Aldon Hynes's blog

A Birthday Thank You!

It’s been a very long day, between work stuff, family stuff, and my birthday. Every day, I look at Facebook to see which friends have birthdays and I wish them a Happy Birthday. Today, hundreds of people wished me Happy Birthday. As much as I could, I thanked people and wrote them brief notes, but many more went unthanked, so I am thanking you here.

Some of the wishes came from childhood friends and neighbors. Some were high school or college friends. Others were from the church I attended after college in New York City. There were birthday greetings from co-workers past and present, from people whom I’ve campaigned with. Elected officials wished me happy birthday, as did friends who ran for office and didn’t get elected, and of course, various people from social media.

So, while it has been a long day, with its various difficulties, it has also been a great day. Thank you to everyone who was wished me happy birthday. Thank you to everyone who has been part of my life over these past fifty-six years.

Some people’s wishes were in the form, may this coming year be a great year. I believe it will be, partly because of so many great friends.

Thank you.

Update: Facebook has blocked me from commenting. Here is the question I asked:

How many birthday wishes can you comment on per day before Facebook blocks you?

Today was my birthday. I have received over 300 Happy Birthday wishes. I try to thank each person individually, However, starting late this afternoon, I started receiving the message:

"The content you requested cannot be displayed right now. It may be temporarily unavailable, the link you clicked on may have expired, or you may not have permission to view this page."

whenever I attempted to comment on any post.

How many friends' birthday wishes can you reply to, before Facebook stops allowing you to post comments? How long do they prevent you from commenting? And why doesn't Facebook want people to respond to birthday wishes?

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Last night, they found the body of the seven month old baby thrown from a bridge by his father when his father attempted suicide. How do you make sense of this? I’m not sure you can.

In the evening, I stopped at the vigil.

Perhaps art can help us as well. I’ve been listening to the playlist of 2015 Falcon Ridge Emerging Artists. One of the songs that jumped out at me was Camela WIdad’s My Turn. It reminds me of another moving song, David Silva’s It Will All Be Perfect.

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In “My Bright Abyss”, Christian Wiman writes about the tension he felt between art and “the hunger for an experience of life that was immediate, unmediated”. It made me think of the great labor chant, “our life is more than our work, and our work is more than our job.”

For me, this resonates deeply with additional layers. Wiman goes on to talk about this in terms of one’s experience of God. For me the layers are even more complicated.

Over the past few days, as I’ve driven to work, looking at the beautiful scenery, the mist and the clouds, I’ve been listening to my Spotify playlist of 2015 Falcon Ridge Emerging Artists. There are some beautiful songs on the playlist. I especially like the songs that tell stories, the ballads. Mediated experiences of other people’s lives. It strengthens my empathy. It broadens my perspective. While the songs are telling their stories, I’m living out mine in the car. Do I have time to stop and play a little bit of Ingress along the way? Can I take in the scenery as I think about the work for the day?

In a few weeks, I’m planning to take time off to go see several plays as part of the New York Fringe Festival. There, I will live out my story again, as I experience mediated versions of other people’s stories.

I plan on writing about the songs I like from the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artists. I plan on writing about the plays I like at the New York Fringe festival. This will be my experience too, as I write my thoughts about other people’s art about other people’s experience. Underneath all of this, is the experience of God’s love, the beauty of God’s creation, contrasted with suffering, and times that God feels remote, far away, like an abstract concept, or perhaps even non-existent.

So, I get up early and go to work. I try to find time to write. I try to find time to experience life unmediated. I try to find time for family. I try to find time for God. Yet I also must try to find time to relax, to keep the Sabbath holy, “for He gives to his beloved rest.”

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It’s hard to concentrate
as the helicopter
flies up and down the river,

I read old emails
from a father and son
about a website
we worked on,

Then I glance at the news
about the father
whose only son
was stabbed to death.

I can’t imagine the pain.

It’s hard to concentrate
as the helicopter
flies up and down the river.

I read Facebook
where a friend posts
about the seven year old boy
who was killed by a gunman
aiming for his father.

I can’t imagine the pain.

It’s hard to concentrate
as the helicopter
flies up and down the river,

I take a walk at lunch time
Three rescue trucks
return to the firehouse
and the baby boy
believed to be thrown
from the arching bridge
by a young man attempting suicide
still hasn’t been found.

I can’t imagine the pain.

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Rent: What Would Jesus See?

In the 1980s I lived in New York City and attended an East Village church with many friends who were struggling artists. I would go to off off Broadway shows to see them perform in Israel Horowitz’ ‘Line’ where the cast often outnumbered the audience made up of friends of the actors, and if they were lucky a potential manager who had already seen Line forty-three times but wanted to see how well a potential client could really act.

The adult Sunday School classes were often on topics like Christianity and literature and we would discuss Christian themes in the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, W. H. Auden, and Flannery O'Connor. We would talk about what it means to be created in the image of our Creator. We would talk about the Gospel in the contemporary context of AIDS and drug addiction.

Years later, I saw a local high school production of ‘Rent’ and thought back to those days, those friends and their struggles. Four years later, after Sandy Hook, the local high school produced Sweeny Todd and a group of townspeople organized against it, led by a local priest. They were concerned about the depiction of violence. I attended a Board of Education meeting, and spoke in agreement with those concerned with the depiction of violence I encouraged everyone to attend the musical, and then to gather with friends to discuss it and broader topics of violence in society.

Another person who testified at that hearing was Howard Sherman, and I started following his blog. Recently, he wrote about church leaders in Tullahoma, TN criticizing a production of Rent there.

I shared the following as a comment on Howard’s blog post:

As a devote Christian, I agree with part of what Pastor Wayne says, "Jesus should be our moral compass". If we look at the New Testament, we find Jesus healing and breaking bread with characters not much different than the characters in Rent. Personally, I believe that one of the best ways to get a richer understanding of the Gospel is to attend Rent, asking yourself, when Jesus told us to love or neighbors as ourselves, who did he have in mind?

As I suggested when our local school produced Sweeny Todd, go see the play, and then get together with friends and discuss the underlying themes. In the broader context, I’ll take a phrase kicked around a bit and apply it here. “What Would Jesus See?” I suspect Jesus would see plays about suffering, love, and redemption. Rent would probably be high on that list.

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