As the Cynicism Washes Away

The services of Medicare and Medicaid "do not make us a nation of takers, but enable us to be free... We will respond to the threat of climate change... some may deny the power of science... the path towards sustainable energy sources..." We do believe that lasting peace does "not require perpetual war." We must be a source of inspiration to the poor, and on and on and how beautiful. And he -- President Barack Obama, in the inauguration, speaks of women, and of gay people having equality, and voting rights, and immigration. And he seems so brave and the inspiration many of us wanted and hoped for the last time he came to office, four years ago. We "cannot treat name-calling as reasoned debate," and so he continues, not retreating from the issues of justice, and he and the momentum and the agenda and the emotions seem nothing less than amazing.

The cynicism washed away, and it is still missing, I sense and hear as with so many watching. The pomp and ceremony, all the flags waving, all the faces exploding in bright pride as I sit with a husband from Italy whose eyes are welling with tears. There is something about this day that fills heart and mind with hope and pride. And I for one realize that cynicism, as with its cousin skepticism, can't exist in a vacuum, without an attachment to aim, intention to make things better and the faith in those processes and goals.

Sometimes it is so easy to tear down, and sit behind emotion, not letting any in as we/I point out as agnostics that the mention of God is in disagreement with the Constitution or at least the notion of separation of Church and State. Today I don't care, as I see the mention of God as a unifying prayer and hope in the purpose we will need to have -- those of us who can make the time to care, who have the time and the resources to not be in disastrous pain and fear. Today I can go beyond the words and take my place in the center of these emotions, and without fear.

I won't lose my capacity for critical thinking if I take a time out to care and to feel unison with my "fellow Americans," without this second being angry or ready for battle. In writing about the emotions get in the way of thinking -- of the emotional congestion that explodes into fury or detachment -- I can sometimes miss that being carried away by emotion can be a way of unifying feeling and thought within us. The poet Richard Blanco is speaking about oneness, about people opening into the day, about trucks and fruit and milk going alongside us as we go to teach or ring up groceries, "as my mother did for 20 years so I could write this poem for all of us." All of us, what a concept. "The impossible vocabulary of sorrow for 20 children... many prayers but one light... one light... the unexpected songbird on your clothesline... one sky... thank the work of our hands, weaving steel and bridges... the first brush stroke on a painting... One sky... sometimes guessing at the weather of our lives... always one moon... of one country... facing the stars... Waiting for us to name a new constellation... waiting for us to name it, together."

That we are connected is a common phrase, a common notion; that everything is connected is another. That we can breathe in one breath for one minute, that we can forgive everything and everyone, for some moments -- is occurring in the elegance and approachability of the president, the beauty of the day, the mystery and memory of it being the day of Martin Luther King Jr, the actual holiday.

And what I strive for in my writing, having to do with surprise coming to replace superstition and suspicion, here it is. And yes it can, it can happen just like that -- when we process the diversity of the feelings inside of us and can risk letting go of rigid and separate identities for awhile. And if it is right, the day after these feelings, if it meets with the capacity and obligation to understand as fully as we can, we can keep it. And if we need to include more additions to what has been left out, so be it. But as I see now, it doesn't have to end in hatred or the kind of skepticism that can sneer in arrogance, which in the end and beginning and middle, shapes us in negative shades and forms of departure and division.

Can I, an agnostic, pray? The Jewish part of me says quickly, "And why not?" Maybe that's my own spirit of the day that I would like to share with you. Maybe we can come together without gloating or fighting and maybe that experience will change us for the better. How we go about resolving conflicts will influence the outcome, not only of what happens, but of who we are and who we will become. Amen....and wow.

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