Monday, December 26, 2011

Time Capsule

Dear Ezekiel,

On the day you were born, your great-grandparents were up visiting for Christmas.  They gave me the laptop on which I write this for that very Christmas.  They took your Oma and I out to dinner and I had a martini that tasted like toasted marshmallows.  Aunt Gina was there too.  She had just returned from the Republic of Georgia a few days before. She had been teaching English over there.

They let me leave work early on account of your being born and, as I'm sure you're used to by the time you read this, the maddening beat of the impending holiday, like a heart under the floorboards. 

It was a slow news day.  Newt Gingrich failing to file the signatures required for him to get into the Virginia primary was one of the top news stories.  Newt Gingrich was a man who ran for president in 2012.  Believing in a benevolent God, I assume you will never have heard of him.  The Sherlock Holmes film with Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes was the top grossing film.  If I live long enough for you to get to know me, I'm sure you'll know exactly who that was.  Also perhaps worth mentioning, there were people who said that the world would end just shy of a year after you were born due to some blip in an ancient civilization's calendar.  Early in the year you were born, a charlatan predicted a date on which the world would end and then, when it didn't, picked another date later in the year.  Some people were fooled both times.  I hope you'll take this as a lesson about secret knowledge, conspiracy theories, and people trying to sell themselves as special with the sexy temptation of being a present "insider" (and future fool.) 

Earlier we had gone to visit you at Enloe.  I held you when you were only about an hour and a half out of your mother.  You didn't open your eyes and we didn't hear you cry for two more days.  You were a very peaceful baby.  May you remain so.

I intend to teach you Shakespeare and Shaw, Beethoven and Mozart, Socrates and Schopenhauer.  I intend to buy a high-end telescope so that we can look into the heavens.  I hope that we can travel and I hope that you will see the world.  I especially hope to take you to the theater, the opera, and the ballet when you are old enough to shut up and not wiggle around in your seat the whole time.  This past Sunday, which was Christmas, I was talking to my pastor after the service and he talked about how it's difficult to produce a Christmas sermon.  One must present the Advent story, a story which one can assume that almost the entirety of the congregants know.  I remembered when I performed my first (hopefully not last) one-man show a few years ago.  So many people expressed that they wished that I would have recorded the event on video.  I would always reply that it wasn't staged for video, but more importantly, it wasn't for the ages.  It was, like so much of life, a moment in time that exists within the space-time frame, but, as far as we are concerned, has passed out of our reach through the progression of time.

That's part of why I love photography so much.  The picture above is of the moment when I first held you.  As you can see, people were rushing around us.  The room was full of activity and vistors.  But the camera captured the light of that moment and now you can see it, your hypothetical children can see it, and the alien archeologists of the 45th century can see it.  There is a beauty in and of itself to the preservation of beauty, but there is also a beauty to the fleeting in its ungraspability.  There is wonder in both and, indeed, in all things.

I hope you get to experience a multitude, a veritable glut of ideas and world-views.  You get to choose the ones you love, the ones you adopt, the ones you improve upon, the ones you reject outright.  You get to make ones of your own. 

I don't know what the experience of life will be like for you or what the combined forces of nature and nurture will produce in you.  I hope you will be happy.  I hope you will come to understand the necessity of kindness, compassion, and peacefulness.  I hope that you will learn that you need not doff your hat to any man, as we are all created equal.  I hope you will share and love truth. I hope you will not be tempted to the overwhelming trend toward the trite and bourgeois emotional life of our day, which presents such asininities as boredom and self-righteousness as birthrights.  They aren't.  They are both born from the pit of Hell.

Anyway, welcome.  I hope you have fun. 

Your loving Papageno,
Paul Mathers


  1. I'm glad I read that, found it all kinds of beautiful; I like the way your mind works, so thanks for showing it off in such a lovely way.

  2. Paul, What a great idea! I may copy it one day when I have a grandchild.

    This is most moving and interesting.

    I wonder if there will still be laptops when he is a young man. But he'll get to know your laptop in the next 3-5 years.

    I can see Ezekiel is going to be greatly loved in the Mathers family and receive a well-rounded literary & musical education. I'm sure Oma Laurie will supplement Shakespeare & Shaw with Bible stories! And perhaps with her hymns, psalms & spiritual songs.

    You use Papageno as if it was a synonym for grandfather. I couldn't locate such a usage or even another usage for Pagageno. Papageno was the bird-catcher in The Magic Flute. Are you using the word metaphorically, that you will catch the beauties of literature, music & life and feed them to Ezekiel?

    May God guide and bless you in your role & ministry as a loving grandpa & Papageno.

  3. Papageno & Oma where did this come from? I like it.

  4. Yes, Papageno comes from The Magic Flute. I chose it a bit because of how you, John, stated it, but also a bit because the character fills, in the opera, the role of the fool archetype. I think it came to me when someone suggested "Papa" for me. That also didn't seem to fit precisely as I am not, strictly speaking, a blood relation and Papa seems so pater familias to me.

    Oma is, if memory serves, the Dutch variant of grandmother. We both wanted something fun and did not feel that grandma and grandpa necessarily fit exactly.

  5. Thanks for clarifying Papageno, Paul. I like it. It sounds colourful & of course musical. How does the fool archetype fit in with being a delighted grandpa who wants to pass on wisdom to his grandson?
    I thought you chose Oma because you both knew German. (I teased Laurie speaking of her as Oma before Ezekiel was born little knowing you would chose Oma over grandma or granny.) It is of course German & Dutch. Afrikaans, a language we speak in South Africa & derived from Dutch, spells Oma as Ouma. Both are pronounced the same. It literally means 'old mother'. So Laurie is an old mother!