Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Tragedy — September 26, 2022

Tragedy

This weekend, I watched a Netflix documentary series that was one of the most depressing things I have ever witnessed. And what I’m going to try to do is find beauty and hope in it. Try.

First, let me tell you about what I did Saturday. We (my family and some visiting in-laws) piled in a car and went to the local amusement park. It’s local but it’s also known around the whole world. That’s always an interesting dichotomy to reconcile in my head. Something extraordinarily famous is in my backyard, making it feel familiar and routine, like if Lady Gaga was your sister.

(But I always write about taking amazing things for granted, like kissing the Angel and kindness and Morrissey, so I won’t today.)

What was striking about this park is the extent of the corporate greed on display. I recognize this is nothing new in commercial America, where industry is built at the altar of MORE. Parking fees and food prices are obscene and attendees are shoehorned in until actually riding rollercoasters is nearly impossible, as receipts pile up. I rode 3 rides and waited an hour and a half for the privilege of buying hot dogs.

I am not an idiot. I have a business degree and a working knowledge of insurance and hidden costs. I don’t even have a problem with rising profits. This “wonderland” provides a service that is specific and fantastic, they should all get filthy rich on it. My problem is the contempt they showed for me and all of the other suckers who essentially paid to stand on their property. I can take the fact that I am not their #1 priority. So, I’m educated as a business major and a marketer, but I was raised in the ‘90’s to distrust and rage against any, and all, machines. Especially the machines that can’t even manage to even pretend that I’m in their top 20 list of importance.

Which brings me to the Woodstock 99 documentary, Trainwreck. This is, first and foremost, a story of dollars > people. But it’s also a story of people who are either a) treated like animals because they are, or b) behaving like animals because they’re treated like animals. I happen to believe it’s the second. Probably even the sweetest bunny rabbit will bite if it’s cornered and beaten for long enough. Most of us will lash out if we are hated loudly enough. Maybe we wouldn’t set the town on fire, but we might kick the dumb insincere peace and love signs down. And it does take a special kind of monster to sexually assault another simply because they are in close enough proximity to do so.

Which brings me to the thread that ties all of these together. Simply because we can doesn’t mean we should. Because the amusement park is the only game in town doesn’t mean a 1,000% markup on popcorn is any less offensive. Because the Woodstock promoters can have 1 water fountain for every 100,000 people doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and because some frat boy can grope a woman (and much, much worse) without being stopped doesn’t make it less abhorrent.

Now. There is a bright side. “Mob mentality” was referenced over and over in the doc, and that same concept applies to board rooms and management meetings. We all think so (or we think we all think so), so we all go along. We say, “we could probably raise prices another 100% before it begins to keep anyone away,” and we look around for agreement, salivating over bonuses and perks, drowning out any voices of dissent, and we end up raising them 125%. We see those neanderthals setting fires and pulling down towers and the internal voice that objects goes silent and, the next thing we know, we’re turning over nearby cars and trying to break into ATMs.

We’re social creatures, looking for belonging and acceptance. The good news about this is if we were to, say, replace the violence for generosity, switch anger for care. You know when you’re around someone relentlessly positive and hopeful, you feel buoyant and like maybe this ship doesn’t have to sink? Same principle. If we, just 2 or 3 of us to start, were to treat the women in our midst with respect instead of trying to rip their clothes off at a concert, maybe everyone would. Probably everyone would. Certainly everyone would. And those that wouldn’t would find their actions met with strong resistance and protection. If we would begin to love each other, treat each other like the treasures we are, then we could make new paths that are easier for the rest of us to tread. And then Woodstock might really be about the beauty of humanity and its creative spirit and we’d all be rich beyond our wildest imagination.

The Differences — August 18, 2022

The Differences

2 years ago, we all decided to draw battle lines over a pandemic and a shot (or 4). There were many conversations (often very contentious) over a vaccination, whether we would or would not, with just as many reasons why or why not. The one I found most compelling was the one centered around a growing mountain of conflicting information. Scientific wisdom shifted almost daily, the evidence we staked our arguments upon became obsolete seemingly as soon as we adopted them.

But if we so much as suggested this confusion and mistrust, we were quickly branded anti-vaxxers, or right wing conspiracy theorists. I am neither. I had questions, concerns. I believe we all had some experience with this, no matter what we believed. No matter what questions we asked, they were met with wild aggression.

Now, the CDC is admitting that public guidance was “confusing and overwhelming.” Dr Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the CDC, says, “we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes, from testing to data to communications.”

I’m watching The Vow right now, an HBO documentary on the cult NXIVM. I’m sure I’ll talk more in depth about this a little later, once I finish the 9 episodes. But in the one I was watching this morning, a woman was speaking under the condition of anonymity to avoid the snap judgments she had faced. People were unbearably rude to her, calling her all sorts of nasty adjectives before (and often without) knowing her name. “How could someone be so stupid to willingly participate in a cult like this?” those on the outside asked.

I’m positive there are parallels as well as distinctions to make between the CDC and NXIVM, and I’m also positive I don’t want to make them. My concern is how it’s so easy for us to decide another’s why, so easy to lock another in boxes in which they can’t ever escape. We fought like animals (mostly on social media) because we all made assumptions about those whose only crime was to arrive at a different conclusion – and in my case, I hadn’t even arrived. Sometimes, the crime was to not agree fast enough.

When did honest questioning or respectful discourse become such terrible transgressions? I know this didn’t start in 2020, with Covid-19, but I don’t exactly care when it started. I do care about how it ends.

I have a good friend who is a transgender woman. As a white man, I know nothing at all about the perspective of a transgender woman, so I ask a lot, A LOT, of questions. And she, who is endlessly graceful, answers them all. And that is why we call each other ‘good friends.’ We don’t agree on everything, have vastly different experiences, homes, families, and we certainly don’t see the world through the same lenses, but we don’t have to. We just have to care for each other.

A monochromatic world is totally uninteresting. I don’t know why that woman chose to do the things she did in NXIVM, but I do know I’ve done things I regret for reasons that made sense at the time. The CDC is admitting they mishandled a situation in a big, high profile moment, but I don’t think they’re evil, and I don’t think they meant harm. They did the best with what they had when they had it. I don’t know that we did the same. Fear caused us to resort to cheap generalizations and instant uninformed judgment. Fear caused us to forget the honor and dignity inherent in being human. And fear caused us to build walls.

This nonsense only ends when we erase our battle lines, knock the walls down and open the cell doors to our shared humanity and the beauty of me & you, and start loving each other, even, especially, the differences.

D.B Cooper Conventions & Monopoly Tournaments — August 11, 2022

D.B Cooper Conventions & Monopoly Tournaments

I saw The Batman and the 3rd Fantastic Beasts films in the last few weeks and really loved them both. As a matter of fact, as far as Fantastic Beasts, it would be impossible to express just how much. Maybe I’ll try sometime. Maybe not. The Batman was awfully good, but I say that knowing full well that I am the target market, so it’s possible my opinion wouldn’t be the most objective.

We will talk about 2 other films: Under the Boardwalk: A Monopoly Story, and D.B. Cooper, Where Are You?! Now, what could these 2 possibly have in common, right? Not surprisingly, they also share it with Bikram, Holy Hell, and the Rajneeshees of Wild, Wild Country. The more I think about it, they share it with The Batman and Fantastic Beasts, Thor, The Avengers, Stand By Me and Stranger Things, too.

D.B. Cooper was the alias of a guy who hi-jacked an airplane in the 70’s, took $200,000, jumped out somewhere in Oregon, and was never found. The thing that makes it a cool story instead of a terrible story is that no one was harmed, outside of a minor inconvenience for the passengers. Some think he is still alive, may or may not be living in Florida, or that he fell to his death. None of that matters too much to me, it’s an interesting piece of pop culture, a mysterious American outlaw very much of a time.

Monopoly is a 100+ year-old board game that we’ve all played and that the Angel HATES. I was pretty neutral, but I like it very much since this documentary.

There are D.B. Cooper conventions, where people from all over get together and geek out over conspiracy theories, police sketches, and an inch of decayed nylon found in a forest. There are also Monopoly championship tournaments, which are exactly what you think they are. Rooms full of tables where the best players battle over rent, mortgage values and property trades. These people are weirdos, in the very best sense of the word. I know they are, because I’m one of them. We all are. We may not participate in these particular events, but we all have our D.B. Cooper conventions. (If we don’t, we should by all means immediately get one!)

The last 15 minutes (or episode) of the cult docs we all adore the former members are interviewed, and there is always an unmistakable air of melancholy. They miss the time they were involved (before the true insanity of everything was exposed). Thor & Hulk need a team, Batman finds he can not, and should not, be the lone hero vigilante forever. It is the relationships between characters in Fantastic Beasts that remain, none of us really care about wands or spells or CGI creatures.

The biggest lie that most of us know is a lie but tell as truth, and that we all apparently agree to let slide, even though we know nobody actually believes is that we are islands. We don’t need, or want, other people. We are wholely independent. We prefer riding alone.

Except we’ll do pretty much anything to find a community. We’ll drink Kool Aid, let a yogi behave like a complete maniac, play in Monopoly tournaments, or go to conventions for a 50 year old historical footnote. None of this is surprising in the least. I happen to believe we are created for each other, wired for relationship.

In Christian circles, it can be quite tempting to sound super-spiritual and say some variation of “all I need is God.” It sounds awesome and we all ooh and ahh, but can you take a wild guess where that sort of doctrine isn’t? The Bible. In Genesis 1 & 2, before the Fall, everything is “good” except 1 thing: the man is alone. The man isn’t alone, he has God and they walk in the Garden in the cool of the evening, but God still says, “it is not good for the man to be alone,” so He makes a woman. Then in the New Testament, He makes the Church.

Maybe you don’t believe in God or Genesis or the Church, or maybe you do, but don’t think it happened exactly like it’s written. A thing doesn’t have to have happened for it to be True. This Genesis account is as true as anything has ever been, we are made to be together. And I know this, without a doubt, because D.B. Cooper conventions and Monopoly tournaments exist.

Nostalgia — July 23, 2022

Nostalgia

So I watched 2 documentaries lately: Class Action Park, about Action Park in New Jersey, and Humanity Insanity: Throwaway Society, about the modern rush into total disposability.

If it matters, they’re both terrific. But as the final comments wrapped up Class Action Park, I found myself with a knot in my throat and watery eyes. It’s true, I am what’s called an easy cry (which was why my total indifference in the new Thor movie was such a surprising giveaway to how I felt about it), but a documentary about a man’s avarice manifesting as complete indifference to the safety of his customers was an unexpected place to feel that well rising from my soft heart.

I have a business degree and, while I don’t remember everything I learned, I’m fairly certain that seriously injuring (and sometimes killing) patrons is not a viable strategy for long term growth. Who knows? The ‘80’s were a different time.

That’s what I mean, though. I grew up in the ‘80’s and it was a very different time. Does everyone romanticize their childhood? I’ve heard so many jokes about “back in my day…” and “when I was young…” and now I’m discovering that I say the exact same things.

Humanity Insanity detailed a rapid decline into a society where everything is made to discard; goods, feelings, people. That’s true. There are apps on our phones that’s purpose is to erase the messages immediately after they’re read. We delete all imperfect photos. Single serving. Planned Obsolescence. Half of all the food produced on earth is thrown away. Most marriages end in divorce. We shop for our churches and might stay for a few weeks, then move on.

I know, I know, I sound like everyone’s dad, but as I watched the people reminisce about this ridiculous amusement park, their memories were real, the relationships continued, the scars remained, the place is still there (albeit under a changed name.)

With a longer shelf life, we truly experienced these things; toys, movies, seasons, phases & fads. We listened to entire albums for months. Back To The Future was in the Top 10 for 24 weeks!!!! 6 months! The new Dr Strange is out of theaters, streaming and forgotten on Disney+ in 6 weeks. Singles come and go before we know the lyrics and can sing along. My boys barely remember what they did this morning, while I can recall every one of my MASK toys and every episode of Three’s Company. No one is getting weepy over the 2020’s (well, maybe they are, but for wildly different reasons.) No one will remember the 1 hit wonders of the 2 thousands – because here aren’t any. We had a nearby park where everybody went on weekends that looked like Golf N’Stuff from Karate Kid. And pickup games every day. I haven’t seen a 10 year old outside in days.

I wonder if this nostalgia I feel is for the connection. I miss my best friend and going to my neighbor’s house (with everybody else) to watch the premiere of the Thriller video. I miss my friends being flesh and blood and not simply a number on Facebook. I miss playing.

We’ve certainly gained so many great things, but maybe nostalgia is nothing more than an acknowledgment of what we’ve lost. I wouldn’t go back to the ‘80’s for anything, but is it too much to ask to bring some of the ‘80’s into today?

The New Thor Movie — July 20, 2022

The New Thor Movie

The new offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the 4th Thor movie, called Love & Thunder and before I tell you how much I didn’t like it, let me tell you about the band Live and a story I may or may not remember accurately.

Live made an album in the ‘90’s, their 3rd, called Secret Samadhi and it wasn’t met with overwhelming popular or critical acclaim. I loved it, and passionately defended it against the many, many friends who derided it. Then, years later, the members of Live, in an interview for a different album, also kicked that record around, essentially apologizing for ever having created such an embarrassment. (I remember this like it was yesterday, but I have a very good friend who promises me it never happened. I’m still operating as it did, but even if it didn’t, it’s a representation of a greater reality. We’ve all heard artists slander their own work in the promotion of the new release, right?) I felt silly for loving it like I did, for investing in it like I did, like I was being mocked by the very people I was supporting.

Now. 1 more thing. I happen to like the genre of camp, if you know what I mean. When the entire piece is a ‘send up’ of the genre, when we all wink and laugh along. But everyone has to be in on the joke.

I told you before I think these superhero movies are the mythology for a new generation. Like a 21st century Iliad. They use these extraordinary people & circumstances to address ordinary universal issues, like family, friendship, identity, commitment, responsibility, corruption, faith, love, kindness, and on and on and on.

And when directors like Scorsese and Coppola, and actors like Ethan Hawke (who was in a Marvel series!!!) de-value them as movies “for 14 year-olds,” it’s disappointing but nothing more than garden variety artiste elitism, easily ignored and/or dismissed.

This new Thor movie is a different animal. This is a condescending inside joke where the butt is the audience, me, and $500 million dollars worth of other marks like me. They’re treating it as lowbrow trash, utterly beneath them, and remain ironically detached. The serious, real, emotional moments float on by with little impact, the gags (like giant screaming goats) don’t land, and the overacting is mostly offensive. Making fun of people like me, who see everything and invest in the characters and storylines, doesn’t sound like great business sense and will probably end with lower and lower scores and grosses. I can deal with incompetence, but what I have a much harder time with is inauthenticity and hypocrisy, making huge paydays, cashing checks while laughing at those who write them.

What I have learned as an adult and a person of faith that I couldn’t understand as a 17 year old is that this snobbish posturing does just the opposite of its intention. Trying to force someone to believe or like something through condescension or judgment is small behavior driven by insecurity & inadequacy. And almost always works only to repel rather than attract. I’ve changed now, and you can like what you like. You can feel what you feel, be moved by what moves you, without the external noise of my feeble embarrassing attempts to control.

Suspension of disbelief is required when it comes to Asgard and gamma mutated Hulks. Maybe that’s why I didn’t care – the filmmakers and actors inserted themselves into the story and that cracked the immersion needed to settle into new fantastic realities. I thought about Taika Waititi & Chris Hemsworth instead of Korg & Thor, I thought of the writing/directing process during the movie instead of watching it all play out onscreen. Maybe it’s not as bad as I thought, maybe others don’t want to suspend their disbelief, and maybe you loved it, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? We can and should prefer different Live albums, and that is probably the best part of us. Why would I want to squash that, or try to embarrass you for where you find joy or peace or beauty? I wouldn’t, and I wish they wouldn’t have, either.

Authentic Presence — July 7, 2022

Authentic Presence

In the new reality, we can see Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness opening weekend and then stream it about a month later. This is an ocean away from “how it was when I was young,” where we would see a movie in a theater and maybe a year later we could rent the VHS tape. We would always rent, because owning a copy would be $100+!!!!!

And there were those special weekends where my mom would take my sister and I to the video store to rent a VCR and as many movies as we could carry for hours and hours of varying levels of attention. There’s only so much one can take at a sitting.

Anyway, this time around I LOVED the Dr Strange movie. I liked it well enough the first time, but upon a second viewing, it was exponentially better. So, why is that? The movie didn’t change, I wonder if I did. And how much could I have reasonably changed in a month?

These Marvel movies now all have surprise cameos and shocking deaths and spoilers for the jaw-dropping reveals. We already know that the new Guardians of the Galaxy will break our hearts, we just don’t know exactly how. And that instills a certain amount of anxiety. And when we go to these movies, we’re watching, waiting for the rug to be pulled, or if Jim from the office & Some Good News is the new Reed Richards (he is), or if Tom Cruise will be in it (he isn’t), or if somebody dies (…).

The second (or 3rd or 100th) time, I know the answers to those questions. I’m not surprised anymore, there’s no breathless anticipation waiting for the next thing, so I am free to hear dialogue I missed, see unappreciated cinematic subtleties, and enjoy the performances of some very fine actors.

Now, why do I care about any of this?

I sometimes get the privilege of officiating weddings, and I always remind the bride and groom, parents, attendants, and everyone else I see to not miss any of this moment, to be fully present. In the Bible, Jacob wakes up from a dream with the revelation that “God was in this place and I was unaware.” I don’t want us to be unaware of anything. I don’t want us to wake up, saying, “oh man, I totally missed it,” like we often do.

I am also married, and it’s easy to take the Angel for granted. And I have 2 sons who were once 2 years old and now are not. 2 years old was a good, no, GREAT, age with a ton of significant moments. They don’t nap on my chest anymore (which was so awesome), and the last time they did, I didn’t know it was the last time, so I may have been thinking about what I’d do when they got up. Or what I had to do tomorrow. Or yesterday.

This morning I was driving with the windows down, that song, “Numb Little Bug,” which I like a lot, on the radio, and then it was over and that thing happened where we get somewhere and don’t remember any of the journey. You see, I was hurrying to grab something the Angel had forgotten and return it to her. Then I ran it over to her and got back in my car, without pausing to soak her in for an extra few minutes. I missed half an hour of a sacred moment. But they’re all sacred moments, right?

Anticipation is fun, and when you get the secret about Bruce Willis in the 6th Sense – it’s just amazing. But there has to be a way to marry excitement with attention. And there has to be surprise without anxiety. Where the 1st and 3rd time through Strange coexist. Where we are connected, eyes wide, listening instead of hearing, seeing instead of looking, untethered to the regret/nostalgia of the past and the worry/fear of the future, only here, only now. Can it really be as simple as authentic presence; an open-handed approach to living this beautiful life? I’m starting to think it probably is.

Shorts — June 14, 2022

Shorts

I am writing this blog post on a personal website, typing on an iPad while streaming music on an Amazon Music app through a Bluetooth speaker across the room, and I am also hopelessly old fashioned. People are never just 1 thing. I know a guy who is a psychopathic maniac aggressively bent on destroying anyone and anything unlucky enough to be in proximity. He is also made in the image of God; loved, forgiven, covered by grace. This is sometimes very hard to understand, even harder to accept.

Last night, in a conversation with a woman who will be the bride in a wedding I’ll officiate, I was told that I didn’t have to wear a suit & tie. I could even wear shorts if I wanted.

I won’t be wearing shorts.

There are places that are different from other places. The Bible calls some things sacred, others common. Some time is sacred, other time ordinary. Not all things are equal. A wedding is different from a baseball game. A date with a woman is different than pizza with a friend. We hold these sorts of moments differently. Or at least I think we should.

Something gets lost when everything is common. As the villain Syndrome says in the terrific Pixar film, the Incredibles, “When everyone is super, no one will be.” Same principle, but we’re not elevating all moments. In Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron,” the exceptional people are hindered in some way specific to their giftedness, so that all people are the same. The end result is always the same, no one is super. No where is super.

A wedding isn’t a barbecue. One is a life-changing ceremony of love, devotion and commitment. The other is awesome, but a hamburger (no matter how thick and juicy, no matter how many condiments or kinds of cheese) isn’t a marriage. And evening them out never ever means bringing up the value of a barbecue.

Sexual intimacy is best experienced as the physical act of love and connectedness shared between 2 people. As that number increases, it doesn’t become more significant. It can’t. Baseball cards that are rare are more valuable for a reason.

See? Hopelessly old fashioned.

I pastor a church and I’m not writing this on that page because we are a very casual community – I teach on Sunday mornings this time of year in shorts and sandals – and shhh, I don’t really like it. I don’t say that out loud because I never want dress to become an obstacle or feel like an entrance requirement. I don’t want anything to keep anyone away, so we remove any barrier (there are plenty of those already). I absolutely know that suits and fancy dresses don’t automatically make our hearts soft and open, or add depth of meaning, but maybe it helps. Maybe mindful preparation helps.

The truth is, I don’t want anything to keep anyone away from anything. People are more important (100% of the time) than the t-shirts and flip-flops we wear. So, I don’t really have to like it, do I? I want super people and sacred spaces, I happen to loooove celebrating our differences, but much much more than that, I want presence and engagement.

You can wear what you like, free of any silly self-righteous judgment from me, but I’m still not wearing shorts to that wedding.

Pet Sounds, Side 2, Track 4 — June 10, 2022

Pet Sounds, Side 2, Track 4

The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds has a track called, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” and I feel like that more and more every day.

The hook is just a repeated line, “Sometimes I feel very sad.” No kidding, baby. I’m pretty sure if you live and breathe, you have to. It’s practically a requirement for modern living. War. Lies. Manipulation. Violence. Abuse. Rage. Pain. Guns and the broken hearts that pull the triggers.

[Just as far as that goes. I think if we could have conversations without our political ideologies, we would all totally agree. Firearms are too easy to get without proper training and education. The people killing others are wounded and in desperate need of help. Both sides are totally right. If we could only see each other, address those who are walking warning signs of psychological damage, and set up some reasonable obstacles to immediate, boundary-less procurement of instruments of death, then maybe we could stop chanting our empty mantra of “thoughts and prayers” so often. I want that, and I believe you do, too. And so does your neighbor and the Speaker of the House and the President of the NRA.]

Anyway. Sometimes I feel very sad. And every day, it seems like there are 2 new arrows. That’s ok, I suppose. We choose. And I choose to listen and engage. I choose to be the one who walks alongside. I choose to help you carry. Again, probably you are, too.

If you’ve been here long enough, (and maybe just today), you are aware that I happen to believe more connects us than separates. I believe that we are mostly trustworthy and kind, helpful and loving. Of course, I also recognize that we are capable of unimaginable horror. My neighbor is blind and 99 out of 100 of us will help him find his way, and 1 will push him down. But would that 1 push him down if he/she was listened to and cared for? Maybe. But maybe not.

The song starts, “I keep lookin’ for a place to fit in. Where I can speak my mind. And I’ve been tryin’ hard to find the people. That I won’t leave behind.” We’re all looking for that, aren’t we? What if we find it? Would an 18 year old with a community around him shoot up an elementary school. What if he fit in? What if he found his people?

Brian Wilson said, about the song, “It’s about a guy who was crying because he thought he was too advanced, and that he’d eventually have to leave people behind. All my friends thought I was crazy to do Pet Sounds.” I don’t think I’m too advanced, and I’m not creating one of the greatest albums of all time. I just think the state of my heart (soft and in perfect working order) makes these days, taking so many arrows & wrecking balls, pretty hard to take. I don’t think I’m alone, though. I think Brian Wilson was wrong, he didn’t have to eventually leave people behind. He decided that for everyone in his life. We can’t make the same misguided decision anymore.

So. Sometimes I feel very sad. That’s all.

And I Am A Material Girl — May 16, 2022

And I Am A Material Girl

Just a few short months ago, I would have written a full series of posts on how much I disliked Madonna, how I thought she was sickeningly overrated. In fact, maybe I did. I don’t remember. But I do remember laying out terribly detailed arguments against her to anyone who would listen. Then, in a surprising twist, my sister had the 2 disc greatest hits set Celebration buried in a mountain of cds she had given me as trash for a project which I had intended to take on.

I would have immediately moved it to my garbage can, but track 1 on disc 2 is Dress You Up, and if you are alive, you love Dress You Up. I stopped fighting the losing battle against that song (pretending I didn’t love it, pretending I didn’t sing along at the top of my lungs) a long time ago. So I put the discs in my car only planning to listen to Dress You Up on repeat 15 or 20 times before they found their way to the landfill.

But a strange thing happened when I was late to repeat track 1 – track 2 began. Track 2 is Material Girl. We all know Material Girl is an embarrassing relic of the ‘80’s, bubble gum, disposable, pure sugar superficiality. Isn’t it????

“‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right,” is a great line. Then, “Experience has made me rich and now they’re after me” is fine (better than fine, actually) but the way she sings “’Cause everybody’s living in a material world and I am a material girl,” is transcendent. My series of nasty posts would’ve surely included a huge section on Material Girl. And they would’ve been absolutely wrong. Vogue, Hung Up, Music, Borderline, Everybody, Burning Up, Cherish, I could go on and on, (don’t even get me started on Holiday) and the cds stay in for weeks until I can summon the superhuman strength to push eject.

Sigh, Madonna is awesome, but there is a bigger point here. Sometimes we are so familiar with something that thing loses it’s power. We take it totally for granted, we treat it as an everyday, common occurrence. We begin to see miracles as routine. The tremendous beauty of a sunrise or -set fails to register a second look. A hug, a wink, The Shawshank Redemption, my mom, Morrissey, throwing & catching baseballs, Oreos, so much just passes by unnoticed.

I remember the first time I kissed the Angel. I was wildly nervous and overwhelmed that I would ever have the opportunity to kiss such a lovely woman, and then we did and then we got married and we did a million more times and I am mostly no longer nervous and not overwhelmed enough at this even more lovely woman. When I think about her and her soft lips now, married nearly 22 years, she is way better than Material Girl, or even Holiday, I just forgot for many of those years.

I wonder how many things are like that in my life. The first time I held my boy Samuel, I wept at the enormity of this new life, how much I loved him, how much I prayed/dreamed for him, and what all of it meant. Tonight he and I had an argument over grades. Grades!??!?? He is the most wonderful young man, can I really be missing these day over a test score?

I know there’s room for grades AND appreciation, arguments AND gratitude, but too often it’s just grades and arguments. The Bible talks about ears to hear and eyes to see, and I think Material Girl is probably what those verses mean. We sometimes need new ears and eyes and lips to experience the familiar as brand new, so we can see our lives as the mind-blowing gifts they truly are.

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff — May 9, 2022

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff

Yesterday I saw Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, last week Moon Knight wrapped up, and there is something quite interesting about them. They aren’t for everyone. I can’t remember previous Marvel films about which I could’ve said that.

Doctor Strange was a mind-bending horror trip through multiversal universes. I don’t even know if that last sentence makes any sense to you, but spoiler rules dictate that I can’t say anything else. I will say one of my sons and I liked it very much and my other son and wife, the Angel, didn’t at all. (That she didn’t is no surprise, we had come to terms with that long ago – however, that I took her on Mother’s Day is a term that we’ll need a bit more time with.) After the movie, I received a text asking me how it was, and I couldn’t exactly answer. I said it’s not for everyone, and that’s 100% true.

Moon Knight was a series on Disney+ about a relatively unknown… superhero? Avatar? A man who is awfully handsome and awfully mentally ill whose multiple personalities are being manipulated by an Egyptian god that may or may not be the skeleton of Kevin from Up. I liked the promise of the 1st episode, liked the series less and less through episode 4, LOVED episode 5, and episode 6 was fine. The first 5 were less standard superhero stuff and more painfully honest character study, until they lost their nerve and returned to a standard final act which resolved until the last 30 seconds, when it didn’t.

I feel a certain way about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that it is our mythology. Why those stories are treated with reverence and studied in English classes, and these films are treated as lowbrow trash is so confusing to me, maybe it actually is the perfect illustration. Maybe I am the lowest common denominator. Who knows? I don’t really care, though. I’ve long since left behind the term “guilty pleasure.” I am drawn to artwork that helps me understand the human condition and emotionally connect. I can’t think of a better wide AND deep, completely relatable depiction of grief than Wandavision. Or a more relevant dive into our complex mistrust of authority (sometimes we are paranoid and they really are after us) than the Winter Soldier. And though the movie was pretty disappointing, Iron Man 2 saw and highlighted our collective struggle with our own mortality in the middle of a backbreaking responsibility and a clear call to something greater.

I am not a witch destined to rule or destroy the cosmos, (at least as far as I know), but I have lost people, knew that my heart was irreparably broken, and wailed under the weight of “what do I do now, without you????” You too, right?

Anyway. What I think about these latest 2 installments of the MCU is, they were ok, not for everyone and it’s THAT evaluation that is so hopeful to me. The things that really affect us, that really mean something, probably aren’t the things that are sanded down to avoid all edges. McDonald’s “hamburgers” are engineered to be ok to everyone – that’s how you sell billions, but they’re nobody’s favorite. Your favorite probably has bacon and cranberries and a special kind of hot sauce or pickle, right? And maybe the person with you sits there wondering how you, how anyone, could possibly like that!?! Ask 3 people about Wandavision, 1 of them will have HATED every moment of it. And 1, like me, will think it’s PERFECT and go on and on, write blog posts about how deep and wonderful and real it was.

It’s funny to talk about a studio that makes movies that bring in billions of dollars like this, but I might really dislike this next Thor movie and that prospect thrills me.