Saturday, December 28, 2013
Amen, I say. Amen
As regular readers may have noticed, I have used, throughout the year, different recordings of the Leonard Cohen song Amen to counterpoint various posts, from my post on the Boston Marathon Massacre, to, most recently my write up of Evangelii Gaudium. For this year, the song has haunted me.
And there's a reason. So let me share it with you.
2013 has been a year of joy, in many ways, and in which I have received many gifts--gifts of friendship, of the continued formation process toward the diaconate, and, least expected of all, a blossoming in creative expression I had though lost forever. Whatever the worth of that last when it is published in 2014, the mere fact of having been able to do the very thing I have most wanted to do since childhood, after having thought that dream lost forever, has been and will remain a joy nothing can efface.
And yet it has been a year in which one long-held passion curdled on me, and I have been forced to take a step back. I allude, of course, to politics. My whole life, I have been a political junkie, advocating often for losing candidates, and opposed to the spirit of the age in which I lived at times, but still---fascinated, engaged with the day-to-day story of American politics.
Not this year. Maybe never again.
When an old classmate of mine was murdered last year, it stripped many of my illusions away. I saw that the news remains news only when it happens to strangers. As old friends struggled with challenges exacerbated by our increasingly nihilistic political culture--I'll say no more; their stories are for them to tell, if they so choose--another Cohen line ran through my head incessantly: "I can run no more with that lawless crowd/while the killers in high places say their prayers out loud."
2013 was the year when politics ceased to be a combination of idealism and the Great Game, and became the expression how we treat each other wholesale. The game was over for me, and I lost my tolerance. I remain on sabbatical from political commentary, always a large part of my blogging, and will continue so until I have rediscovered that tolerance.
I am convinced that our answers lie elsewhere--in the selfless acts of service, kindness and nurture that people offer each other, politics be damned. In the stories we tell, and which form our selves, and the selves of our children. As I have been formed by the writers, the visionaries, the poets and novelists, storytellers and singers who have shaped my moral landscape. And not just the high art--"Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up, never give in" is every bit as much a part of my moral landscape as Shakespeare or Herbert. And music--the sheer beauty that we can make when we aren't too busy killing each other. And so that's what I am shifting to in this phase of the dance to the music of time--serving where I am called, and making what I can. Let others judge the merit of the work. The trick is, I believe, to just keep doing.
And, of course, all of these answers point higher still, to the ultimate answer. I am presently reading Nadia Bolz-Weber's Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and & Saint, and I identify so much with this woman whose journey from such different beginnings as mine, and whose life is in so many external ways radically different from my own. I identify with her, despite my three piece suit, watch chain and affinity for Victorian high church theologians.
Because, under it all, we are looking for wholeness--both sinners and saints, and both at the same time, recipients of the Grace that calls us to try to pass it on by living into our truest selves. And the cracks in our imperfect offerings do let the light come in.
Being and becoming. Not an easy task, in a world as beautiful and cruel as that which we inhabit. But, really, the only option on the table worth picking up, as far as I can judge. And so, one last Cohen song for the night: