Tuesday, May 23, 2006

right

Can you remember the first time that you heard, probably from your mother, that you should be old enough to know better? It’s probably one of the earliest known parental conversations. Adam and Eve obviously missed it. Maybe it’s due to the fact that they missed their entire childhood. So when sin entered and the first consequence was children, more specifically siblings, for parents to deal with, those conversations began. What it really means is that you should be capable of determining right from wrong based on an advanced maturity level. Defining that maturity level is the elusive part. We tend to place the “old enough” parameters around something that really may have little to do with age. I know people my age who ought to be old enough, but they’re obviously not. On the other hand there are 20 years olds who I see as some of the oldest people on the planet. It’s not age, it is the ability to grasp the concept right from wrong. And that one comes to people at different stages. Their background may not have allowed them to grasp the concept. Their parents, in fact, may still not be able to grasp these concepts. Their worldview may not allow them to acknowledge a universal right from a personal right. I find that as I get older, my problem is less and less about doing the right thing. It’s more and more trying to decide what to do when the right thing, even though it’s right, can lead to consequences that just seem wrong. In my profession and life’s calling I’m finding more and more that the right thing can have terrible ramifications.
Other people don’t always view the right thing positively if it affects them negatively. I’ve witnessed behaviors that are universally bad being judged by some as bad when it affects them negatively, but then judging the same behaviors good if it suits their means.
It’s bizarre. It makes doing the right thing almost always the difficult thing. It makes judgment somewhat subjective. I have come to believe that right is right, no matter how good or bad the ramifications were. My faith observes the single greatest act of “right” ever recorded in the person of Jesus and His death. However, it didn’t turn out that right for Him on the Friday that we remember as Good. Those who followed after Him, although they were doing “right”, led lives that often could be characterized as “persevering” . People of my faith even today, in their righteous actions, have endured horrible reality. In all of these instances, those involved have been looking beyond the immediate results to the future hoped for. All of this leads me to believe that knowing right from wrong has little to do with age. It has more to do with a determination that the “right” thing is the “right” thing, irregardless of life today. It’s claiming the promise that we have for “a hope and a future”.

Monday, May 15, 2006

community (again)

Last night my wife and I, along with a gazillion other watchers, got to experience the first half of the season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy”. That’s what their doing now, splitting the finale up into two episodes. The cynical side of me says it’s for revenue, but the practical side of me sees it as a more powerful magnetic attraction into the lives of the characters in the show. Last night was the lead in or the hook into the main event. It’s a good plan I think. The characters in this community that we’ve all come to be concerned with, at least those of us delusional enough to think that they’re real, are all in some kind of crisis or dilemma mode leading into tonight. No one wants to be left hanging. We all want to know how their lives unfold before they become seasonal reruns. They have become a magnetic community. The two part thing is a great idea, however, it now creates an even greater dilemma for my wife and I. It’s on at the same time as our other community of choice, “The Apprentice”. We have come to appreciate and disdain people on this community as well. If it was the finale of “The Apprentice” this week there would be no conflict. I think that the creators of “The Apprentice” have made a grave error in formulating their finale. I’m sure that they’re concerned that I’m concerned. However, here is my point. I think that they’ve ruined the community feel by allowing their community to be infiltrated by a live studio audience. This is perhaps, I believe, where “The Donald’s” ego gets the best of him. He wants it to be a spectacle, a big event, a media blitz. I, however, want my community. I’ve been led to believe, through editing, close-ups, and interchanges, that this is a real living, breathing community, but in the end I’m reminded that it’s just a show. It’s reality television. It’s a staged event, and I’m not interested in that. I’m disappointed. I’m not happy that someone has ruined the illusion, or delusion, that for 13 weeks has lulled me into thinking that it’s a real community that I have been part of. So I don’t watch the finale of “The Apprentice”. I will watch “Grey’s Anatomy”. I have watched the finales of other communities that I have come to be part of like “Seinfeld”, “MASH”, “E.R.”, and others. I’ve come to realize that the television shows that has appealed to me throughout my viewing years have been those which created community and drew me in to be part of them. I always felt like I was part of it. I still do, no matter how long any one of them might have been in syndication. They have never dropped the curtain and ruined the illusion, much like the unveiling of “the Wizard” for Dorothy and company.
I live in my own community. It operates week to week, sometimes day to day when it’s going well. It’s centered around faith. I love being part of it. I just spent three days in intense community with about 75 of us at a retreat. I wonder about our draw. Would people be drawn in by what they see in us? Would they come back for another week?
Is there a curtain around us, that if drawn back, would spoil everything? New people come every week. Some of them are immediately drawn in, some not so much. I guess that I’m hoping that they see us as authentic and not a spectacle. I read statistics that tell me that after a third consecutive visit to a community of faith, people have been drawn in. That’s about how long it takes me to be drawn in to a good television series. By then I care about the characters. By then I feel like I’m becoming part of the community. By then I want to come back another week.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

echoes

I was wondering this morning, on my drive to the beach, what might my life have looked like if I had made different choices at various points. Might we have parallel lives running alongside ours, lives that could have been, maybe even should have been had we made different choices? I wonder what my parallel self might look like. Do you ever wonder where you might live now had you chose differently then? If you’re female, what might your life be if you hadn’t said yes, or if you had? Each choice, laid out before us every day that we crawl out of bed in the morning, can lead one direction or another. Even the choice not to get out of bed could have a profound impact on our destination. I wondered this as I drove along the water with the sun rising over a skyline that only six years ago I would never have recognized. Now it’s home. What might my life have looked like if I had said no to this church and yes to another? I think that the choices are like echoes throughout eternity. When I was a kid, wandering through the Adirondack woods of upstate New York, I used to love to listen to my voice echoing off the walls of a canyon, early in the morning. Just a short but shrill “Hey” would generate waves of response that would travel out and back. The sound would burst forth, eventually travel back to the source, somewhat fainter and even sometimes harder to identify as my own voice, but always loyal to its source. Like my echoes, I can trace my path here, or anywhere for that matter, to certain moments in time where a decision burst forth and a direction was set. So I wonder, what if I had made other choices? What if I had stopped along the way to chat with this person or that who had been placed in front of me? What if I had been ten minutes sooner or later to a certain appointment? What if I hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask my wife to marry me? What if I had chosen one college over another? What if we hadn’t chosen to get our kids to a doctor when we did? Is there an echo of my other “so called” life wandering beside my existing one? I imagine that when I die, I’ll get a private showing of the world premiere of my life. Will it include alternate endings? Is there something huge that I’ve missed? I’m of the conviction that God knows all things and He’s been to the end already. I like to think that I live my life guided by His spirit. But I don’t think that it is dictated by His spirit. I have made choices at times based on a feeling in my gut and in my spirit that it was the right or wrong thing to do. What about those others that I ignored? The truth is, I cannot imagine living anywhere but here, with anyone but my family, doing anything but what I’m doing. My conclusion this morning is that I cannot dwell on the what if. I need to rejoice in the what is. That doesn’t prevent me from chasing echoes.

Monday, May 01, 2006

late

So, I woke up late today. And I wouldn’t really call it waking up either. It was more like an instantaneous burst of eyes flashing open and brain registering “dang, I overslept”. Then the questions…what happened to the alarm, what was I supposed to be doing, what day is this, whose house am I in? All of those thoughts were fighting for space along my neurons and threatening to shut my mind down completely. Because then, being the schedule freak that I am, I begin the task of damage control. What tasks must be done before I can get out of here? I get my daughter up, and go figure, she has overslept as well. I’m getting her lunch and counting backwards from my first morning appointment, trying to recalculate my Starbucks time. Starbucks time will recalibrate my day….if I can just get there. Now I’m in the car and my favorite morning show is on, but they’re live from Disneyworld. When did they go to Disneyworld? How did I miss that they were going to be at Disney? I listen everyday and I missed that. I feel like I’m in a parallel universe. I guess that I can deal with that…until….until upon driving along the beach I begin to notice an abnormally large amount of boats out on the water. They’re small boats, pleasure boats, fishing boats…… Small boats? Fishing boats? What day is this??? Then it all comes washing back like one of those feared Tsunami’s that all of us on the coast are waiting for. The realization floods over me and threatens to drown me in its turbulence. It’s fishing season! It’s the first day of fishing season! How the heck did I miss that? You want to talk about parallel universe? I must have really overslept or something. I’ve apparently been sleeping the past few weeks. Now I’m wondering how much else did I miss? What else of significance did I miss? More importantly, who did I miss? Am I becoming just another “brick in the wall”? Am I now officially just another of the wandering masses who are so out of touch? Is the matrix real? Did I take the red pill or the blue pill? Did Jesus come back and I missed Him? Probably not since my wife is still here. But it does make me wonder, alarmingly so, what else have I missed? Have I missed Jesus in my day hiding as “one of the least of these”? Have I entertained angels and totally not seen into the other world? Starbucks time is not helping. My day is off, my week is off, my life is off. Drama, drama, drama. I just need a vacation. I overslept.