A Critic’s Take On The Empty Life I Live

Below is a comment I received earlier today from a gentleman I’ve engaged with over the last eight or nine years via the Internet but never have actually met. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t consider that an enormously significant loss in his life, and I’m not devastated that we’re still strangers, either. But Mama always said you oughta know someone personally before you judge their life to be pretty much empty and pointless. I think it was her Southern upbringing.

Anyway, this is what I got from Wilsonian pit-bull and gadfly most gallant, Doug Farris. My response to him follows. I’ve always said that I’m not afraid to reveal or endure my knocks in public, and it would be hard to imagine a more all-encompassing hit than the suggestion that I live a life of, if not quiet desperation, then at least quaintly irrelevant dissipation.

From Doug, responding to my post thanking God for President Obama’s words at the memorial for the victims of last week’s shootings in Tucson; you might remember that I said I was “sad” that my lauding Obama would be received with derision by the majority of my readers:


I’m sorry you feel sad. I’m sad too. I’m sad because the other 16,000 7-11 clerks, doctors, construction workers and Korean gas station attendants that were murdered this past year didn’t get a visit from our pastor-in-chief; they didn’t get a place in a wall or a flag set at half mast. They only had family members, friends, and customers mourn and pray for them.

What else makes me sad is that you haven’t found something else to do with your life but posit (sic) your comments here and other places around the hood these past many years.

How sad indeed!

January 15, 2011 11:23 AM, by heirdoug, Doug Farris”

My reply:

Gee, Doug, it’s so nice to hear from you . . . You are, of course, always welcome to post comments to Prevailing Winds, a courtesy I extend to my critics and one that is not, oddly enough, extended to me by certain of your pals who have been the objects of my criticism. Nonetheless, your weary observation on what you see as the vacuity of my life is — how to put it? — most unwelcome, more than a little amusing, and entirely without use to me.

But before I get to that, I wonder if I could presume on any shred of integrity yet dangling from your heart and propose something:

Let’s be honest, shall we, and acknowledge that Obama would have, and rightly, in my view, been excoriated by both the press and the people if he had not attended the memorial in Tucson. Let’s acknowledge further that no one expects the President to be Pastor-in-Chief, nor to devote himself to attending funerals and thus eliminate his ability to do anything else of substance during his term. Let’s agree, you and I, that we ought to grant him the presumption of benevolent motivation, a judgment of charity rightly extended to others around us and in the public eye. I believe that such “charity of judgment” is important to you, isn’t it?

And then let’s acknowledge together that you loathe the man and likely would criticize him for the type of blade with which he shaved the morning of the memorial, so profound is your disrespect for him, his wife, his presidency, and, it appears, his very presence in our world.

Further, let’s be clear, Doug, in agreeing that over the years of our correspondence via the Internet, you and I have never met and, unless I’m mistaken, have never even conversed with each other by phone. If I have ever lain eyes on you, I haven’t known it; if you’ve seen me, it’s only because someone’s pointed me out, and if so, you chose not to take the opportunity to introduce yourself.

That would lead both of us to conclude that your judgment that I “haven’t found something else to do with my life but posit (sic) (my) comments here and around the hood these past many years,” which you find “sad, indeed,” is breathtakingly arrogant and unkind on your part. I’m neither surprised nor offended, mind you, but merely perplexed that someone who doesn’t know me would so readily reveal his lack of perspicacity and civility in commenting on how I choose to spend my time, conduct my affairs, or order my life. I receive comments and criticisms from strangers all the time — but I tend to favor the perspective, when discussing the vast prairie of meaninglessness my life has become, of someone who’s actually met me and been a part of it.

Were it from someone else, I would be taken aback and would give it due consideration; coming from you, brother, it simply confirms that even though you are geographically removed from the Kirk, you are no less cut from the same manly mold as your elders. That that mold produces a character so unlike that of Christ Jesus is, evidently, an obstacle neither to you nor to your leaders.

How sad, indeed.

Please be assured, in all affection and truth, that the day your assessment of my life matters even a whit to me, I’ll conclude that something of unprecedented, incalculable, and extraordinary transformation in my character or yours has taken place. Should that transformation be evidenced in your life, I would be more than interested in receiving and exploring the merits of your rebuke.

Until then, though, I find that it would take far too much from my terribly busy day to give your verdict on my life any particular thought at all — only enough consideration, really, to offer a quick prayer for the kind of change in your heart that would make your criticism of me something worthwhile, necessary, or desirable for me to ponder. I am, at times, surely deserving of criticism — but when the Spirit convicts, I think it’ll sound a bit more like the LORD and a lot less like a stranger tripping on his own carelessly-wielded serrated edge.

So, Doug, it might be better to comment on things you know about than on that which you don’t. I generally find that to be a good starting point. Wanna give it a try? What, exactly, did you find so off-putting about Obama’s speech?

Or can I buy you and your wife a cup of coffee next time you’re in town?


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