27 March 2010

Raking Dead Leaves as a Political Act

Though cool, the sun was out and my back yard was dry and full of the debris of winter. Feeling the need to do something and not just sit there, with apologies to my Quaker and Jewish selves this sabbath, I went out with my rake to pull the dead leaves and sticks from the tangle of undergrowth.

Then I grabbed a pear of clippers and cut back the dead stalks of ornamental grass and the spindly remains of the butterfly bushes. Finally, I swept the bits of roadway that the city snowplow had heaped onto my curbside since December. Pebbles, stones, chips of asphalt, and trash of all sorts. Altogether about 2-3 hours work and very satisfying.

As I stood there, dragging leaves with my rake, I recalled that the leaves were on the trees just a few months ago. More would be coming soon, and they too would eventually fall. The dormant hosta and peony on which these leaves had fallen would have their day and then also wilt. It was enough to make a fellow remember ancient words, "vanity, vanity, all is vanity."

My fellow citizens are feeling this right now, about their government. Nothing really changes. What good can ever come of this. Cynicism has crept into the garden of our culture as surely as blossom rot. To care about the country, to believe in its future, makes about as much sense of raking dead leaves. It won't help. There will only be more dead leaves next year.

But I did it, despite knowing it will never end. I raked the leaves because it is my job as much as it is the trees job to makes leaves and the flowers to blossom and the spring to come.

Giving up is not allowed. Sure, I will not save the world, nor will it be perfected in my lifetime. But that does not excuse from trying, any more than knowing I will not likely get rich allows me to stop working. Personal reward is immaterial. Citizenship is inalienable because it is part of what being human is.

We all have to rake leaves - pay taxes, vote, obey the law, shovel our walks, take turns - because that is what life requires of us. There is no reward for this, because being alive itself makes debtors of us all. The price seems quite low here in America, considering the alternatives.

Sorry to preach at you. But it's Saturday, when I practice. I suppose that I should give you the other part as well, to make up for it.

Blessings be yours!

Now go rake the leaves.

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