Imagine That!

My youngest daughter has not yet married; she is twenty-eight.

Of course, not everyone wants to be married. And not marrying certainly doesn’t make someone a second class citizen.

But . . . she wants to marry. She wants to share her life with a man she admires and adores, and she wants to have children. But times have changed, haven’t they?

Maybe like me, you haven’t noticed that marriage rates have been falling for several years now.

One source says that 75% of all women and 50% of all men in the 1950s were married by the time they reached their mid-twenties. In the United States (in 2011) the median marrying age for women was 26.5, and 28.7 for men. Just 51% of adults 18 and older are married (as opposed to 72% in 1960).

Marriage rates fell a full 5% from 2009 to 2010 here in the states. A mere 20% of adults 18-29 are currently married (as opposed to 59% in 1960).

A 2010 survey found 40% of Americans expressing the notion that marriage was becoming obsolete (only 28% said that in 1970); still, 61% of those who had never married said they would like to marry someday. Of course, of the 40% mentioned above most are unmarried, single parents, or cohabiting couples. And a high percentage of these are young and have less formal education.

Divorce rates soared in the 1960s and 70s, leading some to think that fear of divorce has created the current slowdown in marriages. The rate of divorce has dropped, but clearly that is due in part to the slowdown in marriage rates, as well as the increase in cohabitation, and the changing views on sexual behavior and the birth of children.

I am no sociologist (that should be clear from what you’ve read so far).

So, let me cut to the chase (so to speak). Because my interest in writing today is primarily fueled by the disappointment of a daughter that I love more than the moral arguments for and against the institution of marriage, sexual mores, and the life of an unborn child.

Here is the skinny on the matter. My daughter is sandwiched in an evolving era in our history where traditional values and practices are opposed by modern “enlightened” values and practices at every turn. She works with, and is friends with, a number of lovely, intelligent young women who would love to be married; that is, she is not the “odd one” who can’t seem to find a man. Many share her dilemma.

Many of my daughter’s girlfriends are able to secure “dates” but not able to secure the marriages they seek. Men and women are now accustomed to sexual privileges that once were held sacred in marriage (we tried to destroy this notion in the 1960s and we were quite successful); career goals are now shared equally by men and women, and so the “goal” of marriage for women has been put on the back burner for many. So . . . why marry?

What is the point of marriage?

If marriage is obsolete, destined for eventual divorce; if sexual privileges are available (and considered completely respectable) apart from the establishment of a doomed institution; if career and individual financial stability are a higher priority than any permanent relationship; and if the birth and raising of children can be taken care of adequately by single parents and/or gay and lesbian couples willing to adopt – why marry?

No doubt, marriage is being obsoleted. It is being made into something out-of-step with our current world. Each year it appears to be more and more out-dated, outmoded. But make no mistake: obsolescence is in the eye of the beholder. And it matters not how many people nod in agreement with the error of their ways; if it is error, it will still be error.

I think what might be missing in our society today is – commitment. You know, it’s funny. Right off the bat that word is offensive to some, isn’t it?

Years ago there existed a good bit more loyalty in general. People tended to purchase food from the same grocer, buy books from local book sellers, look for cars at the local car lot. Now we are more cosmopolitan, more world-aware, more willing to buy from a dot com that gives us a cut rate price. We are wal-martish amazon-lovers and we will defend to the death our right to pay the lowest price we can find.

We have identified ourselves for decades now as “throw away” consumers; now we sing songs about the times before everything was “automatic,” before everything we ate was “instant.” We no longer expect products to last a long time; it is cheaper to replace them than repair them. When the latest new electronic marvel hits the market we stand in long lines anxiously waiting to replace the old marvel in our hands (and it isn’t even broken yet).

But I wonder . . . have we embraced the same social/economic point of view when it comes to relationships, marriage in particular (although friendships are probably affected in the same way). Are we essentially persons who keep “our options open”? Or are we essentially persons who don’t look back once we’ve put our hand to the plow?

When close relationships become challenging (and they always do), do you walk away from them, or does the dissolving of a close relationship even cross your mind? Do your intimate, personal relationships “appreciate” with time, or “depreciate” with time?

We stand knee deep in a culture whose base of operation is founded on the notion that we don’t have to continue in anything that displeases us; that our inalienable rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) endorse flimsy and conditional commitments; that there is no measurable value in staying with a sinking ship (“sorry for that,” ship captains of the past), and we worship the idea of “free” freedom.

Let me tell you about the neighborhood where I have lived for almost 20 years now. There are 21 houses in our small subdivision. Two houses are currently vacant, under renovation. Of the 19 inhabited houses, 8 (that’s 42%) have been inhabited by the same families for 20 or more years; 7 (that’s 37%) have been inhabited by the same families for 5 or more years [and 2 of those families are made up of children who actually grew up in that neighborhood]; 4 (that’s 21%) are relatively recent additions, having been in the neighborhood less than 5 years.

Neighborhoods are not marriages, but they can be very close associations. I have neighbors whose children and/or grandchildren would feel safe and comfortable coming to our house in a crisis. We depend upon, support, and look out for one another; we are a self-appointed “neighborhood watch” group.

We never stood at an altar and recited neighborhood vows to one another while surrounded by witnesses. But we are committed to one another. Had we actually engaged in a ceremony like that, we might be even more committed. And that is in spite of the fact that sometimes our neighbors (never us, of course) do some really crazy and annoying things: where they park their cars, how they deal with their pets, when they like to make loud noises, how they keep their lawns, etc. We are, indeed, a social melting pot.

In schools we used to pledge allegiance to a flag. In small towns we used to stop traffic voluntarily when there was a funeral procession. We used to be lifelong members of one or more organizations, and we used to enjoy lifelong friendships. And there was a time when we used to stay married to the same person for 50 years or more.

Is that because relationships were just easier to maintain in the past?

I think not.

I think it is because we do not understand, nor do we even want to understand what is involved in total commitment. Until we do . . . our culture will continue its erosion, and our march toward self-destruction will one day be realized.

The history books will contain the following line: “Like the ancient Roman civilization, the United States of America had a good beginning, but crumbled under the weight of its own quest to grant individual freedom.”

Our neighborhood would crumble, too, if there was no commitment, no sense of the sanctity of community; if we decided to move away every time the neighbor’s dog pooped in our yard. Or if we found a less expensive house in another neighborhood and left this one without considering the value of the relationships in our current situation as a part of the equation.

A Commitment of Permanency. Giving our word (and keeping it). Making promises before a crowd of witnesses. Staying the course. Putting our hand to the plow (and not looking back).

The country group Diamond Rio released a song in 1997 called “Imagine That.” Some of the lyrics describe our marriage culture quite accurately:

  • “They say they will, when they won’t”
  • “They say I do, then they don’t”

And then the chorus: “A love that lasts forever . . . Imagine that!”

So, my daughter is waiting, “committed to commitment” (as a friend put it), hopeful she will find someone like-minded in the not-too-distant future.

Social changes are always the result of a plethora of factors. And the history books will attempt to evaluate and tell the tale at some distant future date. But I wonder . . .

Will a lack of commitment of epidemic proportions be identified as our culprit?

Imagine that!

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Ashes, 2 Ashes

It happened while I was watching a favorite TV series the other night. A young man was given his estranged father’s ashes to scatter as a memorial to him. He chose Eagle Lake, a special place in Alberta where his family had experienced “better days.”

I noted the reverence with which he handled that urn, and I instantly identified with him; I felt the sacredness of the moment.

It is marvelous to me that no matter the culture, no matter the religious or non-religious environment of a given place, the remains of a human being are considered sacred. [Of course, I am exempting in this statement the brutal, insensitive, and insulting treatment of the dead exhibited by persons bent on vengeful and angry retribution. I speak here of the norms of societies, not the aberrancies.]

I remember vividly how I felt when I saw my own father’s ash-filled cherry wood box in Tucson, Arizona. And when the time came for his memorial in Georgia (13 months after his death), I clearly recall how I felt picking up the cardboard box that contained that wooden box, mailed all the way from Arizona. My uncle was with me on that occasion; I remember we spoke of the unique feeling I was having, holding my Dad’s ashes. We may even have done so in somewhat subdued tones.

Because there is a sacredness about human remains. There just is.

When mother passed away several years later I brought her ashes home in a rectangular black hard plastic container. The ashes themselves were in a heavy clear plastic bag inside the container. And my wife said, “Don’t bring those in the house.” She was frightened, uncomfortable, ill-at-ease around them.

So, they stayed in the garage; the dark garage. And frankly . . . I felt guilty about that.

Because, you see – there is a sacredness built into my psyche about those remains.

When the date came for my mother’s memorial, my brother and I went into the garage together, and together we removed the plastic bag from the container, then maneuvered the bag of ashes into the narrow neck of the urn my uncle had purchased for the memorial.

The urn was carefully carried to the car (along with all the legal paperwork that goes with human remains – you see, even the law of the land affirms the sacredness of human remains), then placed on a stand at the memorial site. For the interment it was placed in a small urn vault, then carefully lowered into the ground. Respectfully.

And that is as it should be.

Life is sacred.

When life is valued properly there is respect; honor is fitting. It almost dwarfs the character of the individual who has died. And that amazes me.

It is as if life itself is so sacred its value cannot
be bound by the mortal container it enlivens.

I know that in our society some of the norms of the past have changed. People seldom get all dressed up when going out to dinner, or to special events, etc. And many of the social formalities of the past have been replaced by a casualness that frankly . . . I often prefer.

But . . . I do not want to change norms about the sanctity of life. Or respect for the dead. That is sacred ground.

When I was a boy I was taught that you should not step on a grave in a cemetery. Oh sure, there are myths and all sorts of other reasons given for such a custom. But . . . to this day I try to observe that custom. And I don’t think that is so bad.

We need to honor the remains of our loved ones who have departed. Abraham Lincoln pronounced sacredness on the ground at Gettysburg in honor of those who died there. And then he gave a charge to the living.

 And I wish to give a charge as well. We must always honor the memory of the dead, and in addition we must make it our goal to treat the living with that same sanctity, that same value, that same devotion.

Posted in Aging Parents, Family History, Fathers, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ants and Uncle

OK. So yesterday didn’t end up going exactly like I wanted.

I had just returned to the office after a quick trip to the bank, and had just enough time to check emails and phone messages before heading to the gym, then home.

I changed into my gym shorts (so I would be ready to dash out the door) and sat down in the swivel chair in front of the computer screen. I could not have been there more than a minute or two when I felt something biting on my legs. I looked down and there were dozens of ants on my socks!

I quickly began killing them (I apologize to any of you who do not approve of such violence), then felt them also in my pants, biting in places the FCC would frown upon me mentioning in a public forum like this. Yes, I literally had “ants in my pants” (for the first time in my life).

I ran into the bathroom, disrobed, and shook my shorts into the toilet. Then I returned to my office chair to look for stragglers. I did find three or four, but that is all. No trail to the nearby trash can, however. Puzzling.

Several ants were meandering around in my duffel bag, so I tried to purge it of the tiny adversaries as quickly as I could. Then I headed to the gym.

After walking on the elliptical for 15 minutes, periodically gazing at the swelling in my legs (welts forming quickly), feeling more bites on my feet, and now on my arms and back, I gave up the exercise idea and headed home dreaming of a diphenhydramine overdose.

While driving I had the sensation that my field of vision was occluding, and dark areas were encroaching around the edges. I kept breathing, trying to just get home as fast as I could while at the same time trying to stay aware of my level of consciousness . . . just in case I needed to stop the car and pass out somewhere.

Finally, I arrived safely at home. I quickly took off all my clothes, dumped them into the washing machine, put my shoes and duffel bag in the garage, took 75 mg of diphenhydramine, and lay on the bed naked as a jaybird.

The welts were well pronounced by this time. My breathing was becoming a bit raspy, too. Shortly my wife returned home to find a stark naked Kafkaesque creature in the bed. After a couple of hours the antihistamine worked miracles, and we applied hydrocortisone and lidocaine spray to the non-private areas.

As the night wore on, more antihistamine was consumed, and today the regimen has continued. Most of the welts are gone now, but have been replaced by pustules. This is not a day for me to wear a bathing suit. Let me put it that way, OK?

Tiny little insects, aren’t they? But they did me a world of hurt. And my only theory (by the way) is that I carried food in my duffel bag days before, something spilled, then the ants found it. But I don’t know that to be the case. My wife asked me, “Were they fire ants?” And I replied, “All ants are fire ants as far as I’m concerned!”

I have discovered today that keeping my legs elevated helps, but the itching continues, as does the diphenhydramine and other meds. I need cheering up. Pizza might do it! Ha!

At any rate, I have told my story about ants. The “uncle” part actually happened right after they bit me. That is, I said, “Uncle,” but they still didn’t stop.

I guess ants aren’t familiar with the tradition of a fair fight.

Ant bite welts on my legs. Not a pretty site. But . . . "you should have seen the other guy!" Ha!

Ant bite welts on my legs. Not a pretty site. But . . . “you should have seen the other guy!” Ha!

Ant bite welts on my leg; hand in the foreground.

Ant bite welts on my leg; hand in the foreground.

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Heartland

The Canadian family television series Heartland has certainly worked its way into our hearts. And, as per our typical pattern, we are watching it for the first time a full seven years after its release (thank you, Netflix).

We are in the first season (2007). And since the show is still being produced in 2014, we have a long way to go to catch up.

But Heartland has drawn us in. So, the remaining seven years of shows does not seem daunting; rather, a welcome distraction. We look forward to them.

Starring Amber Marshall, Michelle Morgan, Shaun Johnston, and Graham Wardle, the series is loosely based on the Lauren Brooke novels (ghost written by Linda Chapman) which first appeared in 2005.

The TV series is set in the beautiful mountains of Alberta, Canada (although the original stories were set in Virginia, as I understand it). And if you are not one who is enthralled with the west, wide open spaces, cattle ranches, and the romantic life of the rugged cowboy – don’t bother to engage.

I am. Enthralled, that is. With The West.

Our move to Arizona in the summer of 1963 exposed me to the intoxicating lure of The West. And my time living in Montana in the mid-1970s sealed the deal. I am hooked. I expect to die with one boot in The West; if not physically, then mentally, for sure.

But the longer I live . . . and the more places that I live . . . (the list is embarrassingly long), it occurs to me that what I truly love – in any and every place I have resided – is the wide open spaces. The mountains. The woods. The valleys. The lakes.

Open terrain. The wilder – the better.

As my Minnesota friend, Randy Stinchfield used to say, “I need a horizon.” Me, too, Randy!

The truth is, there is a bold and unmistakeably profound statement made when one is in the presence of pristine wilderness. I am not going to try to tell you what that statement is in this blog entry. Sorry.

What I am going to say is that I am touched deeply in my heart when I am there. I am properly humbled. Right-sized. Appreciative. And awestruck.

The human heart. The place where the mind is truly connected and in concert with human emotions.

There is a reason why we have created expressions like these:

  • “get to the heart of things”
  • “the heart of the matter”
  • “change of heart”
  • “take it to heart”

Your heart is where one can find what is really true about you.

It may be hard to get to your heart, because it is covered with so much armor and protective coating. But when you do get there, all there is – is true.

Each performer in the Heartland story has his/her own issues, his/her own back story. And it will be interesting to see how it all gets worked out. Or doesn’t, as the case may be. One thing is certain: the characters will be successful in their varied relationships in direct proportion to their genuineness of heart, i.e. their ability to see themselves and others as they truly are.

If there is subterfuge in the heart, relationships will suffer.

Maybe the writers and creators of this Canadian program intentionally named this Heartland because they knew that creating a place, a ranch, a terrain, a land where the heart is central would give them ample subject matter and call out to the part of us that aches deeply and smiles deeply.

Ya’ think?

You may not be enthralled with The West like I am. And the mythical cowboy and ranch life may not appeal to you in the least. Or the TV show may not catch your eye for one reason or another. No matter.

What appeals and calls out to every human who breathes a breath . . . are the issues of the heart. Your heart.

When the new website http://www.heartdepot.org emerges later this summer, it will be addressing issues of the heart; derailments that get us off track and leave us in destinations we do not want to visit. Addiction, grief, disappointment, anger (to name just a few).

Are we destined to live our lives in a land that keeps us arms length from that for which our heart longs the most?

Or . . . is there truly a Heartland?

IvanOnChicoInMT

That’s me sitting on 4 year old Chico, in Clint Goben’s front yard, Anaconda, MT, circa summer 1973.

Posted in Family History, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The New Normal (Riding the Pipe)

Just over 13 months ago, on Easter weekend 2013, my wife and I began a new venture – we bought two iPhones. And ever since then life has not been the same.

For one thing, we ended up doing away with our land line and a phone number we have had for almost 20 years. Out of habit I still check for voice messages on the now absent digital message machine that used to sit near the front door; a flashing red light used to inform me if anyone had called. Old habits are hard to break.

Of course, all of these devices are a far cry from the ones present when I was a boy. The phone number I learned as a young boy in Chattanooga, Tennessee was MA4-2410. I still remember it (as you can tell). Many numbers since then have come and gone . . . but that one sticks in my memory. If you didn’t answer when someone called . . . well . . . they didn’t get to leave a message; all they heard was a repeated ring, ring, ring until they hung up their phone.

When I was a child we were fortunate to have a private line, and a black rotary phone with a thick cord that was connected to the wall; you could not disconnect it at will like the modern wall connection phone cords of today.

A great deal has changed.

Now we have no land line, only two cell phones. No one even dreamed in the 1950s of having a phone like the one I hold in my hand today. No dial tone when you prepare to make a call (that was the first thing you used to listen for before dialing a number). If you needed a phone number and could not get to a phone book there was directory assistance, but certainly not an internet connection where you could search online for numbers.

How we found websites back then I will never know! Hey . . . wait! There were no websites! Inconceivable, I know. But somehow, we muddled through.

Now I hold a tiny computer in my hand, or carry it in my pocket wherever I go. At a moment’s notice I can find road directions (and even have them read aloud to me by a really nice – albeit stern – sounding woman), find any phone number in the galaxy, play music with high fidelity (oh how that used to be a buzz word), pay bills, keep a calendar, read the news, and send a text message to anyone I want.

It is (to borrow a phrase used by my eldest daughter) the new normal.

In The Sacred Journey (1982) Frederick Buechner describes his father’s suicide one Saturday in the fall, and the BEFORE and AFTER reality that was born from that experience. He was just 10 years old. But it was at that point in his life that “time” really began for him. It is a story that he fittingly begins with the words “once below a time.”

A new normal.

A woman gives her life to raising her two children. They grow up, make her proud, then leave home to begin their own lives. And she is left to find her new place in the world, her new vocation (whether she wants it or not). She must adjust to the new normal.

A man retires from a long career in the business world. No longer does anyone come to him for wise business advice, or seek his counsel when making a big company decision. He was indispensable before, but . . . now . . . he is gardening in his yard. The biggest decision of the day is where to put the marigolds. And like it or not, he is in the new normal.

The fading pencil marks on the kitchen door jam, recording the incremental increase in the heights of two girls, remind the woman that she once was a successful mother. And the gold watch on the mantel pays homage to the business prowess and tenacity of the man. But no one seeks him out now.

The new normal.

I really like my new iPhone. It is truly amazing. Alvin Toffler warned me about it, though. I think we are beginning to see some of what he prophesied about years ago in Future Shock and The Third Wave. But the wave is so strong, I don’t know if we’ll be able to safely navigate out of its wake.

Life is made of countless transitions, changes and developments that have the power to undo us, or to embolden us.

We master a skill. Then, if we are not careful, it masters us.

We give our lives to a worthy cause. Then sometimes . . . that cause threatens to take possession of our lives.

There will always be a new normal awaiting us. Just around the bend.

A woman lives with a man for 40 years; he is sick for a few months then dies with cancer just after his 61st birthday. And she steps into the new normal.

A young couple goes into church work, wanting to be a help to those in need. Then their 9 year old is sexually abused at the church where they serve. They find themselves in the new normal.

A childless young couple, six years into marriage, begins the long and grueling process of adoption, then they are given a baby boy to raise. He becomes the highlight of their lives, and they cannot hardly imagine a time when he was not with them. The new normal.

Whether positive, or negative, the new normal demands its own brand of surrender from us. It brings with it both a blessing and a curse. And it is up to us to find the blessing and avoid the curse.

The iPhone 4s that we purchased last year have already been supplanted, of course. And I understand that the new up-and-coming iOS 8 operating system may not work in an iPhone 4. Well, I guess we will hold onto the “old” normal as long as we can.

So, how are you handling your own new normal? Is it your undoing? Or have you discovered the navigational secret that makes it possible for you to ride the waves rather than be engulfed by them?

But maybe you aren’t in an emotional position that allows you to ride the waves. That is so often the case, isn’t it? What then?

A former student of mine recently posted a video on Facebook. It showed expert surfers who were able to surf the pipeline of an ocean wave; impressive, to say the least. The video showed them encircled by the swirling torrents of water that make up the massive waves typically found in Hawaii. They were surfing inside the roll of the giant wave itself.

I think that sometimes navigating the new normals in our lives can be like that ocean pipeline; that is, if we search for it, there may be a way to stand in the very midst of the onslaught of the tidal wave and remain unharmed.

And eventually . . . if we are patient . . . calm, order, and peace return. The new normal.

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Sense and Sensuality

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s first published novel, 1811, (beautifully portrayed in the 1995 movie starring Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Kate Winslet), is one of the many successful stories that have made her one of the most widely read writers in the English language.

Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her work on the screenplay; and critics deem it well deserved.

Of course, some book/movie titles just have that ring to them, don’t they? That sometimes alliterative and arresting name that just sticks with you, or compels you to investigate further.

Comedians often make use of familiar titles and expressions, adding a syllable or taking away a letter, thereby forming a whole new word or phrase that reminds the listener (or reader) of the familiar expression while at the same time providing a new twist for their minds to entertain. A comedian might tell the story of “The Pee Little Thrigs,” for instance. Or Archie Bunker might talk about “the sperm of the moment.”

And that is exactly what happened to me Friday night as I sat (and sometimes stood) at an open air, country music concert, surrounded by thousands of country music fans; Bud Light and other variations on a theme by Dionysus were in the hands of many. Dirty dancing was engaged in by countless individuals, and women were adorned in a way that would entice even the most pious (and puzzle authentic country/western people no end).

As country music star, Jason Aldean, proclaimed from the stage, “country music can make anything sexy: tractors, pickup trucks, and drinking beer.” A truism indeed.

My daughter and I were standing at the top of the concrete steps where droves of persons had to pass to enter the amphitheater. A young man went by us carrying a tall can of beer topped with a plastic cup, and as he did he said, “I love you guys! I don’t know you yet, but . . . I love you!”

And the night was still young. Not sure if he came to the show slightly pickled, or if he was just anticipating how he would feel once he got loosened up a bit.

Beer. Loud music. And thousands of people all mashed together in an enclosed space.

Sounds like a recipe for combustion, doesn’t it?

That may be why numbers of security personnel were traversing the grounds all night, sifting through the crowd, scanning the sea of country music enthusiasts, sniffing out pot smokers and other infractors.

Now let me be clear. I love country music. I love having a good time. As a musician I also am impressed with musical excellence and instrumental prowess. In addition, I am an ardent fan of great beauty. And I like the taste of beer and wine.

But something odd happens when large groups of people drink alcohol, listen to loud music, and dress a part. Articles on crowd control theory and crowd management abound. So, I will not labor to present the basics of that field of study. Let it suffice to say that is is a phenomenon well documented, fraught with predictable results. Often negative. Or to borrow (out of context) from a favorite writer of mine, they become “incompetent groups of competent individuals.”

What caught my attention at the concert is a subject I have been mulling over for some time.

Sensuality.

Sensuality: “relating to, devoted to, or producing physical or sexual pleasure,” according to Merriam-Webster.

As human beings, we are hardwired with the ability to enjoy physical pleasure, sexual and otherwise. The desire for pleasure is a mighty force within each of us. Learning to keep our gratification gyroscope (if you will allow me to use that expression) upright is a part of our maturing process.

The absence of sensual parameters and boundaries is the very definition of licentious. All license – nothing disallowed or banned. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? In the fantasy world it most certainly is; but in the real world it loses its luster (sorry for the pun).

And it prompts me to ask the question: what sense is there in sensuality?

Although I thought I was being original with this apparent contrasting title, Sense and Sensuality, there is a book published in 2010 by Ravi Zacharias with this title (providing an imaginative dialogue between Jesus and Oscar Wilde), and a number of blogs and/or articles where authors have availed themselves of the same expression.

So . . . I will join the crowd (so to speak), and become one of the many, I suppose. For I feel compelled to point out that sense and sensuality seem to be at polar opposites in the human psyche. Are they compatible?

When Greeks spoke of sensuality in the ancient world they used the word aselgeia. In Plato’s Republic it is used to describe the “sheer impudence of lawlessness.” In the New Testament it is used to describe an attitude of open, shameless, undisciplined, and indecent action wherein the individual is indifferent to the opinion or rights of anyone else.

Sounds somewhat like the venue I was in on Friday night.

By the way, there were some really nice people at that concert. Courteous, patient, respectful, and kind; I’m sure they had a good time. And there was the guy near us who out-of-the-blue offered a hearty high-five to my wife and I; he was joyous, gregarious . . . and inebriated. And I’m sure there were many more who would have acted more decently had they not been rendered inhibitionless by drinking.

A picture of the amphitheater after most of the attendees had left is revealing: a field covered with empty beer cans, plastic cups, dropped food and paper plates (and probably some puke in there somewhere, too). There are no trash cans available, because management knows they would not be used. So, part of the ticket price includes payment for clean up (much the same as you see in the bleachers or stadium after a high school football game). It’s part of the reason public bathrooms are now equipped with automatic flush on the toilets, right?

How many folks woke up the next morning with regrets over the effects of following their need for sensuality?

Never fear! I will not wax moral on anyone. That is not my point at all!

I do not endorse the sanctimonious, the people too good to mix with the crowd, persons who cannot bear to be seen with the masses.

What I am talking about is regret. The regret that comes when I allow sensuality to make sense. When the rudder of my life is the next good feeling, the next fun meal, the next titillation. It fits well with our movie culture, our country music culture, the “no holds barred” and “full throttle” approach to living the good life. But it fails miserably when it comes to family, citizenship, and making the world a better a place for people.

It is almost as if we reserve this tangent, this sensual excursion, this sensory depot just off the main track of our lives. If we tried to actually LIVE there, we know how stupid we would look and act. So, we live elsewhere most of the time . . . but allow ourselves to take a well-deserved vacation to Crazyville from time to time, especially when lots of others around us are going there, too. And the alcohol helps us all get there, of course.

By the way, there is some sense in sensuality; that is, when the sensuality does not govern our lives but merely adorns it. But when sensuality reigns supreme – LOOK OUT!

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