didn't you see coming?

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about the changes that caught you and your church off-guard at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.    

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Faith Works 2-11-17

Leonard & Ryan --

I had a series pre-written and set up to take me to Ash Wednesday, but I think given all the events of the last four or five days in our county, I needed to shove that aside and put this essay out there. I will re-submit the previous column marked 2-11-17 as my 2-18-17 column instead, so you can just delete it for now.

Sorry for any confusion my earlier submission may have caused: the following is the column I want to put in for this week.

In grace & peace,
Jeff

+  +  +


Faith Works 2-11-17

Jeff Gill

 

Three numbers you must know

___

 

2-1-1.

 

Got it? Three numbers. Like 911, which is what you call for emergency response, whether medical or fire or any threat of imminent harm.

 

And blessings with everyone working in and around our county Emergency Management Agency in the last week, which has had a remarkable set of challenges out of the "ransomware" crisis disabling much of our county phone and file management. The County 911 System has kept working right through all the technological setbacks and in the middle of these makeshift arrangements have had to deal with a spate of emergencies that have tested everyone involved: and they have passed that test with flying colors.

 

But among those crises and tragedies has been a theme that we all need to attend to. Sometimes, the tragedy is building, but hasn't yet broken. On occasion, you see a sorrow threatening to overwhelm someone else, and you feel helpless to respond. There are times when a crisis is not yet, as some would measure one, but you believe the crisis in close at hand, and needs to be prevented.

 

This is why you need to know 2-1-1. Just dial 211 on your landline, and on most cell or smartphones. 24 hours a day, there's someone waiting to talk to you, about suicide, about concerns over a friend or family member who is acting as if that might be a possibility, about addiction and how to act on a determination to make a change.

 

Call 211. You can also find them online at www.211pathways.com; some of us go back far enough to recall the old Crisis Center, and that number still works (with the area code!) of 740-345-HELP (4357). And if your cell service doesn't respond to 211, you can call 800-544-1601.

 

When you call 211, you don't have to prove you have an emergency right off. 911 has to keep the line clear, and can't talk to you about your problems on a potential or possible nature. They would, if you called about a friend who had started to give away their personal possessions or talking about being dead and making you really, really nervous, tell you to call 211.

 

Pathways trains their 211 operators as "Crisis Response Specialists." They know how to help you figure out what the concern really is, and where to go next. They don't drive out to your house any more than a 911 dispatcher gets in their vehicle and respond themselves, but they know whom to contact.

 

Suicide is a tough subject. Addiction, and anxiety, and urgent concerns that aren't tied to an immediate threat of harm, but are surely heading there given enough time: you have someone to call. 211.

 

If you are a helping or caring professional – and that includes clergy! – you can call when you're flummoxed, when a situation baffles you, when you just don't quite know how to help. I've done it before as a minister, and I'll do it again: I call 211 and say "hey, Pastor Jeff here, and I've got a situation and I'm trying not to send someone off on a wild goose chase." The CRS trained person on the line will look up the right resource, the proper contact number or address, and give me the ability to make the right referral, the most direct assistance, real help in real time.

 

We need to think about, tell others, and use 211 more than we do. They know over at Pathways that the hardest calls to deal with are the ones they learn never get made. You may not have the problem, but you see it, and aren't sure what to do (or NOT do). 211 can help.

 

And a favor I try not to ask very often: I hope every adult Sunday school class in the county has someone who clips this column, brings it in tomorrow to the group, and reminds them about 211. Anyone can call, everyone can help. 211 gives you the tools to build a better response in your church, your family, in our world.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about the changes that caught you and your church off-guard at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Faith Works 2-11-17

Faith Works 2-11-17

Jeff Gill

 

Things I Didn't See Coming

___

Recently a tech company created a charming video based on "The Jetsons," updating that 1962 cartoon's opening with 2017 special effects, and our own particular view of "the future."

"The Jetsons" purported to be how we'd be living in 2062, and some of what they presented has already come along, even though we're still way behind on flying car technology. Self-driving cars are apparently just around the corner, with all that a two-dimension transformation in transportation will bring our society.

That makes me think, as a pastor and a leader in church community life, how changes affect us. I just read a good essay on the prevalence, in some circles, of a Sunday 11:00 am worship service. The question wasn't so much about Sunday as it was THAT particular hour: 11 o'clock. It's not Biblical, it's not even all that historically traditional . . . and it seems to be rooted basically in a village and town model of a largely agricultural community where morning chores and time to travel meant 11 was the hour. Sunday school, recall, is another non-Biblical innovation, if innovated in the middle 1800s and becoming common around the early 1900s.

So it's a hundred years old, but that doesn't make it an eternal necessity. Anymore than 11:00 am on the signboard is. Or any other particular time of day. So many churches now have Saturday evening services to usher in Sunday, or Sunday afternoon worship, and so on.

When I was a kid watching the cartoons on Saturday morning, I couldn't image there would be a time when you didn't have Bugs Bunny starting the weekend… or that you could watch cartoons on your lap any day or time of the week. The shape of entertainment and weekends have changed, but church, not so much. Should it? In some ways no, but in many ways, maybe so.

That debate about religious essentials is an old one, and I'm not sure I want to get right into that side of the question, so I want to change the subject even if it's just a quarter-turn on the dial, and ask this: what did I not see coming, what has changed in our society and circumstances that weren't anticipated, at least by me, and what might that tell us about how to move our feet to keep standing firm in shifting sands ahead?

I want to offer a few of my own "things I didn't see coming" this week, and would be happy to hear some of yours, although I know I've got enough to carry on to a second week already . . . but let me know which topics come to mind for you under this heading.

One big surprise for me in the last thirty years has to do with debt. Credit cards were already widely used in the 1980s, so the cashless society was not exactly a surprise. What has been a source of continuing amazement to me is the general acceptance of debt. Dave Ramsey has made a career out of arguing against it, and teaching people how to work back out of it, but the need for his work has been a testimony to just how much headway the basic trend has made into our lives. Every time I think personal indebtedness is starting to creep back down, it seems to make a resurgence. Mortgages with less than 10% down, reverse mortgages, crushing credit card payments that are still not touching principal, loans of a wide variety of mechanisms mostly not well understood but still widely used: helping parishioners deal with debt is a huge issue I didn't see coming. 

Likewise gambling. Las Vegas existed when I was a kid, and Atlantic City came along, and then the casino boom exploded right here in Ohio. Lottery and gambling vacations and slots just a forty minute drive from my house: this touches every family, and not in a good way. The Methodists spoke out against it to the end, but it's over, at least for this generation. Gambling is simply accepted, by everyone, as a fundraiser, an activity, a vacation program, and a tool for paying public obligations (like education) -- and we're all expected to play. Not gambling makes you a very odd duck indeed. Not that I mind being that sort of fowl, but it didn't used to be odd among clergy & Christians.

What didn't you see coming?



Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about the changes that caught you and your church off-guard at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Notes From My Knapsack 2-9-17

Notes From My Knapsack — Granville Sentinel 2-9-17

Jeff Gill

 

Educational essentials then and now

___

 

Reading in history can be illuminating, but to be perfectly frank it can also be depressing at times. There are themes and ideas that keep coming back; it's been said that history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

 

Charles Browne White, "the Sage of Mount Parnassus" recorded some of the minutes of "The Centerville Farmers Club," a gathering of agriculturalists from north and east of the village of Granville, Newark-Granville Road in another century being known as "Centerville Street."

 

In 1876, as the Newark courthouse was being erected to no small controversy, as property taxes were being raised to build it, even as a financial panic gripped the country as a whole, the farmers of the township met . . . one of them had this to say about our public school system:

"One of the best. I thoroughly believe in it, so long as it secures to all a plain, common education. But in these days it does not stop at that. The languages, music, drawing, etc., are being taught. These should be discontinued. There is a loud call for economy in our families, in time, labor, clothing, etc."

 

In every era, this debate has to be taken up again. What are the basics, what is necessary, and what is an extravagance? Meanwhile, tax cuts on the federal and state level are accompanied with mandates and non-negotiable requirements to local governments and school districts, which are forced to ask for additional tax levies to cover the gap between what they are required to do and how they are funded. If I were in a more cynical mood, I'd call it a shell game, and one where our schools and communities are left holding the empty bag.

 

In fact, this same 1876 worthy (you can look up the details in seven volumes preserved by the Granville Historical Society) said this as well: "Much is made about the poor being unable to live. If this is true, it is owing largely to their aping the rich in dress, in extravagant style of living, in burying their dead, etc. These things should be corrected." One wonders what the "etc." stood for in the unrecorded portion of the club discussion, and then sighs. Or at least I do.

 

It's true, poverty isn't what it used to be. No one lives on the edge of town in a dirt floor shack, with barefoot children who own one pair of winter shoes with holes patched by newspaper. Yes, some get assistance today who have access to amenities our grandparents could barely dream of.

 

But this is where history is an uncertain guide. The nature of education in 2017, the reality of the economy in the present day, call on us to make different calculations about what must and will be tolerated in the public sphere, and how we pay for what we define as basic or necessary. "What was good enough when I was a kid" will only tell us what was true within those parameters.

 

Today, poverty means no access to dental care; lack of access to a car means destitution the poor of a hundred years ago couldn't imagine. The idea that you could not even hope to find a job within thirty minutes' brisk walk? Incomprehensible. When I was in school, I was taught penmanship, typing, and learned how to set type in a printer's stick during shop class. My son learned none of these things, for which I am wistful, but not regretful.

 

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you think is essential in education at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.