Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rescued by my iPhone

Last night I left the cybercafe after darkness fell.  And darkness fell in horror movie fashion.  I mean the kind where light is swallowed like little children by the tooth fairy monster.  This was the kind of darkness where you find a few body parts in the morning because the cheesy sci-fi horror movie monster had a snack before it went on to dine on some slutty, big breasted bimbo defended by her condescending, egocentric jock-boyfriend.  Too dark for Jeepers-Creepers, but not dark enough for Pitch Black.  Yet, dark enough to abuse similes and metaphors to horror movies.

I stepped outside the one story maintenance building that housed the Canteena, cybercafe, and maintenance center for the Exercise.  The building stands between the main road through the base and the flight line.  Until the exercise gets into full swing, this is the defacto headquarters building and houses the entertainment center while we are here. 

I would have thought a main road would be lit through the night.  Perhaps not equal to day light, but enough to see the existence of the road.  I couldn't see the main road 30 feet away or the foot bridge over the ditch 20 feet from where I stood.  I looked left and right and saw no street lights.  The light from the building was absorbed by the darkness within five feet of the source. 

Great.  A seven minute walk back to the barracks in near pitch black, over several ditchs, across several roads, through an orchard and a lightly wooded area and a neighborhood.  Flackbacks to TBS night land navigation came to mind--"I'm going to poke my eye out falling over a tree and bleed to death." 

Night land nav at TBS involved walking through heavily wooded terrain littered with deadfall, thorny bushes, rocks, steep hills, unexpected ditches and several creeks.  F-ing creeks, F-trees, F-ing thorny bushes, and Muther-F-ing deadfall. 

The heavily wooded part meant that the illuminatin from the half-moon was absolutely useless.  The only light I saw came from the glowy stuff on the compass and 299 cell phones or digital watches belonging to my fellow tormented TBS-ers.  I appreciated the moon only when I found my way to the dirt roads marking the borders of our little joyful playground.

On the first night tortured land-nav I wore my BCGs (Birth Control Glasses--yeah, no sex with those attraction enhancers) because we were told to where eye protection.  At the time I was without contacts, and that meant I wore the ballistic corrective lenses instead of my regular glasses.  Thank God for those BCGs.  On my last trip across the rolling wooded hills I found some deadfall.  Three steps into the forest and I landed face first into a broken tree branch.  The BCGs deflected my head from the branch.  At the time, I suspected, but I confirmed later when I saw the scratch, that if I had not had the BCGs on I would be operating right now without my left eye.  Night land-nav II saw those BCGs get lost, but only after preventing more damage.

Visions of night land-nav in my mind, because they offered a real possible outcome instead of my horror flick head trip, I took a deep breath and pulled out my iPhone activating my flash light app.  Yeah, my flash light app.  No night land-nav reinactments for me.  Thank you iPhone.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Midnight Mass

I know this is late, but life intercedes...and it took me a few days to write this particular post.  I am by no means religious.

"I survived another Catholic Christmas Midnight Mass at this church," my wife said once we got home at 1 a.m.  As a recovering Catholic, I agreed.  More interestingly, I realized I missed the Christmas Midnight Mass of childhood.  

The Mass we suffered through lacked the joy and celebration Christmas should have.  It is the birth of Christ, savior of all people, God's only son, His direct representative on Earth.  He has been born, Rejoice!  Damn it.  Don't play a melancholy dirge.

Instead of joyful the music was mournful at best, the ritual grudgingly routine, and the priest almost pathetically desperate in his attempts to stir emotion.  These faults in the Mass are not from a lack of faith or a desire to express that faith by the congregation, rather it is a lack of charisma to stir emotion and bring others to action in the actors of the Mass.  

The Music bears the greater burden.  It can set the tenor of the entire Mass before the priest even opens his mouth.  I have been to Churches that have the entire congregation singing along and enjoying the uncomfortable wooden pews, jumping to sing and hug fellow celebrants and actively listen to the priest.  And I've been to Churches that condemn life itself and force believers to mourn the faith they should be rejoicing in. Christ was Born and given by God to save us!  I'm not deep in my faith or an avid defender of Christianity, but my mother taught me to understand that God should be someone (something?  some entity?) to be happy about--not regretted or resented.  The before Mass music sounded almost hopeful for half a song, but slowly devolved into routine.   

The internal Mass songs can be stirring, if sung and played with joy and emotion; but this early morning, like most normal Sunday Masses I suspect, the words and notes were merely an inconvenient routine.  And to top it off, the leader of this morose troupe alternated between flat and sharp, hardly suffering a correct note--and I am next to talentless in pitch.

The priest tried hard.  He tried to engage the few children and the scattered congregation.  However, his thick accent hindered him and his own impatience with the children made him look condescending and trite.  He asked the children questions about Christmas lore, but failed to commit to the plan and work to elicit the answers he wanted.  Placing Santa Clause into a greater religious role than he probably ever had takes away from the themes he focused on later in the sermon.  He probably was trying to bring the children into the sermon but quickly lost their attention as he ignored their answers and offered little praise for their efforts.  At that time and through most of his sermon, he sacrificed the attention of the adults, who were more entertained by the antics of a two year old.  I do not remember what else the priest talked about, but I know the kid was funny and Santa brought gifts to Christ.

I say Christmas Lore, not to degenerate Christianity, but to describe the Christianization of Pagan beliefs and traditions.  Winter celebrations predated Christianity's entrance into the world.  Thanks to historians it is easy to prove that the early Church designed Christmas (or moved its celebration) to the Winter Solstice and to encourage conversions.  There are probably plenty more facts we could catalogue to support this, but we won't.

As a child, I remember Christmas Midnight Mass being fun to attend.  I looked forward to it and not just because gifts would be under the tree afterwards.  The Mass was a celebration, not a routine that must be suffered through to enjoy Christmas Day without guilt.  The Mass was an event to start Christmas Day.