When I was a little kid, maybe about 4 years old, we moved to a new neighborhood in a new town. Ah, a fresh start. I needed one because I was developing a bit of a criminal reputation in the old hood. You see, every afternoon my 18 year old step mother – that’s another story – would give me some moo-la to buy an ice cream cone from the the ice cream truck man. However, one day, the piggy bank was empty and she couldn’t give me any money. Even at 3 years old, I was thinking out-of-the-box. I had a financial problem. So, I found the Monopoly game, grabbed some colored Monopoly money and I ran after the ice cream dude. We conducted the transaction, I might even have tipped him some – “Here, go buy yourself something pretty.” All was well in suburbia. Except, apparently he circled back to our house and he told my mother that I was probably the youngest counterfeiter in the history of the F.B.I. tracking such illegal activities. I don’t know if all this had anything to do with our move 60 miles to the east soon after , or if it was because my father got transferred to a new location.
Anyway, I found myself in a new place, with nobody to play with. However, word soon spread down the street that the New Kid on the Block (yes, that boy band must have shamelessly stolen my title) had new toys including some play rifles. “Knock, knock” “Who’s there?” “Can your boy come out and play with us…and bring his new toys? Or if he can’t, maybe just bring his new toys outside?”
Soon I was playing Army and Cowboys and Indians with these older, more mature and worldly 6 and 7 year old boys. However, quite quickly in our relationship, a creative issue developed. I had watched a lot of tv, westerns and war movies and I knew how vitally important a sound track was to the action. So, whenever, I played with these boys I provided the orchestra’s role of building suspense. This drove the older boys nuts. Often, when one was about to end the play life of the enemy, I would begin to supplement the action – which was really quite good considering I only had my tongue and lips to work with – and provide the dramatic music and sounds and rhythms needed for a proper death scene. I did the same when the calvary showed up, or really any appropriate time. Actually, many years later, the original Star Wars theme sounded very close to my own impromptu soundtracks. Over and over again, the boys would threaten to go home if I didn’t stop with scoring the scenes. They never did because their play options were limited – their sisters’ dolls or playing jacks.
I outgrew both playing and providing background music, and I lost sight of the great big picture, the whole tamale,… the context for the content. Much of my older childhood, and nearly all of my adulthood (God only knows when that began) has been frustratingly focused only on content. My early religious training concentrated on rules, expectations, beliefs, behaviors and morphed into a dogma with only two possibilities- right or wrong.
My education wasn’t any better. Context was stripped completely out of the lessons, leaving only dry, disconnected ‘facts’ and ‘theorems’ in its place. Still, my very best teachers were those were courageously, and possibly, secretly, went against acceptable pedagogy and brought the context back into the lessons. American history lessons left out context. Oh boy, did it ever. Physics, math, chemistry same thing. If someone had bothered to explain to me that my body was made up of some of the same materials of a distant star, it would have inspired me as a student. Instead, we memorized content and if we memorized really well, we were successful in each of the separate academic kingdoms we passed through. It is no wonder the television show Jeopardy has been so successful for so long. It just reinforces our early education experiences.
I forgot about the music of our lives, the sound track, the rhythms, the beat, and I became a content guy myself, only I called it being rational. What was an example of being irrational to me? Well, I believed it was if my spouse turned to me in the middle of the night and said, “We need to talk.” Usually, she had context issues to speak with me about and I would insist on staying with content, like a good trial lawyer, or Joe Friday of Dragnet fame, “Just the facts, mam.” This usually led to a dead end to a much needed conversation. I had stripped out the music of our lives.
Today, I’ve returned to my desire and appreciation for the context. I am more interested in understanding the content within the context. It has made the life of Jesus much more interesting, loving, sacred than what I was taught. Education is more meaningful as one searches for the bigger picture. Even gardens embrace you more when you step back and take a gander at the context. We understand our parents, our siblings, all our loved ones better when we include the context of their lives with the content – the words and the actions of their lives.
So, all together now, we’re riding our white stallions over the hillside being chased by a bunch of bad people, they all are wearing black hats with a handkerchief covering their nose and mouth, bullets are whizzing over our heads. Things don’t look good. Our goose is cooked until … off in the distance comes the brave calvary to our rescue. Let the fighting’ begin. “Da, da, Dah…chi, chi…chi, chi…dum, dum, dum,…(drum roll sound) ka, ka, da..(slowly increase volume) da, da, ka… (increase volume some more) da, da, da, da…(really loud now)…da dum…da dum… da (as the last bad guy hits the dirt) DA DUM”