April 1st, 2007

I Am Birdwings and Birthday Cake...

Today would be Elissa's 37th birthday.

For those of you who do not know what that means, continue reading and share this with as many people as possible. Help me make the world take 15 minutes out of their day to remember and honor someone so rare and priceless, and commit to making your own life so extraordinary that in the wake of your eternal absence someone remembers you as I do this extraordinary little muse.

Elissa Hadley was my friend, and since she succumbed to cervical cancer this past summer I have been on a mission to tell as much as I can about her to as many people as will listen, just as I have with her music in these many years since I first heard her singing. She gave me many gifts and changed everything about my life to the point that there is no part of me that in at least some small, almost imperceptible way isn't soaked with her magic - all by being the soundtrack to well over a decade of my life. It began with music and the soothing, honey-silk of her voice. My friend David described it as being "like a candle glowing in a dark room". It became a means of viewing the world through the kinds of lenses that only children have, where everything is a playground and everyone is your friend until they give you a reason not to be - and even then, you're still not seasoned with bitterness. She left this world in considerably better shape than it left her in and no matter what I've tried to do to get comfortable with that fact, I will never be able to find a safe space for it.

And that sense of humor, that completely insane and singular imagination and penchant she had for being utterly hilarious, even when she wasn't trying to be. Especially when she wasn't trying to be. Steve Elliott-Gower (who along with Tim Conley wrote & read a eulogy for Elissa that was published in Flagpole Magazine) told a great story about Elissa meeting his children in the theater one afternoon when he was coming to get something from his office and she was leaving a rehearsal for a play she was performing in. He introduced his 3 children, and without any warning whatsoever she launched into a story about her Jr. High science teacher who brought a deformed dog to class in a giant jar of formaldehyde. She described in excruciating detail how the dog had no less than 10 eyes, 7 legs, and a spine growing on the outside of its back. All three children stood horrifyingly astonished and wholly shocked. Steve asked them to go on ahead to his office and wait for him, and before he had an opportunity to ask her why she had just insisted on terrorizing his offspring, Elissa looked at him and began "What the HELL was that? I have NO idea where that even came from."

Sara Parsons told another great Elissa story at Elissa's memorial service. When Elissa was younger, her mother (Celia) would take her along on trips to the grocery store. Sara used to shop at the same store and one day, while there with Celia, Elissa witnessed a rather large woman in a muumuu type dress (for the sake of continuity, we'll call her Petunia) walking around the store. She stuck out like a sore thumb. Elissa couldn't stop watching her for some reason and caught the exact moment that Petunia took a full sized baked ham and stuck it underneath her dress, waddling around the store with it in between her legs apparently. She would have made it out of the store with the ham of iniquity were it not for the unfortunate event that transpired at the check out counter... *THUNK...* and down went the ham to the floor in a resounding... well, 'thunk'. Without missing a beat, Petunia exclaimed "Who's throwin' dem hams at me?" Somehow one could devise from this that it was decidedly not her first ham heist.

Elissa's best friend from childhood is named Monica. Having finally convinced her to join our little corner of the internet here on LiveJournal, allow me to introduce her - her blog is hanukkahmonica. Welcome, my dear, sweet M. Monica also wrote a post in honor of Elissa's birthday, which you can find here. She's posted her eulogy to Elissa that she read at the memorial service, which was perfect. She also sent me links to a couple of the more silly things Elissa loved, which you can find here and here. (I dare you to not laugh.)

Another amazing and wonderful person - the first to read a eulogy at the service - was Elissa's mother, Cecelia: Collapse )

I tell these stories and share these important things with you all because I need this - not just for myself to remember that there is goodness for us all as a result of her and it helps to take the sting out of this tremendous loss, but because I sincerely believe with every particle of my being that to never have known Elissa, to never have seen or heard that fantastic talent and spirit - is just a sad, sad thing. I want to keep her in memory for as long as is possible, and so memorializing her in posts like this one is the best way I can think of to honor her and to share what she gave me with the world.

Hopefully soon we will have the Elissa Hadley Foundation up and running and I can get a website put together in my official capacity as web master of the foundation's website. We will always have pictures, her voice, and the reasons we are starting the foundation in the first place, to generate more good in the world and hopefully prevent losses like this in the future and ensure a legacy for others.

For me, it is always the music, just as my association with her began. What she sang is priceless to me beyond measure, more than gift and more than legacy. It is not as much as we deserved, but it is more than we ever had any right to expect. Please download the music, listen to it often, and share it with others - and always, comment to me and let me know what you think of it.

"Little E"

All of your sparkly people love and miss you.

I Want To Live A Porpoise Driven Life!

The God Debate
At the Summit: On a cloudy California day, the atheist Sam Harris sat down with the Christian pastor Rick Warren to hash out Life's Biggest Question—Is God real? A NEWSWEEK exclusive.

The Great Divide: Atheist Sam Harris (right) and evangelist Rick Warren (left) meet to discuss religion and faith in America at Warren's Saddleback Church in California

Newsweek, April 9, 2007 issue

Rick Warren is as big as a bear, with a booming voice and easygoing charm. Sam Harris is compact, reserved and, despite the polemical tone of his books, friendly and mild. Warren, one of the best-known pastors in the world, started Saddleback in 1980; now 25,000 people attend the church each Sunday. Harris is softer-spoken; paragraphs pour out of him, complex and fact-filled—as befits a Ph.D. student in neuroscience. At NEWSWEEK's invitation, they met in Warren's office recently and chatted, mostly amiably, for four hours. Jon Meacham moderated. Excerpts follow.

JON MEACHAM: Rick, since you're the home team, we'll start with Sam. Sam, is there a God in the sense that most Americans think of him?

There's no evidence for such a God, and it's instructive to notice that we're all atheists with respect to Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom now nobody worships.

Rick, what is the evidence of the existence of the God of Abraham?

I see the fingerprints of God everywhere. I see them in culture. I see them in law. I see them in literature. I see them in nature. I see them in my own life. Trying to understand where God came from is like an ant trying to understand the Internet. Even the most brilliant scientist would agree that we only know a fraction of a percent of the knowledge of the universe.

HARRIS: Any scientist must concede that we don't fully understand the universe. But neither the Bible nor the Qur'an represents our best understanding of the universe. That is exquisitely clear.

WARREN: To you.

HARRIS: There is so much about us that is not in the Bible. Every specific science from cosmology to psychology to economics has surpassed and superseded what the Bible tells us is true about our world.

Sam, does the Christian you address in your books have to believe that God wrote the Bible and that it is literally true?

Well, there's clearly a spectrum of confidence in the text. I mean, there's the "This is literally true, nothing even gets figuratively interpreted," and then there's the "This is just the best book we have, written by the smartest people who have ever lived, and it's still legitimate to organize our lives around it to the exclusion of other books." Anywhere on that spectrum I have a problem, because in my mind the Bible and the Qur'an are just books, written by human beings. There are sections of the Bible that I think are absolutely brilliant and poetically unrivaled, and there are sections of the Bible which are the sheerest barbarism, yet profess to prescribe a divinely mandated morality—where do I start? Books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Exodus and First and Second Kings and Second Samuel—half of the kings and prophets of Israel would be taken to The Hague and prosecuted for crimes against humanity if these events took place in our own time.

[To Warren] Is the Bible inerrant?

WARREN: I believe it's inerrant in what it claims to be. The Bible does not claim to be a scientific book in many areas.

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See also: Religion: Is God Real?