“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Hello Old Friend,

It’s Holy Week again, a time of year that I’ve really learned to appreciate over the past several years or so.  Spring as a whole is a really powerful time of year in the Church, with Ash Wednesday and the Lenten abstention, then the progression of the Passion and Death of Jesus (Palm Sunday and Good Friday) and his ultimate Resurrection (Easter).  Add these traditions to the natural blessing of new birth among both flora and fauna, and it’s clear to see that this is the perfect time to revisit, restrengthen, resurrect one’s faith in God, however He might appear to you.

We went to Mass on Sunday and while I sat next to the three women in my life and turn palm fronds into crosses, I begin to feel something, an idea, an understanding, opening up inside of my mind.  While this blossom hasn’t fully bloomed, I felt like I needed to take it out of mind brain and put it on the page so that I can read and re-read and dissect it and hopefully reach more solid ground with it.

I’m not 100% sure how Palm Sunday goes in other churches.  I don’t remember it when we went to a Methodist, then Lutheran services growing up.  But I do know that when you go to Mass, there is a part where the story from the Last Supper through the Death and Burial of Jesus is read aloud and the congregation reads the part of the condemners of Christ.  We read the words that were used to condemn our Savior to death on the cross.  We play the part of the unruly mob.

It threw me off the first time, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me.  We are the descendants of the people who condemned Him.  They swore His blood upon their hands and upon ours as well.  It was humanity that wanted and needed the death of Jesus.  Not just because that unruly mob hated him and the things he was saying.  Not just because the wanted to silence a rabble-rousing do-gooder that spoke against the status quo.  That’s why they wanted him to die.  They, we, needed Jesus to die because it was laid out in Scriptures.  Our Salvation was dependent on the Resurrection and thereby the Death of Jesus on the Cross.  We, as Catholics honor a crucified Christ because it is in that moment that the Scriptures were partially fulfilled.  There is no resurrection without death.  There is no Christianity without the Crucifixion.

I feel it more and more each time Palm Sunday comes around.  I feel shame and guilt that people would betray and humiliate and degrade and falsely sentence Jesus and that they would try to feed him wine with animal bile and shove thorns on his head and make the whole of the affair that much harder to endure.  It’s hard to imagine being in that position.  Knowing the end result and enduring the punishment in the meantime.  Watching your closest friends deny and betray you.  Listening to the crowd yell for you to die because you tried to teach people to be good to one another and reject the evils of the world.  Enduring the suffering.  Enduring.  Suffering.  The Passion.

That’s what this whole post is about really:  the meaning of Passion.  That’s my Holy Week revelation for 2017.  You see, the word ‘passion’ derives from the Old Latin word ‘passio’ meaning suffering or enduring.  It’s a struggle.  Passion isn’t supposed to be easy or comfortable.  It should be a struggle.  Life isn’t easy or comfortable so the things that matter shouldn’t be, either.  I think that passion implies motion and force.  Passion is a river, not a lake.  It moves and flows and adapts and sweeps and crushes and propels and delivers and hinders.  Or perhaps it’s an ocean.  With depth and mystery.  I don’t know, I like the river because rivers have such a constant and powerful presence in the Good Book.

Passion is the journey more than the destination.  It gets you to where you need to be, where you’re called to be.  It’s the lead-up to the Cross, the Resurrection, the Salvation.  Take that from the Book and introduce it into your life.  Find what’s worth struggling for and embrace that struggle because it will lead you to your glory.  And don’t be afraid because God is with you, all the way.

 

Faithfully,

Glass

“Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they’re making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that’s the difference.” – Lou Holtz

 

I used to watch a lot more Notre Dame football.  My mom’s side of the family is Irish Catholic so there was usually encouragement to ‘marry a redheaded Irish girl’ and go to Notre Dame.  I didn’t do either of those.  I married a beautiful half-Mexican brunette and went to a smaller Catholic university in Central Texas.  When I got older, my brother and his friends and I would celebrate (yes, celebrate) the start of each football season with a Game Day gift exchange and a whole lot of beer.  Then, we’d celebrate each game after that without gifts, but still with a lot of beer.

Within a few years, my brother went overboard with the drinking and prescription drugs and a whole lot of bad decisions and some of the resentment has kind of rubbed off on the Notre Dame experience.  It’s totally irrational, I know, but it’s just one of those things.  So I haven’t watched a whole lot of games these past few seasons.

That’s not to say that I don’t still bleed Blue and Gold.  And that’s no to say that I don’t still enjoy that rich history of one of the longest-running football programs in the nation, which is why I chose to use a Lou Holtz quote for this post.  But this post isn’t about football necessarily, it’s about hard work.

If you’ve read the last post, you’ve probably pieced together that I work with/supervise some guys that are terribly hard workers.  It’s hard for me to understand why someone would go to work and not do work.  My parents taught me the value of hard work and the joy of completing tasks and I get a lot of satisfaction out of putting in hard work.  It makes me worry about the future of the human race when I see people who move in slow motion or who sit around all day and talk or do nothing.

That’s why I like this quote.  I wouldn’t necessarily call these people ‘losers’ but I think it a person’s attitude towards their work really speaks to their character.  If you sit and complain about having to do your job, then why are you there?  What makes you think that anyone owes you anything if you’re not doing anything in return?  What makes you so special?

I’ve had a lot of difficult jobs.  I’ve worked twelve-hour shifts stocking beer.  I’ve worked sixteen hour shifts at a psychiatric facility for children.  I’ve taught in the projects.  Every one of those jobs and the handful of others that I’ve had all had their difficulties.  I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever really had an ‘easy’ job.  But I always made it a point to get after it when I clocked in.  I pushed myself to learn and grow in the job and if it wasn’t a good fit, then I would find something else.  That’s not to say that I didn’t have my moments of slacking off or being off-task, but I always got the job done.

If you sit around and you don’t get anything done, you start to feel like your job is worthless.  Which isn’t true.  You’re the one who’s worthless because you’re not doing your job.  If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, that’s fine.  Find something that you are passionate about (more about that in the next post).  But if you’re at work, do work.  It’s simple.

Isn’t it?

I think that this attitude is a symptom of a greater disease in our culture.  This idea that showing up is enough and that competition is bad.  You can’t hurt anyone’s feelings.  We have to take care of everyone.  Welfare.

Whatever happened to “no such thing as a free lunch?”  The way I see it, there are plenty of people that are getting free lunches because a bunch of other people are working their butts off and pumping money into these social service organizations.  Why is the government providing handouts for people who don’t want to work?  Why are the rest of us footing the bill for people who have no intention of even trying to remove themselves from the government teat?  Where did we as a nation go wrong?

The fundamental role of the government should be to protect, not provide.  Charity should come from, you guessed it, charities.  Let people choose where their hard-earned money is going.  Because this is getting out of hand.

But I digress.  My point is that hard work built this country.  Hard work is good for you.  Hard work is good for everyone.  So get out there, pick something worth doing and get to work.

 

Diligently,

David Glass

The Novel

Good morning,

I’ve been quietly working on a novel for the last several months. I’m not very many pages into it because it has become one of the most painful processes that I’ve encountered in some time. It’s semi-autobiographical and draws mainly from the period from my dad getting sick up to more or less when my second daughter was born. I’ve had it squirreled away, partly out of worry that it will show my humanity in a way that I’m not 100% comfortable with, but what’s writing if not terribly personal? I figured it’s time to let it breathe a little and maybe get some feedback. Only two people other than myself have had access to it so far. 

 Here is the first page or so. I’ve got a couple of working titles but for now let’s just call it

Room Full of Strangers

I was born in a room full of strangers.

The doctors, my parents, everyone a blur in the delivery room.  A world of unknowns beyond those four walls of which I was completely unaware.  This feeling is not one that I’ve always been able to identify, to confine or define.  However, in retrospect, it’s one that has always been there.

Me.

All alone.

In a room full of strangers.

I found myself most recently in a stranger-filled room the day my father died.  My wife was on a food run.  My mom was downstairs.  I discovered that a new inhabitant had taken up residence in the room I had left minutes prior.  A stranger with familiar, familial features.

Can it be? I thought, and for one, brief moment, my world froze in a solid silent vacuum as the reality of my dad’s lonely death seeped into my eyes and ears, my nose and throat, my pores.  Death, on tiptoes, stole the man I knew and loved and left in his place a strange, empty shell; someone new and unfamiliar.

Did I know this man, my metamorphosed father?  Of course I knew who he was once was.  In his previous iteration, he was there in the delivery room.  He was there in the emergency room when I broke my arm, the courtroom when I married my wife, every childhood bedroom that a sicker, younger version of myself occupied.  But then, now, in that moment, he is, was not that man.  In that moment, in that room where I watched him slowly grow older, sicker, more broken, he became a stranger once more.  A week later, a lifetime later, a lifetime ago.

The memorial service.

Were we remembering the same person?  Or so many iterations of one person?  The uncle, the husband, the businessman.  My father, my hero, my friend.  The people in that room that I’d met before were as strange as the ones I hadn’t.  Ah yes, I’d say, of course I know who you are.  Who, I’d think, is this person?  Thank you, I’d say, for your condolences.  Why, I would think, are you here?  I saw everyone there through melancholy lenses.  People changed by, dressed in, obscured by death’s cold hand.

Even I, my most familiar self, was not who I had been.  My reflection, a refraction.  My memories and perceptions hung at arm’s length in the rough-hewn obsidian remains of my soul.  Darkness?  No, no.  Darkness gives the illusive promise of a reciprocal light.  The graying world as I saw it seemed fake, painted, staged, wrapped in cellophane.  I could perceive in the corner of my eyes a barrier separating me from the rest of the world, like the lines around a moving cartoon, defining it from its surroundings and confining it to itself.

Confined to myself, to the what’s it called? Cortege?  The funeral procession, the line that defines those that belong to the living and those that belong to the dead.  I look to the left and a stranger is standing there.