Rolling Over and Tearing Down
My car “rolled over” to 200,000 miles recently. But, of course, its odometer is digital, as they all are now, and so there’s no rolling.
Children, back in the dark ages, would be riding in the back seat of your parents’ car, and you couldn’t wait for the thing to roll over. A small taste of it happened every mile: the tenths’ roller would get to the nine and then, together, it would roll the next digit, the one to its left, with it. But if that digit were also a nine, then three would roll. You can imagine the build up of excitement: when 999.9 would roll over to 1000.0! Or best of all, when 39,999.9 would roll over to 40,000.0. Keep your eyes open! All 6 digits together would be turning.
Ours is clearly an age of diminished pleasures. The numbers don’t roll. In a blink they change.
Still it was fun. I was, fortunately, on a basically empty stretch of highway. It had been well over 199,000 all day. I saw it get to 199,900. Then 199,960. I was afraid I’d miss it. When it was 199,990, I pulled over to take a picture. And ten miles later, a blink of an eye, and it was 200,000. Beautiful. Such clean digits.
The odometer is digital, which I take as a modern drawback, but a lot of other things about the car are much better than anything my parents ever had. Those cars, their odometers only went to 99,999.9; after that you were back at zero (00000.0). Rare was the car that would run that far. But mine has gone to that point twice over. And who knows; it might keep going for another 100K.
Yet what’s old doesn’t go on forever. The venerable furniture store has been torn down. Recently they finished the demolition; the lot is level now, and mighty machinery has started working to create the foundation for a new high-rise.
I run past it almost daily. These days you can see, not only the lot leveled-off, but the apartments behind it. I never noticed them before. They go up maybe five stories. Their residents can see more now than they used to. But in a couple of years they will see less, when the new, taller, building is erected.
When I lived in New York City, people would ask me about my apartment’s views. I said: I have a view of apartments that have a view of Central Park. Which was literally true. And if one apartment in particular had its blinds up on both sides, I could see through it to a bit of green.
Then they tore down an old building north and west of us, and for a couple of years a little sliver of the corner of the park was visible. I enjoyed pointing it out to visitors. One could see, tiny in the distance, runners, walkers, bikes—not for long, just for that slice of time they were in view.
And then, they put up the new building. Whoever lives there now has my old view: a view of apartments that have a view of the park.
Things keep changing. Sometimes they’re torn down. Sometimes they roll over. In the midst of it all, the Psalmist advises wisely: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our heart to wisdom.”
What theologians read. I’ve mentioned A Canticle for Leibowitz. Now I’m seeing it all over the place. There’s a thoughtful review essay in The American Interest, which finds it as prescient as ever.
I’m planning to have a discussion of it early in 2020: details to come.
(Texarkana = the New Rome: Who woulda thunk it?)
Out & About. Some years ago, visiting my daughter in Boston, we had stopped by the Church of the Advent there, the great 175-year-old bastion of Anglo-catholicism. I have now been there on a Sunday. Their music is awesome. Their liturgy is a work that engages just about everybody. But . . . I’m not moving. I’ve been in Dallas long enough to become a complete wimp regarding winter weather in the Northeast.
Here is my sermon, preached at the Advent on the feast of Saint Michael and All Angels.
This Sunday, Oct. 13, I will lead the “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar on What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha. We meet at 6 p.m. at Incarnation in Dallas, and anyone who reads the book is welcome to the conversation.
Next up: The Warden by Anthony Trollope, on Sunday, Nov. 17.