Grandparents, Moneyball and the Call to Worry

See what I mean?

Watched “Moneyball” Sunday night.  I liked it.  It surprised me.  I wasn’t sure that it could be faithfully made into a film worth watching, but, as usual, I know little about the art of that.  Brad Pitt is a great actor, all of the fluff of paparrazinsanity aside, and he hit a homer again.  It’s an interesting story about baseball, change, and the resistance to new things that always comes.  It doesn’t end with exploding lights, a la, “The Natural,” but with the gentle irony that success leads Billy Bean to a fateful choice between one vision of “success” and family–even though his is broken.

I was in the mood to think about all of that, since my granddaughter just turned a year old this weekend.  She has changed our lives and our priorities.  I care much less about a great many things.  I declined an opportunity to be part of a panel on religious responses to immigration law in Alabama, a topic I feel strongly about, but I’m going to see that little girl for a brief visit, and, as I explained to friends, this is even more important than securing the borders of the United States.

Tony Giles, a friend who works in financial services, said yesterday that he is hopeful about the economy, even if worried, because, “Prosperity always climbs a wall of worry.”  His idea is that as long as we are worried about our world, there is still a chance it can get better.  I like that.  Jesus told us not to be anxious, which is one of the strangest and hardest of all of his sayings, for what else motivates humans beyond anxiety?  I know there is a way to not react to anxiety without eliminating it, and that is the best I can do.

Don’t worry about my granddaughter?  Might as well tell me to quit breathing.  I will worry about, at, and just plain worry this world until it provides her the kind of planet little children deserve.  If I had continued down midlife without her, I might have been able to unwind myself from caring a little more, retire, play golf and croak.  But I can’t.  It matters too much now.

Thing is, I don’t mind minding so much.  She’s worth it.  If a smile can make a person feel that good, you can cruise on it all day long.  The other day, our band, during practice, recorded “You Are My Sunshine” for my baby, recorded on an iPhone.  (click to play it). Grandparenting will make a fool out of you–I’ll testify.  One that will keep caring, no matter how bad they say it is.  God send us some more fools.  We might balance some budgets, stop a lot of stupid wars, work harder, save more, and give our egos a rest.  All you need is one baby.

 

 

The Ten Commandments of Change (Part One)

Ten Commandments for Working for Change (Kingdom of God Version)

I am not sure why I started this.  I have been thinking, at 57, about how disappointing the world, other people, the church, society, politicians, even myself, are.  And yet, I hope.  I still think things can be better.  This is mysterious.  I went to Mount Thinkaboutit to consider this, and came down with two tablets carved in sand, so they can be easily revised if needed, but these are some things I have thought about in my experiences thus far.

  1. First Things First.  The ministry of healing requires clear priorities.  The First Commandment is always the First Commandment.  “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”  “Let God be God,” is redundant.  God IS
    We're all in this together, at least until they colonize the moon.

    God.  The only question is, “Will we rail against God and the universe and the Way It REALLY Is or not?”   All of our spiritual traditions say God doesn’t care for human deities running around lording themselves over the rest of us.  This keeps motives clear, priorities arranged and a healthy dose of humility in all of our efforts.

  2. Caring IS change.   We are changed the moment we care.  The poor are my neighbors, friends, or estranged kin, not problems to be eliminated or solved.  Helmut Thielicke, the theologian, once said that sin entered the world when God was first spoken of in the third person by Satan:  “Did God REALLY say?”  Maybe the same is true of our neighbors—when we talk about them in place of “I-Thou,” as Martin Buber called it, we get, well, what we have.  Listening, being present, loving our neighbors has already changed the conversation.  Until you care, nothing changes.  Not caring is a tempting way of protecting from the hurt, but it is ultimately impossible for being really alive.
  3. Politics alone cannot heal.  It can facilitate genuine healing or get in its way.  The same can be said of all the “principalities and powers”—economy, power, business, civic life, and even religion.  They are instruments to occasionally use but never of eternal value for themselves.  Sometimes it is the obstacle to go around, sometimes the opposition to ignore but never a god in whom we trust wholly.  Politics is pretty important, which is why it is always overestimating itself
  4. Epiphanies are doorways!  Real change begins with ideas, relationships, and genuine connection.  Money, power and importance can only follow them if the change is genuine and the commitment unwaivering.  Money, fame, and power are not usually agents of change so much as instruments of resistance.  They get on board when it suits them, and left to themselves tend to prefer comfort, control and micromanaging (i.e., spiritual anesthesia).  Because change will always bring the Unholy Trio into question, they become anxious because they will decrease if things do change.  They do not like this, but sometimes the numbers just aren’t with them any more.  Epiphanies are fast track connections.
  5. The Power of the Question.  Before transformation was the question and it must be asked by right person at the right time.  “Questioning” can be a somewhat self-righteous exercise, however, even a delusional self-perception (this was franchised in the United States in the 1970s, causing the number of people who were at Woodstock to quadruple).  Real questions, like real change, have the element of self-involved investment/caring/suffering.

Part Two tomorrow…