We Shall Overcome

Well suffice it to say, I am not picking up the thread where I supposed I might when I left off my last post on the topic of fear.

“And yet. And yet fear is really not where it’s at. Not when you’ve paid a visit to the Other Side and come back to talk about it as I did. Not when your frame of reference is broader, deeper, higher, and more expansive than the stuff of the daily news and the permutations of contemporary public affairs. More on that next time around…”

Since then, we have all been emotionally battered by yet two more appalling killings by police officers of black males, in questionable circumstances, followed this time by killings of five police officers in Dallas keeping watch over a peaceful protest rally, by a sniper apparently seeking revenge for the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Again, waves of fear rushed over the land. #BlackLivesMatter met up against #BlueLivesMatter. Within 48 hours, outrage and grief sweeping through black communities and among the countless friends and allies who care about them, like me, flowed together with the outrage and grief that overwhelmed not only the colleagues, families and friends of the slain Dallas officers, but also the countless people who support and care about law enforcement officers throughout the nation. Here we are, at a time when the nation is bitterly divided along political, regional, economic, generational and social lines, wondering what condition we will be in on Wednesday, November 9, when the voters have marked their ballots and results are finally known; here we are, and the deepest, most painful, most morally divisive, most consequential rupture in the tissue of the body politic once again confronts us with the most incontrovertible reason there is for holding the assertion the United States of America is the Greatest Nation in the World to be the height of hypocrisy: Racism and the legacy of slavery.

Once again those of us who believe that #BlackLivesMatter expresses a deep truth about the United States’ moral condition, a truth that must be confessed and repented for by white citizens as an absolute precondition for there to be civic peace in the land finally, 150 after the supposed end of the War Among the States on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse; once again we feel compelled to take deep breaths and patiently explain to the #AllLivesMatter contingent that #BlackLivesMatter is a matter of focus not exclusion. #BlackLivesMatter does not mean only Black Lives Matter. It means if #AllLivesMatter, then we have a lot of fixing to do to ensure that the Black members of the All really get the same treatment in all respects, not least by law enforcement officers, as the rest of us do.

As I have said before, I am very conscious of being a highly privileged member of contemporary society for a bunch of reasons I had little or no say in: Straight White Anglo-Saxon Protestant male with an Ivy League education. Not a bad hand of cards to start with, given the givens of how power and privilege are distributed still, here and now. #BlackLivesMatter is not, however, just a little something I decided to get on board with because I want to be terminally and liberally hip. For me it could hardly be more personal. I have three bi-racial grandchildren, which to our twisted collective way of thinking really means they are black when they walk through the mall or go to the movies or sit in the classroom. They will be black when some police officer eventually pulls them over for any of the myriad of reasons, good and bad, just and unjust, police officers pull people over. Like any self-respecting grandparent, I will tell you with a straight face and without the least hesitation that they are the three coolest kids now living on the face of Planet Earth. I will tell you all you have to do is hang out with them for an hour or two and  you will discover what I say is objectively true. Of course, the fact is, cool though they may be, they are growing up in the same messy circumstances in the early decades of the 21st century that the rest of us are living in. Many of those circumstances would apply to them, even if they were not bi-racial. They are blessed, however, that they are coming along surrounded by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close family friends who are truly devoted to them and as madly in love with them as I am. Every child should be so blessed.

We were midway through the week’s atrocities and I was trading posts on Facebook with one of their aunts, who was distraught about what she should do with her young black son so he doesn’t end up like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown or Eric Garner or Alton Sterling or Philando Castile, and with her mother. In the midst of a stream of affirmations about how important it is that the black community actively organize to work for change in community – police relations as a key to ending such killings, it was her mother who first flagged for me what had just gone down in Dallas. Ethel is underprivileged in just about every way that I am privileged, yet her first reaction was distress at these new killings: “LET US GO. THE OTHER WAY. THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED BY BLACKS UNIFY, DEVERSIFY AND STRENGTHEN WHAT WEAK BUILD UP WHATS BROKEN AND ACT LIKE WE WANT PEACE THE KILLING TO STOP!!!” In the instant, I got a knot in my stomach about the news, and a surge of hope from Ethel’s heartfelt and immediate response.

I came of age with the Civil Rights movement. I was 13 when Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, were killed in the bomb attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. I was 15 when the March on Selma, a pivotal moment in the campaign for voting rights, took place. I was a month shy of my 18th birthday and less than two months away from graduating from high school when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. There is ample reason to be discouraged that half a century down the road racism continues to be a powerfully shaping force in our common life. Yet I took hope from Ethel’s spontaneous reaction to the news from Dallas. I take hope from the fact that Jennifer and I can share our wishes and fears for her delightful son, who is easily just as cool as his cousins. I take hope from the fact that leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement immediately condemned the killings of the police officers. I take hope from the fact that the video post below, which had some hundreds of thousands of views when I first saw it on Friday morning, now as of this writing has well over 32 million views. I take hope from the fact the people of the United States twice elected a black President and there are now prominent black leaders in every field and discipline. We are making progress, despite the setbacks, despite the persistent and too often successful efforts to roll back voting rights, and despite the outrageous numbers of black people incarcerated, living in desperate poverty, and dying as victims of intra-communal as well as police violence.

I came of age with the Civil Rights movement. I came of age with the Beatles and Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, and with Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and the Supremes. But ask me to name the tune, the defining tune, the tune that most clearly expressed what the period was about, and I’ll give you this one:

… and this one:

… and this one:

This “We” is not exclusive. Not “my team” will win out over “your team”. “We” means all of us, whether we are ready to sing along or not. This “Shall” is not predictive. It is imperative. As in “Thou shalt…” This “Overcome” is not about conquest. It is about liberation. Liberation above all from the cultures of fear that cripple all of us and make us miserable, when life happens in ways that it need not have happened. What happened to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were not accidents. What happened to Sgt. Michael Smith, Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, Officers Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarippa, and Transit Officer Brent Thompson were not accidents. They were the results of deliberate actions undertaken by people who were afraid. Afraid of what they were facing in the moment, or afraid of some future circumstance beyond their power to control – such as an endless perpetuation of racism and all the violence that it entails.

I live with fear as much as the next guy. But I refuse to let it run me. One of these days I will get around to laying out just why. As promised.

Meanwhile, We Shall Overcome, for real.

 

 

What, Me Worry?

For a while now I have had a sequel in mind to the series of reflections I posted under the heading We Shall Overcome. The post would (will) be about the flip side of the ideas I was exploring in that series. Whereas in those posts I was interested in the fact that what human beings most have in common is the incredibly large numbers of ways we are different and unique, I intend to explore the ways in which we are perceived by others and perceive ourselves to be members of groups and in that way seem not so unique. I am male, not female. I am Euro-American, not Canadian or Filipino or Chilean or Kenyan. I am a Baby Boomer, not a Millennial…etc., etc., etc. You get the drift.

However, events have been getting in the way. Almost two weeks ago, the largest mass shooting to date occurred at The Pulse club in Orlando, and I found myself as wrapped up in the ensuing turmoil as everyone else. I was overwhelmed by feelings of grief, anger, frustration and hopelessness; along with (ever increasing) contempt for Congress’s persistent inability to deal with any issues that have real, direct consequences for public well-being and safety. I was saddened by the fact that the victims, many of them Latino, of this assault were mostly young people, with long lives yet to be lived, who were murdered precisely because they identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual or queer; or were friends of people who did. I was saddened that the killer had a long history of violent conduct toward others, and yet no one was able in time to reach him in a compassionate way, to get to the roots of his distress and help him leave the path he was on. Pervading the whole episode were tidal waves of fear, some of it stoked by people – political leaders especially – with axes to grind, but most of it erupting spontaneously from the subconscious pockets where we all stash our habitual fears.

If you are like me, the fears that surged forth had a lot to do with the easy availability of highly destructive firearms to anyone who’s got the money to buy them. My deep fears of the direction I see politicians on the right and the people who bankroll them wanting to take the society roared up to the surface. I was overwhelmed by feelings of vulnerability and helplessness as I watched others’ fears pour out as well. If you belonged to the LGBTIQ community, already carrying a burden of marginalization in most cases and victimization in many, how could you not feel personally threatened and assaulted to see the homophobia that still haunts many corners of the society expressed in the form of a bloody and terrifying massacre? Yet, those of us who felt we were on the receiving end of the assault were not the only ones whose deep fears swept across the land.

On the gun rights side, other fears came to the surface: fears that certain constitutionally guaranteed rights were under attack; fears that one’s ability to protect oneself from threats by criminals, by outsiders, by government agents, or some other Others, were going to be stripped away by forces already lined up against one; and fears that Muslim terrorists are spread across the country, ready to create murderous havoc whenever it suits them. Mixed into the blend were also the fears of adherents of a certain brand of “Christianity”, that sees growing social acceptance of people who identify as LGBTIQ as evidence Satan is getting the upper hand and should be resisted at all costs. And through it all, there swept waves of the formless fears that always run when things happen people find threatening, have no warning of and don’t see coming, and  after the fact have no clear understanding of.

I’m not big on fear. I recognize it is deeply rooted in our biological makeup. I know it is a force that has driven the most abhorrent forms of human conduct going back through millennia. I also know whole industries depend on the promotion and cultivation of fear – from the military industrial complex and the liability insurance – personal-injury/malpractice law complex; to the cosmetics, fashion, automobile, travel and domestic products industries that thrive by suggesting how imperfect our lives are if we don’t look certain ways, drive certain vehicles, vacation in certain places, or decorate our homes with certain furnishings. Personally more to the point, I have my own ongoing history with fear directing, shaping, and inhibiting my life’s progress. As a survivor of bullying in early adolescence, I am still affected by deeply internalized impacts that I have only recently recognized as signs of PTSD. I have a highly evolved fear of failure, traceable no doubt to being the product of a culture and a top tier education where high achievement and performance are the standards by which personal value and worth are judged.

Finally, I have fears grounded in stuff I learned in the course of that education. Knowing more than your average bear about the circumstances that led to the fall of the Roman Empire and that led to and followed the breakthrough to the modern capitalist order marked by the French Revolution, I sometimes lie awake nights worrying about the magnitude of the historic turn now unfolding on every continent, Antarctica included. Having spent part of my career working in energy policy, I know more than the average bear about the magnitude of the threats posed by climate change and why those threats should not be denied or trivialized. Spend a few months as I did working closely with people from the electric utilities as they struggle to restore power to the 85% of the households in Connecticut who were knocked out by the freak October 30, 2011 snow storm, and the prospect of more and more extreme weather events taking out critical infrastructure systems will also keep you awake nights.

By now it is a foregone conclusion that fear will drive the outcome of the US Presidential election. Neither of the leading candidates arouses much positive delight. Donald Trump’s campaign is overwhelmingly fear-based. If Hillary Clinton wins, despite the strong negative views many Americans rightly or wrongly have held about her for a long time, it will be as much because of the immense fear Trump arouses in people who do not belong to his core constituencies, as because of any success she may have setting forth a vision that excites and inspires voters.

And yet. And yet fear is really not where it’s at. Not when you’ve paid a visit to the Other Side and come back to talk about it as I did. Not when your frame of reference is broader, deeper, higher, and more expansive than the stuff of the daily news and the permutations of contemporary public affairs. More on that next time around…

 

 

But that was in another country…

The first time was more dramatic

a long time coming

after the fact utterly foreseeable

Inherited predispositions

Unhealed wounds from early traumas

Hungry for love, angry, lonely

tired of the unending bitterness

besmirching and despoiling every undertaking

the more hopeful, the more foully

Love, recognition, achievement, success –

Forget about it

Not to mention hardwired from the get-go

for higher highs and lower lows

Life lived always then provisional,

optional until a more attractive choice

might present itself

Meanwhile make do with the handiest

subculturally approved soporifics

until they no longer quite packed the punch

and misery tired of loving company

 

That time it was a close call

turned away at the first door knocked on

the second blessedly opened

received into a space

where a deadly malady

was already holding court

Good thing

The next door was marked EXIT

A bottom firm enough to stand on

Safe just long enough

to take a walk

into an utter strangeness

where strangers delivered in familiar words

strange messages of deliverance

Grace

at last a shot at a life worth living

Grace

able freely to receive

what was freely offered

Grace

to find the fortitude to live

into another way

to stumble and take wrong turns and go astray

without looking for THIS WAY OUT

Given the givens, a miracle

a miracle lived surely enough and gratefully

though not yet truly seen

Good enough

So thank you

Get on with it

Keep on keeping on

And so thereby a second life

or the same life with a reset

 

Being at last in the world

this world

Life 101

How to

Step by Step

Life 201

Life 301

Life 401

No terminal degree in sight

Up hills, down dales

left turns, right turns

right turns, wrong turns

backtrack, forge ahead

Yes, anger

Yes, sorrow

Yes, partings

No, despair

Keep on keeping on

Emerge

Grow

Look around, down, up, out, in, backward, forward

Say please

and most especially thank you

Notice the generosity

Not having to deserve

For sure often

still a babe in the woods

not yet mastering

the art of  staying on track

Keeping on keeping on

Eventually really taking it for granted

even when not really taking it for granted

New playmates, playgrounds, playthings

and then again new ones

More will be revealed

Just show up

Try new things, ancient things

Go deep

Discover body

Discover soul

Learn to sit

Learn to breathe

Discover fire

Pay attention

It’s all good

Even when it’s bad, it’s good

good to leave

in the rear view mirror

Pay attention

Yes

But not always

Don’t always want to

Know better, yes

but ignorance sometimes is bliss

or wishing would have it so

 

Getting older

aches and pains go with the territory

Regular checkups

Tune up the diet

Drop some pounds

Take a couple of pills just in case

Do what needs to be done

to keep the craziness at bay

It’s all good

Until it’s not

But that is in another country

 

And so the second time

And so the second time

came without warning

which is to say, there were ample signs

signals encoded

in an unlearnt language

from another land

so there was no need to trouble

about what they signified

The first time troubles was all there was

still unprepared when the storm blew in

taking down ancient timbers on its way

Way more ready

the second time, knowing

how to sit

how to breathe

how to pay attention

how to let go and surrender

even when not wanting to

how to lean in and not run

who to call

not alone in the universe

Played it nevertheless close for comfort

A little prelude, yes, on an unseasonably

summerly late September Saturday

A little more emphatic

the signals flaring upwards

but not enough to command attention

or change a game plan

practice in the morning

good deeds in the afternoon

music in the evening

singing along til heart’s content

practice again in the morning

no sweat beyond the usual

Namaste and off

to the big box to pick up

a couple pillows and some edibles

make way for a stressed out mom

with fussy kids at the checkout

home for lunch

The play proper commences

when your heart speaks listen

no fooling now

no amount of breathing

no amount of stretching

there, insistently, center stage

houselights going down

for the main performance

a voyage off to terra incognita

check the program

review the scenarios

make the call

consider the options

follow suit

get ready, batten down

set off

off never to return

this side of paradise

into the channel outward

let the pilots board

who know the way, they say

a last few hasty leave-takings

no fear

all in good hands

fair weather

for now

clouds gather

skies darken

down, then, and out

out, then, and up and away

and down again

out where many go

all eventually

few return

Keeping company with angels

go with it, wherever it goes

dream scenes in black and white

through a far portal

companies of caring spirits

smooth sailing mostly

until the far shore approaches

rough berthing

breathe, she said

and that was all

 

How strangely moored

new light, new space

known faces, welcoming

speaking in half-remembered

half-unlearnt tongues

of half-remembered things

but that was in another country

and so we begin again

take it from the top

wherefrom

whereto

let go

breathe

listen

receive

only connect

that is all

for now

in another country, another time

new customs, new habits, new thoughts

don’t sweat the small stuff

it’s a miracle, all of it

for real

appearances deceive

this side of paradise

nothing is the same.

We Shall Overcome – One and All

Human Endowments (3)Let’s start by acknowledging that every one of us, if given enough time and a safe setting, if asked in a language and terminology she or he understands, and if he or she is self-aware enough, would have something to say about how every one of the factors shown here applies to them, in general and at this particular moment in their lives. There are 28 factors so far and I am sure the list is not complete. To get a sense of just how many ways there are to be different, there are 268,435,456 ways to mix and match among 28 factors. And that’s before we start looking at the exact information to be considered for each one of those factors. And it’s also before we take into account how the weather is today and how we feel about it, good news we received about an insurance claim on the house we lost in a tornado, bad news we received about how our dear next door neighbor’s shaky health has taken an abrupt downturn, how our sciatica is doing today, how the garden looks to us at this time of year and how the candidate we passionately want to become the next President did in last week’s primary; or the impact any of those circumstances have on how we decide to behave here and now. That’s a lot, a lot, a lot of ways to be different.

The real intent with this graphic is to highlight how generalizations about people pervade all manner of discourses, from the self-critical chatter that runs just below the surface of our own consciousnesses, through op-ed pieces and social media posts, and on into public policy and legislation. Whenever we categorize people – “teachers,” “politicians,” “Southerners,” “Germans,” “transsexuals,” “Catholics,” “dog owners,” “teens,” and so on – we efface or suppress the particular qualities that define the mental, emotional and cultural spaces in which individual human beings are living their lives.

The critical point is that each of us operates in a unique space defined by many personal factors over which we have no control. Nobody asked me whether I wanted to be born in the United States of America, in the middle of the twentieth century, as part of the Baby Boom, five years after the end of the Second World War and the advent of the atomic bomb, into a society still not resolved about its legacy of slavery or comfortable about the role of women in public life, or into a white family that worshiped in the Episcopal Church, put great value on higher education and not so much on being socially cool or athletically competitive. Nor did anyone ask me whether I wanted to be endowed with considerable native curiosity and intelligence, poor physical coordination and a predisposition to extreme mood swings. Yet, these circumstances, and a number of others, comprise the water I swim in. What is thinkable for me, how likely I am to flourish in a particular career or relationship or community, depends to a large degree on my unique mix of these factors. Along with the cumulative impacts of what I have experienced as I progress on life’s journey from birth forward, taken together they contribute as much to my personal uniqueness, as the genetic endowment I inherited when I was conceived.

To be sure, there are frequently compelling practical reasons for making use of categorical generalizations. They may be “external” reasons, such as the desire of the institution known as the Catholic Church to have records of who its tithing members are, or the State of Connecticut’s wish to know who is a licensed school bus driver in good standing. They may be “internal” reasons, such as the struggle a gay teen, who has been raised in an evangelical family, may experience if they feel their sense of personal identity is in conflict with church teachings and cultural norms; or the process of self-definition by which I, for instance, come to terms with and live out being a straight White Anglo-Saxon Protestant male, in a society where to be that bears coded meaning and by far most people are not that.

Indeed, in the course of my own journey toward greater psychological and spiritual health and wholeness, seeing more and more clearly the ways I am not a generic human or Baby Boomer or US citizen or Episcopalian or recovering pothead, has been both profoundly enlightening and liberating. The clearer my understanding is of what it means not to be a straight white male, in circumstances where it is socially disadvantageous to be gay or lesbian, to be female, to be a person of color, the more clearly I understand what it means to be me. For in fact the bottom line is, I am unique because of how my life plots out on each of the 28 vectors in the graphic, and I am fundamentally and inescapably connected with the all the rest of humanity, and indeed all the rest of creation. If I wish to communicate and connect consciously and deeply with others, I must bring my full self-awareness to the conversation.

Language, of course, is what we use to communicate with others and with ourselves. Language depends on abstract concepts and categories. Language is what we use to think with, most of the time unconsciously. This entire reflection was triggered by my growing sensitivity about the pervasive finger-pointing and blame games that characterize much of public discourse nationally and globally. Full confession: I do it too. It’s much easier for me to cut a black urban youth slack than a white suburban police officer. It’s much easier for me to feel concern for a Muslim refugee from Syria than for a native German or Belgian or Dane who worries about what will happen to their familiar social arrangements if large numbers of refugees come into the country and stay. However, as I said at the outset, I am a terminal optimist. I see a path forward. It is a path that begins with cultivating, growing consciousness of how what we all most have in common is how uniquely different we are. That “black urban youth” I mentioned has a face and a name and a history and dreams and sore points and special gifts. The same applies to that “white suburban police officer.”

I really, truly, do not want to see Donald Trump elected President of the United States. I have many reasons for feeling that way, not least because he is such an enthusiastic devotee of blame games and finger-pointing. However, I have dear friends, people I care for and respect, who very much hope that he will succeed. I could join the chorus of people who feel the way I do about Trump, who are declaiming loudly and clearly what fools and bigots his supporters are, and ignore the full humanity each of those supporters is bringing to the public arena. Or I can keep reminding myself what I learned from Terence: “Nothing human is strange to me.” This does not mean I shy away from seeing comparisons with the emergence of Fascism in 1920’s Europe or with the progressive degradation of civic life in Rome before the collapse of the empire.

Barbara Barg, a Facebook friend recently introduced the term “pro-people” into a discussion about how supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton talk and feel about each other. I like both the “pro-” part and the “people” part. Not so much about what we don’t want, what we fear or hate. Rather: What are we for? What do we want to see? What will we commit to? What kind of world do we hope to live in? Given that I cannot with integrity deny people I disagree with their “peopleness,” lest I start down the road to genocide in my mind, if not in practice; I must return again and again first to contemplating and then to advocating for the most “pro-people” way of participating in public life. Whether or not Trump, or Clinton, or Sanders, is elected.

We shall overcome.

We Shall Overcome – Next Up

“Nothing human is strange to me.” Yet strangely, one thing every human being shares with every other human being is the quality of being a completely unique mix of genetic inheritance, life circumstances and personal experiences. Even identical twins growing up with the same genes in the same times, places and families, live into their lives uniquely. It is a universal condition that we are all strangers to one another in this way.

There is another quality every human being shares with every other human being. Genetically, we are not much different than other primates. Our anatomies are in most respects similar. “Consciousness” in a broad sense is a quality we share with many other creatures, even those much further back down the evolutionary line. (I would even go so far as to say that consciousness is incipient in the most primitive organisms’ capacity to recognize and respond to stimuli that signal danger, others that signal the availability of food and yet others that signal opportunities to reproduce. We’ll save this for another day, however.)

Human beings alone, however, are as far as we know “self-conscious.” We know that we know. We know that our lives are contingent, that they have beginnings, middles and ends. We are all inscribed in languages, cultures, traditions, symbolic systems. We categorize. We conceptualize. We name things. This is not news. According to the authors of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, the very first thing God asks Adam to do is name things: “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” (Genesis 2:19, NRSV)

The hitch is, when we categorize and name things, we abstract them from their concrete, tangible, immediate, momentary unique realities. We look at a rock face and we see “schist,” say, not this immediate residue right in front of us of eons of movements of the Earth raising up mountains, grinding and washing them down, folding them over, cooking minerals from them and lifting them up again. We talk about “securities trading,” not seeing and feeling the presence in the enterprises those securities represent “shares” of the real living human beings engaged day in, day out, in activities that produce “goods” and “services” other real living human beings make use of. We label ourselves: Me, I’m a straight White Anglo Saxon Protestant Ivy League graduate fluent in German and Danish raised mostly in New England in the second half of the 20th century of the Christian Era; a US citizen almost 28 years clean and sober, who practices yoga, takes photographs, writes, and is in a relationship with the woman of his dreams. And yet, ask me at any moment what I’m feeling, how I’m taking in the day, what my soul is up to; and few, if any, of those factoids will illumine my full living reality at that instant. The same applies mutatis mutandi to every other human being on the planet. When we get real.

With this in mind, here is a graphic illustration of many factors that shape our understandings of ourselves and the world, and with them the sense each of us carries with us of what is normal, acceptable and possible, and of what is right.Human Endowments (3)

Next time around, I’ll be back to unpack what consequences I believe this has for how we deal with each other, in whatever categories we believe each other belongs.

We Shall Overcome – Poetic Interlude

Journey to the Moon

 

So long they wandered,

making their way

from savanna to shore,

floodplain to forest –

 

They learned

to burn and slay,

gather and dance,

sing and plant,

harvest and herd.

 

Across windswept fields,

down washed out gullies,

up stony passes –

they made love and war; told,

wove, and remembered;

passed judgment, worshipped,

dreamed, and declaimed meaning.

 

Generations followed generations,

repeated the customs.

Dark nights in tall grasses,

they named and tracked stars,

harnessed heavens.

 

Sunshine and rain,

they stumbled and strode

through copses and rockfalls,

meadows and ice fields –

chose good and evil;

found worth.

 

Stalks of rhubarb

nourished and delighted;

the leaves poisoned.

Running water refreshed;

standing it could sicken.

Ferment worked in bread and wine;

spawned life, bred death.

 

They buried and burned

their dead with flowers,

howled at the abundance of mystery;

fashioned hosts of gods;

from Olduvai to Archangel

marked and shaped, coming and going.

 

Slowly they fathomed the seasons

and settled where seeded;

sang of hopes and fears,

of was and will be.

It came to them late to build cities,

and then to fly to the moon.