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Friday, November 29, 2013

There was an old lady who...


It's the day after Thanksgiving—11/29/2013. I'm at work—although as you can readily see by reading these words—not working all that hard. I'm still here though, not at home sleeping in. Not at home watching the kids play. Not at home doing what I'd rather be doing. It occurred to me that, in spite of being at work, nevertheless I'm happy, joyous, and free. Well maybe not free, but definitely happy and joyous. Obligations must be answered and responsibilities must be met. I'm needed in the way that a heart is needed, both at work and also to meet my family's obligations. That's a great thing, and yet a dreadful thing. To be needed completely and essentially, and unable to be done without, is wonderful and yet in a kind-of-sort-of-way it's slavery too. I have no choice. My chains are forged of faith hope and love, but they're no less unbreakable than if they were heavy links of cold steel.

A colleague at work told me this morning that her neck was sore. She'd spent half of Wednesday and Thursday cooking for her family. She was justifiably proud of her accomplishment and even more proud of that extra mile she went by finding a homeless man and taking him home with her and giving him the biggest meal he'd seen in a long-long time. Working like that for others...does that make her a slave? When I think about it I suppose that if we're doing what we choose to do even if we'd rather be doing something different we're still free. We make the choice to serve instead of being served and so yes we're servants but still free. Even so I'm not completely free. I'm held, captured, chained by rules, obligations, expectations, and finally by custom. That latter one is the hardest for me to bear. Free to fart and burp...maybe when I'm all by myself. Free to explain that there wouldn't be beggars if nobody ever gave them anything ... a message seldom understood and more rarely accepted. Freedom of speech ... it's not at all, all that it's cracked up to be. A truly free person would feel free to tell the fat woman in the motorized grocery-shopping cart that she is a rolling stereotype, that maybe I'm not a prophet, but nevertheless come on lady!—rise, take up thy bed, and just walk for Christ's sake!

It's when I find myself standing in line that I feel most like a slave. Standing in line is the most useless thing there is to do in this world. Who invented such a thing? Somebody standing in line isn't accomplishing anything for anybody. He's not working and yet he's not doing what he wants. He's a slave—in fact—standing there in that stupid pointless line. Shuffling forward a slow step at a time, unable to sit and rest, unable to eat, to sleep, to relieve himself, waiting only for the reason that somebody else has decided he's going to wait. Nevertheless even with that worst of all things—waiting in line—there's still hope...

Yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner, my father and another man—named Mike I think—were having a discussion about the gentleman's old business. He'd sold his bicycle shop in the nick of time. "There's just no reason to invest in everything a small shop requires anymore," Mike said. "There's no more middleman. People buy on-line straight from the factories." It was Amazon, Priceline, Ebay, and a host of other online retailers who understood that the future is "point-and-click" not "wait-in-line." Likewise, the number of people working from home is only going to get bigger. No more waiting in line to get on the expressway. No more waiting in line to get through the metal detector at work. No more waiting for a parking spot. Less waiting more living...that's what freedom is. When you're old and dying in your bed many years from now, what would you give for all those years you spent standing in line?

So how much time do you spend in line? Do you find ways to avoid those lines? If you deal with the government in any appreciable way you spend most of that time waiting in line. The government is still stuck in slavery mentality. You walk into a government office and they immediately start asserting their bureaucratic authority. Turn off your cell-phone. Take a number. Wait. Do you have all the asininely redundant paperwork properly completed? Do you have all the requisite proof of this and that? Did you forget to fill out form blah-blah-blah? Sorry—not!—you'll have to go get that missing thing and once you have it then you can come back to wait back at the end of the line, stupid slave.

It occurs to me that government is the opposite of freedom. Well, you say we need it, and I guess we do need some of it. But this much? I don't think so. There is a children's song that perfectly captures the concept of what government is and what it becomes:

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I dunno why she swallowed that fly,
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly -
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a bird;
How absurd, to swallow a bird!
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly -
Perhaps she'll die

There was an old lady who swallowed a cat.
Imagine that, she swallowed a cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird ...
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she'll die

There was an old lady who swallowed a dog.
What a hog! To swallow a dog!
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat...
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird ...
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a goat.
Just opened her throat and swallowed a goat!
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog ...
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat.
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird ...
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow.
I don't know how she swallowed a cow!
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat...
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog...
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat...
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird ...
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wiggled and wiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I dunno why she swallowed that fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a horse -
She's dead, of course.

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