“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” – 1st Corinthians, 11:13
Somewhere along the line, while I was going from being a tiny child, to being a large, middle-aged child, I forgot to put away some childish things.
When I was a little kid in London, Ohio, I used to walk to school on old, sandstone sidewalks, which were very cracked, and some days, when I was thinking about it, I would be very careful not to step on a crack, lest I break my mother’s back. I realized even then, that there were times when I stepped all over the cracks when I wasn’t paying attention, but that wasn’t the same. You sort of had to be aware, or the back-breaking wouldn’t happen. (I think this attitude came from being cared for by a family of Catholics when my mother was at work, who imbued in me a sense that you were in a constant state of bargaining, wagering really, with God – like, “If I make this basket, my pal Murphy won’t be killed by bank robbers – Okay, if I make two in a row, Murphy is saved.” because God could read your thoughts and was always paying attention, but also that there was a certain dispensation for sins of omission. ie. “I didn’t realize that grandma was cleaning out the incinerator when I fired it up, so God’s cool with it.”) Well, obviously I grew up and when my mom didn’t end up in an iron lung, I let the step on a crack superstition go. As with many childhood notions, I grew out of it.
On the other hand, I realized just yesterday, when some minor exercise left me breathless, creaking, and complaining, that there were many childish notions that I hadn’t given up on, and I probably should – the most evident at the time, was that “if you practice, and really work hard, you will always get better”. I always cringe a little when I hear people in fitness ads say, “And I’m in the best shape of my life.” “How do you know?” I say. I’ve always known that at some point I’m going to really train hard, I’m going to get incredibly buff, eat nothing but salads and fish, and I’ll think nothing of running a marathon or bench-pressing 300 lbs. I’ve just never gotten to that point, you know, of starting the training, but it’s always been out there, ahead of me. (Never mind that I get winded walking over to turn on the Playstation.) Well, I’m thinking that it’s time I let go of some of these childish self-delusions. I mean, if I’m realistic, and look at my family history, I’m not only not going to be running a marathon any time soon, I should be getting my affairs in order and writing a funny eulogy for someone to read – maybe even making one of those creepy, “If you’re watching this, I’m already worm food,” video tapes. Okay, I get it. I probably won’t be that buff, marathon guy.
So, that said, I’m also starting to realize, that when I am sent back to Medieval times, I will not dazzle everyone with my amazing abilities, mainly because I now see that I really don’t know how to do shit. I mean, for my whole life, I’ve been the star in that show, the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and I’ve spent more time indulging in my fame and power in the twelfth century than I do spending my Power Ball Lotto money – which is not inconsiderable (You won’t laugh when I’m driving my luxery submarine to book signings.) But unless Sir Gawain is having trouble defragging his hard drive, or Guenivere is worried about how long to microwave a burrito, I’m am totally and utterly useless. If anyone pays attention to me at all, they are going to think I’m a total loon. I’m not going to have access to the guy who shovels the Camelot latrines, let alone talk to King Arthur about advanced warfare techniques. “No, Arthur, what you need to do here, is carpet bomb the guys on Devenshire plain, then spray some defoliant on Sherwood Forest so the fuckers have nowhere to hide.”
I can’t predict an eclipse, make gunpowder, construct a battery, formulate an antibiotic, or even explain how the clicky-part of a ball point pen works. And if I’m not hung immediately for being a heretic, I figure I have about a week to live before I’m overtaken by some disease caused by eating four day-old gruel and wiping your butt with leaves. I have to accept that I am not going to be the star of the twelfth century – neither am I going to warn Caesar about that whole Ides of March thing, because the only Latin word I know is Exit, and I’m most certainly not going to be able to convince Shaka Zulu that his best bet against the English would be to buy a half-dozen or so Apache attack helicopters from the U.S.
It is time I realize that I must put aside childish things. I must go forth with a grown-up’s sense of reality. I must quit preparing for the month when Benjamin Franklin shows up in my den and I get to show him television, ramen noodles, the electric can opener, and Hooters.
I’m so sorry Ben. Still, I don’t have much time left, and I’d like to thank you for bifocals and that whole kite, key, storm thing, which I am going to learn the specifics of as soon as I become an expert in American History.