Thursday, September 11, 2008

A swim

The lovely Carol rolled over, and I raised my head to look at the clock. 5:42am. "Want to go for a swim?"

"OK." I walked over to the dresser. "Would you turn on the light there?"

I looked around briefly, then announced, "I think my swim bag is in the car." Before I went out, I found my copy of Buechner's Secrets in the Dark for afterwards.

Opening the trunk, I saw that it was there, and verified that the goggles and the trunks were both in it.

A minute or two later, she was in the car and we backed out of the driveway.

Driving down B____ Road, I noticed the blue reflective bumps. "I never noticed how many fire hydrants there are on this road," I remarked. There were like six of them by the time I got to the second stop sign.

The lovely Carol was amused. "The hunter," she said, referring to something she read in The Female Brain or Raising Cain or maybe How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking About It. "He has to be alert to danger in the environment.

"The nurturer is thinking about relationships," she continued, then told me about some interactions she had yesterday with one of our pastors.

It was still dark when we got to the "Y", though we could see that it was overcast. Jeff at the desk greeted us; we got our cards "beeped" in, grabbed towels, and headed for the locker room. I stripped and stepped onto the scale: 116¼ pounds before breakfast, dry and unclothed. As I finished my shower, I heard the sound of the pool door being unlocked. Perfect timing, and no one in sight!

First one in the pool! I was excited; it's been a long time.

As I swam, I recalled Bible passages. 1st length, Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." 4th length, Romans 4:20-21 "Regarding the promises of God, he did not waver in his belief, but grew strong in faith, being persuaded that what he had promised, he was able to perform."

As I began my 7th trip across the pool (i.e., the 4th round trip), I remembered John 7:17: "If anyone wants to do God's will, he will know for himself whether my teaching is from God or whether I'm making all this stuff up." (that's a rather loose paraphrase, by the way)

Now sometimes I just sort of recall a passage and don't really think much about it. But when I got to this 7th length, I thought about the condition there. "Lord, help me to have a heart that really wants to do your will."

As I swam, I drifted a little--in my thoughts I mean. I thought about Colossians 2, where Paul warns us against being led astray or taken captive "through hollow and deceptive philosophy" (verse 8), because I recently read Hofstadter's I AM A STRANGE LOOP. Now Hofstadter is a brilliant academic and a terrific writer. I thoroughly enjoyed his GÖDEL, ESCHER, BACH when I found it in the 1980s. But he argues quite persuasively that consciousness is essentially a sophisticated illusion, a phenomenon that emerges from any sufficiently poerful information-processing system.

This is a disturbing thought. Basically Hofstadter rejects dualism (the idea that there's something more to consciousness than "just" the mechanisms of neurons and axons, or gates and flip-flops) because of some difficult questions that arise. On the other side is the killer question by Lewis: " If thought is the undesigned and irrelevant product of cerebral motions, what reason have we to trust it?"

The other thing of course is whatever the basis of consciousness or intelligence, we are still called to speak only what's edifying (Ephesians 4:29), which I remembered on my 29th length, not to grieve the Spirit (30), to put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander (31), and to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven us (32).

I got out of the pool, 800 yards after I started. It's been a while and it felt good. My right shoulder hadn't given me any pain at all.

I showered and dressed and stepped on the scale again. 118¼, no sweatshirt and no shoes. I finished Buechner's sermon on Faith (from Secrets) and the lovely Carol soon appeared.

We could see that it was overcast as we drove back. We sang "Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation..." -- despite confusion about which lines went with which verse, we have much to be thankful for.

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