When I consider that I thought it both wise and beneficial to use my last post to explain how talking works, and when I further consider that I thought this at age 35 while in graduate school pursuing a so-called “masters” degree, I have to admit that I chuckle.
The other day H- pointed out that I’m in 18th grade. 18th grade and I finally understand talking. Nice.
Given that post’s unexpectedly pleasant reception, though, I figure I might as well keep sharing the results of all my schooling. On the docket today is one observation about education. Specifically, I’m intrigued by how, when discussing the recorded events of antiquity, we note that the assertions go like, “Aristotle was Plato’s student.” Less frequently they might say, “Aristotle went to the Academy.” And yet, even then, there is still some tacit agreement to add, “…where he studied under Plato.”
Today, however, we don’t talk like that. Over the millennia, we’ve changed the way we talk about education. We now assert some generalization like, “I went to college.” Or, “He studied recreation management.” Or, “She got her degree from KU.” On some level, these statements make clear and defensible claims; but on another level what they communicate is unclear and indefensible. This other level is the one I want to draw your attention to; this other level is the one that I believe the walls might talk about, if the walls could talk.
If the walls could talk, they might say, “Trust me, if there’s one fact I’m certain of, it is this: I have never taught you anything–nor will I ever be able to. I’m a wall.”
Put another way, I am half-way through 18th grade and I am happy to report that I have learned that walls do not talk.
Hereafter, then, if you announce that you ‘went to college’, then I’m going to ask who you studied under. If I don’t know your professors, I’m going to ask if you actually did. If you say you didn’t, then I’m going to ask how many more years of schooling you think it should take to learn to consider whether being educated by strangers in the name of “a better job” is wise.
I’m going to start asking these questions because after 18 years, it is clear that 18 years is entirely too much time spent learning what any six year old can understand.
But that’s just me. What about you? Do you understand?
Clever title, no? Last week I introduced that for my Christian character formation class I have committed myself to working on the Christian trait of humility. I shared this partly with the intent of demonstrating what such a process looks like for adult Christians seeking a bit more rigor in their faith (not to take credit for developing this method, but to give an example of what a masters degree program at an Evangelical seminary entails). One active practice that I am going to use to work on humility is a weekly blog post dedicated to reflection on how the process is coming along. Three hundred plus word reflection starts now.
It turns out I’m not very comfortable with the idea of blogging about humility. God has seen fit that I possess the ability to read word definitions and talking and writing about my thoughts on humility seems counter-humble. As evidence of this, when I look back on my blog most of my blog posts have been laced with pride. Many were much more than laced. I don’t regret any of my boastful posts or their evidence of self-righteousness or snarkyness, not at all. How could I? I’ve ended up on a good path and to look back and regret would be a mistake. But I do now see how maladjusted my attitude was. And I do repent of that. I’ve been blessed with too much goodness to be so prideful.
As a result of this, part of me wanted to just publish a blank post titled humility because that’s what I really think about the subject. But that would require me to tell my mentor or mentoring director that I bent the rules a bit on my plan (it requires a weekly 300+ word reflection on the process), which in turn would require justification, which in turn would require more talking, which in turn would require more pride, which is the opposite of my goal. So I’m not going with the blank creative “look at how clever I am” concept.
So the real question is, “How does one who has written so many words out of pride adopt a new attitude of humility?” with the follow-up, “…and be convincing to (possibly) the same readers?”
The first step seems to be to ensure the words convey that the end state of Christian humility is constant recognition of total dependence on God, the father almighty. At the moment I’d express this dependence by thanking God for the ability to blog over the past few years. He has provided me half-a-pea-sized brain and fingers and food and shelter and a laptop and internet connection. Most humans have not been so fortunate. And I want to thank the folks in my life, especially my brother-in-law and the members in Cherry Creek Toastmasters, for encouraging me to blog/write. I don’t believe they intended me to re-adopt Christianity (or be re-adopted by Christianity as it were), but I can’t imagine how I would’ve gotten to the point of working on humility without blogging and therefore without them.
Speaking of, one CCTM friend just emailed me a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “Weight of Glory” sermon last night (he’s never emailed me anything specifically Christian before) and as I read my class textbook today I came across portions of that very sermon/writing by Lewis (never mentioned before). Given the preponderance of “threes” when it comes to these things, we’ll just have to wait and see how Lewis’ work will next appear. And it is some solid writing. In the past I would’ve mocked this as coincidence. These days I am inclined to determine why God sees fit to impress upon me these specific ideas of Lewis’. So I thank God that friends aren’t afraid to share a bit of their life with me as I attempt to transform my own.
Another shift that I can’t help but notice as I’ve been specifically reading on humility and also memorizing the Psalms (which through Psalm 10:16 are in fact uniform on our dependence on God), is my thinking about my ex-wife regarding rearing H-. We were still married for H-‘s first two years, and I’ve said and written many times that she did a great job during those two years. But then I would continue by adding a malicious assessment of the reason (that only I–as her husband and confidant–knew) as to why she did a great job. Does that make sense? I would undercut the compliment with a punch to the throat that only I could deliver because of secrets I knew. Well, though I might not be able to explain it fully, these days I honestly don’t desire to punch. It’s not because I’m tired of punching, but because I can now see how God gave us H- despite ourselves. Her mom and I were just a couple of knuckleheads trying to live the American dream. So these days I just want to express gratitude to her for mothering and nurturing H- with an integrity and discipline that many contemporary American women simply don’t value.
I don’t have a conclusion here so I’m just going to use this admission as one.
Damyanti, Stephswint, iGamemom, Stuart M. Perkins, Frausto, E.I. Wong, Man of Many Thoughts, theryanlanz, RobertOkaji, Elan Mudrow, Dennis Cardiff, KidazzleInk, Dieter Rogiers, Christine Fichtner, Betsy, Karen, Daedalus, Ron, Drew, David, Joan, Vince, Alex, Joe, Eileen, Elliani, Susan, Greeny, Schoen, Tripp, Andy, Garrett, Shannon, Preston, Janet, Larry, Kate, Sam, (Mike?), Grandma, Grandpa, Noa, and K-: Thank you for reading. Some of you have read every single post, and it seems that the rest of you have read nearly every post. Thank you. You give me your time and that means the world to me. Thank you.
We’re all busy today, but in exchange for two minutes more, I’ll give you guys tomorrow off. Please keep reading.
I have quit every job I have had since leaving the Air Force. The other day I finally figured out why. The reason has to do with time and energy. I gave all my time and all my energy to my singular goal of becoming a hero pilot for the United States of America for over a decade. And now when I unintentionally find myself in front of a news source, I see stuff about ISIS. To be clear, I can’t shake the feeling that I wasted my time and energy. If I believe serving in the Air Force of a country whose way of life is worth defending to the death is a waste, you needn’t read my anti-carwash/anti-customer posts to empathize with how I might feel about working at a carwash. Simply put, I realized I’m once bitten, twice shy as they say.
But through it all it’s been seeing your gravatars at the bottom of the posts that keeps me writing. I don’t think it’s a waste of my time to improve my writing, because I think I have something to say. Whether I do have anything of value to contribute on a large-scale is yet to be seen. What I know is that you make me feel like I might. While this blog is primarily a sounding board, I spend hours making sure I don’t think I’m wasting your time. And I think my writing has improved. I’m especially proud of Piano Practice and there is no way I could’ve written that without two years of your encouragement. Again, thank you.
Next to H- and the Mark Twain Listening Club, this blog is the only other thing I give my full attention to. If your name is in the list above, whether you care or not, know that you are one of my top three reasons to try–to fight–in this life. But there is one name missing.
I met George two years ago. He is a constant source of inspiration. He is as principled a man as I have met, moreover he reads and responds sincerely to every post. I have moved away from nearly every friend I’ve ever had for one reason or another and will not hesitate to admit that I’m scared to ever lose George. Honestly, regarding my writing, his encouragement falls under the “dangerous” category.
To know that someone believes in you is probably the most empowering/powerful feeling we can experience as humans. Only I know how I’ve handled this life, and despite the tone that I’m sure comes through in my words, the great “I Am” knows that the truth is not pretty. But that’s the thing about believing in someone. It’s contagious. I know George believes in me. And that makes me believe in me. That makes me believe that no matter what mistakes–sometimes terrible mistakes–I’ve made, the fight is winnable and worth winning.
Thank you George.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
The only way to get there is together.
I began a story that has had four parts now, and plan to continue it in order to see how it ends. I’m just going to name the future parts “Part 5, 6, 7” etc. The posts can be found under the “Creative Writing” category on the right, in the “Untitled Serial” sub-category. If you’re just joining, so far, the story has been “I’ve Had More Fun”, “I’ve Had More Fun Part 2”, “Tara”, and “Waking up.”
Jason waited patiently for Jim to wake up. While waiting, he flipped the channels on the television, pretended he was Jim and ordered a meal via the bedside radio connection to the nursing staff, and dozed off four times. Finally, Jim opened his eyes.
“Hey bud. How are you?” Jason asked earnestly. “Frank’s gone. For good.”
“I’ve had more fun,” Jim answered. It was an honest answer, but one whose sarcasm betrayed his sober awareness of the situation. “I feel pretty dumb though. Running in after Tara like that; not waiting for the rescue squad. As if I could’ve done anything to save her even if she had still been alive.”
“I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself Jimbo,” Jason said, as he pushed the unfinished plate of food a little further from view. He then reached for the nurses radio again and ordered Jim some food.
“Uh, I don’t think that’s a room service button Jason,” Jim offered.
“Hmm. Worked last time,” Jason mumbled thoughtlessly.
“Never mind. Look, I’ve been talking with the doctors Jim. There’s something you need to know. I couldn’t believe it myself when I first heard it, so it’s a good thing you’re lying down. It’s about your hands.”
Jim shifted in his bed, but was unable to use his arms to help adjust, so he ended up returning to the same position from which he began–flat on his back, head propped up by the pillow.
Jason continued, “Guys like me and you, guys who focus on only one area of life, we wouldn’t know these things, but apparently the world of amputation is quite advanced these days.” He watched Jim’s eyes, waiting for him to bite. “In the past, once a limb was gone, it was gone. And if someone lost their hands like you did, then they’d probably be done for.” He saw Jim look at his hand-less wrists with longing. “But,” Jason resumed, “you, my friend, are in luck. Because of the wonderful advancements in medical technology, cloning, and an ever increasing general attitude of compassion, the doctors say they think, (nothing is one hundred percent of course), but they think you will have the use of hands again.”
“Really?” Jim asked, finally displaying some hope.
“Really. But these new hands will work a bit differently than your old ones. Instead of just thinking what you want them to do, like you could before, like I’m doing right now, the best the doctors can offer is voice activated hands,” Jason said.
“Na, you’re just pulling my leg, I can tell,” Jim said, beginning to shake his head. “You’re sick man. Making fun of a man who lost his hands trying, in vain, to save his woman.”
Unable to suppress his contagious smile, Jason concluded, “I’m serious Jim. Voice activated. You simply say what you want, and hands will do it. Here, try it. Ask for a drink,” Jason said, not going to be deterred from finishing. Not in the mood, Jim just laid back, curious to see where his friend’s joke would end. Imitating Jim’s voice horribly, Jason said, “I think I’d like a drink.” Then Jason picked up a glass of water and began to attempt to place the straw in between Jim’s smiling, though wriggling with all their might to deny insertion, lips. Open-mouthed laughter between the two men concluded the earnest battle and clinched the win for Jason, whose victory speech was simply, “See? Voice activated hands.”
Jim realized he was actually kind of thirsty, so despite not wanting Jason to feel too good, he took a drink.
“I don’t think you understand. My living room came to life. I can only interpret this to mean that my will, my hopes, my desires–that I–manifest the future,” Pete told his friend.
Given that Pete, like any man, has an impressive streak of riding high on life at times, we should note that his claim isn’t quite unfounded. Before explaining his claim’s seeming impossibility, we must first denote 2012’s sublime specimen of synchronicity. Back in 1989, as a mere child of eight our hero saw the film Top Gun. You know, the movie starring Tom Cruise that pretty much did recruiter’s jobs for them ever since? Yeah, that Top Gun. He then went on to become a military pilot. While serving as a pilot, he was a member of a squadron which had an unofficial theme song. The theme song was Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive. Here’s the kicker. In 2012, Tom Cruise starred in a film called Rock of Ages (which unlike Top Gun did not inspire anyone) in which he (TC) sings Wanted Dead or Alive. Think about that for a second. Coincidence or not, that’s some seriously Mufasa C-O-L shit.
Back to our story…
“No Pete, I do understand. I just don’t think it’s more than a coincidence. I don’t think there is any hidden meaning. I can’t believe I’m even acknowledging the idea that you control the future, but I am, and you don’t,” the Debbie-downer replied.
“You can’t tell me it’s just coincidence. When people walk into this place what do they see first? Metallica hanging on the wall. Then they notice the beautifully 670lb Steinway and Sons grand piano,” Pete said, taking a breath that signaled that he was not going down without a fight. “And last night, for all the world to see, Metallica and a Steinway and Sons piano performed together on the same stage! How many people have Steinway and Metallica in the same room?” he asked, using hand motions to bolster his claim. “How many? Maybe 3. Maybe 20. But I’m one of them,” he said, his crescendo one self-assessment away from its peak. “Man, I feel good right now!”
“Yes Pete. And did you notice that you have a globe of Earth in the room too? And the performance happened on Earth!” his friend mocked. Continuing, he said, “And there are lights in this room! And the concert had lights!” Pete was no longer smiling. “And we’re in a room. And they performed in a room!”
“Go to hell.”
“And there are people in this room…”
We used to be so close. Your touch was so soft, so warm. When I needed you, you were always there for me. Sometimes you’d pull away in the middle of the night. Sometimes you’d get all twisted up. Sometimes it seemed like I had to fight to get you back. But return, you always did.
Recently, I feel like the one who has been neglecting you. I’m the one who has been staying away some nights. I’m the one who has chosen a shoddy imitation of you–even though I know better.
When we touched the other night I almost cried. A flood of memories came rushing back. We used to spend hours upon hours together. You don’t know how desperately I want to return to that life. I just can’t right now. There are bills to pay. There are mountains to explore. There is writing to do.
I’m sorry Sheets, but I just don’t think this reduced amount of time together will end anytime soon. I miss you.
(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)
“You have a sister? What’s she like?”
“She’s cool. You’ll like her.”
“Do you guys look alike, notwithstanding she’s a girl?”
“Not really. She’s a lot lighter than me. It’s actually kinda funny. My sisters are all light brown, while I’m black–even though we have the same parents.”
“I knew someone who had the same problem.”
“What problem? What problem is that?”
Lucky for her, he asked this only moments before bursting into one of the most contagious laughs imaginable. Lucky for her, he had one of the best senses-of-humor available. His ability to laugh transformed a moment more serious souls might have let become negatively charged into one filled with the glorious sounds of laughter. Laughing uncontrollably, even she was unable to successfully join enough words together to mount whatever self-defense she had in mind.
Instructions for How To Laugh:
Step 1 – Resist all temptation to believe people actually think before they speak.
Step 2 – While smiling, immediately exhale the full amount of whatever air happens to be in your lungs.
Step 3 — Inhale as able.
Step 4 – Appropriate to the situation, repeat Steps 2 and 3 with ridiculously nonsensical rhythm.
No doubt durable, the brown, rubber coated metal picnic table was exploding with sandwich ingredients: two loaves of bread, two packages of ham, two packages turkey, one package of pepper jack cheese, one package gouda, one bottle of mayonnaise, and one bottle mustard. Present also were the sides to include individual bags of chips, apples and oranges; and dessert–nutty bars. Lastly there were sandwich bags. All this was resting amidst coolers filled with beer and dinner, a couple camp stoves, their personal cookware, and some French presses lazily soiled with the morning’s coffee grounds.
As socially graceful as possible they all took turns preparing their lunches that they would then carry in various forms of Camelback backpacks. Each person’s pack matched their personality. The veteran’s was camouflage, the ladies’, trim. The photographer’s had pockets large enough for a professional quality camera; the different guy used a modern word for fanny pack.
Once packed, the group packed the unused food in the cars, and grabbed the morning’s trash bags. Ah, bears. The probably unnecessary precaution justified itself through the addition of the slight thrill of danger. That and being prepared is never a bad thing.
The hike now well under way, storm clouds populated the distant horizon. The group pressed onward. The intervals between the unseen lighting’s thunderclaps decreased as the distance they traveled above the tree line increased. A light sprinkle had not yet become annoying as they began to notice most of the blue sky had become shades of grey.
One party became two.
As those with significant others present headed back down, the alone-and-unafraid pressed their luck.
Unifying them all was a hunger. Friend helped friend as they unzipped each other’s packs and grabbed the sandwiches. Was it the rain? Was it the hiking? Was it the company? Whatever it was, they had never tasted as good a sandwich as at that moment. And never had smiles spread so quickly.
Upon finishing their chocolaty peanut butter goodness, the two groups discovered they weren’t so far apart after all. The clouds parted and the sun’s return was interpreted only as it should have been—the punctuation to the joy incarnate they knew to be lunch on the trail.
It turns out James Hetfield with his rhythm guitar, not Lars Ulrich with his drums, is really the one who keeps Metallica in time. Okay, truthfully this is probably debatable. Nonetheless, there is an opportunity for a great metaphor here. Who among us would dispute music’s inherent power?
Aside from what some noble, lofty lyrics of poets and dreamers say about finding music in nature and what not, in order to create music someone must keep time. If no one is keeping time, no amount of effort can transform noise into one of humanity’s most powerful expressions of itself. Music.
What about life? Cannot life itself be interpreted in a similar manner? In the end, noise and music are probably not perfectly distinct. There is likely a continuum with one end being noise; the other being music. What would it hurt to place human potential along a similar continuum? One end being not reaching potential, possibly not even seeing the potential; the other being maximum potential realization.
And if somewhere on the noise to music continuum there appears a time keeper, would not the human-potential continuum also need a time keeper? Need people who actively prescribe the standard of measure? Not some ultimate quality control dictating to all whether the music is good or not, no. These people would simply be keeping time. Might these human-potential metronomes even borrow similar tactics from mechanical metronomes and repeat themselves steadily with regularity? Asking, “How are you today?” (Click) “How’s your goal coming along?” (Click) “What’s the next step?” (Click) “I care about you reaching your potential and am here to help in any way you think I can.” (Click)
And just like the wind-up metronomes, might even these human-potential metronomes occasionally need to be re-energized every once in a while? Remember then, it is the same fingers that make the music which are the ones that have to take a break to reset the metronome. Wouldn’t it be the same people busily reaching their potential that need to take a break and reset these human-potential time keepers? Notice even that winding up a metronome still requires purposeful effort.
Thank you Cherry Creek Toastmasters.
Yes. We need time keepers.