Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Treasures Of This Earth

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  (Matthew 6:19)

In an unexceptional string of events, I lost a guitar, got a smashed car, fixed the car, went to Ash Wednesday services, and then, with misplaced faith and pride, probably lost the car for good.  Here's how it happened:

I am lazy.  At least about band practice.  When I lug a guitar over to the practice house and then I have to lug it back, I am not inclined, as soon as I get home, to lug everything into the house ( especially if I am then expected to lug it downstairs to the room where I practice).

And so, each time I practice, I either leave my stuff at the house or leave it in the car.  I have done that for months.  I will admit that the first night I left my 192 purple Stratocaster lying in the backseat, I thought, if anyone sees that, it will look pretty appealing.  But by the next day, I had forgotten that.  And by the next night, or, really, the morning after between 4 and 5AM, it was gone.

A window was busted out of my car.  A window was busted out of my daughter's car.  Which came first, I don't know.  But I suspect it was my car with the guitar.

So then, guitar gone, I had to get the window fixed.  Covered by insurance.  They come to your house, remove the old glass, install the car window, clean everything up and leave.  Meantime, my wife and others and eventually me are hitting the local pawn shops to see if the guitar is there. And, in the other meantime, I decide to do some other repairs on my car, to get it back up to good running condition.  

$900+ later, I have the car back, not completely fixed, but getting there.  I still don't have the guitar.  And then the snows come or don't come.  It doesn't really matter, because we get snow days off either way.  And on one of those days, we hit up the pawn shops again.  Again without luck.

Three days later, after a work dinner on a Friday night, I start to drive the car home, but during the meal, a decent blast of snow, ice, and sleet has come down, and the streets are covered, at least where I work.  So, I try to get home one way, and the hill is blocked.  So, I try to get home the other way, which also involves driving down a steep hill.  With speed bumps.  The latter matters because each time you hit one of those bumps, your car leaves the road and then has to re-engage with it.  In untreated snow/ice, this means that you lose valuable traction.  And so, as I head down that hill and then lose traction, I see my only course as trying to turn 90 degrees onto a street, but I don't make the turn.  Instead, I keep sliding, hitting a curb and pushing my right left wheel into the chassis.  

A few days on, here's where I am--guitar gone, money to repair car gone, car itself likely gone.  Because of its age, I expect the insurance to "total" it, handing me a check and taking the car.

There are two simple realities beneath all of this: 1) I expected to play that guitar as long as I live, and 2) I expected to drive that car for a long, long time.

And that brings me to Ash Wednesday.  That piece is easy, in a way.  My wife promised us good pizza, if we would go to Ash Wednesday services.  So I went.

But if you listen carefully to an Ash Wednesday service, at least the Episcopalian version, then you know that one of the essential messages of that service is that we have come from dust and that we will return to dust.  And, in the interim, we are not to focus on storing up the treasures of this earth.

I believe all of that, believe it or not.  One of the most meaningful poems I have ever read is Anne Bradstreet's "Upon The Burning Of My House," which makes a similar argument.  I knew the role that my failures had played in the loss of the car.  I knew that I had come to believe that my Subaru would always conquer the snow.  Does that mean that I was speeding down the hill?  No, but it does mean that I never expected to be sliding into a curb.  Ultimately, an ineffectively-treated road can undermine the best vehicle.

Still, that does not mean that both the guitar and the car had not achieved the status of "friends." Though inanimate, both had personalities and idiosyncrasies.  Both had stories that, if able, they could have told.  Both had lives that seemed to have no immediate ending, at least in connection with me.  And now, both are gone.  Yes, I try my best not to store up these treasures.  But I am also not ready yet to admit to my own dustness.  So that makes it hard.  Someday, I will lose other friends, or they will lose me, but that time has not yet come, and until it does, I am not ready to acknowledge the truth that awaits me.  Sorry.  

I think this is a Lenten post, even a sermon.  But that's just me.


troutking said...

I am not going to comment on your dustness or mine...because I don't want to either.

However, I will say that your attachment to these things--the car for sure--actually may stem from your general adherence to not valuing or collecting things. The reason you are upset about the car is because now you are going to have buy a new thing, when the old thing worked just fine and allowed you to spend money on doing things instead, as you prefer. The guitar? Well, that was a pretty sweet guitar.

Anonymous said...

The Ash Wednesday service is powerfully simple. As for the car, it could be worse, i once heard about a man who had his car stolen, only to find it a few days later in a parking lot --- and a dead body inside the trunk. Perhaps this is Hashem's way of saying, what you've lost is not lost. It rather what I have meant to take away from you---lest you grow too comfortable and ignore the true path you're traveling.