Lives that Don¬â„t Go According To Plan

I suppose I was old before my time, but I remember being moved by Paul Simon’s wistful “Some Folk’s Lives,” wondering, though young, whether my life would be productive or a disappointment. (Some folks’ lives roll easy as a breeze Drifting through a summer night Heading for a sunny day But most folks’ lives, oh they stumble Lord they fall. Through no fault of their own most folks never catch their stars. And here I am, Lord I’m knocking at your place of business I know I ain’t got no business here, But you said if I ever got so low I was busted, You could be trusted. Some folks’ lives roll easy, Some folks’ lives never roll at all Oh, they just fall They just fall Some folks’ lives.)

The very application of the “productivity-as-measure-of-success” metaphor betrays the workaholic tendencies of my youth, spurred on as they were by the hyper missional theology, which only in recent years has been placed in a richer context that values being and not just doing.

Which is why I guess my eye was drawn to a story titled “Lives that didn’t go according to plan,” a review of William Macy in “The Wool Cap” on TNT. The idea that life would have a plan is as rare as the notion of the disappointing life is common.

Interesting that this headline appears the same day the Clinton Library opened with accompanying photos of the former president looking gaunt, slightly feeble, the very image of the wastrel described biblically as one whose face reveals “lines falling in unpleasant places.” I found myself saddened by these images of Clinton “soggied” by rain on his big day, and by brief snippets of his interview Peter Jennings last night. This shell of the once energetic man bears little resemblance to he who oozed self-confidence and could have used his persuasive powers for good, but instead was satisfied to woo voters and a bubble-headed intern. Clinton is a classic iconic stereotype of the most promising character who fails to fulfill his promise; these figures are sad in myth and more so enfleshed in real life.

Nicolas Cage is similarly described in the NYT review of his new movie “National Treasure.” “For Mr. Cage, “National Treasure” is a low point in a cunningly managed career that seesaws between serious screen acting (“Leaving Las Vegas,” “Adaptation”) and schlock. Looking like a mangy hound dog with patches of hair missing, Mr. Cage skulks through a role that demands a wry Harrison Ford-like sense of irony. The actor, who can’t even muster a half-smile or a raised eyebrow, wears the numbed expression of a lazy star who can’t be bothered to find the character inside his role. If “National Treasure” mattered at all, you might call it a national disgrace, but this piece of flotsam is so inconsequential that it amounts to little more than a piece of Hollywood accounting.”

When human promise disappoints, we often retreat to amusements and entertainments and so as a counterbalance to Clinton, Cage and others they represent. Sponge Bob Square Pants big movie offers the mindless diversion characteristic of what we so often turned to when given the choice between crying or laughing at our human foibles.

The deeper alternative will require correcting the theology of “Some Folks Lives” which bemoans that our failures are through “no fault of our own,” and that we “have no business knocking at God’s door. More often than not the gap between human promise and reality is due precisely to our choices (a truth President Clinton still cleverly but unconvincingly deflects) and is remedied ONLY by returning repeatedly to “God s place of business,” for loving forgiveness and restoration, which as I understand it is the business God is in.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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