Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

All things being equal

All things being equal, they aren't.

Just one of the indignities of old age is the realization that some things don't stop growing--noses, people say, and ears and feet. Your biceps don't swell, and your skin doesn't firm, and what doesn't grow just sags frightfully.  It ain't fun.

I came upon this ridiculous still life a morning or two ago--my size 15s (and growing) beside my wife's cute little 8s. I don't think the pic works all that well. In real life, this still life is vastly more grotesque. I can almost put my wife' pair into one of mine. Yeah, yeah, yeah--"what a sturdy foundation," you're saying, and I'll be the last one to fall in a stiff prairie wind. Yuk. Yuk.

Let me share my pain. Bowling has been spotty. "Got 15s?" I ask some kid behind the shoe counter, and he rolls his eyes. Ice skates? forget it. In Africa not long ago, our hosts were kind enough to provide slippers if we had to use the open-air hole-in-the-ground in the middle of the night. We were in a medical compound, and they didn't want us simply stepping off the cot--we were sleeping outside--and going. . .well, you know. Sweet man handed me a pair of eights. True story. Getting there in those things in the middle of steep African darkness was its own kind of comedy.

All things being equal, they aren't.

It's taken me two whole years to figure out how to write a story I've referred to several times in these posts, the story of an immigrant woman who lost three children and a husband, a woman whose ebullient, expressive piety--"Dear Sister, how wonderful it is that we have the Lord's love to guide us"--that kind of spirituality virtually disappeared during her tough life on the prairie, a woman who, in her late years, had to quake every time she repeated the words "Thy will be done."

It's not a nice story, and, Lord knows we don't like nice stories.

"How come everybody's got to die at the end?" one of my students wrote in an on-line class yesterday. They're watching Hamlet, and when the play ends, it's a blood bath. 

Why, my dear? Because Aristotle said (and Shakespeare believed) that tragedy is good for us. It's catharitic, I told her, as if holding up a whole half pint of cod liver oil. Because sadness, deep and inescapable sadness, makes us vigilant for ourselves and those we really love. Because the unmistakable reality of death teaches how to live life. Because suffering makes us strong. Because inequality teaches us to love.

Yeah, sure. But what I want to know is why is there suffering at all?  Embarrassing feet are one thing, but how is it that "sorrows come not as spies but in battalions" for some people when others get silver spoons?  Why is sadness not dispensed equally throughout the land? 

Why do some people get a tub full of the world's tears? 

The disciples spot a blind man. "Who sinned to make that happen?" they ask Jesus. "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him," Jesus tells them. Look it up. Gospel of John, chapter nine, verse two. 

That he expects us to believe that is a mighty tall order.

Once upon a time, at a church in Japan, I was required, like others, to take off my shoes. Members' worship sandals were neatly tucked into in what resembled a wall-size church mailbox, a few extras there for visitors. Needless to say, my shoes lay there on the floor like a pair of flatbed barges. In church, I just wore socks.

Big frickin' deal, you say. There are men and women and children without feet, without legs.

I know that's true, but what I'll never understand is why.

You know, all things being equal.

They just aren't.

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