At the intersection of Burgundy and 141, a shoe lies just to one side of the slow lane, along with broken bottles, various parts to various cars, and a sundry of unrecognizable fragments from human life. How these unassociated objects came to fill up one crossroads of culture and time, God only knows: What series of unlikely events caused an orphaned shoe to be abandoned here? What collision of motion and matter caused some vehicle to cast off these fragments of composition? Given a lifetime of replays and backward weeks, I would spend one of them watching the composition of a collage—neither fully art nor truly junk.
But time is not a commodity to play—like penny slots—nor history at the whimsy of any, but recollection. I come to the end of another week, unable to wait until Saturday, anxious to write before I forget. My memory, played back over, grows more and more like that street corner: littered with fragments which tell nothing by themselves but which, part to whole, are the key to some event.
Tired, but motivated to push through the piles that build, at home and at work, I worked the week hard. I drank two Pepsi’s—I have not had one in four years—and wonder why the crisp spritz perpetually reminds me of fall-fairs in otherwise forgotten fields of Mississippi, attended a lifetime ago.
Graduation is this week, and the echoes of my own graduation two years ago rise up with the early winds. A cool breeze stirred up the smell of freshly-cut grass and sickly-sweet smell of mulch. I spotted the faithful mower, Wade, busy about his work even before I could set to my own.
Jonah alone, of the three boys, was awake this morning when I readied myself for work. I sat down next to him in the playroom and he asked, “Will you play war with me?” I agreed and took up Batman against the Blue Power-Ranger. With kerpows and ba-bangs our figures locked in mortal battled against one another. The motions of the toys manipulated in our hands, the sounds that came from our mouths, seemed so comical that we could not help but laugh. And I wondered—in a moment of somber reflection—whether in heaven, all the wars of this life will seem so much play and humor, as glory transforms horror to reveal a sovereign grace where history only remembered hardship.
And yet, for now, the hardship remains. At church, a young woman dies. Diagnosed with some minor issue, a burst aneurism and a stroke later, she comes to the end of one life even as Christ prepares her for the next. What will she remember of the fight and battle? Certainly our sorrows go into heaven with us, for only then can the Savior wipe away every tear. Life is no commodity.
Meanwhile, Humanity embarks upon a technological biology, marrying creature with the created, manipulating this genome and that strand, convincing that bacteria to shit silicone or this virus to eat cancer. The Peter Singers of the world proclaim the end of Down-Syndrome. They hum the victory of science, aborting the would-be Stephen Hawkings of our age and all others who appear the sundry of unrecognizable fragments of human existance. I fear that the eradication of the obviously-broken is a denial of the universal longing that troubles us all; we live forever, but are less human than machine, less the outlets of sympathy that have forever validated the echo of the divine marking our souls.
If I were MacGyver, I might save some helpless woman by building some weapon of pacifism from the byway-ruins of cultural crossroads: a shoe, a bolt, a broken light. If I were Batman, I would be content to contend forever against Blue-Ranger. If I were St. Peter, I might deliver the future-Hawkings from the future-Sangers—declaring the words of Christ, “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”
Time is no commodity, and the journey of life runs in one direction: forward. Like Grandma said—looking at my boys—during that last visit, before she died, “They don’t grow down, do they. Only up.” By what unlikely events have the seemingly randomness of these thoughts come together to litter the intersection of my memory? Though not art, I do not have it in me to give it up like so much junk.