I am so smooth sometimes it hurts. Take the other day for example. I was filming a wedding locally. Everything was going well and I was getting along royally with one of the bridesmaids. We were making serious eye contact throughout the day and as the evening party approached I had made up my mind that I was going to save the last dance for her.
One of the services I offer in my wedding packages is called the Diary Room. That is where I find myself a spare, quiet room in the Hotel (usually a broom cupboard), set up a camera and allow guests to leave private messages for the happy couple. On this occasion the bridesmaid offered to help me set up (result!)
As we worked we made small talk – and for a change I did pretty well. Pretty well that is until it all went wrong.
With the room set up the bridesmaid prepared to leave the first message. As she was sitting down she looked up, smiled sweetly and said, “When you’re editing this you will be sure to make me look pretty.” Now, I wasn’t really concentrating, I was adjusting the settings on the camera. So when I thought I heard her say “…make me look prettiER” and replied with an ultra charming, “Ah, now we both know that’s not possible.” You can understand my surprise when she didn’t speak to me again that night. The whole thing was captured on film – but you’ll understand why I don’t youtube it.
I have yet to meet Kevin Hargaden but while he has plenty of respect for the likes of Donald Miller and the theo-literary wiseguys of our generation, for my money he trumps them all. He's Frederick Buechner with bite, or Douglas Coupland after a donkey-fall on the road to Damascus. He frequently terrifies me by putting into perfect words things I've tried to articulate on many floundering occasions. Here he is on the Swiss theologian Karl Barth:
[W]hen I read Barth, a man who wrote 12,000 words a day, who listened to a Mozart symphony every single morning before setting down to work, a fellow who spent every Sunday morning preaching the Gospel and smoking cigars with prisoners in his city’s jail, the man who Martin Luther King sought out before he began his Civil Rights campaign, this same Barth comes to me in my office with run on sentences and footnotes longer than most books chapters and with Latin dabbled here and Greek over there but he speaks with such precise clarity. He speaks to the now of your life and he grabs you by the collar and shakes you, rousing you from thinking that this is simple and packaged and pre-prepared for you. He slaps the religion out of you and replaces it with the person of Jesus. Then he kicks you in the groin because you are letting his presentation of Jesus as the centre turn religious.Lastly, one of the most joyous internet discoveries is Charles Leck. He's a 69-year-old veteran of the civil rights movement who lives on a farmstead in Minnesota. If you could walk into a bar and ask for a cocktail made up of Garrison Keillor, Kurt Vonnegut and Howard Zinn, this is what they would serve you. He is spectacularly prolific - he had 356 posts in 2009. But even more remarkably, they range from reminiscences of an early meeting with Jesse Jackson to reviews of Coen Brothers moves to recipes, polemics about politics and - most brilliantly - portraits of the people he loves. He is a true Liberal Lion in the Ted Kennedy tradition, but also someone who darn glows with kindness.
His words are hard like Jesus. I mean by that they have to be turned around and reflected on again and again. His words are like Jesus in that they don’t seek to flatter you or compliment you. He writes with a certainty that isn’t his own- he is certain only that if he points you towards the category shattering reality of Jesus he will have pointed you the right way...
I know I am prone to hyperbole, but these men spin gold. Like a botanist who rejoices in the discovery of a Technicolor turtle in an Amazon stream, I am glad that the internet has brought me into contact with their life-enriching writing.