I really think the announcement should have been full-banner, above the crease, big bold capital letters! The Fargo City Council, who apparently has been imbued with the responsibility and privilege of dictating large portions of the lives and livelihood of the citizens of this fine fair city, decided last night… to do nothing.
Doing nothing is really an interesting approach to life, as I have mentioned before. Many individuals make choices in their lives to not make choices, that is, they may want something to happen in their lives, but rather than take a definitive stance, they instead kind of hold their finger up to the wind, and “decide” they will not do anything, but instead follow Doris Day’s song, “Que Sera, Sera” – “what will be, will be…” I’m just going to sit here, on this rock all day. If the wind blows strong, maybe it will blow a blanket on me to cover my shoulders and keep me warm. Que sera. Or if it starts raining, instead of a blanket, maybe somewhere, somehow, a nice poncho or waterproof tarp will end up over my head, and .. que sera, sera…
This is the purest, and worst form of living accidentally. I just hang around, hoping and expecting that the forces of nature and the random events of the earth will somehow end up benefitting me, and I in return will basically do nothing either way to create a change in the universe. Frankly that’s the life philosophy of a rock. “The future’s not ours to see…” there goes Doris again. Instead, eagerly wait to see what the world has in store – or maybe not eagerly wait – just wait, and keep part of an eye open to what might be ahead, as that blanket comes floating out of the sky to take care of me.
When we wake up in the morning, put our feet on the floor, and our first question that will guide what we do next happens to be, “I wonder – what will the world bring to me today?” – well, it borders on selfish, as though the world has a responsibility to me, and it is well in the area of laziness, since, outside of toddlers, who are busy learning things, like walking and skipping and going to the bathroom at the right time, we are given the huge gift of making a difference in our own lives, and the lives of those we touch. Even more, we can dream and plan and make huge mistakes, and wonderful victories – but it only happens when we give up the vain and silly idea that this world, and our future, is just something that is somehow going to wash over us, and take us where it wants us to be.
I remember when Cheri and I took a (so far) once in a lifetime trip to Cabo San Lucas for a week in the middle of winter. It was a great idea, by the way… Anyway, one of our last days there, we went down to the beach, and the waves were huge. We started by standing on the edge of the ocean, feeling the sand pulled out from under our feet as the tide pushed out – and then it came crashing in, up to our knees. Of course, we waded in further, and pretty soon, we were standing waist deep, feeling the incredible power of the ocean sucking the water away from us, and then making a fist out of the wave that was coming in, and clobbering us over the top of our heads with a wall of water, knocking us down and making us laugh. We laughed if course, because we were nearly helpless in the face of such a strong tide. However, we still stood there – yes, getting beat up, but standing, and doing all we could to go toe to toe with thousands of gallons of water.
Of course, I hope you understand that to be a metaphor for our lives on this earth. We may get knocked down, and sent flying underwater to the gritty sand sometimes, but our best effort is to stand – to intentionally, with all our might and our heart, withstand what is being thrown at us. Instead of “what will be, will be,” we do our best when we sing at the top of our lungs, “This is what I hope it will be, and will do all I can to make it happen!” Not very lyrically, but it has a good beat to it.
So today, as you stand waist deep in the ocean, knowing the wave is about to crash, instead of buckling your knees and getting ready to pushed around, it’s better to lock those knees, strengthen that back, make those fists, and tell even the waves that are coming, “Not if I can help it!” That is an intentional heart, and an intentionally bold and significant life.
So – back the Fargo City Council… a number of months back, when COVID was basically out of control, and it seemed our society could only shut everything down in hopes that when the waves crashed, it would only take out a small percentage of our friends and family, the Council “boldly crept” (that’s a phrase I made up for how many organizations and groups act – boldly taking one tiny step after the other…) into the future, and said that within the city of Fargo, if you went inside anywhere, you needed to wear a mask. Now, they called it a mandate, but it had not enforcement, and no penalty, except for the blaming eyes of others when they noticed you were walking around bare faced. Up here in the Northland, the peer pressure has been strong enough that we probably have had a near 100% compliance, except in the bars and such, where apparently alcohol is stronger than societal pressure. So, truly believing in a way that “the future’s not ours to see,” we agreed, and went out, or ordered millions of dollars of face coverings.
Now, for me, the mask seemed to be successful. I never contract COVID – of course, I also barely have gone out into the public, doing most of my work from home, but it did stay away from our doorstep. Week after week, month after month, I have had to make a conscious decision whether to go grocery shopping today, or whether we could put it off a few more days…
Anyway – we have lived under an unenforceable mandate and most of us have survived both the mandate and the disease. Remember – hardly anyone is alive who went through this 100 years ago.
Well, back a few months ago, the Council decided to keep things just the way they are, and to extend the mandate for another couple of months. Do you hear the boldly creeping? Their rationale was that it wasn’t quite the right time, and they weren’t going to go first in lifting the cap.
But yesterday was March 22. It’s spring, and even more, lots and lots of people are getting shot with a variety of promises that the pandemic will no longer hurt them. Deaths are indeed down, infections are pretty well “under control,” which means they aren’t overwhelming the capacity of hospitals and clinics. And it’s gotten warm enough to open up outside eating and drinking places, so a number of folks have decided on their own that they don’t need any more masks.
So the Fargo Council took the bold (insert creeping) step last night – to do nothing. The mandate was set to expire at 11:59pm last night, unless the Council voted to extend it. They didn’t, but they didn’t do anything else either. Instead of taking the courage to either extend the mask thing, or to intentionally end it, they chose not to vote. Perhaps this was so no one could come back and criticize their actions, but they never said a word. They just let the mandate expire, all on its own, and told folks to pay attention to what individual stores and businesses were saying they wanted to do with masks.
Perhaps there is nothing wrong with that kind of approach – but doesn’t it sound a bit passive, a bit accidental, and not at all intentional? I think so, and I am disappointed when leaders could – and should act with a greater action, a greater intention, a great courage of heart to make a stand – even against the waves that might knock you down.
So – we move into Spring. I carry a mask in my car, and depending on where I will go, it will stay, or go with me. I’m also half-vaccinated, and don’t plan to make a life out of going back to shopping anywhere and everywhere I want. I do hope you will continue to be safe, yourselves, and to ensure that your decision as to how you will protect yourself will be informed, and sensible – and intentional. Have a great day – mask or not.
Word of the day: oblocutor. Pronounced ah-BLOCK-you-tor. One of our great Latin words, used mostly in law. It’s fairly obscure otherwise, although it would be a nice one to pull out when you have a disagreement: “I don’t mean to be an oblocutor at this point, but…” The word has the deepest root with loqui, meaning “to speak.” When you drop the prefix ob before it, you end up speaking against. An oblocutor is someone who employs obloquy in the sense that they deny or dispute what is being said. It’s the defense after the prosecution has presented their case. As an oblocutor, my job is also to show where your presentation is untrue or faulty. In its worst sense, the word also can mean “evil speaking, or slander.” An oblocutor will take the good you have offered, and speak ill or slander it, in order to at least tarnish, if not invite others to not believe you.
It’s a word that has its value, especially when something being asserted really isn’t true, but it always takes up a combative frame of mind. So don’t be an idle oblocutor – our world doesn’t need any more of that…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.