A wide spot in my imagination.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Teilhardian Jazz

The choir sang this past Sunday at the First (and Only) Uni-Christi-Bapti-Metho-Presby-palian Church here in Zen. Yet it weren't no choir at all. 'Twas only a soloist, sittin' on a stool, backed up by the Last-Sunday-of-the-Month Jazz Ensemble, which consists of a cap-wearin' trumpeter, a toe-tappin' piano player, a rat-a-tat-tat drummer, and a thump-bumpa-bump-bump stand-up bass. And the song weren't no church song either. It was the Gershwin boys' 1926 jazz standard, "Someone to Watch Over Me."

The song oozed off the chancel into the congregation, slow, sultry, with enough swing to let you know this was different. It was spirited though, in a way that the Women's Circle would only speak of when they were drunk-on-communion-wine honest.

After it was all over -- the song, the sermon, the offering plates passed and what-not -- one older-timer was heard to say over coffee, "Didn't know whether I was in church or in a bar." The sly smile made me think he knew both and appreciated them in a truly separate but equal kind of way.

That overhearing is what's responsible for the following interlinear comparison:

There's a saying old says that love is

Still we're often told, "Seek and ye shall

Seek ye first the kingdom of God...

So I'm going to seek a certain lad I've had in

Sweet little Jesus boy...

Looking everywhere I haven't found him

He's the big affair I cannot forget...

O love that will not let me go...

Only man I ever think of with

Were you there...

I'd like to his initial to my

Tell me where is the shepherd for this lost

Savior, like a shepherd lead us...

There's somebody I'm longin' to see,
I hope that he turns out to be,
Someone to watch over me...

Guide me, o thou, great Jehovah...

Although he may not be the guy
Some girls think of as handsome
To my heart, he carries the key...

Who would think that what was needed...

Won't you tell him to put on some

Come, thou fount of every blessing...

Follow my lead, Oh, how I need,
Someone to watch over me.

"Didn't know whether I was in church or in a bar." Sometimes it's hard to tell. Maybe it doesn't matter.

The old French Jesuit said, "By the virtue of creation and still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see."

Teilhardian jazz, right here in Zen.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Patron Saint of Pawnshops?

Meet St. James of the Marche. Great name, huh? He runs a little non-profit here in Zen, Texas. A little organization with the catchy name Mountains of Charity.

Okay, he actually lived in Italy in the 1400s, but I wish he lived in my town.

James was a Franciscan. (One of my Franciscan friends once described Franciscans as "the Baptists of the Catholics." By that he meant poor, devout and enjoying of a common meal -- in the Franciscans' case, sharing the common table of the order; in the Baptists' case, sharing a potluck supper.) Today is his feast day. (Not being Catholic, I'm intrigued by the Catholics' calendar of saints and sneak a peak at it online like some of my friends sneak peaks at porn.)

But, back to James of the Marche. It seems he was a preacher, wanderer, and fast-follower. And one of those people who lived out his faith with a meddling zeal. That's what caused him to found his Mountains of Charity (montes piatates). One of the things that ticked James off about the world around him were the people of his day who charged exorbitant interest rates. So, James founded non-profit credit organizations that loaned money for very low interest rate on pawned items.

(I must admit, pawn shops, like Catholic saints calendars, intrigue me.)

But, again, back to James. His non-profit sounds great, huh? Not to everybody. Twice, hired assassins tried to take out old James, but lost their nerve.

Here in Zen, word on the street is that payday lenders and other such upstanding biznesses are charging working people up to 300% on loans.

Maybe we should build a statue to St. James of the Marche here in Zen. Maybe I'll go ask the payday lenders to make the first donation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Welcome to Zen, Texas

Welcome to Zen, Texas. Population 1. And those of you who drive by.

It's not really a town, it's just a wide spot in my imagination. Few sights to see, no conveniences to speak of, and no Chamber of Commerce billboard to greet you on the outskirts of town.

No one's real sure how the town got its name. Some folks seem to recall that a group of Moravians settled here and named it for their old dead hero, Nicholas Ludwig Zinzendorf, he of ecclectic theology, simple-living, and such. But the Moravians were pacifists. And pacifism don't play well in Texas. So, surely no self-respecting Texas town is named for him.

Maybe the town's named for another religious approach from another continent, Zen, the form of Buddhism that favors meditaton, direct knowledge (as opposed to theoretical), and experiential realization.

What if the town is named for both? Or what if Zinzendorf became a Buddhist? Or if the Buddha was later a Moravian? What is Moravian piety met and married Buddhist meditation? What if that's the kind of thing that happens here in Zen, Texas?

Anyway, we're glad you're here. Stop and sit a spell. Or if you're just passing through, come again.