Well, it only happens occasionally, I explained. I try, but sometimes I don’t quite make it.
I see. So you only sin occasionally, he said.
Yeah, I guess that’s it, I said, somewhat sheepishly.
So are you planning on going to hell occasionally, too? he asked.
Tonight I turned the radio up loud and recalled the days when I drove a burgundy ’88 Mustang and thought I was so cool. Tomorrow morning I’ll drag myself out of bed when my roommate gets up and pretend I’m in shape. I want to run by the railroad tracks. I’ve never been over there before. Today I walked around with a green fabric folder, outlined in brown leather, handing resumes and applications to secretaries who nodded and smiled so politely. I talked to my dad on the phone tonight, and heard myself say that it’s spring break and I don’t have to think. I didn’t think while I played Nintendo tonight, while I finished off the flat 2 liter of Pepsi, or while I walked back to my dorm, past the silent and empty freshman dorms. This afternoon when I needed a title I couldn’t think, and later this evening when I had to gut a perfectly good essay for a choice sample I couldn’t think either. I let my roommate do it. Maybe it’s not that I don’t have to think over spring break, but that I can’t. Or maybe I’m just lazy. At the tire store I couldn’t remember my own phone number. The guy behind the counter forgot how to type, so I didn’t feel so dumb. I noticed that the cord to his keyboard was exceptionally dirty. It was supposed to be computer beige, but it was dirt brown. How does your keyboard cord get dirty? It’s not like you take it outside to play. And who touches the cord with their dirty fingers, leaving smudges of grit and grime? Then there were those two boys, motoring around the store while their father stood at the counter in a suit and tie. He was taking them to the golf store next door while they balanced his tires. They erupted in cries of joy and made one more lap around the store before heading for the door. We were hoping to fix a leaky tire. Patch it for $19.95 and hope it makes it through the summer. We ended up needing four new tires for $219.95, or something like that. One tire had a nail, and it was bald, like my dad. Another tire had a nail, but it wasn’t leaking yet. It was getting bald, like I will in a few years. A third tire was bald too, and it was beginning to separate like the pancake that always sticks to the pan. The fourth might have been okay, although it was in the replacement range. And you just don’t buy three new tires and stumble along with one treadbare wheel.
For some reason when I woke up this morning I didn’t stumble into the bathroom and stare at the mirror trying to determine if that was really me. Instead I stumbled into last night’s clothes and my new pair of running shoes and I went running. Now this is odd because when I took the Physical Wellness, the college equivalent of gym class, I was what you would call “borderline sedentary.” That means I sit around a lot and I’m not that active. Now it’s not like I’m the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons or anything–far from it. I’m a pretty bony, skinny kid. But I’ve noticed that my jeans don’t fit like they used to, and I decided it was time to take action before I did resemble the Comic Book Guy. So I woke up this morning and went running. Of course this wasn’t a huge sacrifice. I’m on spring break. I rolled out of bed at 9:30 and went for a short run before I started my day of… not much.
For a person who’s horribly out of shape, I have to say that it felt really good. After taking a shower, I felt like a million bucks–just like my Physical Wellness professor said I would. Of course right about now I feel like $3.89–the cost of a bottle of aspirin. Actually it’s not that bad, I’m just exaggerating for effect. But this morning when I was heaving along with my pokey little jog I felt really good. I kept thinking how good it feels to be alive. I’m not the kind of person who likes to run, but it was invigorating to crawl out of bed and pump my legs and feel the blood flow through the veins. What a concept.
What I find really entertaining is that I actually need to take the time to exercise. I think it’s kind of humorous that our society has come to a point where we need to exercise to stay in decent shape. It used to be that your job involved enough physical labor to keep you in top physical condition. Now we just sit around in air conditioned offices and squeeze our little stress balls to keep our wrists from cramping up. We have to squint our eyes when we venture out into the blinding sun. To keep our bodies from turning to gelatin blobs we have to take our free time to exercise. We’re not even social enough to go play. Why take the time to go and run when you could just play a game and stay in shape? It makes sense to me, but look at how I do it–my roommates play Ultimate Frisbee twice a week and I never join them. Now I’m to the point where I have to exercise, when I could just join them. Right now my only excuse is that I wouldn’t last ten minutes in their game I’m so out of shape.
It just seems kind of ridiculous that we have to spend time exercising instead of having fun. I guess I like to ridicule myself. The one thing I do enjoy is the quiet time to reflect and pray. Running doesn’t exactly require a lot of thought.
You weren’t looking for structure tonight, were you? Cuz it’s spring break, you’re not going to get any. You’re lucky I even took the time to think.
It’s spring break, and I just don’t think I need to think anymore. Pretty lazy pondering, huh? Yeah, but what are you going to do? Seriously though, I noticed tonight that what I’m reading influences how much thinking I’m doing. Whenever I’m doing some leisure reading I find that I think a lot more. When it comes time to sit down in front of the computer and pound out a thought for the day, I have a lot more to say when I’ve been doing some leisure reading. It’s probably pretty obvious, but I haven’t been doing too much leisure reading the past few days.
I never realized before how seriously companies take advertising. I was just reading an article about characters that sell products, like The Pillsbury Doughboy, the Trix Rabbit, Ronald McDonald and the like. Companies actually have books full of rules explicitly laying out what these characters can and can’t do. It’s really kind of frightening. They actually think about things like where the Lucky Charms leprechaun, Lucky, can be seen (only in the forest), and that a shot of the Doughboy from behind wouldn’t be very flattering. Somebody actually gets paid to determine what these stupid characters do. Most of these characters follow strict guidelines where the characters are almost always perfect. I think the best part is how these characters are failing. Think of the best character spokespersons. Who’s the best? The M&M guys? I think they’d get my vote. The ad agency doing the M&M ads decided to give the candies a little spunk. They bucked the trend and came up with enjoyable commercials. Now if someone could just do that for all those goofball characters selling cereal, we’d be set.
Usually in my Art History class I sit there for an hour and ten minutes and furiously take down five pages of notes, complete with little scribblings of the day’s slides. I usually leave the class with a blur of images and a few thoughts about the American sensibility, whatever that is. Today was different. We were talking about Native American art forms, and how the Native Americans were treated. My professor read a number laws and accounts of how the government dealt with the Native Americans. The idea was basically to outlaw their way of life so they would be forced to conform to our culture and our society. The government attempted to civilize the “savages.”
What I found horribly ironic is what America stands for and why many Europeans came here in the first place. They were fleeing religious persecution. Yet we still outlawed the religion of the Native Americans. My sense of justice and trust in the three branch system of American government has been violated. Doesn’t it seem like somewhere along the line somebody should wave a red flag when the first amendment is being violated? Perhaps I’m being a little naïve.
What really struck me is Mt. Rushmore. Four enormous heads are carved into a mountain side. The heads of four white leaders who helped found and establish this great country. Mt. Rushmore is near Rapid City in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Someone in my class mentioned that the Black Hills were sacred burial grounds for the Native Americans. We rip up the earth and gut a mountain to pay homage to our heroes, a glaring reminder to the Native American–on their own sacred land, no less–that we conquered them. I’ve always thought Mt. Rushmore was an odd attraction. Perhaps it’s just an arrogant symbol of American pride.
I’m beginning to learn how hard it is to create something. I’m working on a few projects for my graphic design class, and I keep running into difficulties. Maybe it’s just that I don’t have all the tools the professionals have, but this is really hard. I have all these images in my head of what I want, but getting what I want is a completely different matter. That’s assuming I know what I want. Coming up with the ideas is even harder. What really gets me is that when I finally produce something really good, it wasn’t something I thought long and hard over, it was a lark. It was just something I tried on a whim between two real ideas.
Write something poignant and go to bed. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?
What is man that you are mindful of him? We push on behind our layers of reality, behind our safe layers of civilization. Our rules, our laws that protect us from ourselves. We draw the cord tighter in an attempt to keep it all together, and we come that much closer to bursting at the seams. And out would flow a dreadful mess for you and me. Deep down what remains of a man? You back him into a corner and what will he do? You strip away his livelihood, his possessions, his family, his laws, his rules; what does he have left? His morals? Or do those slip away with everything else? Bad things happen and am I supposed to believe that was by divine orchestration? There is a certain darkness clouding men’s hearts, and it clouds the world as well. We like to hide behind our pretty ads, our clean clothes, our sweet smelling perfume, our new cars, our beautiful civilization. But something primal dwells deep within. Something so horrible that we don’t want to admit that it’s there. But it is there. Only the hollow men, the stuffed men push on and try to ignore it. They proceed not with a bang, but a whimper, and all goes so quietly into that good night. But they don’t understand. They’ve fallen asleep in class, again. They don’t understand the horror, the horror. And they don’t understand that the end has begun–there is a hope, it springs eternal, and it’s not finished yet. It doesn’t have to end with a whimper.
Have you ever noticed how physical, bodily experiences can so easily consume your thoughts? I suppose it’s kind of obvious, but it struck me this morning. I’ve been sick with a cough for the past several days. Today it was being especially obnoxious during church–I felt like I was interrupting the sermon every time I turned and coughed into my elbow. But I found I could barely concentrate on the message. It was something about prayer, and that’s all I remember. I could tell you a few illustrations, and I know he pulled a few verses out of Isaiah, but I wasn’t following him at all. My mind was preoccupied with my physical discomfort, and I couldn’t think about anything else. I find that kind of interesting. It really makes me wonder how people can endure torture. I also can’t help but wonder if it means I’m just that much of a wuss.