perhaps we might remember to think

A blog post, Tweet, Facebook post, or even a road sign can be effective if you agree with it, or if it makes you laugh. But sometimes the best ones are offensive. They sting a nerve. These can make you think.

For example, here’s a quote from a roadside sign in front of a rural church:

“If evolution is true mothers would have more than two hands.”

At first I was struck by the missing comma. Then I kept thinking.

My mind paused to ponder the possibility that it was a joke–perhaps it was supposed to be funny.

The brain sent molecules equivalent to a snicker of doubt. Nah.

Perhaps the strange sentiment was posted to remind all sons and daughters to hold our mothers in high esteem, to honor them while accidentally revealing Mr. Sign-Guy’s lack of comma skills and misunderstanding of science.

This made more sense but what if the author just didn’t like commas, or Mr. S-G couldn’t find one for the sign, and had never had much of a relationship with his mom? In that case, this sign would be intentionally poking at evolution, a well-supported scientific theory, one that scientists fully acknowledge and believe, and will consider to do so until it is disproven, in a way that has no correlation to choosing to believe in something, like religion, based on faith. Because you’re told to. Because you’re afraid not to. Because the belief is perceived to be stronger, truer, and more sacred when embraced blindly.

Surely we would not have the ability to reason and think and test and reconsider and argue and retest, but be expected to choose to forgo utilizing these tools. Such a system would be poor design, when in fact the brain is incredible.

All scientific theories are bashed like piñatas by scientists. We hack and poke and probe and doubt and search for other options. We think and test and argue and test some more. If a genetic anomaly in females produced an extra hand which was handy for all of the things a mother must carry and fix and cook and wash and push and hold and heal and scratch, and that genetic anomaly became the rule, are we really to believe that single oddity would help the religiously faithful finally comprehend the beauty of evolution? It would seriously take something that blatant to flip the switch to stop the stupid?

Hmm. That church sign really got into my head.

But on the other hand (since I am a mother, I do have many), it was more likely just a sweet tribute to mothers, and supposed to be funny. I just didn’t get it.

(And probably the comma blew off in a storm.)

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I do think I’m funny (so you don’t have to)

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To hydrolyze an acid chloride

To convert acetal back to carbonyl and alcohol

To grow a flower

To rinse shampoo out of your eyes

To clean chalk from your sleeves

To clear bird poop from your windshield

To brew coffee

To soothe a fish

To quench a thirst

To make 100 students grin

(and not care whether they’re laughing at you)

(or with you)

(because laughing is the point)

If you lie

or err

and lie louder

to hide the last one

those lies will hang

heavy

in bags

around your neck

and ankles

as you back down the cliff

 no hands

blindfolded

no net

and we’ll watch

and wait

for your fall.

.,.,.,..,,,….,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,,.,.,.,..,.,.,.,..,,.,.,.

But like trust

a rope

can catch you

and help you

before it snaps.

Though frayed and weak

it can be mended

with truth

admission

apology.

The repair threads

for the rope

say

I’m sorry

I was wrong

I’ll be more careful

It won’t happen again

I promise

My word is good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And we’ll try

to believe you

because

humans

need

and want

to trust

so we can sleep

and hope

and laugh again.

So we can

breathe

and rest

and live

again.

Apologize.

Think before you speak.

Ask for and follow advice.

Consider others before yourself.

Do your job.


Inspired by a poem by my teenage daughter called “Trust is a Rope” ~2000

And then came smartphones

and we all got dumber.

When your great-grandmother was young, the telephone was invented. There were switchboards and operators, and when the phone rang, it was always answered, even though they never knew who it would be. That was part of the thrill.

When your grandmother was a young mom, all of her friends had a telephone in their kitchens. The telephone was screwed high on the wall so the kids couldn’t get to it, and had a long cord. Grandma (called Mommy back then) would chat away the morning, drinking coffee, maybe smoking a cigarette, with the kids playing at her feet while she washed the dishes. She loved this connection to her friends, mother, sisters and other housewives, and she knew all of their phone numbers by heart.

When your mother was young she might have had a princess phone in her bedroom, and maybe even a second line that only rang in her room. But more likely the phone in her room was connected to the one in the kitchen, so when she was talking to her boyfriend, she’d have to scream at her little brother when he picked up the kitchen phone to listen in.

By the time you came along, some people had car phones. Julia Roberts carried a cellular phone as big as a brick in movies. And when your older cousin learned to drive, your aunt bought a cell phone for her to carry, just for emergencies, so she could call her mom (who sat by the house phone waiting) when she arrived safe.

Recently, it seems every adult in the world got a cell phone. Some carry them in their pocket; most require one hand to hold it wherever they go. Most started texting within the last decade. The phones got smaller and smarter, and we learned to play games on them, and check our email, and avoid answering when it rings because we always know who is calling.

You do not remember the world without today’s phones, and likely can’t imagine a flip-phone, or figure out how to dial an old rotary phone. You used to dig your mom’s phone out of her purse and looked cute swiping the pictures, accidentally calling your grandmother, and once you called Jamaica. You had your own phone when you were eight because you begged, and did the thing all kids do: convinced your parents you were the only third-grader without one. They love you, and wanted you to be quiet so they could bend their neck to their own phones, so they got you one. You became peaceful and enjoyable in the car. You no longer poked your little sister and made her cry. You no longer spoke to your family.

Now you are in college. You walk across the gorgeous campus and don’t see it because you are looking down. You don’t make eye contact or acknowledge others. You are safe in your bubble. You never feel like you are alone because you can always take out your phone and look busy and important. You pick it up and check messages, tweets, instagram, facebook, snapchat, and even email a thousand times a day. You reach for it as soon as you wake up. You even keep it on your lap in class.

It’s ok. You’re an adult and you get to  decide how to use your time. But what will you tell your parents when your grades aren’t great? You’ll say you always go to class, but can you say you listen in class? Can you promise them their hard-earned tuition money, that they scraped together for fifteen years instead of buying shoes or taking a vacation, is appreciated so much that you leave your phone on silent, zipped up in your bag, for every second of lecture? Can you promise your grandfather who gave you the “family scholarship” and his old car, and pays your car insurance, that you are not wasting his generosity?

They used to say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Today young people squander their entire lives, neck bent, fingers tap-tap-tapping away on an electronic gadget provided by a generous adult who loves them.