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  • 22:11: RT @FrankBruni: Many reasons to read this. Among them: a genius use of "pointillist" in a perfect sentence. "Clinton For President," https:…
  • 00:28: This has got to be the most thought-provoking explanation of race I have ever read. https://t.co/q4MP4vaYjU

'Nearer my God to Thee'

Here's a song I don't believe I ever heard growing up, not even in church. Written in 1841 by Sarah Flower Adams, "Nearer My God to Thee" is loosely based on the story of Jacob at Peniel, where he had a vision of a ladder that touched heaven and earth.

Legend has it that this was the final song played by the orchestra as the RMS Titanic sank. The melody is a beautiful one, and its beauty of the song lends this portion of the movie a weighty poignance. I don't care for "Titanic," but this scene did teach me to love "Nearer my God to Thee." I love the moment of acceptance in the eyes of the first musician, and then as it spreads to his fellow players as they join him.

Their music is an act of communion as they see death slowly rising up the deck of the ship, and it compares well to the grace and acceptance of the other passengers on the ship: the mother who tells her children one final bedtime story, about living forever in the land of Tír na nóg; the elderly couple as they calmly wait for death, together in bed; the ship architect who is weighted down by conscience over his failed enterprise; the quiet despair of the ship's captain as the unthinkable unfolds around him and Death presses against the helm; and of course the loud and panicked despair of the crew and passengers as they realize there will be no escape.

There are lyrics, of course; and there are many videos available where they are capably sung. But thanks to the beauty and grace of this scene, those feel almost superfluous. Played well on strings, this tune has a staying power all of its own.

Laughter, the worst medicine

Laughter is the best medicine. Unless you have diarrhea. If you have diarrhea, laughter will probably just make things worse.
Actually, if you've just had abdominal surgery, open heart surgery, or throat surgery, laughter probably won't help you much there either. It'll just make you hurt more, and could even put you back in the hospital.

Let's face it, when you're sick, laughter is pretty much useless. Whose stupid idea was this, anyway?

Freedom from Amway

I just realized it's been about 12 years since anyone has tried to recruit me for Amway. I can't say I've missed the efforts.

At the time I was trying to get a small public relations business going, writing publicity materials for nonprofit organizations to help thm raise their profile. I must have mentioned it at church one week, because a church associate called me one evening to tell me something about a small business sideline she had going that she thought I might be interested in, she wondered if she could bring an associate of hers over to talk with me about it.

By this time I'd already been proselytized a couple times by acolytes of Amway, and knew it would be a waste of my time. So I decided to confront the issue head-on.

"Is this Amway?" I asked her. Those were pretty much my exact words, but they must have been pretty ambiguous, because her response was "No, it's not Amway." (See how confusing my question was?)

When she and her associate arrived, he started his presentation by telling me how long he had been with Amway and how wealthy I could become as an Amway distributor. My wife was in the other room and thought, "Wow, this guy really doesn't know how Dave works if he thinks that's going to appeal to him." Meanwhile I was thinking, "Christina, I can't believe you lied to me. I can't believe you lied to me."

I should have said that, but I didn't. I don't remember how exactly it ended, but I pretty much told them I wasn't interested, and that was that.

Still, I am assured that Amway continues its not-quite-a-Pyramid scheme, trying to recruit desparate and hopful people into making money for people they thought were their friends but who really were just trying to win new converts. I guess it's good to know some things don't change. Amway is still Scamway, and its cultlike qualities probably remain too.

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