Jet Lag and a Trip to the Zoo

Dear Will:

Last week I found out I have to fly to Korea—one of those glamorous business trips during which you spend as much time going and coming as you do working. Should be awful.

Then I found out it is worse than I thought. The only way to get there in time for the meetings is to leave mid-day on Sunday, September 5. And when I arrive it will be Monday night. Labor Day will have disappeared altogether.

Cheer up, they told me. You get that day back on the return. That’s nice in theory, of course, but the truth is that I will have lost a 3-day weekend that I’m never getting back. And on Tuesday, while I’m schmoozing Koreans in Busan, my five-year-old Seth will be attending his first day of kindergarten. There’s something else I will miss that no crossing of the dateline will ever give me back. Let’s just say I’m not happy.

Seth, to his great credit, will hardly notice. The excitement of his new adventure will surely not have worn off by the time I drag back home on Wednesday night, just in time for . . . Back to School Night at Luke’s high school. I anticipate that the teachers I meet that night will find me charming if but a bit unkempt and maybe catatonic. What is it they say about having only one chance to make a good first impression? Luke’s teachers are sure to be dazzled.

Originally we had planned to spend Labor Day at the San Diego Zoo, but instead we’re going down on the Saturday before. No big deal except it means that I will miss my beloved UCLA Bruins’ opening football game, which I will tape and now watch—what?—a week later. Or probably not at all.

What a rough life I lead.

In contrast, my wife just had her third knee surgery last week. Afterward, the doctor informed her that her cartilage is so badly deteriorated that within a few years she will likely have to have knee replacement surgery. Elsewhere, a dear friend is facing a tragic divorce (is there any other kind?) after nearly 30 years of marriage. And another good friend has seen everything he has lived and worked for taken away from him after a series of bad choices and horrible decisions. His life is a wreck.

And here I’m complaining about jet lag and a trip to the zoo. Makes me so ashamed I’m tempted not to send this letter. But by now you probably know me well enough that my pettiness doesn’t surprise you. So . . . instead I shall take deep, cleansing breaths and try to maintain a little perspective: my kids are happily enrolled in excellent schools; my work is going so well that somebody on the other side of the world wants to pay for a couple of days of my time; and I live so close to one of the world’s great zoos that I can do it in a day trip. And besides, my Bruins are supposed to lose, so maybe I’ll be glad to have missed the game anyway. I’ll still miss that first day of kindergarten, but such is life. Right?

Here’s hoping that my miseries are always this profound—and no more so. And hoping that all is well with you.


Footprints All Around Us

Dear Will:

I recently took my kids to the San Diego Zoo.  What a crazy collection of creatures that place has!  Once you stop gawking at the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), there are all these other critters running around that you never heard of or imagined.  I keep expecting them to erect a Dr. Seuss wing one of these times.  There was even this one thing that seemed to have come straight out of the bar scene in Star Wars.  Goofy little body.  Ugly, throw-away-the-mold face.  A name you couldn’t pronounce.  From a place you never heard of.  Unbelievable.  Fascinating.  Marvelous.

Some can wander through a place like that and see Charles Darwin all around them.  Not me.  Everywhere I turn I see the handiwork of God.  Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have the faintest notion how to make an Okapi or a Lemur.  For all I know you’ve got to go through millions of years of modifications to get it just so.  But if you try to tell me that a gazelle or a Macaw or even a warthog happened by chance, I say “No way.”  (Well, maybe the warthog.)

Likewise, I am fascinated by how the human body is able to repair itself.  If I cut my finger today, within moments the body goes to work on repairs; within hours there is visible evidence that healing is underway; and within days it is as if nothing even happened.  Amazing.  Wonderful.  Miraculous.  And definitely not happenstance.

One does not have to go very far or work very hard to see evidence of a loving God: in the leaf of a tree, in a billowy cloud, or in a snow-capped mountain peak; in a bug that skitters or a hawk that soars; in the shape of the human ear, the back of your own hand, the ripple of muscle, a giggle, a sigh, a smile.  Everything we see or touch or hear or taste allows us to feel God’s presence if we will attune ourselves to Him.  If the world is, indeed, His footstool (Isaiah 66:1), is it really all that surprising that we should see his footprints all around us?

That great Book of Mormon prophet Alma (son of Alma) put it this way: “. . . [All] things denote there is a God;  yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).

He didn’t specifically mention the Okapi, mind you, but I’m pretty sure that, had he  seen one, he would have agreed with me and cast a grateful eye toward heaven.

I close with the words of the poet:

GLORY be to God for dappled things—  
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;  
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;  
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. 

All things counter, original, spare, strange;  
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)  
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; 
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                  Praise him.  

“Pied Beauty,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins