Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Miscellaneous Thoughts

I think about a lot of things. This morning I was thinking about an article I read recently about an Episcopal priest and his wife who had retired from his pastoral duties and moved to a community in the next county. He met and joined a group of Roman Catholics and became very friendly with them. He decided that he would like to be their priest, and they decided they would like to have him as a priest. He obtained permission from the Vatican and was ordained to priesthood by Cardinal Mahoney. He is not a practicing Roman Catholic priest with a wife. The news article made much of how unusual it is that a Catholic priest would be married. Usually when a Catholic priest marries he has to give up his pastoral duties and become an ordinary lay Catholic.

The inaccuracy of the article bothered me at the time, but I didn't bother to write to the newspaper to correct the error. First, the present Roman ban on married priests started some time in the Middle Ages and it was caused by concern about, of all things, property. If a married priest dies, his children will claim his estate. If he dies celibate with no children, or at least no legitimate children, the Church claims his estate. The concern was the need or desire of the Church to keep the property that had been under the control of the priest during his lifetime. The Church now claims that celibacy is good because it frees the priest from any concerns about his own family and allows him to give complete attention to the needs of his parishioners.

Many years ago I met the brother of a girl I knew in graduate school. He was a pleasant fellow and I thought he was a religious nut. He had joined a branch of the Roman Catholic Church known as "Uniat." This branch operates mainly in Ukrania and copies the customs and the ritual and the language of the Ukranian Orthodox Church. In the Orthodox Christian Church (Ukranian, Russian, Serbian, Armenian, Greek, etc.) the priests are married. If a priest is elevated to a bishop, he is separated from his wife and the church gives her a pension. The Uniat priests have wives and they swear allegiance to the Pope of Rome.

My mind wanders. I was once told that my body does not metabolize uric acid properly and that I have a rather high concentration of the stuff. What uric acid does is to stimulate the brain. Dalmatian dogs have high uric acid concentrations and are, as a consequence, restless. My restless brain then wandered to the subject of writing a novel. I would like to be able to write a novel. I have great admiration for novelists. It seems to me to be very difficult to write a long novel. One can easily conceive the bare plot of a story. In fact, the news provides examples of events that make excellent plots. A man kills and drowns his pregnant wife to be free to marry his mistress. A girl seduces a wealthy and respectable man, then leaves him miserable and destitute while she goes on to other lovers. A famous musician is threatened with exposure for having had a homosexual affair and manages to commit suicide in a way that isn't apparent so that his body can be buried in the family cemetery plot. A good writer can take any one of these basic plots and add detailes and expand the plot into a good novel. It's obvious to me that I don't have the patience to do the hard work of adding detail and meat to the bare bones of a plot.

Shakespeare was a great writer, but he didn't write novels. He wrote plays. He didn't make up the plots; he used actual historical events or historical persons. He didn't have to write a lot of stuff about background, descriptions of environment, comments on the state of mind of the protagonists, and the like. He let the characters in his plays do all of that. In his day they didn't use scenery on stage. A character would simply remark that they were now in a field, or in a castle, or whatever. The audience had the privilege of imagining all the stuff that Shakespeare would have had to write down if he had written novels instead of plays.

Could I be a playwright? Hardly. I've already declared that I don't belong in the company of Mark Twain or Leo Tolstoy or Agatha Christie or Edgar Allan Poe or Victor Hugo. I certainly can't claim to be anywhere near the equal of Shakespeare or Moliere of Goethe or Schiller or Euripides. All I can do is sit at this keyboard and write some of the thoughts that pass through my mind.

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