27 February 2010

Been There, Done That

Yes, I was away from it all for a while. I attend a meeting every year at this time, a clergy meeting, in southern California. Living as I do in Michigan, on the snowy side of Michigan, this is a most welcome respite. Because it is so far away, and the countryside is so capitivating, I usually add 2-3 days to take in the natural beauty that is so abundant.

This year I went into the Sierra Nevade range, the high mountains that run along the eastern half of the state, among which are the highest peaks in the southern 48. That meant going through part of the San Joaquin Valley on the way. My original goal was Sequoia National Park, where the one of two species of giant redwood grows almost exclusively. (Last year I drove most of the amazing Pacific Coast Highway, from the Orange County Line to the last town before Oregon. This included the range of the other great redwood.)

What you must know is that the perpetual spring of the valley is not true of the mountains. After speeding past orange groves heavy with fruit and almond trees in bloom down in the valley, I found myself trudging through three feet of snow on the ridge of the National Park, which is 6500 above sea level. That was interesting all by itself.

Once I download my pictures, I'll post a few. Even in deep snow the trees are spectacular, but not having snow shoes or even boots, I saw but a few. Not enough to suit me but enough to recall the experience from last year and its wonderful spiritual qualities. But rather than make this an even longer post I will stop here and leave you hungry for more. Come back in a day or two.

13 February 2010

Did You Hear?

I am running for Congress.

Our representative is retiring and that's always the best time to get in the mix. As both major parties have candidates lining up for the nod, I will have to run as an, ahem, 'independent liberal.' Sort of like Bernie Sanders.

That makes some sense actually. He went to a remote rural place from New York City. I did the same. He is an out and out socialist. I am not far from that. But of course, my chances are nil.

No organization, no name recognition, no clout of any kind. And around here being liberal is like having leprosy, the sort of thing that makes people flee. My only lever is the media, being on the radio that is. That worked for the Tea Party guy and the Glenn Beck right?

In all honesty, unless a ground swell (not an ant hill) rises up to collect all the signatures, mine will be a mock candidacy. With no party behind me and no name on the ballot and no organization to mobilize, it is impossible.

So why say I am running?

Because it occurred to me that if politicians are real candidates with mock principles, maybe we need a mock candidate with real principles.

Get it? I will act like a candidate, but with no expectation of winning. That means I can say what I really believe and what I really hope and what I really mean because trying to win votes is not the point. I can be honest. That's my strength.

And I do have principles, good ones. My platform is one sentence. You already know it, "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union...' That's it. And you can read what I mean by that in my little virtual book, "Searching the Soul of a Nation," which is hyperlinked on the left side of this blog.

But if you don't have time, or you think this Twitter infested culture of ours means that more than ten words is too hard for people to take in, I have a slogan that sums it up. You know that one, too. Every kid in America knows it, in fact.

Liberty and Justice for All.

There's no chance of winning the election, of course. Who would ever vote for stuff like that?

10 February 2010

Beware of What You Pray For

I have been telling my church that we have a mission to be a spiritual crossroads for our community, a place where different communities and ideas meet and engage one another. This week it came true in a big way.

On Tuesday, our commemorative Duncan Littlefair Great Speakers group brought Dr. Sherwin Nuland (How We Die) to speak. This evening we hosted our neighbor, the GR Community College, in bringing Angela Davis to speak. Tomorrow we host the St. Olaf College Choir

I am not a night person. This is hard. But it is so good to do.

04 February 2010

Hippo, Birdie, Two Yews.

That was the cute card I got on a birthday years ago. But hey, I remember it, right?

Yes, today is the day, which has rarely been especially fortunate. Remember, it is early February. In Michigan. I feel blessed that is is nearly freezing out there. Some of the ice is looking a little soft. Yay! And look at a few people and events that share the day - Dan Quayle, David Brenner, The formation of the Confederate States of America, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst.

But that my birthday has not been especially lovely over the years I count as wise. Let's face it, I had nothing do with it. The day you are born is momentous, that particular day, as without it you would not exist. But marking the anniversary of it as some sort of personal holiday seems to me unwise.

For me, it has been, especially since turning 50, a moment of reflection and reckoning.

It reminds me that I really am a gift, and that this gift I have of being alive is amplified by being male and white and straight and American and educated and healthy. After all, most people lack most of those things. Talk about gifts I don't deserve.

And it reminds me to ask what I have done with this gift. The accumulating numbers tell me that this is not endless. It will go away eventually, and at my age (57) the portion ahead is definitely smaller than the portion behind. As this gift is dwindling every day, what should I do with it?

For some folks, fortunate ones like me, the answer is to form some 'bucket list' of things to do before you die. A fellow wrote a book listing the 1000 places you should see or things you should do before you die. They were adventures and stuff. He died before finishing them.

But when I ask what I should do I am asking what should I do with this gift that will outlast me? Yes, I would love to see the Great Wall, Petra, Great Zimbabwe and Angel Falls. I hope to enjoy the blessing of grandchildren and continued improvement in my piano playing. But when I die, these experiences die with me. On my birthday I am asking what I should do that will make my having lived a plus for the world, a net improvement. Every year I look back and see that I could have done more. Every year, though, I have done a little more than the year before. Gave more money, did more service, been more forgiving and needed less forgiveness. It will never be enough, but even a little more may make a difference eventually.

And heck, there's always next year!