Reflections on Having Longer Hair

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I grew my hair out over the past several months. It has been an enlightening experience. My daughter, Jane, claims I have mullet now.

“No, I don’t,” I say.

“Yes, you do,” she says. “Business in the front, party in the back.”

Regardless what you call it, my hair is certainly longer than it has ever been. I understand now why women spend so much time grooming. It’s necessary. I also understand why they do that little head toss that I used to find so enchanting. They just want to get their hair out of their face.

One thing that surprised me was how heavy wet hair is. It gave me new respect for the women I know who have waist length hair.

Recently, I ran out of my manly, leave-in conditioner, so I’ve been using whatever happens to be in the shower. This morning it was “Coconut Milk Conditioner.” The bottle makes it sound luxurious:

Indulge your senses with this exclusive blend with coconut milk, coconut oil, and ultra whipped egg white proteins. This exotic formula helps add strength, elasticity, hydration, and balance for healthy hair.

It’s good to know that my conditioner can substitute as food in a pinch if I am overcome by hunger while taking a shower. I suppose I’m supposed to be impressed with how natural and organic it is, but cow dung is also natural and organic. Only a credible threat of force or rich emoluments could induce me to put cow dung in my hair. (Why mess with shampoo when you can use real poo!) I suppose that’s why athletes and celebrities endorse various products. Still, I know enough about egg whites, ultra whipped or not, to be certain they will provide “hold”—that elusive quality every hair care product promises to supply in varying degrees. Moreover, the scent of coconut was subtle rather than overpowering as are the fragrances of so many hair products. So I was happy with the result despite my misgivings.

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Posted in about me, food, hair care, humorous | Leave a comment

The Weakness of God

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“…the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
—1 Corinthians 1:25

It is tempting to regard what Paul said in 1 Corinthians as meaning that God, at his weakest, is still stronger than all the strength humans can muster. After all, God is reputedly all-powerful. Surely human strength can be no match for God’s infinite power. Yet I don’t think that is what Paul had in mind at all. This whole passage argues that God’s wisdom and power displayed in Jesus Christ is of a different order altogether from the wisdom and power of human beings.

Our heroes are men and women whose accomplishments stand out from those of their peers. Generals who lead troops into battle, statesmen who avert war, women who overcome misogyny and make significant contributions to science, famous poets or novelists, even accomplished athletes—these are our heroes. They makes us want to emulate them. Jesus was like none of these. He did not lead a nation or an army. His followers were mostly poor and of little account. He made no significant discoveries, never wrote a poem or a book. He didn’t even do what his enemies accused him of: he didn’t lead a rebellion against Rome. If you ignore his teaching, the only noteworthy things he did are almost too improbable to be believed: healing the sick without medicine and feeding the hungry with scant resources, walking on water, raising the dead. Most improbable of all, his followers claim he rose from the dead after being tortured to death and buried for three days. Everything about his life and work reveals a man who was evidently a lunatic with nothing to show for his years on earth except an unusually devoted following. As a representative of God, he comes across as weak, even feeble.

His strength, which became the true strength of the Church, was in two things, both of which Paul goes on to foreground in 1 Corinthians 2, his teaching and the power of the Spirit of God. Yet even his teaching was weakness and foolishness. He taught that we should love our enemies instead of trying to get the better of them. He taught that we should forgive those who offend us instead of retaliating. He taught that we should oppose violence with acquiescence to violence. If we made movies with Jesus’ conception of how to live a good life, at the end the good guys would lay down their weapons and submit to being killed. Likewise, the power of the Spirit of God was not to subdue evil in the world but to overcome it in one’s own heart. God’s Spirit enables Jesus’ followers to live, however imperfectly, in accordance with his teaching.

When Paul lists Christian virtues, they are too weak to even be called virtues. Paul calls them fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23). Notably absent are classical Greek virtues such as courage, prudence, and justice. Only self-control gets a mention, and it is last. Paul even boasts about his own weakness. and declares that when he is weak, he is strong. We tend to value defiance, seeing it as a sign of courage. Our movie heroes are almost always defiant when captured and almost always have to be physically subdued. Yet Jesus taught meekness and humility and persistence in the face of powerful injustice. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. learned from Jesus’ example and used nonviolent protest to dismantle segregation and Jim Crow in the American south. His followers, far from being defiant, endured beatings and police brutality to awaken the conscience of the nation and shame the powerful for allowing injustice to continue.

Again and again throughout history the weak prevail against the strong not by force but by persistence and love. It is not the rich and powerful who end injustice; they too often benefit from its continuance. It is the poor and weak who unite against injustice and shame the powerful into doing what is right.

We Christians are taught to expect persecution for our faith. Some have taken that to mean that we suffer for our moral high-mindedness and piety, but those were characteristics of the Pharisees and religious hypocrites whom Jesus excoriated. No, the persecution we Christians—especially American Christians who enjoy so many protections under our Constitution—should expect to endure is for standing with the weak and powerless, for lifting up the cause of the widow and orphan, for advocating for people of color, for taking to the streets to protect the rights of women and immigrants and poor people, for continuing to feed the hungry when city ordinances forbid it.

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Posted in Christians, injustice, jesus, love, persecution, politics, religion, spirit, strength, suffering, weakness | Leave a comment

Everything That Lives Must Struggle

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At first it was just numbers and addresses—things we used to write down on scraps of paper or in little black books. Then it was directions and names and faces. Our machines remembered as we forgot how to get from Saint Paul to Chicago and who we were with and why. Soon they told us who we were and what we liked and what we thought.

(And we trusted them because machines don’t lie; they merely malfunction.)

We loved living in the Now—carefree—without history or tradition or any aspiration beyond our own bodily comfort.

That was how the machines subjugated us, not by violence or revolution, but by giving us everything we want and making everything easier and easier and easiest until all we were or thought was stored in vast data warehouses accessible only to government entities by court order or to the corporations that collected us and owned us and could do with us whatever would increase their profits.

Only after this dull apocalypse did we discover that the place where the people are most complacent is Hell.

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Posted in apocalypse, computers, hell, memory, struggle | Leave a comment