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Water, Water Everywhere

November 24th, 2010

Youthful Stupidity is Not Cheap

This week I got depressed. That’s interesting, because it’s something that almost never happens to me.

I spent the first thirty years of my life depressed. My family was dysfunctional, and my childhood was pure misery, and it took me decades to outgrow the habit of depression. I still think of childhood as a prison; if I had to choose one thing for which I’m most grateful, other than my relationship with God, it would be my adult status. I have never gotten over the thrill of adulthood’s freedoms. I don’t have to ask people for money. I can get in my truck or on a plane and go anywhere I want. I don’t have to worry about older adults threatening to beat me up. I don’t have to deal with sadistic teachers any more. If someone makes my life unpleasant, I cut them off and never speak to them again. There is nothing like being an adult.

Maybe we feel the same way when we leave the earth behind.

I think my status as a perennially depressed person ended when I started law school. A career in law wasn’t exciting, and law school was fairly dull, but I had a lot of friends, and I had something to do with my time, and things went reasonably well. Since then, I have never been depressed for more than a day or two.

I got depressed this week because my father invited me out for a drink and then started nagging me about getting married.

You have to understand the history. My mother was a wonderful woman, and when she met my dad, she decided he was IT. He may think he caught her, but the truth is, she caught him. I believe this is usually the case in marriages. Men don’t like to admit it, because it ruins their reputations as ladies’ men, but we are much less picky than women, and women usually end up deciding whether a marriage is going to take place. Men like to think they set their romantic goals and achieve them, and that’s probably true when it comes to casual sex, but when it comes to marriage, women make the decisions. I know there are exceptions, and pride will drive men to dispute it, but the rule seems solid.

My dad was in his twenties, and God dropped a great wife on him without requiring any diligence on his part. As a result, he does not understand that life is not like that for all of us. Asking him about romance is like asking Lindsay Lohan about making money. He landed a great lady early without any real effort, so he thinks it works that way for the whole world.

The Bible says a good wife comes from God, not from your own effort. And it will not always happen on your schedule. According to the Jews, even Isaac, who was highly blessed, did not find a wife until he was middle-aged. Some fine people never marry, and it’s not because they didn’t try. There are some things in this life you can’t control completely, and finding a mate is one of them. You can play the field and then settle; to that extent, you have control. But if you’re hoping for a real blessing, it’s like waiting for rain. God supplies it when he feels like it. And the biggest factor in his timing is your progress as a Christian.

If I had stayed close to God back in the 1980s, when I started attending church and changing my life, I would surely have found a wife long ago. But I stepped outside the flow of blessings and into the domain of the enemy, and I got the kind of wages enemies pay. I accept that. Like all human beings, I was born an idiot, and idiots suffer until they recover from idiocy.

God is repairing my life now, but it is not an instantaneous process, and I am not going to saddle myself with an awful woman just because I’m getting old. I enjoy life tremendously, and there is nothing that can match a woman’s potential to cause misery. I am not going to try to force a blessing.

I didn’t enjoy being reminded that I had frittered away my youth. Ordinarily, I don’t think much about it, but parents have a way of pushing buttons. So I was down for a couple of days. I wasn’t looking for a bridge to jump off of, but I’m ordinarily very happy, so two or three mildy gloomy days have a big impact on my perception of my life.

It’s particularly upsetting to get this kind of speech, given the choices my dad would make for me. He means well, but he tries to fix me up with cocktail waitresses and cashiers. He used to try to fix me up with his paralegals. Anyone he thinks is good looking will do.

This highlights the magnitude of the blessing he received when he found my mother. He could have married some sleazy woman who saw him purely as a meal ticket. God blessed him, pure and simple. I could have a wife next week, if a cocktail waitress was what I wanted. And before you start lecturing me, I’m not referring to a nice Christian girl who had no choice but to serve drinks for a living. That should be obvious to any intelligent person.

My church is full of nice women, but most of them are black, and only a small percentage of black women are willing to marry outside their race. A lot of the women at my church are young, and while a woman should be no older than her husband, I feel a little odd talking to women in their twenties. Quite honestly, I always think, “This girl would be cheating herself.” Some of the women in my church are too old to have kids. That rules them out; I don’t care how nice they are in other ways. I’m not closing that door. It may seem unfair, since it means I won’t date a woman my own age, but then I didn’t make the rules of biology, and I won’t be held accountable for them. God put Ruth and Boaz together, after all. I don’t know of any Biblical stories of young men marrying old women. Feminism is a modern conceit; it has nothing to do with reality.

There are also women who already have kids. There are a couple of problems with this. First, I am not a kid person. I know I would love children of my own, but I don’t like being around other people’s kids all that much, except for really good kids, for short periods of time. And women with kids tend to be overly eager to get remarried, partly for financial reasons, and that causes problems. Second problem: being injected into a prefab family complete with a family court judge, a hostile adult male, and two sets of in-laws does not appeal to me.

Psalm 37:4 says God will give us the desires of our hearts. I have seen that happening to me, and I know it applies to all aspects of life. I’m not going to wreck it by making a desperate lifeboat-style grab for a wife. I have a wonderful life as a single man. Why would I trade that for a miserable life with a woman who was unattractive or unpleasant or lacking in faith? God will provide, or he won’t. I keep my eyes open, and I will make the effort, but I know the difference between carnality and spirituality, and I am not going to let my flesh run the show.

I don’t know if my church will provide a solution. I’ve only met one woman who seemed to have potential, and she’s young, and there are other issues.

I’ll say this for my church: for young people, it’s a marriage factory. I’ve seen a number of great young people get hitched there, and some are also developing good careers. They’re so lucky. They have stayed within God’s protection, and they are getting blessed early in life. Hopefully they won’t have to go through the chastisement and droughts people like me go through.

In other news, I’m planning to build a guitar. I found out how easy it is to build Telecaster clones. A factory neck is a necessity, unless you’re a skilled woodworker, but anyone who can run a router can make a body, and you can get perfect results and great control, without spending much. A Fender American Standard sells for $1000; for that kind of money, you could build the finest Telecaster known to man.

I’d like to make a guitar with a bookmatched walnut top. I already have the wood. I want humbucker-sized pickups and a Bigsby. Truthfully, it would be a Les Paul in a Telecaster shape. It’s very hard to build a Les Paul, and a Telecaster-type guitar would do the same things.

Telecasters are amazing. A Telecaster is a stick and a board, and it only has two pots, but it can still have an incredible action, great responsiveness, and all sorts of wonderful tones.

I’d like to play slide blues, and you need a guitar with a fairly high action for that, and I don’t want to dedicate any of my existing guitars to it, so building seems like a good way to go. For $500, I can make something wonderful. We’ll see what happens.

Last night I had a playing breakthrough. I keep studying theory and scales and whatever, and so far it has led nowhere. I had some ideas for “Sweet Home Chicago,” so I started working on it with no real plan, and before I knew it, I had a complete solo.

This tells me I may be able to do what “natural musicians” do. That would sure be a nice shortcut. Some people play and compose beautifully without getting into theory, and if I could do that, it would make life a lot more satisfying while the theory studies progress.

I know of several ways to approach the guitar. One is to sit around studying theory and scales. Another is to memorize other people’s arrangements note for note and go from there. Another is to hear arrangements in my head and try to write them down in tablature form. Last night I realized there’s a simpler way: just pick the guitar up and play. This is probably how B.B. King did it. I think I can guarantee you it’s how John Lee Hooker did it, because he played whatever he wanted, all the time, and he complained that he had no freedom when he worked with bands.

While I was working with the guitar, I realized I was getting to know the fretboard instinctively: which notes worked and which didn’t. I was finding positions to use. That stuff could be very useful. So from now on I plan to spend a certain amount of time every day, just PLAYING. I think it will work. One of the things I hated about the piano was that I practiced and practiced, but I never played.

I have to go make cranberry sauce, cranberry relish, and two pumpkin pies now. Happy Thanksgiving.

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10 Responses to “Water, Water Everywhere”

  1. Heather Says:

    Steve, would you care to share your cranberry relish recipe?

  2. Ben Says:

    Steve:

    I just want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving, because you have been for me a tremendous blessing, especially when you post spiritual material. Even though I don’t always agree with your theology. But then, I don’t always agree with some of the speakers at my own church. Your logic and humor are great!

  3. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Steve, I started to comment and ended up writing a post. So I posted it at my place. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Regarding marriage, may God bless you with happiness. He’s obviously given you wisdom.

  4. pbird Says:

    You’re a wise man to wait. Good for you.

  5. Aaron's cc: Says:

    If you recall my pushing you to find a congregation, my next piece of advice is not to rule out briefly-married women w/o children. Allow people to have made mistakes in their youth and who have done tshuvah and gained wisdom. A woman in her mid to late 30′s isn’t too old for children. I know couples in my synagogue who got married in their late 40′s and had children. I also know couples in my synagogue who adopted.
    .
    Everyone has baggage. There are women who have successfully minimized the volume of their baggage from their divorces and who are probably going to be especially grateful to have another chance… and probably more of them to be found in a religious community than elsewhere.
    .
    I’d be more nervous about a 35-year-old woman who had NEVER gotten married than of a 35-year-old who was married from age 26 to 29 and had no children and effectively has a “czar’s blessing” relationship with her ex. (In the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, the rabbi is asked if there’s a blessing for the Czar, to which he ponders and replies “Of course! ‘May God bless and keep the Czar… far away from us.’”
    .
    I’d also not rule out women who probably did things that you wouldn’t have approved of before they were 28… if they have MANY years of subsequent spiritual growth. For those who wish forgiveness, the l’hitpallel approach (recall that the Hebrew word for prayer is reflexive) is to look for opportunities to forgive. We’re all broken. We’re measured not by our failures but by how we’ve grown from them.
    .
    Patton’s quotation is less military than spiritual: “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs, but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”
    .
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  6. Aaron's cc: Says:

    Another way to stack the deck in you favor for finding a mate is to find out if married congregants you admire have a unmarried sister who lives within driving distance. You’d start out already liking prospective in-laws, and that’s a huge plus.

  7. Gerry From Valpo Says:

    I am sending this link to my 28 year old son who is still single.
    .
    And he doesn’t play guitar.
    .
    Thank you. Thank you very much.

  8. anne Says:

    Well, I guess I’m out of the running, then! I kid. You make interesting points. I am inclined to see a lot of sense in what Aaron’s cc says, too. I wish you the best, and I hope your Thanksgiving was good.

  9. greg zywicki Says:

    My humble experience on women and guitar:

    1.)A wife is _The_ gift from God, but there is one thing you can do to steer this blessing: Love people. God will provide the Woman, you have to do the loving, so keep practicing that with your brothers and sisters.

    2.)I bet even King and Hooker learned some pentatonic scales and some basic licks from the Bluesmen that came before them. In my experience, the best thing to do is everything – scales, licks, other people’s stuff, and just playing what sounds good.

  10. physics geek Says:

    If you recall my pushing you to find a congregation, my next piece of advice is not to rule out briefly-married women w/o children.

    Aaron is, as usual, very wise. My wife was briefly married to her high school sweetheart. Needless to say, she’s much more diplomatic about him than other members of her family. In any event, she was 31 when I met her. We went on our first date six months later and I proposed 6 weeks later. Now we’ve got three beautiful children who wear me out, but provide me with joy on a level that I didn’t know existed. As someone rapidly approaching fifty, I have to say that having a child under the age of two does a lot to keep one young.

    FWIW, I was almost 40 and resigned to never a good woman when my wife appeared out of the blue. As we later discovered, our lives had circled each others for about 15 years before we met; lots of friends and acquaintances in common. But we met when we were finally meant to.

    Just keep letting God work in your life and good things will happen.