Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bold Conspirators of the Light

Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, December 30, 2001

There is an image from a reading I used in my Christmas Eve reflections that has kept playing around in my mind, ever since I first came across it a week or so ago. It’s from a Christmas sonnet, from an otherwise unknown poet named Ted Conklin. I know that you don’t hang on every word I say up here, but perhaps some of you might remember the poem:
Mr. Conklin writes:
Consider what one star does to a night,
One song to watchers on a lonely hill,
One candle, burning on a window-sill,
To a dark street. Think with what lovely light
One mother’s smile transforms to glory bright
Even a stable; or, when all is still,
One infant cry the careless heart can thrill,
One whispered hope prove more than armed might.
Then ponder how one man of humble birth,
Short-lived but Godward bent through all his course,
Has changed a world. Imagine what might be,
Since we are now so many souls, if we,
Using God’s best (perhaps God’s one real force)
Conspired to let God’s love loose upon the earth!
“Imagine what might be… if we… conspired to let God’s love loose upon the earth!”
Imagine what might be if we—all of us—chose to become bold conspirators of the light in the new year that is before us.
That image won’t let me go. The imagining of it won’t let me go.
That image has stayed with me, as I said, playing itself over and over in my mind.
Perhaps it is because in this year that is now drawing to a close we have all beheld those awful conspiracies of darkness—the scheming of mad, evil men, who in their awful plotting, in their dastardly genius, have accomplished the unimaginable, the unspeakably awful.
What would it be like, I think to myself, if the rest of us—people of goodwill (or at least, who hold no great ill will toward any others)—everyday people like you and me—could summon the discipline, the creativity, the steadfast dedication to their cause—that Atta and the other September 11th conspirators had?
Of course, as Yeats wrote, very often in the course of human events “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”. But does it always have to be that way? Is there something in our human nature that binds us inescapably to the lethargy and limitations of the past? Is there some Sisyphean tragedy in our human souls, that makes us roll the blasted rock up the hill, year after year, only to have it inevitably roll back down upon us, December after December? Have we grown so comfortably numb in our little lives that we no longer have within us the will and the strength to commit to something greater? Have we grown so weary of the vicissitudes of life that we now despair that any real human progress is possible any longer? Have we given up hope—or have we just given up—allowing the blood-dimmed tide to drown, once and for all, all that is innocent in our world?
No, it’s not that bad. Despair has not yet finally triumphed. And everywhere we look, there are examples of human heroism and saintliness that thrill our hearts and can almost bring us to tears.
Here’s just one story (and for every one like this, there are countless others):
A few years ago, at the Special Olympics in Seattle, nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. At the gun, they all started out, all doing their best to finish the race, and to win. All, that is, except one little boy who stumbled on the asphalt near the beginning of the track, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry. When the other eight runners heard the boy’s cries, they all slowed down and looked back. Perhaps they exchanged subtle glances with one another, for in that instant, a conspiracy of the light was formed among them.
They all turned around and went back-- every one of them. One young girl with Down's Syndrome bent down and kissed the boy who had fallen, and said to him: "This will make it better." The others then helped the boy get up from the ground, and all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line. They were all the winners of the race, because they taught us all an important lesson: What matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What matters in this life is helping others to win, even if that means changing our course, and sacrificing a little bit of our own glory, a few of our own particular needs and wants, to serve others and care for the Earth.
As every new year dawns, the thrill and anticipation we feel in our hearts pays homage to the heroes around us and to the heroic within our own hearts. Even amidst our realism, even in our cynicism perhaps, even as we sing our songs of experience to one another, there is nevertheless something that continues to usher forth a surge of hope within us the dawn of each new year. Especially when the night before us has been especially dark, we assume that the light of the new dawn will appear to us all the more magnificently.
“One cannot choose the time in which one lives,” the wizard Gandulf tells Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Rings. “One can only choose how one lives within one’s own time.”
A dangerous world dares us to form with one another a fellowship of goodwill, to become bold conspirators of the light.
Jeffrey Davis has written:
…A few weeks ago… on my ham radio… I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was talking with someone about ‘a thousand marbles.’
“I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. ‘Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital.’
“He continued, ‘Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.’ And that's when he began to explain his theory of a thousand marbles.
“’You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years. Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of [weeks] that the average person has in [his or her] entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part.
‘It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail,’ he went on, ‘and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy.
‘So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to roundup 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away."
‘I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.’”
We choose what we do with our time. And we choose how we live within our times, as well.
But “swift to its close ebbs out [our] little day[s],” the old hymn tells us. It seems like just yesterday that we were all getting worked up over that Y2K brouhaha, and here we are now at the end of 2001! Don’t blink, because before we know it, we’ll be up here singing elegies for 2002, as well.
Life is short, but imagine how powerful it could be if we lived each of its moments to the full:
With Tuesday’s dawn, we’ll have (God willing) 365 brand new days ahead of us: that's (if my math is right) 8760 hours-- 525,600 minutes-- 31,536,000 seconds—each one ours to redeem or to squander; each one encoded with its own opportunity for us to bless the world or to curse it; to make the world better or worse; to touch those around us, and help to lift their burdens, or to ignore them and pretend that what's important in life are the walls we build between ourselves and others.
As one of my favorite singers, Jewel, sings: "In the end, only kindness matters." Not power, or prestige, or status, or money, or the things we collect. They’re not what really matters; what really matters is the clarity and care with which we touch one another in every given moment that is given to us. “In the end, only kindness matters.”
May we try to spend 2002 finding new and improved ways of radiating kindness, compassion, and love to one another. If we do that, who knows what amazing human miracles we might create with one another-- and how kindly God will bless us when we bless one another.
Jewel also sings: “There’s a new army coming, and we are armed with faith.” Armed with faith-- and with hope- and with love. And, if we are daring enough, we can find within us reservoirs of creativity and compassion so deep, that we can remake the face of our world, one blessed moment at a time. If we dare to conspire—“con-spire”: from the Latin “to hope—together”. If we dare to hope together, and to work together—who knows what might be possible, if we dare to join our hearts and minds in the work of love that is before us.
You might say I’m a dreamer. But, you know what? I’m not the only one.
A truly blessed New Year to you all. Blessed be. Amen.

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