"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Friday, July 07, 2006

penny a point, ain't no one keeping score

I recently played cards with an old man in the Amtrak club (aka lounge) car, and in lieu of passing the paper bag that holds the bottle we split a can of Mountain Dew. He taught me how to play Gin Rummy somewhere on the stretch between Winnemucca and Elko. I seemed to take to the game pretty well because I kept beating him, though when I made dumb mistakes he insisted that I take my cards back and do it right, so I can't take a lot of credit for my victories. He was more interested in teaching than winning. Crazy old guy.

I feel that I received a valuable skill in exchange for willingness to hear his stories of fortunes and loves found and lost. He said he deeply regretted letting other people talk him out of a great idea he had for a human cloning business. I decided not to probe into how he had worked out the legal and bioethical issues. When I grew too tired to play cards or converse, I loaned him my iPod for awhile and he enjoyed some tunes until the battery died. I could tell that he was listening to "Only the Good Die Young" at one point because he sang along with the earphones.

He said he didn't know why he chose his current appearance, long wild white hair and beard, biker-style skullcap...he said this wasn't really him, and he knew it invited others' judgment, but it also allowed him to pass through the rougher parts of towns unmolested. He said he thought it was part of his mission to help other people practice their religion, or in my case, their card-playing skills. To every thing there is a season. Maybe he was one of the Three Nephites.

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