Ran into old friend Linda at the grocery story the other day. She and I used to work together at Santa Fe College, and she asked how retirement was for me (I retired from teaching English last August 15th, 2o12). I said fine, and she asked what I’d been doing.
So I told her about this blog, illustrating with my last blog post, “The Sex Pistols Sermon,” which is about what the title says and also about Abraham in the Book of Genesis and Nihilism. After I told Linda this, she responded that she couldn’t do something like that. Why not? I asked.
“I’m not that deep,” said Linda.
“I always thought that you were about as deep as everyone else,” I replied.
Turns out that Linda feels that she’s not much of a natural writer (despite working a whole career as a professor and then an academic advisor in Health Programs at Santa Fe College); writing, she told me, doesn’t come easy to her. And wrapping her mind around something pop-culturey like the Sex Pistols and how that related to the Book of Genesis and Nihilism wasn’t easy (hey, wasn’t easy for me either — as I explained in the post I’m referring to, the post previous to this one, Father Richard did the heavy lifting, thinking-wise).
After we said goodbye, and since then, I’ve been considering what it means to be “deep,” and whether I am, and whether or not I or anyone else would want to be.
Or is it more like the old joke: Deep down, I’m shallow? No, no, no, it’s not that — it’s that my pattern of thinking is simply my pattern of thinking, neither deep nor shallow. When I was an English professor, sometimes I’d think (or even say), make a few connections, draw a few insights, and I’m through for the week.
Or I could simply be An Existential Hero — profound but inarticulate. (And then it would be hard to see that I’m profound — but being misunderstood like that would be ever-so-existential.)
In church yesterday, Fr. Richard began his sermon by talking about the Sex Pistols’ 1977 album Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols, specifically their song, “God Save the Queen.” (The album also features such songs\provocations as “Pretty Vacant,” “No Feelings,” and “Anarchy In the UK.”)
I was of course surprised to hear anything about the Sex Pistols in St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, and then even more surprised as he read us the lyrics to “God Save the Queen”:
Her Fascist regime
Made you a moron.
and so forth. I commented to him after that he was smart not to haveed play us the song, as that might have resulted in the congregation running from the room, screaming, hands over our ears (well, not me — I actual own the album, have listened to it quite a few times, though not lately). The music is rough, primitive, and harsh.
So we’re in church talking about the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen,” considering the lyrics — where is Fr. Richard going with this? (Mentally I’m reviewing the Scripture readings from a few minutes before, trying to see how they could connect with the Sex Pistols.) Well, the point of the sermon turned out to be Nihilism, and how Nihilism is an understandable outgrowth of people’s lives not going well, of despair related to such horrors as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, war, legal troubles, marital problems, etc.
Then we took up the case of Abraham, the subject of yesterday’s Genesis reading. By Chapter 15, where we were, Abraham had been asked by God to pack up and move everything, which he did, not once but twice, and has finally managed, though a stranger in a strange land, to accumulate land and cattle. But Abraham is childless, and what’s the good of land with no descendants to give it to?
At this point, God makes what my pastor called an “absurd” promise to Abraham, that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars He instructs Abraham to go outside and observe. And Abraham, instead of coming up with objection after objection (I’m old! My wife’s old! We’ve been failing to have children for years!), believes in God’s promise, and his belief “is reckoned to him as righteousness.”
So two responses (at least) are possible to the conviction that there’s no hope for the future: one is the Nihilism of the mid-to-late 20th Century, which probably began in the 19th Century with Friedrich Nietzsche and continued through Existentialism up to the Sex Pistols in the 1970’s. And the other response is Abraham’s: to believe that God is taking care of him, even though he can’t currently see it happening.
Brendan’s Quick Guide to Existentialism: Every time Sartre looked at an oak tree, he felt like throwing up. (Only one possible response to an oak tree.)
In church Sunday, our pastor stuck close to the selected Scriptures in his sermon, using them to discuss how talking to God can change a person –Moses’ face shone after he talked to God, Jacob was changed after his encounter with angels, and also Jonah — who tried to run away from God (we all remember how that turned out!). Examples abound. Father Rich’s point, though, was not just to show examples from Scripture but also to encourage us about the life-changing possibilities in knowing God better.
Got me thinking about the word “metanoia,” which I looked up in several dictionaries (still haven’t found a satisfactory parsing of the “meta” and the “noia” parts). Nonetheless, the dictionaries agree that “metanoia” is
a complete turning around, a course correction, a change of heart, or sometimes repentance. The Oxford English Dictionary reference is as follows:
late 19th century: from Greek, from metanoein ‘change one’s mind’
Strong’s Greek references, contained on Bible Suite (and accessible using a Google search on “metanoia”) has links to a couple of dozen New Testament passages using the the word, so clearly a change in one’s way of life resulting from spiritual conversion was an important issue to the evangelists and the other writers of the New Testament.
This is just a start; I next need to research the use of “metanoia” in The Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament); also, I have a hunch that there’s a strong connection with Classical Greek Tragedy — the case could be made that the essence of Greek Tragedy is conversion, a change of mind and change of life. At about the same the Greek tragedians were having make a complete, about-face change, God was giving Saul “A new heart,” representing and enabling the amazing change he made in dealing with David and Jonathan.
Here is where metanoia changes the whole person — one’s mind is changed, and one turns around, away from sin and toward fulfilling the covenant with God, In Exodos, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, but among Moses, Jacob, Saul, and David, God had important work to do, so He helped them to experience metanoia, to change their minds and hearts
I know all sorts of people who train for marathons and halfathons and a few ultra runners (mostly runners in my group, the Dead Runners Society, which you could google and join).
For me, the longest race I do for these days is a 15k, and generally I’m satisfied to be able to train for and compete in 10ks or 5ks as well as sprint triathlons. So my running is usually in the 22-25 miles a week range, cycling around 30-40 weekly miles, a little strength training, and some swimming when the triathlons are more imminent (first one this year is mid-May). Here’s a picture of the Nocatee Duathlon from a couple of years ago — 2-mile run, then 11-mile cycle, then another 2-mile run. It’s like a triathlon, but without the swim (as the race organizers said).
Judging from how tired I felt this morning while running just 3 miles (after a mere 2.5 yesterday), I might be overdoing it a little this week. Ran 11 miles total on Monday & Tuesday, did a 2-mile walk\run with Pam (my lovely wife) Tuesday evening, have another jaunt planned with her tonight, so seems I need to conserve energy a bit — over 20 miles by Thursday is a bit steep for this 62-year-old runner. Especially when we add anothr 20 miles or so cycling and one strength workout at the gym.
Not a big problem — it’s not like I hurt my knee or am actually experiencing any pain, just feeling a little tired during my morning run. Always like to kinda check in with myself as to whether I’m being lazy, experiencing what my good friend Jim Puckett calls a lack of gumption, or am actually tired and need to dial back the mileage.
So it’s 3-4 miles tomorrow morning, maybe even less if being tired is an issue. (And btw, I like to always give it 10 minutes of running before I make a decision — let my body get over its resistance to a changing state, its inertia. Ya know, a body at rest tends to remain at rest.)
I just ordered a Road ID – perhaps you’ve heard of it. Realized that I have one on my cycling shoes, but it isn’t up to date with the info, so I order a new one that I’ll probably strap on my wrist for both running and cycling. (I do a lot of both alone, so if I have a stroke or get hit by a bus, it’s good that I’ll have contact info as well as the notation of my penicillin allergy right on me.)
If you don’t have one, think about it. They’re pretty cheap and a good idea, seems to me, unless you always run and cycle with a group.
So go to their website (RoadID.com) and check it out.
When I ordered, they gave me a coupon that I could pass along to my friends. Here’s the coupon number:
Coupon Number: ThanksJohn22238475
The coupon is good for $1 off any Road ID order placed by 03/04/2013. To order, simply go to RoadID.com or click the link below:
If you prefer, you can call them at 800-345-6336.