Tuesday, March 23, 2021

What does that look like?

 What does it look like

--to have true courage

--to be a racist (nonracist)

--to care for others

--to listen purposefully

--to be a true believer

--to be a Christian

--to love unconditionally

and on and on.  Why is it important to ask (and answer) the question What does it look like?  I actually had to hear it enough times that it truly grated on my sensibilities before I asked myself this question.  I hear it on newscasts; I hear it from the pulpit; I hear it in casual conversations, and I had wondered why people couldn't simply ask, "What is it like?"  Then it finally occurred to me that there is an answer to that question.

 We don't ask what is it like because we either don't really want to know, or we don't care what it is like.  But what we are interested in is the all-consuming concern everyone has to know what things look like.  Why?  Appearances are what matters.  Read that again.  In our society in this day appearances are what matters.  Reality exists only in the mind of the observer and is formed from the impressions we gain from appearances.  Truth is what we perceive it to be.  Please, Rev, don't tell me what I must be like to be a Christian.  Tell me what a Christian looks like and then I can decide whether or not I want others to see me looking like that.  Dr. Sociologist, don't tell me how to be nonracist, tell me what a nonracist looks like.  On and on.  

The crux of the matter is appearances matter.  

"Man," scripture says, "looks on outward appearances, but God looks on the heart."

Monday, March 22, 2021

Embellishing Grandma #T

 Here  is a fun little game for the next family dinner or evening with relatives.  I call it "Embellishing Grandma."  This is how it is played.  Families who pay attention to their roots all have stories about some beloved character in their family tree.  At an appropriate point in the conversation interject, "You all remember how Great-grandma Hepzibah spent her first five years with the Potawatami.  Well, do you recall the time she got involved in the 1884 Presidential election?  Republican candidate James G. Blaine was in a hotly contested race with Grover Cleveland, the democrat candidate.  

So Blaine came out to Indiana to present himself to the people, so to speak.  He was holding forth in the town square attempting to work the crowd into an appropriate state of mind.  "Why," he thundered,"I believe there resides in this beautiful city a lady who in her early years lived with the Potawatami.  She grew to become not only the most beautiful of young women, but she was wise beyond her years and taught the Indians. . . " Here you may fill in the details as you dream them up and to the extent that your auditors will bear.

Following his speech, Grandma Hezzie worked her way through the crowd and confronted Mr. Blaine.  "I," she thundered, insofar as a lady can thunder, "am that girl of whom you spoke.  What a load of cock and bull!"  Strong words, indeed, from a lady of the times.  And besides which women did not have a voice in government in that day, were not permitted to vote, and were supposed to stay home and tend to the knitting, and the children, and so on.  Well, as you might guess, Blaine was quite taken aback,  sputtered and floundered around rather incoherently a bit and rushed from the platform to his waiting carriage.  He lost Indiana's 15 electoral votes and the election by a narrow margin.  Cleveland was installed in the White House as the first democrat president since Buchanan whose term ended in 1861.

If you have done this smoothly enough and with sufficient guile and craftiness, your story will seem quite plausible.  Another approach to gilding Hezzie might go along these lines.

One fine summer day, oh, probably in the late seventies, Grandma's son was in the village square just as the traveling snake oil salesman started his spiel for the greatest product ever created for the health and welfare of man, beast, or plant life.  He couldn't resist, and being a teenager who of course was wise way beyond his years, saw the future for himself and all the family, bought a pint of the elixir with the money his mama had given him for the cornmeal he was sent to fetch.  His mother was quite exasperated, but what could she do?  That very afternoon, being planting time, she built a hill in the garden and poured a drop of the "magic" potion into the hole as she planted the beans.  Well, what do you know!  The beans sprouted and the plant sprang skyward, the vine growing thicker and thicker and taller and taller until it pierced the clouds and veritably reached into the sky!  Naturally, the intrepid Jack made his way up the beanstalk and stepped into the sky.

And thus you have neatly co-opted the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and polished Grandma's legacy with it.

Now a word of advice.  In the first instance should your story be at all plausible you should 'fess up and tell the family that you created that from whole cloth, lest it become a part of the family "history" as sadly I suspect many tales have done over time.  In the second case, you have spun a patently tall tale, so tall in fact, that your listeners may hoot you down before