Every morning as I arrive at work, I make a right turn down into the driveway that goes under my office building to the garage. I have to cross the sidewalk, and am acutely aware that this very last part of my commute could be the most dangerous. The sidewalks are busy, full of people on their way to work or finishing their workouts, unlikely to notice an underground garage in the middle of the block. It’s true today, as always.
I look carefully to the left. No pedestrians. I look carefully to the right. No joggers, or women with strollers, or people with the earbuds in and music turned up. The way is clear; I make my way forward and turn across the sidewalk.
WHAM. On my right, out of nowhere, a man slams his hands into my car window, the rest of his body landing with a thud a split second later, his face up against the window, before bouncing backwards again. I roll down the window as he waves and turns around. “Are you okay!?” Continue reading “Fast and furious”
I’ve been away this weekend on a retreat in the mountains. The program has been centered on quiet, and on the works of Flannery O’Connor. And so, I re-read “Revelation” this weekend, and I am reminded of just how treacherous a trap it is to believe that you have sufficient good judgment to sort people into the deserving and undeserving. (If you haven’t read “Revelation,” you should.)
Recently, I eavesdropped on a debate my friend Jordan got involved in on Facebook. He astutely argued that if you’re interested in building a political party that can win elections, you should stop thinking of people as existing on a binary scale–you’re either a good person or a bad person–and instead think of each individual as a person who does a good thing, or a person who is currently doing a less good thing, and even a person who is doing a bad thing.
In “Revelation, ” the protagonist Mrs. Turpin reasonably observes that she is fortunate to be middle class, but credits herself for responding appropriately: She is stewarding the resources given to her. She has manners. She isn’t rude, even to people who don’t really deserve her kindness. She’s a respectable, decent person by all commonly held standards of the time. But despite being a good woman, she is also, as a girl she encounters says, “a wart-hog from hell.”
The story is not about how someone who thought she was good was actually bad. It is about about both/and. Mrs. Turpin is both good and bad. She is herself and a wart-hog from hell, too. As are we all. Continue reading “Sunday morning, on mercy and uncertainty”