Saturday, December 3, 2016

May You Live in Uninteresting Times

May you live in uninteresting times.

I used to not understand this quote.
Why would I want to live in uninteresting times?
Now, I have a home, a family.
I have children
and I understand that happiness lies in the uninteresting.
Happiness is in the small hand reaching for mine
and the voice that calls me mama.
It is the sound of laughter coming from upstairs at bedtime
quieted quickly as my footsteps approach.
It is good food and good wine and good music and good friends.
It is a Saturday morning with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

Happiness is all about the uninteresting.

We learn about our past.
We read about the people who lived before us in interesting times:
We hold them up as examples
to ourselves, to our children.
People who used their gifts to stand up for what was right,
defended those that could not defend themselves.
They were the light that illuminated what was wrong in the world,
the voices that called out for truth,
the hands that worked for change,
sitting at lunch counters, on busses, in jail cells,
writing letters, essays, articles, songs.
speaking even when their voices quaked.
Not fearless, no.
But resolved to be the light.

We read about the underground resistance in WWII France.
We are inspired by the keepers of safe houses 
on the underground railroad.
We are in awe of the Sons of Liberty, 
their words and their courage igniting a spark that changed the world.
We venerate the early followers of Jesus
leaving everything behind
to follow a Radical, calling for peace.

“Me too!” we think.
If only we had lived in those interesting times,
we would have made those choices too.
we would have been on the right side of history.

Here’s the thing about living in interesting times.

You don’t have the wide view.
You don’t get the advantages of perspective 
that history will use to judge you.
The big picture eludes you
seen in glimpses, out of the corner of your eye,
evaporating like fog in the rising sun when you turn your head to look more closely.
And the glimpses themselves
are terrifying.
(No one said interesting times were safe.
That’s what makes them interesting.)
It’s hard to know if what you are seeing is true, if it is part of a larger piece that is forming around you,
just beyond your understanding or if it is just your imagination.
Your family, your friends,
the small uninteresting things that make up a happy life,
pull back your focus again and again.
Surely, you think, this. 
This is what is really important, these uninteresting things.

Complacency is a bitch.

And so here we are. 
It is the end of 2016 and these are interesting times.

I pull myself out of complacency to look,
to really look at what is happening.
To really look at the glimpses so that they come into clear focus.
To ignore the distractions that are meant of pull me from the truth
of what is happening.

This is happening.

Either: Trump is as much out of his depth 
and incompetent as I think he is
and these tweets and ridiculous statements are evidence of that.
Or:  He is crafty, sneaky smart like a fox in a hen house,
who knows that the farmers aren't watching, complacent in 
their ordinary lives,
and he gives the media and the public exactly the ridiculousness
they need to distract them from what is really going on.

I’m not sure which one of those two choices terrifies me the most.

This is happening.

The information superhighway that promised
to bring equality and opportunity
has instead lead us to a place
where we can learn about everything
and we can trust nothing.
The information is only as accurate and as good
as the people who bring it to you,
as good as the corporations, that make the decisions about what to say and what to share,
want it to be.
Make no mistake. 
Money drives it,
guides it, decides it.
We have rethink our news and how we get it.

This is happening.

We have become so removed from each other,
so addicted to our technology,
so dependent on our technology,
so fooled by our technology,
so lulled by our technology,
that we think we are making connections
when we are simply scratching the surface.
We talk to friends half a world away,
conversations that are comfortable and easy
because we find that we agree on most things.
We don’t bother to know our own neighbor
whose point of view is different than our own.
We create a world view for ourselves in which our way of thinking is
obviously the  right way of thinking,
obviously the only way of thinking,
and then we are surprised to find opinions similarly formed
and just as dearly held and as passionately felt,
yet completely opposing our own.
Instead of those differences being aired and discussed,
instead of having conversations that bring compromise and understanding,
the differences have been left in the dark to fester on their own.
And what comes forth is fear and hate.

We have to really listen to each other
more than we talk.
We have to find what we have in common again,
and bring our differences into the sunlight to be purged and shared and understood.

I don’t want to be an alarmist.
I don’t want to be thought of as foolish
I‘m afraid to be a leader, a revolutionary,
a peacemaker, a saint.
Their paths are not easy
And often end in death.

(Surely, I’m being an alarmist then. Death).

But, isn’t this exactly what I am called to do?
Isn’t this the very part I always thought I would play?
Isn’t this how I am called to use the gifts I have been given?
To stand up for what is right,
To defend those that can not defend themselves,
To speak out against what is wrong
Aren’t I, too, called to bring light,
to be the light in the world?

I am afraid, for I have come to love my uninteresting life.

Be not afraid.
Be the light.

And so I begin.
Much of what I write will do nothing,
will be nothing.
Words thrown into a whirlwind,
swept away without being heard.

None of what I write will mark me as a saint.

Some of what I write will be used to label me as foolish, an alarmist.
Some of what I write might mark me as a peacemaker,
perhaps a revolutionary,
(but being a revolutionary only works out if you win).

But I can’t be any less than what I am called to be.
I can’t bury myself in the ordinary of my life and ignore the things I see
out of the corner of my eye.
The temptation to do so is constant:
“Perhaps you should just delete this right now.
Your words are nothing
Will come to nothing
You will be laughed at, pitied, misunderstood,
It is vanity to think anything else.”

However, it is because of those ordinary things,
my ordinary life,
my family, my friends, the home and life we have built together,
that I have to be true to who I am and what I see.
This is the reason I must write.
My words are the only revolutionary weapon that I have.
At least, then, I can say that I stood for something,
that I tried to be on the right side of history.