So my son gave me a book for Christmas.
Yes, that was a stretch.
Well done, Brandon. This post is your fault.
What I appreciate about his gift is that he totally took a chance and gave me a profane title rather than a holy one – specifically Nick Offerman’s (aka Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation – a mutually favorite show and character) book of personal reflections entitled Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living.
Did I mention that the book is profane?
Most definitely not religious fare – in fact in his chapter on religion, “Hail Mary, Full of Beans,” (there’s a clue) Nick calls the Bible a book filled with fairy tales, defining “fairy tale” as “a fictional story that teaches a good lesson.” And then there’s the fluent and frequent use of less than savory language (cuss words) that might even make the Pastrix blush.
Yeah, profane. Just a wee bit.
And while I won’t be carrying this tome in the Christian bookstore I manage anytime soon, I nevertheless am reading with highlighter in hand, because there are some real gems in here (though perhaps they will never find their way into an Oracle answer on the Bibliomancy site).
The most recent gem I stumbled across was this one in a chapter on real manhood/personhood – and it really helps if you can hear his voice as you read it; in fact it helps if you can read this entire post hearing his voice:
You’ll notice that Mr. Roosevelt (Teddy) doesn’t mention punching anybody in the face or firing a weapon of any caliber in his description of manhood. This from a man who so famously led the Rough Riders in their conquest of San Juan Hill and punched a fellow assemblyman in the face during an argumentative session of the New York State assembly. He does suggest that quality can be found in a chap who lives “up to his ideals insofar as he can.” This, to me, is another arena in which men and women can prove their worth. Loyalty. Honor. Have a set of rules, a code of ethics, that you will do your best to uphold and defend, whether you’re on horseback in Cuba in 1898, or at a school board meeting next week, or merely at the water cooler with your coworkers. Pursue decency in all dealings with your fellow man and woman. Simply put? Don’t be an a**hole.
Don’t be an a**hole. (Note: Nick, of course, doesn’t hesitate to use the double “s”. The more refined among us would perhaps use a slightly less offensive a***hole inserting “rse” with a slight pirate pitch. In fact, if you try saying it that way, it ends up sounding like “our soul” which actually sounds religious.)
This strikes me as not a bad cultural equivalent of what we biblical/religious types know as the golden rule. Notice I didn’t say “translation.” Cultural equivalent. No worries, it won’t make it into the MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version) – at least not in print – though I would be tempted, for as the original King James translators acknowledged, the Bible must be translated into the vulgar tongue.
It clearly would make into Nick’s Version.
And while many reading this will perhaps bristle at “a**hole” in this post, perhaps even thinking that I’m being an a**hole (or a***hole) for using it, only not saying a**hole but using words more soothing to the public religious palate (like a***hole), I honestly think this says it in a way that many of us need to hear it.
Perhaps we need look no further for a solid resolution for living a better, more loving, more God-honoring life than “don’t be an a**hole.”
From how we speak about others when they aren’t around to what we post on Facebook to our driving manners during the early morning or early evening rush hour to how we speak of a fellow believer/religious leader type who we personally think is being an a***hole, following the simple dictum “don’t be an a***hole” would be an enormous improvement for many of us, myself included.
Nick’s simply rendered counsel for true manhood/personhood took me back to a quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber’s The Pastrix (the book that had to be my favorite read and surprise find of 2013):
God, please help me not to be an a**hole, is about as common a prayer as I pray in my life. And in situations like being faced with my enemy in public, what else do I have at my disposal but prayer?
What a challenging resolution.
What an essential prayer.
How readily in the name of our religion or irreligion do we justify being one.
Yes, in Jesus’ name. Or Darwin’s, depending on where in life’s bleachers you’re sitting.
And while I would say we need to aim higher than merely not being an a***hole,
it’s probably not a bad place for most of us to start.