Con Dios

Proof that a personalized plate can be clear in meaning, yet still difficult to understand.

Proof that a personalized plate can be clear in meaning, yet still difficult to understand.

Is it sad that some of my best ideas happen in my car? Never mind. It’s a rhetorical question. It happened again, is all. The impetus this time? A license plate reading “Con Dios.”

The car wasn’t going very fast–an interesting idea in itself as God hasn’t shown much speed since creating the world and universe in only seven days. More importantly, however, was that the plate was in Spanish. And this is only important because I could actually read it. Yes, I can read in Spanish. I can barely hear it when spoken, but eventually, I do catch on.

How nice of this driver, I presumed a woman, to be wishing me to go with God. That’s a nice thought. I felt warm inside, despite the soul-zapping cold outside. I smiled to myself and hummed along with the radio, thinking back to my recent trip abroad where I impressed a Jordanian member of the “tourism police” with my (limited) Spanish speaking capabilities. He’d never met a bilingual American before and asked me to speak in Spanish to prove I knew how. I gladly obliged by asking him if he’d like a beer (and then laughed silently in my head knowing full well he didn’t drink). Ah, good times.

It’s a sure sign of my own hubris that I so easily amuse myself.

I glanced over as “ConDios” turned off to the right. Go with God, I thought silently wishing her well. Of course, I mused, technically that would be “Vaya con Dios.” Yes, the plate was missing an action verb. In fact, it was kind of missing a verb altogether.

I gave the short phrase a fair shake, grammatically speaking. If one took it at face value, it really only said “With God.”  I had assumed the predicate relationship, entirely. I’m sure the driver had good intentions when buying the plate. On the other hand, without an action verb, or even a helping verb, the preposition created a singular statement of being. The driver was with God. Not me; just she.

Wait a minute.

It could be that my mistake was one of semantics: a classic case of two people using different words or phrases to say the same thing. “Con Dios” could be an abbreviated greeting for brevity’s sake. That idea held for a few minutes as I clung to my ideology that most people are good and want good things for others.

Then, I thought about what I know of other people.

Perhaps, my mistake was deeper, text-to-language, language-to-language, or the classic different-language-text-to-other-language-translation. Lost in translation, i.e. hermeneutics. I love the subtleties of meaning and nuance. Was this a nuanced license plate?

My hubris deflated. Maybe I didn’t get it, after all. It was very possible the driver was making an important distinction, which I had glossed over by translating poorly. In proclaiming her status as “With God!” she was, by contrast, denouncing mine. Maybe the value interlaced therein was rife with judgement:
“I am; you’re not.”
“I have God; you don’t!”
“He’s on my side; not yours!”
“Heathen!”
And then she turned to the right!

Good Lord! I’d been following the Tea Party!

I was near the office and had almost worked myself into an unrecoverable state of righteous indignation. At this point, I had to let it go. It was just a license plate, an overblown bumper sticker.

I’ve never been a big fan of the personalized license plate, primarily because it costs some serious cash. I don’t have extra moolah lying around. Besides, if I’m going to put my money where my mouth is, I need a lot more space. It sure as hell won’t be a license plate.

It’ll most likely be a blog.

Intergalactic

Have you ever pulled up just short of your goal? That’s exactly what happened to Urb and Morg when they were careening through Earth’s atmosphere–

(Urb and Morg aren’t their real names. As I have no idea how they communicate, or if they even have a language, I am clueless how they refer to one another.)

–careening through Earth’s atmosphere when Urb suddenly pulled up on the brakes, stopping them mid-dive. As the atmosphere cooled around their ship and the flames died down, Morg awoke from cybersnoozis.

“What’dya do that for?” he huffed at his cabin-mate. Then, he cocked his wappadoodles–

(Again, as I don’t know how they communicate, I don’t know what they actually call the things on their extremities that interpret sound waves.)

“What is that horrible sound?” Morg granulated.

Urb retracted all five wappadoodles. “Dunno. But, I can’t take it!” he said through clenched siphonatics. “It hurts.”

“It’s a constant whelmatica. Ahhh! What can it be? Does it constitute as ‘life?’ Should we fotondrunda back that some form of life occupies this planet?”

“I’m not sure I really care anymore,” Urb replied. “Let’s get out of here.”

He threw the ship in reverse and jettisoned back into open space.

I thought about Urb and Morg this morning on my own commute, albeit one shorter than the aliens’, when a new song came across the World Classic Rock radio station.

This is the album cover for the Beastie Boys' album that featured the song "Intergalactic Planetary."

This song I like.

“What is that horrible sound?” I asked myself. “It hurts.” And I turned it off.

Normally, I like certain kinds of loud music. But this particular song, for whatever reason, sounded like tinny cheese-grater jingle bells dragged across mismatched guitar strings overlaying poorly constructed harmonies. I couldn’t help but wonder if I were the only one having such a reaction. In fact, could any species, anywhere, endure such a noise? What if all those sound waves floating about in space were to intersect across the audio palate of an uninitiated life form?

I surmised it would likely be off-putting.

And what ramifications would there be if two such creatures really did stumble upon our planet and…left immediately? Well, for one thing, I thought to myself as I drove alone in my car, we’d have to give our theology a much closer review.

I’m not quite sure how I moved from bad music, to alien invasion, to the existence of God; but isn’t that the purpose of art, after all: to inspire, cause wonder, see the world as one might not have seen it before and be moved to question?

I threw my mind into reverse and jettisoned back to my Philosophy of Art class so many years ago. I nodded at memories as I continued driving.

Then I leaned forward…and turned the song back on.