Sitting on a patio reading. Early morning. It is a favorite pastime and a favorite nowtime. The way I see it, the math says I’ve got two or three more decades on this grain of sand in the ever-expanding universe. So many words to find.
My books don’t provide an escape from reality. If anything they help me put current reality in context. Will my learning make me a better and more just citizen? It is my aspiration.
The headlines don’t offer a lot of hope for a life of liberty or happiness for our little bit of space, much less for the rest of the planet. Turf wars and ideological terror consume the attention. All seem to propose a cause and effect based on their world view. A Christian sees it one way and a Muslim or a Jew another. A conservative and a liberal see different stories. A Second Amendment advocate and a pacifist contrast and conflict. Those in poverty and those with means have world views miles apart. The bifurcations abound. That is part of the problem. The world really isn’t black and white (pun intended). It is full of gray and loaded with color that changes depending on what truth is sought and what truth is “found?”
I’ve landed, or at least am temporarily moored in a place where my truth doesn’t have to be yours. Yours doesn’t have to be mine. Truth—as one definition would offer—is a “verified or indisputable fact.” Not much fits here. Hell, we can have a first hand account and iPhone video of an event 5 feet in front of us, and what happened is seldom indisputable. How is one to believe that something someone wrote thousands of years ago, based on accounts passed down, and then translated into a different languages, and selected based on criteria of a committee is, in fact…fact…or truth? How does science render fiction that which we have faith in. And visa versa? We make these choices to follow an idea or a faith or a principle or a creed, sometimes blindly and sometimes informed. Our truth might come through our family or cultural traditions and beliefs. It might come through our personal learning and choice. There’s always Kool-Aid. Whatever our source, it is ours.
This dichotomous quest to make things fit in one box or another cheapens the ability of a human’s potential. We come by it honestly though. Because we seek more trivial pursuits, our belief systems are often informed by the less challenging and much quicker paths. A trendy author’s latest mantra. A Fox News anchor. An evangelist or a local pastor or priest or Imam or Rabi. A blogger or friend who has “inside information.” There’s “my momma said so.” They all have their place. Their own angle influenced by lots or very little input. I respect almost all of it. Your truth is your truth. I don’t want to hurt you because of it. Well, that isn’t exactly the truth…
During a visit this week to the Holocaust museum at our nation’s capital, I had this fantasy of personally arresting the demonic perpetrators of those crimes and putting them through their own devices…literally. Then, as my emotions moved to a lowering tide after almost five hours of immersion, I simply prayed that they and those like them would just “be no more.”
Later, walking the streets of Dupont Circle, I saw the vast colors and the wears and the expressions. I heard the languages and the rhythms and the noise of the city. I felt the tension and the promise of the democratic experiment that is ours. It was beautiful and tragic. It was anxious and so full of hope.
A few hours later, on the short ride to the theatre for an off Broadway production of Laugh, I struck up a conversation with our cabbie. Gatu—ten years in D.C. after immigrating from Ethiopia—had much to say about hope. An economics and political science student in his home country, he fled because of the corruption and the destruction of the human spirit. I asked, “What will change it, Gatu?” His reply was immediate: “We can. We the U.S.” He went on to offer his theories ranging from parameters for economic aid to more extreme measures. “When I have a congressman in my cab—and I know many—I am sure to offer my opinion.” This man came here to make a difference. His idealism is strong. His belief in what we have done and how we might help others is steadfast.
As we exited the cab on this cool and rainy night to enjoy and evening of players on a small stage, I had my own nudge back to the possibilities…a better part of ourselves.
It will not come through claims of “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It will never happen by carving a wildly diverse people into segments of ideology or other man made or natural identifiers and trying to win while another must lose. There are few indisputable facts. And “these truths” are worth exploring in order to uncover the others buried, or right in front of us all.