Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm trying to be like Jesus

I won a poker game in a bar last week and got fifty bucks. Winning poker seems exciting, but I'm trying to avoid gambling addiction, so I have this vow to not keep any money that I win when gambling. My logic is that if I can never win and if I always lose when I gamble, even if I win, then it's really not gambling, and I'll never get addicted.

So, I decided to give away the fifty dollars I won.

I like convenience stores, and usually folks who work at convenience stores make only a stitch more than minimum wage. My plan was to drive down the street, stop at the first convenience store I saw, and give the gas station attendant my filthy lucre.

As I drove up to the first gas station, I could see through the window that the cashier was a dude. I decided that wouldn't be any fun, so I changed my rules a bit. I drove hurriedly away without going inside.

I could see there was a female cashier inside the next gas station, so I parked my car and walked inside.

The person behind the counter was really closed up. She just didn't seem friendly at all. This was the first strike against her. Usually if I give something to someone, I'd like them to appreciate it, and this woman seemed like she wasn't ever going to appreciate anything for a very long time. I started to think I'd do what I did at the first gas station and change my rules a bit and then go from station to station until I found someone who wasn't so mad at life, but I decided to play this out just a little longer.

Besides me in the gas station, there was a couple shopping. They both had some kind of disability, and they were taking a very long time to finalize their purchases. I wanted to be the only person in the store when I dropped off my gift, as that's another one of my gifting rules.

Waiting, I stared at sodas, pretended to be deciding what I wanted, as long as I thought was feasible, without appearing suspicious.

But the couple wasn't budging, so I grabbed a soda and walked to the counter.

The couple must have done something funny, or maybe the cashier didn't like people with disabilities, because she derisively said, “Some people!” and looked at me with an approval-soliciting sneer.

That was the second strike against her. First, she had a bad attitude, and second, she made fun of people with disabilities.

If it had been a month ago, I would have only paid for the soda and then walked out because of her two strikes. But something snapped inside of my head, because I've been reading about Jesus.

I counted out exact change for the soda, and said, “This is for the soda.”

I then gave her the fifty I won in poker and said, “and this is for you for a Christmas present.”

She said, “What?”

I started walking away while I said, “Well, I won it in a poker game, and I can't keep it because of my um vow to not keep gambling winnings, and um, um.”

She said, “What? Are you serious?”

I said, “I'm serious, merry Christmas,” and I left. While I was leaving, she said a couple other things out loud trying to comprehend my random gift, but then I was gone.

Of all the stuff she mumbled back, she never said thank you, which I thought was interesting, but also fitting.

I drove off with a smile, and thought about what happened.

Avoiding gambling addictions wasn't being like Jesus. Giving away fifty bucks wasn't being like Jesus. Randomly picking someone to give money to wasn't being like Jesus. Gifting money to someone I thought was probably poor wasn't being like Jesus. Doing those things was probably more like a Buddhist.

The thing that was like Jesus was breaking the laws I had in my head of who deserved my charity. As far as I can tell, Jesus' main message was that even though you have a bunch of rules you follow that make you think you're a good person, there's still a lot higher you can stretch yourself and there's still a lot better a person you can be.

It was a really cool experience, because if I hadn't been reading about Jesus in the last month, I would have missed all that.

On the other hand, cleaning out the figurative temple during the poker game was probably a little like Jesus, too.

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Photo purchased from istockphoto

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The hot debate about computerized cars

I watched the president of Google talk, and he was talking about computerized cars. These are cars with sensors and software that can drive instead of the driver. He basically said that the car software is really buggy right now, but gave the example of someone who's completely drunk, driving home. He said right now the buggy software is a better driver than a drunk.

Ray Kurzweil, the futurist, said Europe is going to adopt computerized cars before the US, because of the future overage of lawsuits in the US, preventing these cars from being on American soil even though safe computerized car technology will exist.

I think it's really interesting how people react violently to violent car death. People horrifically dying is super sad. The interesting thing is there's nowhere, really, to put the emotions, and there are tons of emotions.

It's kind of like people with memory loss getting totally obsessed about their lost memories.

When someone dies violently in a car, I've seen people ask the unanswerable question of, “Why?” They then try to come up with a reason, any reason. It's interesting how quickly and emotionally the answers get slapped together.

Everyone involved in this hurried diagnosis has the best of intentions.

Mothers don't want other mothers to go through the same thing they're going through. Or maybe they're exhibiting mama bear syndrome and trying to kill the thing that hurt their kid.

Kids at the school of their deceased compeer get temporarily derailed from leaning toward anarchy and  take up another, just cause.

The churches want their parishioners alive so they can do what parishioners do more.

And, I'm guessing well-meaning police officers, who want to send a cautionary warning, look through the autopsy reports and see an extremely low alcohol content in one of the victims and release to the press the verbiage of “alcohol contributed to a fatal crash.”

This quotation gives an answer to “why?” and gives people a direction to focus their tidal wave of energy. I'm just not sure it's the most effective thing we could be doing. I think most people who get totally hammered and drive are feeling at least a little suicidal.

It's only a matter of time before someone gets run over by a computerized car, and angry mothers change the direction of their fury from alcohol to software.

But here's the happy ending to the story. A guy staggers out of the bar, 20 years from now, completely wasted. He steals a couple of cement bricks and puts them on the driver's seat so his car will start. He presses the autopilot button, crawls into the back seat, and goes to sleep.

And the computerized car drives the drunk safely, and uneventfully, home.

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Photo purchased on istockphoto
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