This is the third of my series on our community's response to the recent election. Next week I expect to get back to my regular story.
On Saturday, I did not do anything overtly related to the school. Of course, to an extent I embody it, so it goes where I go, but really we are a community, and a community only exists in groups--wherever two or more gather, there am I, in a way. But the past week has provided much food for thought, and I was thinking.
I did a little bit of paid writing, played with my daughter while my wife went shopping and to the gym, and went for a walk. In the evening we made pizza and a late fall salad and listened to Prairie Home Companion, as we always do. Yes, we are NPR people. Are you surprised?
I was a major fan of Garrison Keillor--still am, of course, not like I get to listen to him much, anymore. There was something about his performance--at times he became something like a national, secular priest. He could call out the ordinary for its loveliness and ground the extraordinary in the every day. I remember one "News From Lake Wobegon" all about the annual town Christmas pageant and the story ended with the words "Go, be an angel." I was only a kid when I heard that, maybe as old as 15 (although remember, I was a young 15), and I don't remember the rest of that story, but somehow with those words he wasn't talking about a small-town Christmas pageant anymore, he was talking about humanity. He was talking about life. That was the moment I realized that words could do more than express my personal thoughts and earn me good grades in English class.
I don't know if Chris Thile, Keillor's successor, is going to evolve into that role. I don't know whether he's thinking consciously of trying. But this Saturday, he made a good stab at getting there.
The show broadcast from Philadelphia, for one thing, which I'm inclined to think wasn't a coincidence. The City of Brotherly Love, the cradle of American democracy, the location of the chair with the sun on it that is always either rising or sinking on our great experiment in liberty.
Then, he starts up with a song he wrote--I jotted down some of the lyrics--
I don't wanna fight fire with fire
and I don't wanna preach to the choir
So if you're doing your best to be kind
This land is as much yours as mine.
As God as my witness!
I made this for you.
I made this for you.
Really, you should listen to it--here's a link.
Nowhere in that song, or anywhere else in the show, that I recall, did he say the word "election" or use the name of either candidate. He was absolutely non-partizan. And yet he spoke directly and to the point of most of the reasons why I believed one candidate should have won, why I'm sad that she didn't. His was no maudlin plea for unity (when a lot of people have more important things on their minds right now) but rather a real act of confirming the best of our country at a time when many of us are doubting.
At the end of an upbeat, encouraging, and mostly very funny show, he finished up with "This Land Is Your Land," by Woody Guthry, including one of the verses most people don't sing, don't even, I suspect, know.
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
In a year of discussion about walls to keep people out, that verse has special significance, but there are ways to be political without being partizan, and Chris Thile nailed it.
And I sat there listening and thinking, as I often do, about what makes someone a master, a magician, a priest/ess, how a radio personality can give a nation the thing that it needs--as can, at times, a preacher, a writer, a capitalist war profiteer (I'm thinking Oskar Schindler), a seemstress on a bus....All people who did exactly the right thing, not because they were stronger or better or more talented than most (though some were that, too) but because they found themselves in a position and at a moment when the skills and abilities they happened to have were perfectly suited to the challenge at hand.
And I thought about how helpless I feel right now, not just afraid that the planet is going to die, but that it will do so while I stand by and do nothing, not because I want to do nothing, but because I can't figure out anything productive to do.
And I thought about how my daughter drew a bird, trying to influence the election, how I, in this blog, sent out a plea that I called magic, hoping to do very much the same thing, and I know Kit and her coven engaged their skill to much the same effect. And none of that seemed to do any good and, in retrospect, all of it seems equally silly.
But I'm thinking that perhaps magic does work, it's just that we've been going about it wrong. The real magic, the great magic, lies not in avoiding or averting misfortune but in getting oneself into one of those key, unpredictable positions where it might be possible to do something about it.
In which case, So Mote It Be.