Life’s Lenten Illusions

It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve written a blog entry here. There has been so much going on that I just haven’t had a good chance to write. I’m several hundred emails behind and haven’t been able to catch up in over a month now. I haven’t been reading through my bloglines, haven’t been to any of my favorite social networks. I’m simply on overload.

Much of this is from activity around the Ned Lamont campaign. Also, various work activities for Toomre Capital Markets as well as technical difficulties for SmartCampaigns have sucked up all of my time.

My emotional energy is pretty low. Most of my work these days has been of the political sort and that doesn’t pay nearly as well as the old Wall Street days. Because of this, it is probably time to downsize and sell the house we call Orient Lodge. I’ve been here for almost fifteen years and that transition looks especially difficult, and I worry that it will seem even more difficult for my kids.

The other day, Mairead called from school. It sounds as if she is doing incredibly well, but is restless. I told her I understood what she was saying and didn’t tell her she needed more sleep, more fiber in her diet or some other panacea. I simply told her, I know how she feels.

We talked a little bit about Bruce Sterling’s book Zeitgeist, which Publisher’s Weekly describes as ‘Rife with profound ruminations on the "master narrative" of life’. Yeah, the “master narrative”. This overload of work. This Sisyphusian feeling. Back to my own ruminations.

What am I doing, really? How does it fit into the greater pattern, the ‘circle of life’, or Walt Whitman would say,

“The impalpable sustenance of me from all things, at all hours of the day; The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme—myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated, yet part of the scheme: The similitudes of the past, and those of the future;”

Staying with the poetic theme for a moment, I find myself with Robert Frost, ”weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood”.

So, what does the master narrative look like these days? A bunch of friends of mine are group psychotherapists who have this wonderful mailing list; yet another mailing I don’t have enough time to keep up with.

I’ve often thought about the parallels between different groups we are all part of, some of that well-join’d scheme Whitman talks about. How are these groups reflecting the master narrative these days?

As I thought about this, I wondered how they would respond to this scenario. What does a school psychologist have to say to a kid who witnessed some horrible violence on the playground five years ago? Some of the more vocal popular kids spend their time talking about getting back at the perpetrators. They seem to feed on the other kids sense of anger and fear and take advantage of them. The school psychologists note that the kids don’t play together as much anymore. Their interest in school is diminished and they are not performing as well as they had been. What to do?

Yeah. Maybe it’s a not very thinly veiled allegory of what is going on in U.S. politics these days. We need to get our sense of community back. We need to get people playing together more, get more people involved in the politics and governance of their country. We need to bring back some hope and joy to all aspects of our country.

Today, I went to a gathering of political activists up in Litchfield County. There were people there that have become good friends, people I was glad to see. I spoke about the hope and joy of civic involvement that I am seeing people in the Lamont campaign have.

I talked about one of the best pieces of campaign material I’ve seen in ages. Chris Murphy’s campaign handed out an eight by eleven piece of paper as the swag at the State Democratic Party fundraising dinner last Thursday night. It had ‘Chris Murphy for Congress’ circled with a dashed lines. The instructions spoke about cutting out the circle and taping a safety pin to it. It suggested using crayons or markers to color the cut-out, and the final instruction was ‘Enjoy!’

Man, it was beautiful. Fun, participatory democracy at its best.

A week ago, I went, as a blogger, to a fundraiser for Joe Courtney. I told Joe and his campaign staff that I loved his $5 bowling night. It was a sharp contrast to the $2000 bowling night his opponent had down in Washington. It was another great example of fun, participatory democracy at its best.

Kim and Fiona went to the aquarium while I went to the fundraiser. On the way home, we stopped at one of our favorite seafood restaurants. There was a band playing a great mix of all the sort of sounds you would expect, everything from Chicken Dance and probably a polka or two to some of the greatest hits from the fifties and sixties. Older folks were dancing as younger folks swallowed their steamers and beer.

As we sat there, four college kids came in. My guess is that each girl probably spent more money on shampoo for her long silky hair than Kim, Fiona and I were spending on our meal. The all American clean-cut boys matched them perfectly.

It was like a scene out of Mystic Pizza as the ambiance of the seafood joint hit them square in the face and then washed over them. They too, sat at their table, eating their seafood and drinking their beer. Kim commented about the joint being the perfect meeting place of the blue collar and the blue blood.

As we drove home, I told Fiona a story. She always wants a story in the car, especially if it is late in the evening and she is likely to fall asleep before we get home. She normally asks for a ghost story. The ghost story is a formula. A young girl goes on an adventure. She meets a scary ghost. She comes to understand the fear and become friends with the ghost. Perhaps that, too, is part of master narrative, or at least should be.

Yet, Kim and I have grown weary of telling variations of that story, so I’ve been trying to bring in a new set of stories. As we drove home, I told Fiona about my childhood. I talked about working in the garden, and how if we were lucky, on those hot humid summer days, we would go to a lake for a swim. I talked about how often, late in the afternoon, a large thunderstorm would build. I told an idealized version of the story, idyllic, leaving out the fights between siblings and all the other tensions that were below the surface and that I, as a youngster, felt, but couldn’t name or describe. This too, perhaps, is part of the master narrative, both the idyllic and the unspoken.

So now, it is getting late. I’ve taken too much time away from my other duties. I’ll flip the pages and find out how parts of my story progress. I’ll find out if we do end up having to move and if so, what that looks like. I’ll find out if Kim and I can do stuff to help bring hope, joy and a sense of community back to the political process, if Ned, Chris, Joe and others can be the sort of candidates that help with this.

If it is any sort of morning in America right now, it is that part of the morning that seems darkest before the dawn. Yet the sun will rise again. We will rediscover the similitudes of the past, and remember our common humanity, or at least it’s life illusions I’ll recall.

For those of you in the Christian tradition, let’s have our Lenten reflection as we approach Easter.

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