Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Of Maypoles and Miracles

So, how will you be celebrating this first day of May? Will you weave ribbons around a Maypole? Will you go to a demonstration in favor of worker's rights? Will you bring a bouquet of flowers into the house? Will you sing "Solidarity Forever" or "L'Internationale"?

I imagine that most of us will go to our jobs on this fine May Day. Well, those of us in the U.S. will go to our jobs, if we still have jobs. May Day is a holiday in many other parts of the industrialized world.

In my elementary school in the 1970's, we had a May Day celebration that focused on flowers and Maypoles, not on workers. Looking back, I'm amazed that our teachers were able to rig together a Maypole. We spent weeks practicing the weaving of the ribbons in the Maypole dance. We had a whole Mayday festival. Parents came. There was a Mayday king and queen.

Ah, those good old pagan school days!

I have spent most of my life in climates where Spring came long before the first day of May. In fact, in most places I've lived, Spring has shifted into Summer by May 1.

My inner Marxist would want me to give up all pagan celebrations of beauty. My inner Marxist would demand that I transform the workplace.

How I wish I could. My inner Marxist and my inner 19 year old have amazingly simplistic ideas of how the world works and how much power individuals have. That's why I both love my inner Marxist and my inner 19 year old and find them frustrating.

And yes, it can get a bit crowded in my head.

My tired worker self goes through her days noting convergences that other people might not notice and making poems out of the connections.  A few years ago, May Day and Ascension Day converged.  Today, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Lutherans celebrate the feast day of Philip and James.  You may wonder why I'm not focusing a whole post on them.

I thought about it, but as I researched the two disciples, I didn't find much.  In John's account of the feeding of the multitudes, Philip is the disciple who talks about the cost of feeding everyone.  Later in John (chapter 12), Philip is also the disciple approached by some Greeks in a crowd who ask to be introduced to Jesus.  Philip tries, but Jesus gives a mystical answer (so typical for John's Gospel) that later readers see as Jesus talking about his upcoming death and withdraws.  And then he goes off and hides.

Clearly, Jesus doesn't understand the value of ecumenism the way that later cultures will.  Clearly Jesus isn't interested in networking, the way that modern business would have us all do.

If Philip lived today, Philip would be the one who went to business school.  Philip would write books about the irrefutable laws of leadership.  Philip would be the cautious one reminding us of what the true costs of our discipleship would be--and he wouldn't be talking about it in Bonhoeffer terms.  He'd have some sort of mathematical formula to show us what we should spend time doing, what would pay off.  He'd talk about opportunity costs.

I feel a bit of fondness for Philip.  Each of us probably has our own inner Philip.

Oh, great, another inner voice to join all the others in my head!

Still, I recognize some of my behavior when I read these limited accounts of Philip.  I often feel like the one who doesn't quite get it.  I often feel like the one who comes up with a solution, only to be brushed off.  I feel like the one voicing perfectly reasonable objections while not understanding the miracle that's right there in front of me.

We all feel that way, like there's a group of cool kids, and we linger at the periphery never excluded, but not really included either.  I joke about expecting to be able to graduate from high school some day.

I wonder if bosses understand this dynamic and use it to control workers.  I expect that some nefarious bosses do.

As someone who supervises people now, I wonder how I could turn this dynamic around.  How can I make sure everyone feels included?

Marx would probably tell me that it can't be done.  He'd talk about the alienation of the workers.

Maybe my elementary school teachers had the answer:  construct a Maypole!

In some ways, it's the same answer Jesus gives us.  Jesus sees an aching need and wants to feed a crowd.  Philip gives the answer that many of us would give:  too costly, can't be done.  Jesus creates such a miracle of abundance that there are 12 baskets of leftovers.  It's a Maypole of a miracle.

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