Sunday, November 29, 2015


We were standing in the elevator lobby at our hotel, talking with some new friends, when a man came crashing into me and careened off toward the dining room. My first thought was that the guy must have been blind, and how thoughtless we were to be standing so close to the elevator doors, but as I watched him walk with no apparent remorse toward the dining room I decided he was simply rude.

I noticed him later in the dining room. As he looked at me, I felt (or imagined I felt) his hatred and contempt. I looked again to be sure. Yep. He hates my guts and I don’t even know why. I asked Alla if she recognized him, if perhaps she had some idea how I might have offended him. She thought I was talking about some other guy, and said that she had tussled with him over seats at the welcome party.

I wanted to make peace, so I went to find him in the lobby after breakfast. I introduced myself to him in Spanish, and asked if he spoke English. He stiffened. “That’s where I’m from. I’m American.” I don’t think he was amused that I started out in Spanish, so now I felt two steps behind.

I pressed ahead with a little small talk, asking him what city he’s from and telling him that I’m from Belarus. He didn’t seem terribly interested, so I went directly to the point, saying “If I’ve offended you in any way, I want to apologize.”

“You scowled at me,” he replied.

I tried to remember when that might have been. Over breakfast, perhaps? Did he even look back at me at the elevator? Or had it started even before that? I replied, “I’m sorry. I don’t remember what was in my thought when I looked at you, but I harbor no ill will. I’m sorry I gave you that impression.”

He softened, accepting my apology. We talked some more. He wanted me to know a little about him. He’s an interesting guy, and his life is very different from mine. I can’t necessarily identify with him, but I enjoyed hearing his story and let him see that on my face and by my questions. We parted peacefully, and he made a point of coming by our table at lunch time to greet me. I’ve made a new friend.

I used to know another guy who routinely made the same mistake I did. He’d go down and sit in one of the front rows at church and then turn around to look intently at the congregation before the service started. I knew him to be a peaceful fellow, but the expression on his face often looked to me like he didn’t like the people he was looking at. I didn’t know him well enough to tell him, but it illustrates the importance of attending to our thought and having enough love in our hearts that it shows on our faces.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cheap fun in Cancun

Here we are in Mexico, at the usual place because we can’t avoid it after an unfortunate timeshare purchase some years ago. The timeshare company keeps trying to convince us to buy upgrades, their theory being that by throwing good money after bad, we might be able to make our situation somehow less unpleasant.

Honestly, we enjoy their efforts to sell us upgrades because they take us to the fancy new resort, feed us, tell us outlandish stories about what we ought to buy, and then release us to enjoy the beach, the river and other attractive features of the place. Today’s sales guy had already fulfilled his November quota and had enough in the bank that he doesn’t even have to sell a thing inDecember. I suppose the bosses knew that we never say yes, so they sic’d their smarmiest, most effective agent on us. I begged him to let us off the hook early so we could all just go out and play, and he responded by telling us how f***ed we were (he actually used that word) because we’d bought a perpetual timeshare and were obligated to keep paying annual fees to his company for the rest of our lives and the lives of our heirs as well. By paying a bunch more money, he offered that we could get into something with possible resale value.

I maintained that having been duped (actually, I used his other word) by his company once, I had no intention of trusting them in another deal even more complex than the first. Finally, he pointed us toward the door and told us to get onto the van back to our home resort. I checked with the doorman, made other arrangements, and we went to the beach. We had a very nice day at Tres Rios.

We swam in each of the two main swimming pools, floated down the river, sat on the beach, and then floated down the river some more. When we finally went back to check on transportation back to our home resort, we worked out an agreement to go back at 5:00. With the extra time, we went out to lunch, swam in yet another pool and floated down the river a couple more times. I didn’t take a single picture of any of this stuff.

This evening we went to the welcome party at our home resort. Most of the guests forgot to bring their invitations, which turned out to be lottery tickets. I had ours however, and won second prize: a choice between a not-too-bad T-shirt and a garish Mexican-style hat; both made for tourists. I didn’t want either of these prizes, but intended to pick the T-shirt because I could imagine using it. From the audience, however, Alla caught my eye. She really wanted the hat, and now she’s ecstatic. I’m surprised. I couldn’t imagine that anybody would want it, but, well, she did. As she told me when we were dating, “I’m not crazy, but I like hats.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

"Sex body"

The last few times I've checked the emails in my spam folder, I’ve found messages with various titles but the same first line. The messages start out, "I am looking for a sex body." I never click on them, so I don't know how it continues after those first few words, but I’m puzzled about who wants to be thought of as a sex body or a broom-pusher body or a bread-delivery body or any other kind of inanimate object. Don’t we all want to be people? I like being a person. I enjoy the pleasure of looking another person in the eye and recognizing their familiarity, their personhood.

I prefer to think of us as Mary Baker Eddy describes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Man is more than a material form with a mind inside, which must escape from its environments in order to be immortal. Man reflects infinity, and this reflection is the true idea of God.”