Don Chaffer, of the most excellent band Waterdeep, is one of my favorite people, and not just because he’s my neighbor. Well, he lives a few miles away, but we’re in the country so it feels like he’s in hollerin’ distance. He blogs over at the Waterdeep site, and after I read this piece I rode my virtual sorrel mare down through the vale to seek Don’s blessing on posting it in the Rabbit Room. He obliged with a wave of his straw hat and went back to tilling. —The Proprietor
“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.”
-The Nicene Creed
When the heat pump crapped out at our new house, I started researching heating systems. Turns out that one of the big things you have to pay attention to is what they call an efficiency rating. The efficiency rating measures how much energy you’re putting into the heater against how much energy you’re getting out of it. Heads up, it’s never 100%. You always lose some energy.
Compliments of inertia, friction, and black holes, everything loses energy. [Author’s confessional note: Truth be told, while I’m confident that inertia and friction play a big role in inefficiency, I’m not so sure about black holes. However, I wanted to throw a little something Einsteinian in there. I’ve got a feeling about that guy. He seems like he ought to be part of this conversation somewhere. Plus, he’s got cool hair.] And because everything loses energy, we all cast about, trying to figure out how to compensate for what’s missing. It’s the way of the earth.[Additional author’s note: we ended up getting the heater repaired under our home warranty. This has temporarily solved the problem, but I’ll have to re-visit it sooner than I’d like, I’m sure.]
Believe it or not, I thought about all this in church this morning as we were reading the Nicene Creed together. We recited, “…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made…” and I started thinking about how the Father’s “creation” of the Son is perfectly efficient, that there is no God-ness lost in the “transfer” of power. This is because there is no real “transfer” of power. The Son does not borrow anything from the Father. He is the Father, and the Father is Him. They are one being, perfectly efficient—if it’s not too crass to say so—with all energy conserved.
By contrast, this got me thinking about normal human communication, and how often the speaker’s intent is lost on the listener. The meaning is not equal to the message intended. I’m talking, for instance, about drive through transactions:
“I’ll have a number three with a medium Pepsi,” you say.
“A number three with a medium Dr. Pepper?” the attendant says.
“No. A medium Pepsi,” you say.
“Okay. A medium Pepsi. Will that be all?”
“No. A NUMBER THREE with a medium Pepsi?” You say, and, even though it’s happened plenty times before, you can’t believe it’s happening again.
Or arguments between two people:
“Why do you always say that about me when it’s clear that I’m making an effort?” he said
“Well, first of all, I don’t ALWAYS say anything, and second of all, I don’t know what you call an effort, but that doesn’t look much like one,” she said.
“Oh. Okay, so it doesn’t count that I stayed up late the other night working on that thing for you?” he said, the sarcasm fairly obvious, at least to him.
You get the idea.
It also happens in art. As a musician, songwriter, and producer, I work hard at creating delicate little songs that suffer an encoding process that gets them shuffled around from one device to another. They tumble out of speakers and headphones at the most inopportune times: between breaking up with your girlfriend, and making your big pitch to the new client, and showing up unprepared to the final exam, and picking up your kids at soccer practice. The agony and the ecstasy of the song is treading water in the ocean of your life, but it’s sputtering, taking in gulps of water with the air. The song often doesn’t get the time it wants from you, and when it does, you misunderstand lyrics, musical intent, and even, sometimes, the overall point of the artist. Again, hardly a 100% transfer.
The artist might be me. Or it might be Steve Perry from Journey. A friend of a friend supposedly sat down with Perry, and asked him why he’d dropped out of music. Steve said he’s been disappointed by how ironically his band’s been re-interpreted in today’s culture. He never meant anything as a joke, as overstatement, as bombast. He was dead serious, and if no one wants to take him and the music seriously, well then it’s too painful to try anymore. When you listen to “Don’t Stop Believin’,” you see what he’s saying: “Some’ll win/ Some will lose/ Some’re born to sing the blues… Don’t stop believin’/ Hold onto that feelin’.” If nothing else, that’s a work of utter honesty and sincerity. And his voice, for crying out loud, is full of pathos. I know. Journey. Dude, it’s just Journey. But, as my wife said, upon me telling her about how Steve Perry supposedly feels about his problem, she said, “Poor Steve Perry—bless his heart—everybody misunderstands him.” She was not, you see, being ironic. She was as serious as Steve was when he was telling us about the shadows, searching, up and down the boulevard.
Yep. Everybody misunderstands everybody all the time. We all superimpose our own stories on one another. We hear what we want to hear. We placate Hitler. We crucify Jesus. We ignore the poor. We give no time to our own dreams and visions. We are half-conscious at best.
And then we stumble into church, and hear “…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made…” and it’s kind of unbelievable. The Father begets the Son, and there is no intent lost between them? Well, yes, because there is no intent between them; they’re one. No intent. No misunderstanding. Just one-ness.
I like that quite a bit. It makes me want to go order a #3 with a Pepsi all over again, and, on the way, to listen to Steve Perry sing, and not to stop believin’, but to hold onto that feelin’.