There are no guardrails on the information highway, and The Paradox of Our Time, a "think piece" featured on the Spirit Weekly page in our last issue, is an excellent example of how the Internet can create seeming realities that have no more substance than smoke or mist.
The essay expresses a range of sentiments that are easy enough to agree with. It reminds us that in an age of remarkable technological accomplishment and enormous wealth, for example, that we, as a individuals and as a society, often forget what's important in life, that we "have taller buildings but shorter tempers ... wider freeways but narrower viewpoints ... more conveniences but less time ..."
The question is, who wrote it?
As we noted in our report, the Paradox is zipping across the Internet in mass e-mailings as the work of comedian George Carlin. That's true. It's all over the World Wide Web under Carlin's name. But here's the rub: he has issued a statement denying that he is the author.
And he points to several different versions, some of which have been attributed to a student who witnessed the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999 - others of which have been attributed to "Anonymous."
The truth, according to snopes.com, an Internet site that monitors and corrects deceptions in cyberspace, is that the essay was written by Dr. Bob Moorehead, a former pastor of Overlake Christian Church in Seattle, Washington.
It originally appeared on pages 197-198 of his book, Words Aptly Spoken (Overlake Christian Press, 1995. IBSN 0-9639496-6-7), under the heading, The Paradox of Our Age (as opposed to The Paradox of Our Time).
Carlin, for those who don't know, is a stand-up comedian and social critic who shot to stardom in the 1960s and '70s, and his humor can be raw and offensive. Carlin's history and stage persona led us in our editor's note to suggest that in the case of Carlin, assuming that he had, in fact, written the Paradox, "the Lord truly does work in mysterious ways."
Regardless of authorship, the Paradox does indeed give each of us something to think about, and a reason to reflect on our lives - how richly and courageously we live them, and how much of them we share with our fellow men.
All this reminds me, personally, of another unlikely source of wisdom: the 1950s kiddie-TV-show host, Joey the Clown, in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Joey - Brooks Lindsay in "real life" - was a nut, of course, as silly as they come.
But children loved him, and at the end of every show, ol' Joey would suddenly out of the clear blue stop his hootin' and hollerin' and look directly into the camera so he could make eye contact with all those kids out in TV land.
Slowly removing his frayed and dented top hat and placing it gently over his heart, he would say as softly and seriously and with as much love in his voice as that of any grandaddy with a baby on his knee, "Before I go I want to remind you never to forget: all we've got in this old world is each other ... and may God bless."
Words to live by - from a clown. You just never know, now do you, how mysterious will be His ways until you open your eyes to see them ...