Archive for October, 2014

Just Out for a Walk?

Posted in Musings, Reflection with tags , , , , , on October 28, 2014 by timtrue

Someone recently said to me, “You know, if you’re trying to lead someone somewhere, and you turn around and no one is following you, you’re just out for a walk.”

Ha, ha, ha I say–as I roll my eyes.

Part of the eye-rolling is from considering the source.  He’s a pragmatic man.  He needs to see results.  And if you turn around and no one’s following you, there are no immediate results.  End of story.  At least for him.

He’s also told me he has no artistic bone in his body.  I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.

MLKJ

Do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. cared if anyone was following him or not?  Early on, I’m not sure anyone was.

jackie robinson

What if Jackie Robinson had said no to the big leagues because there were no players from the negro leagues willing to follow him?

ML

Or, forget Martin Luther King, Jr.  What about Martin Luther himself?  Remember that reformer?  After standing up to the intimidating structure that was the medieval Catholic Church, standing trial for his life in fact, do you remember what he said?  “Here I stand.”  Not, “Here I stand with my buddies who’ve decided to follow me”; or, “I stand by what I said because I’ve got reasonably good authority backing me up”; or any other such schmaltz.  But here I, by myself, alone, without anyone following me, without pragmatism–here I stand.

Or what about this guy?

Beethoven

No, real leadership is not pragmatic.

Real leadership does not need to be backed up by his friends, or the majority, or the crowd, or the mob.

Real leadership, instead, is principled.  It is adventurous, pioneering into new territory whether or not anyone else has the spine to accompany, because it is the right thing to do.  Not because the peanut gallery is egging me on!

No, it seems to me that the need to be followed by others is what’s not real leadership.  What it is is something else–maybe something good, akin to motherhood; or perhaps something bad, even really bad, like the duplicity of a political charlatan.  But don’t tell me it’s leadership!

Longing for Reality

Posted in Musings with tags , , , , , , , on October 22, 2014 by timtrue

What is reality?

Have you ever had a dream that seems so real that when you wake up you find yourself disappointed?  The reality of waking life seems less real, in a way, than the dream just felt.  You try to go back to sleep, if only for a moment, to return to that fake reality of the dream.

But it can work the other way too, yeah?  You may have a nightmare so terrifying that, once you wake from it—covered in a cold sweat and trembling—you regret that you couldn’t rouse yourself to reality sooner.  If only I could have woken up, you think; but thank heavens I’m awake now, that this world is in fact reality and not that other world of my dreams.

Noted Christian author C. S. Lewis plays with this idea quite effectively in the fifth book of his beloved Narnia series, Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  With the exception of the very beginning and end, the story takes place entirely in a made up world.  It is a time of peace in the land of Narnia, so the king, Caspian, collects a crew and casts off on a voyage of exploration.  The ship is named “Dawn Treader”; and the purpose of the voyage is twofold: to sail eastward, beyond all previous explorations; and to locate seven king’s men who vanished several years before during a similar exploratory voyage.

Several chapters later the Dawn Treader’s crew finds a missing king’s man at a mysterious island where all a person’s dreams come true.  The missing man is hauled aboard the Dawn Treader in almost utter darkness—the crew found him by his screams—and he cannot believe it.  He keeps pinching himself, expecting at any moment that his rescuers will vanish before his eyes into oblivion.  That’s when he tells the others what this island is all about, that it is a place where all one’s dreams come true.

Well, you can imagine the initial hoots and hollers of delight from the crew.  For upon first hearing this they recall all the best dreams they’ve ever experienced, like those ones I mentioned above that you don’t want to wake from.  But after a word of caution from the frightened man (“Oh, no!  You don’t understand.  I said all your dreams come true!”), and a collective moment of silence while everyone processes what the man has just said, all manner of pandemonium breaks out as the crew desperately tries to turn the ship around and get out of Dodge.

It won’t spoil the story too much to say the crew made it out (I highly recommend the whole series!), but only after succumbing substantially to the spell-like stupor of the place—only after reaching a point themselves of losing all distinction between hallucinations and reality.

Along these lines (of reality blurred), we could take a step further back and look not just at C. S. Lewis but at the entire world of fiction.  Fiction, by its very definition, is not reality.  But more often than not it tells a story more realistically—it captures the realities of humanity, of good, of evil, of life in all its complexities better—than non-fiction, or what we call reality by definition.

Now then, on to All Saints’ Day.

One of our lectionary’s readings for this feast is Revelation 7:9-17.  Here John relates a vision—a dream, or even a hallucination.  But the reality of it is much more truly real even than what we experience in our day-to-day lives in this material world of ours.

What John sees in his vision is a huge gathering of people, a number beyond what anyone can count; people of every tribe, tongue, nation, and language of the world.  They’re dressed in white and waving palm branches.  And they’re standing before a throne upon which sits a lamb.  Other creatures are present too—animals of some sort and angels.  But the great multitude that John sees is clearly and distinctly people.

John then turns to his guide and asks, “Who are these people?”

And he is told, “They are the ones who have come out of great suffering.  They will never be hungry again, or thirsty again.  The sun will never scorch them again.  And that lamb you see there, he will lead them to springs of cool, living water.”

This vision that John has is of all the saints, the feast we celebrate on All Saints’ Day.

We see now only in part.

Don’t you long for true reality?

Hooters for Haircutters

Posted in Family, Musings, Rationale with tags , , , , on October 7, 2014 by timtrue

untitled

I took the bait.

“$10 off men’s haircuts,” the coupon said.  My wife had grabbed two: one for me and one for my five year-old son.

“It’ll be fun,” my wife said.  “I’ve heard good things about this place, like it’s a step or three up from that place you usually go.  Besides, it’ll be some father-son bonding time.”

Father-son bonding time, eh?  We usually experience that when we go to that step-or-three-down barber.  But they know us there.  And they know how to cut our hair.  It’s functional–and as stylish as we want to go with our timeless, product-free “boy cuts.”

Plus, with the money I save, my five year-old son and I usually walk a few doors down to Baskin-Robbins afterwards, for continued father-son bonding time over single scoops of Peanut Butter Chocolate and Mint Chocolate Chip.  Bet the new place isn’t next to a Baskin-Robbins, eh?

But ten bucks off each haircut, and a step or three up?

Like I said, I took the bait.

I wish I hadn’t.

We walked into this new place, this place that boasted to give “sports cuts,” this place whose only clientele were men, this place that promised us ten bucks off, and the reek of gimmick penetrated deep into our olfactories.

Firm but relaxed chairs beckoned in the waiting room, each one strategically facing a large, flat-screen television displaying a live football game; each one covered with a deep-red faux leather, a manly textile.  We indifferently chose two facing Tennessee vs. Georgia.

And now I noticed that the lights were dimmed just so and angled for minimal glare–another manly touch.

Then the cutters of hair began to appear, girls all, wearing black stretch pants–or was it mere body paint?–and shirts to look like referees, black-and-white striped.  And were those actual whistles around their necks?

They offered us soda, PowerAde, water; sweet and bubbly–the girls, that is, not the water.

And, except for the coupons in my hand, I thought we could have been at Hooters.

My son didn’t seem to mind so much, or maybe he didn’t really notice.  He’s only five, and the hormones aren’t boiling in him yet–at least they aren’t to the extent that they obviously were in a middle schooler next to us.  I wanted to shout, “Put your tongue back in your mouth, boy,” but opted instead not to draw any more attention to this already skewed vision of reality.  Maybe my son wouldn’t take much notice, I thought.

The haircuts came and went, and were nice enough in their own right.  A step or three up indeed, as my wife had said.  But after our haircuts–my son too!–the bubbly, scantily clad cutters of our hair led us each back to a dark room behind a curtain, where they shampooed our hair and massaged our scalps, quietly giving us permission to fall asleep in their capable hands if we so desired.  Which was followed by a backrub.

On our way home my son said, “Well that was weird!”  He had noticed.

As for me, I found the whole experience maddening.  We live in a culture that prides itself on becoming increasingly gender-equal.  Women were allowed to vote quite early in the bigger picture of world democracies.  Average women’s salaries are closer than ever to average men’s salaries for equivalent jobs.  The Episcopal Church is the first church in the global Anglican communion to elect a female presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori.  And yet we have this haircutting chain that objectifies women?

It’s hip, it’s trendy, it gives men an experience with which they are comfortable.  And it’s successful.

But the haircutters, all female, wear skimpy clothes.  They look like referees: a quasi appearance of authority.  But the truth is that these women are paid to do the bidding of men, the real dominators in this scenario, who lounge around watching sports and refreshing (and scratching) themselves.  It’s twisted, even perverted.

Definitely not the message I want to teach to my five year-old son!

So, coupon or no coupon, we’ll not return.  Instead, we’ll go back to our step-or-three down barber and ice-cream conversation, thank you very much.