A little over 25 years ago I traveled to Heidelberg with a friend. One night we two Americans, and one Austrian we met at the hostel, went to see a Brazilian mime . . . in Germany. I remember being amazed by the universality of the non-verbal languages of mime and music. On the way “home” to the hostel, we got lost; and out of the darkness arose the words “Hey, you guys!” We turned to find a friend who I had last seen two years before at her going-away party. (I didn’t even know where in Germany she was going.) She had just taken a train back from Yugoslavia, and she was walking a route home that she had never taken. So there we all were, meandering toward our respective temporary homes a half a continent and an ocean away, only to discover, for me the first time, that the world is actually quite small. The next morning, we hiked up the Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s way) in an eerie fog, and I took this picture. At the top we mused about and toasted to coincidence with my first glass of glüwein.
I learned the hymn, Lead, kindly light by Cardinal John Henry Neuman, 24 years ago. I was on a work abroad program in England for the summer. I went to a different Anglican church every Sunday–several in London, in Cambridge, in Rye, in Carlisle, in York, in Newcastle, in Exeter, in Dalston, in Mousehole . . . and I sang from the Anglican hymnal for the first time (not too many Lutherans over there). It was the transformational summer of my twentieth year, with rich memories still stirred by Anglican hymnody, Turner landscapes, and Monty Python.
I put these words and pictures in together in my head, and have held them there for about 23 years. Today, I put them together with my hands, and will now have this mantra ever before me.
Things don’t take forever to do, just as I don’t need to know forever to live. I just have to keep taking that one step.
(Even if I do take it a quarter century later!)
As a child, the defiant songs
of the 60s and 70s declared
we could change the world.*
As an adult, the songs
of the 80s and 90s mused
“If I could change the world.*”
Now, in passive voice I hear
“I’m waiting, waiting on the
world to change.**”
Were there never things we could fight for, but I thought there were?
Were there things worth fighting for that no longer are?
Are there things worth fighting for that I don’t have the energy to fight?
The “truth” that Harry Potter (and now The Golden Compass) suggested to me is that only youth truly believe they can change the world. Eventually we “grow up” and try to protect what we have and who we have—and look many other ways than the uncomfortable truths. Youth hasn’t given up yet—there’s a fire there that hasn’t been squelched or stomped or merely faded to embers for lack of more fuel.
I once read a quote: “Will all those who feel powerless to influence events please signify by maintaining your usual silence.” At the time I felt it convicted others. Now it convicts me.
And as tired as I am of the tagline of the college where I taught–having seen it “thumbprinted” in so many places that it made me sick–it is positively provocative: create change. Creation is change. Seedling as it may be, it can grow. So I’ll sow.
*Eric Clapton, **John Mayer
“Liberals hate it”
shouts the red-white-blue billboard,
Talk radio claiming fame
for who’s not listening.
“Anybody but “Bush”
chants the red-white-blue electorate
Elections fought solely on
who should not lead.
Liberals as non-conservatives
Conservatives as non-liberals
Independents as neither-nors
All swim in their own
Being this, makes me not that,
yin makes me not yang.
This binary world,
forsakes polynomious “ands”
for monomaniacal “ors.”
Lost in Zeno’s paradox
We stand for
standing for standing for standing for . . .
something infinitely removed
from collective conscience,
something long-corrupted to self-survival
in a zero-sum world.
Even as “This I believe”
is resurrected for NPR,
to parse the pervasive logical “not”
for singular statements of conviction,
some still spurn the positive and declare
what does not exist.
Even as my world
seems an abyss of what is “not right.”
I search for something dimly there
to help fire my soul to be:
and find I at least believe
As a child I was quite adept at saying “look at me–look what I did.” Now I whisper it, tentatively, hoping that someday soon I’ll again shout it, and mean it.
You’ll find my web 1.0 at my Jewell Gems site, designed in 1999. Now I need to move forward, and give myself permission to continue to create and to share the next version of the web and past, present and future versions of me.
Here I am. You can read about this blog and about me, and someday soon I’ll actually post some new thoughts and creations.