Friday, December 16, 2005
Let no foreigner who has attached himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people’. Let no eunuch say, ‘And I, I am a dried-up tree’. (Is 53:2-4)The trees - the trees! - wagged their skeltal winter fingers at us but we huddled against them and each other for warmth, the warmth of companionship and bonhomie against the frigid wind. Responsibility was a small herb in the kitchen garden then, not the huge shade tree it is now, now that we are battling demons both real and imagined.
We dabbled at irresponsibility beside the Village Green while our elders went about their bustle, their hustle, and you and I wanted to figure it all out beforehand, to walk into it prepared, with all of our equipment on, while never realizing for a moment that to wait to be prepared would be to wait forever.
The words of Isaiah sang to us, the scripture cribbed itself in our blood for we were foreigners in a foreign land and this was the first crack of sunlight. Youth we extended as far as we could, like gamblers who ran till the money ran out. We never bought into the system because the system was flawed. How could we feel responsibility when the system was flawed? It never occurred to us that Someone bought into a flawed system. He didn’t wash His hands.
We tramped from Maine to California looking for authenticity while scrupulously taking care not to infect it with our lack thereof. Wherever we found it we ran from it quickly less we corrupt it, but we saved the sliver we caught and had it laminated at the nearest Kinkos and carried it with us like a totem. We planned on collecting authenticities till we had a "set" although how do you collect a set that was limitless?
I once haunted the rail cars outside Kansas City looking for hobos since I'd read that such folks once existed and I wanted to see the last American hobo if I could. And I came across an Irish troubador named Makem and I asked for some sort of proof, some sort of Hobo's Union card, and I wasn't sure if he was real Irish. What if his brogue was affected and I didn't know it? How would I know it?
But he sang and talked, and talked and sang, and carried on deep into the night and a convergence of things made me think him real. There were echoes of the hard-living actor Peter O'Toole in his earthy blend of honesty and poetry. It didn't hurt that he was older than the hills since there is something authentic in someone so old, so close to the exit door.
He sang simple songs because he said God was simple and people were complex and he'd rather be close to God than people. I pondered that for a moment, pondered if I much liked simplicity. I thought if I'd had my druthers I'd druther God be complicated. But Makem said that once you go simple, you don't go back. I eventually agreed only because complicated wasn't much working...
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