Thursday, January 8, 2015

In honor of Mom

From Toledo, IA
Me and Mom, 1985
Maytag Park in Newton, Iowa
Last summer I wrote out a meandering post, "Following and Straying: The paths of my ancestors," where I was trying to weave together a number of things related to place, vocation, and ancestry and the difficulty of such things in our late modern world. The principal subjects were my two grandfathers, my father, and me. I soon realized that I had only talked about my male ancestors in the post, which kind of nagged at me.

Well, a few days ago my mom reached a significant age milestone. I won't say which milestone, but I'm 35 so that should limit your guesses. It wasn't a particularly enjoyable birthday, as her and my father are both very sick. (Get well soon you two!) And I'm a horrible gift giver but a passable writer, so this post is about adding nuance to my previous musings about family influences and honoring my mother on her birthday. So here's to you, mom...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hope when nothing changes

From Toledo, IA
"Nothing changes on New Year's Day" -U2 (video)

Trellech on New Year's Day 2009
Photo by Keith Moseley via Flickr
I am more than happy to bid adieu to 2014. It was a dismal year in ways both personal, societal, and global. As a recent article at Wired suggested, "2014 proved to be a year in which long-festering social, environmental, and political problems were exposed in ways we have not seen in a very long time."

That this statement appeared in Wired is itself telling, given that publication's raison d'etre, promoting the belief in progress via science and technology. It's not exactly known for its sober reflection on how those articles of faith might not actually be bringing about global progress and prosperity.

So anyway, yes: Goodbye to the year when I experienced my first psychosomatic breakdown/panic attack. Goodbye to the year that saw the parodies of justice around police brutality and racial profiling, showing how far we've not come in terms of our society's history of racism. Goodbye to the year that saw an increasing acknowledgment (thanks to folks like Naomi Klein) of the link between environmental degradation and our globalized consumer-capitalist order.

If the Christian imagination is one that should be marked by the embodied virtues of faith, love, hope, and joy (i.e. the fruits of the Spirit), then the grounds for those virtues to be cultivated in communities of Jesus' disciples seem to me to be more elusive than ever before. But maybe my sense of that is more my own white boy problems than anything. Or maybe not...

Either way, in 2015 I hope for less anxiety about personal, local, societal, and global issues (while not inoculating myself from them). I hope to be better attuned to seeing God's love for us and all creation at work, and for seeing it despite the fact that, in some very real ways, "Nothing changes on New Year's Day."

And yet marking new years is itself a sign that humans seem to be creatures prone to a rugged and resilient kind of faith and hope, seen in American culture by our various and silly "resolutions."

For my part, I resolve to be loved more freely and to love more faithfully as a child of God. Or to continue the Bono-channeling...
Say it's true, it's true
We can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one