Messin’ with Mark, God’s Sitcom – Episode 17 – Cartoon Physics

Looking back, it is clear to me that my starring role in God’s sitcom (or YouTube prank channel) for heaven’s amusement didn’t start when I was an adult.

As a kid growing up without an iPhone or laptop, Saturday morning and after-school cartoons were the best thing happening for the under 13 set. I grew up in one of those houses where the TV was a babysitter. It was always on. As a result, I was exposed to “cartoon physics” far too early, before I had learned to properly separate fantasy and reality. I just assumed since the people who created these fantastic worlds were obviously geniuses, they would also keep the content of said cartoons factual, and would never lie to sweet, bright-eyed children. So, I believed whole-heartedly that:

  1. If you run off a cliff and don’t know you did, you will hover in the air until you look down and realize the ground is no longer beneath you. Solution – don’t look down and you can float indefinitely.

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If you paint a tunnel on the face of a cliff, the paint magically dissolves all that rock and you can drive through it like any other tunnel. But again, it’s important not to think about it too much, or you will not have the power to pass through, sort of like that train station portal in Harry Potter. Wile E. Coyote found this out the hard way over and over.

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If you are shooting a bow and arrow and forget to let go of the arrow, you will fly forward instead of the arrow.

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If you fall from a great height, you will take on the shape of an accordion and regain your original dimensions within seconds. You will also make an accordion sound, which is kind of a bonus.

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Protruding cliffs that have been there for centuries are actually very brittle and can be snapped off just by hanging on them for a few seconds. Oh, and they can fall on top of you and squash you flatter than Florida, but you’ll be okay in a minute or so.

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Dynamite can blow up right in your face and the charring about the head, face and neck will go away by itself almost immediately.

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The skull is hard enough to break through solid rock.

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You can get squashed as thin as paper and, again, you’ll be fine. You just need to wait until you pop back to your original shape. 

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You can fall from any height and survive. 

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When I was about eight, I decided to test Looney Tunes Physics. I climbed onto the roof of a friend’s garage, stood at the edge, and reminded myself that if I stepped off and just didn’t think about it, I would stay aloft, floating like a balloon. Boy, would my friends be impressed when they found out I could fly! I took a deep breath, stepped off, and . . .

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. . . hit the ground like a bag of potatoes.

As I lay there on the grass waiting for the air to return to my lungs, I immediately went to work thinking about what I did wrong. I concluded that the thought of not thinking about it must have put the kibosh on it. It was one of those Samurai mushin / no-mind” things. Not thinking about it equals thinking about it. 

But I was not easily discouraged. Having seen a documentary on the Wright brothers, and how many times they had tried to fly before they were successful, I vowed to myself that I would try again. However, avoidance of pain being a greater motivator than the desire for schoolyard fame as the first flying (okay, hovering in mid-air) boy, I never did. Just another childhood dream that swirled and died in the puff of dust my body made when it hit the ground. I never watched Wile E. Coyote fall off those cliffs the same way again, and I stopped rooting for that annoying Road Runner. Compassion is always magnified by personal experience. 

I’m sure the re-run of me stepping off that roof and going splat is a big favorite in heaven’s theater. Slapstick plays well up there, too. I seem to recall my eight year-old self saying those words I would repeat many times in the subsequent years . . . “Well-played, God. Well-played.”

 

Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 7 – The Shot Heard ‘Round the Playground, or How My Fear of Pilgrims Began

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The sitcom in heaven starring Yours Truly didn’t begin when I was an adult. No, those pranksters up there (God and Jesus) have been pulling this stuff on me since I was a kid. Here’s one of the earliest episodes. 

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I was in third grade and starting to get pretty good on the monkey bars. My friends and I liked to play a game all kids play called “Chicken” wherein one kid starts on one side and one on the other, then swing hand-over-hand toward each other and try to pull each other down with their legs. 

There is an inherent danger in this game that is obvious to any grown man, but as a boy, I was oblivious to such danger. Oh, I had heard about getting kicked in the fellas but I didn’t understand (until this day) how or why it hurt more than getting kicked anywhere else. 

Opponents for this game weren’t usually chosen, they were just whoever happened to get on the bars at the same time. My random (or maybe not) opponent that day was a little girl who dressed like and had the severe, no-nonsense face of a sadistic orphanage headmistress. She was terrifying in her black dress with black shoes, complete with square, silver pilgrim buckle. Her hair was pulled back so tight, she could hardly blink.

I almost backed out but changed my mind because my friends were watching and I would never live it down. Before I knew it, we were swinging toward each other. I smiled and made some sort of joke but her stern expression just became sterner. It was clear she was intent on destroying me. 

As we got close enough to leg wrestle, I opened my legs to wrap them around her, as custom dictates. She, however, seized the opportunity to send a kick right up the middle an NFL field goal kicker would envy. I can still remember with extreme clarity her skinny legs and the heavy shoes dangling limply until the last moment when one of those bird twigs suddenly came toward me with an athleticism and accuracy nobody could have predicted. The pilgrim buckle connected squarely with my prepubescent berries, and all at once I understood what all the fuss was about. I understood why there was no “hitting below the belt” in the boxing matches I watched with my dad. I didn’t have long to understand, though, because less than one second after she buried her pilgrim shoe where God split me, I was face-down in the sand wondering what just happened.

The bell rang ending recess and all the kids started running to class. Lizzie Borden’s granddaughter laughed and joined them. After the initial gasp of horror, my friends felt too sorry for me to even say anything or offer assistance. It was one of those “it’s best to leave him alone” moments. And alone I was, for fifteen minutes after the other kids returned to class. I heard my teacher come outside and yell my name. I rolled over, spit out some sand, and started to yell, then thought twice. I was hidden by the short wooden wall of the sand in the play area. I could stay there forever, or at least until the first snow of winter covered me up. 

After another thirty minutes or so, I got up, hobbled to the drinking fountain, washed the remaining sand out of my mouth and nostrils, and snuck back into class. To this day, I have a morbid fear of pilgrims, or more correctly, pilgrim shoes. Fortunately, you don’t see pilgrims or quakers around much anymore. However, I still hyperventilate and break into a cold sweat at my daughter’s annual elementary school Thanksgiving show.