When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
~I Corinthians 13:11
The quote has been ghosting me, whispering in my subconscious as the past is wont to do. Anymore, I try to find the substance behind such ghosts, holy or otherwise; it's part of the the closely-guarded treatment plan I've made for myself as a recovering fundamentalist. Just this weekend, I tested my resolve by watching 2012 - my wife, Raven, graciously restrained her surprise.
"You watched 2012?" she asked, watching my reaction. "On purpose?"
"How was it? You okay?"
"Yep. It wasn't as cheesy as I thought it might be, and it had some creative elements among the more unbelievable stuff. Then again, I guess even scientists have to guess at what might happen with a massive polar shift," I said. "You wouldn't like it, though - too much drowning and implied drowning."
"So you're okay?"
As Kurt Vonnegut might say, and so it goes.
I just finished reading Slaughterhouse-Five again, which might explain my mood. Whenever I read a particularly impactful book, my internal narrator takes on the speech patterns and accents of the characters, commenting over my shoulder in keeping with the book's themes and point of view.
In Slaughterhouse-Five, the Tralfamadorians are all about pre-destination to the Nth degree.
Every moment in all the universe exists infinitely and simultaneously; therefore, everything is on track, all the time, regardless of the illusion of free will and choice. Pure, unadulterated fatalism. (Yes, yes, yes - there's much more to the story than that - I'm just sayin' . . . )
Not completely on the other hand, I recently read Everything Matters!, in which the main character knows from birth when and how the world is going to end. First the guy tries to run from what he knows, then he tries to save the world. However, he gets a chance to re-enter a concurrent universe as a do-over for most of his life, hides what he knows this time around, and just savors experience and family until the comet kills everyone.
Either way, the world ends. And so it goes.
I've been to more funerals in the last year than in the previous 42 years of my life combined. Statistically, the annual count is likely to continue to climb. If I'm anything like my Grandma S., who lived to be 100, the number will eventually taper off; she noted that almost everyone she knew and loved was dead, except for my Dad and his descendents.
I'm not being morbid, just factual.
My Dad is both a gigging pianist/band leader and teacher/principal at a Christian school. My Mom does bookkeeping for the church as well as a local teen pregnancy aid non-profit. One of my brothers is a teacher, the other a doctor; my sister is a nurse.
As a kid, everyone in the church, including me, believed I had "a calling" to missionary and/or ministry work. It might have included music and writing as well as public speaking. My degree would have permitted me to be a high school English or Spanish teacher, but standardized tests make me itch, and so did most administrators.
I work as a proposal manager/writer for Government contracts.
And so it goes.
Our company builds buildings and cleans up environmental messes, mostly at Department of Defense facilities. At least we're creating safe structures for our soldiers; at least we're cleaning up toxins. I don't talk or write much about it because it's not that interesting unless you are also a proposal writer.
Even then, the conversation is mostly war stories: the proposals won or lost by a hair's breadth; the vacations cancelled because of looming deadlines and emergency responses; the all-nighters pulled in order to get late-arriving data into the final document. High pressure, long hours, and workaholism are an inevitable part of the industry, par for the course.
I'm pretty good at what I do. I take pride in my work. Aside from the hours, and some of the personalities, it's not a bad way to make a living.
I am so grateful for so much.
But there are the nights of mustard gas and roses, when I apologize to our son for making him the sole carrier of legacy, such as it is.
I'm not maudlin about it - just factual.
It's tough, sometimes, being an adult. It's hard to know whether any of it means anything, whether all of it means enough. When others are depending on your labor, it can be wrenching to wonder what might have been, to make the right decisions regarding risk versus reward.
If there are "right" decisions.
Maybe the missing lesson for our generation, for our culture, is simply this:
Maybe that's just factual.
And so it goes.