This may not be exactly what you’ve come to expect from a spiritual column, but my conscience has been bothering me and I think it’s time to confess.
There’s something I’ve been lying about.
But before I confess completely, I have a request: If you’re the reader who emails me every time I get a little silly and calls my writing “drivel,” stop reading here. Next week I’ll try to address the problem of evil, but this week’s column will follow the lyrical admonishment – “’tis the “season to be silly.”
OK, now I’m ready. Here goes. Truth time.
The truth is – I’m not really dead. That’s right. I’m alive.
I know you’re wondering why I’m telling you that, so maybe it’s best if I back up and tell this story from its beginning – something my editors wish I’d do more often.
It began a few months ago while as I stood at the mailbox prying loose the tons of junk mail I’d received. Like most of you, I was tired of sifting through the mounds of credit card offers.
In times past, the sifting was much easier. I would simply trash most of it – but not anymore. With so much identity theft these days, consumer advocates tell me that there are hordes of people wanting to become Norris Burkes. Indeed, you may be one of those people wanting to be me.
So we’re advised to shred every unsolicited credit card application we receive. Otherwise, the uncompleted application you trash today, might buy a thief a new car next week.
However, my problem with shredding is that I spend hours beside my shedder making confetti for my daughter’s Guinea Pig cage instead of spending quality time with her.
One day, I thought, “This is killing me, I’ve got to do something.”
Then it occurred to me. Maybe I could die.
OK, I’m not talking about my-wife-could-collect-the-insurance kind of death. And, I’m not talking about the kind of death where they would actually, say, bury me.
But maybe, I thought, there was a level of death I could achieve where people would no longer send me credit card applications.
That’s when the deceit began.
Pulling my first application loose from the mailbox, I scrawled the words – “DECEASED. RETURN TO SENDER.” Then I put it back in the mail slot and raised the flag. I guess I figured: if dead men don’t wear plaid, surely they don’t shop at Sears.
I thought about smearing catsup on the envelope so they’d think I died standing in line at the post office. However, while dying in a postal line seemed perfectly plausible, I didn’t want the FBI knocking on my door accusing me of sending biohazards through the mail.
I know what you’re thinking. “Aren’t you a chaplain? Isn’t telling people you’re dead kind of like lying?”
Truthfully, I’ve wondered that.
But then I think: Well, maybe it’s not really lying. Maybe it’s simply telling the truth in advance. Or maybe I should say it’s an advanced level of truth telling. Yeah, that sounds even better – “Advanced Truth Telling.”
The Advanced Truth Telling (ATT) philosophy is much like many motivational speakers who urge their audience to simply – “Announce what you believe and act as though it’s true.” Or like the televangelists say, “Name it and Claim it.”
Here’s how ATT works in my case: I believe that one day I’ll be dead. I assert it in my heart and, voila, one day it becomes true. So it’s not really lying. Again, it’s Advanced Truth Telling.
Still, I did feel that pang of conscience, so I finally stopped telling people I’m dead. (Besides, one reader told me that she did the same thing until, her bank called her trying to close her checking account.)
But I’ll admit that I am slightly pleased that the junk mail has slackened significantly. The only problem now seems to be that my wife keeps getting phone solicitations for burial plots. She just tells them, “No thank you, when he dies, I’ll be cremating him and sending his ashes to Citibank in a prepaid envelope!”