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Skeletal fingers disembowel fevered spirits, agonizing for a fix before the next holiday bash—and there are many, in the glitziest of venues. Desperation sours puke, hiccoughs frenzy the chest, joints scream in pain. Too chicken-hearted to opt for death, there seems no way out.

But there is—for those willing to change. It’s all about waking up to the full implications of our humanness, rife with loss. Within such losses that knee us before a Power greater than ourselves, we sense a faint voice emerging from our depths: so unlike the carping one with the bullwhip. We sink back on our haunches. We listen. Tears pool our eyes. Chests stop heaving. Hands fold in prayer. Something akin to peace surfaces like a fragrant lotus blossom: its glossy pink bespeaks Joy.

And then it’s over. Still on our haunches, we slip to the floor and prostate ourselves beneath the mantel of silence. We have been visited and we know it, but its memory mandates action.

Nothing left for us but to pick up our cell and call for help. It’s out there, even during the holidays.

 

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“Oh no! —Would look at that? —That’s me! —I can’t believe that!” It tickles, unmercifully, the heart, the mind, even the gut.

Even the presentation of these nine essays is a hoot. No serious authors use the color orange for their book jackets. Sky-blue graces the inside covers, the title page, the chapter titles, and page numbers; it also highlights the first letter of the word in each chapter’s opening paragraph. Lavender replaces the usual black print in the text.

Who is behind these reversals?

It is Anne Lamott, a prolific author, now in her sixties, “with bad hands and feet.” Again, she leads her readers into the intricacies of her seasoned psyche found on each page of Hallelujah Anyway – Rediscovering Mercy (2017). Wide-eyed, she does not flinch from life’s setbacks. Her soldering spirit enlists humor, the “wise counsel of teachers with flashlights,” the fruits of Eastern and Western spirituality, and the courage to change, with others, often—all within the mystery of heart-mercy that forgives and offers relief.

Anecdotes flesh out this process, often messy and unseemly.

Such tickling pries open the clinched heart and plummets it within deep prayer wherein mercy resides. We breathe, again.

 

 

It was Saturday afternoon, in the darkened movie theater of the Shady Oak. Around me other kids fidgeted and munched popcorn. Tentatively, I felt my nose. Unlike Pinocchio’s, it had not grown, despite lies I had told that morning. I squirmed in my seat; my face flushed knowing that scorched place from which this marionette’s tall tales flowed, one after another.

It was 1940. Walt Disney Studios had released an animated film based upon the epic fairy tale-novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi in 1883 and set in Tuscan, Italy. An immediate sensation, it was translated into multiple languages—the English version by Mary Alice Murray, in 1892. Unlike Disney’s Pinocchio, however, Collodi’s takes the reader into his struggle to become the living son of the impoverished Geppetto who had carved him from a singing block of wood.

Wayward and petulant, the next morning Pinocchio kills the Talking Cricket crawling on the wall of the cottage and runs away, barreling out of control. A succession of misadventures befalls him: at the Great Marionette Theater; with a host of animals, both tricksters and helpful; at the Land of the Toys where he’s transformed into a donkey; and at the circus. All through these scrapes the spirit of the same Talking Cricket accompanies him and equates his lies to the enlargement of his nose. Even more trauma befalls Pinocchio until his wooden heart becomes one of flesh, and he wakes up as a boy, the son of Geppetto and his wife.

Both Collodi’s and Disney’s versions of this fairy tale offer a simple morality tale for children of any age. It’s about becoming fully human with its joys and foibles.

 

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