Books by John Ailor

Even before Wendy died, I was on a mission, a mission that is widespread among people my age: to clean out, declutter, downsize, minimize.  I've heard a saying bounced around that goes something like, "you spend the first half of your life accumulating stuff and the second half getting rid of it".  And, like a good baby boomer, I'm following the getting rid of script.  

Wendy was not one to declutter, just the opposite, the polar opposite.  Two of our three children inherited the clutter gene from their Mom.  The single biggest category of items to go in the ongoing, and sometimes overwhelming, clean-up/declutter mission is books.  I'm as, if not more, guilty of accumulating books as anyone in my family.  Scribners, Borders, Barns and Noble (now all replaced by Amazon); some of the happiest memories are of browsing bookstore haunts.  I've built and bought bookshelves, filled them up and then given away books in order to fill them up again.  The attic has boxes, some carefully labeled and some haphazardly stored, filled with books.  

Yesterday, my son and his wife worked on cleaning out his childhood room which he moved back into after college and where they lived for five months after they were married.  This morning I found some of the results of their efforts by the backdoor (the standard staging spot for items to be relocated to the local library, Goodwill or the rubbish heap) several brown paper grocery bags filled with books.  In the bags I found lots of obsolete computer and computer peripheral manuals, instructional books about baseball (including the 2000 and 2001 Official Regulations and Playing Rules for League LIttle League Baseball and the 2000 Official Regulations and Playing Rules for Softball), and soccer, books about coaching baseball and soccer, a few books about tennis.  I haven't looked in their room yet to see what books survived the cut, but just looking at what's going out the door fills me with a sense of joyful nostalgia.  What a wonderful rich life we had, how much we've learned and done.  But mostly I'm finding joy that our kids have their own trove of books they cherish.  I'm glad our kids came along while physical books had value and that they find value in physical books.  

I love, love, love my Paperwhite Kindle.  I just about exclusively buy the Kindle version of whatever I'm queuing up to read next.  I've given Paperwhites to my voracious reading 98 year old Mom, my late wife, friends and my children.  But, as is evidenced by the 1962 Boy Scout Handbook on my office bookshelf, even this old clutter purging, recovering consumer, born again minimalist, Kindle promoting fool frequently finds a flood of joyous memories from an old book on a shelf.  Maybe scrolling through the electronic library on someone's device will stir the same satisfying flashes of yesteryear someday that curating home bookshelves does now.  For now though, I'm delighted to share the joy of having just the slightest musty aroma sitting on a bookshelf ready to bring back the ambitions and obsessions of earlier days.

Grace Happens - Not by John Ailor

A friend said to me "What rhymes with Orange".  I said, "No it doesn't".

When I heard the topic for this summer's Wednesday night services was "Grace Happens", I said, "No it doesn't'".  Grace doesn't happen.  

Lot's of things happen.  Middle C happens.  Every time it's played on an Organ, or a piano, or a car sounds a particular alert tone.  A person can make Middle C happen.  A computer algorithm can make MIddle C happen.  But when someone or something isn't making Middle C happen, there is no Middle C.  There is the concept, created by Humans, of Middle C.  When Middle C isn't happening, there is the concept of Middle C that humans can discuss and analyze, but that concept only exists when a human is thinking or talking about it.   Concepts created by Humans only exist in the collective conscious of Humankind.  Without that collective conscious, humankind conceived concepts don't exist.  Other species don't know about Middle C as a concept.  They experience Middle C when it happens, but they don't, as far as we know, have a musical theory that places that particular tone in the middle of a scale.

Bats can't see.  Their entire reality is based on an amazingly sophisticated sonar.  Their sonar is so highly developed that they can dart through the sky and catch a tiny flying insect in their mouth.  Bats visualize the world in a way we can't begin to imagine.  Yet their version of visualizing the world without seeing is shockingly efficient.  Watching a Bat erratically dart around the sky at dusk, you have to be impressed, once you get over your skittishness and fear of being bitten on the neck, with their sightless abilities.  While our powerful technology that guides nuclear submarines is sophisticated, I'm much more impressed with that bat snatching it's tiny prey out of the evening sky.  I have to think that, while Human's musical scales produce glorious sounds, something as central as the tone we call Middle C in our theory is an infinitesimal aspect of a bat's sonar reality.  A bat only "sees" Middle C when it happens, if it happens at all.  

The tone we call Middle C only exists when it happens.  Most of the time, Middle C doesn't happen, and when it's not happening, it doesn't exist.  

Grace.  Grace doesn't happen.  For something to happen there has to be a time when it doesn't exist.  Unlike Middle C, there isn't a time or place when Grace doesn't exist.  You certainly experience Grace.  Once in awhile the experience of Grace is so profound that you are compelled to acknowledge it.  Once in awhile experiencing Grace is so amazing that songs get written about it.  Once is awhile experiencing Grace is so all consuming that you name your child Grace.   Once is awhile someone lives their life and dies their death so full of Grace that their eulogy is all about their life lived in Grace.  But Grace doesn't happen.  It can't because to happen there has to be a time that there is no Grace and there is no time when there is no Grace.  Grace isn't absent because you have done something wrong.  There is no hole in Grace because you don't measure up to someone's expectations.  Grace is always.  Grace just is. Grace covers all time, all places, all circumstances.  Grace transcends dimensions, universes, species, religions, systems of government, political parties, genders, grace is always.  Grace transcends Humankind.  

There will, presumably, be a time after Humankind as we know it today.  There certainly was a time before Humans.  Scientist believe the universe is around 14 billion years old, the earth 4.5 billion years old, our ancestors about 6 million and Homo Sapiens a mere 200,000 years old.  If the age of the universe was the length of your outstretched arms, Homo Sapien's time would be less than the dust created when you file your fingernails.  

But Grace, Grace, as we understand it, is older than the universe.  Grace was around when Homo Sapiens evolved from Homo Erectus and will be around when Homo Sapiens evolve into something else.  I say Grace, as we understand it, because Grace will only be around post-Homo Sapiens if Grace is in fact not a concept created by Humankind.  

You might have seen in the news lately a little dust up between Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla's (Paypal, SpaceX, etc.) Elon Musk.  Musk is asserting that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is dangerous and its development needs to be controlled.  Zuckerberg takes the opposing view, that AI will evolve for good.  This is not a new argument.  For decades the idea of the Singularity, when machines become smarter than Humans, has bounced around.  The fear is that unless some form of liberal or social humanism (the idea that the Summum bonum of existence is a focus on humans and their values, capacities and worth) is embedded in AI, then eventually, when machines become smarter than humans and can create and program themselves,  machines will decide Humans no longer have a useful purpose and will wipe us out in the pursuit of their Summum bonum - whatever that may be.

But if you believe, as I believe, that Grace is always, that Grace has always been and will always be, that Grace transcends Humans, then you have to acknowledge, as Viktor Frankl does in his book "Man's Search for Meaning" that Grace was in the ghettos and concentration camps of World War II.  You have to acknowledge that Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Aleppo and Mosul were, and are,  as bathed with Grace as are the sweet voices of children at summer camp signing "This is the Day".  Grace is everywhere and in all things.  While Middle C may not exist for the Bat, the Bat exists in Grace.    In my charmed life, Grace isn't hard to find.  John Newton during that storm aboard the Greyhound, and Viktor Frankl had to search harder than do I.  For me, I find Grace on the long quiet runs on the Chester Valley Trail  and in the wind on the Chesapeake Bay.  Grace is always, Grace is here, now.  So, take a deep breath and be in this moment and experience the alwayness of Grace.  

Take a deep breath and accept that "What" does not rhyme with Orange, accept that nothing rhymes with Orange, and Grace doesn't happen, Grace just is.


Meals On Wheels/10k Over The Bay by John Ailor

Yesterday we started raising money, through Facebook, for Meals on Wheels in honor of Wendy.  Initially we set the goal at $1,000, but surpassed that before sunset.  Raised the goal tob$2,000, blew past that by noon the next day.  Today we raised the goal to $5,000.  We have till November 4th, Wendy's 59th Birthday, to hit our goal.  We certainly are off to a good start.  

Another Event to celebrate Wendy's 59th is participating in the 10k over the Bay in Annapolis, MD.  So far we have around a dozen interested parties.  Oh, you know what would be nice is to raise $10k for the 10k.  Hmm, more on that later.

#cmonWendy by John Ailor

In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages on Highway 9
Chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected and steppin' out over the line

Oh, baby, this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap
It's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
'Cause tramps like us
Baby, we were born to run
Yes, girl, we were

Wendy, let me in, I wanna be your friend
I wanna guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims
And strap your hands 'cross my engines
Together we could break this trap
We'll run 'til we drop, and baby, we'll never go back

Oh, will you walk with me out on the wire?
'Cause, baby, I'm just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta know how it feels
I wanna know if love is wild
Babe, I wanna know if love is real
Oh, can you show me?

Beyond the palace
Hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard
Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard

The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in the mist
I wanna die with you, Wendy, on the street tonight
In an everlasting kiss, huh

One, two, three, four
The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight, but there's no place left to hide
Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness
I'll love you with all of the madness in my soul

Oh, someday, girl, I don't know when
We're gonna get to that place where we really wanna go
And we'll walk in the sun
But 'til then, tramps like us
Baby, we were born to run

Aw, honey, tramps like us
Baby, we were born to run
Come on, Wendy, tramps like us
Baby, we were born to run