Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Passing By

Me and the TSA, we get along fine. I have a strange desire to make their days happier—they usually look angry, but I imagine that’s what serious jobs do to someone’s face—coupled with the desire to be such an innocuous happy person that they will not search my luggage and deem empty water bottle or roast beef sandwich dangerous or take away the nail clippers I forgot to take out. I also want them to not pat me down; physical contact between strangers is icky. Moreover, by the time I reach airport security checkpoints, I’ve adopted what I call my travel mojo. In order to avoid Type-A-induced stress I try to be what my former roommate would call “chill.” I submit myself to the travel fates, obeying airport authorities like a passive cow just trying to get to pasture.
This was my mindset when I approached the security checkpoint at Southwest Florida International Airport last week. I took off my shoes, slid my purse into a plastic tub, and approach the metal detector unarmed. I peered at it—one of the big cylindrical ones—until the agent on the other side waved me through. It was an annoyed wave, a tired wave, a bored wave. I obeyed her taciturn gestures, avoiding annoying chatter, and stepped in. I put my feet on the painted footprints on the floor and raised my arms above my head like the picture on the detector’s wall told me to do. She waved me out seconds later, still silent.
I started to walk away, but the guard ahead of me, a young man maybe my age, closed a rope, blocking my way out. I’d never seen anyone do that before. Usually they hold up a hand to slow a person down or they say something like, “Come this way. I’m going to touch most of the parts of your body for security purposes.”
I raised my eyebrows as politely as I could, looking at the closed the rope with the obvious question in my face. His answering bland face of professionalism was marred slightly by what I would have called a smirk on someone who wasn’t a TSA agent. He was short, mostly clean-shaven, and reminded me of someone I might see sitting stag at a bar, making eye contact with any girl wearing a skirt.
Behind me the tall woman with the bright eyes was glancing over my body scan. Nothing showed on the screen, but the silent uniform was still holding the rope closed, staring at me. He looked at me like I had put my hand on his shoulder, like I’d asked if he had a moment to talk, so I tried to think of what to say—“Will you let me out?” “Should I go back through the scanner?”—when the tall guard behind us spoke.
“She’s good.”
I looked back at the rope blocking my exit, then at the man still holding it closed. He smiled at me before calling to his partner. “Are you sure? Maybe we should keep her here a bit longer.”
I stiffened. I wanted my shoes back on so I wasn’t standing there in my polka dot socks. I wished he really was the man I pictured him to be sitting alone on a bar stool making eyes at single women because then I could have rolled my eyes at him and continued on my way to the bathroom. I wouldn’t have had to stand there in the first place. I wouldn’t have sent friendly signals his way. I wouldn’t have “encouraged” him.
I didn’t even hear the weak joke he made as he opened the rope wide enough to let me slip past him. It was subtle. He was wearing a uniform. I was trying to be “chill.” He let me pass and I let it go.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


This is grad school.
For the past ten months I feel like I’ve been chewing grass clippings in order to escape the pile of them I was under during the first and second semesters of graduate school. Every so often I’d get wise and write something fun and feel fresh air again, but always with a sense of exhaustion and the feeling that I needed to dutifully get back to chewing those grass clippings (i.e., read articles, write papers, grade students’ outlines).

But now, with summer here and grad school a distant memory, I’ve been writing every day, reading things I’m actually interested in, and—the holy of holies—planning a trip to Europe. It’s at the messy stages right now, but I know the basics. I’ll be working with a nonprofit near Athens doing . . . whatever they need me to do.

By now you’ve probably realized there won’t be a lot of meat from this blogpost, given I still have no idea what’s going on with my life, even in the short term. So for fun, I wrote REAL BLOGPOST on an article I read last night: “Why I Miss Being a Born-Again Christian.”

Why I Miss Being a Born-Again Christian

I read a great article last night: “Why I Miss Being a Born-Again Christian.”

It’s a good read, short and interesting. After having studied the Bible from a secular standpoint at Yale the author, Melissa Misener, became agnostic. Yet much of what she wrote resonates with me, especially this morning as I was reading in the syrupy sentimentality of the Gospel of Luke:

“People were also bringing their children to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anybody who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)

Blech. Verses like this superimposed over pictures of a white, blue-eyed Jesus dressed in shining white robes make me cynical. The deeper meaning in it—that we as adults ought to have childlike faith—seems either impossible or willfully stupid. How can anyone have faith in the Bible like a child after hearing the messy process of Nicea or Nicea’s modern grandchild of church politics today? Misener writes that she can no longer see God as anything but an opiate for the masses, a fantasy to comfort cowards from the cold reality of life (a comfort she herself admits to missing).

I agree: the baby Christianity that Misener and I both feel nostalgia for is easily crucified by an examination of the Bible’s ever-so-human origins. The difference between us is what others would call childishness: I, as a college-educated masters candidate, continue to insist that the world is full of magic. Don’t worry: I see the impossibility of it all. That an all-knowing being, full of both mercy and justice, created the world and everything in it and then wrote a book about it—it reeks of every kind of willful childish ignorance.

Christians are like the child that crosses his arms and pouts, “It’s not fair.” Agnostics are the parents that shrug, exasperated. “Life isn’t fair. Get over it.”

My nephew.

True, it’s childish to believe in justice, in mysteries like the Bible actually being—somehow, impossibly—true. My insistence that God created the universe and orchestrates a divine dance of redemption probably owes more to my love of fantasy novels than anything holier.

But I love the unsolvable mystery of the universe, the impossibilities that still happen every day. “The unknown” isn’t just a phrase from Star Trek; there are pockets of unknown all around us, especially on a philosophical scale. While my brain pulls me toward organized and systematic examination of the parameters of our human existence—science rocks and logic can heal—I love that there still is so much we don’t know and might never. And I suppose that’s childish.