Thinking About Poverty

homeless-man-sleeping-with-his-bible1What better time than Advent to ponder what poverty means? After all, Christ became poor for our sakes, emptying himself of his divinity as he emptied himself into our humanity.

So what does poverty mean? Here are some dictionary definitions:

Poverty (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary):

1a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions; b: renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property; 2: scarcity, dearth 3a: debility due to malnutrition; b: lack of fertility (of the soil).

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Mantras for Advent

advent-wreathLast year at this time I wrote about suggestions my spiritual director had given me for living within Advent’s special gift. For Advent this year, I want to share some of the other ways I’ve found over the years of to observe this graced season.

Mostly, I’ve loved mantras.

At the start of each Advent, I’ve chosen a quotation that carries for me Advent’s special texture of waiting in hope; I’ve written out the quote to put on the kitchen table. Before dinner each Advent evening, my husband and I say the words together.

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Inside My Nostalgia Box

SeventeenLook at my new Easter eggs.
Red and blue with yellow legs.
See them run around and around.
Then they tumble on the ground
.

I’ve just discovered this intriguingly surrealist verse in a box in my attic labeled “Nostalgia.” The box has been sitting there for decades, and I got curious recently about what might be in it. Judging from the large, carefully printed lettering of this poem, I’d guess it’s from first grade, before I’d learned cursive.

Examples of my literary juvenilia abound in this box. I’ll spare you most of them. But one poem from my high-school literary magazine, Inkling, stands out for me. Called “Waiting,” it begins:

On a battered bench in a city park
Sits a man—old, tired, and weak;
On his aged skin there is many a mark—
A scar on his neck. A cut on his cheek
.

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Billy Collins’s Art of Drowning

poems_3I always keep a poet by my bed.

Lately it has been Billy Collins, former U.S Poet Laureate.

I don’t open the book every night. Only when I need to touch the play of language, to be entertained by poetry’s taut twists and turns and surprises, before settling into whatever novel I’m reading that will engage me for a half hour or so, then lull me to sleep.

But why Billy Collins? Why for months now has he kept me reaching for his poems?

Of course, there are the double-over-with-laughter poems like “Litany,” which he reads aloud in a deadpan voice that heightens the comedy.

In fact, deadpan is the characteristic voice of Collins’s poetry, a voice that allows him to create fanciful lists, caress details, or slip into a profound understatement, all without ruffling the surface tone of the verse. Humor is his home, and much of the humor is self-effacing. That’s surely part of what draws me to his work. [Read more...]

Goodbye to My Nuclear Days

fe71438f-d663-40bd-b19f-6e7ddb8ab904-1472x2040From the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, I devoted my research and writing to the nuclear arms race and nonviolent responses to it. The mid-eighties marked the height of the Cold War. The U.S. and the Soviet Union were locked in an arms race that our government referred to as (I kid you not) “MAD.”

The acronym stood for Mutually Assured Destruction.

The strategic theory behind MAD was that if both nations had enough nuclear bombs to totally annihilate the other country and its inhabitants, then neither nation would push the button—because even after a first strike by one side, the other side was capable of launching a second strike in retaliation. Second strike capability was housed mostly in nuclear submarines that cruised the ocean floors.

By 1988, the U.S. had about 23,5000 nuclear bombs in reserve, the U.S.S.R about 33,000. Overkill, to put it euphemistically. [Read more...]


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