Time for a 40-day tone shift (at last)

I have played for quite awhile with the delusion that this blog is not “about” the spiritual or religious.

This is of course a total self-deception. I have just been shy about showing my gray roots, i.e., disclosing where I am now, because talking about where I am now as opposed to where I came from some people may find offensive and a major turn-off.

So be turned off. The door is open and you may walk out the same way you came in.

Why does a Jew become a Christian?

I’ve got a better one: Why did the elephant marry his sister?

In neither case is there a “real” answer that will satisfy anyone. I cannot answer that question without assuming a gentleness that really mocks gentlenes and gentility because beneath the surface is profound hurt and anger. And I’d like not to go there. Not for the next 40 days.

Because it’s Lent, okay? Or because it’s Lent,  whether or not you think it’s okay. The readings for Ash Wednesday call us to repentance…really to a state of mindfulness of who we are, who God is, and of who we are in relation to God. Maybe of who God is in relation to us.

So Lent begins the annual trudge through a dark wood. If you’re doing it right, you’re spending 40 days in the desert where you will meet every sin you’ve ever committed, a few you haven’t, everything good you’ve ever done, and everything good you might be able to imagine if you can put aside how sinful you are. Even though you are.

See the contradiction and the problem?

This is a hard enough season as it is without adding to it the horrific state of the country right now. Nobody is safe. Nobody. When you can’t get a part-time job as a cashier you know things are bad. When supermarkets are laying off employees even though grocery was considered bulletproof because “everyone has to eat,” then you can be sure we’re in trouble.

I cannot entirely separate out the season of self-examination and repentance from the endless season of cupidity and greed that has characterized us forever. I cannot separate myself from a culture that once again, as usual, questions whether the Humanities are a luxury we can afford in these economically troubled times.

God help us.  Every few years this happens.  The Humanities: literature, history, theology, philosophy, music, languages. We can’t afford them, you can’t get a job with a degree in philosophy or English, everyone should be an engineer.

Please. My Companion’s 22 year old son, who graduated from a major technical university a year ago, and is now gainfully employed by the U.S. government, said nobody in the class behind his is getting jobs. And his is among the elite technical schools in the country. It’s not MIT or CalTech but it’s on the same playing field.

Tell me again that the Humanities have no value.

We are examining ourselves. Again we are finding a moral and intellectual hole in the nation’s soul. It has been there forever. We were founded centuries ago on the principle of Deed Not Thought, and we have mistrusted thinkers and philosophers forever. In religion all you have to do is fall down like that horror Tim LaHaye and assume that the world is For vs. Against, and that if you’re not going to some conception of Heaven then you’re going to Hell Do Not Pass Go. That’s American religion–sadly it is the faith that eschews reflection, theology, thought, and the gray area. It is the faith in which “God-fearing” means not possessed of profound awe and respect for your maker, but that you’re scared shitless. That is what we want: fear, subjection, and an end to thought.

The Humanities have no place in a mindless culture. So this is the first call to revolt, to a mental and spiritual insurrection which, may it happen in our time, drops the Bob Jones Universities of the world, whatever their names, wheresoever they may be. It is time for the thoughtful among us, the reflective, to rise up in the name of ambiguity.

At last.

Welcome to Lent.


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