Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Maybe it's the "S"...

So, if you check out my Facebook you'll see I went to a Halloween party Monday night at a sport's bar dressed as Superman. I do indeed love this time of year, and any opportunity to act like a big geek in a public venue I jump at.

Let me again point out this particular costume shindig was at a Sport's bar. More than that, it's one we go to watch Monday Night Football at nearly every week- the Daughter loves football, my friend Grady the radio star hosts a good time, and my friend Doctor Smith shows up. We hang out as family a friends and watch a little football, usually over a a couple of beers for the Doctor and me.

This week, except for the costume, I expected it all to be about the same. However, it was not. See, the venue is a "family" bar. No real hard alcohol, just some beer and wings for Dad, and the kids can have a burger. As dad I went to have my weekly Guinness... and I couldn't. There were kids there. I couldn't let kids see Superman drink.

I mean, it's Superman. Is there anything more iconic in American culture? Is there any kid who hasn't at least once tied a sheet/towel/pillowcase to their neck and gone "swoosh"? Putting on that suit, I suddenly felt I had a responsibility. I had a standard to maintain. And I did. Monday Night Football or not, nothing but iced tea for Kal-El of Krypton that night.

Once, many years ago, the family and I were driving from California to Arizona, and I was traveling in a Superman t-shirt. On I-10 outside of Tucson, we found a car broken down. I went about a quarter mile past, because you never know of it's a trap, and ran back to see if it was OK. Indeed it was only two very nice old ladies with a flat tire, and a couple of grandkids. I told them I would be right back (had to go let the Lovely Jennifer it was all safe), added another half mile jog to my evening and came back to find a State Trooper changing the tire. Ensuring all was well, I was prepared to dash back off into the night when the kids in the back seat rolled down their window.

"Where did you come from?" they asked.

"I'm Superman," I told them and ran back off into the night. Their look as I flashed away was worth all the running.

Everyone's well aware in my comic book addiction I am more of a Batman fan than a Superman fan. See, I think we need Batman. We need someone who will make the bad man pay. We want Superman- we aspire to be Superman.

Batman never made me pass up a beer. That is more powerful than a locomotive.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Blog- The Running Dan

(This is actually the first post of a whole new blog. If this intrigues you, follow that link!)

This last week I turned 37, and left behind the halcyon days of “mid-thirties” for the far less entertaining days of “late-thirties.” Yeah, I know, me and some 15 billion people before me (though let's face it- for a lot of human history age 40 was considered “aged”), and it's going on all the time. I however cannot speak for them, I can only speak for me. I am not, I stress again NOT, having a mid-life crisis, but it has come to my attention that the days I can tell my body what it will do are coming to an end, and eventually, my body will tell me what to do. I am really only just recovering from an injury back in May where I tore a calf muscle. That injury put a halt to my fairly standard running schedule, and I am not the type of person who stays in shape if I am not trying. My firm has made me run for years, and I have always fought it. Even when my run got good, I didn't like it, I didn't want to, and therefore slipped back into lazyness. Excuse or no with this injury, I did all my physical therapy and have been running regularly again for about two months. In that two months I brought myself back from not being able to really run two miles (my last bit of therapy was to do three miles alternating between two minutes of running and two minutes of walking) to a 16:30 two mile on a PT test this week. Now, the week before that the weather was better and I did it in 15:50. Sure, I am not breaking any land speed records, but it's been nice to run again.

The lovely Jennifer, who has recently been on her own new fitness plan and taken off quite a few pounds, enrolled us to participate in the Bisbee 1000 Stair climb. See, for those who aren't familiar with Bisbee, it's my favorite Arizona town. It was a mining town built into a bunch of hills over a century ago, and is now a quirky little hippie town full of people who like to take life a little slower than most. In short, it's like a Washington town right here in the desert. Anyway, the whole town is built on various levels and riddle with an Escher-like system of stairs. Each year, the town puts on a 5K run/walk which involves climbing 1000 of these stairs. Jennifer and I had never done anything like this together before, and not only had a great time, but got a good workout. I started thinking about running it next year.

Then I started looking at myself. I'd never liked this kind of thing before, but I was feeling good doing it. And on my birthday, it hit me.

I was going to run a marathon.

Now, I don't know a damn thing about this stuff. I started doing internet research, and quizzing friends- turns out I have a remarkable number of friends who have done these. Some of them are even geeks like me (yes, you Jim. Well, you too Siddhartha). To help me along, the Lovely Jennifer bought me a book for my birthday called “Born to Run” about the psychology of endurance runners. The idea of embracing the fatigue and operating outside yourself. Making yourself like a child and just running with no thought of time or pain. Stepping out of yourself, while being acutely aware of yourself...

Hey, wait a minute. This was starting to sound a bit spiritual. And it is. If God's in all of us, an dwe have to dig deep inside to make 26.2 miles (though many people in the book are doing 100 miles races!) then what, or who, will be looking back when you dig?

So, I have a basic training plan, starting out this week. I cheated a little and went out to do four miles this morning like a preview... and you know what? I quit fighting it, and with a whole new attitude, I liked running this morning. I did an extra mile just for fun, and felt like I could have kept going. Endorphin euphoria or God-seeing trance, it felt good. I can't wait to do it again. I'm not even sore.

So begins a new Blog. As I go through this plan, I will share what I am thinking and feeling. I am sure it will not all be as nice as it was today, so I don't always promise to be so positive. I will keep you all appraised of my progress and plans. There's a marathon in February in Apache Junction, but that one seems too soon. I may do the half marathon then. The run I plan to do is in Prescott in May. Seven months away. No pressure, just what I want to do.

Welcome to The Running Dan.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Report!

Have you all ever heard of Arius? Probably not- he was an Egyptian priest in the early Church who got in trouble because he said Christ and God were of separate “substances.” Indeed, he argued that since Jesus was the “begotten” Son of God (Jn 3:16- as any football fan can tell you) there must have been a time before He was begotten, making God unbegotten, and therefor separate substance; Christ was created of the Creator, not the Creator Himself.

This isn't Church doctrine today because a guy named Athanasius (whom you've probably not heard of either) beat him in a series of debates in Nicea (a place you've likely never heard of) sponsored by Constantine (no, not Keanu from the movie) in 325 AD. This is what it sounds like when you have a degree in religion.

However, getting to the point, the winning doctrine was God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were “Una substancia, tres persona;” one substance, three faces. Further, in defiance of all the laws of math, Jesus was 100% human and 100% God. To my mind, though one of the faithful (if not one of the religious, and there's a difference), the Church in its various incarnations has never done a good job demonstrating it. The Gospels portray Jesus almost exclusively as supernatural; the only hints at His humanity being in the accusations of his detractors (he is a drunk and glutton! Mt 11:19), or possibly the exclamations of complete exasperation at the thick-headedness of the Apostles. Many other authors have tried through the centuries- Schweitzer with his historical analysis; Kazantzakis wrote “Last Temptation” and does OK, but leaves poor Jesus kind of a muddle mess all through it. I say to thee Lord: Can no one demonstrate the nature of your Son?

And then the Lord sent Christopher Moore.

This whole tirade is so I can give you perspective on what has snuck under our collective noses as the premier work in Christian literature of the 21st Century, and most people were too busy picketing Harry Potter or wondering if the Da Vinci Code was real. In Christopher Moore's Lamb we get the tale of the Christ Child, the missing 18 years, and the desperation of the Apostles to understand what this skinny Jewish guy is really trying to say all from the perspective of Jesus' lifelong friend Levi, known to those around him as Biff (a nickname from when his father would smack him upside the head as a child). The book would seem on its surface to present a bit of mockery, but you will find if you read it a delightfully reverent book regarding the Christ character. He is obviously special, He thinks he is the Messiah, but He is not so sure that just means taking up a sword and kicking out Romans. Biff meanwhile sees Jesus (referred to as “Joshua” throughout the book- or “Josh”) as a truly good man, likely the Son of God, and yet na├»ve in the ways of the world. Someone is going to have to take care of Him. When they go on their great journey, Biff asks, “if someone asks you how much money you have what do you say?” “I would tell them.” “And that's why I am going with you.”

The book claims to be nothing more than a work of fiction, and as such can make some suppositions, and has a little fun with some ideas. Some of these suppositions are so simple yet profound; how does a six year old with the prescience of God act? Joseph tells young Biff and Josh he plans to be around for a while. Young Josh replies “Don't be so sure, Abba.” The shaken Joseph tells the boys to play, and Josh wanders off oblivious to the meaning of what He has said. Biff offers to help Joseph who tells him, “You go with Joshua. He needs a friend to teach him to be human.” It is obviously not Josh's intention to be cruel, but when you are 100% God, and 100% six year old, these things happen.

Where does Jesus go from age 12 (which as stated here is an adult in that culture) to age 30? To find the only people who have shown any acknowledgement of His nature- the Three Wise Men. Josh and Biff spend time in various Eastern locales, learning from those philosophers (well, Josh does- Biff mostly is in it to keep Josh safe, and find opportunities to have all the sex his friend can't), and explaining the similarities between Joshua's expansion of the Torah and the Tao or Zen. Josh sees first hand the abattoir which passed for worship of Kali in India. He tells God, “no more sacrifices.” This mantra becomes what will drive Him to the cross- a final sacrifice to stop the flow of blood.

Yes the book is funny, and pokes some fun at the world in which Josh and Biff live. When the two ten year olds decide to take Biff's father's stonecutting tools and circumcise a statue in a Greek gymnasium in Sepporis, you will laugh your ass off. When Josh takes great ironic pleasure in India at poking the arms of the members of the “untouchable” caste, you see a Christ who is part of the world around him, while not succumbing to it. The way the young Josh learns to heal things will crack you up (it involves lizards and sticking them in your mouth). When John the Baptist baptizes Josh, indeed the sky rolls back and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove appears while the voice of God says of course “this is my beloved Son with whom I am very pleased.” As the multitude gape at the fading vision and voice, Josh comes out of the water and looks around. “What?” he asks, having missed the whole thing.

The book is poignant. Mary of Magdala (little Maggie) loves Josh, but will never be able to be with him. Biff loves Maggie, but can't compete with his best friend when said friend is the Messiah. Josh drops some Kazantzakis style frustration when well into His ministry, one of the apostles asks how, when the Kingdom of Heaven is established, they will kick the Romans out of it. After dropping about 30 allegories and three hours trying to explain the Kingdom is for EVERYONE, He can only tell Biff, “Those are the dumbest sons of bitches on Earth.” When you see the frantic attempts by Biff to thwart the crucifixion, and his anguish when he cannot; you may well shed a tear.

Lamb will on its surface turn off those who don't want to dig any deeper than “the Bible says...” without actually looking into what the Bible means. I would advise you to dig more deeply, and see a Jesus who is not the venerated ascetic moving stoically through the Gospels from sermon to sermon to Golgotha (wait until you read the draft version of the beatitudes). Instead there's a Jesus who struggles with whether or not he is the Messiah the way we struggle with whether or not there's a God. A Jesus with a sense of humor and justice like a man would have, while delivering it like God.

A presentation of a Christ 100% human and 100% God. Finally. If Athanasius had lent this book to Arius, the Council of Nicea would have had a lot more fun and a lot less banishment.

By the way, here's the British edition's cover. I like it better.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Maybe I should pick...

OK, it's no secret I voted for and remain a fan of our current Commander-In-Chief. I think given the steaming pile of American Eagle droppings he was handed on January 20th, the fact he has yet to have broken down and cried openly on national television is a testament to his character. Taking heat for not fixing the previous eight years worth of smeg-ups in the first 10 months alone would have broken me. I think the administration was WAY too optimistic about their ability to fix the economy (which will take years) and need to bust a couple heads there in Congress, but overall, the downward spiral of economic freefall, worldwide hatred, and Texas style dumbassery ruling the free world seems to have slowed if not stopped.

However, not sucking as much as the last guy does not qualify you for the Nobel Peace Prize. In a couple years if Iraq is independent and stable, and we have Afghanistan under control, have partnered up with Russia over Iran, and maybe gotten things quiet between the Israelis and Palestinians? Give the man the medal. Right now? No. Indeed, I think this will hurt my President as it will promote the "he's one of them not one of us" nonsense so prevalent in the opposition. Were I the President, I would have turned it down. (Of course, I've never been offered one, so maybe I wouldn't. After all, earned or not, you still get to have one. You know what they call the guy who graduated last in medical school? Doctor.)

So, if I were allowed to pick, who would it be? Hmmm...

OK. Maybe I shouldn't be allowed to pick.