Living Another Life

The other night, I overheard an older man giving some advice to a young couple who were about to be married. Basically, it was to start having children right away because if they wait until they’re older, they won’t have as much energy or the ability to bounce back as quickly when they get older. Some of the other people around nodded, saying things like the fact that they had regretted waiting too long. But this is a different world from the way that things used to be, and so it doesn’t follow that their advice applies as the best advice. No two couples are the same and they shouldn’t be made to live one way as if it were a cure-all to prevent any ills or woes happening in the course of everyday life.

I was thinking about that – how it’s true that most people will prefer to have the best of both worlds, there are usually some instances where they wouldn’t want to give up some of the good things about the path that they travelled. The more experiences you’re willing to erase from your life, the more aspects of who you are you are willing to let go. Then you end up becoming somebody else with some other life altogether.

What makes each of us who we are is the sum of everything that we’ve gone through and everyone who has impacted our lives. So much of our identity comes from where we’re from, who are friends are, who we work with, who we call family, where we live, what things we like. And sure, we’ll always make mistakes or decisions that we might wish to do-over; but odds are we wouldn’t want to give up whole sectors of our lives.

I was thinking about how this worked in Its a Wonderful Life; we only got a glimpse of the terrible fate that befell Mary without having fallen in love with George. She would have had to further her education, get a job, establish her own friends, her own place in the community, set her own goals; who knows, perhaps if George never existed she might have fallen in love with somebody else and lived her life differently – no better and no worse, just not the same. Yep, that’s the worst thing that could have happened without George; but it’s not really so bad, is it?

For me and so many others, we’ve been told that good things come to those who wait. As patient and we’ve been, we know that there’s bound to be a whole lot of good things in store – in due time. Perhaps our lives would have been different had we lived them differently, but then we would be different people, too. You know what, I rather like the person that I am and I’m glad that I’m not somebody else. I might not have followed the beaten path, but I’ve enjoyed the scenic route’s charming view.

Quito

Remember Me

“Hey, great news! I’m cancer-free!” A recent acquaintance of mine happily beamed. “I just wanted to thank you for being one of the ones who were there for me, praying for me, making sure my needs were heard up there.”

I was truly happy for her, beating cancer is the greatest of all victories. It’s just … I felt it wise to not mention that I had forgotten to actually pray for her. Don’t get me wrong, I wish her well, and hope that the blight that is cancer gets eradicated; I wouldn’t wish it to happen to anyone. But I haven’t really been on speaking terms with God lately.

I tend to be the sort of person that just falls through the cracks. I’m not that big of a troublemaker, so I attract very little attention. I’m really healthy, so I don’t need medical or divine intervention. I guess you could describe me as one of the random people you see in the background while somebody famous is giving a speech – I’m a nobody and if I weren’t there, you wouldn’t notice I was gone because you wouldn’t know to miss me. At least, that’s been the experience I’ve had from attending church for such a very long time.

Maybe God just likes being a miracle worker like Scottie; it’s not enough to do the job properly and without fanfare – maybe he just likes to estimate it’ll take twice as long so that he’ll be done in half the time. Perhaps he really shines in the big things – beating cancer, saving lives during natural disasters, and making sure the best team wins the game. It can be easy to feel that God doesn’t like to show up in the little things because then he would be something we could control and have him do our bidding.

It can be hard to find the faith when someone gets to celebrate their victory over cancer knowing that someone out there gets to mourn the loss of someone who lost that battle even though they prayed just as much. But its enough for me to know that I should celebrate with those who celebrate and morn with those who mourn. God’s going to do as he pleases with or without my input, no matter how much or how little I pray.

Every now and then, even King David would write: “Remember me” (Psalm 25:7, 106:4). Samson prayed: “Remember me” before his final act of strength (Judges 16:28). Hannah desperately prayed: “Remember me” because she just wanted a son (1 Samuel 1:11). Nehemiah also prayed: “Remember me” for all that he had done (Nehemiah 5:19, 13:14,22,31). Job also prayed: “Remember me” in frustration for all that he had been put through (Job 14:13). Jeremiah prayed: “Remember me” while asking God for vengeance (Jeremiah 15:15).

This prayer doesn’t show up much in the New Testament; the most notable example is the thief on the cross next to Jesus: “Remember me” (Luke 23:42). Perhaps that’s because the veil, the separation between us and God was supposed to be torn. With the Holy Spirit inside us, we aren’t supposed to feel so alone; but sometimes we just do and we can’t help it. Perhaps that old prayer still has some mileage in it: “Remember me, O God …”

Our True Greatness

I’ve been wondering what makes us great. Is it having more riches than others by far? No, riches alone do not prove one’s greatness, for riches can be ill gotten gains. Is it having the mightiest standing army of them all? No, armies cannot fight all battles – not even with all the weapons and technology at their side. Greatness is far more than that.
I’ve also been watching Merlin and every few episodes you see flash of what will be great about King Arthur’s kingdom; it’s not his wealth or his army – but his stand on his principles.
The Round Table, for one, represents equality where no one person had more importance than any of the others around the table. “They believed in equality of all things.”
“When the rules are wrong … you re-write them!” In some episodes, an innocent person loses their life because that is what the rules demanded. When the rules are unjust and unfair, they must be erased.
Arthur’s Kingdom was one of principles – ideals, beliefs – the ancient romances are full of them: courage, faith, trust, hope, goodness, kindness – what made us great was that we were a nation born of these principles.
The principle that everyone could transcend what station they were born as and work to better themselves. The principle that hard work would be rewarded. The principle that we could forge relationships on trust and hope and faith. The principle that a stranger was just a friend you hadn’t met yet. We opened our doors to anyone and everyone – promising them opportunity and prosperity. That is our greatness.
So locking that door shut, building up walls and casting our neighbors out of our land isn’t us becoming great – it’s turning our backs on the greatness that we can’t lose if we remain true to our beliefs.

Save a Life

Just the other day, I was handed a dollar bill with this message stamped in red on it: “Don’t vaccinate! Save a life!” People certainly do write the strangest things on money these days, don’t they?

One of the books I had read as a kid was The Velveteen Rabbit. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to get so sick my parents would have to remove all my clothes, toys, books – everything I own and burn them. It was a different world, and it wasn’t that long ago.

Then I remember accounts of old men and women whose childhood was plaged by a very real and dangerous threat – Polio. It left in it’s wake death and paralysis. One of our former president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had contracted it and it left him paralyzed; not that he ever let him stop him from achieving great success or let on in the public consciousness. It was a different world, and it wasn’t that long ago.

History also records of the Spanish Flu, a deadly epidemic that killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS killed in twenty-four years and more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. It was a different world, and it wasn’t that long ago.

Scarlet Fever, Polio, and a great many other diseases have been known to mankind for thousands of years; history tells us that they’re very good at wrecking and destroying the human body and our natural immunity isn’t nearly strong enough on it’s own to win. We live in a world that has found a way to fight back and prevent epidemics before they even begin; but it’s an all-or-nothing solution. Anyone who doesn’t get a vaccine undoes the efforts of those who take them. That’s why diseases that were thought to be gone had a resurgence in recent years. The point is – not having vaccines didn’t save lives; it just made it that much easier for lives to be lost – and greater numbers of them to be affected by the after-effects of surviving a terrible disease.

I’m told that when an apartment in New York City is fumigated, the cockroaches simply up and relocate themselves to another apartment in the same building that isn’t being fumigated. The only way to eradicate the creatures from the whole building is to see to it that there’s nowhere else for them to go; and similarly, that there’s no one else for these diseases to find safe harbor inside. I don’t know who stamped that message on the dollar bill; but saving lives starts with taking vaccinations; if anyone doubts that, there are a great many third world countries where there’s little to no access to vaccines that are the front lines where all kinds of diseases still takes a heavy toll every single day.

Three Years

Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 3 years ago.
Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.
Wow, I hadn’t realized how much time flies. I’m glad to have brought back this blog, though I wish I hadn’t had so many problems with writer’s block lately. It feels like I’ve lost my sense of direction and I’m stumbling around in the woods – and that tree over to the left looks exactly like the one I wandered across two hours ago. (Did I take a right or a left after that?)
Worry not, I’m a persistent person – after all, the last time I had struggled with a lengthy round of writer’s block, I came back with a good two years’ worth of posts – and I’m still attempting to keep on thinking up ideas even if most of them never really get past the vague notion stage of blogging.
For me, it starts with a vague notion. Then I mull it over. Usually things just fall into place and then I hit publish. At the moment I’m mulling over some thoughts on  … well, I’ll not spoil the surprise but it’ll be a good one if starts falling into place. Creativity is a funny thing though – one thing that sets humanity apart – and yet it comes and goes, like water in a well – it can be abundant and then run dry only to flood later on.

Misspent Youth

“Oh, it would be nice to be eighteen again.”

“I, for one, am happy to be the age I am.”

“You say that now, but when you’re my age you’ll be wishing you were younger.”

This exchange reminded me of one of the more interesting episodes of Twilight Zone – and a great point about memory. The episode is the story of a man who constantly talks about the past – how great the fair was when he was a kid, the best sweets and shakes to eat, and uncontested excellent television shows. In the course of the episode, he finds himself in the past – as an adult by-stander watching himself as a kid going about his day. It struck him how he didn’t remember that the street was so busy and dirty as a kid. Then some bullies appeared and ruined his day. The adult version realized that what he was remembering was the best of the best, but not what had really happened.

When these elders were thinking back to how great it was to be eighteen, they were thinking about being eighteen as it was decades in the past. Being a teenager in the late sixties to early seventies would be a whole different matter compared to being a teenager right here, right now.

Born in the late 1990s, younger millenials grew up in a world where the internet and cellphones were ubiquitous. Aside from the advanced technology, school shootings increased – with a big tragic one making the news every few years (or couple of months in a bad year.) America’s foreign policy position turned into a prolonged occupation and finally a withdraw from the Middle East. A major recession sent shock-waves through the economy, housing went into a free-fall, with the banks breaking Wall Street in order to get rich. Christians had a particularly difficult year – given the rise of “I kissed dating goodbye” as well as the emphasis on biblical marriage in order to take a stand against marriage equality. Christians lost on that score – with the conversation now being moved to transgender and gender identity questions. The rules seemed to constantly shift – but the millenials managed to take it all in stride.

Being eighteen, young and healthy, in the prime of life – is pretty great. No major health scares (unless you’re one of the ones who had to fight for your life as a teenager.) But being eighteen in the sixties or in the seventies is one thing, being eighteen here and now is another. The world has really changed and it’s not going back. I guess the lesson out of all of this is that the millenials will one day be the elders who will miss being eighteen – but they might not miss all the bad news that came with being eighteen.

Thing is – for every eighteen year old – no matter what year it is – they don’t have a choice. They have to take the good with the bad. They get to enjoy awesome concerts and disappointed elders who won’t be happy until they’re working and/or married as soon as possible. They get to be on the right side of history and deal with everyone else who’ll be remembered as being on the wrong side of history. Some eighteen year olds have to fight so much harder than others – and others seem to have it easy. Eighteen has always been a tough age – and so has every other age. We should enjoy where we’re at – not everyone gets to make it that far. We should look to make each day memorable and a good one. And when it’s a bad day, then we should find someone to keep us company to make it easier. As the old song goes – the sun will come up tomorrow.

New Versions of the Same Old Story

After watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was disappointed to see the reviews that called it a remake of A New Hope. Sure, there were a lot of similarities. The movies are set in the same universe. It would be unbelievable if it were to be completely different – as unbelievable as the sequel to ‘Water World’ being set thirty years after the original on the same world, only this time in a world-wide desert. As unacceptable as the sequel to Star Trek being set in the Star Gate Universe.

To be honest, human history is the same old story, the same song and dance. We see it in Judges, First Kings and Second Kings; either the people of Israel would go their own way and end up in trouble that only the judge whom God raised up for them could get them out of, or each generation of ruler was progressively worse than the one before in imaginative ways of doing evil. The point isn’t so much that it is the same story told over again, it’s whether or not the next generation is doomed to follow in the footprints of the one before it.

In the Star Wars universe, it’s been established that Luke is the last Jedi, members of his family are strong in the force – and since Jedi excel at turning from the light side to dark and back again, it shouldn’t be surprise that Luke’s relatives are force sensitive and on both sides. So it should not be a surprise that the new story proceeds from the old story. It should be understood that the same basic rules still apply because the concept of the Force is very well explained in previous stories and it would stretch belief if it were to break it’s own rules. For every vacuum of power, somebody rises to fill it – and a few decades is barely enough time to restore peaceful order to a galaxy ruled by the dark-side, so it should be no surprise that the First Order took advantage of the situation to gain what foothold they did.

So when I noticed some familiar elements, I wondered: “Will this character be able to resist the temptation of the dark side? Will that character be redeemed and restored to the light side? If so, will people find it easy to trust him? What does it look like when a former dark-side devotee becomes a reformed light-side Jedi? Will this other character fall under the power of the dark side? If so, what motivates them to do so?

With Luke, there was never really a doubt that he would remain on the light-side. With Anakin, we saw him fall to the dark-side, but we never saw the struggle of a him returning to the light-side, wrestling with the destruction he caused and deaths he was responsible for while avoiding the lure of being called back into the dark-side. With Leia, she barely began to understand that she had some force sensitivity, but she never seemed to want to explore it. With Han, the question was whether or not he would revert to being a shady smuggler or would continue to change for the better.

To some degree, these have to be the same story just to explore every variation there is in the theme – there has to be something good that fights against the something evil, the judge that is raised up to rescue everybody for the umpteenth time, the king that is more evil than the king before him – just to see if there will be a time when peace reigns for decades or a good ruler will come to the throne – having learned from the mistakes of the past and set all the wrongs right.

This is, after all, the human story – about betrayal and redemption, right and wrong, good and evil, cruelty and compassion – whether it’s in one of our oldest books or newest films, we are not to hate the repetitive patterns that exist but look out for the hope that as bad as things gets, there’s always a choice and there’s always hope even for the worst of us and forgiveness for the best of us, and when we lose our way, there will always be someone to help us find it again.