Spence Green

التكرار يعلم الحمار

I work at Lilt. In addition to computers and languages, my interests include travel, running, and scuba diving. more...

God in 500 Words

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If you could step into someone else’s shoes for a day, who would it be and why?

In an interview during the 1994 US Amateur Golf tournament, a reporter asked a giraffe-like, 19-year-old competitor who he most admired in the sport. “Me,” replied the young golfer.
“What?” said the incredulous writer.
“You see,” Tiger Woods explained, “every golfer has weaknesses. I take the best qualities from each player and add them to an ideal golfer. I aspire to play like him, and since he only exists in my head, I must respond ‘me’.”

As an avid reader of biographies and student of people’s lives, I too have developed an Ideal Man in my mind. He is at once many people and no one at all. I would like to be him, but only for a day. Let me describe him to you.

My Ideal lives a simple life predicated on a personal code. Like Andrea Bittel, he believes that liberation comes not from total freedom, but from “living within a set of limitations that we have prescribed for ourselves.” He agrees with the equanimous Victorian explorer Sir Richard Burton that, “He noblest lives and noblest dies / who makes and keeps his self-made laws.” He is frugal, acquiring things only in light of need. He keeps promises and is deceptively modest. He rises with the sun, works vigorously, and is obsessed with the quality of his labor. At the same time, he has a deep love of humanity. He greets the cashier at the gas station by name and gives his money sacrificially.

My Ideal believes in God. He knows that economy offers no solution to human suffering, and that money and hope have a false correlation. He has seen that dogmatic empiricism leads not to truth, but to arid, dehumanizing stoicism. For him, modernity is just another boring experiment with self-help, not an existential panacea. He is humble, because he knows that he is flawed.

My Ideal is a compulsive learner and producer. A quote from James hangs over his desk: “If a person keeps faithfully busy each hour of the working day, he can count on waking up some morning to find himself one of the competent ones of his generation.” He knows that time is the only real capital a man has, so he stewards his own with miserly care. He seeks vital knowledge, knowing that it will lead to vital output.

Finally, My Ideal is a fatalist. By understanding that his life’s work will be confined to the section of the library where students go to hide, he has liberated himself from the tyranny of the word ‘legacy.’ He does not waste minutes, because he knows that he has few of them. He has planned his own funeral well in advance, because inevitable things do not scare him.

Why would I be this person for a day? I believe that life is a constant struggle against imperfection. At times, it would be encouraging to know what heaven felt like.

Written by Spence

January 5th, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Posted in Writing

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