Guest Post: Why Me? Why NOT Me?

I posted a short quote from a baseball player, of all things, in the “He Said/She Said” section. It was Mel Stottlemyre, a baseball coach and certifiably Famous Dude within the world of MLB, shrugging and refusing to pity himself for being struck with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. “Why me? Why not me?” he said in a Steve Rushin article in Sports Illustrated a decade ago, and I’ve never forgotten. (It must be an example I need to remember.) Thoughtful reader Michael Freeman made his comment into a short personal essay, which deserved prime real estate, and here it is:

I don’t know who actually coined this phraseology first, but it took me a long time to come to the same conclusion, if not the same exact language. A coin has two sides, different sides unless you are lucky enough or crafty enough to possess one of those phony two-headed coins of con job fame.

An argument, or debate, in its simplest form has a pro and a con. An island has an east and a west coast. A game has a winner and a loser. Why can’t every why have a why not?

I was leaving an AA meeting one time. I had just joined in the group commiseration of throwing our proverbial dirty laundry into the centre of the table, and shared ideas as to how to proceed. Each meeting is a safe haven where all are welcome to share and discuss and come away feeling just a little bit better. And it usually works, for many, at least along spiritual and emotional lines, but I have always had the nagging of physical discomfort knocking at my door. Daily. Persistent. And at times, relentless.

I stood at the bottom of a staircase bemoaning my condition: festering leg and back pain and a mind distracted by its impact. I hesitated for but a few moments,

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Define Your Terms, For God’s Sake

What do we mean, fergawdsake, when we say that something must be done/undone/thought about/dismissed for this ultimate reason? 1 And who believes in God anymore? Well, lots do, and I suspect that more would want to, fashionable intellectualism aside, if only the idea of the Creator weren’t so polluted by fairy tale images, anti-scientific credos and rancid politics.

Here is one thing we might mean: when we do things at our most sincere, or our most urgent or beneficent or noble, we are helping God out, doing the (theoretical) Lord and Master of All Things a good turn. Well. This assumes that the Prime Mover needs a nudge in the right direction from one of the millions of species populating one little blue planet. That doesn’t make a lot of sense; it’s at least arrogant, if not delusional, to think that Something capable of fashioning a universe needs my advice or yours.

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Anne Hines (on religion and perspective)

“When I meet God, whatever that is – whatever *I* am – I feel we will laugh about the things I thought were important, and cry over the things I didn’t see as important.”

Anne Hines, writer and United Church of Canada pastor-in-training. She added — I believe this was from a radio interview — “My current goal is to graduate while there still is religion!” There’s a darkly pregnant joke.

Super Stuff

Artie’s Megtastic Brontoplasm Heavy Definition MonsterScreen (not its real name) loomed at the end of the den. TechBoy was racing around fitting his EarPiercer MaxVol Screamers — these were not your dad’s stereo speakers — the better to further stun the cerebral nerve endings of the only geezer invited to the Super Party. (That would be me.) Eight trays of wings were on the table – one for each of us, as it groaningly turned out – along with crunchies, chewies and slurpies. We weren’t a beer-swilling crowd, but we were ready to assert our North American manhood in every other way we could. After all, da Colts wuz playin’ da Bears for the World Championship of the Excited States of American Football. Hooting and hollering ensued, especially during that wacky first quarter, and Sparky, one stressed-out and neurotic little pup, went canine straitjacket on us. Ya gotta love living room sports.

The commercials. I soon realized I was with a crowd that was at least as interested in the ads as the third-down conversion rates, and I’m not just talking about Artie’s wonderfully excitable Mom. (These guys were more into the technical aspects of the telecast reception than in any Manning-to-Harrison connection. Vafa meditated at length on how the virtual first-down line was generated). Somehow, we were able to get the American commercials – including a stunningly amateur one from Detroit replacement window installers who take fibreglass very seriously – instead of the Global Canuck substitutes. (Take that, CRTC!!) There was a busy and amusing series of Lord of the Flies work-is-a-jungle-riot ads for a job-search company. There was an uncomfortably homoerotic and homophobic (tough double!) spot that I can’t imagine will sell a lot of Snickers bars. As usual, Bud Light has some of the best creative minds in America helping it to sell insipid and slightly poisonous beverages. (Best line of the night: But he’s got a chainsaw!)

And Coke poured more megabucks into helping us to associate sugar, caffeine and gas with our psychological well-being. The incredibly expensive video-game styled ad, in which Joe Cool rights all the wrongs of the street and inspires a giddy festival of urban happiness, was one that I quite liked. It’s a 2007, hyperactive version of the old I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony / I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company. (I know it’s a tooth-rotting soft drink, but I’m a sucker for brotherhood and global harmony.) The chiselled young men I was with didn’t appreciate the “Wonderland in the Coke Machine” ad much, but I could see it through the eyes of the little boys that have lived in my house for so long. It was imaginative, incredibly expensive, and pretty darned cute. I waved a sourpuss white flag, though, for the salute to Black History Month, which appeared to link Holy Coca-Cola with all the most heroic moments and characters in the African American story. Yecch. That was but one expression of the Dungy/Lovie factor, the aren’t we a wonderful country to have black coaches for the all the dark young men that we pay so well to entertain us sentiment. Not to mention that CBS Cares, apparently, about much more than ratings, although the accompanying series of images of beautiful black children and noble black elders seemed, well, just a little too self-congratulatory. But maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh: even clumsily celebrated racial progress is racial progress. (I think.)

The game. I like football. My playing days are a foggy image in a cracked rear-view mirror. (The older I get, the better I was. What a great line. Wish I’d written it, wonder who did.) I don’t even watch it that much anymore, though I read more pigskin commentary than is healthy. It was my first time seeing the Lovie Smith Bears, but I’ve seen the Colts several times over the last few years. I’m a great admirer of Tony Dungy, and was anxious to have all the call-in sports radio meatheads stop braying about Peyton Manning being over-rated. (Envy grows like a titanic and atom-powered cancer among low self-esteem sports fanatics.) I was pulling for the Colts.

Early on, it looked like I was rooting for the white-hatted cowboys who were about to be chewed up by the baddies. What a crazy, sloppy, interesting first quarter, so unlike the usual tense blandness. By halftime, though, a Colts victory was looking pretty inevitable, as long as they refused to kick to Devin Hester. I stayed tuned in to the play, though most of my younger brothers had gone to cyber-geek guy talk that I can barely understand. I was a little disappointed (how greedy can I be?) that the Horseshoes couldn’t translate their skill and power into a more dominating final score. It’s a bit mean-spirited, I admit, but I was pleased to think of Edgerrin James – the former star runner for the Colts who left them for extra millions – watching the SB in a football desert. I loved the cleverness of Joseph Addai, James’s replacement, with his quickness and subtle spins and shifts. I was thrilled by that gorgeous toe-dragging sideline catch by Marvin Harrison; one of the unfilmed highlights of my football “career” was an eleventh-grade grab a little bit like that. (In my mental video library, anyway.) The Sanders interception of a one-winged duck thrown by Bears QB “Bad Rex” Grossman reminded me painfully of the worst ball I ever threw to a wide-open, touchdown-ready teammate. (It was grade 12, and that quacking attempt at a long pass was in the air so long I could’ve almost run and caught it myself. The coach switched me to linebacker soon afterward). And I was grateful that the deeply Christian Dungy didn’t echo the Colts’ owner’s proclamation — did you hear it? — of the Universal Creator’s undivided interest in the gridiron success of the Colts. (Such a little God! No wonder so many people find it hard to believe.)

When I was a kid, the ferocity of football was attractive, though it was always the sweet catch, the nimble cut, the tightly spiralling throw or punt that really thrilled me. As an adult, I came to see that football is the best TEAM game there is. In a high school, say, it has the potential to do more for the spirit of a large group of (possibly) undermotivated and emotionally isolated young men than anything short of wars and revolutions. Sorry to go all socio-political on you, but I guess I’m glad that the Colts won without the worst of the in-your-face, look-at-me macho freakshow posturing that takes so much away from the team feeling of football played well. And despite all those fumbles, there was some good football to watch last night, in between the main attractions. Thanks for the High Def, Mr. B. It was good to pretend I was 22 for awhile.

Meister Eckhart. (Damn your idea of God!)

“There are those among you who want to see God with the same eyes with which you look at a cow and to love God as you love a cow – for the milk and the cheese.”

Meister Eckhart (Eckhart von Hochheim), Catholic theologian/philosopher, b. 1260, modern Germany. A blazingly brief condemnation of vain imaginings…