Saturday, September 23, 2017

There are days when something slaps you in the face

As I age, I have more and more experiences where I feel like something has slapped me in the face. Sometimes it's unpleasant, like the loss of a treasured possession to wear, breakage or theft. Others, it's more like those little taps you see someone do in an old movie when they're trying to bring someone who has passed out back to sensibility.

A good while back, you may remember I talked about going back to old-fashioned shaving with a safety razor. I wish I was still steady enough to use a straight razor, but the migraines have stolen a number of things from me, that level of steadiness of hand among them. At any rate, being a prepper, I had a stash of canned shaving crème, and I wasn't about to waste the stuff, so I've been slowly using it up over time.

I'm just about out. It's time to take the next step--back to a mug, brush and proper shaving soap. Off to Amazon. And then a couple of the add-ins I use to track prices zoom me off to eBay instead, because I can get the same nice badger hair brush there for a few bucks less. Color me frugal. I'm retired; the money doesn't come in the same quantities any more.

In all truth, I should always have been so careful. I was once I found the tools, but I should have looked for them sooner. It's worth keeping Chrome around to use Honey and Wikibuy. You can get Honey as a Firefox add-in I see when looking up the link for them. Options are good.

At any rate, I also need a mug. I guess I could just use a mug that's sitting around the house, but there are also proper shaving mugs that fit shaving soap pucks. So I looked on Amazon and saw nothing I liked. I tried eBay, and found a far wider selection, including a lot of "vintage" ones, some inexpensive and some at unholy prices.

Then I was slapped in the face. Fortunately it was just the picture of a shaving mug and not the mug itself. But it was a blast from the far past, call it high school. When I was in high school, I was a total dork. Utter and complete. One of the many things that branded me a dork was a penchant for old ways. I carried a pocket watch for one thing. On a chain. And although people didn't know it, I shaved with a straight razor and shaving soap that lived in a mug. I couldn't find an old mug, so I bought a new one. It was an Old Spice mug, with the Cutty Sark on it. I used an old brush my dad had around for some reason or another.

I told you I was a dork.

So there I am, going through the mug shots, and there are some Old Spice mugs. They're different from the one I had, and I kept going, looking for an old one that spoke to me. I found an old one that spoke to me. One exactly like the one I had, with a brush exactly like the one I used--a red and white Erskine brush. To make things even weirder, it's local, about 30 miles away. It even comes with a note from the owner. Yes, it's on the way.

I know my dad sold my old one in a yard sale. So what are the odds that this one is my old one? I'd say stupidly high. They must have made the things by the railroad car load, even back in the 70s.

But still that picture slapped me lightly in the face, and said "See here, boy. You may have been a dork, but don't be an idiot."

I'm learning to pay attention to slaps in the face and listen to quiet little voices in the night.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A quiet voice

Last week, I went to West Virginia for the unhappy duty of attending a family funeral. My family on both sides are Baptists and have been for generations. They have attended mostly smaller, more fundamental and evangelical Baptist churches. I was raised in a larger but still pretty fundamental Baptist church, so I'm steeped in it from birth.

I will also note that I stopped going to church regularly as a teenager. It isn't that I don't believe, but that version of church simply didn't speak to me then. It doesn't exactly speak to me now, but it does come a lot closer than it did. I've seen a lot more of life and I question a lot of things I once was sure of.

At any rate, the funeral was for a cousin's wife, so this was family by marriage. Still, this is West Virginia and her family is much like mine. Also, in West Virginia, things like funerals are often done differently than they are in more...metropolitan areas. Often, especially when one is "up in years", the visitation, funeral and burial are held together on the same day. My cousin's wife was at the low end of the up in years scale, but her family is old WV, and they work for a living. No life on public handouts and no pills and booze in this bunch. So for the sake of frugality in both cost and time, her services were set for one day. Family visitation at 10, friends from 11 to 1, funeral at 1 and burial to follow at the family cemetery in the next county over. (We'll talk about the burial another time, because it's a story in itself.)

She was from a family of 7 brothers and sisters, and they had followed the biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply. I'm not sure how many of their kids there were. There was no way to count grandkids, because they moved too fast. She also had plenty of friends, including those who had cared for her in the final months when her health declined. They all showed up for the service. I should draw such a crowd at my funeral.

The preacher (that's what we call them) was about her age, and had known all of them since they had all grown up as kids. He had been pastor to many of them over the years. I could tell he took this hard. This funeral was as rough on him as it was on any of us, and rougher than it was for many. But he was going to do his duty to a member of his flock.

Now, at any sort of a Baptist event, there is going to be an altar call--you never miss an opportunity to save a soul. Even at a funeral, you're going to have one. I remember the first family funeral Mrs. Freeholder, who was raised as a proper Methodist, attended. Shocked is a bit of an understatement.

She would have passed out cold at this one. The preacher was obviously moved in a way that you rarely see in a minister at a funeral. Rather than speak of the dearly departed's life, which he knew we all knew in detail, he decided to speak about hope, and how one found hope in a situation like this. He spoke of the Word and the Promise of God and how the departed was surely in Heaven, and that we could find our hope by being saved and knowing that we would join our family and friends there in due course.

I'm not sure, but it may have been the longest alter call at a funeral in history. It was definitely the longest one I've ever experienced. It didn't seem in the least out of place.

One thing he said, though, has been resonating in my head. I've always said that I have the "soul of an engineer", and that I have a difficult time believing in things I can't see, can't quantify, can't measure. Some years back, someone heard me say that, and asked if I believed in mathematics. Well obviously that's a "yes". So they hit me with set theory. Right down there to the left is what he nailed me with.

Pretty simplistic, but also damn hard to argue with. Enough to turn someone who thought of himself as "agnostic leaning atheist" into "What just happened to my world view?" I've always held that there were many things that we couldn't explain simply because we didn't know enough to understand them. Asimov said that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," which is, in its on way, another version of the same sentiment. He didn't know this about me. He simply drew this on a napkin and laid it in front of me.

I can remember hearing, Sunday after Sunday, that you had to take the existence of God on faith. You couldn't prove it. You had to make that leap. I just never was able to make it.

After seeing that diagram, I always hoped that God was going to give me some sort of unmistakable sign, some sort of flashing billboard on the highway of my life that even someone as dense as I can be couldn't miss or misinterpret. I still had to have my proof. "Lord, send me a sign!"

But that thing the preacher said is resonating in my head. "God's not going to shout it to you. You have to be quiet, be still, like you're out hunting. At night, after you go to bed but before you go to sleep, you need to be still, and listen for that quiet voice in the silence. Because God doesn't shout."

"He whispers."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

So yeah, I've been laying low

I've been busy. I don't even remember if I've noted that the New Employer and I have parted ways (there's a long story for another time), but I've been taking advantage of the freedom and the fall-like weather to catch up on things that I've let slip around here. It's amazing how anything that steals the first few hours of the day from you hammers your productivity for the remainder of the day. That's not something that I ever noticed up until now, because it was always "Into work and hit it hard." A part-time job that stole those first precious hours was worse for my non-work productivity than a full-time job ever was. I would get home at 1 or so, grab a bite and then the next thing I knew, it was supper time and I'd accomplished exactly squat.

I've accumulated some tabs that all deserve better than a tab-clearing post, and they are going to get it, even if it takes some time to work through the backlog. I've also had a couple of experiences that deserve the same. You won't get them in a specific order other than how I decide to write them.

As is the nature of blogs, this post will get pushed down by those posts, so I'm going to throw it up and then start writing the next one, which I'll schedule for posting. I think the thing I've recently learned about productivity is about as important as any of the others posts, so it deserves it's time in the sun.