Stray Thoughts From The Midwest

Haven’t written for awhile and — after many several days on the road — finally have a chance to rest and  “download” some thoughts — or is that “upload” some thoughts to the internet?  In any case, here they are, like they matter…

Intelligent people and intellectuals can be nice. Yes, it’s possible — and now maybe should be expected. I Just came from the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead, museum, pageant, gravestone,2nd house and re-created little house (blame my wife — she likes this stuff) and this is what I got out of it:

Laura Ingalls Wilder was a smart girl — very smart for her little communities around the midwest — at a time when I didn’t think girls/women were encouraged to read at all, and certainly not to write.  She turned out a well-read daughter who became an author and editor who traveled the world and came back to help her mother tell stories of her past. Both the older and the younger Wilders would probably have been considered “really smart” (aka intellectuals) for their time. The older one suffered more, by far, during her lifetime, but the youngest was a journalist in Vietnam in 1965, so she’d probably seen enough misery and yet both of them seemed to be just plain folks who saw niceness as the way to be.  I hear that, in the world of academia, politics gets brutal, as though it’s a foregone conclusion that intellectuals are pained and  misunderstood people who simply can’t be decent to each other. It’s like the idea that artists should be mean, simply because they are artists or musicians or whatever.  Having seen organists who are pompous fail and organists who are nice succeed on a couple of occasions, I can say that intelligent or creative people don’t have to be mean. They can make other choices. People like Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Ruth remind us of this.

Also on the topic: Oh, to be young again and see things through the eyes of an eight-year-old (almost nine!).  My daughter understands Christianity and it comes out in her description of lessons from the Little House books: Nellie Oleson (the stuck-up girl from the books) is well-to-do and believes she’s upper class.  My daughter informed the family in the car that “Nellie wasn’t upper class. In fact, she wasn’t classy at all. In fact, by the way she’s acting, I think she’s lower class. Laura (the heroine of the stories) is much nicer — and much classier than her”. I don’t want to be “upper class” or “lower class”. I think I want to be .. middle class — not above any one, but not below them, either”. I think Jesus didn’t want to be upper class or lower class either, by those standards.

While thinking of “class”, one museum in St. Louis had a quote from Eugene Debs (who, I think, was a bone fide communist and union organizer) which said something like “As long as there’s a lower class, I’m in it.  As long as there are people who work hard and never get ahead, I’m one of them…” etc.  That’s kind of what I think about life as a Christian and working with addicts and treating them like human beings. I think Jesus calls us to care for the very people that society tells us aren’t worth much — the young, the old, the physically ill, the mentally ill, the poor, the addicted, the not-very-bright or not-very-pretty and so on.  In other words, pretty much everyone.

Also, on the subject of class (socio-economic class, not “classiness”), class and money are the last taboos in this society. I would love to see my denomination (the United Church of Christ) have a real discussion of money, cultural norms, and what it takes to get by in this world.  Having grown up poor, I love my denomination but I don’t see many folks like me in the pulpit or in leadership positions.  Just thought I’d mention it, since we don’t seem to know what to do in the cities of America.  Sending folks who have always had a family house, car, and education to minister to those who may don’t expect to ever have one of them, let alone three, might be a real problem.

All right, back to America’s “heartland” — don’t let anybody kid you, they have just as many perverts out here as they do back East, and in California.  Judging by the “Adult Bookstore”, “Adult Video Store” and “Adult Bookstore and Spa — must be over 18 to enter” signs and buildings all over the highways out here, it must be really strange here. When you look out over  miles and miles and miles of farmland and don’t see even a house, who the heck is keeping these businesses alive?  I always feel bad coming into Hartford and seeing all the signs for strip clubs and “adult” stores, but I figure out of any large city, there’s going to be a certain percentage of folks with sex lives I don’t want to think about.  But out here, it seems like a 1:1 ratio.  Maybe it’s just lonely truckers. I don’t know.  But wow, if you wave a stick out here, you’re just as likely to hit and adult bookstore/video store/spa as you are a human being.

I don’t read enough. I have a novel that I’ll probably finish tomorrow that I’ve been reading for months now.  It’s not a great novel, but it’s pretty good. I mostly read articles these days, or stuff for work, or a devotional something before I pass out at night — after TV and the internet.

Oh, well, that’s all for now.  Reporting live from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma…

Peace,

John

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