Maybe Good Is Better Than Best

“Father Knows Best” is not an empirical reality, it was a TV show in the late 50s and early 60s. Apparently though, the idea that Father Knows Best acquired the status of a cultural norm that has caused men for years to make long road trips without consulting a map, to attempt to assemble stuff without looking at the directions, and to wreak household havoc by attempting various plumbing and electrical repairs.

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Speaking as a father I can say with a morsel of confidence that in those times when I did Know Best, it was by probably by sheer accident. Let me say early in this little essay: thank you to the spouses and children who are kind enough to let Fathers believe that We Know Best, and for forgiving us when we can’t admit that we don’t always Know Best.

There are many areas where I would like to Know Best. Family vacations were one such category. To plan a good vacation was to know what would be fun for all, to demonstrate your command of geography and wider culture, and to create lasting memories (hopefully good ones). I would plan our annual odyssey with Griswoldian fervor and ambition. 

Ellen: You set standards that no family activity can live up to. 
Clark: When have I ever done that? 
Ellen: Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays... 
Clark: Goodnight Ellen
Ellen: Vacations, graduations...

If I’m not Clark Griswold, I’m Don Quixote; approaching life like a knight in shining armor. When asked about his quest, Don replied:

It is the mission of each true knight...
His duty... nay, his privilege!
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;
To right the unrightable wrong.
To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!
This is my Quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!
And I know, if I'll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars!

That’s all I’m asking for.

Knowing that I won’t always Know Best, I would like to at least know what is good. This is more than just a grading scale as in Good, Better, Best. See if this makes sense: I may not know what’s Best for my children, but I do think, by now, that I know what’s good for them, theoretically. I want the Best for them, but more importantly, I want them to know what’s good. Kind of like I want them to know what’s pretty, but even more I want them to know what’s beautiful. I want them to know honesty, but even more I want them to know truth. Am I making any sense at all?

Sure it’s good to regard the best, the pretty, the honest, but what if you could know deeply the good, the true and the beautiful?

One of my favorite parts of scripture are those verses in the creation story that say, “and God saw that it was good.” Except for that one time that He said “this isn’t good.” He was speaking of man’s relational status. He said it is not good for man to be alone. And at that point it was obvious that we are created to be connected to others. That’s a good thing; and true and beautiful. In fact, it may be the best thing.

Peace

The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else.
— e.e. cummings

For a minute or two, it’s sort of flattering when someone says something like, “I’ve noticed you haven’t posted anything on the blog in awhile. I miss it.” That feeling quickly gives way to feelings of failure and foreboding because the words won’t come, or maybe no matter what words I write someone is going to be hurt or offended, or I’ll make a fool of myself, or someone will add my name to their prayer list because the words at the front of my mind are degenerative. For some reason I’ve let the language of the current public discourse affect me. These words are words of frustration and despair, and are a dam holding back better words and thoughts.

So, I’ve been trying to say nothing, and the result is that I have nothing to say. I try. I open my journal to a blank page, or lay my fingers on the ASDF — JKL; keys on the keyboard… Nothing.

Here’s my plan. I’m going to carefully and mindfully try to type this out of my system.

At 66 years old my values are pretty well set. I’m not likely to change much at the core, although I do want to always be a “learn-it-all” rather than a “know-it-all”. My values, including my aspirational values lean toward humility, service, honor, love, peace and freedom (not just in a constitutional rights kind of way, but in a freedom to BE, in all the fullness of the gifts, grace and goodness of God).

So right now, in this cesspool of political divisiveness and narcissism my prayer and plea is for PEACE. That’s the word and the attitude I hope will give me something to say so I can move on to saying other things. I know the whole “give peace a chance” thing is idealistic and naive, just like it was in the 60s when that message made sense for me. Back then, I wore a “peace” button and put a peace sign bumper sticker on my VW bus. I remember once getting out of my bus in a parking lot and a man, seeing the bumper sticker said, “The footprint of the American chicken! You one of them hippie draft dodgers?”

I pretended to ignore him. I should have said, “Why is it rednecks always use pronouns when they need a good adjective?” That would have showed him. But I was a “Peacenik”. Better to turn the other cheek.

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Now I’m taking it to the streets. I’m not going to buy a VW bus or start wearing bell-bottoms, or let what little hair I have grow long, but I did decide the least I could do was wear a peace button, sort of like wearing my feelings and opinion on my sleeve. This time the demonstration will be a little more laid back than in the 60s, more appropriate for someone in their 60s.

The first hurdle to my little revoltion was finding the peace buttons. I did find some on Etsy (whatever that is), but while I’m a big believer in Peace, I’m not going to pay three bucks from my buttons, so I had some made for less than a dollar. 

This peace thing is for me all parts spiritual, political, personal, physiological, psychological, selfish, selfless, emotional, prayful, playful, antiestablishment and a quiet shaking of my mini-fist in the face of institutions (in a peaceful, loving way of course). I believe Jesus when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

NOTEIn this day of twisted religious/political worldviews, I feel I need to offer this: Not to try to speak for Jesus, but I’m am highly confident that when He speaks of Blessed he is not in any sense of the word speaking of the concept of “blessed” espoused by the properity gospel preachers and creepy, narrow religion of “fundamentalist evangelicals”. In fact, I am certain that when it comes to comparing that worldview to the actual Gospel, the phrase “prosperity gospel” is an oxymoron. Sorry, sometimes honesty doesn’t seem very peaceful.

Let me throw this out there. If you would like to jump on the “Peace Train” (music and lyrics by Cat Stevens), you don’t have to burn your draft card, your AARP card or your bra, just pin on your button; literally or figuratively. If you don’t have one, next time you see me, ask for one. If you promise to wear it, it’s yours. Of course, if you would like to pitch in a dollar to help the cause… Peace costs. 

PEACE.

Take The Fork

One of my favorite quotes and a guiding principle of my life is this: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” — Yogi Berra

 from a muppets movie. used without permission

from a muppets movie. used without permission

First: for all my young friends, Yogi Berra is not a yoga practitioner named Berra. This Yogi, number 8 in pinstripes, was a catcher for the New York Yankees. He also was a dispenser of weird wisdom. Here, sample a few morsels:

It's like déjà vu all over again.
You can observe a lot by watching.
It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

As for that fork in the road, wouldn’t it be nice if it was as simple as just “take it”? Maybe I’m an indecisive person, I know that I like to make decisions intuitively, but maybe I don’t trust my own intuition. Some might say I lack faith. Maybe I’ve just grown weary of people blaming God—as in, “I prayed about it and this is the way God lead.”

Some time back I read the memoir of Cheryl Strayed called “Wild”. Recently I watched the movie based on the book. A line in the movie caught my attention.

“There’s never been a fork in my road.”

At first a forkless road sounds pretty good. Not to oversimplify, but that sort of seems to be the theology of my Calvinist friends—the predetermined road would have to be a forkless one, right?

Even though a fork-full road, has questions, and quandaries, and chances for choosing wrong or right, I still prefer that road. It just seems sweeter somehow. Take my marriage: many years ago I asked my Amazing-Missus to marry me. It was like I put a fork in her road. Now in my strange theology, I do believe that some things are just meant to be, like our marriage. But still, she had a choice and she chose US!

See isn’t that a more beautiful story than the one that says our lives are mapped from beginning to end without forks?

These days, as the road stretches closer to a horizon, the forks seem to come up less often, but seem more daunting when they do. But I’ll keep praying, keep trusting, and keep truckin’, because as the great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain't over till it's over.”

 

 

 

Fun With Red Flags

The topic of flags has caught my interest recently. One in particular. This interest was not necessarily spawned by watching “Sheldon Cooper’s Fun With Flags” on the Big Bang Theory, but that can’t hurt.

My curiosity was with the first version of Oklahoma’s state flag, which at one point became known as the “Red Rag of Sedition”. You have to admit that sounds weirdly intriguing and somehow, today, even apropos. This flag became official in 1911 and flew until 1925 when according to the Red Dirt Report website: “reactionary elements in the state began to see the red flag in a negative light, associating it with Bolshevism and Communism and the red flag used during the Russian Revolution in 1917. This was also around the time the Socialist Party - once quite strong in Oklahoma - began to fall out of favor, particularly during the final year of World War I.”

Also, there was the fact that apparently, in Oklahoma, flying a red flag could land you in the state pen for 10 years or so. Check out this discussion of red flags in Oklahoma on Wikipedia. Oh, and there’s this: the 46-star flag was also not popular due to the association with red flags hung on homes to indicate quarantines for smallpox and Spanish influenza. Talk about “Fun With Flags”!

This first state flag was a red field and in the center was a white star with the numerals 46 in blue; because Oklahoma was the 46th state and thus the 46th star on the star spangled banner. “Kentucky native Ruth D. Clement, who moved to Oklahoma City shortly before statehood came up with the simple, straightfoward and brilliant design. Two years later, in 1913, the red 46-star flag was delivered to Washington D.C. aboard a train to be present during the inauguration of Pres. Woodrow Wilson.” — The Red Dirt Report.

As fellow Okie, Paul Harvey used to say on his radio broadcast: “And now you know (pause for dramatic effect) the REST of the story.”