Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Little Light Reading

I've been busy, and I've been ill. I've also felt that I didn't have much to write about--or perhaps it's just that my mental energies and writing have been directed to such entertaining projects as the search for a Director of Religious Education, a new building (we break ground in June), the progress of the pledge drive, worrying about my brother's health, and so on.

In part, I've been drained by the drumbeat for more war. I can't fathom going looking for WWIII.

Certainly my reading of late hasn't been light, fluffy and upbeat. I've been burrowing my way through Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy, which makes a case that the nation's financially overextended already, among other things, in the kinds of ways that heralded the demise of Hapsburg Spain, The Dutch Republic and Imperial Britain. I'm not obsessed with the idea that the US needs to be the world's dominant power, but I'm enough of a historian to know how much discomfort and misery the decline of a great state means for its average citizens -- and for the citizens of other nations that get caught in the grinding of imperial transmissions revving up to impress everyone.

To tackle something else, I picked up Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus. I'm not even a quarter of the way through, yet, but it's an interesting read, both because of his personal tale (perhaps described best by suggesting that getting educated has a well-known tendency to bias one towards liberal views), and because of his bringing his education in things I'm never going to get around to mastering to bear on things like the origins of the Christian Scriptures. Fascinating... and not likely to make fundamentalists very happy.

The last one I've really barely cracked, Jon Meacham's American Gospel. But it's about the founding of the American Republic and the issue of religion then and since.

It hasn't been all work and no play--though the play has seemed to be of the hard work sort at times. A group of us got together and learned (or, in my case, relearned...) Morley's madrigal "Now is the Month of Maying," for a service. Trying to coordinate five voices and three instruments--with everyone having busy schedules, illnesses, surgery...--was a challenge, and the piece didn't really come all the way together until the day before the service. But the performance went off quite well.

The Fellowship has a choir, an ensemble, a house band, and sometimes a jazz quartet. We're not sure if we've just done one madrigal once... or whether there's now a madrigal group as well. Some lunatic suggested a barbershop quartet as well, and unfortunately, that seems to enthrall the minister. Meanwhile, my wife and a few others really want to start a UU Taiko group.

I begin to wonder who is going to sit in the audience while everyone's performing.

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