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The Gift of Us

November 21, 2021

I am close to nausea at the thought of another Starbucks Moment Platitude of Amoral Profit Mongering. But it is Thanksgiving.

To have thanks, you have to be given something.

Those eating Thursday spend a few hours stuffing, cleaning after if they have manners, and passively digesting. Those listening to music, going to a play, binge watching, or simply looking at an exhibit simply expose their eyes and brains to wonderful things.

But all the things we consume are almost always the end of design, planning, effort and cost. Sure, we pay for them, they are not gifts.

But they are gifts.

I have a genetic disorder. I inexplicably love football. Not watching it. Diving into it. The stands are a group video game viewing. Everyone knows everything. We only know ourselves up there.

The human reality of the illogical devotion to go beyond watching is fully there in the kitchen, the rehearsal studio, the field of play. The game is more than another exhibit, meal, or concert. All those very nice things are great to consume. But you consume them. At questions after a talk last week about making things to, a bright eyed student asked. “What is your favorite thing that you do?”

I paused, “Well, this Saturday I will be on the sidelines to watch a football game.”

Disbelief.

“Where else do humans care so much?”

Silence, then heads nodded. Humans have taken about a century to create a skin that feels as little pain possible, and use bodies to fully express what is if extreme importance. That human explosion if effort is in every sport and devotion, but football has made complete body effort as painless as possible. Until it isn’t. And that is part of it. And that essential human devotion is just not seen 200 feet up, with 50,000 others.

There, on the field, faces, voices, humans do what every human wants to do: express and be beyond ourselves. Why do we want to do that?

Sure, thousands (Thousands) of hours are spent in private effort to get better. Then Thousands more are spent working together. All that effort, focus and expression is manifest in the game. And a meal. Or concert. Or painting. But without the pain.

Like a dinner, a concert, an exhibition, a book – some humans are driven to go beyond comfort, to sustain repeated failure, to be ridiculed and exhausted, for, what?

Why do we do these fully terrifying things when we could eat, sleep, watch and just “be”? God has given us illogical salvation. The glimpse that our lives are more than what we see, feel, think in the moment – out lives, every part – can we a mission of joy via a life of effort.

It does not matter who sees it. Emily Dickinson wrote over 1,000 things and shared a few. It is the insane ecstasy of acting. Doing what God has somehow made joyous,

There is no reason in it. Those football players get nothing the day after The Game, but bruises, memories, yes, love and less. But there is no profit motive in doing what you love. That love is not transactional, or if it is, you will never live the beauty of expression God has put into each of us. If we have a plan, as the philosopher Mike Tyson said, it ends with the first punch in the mouth. And we are punched every day.

We fail, often, continuously. But we learn. We change. We adapt to create what we value. If we create because of what others value, I think we fail to recognize why God gave each of us this spark: because He loves us: without reason or transaction. I honestly have no understanding of any if it.

But I am grateful.

The full and extreme love of the men feet from me on that field was a tide of Grace on these sidelines. Tiny times far way I did those things, too, with no import or meaning, but the central meaning of all of our lives: to live into what God made.

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