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The Casserole Dish Manifesto

January 31st, 2014 Posted in Faith and Life

Well, I’d intended for any manifestos I write to be published well after my death, if not to spare my children the embarrassment, then to avert desecration of my grave. In grad school I learned, by way of a miserable course of study in econometrics, the word “orthogonal.” In two-dimensional space, it refers to lines at right angles. In statistics, we use it to refer to sets of values that do not overlap. It’s a word I like to trot out in business meetings sometimes, when I’m feeling especially resentful or arrogant, because it’s fancier than saying: “these things have nothing in common.”

“I believe the items we’re covering in our slide presentations are orthogonal, Bob.” See how fancy that sounds?

The point is, I want to acknowledge what you probably intuited long ago, which is that my views on faith, God, politics, and the proper way to drink bourbon are at odds with Popular Opinion. My views, you might say, are orthogonal to those of the Opinion Makers and Fashion Mavens and Thought Leaders.

I think, however, there may be some common ground, if not shared by they and I, then perhaps by you and I. Thus, my Casserole Dish Manifesto. It’s not a full-on manifesto; it’s more of a manifesto preface. At most it’s a manifestella. Here’s an excerpt:

This is not a brief against any particular ideology, mind you. I’m talking about the whole damned lot of them. Communal property and pure democracy? Extol their virtues when the final few occupants of the family cookie jar are all that stands between you and a full-on Jack Nicholson redrum here’s Johnny meltdown. Or when every one of your kids believes he should have a vote regarding supper. Sometimes Mel Brooks is right: “It’s good to be the king.”

Self-reliance and every man for himself? I don’t think so. These kids are breaking me financially, mentally, and physically. They’re going to owe me when I’m old, which, at the current rate of disintegration, should be any day now.

I suspect that for every neatly posited maxim about The Way Things Ought To Be, there is an equal and opposite force lurking in one of life’s ambushes. Once you set yourself to the hard labor of civilizing some humans, or caring for the wounded and broken, or battling for your own life against a disease that clamps onto you like a hungry animal, you find that an ideology—while it may be true and historically determinative and profoundly insightful about the destiny of mankind—just isn’t relevant to your life in this moment—which is all your life is and will ever be: this moment and what you do within it.

You can read the rest here.