Friday, September 26, 2008


What with coming down with another upper respiratory crud this week (and spending a couple of days, semi-comatose, in bed) and just putting in 12-hour days at the office, it's been almost a week since I've posted anything. Mea maxima culpa.

We had another, short (!) dust storm this week -- amazing that something so small (the inimitable dust particle) can bring life as we know it to a screeching halt. That dust is so tiny, it gets into everything, despite one's best efforts. I'm reminded of the science-fiction stories in which a solid object gets transported through another solid object without compromising the integrity of either.

A former occupant of my CHU (Containerized Housing Unit -- the modified "dumpster" I'm living in) seems to have been a 'dust-o--phobe': there's 100-mph (duct) tape all over the place. It's around the one (tiny) window; it's on walls; it's on the floor; it's there, I suspect, to cover up small cracks in order to keep the dust out.

However, I noticed one day this week as I was doing pushups, that he or she either missed a spot on the floor, or this dump(ster) is settling, and new cracks are appearing, just since that person vacated these premises.

His or her perceived need for this remedy probably speaks to the level of craftsmanship involved in the construction of this place....

Not only is that duct tape *around* the (tiny) window, it's all over the glass, too. I've now come to believe that my predecessor may have been either a werewolf or a vampire, because of how much duct tape there is covering the glass. This place is like a tomb in the middle of the day.

Perhaps that's it! The former occupant(s) of this CHU was/were vampire(s) who didn't want the soil from their native land contaminated with the soil from this place! Hence all the duct tape everywhere!

I tried removing the duct tape from the glass of the window shortly after I arrived, but gave up almost immediately, figuring the interior dust storm unleashed by merely taking hold of one of the loose ends probably constituted a true biohazard, and so my desire for light was trumped by my desire to continue breathing.

I briefly considered trying to clean the filter of the air-conditioning unit in my hooch, but rapidly discarded that notion. Just changing the air flow rate dislodges hordes of vengeful dust midges all of which eagerly and insistently seek entrance into my bronchioles. In good Jesuit community fashion, "I think I'll just try it this way for a while" (which is, of course, the way it's always been...).

Once those dust demons are inside my hooch, they coalesce into dust behemoths under the bed. I must've gone through at least three Swiffer sweepers so far, I think. No, not just the throw-away cloths, the whole shebang!

Battling those dust Leviathans which spontaneously generate, in a matter of moments, especially during the dust storms, proves to be too much for the valiant, but alas! too-fragile Swiffers. Requiescant in pace.

The only good thing about all this dust, swirling in the air, clinging to pores, invading bronchus and bronchiole, covering everything in sight, with nothing immune to its advances, is that it reminds me of God's love for us poor schlubs. The Psalmist once sang, "Where can I run from your love?" (Ps. 139), and indeed, running in this environment just makes for more dust. Ironically, attempting to run from God's love does the same.

There's a line in one of the newer Eucharistic prayers in my tradition which says, "When we were lost, and could not find the way to you, you loved us more than ever." Same idea.

The big difference is that while the love of God can leave me breathless, as can all this dust, it's from awe and wonder and gratitude, and not because the dust Gorgons from under the bed are paralyzing my diaphragm.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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