Thursday, October 28, 2004


Cut and Fill

I worked for an engineering company once. I was a draftsman-in-training, 19 years old. It could have been a great career but the job had no magic and was in Kansas, very far from where I wanted to be. I did learn a few things during the three months I worked there.

One of the major assignments given to me was to calculate cut-and-fill for proposed highway routes. If there's a hill, you cut it down. If there's a valley, you fill it in. The objective is to keep the highway as level as possible, but this is expensive. The spoil from the cut has to be moved to where the fill is needed, so the best route is one that both balances cut and fill, and has the cuts near where the fill is required. I didn't have to worry about that. I just did the arithmetic, using an asthmatic mechanical calculator. Engineers made the decisions, and I left before the project was complete.

The principle taught me a lot. Cut and fill. I use heavy internal reconstruction equipment to cut off the tops of the hills, and to fill in the valleys. Happiness is flattened, sadness filled in. The objective is to level everything out, and I will do anything I can to remain in that state. I just don't want the extremes because they interfere with the rational process of living.

Then God said He was going to remake me so I wasn't depressed. After I got over the audacity of the proposal I thought it was a pretty good idea and told him to go ahead. I thought it would be, if not easy (I didn't expect that), at least simple. It turns out it's not even that, because the cut-and-fill process seems to contribute to depression... and I really depend upon leveling.

I don't want my thoughts to be influenced by what I feel. Either way, happy or sad, emotions lead to bad decisions. I've seen many, many examples. I thought I'd found a higher, better way: let emotions out only when the situation is safe. That hardly ever happens, but the trade-off seemed a good one.

Wrong-O, Buzzard-Breath! Last night, God and I were discussing happiness. It seems that when happiness is controlled the way I do it, the process messes up other things and ultimately makes my relationship with God less strong. Apparently I need emotional freedom, not cut-and-fill. I don't really want it.

How much do I miss God when He's not around? The first day's not so bad. The second is a little thin. After that, life begins to look a lot like summer of 2003, when I was just looking forward to not ever waking up again. This is astoundingly delicate. Human life is a very fragile thing, at least when there's any reality to it.

What does it really take to make life worth living? I have no hard answer yet, but I know a lot about what doesn't work. Add emotional management to the list.

The first thing God had to teach me was that everything I knew about Him was wrong. Since then He has pointed out errors in other places, misinformation and lies. Happiness has always been a lie to me, a promise of something that never really happens. Happiness is just the precursor to another crash. If I'm not happy, then I can't crash. Very simple. But crashing on my own is different from crashing with God. He's good at picking up the pieces and putting them together. Again.

I'm still very afraid of crashing. Habit dies hard. I'm not used to living in God's rich world of grace and plenty.

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