Repose & Resolve: A Secular Sermon

During these early retirement years of mine, I’ve grown more dissolute. Almost every night I must swill down some bicarbonate of soda to appease the inferno boiling up my throat brought on by the whiskey I drank throughout the day. At a superficial glance, however, my health would appear good. I’m not overweight, the muscles across my stomach are still partially visible. When in downtown Spokane and while walking from one place to another I happen to pass a middle-aged man or some older fellow who is quite obviously out-of-shape, I take a certain satisfaction in comparing myself to him, wherein this secret contest conducted solely within my imagination I win hands down, our having been tested if only in appearance while clad in skimpy bathing trunks which these days look almost like jock straps. Some men, like some women, just let themselves go and they wind up like what you’d expect, ponderous and overweight and somewhat stricken-looking from the intensified difficulty in the simple act of moving about. Age can cripple, slowly, or quickly.

For years I never worried about my health and vowed that once I reached old age I would never complain about my infirmities, some form of which is inevitable, I suppose. But I’ve certainly aired my complaints to myself; I’ve sworn and pissed and moaned when I was alone often enough. Without a doubt, all vulgar self-indulgent displays.

Men are sometimes uncommonly crude beings, quick to anger, quick to fight, quick to mount an attack. But from the comparative repose of retirement I can reflect back to times when I was like that, when I behaved in precisely that way. Still later, my aggression displayed itself in mad bouts of pronouncements I hurled from a deck or balcony, a blistering torrent of mad rhetoric blasting the Republicans and all they stood for, their parsimoniousness and their moral hypocrisy. Twice I was arrested for disturbing the peace, perhaps as many as three times over the last five years or so.

Naturally, I had to finally back off and resign myself to a rational and quiet life. Listening to the news, for example, often used to provoke me into outbursts of rage, paroxysms of contempt, and other fits of fancy, filling the neighborhood with my thundering voice under the delusion that the First Amendment would serve to protect me. But I discovered that the community in which you live, especially your immediate neighbors, are going to take offense at a guy who has just begun to raise hell.

President Trump has just given a speech in which he has issued his decision and his resolve to pull out of the Paris climate accords. This decision will affect and effect everyone on this planet. Without exaggeration or hyperbole, many people will point out this incontestable fact. America has withdrawn from the rest of the world, shrunken back from its former geopolitical and moral perspective, this adopted at the inception of America’s war upon Communism. But I can think of only four countries left in today’s world whose governments had been designed upon the ideas of Marx and Engels: Russia, China, Cuba, and North Korea.

Of the four, only two still remain a threat to the United States and the rest of the world, although for different reasons: Russia, and North Korea.

Perhaps some of you share this opinion. Perhaps not. In this day, will what most of us think even make any difference? These people who elected this man, Trump, who are they? What do they want? What do they fear? What do they believe?

Belief is the cornerstone of great edifices of thought, vast cathedrals of ideas; and this is so appealing to so many. The appeal of a belief which promises freedom from pain and lasting immortality has great force. Any human being tends to quaver beneath its power and beg for its promised provisions.

What I find so astonishing today is, despite all the knowledge human beings have acquired, most of the population on this planet is still not only guided but enthralled by myths and legends propagated two or three thousand years ago. Which can only mean this, that we, man and woman, are essentially timid and credulous beings, despite all our displays of rage and rancor to the contrary.

We are all taught as children to reign in our fears and our bodily discomforts, to stand up tall without complaint, to forge ahead and get on with life. A child’s complaints when persistent and seemingly unjustified by illness or other circumstance tends to drive parents to enforce this injunction simply to reacquire some peace of mind if for no other reason.

And so we learn to suppress our fears, ignore our pain. Without this ability, or suddenly stripped of it from overwhelming catastrophe, we are nearly helpless. In the absence of stoic resolve, then, we become victims of fate. But those who believe in the decrees of fate have relinquished their wills to think.