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My young friend, Courtney–who is an extraordinary and musical young woman from an extraordinary and musical family–tagged me.  You should read her blog–not just that one post, but in general; she has a way of being quietly and profoundly insightful and getting the rest of us worked up responding to her observations.   Anyway, back to the instigating post: I’m supposed to tell you seven random things about me.

Normally, I wouldn’t respond to this sort of thing (Courtney called it a chainletter and she’s probably right; shame on you, Courtney).  Those who send me fun little quizzes uplifting prayers and inspiring stories and encouraging little what-nots and promises of fame, fortune and the general good pleasure of God if I’ll only continue the chain and SPAM all of my friends–well, y’all already know this.  Those who send me bigoted or otherwise specious and demagogic political crap know that I’m likely to fling it back in their faces.  Those who send me silly urban legends know that they (and the rest of their unwitting friends whom they failed to blind copy) are in danger of a reply that includes a link to a Snopes article or some other debunking site.  I make it sound like I’m a jerk.  In fact, if anything, I usually go out of my way to try to not make people feel like idiots for spreading lies and, too often, hateful prejudice and fear.  And, hey, the truth is, we’re all idiots sometimes.  I’ve decided that being an idiot is part of what it means to be human.  I’m an idiot.  But we should, shouldn’t we, try to curb a few to the most destructive excesses?

Wow, that was a tangent or two.  Anyway, here are my seven things.  My own perverse twist is that I’m going to blatantly mostly ignore the randomness requirement.  Those of us who work in technology or are students of human behavior or believe in intelligent design know that “random” is usually a false construct intended to make us feel better about our substantial ignorance of ourselves and the world we inhabit.  No, I’m going to conspicuously plagiarize Courtney’s randomness.  Consider Courtney’s blog the seed for my random generator, unless–I take that back, especially if–that makes absolutely no sense to you.  And, we all know I’m going to make them “random” my own kind of way anyway, aren’t I?

1.  When I get out of the shower (and I am so sorry for that mental image), there are two cats who lick my feet.  I’m not entirely sure whether they’re really thirsty (they shouldn’t be: I bought them a little kitty fountain complete with charcoal filter which I change regularly, and a few times a day I run one of the bathroom sinks just for them because they don’t seem to appreciate water in a bowl by their food); or they just like the taste of water off my freshly washed feet; or they think the shower didn’t quite do its job and they’re generously offering to groom me; or they just love me.  I like to think it’s that they love me . . . even though I’m also pretty sure that’s not true.  In fact, the male is a bit of a freak and I think the female just does it because she sees that his freakish behavior gets a lot of attention.

2.  I credit a lot of what’s good about me (not that I’m saying there’s a lot) not only to the persistent presence of concerned and loving parental and other adult folk in my early life and the persistent presence of a concerned and loving wife and child and other youthful folk in my later life but to something that happened when I was a wee lad and my mother was in charge of a church program of some sort (yaknow, Christmas or the like).  One of her charges got sick on the day of the program.  I was in a younger age group so wasn’t originally part of it.  But in the time of need, she gave me a good chunk of stuff to memorize and recite that morning, which I did.  Or at least that’s how I remember it.  This led to a childhood wherein I was often memorizing scripture, especially in King Jimmy’s tongue.  And, thing is, it’s been rolling around in my head ever since.  It’s kept me from going off the deep end more than once.  Perhaps as importantly, it’s helped me dive off the deep end more creatively than I might otherwise have.  I’m not one of those that thinks the KJV is less errant than other translations, but it is quite beautiful and it prepped me for Shakespeare and a whole slew of other literary, musical, artistic, spiritual, philosophical, political et al. enjoyments.

3.  When I was young, I developed what I came to consider a sort of tic wherein I was constantly counting syllables and beats and such, usually with the four fingers of one or the other hand.  As a result, the meter of the world around me was seen in terms of its roundness by (or remainder from) four or eight.  Sometimes the numbers would match the words as I heard them; i.e., I’d hear them together in my head.  I had a sort of affinity for rhyming, too, Courtney.  The sad thing is that, like many of my natural propensities, I one day came to the conclusion (of which I later repented) that I should stop both habits.  And I did.  Not that I can’t do them still, but it’s more an effort than I think it used to or should still be.  Maybe this is why I so encourage and celebrate quirkiness and freakishness; I have mostly come to regret the quirkicides I’ve committed upon my own soul.

4.  “Rhyme” and “rhythm” are two of my favorite words to say and spell (it is a happy accident that they relate to item #3).  “Occasion” (and its many forms) has long had my number but I’m coming close to nailing the ornery bastard down.

5.  My elder brother, John, once bequeathed on me the nickname Berf Luigi.  I’m not making this up.  “Berf,” he explained, is a combination of “nerf” and “barf.”  “Luigi” is “Joel” spelled sideways, sort of.  I’ve never met anyone with a better nickname.  It made me feel special and seemed to resonate with something in my heart of hearts.  I love my family.

6.  I’ve always been a little embarrassed that I don’t know much about web design or programming.  But honestly, I’m not sure that I’m willing to make the investment either.  And I like dwelling in the ether between the hardcore coders and the helpless users.  I can code a little if I have to and I can generally figure out and ruthlessly exploit software and systems (especially niche software), but I’m not a code monkey.  I use and abuse programmers; I respect them; I need them; I like them.  But I’m not really one of them.  I’ve only ever been an honorary or pretend coder, like Marcus Welby or one of those charlatans with honorary PhDs (well, they’re not all charlatans; it was just funner to say it that way).

7.  It’s always bothered me that I don’t remember much from my earliest youth and that I have a hard time with visual memory.  I have an odd memory anyway.  Words and goofy little thoughtcycles run through my head and clog out the other stuff, I think.  My brain is a menagerie of caged rabid hamsters spinning their wheels like so many encircled monkey typists trying to work out “Hamlet.”  That mixed and clouded metaphor (I’m a big fan of the mixed metaphor but you probably already knew that) contains an allusion to something about randomness I learned as a young man.  It seems a fitting end to this little digression.

It will probably take me a while to get around to tagging; and I’m liable to do it intermittently and may not tag precisely seven of you and I may–pbbbt!–re-tag someone; I can’t say for sure what I’ll do.  When I tag you, I decree that you must just say seven things whose random/derivative coefficient you must decide.  But, of course, I encourage anarchy and rebellion, so do as you please.  Yes, I demand it.  I demand that you flout my decree of indefiniteness and dissent.

Oh, and end your post with a silly pronouncement.

I’m going to try to do more linking to other people’s blogs instead of jamming them with my comments.  It seems better in lots of ways.  So here I go.

A conversation I had yesterday and two blogs I’m reading have today reminded me of a couple of core convictions.  By the way, these blogs are excellent, so I encourage you to explore beyond the posts I cite.

Brett talks, in the cited post, about Truth, and June about Grammar, but my takeaway from both is that the world is a beautiful place and we’re never quite capable of capturing either its beauty or its horror strictly with rules and formulae and such–which is not to say that we shouldn’t still try.

A commenter on June’s blog, a teacher, points out the paradox of grammar: that one first learns its rules, then how to bend them.  I’ve decided, after several (not an enormous number, but more than a few) years on the planet that that’s one of life’s most important themes.  I can think of no field in which it does not apply.  At every point of revelation, some “truth” we’d been taught to get to that point is exploded by another or simply dissolves in its own insubstantiality.

That doesn’t mean it all dissolves, that there’s nothing substantial or absolute, but mostly perhaps that our plight is one of perpetual misunderstanding, of partial glimpses, of hints and guesses and approximations.  And, really, that stuff itself (both our own concoctions and the world and order that exist to varying degrees independent of us–material and otherwise) is more or less, if not flimsy, at least shifting.  Moreover, in a way that perhaps transcends or precedes (experientially) the universe’s shiftiness, there is perhaps a necessity that we learn lies or half truths on the way to understanding.

I do believe in absolutes, in Truth.  I’ve experienced a bit of it.  But it doesn’t come in a pill or a package.  Of course, even that’s a lie.  Truth is quite capable of sneaking up in a capsule or neatly wrapped container–but eventually, it’s gonna bust out.  We learn lies on the way to truth because so much of learning is the acquisition of definitions, definitions are boxes, and gloriously, thankfully, Reality won’t fit in any box, no matter how elaborate and vast we might make it.

God, the world and we ourselves are fundamentally fraught with Mystery–Hallelujah!

Yes, that’s frustrating.  Yes, I am continually aggravated by certain things I never quite comprehend but still somehow feel that I must.  But there is greatness in surprise and hope and beauty that doesn’t sit nicely in my head or my heart but is always ever tugging at the seams.