Though usually this series is for readers asking my unprofessional and unlicensed opinion as a dad, today’s episode is a strange exception. I will simply be responding to a good question asked by a reader of Dadvice #4: Would You Recommend Using A Midwife? when he left this comment:
“You chose to have ‘a natural as possible delivery’ but still chose to circumcise your son? There’s NOTHING natural about a circumcision…where’s the disconnect?”
You’re right. For a guy who is so self-proclaimed “natural” when it comes to medicine and food and lifestyle in general, it appears to be a double standard that I would force circumcision upon my son who was incapable of making that decision himself.
So how is circumcision natural? It’s not.
And that’s the whole point: Circumcision is not natural.
I do believe in the hype and subscribe to the dogma that circumcision is “cleaner” and prevents urinary track infections and all that good stuff that has not necessarily been clearly proven. I’m aware of all the arguments for and against circumcision: I read them all on Wikipedia today.
But for me, my support of circumcision is a personal one: It has to do with Biblical teachings. As I’m sure you know, circumcision goes back to a covenant between God and Abraham; a commandment for the Jews. From there, it also has become popular among Muslims and Christians.
In particular though, why would a Christian Gentile such as myself observe a commandment so blatantly Jewish? Why pick and choose certain parts of the Jewish law to observe when the Apostle Paul in the New Testament made it pretty clear that Christians do not have to eat kosher food or become circumcised?
With me being Mr. Natural and all, I pay special attention to the Old Testament concerning random commandments God gave to the Jews; because sometimes though not specifically mentioned, it has something to do with health.
He instructed them not to eat pork and shellfish; which are extremely low on the food chain.
God didn’t point out the fact that that eating pork would be the leading cause of people getting intestinal parasites, but it is. Why are so many people allergic to shellfish? Because they are the bottom feeders of the ocean; they are slightly toxic.
Why did God tell His people not to eat milk products with beef? Because, as a Jewish man from Israel explained it to me one time, eating the two together in the same meal slows down digestion and promotes constipation.
So two and a half years ago, I converted to a kosher diet. (That eventually led me to become a vegetarian.)
Similarly, I believe circumcision is like that. God didn’t make this commandment for His people in the name of health; but ultimately I think that has a lot to do with it.
Back to my point at the beginning, circumcision is not natural. Instead, it’s man’s recognition of God’s instruction and intervention.
And I think that concept has everything to do with faith in God: As a believer, I am constantly having to make a conscious decision to go against my own selfish desires; like choosing to love my neighbor as myself.
That is not natural.
Sure, ultimately I try to be as natural as I can. Unless I feel that there’s something health-wise I can learn by observing God’s random commandments with the Jewish people; though as a Christian, it’s not necessary I do so.
I’ve been on so many plane rides in my life that now, anytime a pilot warns “we may experience some turbulence,” I remain unfazed; like in the opening scene of Garden State where Zach Braff’s character blankly stares ahead while everyone else panics.
However, two weeks ago on a flight from Nashville to Detroit to tour the General Motors headquarters, for the first time in my life I actually thought, “What if I die in this plane?” It’s not so much that the pilot faced some serious threat as he maneuvered the aircraft.
More likely, it was the fact that A) the last time I was on a plane was with my wife and son and B) I was overly aware of how if something bad did happen to me, I wouldn’t be able to share my life with them anymore. Therefore, the bumpiness of that hour-long flight had actually spooked me.
Even if it’s a slight cliche to say it (which it is), all my worries had disappeared while up in the air that day. I was able to just focus on what really mattered; not the thought of unpacked boxes in our townhouse, along with a living room ceiling that (at that time) still needed to be repaired.
As I made my way out of the baggage claim area, I looked up at saw a peculiar, yet appropriately serene sign that read: “Religious Reflections Room.” How random. I had to check it out.
The only way to get there was by taking the employee elevator up to the 3rd floor; keeping my GM chauffeur surely waiting at the terminal. I finally made it to the Religious Reflections Room. I slowly opened the door and saw a man bowing and praying over a compass painted on the floor pointing towards Mecca. Chairs lined the room in a horseshoe shape along the walls.
I figured if A) the Detroit airport saw the value in designing a Religious Reflections Room and B) I went through the trouble of finding it, that I should use it for its intended purpose.
So I sat down in the chair closest to the door and reflected religiously (for about 43 seconds) about how I didn’t die on the plane. Maybe it was a tad on the melodramatic side for me to keep thinking about being taken away from my wife and son, but I thanked God for my safe arrival anyway.
It was a pretty weird situation to have flown to a different region of the country without my family; like riding on an empty plane- or at least with dozens of cardboard cutouts instead of real people. Of course, it was just as bizarre to check into my hotel room in downtown Detroit without my wife and son; to try to legitimately fill the space of a king sized bed on my own, sprawling out like a kid making a snow angel.
How odd, to only be accountable to myself. Maybe above all, it simply felt unnatural.
I am no longer an island; I have a helper and a peripheral. Sure, it was nice to have a break from reality for 36 hours; but at least in my head, I sort of felt it was a lot like playing a dull lead character of a story where there is no plot. Sort of like The Hills.
I can think of three universally recognizable examples of unconditional love: God and man, parent and child, and dog and owner. But what about whom you marry? Is that unconditional love?
Isn’t that sort of the whole concept of marrying someone? To choose to unconditionally love a person you wouldn’t otherwise love to the point of “no matter what?” To me, that’s the most romantic thing a person can do. Even stripped of emotion and sentimentality, marriage is/should be mutual unconditional love at its finest.
And maybe that’s one of the reasons that marriage isn’t as easy as a lot of people may assume going into it. Instead, marriage is an ongoing process of mutual maturity. Marriage causes people to see how hard it can be to live with even themselves, from the perspective of someone who happens to love them unconditionally.
To love someone unconditionally means there is nothing that that person can do to cause them to fall out of ultimate favor with you. Sure, some days it’s easier than others, but that falls under the whole “for better or for worse” part of the wedding vows.
Actually, for a human being (outside of the parent/child relationship) to love another unconditionally is one of the biggest paradoxes I can think of. But it helps to put things in perspective by turning the tables: I, myself, want to be unconditionally loved.
I want to know there is a person who doesn’t judge me when I’m not in the room, but at the same time is brave enough to tell me directly and privately how I can improve as a person, in both big and small ways. I want to know there is a person who understands me, or at least puts up with me, when I’m being weird or simply not myself.
So maybe choosing to love another person is challenging, but for me, the bigger challenge was finding someone who would love me unconditionally. Thank God, that’s exactly who I found.
Exactly five years ago this very moment, on October 5th, 2006, I met my wife. And that’s exactly what I intended to write about today. I was going to explore how differently our lives would be today if that fateful night at a taping of a CMT show never brought us together and ultimately, how Jack would not be here today as the star of The Dadabase.
But instead, I’m psychologically processing the fact that this is a picture of our recently water damaged living room in our townhouse which we are supposed to be moving back into this weekend. God bless this mess:
And this is actually one of the tamest pictures. The rest are saved on a friend’s digital camera to send to our insurance company, State Farm. But I don’t have the right cord to upload them to my laptop tonight.
Truly, I am the kind of person who avoids drama at all costs. Some people are wired for it, like the people on Facebook who seem to constantly attract romantic partners who are destined to cheat on them. But not me. I duck out every chance I get when it comes to the mindset “why does it always rain on me?”.
Is it “the blogger’s curse” that I am experiencing?
In a cosmic effort to make sure I always have something interesting and relevant to say, must I feel compelled to move back to my hometown in Alabama only to move back so that I can learn to manage my finances better, then literally on the move back to Nashville have one of our cars break down so that we have to buy a new car, only to find that a few days after our renters moved out of our townhouse, that there was a loose washer on the upstairs toilet, causing my thousands of dollars worth of water damage?
Thank God our insurance policy was written up right before this happened and that our deductible is only $500. That goes well with the unexpected $250 I had to pay for two new tires on my car last week because I evidently ran over two nails in the road and the day of work missed last week when my wife was sick.
I get it that that trying times like these only mold us into more mature versions of ourselves. And I totally I am obsessed now with budgeting and saving as much money as I possibly can in every way. So really, I’m over this whole “life lessons” thing for a while. I would love a mental break.
We (jokingly?) said to each other if only pot were legal, tonight would be the night to try it. But then again, we’ve said that inside joke to each other more times than we can remember, throughout all the other challenges we have faced during these past few months.
In this moment, I am not seeking life lessons of self improvement and maturity. I’ll settle for mediocre and immature. Maybe I should start watching reruns of Two and a Half Men.
We are strong and we will soldier on. We may be lost and holding hands, but we’ll find out way out of this mess. It helps that Tom Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down” has been playing on repeat in my head all day. (“You can stand me up at the gates of Hell but I won’t back down.”) My wife is taking this so much better than she should and I think she’s dealing with it slightly better than me. I am so blessed to have her and our son.
Our house will be repaired with enough (insurance) money; hopefully. But my wife and son are beyond priceless. Thank God for them.
*Editor’s note: I am letting my wife sleep instead of making her correct today’s Dadabase post; considering the circumstances. So do me a favor, leave me a comment for any typos or punctuation errors that you find and I’ll take care of them. Thanks!
“Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven.” -Wikipedia’s definition of “purgatory”
I’ve never actually met anyone who truly believes in purgatory, yet I feel that the general population is familiar with the idea of it.
On the final episode of Lost, the people from the Island who had ultimately lived their lives for the goodwill of others instead of greed and selfishness, reunited and reminisced in purgatory before entering Heaven together.
For those who are not Lost fanatics but like the band Coldplay, in their song “42,” some of the most memorable lyrics include the refrain, “You thought you might be a ghost; you didn’t get to Heaven but you made it close.”
Most of us don’t believe in the actual place, but for me at least, there is something pretty fascinating about the concept. I think it’s so easy in this life, in this culture, in this country, to feel like we are lost, or at least that we don’t belong wherever “here” is. We want to think that we deserve to transcend this lowly and boring situation, asking the question:
“What am I supposed to learn from this? Why am I here?”
My life has been filled with stretches like that. Even right now, my wife and I are having to adjust back to the busyness of our full-time jobs in Nashville, this time with a kid; which is a completely new balancing act for us. We are having to figure out and work out our new lifestyles and schedules, making time not only for the three of us, but for the two of us, as well.
It’s a purification process that is not easy; but it is necessary. We can see how natural it can be to let your kid consume your leftover energy and thoughts, slacking on making conscious efforts to keep the marriage relationship fresh and engaging. But we don’t want our lives to end up like Everybody Loves Raymond.
Ultimately, we are being forced to mature our marriage relationship. This “forced maturity” is sort of the whole point of purgatory. You suffer until you overcome.
Not that I am constantly immature or naive, or maybe I am (?), but I am always needing to grow in a way that I never could have without entering my newest purgatory.
But really, the more I think of the literary device we know as purgatory, the more it just seems like a straight forward yet abstract way to describe life itself; the condition or process of purification or temporary punishmentin which, we are made ready for Heaven, at best.
We may figuratively compare our lives to hell at times, but really, hell is an eternal end; it’s never-ending loneliness and destruction. Purgatory is temporary.
I don’t mind viewing life as purgatory. Until I pass on in to the afterlife, I will always have much more growing up to do, more necessary suffering, and one more level of maturity to reach- even if I live to be 80.