Sunday, October 6, 2013

one bicycle more, one water bottle less

"They encourage the use of the bicycle, which for a woman, can never be proper."
--Fanny, On the Verge

I sat outside of Debartolo, mourning the loss of my stolen bicycle.
And I discovered something.
I may not have many talents.
( Sidebar: I do, however, think that I'm fairly decent at bossing people around. So come see the show I directed! They managed to make beautiful art, despite my best performance of Overbearing Dictator.)

But let me tell you one thing I have found out I am really good at:
keeping score
Not at football games, though, unfortunately. 
The only numbers I chose to keep track of at football games are how many minutes are still left on that god-forsaken clock. When we're down to single digits, my heart starts racing, my blood pounds through my veins excitedly, and I finally understand why people find these games so exhilarating. My entire being cheers vigorously but silently: Come on...come on! we're almost there! You can do it! Just a few more minutes to go! Almost there...almost there... ahhhhh a time out. Blast.

But, in life, I'm really, really good at keeping score.
If I ever do something nice for someone, I can see the scoreboard flash in my head:

Me: 1.
Other Person: 0.

Go me.

Sainthood, then, is when you have more Holiness Points than the  AHP (Average Holiness Points) count of the plebeians who make up most of the world's population. 
So, some sample statistics:

Approx. Number of Holiness Points at Time of Death:
St. Francis of Assisi: 2.5 million.
Plebeian Populace Member: 60.

And if you hit an acceptable number of Holiness Points (60 doesn't sound bad. Maybe 70 is the minimum?) then you'll get into a place called Purgatory. Where you'll magically be able to earn more Holiness Points.
And then if you earn a good number, you'll finally get into Heaven, where we'll be able to cash in all our Holiness Points for an endless party, where we get to sit around and talk to every other cool person who made it there for eternity.

That's a great system, right?
Candidly, that's a stupid system.

Because it sounds suspiciously a lot like a competition, or a sports game, or like small boys competing in a school yard.
It sounds a lot like what life would look like if life were about accruing points.
If that is what life was all about then we would all know what we would have to do in order to be fulfilled, successful, and happy people. We would just accrue points.
Points, in post-modern, 21st century America, usually translate to: money, money, multiple houses, money, cars, prime real-estate, and oh wait: money.
Money buys you things.
Things are worth money.
Money buys you more things worth more money.
I think money + things= something called your "net worth" but don't quote me on that.
I think "net worth" can also be used to measure how much success you've gained.
If only things were that simple.

Because, (at least in my experience), accruing points (whether they be dollars, touchdowns, compliments, or Holiness Points) is never as delightfully fulfilling as it so nearly promises to be.
It seems to me that life is more about falling in love.
I've never been In Love, but I've read a lot of fairy tales, and I've seen my dad spend hours at my mother's sickbed, and from these, I've deduced that when people are in love--head over heels in love--they do crazy things.
Things that, in a points-accruing world, really make no sense.
Things like: letting someone go ahead of you in line, and smiling at people when you feel like frowning, and forgiving someone when they cause you immeasurable pain.
If you're still operating in the world of points and earning points and trying to gain all these points, then you seem to miss the point entirely.
The point seems to me to be about falling in love.
About giving until you can count every gift you have given as a gift you have received.
An offering that, to you, was counted as a privilege to be able to make.

We bless something to show that it belongs to someone other than ourself.
We bless something or someone to show that that other is an offering to the one with whom we are in love.
Which is why Abraham put Isaac on that altar.
Because Isaac was a gift that belonged to someone who was not Abraham.
And so Abraham blessed Isaac.
Sometimes, when we bless something--offer up something to our someone with our lips, He will demand it with our actions as well.
It's at times like those when we're asked to give up something we'd rather not, and weren't expecting to have to, when we are tempted to try to bring our little points system into the picture.
Look, I've given you this and this and, see, even this! Do you really have to take that

We are very picky about which points we want to earn.
Falling in love means you don't get to chose.
It means you offer what you have, and you receive what you're given.
Which may sound like resigning yourself or settling, but it's really just reality.
A reality which insists that you are not the center of your story. That your story really belongs to a greater narrative, of which you can find only hints.
Sometimes, in our amateurish efforts at plot development, we try to make life a little more difficult for ourselves than it ought to be, but we've been given examples of what it looks like to be in love.
We know how the story should go.
We know fundamentally our role in the story is.
It means waking up each day, and saying: Yes, letting our Fiats be our morning offerings.

For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
--Habakkuk
(Prophet, and Winner, "Most Outlandish Biblical Name" Championship, circa 300 B.C. )

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