The One About A Squirrel

Photo by Evan McDougall on Unsplash
Note: For the next year, I plan to write a short story every day. Some may be 
palatable, even enjoyable(?). Others may be horrendous. If you like them, like them or share them. If you don’t, well it is whatever. I’m doing it as a challenge someone gave me. I’m calling these my fivers. I try and write them without stopping in five minutes, little to no editing after the time limit. Each story or post will come from a different prompt I am given. These are just exercises for me to be in the process of writing.

 

I grew up in small, rural America. Some people have called my area the rust belt; others have called it the snow belt. I called it home. In the sleepy towns of NW PA, there was a small private Christian school that I attended for most of my life from Kindergarten through 11th grade. The elementary wing of French Creek Valley Christian School had these decently giant windows to allow for natural light, as well as a good distraction for most of my classmates while some teacher went on about time, times tables, writing cursive, or the rudimentary knowledge of grammar. Grammar was the time that I would space out in the day, but I didn’t do it in a way that made the teacher genuinely suspect that I wasn’t listening.

One day, I don’t know for how long, but I blatantly watched two squirrels play with each other in the most jovial and playful manner. I don’t remember what drew me in; it might have been the changing of the weather. It was May! May in Pennsylvania was my favorite time of the year, and I found these two squirrel-mates living in a manner that made me envy them. While I heard this teacher go on about adjectives, nouns, verbs, and adverbs, my mind was analyzing what I was watching. Plato made the statement that a student’s formal, lecturing education should happen later on in life while as a youth they should learn the control of self through body and mind training. Education was to turn the light of our eyes to the goodness within us, thinks Plato. Well, chubby little Phil wanted to be jovial and lounge in the sun while I played. I kept hearing my teacher sound like the parents’ from the cartoon strip Peanuts.

As the squirrels played, they seemed to drift farther and farther from me. I watched them intensely, using anything I could to get a good eye on their bonding time. It was somehow a chance to escape the confines of my education to live a child’s dream — to simply be within the world. The next thing I knew my escape was immediately interrupted by the teacher calling out my name. “Philip! What are you doing?” As I heard the teacher, my mind reinstated the necessity to be a drone. However, I was more than halfway out of my seat, leaning more than half of my body sideways to watch the squirrels. Seeking to catch my balance, I spoke the truth. I wasn’t paying attention teacher. I cared more about the squirrels than this grammar lesson.

As I recentered upon the lesson, my mind couldn’t help but go back to the squirrels. Squirrels are funny creatures! Yet, they are fascinating in a peculiar way. I learned something valuable that day that I more recently realized in my adult life. Jovial and playfulness come to us in the moments of sheer non-expectation. Those squirrels did not happen to plan it; no, instead, they found themselves raptured into it. We become overwhelmed by chance to do something many of dream about: to find joy within the most serious of times.

How dare these squirrels to interrupt teaching of grammar for some nutty fun and comradery. But TRULY, it was the opposite! How dare we intrude into the scared moment of joy, innocence, and profound connectedness with a quibbling triffle about constucted rules to communicate through a medium other than oral language.  A bit of pleasure within the fabric of life isn’t found by the removal of things. Friend, joy is located in the midst of life. Connectedness is found within doing, not planning. Playfulness cannot be prepared or forced; instead, it becomes playful from the busy. There is much to say, but squirrels, small creatures of God’s creation, taught me that at a young age. I’m still learning it.

Resolutions (Part 2 of 5)

It has been a while since I wrote another piece on my New Year’s Resolutions. Previously I mentioned:

  1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my life. Additionally, I resolve to do whatever I think to be my duty, most for the good and advantage of my neighbor in general.
  2. Resolved, I begin and end my day by writing 500 words.

So, just an update on the resolutions, I believe I am accomplishing the second resolution very well. The very first resolution, however, is not one that I think is totally determinable by myself alone. It is a hope and goal for every day. I more than likely have failed, but I will continue to try and do it. All because I really do believe this is what it means to live out faith in Christ.

With that being said, let’s get this show on the road and continue with the next two resolutions.

Resolution #3:

Resolved, I will live out my days by making them the most profitable as they can be, living with all my might, and spending my time at the improvement of myself and the goals of my vocation.

I want to take a moment to explain this one because it is pretty much focused on the self. Now, we all know resolutions are very focused on self-improvement, etc. However, if you will remember, these aims are not centered around 2017 alone. Instead, these aspirations are things I will pursue over the next, God willing, 60 years of my life. So, they cannot be nearsighted, even though the list may grow. So, you cannot really think of these as temporary, think of it when Ross laminated his top 5. These things are getting laminated people!

Anyway, let’s return to the resolution. Profit is what many of us would think as the bottom line. Yet, this does not have to be the idea of profit as monetary, and I do not mean to look at it in a strict productive manner either like you would think of tasks getting done. I mean for the word to be understood as benefit or advantage. So I want to live out my days by making them the most beneficial or advantageous. You could see this as Robert Williams famous scene in Dead Poets Society near the trophy case. The latin phrase is Carpe Diem. Williams states, “Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…”

Some might say, it sounds like you are in a hurry. Some could even think that I have angst towards the finitude of my life, even though I fully believe in the next. Good point, so why focus on having my days be “profitable”? We all die —a sad, inevitable truth. I am not invincible, nor am I concerned with my life in the sense of making the greatest impact or changing the world. Nonetheless, I do want to make an impact. But, an extraordinary life, in my mind, is one lived to the fullest in the small moments. Thus, I will use my God-given abilities, mind, strength, and heart to its fullest as long as God continues to allow this finite creature called Phil to live. This leads into the next phrase. What is life!? How do you explain it? I suppose I should leave that for another time —the story of a single life is deeply complex and always an ongoing marching toward death? (Oof, I realize I’m probably reading to much Heidegger.)

Moving on, some might say life is apex moments as well as the nadir moments, think of a Bell and Well curve. Many probably see life in this manner because those curves become turning points and sign posts we return to as we reflect on life. Ordinarily, you hear people say it like this, “This chapter of my life is closing,” if they are turning from a low point. Or, if they are in a great place, “Life is just really good, everything is going perfectly.” Yet, for some reason, we only live in those two moments, the high and low points. However, I conceive of life in those in between moments. That is the meat of existence. So, as great as those moments are, I look forward to the climb and the descent because it is in those places where I’m truly being formed to be the person God has called me to be and the kind of follower of Christ I hope to be. Therefore, I find life to be full of small moments and steps in which I am invited to live to the best of my ability —to be responsive in this life God has given me. Furthermore, I want to be the best at what I do so I will do all I can to pursue my vocation(s).

Resolution #4:

Resolved, to know and love the nieghbor, who ultimately belongs to God and is God’s creature.

If this sounds odd to you, then you got my intention. I want the sentence to cause me to pause and consider what I am resolving to do for the rest of my life. For some reason, this resolution frightens me. I don’t think that is a bad thing, but I realize that I’m going to fail at this. Moreover, I hear the penned lines of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring rumbling through my head.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

With this resolution, I have no real control over what I am opening myself up to because of a commitment to follow Christ. You may know that I struggle with humanity. You may have heard me say, “I really want to be a hermit — write books and essays, read, think, and pray. Live with my dog, Loki, and be in solitude.” I want this not so much because I hate people, but I get at times easily frustrated by society and everything that entails living in relationship with multiple human beings.

In spite of this, I acknowledge that all you über extroverts and deeply relationally oriented people are freaking out over what I have said. But, let me explain why I have this resolution. If I ask you to tell me the Great Commandment, rightly you say, “Love God and love neighbor as yourself.” However, these are two commandments, not one. The two commandments are the sum of the Law. Yet, nowhere does this say it is a single commandment. I’m not going to get any deeper than that, but I could. The point is that fulfilling God’s Law is twofold. First is to God and trying to fulfill that is hard enough because I am to love God with all my heart, soul (or being), and strength. I’m still stuck on trying to do what it means to love God, so how do you expect me to love my neighbor as myself. So, if you ask a question that I don’t want to answer, I’ll say: “I’m still trying to figure out this whole loving God and loving neighbor thing.” Nevertheless, I, as a believer, am called to do these two commands. Hence, my desire for becoming a hermit collapse in on itself because of this call of God in Jesus Christ to follow Him. I am called to love God and love neighbor. This sucks because I want to just focus on loving God.

So, I now have four of my ten initial resolutions. It’s taken me some time to even get this far, yet I hope to keep posting my resolutions. To let everyone know, I create possible resolutions, and then I analyze if they are even worth keeping or blogging about.