Sunday, June 28, 2015

Amazing Grace

If you did not see or read President Obama’s eulogy for Rev./SC State Sen. Clementa Pinckney on Thursday afternoon, you missed something unique and magnificent. The perspective of the President’s language was very Christian because he himself is very Christian and he was offering a eulogy about a minister, so that’s not surprising. But his tribute was particularly eloquent and filled with messages of basic humanism, the possibility for the evolution of human kindness, historic truth, common sense, and social and political necessity, all of which was entirely appropriate in the context of the eulogy and the time in which we live. If you missed it, I encourage you to click on one of the links above.

The President’s core message was that we are blessed by God with grace – the grace to be good people; people capable of love and forgiveness even in response to the most vile wrong-doing and the most heart wrenching grief; and that if we can learn how to live our lives and view others with a more open heart, anything and everything good is possible. Even if you take God out of that scenario and simply view the capacity for grace as something that is a central part of our DNA which we can choose to cultivate or ignore, the message still rings true and is worthy of contemplation and discussion.

As my regular readers know, I embody a great deal of anger, cynicism, and hardcore judgment about things and circumstances I don’t like. I apply this rancor to all the subjects this blog is primarily about: politics, contemporary culture, new technology, and the ruination of the English language. I try to reveal the sense of humor I have that keeps me relatively sane and has so far prevented me from committing acts of violence. But I’ve also discussed my considerable depression and misery.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve twice watched the President deliver the eulogy and read the text once. Besides increasing my respect and affection for him, I’ve thought a lot about the lack of grace I’ve cultivated within myself and wondered (1) if I have the ability to do so and (2) if even the effort would give me a greater sense of inner peace if not outright love, happiness and joy. I don’t know the answer, but I admit that I fear the process, not because of its difficulty, but because I’ve clung to these feelings like a teddy bear for decades.

Indeed, they remind me of a great Robin Williams scene in Moscow On the Hudson, in which he plays a foreign musician and he’s just jammed with a blues band and is talking to one of the American musicians: “When I was in Russia, I did not love my life, but I loved my misery. You know why? Because it was my misery. I could hold it. I could caress it. I loved my misery. You know, I have a whole family I will never ever see again. You see? Now you see. You know it. There it is. Now you know that the saddest thing in the world is life. Yeah, man. Now you see. Thank you. Thank you for a wonderful night. Boy, I feel great. Take care. I love you.”  “If that was wonderful, what happens when he hits deep depression?” 

The murders in South Carolina filled me with a hopeless sadness and fire-breathing rage. The ability of a number of family members of some of the victims to confront the killer in court and express their grace and forgiveness filled me with humbled awe. The President gave me a whole lot to think about. And the Supreme Court’s affirmation of national marriage equality gave me happy hope – and the sense that enough of the Justices had been blessed with true grace.

I don’t know what the lasting impact of the diverse events and language of the last couple of weeks will be for me – or others. I don’t know how I’ll feel or think or what tone my writing will take, especially as the 300-year campaign of the 2016 election moves glacially along. But whatever people’s different feelings about all this may be, none of us can deny that something extraordinary has happened. And that in itself is amazing.


mamazo said...

For so long, I have searched for you. Ira Siegel just let me know of your blog, and I am delighted to have found you. Memories of our childhood are flooding in, and I'm hoping you recall some of the times we spent together.
I am thrilled to now be able to soak up your words and wisdom via your wonderful blog!
Ronni (Spiegel) Zoback

Anonymous said...

Our "Silver Trip" days may be over but I'd love to see you and chit chat. All's well with me and hope with you as well. Jim Barnes