Archive for August, 2008

….Not a Drop to Drink

August 21, 2008

I consider myself to be a fairly lazy person. 

I don’t really think I *am* lazy, but, being lazy, I simply maintain my view of myself from when I was, say, 16.  It takes work to update one’s opinion of oneself, now that one is not sleeping until noon on Saturdays and generally living to play video games and flirt with girls.  And so, I continue to see myself as lazy.

And as such, I’m not really interested in taking on any additional work.  Least of all, drawing or pumping my own water – and enough water for my family – each day.  Yet I recognize that short of this sort of arrangement, it’s going to be difficult for me – and most folks – to really get serious about water conservation.

We’re soft.  It’s too easy to turn on the tap, too easy to forget to turn it off.  It’s too easy to turn on the water full blast to rinse off that plate, rather than turning on just a little dribble.  Not unless I’m measuring out my water usage by the soreness of my shoulders and arms and knees am I really going to get down and dirty to conserve water.  Until then, I’ll make little half-hearted efforts, but I doubt they’ll amount to much.

Having grown up in the Southwestern United States, I figure I’m more water conscious than many folks.  Living in a desert tends to convey an awareness of how crucial – and how scarce – water is.  Even in a city known for verdant lawns, oodles of swimming pools and golf courses, and more boats per capita than any other state.  Living in a desert climate tends to make one obsessive about water.  Obsessive, but not necessarily careful, which is a real shame.

We try to live simply.  We recycle.  We try to minimize the trash and waste that our family generates.  But saving water is something that is really, really important, and yet really, really difficult.  We don’t tend to internalize and prioritize unless things hurt.  And tragically, even if water prices double or triple and the pain happens at the wallet, it won’t be as compelling for many folks – perhaps even for me – than if the pain were physical, in my back and arms and shoulders and legs. 

I’ve got to figure out a way to try and convey this lesson to my children.  Right after their baths.

Death at a Funeral

August 19, 2008

We watched another movie last night.  Let it be said that I think I have watched more movies thus far this year than I have ever watched in my life.  And by watching movies, I mean renting or paying in some fashion to view a complete movie, as opposed to watching it on TV or something like that.  It’s been an interesting and surprisingly enjoyable experience.  I’m obviously getting old and drifting into Alzheimers.

That’s depressing.

Though, not as depressing as the tripe at the end of Death at a Funeral.  This was a moderately funny British comedy about the outrageous goings-on at the funeral of the patriarch of a well-to-do family.  It was very common British comedy fair – outrageousness erupting in the midst of staid, placid, reserved family functions.  Family dysfunctionality in general.  And the lone sane person in the midst of a sea of loonies, struggling valiantly to cope and somehow, in the end, drawing everyone more or less to their senses.  The real funniness of this movie was in how hilarious my wife found it – something I would have NEVER expected. 

If I could just get her to appreciate Monty Python.

Now I’m depressed again.

However, not as depressed as the eulogy that was finally delivered at the end of the film.  A eulogy which elevated the worst indiscretions of the deceased, somehow making them into something admirable, and on a par with the greatest of a man’s accomplishments in his life.  Rather than acknowledging that we all act shamefully on some level, the effort was to deny shame, to justify it as our ‘best efforts’ to sort through this confusing life which we live.  Rather than admire the best in a man, we are called to view everything as the best, thereby desecrating the concept of best, and justifying our own foolishness and indiscretions and moral failings.

That’s depressing.

But it’s a common theme these days.  Nobody is allowed to judge.  Nobody is allowed to say this is good but this is not.  Nobody is permitted to be subjected to an outside evaluation of their choices and decisions.  Good is an internally defined matter, and nobody else has a right to weigh in on the matter.  Thousands of years of philosophical and theological work at attempting to understand the concepts of good and evil and right and wrong are tossed out on their head as irrelevant.  There is no good or evil, no right or wrong.  There is only what we choose to do, and there are only our justifications and attempts to mitigate the guilt we still feel despite assertions that we have nothing to feel guilty about. 

Of course, this is all dishonest claptrap.  Of course there is good and evil, right and wrong, and we apply these concepts just as unrelentingly to others as people always have.  It’s only that we now exempt ourselves from this sort of application by others.  We know good and well what is right or good or fair or true or reasonable or loving, but if we happen to violate these norms, we don’t wish to suffer the guilt which naturally comes from transgressing them.  And so we have to destroy the standards in order to avoid the guilt, in order to avoid having to be honest with ourselves and others, and most of all, in order to avoid having to change our behaviors, admit that we were wrong, and set out on the difficult road of living the way we know we should.

Movies like this one aren’t saying anything new.  It’s just depressing that in the midst of what would otherwise be a rather harmless (if foul-mouthed) comedy, this sort of intellectual Cream of Wheat has to be inserted. 

Depressing indeed.

The Art of Attraction

August 19, 2008

Surfing the Internet is an amazing activity.  So much information, so many possibilities, so many loose threads to be picked up on and followed to some hopelessly huge ball of yarn many millions of bits later.  It can be overwhelming to many people – which is why I prefer to ride the info-waves several hours each day.  Part research.  Part cultural study.  Part curiosity.  Part procrastination. 

I’m not easily suckered in to a site.  Either that’s because I’m lousy at surfing for the kinds of sites that would suck me in, or because I’m hopelessly weathered and jaded and callously indifferent to the quivering thoughts of others across the digital spectrum.  I’m not sure which is the better option, or more dignified – given that I’ve been a Netizen for over 15 years now!

But every now and then, a site catches my eye and fills me with hope and curiosity.  Not often, though.  Twice in the last year, to be precise.  The first time turned out to be a bust, as many new blogging efforts are.  Blogging is hard work if you take it seriously (which I clearly don’t, apparently).  And many people with grand designs and good intentions simply give up on it after a while. 

The latest one caught my eye last night though, through an advert on Facebook.  I won’t divulge the name just yet, because honestly, I can’t figure the site entirely out.  It doesn’t have a clear mission statement or raison d’etre, and while the entries are intriguing, they’re also vaguely random.  I was mostly caught by the title of the site, and now I’ve gone and registered and become somewhat involved, and I have no idea if I’ll regret or rue that wrecklessly impulsive decision in another week or so.  Time will tell.

But it highlighted for me that attraction – digitally, but probably otherwise – is calculated.  It isn’t always controlled.  As much as we can control it though, we do.  We primp and choose our clothing and our scents and whatnot in a calculated if sometimes subconscious effort to attract those we’d like to meet.  Popular culture exalts the idea of the unstoppable rush of emotions, the cathartic love-at-first-sight-sex-at-first-opportunity notion of romance that is appealing to sexual predators and teenagers (I would argue that in some ways, the differences – generally speaking – are thin).  But we ignore the fact that more often than not, what seems to be unlooked for, even unwanted attention, is carefully, meticulously planned for.  We may be surprised when it works, we may not like when it happens, and yet we are complicit even in our ignorance or naivete. 

So, to the person behind my new digital infatuation, I hope that you turn out to really be who you project. 

Then again, perhaps that’s a questionable thing to wish on anyone, including myself.


August 8, 2008

I subscribed to a curious little publication called Geez a few months ago.  It’s a Canadian publication with the very interesting tagline of “holy mischief in an age of fast faith”.  It sounded kind of cool, and I was looking for a new magazine to subscribe to, so I gave it a shot.

The first issue I received was an issue dedicated to discussion of art and, to a lesser extent, art and faith.  Since I have a small interest in that area, it was cool enough, though at times clearly aimed at folks who do art for a living.  The second issue I received was dedicated to “30 Sermons You’d Never Hear in Church”.  It was actually a contest that I considered entering but didn’t.  I started to read the issue eagerly.  I finished it far less eagerly and quite disappointed. 

Today I received an e-mail letting me know my subscription was almost up.  Since I’m a believer in constructive criticism as a tool for improvement, here was my response:

The reason I’m not resubscribing is that I was really taken aback with your last issue (30 Sermons You’ll Never Hear in Church).  The concept was really cool, and I was really looking forward to it.  However, I expected the sermons to be somehow Christian.  Or faithful.  But they seemed to be 30 sermons of varying degrees of doubt, uncertainty, or complete lack of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit in them at all.  You included a sermon from an atheist, and yet there wasn’t one confident proclamation of God at work in our world in any of the other sermons.  Not one confident proclamation of the saving grace we find in Jesus Christ, in the cross and the empty tomb and the physical signs of a God at work in our world, at work in a creation that He didn’t abandon on the eighth day. 
I get the whole postmodern doubt thing.  It’s nothing new, but of course we all think it is because it’s new to *us*.  Doubt is all well and good, and we have the story of Didymus to remind us that Jesus meets us in our doubt.  But doubt is not a sermon.  Doubt is something a sermon attempts to address.  To acknowlede.  To empathize with.  To lock arms with.  And to carry that doubt to the cross and the empty tomb and a tradition of faith that goes back not just to Jesus, but also to the Israelites, to some random guy named Abraham, and before that, all the way to some idyllic place called Eden and this groovy couple who couldn’t seem to remember one commandment, let alone ten of them.  And  in the process of that journey, provide something to find confidence in, not simply more echoes of doubt.
Include some sermons of doubt.  Include some sermons that bare the naked fear of that doubt.  That bare the naked horror of what that doubt leads us towards.  That’s cool.  But if those are the only sermons that you felt were useful enough to print, then I guess maybe your magazine isn’t the right one for me.  I deal with doubt every day.  The doubt of people around me as well as my own.  Christian community – in person or through a magazine – should be more than just an opportunity to wallow in doubt.  It should be a bona fide prayer, and steps in faith and trust despite that doubt, that the Holy Spirit is here, real, active, and ready to meet us in our doubt and lead us to firmer ground. 
Blessings to you & your staff as you continue your efforts with Geez.  There are lots of folks I hope you can reach.  I’m just not sure what you’ll say to them when you reach them.