Mary!

The Gospel reading for Mass today (Jn 20.11-18) contains one of the great literary images in Scripture.

Mary Magdalene, after having found the tomb of Jesus disturbed, and fetching Peter and John, stayed behind at the tomb, weeping, after the others had left. After conversing briefly with two angels she saw inside the tomb, she turned away from them in her tears, and in doing so, encountered the risen Jesus – whom she mistook for the gardener. After a few brief words, she turned away from him, too. And then Jesus spoke a single word to her that wholly rocked her world: “Mary!”

Mary Magdalene by Pietro PeruginoI don’t know if it’s possible to grasp the intensity of what must have happened within Mary at that moment. Of course, she recognized him in his calling to her, and she turned back to him, but her heart must have stopped in mid-beat. This man was dead – she saw him die, she saw him laid in the tomb – yet he was calling her name. It must have been simultaneously completely surreal, and quite terrifying, yet John tells us – not that she reacted in fear or disbelief, as we’d expect – but that she called back to him, and embraced him.

Her deep, abiding love for Jesus is made abundantly clear by John, and we can perhaps begin to imagine her feelings if we imagine our own reaction, were we to suddenly and unexpectedly encounter a loved one we were grieving over because we thought for sure he or she were dead. Yet she knew he was dead. She had heard him say “It is finished,” she had seen the blood and water flow from the lance wound to his side after he’d died. She could not have cried “I thought you were dead!” She knew he was dead. She could not have been relieved that he hadn’t died – she knew he had died. Yet … he called her name.

Mary’s universe was turned upside down in that moment, when she heard her name on the lips of a man she loved deeply, who had died two days earlier. Nothing now was impossible. Something brand new had broken in upon humanity. Hearing her name like that delivered her across the great chasm of grief and suffering that is the oppressive presence of death in our lives. Hearing him call her name must have triggered a joy so powerful she could taste it, smell it, feel it in every muscle in her body.

It is the word we all ache to hear, isn’t it?

Lord, I’m not worthy to receive you,
but only say the word,
and my soul shall be healed.

A Topographic Easter Tradition

Staying on my theme of music I listen to on the holy days… I have an Easter morning musical tradition that stretches back a lot further than the 10 years or so I’ve been listening to Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony on Good Friday.

I don’t remember when I started listening to Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans on Easter morning, but it goes well back into my murky pseudo-Christian (proto-Christian?) past, into those pre-Church days when I thought that Christianity was something you believed – maybe even something ontologically transformative – but not something that meant, by necessity, an inescapable belonging to – like an ancestral heritage, but of the Spirit. Well, change we must, as surely time does (to borrow a line from the piece).

The music is a bit of an odd choice to commemorate this highest of Christian holy days, being as it is a musical and poetic reflection on the Shastric Scriptures. Religiously, it falls into the category of cheesy New Age noodling. In rather stark contrast to the flesh and blood realism of a resurrection faith, it meanders through layers of mysticism, mythology, and dualistic struggle.

Tales From Topographic OceansStill, it’s not a wholly inappropriate choice for the occasion. The work’s final movement is, as principal writer Jon Anderson notes in the album’s liner notes, “about the struggle between sources of evil and pure love” (Ritual), and the other major themes of the work revolve around the irrepressibility of revelation, and of the role of tradition – memory and ancestry – in forming the foundations of culture, which is really just a single word for the experienced reality that forms the canvas of the work’s character.

And the Easter message is, after all, about the triumph of love over evil, though Christianity would see the struggle as one of faith lived out in human history, rather than a cosmic struggle between opposing forces – a view naively supposing that God might have an adversary (therein obliterating the meaning of Godhead in monotheistic religion). Indeed, Christianity has much criticism to offer the essentially agnostic character of this and other eastern religious worldviews, but that should not obscure the significance of the reality that many points of contact make such criticism viable.

All the same, the occasion of Easter morning would warrant a Christologically-ordered musical accompaniment – something that says “we are of the Son,” rather than “we are of the sun.” In that light, I set the piece aside for a couple years or so, trying to either replace it with something more orthodox, or just leaving the music off. But I’ve found that, so far at least, neither tact has worked.

Part of the problem is that none of the Christian music in my collection has the gravitas required to be a soundtrack to Easter morning. I have a couple Masses, and you’d think they might be appropriate, but I’m not looking to hear Mass at home on Easter morning – the time for my listening to Easter morning music is typically after I’ve been to Easter morning Mass, the time when breakfast is being prepared, and served, and the family is relaxing or getting ready for the afternoon. I guess I’m looking for gravitas, but not that much gravitas. And the rest of the music? Well, it’s just … songs, for the most part, and I’m not looking for songs; I’m looking for music.

Part of the reason Tales works so well in our house on Easter morning is that, while it does explore certain ideas, the lyrical focus is so abstruse as to be virtually meaningless at most points. Particular turns of phrase certainly carry with them images, which together form a kind of patchwork of meaning once or twice removed, so to speak… but the abstractness is so pronounced that the meaning of the work becomes almost wholly malleable in listening to it. In many ways, the words are really just important for their aesthetic character – Anderson could be singing in Sanskrit and it wouldn’t make much difference.

This was a nice characteristic of early Yes music, which would eventually give way to lyrical content with much more direct intent, which I think has the unfortunate consequence of highlighting some of the underlying silliness of the New Age sensibility that has more or less always informed Yes’ and Anderson’s work. “Equal rights for equal people,” Anderson writes in 1997’s “Children of Light.” You’d think it couldn’t get much gushier than that, until in 2001’s “In the Presence Of” he writes: “If we were flowers we would worship the sun, so why not now?”

However, I think the larger part of the reason the work has, so far, retained its place in my house on Easter morning is that it simply feels like it belongs there. In other words: tradition. I’m not sure I would have played it this morning until Joyce dropped a not very subtle hint that she thought it should be playing. It’s just been that way for a long time, and it ties today’s Easter morning together with our past Easter mornings, which in a way is how they themselves are tied together with that morning in Judea long ago, when Mary Magdalene was startled to encounter the living flesh and blood of a man she had seen die two days earlier.

I think if I were to encounter Topographic Oceans as a new piece of vocal music today, I would not want it played in my house as Easter morning “mood music.” I would consider it largely inoffensive in what it had to say about reality (even if a little loopy at times), but sorely lacking in terms of what it does not understand, and hence misleading as an artistic expression intended to provide musical context for this particular, great Solemnity. But I do not encounter it as if it were new, I bring 35 years of familiarity to my encounter with it – and for many of those years, it held a place of high honor in my hierarchy of artistic value. It still does today, in a sense, though primarily because of what it has meant to me – especially in my youth.

At one time, this work was probably the most “spiritual” creation I’d encountered, and it had significant influence in the beginnings of my journey toward God. Not long afterwards, I began to encounter Christ in the Christian Scriptures, where I found some stark differences between the pathos of the Christian (and Jewish) God, and the sterile idealism of the search for enlightenment. I began to understand that my journey to God is not so much a “journey to” at all, but a turning back to a faithful Creator and Redeemer who had been seeking me from the moment of my conception in his Mind. The “journey to God” is actually what the Muslims call islam, submission.

But I would remain without Church for a long time, and in the absence of a genuine organizing principle in the spiritual life, something else will always take its place – even something like music that seems to connect at a deep level. For some years, listening to Topographic Oceans on Easter morning was the closest I ever got to liturgy. In a way, then, it was both a catalyst to my turning toward God, and a workable substitute for a genuinely Christian expression of faith in community.

All this is not to say that we can’t – and shouldn’t – move on from the affections of our youth, just that there are important spaces in our lives that need to be filled – and will be filled – with something…usually something familiar. Jesus himself expressed much the same idea when he warned about the unclean spirit who comes back to the person it had left, and finding his former home “empty, swept clean, and put in order,” returns to dwell there with seven spirits even more evil that itself (c.f. Mt 12:43-45). Now, I’m in no way trying to depict Yes’ music as unclean with this analogy, the point is just that we need to proactively fill the spaces in our lives with the most perfect good we desire, with the deepest truth w can apprehend, because they will be filled with whatever fits, regardless. Things tend to stick, regardless of their character, and the spiritual life is about nothing if not about repentance…

This opens up many questions – which I’ll have to leave, and hope to pick up at a later time – about the nature of tradition, about how it is personalized, about how it develops, about how cultural forms might play very different roles in a stream of tradition, depending on its developmental nature (e.g. how a particular form might play a constructive role in the tradition at a particular point in history, but take on a destructive role later on based either on an anti-historical formalism or a sentimentality that fails to note its contingent character in pointing to something beyond it – such as a puritanical or biblicist attempt to recreate the apostolic-era church).

At the least, though, this problem of mine should leave me more charitable than I was in my recent lament over the way some very poor liturgical music seems to have found communal staying power by living in familiarity’s comfort zone for many older (and not quite so old) priests. It looks like I’m in a very similar boat, after all. But let me also say that I’m very ready to let my Easter morning tradition develop appropriately toward a more orthodox expression of faith, just as soon as I can find something that can also meet the aesthetic standards demanded by the occasion. Ideas are always welcomed!

He is risen, alleluia!

ΑΩ

Good Friday: The Other Mothers’ Day

As has been my custom for several years, I listened to Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) this afternoon, before attending the Good Friday liturgy. This is a remarkable work that never fails to move me. I don’t listen to it very often during the rest of the year, but it has become a Good Friday staple for me.

Though Gorecki himself insists that the work has much broader meaning (no doubt), it is difficult for me to listen to it without being overwhelmed by thoughts of the insane brutality of the Nazi death camps in Gorecki’s own Poland. The text of the second movement is actually taken from scratchings on the wall of a Gestapo prison in southern Poland, and the entire piece seems imbued with the lingering memory of a people and a boy (b. 1933) who lived through the madness. In this connection, I see a particular affinity between this piece and Good Friday. It is not for nothing that Isaiah 52 is read in today’s liturgy.

Michelangelo’s PietaAt the simplest level, it is a piece about the suffering of mothers losing their children. It is a Pieta, writ upon the maternity of humanity. The first movement’s text is quite literally a Marian lament, dating from the 15th century, that could have been spoken at the foot of the cross. The third movement uses a local folk song that speaks of a grieving mother yearning for her son, lost in a violent uprising in the early 20th century.

But the shorter second movement is the most remarkable to me. It recognizes a mother’s sorrow through the eyes of a lost child – in this case an 18 year-old Polish girl named Helena, imprisoned by the German Gestapo on September 26, 1944. On the wall of her prison cell, she wrote: “No, Mamma, do not cry -Immaculate Queen of Heaven support me always” (followed by the beginning of the Ave Maria – in Polish).

It is humbling to realize that this girl – in such dire straights – concerned herself, before all else, with the suffering she knew her mother must have been living through on her account. I know a man who, we are told, acted very similarly in his own hour of darkness. It’s a tale that tells of the triumph of charity – and faith – over despair, despite an aching sadness.

Gorecki_3rd_1992Musically, the symphony culminates when, after almost an hour of slow, brooding, dark, aching, sometimes devastatingly angst-ridden waves of sound, the third movement resolves – twice – into an A Major chord that witnesses to the persistence of possibility – though not without a lingering knowledge of darkness.

It is in no way corny or contrived, the way the piece comes around like this; rather, it smartly reflects the essence of a faithful existence in the face of madness and rampant sin. In a Good Friday context, it is simply the realization that Easter has the last word.

God bless all grieving mothers on this day. And God bless Henryk Gorecki, who, whether he intended to or not, managed to capture the Pieta in music – right down to the last note.

Good Friday Intercessions

While listening to the general intercessions today during the Good Friday liturgy, I couldn’t help but think about all the hubbub that was raised recently when Pope Benedict made the Latin-rite Mass more widely available.

I had some good, mentally stable, friends tell me that it was the beginning of the end of the Second Vatican Council reforms; that the priests would soon turn their backs – literally and figuratively – on the people (which I guess I’m supposed to think is self-evidently worse than priests turning their backs on the tabernacle, though I’m not sure why I’m not supposed to be just as offended by the backs of all the parishioners in front of me that are turned toward me – better stick to the front pew if I’m feeling sensitive…); that the Church was about to become a fortress of spiritual repression, where domineering, Latin-speaking clergy would rule ruthlessly over a servile laity… well, you can guess the rest.

I was approached by a particularly irate parishioner in Dunkin’ Donuts one morning, who explained to me (complete with a lesson on the finer points of Latin) how he was certain that the disgraceful reintroduction of the term “perfidious Jews” into the Good Friday liturgy would set Catholic/Jewish relations back decades (turns out he didn’t even know which liturgy is being used in the Latin, but accurate facts are such an encumbrance during an outrage anyway!).

I find it terribly difficult to understand the lack of trust so many Catholics have in the Church – which is what this smacks of, to me. I’m not unaware of the feet of clay that encumber us all, but how can anyone who feasts at the table of the altar not be amazed at the nature of the Divine gift that is the Church? If we believe that the Church is the Body of Christ, then a meaningful faith in that same Christ would seem to me to demand a certain level of confidence in His desire – and ability – to lead the Bride into “all truth” (c.f. Jn 16.13).

?

Then there is the curious situation of Jewish leaders who say that “something must be done” about the prayer for the Jews that actually is said as part of the current Tridentine Good Friday liturgy, because in it, the Church prays for the conversion of the Jews. OK, so . . . what am I missing here?

If the Christian Church believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – the very Incarnation of God – and that fellowship with Christ (communion) is the means to complete reconciliation with God – and eternal life in pure, wondrous bliss – then why exactly is it offensive to express to God a genuine, loving desire that someone else come to share in that? In the English of the Novus Ordo, we pray that the Jews may come “to the fullness of redemption,” and this appears not to offend anyone. Being at least modestly familiar with Catholic theology, this suggests to me that it’s OK to wink, but not to nod.

I understand that most Jews do not accept Jesus as the Christ. I’m not offended by that. And if anyone thinks I’m in error, and wants to pray sincerely to God that I come to a full understanding of the truth, I won’t be offended – I will be grateful, in fact, even if I think that by coming to understand the truth more fully, I will be even firmer in my conviction of the Lordship (and Godhood) of Jesus Christ.

One thing I will not do is tell people of other faiths how they should or should not pray.

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This may be a very politically incorrect thing for me to say ( imagine that), but I think the position of those Jewish leaders (I have no idea if it is many, or just a few that manage to get press) who have agitated to have the Catholic Church’s liturgy changed is nothing short of religious intolerance on their part. Judaism may not be evangelistic, but Christianity is – by its very nature.

Any meaningful understanding of religious tolerance would have to allow for Christians, as well as anyone else, to practice their religion faithfully, as they understand it. To be sure, it would not require leaving room for malfeasance, religiously motivated or not, but it certainly must allow for charity and goodwill. Modernity’s unwritten rule against proselytizing is nothing but a weak man’s religious intolerance – nobody is allowed to challenge the status quo with religious conviction. What a sham.

The prayers for the conversion of Jews to the knowledge of Christ are offered in charity, and good manners would seem to demand that they be acknowledged as such, in goodwill. If the Jews think we’re bonkers (or idolaters), they can at least take note that we wish for them – nay, pray for them – the most important and wonderful good we can conceive. If they want to roll their eyes at us, and say “silly goyim,” well, I’d get a good chuckle out of that, and God probably would, too. But I never find anything amusing in someone taking offense where none is offered.

Gerry Gillis: Rest in Peace

My uncle Gerry Gillis passed away Saturday, Joyce with Uncle Gerry on Hawthorne St. 1997 at the age of 80, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Gerry was quite a guy. When Joyce and I took Kelly & Leigh to visit Nova Scotia during the summer of 1997, we stayed with Gerry at the family home on Hawthorne Street, where he and his wife Bubby had raised their nine children – the same home where my grandfather had settled with his clan, after leaving Sydney for Antigonish. Gerry and Bubby were the most gracious hosts.

The Gillis Homestead at 60 Hawthorne Street, AntigonishWhile walking downtown from the house after our first night there, Joyce told me that she had had a dream in the night that a baby appeared to her and said “Hi Mom.” Nine months later, Abby was born. Must be something about that house…

The obituary in the Halifax Chronicle Herald listed just an amazing amount of volunteer work that Gerry had done over the years. But the one thing that will stick in my mind is the last sentence – five simple words: “He was a good man.” Amen to that. I’m not sure how many obituaries can rightfully end that way, but I pray that mine can.

A Good Hymn is Hard to Find

The parish Lenten Mission began tonight, and I got to the church a minute or so late for the start. The congregation was singing the opening hymn – what it was I have blessedly forgotten, but it was one of those carnival tunes of fairly recent vintage that we used to sing fairly regularly, not too long ago. As I ducked into a pew near the back, I was met by the distinct aroma of moth balls.

The presider was a retired bishop, who seemed to give a very thoughtful reflection (I had trouble hearing a lot of it), but the music we used all night was awful. I got to thinking that the moth balls I could smell were perhaps being used to preserve the 1970’s era pop-hymns we kept pulling out. It was actually rather discouraging.

I pray that enough people will get fed up with this kind of schmaltz before long, and the pop songs will go away. But as of now, this stuff feels like tradition to some of the older priests who’ve spent entire careers singing it – and some not-so-old ones as well. Alas, I might be sing-songing it for the rest of my earthly life. At least I can have confidence that, then, will be the end of it…

As we were preparing to leave, we were all invited to join in singing “City of God,” that ubiquitous hit hymn set to the tune of “Old Smokey” (or is it “On Top of Spaghetti?”):

We are sons of the morning,
All covered in cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.

Let us build the city of God…

Constantinople’s Last Night

Yesterday, I wrote that I’ve been spending some of my commute time listening to the Modern Scholar series from Recorded Books – specifically the volumes from Thomas F Madden, a Medievalist and chair of the History department at Saint Louis University. The lecture set I probably learned the most from was Empire of Gold: A History of the Byzantine Empire. I knew very little about this culture, and the lectures helped me to piece quite a few things together – in both the political and religious spheres.

As the lectures wound down, I must confess that I was growing a bit weary of the Michaels, Constantines, Alexioses, and others. In part, that may have been because the lectures could sometimes move through several reigns in the space of a minute or two – lending a sense of having a revolving door leading to the throne room. But I also had a sense of frustration at the way imperial politics and palace intrigues seemed to lead almost invariably toward the eventual demise of this culture, which was so drenched in Christianity. I get a similar – but much more profound – discomfort reading the book of the prophet Jeremiah. What was especially frustrating to listen to was the ways unity between the Greek and Latin churches was repeatedly torpedoed by various circumstances – even when unity had been formally agreed upon.

siege_of_constantinople.jpgSo it was with a palpable sadness that I listened to Madden describe the Fall of Constantinople. The worst of it, though, was listening to his description of the preceding evening. As Madden tells it, it was clear to all involved on the night of Monday, May 28th, 1543, that the city would fall the following day, and that the Roman Empire was about to come to an end. So the defenders of the city gathered in the great cathedral, Hagia Sophia, and celebrated the Divine Liturgy. This included, not only the Emperor Constantine XI and his men (Greeks), but also the Venetians and Genoese (Latins) who had come or stayed to defend this bulwark of Christendom.

I was flabbergasted when I heard that. When all was finally lost, when the Muslims were poised to take permanent possession of, not only Constantinople, but also of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria – of all the major patriarchates of ancient Christianity except Rome – the Greeks and the Latins in the great city decided it was time to put aside their doctrinal differences, and share the Eucharist together. There had been struggles over union going on for some time, and maybe the sharing of Communion was not as unusual as I suspect it was at that time. But still, I can only wonder how differently history would have played out had the Greek and Latin churches not been at such cross-purposes over the preceding 800 years or so. What a shame. What a shame.

Modern Scholar series (part I)

In the spirit of always trying to look on the bright side of things… One of the advantages to spending two hours or so each weekday commuting to and from work is the opportunity it affords me to listen to audio books. I was in the local public library over the weekend, and noticed that they had a new title from Thomas F. Madden in Recorded Books’ Modern Scholar series. Unsurprisingly, the series overall is a bit of a mixed bag, but, having listened to all of Madden’s volumes so far, I can vouch for the quality of all of them.

These are not actually recorded books, but sets of about seven hours worth of lectures on various subjects – in Madden’s case on the history of Christianity, broadly speaking. Madden’s work is by no means overwhelming – these are survey-level mini-courses, and an overlap in subject matter among his volumes leads to some redundancy, but he does a nice job of walking through the material briskly while still demonstrating the complexities of the historical situations. I was particularly impressed with his agility in avoiding fashionable, oversimple cliches in his surveys of the Crusades and the Inquisitions – each of which he managed to cover fairly comprehensively in what would amount to about three weeks worth of classroom lectures in a traditional undergraduate environment.

I’ve been able to fill some gaps in my knowledge of European history while listening to these CDs, and it struck me a while back just how fundamental this knowledge is to understanding the world we’ve inherited from the ancients, the medievals, and the early moderns. And yet, where is this knowledge to be found in our culture? I know so many people who have absolutely no clue about any of this – including many with college educations. What little previous knowledge I had of this history was almost entirely gained through personal reading over the years. As a product of the public schools, I had almost no exposure to this – beyond, perhaps, memorizing the details of major military skirmishes, and of changing political fault lines. I certainly was offered no clue as to how the set of ideas we call the modern world (if we can still call it that) was forged in the interplay of the ideas of our cultural ancestors.

Maybe teenagers are too young to grasp human history as the story of ideas, but if that is true, then our system of education teaches history to the wrong people. Actually, I think that is true, and it suggests a gaping question regarding how we might rectify the problem of a rampant ignorance of the meanings of ideas. And when the Daily News Product is feeding us political ‘debate’ that tries desperately to find the right marketing mix of ‘change’ branded slogans and ‘experience’ branded slogans – all in an attempt to manipulate the election of the leader of the free world – we’d be hard pressed to show that ideas are not in crisis in our culture. Ideas are packaged for consumption – as trivia.

“For $10,000 and a weekend in Barbados with an upscale hooker: Who was the father of Charlemagne?”

This series is a good place to at least start rectifying the problem – Madden’s volumes are, at any rate.

MaybeToday.org Site Launch

MaybeToday.org was spawned in a crucible that was formed by the convergence of a number of difficulties in my life, all of which were pressing on my available time in some way or another. In a typically Christian manner, I was trying to understand what God was asking of me – what His will was for my life in those circumstances. In short, I was looking for God to help me straighten things out.

Maybe it was my professional background at play, but, in retrospect, I can see that I saw this essentially as a prioritization and scheduling exercise – which consisted in large part of trying to ascertain if the time was right to begin my studies toward a Master of Theology from Franciscan University at Steubenville, via their distance learning program. The program itself has seemed like the right direction for me for a while, but the timing has been problematic – perhaps primarily because of health concerns over the past year, but also because of concerns about its potential to impact my family time and work commitment, as well as my availability for involvement in my parish community. The insight that came to me seemed a bit out of left field.

I was beginning another long commute home in a miserable winter rain storm, when the thought came to me that I really needed to do something right away about making a long-needed change in email hosting. For years, I’d been running my own Internet mail server as part of a fairly elaborate network of systems in my basement. Back when I was working as an IT Infrastructure consultant, it was sensible enough for me to be running my own pilot lab at home, but I’d lost that need – and the motivation to maintain it- a couple years ago, and it was becoming something of an albatross to me, wasting time and money while steadily becoming riskier for me to run.

For various reasons, my resolution was to procure a new professionally hosted domain, migrate, then shut down my old domain. I’d come up with a list of potential new domain names, but hadn’t done any serious planning. And as I sat slumped in my car at a red light in that rainstorm, thinking I really needed to do something about it right away, my initial reaction was: “that’s going to be a lot of work, and when I’m done, I’m going to want to build a web site for it, which will be even more work… yeah, maybe tomorrow…” Immediately, however, I replied to myself: “No, maybe today”.

Right then, I knew I had found, not only my new domain name, but a key to understanding what God was looking for from me (or offering me, if you prefer): not a web site, per se, but the impetus to stop wasting my time waiting for tomorrow, and to start living for today; to stop trying to become me, but to simply be me; to stop trying to understand God’s plan, but to just do whatever honestly seems to be the needful thing to do.

It’s not very obvious how starting a blog would have been the needful thing to do in that situation, but it has to do with the need to stop waiting for the stars to align, so to speak. A while back, I targeted today as the launch day for this site. So, in the spirit of taking each day for what it’s worth – despite feeling still quite unready – I’m considering maybetoday.org formally launched with this post. I still have a lot of work to do to achieve the baseline I set out to meet for launch, but I’ll just have to be satisfied with what I’ve done design-wise, and get to the content as I can.

If anyone comes around and reads this, welcome: feel free to look around, and to chat if you’re so inclined.