When I was cleaning up my routine almost 25 years ago, some friends suggested that I get a “New Pair of Glasses.”
At the time, I was sporting some funky and I mean capital P-FUNK-EE spectacles. Picture them cloudy, desperate for a spray bottle, a soft cloth, and some applied pressure. They sat crookedly on my skinny 150-pounds-when-soaking-wet-frame, below months of uncut man-fro hair, and above my favorite, ratty Grateful Dead t-shirt. The piece de resistance though was the twisty paper clip shoved through one end of the horn rims because a screw had fallen out weeks before. I was too oblivious, scared, cool, or all of the above to walk three blocks down Tejon, by Colorado College, to the eyeglass shop and have them repaired. There may be a couple of metaphors in those previous sentences.
Either way, my friends weren’t referring to the lenses hanging precariously down the end of my nose, but the book, “A New Pair of Glasses” by Chuck Chamberlain. I eventually got or “borrowed it,” or whatever, and proceeded to read over and over and over. Its been a few 24 hours since I’ve actually cracked those pages but not too many days go by where I don’t think about the words and concepts that somehow navigated their way through a pair of smudged lenses to my addled soul.
Published in 1984, it’s essentially a transcript from a series of talks that “Chuck C” gave to a certain anonymous fellowship. He does a phenomenal job describing key concepts that underpin the fellowship and, at least in my opinion, some of the collective wisdom, grace, and understanding found by many (including me, though retention is highly suspect) there.
This post from a few years ago by Daniel Isonov summarizes well:
“First of all, Chuck proposed a vision of Christianity that wasn’t even, to my Catholic mind, Christianity. He said that he believed “the gift of God was made at the foundation of the world.” What he meant by that was that God wasn’t capricious and God wasn’t punishing. God could be counted on the way that gravity or electricity could be counted on….
To talk about love was like talking about humility,” he wrote…If you love somebody or something, you do something for them. You just do it and you don’t make a big deal out of it.”
For me, this concept revolutionized my approach to life. It gave me a way to behave. Love was an action. If you wanted to get along in the world, you had to help people. If you needed to know what God’s will was, that was easy, too: Do something for someone else.
There’s a mighty set piece near the end of A New Pair of Glasses. Chuck recounts for us, in his own words, the story of the Prodigal Son…
‘And so the father saw the kid a long ways off, and he came to meet him. And the kid started trying to tell him what a bum he was, what a failure he’d been in the business of living. But again, the father didn’t hear him. He didn’t argue with him at all. He didn’t say, “Look, I’ve got the record on you right here, and you sure are a bum, you’re no good. I’ve got it right down here. I know every time you turned right when you should have turned left. Get the grubbin’ hoe and get back on the back forty, and grub out some persimmon sprouts and sassafras bushes. And, maybe, if you do a good job, twenty-five years from now I’ll invite you in for lunch. He didn’t say that. He didn’t say anything. He fell on his neck and kissed him. And he called the servants, and he said, “Kill the fatted calf. We’re going to have a party. The boy was dead and now he’s alive. He was lost, and now he’s come back home.’
When I say that this story was absurdly pertinent, what I mean is this, ‘No condemnation, no reprimand, no argument. The love of the father for his child…’
I was wrong about the nature of myself. I had thought I was a victim of my depravity, but it turned out that my depravity was the gift that had forced me to come home. Chuck explained this to me better than anyone: God wasn’t angry. Worse than that: God didn’t even understand anger.
I had thought that I was a desperado, coming in from the fields, begging for a handout. It turned out that I was a prince, and my father saw me from a long way off.”
Who wouldn’t want to feel and pour out some of that to their kids or spouse on a regular basis? Or, man, when asked to fill out the latest TPS report at work? Or at the ice rink with the parents of the other teams? In traffic? Looking in the mirror?
In the context of cancer, the ability to change my mind, to be open minded to whatever happens, and even to believe that there could be a happy ending, regardless of outcomes or perceived goods or bads…that’s not easy.
Chuck had it pretty simple and I’m sure if he were here, he’d tell me its pretty simple for me too. But if I want an attitude like that I have to change my perspective. That’s a conscious decision. Heaven is, as he says in his book, putting on a new pair of glasses.
…………………………Um…or you know you can always try to buy your way through as well. That’s a thing too right?
Got some new frames this week.
The first thing Derek said to me when I walked through the door was, “What’s up nerd!”
Feel the love.
I guess I am guilty as charged, channeling my outer nerd here.
Yeah unfortunately its an inside job. I feel your pain Paulie: Paulie, Sopranos, Shoulda been covered by my donations