Conservatives and Liberals and Soccer and Religion

We live in societies that have lost the ability to clearly communicate across the divides we have created for ourselves. Or so I thought yesterday. Today, laid up with a bum back, I got to watch the American soccer team’s celebration in my home town, and I heard one of its captains, Megan Rapinoe, say this:

“We have to be better. We have to love more. Hate less. We got to listen more and talk less. We got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility. Every single person here. Every single person’s who’s not here. Every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree. It’s our responsibility to make this world a better place.”

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Megan Rapinoe

I have been thinking a lot lately about how we have divided our nation into conservatives and liberals, with a ferocity you can feel by just looking at the labels. In truth, I think both sides want the same basic thing – to make this world a better place.

Conservatives main impulse is to preserve what they see as good in society. Liberals main impulse is to change what they see is bad in society. These are not antagonistic impulses. Good people of any political persuasion should aspire to both of those things. We can disagree about what is good and bad in society and we should honestly and constructively talk about those disagreements, but we should be careful not to demonize people and create straw creatures to argue with and set on fire.

One of the things that is seen as good and bad in society is religion. The number of horrors that have been committed in its name are beyond counting. The number of lives that have been saved, or fulfilled, or made kinder in its name are equally incalculable.

In the 19th Century, Victor Hugo said this:

Religion is undergoing a crisis. We are unlearning certain things, and that is good, provided that while unlearning one thing we are learning another. No vacuum in the human heart! Certain forms are torn down, and so they should be, but on condition that they are followed by reconstructions.

In the meantime let us study things that are no more. It is necessary to understand them, if only to avoid them. The counterfeits of the past take assumed names, and are fond of calling themselves the future. That eternally returning specter, the past, not infrequently falsifies its passport. Let us be ready for the snare. Let us beware. The past has a face, superstition, and a mask, hypocrisy. Let us denounce the face and tear off the mask.

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Victor Hugo

The Richness We Gain…

I didn’t know I could be happier to be a Yankees fan until they unveiled this plaque tonight in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium:

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In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the events at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, which sparked the modern LGBTQ movement.

This plaque serves to honor the struggle for equality and is a reminder of the richness we gain by nurturing inclusion and diversity.

Acceptance forms the bedrock of our community, let it be known that Yankee Stadium welcomes everyone as a gathering place for all.

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Victor Hugo and the French Aesthetic

I have long admired, even loved, the French but I don’t think I ever quite understood why until I read Victor Hugo. Their commitment to liberty inspired two revolutions – America’s and their own – that created the best of the world we live in today. They are more responsible than anyone for the evolution of government from hereditary monarchy to a system that exists to serve its people, not the other way around.

Their culture, their devotion to beauty, their appreciation of romance inspires artists and lovers everywhere. Their lust is not simple desire, but desires, eternally mingled with playful affection. In addition to their reverence for fine wine, cheese, and bread, they have an appreciation for the peculiar wonders of femininity and masculinity that aren’t chained to rigid concepts of gender. Makeup, wigs, and high heels were always for men as well as women.

Love is not a rigid concept either. It flows. It mutates. It entices. It satisfies a hunger that even the finest meals cannot. In this passage from Les Miserables, Victor Hugo produces a fine reduction of the love between an old blind bishop and his adoring sister that could easily translate into the love between parent and child, or between lovers:

To have continually at your side a woman, a girl, a sister, a charming being, who is there because you need her, and because she cannot do without you, to know you are indispensable to someone necessary to you, to be able at all times to measure her affection by the degree of her presence that she gives you, and to say to yourself: She dedicates all her time to me, because I possess her whole love; to see the thought if not the face; to be sure of the fidelity of one being in a total eclipse of the world; to imagine the rustling of her dress as the rustling of wings; to hear her moving to and fro, going out, coming in, talking, singing, and to think that you are the cause of those steps, those words, that song; to show your personal attraction at every moment; to feel even more powerful as your infirmity increases; to become in darkness, and by reason of darkness, the star around which this angel gravitates; few joys can equal that. The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves – say rather, loved in spite of ourselves; this conviction the blind have. Are they deprived of anything? No. Light is not lost where love enters. And what a love! A love wholly founded in purity. There is no blindness where there is certainty. The soul gropes in search of a soul, and finds it. And that soul, found and proven, is a woman. A hand sustains you, it is hers; lips lightly touch your forehead, they are her lips; you hear breathing near you, it is she. To have her wholly, from her devotion to her pity, never to be left alone, to have that sweet shyness as your aid, to lean on that unbending reed, to touch Providence with your hands and be able to grasp it in your arms; God made palpable, what transport!

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What is love?

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Twenty-nine years ago today the law finally caught up with us after a decade on the lam. The commitment forged by my love for Nancy, and hers for me, became a legally binding one in the time-honored ceremony known as marriage. We made our declarations in front of our dear family and friends, and asked one of our oldest and closest friends, Terrence McDonnell, to say a few words. These are the ones he came up with:

Terry

What is love?
What is love?
Love is an unconditional commitment of the mind, body and soul
Love comes in many different facets,
many different meanings and
many different ways.
Love is not always kind
Love is not always gentle
But love is always shared
and love is always everlasting

Wishing love for each other is a power that grows and strengthens with
every passing day,
every passing moment,
every passing year.
But wishing love from oneself is the most important
The exchanging of marriage vows begins, reinforces and continues the gift and the overwhelming joy of love.
This is love. This is love

I do take this man to be my husband.
I do take this woman to be my wife.
I do take this person to be my friend
to be my companion
to be my love
This is love
This is love
This is love
WHAT IS LOVE

From the mountain…

Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus. From the mountain we see a mountain.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Excess

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

William Blake

The intense pleasures of youth – sex and drugs and rock’n’roll – take a heavier toll on my body, my mind, and my spirit with every passing year.

One of life’s easiest traps is to repeat actions that once brought pleasure even after their effects have turned to pain.

One path to the wisdom that is attributed to age leads to fields of subtle pleasures that are easily lost in the clamor of earlier, louder years.

Older pleasures do not explode or blind or burn or throb. Until you reach a level of stillness impossible in younger times, they are imperceptible. Too dim to be seen. Too soft to be heard.

It takes an almost unbearable sacrifice to perceive these new pleasures but if you can bear it, you will find they are more profound than any other, and deep enough to transcend physical sensation.

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You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough

William Blake