• Whether the pitcher hits the rock, or the rock hits the pitcher, it's going to be pretty bad for the pitcher. - Sancho Panza, in Don Quixote

Friday, March 20, 2009

What is normal anyway?

I am an ordinary person, extremely average. In fact, years ago I had occasion to take a battery of medical tests. The doctor told me that not only did my results come back "normal," but they fell into a range of normal that only 5% of the population achieve. Thus I have objective evidence that I am definitively normal.

I take comfort in that at times, in a whimsical way. It gives me something of an out, so to speak, when something extraordinary happens. It means that some force outside me, or events themselves, are out of the norm.

Unfortunately I also feel constantly at odds with the world around me, which means the world itself is abnormal, as are most of the people in it. Very few share my interest in understanding how things work, or what would happen if, or why something happened. Perhaps because, for me, the world is not normal, I am not surprised that something goes wrong, that accidents happen, that people get hurt. Most bad things are not actually the result of a deliberate act by someone intending harm. I marvel as people around me search for someone else to blame and attack when they suffer some injury. What's the point? The Universe is and to a certain extent, the Universe is random, and accepting that has given me great ease of mind.

I do believe the Universe has natural laws as solid as rock, and is rational. Irrationality leads sooner or later to a confrontation with those laws, and whether the pitcher hits the rock or the rock hits the pitcher...

Rationality brought me into the Catholic Church. In my 20's I did not practice or follow any particular faith, though I did believe in God. A series of events caused me to begin seriously studying my perceptions of the Universe, which then led me to a conscious 'credo' or understanding of my beliefs. Years later, I picked up the newly published Roman Catholic Catechism, and found my own beliefs matched the Church's. The teachings of the Church are founded in rational understanding of the Universe!

Some time after that I picked up C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" and found it would have brought me to the same point, in a quarter of the words, had I only known it. Ah well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Other Son

Driving to work the other day, listening to the news, I suddenly realized that I'm "The Other Son". In the parable of the Prodigal Son, I've not thought much about the Other Son, the one who stayed home, did what his father asked him to, and in general Did The Right Thing. The story is all about the Prodigal, who breaks the Commandments, repents, and comes home. I especially identified with him when I made my first Confession as a Catholic -- receiving Absolution was an overwhelming sensation of ... renewal, cleansing, I don't know how to describe it.

Until now, I've never really understood why Jesus has the Other Son protest so strongly when his Father celebrates the return of the Prodigal. But as the news about bailouts and handouts and stimulus packages circulates, I understand. I've done the right thing, I've not been victimized, I've managed my life and my finances so that at least so far I am able to fend for myself. Businesses that should have known better have taken money and squandered it, and now the government is effectively killing the fatted calf for them. Where is MY reward?