Winter has returned for a brief encore, offering me a bit more time to mull over what has been a huge change in my life: my return to church.
The first thing I’d like to mention is a matter that has distressed me several times since my return to church. I don’t like the “Christian right” stereotype which implies that Christians are Republicans by default. There is no political party that conforms to the gospel. Although I’ve renewed my faith lately, I have been a Christian since the 1970s, and I continue to be mystified at how Christians can be exposed to the same text (i.e. the Bible) and develop such different political values. I’ve noticed that the Bible mentions caring for the poor so often that I can’t in good conscience for a candidate that wants to cut programs for the needy. I also don’t buy the idea that helping the poor creates poverty.
Onto why I titled my post Jamais Vu . . . Now I am going to approach my faith from the opposite of the idea of being a Christian for decades. I encountered the concept of jamais vu in the writing of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks. Jamais vu is the opposite of déjà vu, and it is the experience of seeing something familiar as if you’ve never seen it before. Since I started reading the Bible again in December, I have approached the text with purposeful jamais vu: I am going to read this book as if everything is new to me. I’ve discovered that there is precious fruit of the Spirit to be gleaned from this approach. It reminds me of how Christ said in faith we must become like children (Matthew 18:33). The word of God never loses its freshness or vitality; only our ways of reading and hearing it can become stale.
As for the picture I’ve used for this post, it reminds me that it is much harder to suspend one’s familiarity with the physical world. No matter how hard I try, my mind can’t make the buildings in that picture look like something I haven’t seen before.
I feel a consolation beyond description in reading the Bible as if it is new to me, for it would be impossible for someone to read it enough to make it old news. As I read the words of the Bible, it is like the Holy Spirit fills me with the complete opposite of the pain and despair I’ve felt in the past.
This evening I share a photo I took last summer in downtown Lima. If you live in Lima, the downtown area is somewhat of a photographic cliché, a rite of passage that signifies that the hobby has become part of your identity. I really should take a new set of pictures because the downtown area is the midst of transition. One of the key buildings is getting carved into apartments, and Rhodes State will break ground on a new health sciences building very soon.
The photo above shows a reflection of Town Square in the Glass Palace, a ruthlessly geometric building that houses many of the city government’s offices. It’s an image that insists that the old cannot compete with the new. The unsteady lines of the reflected buildings remind me of an untrained hand trying to copy a master.
Before I close, I will tell you about an oddball rendition of a text message I received yesterday. As I was parking my car, I received a text message from my pharmacy. I choose to let the car read the message aloud. Its synthetic voice told me, “Your prescription that starts with Georgia is ready for pick up.”
That sounds like a hallucinogen or a sci-fi writing prompt.
A liquid can assume the shape of any vessel in which it is stored, and this reservoir has curved borders since it would be strange indeed to find a reservoir with angled corners. I suppose a polygonal shape would be too weak to withstand the pressure that water exerts. And now I remember learning that a circle is a polygon with infinite sides, so a rounded corner could distribute the pressure and mass of water over more pressure points that can be easily counted.
All of the foregoing is a stream-of-consciousness related to my school days. The image above shows a place I gravitated toward during that era of my life. I’d go to this reservoir to walk alone and clear my mind, which was not so easy to do at that time given all of the angst and information that was stuffed into it during my teenage days.
I’d dream of what my life might be like once I was done with school. I’d imagine living in one of those apartments in that building with a view of the water. I’d have peace at a glance when I looked through the windows.
Eventually, I did move into an apartment with a balcony that overlooked a little lake (but not the one shown in this picture). I did feel peace when I looked out the windows. I lived there until my life became too large to fit in a two-bedroom apartment.
Today was the end of ice cream stand season in this area, so we made a final trip to the Creamery in Delphos, Ohio. The Creamery offers typical soft serve fare, but it also has an array of hard dip ice cream available in near-obscene portions at low prices. For less than $3.00, I was able to enjoy almost a pint of peanut butter crunch ice cream. If you ask for one dip, they will give you a cup packed to the brim with ice cream, topped with an impressively large scoop.
Whenever we visit this ice cream stand, I am enchanted with the old buildings in this small town. Actually, I should make another trek there on a sunny day just to get some decent shots of my favorites, including a curiously truncated brick Colonial home next to the Miami Erie Canal. I should also get a picture of the curiously named Mayflower Hong Kong Restaurant, whose name and mission are proclaimed with 1984 hardware-store-purchased lettering (also the year this restaurant first opened).
Leading up to The Creamery, there are some super small homes and businesses, including what appears to be a defunct insurance agency. Its abandonment is curious because hardly anything goes fallow in Delphos. This town is a farming community, so it has been somewhat immune to Rust Belt manufacturing decline.
I didn’t peer into the windows of this little building. If I had, maybe I’d have caught a glimpse of a white-shirted man sitting a desk with an Underwood typewriter and a black rotary telephone. When the phone would ring, he’d hope it’d be a prospective client and not a claim for a tractor that had taken a tumble.
I imagine such a scene because my mother once told me that some hauntings are impressions of the living. Think of the house you grew up in or the place where you worked your first job. If someone thinks such a place is haunted, perhaps it is because they saw an image of you flicker past.
I used to work in a freezer at night. Actually, I still work at the same establishment, just different hours and a different part of the business. Anyway, some of my co-workers have told me that they still see me (for just a split second, of course) walking down one of the freezer aisles.
Arguably the best restaurant in Lima, Ohio (all three locations sharing the title, of course)
My city is littered with a few row house apartments, and several of them have fallen into disrepair. I noticed one listed in the real estate classifieds a couple years ago, and the asking price was just $40,000, with all four units rented. Maybe these structures lost out to the rise of suburban apartment complexes, with the siren call of dishwashers and steady maintenance service.
My daughter attended a birthday party in a row house situated about a block away from the buildings shown above. The birthday house had gorgeous woodwork inside, all wood floors and staircase. The place had a charm that had not dimmed with time and the sinking economic prospects of its neighborhood.
My family moved into a house right next door to these row houses back in the early 80’s. The term “motley crew” definitely applied to the residents back then. Nearly every car parked on the street, all of which looked impossibly long, had roach clips with feathers hanging from their rear view mirrors. One woman attempted suicide on a random Saturday morning, and the radio resting in her open kitchen window was broadcasting “Only the Lonely” by the Motels as the medics loaded her into the ambulance.
I’ve heard rumors that the row houses on Haller Street have since become crack houses. When I took a walk to take this picture, I did not get the sense that something so malevolent had salted this earth, at least not thorougly. Judging from the chatter I heard, I think the same combo of irreverence and light hedonism that helped their predecessors survive the Reagan years still reigned over this street.
After I took this picture, I could hear two men discussing my appearance as I walked away. One asked the other if I really lived down there, and his friend replied, “No, I haven’t seen her around. I’d remember that ass.”