Often have I wondered...

by Phil Johnson

Do you sometimes wonder what you are thinking when you haven’t started to think yet? You haven’t sat down at your desk or begun writing about something or conversing with someone. Usually I’m not paying attention to what I am thinking until my thinking becomes official, like in writing or conversation and meditation and so on.

“So what?,” you ask. Me, too — I ask, too. Seems to me there has got to be something of value there. I suspect it helps clear some things up to become aware of what I’m thinking when I haven’t started to think yet. This phenomenon is a wonder to me and, I’m confident, full of good clues.

My late friend Carl Blomgren was big on wonder. I don’t know if he had times when he wasn’t intentionally into the activity of thinking. I know he thought a lot — he wondered about life and creation and everything, guided by play in so doing. Many old friends and contemporaries remember Carl as the prankster. Not a few have expressed disapproval of some of his antics. I can’t bring myself to that.

I lived with Carl for much of a year and hung around with him a lot and had hundreds of phone conversations with him. But I was not a part of his pranks, nor the object of any. He was exceptionally well behaved at our wedding, Carl being one of the guys who stood up for me. I have heard stories of distress that Carl caused at other weddings, but even those who thought what he did was not funny do not challenge his inventiveness, boldness, and skill in carrying out whatever he cooked up. I don’t know if setting pigs free in the dorm at North Park College, as I have heard he did, is so brilliant, but it is outside the norm.

Now putting the tires from the school van on top of the roof of Nyvall Hall when we were in seminary and sanding drywall together was one heck of a feat. I am in the dark about how it was done, who was in on it, or anything else even though I was working and playing around with Carl nearly every day. All I know is that, though never proven, he did it.

An unhappy school president, Karl A. Olsson, was heard to have said it was a “professional job.” From the first time I heard that and each time I think of it, I laugh. I mean what is the pay-off for such professionals? There’s no place I can see to follow the money. It sure was a lot of work taking the tires off the school van, leaving it on blocks, rolling the tires across the street, getting into Nyvall Hall at, say, 2 a.m., lugging the tires up two flights of stairs, opening the windows, and somehow hanging the tires on the roof. Holy, holy, holy! Professionals? I guess!

Yes! KO was no fool. He knew everything about the Canterbury Tales, so he had to have a good mind and a sense of humor. Not that I know about any smiles of his regarding this wheel-less school van affair.

Point is, Carl was a professional. KO was right. Who more so — I mean more of a professional?

KO was not the only one, however, who was angered by finding his van on blocks with no tires — and likely fuming every time he glanced from his office at the tires on the roof of Nyvall Hall across the street. Our beloved Ivar was fuming, too. Thing is, Ivar Wistrom had to take care of the damage and dislocation caused by pranks. Though the sweetest (and most competent) guy in the world and equally professional, Ivar was annoyed at this one. It took the professional, Ivar, to counter the professional prankster. For Ivar this one was a pain in the you know what. Still, I remember joking with him about it years later.

I have less authority in this matter than I may appear to be asserting. I was not working for Ivar at the time. I did hear a report from someone who helped get those tires down but don’t remember who. Clearly it was a hell of a job to get the tires down, but at least Ivar and his helpers had gravity going for them.

I wonder what the Bloominger’s thinking process was. How did Carl conceive the idea? How did he pull it off? Those are subjects of wonder and admiration. What do you know or wonder about regarding this matter?