Monday, December 22, 2008

Mountains and Molehills

I know an individual whose problems seem insignificant. Often I look at him and think, You just don't have a clue how easy you've got it. His microcosm is secure, his wants and needs provided. Danger is non-existent. His life, from my point of view, seems to consist of nothing but whimsy. Whatever he wants to do, he does (within certain parameters of reason) and what he does not wish to do, he does not.

Yet, I'm quite sure that he feels differently. The absence of danger doesn't necessarily translate into content. (Just ask President Bush.) He is a creature of some habit. His habitual lifestyle, which seems to me to be a study in self-satisfaction, is a way of life that, to him, is paramount. If his routine is frustrated even slightly, the tectonic plates shift, and he is shaken. Yet I don't believe he is to be faulted for this. From his perspective, the trauma generated by an invasion of his comfort zone is no mean bother. If his world is all he knows, what blame can be laid upon him if a disruption of that world (constituting, perhaps, nothing more than the excitement caused to the nerves of a fish when an aquarium is tapped) causes self-pity, and fear?

I have seen him frightened by shadows and hiding from nothing more than a ridiculous perception of danger. I have even told him how silly he is. Reasoning with him, I point out his misconceptions. But I suspect my reassurances are lost in translation, and he hears nothing but gibberish, and sees nothing but wild gesticulation.

If his world were expanded, would some of the unknown be absorbed into his enlarged sphere, or would the unknown expand in direct proportion to the known? Is there a set number of unreasonable fears that can be diminished by facing each one? Or, for every fear deposed, does another spring up to take its place? If he is of such frail constitution, wouldn't a greater disturbance to his larger environs be of the same quality as the lesser disruptions of his smaller world? Fear is not absorbed by relief, it is only displaced. In fact, if his mindset remains the same, each terror vanquished might very well heighten his fear, as he becomes cognizant that, although this particular thing is not as big as he feared, that could only mean that there are other things awaiting him so enormous that they have heretofore escaped his consideration. Experience magnifies the scale. Every time a bigger problem presents itself, he becomes aware that, for that problem to be rendered insignificant in relation to the size of the world, the world must be larger still, and thus hold even bigger problems. So, instead of expanding, his world implodes, and he grows more frightened still. So long as he is satisfied with the smallness of his world, better to let him continue in his ignorance.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Fool Me Once

How credulous are we to be as Christians?

There seems to be some no man's land in between serpents and doves. Is the fusion of the wisdom of one and the mildness of the other an astronomical accomplishment? Is this one of those commandments that teaches us to strive towards, and not be discouraged if we fall short?

I'm speaking of our attitude toward the president-elect, by the way.

I know part of the difficulty lies in maintaining a strictly spiritual perspective when it comes to politics. Observing light through a prism breaks it down for us, but without the prism it just looks like light, so practically speaking, light is light and not a combination of the colors of the rainbow. Analogous to our hopes and dreams for the new president, do we take the trouble to watch his every move and appointment through the prism?

The editor of World Magazine in an article subtitled Nobody should want to destroy a presidency, but many do editorializes so: "Never let it be legitimately said that our main goal is to destroy our opponent or his presidency."

So is it cynicism that prompts me to sneer when Obama chooses a pro-life, pro Prop 8 pastor to offer the inaugural invocation? Beyond striking some nebulous new tone, might he be open to the views of Rick Warren? Prism aside, just looking at it with the naked eye, nothing is visible besides shrewd political pandering. And I confess, the effort required to divorce myself of an us vs. them mentality is often more than I put forth.

So where's the line between Christian credulity and naivete? Has Warren found it? Is offering a prayer at the outset of an ungodly administration sanction? (I do feel that in addition to the principle of hating the sin, loving the sinner, a high-profile pastor should be leery of such associations, be they saint or sinner. Such relationships did not edify Billy Graham.

Yes, I know that many evil OT kings called upon prophets of God. Whereupon they proceeded to pronounce doom, death, famine, insanity . . . And that was sheer diplomacy. One such tactless man of God started hacking off heads.

Will Warren call fire out of heaven? I admit I was surprised and impressed at his posing of the abortion question to candidate Obama. (And appalled at Obama's answer.)

Pray for the president. Pray for his soul. Pray for his salvation. Wish to see him in heaven.

Pray for the failure of his current policies.

And, in the interest of maintaining the inexplicable peace of God, stay on the other side of the prism.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Further Down the Path

The beginning of my last blog was perhaps poorly put.

(Devan read it and said, "Babe, nobody really wants to know why you want to be a Buddhist.")

Devan is big on putting things in nutshells.

The fascination the study of this particular religion holds for me has something to do with the seeming reason of its core beliefs, or, the Four Truths as revealed to the Buddha underneath the Bo tree.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. I left Buddha in rags at the edge of a forest. That's no place to leave a sage. Guatama, being the Hindu he was, first set out to find two of the highest brahmins in the land and partake of their wisdom. He learned all he felt he could and apparently found that particular path a dead end, for he then took up with a band of ascetics.

This is telling to me. Asceticism developed self-denial to an end in itself. This tells me he was something of a legalist. If the answer could be found in denying your body or your mind any sensual pleasure, then Guatama's search would have ended here. If asceticism is the extreme of self-sacrifice, then Guatama became twice removed from indulgence. Possessing unbelievable willpower, he took to the spare lifestyle with characteristic intensity. One of his fasts put him on a diet of six grains of rice a day. Why bother? When he would reach to feel his stomach he would feel his spine. This went on until he grew so weak he fell into a faint, and if it hadn't been for a passing good Samaritan and a bowl of rice gruel (that sounds good, I think I'll go whip me up a big bowl of rice gruel) he likely would have died. What an epiphany that must have been. You're on the verge of discovering the secret of existence and you come to with a cowgirl spooning gruel into your mouth. "How came you to be lying in this field?" "I have fainted." "Why have you fainted?" "Well, it may or may not have had something to do with what I ate." "What was it you ate?" "Well, for breakfast I had. . .rice, two grains, for lunch I had. . . .uh, rice again, and supper, . . .I ate . . .rice." "And why, O skinny sage, would you try to exist on six grains of rice a day." "I'm a very wise man and I am on the verge of discovering the meaning of life, and if you hadn't started shoveling this-what is this, anyway, rice? Okay, that's all, brother."

I'm willing to bet he swore off of rice for a while. At any rate he discovered the inability of asceticism to bring enlightenment as well as the inability of six rice grains to sustain the body.

I'd like to draw a parallel here with a philosophical movement that confronted Paul, or rather, that Paul confronted, on Mars Hill.

The Epicureans were to asceticism what a modern Neo-Calvinist might be to a Puritan, or, what your average Bible Methodist (Ohio Connection) might be to a hard-shell Bible Missionary (Louisiana District).

My, my, aren't we glib today.

Epicureanism, oddly enough, is considered a form of hedonism, while implementing some milder forms of asceticism. This is what is known as eating your cake and having it. It is hedonistic in so far as it stresses pleasure as fulfillment, and ascetic because pleasure, as defined by Epicurus, is somewhat less sinful than you might expect. He defined pleasure as abstaining from bodily desires. Speaking for myself, I think he may have had that a little backwards. But, as with all doctrine or philosophy set apart from Jesus Christ, Epicureanism was rooted in pride and so blossomed into a non fruit-bearing humanism.

The Dali Lama is a Tibetan Buddhist. You may have recently seen a headline in which the esteemed lama proclaimed physical intimacy, monogamous or otherwise, to be nothing more than a distraction to one seeking enlightenment. In our sex drenched culture, this is nothing if not going against the flow. But any points given for resistance to the over-indulgence of sex are quickly stripped away by the stodgy Apostle Paul who considers forbidding of marriage a "-doctrine(s) of demons", fomented by "the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron." Paul, another big nutshell encapsulator, goes on to prophesy of "men who forbid marriage, abstaining from foods which" now hear this, "God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing (emphasis mine) is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;"

Abstinence, of the sort promoted by the lama, is ascetic, and asceticism feeds on a monstrous spiritual pride, a vice that spans the entire spectrum of religious and secular humanity. Through self-denial, through your own efforts, you may become good.

Now, Epicureanism is ascetic, and Buddhism is technically not, but, in my mind, the two are lumped together in a class of philosophies that are characterized by those unable to hope in a benevolent Almighty, and/or unwilling to accept that Almighty's unconditional demands on their own will.

Which brings me to another Greek philosopher named Zeno.

More later.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Path To Enlightenment?

Confidentially, if I weren't a Christian, I would probably be a Buddhist.

No, I'm not flirting with another way, not ranking religions in order of preference, I am stating a fact based on a passing knowledge of Buddhism and observations of my own personality. If Christ were not, I would be drawn to Buddha. That said, I remain cautious in my study of it, as a criminal psychologist might approach a charismatic sociopath.

But there is something curious about it that sets it apart from other non-Christian religions, even Hinduism, which it very closely parallels in many ways.

The Buddha, born Siddhartha Guatama in modern day Nepal, is claimed by Hinduism as a Hindu reformer. His quiet revolution was a reformation of sorts of the corrupted Hindu caste system. To Hindus, he was, in many ways, to Hinduism what Martin Luther was to medieval Catholicism.

The Hindu brahmins, comparable to Catholic priests, or Celtic druids, had a rigid, gratuitous system set in place, an exclusivity so very similar to the arrogance of Tetzel and the Pontiff of old. Theology was a science studied only by the priestly caste, thus hoarded by the brahmins and doled out, sold out, actually, at exorbitant rates to the lower castes. The similarity grows sharper when we learn that the ruling class insisted that the holy writ remain encoded in Sanskrit, a language not read or spoken by the unwashed masses.

Guatama was astute enough to recognize the nakedness of the emperor, and bold enough to point it out, so endearing himself to the common people, much as Luther, or, as is often pointed out, Jesus Christ.

You may know the damning generalities of his path to enlightenment. As I have mentioned before, he left a wife and child to find his inner peace, an odyssey that in today's parlance, suspiciously resembles the irresponsible freedom of a deadbeat dad. There are, however, extenuating circumstances to be considered in the case of the future Buddha.

He was born to luxury, the son of a feudal lord, a very handsome man according to many historical accounts. (yes, I too had trouble reconciling this little known fact with the fat little icon in the Happy Dragon Buffet)

Legend, of course, obscures much of the reality, understandable for the history of a man born in 563 B.C.E. (an ignominious irony, might it not be said he was born upon 0 A.B.?) However, Buddha would no doubt have cast such as ignoble pretension, for he claimed not godhood, angelic perfection, nor even sainthood.

But, upon the birth of little Saddhartha, according to legend, fortune-tellers were consulted by the eager father. It was agreed that this was no common birth. (It occurs to me that if you were a seer summoned by a king upon the birth of his son, you would be well-advised to come up with some more promising future besides rice-picker or dung-shoveler.) Greatness was read in the leaves, the palm, the crystal, the cards. However, the fortune split into a duality contingent upon the path chosen by the boy. Were he to seek things of a corporeal nature, he would become India's greatest king. Were he to set his mind on things transcendent, however, he would become world redeemer. Apparently the fortune-tellers decided to shoot for the moon. His father decided to pave the path for the arguably more modest fate and determined his son should be the ruler of India. Nothing was spared the prince-to-be. He was lavished with luxury and expectations. When he was of age, a wife was found of uncommon beauty and the probable result of such a promising union soon followed; a beautiful baby boy.

All was as it should have been, but somewhere in the idyllic existence a monkey clambered upon Saddhartha's back. According to legend, it came about as a result of a chance encounter with an old man. His father, it is said, went to every extreme to spare his son the distasteful realities of life. Saddhartha was never to encounter any physical or mental deficiency or deformity or anything that foretold death in his goings forth. On this particular occasion, however, one octogenarian was overlooked and the poor young prince was hazed into reality. And his initiation into the real world was only just beginning. On three consecutive journeys he encountered a sick person, a corpse, and finally, a monk. (I hazard a guess that a few of his father's servant deeply regretted these revelations.) Being the thoughtful young man he was, he could not dismiss these aberrations. They became a cancer attached to his contentment. He began to brood over the temporality of life and reflected on the passing of the seasons, the fading of the flower and such.

Legend aside, the fact is that upon approaching his thirtieth year (the ill herald of an early mid-life crisis, perhaps?) he came to a fateful decision. He would sever all relational and financial connections (distractions, he called 'em) and sally forth to discover the meaning of life.

Now, my inherent bias notwithstanding, this decision may or may not have been an agonizing one. It is not beyond the realm of reason to suspect that this was simply a very curious and emotionally stunted man, having been brought to thirty inside of a bubble. However, by all accounts, Saddhartha Guatama was an unfailingly compassionate individual, so, the benefit of the doubt would lead us to surmise that the night he left all behind was a torturous one, unless he had not yet come into his gift of compassion. He bid his sleeping wife and child a silent farewell, stridled his magnificent white horse, and ordered the gatekeeper to accompany him to the forest, where he dismounted, changed attire with the gatekeeper and sent him back to the house with a message for his father.

Tell my father that there is no reason he should grieve. He will perhaps say it was too early for me to leave for the forest. But even if affection should prevent me from leaving my family just now of my own accord, in due course death would tear us apart, and in that we would have no say. Birds settle on a tree for a while, and then go their separate ways again. The meeting of all living beings must likewise inevitably end in their partings. This world passes away and disappoints the hopes of everlasting attachment. It is therefore unwise to have a sense of ownership for people who are united with us as in a dream-for a short while only and not in fact.

This early creed of sorts of the budding Buddha is pregnant with philosophical conundrums.

He is to be forgiven in stating that against all wishes in due time death would sever their attachments. Let us look at Buddha in his proper historical and cultural context and recognize that although we have a hope and promise of reunification with our loved ones who pass on in the Lord, the prospect of Heaven, properly so called, would have been a giant hurdle for a nominal Hindu, not to mention an entirely novel belief, a gargantuan Abrahamic leap of faith.

So, upon agreeing with his fatalism only for the sake of argument, can we accept his conclusion? That of course, depends on his motivation, upon which we can only speculate.

Was it the prospect of the pain of future partings that led him to take an early leave of his loved ones? Reasoning it out, it might make sense to live in the moment, but might it have been a preemptive personality glitch not dissimilar to the view of the atheist who, faced only with miserable perpetuity, takes his own life?

Or was it clinical dispassion he felt as he looked in on his sleeping wife and boy? Maybe the resignation of a mad scientist intent upon his spiritual experiment or the mental disconnect of a man who kills his family because he is about to kill himself. Whatever the reason, it is a curiosity born of situational ethics that we seem predisposed to forgive a man the desertion of his family if it is for any reason other than monetary irresponsibility.

Moving on, we find a sort of Buddhist exegesis of yin and yang in his word picture of the birds and following conclusion that all that comes must go. This is paramount in Buddhism. Hold nothing dear. Possessions, pride, family, distractions all.

You may be familiar with a well known cinematic epoch promoting stealth Buddhism. In the final episode of the popular movie series Star Wars, the young man who is to become the villainous Darth Vader is moved to villainy by his refusal to disconnect himself from all distractions. Reading from a Focus review, Anakin Skywalker, the future Vader, tells his mentor, Yoda, of nightmarish visions of his wife's death. Yoda's response is as follows: "The fear of loss is a path to the dark side. Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force." Continuing in his structural pig Latin, Yoda instructs, "Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." It is worth noting that in this case as in the Buddha's, it is his wife he refuses to relinquish, and heedless of the little Jedi toad they call Yoda, Skywalker takes matters into his own hands. Then in a deft New Age twist, the movie combines shades of traditional absolute morality and truth with the wisdom of the Jedi. Hearkening unto the Dark Lord's promise to protect his wife, Anakin Skywalker chooses to believe, with the Dark Lord's urging, that there are many truths and the Jedi view of the Force is only one among many. He chooses what you might call the dark side and begins his descent into monstrousness.

Not to get sidetracked, but this storyline attempts to unite two opposite fundamentals; the detachment of Buddhism with objective morality, a concept Buddha rejected. As regarding absolute truth, Buddhism holds that the only absolute truth is that all truth is relative.

So nothing must take preeminence in our lives. There is an obvious parallel in Christianity. Christ demands absolute fealty, to the diminution of all else we hold dear. What we formerly held dear we must count as loss, and count nothing greater than Him. But that's only half the story.

C.S. Lewis, channeling Screwtape, wrote that whatever God takes away from a man with one hand he returns with the left, that when a man is completely His, he is more himself than ever he was before. God is "a hedonist at heart."

As Abraham was willing to sacrifice what was most dear to him, God, in effect, received the sacrifice and then returned it.

Buddha held out no such hope. By lowering his instinctive expectations to zero, he aimed to transcend the agony of grief.

More later.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Black Friday Indeed

I came one step closer to fear on Black Friday.

Economic malaises will come and go, darker times than these current have perhaps fallen on our nation and others. We have been disappointed by elections before. We weathered eight years of a spineless pathological liar and adulterer.

And how long has shameless commercialization overshadowed the holiday season?

People have been trampled underfoot by mobs before this.

2003, almost exactly five years past, an instance similar to the one that marred this past Friday occurred in Florida, also at a Wal-Mart, also killing a man.

1979, The Who concert in Cincinnati opened its doors for general seating to a thronging crowd that claimed the lives of eleven fans.

2000, fans of Pearl Jam killed nine in a crush in Denmark.

2004, 244 people died on their pilgrimage to worship Allah in Saudi Arabia.

And the morbid list goe on.

So, the death of a Wal-Mart seasonal in Long Island is nothing if not tragic, but nothing to get all prophetic about, right?

Realistically, yes, the death was an anomaly. The early morning rush on the Friday after Thanksgiving is traditional, if increasingly frenetic in the past few years, and similar crowds mobbed retail outlets all over America on Friday morning without the tragic results.

The Long Island incident wasn't precisely what disturbed me, however. Only one tragedy marred this particular crush of capitalism, but the scene enacted all across America at 5 and 6 a.m. is worth a second look, if you don't mind being depressed.

A visit to YouTube will grant you all the evidence of consumer mania you wish to observe and then some in this depressed economy. And it is this sociological phenomenon that gives me pause.

It isn't so much the over-commercialization, the greed, if you wish, of the retailers or consumers, nor is it the weird groupie behavior of the campers on the sidewalks outside Best Buy and Circuit City and, of course, Wal-Mart. It is what happens when the doors open.

I've no doubt that many who actually stepped over the body of Jdimytai Damou felt a pang of guilt, if they noticed, a fleeting distraught moment of panic as they wondered if they should stop, help.

I don't know what they felt. But I know what they did.

They kept going, and went shopping.


Food, medicine, warm clothes to keep out the cold?

The devil will be in the credit card receipts, but I'm willing to bet the mob wasn't lined up outside for markdowns on potatoes and blood pressure medicine.

It was for Wii's, flat panel TV's and X-boxes.

And what's most disturbing is this: The death was a statistical anomaly, but the herd mentality is not.

And to the point, if people behave such in search of non-essential Christmas gifts, how is it they will behave in something like a food shortage, another Depression, or a nuclear attack?

I think there can be little doubt.

To brush this off as an abnormal tragedy you must ignore the implications of it.

New York may be a strange place to most of us in fly-over country, but in reality the people who line up outside Wal-Mart in Long Island are not a whit different than those lined up outside Best Buy in Lexington, KY.

This mob that savagely trampled a man to death to buy a television is a cross-section of America. There is no reason to believe that any other crowd in any other city or state would have behaved any differently. You can tell yourself otherwise, just as you may view the Holocaust as a German moral deficiency, or even turn-of-the-century American eugenics as simply an appalling but abnormal chapter in our nation's history, but the truth is that you live in a country where abortion is legal, safe and common.

I don't for a minute believe that even one of that mob wished death upon a retail employee they had never met, nor do I believe they didn't care, but the momentary pricks of conscience were soothed by the actions of every one of their peers. Nobody else is stopping, it must be okay.

What is the likelihood of mob rule in the event of a national crisis?

Yes, I know, Y2K and all that.

But nothing actually happened on Y2K.

I'm not predicting anything, but I am saying that if a crisis ever comes that deprives the people of this country of essentials it is naive to expect anything but savagery.

And by the way, happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Thing Molded

Personally, I spend a lot of time justifying God to myself.

Every time something happens, I assign a value to X and Y in a frantic guessing game; an ill-advised exercise, in part because I don't even yet know what the sum of all these unknowns will be, making it pointless to speculate upon the value of the factors.

I am trying to break a long-standing habit, the habit of babbling inanely to fill the awkward silence that follows some inexplicable circumstance.

Well, I'm sure that nothing is meant by it. (By which I mean God didn't really mean it just like it sounded.)

I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. (By which I belie a potential reproach for God, not quite angry at this turn of events, but reserving the right to be.)

Is it a lack of faith, or lack of faith in my own faith?

I was given an assignment in a philosophy class; reconcile the problem of evil with the existence of a loving God.

Ignoring or at least belittling the weight of the problem, I careened frantically and recklessly toward a quick resolution.

Love was the answer. God created this universe and us with this built in self-destruct because of love.

It was an honest conclusion, and, judging from reading after apologists since, not incorrect.

But looking back on it, I've the same feeling I had when I would arrive home after an hours drive following a third shift at the Cincinnati airport. Too often, I would awake only after putting the truck in park and wonder how I got there.

Driven to reconcile God with evidence to the contrary . . .it is an instinct that has the force of corneal reflex in a young Christian, a fitting parallel, since the stimulus of harsh light prompts us to shut our eyes and self-impose blindness.

I am determined to see through the eyes of God, determined to put some positive mortal spin on what I see.

There can be no times When God Doesn't Make Sense. The fragility of my faith will not bear it.

Such a state of denial doesn't lend itself to calm credulity when uncertain times come.

But I am reading Paul's letter to the Roman church, scandalized by the exploitative plan of God to draw all Gentiles unto Him through the disobedience of His chosen people and I come to realize that if I were able to see through the eyes of God, I had as well be a twenty-twenty pair of eyes staring through a pair of coke-bottle glasses or, more to the point, visually impaired without any glasses.

I got hung up on a previously forgettable verse.

"For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all."

What was once figurative leapt off the page with stunning literalism.

I am subjected to an icy shock, the blank surprise of realizing that we are being manipulated to His end!

I experience the same speechless indignance of a pot in the utilitarian hands of the Potter.

So, I manage, It's all about You.

You just have compassion on whoever you will.

You elect, You choose.

Pharoah himself was not but a sacrificial pawn in Your game, being raised up by You so that Your name might proclaimed in all the earth. Likewise the Isrealites he enslaved.

All this is done simply for Your glory?

How is this justifiable?

Mightn't Paul have explained this?

He simply says, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways!"

And I draw closer to the heart of God by relinquishing my "right" to know what He's about.

"For who has known the mind of the Lord?"

God, deliver me from presuming to know Your mind and from lingering distrust that always, always asks why.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Second Look

Are there ever any conflicts between one's conservatism and one's Christianity?
Could there be times when the ideology and the faith are, if not completely incompatible, at least extremely uncomfortable residing in the same heart and mind?
The question popped out at me as I read a news headline stating that cries are growing louder to let the Big 3 automakers die a natural death; no life support bailout, no breathing machine extensions, just a quick pull of the plug.
My knee-jerk reaction, fostered by years of Limbaugh and Hannity, was "Let 'em die."
Not being particularly impressed with the product quality of the Big 3, and being even more disgusted with the extortion practiced by the UAW, my overview was, "Good riddance."
If the UAW had convinced their members that working on an assembly line was worth $50 an hour, then perhaps a bracing jump in the cold water, a quick immersion in reality, was what they needed.
Then, a second thought, perhaps prompted by my recent difficulty, read something more like this, "However, if I worked for Chrysler, I would, no doubt, have a decidedly different take on the subject, regardless of my own personal political and fiscal ideas."
(The sudden burst of compassion may answer part of the question why? in all of this.)
It depends on whose kid has the flu that determines how bad it is.
I suddenly saw a financial disaster looming over thousands of families and was gripped with compassion.
I suppose that makes me a compassionate conservative, and, judging from what I'm hearing from conservative punditry these days, that means I am a hopeless, pretentious neo-con discipled by the likes of, heaven forbid, George W. Bush, and, as such, am out of style by about seven years.
I'm still wearing boot-cut Arizonas and an Izod button-down.
And its tucked in, for the love of Armani!
But maybe I'm being too snide. Maybe, I'll grant, these conservative thinkers are looking at the big picture.
We'll go with their take for a minute.
Distilled, their philosophy reads so: The less government intervention on the behalf of home-owners, lending agencies, banks, and auto manufacturers translates into less government interference. I.E., lower taxes for the general public, thus a more consumer-friendly environment, thus a better economy, thus more jobs for those pulled down in the undertow of the Big 3, and the housing market.
But, a transition of such magnitude can be likened to a massive forest fire. Such occasional holocausts are natural and healthy to the overall balance of the ecosystem, but devastating to individual trees unfortunate enough to be in the path of the fire.
The human element to headlines such as these has become painfully apparent to me lately.
The trees will grow back taller, yes, but only by feeding upon the soil fertilized by the compost of their dead predecessors.
So, are we to take the long view?
It has long been the stereotypical characterization of conservatives that they are cold and unfeeling, and the opposite profile has long been attributed to liberals; compassionate and unthinking.
Which is why Marvin Olasky of World Magazine coined the term "compassionate conservative" to provide an identity and an impetus to Christians frustrated by the dichotomy.
George W. Bush essentially bought the rights to the phrase, and despite some mistakes and many conservative opinions to the contrary, has stuck to his motto.
I believe this principle dictated to him his position on the border. (He certainly didn't earn any political capital from it, and he knew he wouldn't.)
And I think that same question faces him every day.
Do I view everything dispassionately, or do I allow myself to be distracted by the human element?
Unfortunately for him, the question is overwhelmingly complex and nuanced, and fraught with unknowns and lame-duck status.
For my part, I believe my heart has been somewhat softened of late by my own problems, and I can now view these conundrums with something more than rose-colored glasses or a blindfold.
Easy for you to say, Carpenter, the president might say, it's not your problem.
Ah, but it is.
Look, it is perhaps unavoidable in the media culture we live in, but I feel that our attention to political detail often squeezes out our attention to Christ.
Yes, we were thrilled with the advent of Rush Limbaugh, and increasingly so with the rise of FOX News, and a host of up and coming "alternative media" because at last someone was giving voice to our side. But the truth is that most of these people share our politics, not our faith.
They throw in an occasional jab at abortion, or gay marriage, and thus retain their membership in the Christian club. But the other ninety percent of the time, they are discussing issues and taking positions that, while technically pertinent and accurate, should be a three or four on a one to ten scale of a Christian's priorities.
Without retreating back to the cultural cave in which Christians lived for so long, let's not become so focused upon the politics that constantly bombard our minds.
Unfortunately, I know too many Christians, including myself, who get more stirred up over Barack Obama's plan to destroy America than they do Satan's plan to destroy souls.
Barack Obama can't send anybody to hell.
I know a message like this can sound cloying, or saccharine, or overly pious. But remember that I usually write what has only recently been revealed, or re-revealed, to my own mind.
Your view of whether or not the Big 3 should be bailed out is not dictated by your Christianity, but your view of the person who loses his or her job as a result is.
Your view of whether or not $50 an hour is exorbitant or whether or not those people shouldn't have bought a house that they couldn't afford is not dictated by your Christianity, but your compassion for the anguish and uncertainty they face is commanded.
Maybe they are greedy.
Or maybe they just saw an opportunity for a good job, and have spent the last thirty years building what they saw as a secure future for their retirement and their children's college options.
And if that be greed, I'm kneeling at the altar right next to 'em.
Individuals get lost in the headlines, the blogs, the talk radio.
Souls are statistics.
Liberals are them, conservative R US.
But we're all going to one of two places when we die, and that has become my new obsession!

p.s. In regards to our own difficulties I refer to, I would be extremely ungrateful if I did not thank God for the way He has taken care of us and also ungrateful to the channel through which He worked. Thank you so much.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Holy Interpreter

The question I now pose was once academic.

It has now become paramount, and very pertinent.

When you beg petition of God, how specific are you to be?

I propose this: You come to a point in the road where you are able to see nothing but challenging if not inaccessible terrain ahead of you; a long, unbroken series of steep grades with drop-offs on either side.

Do you ask God for assistance to get over that first grade, or do you cover the field and request help for the entire series of grades?

Are you a presumptuous beggar? Might you ask to be carried over the whole stretch?

Or, are you more of a self-made man? May I have a set of chains, and a winch?

Or, do you just white-knuckle the steering wheel, and wish you'd taken out that term policy?

Speaking specifically to my current difficulty, do I pray that such-and-such union request be granted so that such-and-such disability clause be altered, do I pray for a new job, do I pray for healing, do I take a vow of poverty and begin searching for co-ed monasteries . . . .enter a sweepstakes . . . . look around outside a gas station for a dropped lottery ticket?

Oswald Chambers has been remarkably germane in relation to our predicament recently.

On the morning of Nov. 8, I opened his devotional to see the following:

We know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Rom. 8:26

Catching my breath, I continued reading.

We know what it is to pray in the Spirit; but we do not so often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays in us prayers which we cannot utter. . . .

and further on,

He expresses for us the unutterable. . . .

further still,

. . .God searches your heart not to know what your conscious prayers are, but to find out what is the prayer of the Holy Spirit.

I suppose that could be disconcerting. Looking at it superficially, you might sustain the same shock that the first denizen of Babel experienced when his intended words came out as gibberish.

That's not what I said!

I think it is safe to say, however, that the Spirit will not work at cross purposes with your heart.

If your petitions are subject to the will of the Father, instead of being lost in translation, they will be re-interpreted in a manner that you yourself could never utter.


Chambers- Have we recognized that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost? If so, we must be careful to keep it undefiled for Him. We have to remember that our conscious life, though it is only a tiny bit of our personality, is to be regarded by us as a shrine of the Holy Ghost. He will look after the unconscious part that we know nothing of; but we must see that we guard the conscious part for which we are responsible.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Philippians 4:7

For what am I thankful at the resolving of a crisis?
I am not thankful that crisis will never come again, although the very nature of relief suggests a cessation of all trouble to our consciousness. Realistically, I know that this was but one mountain peak, and I am traversing the Himalayas.
I am thankful for the knowledge that I will reach the next peak and the next one.
The relief we feel is not a denial of the valleys that lie in between the peaks, but a disregard for them. The gain more than offsets the pain. The mountaintop perspective sees more mountaintops, not ignorant of the topography before us, but reckoning that the sufferings of each and every valley is not worthy to be compared with the peaks.
Regarding perspective, which is the proper one? Is it unrealistic to desire an answer to this question?
Is it not a matter of choice? It is true that when one is atop a mountain, he is apt to forget the angle of the grade he has just climbed, and is more apt to underestimate the depth of the valley below him, so can it be said that it is only up to you which perspective is the real one?
If, at the collective apexes of our lives, we tally the results and find ourselves in the black, what does it matter what gloom swaths the peaks while we walk the shadowed valley?
Or, if, at the many low points, we total the experience and see merely perpetuated misery with a few aberrations of delirium, what do the peak experiences profit us?
This is quite an implicational question, a question summed up in the image of a glass containing liquid that occupies half of the container.
As I've said before, in a folksy translation of Schroedinger, the question of whether the glass is half full, or half-empty depends on whether the glass is the one offered a thirsting man in the desert, or the one you turned over on your laptop.
So it is only a matter of perspective!
Are things really that arbitrary, and is the universe that cold?
Do we really hold our own happiness in our own hands?
Is the on/off switch in our own minds?
Or does the answer to the overall question lie in a different idiom?
Can you not see the forest for the trees, or the trees for the forest, if you prefer?
Which do you prefer? We got both. Forest and trees.
(We must be careful not to forget that regardless of our location, we always see through a glass darkly, and must be mindful that all this postulation may, nay, will seem positively ridiculous on the other side of the glass.)
But for the here and now, will we look back on our life's journey as one continual struggle, viewed in the negative, or will we remember the lordly perspective of the peak, as well as the wild blueberries and the flowing streams in the valley?
I know we can't transcend our humanity. We will be down and we will be up. But there is an acceptance that can under gird our entire perspective, whether up or down; an acceptance gained only through experience, and yes, employed only by choice.
And acceptance attains peace. Not resignation.
A peace that does surpass all comprehension.
But I can't escape the notion that I am talking past all this.
Relativity reigns, much as it does in the summer when you prefer winter, and in the winter when you prefer summer.
A nagging little question lies at the bottom of all this: Aren't we closest to reality when we're depressed, when we are fully aware of and focused on all the pain and all the exhaustion we have faced and have yet to face?
Does our spirit seek the lowest level?
Isn't a bright outlook sustained only by a valiant effort?
Aren't we kidding ourselves?
No doubt this is subject to personality, but the nature of depression has to be weighed against the nature of optimism.
Screwtape told Wormwood of the Enemy, "He cannot tempt to virtue as we can to vice."
Because vice is the default position. Gravity pulls us to bad, not to good.
So it is with depression. He cannot tempt to joy as Satan can to depression.
Joy is often a matter of choice, a conscious effort of the will, a struggle to keep drooping eyes open, an uphill climb.
The joy of the Lord is our strength, it is what gives us the will to go on, to stay awake, to keep climbing.
Moods are inevitable, ups and downs are facts of life, depression lies at the bottom of every valley, jubilation awaits at the top of every mountain, but joy takes us through it all.
Don't over-analyze your current emotional state, (as I have just done.) You will not transcend those mortal feelings here. You cannot deny them, you can only come through them.
If you were driving through a fog bank, you would slow down, use your low beams, and keep driving.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Two Americans in Paris

Everyone who knows her loves her.
But they don't know her like I do.
Knowing her is like being the sole possessor of an unspeakably wonderful secret.
Falling in love with her was and is likened unto being sent on a long journey alone to some far-flung exotic locale; a place you've never been before, a place where you don't know anyone. . .
Falling in love with her is arriving, deplaning uncertainly, walking lonely up the breezeway,
and catching a glimpse of a familiar face.
But not just a familiar face;
more, a face that holds all your dreams within her smile,
happiness in her eyes,
home in her arms.
The past seven years I've spent in Paris with the love of my life,
always at holiday,
always at home,
falling, deeper and deeper
Happy Anniversary, Devan
Love, NathanPosted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Black Friday or The Anatomy of a Financial Crisis

Friday, Oct. 24.
Complications from the mortgage crisis send the stock market on another tumble.
Complications from my medical issues necessitate a change in medication. Upon informing my employer of the change, I am told I can no longer perform my normal job duties and am sent home. So the Dow grabbed us on the way down, and I sat slumped on the catwalk, currently unaware of the parallel, but feeling my stomach and heart hitching along behind the stock market. As swiftly as a doctor's compassionate approach can sink your spirits, thus had the past ten minutes brought mine in close proximity with the bottom.
The faith I had stockpiled and carefully hoarded for just such an occasion as this had evaporated inside its carefully sealed container.
Either that, or it was Confederate money.The feeling of faith, the one that spreads goodwill and warmth over good times, was slipping away, and I felt powerless to stop its departure.
Words spoken in better days assembled in a jostling ring around me, some jeering, some looking bored, worse still, some meeting my dejected gaze with ill-disguised pity.
Dredging the dregs of my will, I fended them off with my cell phone and made a couple of phone calls, going through the motions of expediting this disaster, vainly hoping to hear overwhelming reassurance from some human agency.
Disbelief died with a whimper under the onslaught of very cold, very hard facts and resignation set in, numbing, but not enough.
Desperation dialed the phone again. The loathsome thought of sharing the bad news with my companion was trumped by a need for her.
A grim wake-up call indeed, and yet, she did rise to the occasion talking me all the way home, where she greeted me with a smile of such poignancy she will never know.
Over the next two days, emotions ebbed and flowed, as I predicted to her. (Ever predict a rainy day in Seattle, or a hot one in Death Valley?)
I once previously experienced a mood swing while walking from one end of the house to the other, so I sagely related to her the expediency of acceptance.
"Just accept that we're on an emotional roller-coaster right now. Don't try to stay up."
But I still close my eyes and grip the safety bar when the upward lurching stops and gravity steals its deadly hands toward us.
Oh no, not again.
Thrice-repeated, the platitudes wear thin, and I cease uttering them with any animation and am left with dull insistence that everything will be all right.
The timing couldn't be worse. It all comes down on a Friday, and as it happens, management has apparently been hard at it lately, as two of them are out of the office with shoulder injuries. The skeleton crew remaining has no answers and sends me packing with the expletive "disability" ringing in my ears. Teamsters, as an entity, seems to offer no recourse, but I hold out hope in a particular dogged union rep.
It's the waiting test, "game" being no very accurate descriptor.
Patience is a virtue indeed, but one that requires OJT, and as such, is as hard to come by as experience for a sixteen-year-old flung into the job market.
Early Sunday morning, C.S. Lewis weighed in on the disaster via my MP3. The fiend Screwtape discusses "the patient" with his charge. "We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do. Our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them. Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with patience to the Enemy's will. What the Enemy means by this is primarily that he should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to him; the present anxiety and suspense. It is about this that he is to say 'Thy will be done.' It is your business to see that the patient never thinks about the present fear as his appointed cross."
I nearly fell off my stationary bike.
Eager to share, I plugged in the speaker to let Devan hear.
Very good, very true, but any spike in spirits was then counteracted by a spike in blood sugar, and so Sunday, the day we might've expected emotional resurrection from the dead, was another Saturday.
The storm begins to abate, but the clouds remain.
At different times I will describe faith in different terms.
"It is not a feeling." I told Devan. (If it is, I'm in big trouble.)
"So," she prompted, "-what is it?" Not for her own peace of mind, undoubtedly, but to force me to my own conclusion.
"It's . . . experience." I concluded disappointedly, convinced of the truth of it but feeling slightly heretical as I said it.
(Looking back on it, I say it is and isn't. Certainly it was not experience when by grace I was saved through faith, but, at very least, experience is the conduit through which faith is grown.)
"Unfortunately," I added, thinking of the adage, It's a great life if you don't weaken, but who wants to be strong, and again, Years make us old, Life makes us wise.
The crisis ekes out another couple days, and we seem to even off.
Has our faith grown, or have our emotions simply been wrung out?
Or is that the point?
You've no particular reason to trust and yet you cling to it. I would feel slightly better had I not floundered so in reaching for it, or made such a scene drowning in waist deep water.
"So," continued Devan, moving me along again, "What is the feeling you speak of, slipping away?"
Squinting at the brilliant cumulus tumult overhead, I struggle, "It. . .it is that feeling that you accumulate during the good times, it is all the things you tell yourself about trusting God, which are, incidentally, true, but on a different level."
You'll have noticed that as well, I trust. A truth is never anything less than true, but it can be a great deal more. The sun shines, God is good; true. The rain falls, things grow, God is good; true again. The rain continues to fall, floods come, God is still good; truer still. The floods rise higher, your house collapses, you're still alive, God is still good, truth still greater. You drown, you're dead, you're in heaven, God is still good, and the truth of that gladdens your soul as never before as you kneel in His presence.
Where we are now seems to require a run on the bank, a frantic sell-off, a protracted deer-in-the-headlights moment, the missing of a few beats while we retreat to the deep waters that remain undisturbed by the hurricane roiling the surface to collect our faith.

Indulgent Obtuse Abstraction

Sitting on a creek bank, I feel my thoughts drifting mercifully into the abstract.
Getting at the hostility I harbor for things synthetic, or, similarly, the affection in which I hold all things organic must involve looking at the motive behind the creation of both.
I can and do, at times, admire human craftsmanship, but there is a begrudging element that holds the admiration in check.
Why so exquisite, o Man?
Positively, there is some self-seeking motive, some selfishly practical purpose behind a well-crafted house or even a beautiful painting or even the words I now write.
But what prompts the attention to detail given the dead leaf I twirl in my hand?
Why the grace in its lingering descent?
More the blood veins running throughout its curled deformity than brush strokes in Monet's Waterloo Bridge. More pleasing the color, too.
Pure the beauty, purer still the motive back of it.
Man's gift for creation is purely given, to be sure, but corrupted in the accepting.
We want something corporeal from everything we are given.
Whether it be a talent or a sunset.
Acclimation for the talent or some sort of epiphanic triumph from the sunset.
We're given so much, and we grasp it so tightly, and the intrinsic value bleeds through our clutching fingers and drips into the dirt, corrupted eternally.
We're given more, and still swifter we lunge, taking hold, and still faster the essence dissipates.
Why the crescendoing harmony of the breeze slipping over creek bank, the wind's bow slipping delicately across the strings of a million leaves, the sighing decrescendo of its ruffling escape across the water?
Why the fragmented replication of so much gorgeous arboreal chaos in the green translucence below me?
I've so little time for this, God, let me hold it lightly, that may gladden my heart and enrich my soul as You intended.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sixteen Years of Guidance

For sixteen years I've had the same pastors.
Oddly enough I've lived in about five different locations during that stint.
It's not unlike having a wide-ranging circuit rider specifically assigned to you.
Those sixteen years have seen me through a range of problems. No very great ones to anyone else, perhaps, but being my own and the only ones I have to claim, I've made a great fuss over them.
My pastor and pastor's wife have more than babied me through these growing pangs.
In fact, if it weren't for them, I would likely be an embittered backslider or a socially dysfunctional misfit with a tic.
As it happens, I am a socially dysfunctional misfit, but I've not developed a tic, other than this odd twitching that grips me periodically.
Sincerely, were the church-going world at large aware of my pastors, they would envy me.
The two people who shepherd Devan and I, who are, of course, my parents, have been so much more than preacher and preacher's wife.
We are privileged in a unique and special way.
Spending the last third of my childhood as a preacher's kid produced none of the stereotypical angst associated with it.
In fact, considering my own somewhat fragile state at times, it's difficult to imagine my spiritual growth being nurtured and cultivated so attentively and tutorially by any other pastor in the world, some of whom obviously I have great respect for.
But none of them knew or could consider the complexities, the nuances, okay the weirdness of this particular parishioner.
I know at times they may have felt personally unsuited for the roles they play in mine and all their other past and present member's lives, but I would like them to know that the evidence is clear; God has equipped them for the job better than most.
The teaching and the preaching are forever sound, wholly and wonderfully biblical, faithful and compassionate.
I know a pastor's heart when I see one.
They are clearly called and they are just as clearly committed to carrying out that call and being found faithful in the overwhelming responsibility God has laid on them.

Same Old Thing

"The horror of the Same Old Thing", wrote Screwtape, "is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart-an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship."
Yes, and furthermore, impulsiveness.
I once read somewhere that one characteristic of a sociopath is an enormous capacity for repetition.
This has always comforted me by extinguishing any fear that I, despite possessing certain aspects of your common sociopath, white, male, late bed-wetter, nevertheless escape the profile by virtue of the fact that I am nothing if not a creature of irregularity.
Blind hasty exodus from one vice invariably leads you to bump into yet another, but I am sure a penchant for harmless sporadic obsession ranks lower on the scale than that of serial murder.
Habit is for people who find no joy in life, I tell myself as I eat a little more than usual, forgo shaving (how d'you like me now, UPS) or choose to sing the special song before leading the congregational (an exception that is fast becoming my rule).
Any given member of my family can testify to my distaste for routine.
Music stands as a shining example. Any given artist, genre, or sub-genre is subject to my fixation, as well as my shunning, when I invariably over-indulge to the point of indigestion and swear off.
Now, mind you, I've yet to become a groupie, but the horror of the Same Old Thing is synonymous in my book with the love of obsession.
How this relates to my walk with God should be all too obvious.
Now, in a sense, this can or should contribute to a healthy balance.
Devotional life should be habitual, yet not.
We are created to experience change and growth but a lack of maturity that many of us suffer until the point of death can and does lead to a lack of discipline that parlays, with the aid of laziness, the penchant for the new into an easy neglect of the old and needful, as our mind wanders from the measurements of the temple curtains or our prayerfully closed eyes drift into the land of Winkem, Blinkem and Nod.
The reward for keeping the faith, fighting the good fight, running the race is the natural result of disinclined troopers struggling against their own nature. It is the very struggle that purifies.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Glorious Struggle

In the way of self-deprecation, I have told Devan many times that I am one of the laziest people you'll ever meet. Though I'm not above false modesty, this doesn't qualify as such.
It is a frank appraisal of my own wants and desires and discipline.
Inherent in the remark is the unspoken caveat: But I try to work hard enough so that no one knows it.
In other words, I recognize the necessity of hard work, and will strive to achieve it, I just find it very distasteful.
So, when I hear various and sundry health buffs and nuts wax eloquent about the "invigoration" and "rush" of exercise and cardio and pumping iron, I get a tired sneer on my face.
Self-convincing mind control.
See, I think it's paradoxical to claim you enjoy struggling to supplement your health. Or, I don't know, maybe you don't find it paradoxical, maybe you're just masochistically twisted.
If the principle of "no pain, no gain" is paramount in exercise, then aren't you as much as admitting you get a rush out of pain.
This is what I find perennially disquieting about exercise; the ever-extending line that must be crossed in order to benefit.
I'm something of a legalist, and no less one when it comes to this. I would prefer to get mine out of the way all at once.
If I could exercise 24/7, more or less, for a year, and have it out of the way for the duration of my natural life, I would somewhat cheerfully, at least resignedly, commit, and peddle, run and pump my way through October of 2009 just for good measure.
Unfortunately for my laziness, all I'd get out of that is job loss, a heart attack or two, and possible marital complications.
So, it seems we've all been sentenced to share the fate of Sisyphus, the size of the boulder being relative.
(And here is the part where I draw a spiritual parallel. But it really isn't necessary, is it?)
Sufficient grace, and meal in the barrel, and all that, but isn't that missing the point, at least slightly?
As much as it seems applicable at times, God isn't given to the carrot-and-stick approach. And He doesn't require a certain amount of punishment or misery to recompense a reward.
Mostly, it is just the pendulum effect. Not in the sense of Poe, so much, though maybe a little. But rather in what Screwtape referred to as the law of peaks and troughs, reminding his hapless nephew that humans are insufferably mortal, and must undergo this perpetual cycle of ups and downs.
What I find show-stopping about this obvious statement is the implication.
God created us as such!
So where's the glory in redeeming an angel, the grace of walking in our shoes if it were no problem for us?
Strength, His, not ours, perfected in weakness, is the mysterious and majestic remedy.
No, progressive.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Really Good Grief

Give us this day our daily low-carb, gluten-free bread, and forgive us for eating three slices instead of the one we would have eaten, wanted to eat, had it been white, or thick.
In my own mind I know I'm a great writer. So . . .how does one go about escaping one's own mind?
What I really wanted to talk about was Peanuts.
Peanuts have become a staple of my diet. Once a superfluous fiber, along with popcorn, pecans, particularly have taken the place of dessert. Rather, they have become dessert, I didn't bother much with it before I couldn't eat it.
But, I meant Peanuts, the comic strip; the daily public journal of a very American man.
Sparky (as he didn't like to be called), also known as Charles Schulz, has been an influence on my entire life in much the same way that observation affects outcome, so said Schroedinger.
At the risk of sounding maudlin, Schulz comforted me with distraction even as a child.
As did the short-lived Jalapeno flavor of Lays potato chips.
As did curling up in the antediluvian plaid arm-chair in front of the picture window which no doubt comforted me as well.
Psychoanalytically speaking, I'm quite sure I gained a preeminence over the world-at-large by sitting in front of a large picture window with no curtains while maintaining my comfort zone
in my nook,
with the chips,
and the book.
Too young to suspect I was empathizing with Charlie Brown (although I had more in common with Linus,
the blanket
or perhaps Shermy, as he was a filler, whereas at least Charlie Brown enjoyed the miserable center stage, with his cool, ungrateful dog.
The philosophy of Schulz never occurred to my eight-year-old brain, at least consciously.
But over the years, the perpetual failure of Charlie Brown, and the fact that this failure was the subject of humor, has molded a part of my personality with gentle pressure.
At once as cuddly as a plush Snoopy, and as brutal as a disrobing line drive, Schulz's narrative of what he called his everyman was an enveloping buffer for my world at large.
I do identify with Charlie Brown, although my fellow characters have been much kinder than, say, Lucy, much kinder indeed than Patty or Violet, (particularly notable for their almost sociopathic psychological abuse of Charlie Brown.)
But many of my characters have exhibited the same fair-weather friendliness of Schroeder,
the same cloying,
self-serving attentions of the insecure Peppermint Patty,
and the animal ingratitude and disinterest of his transcendentally hip dog.
Any dismissal of Schulz as a mere cartoonist reveals a lack of depth in the critic.
He was not wise, but he was exceptionally honest and wickedly comfortable with his immersion, if not understanding, of the life we live.
So, grab a Peanuts book next time you're at the library and keep it in the bathroom.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Creeping Tolerance

I've kept my ramblings pertinent recently. I've tried to speak of what matters most.

I've kept my nose out of politics. Partly because, since the primaries are over, and both parties have their candidates, anything I say would be a combination of preaching to the choir and stating the obvious.

What I have to say may be stating the obvious, but I've become sufficiently irked by a media mantra to not care anymore.

Since Barack Obama makes a point of expressing his faith (likely to combat the Muslim rumors) and since he is a Democrat, the media has gleefully lifted the embargo on discussion of religion in politics. The incongruity of the most liberal Democrat in the Senate stating frankly that Jesus Christ is his Savior (yes, I meant incongruity) has been lost on us.

The reason for this new-found faith of the DNC is two-fold.

The Democrats finally saw the light and found God in exit poll data. Statisticians and marketing experts could have told them that excluding the God plank from their platform was off-putting to many.

The other reason is that Barack Obama is black. And divesting a black man of his religion is unnecessary, even offensive, because African-Americans are stereotypically religious. The cringe-inducing shell-shock of W.'s statement about Jesus Christ in his coming out in 2000 is dissipated. God is welcomed with open arms now if He watches His p's and q's and doesn't become too confrontational.

The media mantra I spoke of is pure subversion, whether or not they realize it.

Ad hominem is the order of the day. They are ever ready with the defense, "Obama is a Christian, he has attended a Christian church for the last twenty years." Besides the fact that I thought we were supposed to forget that Obama attended a church pastored by a man named Wright, the defensive statement presupposes a right-wing evangelical litmus test. Apparently we're all sitting around asking "Yes, but is Barack a Christian?" And when supplied with the affirmative, we're good to go. (The disturbing irony is that all too often this is true.)

Now, first of all, I would have hoped we had gotten past the idea that attending church magically bestowed the blood of Jesus on the attendee. Guess not.

Second, I would have hoped, but knew better, that the creeping tolerance, of the mutant, 21st century cross strain, had run it's course. No such luck. In other words, in today's world, if a man says he is a Christian, calls children mistakes, supports infanticide. . . .he is a Christian and don't you dare presume to question the dubious fruit hanging from his withered boughs.

Christianity has been stripped of any identity, thus any salty savor, by creeping tolerance.

John Wesley has said that his brother Charles made people prove their profession while he himself took people at their word, and that he was more often proven right than Charles.

This is a Christian principle. But it has parameters.

I'm assuming that if John came upon a falling-down drunk prostitute in the act of extorting money from a helpless child he would suspect her veracity when she slurred, "Praise the Lord, brother, I'm a born-again Christian."

There are rules you follow if you are a Christian, even in this post-post modern world.

Obama doesn't follow them. No surprise. I'm not shocked. He is the candidate of a party who has long disassociated itself from Christianity, and his politics are simply what we expect.

But can we stop with this, "Of course he's a Christian, he's gone to church for the last twenty years."

By the way, equal time wise, neither does John McCain's story, heart-warming as it is, of his experience with the prison guard in Vietnam confirm his Christianity. But the fact that he opposes infanticide gives us a little more reason think that maybe he actually subscribes to the creed.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The 2X4

Epiphanies are rarely so epiphanic, mostly because of the constant encroachment of self-awareness.
From a college communications course, I learned that, among countless other scales, people are graded on a self-monitoring curve. It refers to an individual’s self-awareness, or self-perception.
If you are a low self-monitor, most likely you tend to be intent of purpose, single-minded, your own person, as you are uncaring or at least unaware of the opinion or perception that others hold of you.
High self-monitors have highly sensitive antennae which are perpetually probing everyone’s concept of themselves, and unfortunately have a tendency, at least the ability, to readjust accordingly.
I was speechless upon hearing this, as a man might be at his first look in a mirror, and felt that on the scale, I probably wouldn’t even register, placing somewhere in the stratosphere above the charts.
Because I was constantly aware, or at least striving to be, of how I came across to other people.
This self-awareness carries over into my private thoughts, and disrupts them.
Additionally, a cynicism or wariness born of bad experience has taught me to analyze each and every emotion that broaches my threshold. So that, when an original thought seeks entry, it is subject to interrogation, and is brought in to the inner sanctum only after it has been robbed of the element of surprise. Thus, life-changing epiphanies are rare.
Also, I tend to accept self-critical analysis very quickly, so as to expedite the pain. You ever swallow a hot mouthful of food, taken too hastily, tossing it down your gullet to relieve your palette? It leaves no sense of the food in your mouth, no taste except that of scorched flesh. But you consumed it, after all, you tell yourself, and isn’t that the end of eating?
Doubtless, and yet the food wasn’t chewed properly, and it now sits at the bottom of your stomach in an indignant lump, refusing to be digested, and therefore not releasing its proper sustenance and causing instead a confused melee of indigestion as harried enzymes hurriedly surround it and are as thwarted in their duties as I am in search of the business end of a tangled fishing line.
I always get a little carried away with analogies.
In a state of aggravation, I scooped up the cat and headed to the garage to clip his perennial couch-shredders.
The cat, misnamed Adagio (def. - slow, leisurely) senses foul play in the offing and digs his claws into my torso.
Irritated with the cat’s frightened clairvoyance I stormed into the garage and dumped him on the floor.
And watched stubbornly as he frantically searched for a way out of the unfamiliar dungeon.
The errand became a lesson as I watched him desperately try to escape from a situation that he feared.
My irritation with a dumb animal I rationalized thusly. Did he not know I was simply trying to help him?
(Here I insert the reason for my aggravation: my ongoing struggle with diabetes, which at the moment wasn’t going as I wished.)
The obvious answer to the unspoken question immediately condemned me. Of course the cat didn’t know I was trying to help him. He was simply frightened of an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situation.
In addition to suddenly feeling cruel, I was instantly stupefied by the parallel.
I opened the door into the house through which Adagio fled, and sat down on the step.
He fled only so far as behind the couch, where he stopped and sat, peering around the corner at me as if to ask, Why?. . . .and, What on earth was that all about?
The cat had a right to be terrified. He had no way of grasping the benefit of the uncomfortable situation.
I, however, unless I wished to plead my case as a dumb animal, was being distrustful and ungrateful.
And if God were me, he might feel the same irritation with the trepidation I feel before checking my blood sugar as the cat does before getting his nails clipped.
Thankfully, I am myself, Adagio is Adagio, and God is God, and He faithfully showed me again, yet in a new way, what I was, and who He was.
I felt spiritually childish, and petulant, and impulsive.
An animal has every call to be dumb, and faithless.
I do not.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Coming Home

Every so often, I go outside at night to look and see if the sky is still there.

So far, I've never been disappointed. . .

And if I look at it long enough, something settles in my mind.

A breakneck speed of life slows to a manageable pace and the blurred landscape begins to break apart and form distinct images.

Sometimes I think, as I hurtle down the interstate, that the appreciation and the fear the pioneers of America must have gained of the land must far exceed our attention deficit admiration as we pace off 100 miles in the amount of time it would've taken them to straggle their way over 5.

Which perspective is more realistic?

All I know is on the all-too-infrequent occasions when I escape from almost every lingering scrap of vocational and technological distraction, I come alive.

The rhythm of ocean waves lulls me into reality and the shelter of the woods spreads a reverential awe over my soul.
It gives me the feeling that I am looking down on every mad bustle of industry in the world from an eagle's perspective.
And it looks awfully small from up there.
By the way, both pictures are from a two-week vacation. So, yes, I have personally felt the rhythm and the awe and all that stuff.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

One of Those Things

Perhaps I share with others this tendency to seek solutions to chronic dilemmas.

It is innate; the characteristic of an easily distracted mortal is to focus on single issues as if they were the one obstacle to our uttermost contentment.

I talk a lot about work. I don't think it's particularly obsessive. They say to write what you know. We hourlies like to talk amongst ourselves about the intractable detachment of management. They are continually grappling with one unsolvable problem after another, in a monotonous cyclical effort to improve the bottom line. Indeed, this is business, and no less should be expected of management. But while most of us probably understand this, we also recognize that the service-oriented world we live in is anything but a perfect one, and problems will remain perpetually. Steps can be taken to effect the frequency and severity of those problems, but some knots will forever kink the direct and unrestrained flow of packages to the customer. Proof of the futility of this pursuit is the end result of all these managerial crusades. They worry it to death for two or three weeks, and, having realized little or no improvement in the situation, (despite their insistence that the problem is completely solvable) they will then inevitably move on to the next unsolvable.

And roll the rock up the hill again.

Listening to a health-oriented talk show, I am given another glimpse of our impatience.

Pardon the subject matter, it was prostate health.

The guest cast dispersions on all herbal supplemental efforts to correct any problems, maintaining that to gain any assistance from the consumption of saw palmetto, for instance, you would need something like twenty pounds a day. But, thanks be to goodness, he had invented this little pill to save the world's males from the ravages of an enlarged prostate.

The subject of frequent nighttime urination was broached (you'll remember I begged your pardon) and the host, the devil's advocate, pitched the guest a nice slow one right down the middle. "Now, isn't it normal to get up once or twice a night to go the restroom?"

"No, it is not. You should never have to go to the restroom in the middle of the night."


Health pipe dreams are numerous. Contrary to a gazillion different opinions, you are still an earthen vessel and subject to drying out regardless of your exercise, your herbs, your medication, or your attitude. But we will always seek permanent solutions to these ailments.

I think the spiritual application is fairly obvious.

There is no permanent solution to finding it difficult oftentimes to pray. There is no formula to follow to prevent you from ever being tempted to worry, no happy pills to take.

We are not allowed to procure a one-time solution to every problem. The grace of God is sufficient, it is not being debt-free, a burgeoning bank account, or accruing interest.

We go back to our Father, again and again, and avail ourselves of His strength, and try not to wonder what sort of grace we will need a week from now.

To attempt to exceed our humanity is, at it's root, a distrustfulness of God. He created us as such fallible mortals for a reason. I don't pretend to completely understand the reason (wouldn't that be the wicked irony) but I try to accept it.

And, I will forever, in this life, struggle to try to accept it. Complete, once-and-for-all acceptance of this would-

well, you get the point.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Another Kind of Test

Have you considered my servant "?"; a blameless and upright man.

There is none like him in all of the earth.

Yes, well . . .

It remains to be seen what he would be in a vacuum.

He needs you. He has nothing else. He clings to you in the absence of everything else.

Give him some worldly pleasure, even just a little innocent earthly success and he may no longer require your crutch.

. . . . .or, don't you trust him?

I know him.

Then, your omniscience, it would, or should, offer proof of your boasting to allow a few distractions to come his way.

As of now, you handicap all of my efforts of seduction with his miserable circumstances.

Let me give him what I can, and we shall see if he still needs, or, wants, you.

Let him be tested.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I was recently made aware of a weakness in my spiritual cast.

Truth is, unfortunately for you, often revealed to me as the conclusion of some abstract line of thought, the real-world conclusion to some hypothetical, sometimes downright nonsensical, syllogism.

As such, it remains difficult to present to you the circuitous route my mind undertook to arrive at a very basic destination. It must suffice to say that I was at work, which is to say I was mobile, due to the nature of my work. It was mid-morning, which means I was in a haze of grim resignation, attempting to rid myself of the last of the day's packages bearing a 10:30 commit time. Some anonymous driver had committed an egregious sin against me, an automotive faux pas so traumatic that I have since blocked it from my mind and cannot remember what the particular offense was, or whether or not it was something as minor as being on the same road as I. Some deep-seated knee-jerk persecution complex constantly feeds data, no matter how minuscule or inconsequential, into a misery meter. (The earlier my little meter pegs out in the morning, the better the day, as it awakens a sense of proportion and perspective. A side note, I recently attempted to readjust my attitude only to discover that I did not wish to not be irritated.)

I soothed the irritation, as I have many times, with a platitude; a variation of, It could be worse. I do this quite often. Exemplary is an instance where I was working much later than I felt just, and delivered a package of medicine to a very grateful paraplegic who was immensely proud of being able to sign his name legibly for the package. I left him sobered and comforted.

Me, not him.

When tempted to everyday frustration, my invariable response is to compare my lot favorably with those more unfortunate than myself.

And that's helpful, but not very biblical.

The logical trouble with proportioning every distasteful thing in your life by saying, yes, but look at him, is that somewhere down the line, waaayyy down the line, somebody far more unfortunate than I looks to his left in search of comfort and finds no one lower than he to use as an emotional stepstone out of the funk. ( I say logical trouble because I recognize that each soul bears his own troubles with more grace than he supposes he would bear anothers.) But it is still logical to adduce that if we are only comforted by looking downhill, when the music stops, some poor sucker is going to be left without a seat.

Moreover, it is a pitiful excuse for comfort. It is slaking your thirst by rolling a pebble around in your mouth to generate saliva when there's a frosted Mason jar of iced tea at your elbow.

Incidentally, that poor, destitute individual you look to for comfort may be happier than you are, indeed, what an epiphany it would prove to discover that you were his comfort!

The upshot: I reckon that the sufferings of this present life (including, but not limited to slow-pokes, financial worries, health problems, stoning, beating, imprisonment, cancer, paralysis, burning at a stake, piece-mealed to lions, upside down crucifixion) are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hoarding Grace

Well I know the frustration of many a pro-active Isrealite upon discovering that their industry in stockpiling manna had proved worthless.

The initial miracle of the bread of heaven must have felt breathtakingly tender. Looking upward as they gathered the mystery carbohydrate, I know their hearts overflowed with gratitude. And common sense dictates thusly: What a wondrous gift to our starving nomadic (misleading term, don't you think? after all, they were headed somewhere) hearts. I must take advantage of this grace and not waste it. Thank you Lord, I'll take it from here.

And so brought out the baskets and laid up a store like any responsible financial planner must do.

And so forth did the parabolic venture capitalist of the New Testament earn the epithet "fool" from Jesus.

This applies not only materially to us, but spiritually, at first a tragedy, then a relief, to our mortal perspective. Were grace awarded on a meritorious earnings basis, we could, as we are wont, plan for our future, taking a little (or a lot, depending on your Scroogeness) out each week for the days ahead.

Thankfully, grace is not awarded meritoriously, hence the term, grace, I guess.

But the sustenance of grace is what I refer to. The strength to go on is given as needed, morning by morning, hour by hour; a frightfully effective way of gaining our peaceful trust.

The Zarapheth widow . . .do you suppose she ever looked into the barrel in the morning, and wondered ungratefully, Why does He not fill it up all the way to the top?

Saturday, July 05, 2008


The trees defer to the wind, and the wind brings them to life. The sighing and breathing are the only sounds I hear, until a fallen maple leaf skates purposefully up the ramp like the planchette of an ouija board, viciously raking the concrete with curled, withered edges, causing me to look over the top of my philosophy text, from my perch on the stone wall.

A Saturday afternoon on guard duty, high atop Mt. Auburn.

The only people on campus today are the ones that have to be here.

I guard, in between short bursts of Kant and Locke, and grow ever more comforted by what I read. By Kant, not Locke. Locke leads a pack of uninspired empiricists who find no meaning in life aside from finding no meaning in life.Kant, on the other hand, and Descartes. . .whisper words of comfort forged by mental anguish and tempered by time, a lullaby of rationalism to soothe my troubled dreams. They see beyond the veil of empirical data, to something at once more abstract and more concrete, a giant premise with mind-blowing implications.

Ockhams's Razor . . . .a fearsome double-edged danger to some, but to me a security, a formidable weapon against the forces of doubt and uncertainty."All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best." or, "Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity."

Hence, God exists. Furthermore, God created.

Stockpiling rationale like it were canned goods and tomorrow Y3K.

Being prepared to give an answer for my faith.(Discreetly laying the cold steel of Ockham's blade against my cheek for comfort.)

Not having the option of trust, having cast away my confidence, I picked up apologetics and brandished it at doubt. Remembering my past draws with the devil, I vowed never to go unarmed again. Had Daniel an AR-15 or Gideon a nuke surely they would've used it and saved God all that trouble.And speaking of nuclear options, that is exactly what faith had become for me.

Samson's last gasp.

I was terrified of trust. Such intimacy with my Maker had burned me, pulling me into a Sisyphan perpetuity of pathetic whimsy, an unbroken string of compulsive contortions to prove my love for God. Having left myself open, the enemy of my soul moved in with a blitzkrieg of scorched-earth maneuvers. Before long, the lush Eden of my salvation was gone and I cowered in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, never having moved, but unsure of where I was anymore. I re-built my spiritual sanity slowly and clinically, brick by brick, never asking for help from above. I knew He was there, but was afraid to look, afraid to ask. What if I heard no reply?

My conscience, once a love language for God and I, had been compromised and I used it no longer. It couldn't be trusted. I fumbled my way through several years, protecting the wounds.They healed, but there is a stiffness left in the joints.

All this may sound extremely melodramatic, but I assure you that no such comforting thought entered my mind at the time. I spent a year or more scared absolutely to death. My mind was twisted and wrung out. I wasted to a pale ghost, looked like death and felt like death. Could I have died with assurance of passage into Heaven I would have gladly done so.

I look at it now in shades of grace. God allowed it, after all, so I belatedly embrace it all, knowing there was a reason. It left a mark on me; a reserve and an awkwardness.I alternate between feeling that it strengthened me and suspecting that it stunted me.I feel a little tougher but a little wizened. Trust is still that nuclear power that is reserved for defense and not tapped for an energy source. I try not to think about whether my Christianity is based on love for God or fear of Him.

The distance is what sends me seeking for reassurance in philosophy and apologetics. Mind you, it is a superfluous pursuit. I don't dream that I would lapse in my faith were I not to find the justification I seek in philosophy and apologetics.

But it's like having the munchies. You just can't stop because it's available.

And palatable. And it spoils your dinner and weakens your immune system.

Would you rather arm yourself with Kant or that which pierces to the marrow?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Every Day Problems

Stupid people.
Yellow curb. Means park somewhere else.
Looking for a free lunch, perfect pitch, the holy grail, or a parking spot in front of the courthouse, which for this truck means a 35 foot slot in the lineup.
Not only are they parked on yellow, aCROSS from the sheriff's office, they hadn't the decency to close up the gaps. Between every bumper and fender ekes a tantalizing 30 feet, as if they only had so many cars to lock up all the parallel spots so they had to space em out.
Ever since the arraignment for one Charles Haught, middle-aged life drop-out, rapist and murderer of one Wesley Campbridge, seven year-old, ever since every mobile news unit from three surrounding counties had converged and taken up residence in front of Bourbon County Circuit Courthouse, people had ceased fudging the customary ten to fifteen feet of yellow, and now strung all the way across it in the spirit of the old adage about forgiveness and permission.
If Action News 36 can do it, well by George. . .
In my mind I know it's 9:43 and in my DIAD are 8 uncompleted 10:30 commit stops, two of them bulk, and one of them across town.
Without looking, I sense a looming diesel presence in the fold-out sideview mirror, the same white Ford dualy that's been dogging me from 10th Street, edging out from behind just enough to make sure I know he wants around.
Knock yourself out, sweetheart. F'you can fit that monster in between my mirror and the half-lane that's left, you're more driver than I am. No doubt he thinks he is. More to the point, no doubt he's been cussin me all the way down Main since I pulled in front of him.
Had to cut somebody off.
Watched twenty cars amble by with that same maddening gap precision.
Twenty cars, a minute-and-a-half I ain't got.
The second I nosed out into traffic, he ghosted up to my bumper so close I could see the Ford oval on his grill in my rear camera monitor.
Yeah, now you're in a hurry.
I can see his mouth moving, so I put words in it.
Fool kid, pull out in front of me, and some other words that normally I would never think, were I not forced into providing captions for his thought balloons.
It wouldn't bother me so much if I didn't feel just a little bit guilty. Guilt pressed in between time and stress oozes out looking like road rage.
A blue Caravan with a bandaged rear window and a bumper just hanging on for dear life pulls away from the curb in front of me, at about the same time the Ford gets the four inches he's been wanting for ten blocks, and here he comes, loosening the reins of all 350 horses, and billowing acrimony from both 5 inch chrome horns.
The hapless grocery-getter dawdles on out in his lane.
He hauls up on the reins, the whistling downshift an automotive curse.
If I had time, I'd be laughing. Good thing I don't.
He's up even with me now, looking right at me, distilling all his frustration with the Caravan and the world in general into the last minute spent staring at the back of a delivery truck.
I can see his silent swearing indignance.
He's a mouth breather. Unfortunate orifice, that. The gaps in between the parked cars should be so wide.
Still, he manages to impart more scorn through his NASCAR shades and the bubbled tint than Estella ever cast down on Pip, Chillingworth on Rev. Dimmesdale, or the parabled Pharisee upon the publican.
Turning my attention to the vast expanse of gleaming yellow curb vacated by the departing Caravan, I cut as close as I can and then back, dimming the luminous paint with my rubbing tires.
The stop I need is half a block back.
Shoving the truck into park, I fall into a habitual series of movements, park, brake, key out, seatbelt off, mirror in, bulkhead door; a succession so varied but seamless, a truly Faulkneresque regimen.
Dodging strategically positioned and scarcely mobile redneck sidewalk ornaments, I finally make it to the intended destination, a lawyer's office, and pull hard on the door.
It's locked, and the jolt shakes the glassed-in front wall.
The over-cooked, under-worked (minesweeper?) secretary jerks around so suddenly that her desk chair becomes a tilt-a-whirl, and she steadies herself with a what on earth expression. (oh help, another mouth breather)
Sizing up the situation, she then laughs, slaps the desk so hard I can hear it out here, and puts her forehead down on her hand, big shoulders shaking.
9:46. Odd seconds rush out into eternity while she has a good winding down laugh about how startled she was and how she forgot to unlock that front door again!
She gets up from the chair in hitches and explains the noise over her shoulder to someone in the back room, actually stopping mid-way and, what, turning to raise her voice because they can't hear her.
When she opens the door, "Oh my land's sakes, you scared me to death-" throwing her head down and slapping a meaty thigh, and sucking in the next phrase through a hearty laugh "I-I-I thought somebody ran into the building-ing-ing, and and Haley hollered up here and said, 'What in tarnation is that, did some kid run his bicycle into the front door?' Ooohhhh, I forgot to unlock it!"
I, am speechless.
Come in.
I would, of course, decline, but it appears she isn't going to physically accept the package, possible germophobe, but no, she just stuck a pen in her mouth.
The packages, including this 2 oz. next-day-air envelope, go on a table in that back room.
The one on the left?
No, down the stairs, to the right, through the gray door.
Returning from the dungeon, I offer her the DIAD to sign.
Oh no, Betty signs for everything.
Downstairs, you didn't see her?
Poor Betty's been having indigestion all morning, she explains when she emerges from the rest room at 9:52.
How fast can you empathize?
My foot is one inch from the bottom step of the truck when a voice falls across my tense shoulders like a war club.
Hey, buddy.
Contemplation of feigned deafness tempts me for a second.
Yeah? Turning, sounding relaxed, helpful.
Oh no, it's Jethro Bodine gone to neglected seed, Santa Clause's Appalachian counterpart, except I don't think he's going to give me anything.
The v-necked t-shirt stopped being white shortly after it stopped trying to reach down to the sweat pants. Chest hair, copious and curly, nestles in the plunging neckline.
The grace of a beard has been weeded out to a mockery of sweat, oil and tangles.
Sixty degrees and sweat beads his forehead and speckles his shirt.
He hooks a thumb to the courthouse.
Can you tell me what that says?
Over his shoulder my eyes focus on a computer-printed sign taped to the door of the courthouse.
Forgot his glasses, I guess.
Hurrying around him, I'm almost there before I realize the print is three inches tall.
Behind me, I hear "I just. . . can't read."
Something jams into my spokes, locking up the wheels of time and task and what I call trouble.
Uh, it says the courthouse is closed-ummm, scanning the two lines as if it were fine print
-uh, open. . . tomorrow.
Turning to face him, Well that's odd, babbling, wonder why they're closed, no holiday.
That's okay, he says.
All right, well have a good one, man.
Sorry-he looks me in the eye-just, can't read.
Hey, no problem, no problem at all, have a good one, have a good day.
I thank ye'.
You t-no problem, have- we'll see you.
Delivering next day air, I don't have time to think about the flush that stains my cheeks, or the lump clogging my throat.