Saturday, August 6, 2011

Comfort and Links for the Day After the World Ends

So, while a group of us celebrated a friend's completion of her Ed.D. degree, and then I slept peacefully through the night, the S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating.  I read the news this morning, and I thought, well, we've heard these rumblings with their apocalyptic overtones for several weeks now.  And one of the worst case scenarios has happened.

I almost expected to see smoking ruins when I looked out the window this morning.  But the world looks fairly normal.

At work, I'm surrounded by people who are convinced we're on the road to hell.  At work, I'm surrounded by people who are convinced that we're already there.  Very few optimistic people in my workplace these days.

And here I thought I would need to change careers to be a hospice chaplain!

It's time for a larger world view, a longer view of history.  Or maybe it's time for some introspection.

In this post, the Velveteen Rabbi has some fascinating thoughts on the juxtaposition between Ramadan and Av, periods of introspection and realignment for Muslims and Jews.  I don't know as much about Av, but the Velveteen Rabbi has some instruction, links, and resources.

You might wrestle with how a spiritual person deals with catastrophe, both personal and catastrophe that comes to the larger community.  In this post, she recommends Rabbi Alan Lew's excellent book This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation:   "He writes that to spiritual leaders, the only question worth asking about any recurring catastrophe is: how am I complicit in this, and how can I keep it from happening again? This is true, of course, not only on a national level, but on a personal one, as well."

And here's a post where she talks about reading the newspaper as a spiritual person.

Thanks Velveteen Rabbi, for all the ministering you are doing through your blog.  What a great resource!

If you need more comfort and courage, here's a musical recommendation.  I continue to listen to Paul Simon's latest release, So Beautiful or So What to be enormously comforting, and I can't quite say why.  The lyrics are wonderful, as always with Paul Simon, but not necessarily applicable to the larger national picture.  Paul Simon's voice is like an old friend's voice, and that's always a blessing. 

Or maybe the music of Woody Guthrie would be good for a day like today.  It's important to remember that the nation has endured dark times before, and we have not only survived but emerged as a stronger people.  I don't want to be forged in fire, smelted in the way I fear we face.  But even in my darkest personal days, like most of the year of 2005, when I'm honest and think back, there were bright places and events that brought me closer to my family and friends. 

Here's a poem which speaks to the idea that when we have the least, perhaps we have the most.  It first appeared in Mid-America Poetry Review.

Betting with Blueberries

We bet with blueberries, playing poker
late into the night. We’re too poor
for cable, but we afford occasional treats
like fresh fruit in season. The fan
blows warm air across this sauna of a room.
We drip sweat and deal the cards.

I lose every time. My appetite
for berries overwhelms my desire to win.
Besides, I barely understand the rules.
The heat sucks away my powers of concentration.
I wrap ice cubes in washcloths, dab at my skin:
old-fashioned air conditioning.

Years later, I sit alone in my air-conditioned
house. All my friends, too busy
for unstructured evenings, desert
me for families and jobs.
I could afford blueberries every night, in season and out,
if I wanted, but I’d trade all these luxuries,
so out of reach in my student past,
I’d trade them all for endless poker nights,
the comfort of friendship, the consolation of the future.

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