30 March 2010

More answers to prayer

Though it might better be titled less mysteriously - something like 'Accident.'  I thought I would tell what happened here, as some of you have talked to me on the 'phone and others have not - word gets around.

I left the house at 5 this morning to do Susan's paper run.  When I got up, my stomach didn't feel all that hot - a bit nauseous, in fact - so maybe I have some virus or other (the doctor thinks it more likely to have been food poisoning, but if so, it could only have come from the fried rice I ate last night that Susan had made and put in the freezer - perhaps some ingredient in it was a bit off).

Anyway, the run consists of one part - done on foot - that generally takes me until about 8 (Susan does it faster), followed by another in the car that I finish around 11.

By 5:15AM my stomach was getting worse.  I drove home and took two Panadeine - which have codeine in them, and codeine can settle the stomach - also stop the mild problem I seemed to be having at ... um ... the other end.

I scarcely got the Panadeine down when I threw up - on the grass outside (Susan: I have hosed it down so you can't see it :-)).

I put two more Panadeine in the car and went on with the run. Definitely not feeling the best but by about 5:45AM I took the Panadeine, and, what with emptying my stomach and the Panadeine, I felt fine.

Because of this, I was running a bit late.  About 8:30 I got to the last of the on-foot run - Pukekohe Family Health, for those of you who know it.  My stomach was definitely not great then.  I went into the public toilet there and - yes, did it again.

But then, I felt fine - as you are likely to do after vomiting.  So I started on the car part of the run, though by now I was wondering about going home and finishing later.

I got to Nandina Lane, off Ray Wright Road - the Pukekohe-ites will know it or can look it up on Google Maps - and knew I was going to be sick again.  I actually opened the car door and was sick right there - mostly on the road, but some on me, the car.

OK, that's it!  I am going home to rest up.  So up Ray Wright Road, turn right into Upper Queen Street - uh-oh!  What's this?  I am not only nauseous now, but something is funny with my vision!  I slowed way down, even though the speed limit was 100Km/h.  That, as it turns out, was fortunate.  I suppose that's the 'More answers to prayer' bit.  Just about the place where the speed limit changes down to 50, I know I am in trouble.  I had better pull over to the side of the road and wait - for whatever happens.

That decision was, perhaps, 30 seconds too late.  The next thing I know is I wake up, with a shattered windscreen in front of me, a pain in my lower lip, and the driver of the car whom I had head-on'ed - perhaps at only 30 or 40 Km/h, thank God! - is screaming at me and calling me names.

The rest is routine.  Out of the car - I don't know if I got out or someone helped me out - lie down on the verge, ambulance shows up, off to Middlemore.

I take pills for high blood pressure.  The doctor's theory is: loss of fluids through vomiting, and I had been drinking almost no water (afraid of throwing up); drop in blood pressure after the third vomiting incident; brief black-out.  Something similar had happened to me a couple of years ago at mid-day Mass at the Cathedral.  In that case the doctor had changed my anti-high blood pressure prescription.  I had to lie down on a pew for 15-20 minutes, then was fine.

Current situation - and, yes, you are all invited to pray - I need answers to these prayers:
  • Split lower lip (I presumably banged it on the steering wheel) - a few stitches
  • Car impounded to the police can assure themselves there is nothing to charge me with (e.g. bad brakes, whatever)
  • Car almost certainly a write-off
  • The rest of those papers not delivered and the place where the car is impounded wouldn't let me get them out; I must try to get them out tomorrow, in order to finish the run (using the car we still affectionately refer to as "Adele's car" - thank you, Adele - and I pray for your clutch expenses!)
Thank God that, aside from a few minor lacerations (shin, toe, wrist), the only moderately serious wound is my lip.  I trust it will heal and I will be able to play the horn again!  No teeth loosened, thank God!

I just wanted to let you all know.  And my stomach seems fine now, only 12 hours later, which seems to argue for the doctor's food poisoning theory.  But I am only able to eat things like yoghurt.  Oh, well, good job I like yoghurt!

PS - I should add that an angel brought me home from Middlemore - Eddie, to be specific.  He came from work in Albany, stayed with me, drove me home, with a (fruitless) stop to try to get my stuff out of the 'van, and a stop at the Papakura Police Station to pick up my keys - which turned out not much use as they had removed not only the key to the 'van but also that to Adele's car (but I have Susan's one for the latter), got me home at 5PM, then had to hurry to a recording session in Parnell.

Angels are very real.

29 March 2010

Answers to prayer

By Friday night last week, the 26th of March, that is, I was beginning to despair of getting the major solo right that I had to play in the piano concerto that week-end.  Friday night's rehearsal was the fifth rehearsal for the orchestra.  We had practised that concerto each time.  I had practised it a fair bit at home.  I was still really messing up the solo, even though I could play it by myself all right by now.

Something in my spiritual reading on Saturday caused me to acknowledge that there was a seriously faulty attitude possible towards such things - one of presumption.  If I just trusted God, and prayed about it - and I did both - then it would turn out all right.

Saturday morning I practised that solo a lot - and I prayed most intensely, as well.  I very specifically asked God that I would play it well, together with three others of lesser importance, both at the rehearsals - for the sake, I said, of the others, because nothing worries an orchestra so much as some other player obviously making a mess of something - our confidence goes up or down as a group - but also, I had to confess, for myself.  I didn't want to mess up.

It went all right.  I played it adequately, both at the pre-concert rehearsals on Saturday and Sunday, and at the concert itself.

Our lives are not fragmented.  What enabled me to play it adequately?
  • more practice?
  • intense prayer?
  • the psychological boost of knowing I was practising and praying hard?
  • the psychological boost of really believing (or hoping) that God and my Guardian Angel would help me?
  • Preternatural assistance from my Guardian Angel?
  • Supernatural assistance from God the Holy Spirit, enabling me to believe, hope, and love?
All - no doubt - of the above.  What seems to me to be the case is that it isn't really all of the above, as a collection of separate factors.  God Himself is not composed of parts, of components.  He is not so much wisdom and so much power and this amount of love and ...

And - it seems to me - neither are our lives thus to Him.  The act of my playing that solo - imperfectly, to be sure! yet adequately - is one Act of God.  It has its foundation in His ordination of the whole of Creation, including His decree that one person - named John Jensen - would exist, would learn to play the cornet, and then the horn; would father children whose later music studies would inspire John Jensen to greater musical effort himself - all this, not as a collection of inputs, but as one thing is what it is to God.

And thus, in reality, to each of us.  In reality, though we do not see that reality as He does, will not see it thus until - God grant it! - we see it with Him.

And so it is with the prayers we call unanswered.  It is not even, I think, as some like to say, that, though God always answers prayer, sometimes the answer is 'no' - or 'I have something better to give you.'  I think that God's answer is always 'yes.'  Our prayer is part of that answer.  Our doing is part of that answer.  And the failure, if so be we fail, is part of that answer.

But there, again, I speak of parts.  And parts there are, indeed - but not at bottom.  At bottom is the one, single Light Whose brilliance, Whose Glory we can only take in, supernatural Photon by supernatural Photon.

This Easter that One 'Yes' will appear to us in Its risen glory.  Be ready.

21 March 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Next concert looms.  Rehearsals today (Saturday 20 March) and tomorrow.  Susan preparing for her trip to New Jersey.  She leaves this coming Wednesday afternoon, the 24th March.  Rehearsals Thursday and Friday nights; Saturday afternoon before the concert; concerts Saturday evening and Sunday.  So just a few mixed notes here.  I will probably finish this tomorrow morning.

Susan points out that we haven't even had time to tell some in our family - my brother Peter, for example - about her trip, so I had better say something here.

In short - and now it is Sunday morning and I have 12 minutes until I have to leave for rehearsal! - Susan is going to see Adele and Luke and Thea!  As I have said before, we borrowed money last year to work on the house.  Around November, when costs were beginning to finalise, I could see that we were a bit under budget - and I wondered: Perhaps Susan should go to see Adele.

She was able to get a fairly cheap flight - so she is going.  She leaves this coming Wednesday.  She will be there only for two weeks - more could not fit in.  I will take leave in order to do her paper deliveries.  But we are so glad she could go.  Adele has been away now for over four years.  Thea is two years old and some.  This is a very good thing.

Sue returns Friday the 9th of March.  The next morning - with Susan jet-lagged to the max - we will go to the Eucharistic Convention where, amongst others, Cardinal Arinze is going to speak.  He is the author of Liturgiam Authenticam, which, I am told, was more or less the first step that will have led, God willing, to the improved translation of the Mass about to be released.  So this is quite something to look forward to.

I trust Susan will be able to stay awake for it :-)

All for now!

14 March 2010


We had, I think, about 30 acres of olives, and that was our primary crop.  However, we had something like 10 acres of oranges, as well.

Oranges in our part of California didn't ripen until deep winter.  I think we picked around Christmas, or maybe even January.

But perhaps 'ripen' isn't the correct word.  The oranges in Yap are perfectly fine - but they are not orange.  When ripe I don't know if they even changed colour.  I think they became a little mottled.  Apparently oranges need cold weather to turn orange in colour.  My father told me once that the oranges in Florida had to be dyed orange in order to be marketable - people didn't believe they were ripe because they weren't ... orange!

Picking oranges was easier in one way than picking olives.  You could fill a box much faster - and got paid much less.  Olives paid anywhere between something like 85 cents and a dollar and a quarter, depending on the market price.  Oranges paid only maybe 15 to 20 cents a box.  You have to use little side cutters to cut the stem.  If you pull the orange loose, the stem will pull part of the skin away and the orange will rot.

You can't eat olives as you pick them.  They have to be cured first.  And though you can eat an orange, I have never much liked oranges - so I didn't eat them, either.

But our other cash crop was almonds ...

About almonds another time.  This very short post is because I wanted to get something up.  Matters are accelerating now and I don't know when next I will post.  Yesterday, 13 March, we had our first rehearsal for the next concert.  Today is Eddie's 30th birthday - happy birthday, Eddie!! - and Sue and I are driving up to Parakai shortly.  Next week-end - 20-21 March - I have rehearsals both days.  Then on Wednesday the 24th Susan leaves for New Jersey.  The following week-end, 27-28 March, is the concert.  Then comes Holy Week.  The Easter Triduum I will spend up north.  Robbie's music group are doing the music at Holy Family parish, Te Atatu Peninsula, so I will be there.  And the week-end after that is the Eucharistic Convention!

Then I think I will just lie down and breathe for a while :-)

All for now!

07 March 2010

Friendship and ethics...

Aristotle begins his ethical search by the observation that everything we do is ultimately seeking happiness, though we differ so much as to where happiness is to be found. He observes that happiness seems to be that thing that isn't sought for the sake of something else, but that lies behind all the seeking that we do. Then he embarks on a number of chapters that explore the essence of certain key virtues. For this reason some have concluded that his ethical philosophy is a 'virtues philosophy'. But then at the end, there are two chapters on friendship and a final one on the contemplation of God. He mentions that no one is happy without a friend - no matter what else he has acquired. Aristotle in fact does not propose virtue as an end. The moral life is not one of seeking to acquire the perfections that belong to a 'good man'. The virtues are rather the means by which one can live more fully and authentically of the end, which is precisely the friend, the 'other' loved and accepted in love, and ultimately that 'Other' who is perfectly happy contemplating Himself. The experience of friendship - and the true friendship where the other is sought for himself, for his own flourishing in his 'best self' - is the privileged experience that demands the development of virtue in our lives. We need to become 'intelligent' in love, so that love is not impeded in its demands by our blindness or stupidity. Thus, the virtue of prudence becomes the primary virtue in safe-guarding love. I speak of that virtue that regards the finality of the friend and seeks in the complex 'here and now' to discern the best course of action so that love can go all the way. Similarly, the virtue of justice comes to the fore, for we would never want to treat the friend with less than the dignity that is theirs. The virtue of fortitude allows us to be true to our love for the friend in the face of obstacles and difficulties and the threat of suffering. It allows love to be true when it costs. The virtue of temperance guards against that tendency to let sensible pleasures become the finality for us, so that we might relativise the friend to our own self-indulgence. It lets love breathe in the expansiveness and breadth of chaste pure air. The moral life does not develop in a vacuum. Its natural place of flourishing is in the discovery of another who attacts us to orient our lives toward them, to go out of ourselves, to seek their flourising, to seek union with them and to receive them in our inmost heart. Then we are suddenly capable of going much further, of becoming heroic in love - but not for the sake of being heroic, not for the sake of developing virtue; but for the sake of the other whom we only want to be our best for, whom we only want to be their best self and to flourish in who they really are.


OK, so you see I am telling you up front, this is an ad!  And it is likely to be of interest only to those of my readers who are Catholics - but any who are concerned about the way of the culture of what is called "The West" in our day may find it useful.

It is the "Catholic Culture Project"  I am going to do what I can with this very worthwhile project to help it along, and to do what I can to help bring what John Paul called a "Culture of Life" rather than a "Culture of Death" (Evangelium Vitae - the "Gospel of Life").
End of ad - for now :-)


I am tempted to use the visit of Helen and Robert - Sue's and my daughter and son-in-law - with their two children Georgia Grace (9 years old) and Gus (3 - and a half! :-)) - as the excuse for writing nothing in particular this week-end.  I could shore up its weakness as an excuse by saying that tomorrow, the 7th of March, Sue and I will be spending with Robbie Loretz.

The excuse would be, if not completely false, at least inadequate.  The fact is that I need to get a bit of order into this thing if I am to keep up with it.

First things first, however.  As long planned, Helen and Robert did come over, and spent, not one, as originally planned, but two nights with us.


Well, this was going to be a post about getting some order in my life - but we spent Thursday through Saturday with Helen and Robert and Georgia Grace and Gus - well, they arrived Thursday afternoon and left Saturday late morning - and we spent today with Robbie - so I guess my life is too disorderly to post more   :-)

We did have a great time with H and R and GG and G.  They are now up in Kerikeri visiting Frances, Robert's sister, her husband Simon, their brand-new baby Oliver, and Robert's mother Jessy.  Oh, and his uncle lives near there.  They spent Saturday night with Eddie and Eveline.  They will be in country until the 19th of March, when they leave.

And we had a picnic with Robbie today.  A wonderful thing has happened - he is on a committee that is to prescribe musical standards for the new form of the liturgy, and I think he is going to be pretty influential.  But I confess he seemed pretty tired.  He is now teaching full-time, and doing full-time stuff on the week-ends.  His choir did the music for Mass today at the chapel at the Little Sisters of the Poor retirement home in Ponsonby - combination of things like "Sacred Head, Now Wounded," and Mass parts in Gregorian chant.  Wonderful!

Apologies to those of you who may read this who don't know Robbie - I wish you did!! - but in addition to my children, several others do - and love him - and his music.

Regarding order - it is not just in my life generally that I need to achieve some orderliness.  I want to do something about this blog.  In particular, I am proposing to do something like setting myself to do one post on religion a month, one on my memoirs that my kids have asked for, maybe get Susan to do one - and ... well, not sure.  But that is what I was going to talk about - if I had had time.