Monday, September 23, 2013

Beginning, Middle and End

We recently renegotiated our satellite dish contract, a lovely little dance we engage in once a year when they raise our monthly fee. Consequently, we received a few weeks of free movie channels, the company’s way of saying “thank you” for buying into dozens of channels we need about as much as we need a hundred bottles of Marshmallow Fluff. I rarely watch television, but it does provide a good motivator on those days when I exercise indoors. While my husband plays heavy metal during a workout, I find the distraction of a good movie helps me bring my knees a little higher and push the weight a little longer. Nothing says “Work it, girl!” like Dr. Who or Sense and Sensibility.

I have enjoyed this temporary break from Netflix and the chance to watch a few movies I would have forgotten to watch otherwise. I do have one complaint, however. Unless I time my exercise just right (simply not gonna happen), I end up watching portions of movies and rarely catch the story from beginning to end. I start a movie with just half an hour left of my workout and realize with a sigh that I will never find out whether Sandra Bullock finally gives in to Hugh Grant’s charm or aliens win the war they have waged against a future earth. (Oh wait, aliens never win those, do they? And everyone eventually gives in to Hugh Grant; he’s just that charming.)

Having watched the beginnings of some movies and the endings of others, I have decided that, if I have to choose, I am definitely a “start in the middle and see the end” kind of girl. There is something so very satisfying about a conclusion, particularly one that someone else designed. If I come in at the middle of the story, I imagine the beginning, putting together the pieces from the dialogue and the story as it continues. But imagining an end to the story in my head feels like cheating. Besides, while I can turn a phrase now and again, conclusions have always given me fits. I tend to end my pieces rather abruptly, without much elegance or substance. Give me another writer’s twists and turns and winding up scenes, and I will watch happily while applauding their brilliance. I might even shed a tear or two if I’m feeling particularly hormonal.

Mosque over Tomb of the Patriarchs, Hebron (photo by  Mirari Erdoiza)
I suppose I apply this penchant for conclusions to my outlook on life, as well. At the risk of sounding apocalyptic, I love the thought of living in the winding up scenes of the world, a time when the history and philosophy, the literature and science, the art and music and religion of thousands of years blend together in glorious ways.  I even have a few story lines in mind that I hope to see through to the end.

  • For instance, I know the path involves devastating wars and impossible heartache, but I want to see Isaac and Ishmael come together again to honor their father Abraham, as they did once long ago in the field of Ephron (Genesis 25:9). Come to think of it, there are a few more brothers and sisters who could stand to come together in Ephron and remember a common heritage. God, for reasons of His own, may seem to favor one person or group over another in the short term, but that hardly gives us an excuse to do the same. 
  • On the national political scene, I hope to live to see some wise recess monitor teach the boys and girls in the Congressional playground to play well together. After two hundred years of setting the rules, they seem to have forgotten the basics.
  • Our world has evolved quite far from that first garden. I look forward to a day when we as a people evolve enough to remember the commission to take care of the garden, to cherish both our Eden and the plants and animals that grow there.
  • Technology that seemed fantastical science fiction decades ago has become a reality. Perhaps I will never have the chance to give the “beam me up, Scotty” ready call, but I hope to see the day when I can travel the world—and even the stars—by miraculous means.

And, though I probably will not live to see the end of the world as we know it, there is part of me that dreams of waking up on that day when everything has changed. Back in my singing days, I used to sing a wonderful spiritual called “My Lord What a Morning,” and in my mind I can just catch a glimpse of that day “when the stars begin to fall.” I can feel a bit of the wonder, breathe a bit of that new air. I imagine the stars will fall long after I have moved on, and I will find I have lived the middle of the movie, after all. But, when it comes to the heart of the matter, what is a conclusion but a commencement?

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