August 16, 2016 (Kampala):
At church on Sunday, we had as a guest speaker the American Bob Kilpatrick, author of the song “In my life, Lord, be glorifed.” He wove short admonitions between various songs he led us in. One thing he reminded us of was that ‘life is absurd.’ I think I interpret that to mean that God’s complex Meaning, or Story, shatters our own attempts to make meaning out of life.
For two years, Amber and I have been trying to make ‘sense’ out of our circumstances and have ultimately failed to do so. My meaning-making faculty has been in high gear but constantly losing traction.
Then, as if to emphasize the point, life showed its absurdity right after church. It had been hot, muggy, and sunny for three days. We decided to take our girls and two of their friends to a new water-park just north of town. Sunday morning it was still hot and muggy. Toward the end of lunch, it was clouding up. At the exact moment we paid the rather exorbitant entry fee to the park, it started raining. An hour-long downpour ensued. I was amazed at the perfectly absurd timing, the precision and clarity with which our expectations were thwarted.
Bob Kilpatrick reminded us to ask ‘what now?’ instead of ‘why?’. So I decided to get out in the rain with the kids, and we had a great – if cold – time swimming and going down slides in the pouring rain. We chose to make the most of the situation and made some lasting memories.
Life is absurd, indeed! A couple of days ago I was out for a walk. On my way back, I noticed a Ugandan woman slowly overtaking me from behind. As she passed, I turned slightly to greet her. This is what she said:
“Hello, Mr. Handsome. You look nice!”
I was a bit dumbfounded and could only manage a quick ‘thank you’.
A simple compliment goes a long way. A compliment about one’s looks says “you are pleasing to have around, pleasing to look at.” And she delivered the compliment perfectly – she wasn’t coming on to me at all. She turned to me, smiled, told me what she told me, turned away, kept walking without looking back, and disappeared – all in a seamless sequence. That’s how I want to do it, and I want to do it more: to express genuine appreciation for the human beauty I see around me.