Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Sixth Dance of Christmas: Half Epiphany on Highway 79

The Sixth Dance of Christmas:  
Half Epiphany on Highway 79
Sitting in the Super 8 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, 
tired of driving but I'm scared of dying and old man river . . . .
Oops. Sorry.
Obviously too much coffee plus all that pan dulce from Austin Missy and I bought last night that was supposed to make it home to Indiana but that I've been eating in the car all day.

More about that later.

So, the sixth dance of Christmas would be . . . . ?
Let's see, the Catholikapedia (I just made that up) gives it this snappy name:
The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas. Oooooh. Like it.
What, no slaughter? No martyr? 
Maybe I could do some Dan Brown thing like: "Six geese a'laying: the hidden meaning."

But then it hit me like a ginger pig in a Mexican bakery--
Today is half-way to Epiphany.

Those wise men, kings, magi, whatever, whoever,
have been on the road at least six of the twelve days of Christmas,
and apparently, just like this year with our sub-tropical temps and all, 
a moderately cold coming they had of it.

But halfway to Epiphany is still only half way,
and if the Epiphany is sort of one of those "infinity" moments (and why not? since epiphany as we all learned in high school English pretty much means whatever your teacher wants it to mean),
AND if we can trust Zeno and his paradox,
then those wise, kings, magi, whatever, whoever,
very possibly still have an awfully long way to go.

And, probably, they need my advice,
as do most of you, although I haven't yet put out my "top ten holiday movies" list yet. 

Yet, I said. 

Anyway, today I began an unsentimental sacramental journey home from my native home,
and I'm doing it in a specific intentional way, all on what we now call "back roads,"
in honor of those who seek Epiphany not just movement,
who maybe are half way there (whether they know it or not),
who maybe need some last minute advice or even a model (c'est moi!)
to imitate.

Believe me friends, I myself don't take a step in this crazy dance without consulting my mentors.
Unfortunately, all of them are dead, but that shouldn't disqualify them for anything but public office.
So my steps aren't really mine.
And if this time warp works, those magic magi steps (whatever, whoever) were not only not theirs alone,
but are mine as well. And yours. If you will just pay better attention. That's why you get to celebrate/endure the long journey of Christmas obviously. 

So here they are:
Six Simple Steps on the Road to Epiphany. Or, a little thing I like to call: Dancing towards the Star.

1. Ask directions from local people.
Listen to a real person tell you which way to go. 

If possible, get conflicting directions from different people.
Then tell them a joke.
Ask them again which way to turn at the Sphinx.
Also ask about where to get good hummous.

Don't believe your GPS about anything. 

It doesn't work for this journey.
If you must use a map, use one of those you found in the basement from when you cleaned out your dad's stuff. 
Half the roads aren't on it and you're liable to get good and lost.

I mean, If you already know what you're doing and exactly where you're going,
what the heck are you going to see God for?

2. Rest your camel occasionally.
Walk with him. Get to know him. Feed him part of your protein bar.
Baby Jesus will wait for you.
And he'll be happy that you took good care of your camel.
If he isn't respectful of your camel, take back the presents.
Give them to PETA instead. 

3. Do as I did today. Do NOT take the interstate.
What's your hurry?
Do you really only want to see every Wal-Mart and Dick's Sporting Goods between Austin and Bethlehem?
Being kings and all,
you might kind of like seeing all those bail bond places next to the court house in Shreveport.
You might also take away some lessons on the mutability of earthly civilizations when you see its downtown that looks like a bombed out war zone
(really it's just another victim of Wal-mart and Dick's Sporting Goods and First Baptist Church who all moved out by the interstate twenty years ago).

Another note of interest, I stopped and waited for trains three times today.
Twice in Shreveport, and I'm pretty sure it was the same train both times.
You'll miss seeing those trains if you take the interstate.
As Isaiah writes, those who wait for trains will be more successful pilgrims than they who waiteth not.

Besides, at some point, you might find a wonderful Mexican bakery along the way, you can talk to the little nine-year-old girl, ask her how much Ginger Pigs are, then barter with her trying to get three for the price of two, laugh, and leave her a big tip. Don't worry about the labor laws this time. You want her home watching TV or surfing the web instead of being with her mom in the store?
Really? For wise men, you could stand to use your brains a bit more.

4. Do NOT eat at a restaurant that would be just the same if you were in Austin, Shreveport, Pine Bluffs, Jerusalem, or Fort Wayne.
If they have arches, hand out crowns, or feature a picture of a Colonel, ride your camel right on past.
Look for names like Joe or Sara or even Bubba.
Alternatively, pick blackberries and make a crumble (easier than a pie).
Or ask the people at the Super 8 in Pine Bluff where you can get the best local breakfast.
Or, even better, stand out in a narrow alley way and sing until they give you something from the local bakery. 
Say you are a pilgrim. Dress funny if it helps. 
Penultimately. Listen pals. You have a lot of spare time on this long journey.
Use it wisely.
Not by thinking about your investments. 

Or by making a checklist of the appointments you will need to meet when you get back home to the Orient R
or wherever it is you live and are kings, wise men, or magi, whatever, whoever.

Also, don't worry unnecessarily about those credits that didn't count towards your major or, for that matter,
what you are going to do with that philosophy major anyway.
No, as I said. Use. Your. Time. Wisely. 
For example, wonder why you didn't go off on a crazy journey like this sooner.
Or why you haven't thought more about the treatment of camels.
Make up a song about your crazy journey following yonder star (throw in a funny line about a cigar if you can think of one).

Think about what you're going to do after you see God, if you're allowed to live that is.

Just in case you aren't (going to live), take a day off and tell those other kings, wise men, magi about that girl you love (though you know it will never work out ) and about your favorite family table game and about the first time you saw a camel being born (or a human, whichever makes you cry when telling about it).

Pretend to be Swedish for several hours and try to convince all the local merchants with your bad Swedish accent that you are really a Swedish tourist who is just dressed like a king, wise man, magus, whatever, whoever from the Orient R.

Since you may very well be exploding in about a week, sing a Rhianna song at the top of your lungs
and dance like it's 1999.

6. Consider well what gifts you will give the baby when you arrive (and find the place satisfactory).
Gold is good.
Frankincense is smelly.
Myrrh . . . well, I guess it's an acquired test.
What about a Ginger Pig? A cockatiel? A ukelele? Don't worry, he will grow into it.

Truthfully, regardless of what you give, fear not, we poets (which means "liars" in Platonese) will find a way to make it symbolic.

The most important thing is that you make this journey.
Follow in my steps, though I'm only halfway home myself.
Bear some gifts. 

Traverse afar. 
Take care of your camels.
Whatever else you do, do NOT accept any invitations from local dignitaries. 
I'm dead serious. Look at my eyes.

One other thing--
remember that your heart will probably get sucked out of your chest at some point on your pilgrimage.
Don't worry, that's as it should be.

And, finally, learn the lesson of all true Epiphanies--
you aren't really kings,

you aren't really wise,
But you may very well be magic. 

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