1.“The little satisfactions in daily life – a cup of tea, the swirling snow, Christmas lights on a dim afternoon, a bird singing at the end of summer – can be unavailing if they take place within a crown failure.”
As soon as I read the above sentence in Helprin’s book, I stopped and read it again and really could not move past those words until I read them aloud to my wife. I think we were listening to the Cello Suites played by Yo-Yo Ma. I could not get over that sentence. There were two reasons. First, I know that reality all to well. When I worked at the bank I struggled to enjoy even the simplest joys, for even those simple joys were colored by the specter of going to back to a job in which I was failing. Second, I now counsel this kind of person. It may not be a job. Could be a marriage. But that sense of failure colors everything in the dark hues of 4 am. It is wise to understand how fundamental our vocations and relationships are in God’s economy and our machinery.
2. There are no easy answers on how to do schooling in a pandemic. There are too many variables involved for easy answers. Part of the discussion is the effect all this will have on a child’s mental health. I have one very serious question about this – why do we assume school as it has been done as of late is good for a child’s mental health? Surely, we cannot assume this is true for every child. And what do you mean by “mental health” anyway? What of bullying and peer pressure and the consistent (epidemic?) rise of anxiety with school-age children being reported and studied before the pandemic?
For Christians, the way we understand mental health is radically different than the way unbelievers do. Or should be. They will look at mental health as conformity to a standard that excludes the person of Jesus. We cannot do that. Jesus is the standard of mental health by which we should guide all our vessels. So when the prognosticators tell you not being in school could damage your child’s mental health, raise your eyebrow a little bit and think about why they assume this. It is not a given.
3. I keep seeing people post something to the effect of “How come social media can remove a video on Hydroxychloroquine but can’t remove all the porn?” This sounds like a good question. But it’s not. It’s like asking, “Why are you able to eat an apple but not all Italian food?” An apple is one thing. Italian food describes dozens upon dozens of foods. A video about a drug is one video. Or maybe even twenty videos. But when you talk about pornography, you are talking about millions of pictures and videos. My guess is that much pornography is removed from social media on a regular basis and if there is one in particular that gets traction, that video gets removed quickly. I was not a fan of Facebook removing that video from a couple of weeks ago, but the above question is like comparing oranges and Cadillacs. It’s just not a good question.
4. When I see people protesting the police, which usually by force of logic requires a police presence, then complain about the behavior of the police at said protest, I get confused. I know police officers can often abuse their power. But this all reminds me of teenagers complaining to their parents about how they are being treated and then asking for the keys so they can go be with their friends and continue to complain about their parents. Maybe this is why the early Christians neither sided with Rome nor saw Rome’s actions as an obstacle. Maybe this is why they honored the Emperor and also called Jesus “Lord,” which got them imprisoned and killed. The picture of the first disciples’ interactions with the authorities looks almost nothing like ours. Ours is all about rights and privileges and done with anger, whereas theirs was all about Christ and even love of their enemy. And speaking of Christ, when a Roman official came to him for help, Jesus lovingly helped him and did not lecture him about the injustice he was a symbol of.
5. I know the prevailing wisdom is that when the world is talking about “X,” the church and its leaders should also talk about “X.” But I kind of wonder if wisdom would be found in talking about “Y” or maybe even “A” instead.
6. Last night we were with some friends and one of them pointed out that it seems as if we are all going to be voting against a candidate (or candidates) rather than voting for one. And even when we spout our slogans, even that is a sign of what we are against and not what we are for. It’s a perceptive realization and one we need to think long and hard about.
7. I think we underestimate the power of beauty to do good. I’m not talking about “pretty.” I’m talking about beauty that transcends the tastes and the fads of the day. What if just like we have medicine, which can heal by coursing through our bodies, what if all that is beautiful can course through our spirits and heal us in the unseen places. Beauty quieter than the falling of a leaf in October and louder than the marches of a thousand armies. I’m talking about Mascagni’s “Intermezzo” and the smile of a old man who refused to grow grumpy because there is glory everywhere the light shines and sometimes even in the dark if you have eyes to see.
8. Trust seems to be at premium these days.
9. I hope someone writes a book about all the small wonders we have rediscovered and begun to appreciate again during the pandemic: good books, libraries, a quiet evening, home-cooked meals, dinner as a family around the table, sunsets, summer dusks, hugs from friends, laughter with friends. I am sure you have your own.
10. Question Everything.
Be like the Bereans. Read your Bible like them and watch and read the news like them and listen to the experts like them. Listen to your friends and enemies like them. Question everything. Not as a jerk. But as one so committed to the truth you do not make snap judgments with easy answers. Don’t buy it just because the people on your side said it. Don’t discount it just because the people on the other side said it. Question everything.
Even this post.