Wednesday, June 11, 2008


An interesting discussion occurred at work yesterday, prompted by a long-time patron of ours. He is a rather dour man. He's always been serious to the point of painfulness; not a guy who smiles more than twice a year, whether he needs to or not! He used to work with hospice as a spiritual advisor; at least that was the sense I got while talking to him at the Reference Desk 10 years or so ago. He frequently checked out books on dealing with grief and end-of-life issues. Yes, clearly, he had good reason not to be Santa Claus jolly.

In the past 6 or 7 years, he got married and has had a son. He's considerably less 'dark' now, but still pretty intense.

Yesterday he returned our copy of God's Problem, by Bart Ehrmann. The subtitle, and definition of the 'problem' in question, is "How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer." I generally like Ehrmann's writing, but he has lost me on this book completely; I've already decided to pass. Not Mr. Dour. He returned it yesterday and asked Supplies, who was staffing the Circulation Desk, if she had thought about that question. When she replied--rather nonplussed--that she didn't have a good answer, he told her that because she didn't, that meant she was actually agnostic and couldn't really believe in God. Or something to that effect.

Needless to say, she was pretty shocked to find this out. Especially from a patron. With no discussion or a fair exchange of ideas. When she told me, I was really irritated because I find it really annoying to think that anyone would presume that someone at work would want to start a lengthy theological discussion with a 'customer.' I mean, what if we say the wrong thing and the customer decides we are crossing the line either socially or even legally?!

Plus, she's NOT an agnostic. On the positive side, it made for a very interesting staff conversation of the sort I've never had with Supplies before. She was quite...uh...hurt...discombobulated...frustrated by the encounter.

To top it off, as we were talking she noticed a couple of paper clips on pages in the book. When she opened to the page to remove the clips, we noticed that the book has been underlined and commented upon throughout! Of course, there's no way to prove he did it, but we are all pretty sure it was Mr. Dour. Damn his eyes. And I mean that, quite literally.


[For what it's worth, I think we suffer because we screw up on a regular basis. We do things we know are not the right thing and others do wrong things that impact us. I think there is some karma-like stuff that goes on in the sense that what you put into the world comes back at you, too. That doesn't mean that people get sick or are crime victims or experience weather-related tragedies because they sinned. What I mean is that we suffer from what we put into the world. If our overall perspective of the world is that it is a wondrous, positive place, that's what we will see even in the face of misery and horror. That doesn't mean good people never have bad things happen; it means that the bad things don't necessarily overcome people who can find goodness and joy in life. I'm not expressing this well, and it sounds very Pollyanna-ish, and it probably seems like I'm discounting the suffering in Darfur (e.g.) and omitting any mention of sick little kids. The key is that I don't know. It doesn't mean that I don't believe in God; it means I don't have God's overview and I don't know how it's all meant to work. That's when we come back to the part that I don't have problems with, ever: faith. I have faith that there IS a purpose. Some days, I do get glimpses of parts of The Plan. Someday I'll understand the whole thing.]

Urban Word:
Chuck a Spaz: It means to have a fit, whether it be epileptic or emotional. To forgo rationality and opt for spasmodic movements, arms flailing, and utterances of an incoherent nature. Likewise, it is the behavior of people who get upset when they don't understand something.

As much annoyance as Mr. Dour spawned yesterday, no one chucked a spaz, not even him, and he's renowned for his little snits.

No comments: