Becoming Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle is the short story written by Washington Irving in 1819.  It chronicles the story of a Dutch American who meets some other guys, drinks far too much of their liquor and falls asleep in the Catskill mountains.  Of course, falling asleep in the mountains doesn’t sound half bad, except for the fact that my boy Rip snoozed for 20-years, only to wake up in the aftermath of the revolutionary war, having missed the whole damn thing! 

Remembering Mike

In fact, when I think of Rip Van Winkle, I am affectionately reminded of my late brother, Mike, who I often secretly called by the same name.  Part of the reason I made that comparison was because to watch Mike’s reactions to the latest news of the day, was equivalent to Rip’s waking up after a long sleep and wondering what the Hell just happened.  

The truth of the matter is that Mike was growing older just like me as he was seven years my senior, but who also struggled with manic depression for most of his adult life. Perhaps that was his self-protective gear from thinking too hard about what should be long past keeping most of us up at night. And though the rest of us old codgers watch our country and the world being transformed into something we hardly recognize anymore, most of us are still reluctant to sound Chicken Little’s alarm. After all, we wouldn’t want to get ahead of ourselves now, would we? So we keep most of the modern talking points, creature comforts and the latest gizmos as a sort of “necessary evil” we like to call it, and keep our bell ringing at bay. However, for Mike, he gave a defiant “Hell No” to almost anything the modern world offered in terms of new advice, much less one of it’s new gadgets. And Mike was perfectly content with what he already knew to be true innately, and equally consistent that there was nothing smart going on beyond the latest flip phone technology.

I certainly understand where Mike came from, and I often wished he and I could ride off into the sunset in a blaze of glory away from what we were both experiencing and saw coming just around the bend.  Yet as someone constantly on the hamster wheel trying to survive amidst all the sharks lurking beneath the economic sea, I have yet to find the wherewithal to “get away clean”.  Perhaps Mike’s sickness and impoverishment aided him further in his Amish-like protocol, but none of us with a smidgeon of “Spidey-sense” didn’t wish every day and twice on Sunday that we could live out the same principles of stubborn defiance with a straight face and a full belly as he did.

The Last of the Mohicans

I’m pretty sure most who grew up in the church, or who have immersed themselves in the scriptures for as long as they can remember feel much the same right about now.  Not really needing to sleep more than a day, much less 20-years, to realize that something else has happened that we couldn’t make up if we tried.  The world is tough enough to navigate through for most people to be sure.  But for those of us that lived in a world for a good long time where Ward Cleaver was our dad, the seismic shift to Frank Reynolds or Walter White has taken far too many of us by surprise, enough to frantically search for a comfortable sleeping rock in the mountains with Rip and Mike.  

And I’m not sure Christians have much of an answer right now other than to bitch and moan about the current malaise. Understandably so. Some of course resort to reminding everyone that they are sinners (shocking revelation that it is), or they align themselves with a just-war theory of ad hominem attacks against the culture’s bottom-feeders rather than humble apologetics directed at the ideas that are now having drastic consequences we were forewarned about. And as anyone can tell that is paying attention and not sleeping in the Catskills, there are now a myriad of newly proposed absolutes competing with equal militancy to replace one a western world had managed to pervasively spread through the collective fabric of its once “Christian” DNA.

Most are Alright with a Slow Burn

To be sure the struggle is real for this “last of the baby boomers”.  For like Mike, I too am growing increasingly weary of what is now obviously rotten in our Denmark.  Most of the time I’m disinterested in 99% of what comes across the television, or to what my father once bemoaningly called “The boob tube”.  

In fact, I now have extreme difficulty in going anywhere that too many people who imbibe wholesale our culture’s gospel of opposition, which is also the cause of anxiety that requires self-medication closely within reach.  And even the very thing that I have done for a living for the last 20 years, due to indoctrination to an ethos of which I have been speaking of, causes me to wish an Amish family would adopt me and bring me into the safety of their countercultural fold.

And perhaps like the frog in the kettle on slow burn, we never realized it was our own goose that was being cooked while we were sleeping and being slowly inoculated to the things that were going on all around us.  Things that were drastically important but that we numbed with a myriad of fantastic modern distractions, only to awaken to a bitch-slap of societal change proportions that we are now being beckoned to call our Daddy with a straight face, while equally retorting, “Thank you sir, can I have another”!

We Have Found Rip Van Winkle, and It Is Us

None of us of course ever imagined that we would become our old man, or even remotely relatable to Rip Van Winkle.  But for those of us that engage in any contrarian thinking at all, it’s becoming more and more difficult not to take up Rip’s mantle and run with it.  Especially when the average young person and at least half of our country, reject any reflective pushback to what they merely deem as progress, handing out the name Luddite with a broad brush.  And not to mention that almost any argument that holds a once collective sense of basic morality as something we should still aspire to, will bring out an angry entourage of pussy hats in a New York minute! 

It often seems as if we are surrounded now, and the angry mob won’t be satisfied with anything less than a public lynching for having the utter credulity of abandoning the new status quo.  Even among our families, you can almost hear the whispers about whether the stork dropped us off, or better yet, were perhaps one of papas many rolling stones.  And whereas the old were once consistently reminding us younger whippersnappers of what was most important in life, they too seem to have now succumbed to the spirit of the age and all the modern accoutrements that go with it.  As a result, there is no one left to teach the class I’m afraid.  And even though many of us have been starting to pay attention, perhaps we too have been asleep longer than we realized.

And so, like Rip, and like Mike in some respects, we awakened only a couple of years ago to events unfolding before our eyes that now give us honorary membership into the clubs of doomsday preppers and end-times prophets.  Yet even so, we are at most, a mere minority report.  And no one would blame us if we headed off to the Catskills right about now. But I’m just not so sure if we should sleep during a Revolution!


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