Friday, April 20, 2012

Thursday kinda sorta sucked

Confessing to Siri, lying in bed late last night:

Thursday night, April 19

Today was a bad one. Marguerite's bone marrow is so damaged that she could not receive chemotherapy yesterday. This is not uncommon, but it is discouraging. Once again she is very weak.

I found refuge in food (of course) and grandchild therapy. Little Ish spent the afternoon with me. He asked me to play "where there's a whip there's a way" over and over again - it's from the animated Return of the King. He danced and rocked with the orcs - "left right left right".

As a caregiver, I am frustrated and angry. As a Catholic, I am frustrated and angry. Chemotherapy is clearly a poisoning of Marguerite's system. She is physically blasted, emotionally numb, and fearful. Ditto me. My faith is completely intact this time. I don't know about hers. I had loud, bitter prayers using the F word today, expressing my helplessness. Today's paradox of Catholicism was strangely comforting. I skipped mass, with out guilt, because I didn't want to run into anybody and also didn't want to face up to the knifing pain that comes from deep suffering, Even if an encounter with Christ would be good for me. Sometimes mindlessness and heartlessness feels better.

Mother Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Can Siri help me with my obesity?

Tuesday morning April 17

Since starting this experiment I have been using Siri for all my text writing tasks. She is extremely good at voice recognition. For some reason, it is easier to do effective Google searches using Siri than using the keyboard. This may be because it's quicker to refine a search using voice than typing, and so I don't settle for imprecise results as easily, I just give another command by voice and off we go.

Using Siri, I have a new personal assistant a robot personal assistant. When I first got my iPhone, I thought that Siri was just a flashy bell and whistle. Basically a showy frill. Not so, not so at all. I use her for writing notes to myself throughout the day, and I now compose long emails on the iPhone instead of waiting until I get to my computer. The biggest problem is that I can't figure out copy and paste. I fall into them randomly, but can't seem to initiate a copy when I want to. I'll have to look that up online. I'll ask Siri to search.

Yesterday I searched on the topic, how can I deal with the venial sin of gluttony. I found an excellent audio file with a good transcription. It was from a website called Desiring God, and the audio file was by a Pastor John Piper.

 "Gluttony is having a craving for food that conquers you." Good, succinct definition.

Obesity can have many causes Pastor Piper says, gluttony is one of them. For me, it is a primary cause. A good way to conquer gluttony, he says, is not by saying no but by offering an alternative. How can I conquer gluttony?

Hmmmm. I tried to copy a couple of paragraphs from the pastor's talk. I wound up copying the whole transcription. Clearly, I have my work cut out for me in this experiment. [I also wound up posting with no line breaks, which an anonymous commenter pointed out and I am now fixing. Bugs, bugs....]

Since I am free to distribute the transcription, I might as well put the whole discussion in. True, it makes this a long blog entry, which is contrary to blog etiquette. But I've never been all that well mannered. So here goes.

The following is an edited transcription of the audio.

How can I conquer gluttony?  - by John Piper

There are a lot of reasons for obesity in our culture. It's not just that we eat a lot of bad food. We're also pretty inactive and don't do a lot of walking, running, biking, etc. Oftentimes obesity issues are connected as much to activity issues as they are to what goes into our mouths. Muscles are designed to burn food, but if they aren't being used then any amount of food is going to result in obesity. But "gluttony" is a better word to use in this context rather than "obesity," because overeating is where the problem is, not how much you weigh. There are all kinds of reasons why a person might weight too much or too little that is not a result of gluttony.

Gluttony is having a craving for food that conquers you.

The text of Scripture that holds out the challenge to me on this issue is 1 Corinthians 6:12 where Paul says—specifically in regard to food and drink—that he will not be enslaved by anything. He is saying, "I have one master, Jesus Christ, and I don't want any other master." Then in 9:27 he talks about pummeling his body: "I pummel my body lest I be disqualified." I think we need to recover a large appreciation for the biblical disciplines of self-denial and fasting. That is the discipline side of this issue: "I will not be enslaved by anything," "I pommel myself," and "I take up my cross daily."

I think we should esteem, extol, and cherish the biblical teaching that the Christian life is one of confronting our cravings and saying no to them. But easier said than done, right? So how do you fight the battle?

I think it must be fought mainly not with the word "No" but with an alternative "Yes." It is very interesting to me that there are so many food and taste analogies in the Bible for God himself:

 "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8)

"Desire the sincere spiritual milk of the word." (1 Peter 2:2)

"I am the bread of life. Come to me and you will not hunger." (John 6:35)

"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food." (Isaiah 55:1-2)

The implication here is that if we give ourselves to being satisfied with spiritual bread, wine, and milk, then physical hunger will lose its supreme power. The main way to fight cravings that we don't want is to experience higher cravings and have them master us.

Here's where the rubber meets the road. Say you're sitting down at the table, and you're very hungry. You know that if you give yourself free reign then you'll eat two or three helpings of everything, get up stuffed, gain weight, and feel guilty. Why are we tempted to do that?

One very practical reason is that we are bored, and nothing is happening after supper that is more exciting than supper. Therefore staying at this table and eating feels really good, whereas leaving the table to do whatever is next on our agenda feels boring. Very practically then, I would plan something after supper that you want to do. It can certainly be something spiritual, but it can also be a type of exercise or a visit with a friend.

A lot of gluttony is born of boredom. Life is not satisfying or stimulating, relationships feel empty, and work is boring, but food is always there and tastes so good. So we need to cultivate a range of appetites for great and good things, things like good literature, people's fellowship, reading the Bible, nature, work, etc.

Discover these other appetites so that things other than food can satisfy you. Then pray earnestly and cultivate and nurture these satisfactions.

 © Desiring God Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God. Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Confessing to Siri

I am going to try an experiment in language. And honesty. And new technology.

For all of this Easter season I will dictate to Siri and publish my dictations. Siri is the voice recognition program on my new iPhone.  I named my blog Confessions of a Cooperator. I meant it to be a record of a life lived within the paradoxes of Catholicism. I would like to try that once again. For this Easter season I will live up to the name of this blog. I will confess to Siri.

It is 6:51 AM on Divine Mercy Sunday. The light of morning cracks through my window blinds. I hear birds twittering. My back hurts and I have a headache. Dictating to Siri already has a salutary effect. Usually I am torn between my duty to pray and my desire for mindless consumption of experience. But dictating to Siri is already a mindful activity. So let me pray.

Full disclosure, Lord. I am tongue-tied this morning. I love you, I praise you, I thank you for the blessings of my life. I go now to speak to you in silence. Siri, over and out.