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3.18.2008

The Last UPI Column #100

This is what it looks like formatted for UPI - the 'bc' before the date means 'both cycles' a left over from morning and afternoon papers. The title is a reference to and play upon Larry Moffitt's memoir "Unroll your carpet and I will read your soul" which is itself a middle eastern proverb. I was hoping to attract his personal attention and did. I got a very warm e-mail from him this morning. He made three small corrections just for old time's sake. The reference to Helen Thomas is this. Helen was a famous white house reporter - aged now, short, feisty, a favorite of presidents. She work for UPI for decades and walked out the day that they were bought by the Unification Church. She has refrained from criticizing them because she is a class act. I will follow her lead, but that I could make such a reference is final proof of tolerance.

Peggy Senger Parsons – So There I Was
Salem. Oregon
bc-03/18/08-carpet-parsons

Title:Unroll Your Soul and I will Vacuum Your Carpet

Commentary: So There I Was

Teaser:My crush on Jimmy Olson gets me into trouble one more time
-- -- --
So there I was…

Playing one more game of Spider Solitaire on a rather unremarkable Friday afternoon in January 2006. I don’t always open e-mails that start with Fwd:Fwd. But this one came from a good friend, and I was kinda bored. The missive was a general call for writings on spirituality. United Press International was starting a religion and spirituality page and was looking for a stable of writers from a broad spectrum of faiths, practices, and spiritualities to write weekly columns. Oddly, I had already toyed with writing in a newspaper column format and had a couple of samples already in the can. I sent off two of my favorites along with the requested bio to some fellow named Larry Moffitt. Within hours I had a response and an agreement.

Some people think that I have a bit of a superman complex, but actually I have always had a crush on Jimmy Olson – Cub Reporter. I loved the bustle of the newsroom. The shouts of “Hold the presses!” I am old enough to remember actual newsboys hawking papers between lines of traffic and on busy corners. I remember when newspapers came out more than once a day. I remember when any city worthy of the names had THREE daily papers. As soon as I could read a paper I was reading Mike Royko and Bob Greene in the Chicago Daily News and then the Sun Times. You have no idea how much I miss Mike Royko.

My first experience writing for a weekly was in eighth grade. I wrote the humor paper on that purple mimeographed rag. I also was the first writer to cause that paper to be confiscated by the authorities for the crime of mocking a math teacher. I managed to keep one copy hidden and have it tucked away to this day. I don’t actually think the math teacher was so offended until the other teachers told her that smart alec students shouldn’t be given so much rope.

Here, many decades later I wondered how much rope I was going to get from UPI.

A couple days after I wrote my first column I was really starting to appreciate my editor Larry. He seemed to be a real mensch. He was a light editor. He left me my voice. He let me get away with some pretty non-standard sentences. He let me noun my verbs. He also let me verb my nouns. I liked him right away. So I googled him. That is when I found out that UPI had been purchased in the late nineties by the Unification Church, Rev. Moon’s Church, and that Larry Moffitt was well placed in that organization. This caused me to do some pretty sincere thinking.
But rocks and glass churches certainly seemed to apply. I had recently taken to the renegade trail off of a sect of Christendom that itself was branded heretical at the get go 350 years ago. So I decided to test the promise of the religion and spirituality page and its progenitor. He said that he would not edit for content. He said that you could narrowcast to your heart’s delight. He said that he was trying to get as broad a spectrum as possible. Turns out - he is an honest man.

I wrote my heart out for this effort. I wrote from a place of expectant listening to the Divine. I pushed all the imagined boundaries – they all flexed. I read the columns of my fellows. What an amazing bunch of humans. Some of them regularly bring tears to my eyes. Some of them torque me off without fail. I respectfully and cheerfully hope that I torque some of them off too. This stable of writers not only has a left end, it has a left field. My kinda town.

One of my favorite moments in this process was the day I discovered that the editor of a solid mid-western conservative Quaker magazine had liked one of my bits and wanted to publish it. Being a pro, she contacted Larry for permission. If you had predicted, even a few months before this, that at some point in the future the stars would align in such a fashion that the editor of Quaker Life would be speaking to a ranking member of the Unification Church seeking permission to use MY words, I would have peed my pants laughing. And yet this is what happened. Do not tell me that God does not have a wacky, wacky sense of humor and a love of street theater.

When I went to Africa last year I went as a freelance journalist, religious stringer for the UPI. At the end of my trip I ventured into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an active war zone prone to earthquakes and sudden volcanic activity. I needed to do this without escort or translator and it was going to be a bit dicey. I decided not to worry my loved ones, and sent my proposed itinerary to Larry Moffitt. I was pretty sure that he didn’t actually have to power to pull me out of a disaster, but I thought he might have the phone numbers of a few people who did. It may have been delusional, but I felt safer because he knew where I was.
I suspect that there are not many things on which the writers and editors of this forum could all agree. But I can name a few of those things. We believe in speaking honestly. We believe in listening respectfully. And maybe, just maybe, we believe in peace through tolerance. This would be the notion that broadcasting all voices produces a better result than attempting to silence some voices.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity, the acquaintances, and the associations.

But with respect, I now follow old Helen Thomas, and gracefully exit, stage left.
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{italic}{bold}Peggy Senger Parsons{/bold} is a motorcycling Quaker preacher, counselor and freelance provocateur of grace. She is pastor of {url http://www.freedomfriends.org} Freedom Friends Church{/url}. © copyright 2007 by Peggy Senger Parsons{/italic
Comments:
So now, to get a regular fix I'm gonna hafta eke out the archives, right? I'm glad I caught the train before the end of the run. I'll be looking forward to seeing how your creative genius breaks out in the future.

In His Love,
Nate
 
Peggy, a friend in Paraguay who raises cattle came across your column and emailed me about it. I had stars in my little eyes of course, but what was really cool is knowing that someone all the way down in the outback of by god Paraguay, reads you. Bless you.

- Larry Moffitt
 
Peggy,
I have loved reading your UPI articles every week, they have always given me something to chew on if not savor. It will be fun to see what you do with your writing talents in the future, I hope blogging is among them. I also want to thank you for explaining the Helen Thomas reference for us ingorant youngins', it made your article that much more potent. I don't think I would be too far afield by saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant." You sure put this paper to bed in style!

Sarah

P.S. I think I'll have to join Nate in rereading the archives sometime.
 
Ok, ya din't have a deadline this week and you din't hafta sweat out what you were gonna write about this week...... how do you feel? Even just a teensy bit out at sea?

In His Love,
Nate

PS. I'm enjoying reading the archives, laughing out loud and clapping my hands just as if they were today's column. I LOVE that elderly Texas ladywho wanted to know if you were deef or just a little slow.
 
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