Saturday, May 21, 2005

Cap'n Luke

Proverbs 17:17 (New Living Translation)

17 “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”

I spent the better part of the day yesterday in Wichita. One of the disadvantages of small city life for me is that Emporia doesn’t have a Volvo dealership. That means that my periodic service, for one thing, is about a two hundred mile round trip.

It’s a disadvantage I can live with.

On the way down I made the mistake of turning on the radio as I cruised south on the turnpike. And even worse, I tuned into NPR. At about mile marker 117 there was a feature about the new effort that South Korean scientists had just announced in the area of stem cell research. According to what I read later these are:

“ The same scientists last year became the first to clone a human embryo, sparking international clamor.”

I’ll be writing more about that on Monday.

A few more minutes into the dialogue and NPR really got to the meat of the story. The interviewer with one of those typical NPR names like Lakshmi or Nina or Noah or Cephas, those names that tell you what side of the studio they’re sitting on, was getting expert input from an American scientist on the matter. The scientist, whose name now escapes me (perhaps Mandalit or some other trendy name), was answering this statement/question – “The president has said he will veto any legislation that would allow human cloning for stem cell research. In addition, the American public, in the latest surveys, seems to be decidedly against human cloning. Why is that so?” Well, talk about fluff questions. Wouldn’t the president love that type of question to answer at his news conferences? Our intrepid scientist replied to this NPR softball in a politely indignant manner, “The president and the public are terribly misinformed.”

I guess that settled it. The expert has spoken.

This all happened between mile marker 117 and 109, my favorite part of the Flint Hills. I realize it was my own fault for tuning in, but I have to say it spoiled the view. I would have stopped to vomit, but I didn’t want to ruin the scenery any more than NPR already had. But, as I said earlier, more about that on Monday.

I got home at about 1:30 or so in the afternoon and had lost any energy my day had started with. The remainder of the afternoon, and evening, was spent “vegetating,” like the beets and cucumbers and tomatoes sitting out in the garden. My great advantage on them was that, since it was in the nineties here yesterday, I could do mine in air conditioned comfort.

This morning Nancy and I went up to have breakfast at the Commercial Street Diner, Emporia’s “in” place for Saturday morning “haute cuisine.” As soon as we got there, as almost always happens in such trendy places, we met a few friends. Adorning the table closest to the cash register were Curtis McCauley (I call him “Doc”} and Lucas Stephens, who I have recently dubbed “Cap’n Luke.”

It was especially good to see Lucas. The road has been a bit bumpy for him in the past few months, but it appears now that things have taken a turn for the better. He’s starting a new job in Dodge City come the 19th of June. The position will bring him closer to his family and give him a really good professional opportunity.

We’re gonna’ miss him a lot, but I wouldn’t for a moment take this opportunity from him. You could see by the beam on his face this morning that Lucas is a very happy man right now.

I don’t know Lucas as well as I should, but in the time I’ve known him I’ve come to see him as one of the kindest, gentlest men I’ve ever met. I did get to know him a bit better at our recent church retreat since he roomed with me. That’s when I re-named him “Cap’n Luke.”

An explanation is now in order.

Lucas has a condition known as sleep apnea, a breathing disorder, and to deal with it he sleeps with a device on his face that ensures that he doesn’t stop breathing while he’s asleep. It looks like an airline pilot’s oxygen mask.

By the time he got to the retreat on Friday the story of Jim Kegin’s sleep-talk was becoming a legend. Before he went to sleep that night he offered an advance apology in case the sound of the device disturbed either Jim or me.

He really didn’t need to. Neither Jim nor I heard anything at all.

But, on Saturday morning when he woke up he asked me if he had said anything significant during the night. I couldn’t resist; it was too much like an NPR “softball.” “At about four-thirty I think I heard you say something like this,” I said, stifling my laughter. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached a safe cruising altitude and you are now free to move about the cabin.” My over the top humor didn’t phase Lucas a bit; he accepted it all in the gracious manner he does just about everything in his life. It was then I crowned him, to be known henceforth and forevermore, as “Cap’n Luke.”

I’ve since kidded with him that I’m going to buy him some goggles and a Snoopy vintage leather pilot’s helmet. I’m sure if I do he’ll take it all in stride.

One of the wonderful things about Christian friendship is that we can share humor, even at difficult times in our lives. Humor and the merry heart are part of the bond of Christian friendship. I tend to believe that Jesus Himself occasionally had a bit of fun at the disciple’s expense. There may have been a noogie or two. And, who knows, the Master may have even “cut the cheese” and then looked around at Peter and said something like, “Whew, big boy, was that you?”

There’s something that can be very cathartic about humor. Holy Writ recognizes this principle:

Proverbs 15:13-14 (New Living Translation)

13 “A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.
14A wise person is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash.”

I think if I’d said the same sorts of things I said to Lucas and Jim to someone with an NPR attitude, the folks from the ACLU or the People for the American Way or some other left leaning peeping Tom organization would be descending on my house right now, lawsuits in tow, to make an example of me. Such is life in a good part of America outside the Kansas Flint Hills nowadays.

I’d like to think that my brethren on the left, the ones with the NPR attitude, could change, that they could start living a little, playing in the traffic with the rest of us for a while if you will, instead of spending their time attempting to mold every one else into their sour image. It really wouldn’t hurt them a bit to laugh a bit, even at themselves, instead of taking themselves so seriously that they’ve become self-righteous parodies. Our towns, our cities, our communities, and even the Kansas Flint Hills would be a whole lot better of if they did.


Wayne said...

Hi Phil, I just came across your blog through Blog Explosion. I'm glad you like the Flint Hills. We like them too. We got married in Manhattan. My wife went to KSU. I went to KU. Neither of us were from Kansas, but we grew to really appreciate the rolling hills of the eastern part of the state, and, especially, the many wonderful friends we made. Some dear Christians there, many of whom we still maintain friendships with, and who support our Bible translation work. I invite you to visit my own blog which is about English Bible versions. I like your blog and your comments. --Wayne

Allan said...

Ah, NPR! I "make the mistake" each weekday morning to listen to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now, a misnomer if ever there was one. I have always thought democracy entailed a measuring of all thoughts, ideas, and values, but in DN's case they all seem to come from the political left.

To put it in the light of your post, Amy and her show are utterly humorless. She and her guests are typically dour and always on the attack on anything not six or more degrees left of TDC (for the non-automotive minds, that's top dead center on a car's flywheel, the method used for tuning the engine).

Why do I listen? While I am very familiar with my own arguments in defense of America, Capitalism, Christianity, I agree with Ronald Reagan that a stragetic defense shield is a good idea. In order to construct such a shield in the arena of debate, it is best to know the weapons likely to be used against you. Hence, listening means I am less likely to be caught off guard.

Maybe you could use the mile marker as a metaphor for moving toward, or away from, sanity. And it wouldn't require the assistance of "experts".

Lucas said...

Thanks, Phil. You have become a 'good friend' and certainly one whom I will miss not getting to see at least weekly. I will remember our time in the retreat and still have fond memories of you and Jim. You have been blessed with a gift and I am grateful to be able to read your bloggings, if I can use such a word. You have helped encourage me with your wit. I am glad I know you and Nancy. I think the 'nickname' fits.