Recently, a friend on Facebook posted,
A guy who has worked in progressive grassroots political organizing for many years is jolted awake in a cold sweat from a dream in which he looked into a mirror and saw Don Quixote staring out at him.
I found this interesting for a couple of reasons. One is thinking about Don Quixote. The first part of my reply was
My association to this … is the beginning of Don Quixote:
"You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever he was at leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself up to reading ..."
When I studied the text back in college we talked about the social context, how it was inspired response to the growth of novel reading brought about by the printing press.
How does this relate to today's Don Quixotes giving themselves up to reading social media brought about by the internet, and posting responses, thinking that this accounts to meaningful political activism?
The other part of my response referenced my long time interest in social dreaming. I participated in some online social dreaming matrixes years ago and remain interested in the subject.
A starting point for this is The Third Reich of Dreams: The Nightmares of a Nation, 1933-39 by Charlotte Beradt. What can our dreams tell us about what is going on, that we might not be able to see otherwise? As I think about it, I wonder, to what extent, we can apply ideas from social dreaming matrixes to social media.
There are fragments of two dreams from last night that have stayed with me today. In one, I was at a restaurant with a bunch of people I knew. I learned that one of them had died and two of them had disappeared, but I don’t remember much else about it.
In the second dream, I was traveling around, plugging in my electric car to recharge. There was some sort of time travel involved so I could see how the distribution of charging stations had changed over time, and could select whichever time period I wanted.
I don’t have much for associations with either of these dreams.x
And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.
This is how David Foster Wallace introduces his famous 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, “This is Water”.
Yet I have to wonder, is it really the ‘liberal arts education’ that does this? Can we get this without going to a liberal arts college? I’m taking a MOOC right now about Walt Whitman. Reading Walt Whitman breathes a little life into the day in, day out existence. So does a sacred scarf, a beautiful sunrise, and a few moments of silence in church.
Today, I spoke with my daughter Miranda and her efforts in the arts as it relates to tiny houses. I’ve seen people talk about the difference between tiny houses, RVs and mobile homes. Some of the discussions have talked about sustainability, others about supporting local artisans. Yet perhaps the big question is, how much art is there? How much of whatever David Foster Wallace was speaking about that keeps us from going through life unconscious?
I spoke with a homeless friend this evening. I know people who are looking at tiny houses to address homelessness. For some people, a tiny house, any sort of a house, is about having basic needs met, the physiological and safety needs from the base of Maslow’s hierarchy. Many people I know who live in nice houses, view their houses in this way. Yet what if our houses were meeting our needs of esteem or self-actualization?
It may seem to many that these sort of houses are reserved for the very rich who can have their dwellings designed by famous architects and built by master craftsmen. Yet this may be where the tiny house movement has some of its most important appeal. If you focus on form and function, and not on how many square feet a McMansion takes up, you can have a house that is a work of art.
Housing: Conceptual art and interactive sculpture, a chance to live deliberatively.
The freezing rain glazed the highway as we crept homeward. Unconsciously, I ran my fingers over the blue scarf. During another winter’s storm, my sister slid off the road. I’ve known those moments myself, the car sliding, out of control, everything happening all at once yet seeming to take forever, and then life forever changed. I felt my mother’s presence in the yarn.
I have no idea when she got the yarn. It was probably over twenty years ago, perhaps when one of my daughters was born. Throughout much of my life, my mother was always knitting, and the basement was full of yarn she had picked up for one project or another. Yet has her tremors got worse she couldn’t continue her knitting.
When we cleaned out her house, I agreed to talk the yarn and fabrics, and now I have a garage full of fiber projects waiting to be completed. My daughters have taken up where my mother left off.
The scarf is narrower than the scarves I made as a kid. The width is more like that of a priest’s stole. Did my daughter knit it out of yarn that had been intended for her baby blanket? Was the circle somehow completed when she knit the scarf and gave it to me? Were we somehow connected through this sacred scarf, my mother, my daughter, and I?
We passed cars that had slid off the road. Cars like those that held my sister and mother years ago. Unconsciously, I ran my over the blue scarf. I felt the warm of the cloth, of my mother’s love, my daughter’s love, and knew that we would make it safely home.
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.
At vestry this evening, we talked about our church’s budget, the upcoming annual meeting and how all of this relates to our hopes and aspirations, to that vision thing. Driving home, I listened to some of the State of the Union speech, and I suspect any parts of that vision thing in the speech will get lost behind the partisan rancor.
It seems as if we are losing sight of that vision thing, that oratory is getting lost. I won’t comment on the budget President Obama will be presenting. I won’t comment on the budget the vestry has approved.
Instead, let me reflect on a comment at vestry. One person talked about how budgets and visions are not separate things. Budgets are moral documents. They reflect what we really believe. Budgets should be how we pursue our visions. Instead, too many people’s visions seem to be only about specific budgets.
Our vision needs to include those around us, those that are different from us, and those that shall cross from shore to shore years hence.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when alll of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3
Martin Luther King Day.
The CHC Blog post: Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day!
The Universal Health Care Foundation Blog post: You May Say I’m A Dreamer…
The HealthJustice CT Blog post: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”