Category Archives: Grumble Flap

A Hundred Acre Carol, Stave I

STAVE I:  Tigger Bounces By

TIGGER had long since bounced his last bounce: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his bounding was signed by the bouncyman, the clerk, the underbouncer, and the chief bouncer. Pooh signed it: and Pooh’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Tigger was as bouncy as a door-nail, and half as fun-fun-fun-fun-fun.

Pooh knew he was unsprung? Of course he did.  How could it be otherwise? Pooh and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Pooh was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, so long as there was a bit of hunny to be had, and maybe a bit of a ham sandwich on a potato roll with a dollop of mustard.

Pooh never painted out Old Tigger’s name.  There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Pooh and Tigger. The firm was known as Pooh and Tigger. Sometimes people new to the business called Pooh Pooh, and sometimes Tigger, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him, he just asked for a small pot of hunny.

Oh! But he was a lump-fisted hand at the hunny-pot, Pooh! a weezing, drenching, gasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old snacker! Soft and puffy as cotton batting, through which no steel had ever run up except to defend a bite to eat; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as a boiled oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his roundy black nose, fuzzied up his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes shine, his thin lips nearly invisible amid his trim and twisty whiskers; and spoke out shrewdly in his gentle raspy voice.

Well. In fact, I have decided to pull the rest of this post. I started the “what if Pooh was stuck into the Scrooge roll?” project in, maybe 2010 or 2011. Stave I came quickly, and I posted it on Facebook for the enjoyment of friends.

Stave II the next year, same treatment. I posted Stave I to whichever blogger-hosted blog I was using at that time, as well. Then it got difficult. Staves III and IV are challenging; there’s little about them that’s amusing, and it felt wrong, somehow, to put the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood through the Dickensian palpitations of The Ghost of Christmas Present’s “ignorance and want” scene, and to show Pooh his post-mortem? Yikes.

But I always wanted to complete the project, and get it off my lifetime to-do list. In late 2018, I managed to see a way to do a bit of justice to both Dickens and Milne within the context of this disrespectful project. I finished A Hundred Acre Carol, and shared it with family and close friends, as I had always intended. I am pleased with it, but for public consumption, the first few paragraphs are plenty.

Things I’m reading

The Phantom of the Opera (I listened to this book… oh maybe twenty years ago when I drove so much. Then I bought it).

Ready Player One (a near-future semidystopian view of what life might be like if our primary goals existed entirely on-line… a friend likes it for the nearly non-stop 1980’s references, I’m finding it almost as good as it should be).

The Gift of Faith: Tending the Spiritual Life of Children (a gift from a couple in the congregation on the day we welcomed out newborn into the congregation).

The House at Pooh Corner (bedtime reading with the Boy-o… and now I want to dig out my Tao of Pooh).

Simmering, awaiting being picked up again:
The Haunted Omnibus (a 1920’s-era collection of ghost stories ranging from the excepts from the One Thousand Nights and One Night, though classical Rome and Shakespeare, and up-to-the-minute-from-90-years-ago).

The Book of God: A Response to the Bible (an old standby).

Being Human Religiously (part way through, and makes it me feel like my brain is mush, and I expect to post more about it when I begin working through it for a second time)

Ulysses (for the first time–honestly, but not seriously)

Also reading:
Our daughter’s infant face (her brother is her favorite, then the ceiling fan, then her mom, then–I hope–me).
Our son’s homework (and his art).
The kitchen sink (always the same story–dishes go in, dishes go out–but I can listen to sermons and the Selected Shorts podcast).

Quiet Blog

Had a baby.

Whew. She was born mid-June, but was several weeks early. There were a few busy days there right at the beginning, and when things slowed down, I had gotten out of the habit of checking in with my Unitarian Universalist on-line life.

She’s still in a NICU about 200 miles from where we-all live. My wife and our six-year-old are doing AOK, on the whole. They’re staying with my parents about 45 minutes from the hospital. I’m home in northern Michigan, working, and checking in once (sometimes, but rarely, twice) a day.

Girly is well, gaining weight, developing apace, but is still at least a few days, and possibly a few weeks, from being released. I’m grateful she’s generally OK, that the staff at our near-by hospital did such a quick and humane job (first intimation of trouble–6:45 am, baby born–9:45 am), and that she’s getting great care at the big children’s hospital back that-a-way (helicopter depature–5:15 pm).

But the coordinating of a widely-dispersed family has focused on-line time to updates, posting photos for extended family, and the like.

As I mentioned a while ago, we actually joined our congregation. The first two visits my wife had during her hospital stay after the c-section were from members of the congregation that very day, after our son and I had left to meet my parents at the children’s hospital.

I have a couple more ‘what I’ve been doing’ posts up my sleeve, and I hope to get to them within the next week or so.

Correct me

There’s no such thing as a free-range UU. I took the position that one must be a member of a congregation to be UU at the end of my “What does it mean…” series. Looking at the way the terms are defined and cross-referenced, it seems to me that the only way to be UU is to be a member of a congregation that’s accepted as part of the UUA.

I don’t like such a hard-edged opinion, even if it has the same sort of hard edge as a snuggly down comforter: warm, generally comfortable, and–while not difficult to find–difficult to actually pin down.

But my opinion is not that to be UU, one has to belive X, Y, or Z, or durf, qrtsh, or 8igw:. Or anything. One just has to accept the congregation one is in, and be in a congregation that’s in the UUA.

I don’t even have any particular prejudicial conception of what a congregation has to be. Could there be a congregation of One? (Given the unitarian heritage of the UUA, it seems it should be possible…) Conceptually, I’d have to say–yeah, of course. It’s far from my place to say how there might be a single-individual congregation that could meet standards of UUA associationalism (to make up a word). And doesn’t ‘congregation’ mean, at least in part, ‘more than one?’

There’s already the Church of the Larger Fellowship, so there’s no conceptual reason why there can’t be congregations of membership rather than gathering. To use a dumb-ass model as an example, Blackboard (which some universities use to supplement or substitute for classroom interaction) makes it possible for congregations (if you will) to meet and do their missional work. Which means the obstacles to individuals joining congregations are circumstantial rather than conceptual. On the one side of the relationship maybe the UUA isn’t properly positioned as an organization to cope with congregations that don’t meet someplace. On the other side, maybe notional-but-unaffiliated ‘UUs’ aren’t finding membership congregations because there’s not enough outreach, or they’re not looking to join a congregation of any type (so outreach wouldn’t work), or who-knows?

So correct me. Help me see a way that an individual, outside of a congregation, can be a UU in a way that doesn’t make a hash of what it means to be UU. And in what way is the UUA currently unable to cope with “congregations of membership without place” as opposed to typical congregations?

(Note on old UU posts.)

Sonnet Number One

Entering Seattle, my guts knuckled
around my spine, squeezing, racing my heart.
My friend, who thought up this dumb trip, chuckled.
A thousand miles and at the end a hurt

woman. Years had passed but my harm still stung
her. Now worry about her anger as fresh
as showers wormed within me. Her sharp tongue
would never forgive my failure of flesh.

Guilt digs out the holes filled by life and hones
and stabs our tender souls with jagged bones.

CongPolIntel (WDIMTOAUU part 7)

CongPolIntel. How’s that for a bureaucratic neologism? I just made it up. It means Congretational Polity Intelligence. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s got the right feel, I think. The UUA is an association of congregations, you see. CongPolIntel feels right, because it sounds like it means something, but it means something only from the inside. The UUA is an insider’s thing, it seems to me, at this point. Friendly-seeming, to be sure, but it’s an association, you see.

Congregational polity means that each congregation is its own thing. It self-organizes, self-funds, and finds its own ministers. There are other ways of organizing a religion. Roman Catholics, for instance, have carved up the world into dioceses of varying geographic coverage, ruled over by bishops (Princes of the Church) loyal to the first among equals–the Pope, and then within each diocese are the parishes, which are like children in a family independent but subordinate to the bishop.

The UUA is more like the Chamber of Commerce.

And this is where the 7s and 6s really come into play. Because, you see, they begin, not with a list, but with a promise: “There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote.” See that thing there? The UUA doesn’t lay any direct responsibilities on individual UUs. Non-creedal. Some future series on this blog will be me looking at the 7s and then the 6s, digging into the UUA web site, and all like that.

Like the Chamber of Commerce, the UUA is group of groups (businesses on the one hand, congregations on the other). There are some things that the congregations have in common (currently articulated in the 7s and 6s), and finding that those things are worthy, they got together and created the association. It wasn’t that simple, of course. The roots of the UUA run deep, and in the US, go back to the Pilgrims (which I continue to find jaw-dropping, and go on about why in the future).


However the UUA came together, it is, in theory, a body organized by and for the benefit of congregations. In practice, like so many other groups, it has a life of its own now, and even acts as a gate-keeper. Congregations have to get approval to enter the association from the UUA. And that’s OK–it’s not an association if just anyone (or just any congregation) can walk in the door and say “here I am! Serve me!” That’s a tavern. Or a brothel.

But the gate-keeping function can sometimes look like a franchiser–that the UUA creates (somehow) the congregations as subordinate units. The gate-keeping is where the insidery feeling I mentions above comes from–all those organizational questions about board membership, geographical disbursement, staff support, offices open and closed. And so on. But that said, I have found directly helpful support from the UUA in working with religious questions. So the Intel part of CogPolIntel isn’t totally ironical.

Just because the UUA is a congregational-level entity doesn’t mean it doesn’t support the individual. Can you be a UU congregation without being, at least tangentially in (or near-to in) the UUA? Can you be a UU individual without being in a congregation?

But enough about theory, let’s talk about me (and look at those questions). Next time.

(Note on old UU posts.)