- Sally sighted a senator at Safeway. So she said.
- Carl says he knows cabinet members from the Reagan administration. They lend him money. An even-minded guy, Carl also cherishes people who themselves were close personal friends of the Kennedy clan.
- Pat went to a party with presidents from GM, GE, GWU, and GMB. Pat concludes it is better to be president of a large company than of a small country.
- Dan’s dad flew Air Force One. Dan also met Frank Sinatra. "I brushed by 'Old Blue Eyes' as I was delivering a package."
- Friends who’d lend me a room used to work for the CIA, the FBI, the NFL, and the Virginia ABC.
“That’s not all,” I whisper, “I once--had a duck named Fred.”
With some people my remark earns me status as the idiot with the duck. These people take name-dropping seriously. It defines their existence. One told me recently, "Oh, you're an engineer of sorts. It's what you know that counts. But in Real Estate, in real life, it's who you know that counts."
Nevertheless, after I drop the duck, conversation diverts from name-dropping to other kinds of puffery. I'm likely to hear (again): Harvard, Stanford, and Boston Law; Hummer, Range Rover, Beamer; Trinity School, Horace Mann, Phillips Academy; OCS, NSWC, BUDS, NSF, NIH, OCD; Marcel’s, Giovanni’s, and The Tombs. Haven’t heard of several of these? I had to subsequently Google 'em. Bottom line, it's all about prestige.
Our Amish neighbors were happy people, not at all dour. However, they were reflexively revulsed by whatever smelled of pride. Avoidance of modernity is an emergent aspect of the Amish, not fundamental. Rather, Amish consciously hold that one’s life should build one’s family, church, and community. Pride is poison to those goals and to one’s walk with God. Tech toys aren’t worth the pride, envy, and the illusion of self-sufficiency they bring.
(By the way, how can you tell that the guy in the Amish hat and bracers is not Amish? It’s not the laptop.)
NoVA conversations tend toward "can you top this?" and "here's the way it is". By contrast, swapping stories with the Amish or at the livestock salebarn cafe valued self-deprecation and drawing others to comment. “I’m limpin’ ‘cause a dang cow stepped on my foot.” “Hain’t we told you to dance with chickens, not cows?”
“Well, you’ve met many interesting people. But, sorry, I am not impressed.” I will grin affectionately.
“You see, I’ve met--God!”
While some edge away, wondering if the refreshments are safe, the remaining, understandably skeptical crowd will want to know what God said, what God looked like, what God thinks of the economy, and whether this was the Muslim God, the Christian God, or did She call from Salt Lake City? I have scoped out responses that are most likely to benefit my briefly attentive listeners, and I will share these with you later.
But first, let me ask, is “I’ve met God” crazy talk? I’ve heard a young man hospitalized with schizophrenia make this same claim, a few minutes later followed by, “I am God.”
Might I gush that "I’ve met William Shakespeare," and "I've met Steven Jobs," by pondering their works? Creative output tells us gobs about a person, more than bumping into them in the produce aisle. But it counts diddly for name-dropping. Really, if I say, "I've met God," people reasonably expect not that I enjoyed a day in the woods or an insight from the Psalms, but that I had a scary Moses or Joan-of-Arc epiphany. Meeting God results in a horizontal posture.
Can I claim “I met God in the produce aisle” in the same way I’d claim, “I met Stephen Colbert in the produce aisle”? My own species often puzzles me. What can I take away from meeting a higher species? We are talking about the One “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see.” So I hesitate to name-drop God.
Also as a caution, there is the matter of that commandment, “You must not use the name of the Lord your God thoughtlessly; the Lord will punish anyone who misuses his name.” Is this a command to never speak of God? Of course not. Rather, as humbling guidelines and astonishing goals for bragging, I look to Jeremiah chapter 9:
Thus says the Lord:
'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom,
let not the mighty man boast in his might,
let not the rich man boast in his riches,
but let him who boasts boast in this,
that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord
who practices steadfast love,
and righteousness in the earth.
For in these things I delight,' declares the Lord.