Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Resurrection of My Optimism


Single Daffodil, II, originally uploaded by V'ron.

Well, just because I'm this (as John Fugelsang describes himself) recovering cynic who has a general distrust for organized religion doesn't mean I'm not prone to fits of spirituality from time to time, and Easter Sunday is as good a day as any to manifest this. Christmastime seems more of a time to celebrate peace and the hope of it, but most faiths, including the Roman Catholicism under which I was raised, really liturgically celebrate the spring holiday as the high holiday, because it's such a time of rebirth. Easter, Passover, the Spring Equinox, they all converge right about now, and I celebrate that every year not by going to mass, but with my annual Easter Sunday Shakedown bike cruise. I do this every year, no matter what the weather is, I get up on Sunday morning, hop on my bike, and ride at least 20 miles up and down the lakefront, on a route I do every year. Sometimes it's the first ride of the year, sometimes it's not. (This year it wasn't. Too many gorgeous weekends this year to pass up). So this year it really wansn't a shakedown cruise. But it's still highly spiritual to me: I feel most alive and reborn doing it: feeling the (usually chilly) air filling my lungs like it was my first breath, self-baptising with my own sweat.


I do the same route on Easter Sunday every year so that I can just take in the change (or lack of it in some respects) that the seasons and years. (I've even taken to snapping a reference shot of the halfway point of my ride just to compare-- and congratulate myself on a brutal uphill climb. It only occured to me four years ago to do this on a ride I've been doing for almost 20 years.) That to me is miraculous in and of itself: there's trees that have been there for years and never seem to change, there's the same old nesting spots that the geese and ducks congregate in, there's the same patches of daffodils and trillium that start to sprout up. And there's changes: the new patches of wild perennials that creep up along the south shore bike trail, the crapshoot as to whether or not the bubbler at Grant Park Golf will be open yet (so that I can refill my water bottle), the level of fitness I'm at when I take the ride, the erosion along some of the cliffs. And there's always the state at which Spring has manifested itself. Sometimes the geese are followed by those dirty little yellow puffballs of their young; this year I don't think they've even laid their eggs yet (though I saw one goose working on just that), sometimes the daffodils are in full bloom.

And this year, it was kind of weird and cool with the daffodils. I came upon several patches of daffodils where only 1 was in bloom, the early bird out of the bunch, and the rest were just barely budding. Or I'd see just a single solitary plant out in the middle of a field of unrelated plants. That was my Easter miracle this year, I think. Just this single voice yelling out there, that's soon to be followed by a whole patch of voices. It's a hopeful, metaphorical response to what's been going on lately. I've been really, really annoyed and cynical lately, and this year's rebirth is one of optimism, both personally and politically. I've lost weight, I've started a new job, (and just not being unemployed has lifted a huge albatross off my back), my kids are really blossoming, I'm seeing lots of exciting music again and people are FINALLY WAKING UP.

And so I've decided to quit being afraid of speaking my (political and spiritual) mind in the blog. I've spent too many years discussing everything I've been passionate about here except those two things. Part of it is because for some time now, I've been disillusioned, after spending a good part of my young adulthood as an activist, in the "movement." I mean, I knocked and knocked and knocked on doors and Reagan still got re-elected. Newt Gingrich still got power. Both Bushes still got elected. We still went to war for reasons I'm still not clear on. The religious right still successfully usrped anything about what Christ had to say and twisted it into justification for war, discrimination, and budget cuts. So why risk my job marketability (because I've worked in industries dominated by conservative folk) for a lifetime of banging my head against a brick wall? I'm tired of this fear of political retribution.

Well, guess what. I'm rarely political on this blog, but I'm pretty left wing on twitter. And my photography should pretty much tell you what I do in the voting booth. If somebody wasn't going to hire me this year because they're tea partiers, a simple google search would have put the kabosh on my landing a job. Didn't happen.

But when I took Stella to her first major demonstration this year, the one in Madison where over 125,000 showed up, I flashed back to that time I took her to midnight mass and explained to her that the whole point of Easter is to stop being afraid. I explained to her last month that this demonstration wasn't going to change Scott's (Walker OR Fitzgerald) mind. "They why are we here?" she asked "... besides it being fun." (Which it was, despite the chilly weather). That's exactly it. We were there for us. We were there to create our community. We were there to look around and realize that you and me aren't the only people who are just waking up, who are just being reborn, who are just realizing that we can be a part of effecting change if we just stop being afraid to speak up, to pick up a sign, to be counted. We have friends who slept on the floor of the capitol for a week. We have (formerly obscure) senators who were willing to risk their political life by leaving the state so that we could see exactly what was being hidden from us. (If only the Washington contingent had that kind of balls.) We weren't a bunch of slobs or goons (although, to my delight, there were a lot of artists and theatre and hippies!), no, we were part of a huge crowd who politely chanted "Thank You" to any person of note who took time to approach the podium and offer us words of encouragement. We were --and ARE-- part of a majority of good, compassionate people who have finally had enough, but who finally have some hope-- and faith, if you will -- at the same level of hope and optimism I had in my early 20s, to the point where I'm able to tune my cynicism and anger into something positive. Now that's a resurrection! Hallelujah!

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