Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blue toes

I have a friend in Boston who always paints her toes blue.

Isn't that a quaint turn of phrase? "Paints her toes"?

Anyway, last summer, in a moment of absolute frivolity mixed with a tinge of 'homesickness' for Boston, I got a bottle of blue nail polish in homage to her - and, of course, The Blessed Virgin Mary - got a mani-pedi and had the technician "paint my toes" blue.

Don't laugh. Check out any statue of the BVM. Her toes are almost always painted blue.

Ever since that moment last summer I've kept my toenails blue. And now, like my friend in Boston and the BVM, I've become known for painting my toes blue. Well, okay, among those certain select people who have seen me barefoot.

And now, of course, you.

I have another friend who is known for being able to play tunes on her nose. No, seriously. Tunes you can recognize. Difficult tunes to play. Classic to rock 'n roll to R&B.

She's good, too.  Even if it's a bit gross.

I have yet another friend who claims to be double jointed. That's another quaint turn of phrase, isn't it?. "Double jointed".

Anyway, he can twist his writs around so that his hands look broken. But they're not, of course. He can do the same thing with his fingers and toes. They also look broken. But, despite the hissing and popping sounds his fingers and toes make, they're decidedly not broken.

He's just double jointed. And, it's pretty gross.

Everyone likes to be known for something. Something that sets them apart. Oh, I'm sure we'd all like to be known for something other that what we can do with our noses or writs or toes, but some of us are so enamoured with uniqueness that we'd do just about anything to achieve it.

Some of us take huge fashion risks. Others like unique cars. Others paint their homes - inside and out - in colors that may best be described in polite company as "interesting".

I've had several discussions with friends about why the Brothers Tsarnaev planted not one but two improvised explosive devices - or "IEDs," homemade bombs that were designed to maim - at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Besides various theories about religious (Muslim) and political (Chechnyan/Russian) views, the general consensus seems to be that they wanted to be known for being "The Boston Marathon Bombers".

Really? Does the human ego contain the potential for such weakness and distortion that otherwise "good people" who believe in and regularly worship God and love their mother and honor their father and excel at sports and apply for citizenship in this country and attend college on scholarship will cross the line and commit acts of heinous evil so as to leave three people dead (including an 8 year old boy) and over 200 people seriously injured - many with amputations of their lower limbs?

I suppose the theory has its possibilities.

Both boys came to this country after fleeing their war-torn home in Chechnya with their parents and two sisters. God only knows what they saw and experienced during that war. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, was eight at the time and is described by his father as "an angel". The older brother, Tamerlan, was was fifteen at the time and is described as a "misfit" by some of his friends. An uncle living in Maryland calls both boys "losers". Both parents are now living back in Russia where the mother says she believes both boys are innocent and were "set up" by the FBI.

No clues there, right?

Certainly, there walk among us obviously disturbed children and young adults, like Adam Lanza, the young man who took his mother's semi-automatic rifles into a school in Newtown, CT and killed 26 children and their teachers.

And who can forget the image of James Holmes the young man in Aurora, CO who sat in court in his maroon prison jump suit and pink hair muttering quietly to himself after killing 12 and wounding 70 people in a movie theater?

But, what of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold - the two young men who committed the massacres at  Columbine High School in CO?  Their senior pictures in their high school year book reveal the images of two smiling young men, breached on a bright future filled with promise and not the two who, together, killed 13 people and injured 24.

In Andrew Solomon's book, "Far from the Tree," a mother of a schizophrenic says with a sigh, “I was a lot more frivolous before I was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of mental illness.”

I am often haunted by that sentence.

Bill Maher's take on the whole thing is this: “Isn’t the takeaway here that there are many bad things that can happen in the world, for many bad reasons, but the winner and still champ is religion?”

Is that it? Or, is that just the sarcastic sentiment of a man who has made a movie panning religion?

There's a part of me that wants to take every "good quiet kid" in for questioning. I mean, I'm not really worried about the kid who peels the tires of his car up the street. Neither am I really worried about the kids - tall, skinny, pimple-faced, jeans hanging past the point of decency on their butts, chain smoking each other's cigarettes - who congregate outside my local CVS.

I think they're just being "normal kids". It's the "good quiet kids" I worry about.

Here's my point - and, I do have one, in case you were wondering: I think there's a place in all of us which knows - or desperately fears - that we are, to the rest of society, 'losers'.  We all harbor this abiding sense that we are "nerds" or "misfits" or "queers" who otherwise don't fit in with the "cool kids" and will never - ever - get invited to sit with them at "their" table in the cafeteria.

I think even the "cool kids" set themselves apart from the rest because they are desperately afraid that we might discover that they are just like the rest of us. One of them even plays tunes on her nose and another can contort his fingers and toes and writs into weird positions.

That's not to excuse the horrific and horrendous acts that happened last week in Boston. It is, however, to try and wrap my brain around the central theological question of that tragedy: Why do seemingly good people commit acts of evil?

Obviously, I don't have my brain wrapped completely around the answer.  I don't know that I ever will, actually. People have been chasing the answer to that question for centuries.

Me? I paint my toes blue.  I take comfort that I'm not the only person in the world with her toes painted blue. My good friend in Boston does, as well.

There's an odd sort of comfort in being a little weird - okay, maybe even more than a little weird. You might even say, "Queer".  "Frivolous" is okay, too.

But, I'm not the only one.

Which may just make all the difference in keeping those of us who try to be "good people" on this side of the line of wherever it is we call "sanity" in a world whose geographical lines of madness seem to grow more and more blurry.

I just follow my blue toes.

Which, interestingly enough, usually lead me to Jesus. Who, I'm thinking, would have let Mary Magdalene paint his toes blue in his day. Oh, yes he would. In honor of his mother.

If you think that's weird, there's a seat waiting for you in the cafeteria where the "cool kids" sit.

Enjoy the illusion. 


Sextant said...

Interesting observations. These things do defy easy explanations and it just may be that there is no one explanation. Look at the complexity of the human mind, 3 pounds of biological mush, that operates on the electro-chemistry of ion exchanges and is subject to a host of squirts of this neurotransmitter and that hormone. It is amazing to me that we have any useful brain function. One brain researcher likened our brains to an 8 track tape player with iPod mounted on top of it and somehow both parts play music that we understand...most of the time.

Certainly a part of it has to be the readily available supplies and instructions. Very frightening.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Sextant