November 19, 2004


Were any other shopper nearby, I would apologize for the cacophonous symphony emanating from my person. A steadily squeaking shopping cart wheel, a pair of squishing shoes, and a constant hum from my mouth—as full a volume as humming can get—these are enough to exorcise every last vestige of calmness and composure from any unfortunate standers-by. The rhythm of the wheel-squeaking matches the pitter-patter of my worn Converse All-Stars upon the ground. The tempo quickens as I hurry on to grab my last few purchases. Ahead of me wait many hours of poring over the notes of my Early Shakespeare class.

“Hey, man—you from Bob Jones?”

I look back up. The tell-tale khakis gave it away. I was experimenting with a game familiar to many Greenvillians, known as Try-to-Look-Like-You're-Not-a-BJU-Student-While-Still Keeping-the-Dress-Code. I thought the sneakers and the fleece zipped to the neck (covering my collared shirt) might pass me off as your average civilian. I was wrong. I guess I'm not very good at the game.


He smiles politely as he continued. Too politely. I begin to suspect that he initiated this conversation for some particular reason. Further polite inquisition meanders about, supplemented with his steady smile and persistently friendly tone.

Hurry up and get to your point. Of course I don't say that. In response to his questions I reveal the who, what, and why about myself.

“So you’re an English major? What kind of job do you want to get with that?”

Aha. Now we’re getting somewhere. The direction of the conversation is becoming clear: he reveals to me that his disgust with the dog-eat-dog work-world has squelched any desire to work a normal 8–5 job.

His motivations emerge. Cordially inquiring into the details of my life, subtly complimenting me, tapping into the universal distaste for tough work—there’s a reason he’s doing this. He’s leading the conversation to a focus. I’m gonna get to hear about some stupid pyramid business scheme. Momentarily I consider cutting right through the formalities to the reason for the conversation. So, have you ever thought of getting a real job? What pyramid business scheme suckered you into thinking you could make a living out of cornering innocent bystanders and dumping your stinkin’ get-rich-quick business spiel on them?

Nevertheless the formalities continue amid cordial grins. Any minute now, though, he’s going to turn to the conversation to his private business. I strain to hear his droning voice over the crescendoing drum roll . . .

“So, have you ever thought of being an entrepreneur?”

Bingo. There it was. An entrepreneur? Why, what a lovely idea. That was awful sweet of you to stop me and relay to me the good news that I can be a millionaire if I join your pyramid business scheme and work just 5-10 hours a week. Now I understand the smiles—I would smile too with that kind of deal. Dissimulating jerk. “Hmm. Can’t say I have. Sounds like it must be nice.” I return his hypocritically jovial smile.

Barely able to contain his joy, he testifies to the liberation he found in his self-employed entrepreneurship, the joy, the innumerable riches to be made. A holy hush descends as he describes the freedom he’s found. Meanwhile, my foot taps a quick beat, betraying the anger masked by the upward-turned corners of my mouth.

Fourteen minutes later we part, exchanging our farewells. As I shuffle through the checkout line, the jovial beeping of the bar-code scanner contrasts with the most un-jovial downward-turned corners of my mouth. Call it pride, call it un-cordiality, call it what you will, but I don’t like pretense. I don’t like artificial friendliness. I don’t like strangers who initiate conversation for the sole purpose of winning me over to their side. Let him proclaim his good news. I’m not converting.

Posted by jonsligh at 04:43 PM | Comments (10)

November 06, 2004

can it

Somehow the university setting is particularly conducive to lunch-table arguments. I’m used to it. One form of argument, however, up with which I shall not put, is any argument that claims to be the “balanced” argument. “Balance” is shorthand for “whatever position I happen to hold” or “wherever on the conservative/liberal spectrum I happen to be.” We talk as if truth sits in the middle of a see-saw, waiting for the facts to come to one end or the other of the see-saw and throw truth off balance. Argue as you will. Just don’t call yourself balanced.

Posted by jonsligh at 12:00 PM | Comments (8)

November 01, 2004

Reformation Day Verse

One of the plethora of Reformation Day poems

Flung to the Heedless Winds - Martin Luther

1. Flung to the heedless winds
Or on the waters cast,
The martyrs' ashes, watched,
Shall gathered be at last.
And from that scattered dust,
Around us and abroad,
Shall spring a plenteous seed
Of witnesses for God.

2. The Father hath received
Their latest living breath,
And vain is Satan's boast
Of victory in their death.
Still, still, though dead, they speak,
And, trumpet-tongued, proclaim
To many a wakening land
The one availing Name.

Posted by jonsligh at 03:55 PM | Comments (7)