It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
~ Mary Oliver
I think a lot of us have been praying this week. These past few weeks. This whole summer.
Or maybe now, in retrospect, we realize we were praying. Or we should have been.
During a recent encounter on social media, a friend of mine, who is a brilliant professor at a leading American law school, was trying to think about two legal stories in the news media: Donald Trump’s statement that the judge in a civil case against him should recuse himself because of his Mexican heritage; and calls for the removal of a judge who gave a short sentence to Brock Turner, a Stanford University student convicted of rape.
As you may have heard, the Washington Metro subway is in bad shape. So bad, in fact, that they had to shut down the entire system for a day to do emergency repairs earlier this year. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: the Metro is in such a state of disrepair that the system may have to shut down some lines for months at a time.
Years ago, just after I graduated rabbinic school, I remember being at a training retreat for Hillel student interns. These were students who had not previously been involved in Jewish life on campus, and who were recruited to be part of a cohort that would deepen their own connection with Jewish life while engaging their peers in Jewish experiences.
“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
Politics is a conversation, an ongoing dialogue and negotiation that enables us to live together. And like all conversations in all relationships, politics involves the ideas, feelings, and bodies of the other people we live with—which is what makes it hard work. We have to sacrifice for each other, and we have to trust that our sacrifices will be reciprocated.
I read an interesting article on CNN last week, which compared two speeches by Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
[Secretary Clinton] used the pronouns "I" or "me" in that speech 44 times. She used the words "we" or "us" less than half that amount - 21 times.
Here’s a conundrum: Whenever we’re leading group conversations, we want people to be engaged. So we want to ask them questions that are personally relevant to them. At the same time, if the questions we ask are too narrow, we may only wind up with a collection of personal stories, but not with a sense of something larger.
How do we find the balance?