Because life is a series of edits

You’ve Got (Someone Else’s) Mail

In Humanity, Internet on December 5, 2014 at 7:10 pm

email-inboxTwice this week, I’ve received emails in my inbox addressed to me but meant for other people.

The first email was from the Bursar at Elon University, a private liberal arts university in Elon, North Carolina, and while the email address was mine, the person addressed in the message was Claire M. Dunham. I’ve never been known as Claire, nor do I know of one to whom I might be related. But I do know that Claire is enrolled for classes next semester at Elon…at least until I figure out her password, hack her account, and cancel her scholarship for listing my email address as hers.

The second email (with multiple emails in the thread) was one in which I was copied by a Carol Dunham. She apparently has a daughter (Michelle), who (ironically) also attends Elon University and is majoring in teaching Spanish. I have no idea why Carol copied me, nor do I have any job leads for her daughter (we already have a good Spanish teacher at The Academy – I’m looking at you, Abby Lorenc). But the most recent email in the thread had Carol thanking Louise (who apparently is the mother of Michelle’s boyfriend) for paying to fly Michelle to Hawaii. I’m guessing Michelle’s living it up on the Big Island, and for some reason, her mom felt the need to tell me about it.

We’ve all heard of identity theft; this is more identity threat.

Does LifeLock know about this? I want them to because it’s my email address! I was surprised by how affected I was by the idea that someone else was using (consciously or not) my email handle. It’s the same feeling one gets after Googling one’s name (not that I’ve ever done that) only to discover you’re not the only Craig Dunham in the world. In fact, there are other Craig Dunhams – some who make you proud to share the name, and others who make you wish your parents trademarked it upon signing the birth certificate. You’re – I’m – the original! Everyone else is but a poor imitation!

As I didn’t have Claire’s actual email address, I went ahead and replied to the Bursar, telling him/her (are Bursars usually male or female?) of the mistake and asking to have my email address removed from Elon’s list, which they did. And because Carol only copied me on her email, I didn’t feel a need to respond (though she is a fellow Dunham, God love her), but will see if she sends something else before inquiring as to what’s going on (and maybe how Michelle liked Hawaii, just to freak her out).

But regardless, I should probably think and pray more about my initial reaction of feeling so threatened by someone else using what I think of as belonging solely to me. Indeed, “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,” (Proverbs 22:1a), but ultimate identity in any name other than Christ’s can feel like one big and unending Google search.

The Most Schizophrenic 48 Hours of the American Existence

In Thought on November 27, 2014 at 8:23 am

Black FridayIn case you were unaware, today – Thanksgiving – is the first of two days (the second being Black Friday) that make up the most schizophrenic 48 hours of the American existence. As the meme reminds, only in America do people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.

If only we cared.

Last night, to celebrate her birthday, I took Megan out for dinner, and then we went to Best Buy to replace a phone charger for our van (I’m the king of disguising errand purchases as birthday presents; for example, earlier in the day, I bought Megan two gallons of birthday milk). As we walked in, we noticed three camping tents set up to the left of the doors – people camping out in order to be first in line when the big box store’s doors open early on Friday.

Some stores are not even waiting until Friday morning to open; 6 p.m. tonight (or 5 p.m. if you go to Dick’s Sporting Goods) is when the doors will open at some stores. For many, this may seem simply convenient (or even aerobic – “Let’s load up the car and go walk the turkey calories off, kids! Oh, and by the way, we might get some deals!”), but the fact is we’re about to lose Thanksgiving as our last non-commercial holiday, and that alone is worthy of one more blog post lamenting this reality.

John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham), former associate dean of the School of Theology at Seton Hall, makes the point in his own post this morning at Crisis Magazine:

“America, as any community, requires traditions and celebration to bind it together. Our social glue is becoming increasingly thin. Most of our federal holidays have been increasingly hollowed out of cultural activity and replaced by commercial activity. Presidents Day and Columbus Day are primarily known for sales. Memorial Day launches the summer—and summer sales—while Labor Day closes it, just in time for Back-to-School Sales. Martin Luther King’s Birthday still has to catch on as a broadly celebrated holiday. Christmas and, to a lesser extent, New Year’s, continue to be observed, the former often in pseudonymous fashion as ‘Winter Holiday,’ the latter still not fully displaced by those who would criticize January 1 as representing but one culture’s start of the year. The only two national holidays that continue to be observed in a primarily historical/cultural fashion—as opposed to being the next sales opportunity—are the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. These two quintessentially American holidays have largely managed to stay aloof from bald commercialization on the day itself, remaining family days. They are under assault.”

The cultural aspect of all this is one thing, and as patriotic as some folks may consider themselves, few have given much thought (or care) to what Grondelski describes; it is, so the slogan goes, a free country, and if people want to spend their way through whatever holiday they happen to be celebrating, well, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

Sadly, the American Christian perspective involves little variance, though it tends to take on different justifications: “We’re thrifty and we save a lot of money shopping on Black Friday.” “It’s just what we’ve always done every year.” “It gets everybody out of the house and off each others’ nerves.”

Cheap pragmatism, thoughtless habit, relational convenience. Sounds an awful lot like the American Church.

Black Friday shopping is not the problem, of course, but the symptom. At the end of the day, when the news outlets run their annual piece on how important Black Friday is to the American economy (interspersed by B-roll of whatever cash register smackdown took place in the big box stores), I would for once just love to hear a reporter name our affliction for what it is: greed. After all, if we’re going to be so noble as to do our part to support American capitalism, let’s at least be honest enough to acknowledge what American capitalism is built upon.

What’s an antidote to this symptom of sickness? If only we feared greed like we do Ebola, a quarantine/boycott wouldn’t even be a question. But again, that just deals with the outer infection; how do we deal with the epidemic at its source?

“Gratitude,” said Cicero, ” is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” Centuries later, G.K. Chesteron wrote, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

In a culture that preaches and preys on entitlement fantasies (increasingly during its holidays, but always throughout the year), there is no more important virtue than gratitude to pray for in our children and in ourselves. Forget the cliche “attitude of gratitude” triteness; think more desperately and for the sake of humanity, for if Cicero is right (and Chesterton seems to think he is), without gratitude, there can be nothing else – no faith, no hope, no love.

No matter how long you camp out at Best Buy, virtues never go on sale.

If we’re not careful, they might just go away.

Fracture

In Humanity, Thought on October 23, 2014 at 11:56 pm

Stress FractureI’m going to see my doctor today. I’m pretty sure I have a stress fracture in the first metatarsal of my right foot.

How did this happen? I was being a cool Head of School, playing a pick-up basketball game in full tie and dress shoes in a student’s driveway. I came down with a rebound (like a boss!) and my right foot landed on a small pebble, the exact position and pressure of which caused what I now presume to be an increasingly painful stress fracture.

But here’s the funny part (and where my wife gets angry with me): I’ve had this stress fracture for three years now. I never told her (or anyone) about it until last month. Even after I mentioned it to Megan, it’s taken another full month before the pain became too much (aggravated by a very full day last weekend of being on my feet) and she took matters into her own hands on my behalf, looked at my calendar, and made an appointment with my doctor.

Welcome to being – or being married to – a Dunham. Be glad you’re neither.

My wife and my mother shake their heads at such Dunham displays of stubbornness. This particularly male Dunham trait is a favorite mockery at family holiday gatherings, usually beginning with the latest example (in this case, my silently living with a stress fracture for three years), before retelling the various “best of” tales of my father Roger, my grandfather Dean before him, and always culminating with the story of my great-grandfather Kyle and his death at 50 from testicular cancer, having been kicked in the testicles by a horse. In recounting this story, the Dunham women emphasize how Kyle refused to see a doctor until after the swelling became visible through his clothes and nothing could be done, reminding the Dunham men of what can (and perhaps should) happen to the stubborn lot of us if we take the same approach.

Concerning my foot, it’s honestly not stubbornness that’s at play; it’s really pride. I’d rather not re-tell the story of how a pebble in a driveway sidelined my NBA career (I feel you, KD, I feel you). I’d also rather not deal with the hassle of doctors and X-rays because I don’t like people making that much of a fuss over me (especially when I’m pretty sure I know what the problem is). And, I’d rather not spend weeks with my foot in a cast (which I know is the only way my foot might heal) because 43-year-old guys on crutches are not pretty recipients of pity.

All of which (among other things) is my attempt at explaining why I’ve walked with a fractured foot for the better part of three years. As I’ve tried to demonstrate, it’s not my fault; I’m a product of a line of men – of Dunham men – who would just rather keep to themselves than bother anyone with what’s bothering them. We don’t ask anyone to label us as heroes, nor as martyrs; we just dutifully do what needs to be done – even when it hurts – because that’s what Dunham men do. It’s what my father Roger does; it’s what my grandfather Dean did; it’s what my great-grandfather Kyle’s legacy became.

After he died prematurely, that is.

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