The Children of Lake Wobegon



Suckled on the modernist work ethic, some Presbyterian parents may love it when kids talk about rebelling against low expectations and “returning to biblical and historical levels of character and competence” (where’d I put my WWJD bracelet?).

But I daresay Garrison Keillor’s Upper Midwestern upbringing amongst the Lutherans (“where even the Catholics were Lutheran”), which resonates with mine under the tutelage of the Lapsed Episcopalian, has a far superior grasp on the folly of great expectations of youth and their dazzled parents:

In Lake Wobegon, you learned about being All Right. Life is complicated, so think small. You can’t live life in raging torrents; you have to take it one day at a time. And if you need drama, read Dickens…The urge to be top dog is a bad urge. Inevitable tragedy. A sensible person seeks to be at peace, to read books, know the neighbors, take walks, enjoy his portion, live to be eighty, and wind up fat and happy, although a little wistful when the first coronary walks up and slugs him in the chest. Nobody is meant to be a star. Charisma is pure fiction, and so is brilliance. It’s the dummies who sit on the dais, and it’s the smart people who sit in the dark near the exits. That is the Lake Wobegon view of life (where the women are strong, the men are good-looking and the children are above average).

–Garrison Keillor, Life Among the Lutherans, Chapter 1 (It Could Be Worse)

This entry was posted in Garrison Keillor, Lutheranism. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Children of Lake Wobegon

  1. RubeRad says:

    Once again, another perfect opportunity to pump one of my favorite hymns!

    Father, I know that all my life
    Is portioned out for me;
    The changes that are sure to come,
    I do not fear to see:
    I ask thee for a present mind,
    Intent on pleasing thee.

    I would not have the restless will
    That hurries to and fro,
    Seeking for some great thing to do,
    Or secret thing to know;
    I would be treated as a child,
    And guided where I go.

  2. Zrim says:

    The Lutheran Song:

    We are a modest people
    And we never make a fuss,
    And it sure would be a better world
    If they were all as modest as us.
    We do not go for whooping it up
    Or a lot of yikkety-yak.
    When we say hello, we avert our eyes.
    And we always sit in the back.
    We sit in the pew where we always sit,
    And we do not shout “Amen!”
    And if anyone yells or waves their hands,
    They’re not invited again.

    I’m a Lutheran, a Lutheran—it is my belief;
    I am a Lutheran guy.
    We may have merged with another church,
    But I’m a Lutheran till I die.

    Once in a while we go to shows,
    But a Lutheran is not a fan.
    We don’t whistle and we don’t laugh;
    We smile as loud as we can.
    If you come to church, don’t expect to be hugged;
    Don’t expect your hand to be shook.
    If we need to know who you are,
    We can look in the visitors’ book.
    I was raised to keep a lid on it,
    Guard what you say or do,
    A mighty fortress is our God,
    So he must be Lutheran too.

  3. Todd says:

    A couple jokes I heard on APHC:

    Why is it so rude to snore during a Lutheran service? Because you wake everyone up.

    How do you get squirrels to leave the Lutheran church grounds? Make them members so they only show up Christmas and Easter.

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