Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Each Of Us And All Of Us

My personal Fourth of July tradition, at least since we moved to the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle six years ago, is to walk around the lake as our community gathers to watch the fireworks. It's about a six mile urban hike around this lake at the heart of our city. I'm not a big fan of the fireworks themselves, and in fact last night I was asleep before the explosions started, but I do love the spectacle of our community coming together to celebrate, well . . . anything.

I felt the same way last weekend when Pride events took over Capitol Hill and downtown and two weekends before that when we celebrated the summer solstice. I enjoy knowing that all across our nation, people were coming together last night in honor of us, we the people.

It's easy to be down on the United States. To be honest, it always has been. Like any human creation, we're a flawed, even dangerous mess, and while I'm fully aware of the many things we must learn to do better, there is still cause to celebrate. I often find myself feeling about my country the way I feel about our school. I tend to spend most of my day-to-day energy noodling over the things that are wrong, the things that could be better, the things that need to be fixed, the things that need to be done. The same could be said for my household or even my family: when I come home I notice the dust bunnies instead of the beautiful art we've hung or the view from the windows; I fret about our family's challenges rather than glowing about our wonders. Of course, we all do it to some extent, and that's because we feel responsible, which is a good thing.

I often imagine how freeing it would feel to throw up my hands, to make a break for it, to find some secluded, off-the-grid sort of place where I can stop being responsible, where the problems are not mine. I imagine that I could learn to awake each morning and be satisfied with what I already have, to accept the things that happen, to shrug at the difficulties and leave the challenges to someone else. I sometimes think I would love to never find myself lying in bed fretting over this or that, but when I walk around a lake named Union I come back proud of the part I play in all my communities both large and small, and indeed, that these communities are the reason I'm here.

A friend recently went on a rant about how he's afraid we're approaching "the end times." Maybe we are, for all I know, but he's not the first to express this fear. Indeed, his rant is part of a long tradition: to some extent every generation thinks they are living in the end times. And, honestly, they've always been right. Tomorrow will not be like today, some things will fade away and new things will come to take their place. Every moment is the end to something. We just hope it's not something we cherish.

As I walked around the lake, seeing families of all makes and models, spreading out their beach towels, setting up their lawn chairs, and grilling their hot dogs, I wondered what the founders would think could they walk among us 230 years later. I'm sure much of what we've accomplished would blow their minds. And likewise, they would be appalled, just as we will be astonished and appalled at the world outside our nursing home windows.

I found myself celebrating last night by loving my fellow citizens in all their imperfections. These are the people with whom I create reality day after day. And what is reality anyway if it isn't largely a product of the agreements we've made with one another? This is the reality of our days together at the Woodland Park Cooperative School. It's the reality of my family. It's the reality of my city and of my nation. And we together are responsible for all of it: each of us and all of us.

I can grumble about the government or the bankers or the propagandists as much as the next guy, but ultimately they are just part of this fitful dream I am having along with the rest of you. We get up each day and create this life together through what we do and what we don't do, through what we speak aloud and what we keep to ourselves, through what we fight and what we accept, through what we attend to and what we neglect. We are all responsible which is why it keeps us up at night.

Days like yesterday are for admiring our accomplishments. Today, we can go back to worrying about the dust bunnies. And now a question: how would you live if you knew that you would eventually wake up? How would you play in this dream we are dreaming together?

Thank you all for playing with me. I'm eager to see what we will do today.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would continue to meet the moment.

Thank you for doing the math: 230 years(!).