Friday, June 29, 2012

A Tale of Three Sisters: Crissy, Patty, & Millie

There were three sisters: Hypocrisy, Apathy, and Humility. They all received pretty much the same upbringing. Their parents, Tradition and Faith, gave them what they could. They fed them, nurtured them, taught them, took them through the appropriate rituals and life moments of infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Tradition & Faith were the kind of faithful parents that just plodded along in life, doing the best they knew for their family and for the small areas around them over which they had any influence at all. 
Tradition was the kind of father figure that may have often seemed as though he was out of touch with the social and developmental worlds of his daughters (at least from their view), but he was always consistent, always staying true to what he knew to be best. Surely he didn't always seem relevant to either his daughters or their friends (particularly during adolescence), but his daughters at least held some aspect of their father Tradition in their own lives.

Their mother, Faith, was just constantly hopeful for her daughters and the life they all lived together as a family. Sometimes to the annoyance of the girls, Faith held out for this good thing or that good opportunity even when it seemed completely futile. She was always encouraging her daughters to look for flowers along the road, birds in the air, or faces in the clouds, telling them, "Just look for the signs of life that will move you on, giving you hope for hope for hope to come." Their mother Faith fed her daughters well, nurturing them with things of sustenance, endurance, and beauty. 

So then there were the three daughters...sisters.

Hypocrisy was the oldest. Right from the womb she adored the attention of her parents, giggling with her big eyes and wide smile just to get the same response again and again: of glee, giddyness, and pride. Her parents loved her smile and laugh. And she loved to see her parents happy. As she grew older, Crissy, as she came to be called, learned that her charm worked well beyond the attention of her parents. The other neighborhood girls were often awestruck by Crissy's charm. If something happened in the neighborhood amongst the children, you could bet that it had Crissy's stamp of approval. She just had a knack for making things appear as they should be and others around her encouraged her leadership.

Crissy went on to graduate from high school with impeccable grades at the top of her class. Such a hard worker, she did all that she could to put herself in an academic position presentable enough to be noticed by Ivy League schools. And because of her hard work, she did indeed receive acceptance to several notable schools. But she chose Harvard for it's well-known name and history. Crissy did okay there at Harvard, studying law as she found the idea of presence in front of a courtroom to be desirable. But she was often annoyed that the same hard work she used to put in during high school just wasn't rewarded nearly as extensively at Harvard. Combined with losing an intense race for student body president her senior year, this made for a not-so-enjoyable college experience. 

After Harvard, Hypocrisy decided to continue studying Law, but at a much lesser known school. She was happy to return to the top of her class. She thrived in her graduate and post-graduate studies before finally settling in as a courtroom lawyer where she could influence people each and every day. Crissy had a charming way with judges and a convicting yet slightly graceful presence to her clients, witnesses, and fellow attorneys. 

Her parents Tradition & Faith were quite proud of her and often told her so.

Which brings us to the second sister, Apathy. Patty, as she became to be called, always felt the coolness of her older sister Crissy's shadow. But even though Patty might have desired the attention that her older sister got, she'd never admit it. She was intelligent and smart enough, but things always seemed to go wrong for her. So Patty spent quite a bit of time dreaming of the success that would come to her as soon as she got - what she called - her "big break." For whenever something went wrong - a bad grade, a difficult financial situation, or a job she didn't enjoy - she always pointed out the things outside of her control that led to difficulty in her life: she had a cold when she took that test in school, her friend to whom she loaned money didn't pay her back, or the job turned out to be completely different than the job description she was given. It was always something or someone else's fault. 

But we've gotten ahead of ourselves.

Patty was born in the midst of several difficult months in a row in the lives of Tradition and Faith. Tradition had had his hours cut back at work. And despite her continued efforts to show a hopeful face, Faith still wavered nonetheless, not sure from where food would come for her young child Crissy, and infant Patty. Some days, Tradition just sat around...rather dormant, with distant memories of success, but always feeling like no one noticed or cared anymore. This only went on for a few months until Tradition found a new job wherein he was more appreciated, valued, and compensated as much, but both parents - Tradition and Faith - never forgot that it was this time during which Apathy was born. 

The thing about Patty was that she always had incredible intentions. Apathy was rarely lethargic as some might have expected...she saved those moments for when no one was looking. Rather, Patty just never got around to doing what she hoped to do. She had lofty and fancy ideas yet little and feeble efforts.

So Apathy was never without aspirations. She desired very much to be helpful to others, making promises about this or that and how she would help out or take care of, only to quit the task at the appearance of the slightest pebble on the path or a small wrinkle in the blanket. When it came to hitting the road, the couch always seemed more comfortable, regardless of well-intentioned plans. In situations where her sister Crissy might rise above everyone else to make sure the job was done (knowing the reward that would come as soon as people noticed), Patty would just assume quit because of the work involved, citing all sorts of explanations for her absence.

Patty went to college and did just fine, just enough to get a degree so she could enter the workforce. But even as she did, she jumped from one job to the next in a constant quest for a "meaningful" one. Family reunions were of mixed emotions for her. She loved being with her parents again - Tradition and Faith - and her sisters, particularly Crissy. Hearing of Crissy's success as a lawyer encouraged and even inspired Patty, but after a while, even this inspiration from her own sister was immediately followed by feelings of certain failure...just like always.

The third sister was unlike the first two. Humility was a complete surprise to Mom and Dad, Tradition and Faith. They hadn't really planned on having Humility. But despite their lack of planning, preparation, and ultimately, control in the situation, they found Humility to be a delight. She brought the simplest of infancy periods for her parents. While Tradition and Faith debated whether or not this was simply due to being their third child and their now-relaxed roles as parents, they didn't care. Having an easy-going infant was a blessing in a household of five. Millie - as she came to be called - Millie certainly cried sometimes, but mostly softly and at the things of genuine hurt like when Hypocrisy hit her on the head with a toy hammer when Mom and Dad weren't looking, or when Apathy absent-mindedly knocked her into the refrigerator in an instant of gleeful play.

Millie was regarded as the "spoiled youngest child" by her older sisters. While it was likely true that she [quote] "suffered" from youngest child syndrome, the one symptomised by a later bedtime, more snacks than usual, and a generally longer leash on life, it was likely because Millie gave Tradition and Faith no real reason to worry about her. 

Millie enjoyed people. She enjoyed the joy of other people. She was always happy for her sister Crissy's success, proud of her, even. And Millie cherished the moments when Patty took great attention to her. Patty's constant seemingly genuine promises like "You can ride my bike in a few minutes when I'm done!" or "I'll let you go first next time!" continually encouraged Millie, even after thousands of empty follow-throughs.

Millie did well enough in school, but was often chided by her teachers for taking more interest in her classmates than her work. It just seemed much more concerning to Millie that her classmate Teddy wasn't in school on a given day than the learning her multiplication tables. And she couldn't figure out why the capitals of the countries of the world would be more important than her classmate Susie's lack of a decent lunch.

Humility often felt isolated and even lonesome. While she appreciated Crissy's success, there was something about it that she just couldn't relate to. And while Patty's inspired life was fleetingly encouraging, she just wasn't often there when Millie needed something. So Millie would often seek her parents out - Tradition and Faith - milking the good things that she could from their respective strengths. 

So Millie made it just fine through school, graduating in the upper third of her class. She played a couple of sports - field hockey and softball - but was never really a star. Millie enjoyed the physical activity all right, but she couldn't understand some of the "rah-rah-ness" of things like pep rallies and rivalries. 

Millie's college years were conflicting, as they are for many. She wasn't completely sure why she went to college, but was sure it was right since Crissy and Patty had before her. Millie was studious enough, but again found herself a bit isolated, everyone's friend, but no one's best friend. She remained close to her parents, Tradition and Faith, throughout college, but also found some of what she always knew to be true now challenged by some of what she was learning. It was through stretching like this that she was able to find her own self even more, certainly drawing from her parents Tradition and Faith, but only as much as it was able to help her form an identity through which she could be true to herself. 

She too entered the workforce, but only so as to continue her concern for the people around her. She wasn't afraid to rest. She found her lawyer sister Crissy's phrenetic pace to work concerning. And she desperately wanted to be able to help Patty find meaning, but Humility didn't want to over-impose any more feelings of guilt upon Patty than her parents Tradition & Faith did.

So there were these three sisters, Hypocrisy, Apathy, & Humility. Each born from the good love relationship of their parents, Tradition & Faith. They lived on in their years and died as all humans do.

Crissy died at the top of her game. Everyone knew who she was, having served as a very successful judge later in life. She was rewarded greatly in life by the attention of others.

Patty found usefulness here and there as she wandered through life, but ultimately died never really having found her own.

And Millie died too. Her funeral was modest. Some wondered about her life and if she was really who she appeared to be, but it didn't really matter to Millie. 

Humility dies satisfied.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Death is an Interruption of Life

"Death is an interruption of life."

You'd think it would be obvious. But the way we tiptoe around death, it apparently isn't.

I just got home from the funeral of my best friend from preschool. BJ was my hero back in the day. For a toe-headed, wimpy pole of a kid, "big and tough" BJ always let me know he had my back (unless of course, I was a threat to his kid sister). Over the years, as things sometimes go, BJ and I fell away from one another: no fight or anything, just a change in geography and different paths in the journey of life.

Thirty-one-year olds are not supposed to die.

But that's kind of why we call it "death."
Death supplants life. It robs us of the way we think things should be.
And we kinda need to acknowledge this so that we can tell it to go to hell where it came from.

I think a lot about death. Don't call a psychologist as I'm rather comfortable with the notion. My craft demands that I wrestle with it. I don't invite it, but I certainly don't fear it. It ticks me off sometimes. It definitely interrupts my life.

But it will not reign. No, it will not reign.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Wesley, Logic, & Deism

"I could not study, to any degree of perfection, either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra, without being a Deist, if not an Atheist. And yet others may study them all their lives without sustaining any inconvenience. None therefore can here determine for another; but every man must judge for himself, and abstain from whatever he in particular finds to be hurtful to his soul." - John Wesley, Sermon L, The Use of Money

I knew I liked that guy.

I was a mathematics major in college. Still not sure how that happened. I mean, I know the path that took me to math, but I'm not sure how I actually graduated with the degree. Regardless, I am a rather logical thinker. It's been a detriment to faith. But I have often overcome it. For instance, I have no quibbles with evolution, the notion that God doesn't know the exact details of the future, and no longer need the stories of scripture to be historical to have faith in them and live as though they are true. The distinction between "fact" and "truth" has become very important to me. I don't mind living according to things that are outside of my experience and ability to "figure out," because my faith rests in truth and not in fact. (This is a good thing considering how often I've been wrong!)

I don't think that I totally divorce faith from knowledge, but they certainly aren't the same thing for me. Knowledge and empiricalness inform my faith, but they don't hold it together.

It seems to me that a great number of professing theists (those who believe in God) are actually inadvertent deists - those who believe in God, but don't live as though God makes any difference in their lives. I can't really blame them. But where I am similar, I challenge myself to believe with a hope that goes beyond figuring it all out. Otherwise - for myself - I'm not sure I could call it "faith."

I know...I'm so ignorantly idealistic.

And I'm still learning.