Bo Knows Heaven

February 7, 2014 | 30 comments
By

So there’s my sort of neighbor big Bo, who despite owning two rock-solid Scandinavian names including, yes, Bo, doesn’t exactly seem to have things rock-solidly together.

We could start maybe with his wife-of-Bath-quantity marriages, or maybe just his announcement in church after his last divorce went through that he was happy to inform everyone he was happily single again, a free brother in the Lord, like he couldn’t think of a finer theological or actual state to be in but more likely (in suspicious minds) clarifying for any interested ladies his totally legal availability, a suspicion that was pretty convincingly confirmed when right after his announcement he hobbled down substantially from the pulpit on his one good leg and one bad one (that bows way out) and took a substantial seat right next to one of the stunned single ladies in the congregation who was almost but not quite in the same universe age-wise, which for him is pushing 70.

Or we could move on to his car, which is changing all the time but is basically always the same, namely old and busted-up and increasingly-dented-the-longer-he-drives-it (if he has a little money he gets a “new” one when he hits that financial sweetspot right where the cost of fixing the dents in order to pass inspection ends up being more than buying a certain brand of whole other car would), and that also needs regular jumping, which I know because he’s asked me at 6:30 early for one, or failing that maybe a ride to his most recent job, regaling along the way how lucky he was to get this particular honey of a car for only 300, making the two thou or so that he’s put into it since then a bargain when ya think what he woulda had to shell out for new or even somewhat so-called reliable used.

Or don’t forget the job itself, the most recent being in a call center full of youngish people, but Bo is a chatty guy and doesn’t mind, except the potential problem looming there is that when Bo starts chatting long and free he tends to chat blunt and offensive too (see e.g. above, but also his occasional unintentional digs at church about some former or irregularly present member, or the occasional unintentional racist comment, or maybe his questions to the teenage daughters of a family he home taught that were meant to show his interest in their lives but ended up coming across as close to predator-like), and so ends up offending without his even realizing or meaning to, and pretty soon just like old Ishmael Bo’s hand might as well be “raised against all, and the hands of all are raised against him,” all maybe helping to explain why Bo isn’t always in work, or for that matter in car or phone, and for all I know barely in apartment too, let alone in any reliable pension plan that at his age he really ought to be drawing from.

But Bo is really good at one thing, in fact supernaturally good, and that’s where this is going. Bo’s in charge of sacrament meeting at the care center within the confines of our geographically tiny and very non-NIMBY hodgepodge of a neighborhood, and not necessarily non-NIMBY because of so much virtue or something on the part of the neighbors but maybe just because there’s just not enough collective energy or clout or money or moral outrage or even physical stability to stop something like a care center or the nearby halfway house for the nearby mental hospital that really together neighborhoods know how to put a stop to.

So the weekly 20-minute sacrament (and only) meeting is held in the center’s combo TV room/rec room/dining room/filing space/church room, which consists of a couple of couches, a big-screen TV, some brown folding chairs in rows, a piano, some filing cabinets, a couple of sinks, and some bulletin boards with the month’s big events in large letters.

Even before it starts, the anywhere from 15 to 20 residents who attend the meeting, ranging from maybe 25 to 70 years old in assorted but not-viable-in-the-outside-world states of mental and physical non-well-being, are scattered around the room, some on couches and chairs but most in wheelchairs and walkers, all waiting for Bo, including Wally, one of the four or so residents who talks okay and so who conducts the meeting in his bolo tie and his wheelchair that he rolls up right next to one side of the kitchen/sacrament table, so he can set his 64-ounce Big Gulp on it, which he needs in case he gets thirsty conducting in his really loud voice.

Wally likes to think he’s in charge and not Bo, but Bo doesn’t mind because he doesn’t act like he’s in charge anyway, he just goes around and talks to everyone, even though only a few can talk back, but Bo doesn’t care, he’s shaking both of everyone’s hands and touching their shoulders and talking to them like he knows everything about them and also rubbing Donnie’s head, because Donnie likes that, and with Bo Donnie doesn’t even have to grab Bo’s hand and put it up on his head the way he does with everyone else, which has got to be Donnie’s highlight of the week, someone finally and voluntarily head-rubbing real long after a week of smiling entreaties.

Wally’s real competition for top-dog conducting rights actually comes from Marian, who likes to position her wheelchair on the other side of the kitchen/sacrament table from Wally and do a sort of parallel or maybe alternative sort of conducting, calling on someone to say the prayer for instance before Wally can, or correcting Wally when he gets the order of things wrong, or announcing what they’re doing next before Wally can announce it, or telling Wally to give it a few more seconds before ending the meeting so fast like he always does (he likes to hear about one short talk or testimony before shutting things down), and by the end Marian is pretty much conducting, making you think that maybe the revolution in female leadership in the Mormon Church has already happened, right here in the care center, and nobody is even thinking about wheeling Marian from her spot, but just accepting that a parallel or rival or maybe cooperating female conductor is just the natural order of things in Mormonism, especially when someone like Marian is doing such a good job at it. Wally gets back at her though by interrupting her testimony and telling her to cut it short.

Some time after the sacrament there’s the weekly musical number too, which is the same every week, and features Myra, Myra with the permanent smile on her face, Myra one of the oldest and tiniest and frailest ladies, Myra hunched way over in a wheelchair with her toothpick-shoulders poking up because the sides of the wheelchair are squishing in on her to keep her from falling out, Myra who when Wally says it’s time for her solo metaphorically jumps right in, right from where she’s sitting and sans accompaniment, singing the song she’s remembered all these years, Jesus Once Was a Little Child, and she sings both verses, including the second one you’d probably forgotten, about Jesus never getting vexed if the game went wrong, which is stunning not so much for saying that Jesus played games but for using the word vexed, which isn’t something you usually hear in a primary song, but she sings it right out, and also that Jesus always spoke the truth, and her voice quavers on the last try, try, try.

And there’s some group singing too, as in the opening, closing, and sacrament songs, taking almost half of the 20 minutes, but no one’s really singing except the visitors who’ve come to do the sacrament or give talks or play piano or lead music, plus a couple of staff or visiting family members, but a lot of residents are really interested in leading the music, right from where they’re sitting too.

But it’s the sacrament part of the sacrament meeting that’s the most memorable and that’s really where Bo comes in again. His talking and head-rubbing and hand-shaking in advance are just a warmup for this part, because see Bo is the one who passes the bread and the water around, which is no easy thing in a room full of walkers and wheel chairs, but making it even harder is that most of the people can’t for the most part actually manage to get the bread or the cup to their mouths on their own.

But Bo knows. In fact Bo is possibly the only person in the world who knows exactly the sacrament-taking preferences of all the assembled residents—whether they want to take the piece of bread or cup of water themselves from the respective trays and consume it on their own, whether they want Bo to put either one in their hand and let them take it from there, whether they want Bo to put bread-piece or water-cup in their hand and then put his hand underneath theirs to guide it up to their mouth, or whether they even want Bo to actually put bread or water right in their mouth for them, old-Catholic-style so to speak.

And it’s no easy thing remembering all that but it’s even harder managing all that, starting with Bo having to squeeze himself into just the right position to do his thing, which might in some cases mean standing in front of but in others standing or sitting next to, and remember Bo isn’t exactly the most graceful guy to begin with, what with his bum leg and bodily largesse, but there he is moving like Baryshnikov between the irregular and regularly shifting rows of wheelchairs and walkers, twisting and turning and possibly pirouetting and then standing or sitting according to their particular preference.

A few residents are wearing helmets so they don’t hurt themselves, and when Bo approaches them they tend to rest their helmet on his upper arm so they can get a good angle to take the bread or water on their own. But that’s easy compared to the more than a few who are making repetitive movements with heads and arms, which exponentially complicates sacrament-taking, but Bo is in sync with every single one, sometimes putting the bread with his own free hand right between their cheek and gum at just the right moment, or the water cup in their palm and helping it stay steady as possible, sometimes pouring the water right in too, and especially with the water Bo is always ready with the forearm of his tray-holding hand and with the handkerchief of his bread-or-water-giving hand to catch and wipe up whatever comes spilling or sometimes gushing out, then he wipes their mouth clean when they’re done, Bo as unfazed by all this as St. Francis licking a leper’s wound, Bo indifferent to saliva and other bodily fluids and also the possibly alarming hygienic state of assorted gums and teeth and mouths.

During all this Beth is as usual holding the three children’s books she likes while constantly waving and smiling too, alternating an open-handed wave with one that features only her middle finger but no one seems to mind. And of course Donnie is wanting his head rubbed again even during the sacrament, which Bo multi-taskingly does while letting Donnie take the bread and water for himself. But it’s especially when you see Bo on his bum leg leaning bulkily but carefully over to gently wipe clean yet another only partially-successful intake of blessed water, and you see all the residents knowing that Bo knows just what they want sacrament-wise, that you realize that oft-married oft-divorced oft-offensive oft-struggling Bo is going straight to heaven.

Here’s religion right here, you think, and not so much the sacrament part, but the wiping up of their messes without a second thought part, helping them do something they like doing, which is probably why they even show up early most of the time.

After a short testimony, Wally brings things to a screeching halt, the meeting ends, and one guy bursts out crying, for reasons not entirely clear—maybe he didn’t like something, maybe he can’t explain it, maybe he’s sad at the thought of Bo leaving again, but Bo assures all of them he’ll be back next week and maybe during it too, and he stays longer than anyone even though he was the first to arrive, doing some more talking and double-hand-shaking and head-rubbing and arranging for someone to stay and help him give Doris her weekly blessing right afterward, and he tells you afterward how much he loves all of them and you sense he’s not just blowing pious smoke.

And don’t forget Bo’s work with the fellows at the nearby mental halfway-house too, and that he chauffeurs them and still other people around more than you’d think a guy with a battery-jump-needing seriously-dented car could, Bo always saying when you see him in the street that he’s got to go give someone a ride (Where do they live? “Oh up in ….” Which is about 10 miles away), because see among his many acquaintances Bo has the “good” car, even just “the” car, plus not to mention Bo watching over one of the halfway-house fellows to the literal end, who had terminal cancer, and who was black, which matters only because of Bo’s aforementioned occasional racist comment, but Bo seemed to not remember he had anything to do with anything like that the way he took care of this guy, who had no family whatsoever on earth except for Bo, who might as well have been now.

And then there’s me, who despite owning only one slightly-Anglicized Scandinavian name and despite assorted and undeniable lapses in life seems in comparison to Bo to have various things seriously together, maybe starting with a long marriage to a longsuffering wife, and three kids who seem to be doing all the right missioning and collegeing and marrying and grandchild-having things, and don’t forget my Pee Aitch Dee, and my full totally non-partial professorship, and my overly reliable Consumer-Reports-approved and maintenance-scheduled cars that have a few small dents only because anything big gets fixed thanks to rainy-day funds, and my fifth-of-an-acre estate with tightly mowed lawn, and my pretty regular exercise regimen, and oh yeah my dynamite life-insurance/retirement-investment/and retirement-pension plans that have together just about secured a soothingly secure future. Yes sir, a lot seemingly together.

Except when I see Bo in action with the sacrament and around the ‘hood there’s something itching inside that needs scratching, something along the lines of I’d like somewhat inexplicably to be more like Bo, which I have to admit is an itch that I never ever expected to find myself feeling.

And so I think maybe I could do that by bulking up my service portfolio, to go with my other portfolios, maybe doing things like going to the care center when Bo asks me to help out with the sacrament, and I say sure, but see down inside I’m actually hoping that I’ll just have to bless the sacrament and not actually pass it, because Bo I don’t really know how everyone likes to take it, but truth be told I can’t get past the patented care-center smells, or the almost certain encounters with stray saliva, and I can’t get myself to manage skin-to-skin touching which is what the residents seem most to want, I can manage only maybe just some quick hand-to-clothed-shoulder or something, or maybe I can rub Donnie’s head for a couple of seconds but what if he’s got something, is what I’m really thinking. And then I’m not even very good at the sacrament, because Wally has to pound his Big Gulp on the table to get my attention and remind me, who’s sitting in a sort of shock, not to sing during the sacrament song but to stand up and start breaking the bread, which is something I’ve known I was supposed to do since I was 16 but now here I sheepishly am having to be told by Wally.

But I can’t will myself to do what Bo does, and I think I’m starting to figure out why. It’s not an act of will to Bo, or a matter of doing, it’s a matter of being. He’s not taking the classic seemingly-together-person’s approach of “I have so much that I need to give something back,” or “I’m happy to help the less fortunate,” but instead he’s right there with them, giving everything he is and not just something, feeling just as fortunate or unfortunate as they are, thoroughgoingly identifying with them, the way Jesus did, equal to the least of these instead of superior to these, and basically saying not “I am helping you” but like some medieval imitator of Jesus “I am you.”

Most of us to identify with other people have to go through exactly the same things they’ve been through, maybe because we don’t have Jesus-level imagination. Bo’s got some though. He’s not just like his friends here at the center, but he can take his general and vast experience of being beaten up by life and that’s all he needs in order to identify, in order to see that he’s basically like them. I’ve got some beaten-up stuff too, but haven’t thought hard enough about it, or am still not convinced about just how fragile and ultimately unreliable any of my seeming-togetherness actually is.

I’m also starting to get the sense that my very hard work and investment at getting myself so seemingly together might be precisely the thing that’s keeping me from identifying here, that the illusion of togetherness is what keeps you from understanding that you’re one of the least too, because see if you have the illusion of togetherness it’s just about impossible to imagine that you’re also least.

And not only that, but the illusion of togetherness is a total (and non-tautological) illusion anyway, because like my neuroscientist friend tells me, we all have like 6 billion brain cells and 11 miles of connective tissue in that brain (I always mix up the 6 and 11 but it’s a lot either way) and so the chances of every single one of us having something seriously wrong inside is like 100 percent. Which is just another way of saying what King Benjamin said about us all being beggars, as Chris H. pointed out so movingly in his post last week. We’re all literally messed up. And beggars. Which is why we all need to identify with and help each other, and recognize that yes you need serious help too. But it’s easy to look around and think that because wow we really have more together than some or even a lot of people, then we must actually have things together period, which keeps us from identifying with comparatively-less-seemingly-together people who in actual truth are in total value our exact equals.

And I’m also thinking that losing that illusion is maybe the big key to getting the quality of at one ment that Bo’s got and that I’m hankering for, and not just among people I already know and like, which as Jesus pointed out just about anyone can do, but among all sorts, and at one ment really is what that word means by the way, it’s not just some lame sacrament-meeting-talk-trick of playing around with a word to try to find something original to say. “A tone” has come to have the connotation of “pay for,” as in if we do something wrong we need to pay for it or make up for it or that Jesus pays for it, but at one ment it seems to me (relying here heavily on Bo and maybe Alma a little) isn’t so much about doing as about feeling, or as much about paying for as about identifying with someone. It’s maybe not as big of a mystery as we like to make it out to be, maybe especially when we turn it into theology instead of experience and feeling. But how to get it is another thing: by selling all you have? By losing your life to find it? Come to think of it, Bo’s basically done both of those, so yeah, maybe that’s it.

Outside the care center and halfway-house Bo is still vexing people left and right, like nobody’s business and unlike the child Jesus. He’s not trying to, because at heart he’s basically a good-hearted guy, which is how he can do what he does inside the care center and halfway-house, where his heart translates rightly instead of potentially disastrously. Inside those places, Bo knows just what to do, or better yet, how to be. And that’s how he knows heaven.

30 Responses to Bo Knows Heaven

  1. Amy on February 7, 2014 at 9:29 am

    This is beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Susie h on February 7, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I’ll be thinking about Bo for a long time. Thank you.

    Also, this is absolute poetry.

  3. E on February 7, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Everyone has their gifts and talents. It sounds like you and Bo are both doing okay with what you’ve been given.

  4. Robert C. on February 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Excellent.

  5. Kent Larsen on February 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    What a sermon. I wish there were a class to teach this. But, of course, the class is found in doing.

  6. Craig H. on February 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for comments, all. I know something like this maybe doesn’t provoke discussion the way something more topical does; it registers with you or it doesn’t. But thanks again.

  7. Howard on February 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Very well done!

    …he’s right there with them…the way Jesus did…I am you…the illusion of togetherness is what keeps you from understanding that you’re one of the least too…losing that illusion is maybe the big key to getting the quality of at one ment that Bo’s got… it seems to me isn’t so much about doing as about feeling or as much about paying for as about (if I may add) recognizing that bit of the divine that resides within everyone, THAT moment is onement.

    Bo reminds me of Pope Pope Francis or perhaps it’s the other way around!

  8. Wilfried on February 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    The style, the message, the evocation: incredibly powerful, Craig.

  9. Rachel Whipple on February 7, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Thank you, Craig. It’s good to be reminded that we need to look for the best good in others and use that to temper our annoyance at their everydayness or their embarrassing public shames. And it’s just a very, very nice story.

  10. Gina on February 7, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I love this so much. I’m pretty together myself, and I see more and more how that might be a big problem for me in the long term. The biggest problem possible, really, like defeating the whole purpose of my life here on earth kind of problem. But I’m so good at being together, and I feel so comfortable here.

  11. Craig H. on February 7, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks for more comments, and Gina for admitting that really hard thing. I suppose we could have a big discussion of what it means to sell everything and lose your life, but as you say doing either one is really hard to fathom and get to. But the longer I live the less doubt I have that the things we work so hard at and the things that matter are often at cross-purposes, which we hear in theory all the time, but when they actually hit you it’s something else, and a lot harder to deal with than just saying the words.

  12. Stephen Nibley on February 7, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    As the ad campaign back in the day used to say “Bo knows”. Your usual effortlessly graceful effort, full of insight. Thanks Craig

  13. Craig H. on February 8, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Thanks Stephen, but I assure you that any effortlessness is a total illusion too, which partly explains why it takes me so long to post anything.

  14. SteveP on February 8, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I love this. I thought you were introducing a novel! How delightful to find that Bo is out there somewhere doing good. Thank you!

  15. Mike C on February 8, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Craig, thanks for this lovely post.

  16. Carine Decoo on February 9, 2014 at 4:53 am

    As I was reading this beautifully written post, the words “every man is more than just himself” come to mind. Bo makes me feel small and humble.
    Thank you, Craig!
    (By the way: I already love Marian, my kind of woman!)

  17. Cugeno on February 9, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Beautiful. Thank you, Craig…

  18. Ann on February 9, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    Beautifully written post. Thanks for sharing Craig.

  19. Rosalynde on February 10, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Craig, a beautiful message and a great read. Do you want to talk shop with an English major for a minute?

    I’m interested in the voice you developed in the post. It’s casual, oral, tentative, spontaneous, and accretive rather than sculptural, which are terms I just made up but by which I mean that the sentences create meaning by adding on clauses incrementally rather than assuming an integrated shape from the beginning — which I suppose is just another way of saying “oral” rather than “written”.

    In short, not the kind of written voice you would expect from a with-it-together history professor. It sounds a more like Bo himself, maybe.

    I see two possible meanings here: first, you were indeed channeling the voice of Bo (even if only as a fictional construct) as a kind of imaginative exercise in empathy, which after all is a theme of the piece. Or second, you were using the casual, self-deprecatory tone in your own voice as a way to further undermine your own apparent status and success, which is again another theme of the piece.

    If the latter, I’m interested in the way the self-undermining voice is made to chime with a certain interpretation of Christianity that glimmers in the piece. The general contours of the voice itself are familiar on the internet, which rewards casualness and spontaneity; I’ve read it argued, persuasively, that David Foster Wallace originated the ancestor of this voice: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/another-thing-to-sort-of-pin-on-david-foster-wallace.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all?src=tp& (The voice also shares something in common with authors like Levi Peterson and Mormon novels like “The Backslider” and thus with literary fiction generally, which also connects to DFW but not by way of the internet.)

    On the surface, it seems to be a good match for a Christianity that celebrates human brokenness, sinfulness, nothingness — and that, crucially, finds godliness *in those qualities* rather than in qualities of glory, holiness, and perfection. And yet, and yet, and yet… sometimes the voice (and the Christianity) gets close to valorizing self-loathing, as long as it is self-consciously done, which is both a self-serving contradiction and not, I think, compatible with Christianity.

    So I suppose I’m interested in both the origins of the voice you cultivate in the post, and in your defense of that voice as a kind of enactment of the Christianity you embrace. (Is that asking too much for a blog comment? ;) )

  20. Craig H. on February 10, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Rosalynde, thanks for your interest and questions, though I’m not sure I can do justice here, because the exercise suggests I can give a rational and analytical answer to something that I feel more than think about. I suppose I’m trying to convey a mood I feel, as I think about or more accurately feel through my emotions, and though clean writing of course can convey any number of moods too, and might even convey for some people something like the mood I’m trying to get across here, it doesn’t work for me on a subject like this, or for the book I’ve written about my mission either, coming out in the summer. Maybe that’s because this essay and that book are heavily about emotions, in the second case especially about the emotions of a 19-year-old, and the mood I feel is probably one of trying to break through those emotions, or trying to convey struggling through them, trying to make sense of things, and things don’t move inside me (maybe inside anyone) neatly and tidily, so it’s the process of the struggle I’m trying to convey rather than the outcome. You are a hugely-admirable neat and clean and still complex writer and thinker; maybe that belies the emotional or intellectual struggle you go through to get to that point, or maybe you’re organized more naturally that way from the get-go, I don’t know.

    No doubt a voice of wanting to break things is influenced by people like DFW, who was influenced by other people, etc. but without trying to sound pathetically presumptuous some of my biggest influences (now I feel like I’m interviewing for the Commitments) were classically elegant writers too, such as Truman Capote, so even if I didn’t make a cool, calculated choice with the voice or tone, it was no doubt influenced by lots of things I’d read that probably worked around inside me until they turned into one that felt something like me, which again I hope doesn’t sound presumputous or even ridiculous, since maybe none of us has an absolutely unique voice, but are instead an amalgamation of many other voices.

    As for the question about the compatibility of the voice or of “self-loathing” with Christianity, I suppose it depends upon which version of Christianity you’re talking about. I’m sure you can think of any number of medieval and early modern mystics or spiritual writers whom I would call strong examples of self-loathing, and for whom self-loathing was even the epitome of their spirituality, and that tradition probably had its effect here. But I’m not trying at all here to convey self-loathing of myself as a person, but more of things I was feeling which my encounter with Bo perhaps more than any other encounter (or maybe they all came together in this encounter) made me feel were not particularly religious or even compatible with what I felt even more deeply inside, and which seeing Bo in action made me want to respond to–and then the difficulty of feeling my way through the things it might take to get there, which are really hard, made me feel like breaking some more. Maybe it’s impossible to separate out yourself the person from whatever you’re feeling, since you are after all the one doing the feeling, and the only way I can think of to explain it is other experiences I’ve had too in which I knew I felt certain things but then suddenly I discovered something inside which feels more authentically me than what I was feeling before–the irony, which I treat in my mission book too, of having to learn to be yourself. As absurd as a fish having to learn to swim. Maybe “yourself” is a total mental construct, sure, but for me it’s more something I feel, something that feels more genuine. I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences something like this sense. I hope this isn’t way too personal, but to me what you were asking me to think through was what I’m feeling, so that’s about the best I can explain it. Also, to me the process was ultimately hopeful, even if it was hard, and if I didn’t convey that hopefulness, maybe I need to think/feel my way through that element of the story again. Thanks, though, for being interested, and I hope this helps, but in the end it wasn’t something I coolly calculated (how can I best write about this?) but something I just kept writing until I found something I liked. If it were calculated (and anyone can manage run-on clauses and sentences), it would never work for me, and maybe it still doesn’t work for any number of people reading it.

  21. Rosalynde on February 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Wow, thanks for this, Craig. I hope I didn’t sound critical of the narrative voice in my original question. I love it and am drawn to it, as I am to other voices like it, and that’s part of the reason I feel the need to interrogate it.

    So if I understand you, you’re saying that the voice was not consciously honed for a specific thematic purpose, but instead is an authentic enactment of the emotional self a-la-Craig-Harline, with appropriate postmodern caveats that “authentic” and “self” are suspect categories but nevertheless still the best descriptors we have for what it’s like to be human from the inside. That’s fair, and I think, for what it’s worth, it works here.

    (I will say that as a critic I am always a bit skeptical when artists deny the conscious, workaday, craft-based aspect of writing, and claim inspiration or emotional transport. But no doubt that is nothing more than the envy of the parasitic critic who survives only by scavenging from the living bread and water of art. ;) )

    Thanks again for such a long and personal response.

  22. Craig H. on February 10, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Rosalynde, don’t get me wrong, there’s always lots of practice involved, as you know. Lots of craft, therefore. Maybe the less conscious or less deliberately (non-sneaky) crafty part just comes in getting out the initial ideas and trying to find the tone. You also know athletes and musicians also put in a lot of tedious practice but they all say when it comes time to perform the less they’re conscious the better. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say, it’s not unconscious at all in the long-term formation, or even in the post-draft tinkering (I’m hopeless at that; you can see I’ve made about 70 edits to the original draft, which I posted only when I was pretty sure it was polished; plus I even tinkered with the first response I sent to you above, to try clarifying a few things that I afterwards saw were vague!). But when you’re trying to just get the story out, then it’s more the stream of unconsciousness, how about that?

  23. Cami Richey on February 10, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    I loved this, Craig! It certainly makes me re-evaluate some of my own priorities and comforts. I also feel like empathizing with others is the most Christ-like action we can perform, and maybe if I didn’t fill my life up with so much entertainment, business, and stuff, I could do that more. But I am such a product of our culture or something, that it feels hard to do! A lame excuse, but there it is…

  24. Cami Richey on February 10, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    P.S. Sorry to interrupt the correspondence going on. Haha

  25. Jaime on February 11, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Former student and current bloggernacle lurker piping up to say thanks for the wonderful read. Such keenly observed portraits, rendered with love and good humor. I find myself thinking now of the Bo’s I have encountered in life (on my own family tree, especially) and on my need to forgive their flaws (hello unintentionally-saying-very-offensive-things…I’ve been watching Olympics tonight so I’ll just say I come from a long line of Gold medalists in that particular sport) and appreciating their hearts that never hesitate to serve or fill a neighbor’s need, in contrast to my own. Lots to chew on here, both in the OP and in your exchange with Rosalynde. Thanks again!

  26. Craig H. on February 11, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks for comments Steve, Mike, Cugeno, Carine, Ann. Cami, quit hanging out here and you’ll have more time, ha ha. Jaime, hilarious about your family’s Olympic specialty. The thing is with Bo’s approach is you see the need to have your own flaws forgiven too, which I’m sure you see.

  27. J K on February 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Very touching post – made it easy to picture Bo and the way he ministers to the group. Something I’d like to be able to emulate.. Thanks for telling this.

  28. Carole on February 12, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Love the style as well as the story. Very effective. Is aspiring to be like Bo wrong…aspiring to be unassuming and humble, and so “at one” with others? And then if I arrive, am I proud that I can handle saliva and rubbing heads without thinking about it. (Except I would be thinking about it.) Bo seems naturally oblivious to his Christlike actions. I’m afraid I would notice mine…and thereby fail. As Doug says, “We can’t all be like Aunt Mary Ann.” Being content with where I am, but trying to be “better” and to serve others in whatever way I’ve been offered by God to serve will be my goal. Your story of Bo will inspire me.

  29. Craig H. on February 13, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Good question Carole: Rosalynde raised the question above whether self-loathing was a good Christian sentiment, and I noted that some Christians have found it crucial. I might have added that in those circles where it was important and merely considered the ultimate form of humility, there were warnings exactly on the point you mention, of having pride at your own apparent lack of pride! Whether it’s self-loathing or humility at stake, however, it seems to be not so much the lowliness of the deed that matters, but the state of heart. It’s the unconsciousness of it all that I like in Bo, and I don’t know if you can strive for it or if it just emerges from having a heart in an absolute state of equality with others, which by definition would seem to eliminate pride.

  30. Ziff on February 25, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Sorry I’m coming late to read, but I loved this! Thanks for the post, Craig.

Leave a Reply