Friday, May 18, 2018

Stewing on Course Evaluations

Course evaluations. I looked at mine on Monday. I've been stewing ever since.

Yes, stewing is the right word. The recipe is rather simple. First, you toss in all of the stages of grief, then you add a dash of self-doubt and self-loathing.

My numbers were fine(ish). A little lower than in the past. But I did make some changes to the course. So revisit, revise, and try again.

I can handle the numbers. But the comments... Actually, it's one comment. One comment that is literally surrounded by positive comments. But one comment, nonetheless. The theme is something to the order of I HATE YOU!

It's been a while since I got one of those. And I can rationalize past it. I'm not perfect--not at all. I can accept that some students just won't like me. It happens.

But this doesn't stop the "feeling like a fraud" stew. 

Instead, all of my worse insecurities have come to the surface. Specifically, there is my persistent fear of becoming irrelevant, of becoming That Guy who time has passed by. Maybe my routine worked with Millennials. But Generation Z isn't having it.

Oh, and then there's the impostor syndrome. Every single one of my colleagues had a fantastic semester. Their reviews were all glowing. Glowing with love. So it's really just me. 

OK, so as you can see... none of this is particularly healthy or productive.

What do to?

I once read something from Kristin Armstrong where she described her process of taking a burden for a run. At the beginning, she picks up a rock and pretends that this is the thing weighing her down. After some miles of pondering, she throws the rock and liberates herself from the burden.

Easy enough, right? I tried "rock therapy" on Wednesday. It didn't work. I gave the rock a really good throw too.

I need another idea--and interestingly, Armstrong might have one.

In writing this blog post, I Googled the original article and re-read it. After she describes her rock-tossing method, she goes on to discuss another practice of keeping a daily gratitude journal. With this, she takes time each morning to write down ten things that she is grateful for and why.

The outcome?
When I wake up and start each day this way, it changes everything. Things that used to bug me now brush right off, like lint on a sweater. If I feel a complaint coming on later in the day, I can quickly shift my thinking and look for the silver lining (even if it’s just funny – “Well, it could have sucked much worse”). When people say insensitive things, I lean towards compassion and release it rather than getting pissy or flinging one of my trademark zinger one-liners. It has been almost two weeks and I can feel something happening. Maybe there isn’t a marked change in what the universe is giving me, but there is definitely a transformation in what I am giving the universe. I have read about the power of gratitude in hundreds of books and articles, but I am beginning to understand it in the intimate terms of my own life, in both a mystical and practical sense.
Gratitude. OK, maybe I can try this tomorrow.

And maybe I can even start by being grateful for evaluations. There are good ones. Lots of good ones. I tend to take those for granted and I shouldn't. Those students are trying to tell my something too. I owe them the dignity of listening attentively--instead of stewing.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

It's End-of-Year Report Time...

In my first writing of this post's title, I went with an exclamation point at the end. But upon further reflection, I'm going with the ellipses.


Because, according to one website I found, this form of punctuation can "indicate hesitation."  Hesitation. Which is kinda like procrastinating. Which is kinda what I'm doing right now.

Because the end-of-year report is really easy to finish. Pull up those meeting minutes, a few copy-and-pastes, grab some numbers.  

Coffee time! 

OK, back to those meeting minutes.

Hold on. I wonder what Facebook is up to? Cats and dogs acting like people. Man that never stops being funny.

Wait, what??? Tiger Woods is playing golf again!??!?!?! Well, I need to catch up on this Very Important Story. That could go into the book. Research!

Now back to that report.

But first... any emails from students? It's finals week--crazy time. Gotta respond promptly. Gen Z expects that. 

Do you know who else is prompt? All of my Twitter friends. I wonder what they're up to.

Wait, what????  Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals is suspended for three games!?!?! Well that changes everything for the Penguins moving forward. 

The report. I've budgeted two hours to finish this report.

That gives me plenty of time to dust off my Linkedin account. I mean, I wrote two book reviews last year. That really needs to be on my dashboard.

Wait, what??? I still have a Pinterest account!?!?!? Huh... Now there's a really interesting vegan black bean burger recipe. And a listicle of 40 epic photobombs! Oh wait, it's from 2013. I remember when 2013 wasn't so long ago.  

Enough already! It's time to get down to business.

Right after I finish this blog post... [see what I did right there?]

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Talking Religion and Sports in the Radio

The God Show

Ep. 5 Religion in Sports with Professor Arthur Remillard.

It is WAY easier to interview than to be interviewed.

It's also easier to hear yourself as the interviewer.

All that being said, my conversation with veteran broadcaster Pat McMahon was positively delightful. Before we started recording, we had the chance to talk. I was nothing short of impressed by how prepared he was. He knew exactly where Saint Francis University is, and he even knew one of our most noted basketball players--Maurice Stokes.

He had also taken the time to read my blog, which only slightly horrified me. After referencing my review of Jesus Christ Superstar , he indicated that he had sent it along to his "personal friend" Alice Cooper.


No mean tweets from the the Godfather of Shock Rock yet.


I cringed a few times listening to myself, wanting to go back and revise some of my answers. I also picked up on my own series of verbal ticks. "Well that's a great question."

So listener beware...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Running Through The Pain and Other Stories of Misguided Masculinity

I often tell stories about myself that I probably definitely shouldn't.

Case in point, last night I participated in a panel discussion on masculinity. It's a topic that has been on my mind lately, which makes sense when you write about sports. But I have been reading, watching, and listening to a lot of interesting material on this topic. For example, one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain, had an excellent show on the problem of loneliness as it relates to American masculinity.

So this topic has been on my radar. And last night's conversation gave me so much more to think about. I left with a deeper appreciation of my university colleagues--professors and students alike. At one point in the conversation, though, someone mentioned competitiveness and sports, and how guys have a tendency to take their games a little too seriously.

Then I started talking...

I recounted the time when I was running a trail race and, with about one mile left, I twisted my ankle on the uneven ground. It was bad enough that I literally heard a POP!

That's the point when you stop running, right? I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but there was an abnormal noise coming from inside my body somewhere. But I didn't stop. I just let out a swear and kept running.

Why? Because I'm a dude and something in my dude brain said "keep running."

Later that day, an x-ray confirmed that I did, in fact, break a bone in my foot. I am certain that running on that broken foot for one more mile didn't help my recovery time.

Lesson learned, right? Not quite.

A few years ago, I was out for a long run when I tripped over a rock. I didn't hear a pop this time, but once the adrenaline wore off, I knew my big toe was in bad shape. "Oh, just need to shake it off...rub some dirt in it." Indeed, I finished the run and drove home with tears streaming down my face.

Again, x-ray. Broken bone. Much sadness.

Now we've learned our lesson, right? Um...

In preparing for a marathon in 2014, I jumped from 45 miles a week to 75. This is one of those DON'T DO THAT pieces of advice that every new runner gets. Yet, after decades of running, I felt confident that THOSE ARE YOUR RULES, NOT MINE!!!

That's the story of how I got a stress fracture. When it first started, I could tell just from standing that I wasn't just suffering from tendinitis. But that's what I told myself as I slugged more ibuprofen than any person (or horse) should.

I actually finished a 20 miler on that stress-fractured-foot--which an x-ray would layer show was straight up fractured. That was the summer that I spent in the pool.

So last night, I rehearsed all of these misadventures in bone breaking as examples of my own misguided masculinity. In each instance, I ignored reality and my own limitations, because... GOTTA BE TOUGH!

As I have said many, many times, running brings value into my life. Real value. But I have destructive tendencies. And when these destructive tendencies overwhelm my better angels, I can spiral off into even worse places.

When I can't run--especially when I'm injured--the depression comes quick and hard. This has always been the case, but more so since this midlife thing started. Part is neurological. My brain is accustomed to whatever chemicals that running provides. But the other part connects to the ways that I wrap my identity and self-worth around this sport, and specifically to my performances.

That's the unhealthy part of running for me. Constantly measuring myself against faster people and a younger me. Add to that an ongoing lament of how my body looks and works.

At present, I am running and healthy. I should be grateful for that, and often times I am. But there are those times when I want to be something that I am not.

Running does give me the opportunity to push myself, to test my limits. This is no doubt a good thing--so long as I don't break any bones along the way.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Get Off My (Snow-Covered) Lawn!

My irrational weather-related anger is getting worse.

I was pretty ranty back on the first day of spring, when snow covered the ground as well as my hopes for sunshine and happiness.

I cheered (emphatically) when learning that the Monroe County Sheriff's Office filed an arrest warrant for a certain weather-predicting rodent.

Alas, the snow has kept falling into the early days of April.

So it's time to take this up a notch.

Saturday mornings are my standard time for long runs. But this Saturday morning, I awoke to a fresh coat of snow on the ground and twenty degree temperatures.

If this was January, I would actually be excited. You read that right--excited. In my decades of running, some of my favorite memories are of long runs in the winter. My ideal winter run is one where the white snow glistens from the sunlight, while the darkened roads are clear and open for business. The cold crisp air is refreshing, life-affirming.

I really love these sorts of runs. In January.

In April, I want to be running in shorts and a tee-shirt--I'll accept long sleeves. Gloves, but light ones.

So instead of gearing up for the cold temperatures, I stepped on to the treadmill and did four loathsome miles. Protest miles.

Actually, my protest (snowtest?) wasn't complete. I still had to go to campus on Saturday. But when I got out of my car, I looked at my winter jacket and said "not today."

Happy trails friends.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Smart Things My Friends Are Doing

It's good to have smart friends. It's even better when these smart friends are doing smart things.

Take Mike Pasquier, for example. He gathered together some colleagues at LSU to start their "Coastal Voices" project. As the website explains,
Coastal Voices is about storytelling. It's about slowing down, shutting up, and listening to the people who call Louisiana home. Their experiences of living on land and with water are unique to Louisiana, but they are also transferable to other coastal cultures in the United States and around the world.  Their stories serve as acts of cultural preservation, responses to ongoing transformation, and reflections on future orientation. 
To get a sense of what exactly Coastal Voices is up to, give a listen to their inaugural podcast, which highlights "the stories of people responsible for flood prevention in southern Louisiana. The way we control the Mississippi River has an impact on how we understand the coast."

Aside from the content itself, I was very impressed with the production. Appropriate music, clean narration, and smooth editing. It is a genuinely informative and pleasant listening experience.

Next up, Carmen Nanko-Fern├índez. I have had the genuine pleasure of working with Carmen as a co-chair of the Religion, Sport, and Play group with the American Academy of Religion.  I'm also very eager to read her forthcoming book, ¿El Santo?: Baseball and the Canonization of Roberto Clemente. It was a delightful surprise, then, when I just happened to see her name on the front page of the National Catholic Reporter this morning. Her article is entitled,  "Play ball? Like Easter, interruptions to daily rhythms are sometimes needed." It begins...

Baseball follows the rhythms of its own liturgical calendar. There is Spring Training, like Advent, a time of anticipation and preparation; ordinary time with its grinding 162 daily game schedule; occasional feast days like Jackie Robinson Day, Roberto Clemente Day and Opening Day. Opening Day in Major League Baseball (MLB) carries such ritual significance that, in 2014, Budweiser beer and Hall of Fame ball player Ozzie Smith sponsored a quixotic online petition campaign to get it added to the list of national holidays. . . . 
Connections between Easter and baseball are certainly not new. In 1911, baseball's primary evangelist, Albert Goodwill Spalding, a Chicago purveyor of sporting goods and former ballplayer, reminded readers in his book America's National Game "that the ecclesiastics of the early Church adopted this symbol (ball-tossing) and gave it a very special significance by meeting in the churches on Easter Day, and throwing up a ball from hand to hand, to typify the Resurrection." Though it is questionable whether this activity was a precursor of baseball, games of all sorts were a part of medieval festival celebrations.
Make sure to read the rest here.

As a bonus to my runner friends, click on an article from Allison Walter (who I don't know, but her article is in close proximity to Carmen's, so good enough). It's called "Easter joy: A happy runner is a fast runner." Here's one segment that particularly caught my attention...
My track coach used to always tell us that a happy runner is a fast runner. I think he meant it to convey that, if I'm truly taking joy in the sport, the joy will naturally exude from me and will propel me to a new level. The joy comes first, and the getting faster part comes as a result. My coach meant that phrase in the most literal of ways when it came to track and field, but I've found it to apply to much more than running. When we allow ourselves to enter fully into the joy of our surroundings, we subsequently become better at whatever it is we're doing — prayer, relationships, school, career. Joy transforms us into the best of ourselves.
Finally, there's Joe Price. Joe was the first scholar that I met who shared an interest in religion and sports. My first book review was of his edited volume, From Season to Season. And a few years ago, he stayed at my house while he was doing his "Anthem Tour"--a cross-continental tour wherein Joe sang the national anthem at over 100 minor league baseball parks.

Well, at long last, Joe's written account of this tour is available, under the title of Perfect Pitch: The National Anthem for the National Pastime The book description reads...
To celebrate baseball and sing the national anthem for more than 100 minor league baseball games during a single summer, Joe Price drove more than 25,000 miles through forty states. Accompanied on the zig-zagging, cross-continental trek in an RV by his wife who had not been a baseball fan, he often shared games and baseball stories with relatives and friends along the way. Serendipitously in multiple ballparks across the nation, Price met college alumni and former Whittier residents whom he had not previously known. Throughout the journey he experienced how baseball brings people together. Grounded in their respective communities, each ballpark reflected specific products, habits, and values associated with its location, and often evoked and formed distinct baseball memories and stories. Some provided high drama with walk-off home runs, others featured bungled plays on the diamond, and a few celebrated outlandish promotions for fans' entertainment, like the antics of BirdZerk in Fort Wayne, the flight of the first human home run in Lowell, and the crooked race by armadillos in Tulsa. Blending baseball lore, travel narrative, and personal memoir, PERFECT PITCH explores America through a lens of minor league baseball as it chronicles Price's anthem adventure. The book includes more than fifty photographs and maps. 
Here's a video of one of Joe's performances...

So now you have plenty smartness to fill your weekend. Happy reading and listening!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

On Jesus Christ Superstar and the Power of a Handshake

It's only a handshake. But it's a handshake that has stuck with me.

It happens halfway through "Everything's Alright" in the 1973 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. In this scene, Judas berates Mary Magdalene for her perceived wastefulness, and then turns his ire toward Jesus. The response from Jesus is both forceful and empathetic, defending his female friend's generous hospitality and reminding Judas that "you'll be lost and you'll be sorry when I'm gone." 

It's not so much the words of this moment that catches my attention so much as the gestures. We see Jesus reaching out to cup Judas's face. And as the camera pans out, we behold a small crowd surrounding Judas, laying their hands on him in a show of solidarity. Judas's face is one of wonder, frustration, admiration, and confusion.

Then, the two clasp their hands together tightly, reaffirming a bond and a friendship that was being tested and stretched to a breaking point. 

That's the handshake I'm talking about. For me, it captures the tension of the entire musical, a tension that has its roots in a messy friendship that ends with betrayal, death, and resurrection.

I think this is why I became enamored with this musical as a teenager. For starters, there is something gloriously transgressive about re-imagining Judas as a sympathetic character.

But even more, I think that this musical speaks more broadly to the complicated ways that friendships work. For me as a teenager, this could not have been more relevant. Friendships can be life-affirming, joyous, and a source of happiness. But they can also confound us and complicate our lives.

And yet, we need friends--real friends. At the same time, sometimes we treat those closest to us worse than we would any casual acquaintance.

All of this brings me to the latest telling of the Jesus Christ Superstar story, featuring John Legend and company. Long story short, I thought this was a superb production. Unlike some of the reviews that I read, I actually liked the Mad Max-esque setting. The live crowd added an energy to a performance that was captivating, lively, and powerful.

The casting could not have been more appropriate--except for Alice Cooper as Herod. His Herod relied more on our background knowledge of him rather than of the actual performance itself. So I rate that one somewhere between "underwhelming" and "meh." Yes, I went there. Not going back either (humph).

Otherwise, everyone from Simon to Pilate to Mary Magdalene absolutely owned the stage. But Judas, played by Brandon Victor Dixon, truly took control of the story. It's appropriate, in my view. Jesus Christ Superstar works because it reveals the very human turmoil of this character. We can relate to him precisely because of his imperfections.

Having said all of that...

I braced myself for "Everything's Alright." 

It was good. Very good. There was plenty of anger and frustration. But there was no dramatic separation between the two. No gestures of humanity exchanged between Judas and the crowd. And there was no handshake.

Just the image of two former friends, two new rivals. Judas stands aloof, unaffected, and exasperated.

This is my "I wish they would have" for this production. The Jesus/Judas dynamic certainly was intense and heated. But I didn't detect the complexity, the conflicted humanity. Maybe I missed something. Educate me if you think otherwise.

But I really liked that handshake.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Plugged Back In... Things I've Missed and Things I've Written

According to Dr. Google, the answer to "When does Lent finish?" is as follows...

For Western churches the 40-day period of Lent ends on Holy Saturday (March 31), the day before Easter. 
But the liturgical season of Lent ends two days earlier on Holy Thursday (March 29). 
For Eastern churches it ends on the Friday before Palm Sunday.
Good enough...

So I went ahead and plugged back in to social media this morning.

I did enjoy the quiet of a life spent without THE SHOUTING OF SOCIAL MEDIA. But soon after logging back on, I found this little gem.

And with that, all of my lamenting about spending too much time on social media evaporated. Every second is worth it now.


I did manage to blow the dust off the blog over Lent, which has been a good thing. Because my readership has been between two and three people these past few weeks, I have felt liberated to just post whatever is on my mind. Hence the label applied to most of these posts: "stupid stuff."

Here, then, is a list of my Lenten posts, starting with the oldest....

  • "Decluttering for Lent... Again (and Again)": "if Lent is a time to reflect and reassess, it is probably worth limiting the distractions and taking stock of what really matters. Will lessons be learned this time? Heck no. But that's why Lent happens every year."
  • "Push-Up! Into New Habits": "Over the weekend, Kate and I along with some friends did the Think Pink Push-Up Showdown. . . . [A] good cause and a fun event...that I was taking a tiny bit too seriously. But that's a story for another day. For now, let me explain why I was particularly eager to volunteer for this event--and to volunteer my wife too."
  • "Billy Graham and Christian Athletes, from Gil Dodds to Louis Zamperini": "In the coming days and weeks, there will be no shortage of tributes and commentaries on [Billy Graham's] significance, influence, and legacy. Many of these will be written by Very Qualified People. I am not, by any measure, one of those people. And yet, here I go."
  • "A Russian Curler Got Caught Doping And I Guess We Shouldn't Really Be Surprised": "[It's] hard for me to see PED use suddenly coming to an end. The stakes are high in elite sports. And the competition is separated by razor-thin margins. Moral pronouncements about keeping sports "clean" might sound nice. But the reality is that the need to find an edge--even in curling--will will compel athletes to accept the risk." 
  • "Pondering Podcasts": "I could never get a measure on how much value [podcasting] brought into my circles. Maybe measuring value in something like this isn't the point--it's more having had the opportunity to connect with other people, to engage with their work, and to grow as a result. Who knows..."
  • "I Like The Quiet of a Lenten Social Media Fast, But I Miss The Stories About Calvinist Dogs"
  • "Sacred Guns": "[The] fact is that for many (many) people in the USA, guns are sacred objects. Their power comes not only from an authority granted through the constitution and affirmed by the highest court, but also through the actual firing of the weapon itself."  
  • "GPS Is Watching You": "[Once] I started running with a GPS watch, my 7 mile loops suddenly shrunk to 6.5. And my "easy pace" of 7:00 minutes per mile suddenly became far less easy. All of this is to say, GPS is watching me..."
  • "A New Look, Kinda": "Pretty much from the minute I started writing here, I knew that the design would need to change. Very Blogspotty. Very 2010. Fortunately, Blogger makes it easy. Find a design, select it, adjust here and there and... I think that this is a slightly better look than what I had before."
  • "Another 'Grades Are a Barrier To Learning' Post": "Chasing after grades is a sort of intellectual idolatry. It elevates random numbers and letters to sacred status, and forces a deadening loyalty to this system. It's a system that produces anxiety and unrest for everyone involved. In contrast, real learning inspires, engages, and liberates. Every professor got into this business because of their deep love of a particular subject. This is what we want to share with our students."
  • "Shame and Typos": "I wrote a book. It had an argument. A good argument. But it had a typo too (yep, just one). So the argument doesn't matter. Because all any reviewer has to do is say, 'And on Page 73...' Then end. Shame and irrelevance await. I shall forever wear the Scarlet T."
  • "My Take On Bannister's 'Miracle' on the Track": "When a friend texted me Roger Bannister's obituary, I knew that I had to write something. He's one of those names that transcends his sport. Indeed, Bannister's breaking of the four-minute barrier wasn't just important for track fans. His name and accomplishment has become an emblem for confronting and overcoming the impossible."
  • "Snow, The Road, and Trout... It'll Make Sense... Kinda": "[The Road] is a novel about absence, about what a world looks like when there is literally nothing but ash. No culture, no color, no order, no life, no divinity, no morality. Just a father and son who commit themselves to being "keepers of the light."
  • "Meanwhile in Pennsylvania": "Via 'More than seven weeks ago, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from the ground and predicted six more weeks of winter. . . . That six-week period has passed, and it's still cold. In eastern Pennsylvania, authorities in Monroe County are tired of waiting for spring's arrival, so they've issued a warrant for the groundhog's arrest on charges of what they called deception.'"
  • "Anchors Away": "As Easter draws near, and with a semester in France in my rear view, I have been thinking more about my anchors. Specifically, social media. I have lamented my unhealthy relationship to this attention-harvesting beast many, many times before. And here I do it again. The silence of my life is welcome and necessary. I find that the news is less anxiety-inducing. I also find that I have plenty of opportunities to connect with friends, only now, in person."

I hope to continue blogging through the year, so brace yourself for plenty more "stupid stuff." 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Anchors Away

I first discovered Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus through a TEDx talk that they did on "minimalism." The story goes that they were both climbing the corporate ladder, earning big paychecks, and spending all if it and more.

But as the time passed, they both came to realize that they were miserable--masking the misery with work, drinking, drugs, and more spending. 

Then minimalism happened.

First, they boxed up all of their "stuff," keeping only the things that they really used or needed. Then they reoriented their life's focus toward the things that really mattered: Health, relationships, passions, growth, and contribution.

They make the point that minimalism isn't just about slimming down. The point is, rather, to liberate yourself from the many "anchors" of your life, to make space for you to bring real value into your life.

Anchors come in many shapes and sizes. And everyone has their own unique collection of them. Bigger paychecks, corporate status, material belongings, toxic "friendships." All of these things can weigh us down, especially when they become our "golden calf."

As Easter draws near, and with a semester in France in my rear view, I have been thinking more about my anchors. Specifically, social media.

I have lamented my unhealthy relationship to this attention-harvesting beast many, many times before. And here I do it again. The silence of my life is welcome and necessary. I find that the news is less anxiety-inducing. I also find that I have plenty of opportunities to connect with friends, only now, in person instead of through cyberspace.

I tell myself that I live in a world and work in a profession that virtually requires me to be plugged in to social media. When Sunday arrives, I anticipate that I will reactivate my accounts. I also anticipate that I will tell myself that "this time, I will do better." I will be more disciplined about my online habits. I won't feel the need to check first thing in the morning when I wake up, and last thing in the evening when I go to bed. I will not feel the compulsive need to "like" every post, or make snappy comments and fret that someone might misread my intent.

But ultimately, I anticipate social media becoming an anchor once more. Perhaps this time, I should leave it to rust at the bottom of the ocean.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania...


More than seven weeks ago, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from the ground and predicted six more weeks of winter. Many celebrated, while others grumbled about the thought of another month and a half of cold temperatures. 
That six-week period has passed, and it's still cold. In eastern Pennsylvania, authorities in Monroe County are tired of waiting for spring's arrival, so they've issued a warrant for the groundhog's arrest on charges of what they called deception. 
"No, the groundhog's annual forecast really has no basis in science or meteorology, but I can certainly commiserate with those that are getting frustrated at the persistence of the cold as we launch into spring," said senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman. 
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is doing everything it can to haul in the rodent. They posted a wanted poster on Facebook, which was also placed on their Warrant Wall at the police station.

Law and order at its finest. Bravo, Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Bravo.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Snow, The Road, and Trout... It'll Make Sense... Kinda

Saint Francis is not amused
That's it. I'm calling my congressman.

There's no excuse for this weather--this SNOW!

It's SPRING! Spring is supposed to be a time for... SPRINGING! Bunnies shouldn't be bouncing around doing bunny things. Surrounded by the early signs of vegetation and growth.

Instead, the rabbits are battling with the squirrels over scraps falling from garbage trucks. And nothing is growing, because it's all frozen under a foot of snow.

OK, it could be worse. Not all that long ago, my class on apocalyptic literature finished Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Sweet, merciful...

This is my second time reading this novel, and I wept again when I reached the final page. It is at the same time bleak and beautiful. It's a father/son story at its core. But it's also so much more. Or less. It is a novel about absence, about what a world looks like when there is literally nothing but ash. No culture, no color, no order, no life, no divinity, no morality. Just a father and son who commit themselves to being "keepers of the light."

When the story finally resolves, McCarthy has this as the final paragraph. I'm still thinking about it.

 Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery. 
There is something curiously brilliant about selecting a brook trout as the emblem for creation. If you have ever done any fly fishing, it make sense. Otherwise, this might seem random. There is both strength and fragility in the body of a trout. On the end of your line, you feel its strength, its will to live. But the conscientious angler takes time to gently carry the fish out of the water, to remove the barbless hook, and to return it back home.

So it should be with creation, writ large. Alas...

I guess all of this thinking about imagined worlds way worse than this one should make me more tolerant of the spring snow. Should.