Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Four-Year-Old's Scriptural Insights

Niece: She's in the water! Get in the boat! [she = little sister, water = rug, boat = couch].

Me: Maybe she's walking on the water like Saint Peter.

Niece: No! She can't do that!

Me: Why not? Saint Peter could.

Niece: That's because Jesus taught him with his miracles.

Me: Why did Jesus teach him how to walk on the water?

Niece: So he wouldn't drown.

Me: Why didn't Jesus just teach him how to swim?

Niece: Jesus didn't know how to swim. His mommy never taught him.

Me: Oh.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


If you didn't make the cut today (i.e.: you're still on the planet), you might take a moment to read something sublime and astonishing and very, very humbling. Quite a reminder of how difficult it is to forgive, and how reluctant we are to do so––both personally and institutionally.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Personal Revelation II

Well, after yesterday's rather sardonic post (which, no doubt, made me look like a curmudgeonly, hateful S.O.B., and therefore wasn't too far from the truth) I thought something with a rather different tone might be appropriate. In addition, I had a good day at work, helping to resolve some high-stress calls with happy endings, so my mood is brighter.

I'll be brief and unspecific, but this is nevertheless heartfelt, and the result of some serious thought over the past several months.

If you have ever faced an insoluble dilemma, you'll know what a strange, numbing experience it is. Hard thoughts are never far away: This isn't right. Life shouldn't be like this. This doesn't make sense. Nevertheless, this is the dish presented to you. Right, wrong, nonsensical it may be––but it's all yours, so grab a fork.

There are options, of course. There are always options. But in such situations, each choice, any path, is intolerable. Painful. A tragedy. And so, you hope and pray for a miracle. You wait and work and almost hold your breath. Maybe today is the day. Maybe this is the prayer that'll get through the ceiling; you will finally convince the angels of their mistake, and six-winged seraphim will come swooping down to rectify their errors and omissions, bearing coals to burn away what is wrong.

But this isn't the day, and that wasn't the prayer. And you find, ever so slowly, that you have been waiting on the wrong miracle. Priest and Levite have passed you by, but the Samaritan reaches out with his unexpected grace. God has been biding His time, perhaps just waiting for you to finally see the miracle long-prepared: He helps you to select the tragedy you can bear, the suffering you can accept.

It is a strange sort of mercy, but what else are we to expect from "God the surprise."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Personal Revelation

At work today I realized something important about myself. Heretofore only a slowly swelling knot of impressions and glimpses, it finally crystallized. I used to think I was a pretty nice guy. I was wrong.

There is nothing more perfectly suited to make one doubt the value of humanity in general than interacting with them at their most animal level. Being a 911 operator basically means nobody you talk to is having a good day, and everyone you talk to thinks their crisis demands immediate intervention via tax-funded resources (no matter how petty those "crises" might be).

Also, you face the increasingly insistent and obvious fact that your job is working against the general trend of evolution. I am paid to do the species a disservice––I keep people in the gene-pool who, a few generations ago, would likely never have survived long enough to spawn! It's as though I'm shepherding idiot salmon upriver to safety, when by all rights they ought to get eaten by bears! I can almost see Darwin hanging his head in sorrow, like the lachrymose bench-warmer surrounded by zombie politicians in this McNaughton confection. (Empty your stomach before you click the link, Gentle Reader; he's a veritable Michelangelo of nausea-inducing pseudo-religious political kitsch.)

I seem to be channeling Malthus, so I'd better quit. (He is among the least pleasant Georgian Era economists to have as a spirit-guide, but this is what happens when you combine Ouija and The Wealth of Nations.) I'll just sum up with what a co-worker declared today after several long minutes spent trying to tease the most basic information out of an irate and hysterical caller: "Dumb b*tch probably deserved to get punched in the face!"

And I couldn't agree more.

Friday, May 06, 2011

My Testimony of Cheeses

Forgive the blasphemous title, Gentle Reader, but I couldn't resist. While working my way through a sliver of Roquefort this evening, I was reminded just how beautiful gastronomy can be sometimes. Among blue cheeses (and I mean this in a good way) Roquefort is like eating a razor blade. A delicious, life-giving razor blade. However, as gorgeous as it is, one cannot eat it without thinking of that noblest of milk-based marvels: Stilton. Oh, Stilton! What I feel for thee is nearly lust. Where Roquefort is a razor blade, Stilton is a sledgehammer to the face. A sledgehammer of ecstasy. As a British sitcom chef once declared: "Halle-bloody-lujah! Cow and bug in perfect harmony!"

Well, any paean of praise I might compose would fall short of the mark, so I'll leave that task to my betters. Enjoy, then, G.K. Chesterton's own Ode to Stilton:

Stilton, thou shouldst be living at this hour
And so thou art. Nor losest grace thereby;
England has need of thee, and so have I--
She is a Fen. Far as the eye can scour,
League after grassy league from Lincoln tower
To Stilton in the fields, she is a Fen.
Yet this high cheese, by choice of fenland men,
Like a tall green volcano rose in power.
Plain living and long drinking are no more,
And pure religion reading "Household Words",
And sturdy manhood sitting still all day
Shrink, like this cheese that crumbles to its core;
While my digestion, like the House of Lords,
The heaviest burdens on herself doth lay.