Sunday, June 26, 2011

the get-real factors

A 93-year-old woman's obituary depicted her as being full of piss and vinegar. Once, when addressing a gathering of elderly people, she was quoted as saying, approximately, "If, after the age of 65, you wake up in the morning without any aches or pains, you will know you are dead."

Age hath its aches and those aches make waking up a less and less delightful or somehow morally imperative prospect. It becomes harder and harder to threaten an old person with "death." Or maybe I'm wrong.

But for those who are interested in spiritual endeavor, I think aging is a pretty good thing. Aging and its attendant aches challenge the eyewash with which spiritual endeavor can be surrounded. The soaring yummies no long sound a clarion call when your joints betray you. Ouch trumps hope and belief and there is a growing sense of "get real!" And this, if I had to guess, is precisely what spiritual endeavor was encouraging all along ... during all those anthems and hymns and supportive, good-news announcements, an heavenly deluges of logic: "Get real!"

Flipping around the TV channels last night, I clicked into a Christian station and saw a man wearing a backward collar. I didn't hear what he said, but the look on his face -- so earnest, so consoling, so encouraging, so yummy-kind -- gave me precisely the same message I get when I click into a channel with canned laughter. It's too contrived for my taste. Too heartless. Too lacking in humanity.

Perhaps that's just my joints talking, but I await the compelling and honest answer as to why I should look to a wiser voice than those joints. What might be is a young man's sport. Spiritual endeavor is more properly about what is.

In the afternoon, I watched "Breaker Morant," a somewhat contrived but still first-class drama of three English soldiers on trial for their activities during the Boer Wars. It was as human and recognizable as it was inhumane and insane. In hind-sight, I half-hoped the man in the backwards collar had seen or might see the movie, but then recognized the foolishness of my hope ... earnest, consoling, encouraging hymns blur what is or was horror even as horror shows blur what is or was earnest, consoling and encouraging.

One thing good about joint pain -- there is nothing blurry about it. And the same is true for joy.

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