READING SAMUEL GREEN AND RUMINATING ABOUT 9-11

9-11 Ground Zero MemorialExcerpts from Samuel Green’s book of poems THE ONLY TIME WE HAVE (Sedro-Wooley, WA: Grey Spider Press, 2002) are guiding me in blessed ways as we approach the collective remembrance of September 11, 2001.

Green is a powerful poet who produces wonderfully made books in his very private domain on Waldron Island, in the San Juan archipelago in the Pacific Northwest.

About his initial response to the attacks in NYC, Washington, DC, and in the Pennsylvania countryside, Green compares the U.S.’s encounter with terrorism in 2001 with the experience of a bird slamming into a window: “A nuthatch slams into the bay/ window…./… How could she ever move/ past this moment without the grace/ of necessity? How could any of us?”

In another poem Green reflects on a grace-laced experience in New York City one month after the attacks of 9-11. Green pays tribute to a big-hearted New Yorker who went way out of his way and took Green directly to the address he needed to get to. He ends the poem this way: “…. No one, he says,/ should be lost when someone else/ knows the way.”

Years after a horrifically indelible mark was left on the soul of the world, those two notions – “the grace of necessity…” and “…. No one … should be lost when someone else knows the way” – seem healingly appropriate. I hope and trust all of us, along our own particular and personal paths, are receiving such grace and finding/showing the way.

— Bob Hill

DIVERSITY OR ADVERSITY: WHICH WILL WE TEACH?

Diversity-2Of course we must resolve to teach Diversity in all of its resplendent richness! Diversity is the preferred “modus operandi” for any growing culture, any successful institution, and any person serious about human maturation. It is only by reaching toward an appreciation of diversity that we can truly participate in a whole-hearted and full-blooded affirmation of the human family in its entirety.

May I suggest that we respond to the thematic challenge by yoking it with another, one which Dr. King asked in the time of his flesh among us as he embodied his great work on behalf of all people: “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.” (from “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in Why We Can’t Wait, 1963) The pressing question in our own time is “Will we be extremists for adversity or extremists for diversity?”

The brand of extremism posed by those championing adversarial relationships is a potion laced with exclusion, enmity, and an excessive gall toward anything and everything that is not like them. Theirs is a recipe for revenge and retribution toward anyone who avows a perspective — theological, political, social, or otherwise — different from theirs. Theirs is a toxic pollutant intended to foul all tributaries of discussion except for those which can pass their standards of “purification.” In the face of the efforts of those who would promote adversity, let us band together with a commitment to an “extremist” position which is a clear, diverse alternative. And let our “extremism” be permeated with the following guiding principles.

** Creativity is always to be prized. And creativity often involves conflicts with prevailing norms of taste, cultural preferences, and occasional taboos. The exercise of creativity is sometimes painful, but it is one of the dynamics which clearly defines us as human.

** Politics without compromise is totalitarianism, and leaves no room for democratic discussion.

** The search for peace — on any level, personal, familial, filial, professional, relational, and societal — is at the heart of the religious quest. That which does not make for peace is ultimately not of God.

** Love without justice is soft, and fuzzy, and mostly innocuous; justice without love is cruel, and brutish, and ultimately reptilian. The balance between love and justice is always to be treasured as an ultimate hope by people of good will.

** The need to blame — God, others, oneself — seems endemic to the human creature, but it can be overcome with tolerance, forgiveness, and patience.

** Toleration is only a first step which should lead eventually to celebration.

** The worst slight any human being can inflict on others is to treat them as if they are invisible. All people — regardless of their form of “extremism”– are to be regarded as “Children of God,” no exceptions.

Let us be extremists for Diversity!

— Bob Hill