Faithful In Adversity

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Widower Greets You

UT FIDEM PRAESTEM IN DIFFICULTATE!

This is my Latin motto, which translates as: "May I be faithful in adversity!"
It was my private rallying-cry as I stood by my dear wife, Mary Scudellari
Ravitts, during her truly heroic struggle against the Damned Thief--which
is my name for the rare cancer which took her away from me and (no thanks
to it) sent her sailing through The Door Into Summer. I am creating this blog
on the first anniversary of her crossing over to the other side.

We who remain down here in the mortal world find ourselves in a time when
more and more people _don't_ feel like being faithful in adversity; when more
and more people are willing, if things grow difficult, to abandon someone whom
they had promised to love...even, for their own convenience, to "help" that
person go away permanently. This being the case, I hope to encourage the
promotion of LOYALTY in human relationships. I hope that readers of this
blog will share their feelings about what is entailed in staying true, in keeping
promises, in being there for people who depend on us to be there.

This blog is intended to cut right across the categories of all sorts of political
and spiritual persuasions. In the interests of honest disclosure, I will state up
front that I am a Christian heterosexual who usually votes Republican; but I
intend to try to respect the views of everyone who may post here. I do not
want to be involved in any disputes, certainly not angry disputes, if it can
possibly be avoided. Those who know me, know that I often do find myself
in debates; but I don't really _enjoy_ arguing with people--it's just that
sometimes conscience compels me. Here, though, it is precisely in line with
conscience that I want to be as positive and inclusive as I can be. I want to
see common ground between myself and persons who may be dramatically
different from me. So please come with your insights, EVERYBODY.

I won't say that there will NEVER be any political or theological discussion
here; but I ask everyone posting (1) to try to stick mostly to the theme of
loyalty in our individual relationships, and (2) to try to see the good in all
other persons who post here, avoiding direct contradiction as far as possible.
I have other outlets for partisan position-holding. This blog is meant to be
a home for "the better angels of our natures."

Best wishes to future acquaintances,
Joseph Richard Ravitts (pronounced RAY-vitts)
Columbia, Maryland

"Though lovers be lost, love shall not,
And death shall have no dominion." -- Dylan Thomas

22 Comments:

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Gayle said...

Welcome to blogging!

"Though lovers be lost, love shall not,
And death shall have no dominion." I love that... And I believe it as well. And I am proud to be the first one to comment on my friend's blog, and even more proud to call Joseph a friend!

 
At 5:30 AM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Okay, let me try to nudge this forward a bit.

Those who betray their loyalties, or cause others to break faith, often think that being wealthy or glamorous places them above all moral considerations. As witness Julia Roberts: she met a man whom she KNEW to be already married, and simply set out to steal him from his wife. Now she is married to the man she stole--and for all her feminist pretensions, she has done great injury to A FELLOW WOMAN, one who never did her any wrong. But merely being glamorous is taken by fame-worshippers as excusing Julia from accountability for inducing a married man to violate his promises. I accordingly will never again spend a cent to see anything with Julia Roberts in it. As a sci-fi author once put it, "A female louse is still a louse." (On the other hand, I went out of my way to spend money on the latest Sandra Bullock movie, to show appreciation of her donating her own money to help tsumani victims.)

 
At 10:14 PM, Blogger jane said...

Looking forward to your blog! And I agree about Julia Roberts, but I try not to patronize Hollywood in general. We usually just borrow movies from the library.

 
At 3:48 AM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Thanks for dropping in, Marla!

And while I'm here, let me show my obsessive-compulsive nature by figuratively tearing my hair because I misspelled "tsunami." I really do know how to spell it, that was just a typo!

More seriously, and getting back to my blog theme: Those who are guilty of committing or inciting injurious infidelity typically try to excuse it in the name of "love." But just what kind of "love" is it that seeks ONE'S OWN pleasure in a way that is KNOWN to be hurting an innocent person? Hmmm, perhaps that's why promise-breakers so frequently ALSO break up with the person FOR whom they broke the previous commitment. As when Glen Campbell (I'm showing my age) left his wife to steal Mac Davis' wife--then left her for Tanya Tucker--and then couldn't even manage to stay together with Tanya!

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Now, to stay positive, I'll remark
on something from Hollywood that I
_approve_ of: last year's "KING
ARTHUR" movie, produced by Jerry
Bruckheimer, and starring (among
others) Ioan Gruffud who is now in
"THE FANTASTIC FOUR."

In common with Stephen Lawhead's
Arthurian books, this latest
Arthurian film goes AGAINST the
standard "noble adultery" nonsense
with Lancelot and Guinevere. In the
story as directed by Antoine Fuqua
(and, if I'm not mistaken, written
by the scriptwriter of "GLADIATOR")
Guinevere is still unmarried for
almost all of the action; but not
only does Lancelot NOT try to steal
a _married_ Guinevere from Arthur,
he even restrains his attraction to
an _unmarried_ Guinevere, because
he is aware that Arthur (through
having shown kindness to her) has
"first claim" to her.

In the expanded DVS, director Fuqua
explicitly stated that he found it
distasteful that people should
_admire_ the homewrecker that
Lancelot is usually portrayed as
being. I was delighted to hear him
say so, and delighted that his
Lancelot is UNselfish and loyal to
Arthur. I just hope Mr. Fuqua is
also disgusted to realize just how
many movies are made now in which
romance isn't romance unless you
are TAKING your partner away FROM
someone else.

 
At 8:53 PM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Goldang me! Another typo! I typed
"DVS," meaning to say "DVD."

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger bengibson5675 said...

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At 4:05 AM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Thank you so much for coming by, Ben Gibson! I will check out the link you furnished.

The nonstop nature of life has not let me post on my own blog for awhile. Now, let me announce a change--not in the blog's theme of loyalty, but in my own opportunity to practice loyalty. God has brought me together with a new love: a woman called Janalee, who knew my Mary and me long ago. Janalee and I will soon be married. I do still hope to get more participants here.

 
At 4:24 AM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Okay, now I've been to the link, a matchmaking site. Thank you for your kind intentions. Though I'm already taken, this nonetheless gives me something to discuss.

I'm sure that matchmaking services are a good and beneficial thing for many people. But I'm glad that not everyone uses them--because, for some of us, getting a spouse who exactly duplicates our own interests and priorities would _prevent_ us from becoming what we are meant to be. My Mary was what C.S. Lewis would call "a real, resistant other;" that is, she had her own firm preferences and convictions independent of mine. It took more of an effort to practice love with someone so intellectually independent; but in the end, my love was truer for it.

I became a better man by my marriage to Mary. And now that Mary is up in Heaven, I hope to give the benefits of my experience to Janalee, who also has a mind of her own.

 
At 1:30 PM, Blogger Steve Gagne said...

Congratulations, mon vieux. I hope you are as fulfilled with Jan as with Mary; may the LORD bless you both.

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger Steve Gagne said...

Hmmm....California Time...I was wondering what you were doing up posting at 4:30 in the morning. And why did I have to create a blog just to comment here????

On the subject of others' marital instability, of course we can only pity those whose relationships are not in the LORD, and lack His protection. You have spent the last year discovering how painful it is to "start over".

What of those who never really do get "started", and must play this their failure out again and again, both in their own lives as well as in those of others?

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Hi, Steve!

In answer to your question:

Many who put off making commitments
in life are doing so because they
are irrationally trying to hold off
their own mortality. What I mean is
that major choices like marriage
hugely reduce the options in our
lives; then we can no longer feel
that all the choice-points are
still ahead of us, because we have
passed such a profound one. This
makes us feel older, and makes it
harder to deceive ourselves that
we can live on forever in THIS
life. Of course, this very attempt
to keep our life and youth freeze-
dried only succeeds in making our
life count for less. Hmmm, didn't
Someone we know comment on losing
our lives BECAUSE we are trying to
save them?

 
At 10:30 PM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Writing on 21 NOV 2005:

Here's an illustration of loyalty issues which is not too closely tied to emotion-charged current events: a tale from Greek myth.

King Agamemnon, of Trojan War fame, was murdered by his wife Klytemnestra so that she could marry her lover. Orestes, the son of this dysfunctional couple, killed his mother in revenge for his father. This caused a furious debated among Greek deities over whether Orestes had acted rightly; but interestingly, the mythical gods do NOT appear to have cared about the actual rights and wrongs of the case. Rather, they lined up in blindly dogmatic allegiance to one sex or the other! Apollo held, essentially, that a husband's rights (=Agamemnon's) ALWAYS outweighed those of his wife, while the Furies argued that the rights of a mother (=Klytemnestra) ALWAYS outweighed those of a father. Actually, this was a bit like modern identity politics: "No matter what you do, you are in the right if you belong to my favored group, and in the wrong if you don't." Surely we can do better.

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Dang! I did it again--let a misspelling get by me as I posted! Of course I meant "debated" in the above entry to be "debate." Well, I can blame fatigue; my new wife Janalee and I have been VERY busy with home improvements.

 
At 7:22 AM, Blogger Steve Gagne said...

Now I'm really confused.It's 10:20am on 21 Nov....how did you post that message twelve hours from now??????

 
At 2:31 AM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Steve: I have no control over what
time is entered by the system, but
I said the date correctly.

Just now, I tried to make an entry
about another illustration of loyalty: the Japanese legend of
Lord Yoshitsune and his faithful
comrade Benkei. However, my web
server is NOT a shining example
of loyalty to the paying customers
whose money it accepts. It allows
your login to disconnect itself for no bloody reason at random
intervals; and this time it did so
at a perfect moment to wipe out my
samurai illustration.

The culprit, by the way, is called
Global Aloha, a.k.a. Access1. They
have let me go for three weeks
without normal e-mail service, and
have not bothered even answering
any of my 15 or so calls to the
so-called support line which they
always leave on answering machine.
I have just put a letter in snail
mail to the Consumer Protection
Agency, asking them to investigate
and see if Global Aloha has any
valid excuse for not doing its job.

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Now it's 2006, and--without ever
having given any explanation for
their failures--Global Aloha is
functioning for the moment. I'm
going to add Verizon service,
on Janalee's computer as well
as my own.

 
At 7:09 PM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Back in 1981, early in my marriage
to Mary, she was pregnant, but lost
the baby by miscarriage before we
could even learn what sex it was.
Mary, dwelling Up There, now knows
if it's a son or a daughter we
have in Heaven; but I still only
know that baby by the way we
referred to it: "J.M." The very
day after we lost our baby--which
was four years before we adopted
Annemarie--I wrote a song, whose
lyrics are posted below. It came
to my mind because of my own
renewed commentary about Global
Aloha. Since I don't know how long
the old website will still be
visible on their domain, I tried
copying here the song lyrics that
were posted on the old site. And
it seems to have worked!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

"Song For J.M."
by Joseph R. Ravitts

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There are many directions to sail on the ocean of tears

--- Most of them wrong;

So many sailors have let their resentments and fears lead them along

Into the whirlpool,

Where self-pity presumptiously shakes a wild fist at the sky,

As they sink down, all unheeding, to darkness,

Though help may be offered close by.

Oh, but I

Shall sail by the compass of faith,

Not in vain circles, but straight on my course.

No use to grumble or chafe at not yet seeing the welcoming shores.

I believe that

What I've lost is waiting for me, though out of my sight;

Therefore I will sail by the compass of faith,

Still trusting that God is steering me right.

There are many directions to sail on the ocean of tears

--- Most of them wrong;

So many sailors, in regions where fog never clears, have groped along

Into the doldrums,

Where the sea-serpent hisses that there is no shore to be found,

And our longings for the land are delusions

That really are better of drowned.

Oh, but I

Shall sail by the breezes of hope,

Not seeking safety by resting inert;

If I sail on, I can cope with disappointments, however they hurt.

I believe that

Life is real, and sorrow is real, and comfort is real;

Therefore I will sail by the breezes of hope,

And not be ashamed to feel what I feel.

There are many excuses to stay off the ocean of tears

---Most of them wrong;

Hardening hearts in the desert sun for enough years makes men belong

Inside the prison

Of the self-centered souls who are so busy guarding themselves,

That they forfeit the rewards that come only

By daring to love someone else.

Oh, but I

Shall sail in the strong ship of love,

Taking my chances with storms unforeseen;

Then let the ocean be rough! It shall not sink me, but only wash clean.

I believe that

One is better off with a broken heart than with none;

Therefore I will sail in the strong ship of love;

No matter what's lost, I'll reckon we've won!

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Since the song posting worked, let
me try pasting in another item
from the old website. This essay
was inspired in part by Mary's
years of work as a nurse.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

TRIAGE FOR ETERNITY
by Joseph Ravitts
Doctors and nurses often have to sort groups of patients into those who can wait for help, those who need help immediately--and those who are beyond help. This process is called triage (pronounced TREE-ahzh). If a patient's illness or injury is totally incurable, the goal in that case changes from saving a life to soothing a death. Comforting the sufferer may involve doses of pain-killing medication that would not be recommended for a person expected to survive. Measures to save the life of a patient who can still be saved may be quite uncomfortable for the patient; but in such a situation, there's much more than comfort at stake. In the hopeless case, all that matters anymore, medically speaking, is to relieve the pain.

All of us, at some time, perform a "diagnosis" upon our own understanding of existence. If we believe that there is something there which can be saved, we will be willing to approve of strenuous, even painful treatments to save it. If, on the other hand, we believe that death is the final doom, end and annihilation of all, then triage demands that we settle for anaesthetizing the pain. (Of course, there are also some who believe that neither life, nor death, nor anything else at all, including nonexistence, even exists; those folks can be a little difficult to talk to, so for now we address those who have noticed their own individuality and mortality.)

The terminal ward that is this world is full of patients prescribing their own treatment, based on a diagnosis of ultimate hopelessness. Believing that there is nothing beyond this life--which makes the soul an incurable case--they know nothing better to do than concentrate on pain management. Whether with money, or sex, or artistic achievement, or any other of the usual painkillers, they try to deaden the anguish of knowing (that is, of thinking that they know) that death and entropy have the last word, that nothing goes on except memories which will themselves perish as the persons doing the remembering die off. The medication is often effective enough so the self-treating patients forget that comforting a hopeless case is what they are doing. But it is not a cure.

If, however, there is hope for something better than our vanishing like a burned-out lightbulb in a windowless basement, then positive treatment is called for. Laborious therapy may be indicated, even radical surgery to the point of amputations or transplants. These measures appear as foolishness to those who insist that no cure is possible (as well as to those who deny that any disease exists in the first place, which is a different subject); but is the despair of skeptics really wisdom?

These words are being written on Easter Sunday of 2000. This day commemorates the pivotal point of all history, when the Lord Jesus Christ got up off the stone slab, stomped directly on the face of the Grim Reaper, and walked out of His tomb. He then announced His own diagnosis: a cure is possible for the soul! Accordingly, the healers He appointed began positive treatment of the human race. (Treacherous infiltrators later began slipping poison into the prescriptions, but that was not the fault of the original graduates of Jesus Christ's "medical school.") Laborious ministry was called for, even radical perseverance to the point of martyrdom. These measures appeared as foolishness to those who insisted that no salvation was possible; but is the despair of skeptics really wisdom?

It takes little effort and less courage to say, "There's no hope; let's just turn up the dance music and try to keep ourselves from noticing the hopelessness." Having chosen this attitude, we can even go on to convince ourselves that we like being doomed better than we would like having something to hope for. But the Great Physician is not impressed by this line of reasoning.

No literal, physical blood loss was ever dealt with by a symbolic metaphor of a blood transfusion. No malignant tumor was ever removed by a symbolic metaphor of surgery. And the worldwide epidemic of mortality would not be helped by a symbolic metaphor of resurrection. So Jesus, Who was a master of metaphors when metaphors would serve a purpose, put symbolism aside when He rose from the dead. He rose with the most blatant literalness--five puncture wounds in His body still visible as He physically walked around, ate food, and allowed His friends to touch Him. When He had adequately proven His point, He could have simply vanished; but He did not want His followers to feel any lingering suspicion that His revival had only been temporary, and had given out like an exhausted flashlight battery. So He allowed them to see Him rising bodily into the sky, making it clear that He was going to someplace, not just fading away to nowhere.

And in like manner will this same Jesus return in glory, to reign forever.

 
At 7:29 PM, Blogger Joseph Ravitts said...

Okay, so I'm getting open and
specific with my own beliefs.
Well, I can't help it if hardly
anyone else has posted here.

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger Dion Houston Sr. said...

Brother Joseph:

It's been so good to read your writing once again. I'm happy to hear that you've re-married. It definitely looks like things are going well with you.

I apologize for not keeping in touch, but I'd love to catch up with you. If you still have my military email address, that's still good, otherwise please write to dionhouston @ hotmail . com and I'll write you back.

God bless you...

Dion

 
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