Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Time keeps on slipping into the Future

I ought to write another post, a followup to the Trash one, about how the Trash one was pretty silly, but that won't happen right now.

Some Christians often talk about being good stewards with their money, because God gave them their money. This is very Biblical; Jesus tells us the parable of the Talents to tell us to use our money wisely, and the parable of the Shrewd Manager to tell us to use our money for the Kingdom,. I will refrain from utilizing the Talents-talents homonym found in English, but I will say that God gives us Spiritual Gifts as well as not-spiritual gifts (Don't ask me what those mean!), and we should use those the same way that we use our money: for the Kingdom. Money is a material possession, even if people forget that sometimes, and the best use of it is the same. But recently I have realized that God also gave us Time, and the best use of it is the same. This may sound like I am saying that God gave us our lives and therefore we should use our lives for the Kingdom, for the glory of God, but I don't use "My Life" as a unit of Time, whereas I think about how I am spending my time pretty frequently.

Several times, people have told me that if I used a planner, I would be able to manage my time better, spend my time better, and generally make myself a better person as well as a better Christian. I won't even bother explaining that, but I can tell you unequivocally that it did not work. I never remembered to look in the thing, even if I remembered to write things down. The idea of planning out how I would spend each minute of the day was incredibly difficult for me, and I would not have stuck to such a schedule even if I had succeeded in creating one. Instead, where the pro-tight-schedule people would have had me block in time for homework, time for this thing, time for that thing, I have free-form whatever time.

This freedom is so easily abused, and so my free-time all too often becomes my lay-around time, or my read-blogs time, or my play-computer-games time. None of those things are wrong, in and of themselves, but they cease to be relaxing activities of respite and become holes in which to laze away my day, depriving me of both the joy of accomplishment after hard work and the joy of a well-earned break after hard work. The transformation of what was meant to be joyful into meaningless boredom is a good sign of sin, I think.

This makes a lot of sense, to me. The best way we can use the time God has given us is for his glory and his Kingdom, which are really one and the same, I suspect. The question, then, is whether or not I can use my free-form time properly.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Nate the Snake

The deserts of New Mexico, 1953! Now, do you know what was going on in America back then? We were fighting the Cold War. Our military-industrial complex was hard at work fighting the Soviets, constantly researching new and better weapons.
Now, in the desert there lived a snake, named Nate, Nate the snake, and Nate was no ordinary snake. No, he was a talking snake! That's right, a talking snake. Nate spent most of his time doing snake things, mostly slithering around and eating small animals, but he also liked to scare strangers. If ever some unfortunate man was walking through the desert, perhaps to get gasoline for an inoperative car, Nate would pop up and say "Hello!" and scare the crap out of the guy. Then he'd slither away, laughing quietly to himself in a way that only snakes can.

Well one day, Nate slithered out of his hole and saw, coming closer, a Jeep. "Well now this is strange," thought Nate, "Jeeps usually pass by my hole, not drive towards it..." and with that he dove into his hole, so as to avoid being run over. The ground shook and his hole nearly collapsed as the Jeep came to a stop, and out stepped two men in boots. Nate couldn't see anything but their boots, because he was still under the Jeep. "Still," he thought, "I might be able to have some fun..." and he quickly slithered out from under the Jeep, dove between the two men in Army uniforms (He could see them now), and quickly turned around to face them. He smirked as they stared in shock and he said "Hello!". Before he could dart away, however, he saw the General (for one of them was a General!) break into a grin. No one had ever grinned after Nate had tried to scare them, and the shock of it made Nate come to a halt.
The general looked down at the frozen snake and said "Are you Nate the talking snake?" Nate nodded and said "Yes, I am." The lieutenant with the General said "Well sir, I guess he must be; he just talked!" and the General crouched down and looked Nate in the eye. He said "Son, your country needs you. I don't know if you're aware of this sort of thing, being a snake, but you live in the United States of America, a grand and glorious country stretching fro..." Nate interrupted "Sir, I know where I am. I voted for Eisenhower." The General chuckled "Well, well, good man...er...snake." He paused, confused, then continued. "Well anyway, as I was saying, we need you. See, we're in a state of conflict with the Soviet Union, constantly building bigger and better weapons with which to wipe those damn Commies off the face of the earth, if we should ever need to. Problem is, our engineers and scientists have really outdone themselves this time, and they've built us a weapon that would obliterate the entire Earth if ever activated. We told them to disarm it, but they said there was no way, without obliterating the Earth anyway. Construction on its final casing is nearly complete and the control lever is going to go... right about... here." and with this he pointed to the ground beside Nate's hole. "Right here, beside my hole?!" gasped Nate. "That's right, right here beside your hole."
"Well if it's going to be built, what do you need me for?" The General chuckled again "Well you see Nate, we're a little short on funds. We don't really expect the lever to ever be pulled, because even the Soviets, in all their villainy, don't want to destroy the entire planet, so we were thinking it would be a lot more cost effective to just hire you to guard the lever. What do you say? You'd just have to kill anyone that tried to pull it." Nate thought about this briefly and said "Well...I could still slither around in the area and eat small animals?" "Oh absolutely!" replied the General, "Just so long as the lever doesn't get pulled." Nate smiled and replied "Well then, I'd be happy to serve my country in this way" and with that, the General extended his hand to shake, then quickly found himsef embarrassed and confused again, for Nate had no hands. The snake smiled knowingly and said "It's traditional to shake the tail." and extended his tail into the General's waiting palm. They shook on it, and a few days later Nate dipped his tail in ink and signed a contract.

Well, time passed, and after the lever had been installed, life went back to normal for Nate. He still slithered around and ate small animals, he still scared the occasional passerby by saying "Hello!", and the only change was he had to look around to make sure no one was attempting to pull that lever. Life went on as normal, that is, until one day he saw another car driving towards him, not past him. At first he thought it might be the General, but then he realized that it was an expensive sedan, not an U.S. Army Jeep, and so it was with some puzzlement that Nate observed a man in a suit and sunglasses step out, look directly at Nate, and grin. "Hi there, are you Nate the talking snake!" "Yes, I am" replied our serpentine hero. "Well you guess you must be; you just talked! Nate, my name is Guy Smiley, and I'm a fabulously rich and successful Hollywood agent! I've come all this way out here, and believe me, this is way out here, to tell you that you'd like to be in pictures! Motion pictures!" Nate was taken aback "I would? I didn't know... How come?" Smiley grinned, flashing his pearly whites in the hot New Mexican sun "Well Nate, being in movies is a chance to become rich and famous, after which you can live a life of comfort, ease and pleasure. We figure that although movies starring a talking snake are a little gimmicky, we can get four or five films out before the fad dies down, and we'll all be left rich and famous, yourself included. What'd'yah say? Huh?"
Well this was quite the conundrum for Nate. The idea of becoming rich and famous was immensely appealing to a snake who had never left this particular patch of desert in New Mexico, but he still had his duty to protect the lever. He began to reply. "Well you see, Mr. Smiley, I'd like to, I really would..." "So you're coming with me!" exclaimed the exuberant agent. "No, no, no! I can't can't!" cried Nate. "You see, I have to guard this lever." "What, you mean this one?" asked Guy, and he reached for the long metal shaft protruding from the sands. Nate's instincts and Army training kicked in, and he reared up and lunged for the agent's hand. Guy drew back in fear, and Nate continued, after collecting himself. "Yes, that lever. Don't touch it." "Well, what's it do?" asked the frightened agent. "I can't tell you, Top Secret, and I can't come with you either." For the first time in his life, Guy Smiley didn't know what to say. This condition did not last long, however, and soon Guy's usual overpowering demeanor returned, albeit in a sly, subdued form "Well..Has anyone ever tried to pull the lever?" Nate nodded "You did, just now." Guy paused, rolled his eyes behind his dark sunglasses, and moved along "But before me? Anyone in all these years?" Now Nate paused, and pondered. "Well...no, I guess not... Umm..." Guy began to smile broadly again "Well then they're not likely to ever pull it in the future! So, what'd'yah say?" Nate was flummoxed in the face of this logical assault and could hardly think before the words "Yes, I'd like to come with you and be rich and famous" slid off his tongue and into the air. Guy Smiley grinned, and reached out his hand to shake, but was once again rebuffed. Nate smiled knowingly and said "It's traditional to shake the tail." and extended his tail into Guy's waiting palm. They shook on it, and a few days later, now in Hollywood, Nate dipped his tail in ink and signed a contract.

Well, life in Hollywood was pretty great for Nate the snake, even if he couldn't tap-dance, and pretty soon his face was plastered on ever theater, his name on all the marquees. His first film, "Nate the Snake!" was a smash hit, with "Nate the Snake Talks Back" following close on its heels. Nate had surprisingly little trouble fitting into the Hollywood culture, surrounding himself with beautiful women and everything else you might expect from the rich and famous. "Nate the Snake and the Tiger of Antioch" was rousing, well-received adventure, but things began to go downhill with "Nate the Snake goes to the Moon". His career, based solely on the gimmick of a talking snake, was fizzling out, just as Mr. Smiley predicted, and, after "Nate the Snake meets Grover Cleveland", he couldn't get cast anymore. What's more, life in Hollywood was beginning to bore him, and Nate found himself longing for hot sand beneath his belly and small animals in his jaws. He thought fondly of the little hole in the ground he had once lived, and remembered the lever, clearly never pulled, for the Earth still existed. The life of the rich and famous is an attractive thing, and Nate still lived a life of luxury, but his duty towards the U.S. Army began to call his heart back to the desert, and soon he returned to New Mexico, leaving the glamor and pleasure of Hollywood far behind.
Now, do you know what else was going on in our country around that time, besides the Cold War? The Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, that's what! Miles and miles of limited access highways being built from city to city, from coast to coast, to aid in the evacuation of cities and the movement of troops, should ever the Red Army choose to invade our fair shores. Lo and behold, Route 40 had been built in Nate's absence, right through his little patch of desert. Nate saw the snake of asphalt laying firm upon his beloved sands from a distance and began to worry, but it was not until he got closer that he saw his deepest fears confirmed. The control lever was still there, untouched all these years, but it now stood in the median of a great divided highway, cars and trucks rushing past in opposite directions on either side. Still, there was nothing to do but return to the lever, at least to see if his old hole was till there, and then maybe later Nate would take up guarding it from a safe distance.
He approached the highway cautiously, trying to find an appropriate gap in the traffic through which to slither across, when something caught his eye. Just down the road, a truck had blown a tire, and was now careening, out of control, towards the lever. Nate, it would seem, had returned just in the nick of time, just in time to witness the obliteration of the Earth. But he was not helpless, for Nate had become quite the muscular snake, after being assigned a personal trainer for his more action-packed adventures. Coiling every muscle in his long, slender body, Nate threw himself at the semi's fender, knocking the 18-wheeler just slightly to the side, and the world was saved! The lever still stood, ever untouched, and the Earth was not obliterated. Nate, however, was killed in the act.

The U.S. Army, of course, heard about the collision, and soon the General found himself standing before a familiar rod, capped with a well-crafted handle, and that age-old temptation to perform what is forbidden, just to see if it works, filled his hand. He began to reach for it, wondering if maybe it wouldn't hurt to give it just a little tug...but he was interrupted before it was too late by his Colonel, the same man who had been a Lieutenant some fifteen years before. The Colonel spoke first "You know, it's amazing he was even here; I thought he had abandoned his duty long ago. Ever seen those films of his?" The General nodded "I particularly enjoyed the one with the Tiger of Antioch, saw it with my grandson. I guess he must have still felt some desire to uphold his word." The Colonel nodded now "It's a real shame though, his life ending like this. Still, he got here just in time, it seems." The General nodded again and looked at the body of the dead snake, then the metal rod before him, then the corpse again. "Still," he said, "better Nate than lever."