A storm had been brewing in the North Atlantic, but as of this weekend the clouds had passed over the Irish Sea. As is common with the nasty storms that come from the roiling sea, the landscape was left forever changed – softened, gentler, and deeply appreciative of the all too rare sun.
The storm that passed over Ireland was the debate on whether to enshrine Marriage Equity in the Constitution, a document that has weathered similar storms in the scant 78 years since it was adopted. This time, however, Ireland was changing not just to catch up with the times but to lead them. It’s worth discussing on both sides of the stormy Atlantic and around the world.
The scraggly oak trees intertwine their branches in a tall ceiling that shades the entire drive. Here, the appropriate view of the eternal isn’t blue and bright, but sheltered and close to the ground. The rows of marble and granite dazzled by bright flowers have their own quiet redemption as the slow speed limit and a gentle wave from each passerby gives the setting grace.
This is Oakland Cemetery, Saint Paul’s municipal cemetery, founded in 1853.
Everyone has the experience at some time. You’ve read a book or seen a movie that you absolutely loved, and you want to tell the world about your new obsession. You might even know someone that you’d love to share this new world with. So you start telling them about the intricate details of the plot and characters and after rambling on and on … and then you see their eyes slowly glaze over. What went wrong? Often it’s that you had suspended your disbelief in something that sounds too absurd to tell easily. It makes sense to you, but the retelling leaves you sounding a bit crazy.
This doesn’t just happen with fiction. A disconnected world requires a lot of suspension of disbelief.
A reflection for May Day, the International Worker’s Day.
Imagine for a moment that you live in the most fair and equitable economy you can dream up. There are some very specific things that most people in the developed world, especially Americans, would think would be a part of this.
There would be upward mobility, where family circumstances do not determine the kids’ future. People could find their own way according to their own talents and choices as to what makes a good life. Money would rarely limit dreams, as a free-flowing capital market would provide funding for good ideas at reasonable rates. Most would own their own homes and have control over their own destiny. Workers would own the company they work for, banking their retirement at a reasonable age on the place that they helped build. Basics like food and access to health care would not be expensive.
Such a place is the embodiment of pieces of both the Democratic and Republican parties in odd turns. This place of the imagination has also been pretty close to the perfect state envisioned by Karl Marx, although it may be descending into an oligarchy (which I prefer to call “gangster state”).
The violence in Baltimore has gutted the city far more than can be seen by charred hulks of cars and buildings. A general riot like this demonstrates how a complete breakdown in order is always close to the surface – and how “order” itself is always a manufactured concept. It has to be made, it has to be worked at by everyone every day. It is hard work sometimes, too, and it starts with basic civility and respect.
Ask anyone in Baltimore, especially in the affected areas, if they are surprised by this. I doubt you’ll find a single person who is. Baltimore City Council Member Brandon Scott cited “a long, long, longstanding issue with young African-Americans.” It was a long time coming, and it will be a long time before it is repaired. But away from the teevee cameras there is a genuine movement, and it will be better. It’s going to take your help, however – even if you live far from Baltimore.
“Everyone is an idiot, not just the people with low SAT scores. The only differences among us is that we’re idiots about different things at different times. No matter how smart you are, you spend much of your day being an idiot.”
– Scott Adams, “The Dilbert Principle”
We all know someone who just can’t handle something we consider part of daily life. The guy who simply doesn’t “get” facebook, the woman with no interest in a cell phone, and in urban areas like St Paul even people who refuse to drive. These are all complications that are a bit too much for their simple life.
There are limits for everyone in this world of increasing complexity. We all hit them constantly, too. For many people, however, life itself just gets past them.
If God really spoke to us today, what would he say? It’s a question for either prophets or heretics, and neither has a good fate before them. Unless they wind up on teevee – that washes away all the sins apparently. But this question came to my mind on a sleepless night rendered suddenly still after a bumpy ride through the earthly wake left behind by my brother’s passing. If you know Mark Twain’s “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” this won’t seem so strange. So forgive my heresy.