May 28, 2018
Due to ministry, rarely have I had an opportunity to view the Kentucky Derby Run For The Roses, aka “The most exciting two minutes in sports.” One might quibble over one or the other heavyweight boxing match by comparison. In any case, I don’t like watching horses or cars race. Secretariat (Big Red), the huge 1,155-pound chestnut, whose powerful muscles enabled him to sprint for the full length of a race, was the exception for me and numerous other indifferent folks. Big Red’s spirit and exploits hung over the fabled racetrack, in spite of the stimulating win by Justify.
Official bugler Steve Buttleman sounded the clarion call to the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby. Defying the all-time record downpour that drenched the track, everyone and everything else, over 153,000 paying customers (averaging $75.00 a head) thrilled to – many joining in – the University of Louisville Choir’s rendering of My Old Kentucky Home. As the historic music rang throughout Churchill Downs, the roots of my hair tingled. It was then that, observing their happy faces, I realized that, for perhaps most of the folks there, this was their piece of paradise.
One could counter that, surely, those people have other cherished pieces of an earthly paradise in their lives. That is perfectly reasonable and desirable. Indeed, truly blessed, fortunate – whatever you want to call them – are those whose prime piece of paradise is their family. Yes, it can be affirmed that the happiest people in the world are those whose piece of earthly paradise is their soul mate and children.
With wanderlust almost a part of their DNA, being a jetsetter regionally and globally has always been a piece of paradise for many who have no great interest in settling down in a conventional way of life. With more affordable supersonic airliners just a few years away, jetsetters will take delight in having breakfast in Asia, lunch in Europe and dinner in the U.S.A., whether aloft or on the ground.
Plugged into a world of electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers, MP3 players and smartphones that provide apps to open up a world of information, music, movies and other entertainment, Millennials lead the charge into today’s electronic version of what they perceive as their piece of paradise.
However, they must be constrained to look deep into their own reaction to and connection to electronic devices that, at best, may deter them from meaningful communication with their family and friends. At worst, those devices become vices that draw users away from practical realities and entice them to harsh addictions.
Although entertainment is an integral part of our lives, we must shun addiction to almost nonstop entertainment on a cell phone, computer, TV, at the cinema, at a sports stadium, at a racetrack, being a nightclubber always out to play on the town or regional circuit, or anything that stifles the pursuit of transcendent values in life.
Notwithstanding, this is their piece of paradise for many a wayfarer down here.
Considered classier for the most part than nightclubbing, being a socialite in a Who’s Who world, bathing in the reflected light of celebrities, superstars in sports, business moguls, the megarich or the cream of any so-styled significant profession is the lifelong fascination and dogged pursuit of too many people to count. The Upper Crust, of course, is a bunch of crumbs held together with their own dough.
Hail the greatest Celebrity and Megastar of all time, the apprentice carpenter who had no formal schooling, yet knew more than the top geniuses of all time! Even though he was born in a borrowed cattle cave and was buried in a borrowed cave hewn out of the rock, his life and supernatural exploits split the reckoning of time into whatever happened before him and whatever happened after him.
Spliced somewhere in all this is the perennial pursuit of the American Dream, to which we can add the Asian, European, African Dream, etc., a piece of paradise. In this, our earthly pursuit of a piece of paradise, we have to align our civil identity and property ownership to Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”
A true piece of paradise, the killer smile of a big baby girl in 2006 as I applied ashes to her forehead on Ash Wednesday at Saint Augustine Church in New Orleans was one of the indelible highlights of my life. Perforce, I had to smile in return.
While driving back to my parish in Prairie View, Texas in 1983 with most of the Sedillo family, we stopped briefly just beyond Houston to buy some snowballs. Slumping in the rear of the station wagon, Anthony slurped his large snowball and asked, “Mama, are we in heaven?” Yes, a piece of paradise can be a moment frozen in time under widely varying circumstances tailor-made for individuals. And it is real!
Rev. Jerome LeDoux, SVD
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)