Exploring where life and story meet!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

We're all orphans

Here's an excellent article about adoption, love, and the Trinity, it's a good read for anyone who has ever been human!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Of corn, lobsters, and the end of the world

Has anybody else been disappointed that the looming apocalypse has not yet materialized?  Between Y2K, Bird Flu, SARS, acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer, two headed frogs, global warming, and a hundred other scenarios, I would have thought the world would have imploded, exploded, or otherwise gloriously disintegrated by this point.  I'm getting a little tired of apathetic doomsday scenarios, if you are going to say the world is going to end for whatever reason, it would be nice if you were actually right.  Two fairy tales come to mind: Chicken Little (who thought the sky was actually falling) and the Boy Who Cried Wolf (and got eaten when a real wolf showed up).  The Emperor's New Clothes wouldn't be out of place here either, but where's the kid to holler that the Emperor is naked?  All we have is scientists and activists and alarmists nodding gravely and pointing fingers about who is to blame, with no one saying that the last 374 predictions have all come to naught, why should we believe the latest one?

My favorite example involves whales.  Exhibit A is Star Trek IV (yes, that cheesy '80's movie).  Exhibit B is two trips on an east coast whale watching cruise roughly 10 years apart.  So we have 1987, 2007, and 2017 represented along with Humpback Whales, what could be better?  In the movie (my favorite) aliens from the future are inadvertently destroying the planet because the extinct whales won't return their calls and Kirk and crew must go back to 1987 and bring back a whale to 'tell the probe what to go do with itself.'  My two whale watches both involved an onboard naturalist (a college intern majoring in some -ology) who on the first trip assured us that midwestern crop farmers were responsible for the despicable shape of the oceans, while on the trip a decade later it was actually lobster fishermen who were responsible for most cetacean-type woes.  At least Star Trek blamed it on some actual whalers.  So there you have it, three theories on why the whales, and probably everything else is going to die; personally I prefer the Star Trek version, at least the movie had plenty of funny parts.  These modern doom and gloom prognosticators have no sense of humor whatsoever.

It was also a little annoying to be spoken to like a small, clueless child by someone in their sophomore year of college.  I simply asked after the birds they were likely to see on such an outing (being an avid birder and a landlubber) and was told that yesterday they had seen a Manx Shearwater feeding near the whales and it was beautiful (all in a tone that implied that obviously I could in no way appreciate such aesthetics and couldn't tell an albatross from an ostrich) but on this trip there really wasn't much to see save an occasional Wilson's Storm-petrel so I'd best go sit in the galley and drink overpriced cocoa.  But I was pretty sure I had seen something but had to wait to discover what until I got home and could download my pictures and there it was, a Great Shearwater; she was wrong about the birds, maybe, just maybe the lobster theory was flawed as well.  But then sophomore means, 'foolish wisdom' and I remember from my own sophomore days that I really felt like I knew everything, but a year later I suddenly began to realize how much I didn't know.  I was just as confident in my ignorance as she was, but thankfully life has taught me a few (painful) lessons since.  Just like this gal is so sure of the evils of lobster fishing and the behavior of pelagic birds, so too are 'the experts' who tell us the world is going to blow up or wither away in the next decade or two in some creative way or another.

That is not news, we all know the world is going to end; no matter who you are or where you are from, we all know that things cannot last forever as we know them.  All stories end, everyone dies, and so too will the tale of the universe one day come to an end.  It's fine to develop theories and prepare, if you can, for doomsday or try and save some species from extinction, what isn't good is telling everyone that you are certain sure everything will end tomorrow or a decade from now via this means and then it doesn't happen and then you do it again and again with some other trigger or cause now the greatest threat to existence we have ever seen.  Today it's lobsters, tomorrow it's corn, next week it will be singing off key...world without end (that's irony!).

Forget about the means for a bit and focus on the end.  What will you do on the world's last night?  Be it the end of the world or the end of your own life?  That's a far more important question.  For the whale lady, everything will just go down into darkness, the forgetfulness of death and the great infinite nothingness.  But there are other theories.  This isn't a new question, the disciples were pestering Jesus about it 2000 years ago and I'm sure people were pondering it long before that.  The question is, is the End really the End of Everything, or is it just the curtain falling on the first act of some far grander tale?  Personally, I think the whale lady's theory is just depressing and saps life of all its purpose and interest, but if this flawed reality is just the warm up for something far better, no wonder we're anxious to know how it ends and what comes after!  We spend so much time predicting and arguing about the means but no one seems to care what happens at the End, which is really a far more important question.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Worse than broken dreams

The greatest perceived heartache in American culture is dreams that are never fulfilled, some personal goal or vision that is never realized, but I would posit that it is actually when those dreams are fulfilled and still happiness is not found, rather after a momentary thrill of triumph, we are already looking ahead to the next dream or goal guaranteed to bring joy unending in its wake.  The truth is, if we are not happy and content without X, we'll never be happy and content with it.  We've waited nearly 3 years to welcome another child into our home, and after the near miraculous arrival of our daughter, life is still much the same as it ever was.  While she brought joy unthinkable into our lives, the stress and disappointments that were there before the baby are still there afterwards.  There's a study somewhere determining who is happier: amputees or lottery winners.  Amazingly it is the amputees, in general they were able to adapt to this new normal and get on with life whereas many of the newly minted wealthy completely destroyed their financial stability and lifestyle with their sudden windfall, leaving them poorer and more discontent afterwards.

It appears to be all about attitude rather than what we do or don't have or what does or doesn't happen to us.  If you are content and happy with little, so too will you probably be with more, and if you are discontent now, having all your dreams come true isn't likely to make you any happier in the long run.  My heart aches for all the young people waiting for the job, the person, the situation, that will make life worth living, who realize only too late, that we need to be living in the moment, rather than waiting for life to start at some point in the idealized future.  Enjoy school for its own sake rather than pining for the day when you can actually start your career, only to realize that three months in you'll be yearning for the next big raise, promotion, or a better job.  Each new blessing or life phase also brings along with it its own attendant stresses, disappointments, responsibilities, and frustrations, a thing we so easily forget when longing after it, we forget that we must also live with it.

I've seen a picture of horses, divided by a fence, each in its own pasture, but preferring to graze under the fence in the other horse's paddock!  Look at the fads and trends that so often take the world by storm, a certain toy or food or movie or whatever suddenly becomes insanely popular and everyone MUST have it, paying obscene amounts of money for it only to find that it isn't worth anything in a month or two.  We all desire what we have not got, especially if someone else has it and we don't.  But what we are yearning for isn't what we think.

We all yearn, we all long, it is as natural as breathing, but it isn't for money, power, fame, prestige, food, drink, drugs, sleep, sex, pleasure, children, possessions, land, or relationships, none of these things can fill that hole in our hearts, though we pursue one thing after another in desperate hope that finally, this time, the key will fit in the lock, but we come away disappointed, always disappointed, especially in this world full of keys of all shapes and sizes, but nothing seems to fit.  We are trying to fill an eternal hole with a temporal key.  The hole is bigger than anything in the material universe, broader and deeper than even the universe itself.  Only a thing bigger than reality itself can fill that gaping hole in each and every human heart, for 'eternity is written into the heart of men.'

There's a subplot running through Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' detailing how the men of Numenor, and later Gondor, yearned for immortality and life unending rather than attending to their daily lives, which brought about their downfall and the decay of their nation as, 'childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry or in high, cold towers asking questions of the stars. And so the people of Gondor fell into ruin.'  And we are still guilty of this uncouth longing for what we cannot have even in the real world of this 'more enlightened' day and age.  Think of the various projects aimed at downloading your psyche into a computer or those searching for the medical equivalent of the 'Fountain of Youth.'  But take heart, for though man was meant to last forever, it will not be in this broken, fallen state.  Our problem is, we yearn to live forever as ruined and broken creatures, too scared of the unknown to pass beyond this ruined sphere into things too glorious for comprehension.  We want to remain as we are, rather than changing to become what we were meant to be.

I hatched out a moth once (Polyphemus), I found the cocoon in the Fall after a heavy rain alongside a water-filled ditch, where it had apparently washed ashore.  In the Spring, it hatched out but the wings were crumbled and brown as old leaves, it would never fly, it was a sad, pathetic thing.  We want to go on living like that moth, or worse, we want to stay a caterpillar or remain dormant inside our cocoon, but either way, we will never truly live.  We are so desperate for change, as long as it is in our physical state, careers, finances, or relationships, but we are loath to change our selves, at least the part of us that will last forever.  Forget about your waistline and look to the health and wellbeing of your soul.  Quit looking to the next 'big thing' to make life worth the living but rather live the life you have now.  Therein is great wisdom.