Sunday 30 April 2023

Dreamscape—Music and musing

 Diana and I were talking about what people want to do to make their lives have meaning. 

The bartender had said to me that he wanted to live out his old age with his wife. Wives and children of the staff on this vessel are all living separately from them. All of us, of course, are trapped within our necessity to find a living and support our families.

So I dreamt about making music politically. The dream started with a phone call in which the person I called was singing a psalm. And I was responding with the same music, an appeal for good sense and kindness.

Then I dreamt about the political impact of Psalm two. I have the music for Psalm 2. I would like to hear it and see it and have its questions debated politically. Why do the nations so furiously rage together?

I need performers and filmmakers who can take this concept and run with it. Is anyone interested? An immediate performance comes to mind: Lenny Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. It isn’t the music that I have, though I love that work. My music is directly derived from the Biblical text. I have the PDFs. I have the XML files. I can turn them into film, but I cannot perform them or debate them or make them politically effective.

Of course, I don’t expect to convince any power hungry oligarch with Hebrew music. But maybe I should.

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Tragic news

We’re on holiday in Cambridge. Sarah and I were discussing Elaine Harvey nee Dreaver. So Sarah later looked up Beverly Elaine on Facebook and found that there had been a tragedy. Two adults found dead in their home. It seems that they are Beverly Elaine and Ed Harvey. Details have not been released. Here’s what I wrote shortly after meeting Beverly in 1998. 


"I'm on my way to a heavenly land." So Porgie sings as he sets out from Catfish Row to search for his beloved Bess.

The crippled Porgie represents the Ground of Being seeking his Love who has gone off with Sportin' Life. Ground of Being is the 'name' the German theologian Paul Tillich gives to God to prevent us from thinking that God is somehow just another thing in the universe. The lame Porgie is a fitting analog to God in that God's power is hobbled so that we might live as something other than puppets.

Now the drug dealer Sportin' Life is also created. And so is Bess's other grand and justified tempter, the murderer Crown. What do we have against Sportin' Life? Is God only a spoilsport? To put the question differently - why are there so many opportunities for life to turn against itself? Sportin' Life offers Bess magic dust to numb the pain of her experience. And given the trauma of Porgie being taken away by the authorities and Crown dying in the storm (if I remember correctly), it's not surprising that Bess finally goes to New York as Sportin' Life's mistress.

This story of seduction, and the availability of pragmatic comfort is as old as human life.

Well, I'm on my way to Edmonton. It doesn't have a Gershwin rhythm, and I'm not from Catfish Row. I never lived in Edmonton, but I once picked up a child there above a shopping centre, a ward of Alberta Social Services. They said he had a beautiful smile. There was an implication that he was somehow not perfect. But we knew better!

I vaguely remember first meeting him in a room. Others were watching through a one-way window. It was never in question (at the time) that he belonged with us. We knew in an instant. He, 13 months old, knew also.

We piled him into our car with his three older siblings (our other children) and the six of us drove back to Calgary where we were living at the time.

We did not know, but we had taken one who belonged elsewhere to belong with us. We did not know his mother, Elaine Beverly, nor his father Paul Jacob, nor any of his older half siblings - three on his father's side and an equal or greater number on his mother's including one or two daughters and sons Greg, Joel and Jonathon.

Jonathon lived in Victoria near us. We knew his parents before we knew the boys were brothers. We were all attending an adoptive support group for parents with children affected by alcohol in utero. Joel I will meet on this trip at Beverly's home in Fox Creek with her husband, Ed Harvey. Greg contacted me later. I still have an email for him.

We did not know that our Joey James, JJ, carried the famous name of the last of the hereditary chiefs of the Mistawasis tribe, Joseph James Dreaver, direct in line from the Scottish (Orkney Islands) Dreaver who married Mistawasis' daughter in the 19th century. We kept his names: James William Joseph MacDonald.

Within days he had taken his first steps. Within months he had lost his allergies to milk products. In that first year, his brothers Jeremy and Simon wanted to take him to school for show and tell. That's a story his mother Diana will have to tell.

For Diana, James was the shortest "confinement" on record. After 12 years of marriage, Diana and I had just returned from a "honeymoon" in England, our first trip overseas. Days after our return, we found we were going to have a new baby - 13 months old. There was some talk of having two, for we had heard that James had a sister (and our Sarah would have liked a sister, I'm sure). But sister/daughter was not in the mind of the Creator for us. And brother/son is just fine.

I remember turning into a driveway near the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer where James was soon to be baptized, three kids in the back of the car and mother announced that Social Services has a little boy for us. "Can we get him, Daddy?" comes a chorus of voices. Diana is suitably reserved knowing that the lion's share of the work will be hers. But the answer is yes from us all. Who turns down life?

One has to ask: why are there children whose parents love them but cannot bring them up?

There were other things we did not know, and it was not ours to ask at the time. Here we know only in part. The knowledge I speak of in this case could have been made more evident but we were rightly sheltered from it.

Beverly knows by her love what was right or wrong at the time for her. It was right to bear life, to share the groaning of all creation. It was sad for her not to be able to continue to care for this life, but it was right that we should help. Not a perfect right, not the best right, but an expedient and loving right nonetheless. "Love covers a multitude of sins."

James has a god-father, a pediatric pathologist, who grows apples. I am bringing some of them with me. They are very large. Dr. Geoff Machin knew immediately that James had the facial characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). He didn't tell us. We remained ignorant of this for 12 years. James had a happy childhood. He was a bit dreamy and could have ear infections, and was startled by bright or noisy movies, but we were blissfully ignorant that the teen-aged years would be immensely difficult. Geoff's diagnosis has been confirmed by Dr Cristine Locke. We have all, including James, learned a great deal about FAS in the last nine years.

Sportin' Life offered magic dust. Our culture offers alcohol among many of its drugs. Zero tolerance is the rule for an FAS victim.

But God is the God of the living and James is alive. (That life that has been, the meeting that has been, the brothers cannot be otherwise now and by mercy, they are and remain alive.) Pardon my theological interruptions but situations like this make explicit our need for help.

Our parish in Victoria, St John the Divine (Anglican), has prayed for "James and his family" for more than 7 years, since the troubles began. They have supported us as the meaning of James' wide ranging family became clearer. Now there are 9 half siblings, three of whom have met; two other adoptive families we know of and have spoken to, Bev and Ed Harvey and her sister Gwen, and the children and grandchildren of Paul Jacob still to be met. More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of (Tennyson).

Alcohol is a big budget item. Like magic dust it makes many rich and many poor. Unlike magic dust, it is legally available and makes governments rich also. It can be useful in moderation but it is not necessary to life.

We arrived about 4:30 at Fox Creek. Home is immediately experienced. It is the first time that James has knocked on a door for a while. Mother Bev and husband Ed greet James with a big hug. They knew this knock was different. Bev calls Auntie Gwen to come over to meet her nephew. When Joel comes, he is immediately known. All greetings done, at a gap in the conversation, Bev asks: "Where was my knowledge of FAS when I was bearing children?" She does not stop short of asking the tough honest questions. Her strength of character is apparent. The support of her husband is quiet but clear.

We discuss the history of FAS knowledge from Plato, the Talmud, and the injunctions in the Bible on the confinement of Sampson's mother.

I'm back in Edmonton for a second time at the home of Joyce Bainsbridge who has kindly put me up on this momentous occasion. About 36 hours ago James was released from prison. He was appallingly dressed - ripped canvas shoes, thin cotton sweats, a filthy stained turtleneck and a jacket of sorts. He had been released at 8:30 AM, 1.5 hours earlier than I had been told, so he walked the streets on this brisk morning for the extra time. I meanwhile cruised around looking for the remand centre. I found a building at 96th and 104th which might have had the right address but it turned out to be police HQ. They gave me walking directions (across the parking lot) to the remand centre. I was cold so I ran. While I was approaching the stairs at a run, James appeared and shouted to me "Hey Pops - hang on" and ran himself to me with a warm embrace. We walked back to the car briskly as I began to size up his situation.

I didn't want to get to Fox Creek too early since I expected Bev and Ed would both be working (in fact they weren't) so we moseyed off to the West Edmonton Mall to do a Dickensian quick change for our own Oliver Twist. (We did OK for shopping though there were cheaper options but I didn't see them till later - and they were probably not as good quality.) 2 jeans, 3 underwear, 6 socks, 2 shirts, 1 jacket, 1 haircut, 1 meal, 1 shoes. His wardrobe at Fox Creek will not at least be an immediate embarrassment to him. I noticed that he had devoured two chocolate chip cookies from the flight so I finally figured out that he might be hungry. We ate a somewhat heavy breakfast at Albert's. (This morning's breakfast at Fox Creek was homemade by Bev - including bannock - a true delight.)

About 1:30 we headed to Fox Creek. I had hoped to entertain James with a tape of Porgie and Bess that I had brought & it was partly successful, but tape 2 switched over prematurely when we stopped for ice cream and we missed Bess Yo Is My Woman Now and the Ain't Necessarily So which I thought he would enjoy. We also missed Bess's powerful denial of Crown - but I think this kind of metaphor was a bit too much for the moment anyway. James liked the blues Gershwin chords and orchestration. [99.01.10 our best Christmas present later was a 1/2 hour of James playing guitar - he is very talented - I understand he inherited it from his father who is a Cree fiddler.]

We had no trouble finding the home of Ed and Bev. It is a trailer with an extension, 3 bedrooms, laundry, bath, kitchen, living room and entranceway. Fox Creek is a town of about 2500. The area is forested. Ed and Joel both work at the mill. Joel is also a pipe-fitter. Bev works at the hotel. We all hope that James will find work. There is no question that he belongs here. We talked almost nonstop and everyone had opportunities to talk alone as needed.


I talked briefly to Joel's adoptive father in Saskatchewan. He was very open with the difficulties they had experienced. As we all recognize, the hope we have for these children is sometimes dashed, but in this case, the family reunion has had a good beginning. None of us is giving up on their story.

2023.04.04 Cambridge

James returned to Victoria from Fox Creek and continued his life there with his friends on the street. His story continues with all its complexities. After many bouts with the law, he is now in the care of the John Howard society through the authority of the truth and reconciliation commission. Beverly visited us in Victoria. It was a good visit. We have been friends on Facebook for years. I was always encouraged by her posts.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Biblical studies carnival

 You will have to do some work to read this carnival by NT Wrong. Be sure to translate the German if you don’t read that language. Not so lucky with in-line translation of Swedish. The heart dances. The pods take some listening time. As much trouble as music. Commentary by ABBA. Unfortunately some links are unreachable. 

On abcedaries

 Lovely article Here on the acrostics in the Bible and the origin of the ayin pe sequence in the alphabet. The long and short of it is, there may have been two alphabetic sequences, one pre-exilic, and one post exilic, being the Aramaic sequence.