Jester-Philosopher, Rather Than Philosopher-King

Dearest Rachel –

I feel like I should be sleeping the sleep of the dead up here, like everybody else in the lodge. I’ve exerted myself in ways that I haven’t in a very long time, and I believe my body knows it needs rest. But while it tries to get that needed rest, my mind is spinning like a balding tire in a snowstorm.

It’s giving me a headache. Or maybe that’s just the altitude sickness that Luke and Amy warned us about. Or maybe it’s a psychosomatic adoption of that – I expect to feel that way, so I do. I really don’t know. I’ll have to go downstairs and ask for an ibuprofen to take with my usual medication.

I’m feeling my age, and not just because of all that exertion from yesterday. It turns out that I am the oldest among us on this retreat. It had to happen eventually: at some point in time, I would find myself part of a group where I was the oldest member. I just didn’t expect it to be so soon. Especially when I still see myself (much the way I could still see you) as so much younger than the clock and calendar insist I am. For all I know, I’m still in my mid to late twenties. Although, all I need to do to bring me down to earth is to engage in some kind of physical competition with these fellows, and I’m brought to my senses, sort of.

It said that with age comes wisdom, and I’ve taken that assertion as axiomatic. But I’ll be honest; I don’t consider myself any wiser than any of the others here. I hardly feel any smarter – let alone wiser – then the least of these here with me, including the thirteen-year-old Moses. Indeed, I’m much more wise guy – or wise ass – than wise man. It’s probably for the best, though.

And if I claim to be a wise man, well…
It surely means that I don’t know

Kansas, “Carry On Wayward Son,” from Leftoverture (1976)

Might as well admit it rather than claim otherwise.

I’m sure that someone will tell me it’s a defense mechanism on my part, but I’ve been cracking jokes for most of the time we’ve been here. I warned the others, “I’ve been a dad longer than any of you have; I know all the jokes.” Of course, it’s not always the silly dad jokes; someone pointed out an elk up to his haunches in a lake, and I could not resist announcing that it was the ugliest darn swan I’d ever seen. Took everybody by surprise, it did.

And yet, barely a couple minutes later into the drive, Luke and I are debating why it is that the church gets its knickers in a bunch about homosexuality, especially in comparison to any other sin. My assertion is that unlike literally any other soon, this is one where a person’s identity is wrapped up in it, and they are proud of it. Very few people admit to being liars, thieves, gossips, adulterers and so forth; and those that do, are not proud of it. While the adage “love the sinner, hate the sin” is not a biblical concept per se, it’s a fairly easy to understand expression that defines what the church’s approach should be. The problem comes in with this question of identity: how does one separate sinner from sin in this case? And that is why it is such a thorny issue, in my opinion.

And then, with little warning, some other topic of conversation comes up, and I find myself back to making either more jokes or pop cultural references fast enough to give even myself whiplash.

If I didn’t know better, I would suggest that I was suffering from some sort of bipolar disorder, bouncing back-and-forth between manic and depressive. I know that’s not the case – I’ve certainly not been diagnosed with anything – but I’m sure it comes across like that from time to time.

Then again, it may well be that I’m just reverting back to the same obnoxiously interrupting character that I was when you first met me. The only difference now is that I sometimes am aware of it in myself, but choose to behave like this for whatever reason.

I mean, it gets laughs.

The games we play as a group add to this, on both ends of the spectrum. As I mentioned previously, I clearly can’t play disc golf to save my life, but mini golf is another story (as you well know).

Pictured (just so I can remember in future): Samuel, Leon, James, Luke, Nikolai and PD. That might also be PD’s friend JR behind Luke.

Both yesterday and today saw me finishing with a score of 41, markedly better than anyone else. The weird thing is, I can’t really offer advice even here, where I’m obviously capable. I don’t know how to teach others how to be better at this.

At one point after a couple of games (both of mini golf and disc golf), we are brought around for a lesson, and each one of us is to acknowledge whether we lead out of pride or out of fear. I find myself admitting that I don’t need at all; if nothing else, I realize that I don’t have any more wisdom than any of them do – or anybody else that I would be expected to lead. If I don’t know better then those I’m supposed to lead, why am I put in the position of being the leader? So I abdicate this responsibility. I used our meal times as an example; you’ll recall how I would ask where we wanted to go, got no enthusiasm from either you or Daniel, and was left at an impasse. I mean, I should be grateful for food courts, and the fact that in the suburbs, there is no end of choices in a small geographic space for us to choose from if we can’t agree. I think it breaks down the analogy of leadership, however.

And that’s how I am. Since I’ve concluded I cannot be the Platonic ideal of a philosopher-king, I have settled – for better or for worse – for the position of jester-philosopher. I speak the truth as I see it with no filter, and hope that it serves. It’s probably not the best approach, but after all these years, it’s the only one I know.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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