I feel all special and stuff

So there’s this blog called “Stuff Christians Like.”  It’s very insightful and funny stuff.

A year ago, I caused this little race riot on Stuff Christians like.  That’s kind of a long story.

But then a few months ago he had this little contest, and I won a book by being silly in my response to a question.  And then today, the writer drew out one of my comments in the main blog post and linked over here to Jeff’s deep thoughts.

And he’s got like 8 million readers.  And I’ve got almost exactly that number.  Except for the “million” part.

So  click  here and check his blog out.  It’s just me and him, two hot shot bloggers, scratching each other’s backs.

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Lurkers, let me know who you are

So, there are now “15,001” hits on this blog.  That’s pretty wierd. 

Many of them, surely, were brief stops and never even read them.

But I’ve discovered, in conversations, that there’s a handfull of people who read every now and again and don’t leave me comments.  

I’m not fishing for a bunch of compliments.  I’d just like to know who you are.  If, for whatever reason, you read this blog every now and again but don’t generally comment, I’d appreaciate it if you’d leave a comment to this post.  I won’t put you on the spot.  If you’ve never commented here before it won’t be made public until I approve it.  And if you really just want me to read it and don’t want your comment posted to the world I’ll honor that.

Even if you regularly stop by, perhaps you’d like to answer the following questions.  (Some of the answers, of course, I’ll know.)

Who are you?  Do I know you in the real world?  How did you stumble on my blog?  Any constructive criticism for me in terms of the stuff that you’d like to see more or less of?  How often do you stop by?

By their tag cloud you shall know them

Are you familiar with the blogging widget they call a “tag cloud?”  There is one at the top right of this blog.  As you can see, it’s a way that you can keep track of the tags (or categories) that people search your posts by.  These are interesting for several reasons.

The first of course is that it visually depicts how frequently the blogger re-uses tags by making frequently re-used tags larger.  Secondly, the tags are listed in alphebetical order.  Because there are no commas between them, occasionally, I notice I end up with kind-of funny or atleast striking juxtapositions.  As I write this, I notice that I have the rather strange list “heaven home humor hypocrisy” for example.  Perhaps it’s the poet in me: I enjoy random acts of alliteration.  (O.K.  It’s actually not random.  It does, after all, arrange the tags an alphabetical order.   But it is alliteration.)

At any rate, there is something deeper than just this that I think is worth noticing.  The tag cloud is a really amazing representation of what we spend our time thinking and worrying about.  Many of our tags might be things we were criticizing or complaining about.  A tags presence does not imply our support.  But what is undeniable is we have spent some of our precious time on this Earth concerned with the subject implied by the tags.

When I look at my tag cloud, I realize that Jesus’ name ought to be bigger.  It’s easy to find excuses.  Sometimes I tag a post “Jesus” and sometimes I tag at “Christ” and sometimes I tag it something else with the same idea.  But these are just that, excuses.

At some point we will stand before the creater of the universe.  And he will pluck a metaphorical tag cloud out of our lives.  Who knows, maybe it’ll even look like a tag cloud: our concerns will take on a size proportional to how much time, energy, and love we spent on them.   I wonder what it’s going to be like, to stand before God, and looking at that thing. 

What does the tag cloud of your life look like?  Is this what it should look like?

 

Stuff White Christians like

It seems like all the cool blogging kids are talking about “Stuff White People Like” and its parody, “Stuff Christians Like.”  As uncharaceteristic as it is for me to do this, I have to agree with the going opinion: both these blogs are very funny, very clever pieces of work.

As I was considering these blogs, two things occured to me.  These are profound realizations that came to me in the way of dream-like epiphanies.

Realization #1: I’m a white person!

Realization #2: I’m a Christian!

Because I’m a geeky teacher, one of those Venn Diagram things popped in my head.  If you’ve gone to school in the last 20 years, you probably remember Venn Diagrams.  The theory is that you create two slightly overlapping circles.  Each circle represents a specific idea.  Things that are true of both ideas you put in the middle, overlapping portions of the circle.  Things that are only true of one or the other you put in the outer portion of the circle.  (The reality, just for the record, is that they end up all sloppy and messed up)

At any rate, realization #1 and realization #2 above lead me to the conclusion that I could in fact put myself in that central place in the Venn Diagram formed by those two blogs.  There are people in the world who are kind-of lucky.  These are white people who aren’t Christians, or Christians who aren’t white people.  The reason that these people are only kind-of lucky is that they only have one blog telling them what they are supposed to like.

I’m extra lucky.  I get two. 

My initial reaction was to find this prospect daunting.  Each of those blogs lists literally hundreds of things.  I have a tendency to be rather cynical.  I’m actually not sure if there are hundreds of things that I do like.

But then it occured to me: maybe if something appears on only one website it’s optional.  But if something were too appear on both, why then, it’s unaimous, I have to like it!!!  My fellow inhabitants of the center, fish-shaped portion of the Venn Diagram, these are the things I’m supposed to like!

This realization brings about relief on 2 seperate fronts.  First, I’m relieved that I’d don’t have to like 8,000 things.  Secondly, I’m saved from actually having to do the work of figuring out what I like as a white guy and a Christian.  Somebody else has done the work for me!

With these realizations in mind, I set a supercomputer to the task of exhaustive data analysis.  Actually, that’s a total lie.  All I really did was scroll through both blogs and try to keep as many as I could in my brain. 

The results I turned up:

uhm, none, actually. 

Maybe some of you can help me.  Is there anything I’m supposed to like, as somebody who is both white and Christian?  In the end, I guess those blogs weren’t that helpful as objects for me to arrange my life around. 

But they are quite funny.  And I suppose all this explains why there’s not so many things I like.

Some blogging announcements

I would imagine you and I have some things in common. For example, we’re probably both into a rather wide range of things.
For example, I am a poet, small group guy, theology junkie, political geek, teacher, dad, etc. I blog about most of these aspects of my life because they are interesting to me. A really staggering realization hit me the other day: even if you find some of these subjects interesting, they might not all be that interesting to you.
Keeping this “deep thought” in mind, I’ve decided to try a little experiment.
I’m going to create some satelite blogs. They are listed as such right under the blog roll.
The first is: Jeff’s small group thoughts.
The second is: Jeff’s poetic thoughts
For now, my plan will be to write everything in this blog. If you’re strange enough to be into all the things I do, feel free to continue to come over here. If you’re sick of weeding through my topics that you’re not into, maybe you’ll find the satelite blogs a little more up your alley.
(Yes, I know that I could set up seperate pages on the same blog. Maybe I’ll try that at some point. I know that I list all these as different categories. I figured I’d try this and see how it goes.)

Highways: A prose poem

Moments line themselves up neatly into minutes, like soldiers into platoons.  The minutes arrange themselves into hours, they are platoons arranging themselves into batallions. 
 And me, awake.  Me, awake.
 The darkness is this movie screen for my worries and fears to play themselves out on.  There is some secret switch inside of me that did not flip itself off when I laid down.  I have lived through a dozen worst case scenerarios in the silence of my home, now.  I try to not feel jealousy at my family, deep asleep. 
 I am awake.
 To be honest I don’t know what I do next.  There are two things and somehow I do them both.  At the same time.  It is like a multiple choice test.  Both “B” and “C” are equally correct, and mutually exclusive.  It’s all mixed up in my head.
 I know that I’m awake.
 I am sliding on my shoes in the kitchen and I am sliding down into the computer seat om the dining room.
 I unlock the door and open it only half way so it does not hit the point where it squeaks.  I think that perhaps I should leave a note, perhaps I should turn around and go into the dining room and jot a note on a scrap piece of paper with one of the kids’ crayons.  Strangely, I know that it would be a green crayon that I’d find.  Strangely, I realize that I’m already in the dining room, as I walk out of the house.  Somehow this is enough and I keep going.
 And yet I am also moving the mouse left-to-right so that I might kill the screen saver.  It was a picture of a star cluster named with numbers and initials.  A whirring hum from the innards of the computer tower, and I am online.
 Keys in the ignition, lights on.  It is not as cold as I think it should be, but there is this dampness that makes everything look damp and artificial.  The only cars I see are parked ones.  The houses are all so dark.  They look warm.
I drove down my street.
 I push down my gut reactions as I always do as my blog appears on the screen before me.  There is something ridiculously self-indulgent about the whole blog thing, but I don’t give this much more thought than usual.  I notice that the ceiling fan is on, and beneath it’s subtle whirpwhirphwhirp I hear my son snoring.  Nothing much new on my blog.  I check out the stats in my obsessive way and see what’s been read and by whom.
 I’m more or less on autopilot.  I don’t notice the gas station/donut shop as I drive past it.  Except that the lights are off.  I didn’t know the place ever closed.  But then again, I’m more of an amateur insomniac than a night owl. It’s possible I’ve never driven past at stupid o’clock in the morning.
 I clink the links from my blogs to some blogs I know pretty well.  Interesting stuff on them usually.  And they have pretty cool graphics.  I contemplate how I haven’t yet uploaded a picture to appear next to my postings.  I notice how somebody has a picture that looks like a Simpson.  (Cartoon, not O.J.)  I want a picture like that… It’s quirky but preserves annonymity.
 I used to do this in college: random lefts and rights.  Discover new places.  I’m just winding through boring residential streets at this point, though.  Places I’ve been before.  Places I have no reason to come back to.  I turn on the radio.  I’m embarassed that I enjoyed the song when the syrupy DJ comes on trying to say deep things about love: it’s one of those syndicated radio shows where people dedicate songs to each other on their thirty fifth wedding anniversary. I turn the station to a local public radio outlet.  It’s jazz.  I don’t really like jazz.  But I leave it on for a while because I want to like jazz.
 There’s nothing that looks worth reading or responding to on the few blogs that I often read and respond to.  I’ve used the links on these blogs to get to blogs that I’ve only checked out once or twice.  I survey these, too.  The cat jumps on my lap and I scratch him and he purrs, almost a melody above the percussion made by the cieling fan in the next room.
 Neighborhoods I’m not so familiar with.  I’ve been on other parts of the highway but never this stretch.  It’s the sort of New England highway that has a street name and a highway number, and traffic lights every couple miles.  The lights are all blinking red.  In California they used to do that, in the middle of the night.  I didn’t know that they did that in New England, too.  I’m watching them blink, and inexplicably, wondering if they do that in New England.  I’m in in New England, and watching them blink, and wondering if stop lights blink in the middle of the night in New England.
 I’m still revved up.  I click the links from these blogs and end up on blogs I’ve never been to before.  They are far enough removed from my blog– three clicks away and counting– that they aren’t quite so similar.  I mostly write about theology and politics.  On these blogs they are focused on other stuff.  Pop culture, some times.  Families I’ll never meet, other times.  Some of the subjects begin to run around my brain.  It’s hard to pin down what they are saying. I feel lonely, terribly lonely, suddenly.  I think about getting up from the computer and waking my wife.  But I don’t know what I’d say.  I try and post a comment in response to something I read.  My response would probably be nonsense.  But the computer won’t let me.
 I start to wonder if I’ll be able to get back.  I haven’t been gone that long, but there’s chain restaurants I’ve never seen.  There’s freeway numbers I’ve never heard of.  I think I saw a person.  But I felt something: he was different than me.  I’m not proud of that.  I’m usually pretty open.  But he was different than me.  I turned right and I approached a sign.  I did a double take and then I stopped, right there in the middle of the road.  Yes, it said what I thought it said “Now entering a place you’ve never been.” The worst part was that it was written so matter-of-fact.  White letters on a large green sign, a rectangular sign.  Like it’s informing you that a park is nearby.  I could not turn around, in that place.  The lane going the opposite direction was seperated from mine by a concrete divider.
 And there was this message in the middle of the screen.  It was in the middle of a grey box.  It looked like an error message, or like one of those pop-ups designed to look like an error message.  It said “allow undocumented pathways?” There was a box for “yes” but that was all.  No “X” inside a square to click in the upper left hand corner.  No rectangular “No” next to the word yes.  I tried to move the box out of the way and continue.  But it didn’t budge.  I almost smiled in the dark.  Maybe the computer would be frozen.  Maybe that would be a good excuse to get back into bed.  But I was still out driving.  I new I was still out driving.  How could I be still out driving?  I clicked the “yes” box.  And then I clicked the link from the last to blog to yet another blog.
 I turned off the radio because it was only static.  On all my presets.  I tried listening to the CD in the player.  But I was sure I had never heard any of the songs before.  I wondered if the songs were in English on that CD.  I wondered if they were in any language I’d ever heard at all.  But I just pushed “stop” I couldn’t work up the nerve to listen to it again, or to eject it from the player and look at it.  It was part way cowardice and part way that everything was changing.  I had to pay attention to the road.  I turned a left, a gentle, sloping left.  The roads weren’t intersecting at ninety degree angles anymore.  It was too bumpy to be concrete I was driving on, but to smooth to be a dirt road.  The buildings were all wrong, too.  The doors looked too narrow.  There weren’t enough windows. 
 It was like modern poetry on the blogs now.  The meanings taunted me, I was so close to understanding.  But I just couldn’t get it.  I tried to respond.  But when I did it wasn’t any letters that I’d ever seen that were popping up on the screen.  I’d push a “t” button but I’d get this strange thing on the screen, a curly letter that didn’t belong.  It hurt my eyes a little bit to look at.  I looked at the screen.  I didn’t understand any of it but I surmised where the links to other sites were.  I clicked the third from the bottom.
 The road I was on ended.  There was this tremendous arch, and then a building.  A mansion, a community, a compound.  Something.  There were lights on.  And there was such a happiness in that place.  The sun was rising.  I knew that this place was home.  No, not home.  Home.  Home with a capital “h”.
 A blog.  The meanings started to run together for me again, sense started to congeal.  These tears ran down my face as things started to make sense.  Things that had always hurt.  I read greedily.
 It wasn’t yellow light that came up from behind that strange building.  The color of the sun was terribly wrong.  And there was stirring behind the windows.  And a curtain, a strangely colored curtained moved.
 No.  No.  No.  There was something, some terribly thing, that I was required to accept if I wanted all that peace.  There were these lovely ramifications and implications.  But I’d just gotten to the source of them all.  And it was a brutality that I have not allowed myself to remember.
 It wasn’t human the inhabitant of that house.  But it smiled at me… I think.  The thing in the window beckoned to me, too, I think.  It was willing to share.  The door opened.  Some other thing was coming toward me with open arms.  It had something slimy running off of some unspeakable body part.
 I reached out and pushed the small button in the center of the computer.  I wanted to get away from it.  I didn’t want to get away from it.  The screen began to fade.
 The road was not wide enough for a U-turn.  I ran over something, something that was almost a plant that grew in the shoulder.  I turned around. 
 
 There are some times I get this little itch.  There are some of those nights when the moments line up like platoons.   These worst case scenarios play themselves out while everyone else is sleeping.  I wish I could say I never tried to find those truths again on the internet.  I wish I could honestly claim I never tried to find that strange place again by car.
 The truth is that every time I’ve gone looking I’ve known I’ll never find them.  And maybe, that’s for the best.