Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
I am a skeptic. I order hamburgers with everything on the side because you never know what its concoctors consider a “plain ol’ burger.” If you have ever ordered this common sandwich on the go only to find out a mile down the road, just past The Point Of No Return, that the cook has exercised culinary creativity by slathering it with bulk-packaged Thousand Island salad dressing because that’s the way they like it, uh huh, uh huh, in the hick town you should have blinked and missed, you become cynical.
My reflexes cause me to consider things like recommended books and the Federally Legislated Universal Bailout (FLUB) plan with similar suspicion. And so it was on an evening not too long ago that I picked up a copy of “The Shack,” ready to tear off the glowing praise it came wrapped in. It had been sitting on the nightstand long enough for me to finish several other books that had been there ahead of it and even begin “Sense and Sensibility” again for the eighth or ninth time before remembering, a hundred or so pages in, that Jane Austen, for all of her immense genius, is not a person I connect amicably with on the printed page.
My initial misgiving in judging “The Shack” by its cover, which revealed an obvious religious theme, was that I assumed it must promote an agenda or, worse yet, proselytize for political gain. I figured it was on The New York Times best-seller list through some election-year zealot conspiracy.
The book begins its simple story in unpolished literary style and I was sure that I had it pegged as a last-ditch spiritual self-help manual for perusing by lost souls at Christian bookstores anchoring forgotten strip malls fronted by worn gray pavement miraculously sprouting weeds from black snakes of tar and backed against the industrial sections of once promising townships. I was wrong.
Author William Young’s story inflicts upon the main character the absolute worst possible occurrence that could happen in anyone’s life and then lets him confront God about it, face to faces. It is hard to imagine that this situation could be handled in any manner except tritely, but it is not the case. The depiction of God is immensely comforting, highly moving, and intelligently offered.
Try as I might, I can’t find ulterior motive in the story. I believe the author simply asked questions that many of us contemplate and then tried to answer them in a way he imagined God might. He did a pretty damn good job, too. My meager intelligence wasn’t insulted by what he came up with. Rather than presenting answers as absolutisms, the story provokes thought. This is a book that will change lives. Honestly.
My wife and I had a great, long discussion about it the other night. Conversing on through getting ready for bed, Sonicares finally filled our eardrums with vibrating hums and our mouths with fluoridated foam effectively keeping gingivitis at bay, but also killing what was left to say about the book. With my jaw thus disengaged, my mind switched gears. This transmission in my head does not occur in the smoothly cool, automatically precise way that a third-term politician’s might. I have a marginally maintained, old manual type that requires double-clutching sometimes to make the gears catch and occasionally there is a noticeable grinding involved. My wife always detects the shifts.
“What are you thinking about now?” she asked, making eye contact at an angle off the mirror.
“The economy” I mumbled, and after a prompt from her and a spit into the sink by me, I told her why I didn’t think the FLUB would work.
“It seems that the economy used to roar along so strongly because houses kept getting more expensive. Bankers eagerly loaned money to people equal to 100 percent of what the appraiser said the homes were worth. All that money went into the economy and recirculated so fast that people seemingly could make it, in the form of collateralized home equity, as quickly as they could spend it. But now, home prices have dropped, to the surprise of nobody and shock of everyone, and Americans can no longer get enough credit to buy all the things they want, which really is The Crisis.
“With FLUB, the banks have $700 billion of new money to lend, but houses are worth only 60 percent of what they used to be, which doesn’t excite anyone except speculators who are mostly dead or wish they were, and crucified bankers are finding religion in 20 percent down payments. Loans are getting chiseled down at both ends and that makes for much smaller loans. This means that there will be a lot less money pumped into the economy, circulating more slowly, and it will be just like the ancient times when people couldn’t make it as fast as they theoretically could spend it. Adjusting to the new order, folks will quit trying to keep up with the Joneses, who will be in foreclosure, and economic equilibrium will be established at a much lower level.
“And if that doesn’t beat all, in the last few months Americans have seen $2 trillion evaporate from their retirement plans, tens of billions from college savings plans, and more than $5 trillion in equity from their homes at just the time when Baby Boomers are beginning to get restless for gold watches, golf courses, and fishing holes. I don’t think a mere $700 billion can fix this. It’s going to take time, which not even Terry Paulson has the congressionally conferred sovereignty to authorize additional releases of.”
After this exegesis, my wife suggested we get back to talking about God again. “I think He, or She, is much easier to understand.”
The message of “The Shack” was back on my mind. “You’re right,” I said, surprised at the involuntary quickness of my reply. “You are absolutely right.”
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