Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Day at the DMV

 "I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are a wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood {personhood}." 
Dr. Clyde Kilby

We spend so much time waiting for the big things to happen.  It is a hard lesson to learn that life is contained in the small things; and that life, all of life, is meant to be experienced rather than endured, but this has to be a conscious decision; our choice to do this.  Spending time in the lobby of the DMV may seem like a colossal waste of time, until you decide that it is not.

It was time to renew my license. I had received renewal notices months before my birthday.  But I put it off until after my birthday.  Now, not only was I 60 years old, but I could look forward to an impending trip to the DMV. 

I have never had a good experience at the DMV.  From the beginning of my driving all of my experiences with them were uncategorically bad.  There were lines that led to more lines.  There were unhappy employees who displayed their unhappiness openly and unabashedly.  There were unhappy people confronting the unhappy employees.  There were things (too numerous to go into here) that happened that made no sense at all.  There were numbers handed to you and when you looked at your number and saw how far down the list your number was, multiplied by the amount of time it was taking to call a new number, you knew you were in for a long, long day. 

And at the end of the line there was a room filled with chairs with people in each chair and as each number was called a person would leave their chair and the next in line would sit down.  And in this room was nothing; nothing on the walls, nothing to read, nothing to watch except the back of the peoples’ heads in front of you.  And everyone in the room looked numb. Each visit to the DMV was like the waiting room scene in a Beatlejuice movie.

And so, I dreaded going to the DMV more than I dreaded turning 60 years old.  But the day before I had to go, I ran across the quote at the top of the page written by Clyde Kilby. Kilby, as I interpret him, was saying that we can choose to see God’s hand in all aspects of our lives; in the good as well as the bad.  If we so choose, trouble and pain can be viewed as growth opportunities, both morally and spiritually, instead of obstacles.

I was determined to view my visit to the DMV as a “unique event filled…with worthy potentialities.”  And so, as I waited in line outside the locked door of the DMV in the rain on that cold dreary morning, I chose to see the people who worked at the DMV and those in line with me as children of God. I chose to ignore the line and dwell on the God who was with me, who watered the earth; whose rivers flowed into the sea; the God who caused the sun to rise and to set, the wind to blow and the snow to fall.  And my day at the DMV was over before I wanted it to be.

I was intrigued.  I wanted to know more about Dr. Kilby and I discovered in my research that the quote above was one of 10 rules for living that he developed.  And I was amazed.  I present them to you now:

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."

3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.

4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.

5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.

7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."
8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.

9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Honking Horn

I once owned a 1995 Buick Le Sabre; 4 doors; leather seats; tape player; automatic windows; and a Dino Ride system that I never understood what it was- but it had one; fuel injection v-6 engine.  It gave me a smooth ride.  I loved that car, not because of all the equipment and mysterious systems, but because it was our family car- a car we could count on to get us from point A to point B safely; a car we trusted at night on a lonely road when the kids were sleeping in the back seat; a car that could travel safely in snow and ice and rain and sleet; a car that never failed us on family vacations.  We always arrived back home.

And then, it got old.  And the check engine light came on and no mechanic on the face of the earth could prevent it from glowing.  The engine actually quit running as I sped around the Raleigh beltway in rush hour traffic and I had to coast across four lanes of traffic in order to pull off the highway with no power steering.  But, I still loved it.  And I still pampered it...until the horn went berserk.

I was driving from work one afternoon and pulled up to a stoplight at an intersection.  Pedestrians were crossing the street in front of me when my horn blew at them.  They jumped, startled, and said some very unkind things to me.  I thought that I had accidentally bumped the horn and tried to apologize but they would not accept it.

A few miles further I was following a car when the horn began to beep again.  I could see the driver in the car in front of me looking in his rear view mirror.  So, I turned right at the next intersection, trying to figure out what was going on.

A few days passed without incident when I switched cars with Melanie so that I could travel out of town, since I no longer trusted the Buick for long distance travel.  I don't remember if I told Melanie about the horn problem (I probably didn't), but I should have.

She was driving home in rush hour traffic on Central Avenue when the Buick's horn began beeping.  People around her looked at her with hostile eyes.  As the beeping continued people began to give her the one finger salute while mouthing a few choice words to her.

Now, you should know that my wife is what some people call a "peacemaker".  She does not like conflict, especially conflict with strangers, and will go to great lengths to avoid such conflict.  But on this day, there was nothing she could do.  The Buick had a mind of its own and the horn continued to honk.

Finally, the only thing she could think of doing was to turn off this busy street into the nearest vacant parking lot- which happened to be the parking lot of a day care center- with children playing on the playground.  Melanie is not only a peacemaker, but she is also a teacher who has spent her entire life giving encouragement and love to children.  The horn had now elevated in its honking to one loud, long, never ending beeeeeeeeeeeep.  The children on the playground clutched their hands to their ears; some fell on the ground crying for their Mothers.  The daycare workers turned and stared angrily at Melanie, wondering why she was being so rude.  Melanie ran to the fence and explained her predicament and one of the teachers, who knew about cars and fuses, came to her rescue.  She pulled the fuse to the car horn and it stopped making its dreadful, child deafening, insulting, ear splitting noise.

For Melanie, this was a traumatic experience.  Through a set of circumstances over which she had no control, she incurred the wrath of people she encountered including some innocent children.  Too often, we are quick to judge someone whose set of circumstances are beyond their control.  We see a person who appears to us to be acting in a strange way or in a way we would never act (or so we think).  But one day, we may be driving along life's highway and our horn may begin to blow.  And then, we will understand.

Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com