I spend about 10 hours a week commuting to and from work I love. That’s a lot of time in the car, but to the amazement of most who ask, I cherish it. It’s my time. It’s time I spend listening to podcasts, thinking, decompressing from all of the people-ing I do in my day job, and just generally enjoying minutes where nobody can reasonably expect me to ‘accomplish’ anything. Apart from ticking off the never-ending podcast episodes I accumulate (which, let’s be honest, represent a to-do list of tasks to accomplish assembled by me), I can just be.
This means a lot of really interesting ideas float into my mind during my weekday drives, and I thought I’d share just a few of them with you now … and, who knows? Perhaps this will become a regular thing. Or not. I’d rather not say just yet.
Nevertheless, this week I was moved by:
Terry Gross’s interviews with two people: Kate Bowler and Finn Murphy.
Kate Bowler is a religion scholar at Duke University (Go Blue Devils!) and has written a book called Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. She has incurable stage-four colon cancer, for which she has moved from a treatment phase into a chronic illness management stage. The preface to her book reads:
Married in my 20s, a baby in my 30s, I won a job at my alma mater straight out of graduate school. I felt breathless with the possibilities. Actually, it’s getting harder to remember what it felt like, but I don’t think it was anything as simple as pride. It was certainty, plain and simple, that God had a worthy plan for my life in which every setback would also be a step forward. I wanted God to make me good and make me faithful with just a few shining accolades along the way. Anything would do if hardships were only detours on my long life’s journey. I believed that God would make a way. I don’t believe that anymore.
What moved me about Bowler’s interview with Terry Gross is just how vulnerably she showed up to talk about her unavoidable death and how she thinks about religion in this season of her life. She has an incredible sense of humor and humility, even as she shares thoughts that leave her a bit weepy in the telling. I loved this, especially:
GROSS: In the preface to your book, you write I believed God would make a way. I don’t believe that anymore. But you still believe in God. You haven’t lost your faith.
BOWLER: Yeah. I mean, I’m a big super Jesus-y (ph) heart over here.
After listening, I bought her audiobook. Whenever I can listen to an author read her own work, I do. It’s so intimate and memorable. I can’t wait. (Listen to the interview — or read a transcript — here: A Stage-4 Cancer Patient Shares the Pain and Clarity of Living ‘Scan-to-Scan’
Finn Murphy, by contrast, is a private, liberal arts college dropout who now drives an 18 wheeler cross-country for a moving company. As an over-the-road driver, he sees our country in a different way than do others. His stories about his work, and the reverent tones he uses to describe what he does? They are amusing, insightful, and meaningful. I think we often imagine the OTR drivers to be something that Murphy quickly dispels. His interview was filled with humor. More than that, though, his humanity really shone through in this conversation. I haven’t bought his book yet (The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road)… but chances are good that I will. (Have you seen my living room?)
Pardon the lengthy quote, but this part of the interview, where Finn and Terry were talking about the sentimentality of stuff, really resonated with me:
GROSS: So you write that that truckers like you aren’t sentimental about objects. … You don’t own much. I could easily see it being the other way around. Watching how meaningful possessions are to people, I could see you becoming more attached, not less attached to things in your life. So why are you less attached?
MURPHY: Because we see objects or stuff in a continuum of the way people live. For example, in your 20s and 30s, most Americans are accumulating things. And then in the 40s and 50s, that sort of levels off. And then in the 60s and 70s, then they’re dis-accumulating things or eradicating things. So we get to watch the whole continuum. So we see, for example, that the kids’ kindergarten drawings that are on the refrigerator or the high school yearbook or Aunt Tilley’s (ph) antique vanity – we see that those things are going to be put into storage at some point. And then when somebody is tired of paying the storage fees, then we’re paid to take it and get rid of it.
So movers are kind of Buddhist in a way. We sort of understand the transitory nature of manmade things because we’re there at the point when it gets thrown away. So even if you can’t bring yourself to get rid of your stuff, your heirs or descendants will have no such qualms at all.
You can listen to his interview or read the transcript here: Long Haul Trucker was ‘Completely Seduced’ by the Open Road.
My final favorite listen from the week was Roman Mars’s 18th episode in his occasional podcast series, “What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law.” In this installment, he covers the Tenth Amendment. It was a really thoughtful 23-minute discussion on how the role played in political debates over the 10th Amendment has been changing in the Trump era. We once associated states’ rights debates with conservatives resisting federal laws. In the Trump era, though, the role of federalism has become the battle cry of cities and states who would rather not become an unreimbursed deputy of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. In other words, the fight over so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ is being fought along federalism lines. Very interesting listen.