Tuesday, July 31, 2007

look back

Riding our bikes down a hill we had just climbed this morning my friend said, "isn't it cool that we can ride to the top of a hill like that?" We had climbed to the ridge of Griffith Park. It's not the alps or anything but it is a hill, and when you look up from the bottom it is pretty impressive.

Sometimes we need to look backwards in order to guage our accomplishments. Looking forward we can only see what we haven't done. Although we shouldn't live in the past, now and then, it's good to remember what we're capable of because we've actually already done it.

brave dog

When one of my dogs hears a strange noise in the house she barks and then leaps up and races over to investigate. The same thing happens if one dog is somewhere else in the house and starts barking, the other dog charges over to get involved.

I don't know if I admire her courage. My instinct when confronted with danger is to avoid, if possible, and at least be cautious. The difference, I suspect, is that I know what kinds of dangers might be indicated by a strange noise in the house, and I know that there are situations where I'm not capable of protecting myself. My dog doesn't know that kind of danger. She's never read a newspaper story about crime and violence, and she's never had an experience where a strange noise turned out to be something actually dangerous. Perhaps to her a strange noise couldn't possibly come from anything except a UPS man with a package, or a mis-behaving squirrel in the yeard.

Or perhaps she does understand the danger but from an instinct of duty, or love, or pride, instantly moves to put herself between the danger and the family (the pack) she loves. Or perhaps it's a strong sense of call she feels, "this is what I'm here to do," or even a sense of identity, "this is who I am," that motivates her fearlessness. "I'm the one who races in while the other ones wait to see what I find."

best music experience ever

I had the best musical experience of my life this weekend as I sang with the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles. We had four concerts this weekend singing a selection of numbers from opera. The first half of the program was classical european opera. The second half was American compositions, including Gershwin, Copland, and selections from Bernstein's "Candide" and Sondheim's "Sweeny Todd" that fall somewhere between opera and Broadway.

I spent my entire childhood playing in bands and orchestras. I also studied music at UCLA and Cal Arts, and performed my own compositions with friends for several years after graduating. But this series of concerts was by far the most fulfilling. Not only was the quality of music making excellent - we're really good, I have to say. But the emotional quality inherent both in the musical seletions we performed, and in the nature of the chorus itself, were emotionally thrilling. We sang Beethoven's chorus "O Welche Lust" from Fidelio, portraying political prisoners allowed for just a few minutes to emerge from a dungeon and stand in the sunlight and open air. We sang of freedom for the oppressed and I cried. And I cried again when for the encore we sang Copland's "The Promise of LIving" from The Tender Land including the words, "The promise of living, the promise of growing, is born of our singing in joy and thanksgiving."

It was beautiful. What a privilege just to stand there on the riser and be surrounded by that beauty. And then to know that I had a small part in creating that beauty, truly wonderful

237 reasons for sex

The New York Times today had an article ("The Whys of Mating: 237 Reasons and Counting" by John Tierney) about researchers who have compiled a list of 237 different motivations people (students at the University of Texas in Austin) have had for sex.

The motivations were grouped into 4 main types. Physical: attractiveness and fun; Goal Attainment: gaining money or status, or getting even; Emotional: communication, intimacy, nurture; or Insecurity: duty, or to build self-esteem.

The study noticed the difference between men and women's responses. Women were more likely to cite emotional reasons ("I wanted to express my love") while men were more likely to cite goal attainment reasons ("boost my social status"). The study made no mention of the difference between gay and straight respondents. But perhaps related to that omission was the more interesting observation that there were 237 responses of which, presumably, "to have a baby" was only one.

Homosexual sex is often judged as less worthy than straight sex and immoral because of its non-procreative nature. But of the 237 reasons that a person might desire sex, 236 of them apply both to straight and gay couples. And the top rated reason for sex, by the way, was not to have a baby, but because for both men and women, "I was attracted to the person." Works for me.

waiting room

I've been looking for a new doctor and I noticed a doctor's office in my neighborhood that looked like a possibility. I showed up for my first appointment on Monday at 10:45 AM. I was about 5 minutes late. And then I waited until 12:20 PM before the doctor saw me, an hour and a half.

When I finally saw the doctor he apologized for the wait and then told me that they were a doctor short that day and had served four different people with emergencies that morning. He asked me why I was there and I told him I was looking for a new primary care physician and he joked that the office probably hadn't made a very good first impression.

I admit to having grown impatient in the waiting room, especially when I had to run outside to put more money in the parking meter, but when he explained the reason for the wait I was actually pleased. Although it was an inconvenience to me that morning, the policy of giving priority to walk in patients with acute needs will certainly help me in the future when I'm the one with the emergency. I'd much rather wait for an appointment when I'm well, then not be able to see a doctor when I'm sick. And for future appointments I can easily call ahead and see if there's a wait. It's a great example of how cooperation, flexibility, and self-sacrifice among a group can improve conditions for all.

maybe seconds away

Early Sunday morning an off-duty cop was killed in Los Angeles when he swerved to avoid a car disabled on the center divder of the Hollywood Freeway. The officer laid his motorcycle down which then caused a chain reaction pile-up as cars coming up behind swerved to avoid either the car or the motorcycle. Eventually 11 vehicles were involved. The officer was the only fatality.

I thought of the officer driving up the Hollywood freeway. 3:30 AM on a Sunday so the freeway must have been fairly empty. He was on his way to a second job as security for a movie complany. 52 years old. I'm sure death was the last thing on his mind, and yet there death waited only a few feet up the road.

For most of us death comes in a more timely manner. We know we're seriously ill. Or we know we're advanced in years. Or we know, as soldiers or police officers must, that we're working in a dangerous occupation where death is a possibility. But though accidental death is fortunately rare it is a possibility for any of us. To wait until death looms before we prepare for its inevitablity presumes that we will indeed see it coming while we still have time and competency to do the preperatory work. That's a false assumption. And there's no reason to wait. The spiritual benefits of being appropriately reconciled to our mortality pay off while we yet live, whether that be just a few seconds more or decades.

zhivi i zdrastvui

Don't ask me what it means, but I sang it this weekend with the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles. It's an English transliteration of a Russian text from the Coronation Scene of Mussorgsky's opera Boris Gudonov. Imagine eight pages of that sort of thing.

The chorus memorizes our music, which is difficult enough, but when the text is in a lnaguage that I don't speak it becomes expecially difficult. We had texts in Italian and German as well. The Russian text was the worst because the sounds are completely different from English and there's no way to make any sense of the words. I never did understand what we were saying beyond some broad sense of singing praise fro the newly crowned Tzar. In memorizing an English text I'm helped by recalling the general idea being conveyed, or the picture described by the language. In English I can memorize sentences, and the idea of one sentence leads to the idea contained in the next so I can memorize whole paragraphs or the entire piece as a single unit. In Russian there was no logical way to figure out how one word lead to the next, it was all just random sounds.

Confronted with the meaningless sounds of Russian (which of course are not meaningless to a Russian speaker) made me see with amazement how language works. The idea that a certain arrangement of sounds contains a meaning capable of transfering an idea from one brain to another, is pretty awesome. The same thing is true of written language, of course. That this blog is about something, as opposed to just being an arrangement of letters and spaces is a remarkable intellectual achievement of our culture.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

coming back

Last week, I rode my bike through the section of Griffith Park that had burned a few months ago. Only the perimeter of the park had been open since the burn, and then just a week or so ago they opened the path that goes through the center of the park over the ridge with the valley on one side and hollywood on the other. I got up early and rode with a small group. It was the first time I'd done the ride over the ridge in about a year.

Coming down we rode through the burned area. We've had no rain since then so there was no new growth, but I was pleased to see how much plant life had been spared. It actually looked pretty good, as though a long overdue fire had cleared out an overabundance of dead material and left behind the srongest plants, and lots of room for new growth to come in. I only hope the city doesn't replant, as they talked about immediately after the fire. The first time we get some rain (as long as we don't get so much to cause mudslides) the hillside should green up very nicely and with native plants that ought to be there.

I was feeling, for myself also, the first time taking a significant ride on the bike in a long time, and with a group of riders instead of by myself, that I was coming back after a time of recharging. Life goes in cycles of energy. The downtimes are not disasters, they're necessary and beautiful. It's a mistake of modern life fed by an economy that measures success only in growth, that we feel we must always be up and going going going to be successful. Spiritual health recognizes the need for work and for rest.

Friday, July 20, 2007

maybe next time

I've been taking swimming lessons this summer in the thought that I would tackle a triathlon this fall. It looks like that won't happen. I picked up a copy of the "Competitor" magazine the last time I was at the gym, a newsletter with a calendar of events, (they publish local editions nationwide). The two triathlons I'd been thinking about both happen on days I'm not available due to church duties. In fact nearly all the events happen on Sundays which mean I'm available for very few unless I plan six or more months in advance to take the day off. The next triathlon in the local area I could actually get to is the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and that one is a full tri and I'm looking for Olympic distance. So it look like it will be spring at the earliest.

A friend asked me if I've been doing much drawing lately. I'm pretty good at it but I don't do it very often. I said no. He asked why. I realized that the answer is that I just don't have time. I tend to only ever get to draw when I'm on vacation.

I do an awful lot of stuff but there's even more I would like to do if I had the time. There are time management strategies designed to help us re-claim time we waste, or prioritize our time correctly, but the bottom line is that human lives are finite. Saying yes to some things means saying no to others. The theological question is, then, if we are capable of doing/learning/experiencing/enjoying more than we can fit into one life, will there be more life available for us after this one? Why would God create us with more potential then we can manifest in one life, unless there was actually a scheme to give us more than one life?

i think i can

I had a breakthrough swimming on Wednesday when at one point I felt my chest tightening and my body straining and I simply told myself to relax. In the space of a single stroke I felt my stamina and speed increase. Whether we send out the mental message of, "This is impossible. I can't do this, This is dangerous. I need to be afraid," or "I can do this. I'm safe. This is fun." is a choice we make. We choose our perspective. Our perspective, where we look from, is an internal aspect having to do with where our minds are, not where our bodies are.

And changing that perspective makes an incredible difference. Swimming against the water is hard enough. Swimming against my body makes it unnecessarily even harder. Fortunately, our bodies respond to our thoughts. When faced with challenges in life we can actually make them easier simply by thinking them so.

This doesn't mean there aren't dangerous situations in life beyond our control, or that we aren't sometimes truly faced with insurmountable challenges. But sometimes the difference between impossible and possible is simply subtracting the negative factor of our own mental and bodily resistance.

a challenge not an impossibility

An article in the New York Times this morning (A Champion at Checkers That Cannot Lose to People" by Kenneth Chang)described a computer program called Chinook developed by scientists at the University of Alberta, Canada, that plays perfect checkers. No human being, or sophisticated computer either, could ever achieve better than a draw against Chinook. In other words checkers as a mathematical problem with a limited number of solutions (500 billion billion) has been solved.

To solve the mathematical problem of checkers required 18 years of work by Dr. Jonathan Schaeffer. That's a big challenge, but possible, and therefore a worthwhile undertaking leading to growth and deepening, and fun. The result, though has been to transform the actual game of checkers, at least when played against Chinook, into an impossibility. it's not really a game any more. You can play against Chinook online. But's it's not really "play" any more. And after you curiosity has been satisfied there's no need to try again.

We want experiences that challenge our abilities. We want our skills to be tested, and therefore expanded, and losing is OK too, but there's little use in experiences actually beyond our abilities. Experiences where our personal nature, or the nature of the task itself includes no possibility of success. It's not just that we get bored and frustrated at tasks beyond our scope, it's that such tasks shut down our lives instead of opening them up. There are lessons to learn in failure, but one of the most important is to learn who we are and who we are not: what the universe is calling us to be, and what we are not called to be as well.

from mind to body

I swam on Wednesday, practicing the crawl stroke that I've been working on as preparation for a triathlon later next year. After two lessons I know the techniques of the stroke. That doesn't mean I'm a master swimmer or that I have no more to learn. But it does mean that I know, intellectually, how to swim. What I can't do yet is make my body do what my mind knows. That transfer of knowledge from the mind to the body comes not from more meetings with a coach talking to me about technique but from actually getting in the water and doing it, over and over and over. The help of a coach at this point is to provide a second perspective on what I'm doing in the water adding what he sees to what I feel on my own.

The spiritual task is exactly the same. It's easy to learn strategies for healthy spirituality, harder to live them out. We know what we ought to do, how we should behave, how we should conceptualize theological ideas of personal identity and the nature of God, and so on. But moving that head knowledge into the body where we actually live our knowledge is much more difficult.

Much of what we call spiritual work is head directed. We listen to sermons, read books, take a class, think deep thoughts. Even a lot of experiential spiritual practices are also head directed. The goal of meditation after all is not to be a good meditator, but to be a good person. And that means moving the insights learned, or experienced, through meditation or prayer or worship or study, into our bodies where they change the way we live.

slow but not dead

peleg and I had a friend over for dinner a few nights ago. I asked him how his work was going. He's in the real estate business. he said, "slow but not dead." Peleg said that pretty much described his business for the last few months also. Neither of them were worried as they both attributed this to the natural cycles of business, and as long as there's some life ("not dead") the cycle will eventually turn again. They're right.

I told them that both of their businesses were in summer cycles. summer is the season of "slow but not dead." Everything in nature is very much alive this time of year, but plants are growing slowly, animals are moving slowly. Slow but not dead is a healthy place to be this time of year.

The spiritually healthy person lives with the cycles of the world, rather than battling against them. Whether it's a grand natural circle of the seasons, or a human cycle of market or real estate trends, or personal cycles of energy and mood the spiritual healthy person reads the cycle and fits their life to it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

cats in sinks

this week's favorite website:


Why does this site just seem like the summary of the entire internet in a single site?

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Just saw a great movie with the above title. The movie came out about a year ago and I got the DVD through Netflix. it's a soap opera story of a family in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. The opening scene is a Quinceanera party. A month later it will be the turn of the first girl's cousin to have her party, but before that can happen the family relationships are torn apart and then put back together again by complications having to do with sexuality, religion, and money. Part of the story involves a gay couple who have moved into the area: a trend that's raising rents and changing the character of the neighborhood. That part resonates with my own story.

Echo Park is the nieghborhood just east of Silver Lake, where I live. I recognized all the streets and shops and parks shown in the movie. I've only lived here a year and a half, but it feels like my home. I've lived in Los Angeles my whole life and have hoped to live in Silver Lake for 25 years. I moved here because I like the culture the neighborhood already has, not because I wanted to import and implant my own culture on top of it.

But I wonder about gentrification. It isn't possible to become part of something without bringing yourself into it. And your being part of something you weren't part of before inevitably changes the thing. Every community I sought out and joined is now different because I'm there: the chorus I sing with, my church, the Unitarian faith itself. Hopefully those changes have been good, and appreciated by the people who were already there, but the provoking truth is that however gently you enter new situations, whatever you seek is destroyed the moment you achieve it.

summer of living

Summer is the season of slow maturation and fulfillment. The quick growth of spring is ended. The harvest is yet to come. The possibilities and promises of spring now find their reality. There is little for the farmer to do but watch and water as the plants tend to themselves. Summer is a time to rest and experience and revel in what is, to simply enjoy life in the present, not life leading away from or toward anywhere or any when else.

The spiritual call of summer is to slow down. Concentrate on being instead of doing. Let the body and soul tend itself and see if the “ego-farmer” can just watch and water. Give yourself permission to relax. Take care of yourself but there’s no need to push yourself these months. Respond to the heat of the days as your body wishes, not by cranking up the AC and getting to work but by finding some shade and taking a nap if you can.

Over-booked vacations can be more stressful than work. Reserve at least part of your time off for quiet and uneventful down time. Really “vacate” even if it’s as short as a day-off in your backyard with sunscreen and the phone unplugged. Remember that the point of recreation is to re-create, to reconstitute the self that business and activity and speed (springtime living) has depleted.

The fall will arrive by itself. The earth doesn’t need you to push it around its orbit of the sun.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

learning to breathe

I took my second swimming lesson today. Jason, my coach, reviewed the strokes he had taught me last week (I'm learning the crawl) then we moved on to breathing. I had been doing it all wrong. While you'e moving through the water with your face down every few strokes you turn your head to the side, grab a quick breath and then put your face down again. You move much faster with your head down and in the water so the breaths should be quick and infrequent.

I knew that much from learning to swim as a kid. What I was doing wrong was trying to both exhale and inhale when my head was out of the water and then holding my breath once I turned my head down again. Big mistake. I wasn't getting enough air, and then I was stressing myself out by holding it in as I swam. Jason saw my problem and taught me to slowly exhale, through my nostrils while I'm swimming. Then one quick inhale with the head turned and back in the water. Instantly my swimming improved, particularly my stamina.

It's amazing how tiring stress can be. The whole key to spiritual health is to relax and work with the situation instead of battling against it. Swimming has always been so exhausting for me. Now, breathing more naturally, with a slow relaxed release of air, and sufficient time for a deep inhalation, I felt stronger and faster.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

where you ought to be

My husband took a yoga class this morning. In the midst of a difficult pose the instructor told the class not to strain but just to be wherever they ought to be. Then she said, "And where you ought to be is the point between doing too much, and not doing enough."

Friday, July 6, 2007

cycling = prayer, swimming = meditation

Shortly after I got into cycling that activity became an important part of my spiritual practice as I was able while cycling to immerse myself in nature, to slow down, and to open myself to receiving the wisdom of the world around me as I moved through it. In my conception of prayer as listening rather than talking, cycling presented a perfect opportunity: lots of time, lots of data, the regular bodily motion creating a trance-like state. I learned a lot about myself and God while cycling.

Running, though, and now swimming as well, doesn't work like that. The physcial requirements are simply too intense. There's no room in my brain for any thoughts except concentrating on the proper technique. And if my mind does begin to wander the physical situation itself: the foot hitting the ground, or the need to breathe in the water, bring me back immediately to the task at hand.

It's the difference between the thoughtful state of prayer, and the mind-emptying goal of meditation. Both are spiritual practices, and useful, but in entirely different directions.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

favorite Bible verse

After she got out of prison where she said she read the Bible every day, Paris Hilton (omg - I can't believe I just typed that name, - or omg either) embarassed herself when she told Larry King she couldn't name her favorite Bible verse. As I laughed I was thinking, "I'm a minister and I don't know what I would answer to that question either." I don't read the Bible every day, or hardly any day, and I don't use the Bible as scripture, so it's not that important to my spirituality, but still, as a minister in the line of Ballou and Channing and Parker I ought to be able to at least name a favorite, even if just to get out of Larry King situations.

At first I thought I would choose the verse from Micah 6:8 (I knew it was Micah but had to look up the number) "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?" I like the way it says "do" justice - not just talk about it. And the idea of walking humbly with a companion God charms me.

But then I changed my mind and think I'll pick a verse that I actually used in my sermon this last Sunday. "I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). That's actually not a full verse though, it's only the second half (10b as they notate these things). John 10:10a is "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy..."

baseball and beer

Peleg and I went to the Dodger game Tuesday night. We'd gotten half price tickets through a ticket discounter, on the field but way out at the end of the third base line. But there were a ton of empty seats so after the second inning we moved over and sat about 12 rows up from third base.

It was a good game. Lots of scoring in the first three innings: home runs, double plays, a stolen base, a walk home. We sat close enough that we could easily follow all the action. I had a beer. The day had been sunny and the evening was warm. It was good to spend time with Peleg after he had been so busy with cooking school the last six months.

I was admiring the skill of the players, how handsome they were. I was thinking how cool to spend an evening playing a game and how 40,000 people had come out just to watch. We seemed so far removed from Iraq, and religious intolerance, and political incompetence, and all the human tragedies we inflict on each other. I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be great if the whole world were baseball and beer?"

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

just relax

Peleg joined the gym upstairs from his cooking school. His classes ended on Monday and now he's starting 6 weeks of internship. He decided to replace the time he had been spending at cooking school with a more intentional exercise program, and as he has to check in at the school once a week for his internship supervision, it made sense to join the gym upstairs.

I was also curious to check out the gym. Although I already have a gym, the one I go to doesn't have a pool, and although I can use the County pool during the summer it closes after Labor Day. Peleg was going to take a Yoga class this morning and I went with him and then swam a few laps afterward in a very nice pool. (And indoors so no sunburn!)

It's been awhile since I've done yoga, but I remembered most of the basic postures we did this morning. I'm strong so I can do the strength poses fairly easily, but I'm not flexible and my balance isn't great so other poses are harder for me. The instructor reminded us that the core benefit of yoga is the ability to stay mentally calm in stressful situations. That's a good spiritual skill for much of life. The postures are hard. The tendency is to strain, to panic, to tighten up and breathe shallowly. Yoga teaches us that the mind is more powerful than the body. Using mental focus and force of will the mind can instruct the body to relax, to breathe deeply, and to replace destructive mental messages with affirmations of power, confidence, and capability.

falling behind

With the General Assembly at the end of June I missed two Monday evening rehearsals with the Gay Men's Chorus. I finally got back to singing with them last night and boy was I humbled. They've memorized about half a dozen of the pieces already. I have none memorized. On the songs where they sang without music I held my music in front of me, and they still sang better than I. I've really got some work to do. I told the guy next to me, "Gee, you take two weeks off and suddenly it feels like you're two weeks behind." And the concert is the end of this month.

not natural

On Monday I showed up for my first swimming lesson. I rode my bike down to the County pool which is only about a half a mile from my house. I got there a little early for my 1 o'clock appointment. I locked the bike in the front, went inside, changed out of my bike clothes and into my bathing suit. Unfortunately the tube of sunblock I'd brought with me turned out to be empty so I did one shoulder but not the other, with predictable results today.

My swim instructor turned out to be a young man named Jason. Nice guy, patient, understanding. Seems to know his stuff. He gave me a long list of basic techniques: how to hold the hands in front of the body, pull down and all the way back, pull up and where to position the hand above the ear as it comes forward again. A lot of stuff to remember and we didn't even get to kicking or breathing.

Once again, as with running, it soon became apparent how important the mental focus is, more important than the physical. You would think that the body would naturally want to work in the most efficient way possible but that isn't so. The natural inclicnation for the body is to flail around, fighting against the water. The body is stupid. To swim effectively the mind has to purposefully and strenuously force the body into certain positions and patterns of movements that, at first, seem very awkward. As Jason demonstrated I could see how eventually the proper technique looks really smooth and beautiful, but although it gives the impression of being natural it's anything but.

and now this

After church on Sunday I stopped on the way home at my local County Pool to see about signing up for swimming lessons. I've had this idea of competing (or I should say "competing") in a Triathlon. I've been cycling for a few years. This spring I ran in the LA Marathon (again "ran" would be more accurate). I know how to swim from childhood swimming lessons but I need to learn better technique to increase my speed and eficiency. I signed up for four private half hour lessons. Total cost: $66.00. The first lesson started the next day.

I didn't have enough cash on me so I had to go home and come back. The park was crowded, this being a hot Sunday afternoon, so there wasn't much parking. After I drove home I got on my bike to come back. That was the first time I'd been on the bike in months. It felt so good. Cycling is really extraordinarily fun. I paid the guy at the pool and then continued to ride down the bike path on the side of the LA RIver. I rode into Burbank and then through the city up to a sporting goods store where I bought myself a swimsuit. The suits I already own are a little too gay, appropriate for lounging beside a pool in Palm Springs, but not for serious swiiming at a public pool or a triathlon. I bought a regular black Speedo, and a second suit with longer legs that cover the thighs called "Jammers" which is apparently what you wear for a triathlon.

I stuffed the suits in the back of my jersey and rode the bike home. I'd preached that very morning about the need to say "Yes" to new experiences in life. So here I go.

i guess that makes me cyndi lauper

Peleg and I went to see the final show of the True Colors tour, Saturday, June 30 at the Los Angeles Greek Theater a few miles from my house. Cyndi Lauper organized the tour as an opportunity to raise awareness and money for the Human Rights Campaign and particularly their work to expand federal hate crimes legislation to include sexual orientation, through the so-called "Matthew Shepherd Act."

The show was great fun. One of the most enjoyable concerts I've ever attended. The music was good. Sam Harris opened the show with "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in full gospel style - awesome. A Canadian band called the Clicks, The Dresden Dolls (who I hadn't heard before and was really impressed), Debbie Harry, Erasure, and Ms. Lauper her usual wacky adorable, big-hearted self. Margaret Cho MC'd. Rosie O'Donnel contributed a comedy set. Peleg and I danced in our seats to Erasure. We laughed with Margaret Cho who really seems to have gotten herself together, genuinely funny instead of just shocking. At the end of the show everybody came out to sing "True Colors" and ABBA's, "Take a Chance on Me." We sang along and bounced huge rainbow-colored balloons around the ampitheater.

Peleg had a revelation. He told me, "Now I know why you like church." He meant he felt that evening what he imagines I feel every Sunday: a big sense of loving community, we sing together, we share some pain, we laugh, we're gathered for a purpose bigger than ourselves, there's love, and joy, there's just enough social justice words so we feel inspired but not brow-beaten, we're reminded of our power and the essential goodness of humanity, we leave with a sense of hope and expanded spirits. He got it exactly right.