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Michaelmas Thoughts

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  • Jo Ann Schwartz
    My thoughts on Dottie s Michaelmas essay are not quite well formed enough to put down yet... Perhaps later this evening or even later this week. In the
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 29, 2004
      My thoughts on Dottie's Michaelmas essay are not quite well formed enough to
      put down yet... Perhaps later this evening or even later this week. In the
      meantime, I'd like to share a thought from Tony Kushner, American playwright
      and author of "Angels in America." It's a pretty simple thought, but
      nonetheless appropriate for this dark time of ours. It is this:

      "Despair Is a Lie We Tell Ourselves."

      A hard truth, perhaps -- especially for seasoned melancholics such as myself.
      <G> I find it difficult to hope in times like these... it's ever so much
      easier to sink into the soft darkness of despair. And yet...

      And yet...

      Earlier today I ducked out of work and headed back to the waldorf school my
      youngest daughter still attends, for today is Michaelmas and I wanted to
      immerse myself in the sights and sounds and movements of the festival once
      more. And so I heard the story (this year of Perseus) and watched the children
      form the dragon and witnessed the living embodiment of the Saint as he slew the
      dragon and freed the children once more. And with the entire community, I sang
      the old songs and danced the spiral dance once more. And one of the songs we
      sang would remind us all:

      We are Saint Michael's warriors with strong heart and mind;
      We forge our way through darkness Saint Michael to find.
      And there he stands in glory; Saint Michael we pray,
      Lead us on to battle and show us thy way.


      This year, for the first time since she began high school, my oldest daughter
      did not skip school to attend Michaelmas. It was her intention to do so, but
      instead she skipped school to attend Michael Moore's GOTV (get out the vote)
      extravaganza down at the local university, working the voter registration
      tables before and after the rally to make sure her peers are not only inspired
      but able to vote.

      I believe the saint would be proud of her.

      There is no time for lies. There is no time for despair. There is work to be
      done, and we needs must be about it.

      Musing on the inner landscape of Michaelmas,
      JoAnn


      ----------------------------------

      [Here is Tony Kushner's essay.]

      Despair Is a Lie We Tell Ourselves
      By Tony Kushner, AlterNet
      Posted on September 14, 2004,

      A Chicago cab driver recently told me, "If there's a supernova 60 light years
      away from here, the world will be totally wiped out. We don't stand a chance."
      He gave me something to think about, namely the fact that life, each individual
      life and our collective life on the planet, is a teleological game. It is not
      infinite, like Bush's justice. It has an ending, and so the future you put your
      faith in is not, in fact, limitless.

      Given the catastrophic failure here and abroad of the Kyoto global warming
      accords, given our newfound post 9-11 imperialist exuberance, given the sagging
      of the world's economy and the IMF-directed refusal to see any solutions beyond
      making poor people suffer even more than they always do in the hopes of
      reviving a market that only ever revives long enough to make the rich even
      richer, given the eagerness in Washington to explore new and tinier kinds of
      nuclear bombs, well, it's sort of optimistic to believe it's a supernova that's
      going to get us. It's clear that what's much more likely to get us, if we are
      got, is our present condition of living in a world run by miscreants while the
      people of the world either have no access to power or have access but have
      forgotten how to get it and why it is important to have it.

      Since I was a little kid I've been told I have choices, the right to make a
      choice. Though I've never been dumb enough to believe that was literally true,
      I've also never been dumb enough to be literal. I have always believed I could
      choose to believe, or not believe, that the arc of the moral universe is long
      but it bends toward justice.

      I do not believe the wicked always win. I believe our despair is a lie we are
      telling ourselves. In many other periods of history, people, ordinary citizens,
      routinely set aside hours, days, time in their lives for doing the work of
      politics, some of which is glam and revolutionary and some of which is dull and
      electoral and tedious and not especially pure � and the world changed because
      of the work they did. That's what we're starting now. It requires setting aside
      the time to do it, and then doing it. Not any single one of us has to or
      possibly can save the world, but together in some sort of concert, in even
      not-especially-coordinated concert, with all of us working where we see work to
      be done, the world will change. And we have to do it by showing up places, our
      bodies in places, turn off the fucking computers, leave the Web and the Net �
      and show up, our bodies at meetings and demos and rallies and leafletting
      corners.

      Because this is a moment in history that needs us to begin, each of us every
      day at her or his own pace, slowly and surely rediscovering how to be
      politically active, how to organize our disparate energies into effective group
      action � and I choose to believe we will do what is required. Act. Organize.
      Assemble. Oppose. Resist. Find a place a cause a group a friend and start,
      today, now now now, continue continue continue. Being politically active is for
      the citizens of a democracy maybe the best way of speaking to God and hearing
      Her answer: You exist. If we are active, if we are activist, She replies to us:
      You specifically exist. Mazel tov. Now get busy, She replies. Maintain the
      world by changing the world.

      So when the supernova comes to get us we don't want to be disappointed in
      ourselves. We should hope to be able to say proudly to the supernova, that
      angel of death, "Hello supernova, we have been expecting you, we know all about
      you, because in our schools we teach science and not creationism, and so we
      have been expecting you, everywhere everyone has been expecting you, except
      Texas. And we would like to say, supernova, in the moment before we are
      returned by your protean fire to our previous inchoate state, clouds of
      incandescent atomic vapor, we'd like to declare that we have tried our best and
      worked hard to make a good and just and free and peaceful world, a world that
      is better for our having been here, at least we believe it is."

      � 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
      View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/19867/

      This essay appears in 'The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's
      Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books),' by 'Soul of a Citizen' author
      Paul Rogat Loeb.
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