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Author: Dan McDonald

A Father’s Day Tribute

A Father’s Day Tribute

Dear Dad,

When I was a kid I didn’t truly appreciate you.  I’ll just say it.  They never told me how hard a man works.  That work slowly kills a man, grinding away at who he was and what he dreamed he’d become, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.  Slowly and almost imperceptibly.  They never told me that men die, on average, ten years sooner than women.  They never told me about prostate cancer.  They never told me about depression and anxiety in men.  They never told me any of this.

“Holy crap!!!” …. “How did Dad do this!!!”

Then  one day I became a man.  And I became a father.  And I said to myself, “Holy crap!!!” (Or something along those lines.)  “How did Dad do this!!!”  The treadmill.  The daily grind.  Doing what you have to do to put food on the table and feed the family.  Trying to earn another pay check when the one you just worked your tail off for disappeared in seconds.  That pressure cooker we call “Being a Man.”  I always knew that you were tough.  But experience is the great revelator, isn’t it?  My eyes were opened.  And you–the one who was my rock, my anchor, my hero, the guy who could do anything–grew even more in stature.

I started to feel bad for all the nights I kept you up, worrying if I’d make it home all right.  I started to appreciate those long drives you made from the other side of the state just to make a ball game of mine.  I felt guilty for the times when you finally made it through a week and yearned for time with your family only to see us kids walk out the door and say, “See ya, Dad!  I’m going to hang out with the guys….”  Now I know why you said to us three knucklehead boys, “Look, I don’t care if you beat each other senseless.  Just take it outside.”  I didn’t understand what it was like to be a man and a father.  I just didn’t get it.

I’m sure I still don’t quite get it.  You see, as I see the trail that you are blazing for me, wisdom has taught me that there’s still a lot I don’t know and that there’s so much that I can learn from you.  That’s what scares me–that I don’t even know what I don’t know!  Yes, I’m still that little boy, in a sense, walking behind you with my little plastic push mower as you mow the lawns of life, wanting to be just like you.   I want to have the patience and courage that you have developed by fighting through a broken neck, a spinal cord injury, kidney failure and cancer.  I want to have the strength and humility that you have earned.  I’m not quite there yet.  In fact, I have a long ways to go.  You’re the genuine article.  I feel like a pretender.

I want to spend more time with you.  But, you see, now I’m caught in that daily grind and there’s days I don’t have the energy  to do anything but come home from work, plop down in the recliner, and turn on the ball game.  But maybe we can grab lunch every now and then.  And maybe we can take in a ball game or two here and there.  And we’ll definitely do some fishing.  Oh, and if the Cubs make it to another World Series, I’ll let you be my psychotherapist to help me through it again.  Thank you for that, Dad.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  Every Cubs fan needs a good psychotherapist.  And every boy deserves a Dad like you.

Happy Fathers Day.

 

The Parable of the Mona Lisa

The Parable of the Mona Lisa

“Deification of the established order is the perpetual revolt, the continual mutiny against God.”

-Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity (1848)

There once was a man who wanted to behold the Mona Lisa.  He sold all he had and traveled to the Louvre in Paris, France.  He paid his entrance fee.  That was expected.  What was unexpected, however, was how lost and confused he soon felt in the revered Museum.  You see, his experience in the Museum was dominated by the tour guides and the Museum itself.   At every turn, it seemed, Museum tour guides and staff, both senior and junior, stepped forward and encumbered his ability to experience the Mona Lisa.

The morning faded into the afternoon and the afternoon into the evening with one tour guide after another talking about the greatness of the Museum—it is, after all, the only place on earth that houses the “true” Mona Lisa.  But the tour guides spent more time talking about the Museum and its history and policies than the Mona Lisa.  In fact, he didn’t even see the Mona Lisa.

Dissertations about Museum hierarchy were given.  The tour guides spoke often about the head tour guide and how he is the only one with keys to the entire Museum.  Others boasted about their past interactions with other, more senior tour guides.  Others spoke about the rules of the Museum and how to get back into it if you’ve happened to get out of it.  Many spoke about the dangers of not listening to the tour guides, which is the surest way to become lost and find yourself outside the Museum.  There was mention of the Mona Lisa here and there but it certainly wasn’t the focus of the tour.

The man became more and more confused and disoriented.  He really felt out of place as he heard others around him comment, “this is the best tour I’ve been on for a long time” or “these tour guides are amazing!”  He asked others on the tour why they felt this way because—while the tour guides were obviously extremely knowledgeable about the Museum, its history, its policies, its goals, its objectives, etc. and were clearly in charge of the Museum (he didn’t question that)—he, unlike the others, was somewhat disappointed and frustrated with the tour.  He wanted to better understand the Mona Lisa, not Museum policy.  He came to behold the Mona Lisa, not the Museum or its tour guides.

Just then a female tour guide with a small group of children passed.  They were singing, “Follow the tour guide, follow the tour guide …”  He went back to his apartment that evening downtrodden.  It all seemed so strange to him.  Everyone seemed so fixated on the Museum, Museum history, Museum policy, Museum rules, the Museum code of conduct, the Museum dress code, etc.  All of this seemed so out of place to him and made him question the very purpose for going to the Museum in the first place.  Were all these things greater than the Mona Lisa?  Was there something wrong with him?

He heard more than one tour guide talk, with glowing adoration, about the chief tour guide and how important it was to understand that he had all the keys to the Museum and that everyone that volunteered in the Museum received their keys from him.  They talked about the succession of Museum keys and how they had been passed down from one chief tour guide to the next for generations.  Yes.  Sure.  But what did that have to do with his experiencing the Mona Lisa?  What seemed to him as things that ought to be only periphery or tangential to the Museum experience seemed to be at its very core.  It was almost surreal to him.

The area of the Museum that housed the Mona Lisa, he remembers being told, is locked off to everyone and only the head tour guide has the keys to it.  Apparently, he lends his keys (or duplicates) to other tour guides that he trusts in order to give people access to the Mona Lisa.  The man could accept this fact.  Indeed, it made perfect sense to him that not everyone could be trusted with keys to the portion of the Museum that housed the Mona Lisa.  He could accept their authority, but he wondered why they were always brandishing it before those who came to see the Mona Lisa.  He could accept the internal Museum policy but wondered what difference that made to his beholding of the Mona Lisa.

The man woke the next morning and went back to the Museum.  He was greeted by a happy-looking tour guide with a German accent, who riveted his attention on the Mona Lisa.  His words were edifying.  The man learned something new about the Mona Lisa.  But then the happy German tour guide went away and another took his place, and then another, and then another.  There were general Museum authorities and subordinate Museum authorities, each of whom looked the same, dressed the same, spoke the same and shared the same basic message about the Museum.

Some of these tour guides mentioned the Mona Lisa but, for the most part, it was back to a discussion about the Museum, Museum policy, what was expected of those in the Museum, how the Museum visitors should dress, act and conduct themselves; how the head tour guide had keys to the entire Museum, how this was the best Museum, etc.  By now, the man was growing very weary of the Museum, and he went home exhausted and confused.  He felt that he still had not truly experienced the Mona Lisa.

He got a glimpse of the Mona Lisa here and there.  But all the distractions he had to endure in the Museum and from the Museum staff soured his experience, were extremely distracting, and wearied and troubled him deeply.  The man knew he loved the Mona Lisa.  He knew that the Mona Lisa was housed in the Museum.  He knew that the head tour guide had all the keys to the Museum.  And he knew that he wanted to behold the Mona Lisa and couldn’t do so if the head tour guide and the general tour guides denied the man access to the Museum.  Had they, too, gone to the Louvre to behold the Mona Lisa only to become infatuated with the Museum?  Did he have to constantly endure all the trivial and peripheral distractions that went along with beholding the Mona Lisa?  Was there some way the man could make the tour better without offending the tour guides and getting kicked out of the Museum?  How had the Museum come to this, and did it always have to be this way?

If-

If-

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling, 1895

These Flowers Remind Me of You

These Flowers Remind Me of You

To my own mother, my mother-in-laws (Carole and Marlene) and, most of all, to the mother of my children …

These flowers remind me of you.  These living paradoxes are delicate but extremely tough and resilient.

They beautify and give life.  They’re put on display.  They’re put in the background.  They rise up.  They’re cut down.  They always come back.

Living embodiments of growth, hope and life.  They endure storms, cold and clouds, heat and drought.  Nurturers of the ecosystem of earth, heart and soul, they rejuvenate, inspire, calm, encourage, embolden and, above all else, endure.

They give more than they take.  Their fragrant beauty makes the world and its inhabitants softer, kinder, gentler.

When the random abuses of nature are heaped upon them, they transform these oppositional forces into something marvelous and miraculous.

Gracious, giving and generous, their strength and beauty give shelter to the lost, rest to the weary, and comfort to the wandering soul.  They adorn all of creation, these emblems of God’s grace, these reflections of God’s face.  They bring you home again and remind you of who you really are and what you can become.  These flowers … they remind me of you.