Today I donned the goofy black robe, the mortar board hat, and the tassel that smacks you in the eye when you walk. Graduation Day. In all honesty it was rather anticlimactic. I actually finished my formal education in December and opted not to participate in the ceremony because I was also getting married, starting a job, and moving in the same week. And by waiting until May I could graduate with my new wife.
So I’ve had my diploma sitting in the filing cabinet since February. Which means all the pomp and circumstance was really just for show. It was just a big photo opportunity. For everyone else it was a culminating experience. They finished their last finals yesterday. They were still packing up their dorm rooms and moving–for some people it was back home, for others it was into a new apartment. They were still looking for jobs and trying to decide what they were going to do in their immediate post-college years.
I, on the other hand, don’t have any of those worries. Yesterday I went to work and answered e-mails and scheduled some articles and did what needed to be done. On Monday I’ll go back, answer more e-mails, and go to a meeting or two. I’ve been living in my apartment since December. I took my last final in December. There’s not much of a change.
But there was a glimmer of something. There was an acknowledgment of my accomplishment. I went to school for three and a half years and earned this really expensive piece of paper that tells me I went to school for three and a half years. But more than that it was the smiles of friends and family that said you’ve worked hard and you’ve learned a thing or two about life. I certainly have a few more things to learn, like how to make loan payments, but it’s a step in a new direction.
It’s not an end, it’s a beginning, as one of the not-so-spectacular graduation speakers said. A new beginning. Not that anything is really over. It’s a transition of sorts. The last five months have been a transition of sorts, and I guess I’m realizing that all of life is transition. It never really settles down enough for you to get used to it.
Connections amaze me. Friendships amaze me. Laughter amazes me. The fact that a Nabisco shelf rescued from the dumpster, disassembled at 2 a.m. in my driveway, transported to Minnesota, and proudly displayed in my Townhouse has become a side-splitting joke at mere mention amazes me. Sometimes I wish friends didn’t have to move away. Sometimes I wish bedtime would never come. Sometimes you want to talk late into the night and not worry about the next morning’s blaring alarm. Sometimes you do.
Sometimes I dream crazy dreams of the things I want to do or the places I want to go or the person I want to become. Sometimes they’re simple things like owning a bike or making a web page, and sometimes they border on the ludicrous, like social revolution and a suburban battlefield. I could fill volumes with the dreams that come in the seven-minute walk to the bus stop. I wish I could capture them all in a phone-book size ledger and cross them off one by one as they come true.
I hated church when I was a kid. Slow, boring songs, some old guy talking for way too long, some quiet prayer, reading an antiquated text. I always sat in the pew watching the seconds tick by. I’d look up to the rafters and try to watch the individual fan blades go around. I remember one strange joke the pastor told when he started the service and I remember thinking about the joke for the next 20 minutes.
Church is a very odd thing. But what is it? We sit around and sing a few songs, we listen to some guy talk. What’s supposed to happen? Am I getting a spiritual shot in the arm? Am I supposed to be challenged? Are my eyes supposed to be opened to new issues?
Do people walk out of church changed? Are they supposed to walk out of church changed? Should church be active or passive? Should church be teaching me the foundational truths of God, or should church be putting legs on those foundational truths? Should I be learning how to care for the homeless, or that I need to care for the homeless. Or both? Is Sunday morning an appropriate time to talk about social change?
What if the pastor talked about loving our neighbors and then dedicated the last 20 minutes of the service to go out into the community and pick up trash. Would that be appropriate? It could be an act of worship. It’s certainly putting legs to our faith. But will the congregation feel coerced to pick up litter? And is that wrong? Do we have to feel comfortable all the time?
What if church was a very uncomfortable place? It seems like we go to great lengths to make everyone feel comfortable. We’re always very afraid of offending people. That’s kind of funny. I don’t think Jesus worried too much about offending anyone. I think he made people feel pretty uncomfortable. Maybe it’s good to irritate people in church, to really get under their skin and make them think.
I wonder what church would be like if we never knew what to expect. It seems like church is built on tradition and being able to expect the same things, and maybe there’s some value in that. I just think it’d be enlightening to walk into a church and be totally surprised by what happened within those doors.
I noticed for the first time today what happens when spring comes. Things grow. Like mad. On the way home I walked past a number of lawns that really needed to be mowed. I also noticed all the plants that were just thriving in the damp soil and bright sunshine. It smelled like life.
I most appreciate the patch of ground next to the sidewalk that sported a garden of weeds of various varieties. I appreciated the weeds for their diversity and their ravenous growth. I couldn’t help but think of my environmental science class in college and how we talked about the suburban lawn as the least diverse ecosystem on the planet. Diverse ecosystems are self-containing, while ecosystems with little or no diversity are on the brink of collapse–unless excess energy is dumped into the ecosystem. Thus fat guys pushing mowers and stretching sprinklers keep the ecosystem alive. Seems like a waste to me.
That’s the one thing I regret about college. I sold my environmental science textbook. Of all the crappy textbooks I still have, that’s the only one I’ve wanted to go back and look stuff up in.
“Every child’s daily desire is basically the same: what kids want from their day is the maximum number of opportunities to exercise their imaginations and bodies via the myriad of activities known as “play.” In America’s vast, cloned suburbs the toys of choice in my day were things like G.I. Joes, Kermit the Frogs and Barbies. In the war zones of the same era the toys of choice were spent cartridges, military insignia and broken guns. The play urge in children is so strong that they will indulge it no matter what imaginary fodder, what playgrounds or what toy materials fate may offer them.”
(from “The Garbage Man’s Daughter,” a short story in the collection River Teeth: Stories and Writings by David James Duncan, page 68)
Why is it adults don’t seek to maximize their playtime? It seems like adults have lost the desire to play, or perhaps, adults have found a new twisted version of play that doesn’t exercise anything but the TV or is at best self-defeating.
I say it’s time to play. Shut the TV off and go play. Build a castle. Paint a picture. Read a book. Throw a Frisbee. Plant a tree. Kids are smart. They do whatever they can to runaway and go play. Sometimes the bills do need to be done and there are things that require our attention. But that excuse can’t work all the time. Go play.
It’s amazing how music can date you. Today my wife was told by fourth graders that she listened to KOOL 108, the Twin Cities oldies station, because she was a U2 fan. Sadly, to today’s generation of kids, U2 is oldies music. You have to listen to rap music to really be cool. All I can say is why won’t rap die?
You know you’re a poor married couple when you go on a picnic and take real plates and silverware because you don’t own any paper plates or plastic silverware.
On a completely unrelated tangent, my wife told me if I publish a book by the time I’m 32 I can grow a beard and become a cooky old man. And the book has to be sold at a real bookstore, not one of these Christian jobs. I think I’m going to take her up on that offer. I’m out of college and married now, so I can’t just grow facial hair on a whim.
It’s amazing how songs stick with you despite the passage of time. Yesterday I dug deep into my hard drive and read a story I wrote five years ago. 1996. Today I dug deep into my CD archives and listened to a CD that came out five years ago. Five years ago I was a Junior in high school. It’s amazing how the songs you listened to in high school will always be with you. Well, some of the songs. I have a box full of bad decisions under my desk I’m trying to unload on somebody.
I threw my Five Iron Frenzy Upbeats and Beatdowns disc in the CD player and listened to it at work. That was Five Iron’s debut CD, and as I listened to their later work today I noticed a definite change in style and sound. I also noticed how good their debut CD was. The energy and passion made my foot tap and my lips mouth the words. I kept whispering lines, and I’m sure I annoyed my coworkers.
I’m guessing the CD resonates with me so much because of what it means to me, and not necessarily because it’s the best CD of all time. That’s somehow encouraging. Music, or any artistic endeavor for that matter, doesn’t have to be the best. It simply has to resonate within a few lone hearts.
Today in Sunday School we covered the basics of Jackson Pollack. Here’s my version:
“My Jackson Pollack”
Paint applied with yarn
May 06, 2001 by Kevin D. Hendricks
And to continue the art theme, I gave it a shot for Grandpa. It has nothing to do with yesterday’s rambling, but I have a feeling a painting fashioned after what I was thinking last night would look something more like my Pollack, and I don’t know what Grandpa would make out of that. So here goes nothing.
Ink and water color
May 06, 2001 by Kevin D. Hendricks
Your assurances are a wet blanket to a cold boy, and they make me wonder if the sky is so blue because of our overwhelming humanity?
When I grow old and senile I want to be the cooky old man riding his bicycle down the middle of a busy city street.
Time flies when you