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2002-10-02 | 12:45 a.m.

I heard that pop song on the radio that goes "25 years old, my mother God rest her soul" and for the umpteenth time, I thought, Where is that from, dammit?! So I looked it up when I got home just now. The newer song is "Fly," by Sugar Ray, and the old song that inspired the line (and the riff) is "Alone Again, Naturally" by Gilbert O'Sullivan.

That is just the sort of thing that can plague me for years.

I get stuck on things that don't bother other people in the slightest. For example, when I was pregnant with my son I was always waiting for some population control fanatic to walk up and start scolding me for having more than my fair share of kids. I actually thought about this a LOT, trying to come up with a rational defense. But the only ideas I could come up with were irrational. Such as? Such as that for all we know, AIDS could wipe out half the population of Africa in the next twenty years, and anyway I planned to raise children who would commit themselves to solving all the world's problems. Particularly those I hadn't yet managed to solve.

Now I am not so confident in their activist futures. I have lost confidence in myself, and I guess it transfers to everything I see.

Today was my first monthly meeting with the ch*rter school teacher/facilitat*r. I've been up and down for weeks now, and felt downhearted the whole time I was there. When I confided that I have trouble sustaining the kids' interest and keeping them in line, she said she uses the Bible as her guide and spanks her children to earn their respect. I said I have done it but it doesn't work on my kids and she said it does work, because it is God's word. I must not be consistent enough with discipline. It is a kind of circular reasoning: spanking works because it is God's word and God's word is inviolate. It hurts my hands, I say, thinking and they just laugh it off and she says she doesn't use her hand, she uses a plastic spoon. I say I don't want violence in my house and she says she doesn't consider it violence. Then I tell her the absolute truth, which is that I was spanked as a child, though not by my parents, and what I remember most is feeling contempt for the individuals who had spanked me. And that I still do.

I might have said that the Bible also advises stoning to death disobedient children, but I didn't want to get into a scene with her, and anyway, I didn't think of it until I was in the car.

I don't feel that I can speak frankly to this woman. Part of me says, well so what? She's only going over your paperwork once a month. Just get in and get out. It doesn't matter what she thinks of me.

And then the other side of me says well what good is it to me if I can't get any useful advice? Why couldn't they have given me someone less religious? Are they ALL like that? Isn't there anybody like me out there anywhere? I think the closest I could get around here would be a pagan. But I'm only guessing; I really don't know any pagans, much less any that are homeschooling in this town. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't get much further with a pagan, anyway.

Here is the relevant Bible passage, if you're interested.

Deuteronomy 21: 18-21: "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."

I did think about saying that "spare the rod, spoil the child" can be interpreted in more than one way, as I was taught while studying Gerard Manley Hopkins's fabbo poem, "God's Grandeur":

Godís Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not wreck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears manís smudge and shares manís smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springsó

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

What I really want to know is how come I never get to hang out with the Gerard Manly Hopkins variety of Christian? That would be so nice. Hopkins, Milton, Merton--I'd give my eyeteeth to spend time with religionists like them. I always get stuck with the other kind instead. You know, more like Anita Bryant, John Ashcroft, Andrea Yates...

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