Stop being so cocky or God is going to punish you and make you fall.”
I’ve always been athletically confidant. Some might call it delusional. I also have a selective memory when it comes to the times where my confidence did not match my ability. Once when I was crossing above a raging river on a slippery log, while wearing ski boots and a heavy pack, my mate cautioned, “Don’t you dare fall, break your leg and ruin my summer.”
Of course, her concern was mostly for me; she didn’t want me injured, but also it was a worry that since we do so much stuff together an injury to either of us inconveniences the other. The most recent daredevil feat on my part wasn’t dangerous. If my skills didn’t match my confidence in them I would merely fall a few feet into a desert pool of water, getting wet but not injured.
My mate regularly threatens me with God’s vengeance. Usually the case is that I’ll be doing something foolish or sneaky and she’ll mention the possibility of the Almighty interceding. Also she will attribute a hardship or penance to God’s involvement.
Last week we were traveling around the Southwest in our RV. We stopped at a friend’s house to wait for her to get home so we could go for a bike ride. We were in the house and I opened the refrigerator and found a bottle of what I assumed was apple juice. I took a huge swig directly from the carafe only to find it was chicken broth. “That’s God punishing you,” my mate said.
It is comforting to believe in a divine cause and effect. In other words, good people get rewarded and bad, cocky or otherwise sneaky folks drink chicken broth. That is, pretty much, the premise of most religions. Be it karma, sins, nirvana, heaven or hell — good folks get rewarded, the bad are punished. As much as I’d like that to be the case, I can’t say I have seen that occur — certainly not monetarily. By my observation, there is no correlation between good and bad and rich and poor — in fact, it might be just the opposite. But I will say, again purely by my observations, kind, compassionate and moral folks seem more content and joyful than the nasty and selfish types.
But all that said, my sin in the desert (according to my mate) wasn’t one of the “seven deadly” variety — lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride — but rather one of being 60 years old yet feeling 20.
The savvy desert hiker tries not to leave a mark. When we hike there we try to confine our travels to established trails, slick rock, dry washes and creek beds. We will travel a quarter mile out of our way to avoid 20 feet of biological crust like cryptogamic soil, which if disturbed can take 100 years to reform.
It was a rainy morning followed by a beautiful afternoon. We began on a faint trail but then struck out across rocks, creek beds and game trails trying to make a loop of a hike that was supposed to be an out-and-back. There were potholes full of rainwater and small rock puddles recently replenished. We saw a dry wash not far away that we deduced would take us the direction we wanted to go. The only trouble was we either had to wade a through a deep pool, perhaps 30 feet wide and 5 feet deep, with vertical rock walls on two sides or circumnavigate the slick rock and use a half hour to get to a place that was only 50 feet away. Then I noticed a 2-inch ledge on one side. I carefully took one step, two, then several across the ledge. “Hey, Ellie,” I said. “This isn’t too bad and will save us time.”
Ellen wasn’t buying it; she told me it looked like the ledge got thinner halfway across. “I’m not going that way and you shouldn’t either.” I assured my bride that the going was easy and would save us a lot of time and energy. That’s when she hit me with, “Stop being so cocky or God is going to punish you and make you fall.”
I told her I did not believe in a vengeful God and also mentioned my catlike athletic ability and youthful good looks. I told her that, in deference to her timid nature and lack of coordination, she should go the long way around and I would be waiting for her on the other side.
When she finally made it around to the far side of the pool I was there waiting … soaking wet. When I maintained that, since I had to wait for her anyway, I decided to take a dip she questioned my honesty and insisted I fell in.
I told her God will punish her for doubting me.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
I opened the refrigerator and found a bottle of what I assumed was apple juice. I took a huge swig directly from the carafe only to find it was chicken broth. ‘That’s God punishing you,’ my mate said.