Monday, September 12, 2016

Breakfast After the Fall

I just got back from a week in San Diego, mostly La Jolla Cove, a prime intersection between coastal wildlife and pleasure seekers. While there was plenty of wildlife to enjoy, this is about the not-so-wildlife, namely the birds that make rooftop, continental breakfast (code for cheap but decent) a challenging experience. A short pretext from Genesis for the story goes like this; God made people and animals get along in the beginning (people and birds ate happily together). Then we sinned and he cursed them along with us (I can see some room for resentment there). Then, after the flood, God made them afraid of us and we went our own ways (especially after the ark, we probably needed the space by then and there was plenty of it). Today, the mistrust is still there but there's not as much space, especially on the San Diego coast, and we're unhappily eating breakfast togetherish.

Day one, we learned that you can't leave any food unattended, I mean not for one second. There's a hand rail around the entire roof top for them to perch on within fifteen feet of any table and it takes them approximately half an angry arm swing to dive in, grab your food and fly off. Thankfully they prioritize the easier targets, which means that if you listened to the staff's warning about them, you'll get the sadistic enjoyment of watching them steal whole eggs, English muffins and danishes from those who end up several angry arm swings away before they realize the threat.

Day two, their strategy advances with your own. If you're a repeat breakfast eater, they know you're on to them so they stand back and learn your routine - who goes in first, second, etc. - and what each persons plate is likely to contain. They don't need the table to be unattended. They just need half an angry arm swing between the target and the nearest plate watcher. Remember that while an angry arm swing can be understood literally, it's more of a time unit. It's about as long as it takes to bend down and pick up a dropped fork or put a bib on a child, predictable parts of the routine.

Day three. Have you seen all those wildlife documentaries where the predator picks out the weak or small one to go after? By day three, there's little option for the birds beyond direct confrontation and even the children are wise to their tactics so only the avian judo masters are going to get the good stuff. In this case that means landing on the two year old's head and gulping down her oatmeal directly out of her bowl while everyone stares in momentary disbelief trying to make sense of what's actually happening. And then, even if there is someone within half an angry arm swing, the swing comes just a little slower to avoid accidentally smacking the child, which provides just enough time to escape with the goods. Genius!

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Fountain of Childishness

Caution! This is one of those things tricky as a sword swallowing contortionist but equally impossible to not look at when it's put in front of you. It's a little preachy and you'll have to carefully sort it out for yourself. In front of us this time is the teaching that we should strive to be dependent on God. We could split hairs and churches over what that "actually" means (Oh, wait. We already have), but as usual, I'm going to tackle it from its over simplified face value to make a point.

My mom recently told me of a particularly nerve racking time when she was facing the possibility of three children in diapers at the same time. Thankfully, nature (that's code for potty training) ran its course and she narrowly missed that reality. The moral of that short story is that, from the time we're born, it's good to grow progressively independent, and ultimately to adulthood. It's foundational to the joys of watching children grow. Avoiding it is obnoxious like the ceaseless squawking of the adolescent bird that chased its unsympathetic parent round and round our picnic table looking for a handout the other day. Said from a more obvious angle, how quickly and universally do we recognize it as a disorder when someone, especially a child, fails to grow mentally or physically.

Now imagine a group who are spiritually "born again", enlightened if you will, and from the time of that spiritual birth, they are content or even ambitious to be as dependent as possible, to do nothing without being told, to be spoon fed every meal, to sit in their own waste until the stench compels someone else to take care of it for them. While this may suit those who profit from those services, it certainly doesn't suit those who need them. The very least you would have is an unprofitable person, precisely the opposite of what God has in mind when he encourages us through parables like the talents, the shrewd manager, the vineyard workers, etc. And while a small percentage of us are rightly dependent (children, handicapped and the like), the rest of us are rightly beyond it.

Let's add to all this that dependence on God is an inescapable absolute like gravity, and trying to be more dependent is like trying to be heavier by thinking about it. Go stand on your scale and try it. It's something that calls for humility, not effort. Our dependence is only valuable to God in that we learn our need for him as he perfects and grow us, like an accomplished lioness teaching a cub to hunt or a falcon teaching a fledgling to fly. And while the method is sometimes getting kicked out of the nest and told to fly before the ground hits us in the face, it's still the obviously good and natural order to life and happens only when he knows we're ready for it. So don't let religion trim your claws or clip your wings. God's ambition for you is independence, not to avoid being bothered by each other but rather to have much more to offer when we're together. Child like, not childish. Dependable, not dependent.