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October 30, 2011

Happy Entropy

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Last week at the Dillsburg Farmers Fair, Luke pointed to a series of dilapidated houses lining Main Street. "Look dad, they made their whole house a Halloween decoration." I flashed a hearty smile and nodded my head in agreement.

Looking down to the porch, their rotten granny faced Jack-o-lantern gave me pause. I felt tangential rays of the sun battle a crisp breeze on my face. Second-hand cigar smoke socked my nose, overwhelmed the appealing smell of decaying leaves.

One way or another, Halloween seems to be all about entropy. About systems winding down to the end of their cycle. It is about dark, rot, rust, cold, death, and decay. Do we deny these things that are not good or bad, but simply are? Should we fear that God is anti-autumn?

I've chosen to see Halloween as a time to recognize, deal with, and even celebrate the reality of entropy. I see the (literal) dark and creepy crawlies as humbling reminders of our brevity, our limitations, and the ultimate fate of our corporeal being. This is reality, not dabbling in the occult. There is too much evil during all season among the living to worry about the October undead.

Must we deconstruct the heebie jeebies? The demons that we think of, you can simply tell that their physical form and function would never work anatomically, at least not in this world. Why should ghosts ever be seen in clothing? Did they take it with them? If they are able to reflect or omit light (and therefore be seen) then they cannot be exempt from the basic laws of action-reaction. If they can switch lights on and knock books off shelves, then they should have to use windows and doors, just like the rest of us.

The cultural side of Halloween? From what I witnessed last Thursday, it's as if Trick-or-Treat is the new Christmas. There's simple family tradition and togetherness without all the pressure and obligation. There's a fraction of the materialism and politically correct controversy. In our small development, neighbors that have their porch light off and drive by our house without so much as a nod all year are suddenly welcoming and generous with their time.

I don't mean to say that evil is a cultural construct to be taken lightly. Or that the pagan holiday in October is more important and prominent than the day we celebrate the coming and birth of Jesus (a day which was, ironically, specifically retrofit over another pagan holiday). Or that scaring the piss out of people doesn't have the potential for some serious pitfalls.

Our ability to sit here and think about mortality and wonder what's next - this I take seriously. A world where entropy eternal, cold, and black is the bottom line - this is hideous and frightening. This I can deconstruct only by asking why and from where the light came.

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October 08, 2011

ice, bait, and kindling

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"That's not frugal, it's just nasty," Amy comments as I twist a plastic grocery store bag around my sandwiches. I've been stuffing sandwiches directly into those sturdy, abundant, and free bags for years to no ill effect.

There are certain items that I simply cannot bring myself to buy. Like small garbage bags. I've stepped off the viscous bag cycle where you use a small plastic grocery store bag to carry your box of small garbage bags home, then in the kitchen open the box of garbage bags in order to have a place to discard the grocery bag. 

While convenient on-the-go, bottled water is usually unnecessary indoors. No, you couldn't tell the difference in a taste test that controlled for temperature and aeration. And don't get me started on gravy ladles.

I readily admit that the sandwich on raw grocery bag is a bit extreme. My disdain for thoughtlessness and waste comes easy. Even in his late, financially secure years, my grandfather Tom Minick always said that you should never buy ice, bait, or kindling. Why pay for these items when just a little planning and effort would turn them up for free?

Did Pap (pronounced Paaahp) actually say that? I'm not sure it matters because he definitely lived it. Perhaps one of his daughters or sons could clear the air. Pap was more frugal, thoughtful, and slow to speak than I. Despite his midlife struggles, all the family loved him, now practically canonize him a saint.

Pap. Worked. Hard. Yet what I remember most from my comings and goings is Pap sitting in the evenings at his kitchen table or on the front porch for extended periods, leaning forward, head hung, massive forearms propped on knees, staring, staring, staring down.

Pap was neither slow nor quick to engage me with a question or few. He was one of the few people who referred to me as Robert.

"So whattya think, Robert?"

I always thought that Pap must be awfully bored just sitting there for so long. I remember looking over his shoulder at the spot on the kitchen floor, trying to probe the spot for answers, searching with a gaze fit for deep sky. As an adolescent, I got little but floor out of Paps exercise.

For all his intelligence and work ethic, pap never came to Jesus until near the end, after the second or third time he passed out while sitting with his family. Though he was always both frugal and generous, his tired eyes finally shown joy.

I'm thankful to have inherited more than Paps thick head of hair. I see him all over my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins because I'm watching and reflecting. We are actually all watchful and reflective, in the odd Minick sort of way, to a large extent because of you-know-who.

The Pap in me has a hard time budging when the girls at work request to order specific pens, when the kids want to drink bottled water at home and buy crickets to feed their frogs, and when Amy knows to add a "zip-lock please" when it's my turn to pack the sandwiches. These are my ice, bait, and kindling.

Sometimes at night when I manage to pry myself away from reading and trying to write at this computer, gazing long into this screen, I'm oddly drawn to sit a while more with face to the floor. Something compels me to fit in a good floor session before heading off to bed.

Staring at the floor, doing nothing, nothing doing, bliss.

That spot - I'm starting to see it now.

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