Between the War and the Gingko Leaves
usually prone to escape fantasies, but
this fall has been enough to turn anyone
to contemplating how to get out of
whatever were in. Ive
followed some of those famous escape
routes of North Americanssleep,
food, and moviesand added some
hopefully healthier ones to the
mixwalks, books, and playing with
my baby. Either way, my goals have been
non-thinking, diversion, oblivion.
sure I would have had these urges even if
the September 11 violence and the ensuing
U.S. strikes in Afghanistan were the only
crises (although only seems a
bad choice of words). But then a friend
dies just after September 11. Two sets of
friends hit marital crises. Now
everything seems loose at the hinges, or
skidding downhill toward some edge.
wonder how to balance the absorption and
action in the worlds and my
friends pain and the forgetfulness
that suddenly becomes a grace-filled
gift. Daily I wander between these two
territories: replaying global and
personal tragedies in my head and
wondering how to pray or help, on the one
hand; and the irresponsible joy of
pushing a stroller and thinking only of
sunlight and ducks and gingko leaves, on
does one avoid falling into extremes:
either the drain of workaholic activism
and friendship, or the apathy of escapist
pleasures? This issue of DSM
provides one model of such balance.
Youll find essays on the September
11 violence and U.S. military action and
others that dont mention it.
Youll be asked to touch the dust of
the World Trade towers Steve Kriss wipes
from his forehead with a tissue, then
keeps for weeks, feeling it was
somehow too sacred to throw away.
Youll be asked to consider
arguments about arrogance and peacemaking
and how to best follow Christs way
in days of two-sided terror.
again, youll vicariously watch
movies with David Greiser and read a book
with Daniel Hertzler. Youll taste
electricity and enter the apparent,
winter quiet through poems by David
Wright and William Dellinger.
as Parker Palmer writes in The Active
Life, we should move beyond what he
calls the vacation approach,
in which we exhaust ourselves engaging
with the world, then retreat into
contemplation to gather up energy for the
next round. Action and contemplation can
occur simultaneously, Palmer writes, so
they are the interwoven threads
that form the fabric of who we are and
who we are becoming.
right now, however, when the grief of the
globe and my friends lives exhausts
me, Im going to settle for walking
back and forth between the pain and the
beauty, action and contemplation,
absorption and escape. I have a feeling
that Im finding God somewhere in
the middle of both.