The thing about getting older is that you rue the return of the weird things. Such as: I remember when macramé plant hangers and table skirts were cool. And then I also remember that they became really dusty. I remember when mid-century modern looked like something out of “Bewitched.” And about as appealing as either of the Darrins.
I remember denim. Now it’s back, too: denim jackets, denim skirts. Mom jeans. I haven’t done twenty years of vinyasa yoga to wear mom jeans—forgive my non-yogic vanity.
Fashion aside, there is another conundrum. And it is political. Mighty ugly is back, too. All the isms, bold as back-to-school highlighters. Unbridled name-throwing. Among wanna-be progressives, factionalism and fracturing. So where’s the high road? Or the right road?
And no, I’m not saying I lose shut-eye over the easily villifiable--the angry folks who think that “libtard” is an acceptable epithet or who feel that white privilege/climate change/reasoned discourse is all hooey cooked up by “libtards.” There is a ring in metaphorical hell for such citizens.
I worry about the non-consensus among those who want to see a better sea-change afoot and see it fast. I worry about the quibbling and the slicing and the dicing of categories that make stumbling blocks as we try to see our way to a more equitable, climate-viable, less violent world.
Sometimes I feel like Tiresias, that mythical blind prophet of Apollo who was able to see all sides. I serve a church of varying political beliefs. I serve a tradition that hews to the radical inclusivity of a Judeo-Christian moral code--often at odds with the political beliefs of church members, sadly. And I have friends and family who are blessedly mostly in sync (no strife at our Thanksgiving tables beyond balancing the needs of vegans and omnivores).
But schism is real. The truth is I find Meghan Daum--occasional op-ed writer for The Los Angeles Times—tiresomely narcissistic and snarky, not to put too fine a point on it. But she illustrates my point.
In writing about the loneliness she feels after her divorce (see what I'm saying? Your world is her oyster) she says “the more honest we are about what we think, the more we’re alone with our thoughts. Just as you can’t fight Trumpism with tribalism, you can’t fight tribalism with a tribe. Nor, I’ve come to realize, can I count on nuance in the public discourse to save me from the confusion inside my head. Maybe all I can do — maybe all anyone can do — is try to keep nuance as a private practice, a silent meditation, a personal vow to be renewed at least once every 24-hour news cycle.”
An apt observation, but where does that leave us?
Maybe I have it super-easy. I may irk some members, but basically I’ve got the pacifist, martyred Jesus, twinned with the covenant-driven Hebrew scriptures to ground-like-granite my sermonic assertions. These ancient writings have jack-zero to say about reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, but volumes about equity between and among people of all social and economic classes.
But outside of church or synagogue—and most of our culture is always way, way outside of either church or synagogue—how do we reckon and weave our way into a better world? I get discouraged. I truly do. Meghan Daum’s spot-on, solipsistic observations don’t help.
Or maybe they do.
Because maybe we have to take that big swallow and that big leap and see beyond the ends of our beautiful noses. I do it with scripture and struggle. But that is not the only way to struggle. Most things, done together as best we can, turn out better. Is it silly for me to hope so? I sure hope not.