Those were prophetic words for our local church - and small town, too - as we strive to make sense of God's calling during this strange era of transformation, fear and resistance. It would be easy to despair given the cruel incoherence of the current regime in Washington. But their
belligerence and brutality are not the whole story. They must not be denied or ignored, of course; neither should they become the core of our reality. "Just below the surface, blessings are about to blossom." In our region, Mass MOCA just opened their final exhibit hall making this stunning center of contemporary art the largest such museum in the USA. When it was proposed twenty years ago, the dream was ridiculed and opposed. Like many of my Berkshire neighbors, the working class city of North Adams wondered how an art museum would restore economic energy now that manufacturing had collapsed. Today Mass MOCA is the engine that drives creativity and job growth in the Northern Berkshires.
The same goes for the center of our country: after Tanglewood announced their multi-million dollar commitment to a new education and performance center - and the Eagle reported on both the Boston Symphony's investment in our region, and, the revenue it generates each year through tourism - there was more evidence of blessings beginning to bloom from just below the surface.
As I pondered these realities, I read a column written by Andrew Pincus of near-by Lenox (home of Tanglewood) who asked: where are today's JFK and Bernstein? Lamenting the nation's loss of creative vision, Pincus noted that we have gone "from eloquence to tweets. From a public that responds to calls for greatness to a public that feeds on violence and mindlessness in its entertainment." Quoting George Orwell, the author issues this somber picture of what is obvious:
In Orwell's "1984" the 'interrogated declares, 'there will be no loyalty, except toward the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness... there will only be the intoxication of power."
I sat with that for a few moments and then read Carrie Newcomer's note on FB from her "Speed of Soul" column:
The theologian Paul Tillich wrote that faith is not found so much in our conscious beliefs as in the regions of our "ultimate concerns." We are living in troubled times and I must negotiate a daily assault of news that presses mightily upon my ultimate concerns. Today I take in the news of Trump pulling the USA out of the Paris Accords. His isolationist policies threatening not just our children, grandchildren and innocent generations beyond us, but the health, wellbeing and survival of every child now and yet to be born, human and plant and animal. The old models of abundance are passing away, need to pass away, must pass away. And yet there are those who feel that somehow the coal jobs will return and that we might miraculously return to 1950 and 60's energy consumption without disastrous results.
It's scary to really take in the environmental moment we are
currently living. It can feel overwhelming. But today I will do my daily part. Yes, I'll send my message to legislators. But more than that, I'll open the conversation, write about what true abundance might look like, sing about a relationship to the natural world that is life giving and soul expanding. Affirm that care of the earth is a beautiful and true act of love and faith.
To restate the obvious, ours is an ugly time: ugly, hateful, increasingly stupid in every sense of the word, and impoverished by fear and greed. But the obvious is not the totality of reality. All around me, even within those most wounded by the violence and venom of this regime, is a beauty beginning to blossom in unimaginable ways. Nicholas Kristof, writing in the NY Times, told the story of our ultimate concerns being incarnated on a Portland train:
The three were as different as could be. One was a 23-year-old recent Reed College graduate who had a mane of long hair and was working as a consultant. Another was a 53-year-old Army veteran with the trimmest of haircuts and a record of service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The third was a 21-year-old poet and Portland State University student on his way to a job at a pizzeria. What united the three was decency.
When they intervened, the man harassing the girls pulled a knife and slashed the three men before fleeing. Rick Best, the veteran, died at the scene. Taliesin Namkai-Meche, the recent Reed graduate, was conscious as he waited for an ambulance. A good Samaritan took off her shirt to cover him; she recounted that some of his last words were: “I want everybody on the train to know, I love them.” He died soon after arriving at the hospital. (read the whole story here:
Brother Nicholas' column ends with this poem by one of the wounded, a student poet, Michael Fletcher:
“I, am alive.
I spat in the eye of hate and lived.
This is what we must do for one another
We must live for one another.”
And this is the vision we, too are called to honor and nourish: we must live for one another. St. Paul spoke of this as "the foolishness of the Cross." It is the truth at the center of creation: as we give ourselves away in love, new life is reborn over and again. It is the spirituality that shapes our seasons where spring always follows winter. It is the logic that guides the cosmos. "Just because you can't see immediately the evidence of social transformation, don't think life has become stagnant and hopeless. Just below the surface, blessings are about to blossom."