Am I As Confused As I Sometimes Feel?

So, Rachel Maddow is now doing a major series of podcasts. Almost all the people I know of in public life – or maybe half – now have podcasts.

What’s a podcast?*

Add to the podcasts: many public-minded souls are now reading a variety of blogs each day. David Brooks must read hundreds every week. I know what a blog is, I think. I believe that I write one.** But how can I begin to read even a cross-section of all those really important blogs?

Never mind tweets,*** which are not my métier. Tweeting, for me, is like the subway train that passes through the underground stop where I’m waiting, without stopping. But what am I missing?

Then there are the old media outlets like the Boston Globe and the NY Times which thousands, like me, take the time to read every day. Why are those outlets so passé?

Plus news programs on Public Television and MSNBC. I sometimes worry that we might lose them. All the news we need to know, I think, could be there – and one of these days it all could go missing.

And more: I know that we all should try read specialty communications that allow us to keep up with our own fields. So I eagerly read an email service from theologians who are working at the frontlines of science. Then there’s the global reach of the international email letter I receive, EcoJesuit. And there are all the other online newsletters about our world going to hell in a handbasket, too, climate change and all the rest: I worry that I should be reading more detailed stuff like that.

Not to forget thought-provoking and updated, but old-time mags: I couldn’t get by without reading virtually all the articles in the liberal Catholic publication, Commonweal. Likewise for The Catholic Worker, celebrating the heritage of Dorothy Day. But a friend of mine reads many more of these than I do. For some reason, I am convinced that I should be reading more.

I dutifully read a thousand Church newsletters, too, from my own and former parishes, from my national church, from the Lutheran World Federation, from the World Council of Churches, as well as grassroots communiques such as the newsletter of Lutherans Restoring Creation, all of which have links to other newsletters that I would like to read, if only I could find the time.

From time to time, too, sad to say – because it appears to be such a waste – I also keep up my old habits of ordering what for me are exciting new books from, only to stack them up in my study. (A depressing thought: the state of my study reflects the state of my mind.)

I also stack up the Sunday papers in various places, which I do get to, sooner or later. (Did you know that you can read a paper quicker when it’s two weeks old?)

Why is it all, sometimes, such a blur?

In addition, we’re supposed to invest ourselves in our families and in meaningful relationships with friends. Right? Is that why a good friend and I exchange multi-page, single-spaced emails with some regularity? But why do our respective family members mock us for that?

And find some quiet time for meditation each day, for sure. Don’t think about it. Just do it. But when?

And find time, as well, to read that latest gripping novel, which those you know, who are in the know, know so well and talk about so knowingly.

I can listen to that novel on earphones, I know, when I take a walk. But I thought that I had headed outdoors to contemplate nature!?

All this, not to speak of investing myself in my local religious community or responding to the needs of my next door neighbor or weeding my garden. (Maybe gardening my weed?)

Never mind, too, that, even after fifty years, it still requires a bit of energy and some imagination and a ton of sometimes ambiguous introspection, to keep perking along in my marriage. Think about it, Paul, I sometimes say to myself in the midst of all-too-familiar and sometimes unfamiliar marital dynamics. Then there are those times when I want to run out to the street and yell, “Isn’t marriage wonderful?!”  But being well-married, of course, takes time.

And once a parent always a parent – wonderful, but sometimes phew! One of my favorite puns: get real, don’t be apparent. The joys of parenting can sometimes be exhausting!

And what about my grandchildren? They’re going to inherit a world that people like me will have left them. A Finnish theologian I know, Panu Pihkala, is writing about ecoanxiety in today’s generations. Some days (daze?), I don’t even want to think about it.

Rather: make plans to go join Bill McKibben when he pickets a pipeline in North Dakota.

And make phone calls every weekend to get out the vote for sane candidates, lest the forces of MAGA totally take over the world.

All this with the awareness that reading poetry can be good for your soul.

And be ready to drop everything to talk with the superintendent in your building – you asked him how he was doing and now he’s started to tell you, personal stuff, much more than how to find a reliable plumber.

And, of course, do get at least seven hours of sleep each night, so that you don’t get sick and become a burden to others.

Did I mention getting regular exercise?

Never mind grocery shopping or taking your car to the shop or keeping your doctor’s appointment or allowing your mind to go blotto watching BBC dramas or the Celtics on TV. Such things just happen.

Some might feel called to write books, too, and – once written – to record them for on-line availability. It can be exhausting to do all that reading out loud, never mind the writing. Surely not a slam dunk for an octogenarian.

Above all: remember to look at your list of things to do two or three times a day, maybe four or five, particularly the top item: start working on the big lecture (you think) you’re going to give to a bunch of theologians next spring in Lancaster, PA. But not to worry, that’s like having a baby: it will get done.

And do feel free to ponder the demands of these apocalyptic times. Don’t they require extraordinary acts of public courage and public outrage? Think about that and then keep thinking about it. Wake up in the middle of the night and think about it some more. Try not to feel guilty along the way, by the way – you know that you are safe and secure and prospering in this world, by any global standards – because guilt, of course, is counterproductive. Especially don’t feel guilty about trying not to feel guilty.

Do also take the time to take your meds and your supplements first thing in the morning or maybe three times a day or more.

And don’t forget your dental appointment (I know, I know. They will call you to remind you.).

Did I mention reading all your emails?

Then there’s that long manuscript from a friend that you said you’d read and comment on by next week.

By the way, don’t even think about regularly doing the recycling. That’s the kind of thing that will get done, just like when I used to change diapers. Some things just happen.

Concerts – especially when you already have tickets for them – just happen, too. So you thought you’d take a nap that Sunday afternoon, but no: gird up your loins and go hear an exquisite rendering of Bach’s B-Minor Mass, without nodding off half way through.

The next morning, at home, when you discover that you can’t find a drinking glass for some OJ, you notice that you haven’t loaded the dishwasher for four days. That happens, too.

Do I sound as if I’m existentially blasted?! And I’m retired!!!! How do people with full-time jobs really get it all together? Not to speak of getting through the day.

Dear reader, what’s your take on life in these times???

NO, NO, NO – erase that. And YES, YES, YES, I’m YELLING! I don’t want to add one more worry to your life! Disregard that impertinent question of mine.

As I reflect about my own life now, in conclusion, I wonder: whatever happened to the practice of the Primal Scream? A few decades ago that used to be the latest thing. Be that as it may, if you’re in to that kind of therapy you’ll know that that takes time, too. You have to hop into your car and drive out into the country to find some isolated place where you can scream in peace. You can’t scream happily at home, certainly not around the corner at Home Depot – somebody’s going to have you hospitalized.

Am I, indeed, as confused as I sometimes feel? Perhaps.

What, then, should I do about it?

Maybe I should just, in the language of the streets, fuhgedaboutit.

But there’s a better option, I believe. I could, in the language of a friend of mine, behold the lilies of the field.


* Note from Paul’s daughter: He actually sort of has a podcast of his own! We take the audio of his “Let’s Talk!” youtube series and share it as a podcast here.

** Note from Paul’s daughter: This post appears on Paul’s blog, “Walking Thoughts.”

*** Note from Paul’s daughter: He has a twitter account! (And an Instagram!) He knows about them but doesn’t interact much, at all. When a tweet or post is something he shared, I sign them -hps.