Greetings, especially to all who observe these holy days of Passover and Easter. May these observances provide opportunities for deep reflection on their messages of peace and justice.
I have not been able to write my weekly Saturday Evening Post for a month now. Most of the reason is that I have been traveling or attending weekend events and simply have not had time to write. But I also have not felt I have had anything significant to say. The initial reaction of dismay over the Trump election has settled into a wait-and-see time, and I have felt “benched" until I am ready to get back into the “game." But I am now back at my computer, settled into my writing mode and into my favorite self, and I hope my message tonight can provide some of my usual intended uplift and nonviolent encouragement.
I want to offer two metaphors or symbols that help me understand and provide perspective on the world and life these worrisome days.
I grew up in rural, northeastern Ohio. I had little exposure to the ocean in my childhood and still very little into my adult years. Then sometime in my late thirties I had the experience of spending the better part of a day by myself sitting in a protected rock formation just above the tide line on the rocky coast of Maine. The rhythm of the waves and the flow of the tide had a profound effect on me that day that has continued to inform me over the years. The waves and tide, like life itself, are predictable and comforting, but again, like life itself, they can be surprisingly changeable and dangerous. A beautiful wave comes in, crests, and is immediately countered by an undertow. Suddenly an unexpected wave crashes in such a way that I am covered in spray and anxious about my safety. And then there are times when the sea is in full roil. Hurricane and powerful wind storms whack and wreck the shore. The sea and wind assert their majestic and unpredictable nature beyond our control. This, too, is the face of havoc that is the sea and also part of the rhythms of our lives. Yet tides and life cycles also create natural order and a predictable dance that sustains and stabilizes our sense of well being even amidst times of fearful disruption.
So the metaphor of both the predictability and uncontrolled power of the ocean reflect my equally deep respect for the vicissitudes of human history, life in general, and our current tumultuous time. We are now in a very roiled moment in the life of our country and the whole world. And although many of us may not feel personally threatened, we are aware of the real or threatening rogue waves and possible hurricanes of violence and war that are impacting thousands of us across the globe.. And there is a sense that, like the forces of nature, we are not really in control. Our intrinsic hope is that the beneficent force of the predictable and regulating tides and and awareness that somehow a grand rhythm of planetary life - likely beyond our comprehension and imagination - will hold amidst the chaos and return us to a time of less turmoil and violent damage.
A second metaphor coming out of this Easter season is the cross. In my interpretation of the Christian story, Jesus’ crucifixion represents the loss of a precious, courageous, spirit-filled human life as a price for attempting to realign humanity with a world of peace and justice and establishing a “beloved community” based on compassion and inclusiveness. I am grateful for this powerful narrative. It provides a model for moral and ethical behavior for thousands across the globe if they choose to take it seriously. Jesus’ life and death, ultimately, represent a model for people like each of us, dedicated to sustaining the planet and a world community. And there may well be a price for our nonviolent response to the injustice we face.
But in a more universal, symbolic form the horizontal bar of the cross represents where we as individuals - or humankind in general- meet what we experience as the vertical bar ofthe mystical presence the Transcendent. The nexus of the vertical and horizontal is a metaphorical representation of what it means to be fully human, living in the wondrous presence of of our planetary existence and also acknowledging and experiencing the awesome presence of the holy.
All religion depends on symbols to try to capture the “first motion,” the moment when our lives becomes more of a question than an answer - like my day on the rocky coast of Maine when I became aware of the ocean’s power to excite my imagination and respect for the wonder and grandeur of all of life. This awareness is larger than politics, even larger than reason or wisdom. We meet each other and the Transcendent at the nexus of symbol, whether it be the cross, the sea, nature itself, the menorah, the crescent and perhaps thousands of other attempts to capture this “first motion.” May each of find that symbol - or symbols - that remind and assure us that we live in a Presence larger than ourselves. I believe, ultimately, our faithful awareness of this nexus with the Transcendence will provide us with the imagination and perseverance needed to face these difficult times.