Archive for May, 2011

Aye, There’s the Rub

Friday, May 27th, 2011

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of barbecue season. This weekend in millions of backyards all across the United States families will get in touch with their inner cavemen by charring some animal flesh over open flames, thus demonstrating their dominance over nature and their position at the top of the food chain.

And what does God think about this?

He thinks the sauces matter more than the rubs.

Institutional Knowledge

Friday, May 20th, 2011

I saw the movie “Priest” this week. Without giving too much away let me just say that it’s a vampire movie that takes very little from traditional vampire tales. Even the involvement of religion, which should be obvious from the title, doesn’t have any of the usual “magical” element of pitting ecclesiasticism against the undead. Not that the vampire’s in this movie are “undead.”

But what the movie does do, almost as a sideshow, is give a glimpse into one of the ways the world would look if religion and government were the same thing. The big anti-catchphrase of the film is “if you go against the church, you go against God.” I asked God if that wasn’t the inevitable view of all religions and if the world portrayed in the movie, where actually caring about God was no longer the point of the church, wasn’t an inevitable aspect of combining religion and government. What he pointed out to me was that the phrase, as used in the movie, had the trappings of religion but none of the substance, so saying that it represented religion was no more valid than saying that the movie “Outland” represented science fiction. “Outland” is a western, it’s what’s called “space opera” in that it has the outward trappings of science fiction but doesn’t have the science as any sort of intrinsic part, in other words, it has the form but not the function. If you were to replace the religious trappings in the movie, it would not change the story at all. You could change the phrase to “if you go against the government, you go against the people,” change the “priests” into “warriors” and really nothing else would have to change. Okay, there’s a scene involving “confession,” but you could make it a call to a psychiatrist, and again, only the form would change, not the substance.

So what God then pointed out to me is that in both cases, in the case of the movie being “about” religion or in the case of it being about an overreaching, oppressive, dysfunctional government more concerned with it’s own survival than with the well being of its constituents, what it is really saying is that over time the institutions of man often become more about themselves than about the people they serve. When we serve our institutions for their good, and not for the good of those the institutions serve, that is when we go against God. This is true whether those institutions are religions, governments, or corporations. While we need to band together in groups, often very large groups, to accomplish more than we can as individuals, we should never forget that it is the individuals that matter, not the institutions. We may, at times, have trouble seeing the forest for the trees, but that’s actually not so bad. Without the trees, there is no forest.

I Hear There’ll be Weather Tomorrow

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I’ve never been particularly good at small talk. I always viewed small talk as saying nothing and I sort of felt, well, if you’re not going to say anything, then maybe you should actually not say anything. So it wasn’t a skill I worked at, and, well, little practice leads to little progress.

God pointed out to me, though, that I do engage in such diminutive banter, but that I don’t necessarily do it for the same reasons as other people, and therefore, I don’t necessarily even do it in the same way. She explained to me that small talk is to personal relationships what oil is to my car’s engine. It’s lubrication. It’s there to keep things from getting too hot, from scraping together to the point of destruction while the connection between people is still tentative, still being worked out, still getting up to speed. I, on the other hand, have mostly used it as a way to pass the time, to interact with a friend when the interaction is wanted but when there really isn’t any immediate reason for it to happen.

So for most people, one of the main uses of small talk is to figure out if the person they’re talking to is worth talking to, for them, but I’ve mostly used it only once I’ve already figured out that the person is worth talking to.

It makes me wonder how many other things I may have gotten backwards.

You Dog You

Friday, May 6th, 2011

So Osama bin Laden was killed at the beginning of this week. I try not to think too much about our so-called “war on terrorism” but this seemed like to big an event to let go by without at least mentioning it to God.

I brought it up kind of casually. I know that God doesn’t like to spend too much time these days on the details of the internal squabbles of the human race, and I can’t really blame him. He complains that if he so much as glances at one side or the other, they go all nuts talking about how their side is the chosen one and they can’t lose and all sorts of other nonsense. I pointed out to him that they do that even if he doesn’t glance at them, but he just told me that he still finds it better to just not look.

So I asked him about this latest high-profile death. He told me a sort of parable. He told me that when a dog goes mad and starts biting people it gets put down. When that happens everyone is pretty pleased to see it done except the kids that grew up with the dog, the ones that loved it and were loved in return. Those kids may understand, they may know that the dog needed to be killed, but that doesn’t make them happy about it.