Pithy Quote Day

12 November 2001

The sky is the color of champagne right now, and the rain in the street shines with it.

It's always touchy to write about churches. (And there will be other things in this entry, so don't go away.) I don't believe that everybody needs or wants the same thing in a religion, and I think that while the God I believe in has limits, She's okay with that. (For an example of the limits: if you want your religion to tell you to kill the people you happen to dislike already, I don't think that makes God too happy.) So when I criticize a church, it's either because I think they crossed the line in telling people what's Necessary For God To Be Happy With You, or because I don't think they fit my particular needs.

The church we went to yesterday was one of the latter. Ah well. We'll keep looking. Mark asked me why "contemporary" church music tends to either be written before 1986 or sound like it was, and I don't have a good answer. I also don't have a good answer for why none of this supposedly contemporary music has any feminine imagery for God at all, but masculine imagery is much more abundant than it is in traditional hymns. That disturbs me.

The pastor there said, "We worship over a hundred people a week." You know, if I thought that was some variant on paganism or (as David suggested) humanism, I'd be much more okay with it. But I'm afraid it's just a nasty linguistic trend rearing its head.

It was, by far, not the worst church we've been to out here. I think the worst was the one where they had us sing six (masculine imagery, pre-1986) songs in a row without music and then sit down and listen to a man with a terrible phony British accent do a dramatic monologue about a questionably good "good deed" that ended with, "Oh, Gawwwd, why must doing the right thing be so hahhhhhd?"

At some point when a church service is really not right for me (which is sadly rather often -- I'm really picky and not very much in line with current Christianity), and it becomes clear that we're talking about quite different entities when we refer to God, something in my brain switches over. I move from My Religion mode to Someone Else's Religion mode. My Religion mode is participatory; Someone Else's Religion mode pays respectful attention and takes mental notes in case I need it for a story later. If I think you and I are of the same religion, I'll argue with you about the details if you want to; if I think we differ in religion but you still have one, I'll ask you to explain yours, or will explain mine to you if you're interested. But once the fundamental assumptions are shown to be different, the basis for argument on that topic is just gone.

I don't think I've said -- we're unhappy with our current church because there was a decision from the church leadership that pretty well guaranteed that the old people and the little kids would be segregated into different services. We don't like age segregation, we don't like having two 45-person services when we used to have one 90-person service, and we especially don't like the way debate was nonexistent and commentary stifled. There are other issues, too, but this is the one that really told us it was time to move on.

And time to move on in the entry, too; enough about churches. We started making lunch pretty immediately after we got home, because Mindy and her boyfriend Tinjin were on their way over. Mindy and I met in grade school, and then she moved away in the fifth grade. We've seen each other only a few times since then, but it was good. It was good to hear from someone who remembers some of my grade school friends as sweet, smart, and daring, someone who never saw them sabotage their lives and have to put them back together again. Someone who never saw them convince themselves that the rest of the world was not worth treating decently, only to find out that that was not a good way to live. Mindy is someone who never saw one of my Lost Boys get lost.

It gave the whole day a kind of pressed-flower feeling. Here's me with Mindy.

Timprov and I were talking about Heather's journal entry yesterday, and we're both kind of baffled. First, she said that it sounded like people were only complaining to me about the snow. Um, nope. Not even remotely. But the second thing was, well, I guess things must be different in Indiana. Because the stuff she talked about, about people being closed-minded, wasn't my experience with Omaha, Minneapolis, or even Lawrence, Kansas. Nor was it Timprov's with Minneapolis or St. Louis. (Mark was running an errand at the time of this conversation, so his data points haven't been added yet.) The grocery store wasn't filled with people who would make assumptions about me -- or if they did, the assumption would be, "Oh, you're looking for cheese curds, aisle 12."

The thing about Minnesotans -- and I think Timprov put this perfectly -- is that they let you set your own boundaries. You can have as "alternative" a lifestyle as you want to, and if you don't feel like talking about it, if you just want to live your life and have other things in common with your neighbors, they will never force you to talk about it. That would be prying. If you want to talk about it, they'll listen and usually be just as tolerant as your average Californian, but your life is your business. And if you look sad or upset, they may try to fix it with a hotdish or a trip to Carabou, depending on what generation they're in, but if you don't want to say why you're sad, they are not going to get in your face about it. I won't say they don't gossip; they're human. But they're pretty good at making sure the gossip doesn't affect your life much.

Timprov says, "People who make fun of ice fishing don't understand how satisfying it can be to have a three-hour conversation with six sentences in it." I think that captures the Minnesota Male pretty perfectly.

I can see why some people would prefer more in-your-face types of tolerance, wanting to get "Everything" on the table between the most casual of acquaintances. That's just a personal preference, though -- it doesn't mean that it's the only way to be tolerant and even accepting of other ideas.

It was Timprov's day for pithy quotes, I think, because he said of a mutual acquaintance of ours, "He's like you -- he can manage laid-back, but only at full speed."

Which was kind of how yesterday was going: everything was supposedly a leisure activity, and it just kept happening one thing after another. So Mark returned, having failed to acquire an In-and-Out Burger in time (sad!), and Timprov and I headed up to the writing group. I got good crits on "An Attack of Conscience," so I'm going to do a few edits this morning based on what I heard yesterday. My favorite comment was Susan Fry's: "I especially liked the idea of a brain-sucker boyfriend, because it reminded me of my college days." And a splendid time had by all, and we all got to see and touch Ken's new book before it comes out...oooh...ahhh...he got a nice cover, even. So that was quite a happy thing.

On the way out, we saw a sign: "November special: dysfunctional families, $1.25/rental." Ahh, life in the Bay Area.

Unless you celebrated already yesterday, have a good Veterans' Day today.

Well, other than the short story edits, I plan to read The Free Lunch and work on the Not The Moose Book. We'll probably have CNN on off and on today, now that there's been another plane crash in New York and we don't know whether it was a malfunction or terrorism. It's actually raining, full-fledged rain and not drizzle. Refreshing.

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