The Ordinary Guy

I originally wrote this for a particular person to read, but in a style which looked like it was for everyone. He is from an older generation who prefers to teach rather than to listen. We have known each other for decades. I know from long experience that if I wrote to him directly, as I do in most other things I write, he would be unable to hear me. Like most from his generation, education is a zero-sum game, and here is how it works:

  1. He sees himself as a teacher, and therefore, with the exception of other teachers, everyone else is a student.
  2. This is subconscious. He does not realize this consciously, where he thinks of himself as a great listener.
  3. In a limited way, he is. However, in truth he listens only to things he can teach others; this is not listening.
  4. Logically, if he teaches others what he learns from his students, then others would soon see the student as a teacher.
  5. This he cannot do, because then he would lose his role as teacher; it would be like losing his identity.
  6. He will listen to old-style preachers -- other established teachers -- all day long, but not one of his "students."
  7. This is a role that worked great when I was younger, but began to fall apart as I discovered things beyond his knowledge.
  8. In many attempts at trying to break out of this model, I have only reinforced it.
  9. So now I am locked in this position where, if I want to have any relationship with him, I must only "listen."

I have many things I'd like to share with him. However, every time I try, I fail. This script idea was yet another attempt. Although I wrote as though I were writing for Hollywood, really I was writing to him. I hoped he might be able to hear if he were "overhearing" things instead of reading them didactically, as if I were a teacher. He read it, but sadly did not get the point I was making.

A year later, I was editing it before printing a copy for a friend. However, the effort of editing slowly transformed from charming to tedious. I realized that my choice for the original target audience made it difficult for others to enjoy. As I wrote, there were assumptions made. These should be handled more explicitly when talking with a more general audience. I tried to add those, but I ended up making things worse. I now think it really needs to be fully re-written from a different angle. But until I get the time to do that (which may be years), this small introduction should help any reader get through some of the leaps that happen. Imagine you're an elderly Christian who has no listening skills, but thinks that he does, and enjoy:

Script idea for an ordinary movie

The Ordinary Guy is a fairly simple idea to convey, but it will require a good-sized book or a full movie to do it right. Could do it in a single TV-sized episode, but that wouldn't do it justice, especially as the key dialogue may end up being 20 minutes long. Perhaps it could be done over a season of episodes, each episode focusing on one of the Ordinary Guy's amazing feats, which, because he's ordinary, he doesn't realize he's doing.

Recently when I was talking about this idea with someone, a new insight came up. It was embedded there all along, but this new plot point takes the idea from a mildly intriguing story to something truly engaging, if it's done right. The insight regards a conversation which the ordinary guy has late in the movie, where he reveals something not-so-ordinary about himself. Let me set the scene so you can see it right:

He's an ordinary guy, not amazing in any particular way. Smart, but not too smart. He's not too stupid either. Not handsome, not ugly, kind of plain but not drab. Maybe he's even a little handsome but has a mole or a goofy grin, or something like that which keeps him in the ordinary realm. He's overall honest, but he makes little, ordinary mistakes and wants to cover them up, like we all do. He's not the best worker, nor is he the worst. His boss wishes he turned in assignments on time, but also later compliments his work ethic in other areas. His life is ordinary by any measure, and the movie about him will spend time setting this up, to a point that's almost tedious, because ordinary people are... well... ordinary, not that amazing to watch unless you're into ASMR.

The movie itself is not ordinary, though, it should be well-directed and produced in order to capture the nuances of the character. In other words, not an ordinary movie, but an ordinary guy. Movies are rarely about ordinary people; ordinary types are not that attractive to watch, and we like the escapism of a movie to take us out of the ordinary. The life of an ordinary person can appear almost like a boring documentary, but if the cinematography is creative enough, it can be done. As the story unfolds, we begin to see that in his ordinary life there are extraordinary things happening. I'll give a few examples so you get the idea:

  1. He's driving his car, thinking about something that happened at the house earlier that morning before he left for work. Slightly distracted, enough that when he merges into traffic at one point, he accidentally cuts someone off. The other driver is angry. The camera begins following the other driver. By being cut off, he loses maybe 10 seconds, is very angry, gestures crudely at the ordinary guy as he soon passes him, and goes on his way. Shortly afterward, he is nearly killed by a train. Those 10 seconds save his life, in a way that is obvious to the audience. After his life is saved by those 10 seconds, the angry man is driving past a lake, sees a kid drowning, jumps out, saves his life. It turns out the kid would have died without some unique skill that only the angry man has. (The stories don't have to be so obvious as I'm making them, it's better if they're more subtle, but the point is, the ordinary guy's life changes the lives of people around him in ways they don't even realize – or barely realize – happened. It should be subtle enough that it takes several casual repetitions before the point is obvious.)
  2. Camera goes back to the ordinary guy. A few days later. His day is beginning, he's making breakfast, and he discovers that he's out of coffee. Finishes breakfast early, stops by a coffeeshop on the way in to his ordinary job. While standing in line, something ordinary happens to catch the attention of the woman ahead of him in line. They talk, briefly. Unknown to him, he says something that somehow solves a small problem for the woman related to a presentation she's doing later that day. Her presentation transforms from a well-rehearsed failure into a brilliant new model for the company that inspires everyone in the meeting. One of the meeting attendees is later that day on a plane to Washington DC, and is sitting next to someone who turns out to be in the presidential security detail. The guy on the plane hears about this inspiring idea and later that day, the president turns to him – out of his normal character – and says "What would you do, Mr. security guy, in this difficult decision," and the security guy relays the inspiring idea. The president uses the insight in his answer to a difficult policy decision. The next day he's giving a speech, which everyone loves, and his unique solution ends up being one of the great moments of his presidential term.
  3. Camera goes back to the ordinary guy, a few days later. In the background somehow, the presidential speech is on the TV, and maybe a bartender comments on it briefly. The ordinary guy doesn't even recognize his idea, or simply says something like "Yeah I've always thought they should do that," and misses the whole connection between himself and the new policy. With the bartender, or waitress, or whoever, another ordinary thing with extraordinary consequence happens, and so on, and so forth. After a half-dozen of these, the audience should be fully aware of his effect on others, and beginning to wonder why.

The story should be casually presented, yet also well-designed to accommodate the long arc. For example, miracles have a way of getting around, but the Ordinary Guy must not encounter the truth of his influence on others; him missing these could become a running gag. I think a large part of the beauty of this aspect is how elegantly-hidden it is.

So that's the overall stage for the story. The new insight is revealed in a conversation that the ordinary guy has, near the end of the movie when the audience is fully curious. The conversation reveals the one not-ordinary thing that this guy does. This conversation has to be done well, because it's in this conversation we find out the ordinary guy has a private relationship with God, in a way that he never really talks about – he just does it, until very directly questioned one day. In fact, he doesnt attend church, or have any other outward displays of a relationship with God.

In my mind, the purpose of the movie is to present a better model for seeking spiritual truth than the one where a preacher stands in front of them on an elevated platform, pretending to be better than them, pedantically lecturing for an hour about how to appear to be good without actually being so.

In the conversation we learn about a brief meditation each morning, which outwardly appears fairly ordinary. There is a back story of how the Ordinary Guy came upon his technique for communing with heaven, but maybe that's revealed in a sequel, or just in hints throughout the movie, or in the conversation. His daily meditation involves him listening with all of his heart, instead of talking to God as normal people do, listening to God. That's all. He thinks he's not very good at it, but all he does is listen.

In context, it should be obvious to the audience that this very private, internal daily act is the only thing that is not ordinary in his life. The conversation carries the point of the whole movie, but quietly enough that some in the audience may not even get it; maybe the conversation itself can trigger another extraordinary chain of events so some in the audience think it's just another ordinary thing. It has to be casual, woven in somehow so that it doesn't come off as evangelical, even though I’m guessing only evangelical people would want to make this movie properly.

The ordinary guy is so focused on the ordinary-sized things that he does not see nor even care about the extraordinary things that are flowing into the world around him. His attention is on ordinary things, for ordinary reasons. Normal is what we behave like when we don't want people to know how we're secretly not normal. We all know how to do it when we need to be ignored, but only a few of us are like this all the time.

The point being made here is that normal is not normal; in fact it's a legal system defining the structure of how great power can be managed with great responsibility by being hidden in plain sight, invisible to the egos who seek it with all their might because they want to be extraordinary and therefore miss the beauty of the ordinary. That's key – he's not hiding anything. The audience knows he's unusual, but he doesn't. He'll amiably talk about the one thing that is extraordinary about him in a very ordinary way, because he doesn't see it as extraordinary.

He's not Spiderman in his off hours, he's more like Peter Parker with no Spiderman, Bruce Banner with no Hulk, Clark Kent without Superman. His extraordinary is an inward thing that has little obvious effect in the world, so even the protagonist doesn't quite realize who he is. It's got shades of the character Chance Gardener from Being There, but I think the point made here is more subtle. I searched throughout looking for the trope, and although parts of the idea are similar to some tropes, no trope has quite caught the point being made here. The ordinariness is not just a background context, or part of a non-player-character category, but a key part of nature of the player-character himself.

[Update, a year later]: Although I frame it in a Christian context in the example below, he's a kind of Zen master, really. He's doing the thing taught in all religions, which perhaps Zen says most succinctly: "Before enlightenment, 'chop wood, carry water.' After enlightenment, 'chop wood, carry water.'" He's enlightened, but nobody knows it, not even himself. Theoretically, the Ordinary Guy could meet others who are like him, with each representing a different religion. They wouldn't recognize each other, but the audience could see it; this approach would make the story absurdly profound. It would then have a global reach, and maybe that's the right way to write this movie script, but lemme first get back to exploring the idea within a single context.

Directing attention upon the (true) power of hidden, inward, meditation makes the character more meaningful, more accessible to the audience. Perhaps he is more like Jimmy Stewart's beloved character in It's a Wonderful Life, or even Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful. Neo in the Matrix is another example, although the Ordinary Guy does not have a Morpheus believing that he's a hero.

This is why I think nobody but the audience ever sees the connection to extraordinary things and realizes who he is. There can be a whole layer of small "coincidences" that happen to redirect attention away from this truth, kind of like the Truman Show, but instead of Christof’s paid actors who make Truman's world... miraculously ordinary, these are small miracles, because God himself is making sure he never catches on. In other words, it's the Truman show with God playing the Christof character -- and with better intentions.

Mark Twain wrote about such anonymously-holy characters in his story Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven. Beloved roles such as Forrest Gump, Mr. Bean, and Jacques Clouseau are kind of like this at times, revealing the awkward glory of normal -- but those characters are caricatures, exaggerated to be funny.

Harry S Truman was, in a way, a prime example of this kind of character in real life. The farmer, seller of hats, who was also quietly a bagman for the mob, who married the right woman (whom he loved since elementary school) and thus became the president who ended a great war, started the nuclear age, and set the tone for the great Marshall Plan post-war rebuilding. He was… ordinary.

There are other such examples. Maybe the movie can make these references to the many times in previous movies and history that this kind of character appears throughout popular culture, just for fun. In sequels, maybe he can be amazing, as he slowly begins to realize what's been happening for years, while he learned to meditate from whatever backstory gives him the art of meditating the correct way. 

[Update, a week later]: I wrote that a week ago, and I’m still thinking about this idea a week later. The idea has taken hold of my imagination and won't let go til I write it, so here's my attempt at the conversation. I’m sure a good scriptwriter can improve upon things here, because it seems a little forced, and that is what we want to avoid. But hopefully, it conveys the idea:

Script idea for a not-so-ordinary conversation

Scene: At a park. People playing chess nearby and kids playing in the background. The ordinary guy and his long-time friend are eating sandwiches out of brown bags, talking casually. Maybe there are similar scenes throughout the movie, but in smaller bits, setting the stage for the ordinariness of this scene. A conversation about some mutual interest blends in to the following:

Friend: "You always seem so mellow. I've been thinking lately about how I'm such a reactive person. I react to everything. I'm not as proactive as I'd like to be." Muses for a moment. "My boss at work seems so proactive, he really thinks things out, and I admire that in him because I don't have that skill. My life is often a tumult. I never seem to have the time to be reflective about things like you do. How do you keep your mellow? Is that something you inherited from your parents?"

Ordinary Guy: "No, my parents were a mess, like everybody's I guess. My dad was a college professor who never had time for his kids, and mom was overwhelmed by us five kids. She was a good mother, loved us dearly, but I think she would have been a better mother if dad came out of his studies long enough to help her parent. She was always stressed. He was always working on his next big paper. At least he was there, they never got divorced. I was recently thinking about how I learned everything from my mother." Pauses, thinks briefly. "I would say I'm pretty reactive, like you. I think I'd have to say if there's any equilibrium in my life, it comes from meditation. My life used to be more of a tumult like you said, but over time as I learned to meditate daily, it's gotten more stable."

Friend: "Really? I didn't know you were the meditating type. So how do you do it? Was it hard to start? Did you learn from a book, or do you have a guru or something?"

Ordinary Guy: "No, I learned it from within. It started with prayer. I prayed the way I was taught, the way everybody prays, til I was in my twenties. Then for a while I was thinking about how I'm always talking at God, asking him for things, but never really listening to him. I thought about how lonely it must be for God, sitting there surrounded by people asking him for favors, with nobody really spending time with him for his own sake. I think it was my father being a professor – all I ever heard from him was a lecture, telling me how to be a better person in one way or another, or going on about some intellectual subject that he knew well, but never listening unless it gave him a chance to talk more. He never listened to me for my own sake. Never knew how, in fact." Pauses briefly, shifts in his seat a little, takes another bite of his sandwich. "I mean, he listened to the everyday things, like if I got a new job or a car, or he might ask questions about some class in college, but most of the time he just talked. I listened to him. I noticed one day whenever someone came over to visit, my dad was the one doing all the talking. Then I realized that was always the case. When I tried to tell him this, tried to draw him into a listening kind of conversation, he refused to listen. He thought I was insulting him somehow. So when I was thinking about what God would like, I imagined him being talked to all the time, like my dad did to me. I thought about wanting my dad to listen instead of talk. For some reason, he always thought I wanted to preach at him, and I didn't. I just wanted him to be able to listen. That's how I figured God might want someone to listen to him instead of people always talking to him and asking him for things and praising him and all that. So I started praying differently. I started listening instead of talking. I even stopped asking for things. After a few years, I started calling it meditation, because it wasn't really prayer any more. It's listening."

Friend: "Listening? How do you listen to God? Do you hear voices?"

Ordinary Guy: "Oh no, I listen to everything. It took a while to learn how to do this. First I had to learn the difference between praying like an arrow and listening like a sphere. Think about it: When you listen, you turn your awareness outward in a spherical shape, quite differently from when you pray, like an arrow, a straight line forward toward some objective." Gestures with his hands while talking, showing an outward-moving sphere and an arrow going from the heart outward.

Friend: "Well that's a compelling image. Listen to everything? What does that mean?"

Ordinary Guy: "Yes, everything. Well, not man-made noises like cars and stuff. I try to tune those out. I mean, it helps to have the sounds of nature, like birds and crickets and cicadas and other things in nature that make little noises. Even dogs barking in the distance, if they're not too close or repetitive. The wind in the leaves is a quiet sound. I suppose water in a stream would be nice, too, but I've never really done this in the woods. Sometimes I'll put some piano music on in the winter time when nature is so quiet, but silence is okay once you get used to it. Even then there can sometimes be little sounds. These sounds are all around you, and most of us tune them out completely. I know I do during the day. But in the morning – it's before the sun comes up, about 4 a.m., the birds start singing. That's the best time to listen. Everything is quiet except nature.” Pauses, as if listening internally for a moment. “Some of the birds are nearby, some of them are far away. They have different calls they're making. I wonder sometimes if they understand the calls from other species, if they're all talking together, like a symphony, or if they only care about their own species. I think they are aware of each other, in a way. Crickets have a rhythm that's related to temperature, but I think what's happening is deeper than that. Anyway, I imagine a sphere of listening going out from my heart into the world around me. I use the heart, because that's where I want to connect with God, instead of with my mind like my father always did. The sphere grows as I listen more intently. It used to be a small sphere, like a few feet across, but now it feels like it can spread out to acres, sometimes I feel even the whole city." Pauses. Muses briefly, then quietly: "Or the world, but maybe I'm just imagining that. I'm using the sounds of nature to train my heart how to hear quiet, gentle things, because I want to eventually hear the still small voice of God, and I believe this might be the way to do it."

Friend: "So you don't hear God yet, but you have more equilibrium in your life. I would say that is a form of hearing God."

Ordinary Guy: "Oh yes. That's what I was thinking when you asked the question, thanks for reminding me. It's not that I don't hear God, but that he speaks to me without words, by sending little blessings throughout the day, like little love notes telling me that he knows I'm listening to him. Or maybe he's doing this for everyone always and I've simply tuned in. It's a very tender love relationship that I wish I had learned when I was little. I did this for several years before I started hearing such answers to my listening." Laughs at his own words. "It seems odd to say it that way. Nowadays I think of that time as an act of faith – I was going out on a branch with this experiment in listening instead of speaking to God. I didn't know if it would work. It was actually several years before I started to experience the little blessings that indicated God was responding to my kind of prayer. Equilibrium was something I had always wanted, I even prayed for that specifically back in the day when I used to pray for things. So when you say I have equilibrium, I assume that is something he is bringing into my life. My daily awareness is like yours, pretty reactive – that's a good way to put it – but I do see how my life is pretty stable these days." Almost to himself: "I guess that longheld desire of mine is starting to be answered. That's cool."

Friend: "Tell me more about listening. How long do you listen each day?"

Ordinary Guy: "It varies each day. Sometimes it's hard to get five minutes, sometimes everything flows so well I'm thirty minutes in before I'm aware any time has passed. It all averages out to about ten or fifteen minutes. There's a really interesting stage that happens after about 45 minutes. it's only happened a few times in a dozen years, where it seems like quiet begins flowing through me, like it's coming from my heart outward, and everything starts getting quieter around me. Like for a whole city block or more. You might not believe that. I know it seems weird, but it really happens. It's like nature is listening to me listen, or something. It's very humbling. That's extremely rare. I can't make it happen, just have to wait. I found early that if I tried for things like that, they moved further away, so anymore I just listen, and cultivate the art of listening, and every now and then something like that happens."

Friend: "How do you do it? Are you laying down, or sitting in a lotus pose or something?"

Ordinary Guy: "No, with the classic prayer pose. I discovered early on that if I meditated in any other position, I got distracted more easily. I'm on my knees, sitting upright, with my hands together in front of me, although sometimes I will stretch or something, adjust myself, I'm okay with that. I don't force anything, if I need to stretch for a moment, I do. I'm looking forward into the darkness that's just inside our closed eyes. There's a lot going on there." Closes his eyes to connect with the memory. "Try it some time. Close your eyes and look forward. The idea is to have a gentle focus. I read about this once in a magazine article talking about Indian meditation and realized it was similar to what I was already doing. The deeper you look into that darkness, the more you see there's a lot going on, it's not just pitch black like we imagine. There are swirls and colors that come and go. Sometimes even a little tiny pinpoint of light that I follow for a minute before it fades." Pauses, reflects. "There's an important detail I've left out."

Friend: "What is it?"

Ordinary Guy: "I do pray a tiny prayer at the beginning. I originally started with the Lord's Prayer, but it seemed like more of the talking-to-God kind of prayer, so I thought about it a lot and found the one essential part of the prayer which conveys the point I'm trying to make with God: 'Thy will be done.' To me, that seems like the real point of the whole Lord's Prayer. For example, when we say 'Give us this day our daily bread,' we're not saying anything, really. Of course he will. He's God, and he loves us, so he will give us our daily bread. So what are we saying when we ask that? We're reminding ourselves that we should be thankful to him for all things, really, we're not asking for something as if he will only give it if we ask. Does that make sense?"

Friend: "I think so. I never thought about it that way, but that's a good point. We're asking for something that God is already going to give us, so obviously there's more going on than asking, and then receiving just because we asked."

Ordinary Guy: "Yes, you got it. So I went through the whole prayer, and one by one, I struck out phrases that were like that. I also thought about how many things I'd been asking for – which if he's truly omniscient, he already knows I desire. It took me weeks to locate the essence, but finally I ended up with a very simple prayer: 'Father in Heaven, you are holy.' That part seemed important, to acknowledge the relationship between him and me, like I’m saying 'You're holy, I'm not, and I’m okay admitting it.' Then I say: 'Your will be done in me this day.' That's all. And of course, I end it properly: 'In Jesus name, amen.' That's it. That's all I pray: 'Father in Heaven, you are holy. Your will be done in me this day. In Jesus name, amen.' It seemed to me, once I sorted it all out, that this is the essential part, the truly unique thing that's happening in the Lord's prayer – a man asking his Heavenly Father's will to be done. The way I see it, God's respect for our free agency is so delicate that we do need to ask for his will to be done in our lives in order for him to do so. Otherwise, he blesses us the same as the rest of creation, with no partiality until we invite him. It says he knocks at the door, so I let him in. It also says 'sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof' so I figure once a day is enough, though lately I've been meditating more than that, and I like what's happening. Anyway, that simple prayer is what I do in the beginning. Then, when I listen for the rest of the prayer – for the rest of the meditation – I'm training myself to seek his will by listening." Pauses, reflects briefly. "Now here is something important. Most people pray and then never think about it again until they pray again. My prayer in the morning is only the beginning of the listening. After the prayer finishes and I've trained myself to listen better by meditating, that's only the start. As I go about my day, I'm looking for God's will to be done in everything. I've learned over the years to look everywhere. It's not continual, it's really only a few seconds here and there at various times throughout the day, but in general I'm always looking. You never know when or where he'll answer your concerns, so you have to stay vigilant. Lately I've been learning how to accept his will is being done even in the things I don't like. That's hard! I'm surprised I'm only learning about it now, seems kind of obvious. But I'm making progress, although it's going to take a while. In general, though, I'm always looking for God's will being done in whatever is happening around me. I think it's fair to say that, more and more, I find it. I'm convinced that listening is the way to God's heart. It's like the hidden frequency where God always can be found: by listening."

Friend: "That's deep. That's actually amazing. I can see that you do that, and I never really noticed it, but that describes why you are the way you are. You do listen. You're talking more in this conversation because I'm asking questions, but often I see you listening like that."

Ordinary Guy: "That's very kind, I know I talk too much like my father sometimes, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Pauses. Friend remains silent, so he continues: "This is a much more active kind of prayer than telling God a few things he already knows – it's asking for his will to be done, and then listening, actively seeking his will to be done. Then being grateful to see it, and going back the next day and saying 'I want to do this more, I want to listen to you more.' For a long time I did it in faith, and I remember a period when that faith was beginning to fade. I was wondering if this was working or not. I thought: 'I've been doing this for years, and I'm not getting any changes in my life, I wonder if I'm doing this wrong.' Just as I began to doubt in this way, as I was beginning to think about going back to normal prayer, I started seeing the hand of God more often in my life. Then within a few months it was everywhere, and it's been that way ever since. It's like I had to burn out the expectation of miracles before I could see the miracles, if that makes any sense."

Friend: "Makes sense... when you were first doing this in faith, you expected that God would respond in some obvious way, and after a long time, he didn't, so you began to change your expectation, and only then was he able to start answering you. Or maybe he was answering you all along and you're the one who changed. You were thinking of God's response in an arrow kind of way, and he was talking in a sphere kind of way."

Ordinary Guy: "Yes! You got it! You said it just right. There have been a number of changes in my expectations like this. Like... it was a few years before I learned to start actively seeking into the darkness with my eyesight. Always before it was simply dark while my eyes were closed. But I quickly learned that when I started looking into the darkness, I felt nearer to God somehow, like 'listening' with my eyes was as important as 'listening' with my ears, if that makes any sense."

Friend: "Sort of. It sounds like the spherical prayer, reaching outward from the heart like you describe, is really changing you from the inside, from your heart, outward, a little bit here and a little bit there, over time. First with your ears, then with your eyes, what's next? I for one can see that you have a remarkable equilibrium, and now I know how to gain the same sort of thing in my life. I'm going to try it tomorrow morning."

Ordinary Guy: "Well be persistent. I've been doing this for years. I've only told a few people about this kind of prayer, and most people never mention it to me again. Only one person came back and said thank you so far. I don't know, it's not my business to pry, but if you're going to do it, expect to spend a lot of time listening to nothing. I'm used to it, but it was hard when I first started. Sorry, that's my dad talking through me, trying to lecture you if I get the chance. My bad."

Friend: "No, that's okay, I get it. I can see it will take some getting used to. I also see that if I start asking you what I'm very curious about – which is the other ways you are hearing God everywhere, I'll set up expectations within myself that will make it harder for me to find my own way. So, I get it. What you were saying about the Lord's prayer is really insightful, I honestly never thought about taking it apart like that..."

Ordinary Guy: "Yeah, it seemed like dangerous territory, like I was being blasphemous or something when I started, but I persisted." Looks at his friend, who is silent, so he continues: "Lately though I've been thinking about adding 'bless me to forgive others even as I am forgiven,' because I've grown more sensitive to how much he forgives me. Asking him to forgive me the same way I forgive others would be terrible, if he did that! I am not as forgiving as he is. So I've been thinking of adding that in. And also I like the ending, 'thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory' a lot more now. Years ago, that seemed ornate and unnecessary, but lately I've been seeing why it's important. Kind of like when I say 'you are holy,' I'm acknowledging that he is the origin of holiness. Well he's also those three things, too, and I'm trying to figure out what is the difference between kingdom, power, and glory. I think kingdom is a legal system, and power is action, but what is glory?” Pauses, but there is no answer. "But making these changes is not easy. I've been doing the simple version so long it's hard to change it. I'll get there, though." Laughs. "Maybe when I'm old, I'll be doing the whole Lord's Prayer, but if I am, I'll certainly know it from the inside out."

Friend: "Good point. I want to do the same thing, but I wonder if I'll find the same essence you found when I think it out for myself. Maybe it's different for each person. I do see the wisdom in starting with 'thy will be done,' to keep things simple, but I like what you were saying about forgiveness, too. I never thought about it that way. But think about it: That line about daily bread might be deeper than you realize, but other people connect to it better." Pauses, reflects. "I do see that I need to be careful, and persistent. It's a whole new way of relating to God than I've heard before. I've been looking for something like this for years, and I never thought you had the answer I was looking for."

Ordinary Guy: "Oh dear. I don't feel like I have the answer. You should definitely not see me as a teacher; I don't want to be like my father. The world has enough teachers with great ideas who do not do them. I'm talking about something I do, not something I talk about. It seems this is something logical, like anyone can figure it out if they think about it; it's not mine. If I think of myself as having an answer, I'm not going to be able to listen anymore."

Friend: "Right, you're right. Sorry. My dad was a literal drill sergeant, so I know what it means not to want to be like your dad but to still love him anyway. I'll put it differently: I never realized you meditated every day, and now that you describe it the way you do, I see that it works, and I want to do that also. You're a friend, an equal, who talks when I ask questions, but who also listens when I talk. If I go visit my dad in the nursing home today, I can tell you no matter what I say, he'll tell me several ways to improve my life, but not because I asked him. He loves the Lord in the old-fashioned way, still up on the cross making everyone feel guilty for what they did to him, rather than down here in the crowd, being one of us, like what you describe."


Note: Ouch. I just discovered there is a cheesy evangelical Christian movie with the same title from years ago, may have to change the title for this to work. Someone recently recommended "Mensch," as opposed to Nietzsche's "Ubermensch" idea, which I like, but mensch by itself doesn't exactly mean ordinary guy. Taking suggestions.

Add a comment

HTML code is displayed as text and web addresses are automatically converted.

Page top