In the sea of elementary school faces I knew I’d be able to recognize at least his. But where was he. It’d been over a year since I’d been here, and I desperately wanted to see at least one of the children I worked with last year. I didn’t expect them to recognize me or even notice me, I just wanted to see that they were still here.
There was that song on the radio again. You just can’t get away from it. It’s like a friend who won’t shut up.
Then there’s this guy typing on his computer and you just don’t know where he’s going. He doesn’t know where he’s going. You try to blink the sleep from your eyes and wonder if he was doing the same thing when he wrote it.
The internet is a crazy world. Is anyone actually sticking it out long enough to get to this sentence. Or this one? Can I drag you along for one more sentence? I know if I was reading this I would have left by now and found something more worth my time. The internet is perpetuating the scavenging skimmer, the reader that never really digests anything, just chews here and there. You can’t really call them a reader. It’s what’s happening to our society. Blame it on technology or the internet or whatever.
The scariest thing is that it’s not someone else’s problem. I find myself doing this. I was looking through a web zine the other day and the editor had posted a medium length tirade about his editorial philosophy. I started reading the first few paragraphs. Being an editor myself, I was pretty interested to see what he had to say. But three paragraphs into it he lost me and I started skimming. I didn’t actually read anything, my eyes just scanned a few more sentences, and I skipped to something else. It’s scary to think that people do that to your own work.
How long will books last in such a society? Or will they just continue to be published but never read?
The air was thick and heavy, weighing down the room like a fog. It was an exceptionally warm, spring day, and the air conditioning was working well. A little too well. I shivered slightly, but tried not to let it show. I couldn’t believe what was happening. She was sitting on the other side of the desk, her blue eyes awaiting an answer. I thought I saw a sly smile on her lips, but it wasn’t there. I only hoped it was. I looked again to the ceiling to avoid her gaze. Then my eyes scanned the photo-lined walls of my office, the rich, dark wood trim, and the shelf of books and knick-knacks from my assorted travels.
“I don’t know,” she said, “It’s like driving circles in an empty parking garage.”
With that I frowned and looked the other way.
“So is this the college you’re going to?” I asked, pointing to a slick looking folder that was lying on top of a stack of papers. The name of the college blazed across the front, just above a picture of a metaphor that was trying way too hard. Tracy just nodded. I leaned over, picked up the folder and leafed through the contents, noticing that she had filled out the full application–except for one part.
She couldn’t sleep. It’d been a rough night and that six page paper was due at 11:00 a.m. She’d written more than enough tonight. She decided she’d wake up early enough tomorrow and finish it off. Right now she needed something else. It was a quiet and still night, and the sidewalk was even quieter. Everything was dripping with the silver glow of the full moon. The buildings and the street looked oddly lit, but she didn’t care. Her paper was almost done, and that was all that mattered. The fresh air helped. She breathed it in slowly, forcing the air through her nostrils and feeling it fill her lungs. It cleared the clouds that hung in her mind. It’s amazing how fresh the city air can be at night.
I merge on to the highway as a speeding semi passes, and I watch a lone water drop–a leftover from this afternoon’s thunderstorm–streak across my windshield. I turn the radio up to rival the increased road noise, and the dilemma forces itself before me. Just because that woman is involved I’m observing from a distance. She’s always been up to no good. I’ve heard others call her a modern Jezebel, the embodiment of the feminist movement. If she’s involved it can’t be good. It just can’t.
Why are we so scared? We’re so afraid to admit so many things, or even entertain simple notions. The very inkling that we might be wrong strikes terror in our hearts. Since when do we have all the right answers? Since when do we know it all? It’s funny how often we judge and tell others how the world is, yet we can’t see it for ourselves. Worst of all we whine when things don’t go our way and we’re offended at the slightest thing. Do you think God is ever offended by us? Do you think God stands up there in heaven shaking his head at all the little heathens? Bad heathen. Bad, bad, bad. Do you think God stands up there in heaven smiling at all the little Christians? Good Christian. Good, good, good. We like to make things so simple. We put God in our little box and that’s where he belongs. That’s why we don’t understand when there’s an ounce of the transcendent in something outside the four walls of the church. It’s because God will not be confined to a box. Yet we never understand.
Just when you finally take the time to watch the early rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, your team loses. Tonight I watched the Detroit Red Wings end their season by losing to Colorado. The interesting thing about sports is the consistent focus on winning. I suppose that’s probably the point. I just think it’s funny how obsessive you can be about it. All through the nineties the Red Wings were building a championship team. They kept coming closer and closer but they never quite made it. Something was always missing. In 1996 they almost had it and set a record for the most games won in the regular season. The playoffs came and something fell apart. Then in 1997 they got it right. Stanley Cup Championship. The winning formula continued in 1998 with a few changes, and they won again. In 1999 the formula wasn’t working so well and they didn’t even make it to the finals. And now in 2000 it’s the same story. As the final minutes ticked away in tonight’s game the announcer made the comment that this Red Wings team would face a lot of questions in the off season. The winning formula isn’t so winning anymore, and changes will be made. Never mind that they’re one of the best teams in the league and made it through one round of the playoffs. But if it’s not a Stanley Cup, it’s not good enough.
I know it’s the very nature of sports, and maybe this is why I only played T-ball and soccer as a kid. I played in the minorest league you could, and in that league it didn’t matter if you won, it didn’t matter if you scored. All that mattered was that you played. Even if you were just the catcher for your T-ball team (and I was), you were playing. It just seems kind of silly that it’s not enough to go out there and have fun, let the fans go crazy for a pretty good team. Pretty good isn’t enough. Now the Wings will start making major changes in the elusive search for another Championship. Of course changes break the team unity and things won’t be the same. Finding that perfect formula could take another forty plus years, the last dry spell between Stanley Cup Championships for Detroit. But I suppose that’s just the way things are. Change is a part life.
Can you have varying degrees of acceptable modesty? For example, on a Christian college campus is there a certain attire that is considered modest, and an attire that is immodest? And if there is such a standard, does it change? If you travel to a public university will the standard be different? If you travel to a public park will the standard be different? Will the standard be different at the beach? I can’t help but ask these questions after reading some letters to the editor in my college’s newspaper. The letters were dealing with lust and essentially pleading for the women on campus to dress modestly. Aside from the fact that modest is a relative term, how do we deal with the idea that there are varying degrees of acceptable modesty? What you might consider inappropriate attire for a college campus is perfectly reasonable for the beach. Why is that? Perhaps it’s just an issue of practicality and I should just shut up.
I’ve just been struggling with the issue because I don’t think the answer is as easy as we want it to be. Ask the girls to dress modestly and it’s all taken care of. How brave of the guys to step forward and ask such a noble question. But I don’t think it ends there. Frankly, I don’t think it should start there either. Certainly Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 8 about how Christians are not to be stumbling blocks for one another. It doesn’t help guys any if their Christian sisters are running around flaunting themselves. But in Matthew chapter 5 when Jesus claimed that looking at a woman lustfully was committing adultery with her, he told us if our right eye causes us to sin, gouge it out. I don’t think he meant for us to literally gouge our eyes out, but whatever he means, he means for us to do something drastic. Drastic and personal. He doesn’t tell us to attack what our eyes are looking at, he tells us to attack our own eyes. This issue isn’t simply about women dressing modestly. The time will come when you step away from the church and the women won’t dress modestly. What then?
I just want people to think things through a little deeper. Certainly I don’t have all the answers. It would probably do me good to think things through deeper myself. It just seems to me that the initial idea of forcing others to keep us pure is missing the whole point. The problem is personal, and the modesty of others will only get you so far.
Do you have faith? A class discussion today entered the realm of faith and a few people asked why we don’t have the faith Jesus did. For example why don’t we heal people? It was an interesting discussion evoking ideas of courage, love, trust, authority, and the very nature of faith. If we have faith in God why can’t we heal the sick? The discussion took on an interesting twist as we all knew that no one in the room had ever tried to heal anyone. Some people claimed it was a bad example, but I think they were just shying away from it. Healing is quite a remarkable miracle, a tangible display of God’s power. You can’t argue with a miracle like that. At the same time what do you do if nothing happens?
This summer I watched this very event unfold on the streets of Chicago. I was sitting on the steps of the Museum of Broadcasting and these three women, dressed like the had just come from church, were leading a crippled man around, praying and singing. There was a woman on each side of the man, supporting him and half dragging him, half helping him to walk down the sidewalk. The third woman followed behind carrying his crutches. The three women prayed, sang, and encouraged the man to straighten up and walk. The whole time he had this bewildered look on his face, as if he couldn’t believe how crazy these women were–but at the time he had a touch of hope in his face. A tiny glimmer of hope that these Bible quoting women could actually heal him. You could tell he didn’t expect it to happen, but if it did, he would gladly take the help.
A few hours later as I headed back to the train I passed that man on the sidewalk. He was still struggling along with his crutches, and the three church ladies were no where to be found. I don’t quite understand the point of their action. They tried to heal him, and failed. Perhaps they didn’t have enough faith. Perhaps the crippled man lacked faith. Perhaps God simply didn’t want to heal this man. But one thing I do know, those women had a lot more faith than I ever have, and probably ever will.