Unitarian humour address for canvass, circa 2002

Good evening, brothers and sisters of the Beacon community. I have been asked to present a humorous homily in a Unitarian vein, and I beg your indulgence as I outline how I approached gathering the material for this evening’s celebration of our community.

First I reviewed my previously delivered comedy routines. As one of them commences with my walking on stage half naked – I will leave to your imagination which half – you will not be surprised that I thought this inappropriate. Unitarians believe in freedom, not license.

Having dispensed with nudity as a means of encouraging people to laugh, or at least to pay attention, I then worked my way through the rest of my gags, one-liners, pithy observations, and so forth.

I made the considered decision to delete the references to sex as also being inappropriate to an intergenerational dinner. The prospect of having the children loudly explaining the jokes to their parents was too much for me.

Then I deleted all the drug references, as everyone knows that drugs are something Unitarians did years ago; we have all long since grown out of it, except for Ibuprofen, of course.

As we are eating, I thought it best to banish all scatological humour. I firmly believe that this is the best part of a family meal, but I have learned that not everyone feels the same way.

As you can imagine, this left me in something of a quandary. I had three jokes left, and while they are all reasonably funny, they didn’t take my audience into consideration.

I then resolved to visit a number of Christian humour sites, reckoning that I would find some jokes that would offend nobody. I now have proof that I am nobody, because I was offended by them. Anybody else who is offended by the inane and the sickly sweet will know exactly what I mean.

In desperation, I visited a Unitarian joke site. Of course I should have done that FIRST, but it’s traditional to check out various forms of Christianity prior to coming to Unitarianism. I came across this gem, which, is seasonal, now that Halloween is over:
(Sings)

Gods rest ye, Unitarians, let nothing you dismay; Remember there’s no evidence there was a Christmas Day; When Christ was born is just not known, no matter what they say, O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact, Glad tidings of reason and fact.

Our current Christmas Customs come from Persia and from Greece, from solstice celebrations of the ancient Middle East. This whole darn Christmas spiel is just another pagan feast, O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact, Glad tidings of reason and fact.

There was no star of Bethlehem, there was no angels’ song; there could not have been wise men for the trip would take too long. The stories in the Bible are historically wrong, O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact, Glad tidings of reason and fact!

This little song charmed me because I believe it accurately reflects our Unitarian principles and it scans. I hate things that don’t scan.

Then I cruised around some more, and landed with this one,
Q: How many Unitarian Universalists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: …well, first you’d have to know whether it’s a fluorescent, incandescent, or halogen bulb, but even then you may have made a false assumption because not all UU’s necessarily even find electric illumination useful, or even believe in Electricity or BC Hydro, although I’d guess most BC Unitarians don’t want to see it sold, whether they believe in it or not… Did that answer your question?
(Helper in the audience. No! How many Unitarians does it take to change a light bulb?)
Well, it dePENDS. Look, I take the question seriously, but I think we should seek consensus on this one. Do you want to strike a committee?

A Christian friend of a Unitarian once remarked that UU’s tend to take a couple of months off during the summer with some churches completely closing. Other denominations might question this practice, by saying “God doesn’t take vacations.”

The response to this is that UU’s are the only ones that God trusts enough to let out of his sight for a while.

Does anybody here know what the four UU sacraments are? (Helpers in the audience.)
• Dedication,
• Marriage,
• Memorial Service,
Allegra: And, of course, Moderated Discussion

What 2 things do UU’s and Dracula have in common?
They both have origins in Transylvania and they both shy away from the cross.

I had a bit of a run-in with a Fundamentalist Christian recently. After getting increasingly irritated by my flippant responses to her dogma, she demanded, “Do you know what’s going to happen when you stand in judgment before God?”
I grinned and said, “She’s gonna have some ‘splaining to do.”

I note that the following hymn is NOT in Singing the Living Tradition; I am willing to believe that it might have been an honest error. (To the tune of Holy, Holy, Holy)

Coffee, coffee, coffee,
Praise the strength of coffee.
Early in the morn we rise with thoughts of only thee.
Served fresh or reheated,
Dark by thee defeated,
Brewed black by perk or drip or instantly.

Though all else we scoff we
Come to church for coffee;
If we’re late to congregate, we come in time for thee.
Coffee our one ritual,
Drinking it habitual,
Brewed black by perk or drip or instantly.

Coffee the communion
Of our Uni-Union,
Symbol of our sacred ground, our one necessity.
Feel the holy power
At our coffee hour,
Brewed black by perk or drip or instantly.

As I say, this should probably be in the hymnal but I am sure that it was an understandable oversight.
I would like to close my homily with a few words on the subject of the canvass.

When I first came under the benign influence of the CUC, it was at the Lakeshore Church in Montreal, with the Rev. Joan Montagnes presiding. (She’s now with a congregation in Idaho.)

When the canvass was announced, the canvass chair got up, brusquely told us that there wasn’t going to be a canvass that year, and sat down. After a brief, rustling pause, suddenly, from all over the church you could hear purses and pocketbooks snap open, making a joyful sound of thanksgiving and support. This is a sound which I hope we will all be able to hear in this community as we continue our journey of discovery and service. It is a strange quality of money that, like people, a little of it with the right intentions, in the right place, really can accomplish great things.

There is no grit…. like that of a teenaged girl.

There is no grit like the grit of a pre-teen girl. It is a combination of testing her own power and mute ignorance, of not knowing what she is or is not capable of. When I look at my daughter, who turned ten this past week, I see the way she constantly flings herself at life, how she can be so serious and responsible one moment and so goofy and intemperate the next.

Already her downy skin contains a crone. Sometimes she is very patient and wise. Life has already taught her how to choke back fear and grief in case she upsets adults. There are times when things family members have done that will make her cry in bed at night, and she won’t say anything for fear of offending.

I’ve tried hard not to hide the good and bad things about adult life from her. I try to stay one step ahead of that agile brain. It’s hard to judge when you’re doing a good job, but every once in a while Kate will do something that will tell me I’ve not done badly.

When her brother was home sick and I had to work, she kept him hydrated and gave him a wet washcloth and made sure he got some sleep. She’s amazingly sweet to her frail great grandmothers, and when Grandma Hinde forgets who she is, she’ll say things like, I’m one of your descendants, and Grandma Hinde will ruefully laugh and then keep guessing who she is.

She has the strong stomach of a healer and the keen eye of a naturalist, always looking for something special and interesting on our walks, a Western garter snake or a purple mushroom. She’s very observant. When it suits her.

And when she decides she wants something or is going to do something, she’s able to show an unearthly tenacity. She has four different volunteer jobs at school. She monitors the kindergarten class during brief teacher absences, she is a library monitor, she’s a crossing guard and two weeks out of four she helps with the lunch program. The first time she described what it’s like on soup day she had my husband and me in hysterics, but she was as serious as anybody gets, talking about work.

She didn’t do her math homework, which is not a hanging offence in these parts, and Mr. Tanner, her teacher, suspended her from serving on the lunch program. From her reaction, you would think WWIII had been declared. It was her intention to march into school the next day and tell him to jam it in his ass. Paul and I whipped around, and she smirked delicately at our expressions. “I won’t say it like that, I’ll ask him to reconsider.” And he did and she was reinstated the next day.

I think of the other times she’s shown grit, when she at the age of eight watched her beloved cat be anaesthetized to have her teeth cleaned and two teeth extracted. It was too bad the vet nearly said no. I told him this was not an ordinary 8-year-old, and if she posed the slightest problem, I’d whip her out of the O.R. and take her home. She ended up helping the technician.

She shows her grit all kinds of ways, the way she defends her friends and her own rights, sometimes yelling and sometimes very quietly when I am overstepping my authority. I hate it, but it’s part of my own growth, letting go in the right places and times. I do sometimes want to be a domestic tyrant, and right now I am the stand in, along with her dad, for every authority figure who will ever try to injure her for her own good, or dominate her for the sake of being able to. If she cannot defend and articulate her rights to me, how limited she’ll be when the big moments come.

They say in teen development in girls, the grit dies out in the face of feminizing social pressure around 12/13. I want Kate to have grit forever, even if I have to be ground up a bit myself in the process.

November 1998

The Parking Goddess

A monograph on the Parking Goddess, a Twentieth Century Deity

Parking Goddess hear my plea
Find a parking space for me
Make it deep and make it wide
and make it on the proper side.

This invocation, which dates to the summer of 1993, beseeches the Parking Goddess, whose worship dates back to 1991, to find the supplicant a parking space. The Parking Goddess deserves a place of honour in the urban pantheon.

Religion has a boundary layer of power. This power over the seen and the unseen is what causes people to worship, or log on to the power. Conventional religions – those with accretions of dogma, institutions, warlike clerics and hysterical followers – still have power to the extent they can:

1.Bring focus and peace of mind to their adherents;

2.Grant wishes;

3.Provide easy, formulaic and widely acceptable rituals for life’s moments of transition;

4.Provide easy, formulaic and widely acceptable social occasions;

5.Provide easy, formulaic and culturally approved answers for such questions as “Why did Daddy die?” and “Why am I superior to the vast majority of Earth’s inhabitants?”

The Parking Goddess is a minor deity. Her shingle does not say “All life’s problems solved, Lost Love, Business, Bad Luck.” Her gracious bounty adheres strictly to urbane matters. Thus it is she has jurisdiction over:

1. Vehicles, insurance, gas, coffee, repairs, and the presence or absence of the local gendarmes;

2. Parking spaces;

3. How fast the tow-truck comes;

4. Restaurants;

5. Hospitals;

6. Government buildings;

and

7. Any domicile where a ceramic likeness of her is put into a shrine.

Since the Parking Goddess has not actually become incarnate yet, as all of the Big Cheese gods eventually do, this ceramic likeness may take the form of any female figure who inspires awe and amazement.

Worship at the shrine may take any consensual form. Ritual copulation, burning incense, consumption of food, piercings, quiet meditation, speaking in tongues, inverting cats and computer repair are all acceptable to the Goddess, provided one consciously dedicates the activity to her first.

It may interest ethnologists to know who the Parking Goddess is. Like most deities, her origins are shrouded in mystery. It can be authoritatively stated, however, that she:

1. Is the second cousin of Quan Yin;

2. Attends booze cans with Tet, Minerva and the Corn Maiden;

3. Is most likely to appear in physical form to her followers as a lamé-clad transvestite;

4. Is transported from place to place by car radios;

5. Causes minor cases of possession in traffic reporters;

and

6. Will not be able to hear the pleas of her acolytes if she is wearing her headphones while working out.

At present the epicentre of Parking Goddess worship is the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, which represents the mystical union of male, female, concrete and media which is the essence of her appeal to her followers.

Followers of the Parking Goddess, when asked as to the rationality or propriety of contributing to the development of a religion, during a period of human history when religious wars are pandemic, are likely to give one of two responses;

1. I know it’s irrational, but it works;

and

2. t’s okay, she’s a Unitarian.

The correct response to the prayer is:

“The Parking Goddess heard my cry, V – I – C – T – O – R – Y!”

Allegra Sloman
Hallowe’en, 1993

The standup routine known as “Jesus on the bus”.

So I’m sitting on the bus the other day and this guy gets on who looks just like Jesus.  Totally Jesus, except the burlap tunic and the halo.  I’m looking at him and thinking, sooner or later, everybody comes to Vancouver, so why not Jesus?

Then he pulls out a cell phone and I’m thinking, like, this can’t be Jesus, Jesus is in constant communication with everybody important, including me, except I don’t listen to that station any more, because I hate the ads.

You know, (sings a celestial note ‘aaah!’) “Where will you spend eternity? Get the Heavenly timeshare!” (sings a celestial note). I hate that ad. But the music isn’t bad, sometimes I listen to the music, especially when I can’t understand the words.

Anyway this guy who is obviously NOT Jesus starts talking to somebody on the phone and you know how you can always tell when a guy is talking to his mother on the phone?

Within seconds I know he’s talking to his mother, and I’m leaning forward, because if this IS Jesus, I have a couple of questions for his mom, you know, as a feminist and all.  I wanna make sure I talk to her before he hangs up because I likely won’t get another chance.  As I’m listening I realize they are discussing him going to some place in Burnaby to look at a long term care facility for his dad.

And now I’m really freaked out, because if this is Jesus, he’s talking about putting his dad in a home.  How would you prevent God from wandering if you DID put him in a home?

The poor security guard – Hey – you with the beard, get back here.

 

I have a really short attention span.  I’ve only driven away from my kids twice though, and once my husband was in the car so I had somebody to blame.

I know everybody complains about their spouse’s driving but hubby is the only driver I know who can get the airbags to go off when he’s changing lanes.  He said What?  What?  I did a shoulder check!

 

By applause, who hates it when comics ask for an audience response by saying things like “By applause, who likes Celine Dion?” or “By applause, who likes blowing cops to avoid speeding tickets?”  I hate that by applause thing.  It’s a stupid ploy to get the audience to connect to you.  You don’t WANT to connect with me, I might borrow something, like your ID.  No, you want to maintain a respectful distance, and right now you should check your purse.  I love this part, because there’s always one OCD gal who hears those magic words and checks her purse.  Ha ha!  This joke’s for you.

 

I’ve given up on buying clothes that fit.  I’m just looking for clothes that don’t make me look like Rita McNeil.  In a high wind.

 

Driving in this town has brought me closer to God than my sex life ever has.

Why, I am constantly calling upon the Lord, either to save my ass or to smite the living shit out of the clown parade we call traffic.

I’m sorry, that was mean to the clowns.

And I can’t call drivers in this town assholes because some of my best friends are assholes, and my friends can get behind the wheel of a car without becoming a menace to public safety.

Where are the bad drivers’ heads at?    I think I figured it out.  They live in the CARTOON UNIVERSE.  Yes indeed, these people think that gravity and inertia and acceleration rates just DON’T APPLY TO THEM.  So there’s all these people driving around who think that a ton and a half of car can go from 60 to zero in a car length, because their idea of reality came from a Warner Brothers cartoon.

The schools are failing us.  They should have math story problems like, if you rear end somebody in a school zone because you’re following too close, how many teeth will you have left after the guy you rear ended punches you out?  Goodnight, you’ve been wonderful.

 

 

A family story with some current relevance

A single kindness gets lonely

December 16, 1998

I remember the day Paul lost his memory.  His memory is no longer in his head, you see.  It’s a Casio 128 and his whole life is in it.  He left it on the plane from Toronto to Vancouver.

I’ve never seen Paul so mad at himself.  He was madder than the time he crushed his memory into the boards while playing crack the whip with the kids, and madder yet then the time he leaned over the toilet at work and it swan dived into the bowl.

He blankly said, “Well I guess I’ll never see -that- again,” and become very morose.  A couple of hours after we got to my parents’ place in Victoria, the phone rang.  My mother was outside and my father, who associates ringing telephones with drunken clients importuning him for assistance, refused to answer.  Paul picked it up.

“Is Paul there?” asked a pleasant female voice.

“Speaking!” said Paul, really surprised.

“I’ve got your electronic organizer!” she said.

One of the stewardesses had found it and looked in it until she came up with a BC phone number.  It was purest chance that Paul happened to answer the phone.

It came on the next flight to Victoria from Vancouver – Paul was thrilled, and touched.

So it was no surprise what Paul did when he found a daybook packed with so many names and addresses that the owner had started writing in the margins.  As soon as he saw it was a Vancouver address, he jumped in the car and drove it to the guy.  I accompanied him for laughs.

After loudly and repeatedly expressing his thanks, the gentleman told us that he was a committee chair, and a prof and an activist, and his whole life was in that book.  He had been contemplating recovering the information with something approaching despair.  He promised two things, and I know he did one because Paul got a sensational letter praising his customer service skills at work; the other was to promise that he’d photocopy his address book and put it somewhere safe first thing he got into the office.

So this is a reminder – back up your data.  It doesn’t matter if it’s on paper, a hard disk or chiselled into a rock.  Make another copy and put it someplace safe.  As soon as I got home that night I sent my mother all my friends’ email addresses as well as my address book.

It’s important to remember that a single kindness rapidly gets lonely.  That single act of being present and taking care will ripple out and have effects you can’t even contemplate.  When the world is kind to you it’s because the laws of cause and effect still rule.

I remember one other act of kindness of Paul’s.  We were driving up University just south of Bloor in Toronto and a stunning woman was stuck in traffic, four way flashers blazing, next to an old diesel Mercedes-Benz.  She looked quite distraught.

“My old car!” Paul said, because it was the exact same year and model as one of his first cars.  “I know what’s wrong,” and in about as much time as it takes to describe it, pulled in front of her, leaped out of the car, adjusted something inside the car, and got it running again.  I have taken a lot of pleasure over the years thinking of the story this woman must have told her family over supper that night.

We try to look after each other as a family, and try to emphasize kindness.  When we find things we return them, if there’s an address and a name.  Once I lost a sheaf of writing on the Royal York bus and some woman, who is an angel in human form, spent two bucks on postage getting it back to me.  I thank her, and I thank everybody who ever let me in, comforted my kids when I couldn’t be there, put a happy nothing day gift on my desk, or sent me an email from a friend of a friend.

Sometimes I think that an email inspired belly laugh in the middle of a brutal working day is a random act of kindness – travelling from someone I will never meet, at the speed of light.

Yanno…. I am rather proud of myself

I lost my Mac hard drive, and guess what?

None of my homilies are gone, they are on my site.

Only a couple of my written out songs are missing, because I backed everything up that had anything to do with music a couple of weeks ago.

My canonical list of songs was uploaded to the cloud the end of September, and I’ve only added a couple of things since.

The last couple of pieces of software I downloaded I had all my info, so I just downloaded them again, so I have Finale and Scrivener back no sweat.

Tarot for Atheists and Midnite Moving Co. are on the cloud (mostly… as I learned to my sorrow… but I may have emailed some of it to mOm and Chipper).

All the photos are gone.  That is a shame, and there’s no help for it unless I want to spend a whack of money for no guaranteed end.

I am going to be doing homilies in 2014 for church and will likely be participating in the Compost Communion first service of 2014, with my compost song.

No word back from the interview; I will take that as a no and move on.

I gave my seventh unit of blood yesterday.  I have to do it while I can; my blood pressure is just inside the line and I may not even get to my tenth unit before I have to stop.  But hey, I’ve saved a life or two in my time, and that makes me happy. Katie’s iron was two points too low; she was CHOKED.  And then she and I and Keith ate sushi that I didn’t have to pay for.  And I went to pay the rent on the storage locker to keep the family buffet in the family.  Yeah, I know.

Bone doc says I am progressing well and to keep up the physio.  I’m going back for my final review the end of December.