Thursday, January 03, 2008

My de-education

After sitting in the waiting room of a dentist for a few hours you begin to wonder: why, if mine was the first appointment of the day, am I still waiting to be seen? Your first response, probably almost everyone's initial response, is that they must be very busy back there behind those doors. But then the secretary tips her hand: your dental hygienist is just running a little late this morning. This has been my de-evolution over the last ten years or so. I used to think people were more or less capable and if they weren't there was probably a really good reason for it. Maybe that was because my parents seemed to always have it together and there was very little drama. Or, if there was, my sister and I never saw it.

I figured when I went to bible college to be a minister I'd be around people who really took their faith and their calling seriously, much like someone going to medical school would expect to find people who cared about healing the sick. I was surprised when I found out it was just like high school with clicks and phonies and kids who were there because there parents were too scared to send them to a public school lest they get pregnant or hooked on drugs.

Then, I thought once I started working in churches I'd meet ministers who were serious about it, the useless ones having been weeded out over time. But when that failed I thought when I went to work at a Christian school in Los Angeles I'd really love it and that would be my career and I'd live in Southern California for the rest of my days with a wife who really loved me. When that failed I joined the military. To its credit it was the only organization I found whose response correlated with the seriousness of its claim: they were defending freedom and that was so important they'd die for it. The claim may be a lie, but most didn't know or care and they were ready to take it to the hilt. And, in the end, at least the military delivered on its promises. It was the one organization I found where excuses had a very short lifespan.

Ten years ago I would have sat in that dentist office for hours assuming there was a valid reason why I had to wait...that there were large forces at work behind those doors--a patient who needed an emergency root canal, a doctor who had pneumonia and couldn't come in to work--but no, it's just a hygienist who drank too much the night before and over-slept. And, I think you'll find similar reasons for any other number of breakdowns in the system.

Now I find it hard to believe there are any big, omniscient entities behind anything. The reverence is gone. The minister's sermon sucks not because people have a stubborn heart or an ear that wont listen, it sucks because the minister doesn't care all that much. He's the guy everyone's listening to but they don't know he's just the last link in a silly, error prone chain that allowed him to get where he is. He doesn't even know it either.

People want to believe in large, capable forces controlling things. I watched "The Bourne Ultimatum" a few weeks ago and the CIA was staffed with lean, efficient, super-smart hackers who have access to break into every security camera and cell phone in the Western World. I'm so glad all our money is going to people like that, who will keep us safe, who can get things done and harness technology which can help them do it faster. What's far more likely is that I, and the movie going public, and everyone else, love the idea of all that control.

That's why waiting rooms are lined with warnings about being billed for any canceled appointment without 24-hours notice. Because wasting their precious, efficient time should be punishable. Meanwhile the people behind the desk are just as apathetic as anyone. There's no organized force running things. There's no magic going on back there or anywhere, only the illusion.

George W. Bush completed my de-education. He's just a fool born into the right family. He's at the end of a long, connected chain. He has no merit, no skill, he's just a happy accident who made it into the White House and the rest of us will pay the price. But there are only two choices: revere the office, or recognize the man. And that, in a nutshell, is life. But don't ask me to believe the lie, or to cower to the warning signs on the wall. I know there's nothing but a lost old man behind the curtain. I'm not even waiting to be proven wrong anymore.

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