17 August 2012

Go west young man

          After work today I had this impulse to drive towards the sunset, and that led me to the Edmonds beach. I figured I could use this solace opportunity to figure some things out in my head. I wandered the around the little downtown area with its cute little shops and sidewalk cafes and street entertainment, feeling very obscure and unsure of my intentions. Do I want fish and chips or do I want coffee? Ice cream? No I had my share last week; perhaps I should go to Starbucks for internet, but I'm supposed to be figuring things out in my head...
          Eventually I wandered down to the beach landing next to the ferry dock. There were a few people sitting on the jetty staring down the sun as it set, and I found my own seat on a rock. Middle aged hipsters and old people were doing their walkabouts. I took my turn at sun staring when a Carl Fredrickson-esque man came up next to me and spontaneously yet intently queried, "So, are you still in school?"

          The gentleman seemed affable, but he was a stranger so I figured he was a loose geriatric making conversation. His shorts rode up high; he had on a golf polo and headphones that must have been connected to a Walkman.
"Yes sir, I'm just on summer vacation."
"Tuition must be real expensive in this economy wouldn't you say so?"
"It sure is..."
          The conversation was faster than this, but I recall just muddling when he was saying something about taxpayers and Obama and Medicare. He got around to asking me where I went to college and I said something about Michigan and then he said something about scholarships and taxpayers and Medicare, but somewhere in between he asked what my goal in life was. I stumbled, because I wasn't sure how to say what I don't know.
"It's okay," he assured me. "I don't think I knew when I was your age either. How old are you? 23? 24?"
"Ah okay. You're doing pretty good for being in college at your age (really?), but you know I didn't know what my goal in life was either."
"I think I want to be a theologian."
He did the one eyebrow raised thing, "What? You can't make a living being a minister. Go be an electrical engineer, a scientist..."
"Well sir, I don't think the point of being a minister is to make a living--"
"--You know, the problem with ministers in America today is that they live off of the ungodly, they live off of other people. I wouldn't want you living off of me. Now if you were the pastor of a big congregation, sure, but you can't support yourself being a minister."
"But isn't ministry about selflessness? I don't have to live well, in fact I'd rather not. And that's why I think the concept of ministry needs to be redefined in America."
"Nah, it doesn't need to be redefined, let's just do away with it. You can't live off of the ungodly (I'm trying to make sense of what that means), you have to live comfortably...[something about the prosperity gospel being right or wrong, muddling]."
"I understand, sir (how awkward it is to say in this day and age), but I think it's what the world needs."
"Yes well, good luck to you. What is your name now?" He closed the conversation the way others his age seem to - short and candid.
"Nice to meet you Peter."
"Go on and enjoy the sunset."
"Alright you too Peter."

Edmonds, Washington

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