Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rambling at Midnight

He seemed pretty adamant about it, as he insisted that religion was the root of all the evil in the world.

I almost had to laugh. I wondered what it was about kids that age, not that I can call myself an elder in society, that there is no room for moderation. From what I remember of him, he was a student in college, and not necessarily a very bright one at that. Said at some point that he worked handing out towels at the campus gym, not that there's anything wrong with that. A job is a job, but at the same time, there were times when he'd refer to the money he spent on cigarettes and other non-educational expenses he was accruing, and I seriously wondered just how deeply he thought about things.

I remember he posted on the boards some completely unsupported assertion about whether tribalism was indeed a phase of civilization. He cited an unnamed instructor, probably in an intro course. Fond memories, there. I remember leaving high school, and being exposed to an entirely new universe in the first few freshman-level classes I attended. Everything I'd ever learned before that was turned upside down, and now I was truly enlightened, and I very nearly said, "I've learned all I need to know, hang those upper-division classes."

It was about the same with nearly everyone I knew in college... "this guy KNOWS his stuff..." we mused. As we pressed on, however, new classes required more exposure to different sources, other points of view. Now the answers weren't so clear, and that intro class barely scratched the surface; in fact, in a lot of cases, they turned out to be more or less pulpits for certain instructors to preach their thesis to a new, unsuspected wave of students.

I remember one of my junior years, the year of the "affair," I was confronted, not in a hostile manner, but another of my friends sort of laughed at me. Not in a patronizing, malicious, or condescending way, but they kind of laughed at their little brother who was unaware of what he was about to encounter in life.

Mostly, that absolutes in life are rare, and almost always invalid. Don't get me wrong, I do believe there is an absolute standard to which we should all strive to attain, I just do not completely believe we are all necessarily... well, for one, on the same road to the same destination, and for two, I'm not necessarily sure we need to be on a road to anywhere to get to where we're going.

I don't know that being a Lutheran has always been important to me. I've felt that of all the Christian denominations, we're probably the closest to the "correct" path, but as the Church trudges on and on, it seems more pre-occupied with the notion that we do not in fact hold the monopoly on the truth. What's the point, then?

Well, "organized religion" has its place. It does have a purpose. To me, it provides an infrastructure of support for like-minded believers on their journey. The Church, however, is not the end-all in seeking the Kingdom of God. Indeed, it is necessary for the believers to hold together, to build each other up, but the work at hand, being the presence of Christ in the world does not require every one hole up in the sanctuary and associate only with card-carrying members of the denomination.

It's just the opposite, really. The work of Christ requires us to leave the fold, if only for a time to return again, and to actually mix with the people outside the circle. In the same way the Gospel has been translated into many languages, often employing different idioms to get the point across, witnesses to the Gospel might have to adapt themselves somewhat, and witness more in deed than in word.

Jesus himself sharply criticized the hypocrites of the day for observing the laws of piety in the society, but never doing what God would have us do, and what God has done for us, repeatedly. Lower ourselves to feed the poor, and heal the sick, even if it sometimes means breaking the ceremonial law once in a while. Jesus was a veritable fount of situational ethics, often asking, "Which is more important..." The prophet Amos similarly attacked the hypocrites of his day, observing that while the temple was well-kept and there were routine sacrifices, there were people being dealt with unjustly in iniquity.

Often, like my laughing friend in college taught me, the answers are not always that clear. Sometimes holding fast to the rules of one's sect will do more harm than good. Sometimes, maybe, it's better to give the lamb to the beggar, rather than offer it to be a burnt offering. Sometimes, it is better to be one with the "sinners" and the "unbelievers" to affect justice and mercy in an otherwise hopeless society than it is to "stay with one's own."

I wish all the best to my younger friend. I look forward to a day when we can sit down to supper and break bread, and plan a new world together.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thoughts before going to bed.

About as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be in show business of some kind.But why?

As Bill Maher once remarked, Americans long for attention. Maybe that's it, but I won't blame being American for it.

When I was about five or six, my father was majoring in Journalism in college. In a fairly short time, he landed an internship with KTVB 7 in Boise, so there were months when I was lucky to see him once a month in Pocatello. Then, I don't know if he just got lucky or if the Idaho Falls-Pocatello market was just starved for new blood, but he landed his first paying gig with KIFI in Idaho Falls. It was just 50 miles from Pocatello, and the way Dad drived, he could make shuttle run between Poky and IF in, I don't know, an hour and a half, maybe an hour if his radar detector was working, and he'd kept up on the maintenance on first, that Barracuda, then second, that Vega.

If memory serves, we had to jump out of that car a few times on long trips for fear it would literally blow up.

But his main assignment was actually in Pocatello, covering whatever news happened there, film it, and get the film to Idaho Falls in time to be developed and edited for the next available newscast. Most of the time, the news was a city council meeting, which probably got a big "Hoo Hah!" from views in I.F., but I imagine they were courting audiences in Poky, competing with KPVI for the news ratings.

A lot of the time, the story was a big fire somewhere, usually out on the Arco Desert. Dad kept the Bearcat scanner on whenever he was at home so he'd get the jump on whatever was happening. There were a number of emergency calls just south of Pocatello near or beyond the Porteneuf Gap, and since we lived on South 4th, which was the main artery on the old highway out of town, yeah, we were the first to know about all those.

Sometimes Dad had to pick me and/or my sister up from school or daycare, then quickly dash to where a story was breaking. I can't count all the brush fires we saw on the Fort Hall reservation. A few times we were in... at least a marginal amount of danger. There was the time I was just sitting in the car, waiting for him to get back from getting enough footage of the fire, watching the fire creep closer and closer in the grass toward the car. Nothing became of that, but there was a range fire where Dad took my little sister along.

The way he tells the story, he took the car out to the fire, and before long, the fire was getting close to the car (deja vu). So, he got his footage, loaded Chris into the car, and... it wouldn't start. Fire closer. Car dead. Damned GM cars, I think he said. Fortunately, a big BLM truck rolled up, and the crew onboard told him to get in. He reached into the car, and pulled Chris out, which surprised the fire crew on the truck. They just weren't expecting him to be packing his kid along.

So they were rescued, and I guess he asked the fire dispatcher to relay a message to his boss in I.F. that they were caught up in the fire, the car was a likely loss, and they'd probably be late getting the film in. Somehow the message got back to the boss that he was caught IN the fire... word got back to Mom, and SHE panicked. I didn't know what was going on.

Needless to say, people were a bit miffed at him when he straightened out the story. Mom was mad because he'd taken Chris with him, although I think Chris was pleasantly clueless, as well at the time.

Because Dad was always on the News, he was a local celebrity. That in turn made us sort of celebrities as well, and many of our friends and classmates in school. Whenever Dad had to do some kind of story about school funding, teacher strikes, daycare, what have you, he'd always turn up to our classrooms with camera in hand to get a few shots. I don't know how badly the teachers minded this, but it was a good thing he didn't have a whole crew with the camera, the satellite uplink, and sound dude...

Generally, all he needed were pictures. Something relevant to the story, and there didn't need to be sound in it, so he always had a cache of 16 mm film on hand at home in the vegetable crisper of our refrigerator. The voice-over for the story he did on cassette tapes that he'd package with the film for shipment.

Yes, this was long before the present practice of stationing a reporter in front of the crime scene hours after the place is cleaned up for a live remote, and it was even before video tape got to be more prevalent.

I decided when I was six or so that I wanted to be either a stand-up comic like David Brenner, or a television weatherman like another local celebrity, Lloyd Lindsay Young. He was your classic very outgoing personality that... alright, you either loved him or you thought he was profoundly annoying. Since I was six, he was a giant both physically and as a genuine legendary figure. He was funny, which I believe weathermen often had to be. At least have SOME kind of personality because, face it, this guy was getting paid to talk about the weather.

So when I didn't want to be a news man like my Dad, I wanted to do stand up or be a weatherman. Sounds like "entertainer" to me. Just to be funny and make people laugh like Lloyd did every time he explained the cold front coming in, or David with his short tales of when he was a kid my age.

I mention David Brenner because he was the first stand-up comic I really became aware of. We got cable television when I was in first grade, which got us HBO, and a bunch of regular stations out of Salt Lake. There were other comics featured on HBO that first month we got it, but they had some kind of rating system, or at least a parental advisory that told the folks to send me and my sister to our room when someone like Rodney Dangerfield or Steve Martin came on.

Also in that first month of HBO when it was young, I discovered Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yes, at the tender young age of six, maybe seven, tops, I exposed myself to the Pythons in a rather concentrated dose. I saw Holy Grail probably about seven times in one month. My friends who were good LDS suddenly had their cable cut off. How bad could it be? I was rolling on the floor, laughing so hard I got hiccups.

I also got to see all of the Pippi Longstocking movies, and I developed a hopeless crush on Inger Nilsson. I didn't know just how hopeless the crush was until I found out the Pippi movies were all Swedish. Needless to say, I didn't even know there was a place called Sweden at the time, let alone that it was a place FAR far away... Come to think of it, I never noticed that bad lip-synch until fairly recently.

Here's a good stopping place.

Peace be with you.