PERSONAL FILE: The Slavery of Efficiency

John A., 1808-1894.

I have no idea how–or why–my mother’s side of the family came to be in Oklahoma. I can only hope their excuse is as good as that of my father’s family. The story of how my family settled here is a lesson in how people often have to just play the hand they’re dealt. The oldest direct ancestor of whom I have record who bore my family name was named James, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.

My original surname is an Anglicized variant of a Scottish variant of the Irish Gaelic Mag Aonghusa (McGuinness), meaning “sons of Angus.” Angus was a king in that part of the world some years ago whose name came to be associated with Angus cattle, appropriate given the name means “Choice One.” Returning to James, he was born in Ireland and one story holds that he was an orphan who stowed away on a freighter from Dublin bound for what was then a fledgling United States. In any case, he arrived in the U.S. in the late 1780s or early 1790s and, after living for a time in Albany, eventually wound up living in New York City where he made a living for himself as a shoemaker. He died at sea around the age of 60 while sailing back to Ireland.  Continue reading

Hate is Easy

What, exactly, does God hate? (Photo: Westboro Baptist Church)

Twice in my life I’ve been connected to people in various ways whose funerals were picketed by the people from Westboro Baptist Church. The first was Oral Roberts, the founder of my alma mater, and the second was Garrett Coble, a former professor at ORU who died in the plane crash last weekend that took his life and the lives of two other men I knew as classmates.

I don’t pretend to understand the logic of these people, who claimed that the plane was brought down by God as punishment. For one reason or another, they apparently believe that what they’re doing is important work. While most people look on them as unimaginably hate-filled and bigoted, some sort of twisted perception of the truth has somehow led them to believe that they are about the Father’s business, and, in light of that, I have a challenging word for everyone. Don’t worry if it’s hard to accept; it is for me too.  Continue reading

Life is Not a Journey: Can We Stop Calling It That?

Sometimes, we view our lives as a quest. Is that really accurate? (Photo: Public Domain)

How often do you think of your life as a sort of quest or journey? Perhaps over the course of this “journey,” you make some profound discovery about who you are. Maybe you “find” love. Then, later, maybe you “lose” it. It might even be that you envision your moment of death as one of existential fulfillment when, as you draw your final breath on the Earth, you think–maybe even whisper dramatically–that you’ve done everything you were “supposed” to do.

Yeah, that only happens in the movies, I’m happy to say. Life might be a lot of things, but it is anything but a journey.

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