As a child I remember hearing and repeating one disparaging joke about Ethiopians. That was the breadth of my awareness of that people. As an adult I find myself working alongside them. Just before taking this job, for a different reason, a white South African friend shared with me that what he knows of Ethiopians is that they fight, meaning they still have backbones–regardless of which side they’re fighting for.
A seemingly unrelated second memory from when I was a child is that my dad owned his small business. One day he came home from work and shared with my mom that his secretary essentially gave him the what-for about how he didn’t know how to do anything right. I can’t remember all the details but I remember how angry my mom was that my dad didn’t stick up for himself. My dad would tell you to this day that he does not like or believe in confrontation, and that he intentionally searches for the way forward that includes everyone being happy.
So, here’s the memory merge. Just over one year ago I began this new job. Shortly after beginning in one department I was moved to another. The man that trained me in this new department, on day one, lambasted the workers in our department on the earlier shifts. (It’s a 24-hr factory.) I remember thinking, “If he’s saying that to me about them on day one, then what’s going to stop him from saying that about me if I’m ever on another shift than him?”
Suffice it to say my suspicion was correct. The minute another worker quit, I switched shifts and subsequently discovered that my former-trainer was talking shyat about me during the pass-down every morning.
Dread, in any form, is no fun. Over the course of time I shared the situation with my Ethiopian co-worker and friend, and at first he thought I was probably not assessing things accurately. After a bit of contemplation he changed his mind and said, “You know what? If you’re complaining about him, something is off.”
To my sheer delight, my Ethiopian friend later initiated the following conversation. He said, “You know what, Pete? K- and I used to argue and get into it with each other every day. Then one day I said to him, ‘K-, if you have a question, something work related, you can ask me. Other than that, do not ever, ever, ever, ever, ever talk to me again.’ After that he stopped talking to me. These days we talk, sure. But it was only after a long time had passed.”
The funny thing about the entire thing is that when it comes to watching someone else be attacked, I won’t stand for it for one second, and I will shed any and all concern for myself and my circumstances as I move in to defend. But when I’m the recipient, I just absorb it.
Other advice includes the following gems. My mom says, “Be happy there is only one.” One of the Reverends from church says, “A lady once told me she had a similar situation at work. She prayed that the LORD would bless the co-worker. In three days they were promoted to supervise another department and peace was restored.” A friend from school, also randomly South African, said the biblical course of action would be address the dude one-on-one, then escalate to supervisors and HR when he doesn’t change. He also exhorted that I ask the LORD to change both our hearts.
Here’s what I did. Well, first, you need to know this. One night at the club, one of the girls told me that some guy was getting a little too handsy during the lap dance and so she stopped and then he stiffed her on the money. She came to me because I was the manager at the time. I asked her what she wanted and she wanted both her money and him to be thrown out. After entirely too much talking with the dude, I got her the money, but decided that he could have another chance. When I reported this news to the woman, well, let’s just say that the look this woman gave me was something I would not wish on anyone. I said to her, “Okay. You’re right. He’s leaving now. I’m probably gonna get slugged though.”
Sure enough, I told him I changed my mind and his friend and him had to leave. While looking at his friend, I felt the dude’s knuckles against the back of my skull. After slight and inconsequential chaos he was then escorted out. (It never ceased to amaze me how the party never hesitated, no matter if fights were happening, or where–including on stage between girls. Customers just wanted to get wasted around women, girls just wanted money. But everyone expected these things to happen and the company to have staff that was able to handle them surely and painlessly.)
The lessons were many, but most notable for my current predicament was that I went alone. I should’ve had another guy with me. And I did from then on.
So I didn’t have the one-on-one chat with my co-worker last week. I prepared to head to HR and get the third person involved from the get-go, especially because the problem is exactly that this guy is a hot-head and totally unapproachable. Upon resolving to get HR, I decided I wanted one more instance before I went, and as these things go, the week went off without much drama, especially considering there’s a new trainee that keeps him occupied.
What’s so funny to me about it is that I know myself so well that I know I won’t refrain from answering his BS responses in words and tones that must-needs compel him to action during the consequently never-gonna-happen one-on-one chat.
Is this self-awareness what my dad felt? Is he a all-or-nothing guy that just chooses nothing? Who knows. Pretty sure we’ll chat about it after he reads this.
Okay. Not to be picky, but I’m really only looking for stories about how you got the person fired. We’re fooling ourselves if we think these people change. I can only think of one sure way, but I don’t feel like getting hit. Whatcha got?
A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was struggling tremendously with the notion of salaried pastors. I was struggling because I am essentially in training to become a pastor and yet I couldn’t imagine how at the end of my schooling I’d somehow be willing to not need a job anymore because some congregation paid me to be their pastor while they worked their crummy jobs everyday. In an effort to gain insight and make a point, I asked why did you (the public) pay me to be an Air Force officer and pilot. Only a few folks answered and there wasn’t tremendous agreement. But I know why you paid me even if you don’t. You paid me to be virtuous. Sure, military officers are “yes men” and flawed no different than anyone else, but we’d be missing something vital if we didn’t recognize that they still possess tremendous power and regularly refrain from abusing it. Military officers control the bombs. Do we want incompetent liars in control of the bombs? No. (Iowa might). So I say that the reason American citizens pay their military well (sorry folks, but the military is well-paid despite the colloquial wisdom) is because it creates the ability to recruit and maintain a virtuous fighting force.
Back to pastors. And not just any pastors but me and my future as (possibly) one. What would it mean if I took pay to be a pastor and therefore didn’t need a regular job? Here’s how I can comfortably rationalize it. (The following should come as no surprise). Christians believe in purpose. They believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord…insert the rest of the Apostle’s Creed. And yet they live in a world which behaves as if there is no purpose. Therefore, it is very easy to forget that there is purpose. How could they be reminded that there is purpose? By a leader who is designated to keep an eye on the prize, so to speak. (Remember that the reason we know, rationally, that purpose is objectively true is that it is beneficial to live accordingly, which then becomes self-fulfilling as a result.)
I started this blog with the tag line “the only way to get there is together”. I think that that is still true and theologically sound. When I came up with the additional “life on a different plane” tagline I did not intend to capture anything to do with God. Now I do.
When I served, I was a pilot of a crew helicopter. There were six of us on the crew. Four of the six served in auxiliary roles which enabled the two pilots to focus on keeping the greasy side up, as we used to say. Besides simply flying safely, the two pilots were also the ones ultimately charged with completing the mission.
So that’s what I’m proposing now. That’s what I’m comfortable with today. Maybe I’ll be a pastor someday, maybe not. If I am one, the reason I would be comfortable being paid by the congregation for what I would consider “doing nothing” is because I would interpret the monetary part of it to be that my role is again that of a captain which necessarily requires a certain level of discipline. The congregation is no different than the four non-pilot aircrew. They are doing jobs that I view as crummy, but until we collectively come up with something better those jobs are apparently necessary. Necessary? Necessary for what? Necessary to keep the plane (the Church) right-side up, safe, and able to complete its mission, its purpose.
For now, crummy job or not, keep on keeping on. I will too. And together we’ll get there.
We’re studying source and form criticism of the Pentateuch. Orthodox Christianity has it that Moses is the author, and it was written around 1300 BC. Super smart Germans in the late 1800s AD developed a hypothesis that super smart westerners continue to support that these first five books of the Bible are comprised of material from several sources and authors and with nefarious, political agendas anywhere from 1100 BC to 500 BC.
First question: Does it really matter? Yes. One illustration of why it matters–Jesus of Nazareth is recorded as saying “As Moses wrote…” Things start crumbling if Jesus Christ lied.
Second question: Is humility a virtue (and therefore worth aspiring toward)? Much of the doctrine of this school revolves around orienting the student’s focus during our lifetimes. Are we to be centered on the human or God? Boldly claiming that despite the fact that there is no empirical evidence confirming the “documentary hypothesis” and millenia of tradition rejecting it that you are confident that Moses did not write the Pentateuch is a “human” or a “self-centered” perspective. On the other hand, concluding that while it’s important to account for the Pentateuch’s claims against the archaeological record, a spirit of humility in the concession that thousands of years of tradition probably counts as passing the test of time is “God” centered.
There seems to be a undertone that only academically incapable minds would reasonably conclude humility is the best course. But I’ve been going to school with you, living with you, and listening to you for a total of thirty-four years now. And I’ve out-performed all but the brightest of you–when I’ve cared to–according to the ways we sinners have developed to measure such things. And yet I hear most of you questioning my academic prowess in my confession of humility and vote for “God” centered-ness.
Just a passing thought that intrigued me during class today. On to the opening pages of A New Catholic Catechism and not enough sleep. Wish me luck.
Great comments. Thank you for taking the time to share.
Koine Greek is apparently a language where word order doesn’t matter as much as it does in English. A bad illustration of this is in Greek you could say, “Is green the house” or “the house is green” or “Green is the house” and other features of the language render each of those orders equivalent to “the house is green”. I mention this because I attempted to use a tactic of Greek to open yesterday’s post. Since word order is variable within a sentence, writer’s are in a sense more free to make their points via word order. Scholars, then, have concluded that the first word of a Koine Greek sentence contains the emphasis of the thought. And that’s why I began by saying “allegedly”. I wanted to succinctly indicate that I wasn’t beating a drum or jumping to conclusions etc.
Given the all-to-familiar reports of the Columbine murderers’ asking “Are you a Christian?”, and given Evangelical Christianity’s (the brand I’m participating in) tendency to believe the “end times” are near and therefore view any attack on Christians as proof, I too was skeptical of this claim when it was presented. We all have our opinions about the integrity and motives of newspapers, but when the New York Times and Wall Street Journal both include the claim, I would like to believe we can all agree that there is at least a strength to it. Maybe not. In any case, only time will tell if the claim is verifiable and true.
So what was the seminary’s response? Prayer.
Allegedly, the shooter singled out Christians.
Because my ego knows no bounds, after first hearing about this shooting this morning whilst in Greek class at seminary, I immediately thought of you and how surely you’re curious to know how a school bent on training Christian leaders would respond/feel/think/report this shooting. And I’ll tell you–after you tell me what you guess the scene was like. Because I’m desperate to hear reactions from the people on the streets. One rule. Be honest. What was your first reaction to first hearing that Christians were singled out? And what was your first reaction to my question, “I wonder how Pete’s seminary presented/responded to the reports that Christians were singled out?”
As I keep sharing with folks that I’m excited to be in a masters program that is based in “purpose”, I keep getting the same response I already mentioned.
“You’re going to school to become a preacher?”
It seems, then, that a further note of clarification is in order.
I never have, nor ever will believe in educating myself in order to gain financially. I went to college after high school because I wanted to be (first an FBI or CIA agent and finally) an Air Force officer and pilot. I wanted to “be” those things because of what they meant in and of themselves. Whether I was paid or not was never part of the equation. Becoming them required college, therefore, college.
But somewhere along the way learning became an end in addition to a means. For a Three Amigos plethora of reasons, I am now taking courses at a local seminary because I am interested, not in someday getting paid for my future and resultant mastery of all things evangelical Christianity, but rather I am interested in what a right relationship with God looks like. And this in order to determine if I want to pursue that sort of thing.
Put another way, there is a quote from Tom Selleck’s Mr. Baseball where he is exasperatedly explaining to the exceedingly high work-ethic filled Japanese team to which he’s been demoted that: “Baseball is a game and games are supposed to be fun.” Like Selleck’s delivery of this line, I can’t do more than encourage you to discover learning as an end. I can’t reason you into understanding this anymore than he can force the Japanese team to have fun.
One more observation: It’s nice to be around people who can read aloud with confidence. (Maybe everyone in a masters program can, but for some reason I have been surprised that nobody elects to “pass” when it’s their turn to read and also that they don’t struggle with English. And even writing this now makes me suspicious. Should it really take a college degree to be able to read aloud?)
Are you doing what they tell you? Or are you doing what you want?
That’s it, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the takeaway. That’s Miller’s point. That’s the lesson learned.
In a word, “Don’t do what they tell you.”
Why not? Because if you’re doing what they tell you before the world goes mad, then you will definitely do what they tell you after the world goes mad. Make no mistake, though, the world will go mad. And we won’t all get to be Max or Furiosa.
So in Mad Max: Fury Road there’s an enormous skull thing carved out of a rock face. We’re shown this shrine in the first few minutes of the film. As awesome as the rest of the movie was, and it was awesome, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the megalomaniacs in charge of the barbarian hordes convinced anyone to create that sculpture. I mean the world’s gone to shit already. Why keep up the symbols? Who would even possess the skill and dexterity to create such a large piece of pseudo-art?
But then I think of my time in the service and also in the oil fields. Men are capable of wondrous deeds. Moreover, people love when those in power direct their attention on them. Even I have fallen prey to basking in the limelight of a boss’s approval despite knowing it was unwarranted or wholly irrelevant. And in those moments I can see Mr. Bossman saying, “I want a skull thing,” and men answering, “Where?”
No more, I say.
The more I write, the more conversations I have with close friends and family about things that were previously hidden. Maybe it’s just my family and friends, but if this blog’s content and conversations have taught me any overarching lesson that I would take to the streets Malcolm X-style, it’s that there is no reason–not-a-one–to work a crummy job. If you’re in debt, get your finances in order, stay until you can quit, then quit. If you’re not in debt, quit today. Forty hours a week–wait, who we kiddin’?–fifty hours a week is too many hours each week to spend doing anything other than what you want to do.
Or you can carve the skull thing.
In the end, Mad Max: Fury Road is great fun for adults. Watch it and don’t forget to enjoy yourself.
Apologies, I didn’t realize my tinkering changed the setting about whether just the opening or full text was emailed out. Here is today’s post again.
Below is a chat conversation I had with Ariel Johnson from AT&T. Try and enjoy it as much as I did.
Thank you for your patience! Your AT&T Representative will be with you shortly.
Welcome! You are now chatting with ‘Ariel Johnson’
Ariel Johnson: Thank you for using AT&T Chat Services today. I will be happy to assist you.
Ariel Johnson: I can definitely review the account to see when will be the autopay will be fully effective.
Ariel Johnson: By the way I hope you are enjoying your day!
Pete: Do you just copy and paste messages, or do you type them out like I am?
Ariel Johnson: I do type Pete.
Pete: I’m dying here.
Pete: Do you know what a proof of life is?
Ariel Johnson: Sorry no.
Pete: Well, in any case, I am enjoying my day.
Ariel Johnson: Awesome!
Pete: But I’m still not convinced you’re real. 🙂
Ariel Johnson: Yes I am.
Ariel Johnson: Please be advised that the autopay will be fully effective after 30 days upon enrollment.
Pete: You definitely did not type that.
Pete: So I should pay my bill today, but next month, it’ll be automatic/
Ariel Johnson: Yes
Ariel Johnson: For the current bill it will be paid manually.
Ariel Johnson: Rest assured that this will be the last time that you will be paying the bill manually.
Pete: What is your namesake’s dad’s name in the little mermaid?
Ariel Johnson: I don’t know sorry.
Pete: thanks for the help.
Ariel Johnson: If you know the answer is much appreciated.
Ariel Johnson: Since you are online I can assist you to process the payment now.
Pete: No need. I can do it. Have a great day.
Ariel Johnson: Please be advised that the autopay deduction will takes place two days prior to the due date on the account.
Ariel Johnson: Do you have any other concerns that I may assist you with?
Pete: Nope. I’m out.
Ariel Johnson: For convenience in the future, you can also manage your account using the MyATT mobile app on your phone.
Ariel Johnson: It has been a pleasure chatting with you today. AT&T appreciates your business. Again this is Ariel Have a wonderful day!
Ariel Johnson: Bye.
“Alright guys, gather round, gather round,” he began with a slight amount of force to his voice. “Gather round. Christmas came early this year.”
The men formed a natural circle and tried their best to hide their interest with looks of confusion. Gatherings like this did not normally happen. They did see, however, that Pete had a full bag in his hands.
“Okay. I want to tell you guys something. A few days into this hitch I was laying in bed thinking about how I, like you, have to work over the big three upcoming holidays. And that sucks. I then remembered that I have some cash on hand as a result of the home selling/home buying fiasco you guys know about. Because the only reason I work these days is for money and because I have some money, I told Richard a week or so ago that this will be my last hitch. I am quitting,” Pete announced.
Short Brush chuckled, thinking it was a joke.
“I’m not kidding. And to prove I’m not kidding, I got you all something as a going away gift. I also want to take a minute to talk to you differently than I normally have. I know I’m just a floorhand here, but in my past life I was a leader and had more of an instructor/speaking role. Since I’m leaving, I figure I might as well say what’s on my mind about you guys.
“John, I got you an iTunes gift card. It’s got twenty bucks on it. What I want to say to you is that after I leave, you’ll officially be the most considerate roughneck. Keep it up. Also, I respect the zeal with which you and your fiancé live out your Christian beliefs. At the same time, you sometimes seem like you are two sermons away from strapping on a suicide vest. I’m just saying.
“Short Brush, despite the fact that I’ve told you how to get movies for free, I also got you an iTunes gift card. Enjoy. What I want to say to you is that you’re fat and lazy. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows you hide in the stairwell behind the drawworks. I don’t know who you think you’re fooling. That said, I don’t believe that you’re fat because you’re lazy, I believe you’re lazy because you’re fat. So here’s a deal I’m willing to make with you. Lose forty pounds and if by the time you’ve lost the weight plus three months you’re not a motorhand, I’ll pay the difference in your salary for a year. It’s not much, so don’t get too excited, but I’m serious. You saw how I paid Becki when I lost that bet. As you lose the weight, you’ll get more respect, and the work will become easier. There’s no reason you can know so much about fantasy football and not this job. Who knows. You might get promoted as you are. But, nothing to actually do with the weight, I’m sure you will if you lose the weight. Lose the weight.
“Chris, I’m giving your gift to you kinda backwards. Here’s some batteries. You’ll also get my flashlight and crescent and pliers before I leave. What I want to say to you is that you’re tall and not just for a Mexican. I’ve seen tall men get promoted my whole life for simply being tall. People want to follow tall men. But you work for a company which values character above all else. So take advantage of that. In the Air Force we said that Integrity First means doing the right thing when no one is looking. I’ve seen you not do the right thing occasionally. We’ve all done it. But I challenge you to do better. Recently you have been and it made me proud every time no matter my reaction in the moment. Everyone will follow a tall man with character.
“Becki, as you know it was love at first sight. I got you not one, not two, not three, not four, but five cans of snuff. They didn’t have it in a log. I’m sorry if that takes away some of the thrill of opening it. What I want to say to you is that you have to tell the women you’re sleeping with that you have an STD. If it’s not against the law not to, it’s at least unethical. I also want you to know that you have limitless potential. You can do anything you want. I mean it.
“Richard, iTunes for you too. What I want to say to you is thank you for keeping us safe. Thank you for keeping me safe. Nobody needs to get hurt on this job. You keep us safe by your professionalism and the fact that you stick to the rules. More than that, you keep all the other crews on this rig safe by having a reputation for sticking to the rules. Other drillers know you’re out here doing it right and that helps tip the scales when they are uncertain how to act. Regarding your marriage, one time while I was in Iraq my mom told me to “hold her like a butterfly.” I never did figure out what that means, but maybe you will and maybe it’ll keep you married.
“That’s it. Let’s finish out these last two days safely and go home.”