“Excuse me, I didn’t . . . Huh? . . . You . . . Pardon? . . . Me? . . . You–What?!!”: Or, An Example of Clifton’s Cognitive Dissonance

Well, I suppose I should begin at the beginning. Which is to say, at the culmination.

You should understand that Anna has been feeling unwell for a bit more than a week. She was growing increasingly concerned as her various symptoms were not disappearing and she was feeling worse. So on Monday, she scheduled a visit to the doctor. Although I had called her on my cell just prior to going to my class, she was still at the doctor’s office, and said she would fill me in when I got home.

So, a few hours later I headed home from my Marx class. I had presented a paper on Herbert Marcuse’s notion of technological rationality within consumer capitalist society (from his book One-Dimensional Man), and normally after class my mind is still in class, mulling over the ideas and discussions that have been presented. This night was a little different. I was braving a Chicago snowfall and the messiness of the congested streets, and thinking about family. You know: you project into the future and daydream a bit about what you and your spouse and your children will be doing, what your life will be like. Well, that was me. (I’ll be teaching my kids Greek and Latin, Plato, Aristotle, the Cappadocians, and the Philokalia, just so you know.)

In any case, after a twenty-minute hike from the el stop, I climbed the three flights of stairs to our apartment, walked in and started to doff the coat, boots, gloves and scarf. Anna was home, and we did the usual small-talk. How was your day? I did thus and so, and talked to X about Y and Z. All that sort of stuff.

She said to me, “I got a couple of cards for your Dad.” I murmured something along the lines of, “Oh,” and continued stowing my books. We’d been decking our apartment in Christmas, and Anna had been filling out Christmas cards for mailing. I was about to ask her how it went at the doctor’s, but she handed me one of the cards and asked me to take a look at it. It was one of those cute ones with a polar bear and cub on the front. Inside, the text read: “‘A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.’–Carl Sandburg. Congratulations on your new little one.” Underneath she signed: “Dad! Love, Anna.”

Reading this, of course, you know what the situation was (and thus now know what the cryptic messages have been about). Me? I was trying to wrap my mind around my Dad having a new kid. I knew that wasn’t happening. So I thought, well, maybe it’s for my stepbrother and his wife, and the baby they adopted from China. But hadn’t they already been there and back? You’d think, being a philosophy graduate student I’d be a little quicker on the uptake. But there was this little tiny voice in the back of my head saying, “You silly dolt! The card is for you!” Of course, I logically jumped back from that idea. Are Dad and Frances going to adopt a kid? No. That was impossible. Meanwhile, Anna was looking at the evidence of this mental tennis match as it played itself out in my “little-bear-brain-thinking-one-hand-clapping” sort of conundrum. Finally, her expectant look and the back-of-my-head voice combined in the glorious dawn of the truth: You, my academic friend, are a father.

So, Anna and I are attempting to get used to this notion that she’s pregnant. When the doctor informed her of the news after the results of the blood test were in, Anna was “Are you sure?! Maybe you should do that test again?” We still think that when she goes back on Thursday that we’ll wake up and it will all have been a dream. But the doctor told Anna that the results were as certain as they could humanly be.

This is certainly a surprise. Unplanned as they say. But a scary and welcome joy nonetheless. If you happen to see us in the next few days, we’re the ones with the glazed over look.

Anna’s doing fine. You can share any congratulations with here at her email address: here. You can also feel free to post any thoughts via the “comment” link below.

Me? I’m a gooey mess. (And with final papers to write, no less!) I got to the part in my morning prayers yesterday morning where I pray for Anna, my mom, dad, sisters and so forth. I prayed, of course, for Anna, and proceeded to pray for our new baby. I have to tell you, I just lost it.

Meditating on Mary

As a Protestant, I’m not supposed to pay too much attention to Mary. Don’t want to get into that “mariolatry” thing, you understand. On the other hand, ignoring Mary is like starting at the finish line. It’s kind of like cheating. It was Mary’s holy and willing submission to the plan of God through which he accomplished our salvation. Not for nothing is it the case that the last words we have of Mary recorded in the New Testament (John 2) are: “What he (Jesus) tells you to do, do.”

Mary says of herself in Luke 2: “All generations will call me blessed.” And indeed we do. She was the most blessed of women, in that she bore in her womb our Savior. As if the miracle of human conception weren’t just blow-your-socks-off amazing enough. Add to the mix that God took from her our human flesh/nature and became incarnate, and, well, the little grey cells just disintegrate.

Mary is called the “Theotokos,” a Greek word that means “one who gave birth to God.” Protestants get a bit wiggly when hearing that. Not because we deny that he whom she bore, Jesus, was (is) God in the flesh. But we worry that somehow this transforms Mary into some minor rival deity. P’shaw! the early Christians would say. They were adamant about calling Mary “Theotokos” because they were adamant that he whom she bore was God. It’s a matter of right belief about Jesus.

I agree. Sure, sure I understand all the Protestant Roman-Catholic-heebee-jeebees that go along with that. But that’s our problem. Not God’s. Certainly not Mary’s.

In this Advent season which orients us to the fact and miracle of the Incarnation (and ultimately to the Resurrection–yes, Easter in December!), I plan on giving thanks to God for Mary. May I be willing to wholly accept God’s will like she did.