Relief At Last

I haven’t seen the final numbers in the Georgia run-off. It was back and forth on Tuesday night, which was a head-scratcher in itself, but now enough votes are in to declare Raphael Warnock the winner. Not a surprise, really, but the fact that the race was close at all says something about the Republican mindset and that penchant for knowingly wasting one’s vote.

What was Herschel Walker supposed to represent? What did he bring to the table that was supposed to woo voters? A reputation as a recognizable former Georgia U. running back and NFL star? Was that all? I’m not seeing how Mr. Walker could ever have been viewed as an able foe for Mr. Warnock.

Truthfully, I’m not sure I’m ok with the dual jobs Warnock has. How can he be a full-time U.S. Senator and hold a pastorate at Ebenezer Baptist Church as well? Why is this still happening? Isn’t his full-time job as a Senator now? One might think he’s gonna have to give up his Sunday work, now that he’s been elected to a 6-year term.

Anyway, it’s good and proper that Warnock has prevailed, because Herschel Walker was a slap in the face to voters everywhere. It’s almost like Republicans needed a black candidate to compete so they carted out Walker, figuring his star power would be enough to carry the day. Their vetting process overlooked or missed consequential faux pas in Mr. Walker’s past, and they were apparently able to overlook the fact that he was clueless and inept regarding so much else that mattered more than celebrity status and name recognition.

The Republicans remind me of that Billy Crystal character from SNL– Fernando– and one of his stock lines about it being better to look good than to feel good. Herschel Walker’s candidacy was an insult, but they didn’t care.

Close Encounter

The other day, I was driving home from doing errands and must have been dogging it. Or at least the person behind me whose headlights I could occasionally see must have thought so. There were a couple moments when I thought about pulling over and letting this person by, but I decided not to. My passive-aggressive streak kicked in and I just kept driving.

The temptation for me is to slow down when someone is tailing me so closely, as if this teaches them something. I always assume that no confrontation will come of it, no weapon will be drawn, and I will have succeeded at aggravating the son of a bitch a bit more than he or she already was.

On the other hand, I guess I don’t know the situation—they could be late for work or on their way to a maternity ward to comfort a laboring mom-to-be. In any event, assumptions are made, tempers flare a bit, and the day goes on.  

Weighty Matters

Is “Why?” a legitimate question?

Not “Why did you say that awful thing?” Or “Why did you swerve off the road and hit that tree?” No. This has more to do with “Why are we here?” and, relatedly, “What is our purpose?” Old questions, I know. Maybe it’s sad that I’m just getting around to asking them with a heightened sense of urgency.

I’m asking because I’m no longer sure of my faith, of the existence and whereabouts of God.

We know more every day about the “What?” and the “How?” But when I try to take in the night sky full of galaxies and black holes and quasars and nebulae and solar systems, when I attempt contemplation of the immensity of the universe and the passage of time and progression of events and evolution and what my eyes see and ears hear and heart feels…, when I pick up a newspaper and read yet another gut-wrenching headline, I end up in a place fraught with confusion and doubt and the feeling that pursuit of an answer to this particular version of “Why?” is an exercise in futility.

We have the right to ask, though. There has to be some reward for making it this far in our evolutionary journey toward sentient, self-aware being. Why are we here? Is our arrival at the point where we can ask the question simply not as significant as we wish it would be? Is there nothing we are supposed to be learning? Is it just a characteristic of this point in our cosmic development, like a two-year-old who reflexively asks “Why?” every chance he gets? Do we need only wait a few millenia and we’ll be asking different questions, or no questions at all?

To hear certain quite rational and intelligent people tell it, we humans are simply, albeit amazingly, the result of eons of evolution, composed of elements found in comets and everywhere else in the universe. Whether or not there is any divine spark remains a contentious issue. While not being the way God would probably want us to look at things, there are still sizeable gaps in our understanding and knowledge, in which we place God because we don’t know what else to put there. The logical end point of this way of thinking is that, some day, we will know everything, and God will become a moot point, a quaint reminder. No longer needed.

I’m not sure this is the road or direction on and in which I want to travel. Not only because it would cast a different light on the way I spent the biggest portion of my vocational life, but more because of what it would say about life in general and what lies beyond life. What it would say about redemption, unless redemption turns out to be part of our fever dream, just a manifestation of our desire that there be something more in store beyond the measly amount of time we get on this mortal coil.

Why are we here? Science gives us the reasoned, evolutionary answer. But that’s not the answer a lot of us are looking for. For many of us, there is a hope, a holding out for, another answer. It’s the one we’ve already told ourselves or have been told by others, and it involves a capacity for awe that moves beyond the awe we may already feel for what is already known through the blood, sweat, and tears and trial and error of scientific research.

To ask “Why?” is an attempt at some sort of assurance that our lives are more, mean more, than being the result of a gradual, predictable(?) development from something simple to something more complex. We’re hoping that being “wonderfully made” does indeed insinuate a bond with a creator, with God. Because apart from God, there is no answer to this existential “Why?” It’s just more death and bad behavior and suffering and idiocy until evolution moves us along to some enlightened place a few more eons from now.

The astronauts who have had the incredible opportunity to travel away from Earth and look back have been moved by the sight of a blue and white orb hanging in the nothingness of black space. From most accounts, this view changed them, gave them a perspective hardly any of us will have, but from which we can learn. It was humbling, it was a graphic reminder that, in the vastness of the universe, and as far as we can tell, we live in the only place where life has made it as far as it has. The only place in the universe where life of any sort or to any extent even exists.

Logic and reason might lead us to think that, given the size of the cosmos, there must be other places where life has evolved and even progressed further in its developmental journey– we just haven’t seen evidence of this yet. Conversely, this absence of contact, apart from the Hollywood depictions of close encounters, might lead us to a place where we can dare utter a thought that’s both chilling and exhilirating- we are alone in the universe. And if this happens to be the case, might that not cause us to ask “Why are we here?”

Honestly, I feel more comfortable with the possibility that there is life elsewhere in the universe. It would make sense and be only mildly disappointing to learn of such a thing. Yet there will remain a part of me that will always hold out for some sort of grand design, even if the reason is God just got bored and decided to set the wheels in motion here on Earth. That’s ridiculously simplistic and naive and dumb and sounds like what might be behind the life-sized Noah’s Ark in Kentucky.

I don’t think I’m alone, though, in wanting answers to existential questions, especially the biggy. Does Augustine have it right when he observes that our hearts are restless until they rest in God? Or is this earthly life just a godless, amazing, brief crap shoot?

A Place for Polished

Went out to eat last night, to a local Italian place with BYOB. Good company and conversation, a bottle of red and a tasty meal, then on to a Christmas concert provided by one of the local singing groups who had not offered this since before Covid.

It was mostly an older crowd in attendance, and a pretty straightforward offering of familiar and less familiar numbers, but well done. It is a pleasant thing to sit and listen to a group of singers who can actually sing, who have decent voices, capable direction and accompaniment, and who put in the practice time.

This wasn’t a local church choir, which often takes what it gets in the way of talent. Whose members, or at least enough of them, equate quality with enthusiasm and auditory volume. You know—the anthem that becomes a shouting contest, with folks who think they can sing—and really enjoy singing—but are disillusioned with regard to their capabilities. Or they just don’t care, and try to sing loud and high and way out of their range. They get an A for effort, but it’s hard on the ears and hardly conducive to enriching one’s listening experience.

Cream of the Crop

Trump is turning to the only people he thinks still like him, and they are the best people. There’s Kanye, and even though he says he didn’t know the guy, there’s Nick Fuentes. It seems like Trump sees the writing on the wall and he’s trying to gather allies in case he needs to try a jail break, or somehow flee the prosecution or the bad press or whatever it is he’s afraid of.

All he has left are the lunatics on the far right. The antisemites, the racist, homophobic misogynists and their twisted halcyon vision for the world. These are the people remaining in Trump’s corner—a paranoid, ignorant, hate-filled remnant, but a potent remnant because of social media. They’re really good at getting the word out and stirring up irrational anger.

Taken Seriously

We here in America have to put up with a lot in the name of free speech. People like Kanye West and Nick Fuentes can spew their nonsense and poison nonstop. As much as we might want it to stop, we know that clamping down on such actors might make us look like hypocrites, since they have a right to their opinions, as incendiary and repulsive as they may be. We just have to learn to dismiss them and find a way to prove them wrong.

The trouble, of course, is that the platforms on which they operate are quite popular and far-reaching and a lot of people don’t dismiss them, and the cancer spreads, seeds are planted in receptive minds. Maybe our only hope is that those with a less fearful and paranoid world view can learn to be just as vocal, find their own megaphone.

An Uncommon Courtesy

The World Cup team from Japan made news the other day when it was revealed that they… wow, you should probably be sitting down for this… cleaned up and made their locker room look like no one had even been in there. Apparently, the Japanese fans have done the same and picked up trash around their seats in the stadiums after the matches.

I guess this is news, especially here in the U.S., where such behavior might be viewed, at a minimum, as strange and unnecessary. It’s really a principle similar to what we were taught in Boy Scouts—leave the campsite in better condition than you found it.

Clean up after yourselves.

But that reeks of a certain humility and consideration of others, which is somehow… un-American?

Manufactured Drama

Elon Musk needn’t poke the bear (Apple). Just because he singlehandedly bought a public speech platform for $44 billion doesn’t mean he gets to say and do whatever he wants. He has too many playthings.

Why is the business world often portrayed as a cutthroat, take-no-prisoners entity? Companies emerge and grow because they’re managed well and offer products consumers actually use and… love? And they almost inevitably become prey. Why would someone want to mess with such a winning formula? Musk and others apparently don’t care about this because their motives are selfish, merely about some degree of financial gain, winning and losing and big egos and pushing their own agenda.

All this talk about free speech being at issue is a cover for wanting to go after a company they can’t stand, that espouses a different philosophy, differing opinions from what Ron DeSantis and Musk himself apparently believe. All this concern over free speech is a smokescreen, a “false flag operation,” as Fox News is so fond of putting it.

Add this pursuit to the list of time-wasting items the Republicans are cueing up.

Grating On Nerves

Why does Mike Pence sound so insincere when he talks? It seems as though he’s aiming for the opposite, but he ends up, more often than not, sounding like a voice-over guy trying not to misspeak. To this day still measuring his words, trying not to say anything too incendiary about anything or anybody, including Donald Trump.

His “style”, his delivery, his demeanor has always bothered me. Like something out of a Barbie and Ken play set, a true plastic man. And he’s wound tighter than a cow’s ass in fly season.

Bobbles and Beads

Holiday spending. Gotta have it. Black Friday served as a bellwether, and all indications point to an appetite for parting with the sawbucks. This despite inflation. There is pent-up demand for stuff, and I wonder if there isn’t a bit of fatalism in play as well. People look around at what’s going on in the world and have decided, “What the hell?”

It’s a variation on the old “can’t take it with you” rationale, though right now it might be more a case of wondering how much longer life as we’ve known it will continue before it all goes to hell. Might as well live a little, even if it means running up a tab with the plastic.