samedi, avril 21, 2007

Being patient

I'm not sure why both my gynecologist and opthamologist are both very bright, and extremely chatty. Let me take that back. It's quite a good evolutionary adaptation for the gynecologist to keep up an uninterrupted flow of chit-chat. The operative idea, I suppose, is to keep you so distracted that you don't pay attention to his or her bright shining instruments, gloves, and various other instruments out of the plot of some grade "B" adventure in sadomasochism.

I'm very fond of Dr. Z-we've known one another so many years (he knew me back when I was single the first time) that there are many rabbit trails we can go down without much effort at all. That's why I try to make sure I'm on his schedule first thing after lunch-otherwise, like so many others, I could be sitting there mentally saying goodbye to one suburban train after another while he talks hospital ethics or religion with another woman in stirrups.

I don't feel the same anxiety with Dr. Z that I do with Dr. G, my eye doctor-another brilliant, cosmopolitan Jewish guy who knows his Old Testament almost as well as he knows his irises.
I really don't like having my eyes dilated, and so spend the night before in fear-a waste of a good night's sleep.

Strangely enough, I played mother confessor for Dr. G yesterday. He wanted to talk about truth and relativism-is there absolute truth or are we impelled by the desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain? It seemed almost as though he had something to get off his chest-but it was hard to establish just what. Inevitably, however, our discussion took us to Virginia Tech-and the mystery of evil. I told him he was talking to a woman with a professional interest in religion, and he told me that I, more than some other people, should be able to understand relativism as a sign of respect for God. He apologized for talking for so long (imagine how the 90 year olds waiting to see him felt) -and then we finally got down to the exam.

I'm not sure what I learned, except that Dr. G was grappling with the same horror and sadness that overwhelmed a lot of us this week-even scintillating minds cannot protect our grieving and anguished spirits.

jeudi, avril 19, 2007

The dignity of human life

...While the ruling will thus have a direct impact on only a relatively small subset of abortion practice, the decision has broader implications for abortion regulations generally, indicating a change in the court’s balancing of the various interests involved in the abortion debate.
Most notable was the emphasis in the majority opinion, by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, on the implication of abortion’s “ethical and moral concerns.”
“The act expresses respect for the dignity of human life,” Justice Kennedy said." April 19 NYT

It's been quite a week for the debate over the dignity of human life, has it not? In Virginia, teachers and administrators wonder what on earth they could have done to prevent a student who reportedly suffered from mental illness from killing 32 students and faculty.

The debate over what you can do to protect the innocent against someone who may or may not pose a danger to themselves or to others is quite lively. But in the background of this controversial debate is another-whether Americans will ever be willing to allow any limits on the availability of guns.

In Washington D.C. the Supreme Court, against the rulings of lower courts, upheld the Federal Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act. The ruling means that this procedure, in which the fetus is extracted from the uterus to terminate pregnancies late in the first trimester, will not be available to women seeking abortions except when a mothers life is threatened. Women who claim a health exception will have to go to court to challenge the law as it applied to them.

Pro-choice advocates see this as the camels nose under the tent-the beginning of an assault on the so-called 'right to choose.' But what is also worth considering is how the Supreme Court, in its 5-4 majority (the usual justices on the usual sides) has endorsed allowing Congress to legislate morality.

There are places, frankly, where I'd love to see Congress construct a moral compass for this nation. But is that a good idea? I have to say that I'm not sure.

And yet I suspect we let Congress do so a lot more than either right or left would like to admit.

In this case the probability is that the justice so concerned with fetal life would go to great lengths to avoid legislating gun control. They would pick another argument to support their case.

But I happen to see the pro-choices forces and the anti-control forces as partners in an unusual conspiracy-to stifle reasonable debate on measures that would make abortions more rare and guns less prevalent.

Everyone has the right to own a gun. Every woman has the right to choose an abortion. Both assertions are reductive, and both tear at the fabric of our society and the notion of a common good.

Until we can reasonably balance individualism with respect for the lives of others, we will continue to see lives lost to people who found it all too easy to purchase a weapon. How can you talk to people (those oppose any and all limits) who won't talk to you because they feel like they have won already?

And until we admit that abortion is often a choice of convenience, and that legislating when life begins is a moral dodge rather than a legal fact, those of us in the muddled middle won't have a place at the table.

I'm not at all sure we should , or can legislate American morals. But I'm not at all certain, on the other hand, that we can't, or don't, or even should not, do so every day.

mardi, avril 17, 2007

Accepting the unbelievable

I spent a few minutes tonight reading about the young women and men, the graduate students and teachers, murdered at Virginia Tech on Monday. Even in black and white, even knowing that they are dead, they glimmer with the loveliness of promise only partly fulfilled. I don't know if this group of students (valedictorians, dancers, military men) was above average for VT-they seem extraordinary to me. As the days go by, we will learn more about them, enough to make us grieve more deeply, never enough to make the slaughter something we can accept. How sad, and how typical of this nation, that the faces of the dead, and the heroes, were men of color, immigrants, and an elderly Romanian Jewish Holocaust survivor.

All we can pray tonight is ...please let us do something meaningful to stop this epidemic of violence in our cities and campuses. When do we finally understand that it is not enough to mourn the dead? We must protect the living.

Welcome the incandescent souls of the dead to your Kingdom, God. Shall we who still live accept that peace is only a real option for the life to come?

lundi, avril 16, 2007

The older woman

He's there when I stumble bleary eyed out of bed on Saturday checking my email before I race off to pick up my son at his dads for a morning of baseball. I turn on my computer, and almost immediately he sends me an instant message. I look at the screen with slight annoyance. I'm not ready to talk to my kids yet, let alone a younger guy infatuated by a woman he's never met.

Later that night, as I'm getting ready to close down the computer, he signs on again. We live very far away, and he's in the throes of ending his marriage, and somehow he stumbled upon my profile online. Sweetly, but with great lashings of common sense, I've tried to discourage him. Without being too hard on him-he's had a tough few years. From what I can tell (and I tend to believe about half of what guys tell me, particularly if they are busting on their former spouse) he really was in a bad situation.

Let me digress for a minute-If I'm currently involved with a guy you aren't likely to be hearing about him, unless I have something nice to say. If I throw something on the screen, it usually means that he's history, I'm trying to make him history (like the producer I still miss when the wind is in the west and the moon is full) or there's something I can't quite figure out, and it's bugging me.

But I play nice. Even guys who have been unswayed by my sultry charms (dream on, Liz) don't get trashed or named. After all, there's no accounting for taste...

Au fond, as the French would say-au fond, I still look in the mirror and see the slightly chubby student with the Indian skirts and hair in her face-and I think it's hilarious (though oh so flattering) that men find me attractive enough to long for even my virtual self.

So back to my friend. He asks me why he's attracted to older women (when did I become an "older woman?") I'm clueless, but I assure him that there's nothing wrong with it, it's not like having a fetish. He says when he looks at my profile he gets butterflies in his stomach. And what do I do? Fingers racing across the keyboard, I tell him that if he didn't drink too much caffeine, he would not have these feelings. He needs to have some warm milk before he goes to bed, and he will be able to sleep without dreaming of me.

He laughs. I can't cure him of thinking I'm funny-I can't make the feelings go away. He's sweet and humorous and kind. He deserves better than late night talks with a woman who lives hundreds of miles away.

And so do I, by the way.

How many times have I been wry and philosophical and mature, when I so wanted to put my guard down? How often have I fenced when I wanted to find a spot for two, a quiet place where I could lay down my arms? How many hours have I longed to be recognized for who I was, and am, and could be...through the eyes of someone who would know when to take charge, and when to give in?

So much for this woman of the world persona-if it doesn't come with an impeccable command of French idiom, someone who will take me to Cannes for the Film Festival, and the ability to get five hours of sleep and still look totally hot, I'm not buying it.

dimanche, avril 15, 2007

Country roads in a lost paradise

A few days ago Wallace Township residents got a present from the Postal Service.

Stuck in along with the junk mail was a red envelope asking if we wanted to order our stamps through our mail carrier. Because we are in a rural area, he or she would drop them off in our mail box-we would not have to make the trip to the Post Office.

There's a delicious but poignant irony here. Wallace probably was rural twenty years ago-with a few developments here and there among the farms, the beautiful old houses, the hens and the trailers. While some residents still had to suffer views of the Turnpike in their back 40, it was an oasis of quirky loveliness just outside the sprawl of such townships as (we say this name so complacently here) Upper Uwchlan. Much of the township is still quite wonderful, offering picturesque vistas of sheep and spires. But though a lot of the land will remain undeveloped, it is by no means a rural area.

Even our postman, whose large Nordic build makes him look like he could have stepped right off a Viking ship, has a hip aura. Greeting him a day or so ago when he beeped the horn of his van in my driveway, I asked him about his girlfriend the artist. Turns out they are both artists. He pays the bills by driving the "rural" mail van, and she has an art gallery in Narberth.

As it happens, I live right up the street from our Post Office, so there is no real need for me to order stamps. But I still might do it for the thrill of pretending to be a natural fit with Wallace the way it was instead of the city girl who finally got the opportunity to have the best of both worlds, out here where the deer dare the SUVS and the lights of turnpike dance on the waters of Marsh Creek Lake at night, tomb of lost houses, and farms and fields.