March 25th, 2009

The Lottery

If you’ve taken any American Lit classes at all, there’s about a 98.2% chance that you’ve read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. It’s a great little twisted story and it’s full of all kinds of things that literature teachers love… I just can’t remember any of those things any more. I’m left with remembering that I liked the story and that’s okay for me. I write videogame reviews, but I honestly was never any good at picking apart literature and seeing all the stuff I was supposed to.

Anyway, I’m going to assume that you’ve read the story (and if you haven’t, follow that link up there and go read it real quick and come back – I’ll wait here), so you know the ending to it. The town has made their choice and Mrs. Hutchinson is it. Scapegoat time, dearie. Here’s the last line in the story:

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

Everybody in town had the same exact chance of being chosen as she did, but of course that meant nothing to her once she was. That, I think, is usually how it is. The phrase “it isn’t fair” is generally only uttered by a person who thinks they’re getting the raw end of a deal. You never hear someone who just got free ice cream say “It isn’t fair that no one else got this!” Sean Penn didn’t say, “It isn’t fair that Mickey Rourke didn’t get this” when he won his Oscar this year. We only tend to bust out the “it isn’t fair” when we don’t like what’s happening.

It’s been a few years, enough so I don’t remember exactly how many, but I made a concerted effort to excise the phrase “it isn’t fair” out of my vocabulary. Of course, I’m not perfect, so it still works its way in from time to time, but its frequency has been less and less. Videogames that cheat are most often the recipients of the phrase, but it has snuck into actual life here and there.

I had to make the choice for me because I felt it was damaging me. More correctly, it wasn’t helping me, and it held me back from making choices. If it wasn’t fair and God or life or whatever else was just out to get me, then there was nothing I could do about it, so I might as well get angry and sit there and fume. If I realize that life just isn’t “fair” sometimes and I need to just get on with living anyway, that helps me be more productive in my response to the “unfair” circumstances.

The thing is, I don’t really want life to be fair. I have been a jerk to people often in my life. If life was completely fair, I’d be paying for that for the rest of my time here. Every cutting remark would come back to me, every lie, every time I took the bigger piece of cake, every time I broke my parents’ hearts, every time I hurt someone I loved, every time I cut someone off in traffic — all of that, heaped back on my head. No, thank you. I’d prefer that life not be fair.

The Bible teaches me that if things were fair, I’d get a lot worse, too. But the Bible also teaches me some great things about the greatness of an unfair life:

  • James 1:17 (NIV) – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” – Anything good that happens to me comes from God, and He never changes.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) – “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – “Temptation” can be read “trial” there – God doesn’t give me more than I can handle.
  • Romans 8:28 (NASB) – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” – God knows the end from whatever beginnings I am going through, and He’s promised that it is good.

So, I try. I try to understand when I can’t. I try to not worry when I can’t understand. Even with those promises staring me right in the face, I’m not always good at it, and I am sometimes really, really bad at it. I try to remember that I deserve a lot of bad stuff, and when good stuff happens… well, it’s like William Munny said:

Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.

And I’m okay with that.

June 6th, 2008

Good Advice

I’m normally one for keeping a clean text messaging inbox – once I read it, it’s gone. There’s a lot of reasons for it, but one is that I can’t create folders on my phone for some stupid reason, so I don’t have a good way to store them. So normally when I go to my inbox, it’s got the one or two messages I haven’t read yet, or else it’s empty.

A while back, though, I got a text message from a friend of mine that I’ve kept in the inbox ever since. It was meant as some tongue-in-cheek advice, but, funnily enough, it struck me in its simplicity:

“Don’t screw it up!”

I think right there in that little sentence, you get every self-help book ever boiled down into one manageable phrase. The idea of having all this good stuff around and in your life is something easily forgotten and sometimes we get anxious about all of it. To that, my friend says, “Don’t screw it up!”

  • A new friendship just getting off the ground? “Don’t screw it up!”
  • A new pet? “Don’t screw it up!”
  • A new job? “Don’t screw it up!”
  • Remodeling your home? “Don’t screw it up!”
  • Giving a speech in front of a convention? “Don’t screw it up!”
  • Redoing the effects in films loved by milions? “Don’t screw it up!” (Sorry we didn’t get this to George Lucas sooner, folks)
  • Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow with a sonic screwdriver? “Don’t screw it up!” (Dr. Who only)
  • Really, most situations in life: “Don’t screw it up!”

There’s a laid-back quality to the advice that appeals to me – rather than working hard at making something right, work at not making something wrong.

I’m sure this won’t appeal to anyone else like it has appealed to me, but I thought I’d share it for that .001% out there that thinks like me.

Leaving a comment on this entry? “Don’t screw it up!”

April 20th, 2008

Things I’ve Learned

Africa Edition!

  • There are palm trees and coconuts in Africa.

Now, that might seem like a silly thing to you, but it was a revelation to me. It wasn’t that I had decided on my own that there were no coconuts in Africa, it was more along the lines that I had not considered it and, when confronted with the idea, came to the idea that there were no palm trees in Africa.

I guess it’s because I associate palm trees with tropical climes, and I, like so many others, think of Africa as being mostly desert. The biggest hole in that way of thinking is that “Africa” isn’t like “Indiana” or “Texas” or even “The United States.” Africa’s a whole continent, second only to Asia in area, so it’s crazy to not think that there’d be, you know, more than one climate represented.

I learned this new-to-me information from a girl (she’s younger than me, so she’s girl) who grew up in Africa, but is currently a part of our class at church. She’s been a font of knowledge on the subject of Africa, and usually delivers it with a “How in the world do you not know this?” look that does a good job of reminding me that there’s a lot I don’t know, and some of the stuff I do know, I don’t actually know correctly.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, lions aren’t a common backyard nuisance in Africa like stray dogs are here. So that’s two things I’ve learned.