Friday, March 10, 2017

Be here now

     I remember hearing Iliff School of Theology''s  late Professor Vincent Harding say something to the effect that "I live in a country that does not yet exist".  Harding was a important figure in the fight for Civil Rights "back in the day". He was a friend and colleague of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. He wrote much of King's famous anti-Vietnam speech, "A Time to Break Silence". In short, he was passionate about working to make the "country that doesn't not yet exist" into a reality. In other words, Harding lived HERE; he was realistic about the current situation, but hungered for something better.
      What a difference from those who would look (or live) THERE, with "there" defined as being either in the future or the past. Living in the past "there" means trying to replicate patterns or institutions that may have been good once, but are not about HERE. Living in a past "there", one cherry picks the good memories, without recalling the bad ones.  Likewise, living solely in a future "there" means discounting the realities of HERE that need to be addressed now to ensure that that future "there" can be possible.  
        “Wherever you are is called Here" writes poet David Wagoner, "And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.”* I heard this in a interview with Pádraig Ó Tuama, and it struck home, especially given our propensity not to live in the present -- the present moment or the present place. For if we are HERE we must live with the powerful strangers that we encounter.  So much easier to go THERE, either in time or in (virtual) space, than to deal with the realities before us.
        Of course, however, the "powerful strangers" that we may seek to avoid just might be our allies (even if in ways they don't realize) rather than our adversaries. I have learned that lesson too often to keep count, but not often enough that I consistently live it.
         Who knew HERE could be so complicated!? But it may make for a much better THERE.


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