August 11, 2002

I am back. Thursday and Friday were glorious self-appointed sea dog days, days spent under a glittering, unquenchable sun, days spent continuously outdoors from 10 am to 6 or 7 pm, days which landed me in the surf, on bike, btwn the pages of a book or quaffing Guinness or drinking Corona as the sun's corona faded. The other days were more or less pinched by responsibility, and tested my ever-weakening tolerance for chatter. Chatter this, chatter that. Lots of social bookings. "The Imitation of Christ", written for monks I think, has it that unnecessary talking is nearly sinful. Jeesh that sounds appealing sometimes. (And that is supposed to be a cross?). The actor Larry Hagman never speaks on Mondays - a whole day of complete silence. (I read it years ago in the Nat'l Enquirer so you know it's true). I thought it odd. Now.... But of course I am doing the equivalent of chattering here, never letting a thought slip by unpublished.

So a week later, 50 miles of bike rides and a 12-pack later here I am – inflight – carrying back a better man? Surely the break in routine was precious. What did I learn? Valuing hope over experience, I always imagine that from vacations will spring a well of good ideas that I can take back to 'the real world'.

It seems the problem with purity is that the greater the purity the more affected you are by impurities. So in trying to shield myself from nudity via R-rated movies and any other kind of soft-porn has apprently left me particularly vulnerable to 'beach shock'. The shielding seems to have resulted in more keen antennae, such that the merest whiff of viva le’ difference is detected. And so, returning to the beach this year was like laying before a drug addict this huge spread of the latest pharmaceuticals.

Fortunately I could behold the Cross and it is so catechetical – one finds many assurances. One is love, of course, and there is also the sense that he will accept our buffets and stings willingly (indicated by the posture of open arms). The vertical nature of it – the fact it leads from ground skyward – neatly incarnates the doctrine that Jesus is the bridge between heaven and earth and there is no getting from here to there without Him.

My beach reading was Clive Clusser's “Inca Gold”, JP2’s “Love & Responsibility” and Dineson’s “Out of Africa”; a perfect admixture of good, bad and saintly writing. (You guess which).

And I noticed that after a week of relaxation, of white sand and white sun, of Guinnesses, after long bike rides to puffy sand beds with elliptical petals shading me, of hard runs down a hard-packed beach to any good tune I could find, that well, I liked it. One day I rode around a retirement community with conflicted emotions. On the one hand it was a retirement community, symbol of tragic things (i.e. loss of freedom, diminishing bodily powers, enforced artificial community, etc) and yet also at once attractive (i.e. no job, beautiful island, quiet, peaceful pathways and spacious balconies).

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