Thursday, April 26, 2007

Now, This is Cool...and True

...and it has been ever thus.

Hey, it’s not my fault! I come by this honestly. Really.

Ever since OSV’s friend Janet Smith used the phrase “genetically irritable” to describe her cantankerous nature—something I instantly identified with!—I’ve been pondering a question about who I am, and why I’m wired the way I am. The question usually goes along the lines of “Why am I so cantankerous?” Or “Why do I always seem to see things differently than the majority?” Or “Why am I always the one who says ‘the emperor has no clothes on’?” “Why can’t anyone else see this this way???” All these questions, I’ve been asking myself for years, because I have this interpersonal handicap. St. Paul had his thorn in the flesh…I’ve got mine. I don’t “do” group-think well. If a majority of people think something, almost invariably, I believe the opposite. (I’m probably the only person in America who, all through the OJ trial, kept saying, “He’s being framed.” That’s how bad this is.) 99% of the time, I never cared for the #1 hit songs on the hit parade (now, there’s a phrase that’ll date me!). I either liked the “B” side of the record (another phrase that’ll date me)—or I’d heard another cut from the artist that I liked WAY better than the monster hit. Or, a third possibility that occurred more times than I can count: I didn’t even like the artist to begin with. In some cases, “loathe” was not too strong a word. I’ve never watched Survivor. I’ve never watched American Idol. I consider such things a colossal waste of time. I never watched Seinfeld until my kids started watching it in reruns. Same with The Simpsons. And the jury’s still out as to whether either of those, or any of a thousand other hit shows out there, are worth spending time on. Ditto for the majority of movies that come out lately…and I love movies. But there are only so many bathroom or gutter jokes you want to hear when you’re past seventh grade. All that could be dismissed as just my tastes being out of the mainstream. But, oh, if it were only that simple. And if only I still got rewarded for “unique insights” with As on my papers, like I got in grade school and high school and college. But when you grow up, “unique insights” don’t make you friends. You aren’t “unique” anymore…you’re “out of step.” You “just don’t get it,” you don’t “understand,” you “need to loosen up,” or, in the worst case scenarios, you get called nasty names. In rare instances, you get credited for being a “conscience.” I got that a couple of times. It was wonderful. But it’s also lonely. Just ask Jiminy Cricket…we may have to “let our conscience(s) be our guide,” but that doesn’t mean we want to invite them over for drinks after the show. (They probably wouldn’t have liked the show anyway.) So what’s a contrarian to do? My life coach suggested some new ways to think. To try to get myself to understand and appreciate the group dynamics in my writers’ organizations, at work, wherever. To use that steel-trap brain of mine to think ahead about what I’d say and how I’d say it. To tailor my words so that other people are “right,” and I’m only being “helpful.” And I tried, really, I did. I still do. People have no idea how many bite marks there are in my tongue; I spend a lot of time reframing things before they even come out of my mouth. But what comes out, either of mouth or keyboard, invariably still is more contrarian than it is conciliatory. At last, though, I may have an answer for why this is happening. This may not even be a thorn in the flesh…as painful as it is at times. This may, in fact, be exactly what I’ve been called to be from the beginning, and if I start thanking God for it instead of trying to figure out how to “fix” it, there may be exciting things ahead. When did I come to this miracle conclusion? Well, Janet Smith’s tongue-in-cheek label helped. I won’t deny that. But then I realized this goes deeper even than a wry observation about how I’m “wired.” This goes, ladies and gentlemen, clear to my patron saint. Now, before you go running off to see who my patron saint is, I’ll save you the trouble. It’s Bartholomew. Otherwise known as Nathaniel. No, I’m not named either of those things, obviously. But Bartholomew/Nathaniel’s feast day is…my birthday. So in at least one sense, that makes him my patron saint. If I’d just remembered that, and put it together with the account we have of him in Scripture, I would have understood this hard-wiring of mine so much better. Walk back with me in time to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, when He’s calling the disciples. He taps Philip on the shoulder and says, “You.” What does Philip do? He runs to get his brother, of course. His brother…Nathaniel. What follows is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. For the first thing that Nathaniel says, when he finds out that Philip is so excited about this guy from Nazareth…is contrary. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” In that passage, that's pretty much a rhetorical question. It’s supposed to wake Philip up. Give him a whomp upside the head and tell him, “You ninny. That can’t be the guy.” (Or…”You ninny. The emperor’s still naked.”) I’ll leave you to rummage into the second chapter of John’s Gospel and read the rest for yourself, but I never fail to chuckle when I read those words. Because I’m right there with Nathaniel. I’m the one saying, “Wait a minute. Are we sure this guy’s for real? What did he say that convinced you? Who told you? How do you know?” And, blessedly, I’m also right there when Jesus looks at the contrarian and says, “You are without guile.” Jesus knows me. He knows what you see…is what you get. With Nathaniel, and with me. So, you see, I come by this whole thing honestly. It’s straight from Scripture, from my patron saint. And it’s not a flaw. It’s not a thorn. And I can stop trying to correct it. I can thank God for it. I can rejoice in being a contrarian…and see what happens next. Because the very thing I may have been looking at as a flaw, as a personality fault, or as a burden, may in fact be something else entirely. It may have been a birthday gift that, until now, I was too blind to see for what it is. It may be something truly special. Something that, now that I’m changing course and considering it a blessing…may turn out to be something so powerful it'll knock my contrarian socks off. How about you? Does this ring any bells? What “gifts” might you have…in disguise? Looking forward to unwrapping things further, Janny

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Supporting Each Other…or...Not

Was perusing the blogosphere today and came across this on the BookEnds blog: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2007/04/writers-revenge.html …and read the comments. And was dismayed. But, sadder still, wasn’t shocked. Or surprised. Being discussed was the issue of writers who pick on each other, undermine each other, snipe at each other, turn on each other…etc. What you might call your garden variety of “Writers Behaving Badly.” And it seems everybody’s got a tale to tell in this regard. Some of them were legitimately brutal. Some of the perpetrators would deserve nothing more than to be kicked out of the creative writing realm and barred forever from any contact with students, mentorees, or even fellow writers. But then again, others fall into a gray area. The gray area of “What I consider legitimate criticism, or merely a business decision, you could think is abuse and bad behavior.” Or, worse, “What you consider bad behavior isn’t bad…it just didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear.” I’ve been on at least one person’s “Writers Behaving Badly” list in the past year. And I didn’t snipe at anyone to get there. I didn’t undermine a single other soul to get there. I didn’t pick on anyone. All I did was express a belief I had. A belief that, in my professional organization, as well as in the writing world in general, apparently isn’t “okay” to hold. Because I did that, according to many, many posters, the best thing that could have happened to me was pretty much unprintable. I’ve also had people jump down my throat for a legitimate critique after claiming that’s what they wanted. I’ve had people tell me, “My creative writing teacher says it’s fine not to punctuate anything or capitalize anything. That’s my voice.” (Answer to that one? Your creative writing teacher might be an incompetent idiot.) Or, “All the _______ (you name the genre) books I see have this in them, so why can’t I do it, too?” (Answer to that one? You did it, all right, but you didn’t do it well yet, and I’m trying to help you do so.) Or, “How dare you tell me this isn’t good enough to get published? Big Name Vanity Publishing Company (or Small Penniless Press) says I’m the next shining star!” (Answer to that one? Follow the money. ‘Nuff said.) So consider this a cautionary note from one side of the trench…not to necessarily jump onto a bandwagon too fast when you’ve only heard one side of the “crit groups stink” or “only readers count, other writers are just jealous” sentiments. For every person who knows how to take legitimate criticism and work with it, there are a hundred who think you’re being “mean” or “dumb” or “arrogant.” And you’ll get labeled that way…and talked about that way…and sometimes, that kind of talk can hurt your career. It can certainly hurt feelings. Which is what some of these complainers forget: that the people they at times take such pleasure in vilifying are also human beings, with feelings, and with the same desire to succeed, and to look good doing it, that they have. Yes, protect yourself. Yes, have the guts to stand up to an abuser and tell him or her to take a long walk off the nearest short pier. But don’t let a few bad, rotten apples in the field scare you off letting anyone see your work, critique it, edit it, or brainstorm it with you. No one knows how to improve a writer like another writer. If you want undiluted praise, give your stuff to your friends. If you want to improve, however, odds are much better of doing so if you share it with another writer and mutually learn from the experience. My take, Janny

Absolutely the Best Column on the Virginia Tech incident...and others...that you will find anywhere

http://www.suntimes.com/news/steyn/351710,CST-EDT-STEYN22.article ...and I normally don't read the Sun-Times (or as Uncle Bobby used to laughingly call it, "That Commie Pinko Liberal Rag") at all. But hey, if this is the kind of columnists they're hiring, there may be hope for that paper yet. :-) Janny

Friday, April 20, 2007

Today, We're All Hokies.

Pray for healing at Virginia Tech.

Toxic Input

There’s a saying we used to use a lot more than we hear now: “Garbage in, garbage out.” Or GIGO, as the IT people among us used to say. I wonder why we don’t hear that anymore. Possibly because so much of what’s around us is garbage that we no longer can tell which is which. Witness my previous blog entry, and its subject matter. I would never in a million years have thought that I would blog about a shock jock, especially one who was given way more than his share of press over the last couple of weeks. But I did. Why? Because the “scandal” was all over the place…because it started to frustrate a lot of us…and because, as usual, I had thought of a few aspects of it that I doubt will get much air time. So I gave it that time. But now, I’m done, God willing, with wasting my time on garbage. Which is what that stuff is. Which is what most of what we see in broadcast media is. Especially the “news.” To be blunt, it doesn’t deserve our time or attention. A long, long time ago, I landed a job as an executive secretary at a PR firm that, if you were in the field in Chicago, would have been one you’d recognize in a heartbeat. I was told this was a great job. A plum job. And it would eventually lead…who knew? Because, as many of us were told in the 80s, PR was one of those “mover and shaker” fields that could “get us ahead.” (Wherever “ahead” was.) I believed all of it. The only problem was, shortly after I got into the field, I discovered what an absolutely ridiculous job it was. How completely meaningless. And most tragic of all, how it chewed people up and spat them out over that meaninglessness, and berated them for not understanding how “important” all this PR stuff was. I mean, we were writing press releases announcing the launching of ships by a company I didn’t even know built ships. No one I knew would remotely care about these ships. No one I knew cared about them then. And because I was a newbie in the PR field and didn’t know the protocol, I must admit, I made a couple of errors which were quickly pounced upon and corrected by my ever-so-helpful coworkers. I didn’t mind the corrections…even if they weren’t done very nicely. They were done with the air of “This poor slob new person doesn’t even understand this much about the business,” a good-natured roll of the eyes, and the like. Well, after I’d had a few of those corrections and had been ribbed about one of them, I just looked up, shook my head and said, “In ten years, no one is going to care about this. So why are we giving ourselves ulcers over it? Can we get real here, please?” To which my coworkers reacted—I’m not kidding here—with horror. And that’s when I knew something was really, really wrong. The bit about the “ulcers” wasn’t an exaggeration, either. The secretary to one of the owners of this firm was on sick leave when I was hired, and returned shortly into my tenure…from hospitalization for a bleeding ulcer. One of my other officemates was a chainsmoker—and those were the days you could smoke in offices. So I got the benefit of that habit, as well. The other one had either just had a divorce or something else disastrous happen in her personal life. Can’t remember precisely, but she was also the one who chewed me out so badly over one minor mistake—one I wouldn’t have made had anyone trained me—that I drank half a bottle of wine that night with my dinner and didn’t even feel it. But I digress. One dark day, I was called into my boss’s office and told that I didn’t seem to “fit” in the field. It was a nice way of her saying that if I didn’t quit, I’d probably be fired. My “attitude,” apparently, was the problem. I didn’t “get” how important this all was. This firm was busy building its reputation on saying “Yes” to anything their clients wanted, no matter how unreasonable. (Actually, what the business was about was account executives saying “Yes,” bragging, getting the glory…and the secretaries doing the actual work involved. But you knew that already, didn’t you?) All of this stuff—stuff we would all forget by two weeks from then, never mind ten years—had to matter so much that I would be willing to sacrifice my time, my ego, my self-esteem, and possibly even my health so “our” firm could be the one that said “Yes.” To which I said, “Uhhh, I don’t think so.” And looked for another job pronto. I’ve tried to avoid meaningless drivel for most of my life. Until lately…when I did a temporary digression into talk radio, into caring about politics, and into stumping hard and long for my candidates, my points of view, and what I perceived as right. But you know what? To do that, you’ve got to deal with a lot of garbage. Which can make you crabby. And cynical. And angry. And even…sick. None of this is good for me as a creative person. So, as irresponsible as it may seem to be, I’m going to have to stop doing it. I’ve already opted out of a couple of e-mail lists I was on. Things that kept up with media bias, conservative politics, etc. I’m a conservative. I’ll always be one. I don’t need media watchdogs or conservative alarmists to make me more so…and I certainly don’t need their pressure on me about all these things that are “important", that I have to do something about right now, by God, or...! Because in the grand scheme of things, politics, media, and all the other stuff we get ourselves so twisted up about…doesn’t matter in the end. We find that out when something legitimately important does happen. A birth. A death. A medical crisis. A great, joyful promotion. Success beyond our wildest dreams. Our outside “worlds” stop for those things…as they should. And if we’re paying attention, we realize sometime in all this messy, human, "real life" stuff that what we’re doing at that moment matters. What happens when we stop the outside world and get off…is what real life is, and what really is important. Not the news. Not the “important” things that fluff up egos and are then forgotten in a quest for the next “plum” piece of attention. Not the things that contribute to some pathetic soul’s 15 minutes. Not the he-said/she-saids, the accusations, the political paranoia, the religious stumping...none of it. And especially not the garbage. With God’s help, I’m going to remember that from now on. Stick my head in the proverbial political/news/media sand and pay attention to what’s right in my hands to do. And let the rest of it be settled, as it will anyway, whether I am in the middle of things or not. I need to invest my energy, not waste it on things I can’t possibly hope to change. That way lies anger, cynicism, and…in a very real sense…sickness. It’s time to toss that aside and go back to health again. That's where I'm going to do my best to stay now. Wanna join me? Janny

Friday, April 13, 2007

“Ho”-pocrisy In Action

There's been too much press on Imus and his grave "sin" already...but I think a couple of final thoughts are worth considering. 1) I hate shock jocks. Always have. What they do is protected by free speech, unfortunately, but I’ve never seen for one moment the value in getting onto the airwaves and talking dirty. That being said, however, for the first and probably only time in my life, I’m with Howard Stern: Imus should have just said, “F*** you, it was a joke.” And left it at that. Shock jocks are in the business of saying outrageous things. That’s what they get paid for. If you honestly believe that with all the filth these guys put into the air every day, “nappy-headed” is somehow “over the line,” you need your own head examined. 2) The Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team will never have it so good again. They didn’t even win the NCAA title. They lost. That doesn't mean they deserved to be mocked the way they were. But they're not "heroines," and their school hasn't been damaged in any way by this. In fact, the opposite's more likely the case. Think about it. Here's a program that lost the national title game and still got more national face time than the winners! There's a lesson here for all NCAA schools: get offended by someone, somewhere, put on enough shock and sadness, and you'll laugh all the way to the bank. In fact, in fairness, Rutgers probably ought to pay Imus a bonus for the PR he's given their program. 3) Jesse Jackson was curious by his absence in this instance, until it dawned on me—this was radio. Hence, no photo op. If there’s no photo op, you fail the test of a cause Jesse will get behind. Besides, those girls were getting all the face time he would have had…meaning they clearly had the situation under control already. I guess every (fraud) crusader has to know how to pick his battles. As for Al Sharpton and his nonsense? Give me a break. He’s just mad because it was a hair joke. 4) Finally…if inside your culture, your slang includes foul names for yourselves, then don’t scream when someone outside your culture picks up on that. You’ve already lost that right. The term “ho” is such common slang now that it doesn’t even connote anything anymore. And as far as “nappy-headed” bringing to mind the other “n” word? News flash: within the black community, that “n” word is slang as well. And no one gets a weapon out when they say it. No one goes on TV and demands someone be fired. But worst of all, the black community makes folk heroes, and very rich men, out of rap and hip-hop stars who call women way worse things than “nappy-headed ho’s”—and who advocate much worse behavior toward those women in song lyrics. So whose side of the street needs cleaning worse? Hint: it’s not Don Imus’s. And it wasn’t from the beginning. Time for coffee and something sweet to wipe the taste of this out of my mouth, Janny

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Serendipitous Sadness

I always hate it when I go to look up a musician…and find out he’s no longer with us. At first that sounds a little weird, I know. If I was such a fan of the person, wouldn’t I already know that? Not necessarily. Sometimes you lose touch, for one reason or another. The band breaks up, the artists fall off the horizon temporarily, they go into realms of music I’m not particularly interested in, yatta, yatta. We get busy, we move on, and then…sometimes…we get a jolt. My two latest ones have come online. I have to admit, I still don’t always think in terms of any of my favorite artists having online presences. I’m still in the dark ages when it comes to flitting around the cyberworld, in many ways, one of them being searching for people. It always feels vaguely like a violation of someone’s privacy to go clicking on links with their name to see what the sites look like. (I know, “Get over it.” Not to worry. I am.) Anyway, sometimes you go looking for things and find out other things that you wish you hadn’t learned. I found out about the death of Johnny Cunningham (Celtic fiddler extraordinaire) while doing a Google search, down various avenues, looking for Silly Wizard CDs. For those of you who don’t know who Silly Wizard was, you’ve missed one of the great musical experiences of all time. Fortunately, you can still hear it, as most of the Silly Wizard CDs are available through normal channels (except, of course, their best one, A GLINT OF SILVER, which when I last saw it online was going for something like $75!). Anyhow, in efforts to find AGOS in something other than pricey mode, I started entering Google searches of band members’ names—sometimes, you can come at these things through a back door—and learned, to my dismay, that Johnny had been felled by a heart attack not too very long ago. I blinked back a tear and said a prayer for him, and I dearly hope that when I enter heaven, I have a certain wild-eyed Celtic fiddler on hand to greet me. That will truly make heaven even more heavenly. But this week, I got another one of those jolts. One a little closer to home. If you know me for any amount of time at all, eventually you learn that I was, am, and probably always will be one of many truly die-hard, hardcore Cryan’ Shames fans. They were the only band I ever went to see more than, say, twice. (!) They were the band of my teenage years, and extra special in that not only were they a fabulous bunch of musicians, but they were from the Chicago suburbs…some of which I rode through on a regular basis. Remember those wonderful teenybopper days when just being within the same general air space as your idols made your day? Well…I can attest to many wonderful days being within these guys’ general air space. Yeah, I made a fool of myself over them more than once. And of course, I had a major crush on at least one of the guys in the band…that went with the territory. Bands and crushes went together, especially for a girl with a big brother who played in a series of garage bands himself, and thus paraded a motley group of guys in and out of the house in front of his baby sister anyway. My crush was on a certain bass player. Not one of the original guys, by the way—one who joined them after their first hit album had come out, when they went through a slight personnel shift. This guy played lead guitar, but he wasn’t averse to playing bass, and the band was smart enough to sign him on. That’s how Isaac Guillory came into my favorite band and into my life. Okay, “into my life” is an overstatement, maybe. He never knew I existed. But I sure knew he did. Tall, dark, handsome, and a virtuoso musician—what else could I ask for? And if he had tweaked one little finger in my direction when I was, say, 17 or so…who knows how differently my life might have turned out. (Makes my heart feel like a teenybopper’s just thinking about it!) Suffice to say for a couple of golden years in there, I was in pretty much teenybopper heaven any time I could go see the band, stand stage right (where the bass player normally set up) and watch him work. It gave me a pure joy that I’ve never quite gotten over. When I say pure joy, I mean just that. There’s an element of female who hangs around rock-band concerts looking for something else entirely; that wasn’t me. In fact, the very thought that those girls who hung around with the band didn’t care about the music—they were just after…er—that—horrified me. (The fact that guys in a band were usually looking for girls who were after that was one of the great disillusionments of my teenage years as well.) Call me na├»ve, but I really thought all those girls were there for the music. I certainly was. If it came wrapped up in a great package, all the better. But I wasn’t drooling over this guy because I wanted to notch a bedpost with him. I have a literally visceral reaction to music, and that’s all the high I needed at that point. I loved to watch those long fingers of his play bass as if it were another melodic element in the band, instead of just being continuo…and the fact that he was easy on the eyes only made life better. Well, you know what’s coming. Once again, I was doing a search—not even sure why, this time. His name had just popped into my head, and I began wondering what had ever happened to the guy once the Shames called it quits as a regular playing/touring gig. I caught up with him once on a Donovan album, which was singularly underwhelming; that’s because overall Donovan is underwhelming anyway. But Isaac? Isaac, unfortunately, is no longer with us either. This time, felled by cancer that “had gone undetected for too long.” Apparently, this happened on New Year’s Eve of 2000. One can only imagine, and feel for, that suffering. But as far as legacies go, if that counts, the man left a staggering one. A wife, four children, and—even better, as far as us musicians go—an array of Google sites that unhesitatingly called him the best guitar player on the planet. So not only was the guy good-looking…apparently he really was as talented as I thought he was. Which is an affirmation of sorts, even in the sadness of wishing I’d have had a chance to hear him in one of his later guitar concerts before the axe fell. Apparently, they were truly special. I know he was. And I’ll miss him. I can only hope he’s playing accompaniment with Johnny even now, rehearsing for when I get there. (Hang in there, fellas. There’s a soprano in your future.) R.I.P., Isaac. And thanks for all you were. Janny

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Was Jesus Ticklish?

Yanno, maybe this seems like an odd question to ask in Holy Week. But every once in awhile, I get to thinking about weird questions like this, and I think it’s a unique meditation in itself to give yourself a chance to think about it. In my personal files on the computer at work, I have some precious and wonderful pictures of Jesus laughing. Someone sent me one of those a long time ago, and I couldn’t resist going to the website where more are featured and just drinking them in. I especially loved the ones where Jesus is clearly teasing people, especially kids, and having fun with them. It’s a side of Jesus we don’t think about too much, but I think we could stand to. I do acknowledge and agree that when I see Jesus with my own eyes for the first time, as He is, I will not “teach Him to dance” or sing or shout or cheer (no, not even “Go Blue!”). I’ll be dumbstruck, as well I should be. I have a feeling that that first lightning-glance of Him will be something so terrifically wonderful that it’ll rob me of any capacity for speech. Hard to imagine as that may be, I really think it will. (!) But while we’re here on earth, it’s also not a bad idea to keep remembering that He was one of us. I have seen other speculation in other places, curiosity about how He lived as a human being. And there are some patently ridiculous superstitions out there under the guide of “reverence” that, were they not completely silly, might be utterly tragic. There’s one slice of devout Christians who actually, truly believe that Jesus’ life was earthly…but not really. They believe, for example, that Jesus’ clothes grew with Him. So Mary made the one outfit, maybe when he was walking, and it just kept growing. She never had to make more clothes again. (At that, I can hear Mary, in her best Jewish-mother voice, saying, “WHAT!?”) Some people don’t go so far as to attribute magical/miraculous qualities to His clothes, but they attribute them more to His person. As in…Jesus didn’t sweat. Or get acne. Or get dirty. Or skin His knee. Or fall out of a tree. Or spill, break, or mishandle anything. He didn’t go through the adolescent-boy stages of not being able to walk through a room without knocking things over. And heaven knows He didn’t have to put up with His voice squeaking at puberty. He lived a human existence…only not quite so gritty, up close and personal. Less messy. To which I would say, in my best Jewish-mother voice, “Horsefeathers!” I believe in a Jesus whose clothes got dirty, who outgrew His sandals, and who probably—yes—even got acne. I believe in a Jesus who knew what it felt like to have a tummy bug. I believe in a Jesus whose eyes watered in bright sun—and who even got sunburn. A Jesus who was chilled when the desert winds blew cold. Who got splinters, especially in His line of work, and knew how to dispatch an unwanted insect or snake from the house if Mom needed that done. Who got sore feet, even blisters, maybe, from walking all those rough roads. And—in my blatantly realistic moments—I find myself wondering why He came in an age and area of the world where there wasn’t even indoor plumbing. But I also believe in a Jesus who knew how to party. Heck, He had to have been fun to be around. How else would He have been at Cana, not to mention all those tax collectors’ houses for dinner? He had to be an “ordinary guy” in many ways—a carpenter’s son who knew how to mingle with the working people in the neighborhood. What did people fix for dinner when Jesus was coming? What were His favorite foods? What after-dinner games did they play in His day? (The image of Jesus playing charades is something worth contemplating in itself.) Did He help with the dishes? What kind of sense of humor did He have? Did He love puns or slapstick? Did He make plays on words? (I’d bet He did, considering how many of them there are in Scripture.) What tickled His funny bone? For that matter, what tickled Him? Maybe thinking about Jesus this way isn’t important. Maybe only picturing him as an infant, an itinerant preacher, and a Savior died and risen is all that’s important. But I don’t think so. We can certainly consign Jesus to a “human” experience that’s more ethereal than real. Some of us consider that Jesus’ humanity is best seen in those poor, wretched, ill, imprisoned, hungry, cold, thirsty, and naked among us…and we react accordingly. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But in our zeal to minister to Jesus as He appears indirectly, let’s not forget that He really was, directly, one of us. Personally. Human, in all its dirt and “ouchies” and irritating moments. Think of what a wonder that is! In the history of religions as we know them, this was, and remains, an act unprecedented in its impact. It’s actually considered sacrilege in many faiths to believe in a God made man. Yet we have Him. Like us, in all things but sin. All things. Which means that, as we sing Alleluias this Easter, we need to listen in between for Jesus’ voice joining in. For His cheering us on in our delighting in Him. That will tickle Him, for sure. So if we listen close, we just might hear His laughter. It’ll be there. Count on it. Janny

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's a Yawner!

Okay, with apologies to all the Florida fans out there... The best two things about the NCAA tournament: 1) It's over, and 2) Ohio State didn't win it all. As far as the rest goes, does anybody really doubt that Ohio State and Florida were carefully orchestrated to get to that final game? And isn't that the saddest part of this all? Actually, I don't know too much about how Florida got to the championship round. This may have been one of those rare cases where a team really was good enough and deserving enough to get to the NCAA championship; an instance where they didn't get there because of free gifts from refs, virtual home-court games (like the fabled West regionals which--surprise!--end up with the California teams in, and the fabled East regionals that--surprise again!--end up with some variations of the Carolinas), or matchups so one-sided as to be laughable. If so, more power to them. The same cannot be said for Ohio State. But, hey, when the powers that be saw that we could have the possibility of a rematch of the mythical football championship game on the basketball court, and draw all those fans wanting either a sweep or redemption...they did what it took to make it so. In the football arena, Florida got there by smoke and mirrors. The fact that they chewed up Ohio State has less to do with how strong a team they were than how strong a team Ohio State thought it was. In the basketball arena, it was Ohio State's turn for the smoke and mirrors. Enough said. Last year's NCAA will live in fond memory, at least in the middle rounds, for the fabulous show George Mason put on. And the Bradley Braves in the Sweet 16. How refreshing is it to see teams in these ranks who don't "expect" to be there? Who don't consider it their God-given birthright to win everything, and are therefore beside themselves in sheer joy? Do we have memories like that of this tourney? VCU's win over Duke, certainly. But do we have any others? Unfortunately, I can't think of too many. But then, I stopped watching after the fix was so firmly in against Xavier. When I heard the Salukis had been robbed blind in their game... ...well, I was kinda glad I stopped. The best we can hope for is that next year's tournament is more like 2006 than 2007. And that's what sports fans are all about...hope. So it's always a possibility. In the meantime, the only "pool" left is still open, and that's betting on how many days it'll take before we have a news story about some Florida player in trouble with the law. You know it'll happen. It's just a matter of when that shoe drops. Baseball, anyone?