"Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then" -- Bob Segar
Being an ex-Catholic has one bedrock requirement: at one point in your life you had to be a Catholic. Guilty.
I even went to Catholic elementary school, or more precisely, I survived a Catholic elementary school...
-- where my 5th grade nun insisted the Earth was the closest planet to the sun
-- where my 7th grade nun assured us there was no other life in the universe by saying "take it from me, I know."
-- where my 3rd grade nun so terrorized everyone (with her dreaded "Jovita clutch") that one kid literally left the building and
enrolled in public school when he saw he was getting her as a teacher
-- where my 8th grade teacher told me he hated me because I thought Nixon was lying
this morass of goofballism came Father Dick. Prior to Father Dick, we did have one priest who went by his first name. That nice fellow, Father Gary,
lasted a year before town conformists had him transferred. But if Father Gary was like a firecracker, Father Dick was a sonic boom.
Try to picture a small (snow-covered) industrial mill town in the upper Midwest in 1971 -- the only city in the galaxy where the
newspaper had no editorial page. And then picture a priest with hair over his ears, prone to wearing rainbow-colored vestments, who
instituted guitar masses -- where one of the hymns was "Blowin' in the Wind"!
I can still hear some of the parents clucking like chickens about "that Father Dick".
This was my sixth grade year, and of course I didn't know much of anything about anything. What I did know was that Mass was a lot
more fun with Father Dick around, which is not insignificant when you have to go to Mass three times a week. But for the most part I
didn't get what was going on around me. I didn't even realize the implications till years later.
Father Dick changed my life, even though I didn't realize it at the time. He changed it in two key ways. First, he showed me that things could be done
differently. That sounds tritely obvious, but in this case "differently" was so radically different that it is hard to even put into words.
The word I now associate with this is "reinvention". Things were not just different, they existed in a different stratosphere of consciousness.
We did essentially the same thing (have a Mass), but that Mass was utterly a different experience. (And yes, there is a poker lesson in that in
terms of how we can play hands radically differently.)
The second way Father Dick changed me was to enable me to appreciate enthusiasm in worship. This was no small feat under the circumstances.
I find several important poker lessons in all this. One is plainly obvious: sometimes we are given great gifts by the poker gods, but
we are too lunkheaded (or inexperienced) to appreciate them at the time. Many of the lessons and practices we need to learn to grow as
players happen to us at a time when we don't or can't appreciate them. Sadly, this means that sometimes lessons go unlearned.
But if we persevere in our poker education, if we understand that there is always so much more to learn, we should often be able to reflect
on what has happened to us in the past and see a lot "more" than we saw when we lived through the events. And this is where
enthusiasm comes in. To learn lessons well we need to do what we need to do to live our lives well -- learn/live with enthusiasm. We
need to attack our poker education. We need to learn more, but we also need to understand what we have already learned!
Gifts from the gods are precious, and while we may not appreciate them enough at the time, we can still appreciate them
to some degree for our whole lives.
The town's clucking chickens got rid of Father Dick after a year, replacing him with a man so dull that he went on to leave the priesthood to become
a failed shoe salesman. (I'm not making this up.) Things never were the same though, and they never will be the same, because even though I didn't
know enough to seize the day back then, I can still seize a little from that time today and every day.
But don't learn too late. I was thinking I'd send Father Dick an email if I could find him, so I just Googled him. He passed away
three months ago. Well, too late for an email, but not too late for Father Dick to help deliver one more good lesson.
See also Keeping an Open Mind and