Why I Know so Little

As a young scholar I said trite things like, “We learned about Calvinism today,” and “I studied relativity last week”.

It turns out that Calvin’s voluminous Institutes inspired commentaries, opinions, and reactions to fill hundreds of thousands of papers, books and ministries.  It also seems that papers and experiments pursuing all Einstein laid out amount to untold billions of dollars.   Trillions if you count weapons.

I barely caught an introduction.

It helps, though, if someone reduces it for me, so I pass a short quiz or pay for a short course and skip the quiz.  In a world influenced by academia: I “learned it”.

We memorize Kubler Ross’ stages and think we know death.  We say amazing silliness like, “I got married last night!”  No, you took a first, possibly easiest step in a journey of a thousand miles and you don’t “know” marriage until you come to the end of yourself and your failings and she somehow, amazingly decides to travel on with you.

“I bought a house last week.”  So, you paid cash?

“We were in New York last month.  I love New York!”  Yes, you love the tiniest sliver, and even those who love her a lifetime cannot live a thousandth of the City.

In seminary, I was thrilled to “learn” the word for “know” is the same as a husband and wife enjoying their most intimate times together that they share with none others.  You scratch the surface of that knowing in a decade or so.

I need humility, and out of that a bent to life long learning: in this life and the next.  I know that.

Tiny Things

I hopped out of the car, arguing with myself whether I get wetter by running or walking in rain, and settled on a fast walk.  Winter was not relinquishing her fingers on our weather.  This spring it has swung from cold to temperate or hotter four times.  I marked each occasion with four rounds of the same allergies.

I kept the rain off with my Yankees hat and a down vest and layers on the sleeves.  Jill was not along, so I quickly hunted the three things I needed for dinner and returned to the entrance to Walmart, groceries in two of those ephemeral bags that someone should figure how to build houses using.

And rain came down heavier making people pause before heading into the north wind delivering rain that soaked in the cold to the bone.  Then I was out and in it and laughing that I had not used a cart as I opened the door and flung groceries ahead of my hurrying hulk into the driver’s seat.  I turned on the car and heater.

And I had parked right in front of the cart return corral so I watched him shove his cart into the corral while shivering.  Then the young dad shoved his in behind him, and the shivering lady trying to shrink inside her T-shirt against the elements wheeled by and around the end to push her cart in.

In the cold and rain, they were returning carts and I marveled.  I have seen carts stranded in Walmarts….in other cities and neighborhoods.  It is a tiny thing for people to return carts in the cold and wet, but it is perched at the top of a slippery slope.

The nigh before I talked to a friend from Syria whose family was nowhere near the gas attacks.  Okay, alledged gas attacks.  Right.  I texted another friend in Nicaragua where unrest was spilling into the streets, and in our little country, people were taking another minute in the cold rain to stack carts to return to service.

In the same instant, putting carts away was as ephemeral as Walmart bags; more stolid against the chaos than I have reason to hope.  Someone has smiled on us, but we seemingly attack tiny things that have made us great; like a tower of Jenga blocks, we wonder how many we can pull out without crashing down the whole.

So I sat there warming up as the heater kicked in and a cold spring wind blew — grateful that in the cold, these people’s character had them pushing carts into corrals thinking no one saw, on a day when others do not.