Columns » Bob Lancaster

Night thoughts


One thing that happens as you get older, sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night with some small issue or happenstance nagging at you -- something mysterious or perplexing that somebody said -- and you can't resolve it, and you can't go back to sleep, and you finally just get up, between 3:30 and 5 a.m. usually, and put some coffee on, and find something to read until the morning paper comes. I've got a friend who uses those bleak wide-eyed wee-hours geezer sessions to write angry letters to editors and congressmen and to utility companies and insurance companies and to his neighbors about their dog. Sometimes he writes poems too, hoping for the sedative effect. Or writes at them, with futility, because a mind resentful of having been cheated out of its rightful restful sleep is not of a mood to be soothed, placated. It wants to give somebody a hard time. I'm in one of those pre-dawn troughs or defiles right now. Not a rosy finger has retch up yet into the eastern dark and I sit here in the ruby light of the coffee-maker thinking about something the governor said, as reported in the previous day's newspaper, and something the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said about 80 years ago. What Wittgenstein said was, "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." Consciousness is little more than a trick that language plays on us. We are words' fools, rather than they ours; we're in their prison, rather than them being in our corral. And they're at their most mischievous when some poor pontificator on ethics or religion is trying to make them mean something. "Look here at my words," the writer crows, and the words look at one another and laugh. They were having cruel sport with Bro.-Gov. Huckabee in this newspaper article. They always do that to him in his books. He'll have them juggling and tumbling theologically and sociologically, trapezing between exclamation points, crowding with ball noses and big shoes into midget automobiles, and be utterly unaware that on the penumbra of his spot they are hooting and razzing him. Book of the moment here is "Thank You, President Bush," which, one supposes, serves as a precis as well as a title. Group apple-polishing by the usual suspects. The Bro.-Gov. contributed a gratis chapter, along with other such disinterested literati as John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney. A quotation from the Bro.-Gov.'s chapter suggests the flavor: "His spiritual light -- his light of integrity, character and a God-centered worldview -- shines just as brightly today as it did that day in September, 2001, when he grabbed the bullhorn in New York City. The darker the world gets, the brighter that light shines." That's President George W. Bush's spiritual light he's talking about, not St. Francis of Assisi's. No kidding. The George W. Bush hagiographic glow isn't visible to most people, or to sane people. Even most people who voted for him and plan to again don't see a saint; what they like about him is that he's crude and ornery and not smart enough to be excessively crooked. Feebs do make successful presidents because people who don't expect much aren't disappointed. He won't win this time without the vote of those who suspect he might not be as sorry as he puts on. The Bro.-Gov. in his chapter apparently dwells fondly and long on this notion of "a God-centered worldview." His denomination is bad to raise up these ooga-ooga word combos like little idols to be worshipped or deplored. Secular humanism. Situational ethics. New Age Globalism. Inerrancy. Most of these corky terms and concepts hover between stupidity and meaninglessness, and I suspect ol' God-centered Worldview hangs near the latter. George W. Bush will be surprised to learn that he even has something as fancy as a worldview, and just about everybody else will be surprised by the allegation that he has a God-centered one. Even if there were such an affliction peculiar to presidents, wouldn't George W. Bush be down toward the bottom of the list? Au contraire, according to this article in the Democrat-Gazette: "Bush's adherence to a God-centered worldview is why Bush will be considered along with the late Ronald Reagan one of the most important presidents of the past 100 years, Huckabee wrote." Maybe the Bro.-Gov. can look at George W. Bush and then at Jimmy Carter and tell you he honestly believes the former to be more of a God's-ahole-buddy type than the latter. I can't do that. And I don't see how anybody else with half sense and even minimal powers of observation could, either. Our own words laughing at us in the stillness of the darkness before the dawn. In this phantasmagoric corner of the morn, it occurs to me that he ought to keep in mind that he has other sheep than those with the God-centered worldviews. He's also governor of those with a penitentiary-centered worldview, and aren't they glad he is? He's the governor of the wacko environmentalists who might be said to have an Eden squat in the middle of their world view. Of Libertarians with Ayn Rand-centered worldviews. Of all those fat schoolchildren a giant Hostess Ding Dong worldview. And of course of clans like the Duggars, whose worldview the insensitive might call genitalia-centered, though the kinder observer would just say cluttered.

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