This past weekend, the mysterious albeit not mythical Mrs. Dude and I did a quick trip down Southern California way for the primary purpose of attending a beloved friend’s daughter’s baby shower. And, as long as we were in the neighborhood, swinging by to visit the mice and the ducks and the dogs and the chipmunks. In other words, Disneyland. The two events made for an interesting comparison, to say the least.

While at the House of Mouse, it was difficult to look in any given direction without immediately being assaulted by the sordid phenomenon known as matching T-shirts. For those of you who’ve managed to avoid this scenario up until now, this does not refer to everybody in a group wearing the exact same park or character shirt. Rather, it refers to a gaggle of people wearing cheap homemade shirts, said purpose being informing one and all that they, and/or someone in their party, is so special, and so meriting attention, special clothing must be worn so that they may be properly hailed.

Doubtless it is a special occasion to those involved that little Timmy is having his fifth birthday, or the whole family is taking a vacation, or the bridal party has decided to stop by here before running off to Vegas and getting wasted together. Why the rest of the world should know, or care, above and beyond maybe someone saying something so someone else can congratulate them, remains a mystery.

Somehow, in a amusement park dedicated to the realm of fantasy, with tens of thousands of people in attendance seeking escape from their daily reality in said fantasy, the notion that your everyday events (and you) are so incredibly special, and unique, that everyone should take note both amuses and saddens. Frankly, folks, no one else cares, nor should they be expected to care, nor can they be made to care. You and/or your child and/or your grandchild and/or your family event is neither so cute, nor so smart, nor so unique, that the rest of humanity should take special note. The most egregious example of this witnessed to date was a family wearing matching shirts memorializing grandma, for nothing speaks of sincerity like trolling for sympathy at the happiest place on earth.

Now, you are special and unique to God. However, careful Scriptural research has yet to reveal any indication that drawing attention to yourself is a worthwhile, noble, and altogether pleasant procedure. You’re in Disneyland, okay? No one is there to see, or pay attention to, you. They are there to see Mickey and Minnie and Donald and assorted princesses and superheroes. Besides, if you really wanted to be honest, you’d wear a T-shirt saying something like TEAM 37th IN LINE FOR A DOLE WHIP.

Fast forward to the next day and the baby shower. I freely admit baby showers aren’t my thing, but given the family involved attending this one was a pleasure. Besides, someone had to get the baby the right professional sports team apparel to wear. #LetsGoSharks

What most marked the event wasn’t, thankfully, a gaggle of women trading labor pains stories. Rather, it was the outpouring of sheer, unadulterated, unfiltered, pure love. The radiant glow of the mom to be. The floating on air joy of the soon to be first time grandmother. The equally floating on air joy of the soon to be first time great-grandparents. The love for the Lord; the love for each other flowed from and to all who were there. It was a truly special, blessed occasion. Moments like these provide much needed refreshment in a self-obsessed world.

True love never calls artificial attention to itself. It instead flows naturally, any notice of same coming as a normal byproduct of its presence. The expression “true love waits” is often bandied about in relation to abstaining from sex before marriage. This is true, but it has another meaning. True love also waits until the world has exhausted itself with its endless horn blowing and tub thumping. Then, and only then, does it reveal itself to be the genuine.

Seek the genuine. And lose the stupid T-shirts.

This past weekend, the mysterious yet not mythical Mrs. Dude and I took some much needed time away from our respective workplaces to visit the mice, ducks, dogs, chipmunks, and other critters. In other words, Disneyland.

Given how we had an extra day, rather than take the quicker, fiercely duller I-5 freeway we opted for the more coastal I-101. The 101 mostly follows the trail left by Spanish Franciscans during the late 1700s and early 1800s as they established twenty-one missions stretching from San Diego to Solano, all of which still stand in some fashion.

As the 101 enters the lower reaches of central California, it goes through a lengthy stretch of mostly gentle hills, dotted or covered in evergreen oak trees with grasses and occasionally flowers underneath. In a few places man has unobtrusively made his present felt with the occasional vineyard or orchard, but for the most part everything is how nature has presently left things arranged. It is beautiful, peaceful, and pastoral.

It is also utterly deceiving.

The gently rolling hills, their surface worn to smooth roundness by millennia of rain and growth, thoroughly hide how whenever one travels through them one does so atop a ticking bomb. The San Andreas and ancillary earthquake faults lie beneath, their convulsive thrusting over countless years having formed the scarps and protrusions that we now see in gently sloped, innocent form. It is not a question of if the next great earthquake will strike this land, or north or south of here, but rather when, a question science answers with a supremely confident shrug. Save building upon and anchoring to a solid foundation, one that remains in place even as the structure it supports has sufficient flexibility to enable the passing through of energy expended whenever tectonic plates throw a temper tantrum, there is no possible preparation for when the earth forcibly reminds us we are not in charge.

That said, once proper preparations for the inevitable are made there is no excuse for not finding healing in the hills’ beauty. The moment one conforms his or her thinking to what the hills are, this as compared to what one wishes the hills to be, clarity ensues.

Clarity; seeing what is and responding accordingly in lieu of acting based on preferred reality, is a sadly rare commodity these days. Humanity has done an excellent job of convincing itself its perception is indeed reality. Self-identification has become sacrosanct. Few dare tell others they are not who they think they are. You are an expert witness, a political earthshaker because you say you are? Of course you are. Meanwhile, the real earthshaker lays beneath its benign disguise, waiting for a time of its own choosing to reveal its fearsome power.

The time has come to stop pretending and start living. Let the impotent rage and peacock posing go. Being a social media warrior is no more noble than being a social justice warrior. We are not shifting the dialogue; we are not changing policy. We’re just not.

What we can do is change culture from the inside out. Loving family and friends, tending to one another in heart, mind, and soul; this is achievable. We can preach, in word and far more importantly deed, Christ crucified and risen. Let us embrace truth as we live among the lovely and violent hills, practicing our love and faith while preparing for the inevitable upheaval we can neither prevent nor predict.