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.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Sunday Morning Meds--the awesome back forty

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. 
The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, . . .”
Psalm 65

It may just be that I’m getting old, but by the end of my teaching career I started to see the Fight Club phenomenon all around me every day.  Not that my students vaulted into a makeshift rings and pummeled each other unmercifully, not that they were even particularly hostile. Blood was never shed in any class of mine that I know of.

It’s the phenomenon I’m talking about.  What that film offered, prophetically, was a view of the quiet desperation of overindulged young people in a world that appears to them to offer very little real experience. The end of too much money--or so it seems to me--is a kind of psychic boredom, a flabbiness that leaves people immune to both joy and pain. What The Fight Club offered was a vision of the effects of so much affluence. Nothing seems real.

The guys in that movie fight because they want and need to feel and taste their own blood to know they’re alive. They need spectacle. They need to feel vital. They simiply have to much that they need to pummel away the boredom that muffles experience.

I doubt the dorms were full of fisticuffs, but I know—because I dealt with their tastes (I was a writing teacher)—that they craved experience, especially spiritual experience.  Psychological realism, as a fictional genre, is a drag to them because anything less than Battlestar Galactica is boring. Genre literature got all the attention; but then, the most memorable experiences of their youth were what drama they could discover in Harry Potter.  They’re easily bored; they crave cartoon worlds.

And I sound like an old fart.

I wanted to show them that the greatest stories don’t need to lie to tell the truth, that silence is preferable to surround-sound, that once they would become parents and bring life into the world, a good deal of the fantasy would end. I wanted to tell them that in life there’s almost always blood flowing from some orifice or another—no need to supplement. I wanted to tell them to be still, and know, etc., that vital spirituality begins in the heart, yours and mine, that they didn't need a mission trip to Timbuktu when the world opened up before them just outside the door.

It seems to me that that’s what the poet/King is saying in Psalm 65. He chants God’s awesome deeds, an opening-day creative pageant more stupendous than a hundred blockbusters.

But he doesn’t stop with creation, the first grand and awesome epic story. He moves backstage, out to Iowa, to fly-over country, spending a healthy chunk of its time in the back 40, treasuring nothing more than April showers and a harvest moon.
Sometimes I used to think my students would prefer God’s “awesome deeds” to be Star Wars, the triumphant saga of some sad soul spectacularly plucked from a whirligig at Seven Flags. If only the world were an amusement park and their spirituality epic. Maybe we all do.

But here in the final verses of Psalm 65, David’s recitation of wind and water and earth and sky—dawn and dusk—is little more than what transpires every day of every year in our own back yards. It takes a real—not virtual—believer to see plain old April showers as God’s awesome deeds, spiritual joy in a sparrow.

That’s just as true for Fight Clubbers as it is for old farts.  

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