From a long time ago
Becky and I were with friends not long ago and one of them, a retired teacher, talked about how much she loved her students and thrilled at their learning, but how she had grown so weary of “teaching to the test” and the seemingly endless stream of forms and reports demanding time she might otherwise have invested in actual teaching. She is glad to be retired. Our friend’s disillusionment with the state of her profession is something we’ve heard dozens of times from other teachers. We also hear it from doctors and nurses tired of the practice of medicine dictated by the demands of the insurance company rather than the needs of the patient, and, yes, from pastors who feel as if they are spending more time worrying about balancing the church budget or answering critical emails than preaching the word or praying with the people.
I don’t know if this sense of dissonance between dreams once dreamed and reality now lived is more than it was in the past, but we don’t live in the past; we live in a present marked by much disharmony – dreams dashed by disillusionment.
A few thoughts: Continue reading
On a morning walk in the neighborhood
Becky and I left the west coast nearly 33 years ago, but like others from the west, we retain much of the west coast snobbery about beauty in the natural world. Our version of the beauty of the earth tends toward the crashing waves of the Pacific, the granite ridges and the soaring sequoia of the Sierra Nevada, and the snow-clad peaks of the Cascade Range.
Our oldest daughter, an artist and a Midwesterner far longer than we have been Midwesterners, is helping us shed some of our scenic snootiness. One of the themes of her art is what she calls the “unexpected beauty” in this flat middle part of the country.
I’ve tried to keep my eyes open for unexpected beauty as summer has given way to fall. It is there. The leaves have begun to turn color with splashes of red, orange, and yellow all around. Harvest has come to the cornfields and most now lie fallow waiting for winter snow and spring planting. Continue reading
We made our first visit to Indiana’s one and only National Park earlier this week. It was a crisp and clear fall day and Indiana Dunes National Park on the south shore of Lake Michigan was at its best. Our family from Memphis was visiting and the nearby Michigan branch joined us. It was a great outing. We parked at the West Beach parking lot and made our way over the dunes to the beach. The views were spectacular. Looking northwest from the dunes, the Chicago skyline was visible on the far horizon. You can just see the Windy City in the iPhone photo I took.
Chicago has its problems, but none of them were visible 40 miles across the lake from West Beach. Just the distant skyline.
Looking out over the lake to Chicago made me think of the image in the Book of Hebrews about the great and faithful cloud of witnesses and their desire for “a better country, a heavenly one,” and how God “has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16) The writer goes on to implore his readers to “seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14) Continue reading
Everybody loves Taylor Swift. Nobody likes Matt Gaetz. One of the nice things about indefinite pronouns (i.e., everybody and nobody) is that they don’t express a definite truth, or maybe any truth at all. In fact, one poll reports that while 97% of us know who Taylor Swift is, only 55% of us actually like her music. And while nobody likes Matt Gaetz, 67% of the voters in his district liked him well enough to vote for him a year ago.
Still, we American media consumers know most definitely that everybody loves Taylor Swift and that nobody likes Matt Gaetz. And in case you don’t know, and want to care, Taylor Swift is a popular songwriter-singer who is in some sort of relationship with an NFL player. If nothing else, the relationship seems to be of the sort that generates lots of publicity, which can be a good thing for popular singers and NFL players. Matt Gaetz is a member of congress of the sort who seems to like lots of publicity, too. Continue reading
Becky and I watch more television than we did before retirement. Credit fewer evening meetings and the advent of streaming. Being in charge of what, when, and how much, plus no commercials makes for a much better viewing experience than the old once-a-week-on network-TV model.
Having streamed our share of programs, we’ve come to the conclusion that British series tend to be better than their American counterparts. Old-school American series, think “NCIS” or “Law and Order,” typically run 22 or more 45-minute episodes per season. (So, yeah, you miss 15 minutes of commercials by streaming rather than watching over the air.) The British tend toward six-episode series, and the episodes are more likely to be a full 60 minutes, sometimes 90.
We like whodunits and spy stories. In the American series, a crime is solved or a war averted in every episode. 45 minutes to set the stage and apprehend the criminal or thwart the terrorist conspiracy. Not much time for character development or a nuanced plot. The British series are more likely to spend 6 to 9 hours telling a single story – time for false leads and plots twists; characters are developed and motives explored. The British are even willing to kill off a key character for the sake of a good story,* Continue reading