My favorite song from the debut album of The Wallflowers was a moderately successful hit single about two decades ago. The song was called “The Difference,” and it talked about people at all stages of life, from spirited youth to the elderly, reflecting on the fact that some people remain the same as they used to be. At times, the retaining of childhood is a facet of someone never really growing up. When we picture someone in their twenties sleeping in the basement and not working and spending all day playing video games, this is the picture we have of someone who has not grown up. At times, we see people whose childhood was so savage that for the rest of their lives they have a permanent inability to move beyond a certain stage of life in a certain area. Although such tendencies tend to provoke a fair amount of ridicule, I have always tended to look with a great deal of compassion and empathy upon those whose shards of honor prove particularly difficult to put together again into a beautiful and remade whole.
Today, my reading gave me a book that while somewhat easy in some respects was rather painfully appropriate to other areas of life. I thought that rather than burden the book review with my own personal life (which threatens to overwhelm everything else I talk about in a blog entry anyway, given that most of my acknowledged readers are far more interested in me as a person than the many books I read) I would discuss at least a few of those personal issues elsewhere. I do not plan on discussing these in any particular order, but together they make for a picture of the sort of application I take from what I read, and why I do not consider my reading to be coincidental even if it is very extensive. One of the throwaway comments of the book was one that gave me a particular deal of pain, when the author stated that Esther was not content to flirt with other lovers because she was saving herself for the king. I do not consider myself a particularly flirtatious person—I am friendly to nearly everyone, whether they are big or small, happy or sad, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, powerful or obscure. That said, I am certainly not an accomplished flirt, for my wit is not nearly smooth enough to please, nor have I ever desired to play with anyone’s regard or have anyone play with me. Even the flirtatiousness of other people is something that often confuses me, even where it does not alarm me.
As a teenager, like many teenagers, I was given the task of reading a book that is often well liked called I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I hated the book. Many of the flaws of the book, but by no means all of them, were corrected in Boy Meets Girl, which focused on the positive alternative to dating rather than merely feeling content to slam dumb dating. The book I read today is certainly not one I hate on a visceral level, but it too (like the books of Joshua Harris) deals with the difference between courtship and dating. Dating is a directionless sort of attempt to capture magical moments that help us determine who we feel to be in love with, while courtship is an attempt to get to know someone with a clear goal of determining if someone is marriage material. This is why I refer to my nearly universally disastrous experiences in romance as failed courtships rather than bad dating experiences, because I am not interested in merely a fun time, but I am always more interested in the whole context—whether someone not only is attractive with a certain amount of chemistry, but also whether they are a good friend and a tender and compassionate heart who I can trust with my own. The lengthy and unsuccessful nature of my courtships has demonstrated that what I ask for is a difficult task for which few (if any) are both well-prepared and desirous of taking on. Nevertheless, be that as it may, because I am an honorable gentleman, I do not wish anyone to enter into that task without having volunteered for it and accepted it openly and without coercion or fraud.
Yet perhaps the most painful aspects of the book for me was the book’s lengthy discussion about waiting. There are two different senses, at least, in which waiting can be taken. One of them is wasted time, as I feel when I am on the roads waiting for traffic because of a bridge lift or because people are staring at a stalled car on the side of the road or some other reason. I generally feel as if any task is more productive than that of merely waiting and fuming (literally or figuratively, as the case may be). That said, at times waiting is not a matter of wasting time, but a matter of preparation. This is especially obvious when we think of the maturation process of wine and cheese, perhaps two of the most obvious examples (among many). Farmers have to do a lot of waiting, which is one of the reasons why I hated farming so much as a child from a farming family, waiting for a crop to grow and ripen, and waiting for the conditions to be right to gather in the harvest. That said, we often associate the second type of waiting not with wasted time, but with preparation. It is better to pick the corn after it has ripened, rather than pick it while it is green and will only make one sick to eat it. Obviously, this principle is applicable to us as well, yet we do not often understand what it is that we are being prepared for, and so we chafe at the preparation, not seeing the point for it all. I know I do, and I am sure I am not alone in it. What to do about it, that is a different matter altogether.