July Ramblings

Should I forget the area code of the city where I lived for over 40 years prior to coming to Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I have only to observe the large "254 Central Texas" tattooed on the back of the bald head of one of my inmate brothers. The back of another inmate's head has the Midland area code which might be good for future reference.

I realized this month that the inmate in the bunk next to me never uses a towel. Upon investigation, I have determined that he uses his dirty clothes for drying off when he showers. I guess I should be thankful that he at least showers...but I'm not.

We have a new camper--a small, female, brown and white dog who's not seen, with her one good eye, any good days lately. She's now the most loved, pampered, best fed dog in the world. The camp cat hasn't warmed up to her yet, but give it time. Maybe she could take the bunk next to me. Dogs love towels.

This month I read The Good Book by Peter J. Gomes. Gomes sold the book short, as it's actually a great book. It's a scholarly but very readable work on how we wrestle with interpreting the 66 books that make up our Bible. Gomes writes, "Religion is not an escape from reality but rather a genuine effort to make sense of what passes for reality and all that surrounds it...Religion is not the answer to the unknowable or the unfaceable or the unendurable; religion is what we do and what we are in the face of the unknowable, the unfaceable and the unendurable. It is a constant exercise in the making of sense first, and then of meaning." That same exercise applies to interpreting the Bible. It's hard to find real meaning in the Bible until we make sense of it. To do that, we must consider the writer and thoughtfully examine the text, the context, the subtext, the period it was written, the intended readers and what we, as readers today, otherwise know to be true.

Education at the camp is a joke. If any inmate learning takes place, it happens despite the staff assigned to run education here. By law, inmates without a high school diploma are required to take a GED class. The class here is self-taught while the corrections officer reads the paper or naps. Sixteen months ago, we had one inmate who took it seriously and passed every part except math. He's been waiting since then to retake the math exam. Unfortunately, our staff can't seem to manage the logistics required to give him the exam.

Writing is not a calling. Often it's merely resolve. First drafts are incredibly bad. There is no substitute for trying again...and a deadline. The same is true for life.