what we're about

Attempts to illuminate our brief mortal existence

Friday, June 29, 2012

On Expense

I recently read an article where an objection given to a proposed course of action struck me as completely out of place.  Since I don't want to turn this conversation political, and the fallacy of the objection had nothing to do with the subject matter, I'm not going to link to the article.  In this particular situation, the objecting party was reacting to the suggestion that they put in place some policies that would presumably safeguard the health of the general public.  The objection?

"We can't do that.  It would be hard and expensive."

Huh?  Not, "this wouldn't work and it would be expensive," or, "there's a better option that would be less expensive," but, "nah, we don't want to do that because it would cost us too much money."

What really got me thinking is the way that seeing this excuse used on a high level, with lots of money at stake, highlights my use of it on a lower level, and usually without much money at stake.  I sometimes make decisions based on their impact on my level of disposable income, not the morality of either option.  In a way, I suppose that this ties in with the previous post about owning and living out Truth as best I can see it, but in this is more specifically about the ways that I use my money.  The food and clothing that I buy.  The businesses that I support.  The good causes to which I do (or mostly don't) contribute.  If it's the right thing to do, shouldn't I do it?  And if doing something right means I can't afford to do it, isn't it better to just not do it?  If, for example, I can't afford to buy coffee that is sourced in a humane way, then maybe the answer isn't to feel guilty as I buy less expensive coffee, but to cut down on my coffee drinking.  If I can't give to a good cause and also have money left for yarn and lattes and pretty clothes, then maybe I should cut down on the clothes.  Okay, and the yarn.  Fine, the lattes, too.  The point is, it's easy for me to see the inconsistency of a large corporation saying "but it's so expensive to treat our sewage!"  But my (legitimate) disgust at that should also show me how to feel about my own equivocations over (apparently) lesser matters.

Note: the moral inconsistency of myself and the general population does not excuse the refusal of corporations to take responsibility for the toxic byproducts of whatever it is that they're making money on.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On Truth

Truth, goodness, and beauty.  Ideally, my life is dedicated to these, specifically as they are revealed in the person, life, and ministry of Jesus Christ.  Ideally.  But here's the truth about my relationship with Truth: I want to love the truth, but really I just love being comfortable.  I like to read things that reinforce what I already believe.  I like to hang out with people who believe what I do.  I like to find reasons that the beliefs of those with whom I am hanging out could be true.  I like being in the group that's rocking the boat a bit, but I really don't want to rock the boat all by myself.  As we all know, truth doesn't work this way.  

I've always known this, of course, but I began to discover it experientially as my life became more fragmented, and different parts of it started happening among diverse groups of people.  For most of the past two years, I worked with one group of people, went to church and hung out socially with a second group of people, went to school (some of the time) with a third group of people, kept in touch long distance with the fourth, fifth, and sixth groups of people, and was related to approximately the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth  groups of people.  Trying to cobble together a coherent set of beliefs by believing what is important in each of these groups is like trying to cram a spider monkey into a washing machine.  It doesn't work, and ultimately will not end well for the spider monkey.  But I tried.  

I tried to hang on to the bits of where I came from that seemed to be the most important to the people there, while simultaneously learning which bits of the new groups seemed to be the most important.  But while I was trying to be agreeable to people on both ends, there were real changes happening.  I'm a different person than I was two years ago.  The problem is that sometimes it's been hard to realize those changes, what with all the spider monkey limbs that I was trying to manage.  Is this limb a real change, or just one of these beliefs that I tried on for size?  Is that tail really something that I still believe, or just something that I don't want to let go of because it will cause a family ruckus?  These kind of questions make it hard to process new questions, debate new idea, and test new beliefs.  It's for this reason that I've been too silent for much of these past two years on what was happening inside of me.  I've decided that this has to change.  So I'm determined to begin to try to think clearly.  To face Truth honestly.  To question what I don't wish to question, and be ready to accept what I don't wish to accept.  To think out loud so that errors can be corrected before they form into beliefs.  To be ready to be wrong.  And to be ready to decide on what I think is right. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Something

At first, there was nothing.  There was just a space.  Nothing.  And then there was a fateful January day.  And something started to grow up in that space.  Something grew up in between us that was not either of us, but came from both of us.  A late May day the next year, we promised to always be with each other, no matter what, and the space filled up.  And two years later, from that nothing and something between us, suddenly there was something tangible.  A something that swelled my body, and squirmed around inside of me, and was born on that cold February day to become Christopher.

From nothing, something.  And that something is growing, and giggling, and squirming, and rolling over, and one day, all of a sudden, he will be like us.  He will be an adult.  Just. like. that.  Something from Nothing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Munchkin

Some women, more power to them, can nurse their infants while doing other things.  They nurse and also watch movies, read books, wrangle other small children, cook supper, and play basketball.  Since I am essentially incapable of multi-tasking, I cannot do this.  It doesn't help that Christopher has always had trouble nursing, and probably always will.  So I sit down in the rocking chair to nurse Christopher, and I have absolutely nothing to do in that time but soak him in.

This child has changed so much in his three short months of life that I can't imagine the changes years will bring. I'm trying to memorize him at every stage.  I gaze into his fathomless blue eyes, deep indigo edges fading into sea blue meeting clear steel grey blue flying out from his pupils in a delicate star burst.  We think that he might keep these blue eyes.  I memorize again and again the way that the sunlight picks out the white gold strands in his long, long eyelashes.  His eyebrows and eyelashes were almost invisible when he was born, and his hair was light, too.  We thought for a while that we might end up with a blonde haired, blue eyed child, and then who would believe that he was ours?  But there are dark hairs growing in on his perfect, round head, and in his eyebrows and eyelashes.  Some of those fair hairs stuck around, though, and when the sun hits them it lights up his eyes in a way that a makeup artist would kill to be able to replicate.

I laugh at his eyebrows, still so fair, but growing in that distinct pattern that I know so well; he's going to have his Daddy's eyebrows.

Then his smooth, round cheeks; perfect, classic baby cheeks.  His face is so much longer now than it was when he was born that I can barely discern the shape of the little almond cheeks that I saw when the nurse handed him to me the second time, cleaned up and quiet.  Those little tiny bits of face that were squished between the curving lines of his eyes and his little mouth.  Now, as then, I can't resist touching them, relishing their softness.  I wonder if its possible that this little face is going to grow up into adolescent skin, with pores and oil problems and little marks and scars.

His nose.  His nose makes me laugh, too.  I was convinced when he was born that he had a Shenk-nose, which, for those of you who don't know, is not a proboscis to be taken lightly.  We're very proud of it.  We have to be; it's hard to ignore.  But now Christopher's nose looks like it's flirting with the idea of the Lehman nose: narrower, and turned up at the end.  It's hard to tell.  But I try anyway.

And then he's done nursing, and he looks up at me, and he grins at me with his perfect little wide mouth.  Flirtatious little grins, and wide, delighted smiles, and toothless giggles of wonder.

Sometimes I'm glad that I can't multitask.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Building tents and keeping secrets

"And Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.'" - Mark 9:5, ESV

I think that I understand Peter. He was experiencing a moment like none other, witnessing on earth the true glory of the Son of God.  Two heroes of his faith stood before him. And he wanted to grasp the moment. He wanted to live there. And, with the permanence of tents, maybe he wanted to share it. There's nothing inherently wrong with the impulse; as far as I know, humans have always had this urge to share their experiences. But then a voice from heaven came, and told him what this moment was really about. "This is my beloved son.  Listen to him."  

"This is not a moment to be grasped," He seemed to be saying. "This is a moment of revelation. This is not a moment to live in. This is not even a moment to share. This is a moment to remember."

Today, Landon and I packed our little guy in the car and drove 45 minutes to Lake Michigan. We visited Warren Dunes State Park, a spot that I dimly remembered from a family visit more than 10 years ago. We drove through trees, catching an occasional glimpse of water and sun, until we rounded a curve in the road and the dunes came into view, along with a wide open view of white-capped Lake Michigan. 

We were amazed.  

Wrapping Christopher in blankets to ward off the chilly wind that gusted off the lake, we headed across the beach.  The red flag was out to let everybody know to stay out of the water, and Landon gave me disapproving looks as I walked down far enough to let the cold edge of a breaker just barely wash over my toes.  I laughed at him, and at the sea gulls. We read the signs about the history of the state park. And then we climbed the dune.  

Landon tromped steadily up, carrying the baby, barely a sign in evidence that he wasn't walking flat on solid ground. I slipped and slid up, my bare feet sinking into sand that packed itself down under his shoes.  But eventually we both got to the top.  The wind was stronger than it had been on the beach, stirring up a fine mist of sand that stuck to my sunscreen covered calves, and occasionally whipped up towards our faces.  There were a few hardy trees, some dune grass. And there was the view, Lake Michigan spread out before us. I was on top of the world with my husband and son, breathing in the beauty. And I had no camera. There would be no photographic evidence of Christopher's first trip to the lake, his first time up the dune.  No pictures of us, smiling at the top or grimacing as we climbed. I regretted this for a minute. I wanted to build a tent. But no tent could hold this. No picture could capture this weather, this sky, this moment, this joy.  

So I stood at the top of the dune, and watched the whitecaps appear far, far out in the lake, blinking in and out on the distant water like fire-flies in a far meadow on a summer day.  There will be other trips.  And maybe the next time there will be pictures.  But for now, this is just ours.  This is a secret. I can give you the words, but the images and the memories and the tiny, wave washed pebble that we picked up for a keepsake, they are mine and they are Landon's, and someday they will be Christopher's. Some moments were never meant for tents.