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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Praying this Time

Regularly I give thanks to the white oaks, red oaks, hickories, maples, tulip poplars, red cedars, sourwoods, wild cherries, weeping cherries, osage oranges, pink dogwoods, white dogwoods, edible dogwoods, mimosas, black walnut, apple, buckeye, purple smoke, Cleveland pear, sycamore, and all the other trees that, dead and alive, stand so sturdy and luxuriant all over my property.   Yet for all that I am not a religious man.  But I used to be a religious boy.

At the age of 12 I got myself baptized in a Baptist church, and I read through a good deal of the Holy Bible.  But a few years later, at age 16, I came to my senses and I “backslid,” and I haven’t looked back since.   That was almost 70 years ago.  I picked up the game of chess instead.

That came about because, among other things, after listening to one too many of their clearly lightweight sermons, it suddenly seemed to me that that church’s several ministers weren’t any smarter than I was, and in fact were likely not even as smart.

In addition I had found reasons to think that they didn’t practice what they preached.

One day, while house-sitting for one of those preachers and his wife,  I spotted on a wall a curious, off-color cartoon framed and preserved under glass.

It wasn’t very graphic, and actually it was somewhat subtle, and maybe that caused it to exert an even stronger kind of punch than a “naughty” picture might ordinarily have had, for it showed only the undersides of two pairs of naked feet whose owners were lying in a bed together, with the feet of one of them positioned close together and set between the feet of the other person, which were spread wide apart, and that person’s toes were pointed upward, while those of the second person were pointed downward.  Those feet were shown engaged in a sequence of events initiated by the owners of the inner feet that left no doubt, even to me, of what was happening, and it was only too clear why that cartoon had been kept carefully concealed behind a bookcase in the pastor’s study.

Added to that was the joy that that family, which included his niece and nephew, who were my age, took in teasing me about sex – a subject that at that stage I thought was best avoided for as long as I could (which turned out to be for quite some time – so long in fact that by today’s standards it was out and out disgraceful.  But that is a story that no one would want to hear).  I was that way about all the things that totally obsessed most of my contemporaries, and today I marvel at my good fortune that things happened that way.  I believe that it certainly saved me from a lot of unnecessary wear and tear – enough anyway that I was better able to withstand all the other slings and arrows that waited ahead and also better able to embark on this final and most trying jaunt, physically speaking, namely moving through advanced old age.

Today I call myself an agnostic, on the grounds that it is just as illogical to think that there is a God, as believers do, as it is to be certain that there is no God, as in the case of atheists.

But I do believe in keeping my options open, I guess because I think that life’s affairs ought to be and might be subject to something similar to what chessplayers call “the equalizing justice of chess.”  That means that certain principles for good play that have been proven valid beyond all doubt by centuries of play by masters and patzers alike can be violated only so much before a certain amount of retribution sets in.

Somebody – maybe it was H.L. Mencken – spoke for me  when he said that, though he had always pooh-poohed religion, should he find himself nevertheless suddenly facing the gates of Heaven, he was fully prepared to extend his hand to the angels and say, “Gentlemen, I was wrong.”

My favorite notion, however, has been that there is indeed a God that is responsible for all this, but right now He, She, or It is too busy straightening out things in other constellations, and we have to wait our turns.  We know how incredibly far apart all the galaxies in the universe are from each other, and it takes a while to scoot from one to the other, even for God.

So, on certain rare occasions when things are in a really dire situation, I am not above praying.   And this year’s national election in the U.S. is definitely one of the very worse of those dire occasions that I’ve ever experienced.

So now, today, five days before the returns are in, my prayer goes like this:

“Lord, please don’t let a big slice of the whit’ folks and smaller numbers of equally misguided people of other origins permit the Republicans to slime over the United States once again with their favorite brand of goop -- yet another nitwit President, who this time would be far worse than any that has come before and would open the doors to the bigots wider than ever before, as has already begun to happen, though the main part of the voting has not yet begun.  Please, Lord!  . . .  Thanks.” 


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