Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Next stop...the driver's seat

The sage bureaucrats at the California Transportation Safety Authority have deemed it necessary that all children travelling in a motor vehicle be seated in a child seat until they reach the point of six years of age and sixty pounds. Wise guidance indeed.

Well, last week, my oldest boy reached this benchmark in his life and we disposed of his much maligned booster seat. Since he turned six he has asked to be weighed any time we were in eyesight of a scale, anticipating his pending liberation once that golden weight was achieved.
It took him an extra year to do it, but he finally weighed in at 60.3 pounds. I have never seen him smile so much. I mean, you would think that he had just won the lottery every time he clicks the seat belt by himself now.

But each click of that seat belt is yet another tick on the clock winding down to his ultimate emancipation from my care. Like his learning to ride a bike, I am not ready for this assumption of independence. I realize this may sound pathetic and there are times when our kids drive us nuts. But those times are so few, and moments when they separate from us seem to last forever and leave a dent in my heart. I want my boys to grow up to be fine, responsible and godly men. I'm just in no hurry for the whole growing up enterprise itself.

When we are out, I often jokingly ask my son if he would like to drive. He laughs at the obsurdity of my question and says 'no'. After today, I think I'll stop asking him, the day he says yes is closer than I think. Sigh.

Peace to all.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

From Thomas Hobbes to Jesus Christ

I've been teaching a lot lately about the development of democracy in the modern world. Part of that conversation is Enlightenment philosophy. One of the guys(though there were also ladies) who set the tone for the century long debate over whether or not people can be trusted to govern themsleves is a cat named Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes has got to be one of my favorite thinkers of the last 400 years. Hobbes' basic premise is that people are intrinsically wicked. He wrote that if people were left in their natural state life would be"nasty, brutish and short". No truer words have ever been written. The historian in me knows that because Hobbes lived through the bloody English Civil war of the 1640's that colors his perspective on human nature. True. But perhaps that did not so much shape his view as much as it brought to light the very nature of the human condition.

You see, I first discovered Hobbes as a high school student. I grew up in a dysfunctional Catholic home with a very Old Testament view of God.

I promise I'm going somewhere with this.

During high school I began looking at other views of faith, reason, philosophy and spirituality to answer the big questions in life. I gave Buddhism a glance, dabbled with what Islam had to offer, even dated a couple of Jewish girls in the hope that their faith might answer the questions swirling around my head. I took humanism for a test drive. Nada.

I then turned to rationalism which inevitably led me to the Enlightenment and that in turn introduced me to a whole cast of characters I still walk through life with. I stumbled upon humanism and the idea that human potential is unlimited in its goodness. The problem I have with the whole movement of thought of that period is the indestructable belief in human nature as intrinsically good. In high school I fell in love with the only mistress I have ever had. . .history. History has taught me that humanity has a pattern of behavior that is very bad, dark and evil, not good. So much of what Enlightenment and humanistic philosophy espoused about human nature seemed to contradict what I knew about the truth of history.

Really, I promise I'm going somewhere.

Anyway, I really did buy into the general Enlightenment belief in the spread of liberty and the enfranchisement of the masses. But I couldn't get past what I knew to be historical truth about how bad people really were. Then I found Hobbes. He clearly laid out that people will tear each other apart if you leave them to their own devices. So people make a 'social contract' with a strong ruler. People agree to give up some of their rights to this ruler in exchange for law and order, in other words, peace.

Aha, now I was getting somewhere. But still, that strong ruler was human, and humans are wicked. I could not reconcile the truth of human nature with the Enlightenment or humanist view of humans as the ultimate answer to all of our problems. In my mind that is like saying the only way to cure cancer is to smoke even more.

A couple of years later, in my first year of college, I met some people of the Christian faith who were able to help me fit all the pieces together. Hobbes was right, but Jesus was the answer to the Hobbesian dilema I was facing. My point is, if you are still reading, is that I think my journey toward Jesus started with Thomas Hobbes. I was looking for Jesus when I didn't even know it. He was seeking me out when I couldn't have cared less. He was the answer to my questions . . . past, present and future. Trusting in Him for the security of our lives and spirits is the ultimate answer, not trusting in ourselves or trusting only in our own understanding. Only He brings the peace that Hobbes' Leviathan spoke of.

This realization comforts my spirit. Jesus is there, seeking us out, in what seems like the oddest ways even when we are not looking.

Be well all.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Procedure

Ladies, read with caution.

I'm having a vasectomy.

After having firmly planted my seed here on planet Earth, my wife and I have arrived at this decision together. We don't want any more kids and the operation for her would be much more involved and a whole lot more painful. And to be frank, my wife has been in constant pain for ten years, this is the right thing to do.

So I went to the appropriate doctor today, a urologist, for a consultation. I'm waiting for over an hour in the office, surrounded by a lot of men I'm guessing were not there for a vasectomy consultation because they were probably in their sixties or seventies. One more thing to look forward to about old age I guess.

Anyway, I'm finally brought back and a very helpful nurse type-office worker person sees me to a waiting room and instructs me to listen to this tape and the doctor will be in soon to discuss the 'procedure' with me. As I listen to this horrifyingly detailed audio message for what seems like an eternity, but was probably more like ten minutes, the gravity of the situation dawns on me. . .I'm about to end the reproductive stage of my life. Didn't I just get here? Don't get me wrong, I love kids, I especially love my kids and I don't want anymore. In fact I'm not even sure most days if I'm qualified to keep the ones I have. I know this is the right time and the right thing to do. But there was just something about the whole realization process that freaked me out.

The doctor walks in shortly after the tape ends, almost choreographed in timing. He sits down matter of factly and starts explaining the operation in detail. I won't go into the details here for the sake of anyone who is still actually reading this post. But I swear, as soon as he started talking about it, my man parts began to physically hurt. I understand this guy has probably done this hundreds of times. Or at least I hope he has. Oh no, did I forget to ask him that question? Who wants a rookie pinch hitting at a time like this? Maybe I should have this done in Colorado where there is no chance of an unfortunate and poorly timed earthquake??

But he talked so matter of factly about it. And the blood rushed out of my head when he mentioned where he was go to inject the anesthesia. As if that were not enough, as I'm trying to articulate the four gazillion questions I have for this man, he brings out this book! With pictures! He then goes into detail about what I need to do before I arrive the day of the 'procedure'. Gentlemen, let me tell you if you have not been through this, hope that you don't have to. If you have been through this already, I'd like to buy you a drink. On and on he went I asked him questions and he had good answers. He was a really nice guy and made me feel at ease. But he couldn't answer the one question I had.

Once this is all over, what am I really good for?

All the guys I know who have had this done tell me it is no big deal and they are most likely right. But deep down this is rather serious. I'm not a great athlete, I don't have any musical talents to speak of. I'll never be an accomplished artist, writer or scientist. Fathering children was the one thing I could cling to. Now that will be gone. I don't know, I'm sure I'm over analyzing this. But I liken it to a woman who realizes she can no longer bear children. It's significant. I'll get over it, really, and I truly am glad we are having it done. It's just one of those stage of life transitions that I never really thought about until I was sitting there absorbing the enormity of it all. Anyway, the big day is October 29. I think I'll buy myself something nice that day.

Peace and good health to all.