Uneasy Lies The Head of The Confidence Man

Uneasy Lies The Head of The Confidence Man is the title of a song on Daniel Amos’ Songs Of The Heart

A “Confidence Man” is a man who swindles his victims by using a confidence game (a game in which the victim is defrauded after his confidence has been won).

I find it very unsettling that during the week I am to write an essay based on this song, I am traveling from a customer’s site after a sales pitch for our product. Coincidence or a cosmic finger pointing at me and the absurd work that I do? I’ll let you decide. I am writing this from O’Hare Airport in Chicago, awaiting a flight that will take me back to what I’m familiar with and where I’m home. I’m taking a circuitous route home and I’m left wondering if it would’ve been faster to just drive. No matter, I’m not footing the bill for this trip, so I go where I’m told to go and fly where I’m told to fly.

I am an astounding paradox of brilliance and stupidity. I never cease to be amazed at how I possess the unique ability to do something amazingly creative or intelligent, and then follow it up by doing something amazingly knuckleheaded. I fly up to the customer location and bring the completely wrong software package with me. Stupid. I’m able to get a copy sent to me (mostly) instantly and able to orchestrate a workaround without ever alarming the customer. Brilliant. I am able to discuss in intricate technical detail the nuances of our software package and answer all questions from the customer about the technical requirements and stipulations involved in using our software. Brilliant. I promptly leave the room and leave my power cable to my laptop in the room and catch a plane and fly off. Stupid. I am amazing, I tell you.

I don’t typically do business trips, so this has been a bit of a learning experience for me. When I graduated from college, I was reluctant to take a job with a lot of travel because I felt I was ill-suited for it. I’ve only taken a very few since graduating, but I can confirm my suspicions were correct. I’m not cut out for living in hotels, taking flight after flight, going through security check, rental cars, and power lunches. I miss my wife more than I can describe and I miss taking a deep breath and looking out on the pond behind my house in the evening. There’s a little bit of Georgia in this boy that just can’t stay out of the South for very long. I’m not a very good salesman. I admit flaws in our product too much. I make promises out our product that we may not necessarily be able to keep. I’m glad there’s a place for programmers who put their foot in their mouth too often, forget things and leave them behind when they travel, and should just stick to coding.

The Staggering Gods

The Staggering Gods is the title of a song on Daniel Amos’ Mr. Buechner’s Dream

“The gods are stumbling
Hopeless and sick unto death
They’re the ones we worship
And they’re gasping for their final breath” – Terry Scott Taylor

The Lord is in the business of tearing down idols in my life. He is an expert at it. Systematically, one by one. John Calvin once said that “The hearts of men are little idol-factories, working day and night.” So, I guess God can destroy all he wants, I’ll make more. I have had a lot of “false gods” in my past and have ended up disappointed more than once, with no one to blame but me. It’s appropriate this week that I have been sick and lethargic. I’ve had a low-grade fever, slept a lot, and generally felt awful. One of my “gods” is my good health. It’s been very difficult this week to sit around and let my “plans” and “goals” for the week fall behind. I’m not someone who enjoys sitting around for long, I have be “doing” something and keeping busy, (If you’ve met my family, you’d know where I get this from.) so having to be immobile for a while drives me crazy. I’m learning from this, however. I’m not as strong as I think I am.

I guess I’ll file this broken, splintered idol next to the other ones in my basement. The ones that told me I was cool. The ones that told me I was smart. The ones that told me I was attractive. The ones that told me I was clever. We as people like that think we’re independent and self-sufficient. Thankfully, God won’t allow us to stay in that delusion long.

Divine Instant

Divine Instant is the title of a song on Daniel Amos’ Darn Floor – Big Bite

“It is not up to man to place the inevitable in time and space. The inevitable is somehow outside time and space. Materially unfulfilled, it exists in the shape of the present as well as of the past and the future in one divine instant.” – Oscar Czeslaw

Oscar Czeslaw is uncle of Czeslaw Milosz (see “The Unattainable Earth”), a philosopher in his own right.

Looking at a map, at best guess it looks like it’s about 300 miles from Cairo, Egypt to Jerusalem, Israel. Walking a leisurely ten miles a day, it should take a month to get from one to the other. God wasn’t interested in the fastest path from A to B for the Israelites however. Instead, they wandered back and forth, again and again through the wilderness for forty years. Surely they must have passed the same landmarks several times? How frustrating must it have been to aimlessly head to nowhere day after day? The Lord has no interest in getting things done as fast as possible or as efficiently as possible, that’s an American idea.

There have been a couple “wilderness” periods in my own life, most of 1995 alone in Florida, most of 1997 when I radically reconstructed myself and the latter half of 2002 when a series of events sent me briefly reeling. What I remember most about every “wilderness” experience were three things. The first thing I remember is that during those eras, there was really nothing to do but take one step forward and go wherever the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire led me. I wasn’t allowed any glimpses of what the future held, just keep walking forward and keep trusting. What a beautiful and terrible thing it is to have nothing but God to look forward to and comfort in. The second thing I remember is that there really was nothing I could do to get out of the wilderness period. The Lord would lead me out of it when he was good and ready and no amount of behavior changes or attitude changes on my part would speed it up. Finally, I learned that in those periods, like every day in my life, I had to learn to be content in the circumstances that I was in and not be anxious for the future and not regretful *or* longing for the past.

I’m still not very good with patience or contentment, but I’d like to think that I’m improving. I find it funny that everyone else in my life seems to be in a hurry to advance me through each phase of my life (constant questions like “So when are you getting married?” sound like nothing more than a passive-aggressive way of saying “Why haven’t you gotten married yet?” and “So, when are you having children?” sounds like nothing more than “Why don’t you have children yet?”), but I am content with where I am right now, thank you very much. I’m content to be married and someday (God willing), I will be content as a father, and it will all be at the time God is ready to provide it to me, not when other people want it for me or when I think I should have it.

It’s not an easy thing to wait upon the Lord, but maybe I’m slowly learning to depend on the Divine Instant.

It’s The Eighties (So Where’s Our Rocket Packs?)

(It’s The Eighties So Where’s Our) Rocket Packs is the title of a song on Daniel Amos’ Vox Humana
Terry Taylor originally considered titling the album, Vox Robotica
Vox Humana is Latin for “Human Voice”

It’s ironic that with all the advances in automotive technology, thanks to traffic it probably takes me longer to get to work now than it did ten years ago. I love watching the old science fiction movies and see what life in the 21st Century was “supposed to be like.” Sometime about now, we are supposed to be flying to other planets, traveling from place to place in our flying cars, or merely disappearing and reappearing where we want to go. Alas, I still sit at that red light at the intersection of Powder Springs Road and Cheatham Hill Rd every morning and wonder when my flying car is going to arrive.

I jumped on the internet train in 1993 and since then I’ve seen some incredible advances in technology since then. From starting with 2400 baud modems, I communicated over e-mails on text screens, then onto USENET message boards. Next it was instant messenger on Ethernet connections. Now, it’s the World Wide Web and message boards on wireless connection. It’s all pretty amazing. However, one thing that hasn’t changed over the technological advances is how horrid people can treat each other when they can be anonymous or even semi-anonymous and hide behind a computer screen. Despite all the great achievements, the Internet has also introduced invasive spam and viruses, and has made pornography easier than ever to access. All these great steps forward and this is what we have to show for it?

I don’t know, I’m a big fan of technology, I work in a technological field and I love gadgets. I’ve got tons of ’em. However, I can’t bring myself to any of these beliefs that technology is somehow going to make our society better. I have cell phones so I can be available at any time, but I don’t call anyone any more often. I have a PDA to schedule my life and store contact addresses, but it doesn’t help me remember my appointments any better or encourage me to contact friends more often. Something tells me it’s going to take a whole lot more than the little widgets that we create to change people’s hearts and effect real change in each others’ lives.

…but that doesn’t mean we can’t use technology help get it done.