Monday, July 29, 2013


I've been reading articles about anxiety lately--nothing authoritative or definitive or diagnostic or anything like that. Just people writing for newspapers and the web about anxiety. It seems to be the affliction of the age.

What I remember from one article was someone saying that the cure for anxiety was realizing that you can handle all those things you think you can't. Not much comfort there, if that's the big secret. But it's probably the truth. You get to the actual thing, and whaddaya know, you handle it. Because there really aren't a lot of other choices. But I find I fret and funk over things that are on the horizon--things that I have no choice but to live through.

Long ago I was in a stage production of Edgar Lee Masters's "Spoon River Anthology"--lots of characters telling about their lives from the graveyard of a small town. I didn't perform "Lucinda Matlock," but it was one of the upbeat, inspiring poems that showed up toward the end of the show,and it was beautifullly spoken by an older actress (well, older than me) who radiated joy and gentleness and ferocity too. You can read the whole thing here. It tells the story of the woman's long life, full of happiness, troubles, and small pleasures. Lucinda ends with this:
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,  20
Life is too strong for you—
It takes life to love Life.

Those last two lines have stuck with me, as a challenge, but also as something I puzzle over. That  Life—what makes it deserving of a capital letter? It's kind of a cheap solution on the poet's part--capitalizing the word and creating a little aphorism, instead of thinking of something more original. Though perhaps that is how is the character of this hard-working woman would put it, to her grandchildren and neighbors and others who complained: "Ach! Life is too strong for you. You have to live your life in order to love it."

So maybe anxiety is the affliction of this age because we live so much of our life at a distance from what's real. Too much screen time, too much time alone in cars and at desks. Too much thinking about how cold the lake water is. Not enough time riding the waves.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Believing, behaving, belonging

This 19th century mission hymn followed the sermon yesterday at my church.

Hark, the voice of Jesus calling,"
Who will go and work today?
Fields are white and harvests waiting,
Who will bear the sheaves away?"
Loud and long the master calls you;
Rich reward he offers free.
Who will answer, gladly saying,
"Here am I. Send me, send me"?

It's got a singable tune in a good key that clips along at a steady pace, with the occasional dah-de-dah dotted rhythm to keep it interesting. I remember I enjoyed singing this as a child.

But to me it fell short as a response to the gospel lesson and the sermon preached on the sending of the seventy (Luke 10:1–11, 16–20):
Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” . . .  Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
I stopped singing for a stanza to figure out what I didn't like about this hymn. What made it seem so 19th century imperialist? I looked through the text to see if it said anything about the voice of Jesus calling folks to cure the sick or start hospitals, or about the fields being in poverty. Nope, it didn't. All people need, it seems, is someone to preach at them, or "tell the love of Jesus."

Words. They're important. But they're not much without a Word incarnate.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Fourth

I love fireworks. I don't ooh and ahh with the crowd. I just grin at the sky.  What a good way to use gunpowder.

In the grocery store line this morning I checked in with my RSS feed and saw this in Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish:
If we feel pride, it should be in the accomplishments of our fellow citizens and in any contributions we ourselves have made toward making our country and community a better place, however small and local. Pride of simply being born American leads to hubris, which leads to bigotry and belligerence. For pride to be authentic, it must be something we feel we have earned.
I saw accomplishments to be proud of this morning--the Oak Park parade this morning was made up of civic groups, with modest signs and colorful t-shirts. There was a gay pride marching band (who says the fun has to end when you leave school?), the Oak Park Art League, therapy dogs, baseball teams for kids, the high school football team--tall and gangly, the West Suburban Special Recreation Association bus, the Friends of the Library, the Democratic Party of Oak Park, dancers, even acrobats--pleasant, marching, waving, happy to be part of something celebrating life in America.

Tonight's fireworks were at the high school. A peaceful assembly of good citizens filled the grandstand on one side and the tennis courts and streets on the other. Kids with glow sticks, folding chairs, the noise of conversation. Sparks blew our way and a few came all the way to the ground. Just the setting--the sports fields with the school looming in the background are signs of community pride and investment in the future.

It all sounds so upstanding. And it is.