Inconceivable

It is Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  What happened today?  Nothing, but today describes much of life.

We wade through a flurry of planning, spending, and staging a wedding.  We endure/enjoy the BIG day; the honeymoon and return to … quiet … close to nothing is happening.   We return to work, wondering what we weaved into our life.

We pitch, talk, ask, work and sleep on cots while launching a business and … it’s quiet.  We await people returning our calls.  We await excited customers; to finally place orders.  We await lawyers’ and CPA’s bills.  We wait to know if the market will really like us, and wonder, “Was this the right thing?”

We buy — us and friends — a ton of equipment and toys.  We hope we’ll lose “baby poundage”.  We decorate, move furniture, and attend Lamaze classes to learn to say, “Give me my epidural!”   We labor for hours (days!); deliver; and bring a little one home to start sleep deprivation, and it is not quiet, but it leaves us asking, “What were we thinking?”

Peter is kicking himself.  He DID deny Jesus three times.  John lets Mary rest.  He wonders why Jesus’ family isn’t caring for her.  Mary of Magdala wonders if demons return if the one who vanquished them dies.  Judas’ body sways at the end of a rope.

And nothing is happening.

Guards laugh!  No one has stolen Jesus’ body!   Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus get the first calls asking, “Why?”  Asking for the body of a criminal, Jesus.  In Herod’s night terrors, Jesus returns with John the Baptist.  He awakens relieved.  Nothing is happening.

Unless.

Unless you heard Jesus talk of the Kingdom.  He spoke counter intuitively of it.  He said it’s like a farmer who sows seed in a field and — goes to sleep.  The seed does what it does as he goes about life seeing nothing; and continuing after green shoots mysteriously, wondrously push out of the ground.

On Saturday, Friday’s horrors are almost echoes.  Well, still horrors, but moving inexorably toward echoes.  We hope for that.

On Saturday, Sunday is inconceivable.  It’s inconceivable twice.  Once, resurrection is too good to be true. We can’t imagine it before it happens, just as we can’t unimagine it once it happens.  Twice, it’s tomorrow.  We say we imagine tomorrow, but it’s only our sanguine safety version, or our feared folly that’s worse than what happens.

We haven’t shaken yesterday, and can’t imagine tomorrow.  Saturday.  In between time.  Where we spend most of life.

So, let Good Friday’s sorrow wash through you and take out the garbage.  Celebrate the first Sunday with wonder, tears, or stunned silence, but inbetweenthem.  Consider this.  Jesus told us the Kingdom is like seed He plants.  We only imagine a body losing heat on a cool stone slab, but far from our eyes He’s preaching in Hades; leading out those awaiting Him, and updating a conversation with Satan as to who really holds the keys to Death now.

In between Friday and Sunday, Saturday: a day to seize what He promised; said; and did to indicate what to expect tomorrow.  How to live today if tomorrow is inconceivable.

Numb

Occasionally, I react to life with numbness.  Unintentionally, my body does it for me.

I work, teach, research and interact with students and others.   That weekly roller coaster starts Sunday afternoon early and runs through Thursday night, late.  Then add a few appointments for Friday and Saturday, projects, wonderful intrusions by kids and grand kids, an upkeep on ten acres and my week feels packed plus.

Then a close friend of Jill’s commits suicide.  Cat is sick – again.  Car dies in another city with wife in it.  The repairman pronounces the washer on life support, two weeks max.  Two projects stall.  Cash flow in one business is non-existent.  Two couples are divorcing, barring divine intervention.  Divine intervention’s response time seems slow.  Twenty small things all clamor for attention.  Bodily functions are not in the green zone.  Two may be redlining.

And I notice I am numb.  Something happens – again.  It is as if my nerve endings retreat a few millimeters inside the skin: insulated.  I feel less.  My heart beats, but places emotions offline for now.  My mind focuses on what’s before me, but all other incoming information is on alert — unless it screams its importance self-evidently, it’s pushed into background noise.  New thoughts must present themselves as salient with no emotional volatility or they go into a pile.  Oh, and life, as witnessed by paper and file piles, is backlogged.

Numb.

I can fight numb, except sometimes it is my body’s way of saying, “Your ticket has been punched.  The Conductor is not passing back through the car for a while.  Shut up.  Pull in.  Breathe.  We will get back to you.”  Maybe I should rest inside numb for an hour or day.

Numb is not quite like shock.  Even if they fell alike, they are cousins, not the same person.   Numb seems to arise in response to an agglutination of antecedents.  Shock usually slipstreams behind trauma: singular, pronounced trauma.

I am numb.  The day is beautiful outside.  I will attack one more pile of paper, and go sit out on the deck to see if the dogwood tree will join in with the redbud trees this year.  It has languished the past two years, but maybe it will escape its cool numbness and blossom.

I might as well, too.  In an hour.

I fell in love with someone else

I fell in love with someone else.

In a couple of our toughest fights over the years, Jill in tears or in anger has said, “I fooled you.  I am not who you thought you married.”

She was close, but truth sometimes boils close to the surface in the cauldron called life, or the coffee mug of relationship.  When truth boils close to the surface, we sometimes try to enunciate it because it is as close as we have ever come to truth, there, just below the surface.  Having come this close, this MUST be truth!  Look how different it is compared to all else in the cauldron or mug.  Smell that fragrance, which is unlike anything ever from Keurig or Starbucks!  That must be truth.

So Jill believed herself.  I let her believe.  Jesus wept.

I argued pointedly, but not the sort of arguing that has certainty when you know what is false (what she said) because you know the truth it is close to.  You argue stronger if you know the truth she should have seen and said, before it turned in a convection current of heat or foment and was gone – leaving only a memory of the incorrect conversation.

Jill is not the woman I married.  That was a girl-friend, child-woman shadow of the imposing woman; with whom I travel this world.

And she is more, deeper, more fearsome, more unrelenting at times, more passionate when I am coasting, and more demanding.  She demands more of me.

She demands better of me.

So we talked last night and I spoke of shortcomings from me that cost her greatly for a day and a half.  And this is the nut, the gist, the genius of Jill not being who I thought she was when we married.

I could not conceive of this woman today.  That’s the problem with being a boyman.  I knew she held more potential for me than any other woman I had met, I just could not conceive of the steel of her, even after watching her birth two and lose one.  I just could not conceive how much I would need the resoluteness when I was faltering in my way, or sloshing improper behavior on her that dishonors her.

She won’t stand for it.  Won’t let me get away with that.

The girl I married was beautiful, and maybe she loved me so much that I could continue being a _____ at times.

I was wrong about her.  I was wrong about that.

Thank God.

I can’t use the excuse of being a boy any longer.

I have much growing up to still do, though.

The Average

The average.

Centuries ago, a philosopher (they were the scientists of the day) was thinking about hearing.  He listened at the beach.  And loved the lulling, beautiful roar of the surf and came to understand something about too much information.

When our ear is assaulted by the thousands, the millions of noises at a beach: each wave crashing every few inches; the bubbles popping on the beach as surf retreats, each grain of sand tumbling over another grain, each shell of each tiny organism bumbling, the wind, the waves going back out, fish jumping, children shouting as they play in the safety of the shallows.

One, long, continuous slightly falling and rising roar.

We average the infinite, innumerable individual sounds into a hypnotic, restive roar.

The city gives off another, sonorous roar.  All the cars idling, running, and passing trucks when not locked into traffic jamming street after street.  Heat exchange units on the top of buildings, gigantic fans and pumps rumbling in the basements over which we walk on grating after grating, peering down into concrete abysses that keep air, water, electricity and more esoteric elements into skyscrapers that grow up explosively, and fall to earth infinitesimally for decades.

The city, unlike the ocean, punctuates its roar with sirens, jack hammers, rumbling subways, crashes, guns, helicopters, and up close, emerging from the dark or the roar – voices.

Unmistakably, voices that are busy, concerned, in love, minding children, playing chess, and looking for the next opportunity.

And of all the averaged noises comprising the roar, these voices overshadow us, shake us, whisper to us that our brief tenure here is important, is relevant — to someone.

When one of our voices is drowned, either at the beach or in the city, it shakes us, stuns us, makes all the world taste like sand for a while.

Seeing and hiking Multnomah Falls

jill at multnomah.jpgThe Columbia is more of a lake from here, flowing imperceptibly from one end of the earth to the other.  Sheets of rain have pulled their grays away.  Sun-golden touches brush the air-green buds, the pinks of cherry blossoms, whites of Bradford pears, and the deeper red hues of Japanese maples on both this and the far shore.  The iridescent green here in the grass and rhododendrons are weeks ahead of the rest of the world.

At the base of the falls, some things were as we would have thought.  We felt in our chests, the waters’ roar falling 612 feet.  The spray blasting out from the base of the falls, swept by at more than 30 miles an hour, dousing us in only a minute.  The spray blasted out hundreds of feet, and a huge flow of air followed the water down the falls and then had to find a place to blow.  It blew through us.

But the unexpected piece was elemental.  It shocked me.

Visually, I was overpowered.  That much water falling that far, just stunned me.  Vertigo whispered to my inner ear, that the entire earth seemed to be hurtling toward me from on high.  The roar decorated the surround rock in moss.  Lichen in differing colors made parts of the cliffs appear to be bathed in sunlight, when none appeared.

That was still not surprised me.  It was rocks rolling around.  The waterfall brought some rocks over the edge, slamming them into the base.  But way beyond that, a sound harked to massive tonnages of slate crashing on each other: the gods shooting marbles.  At the base of the water fall, the water was forcefully rolling rocks, moving rocks, flinging some rocks, and that sound, that sound reverberating through – me.  Whispered how forceful was the water shaping this cliff and pulverizing rock into sand.  How massive was the hand of water slapping rocks back and forth.

And how small I am, and how small was my grandfather when someone took his picture here more than seventy years ago.

Seeing him here reminds me that I am small.  And that I am closer to the mist blowing through than I am to the rock still on the cliff or being slapped around and pummeled that I am hearing.

Will the world be in a place where my grandchildren can come here, and snap the equivalent of a selfie with my Jill taken by my camera?

Smaller Giants

S Cubed has the same name as his father and grandfather.  So his name is S-S but if they extended the names back three generations, it would be S-S-S or S Cubed!

He is brilliant.  Has a PhD and is back for an MSE in Entrepreneurship to craft businesses that make a difference in his beloved country.  I have watched an astonishing growth, evolution in him over the semester.

He came frustrated with the impotence and escapism he finds in many from his country.  Many students if they make it to America and can stay, then the family is thrilled that “one has made it” out of the maelstrom.  Their maelstrom is his beloved country.

He also arrived in my class with a deep understanding of issues, and an equally deep sense that his solutions needed to address challenges on all their levels, at all the root causes.  That connected and grew his challenges to the level of “poverty” and “education” the usual list of suspects.  All so large that jousting with them only leaves Sancho Panza mortified and Don Quixote befuddled.

Enter ‘better questions’.  I simply said I would not waste another hour on “the discussion” of such massive problems.  I asked, if he might scale a question down far enough that it becomes  “a giant you could kill?”

He wrestled all by himself for thirty minutes and shrunk down to “infant mortality”.  By the time that Bridgette returned to the table he had five things that we could package and provide cheaply, half of which were wet wired  into the multiple tribes’ lore and culture already.

With a giant “that small” he could find five stones, that if well aimed, might bring down this giant, and his five kinsmen backups.  Evil giants come with backups.  They are chicken like that.

Of all the possible outcomes of entrepreneurial thinking, S Cubed’s crazy form of possibility thinking is the sort that might change a man, S Cubed.  Or equally as good, give life to infants that would have otherwise been sad statistics under Giant Banners like Poverty, seemingly so large that one could never overcome them.