Sunday, June 26, 2022

"Is America Possible?"/ "... Whatever you do, we are going to let our light shine ..." / Young tree finds a home / "... A passion so intense ..."


While doing my yoga practice this morning I listened to "Is America Possible?", an interview with Vincent Harding by Krista Tippett from 2011 and then read the transcript because there was so much I wanted to remember.  I've been going to the "On Being" archives nearly every day and listening to the interviews under the category of "Across Generations."

Vincent Harding:  "My own feeling that I try to share again and again, Krista, is that when it comes to creating a multiracial, multiethnic, multireligious, democratic society, we are still a developing nation. We’ve only been really thinking about this for about half a century. But my own deep, deep conviction is that the knowledge, like all knowledge, is available to us if we seek it ...

... That was so much part of the way in which the songs try to encourage us not simply to be reactors. So that instead of saying, “You honky governor, you’re no good, and we’re gonna do this or that to you,” the basic, deepest word was, “Whatever you do, we’re gonna let our light shine ..."

....Whenever somebody jokes about “Kum Bah Ya,” my mind goes back to the Mississippi summer experience where the movement folks in Mississippi were inviting co-workers to come from all over the country, especially student types, to come and help in the process of voter registration, and Freedom School teaching, and taking great risks on behalf of the transformation of that state and of this nation. There were two weeks of orientation. The first week was the week in which Schwerner and Goodman and their beloved brother Jimmy were there. And it was during the time that they had left the campus that they were first arrested, then released, and then murdered.

The word came back to us at the orientation that the three of them had not been heard from. Bob Moses, the magnificent leader of so much of the work in Mississippi, got up and told these hundreds of predominantly white young people that, if any of them felt that at this point they needed to return home or to their schools, we would not think less of them at all, but would be grateful to them for how far they had come.

But he said let’s take a couple of hours just for people to spend time talking on the phone with parents or whoever to try to make this decision and make it now. What I found as I moved around among the small groups that began to gather together to help each other was that, in group after group, people were singing “Kum Bah Ya.” “Come by here, my Lord, somebody’s missing, Lord, come by here. We all need you, Lord, come by here.”

I could never laugh at “Kum Bah Ya” moments after that because I saw then that almost no one went home from there. They were going to continue on the path that they had committed themselves to. And a great part of the reason why they were able to do that was because of the strength and the power and the commitment that had been gained through that experience of just singing together “Kum Bah Ya" ..."

Krista Tippett:  I was listening to the BBC in recent weeks, and they’re watching us from afar. They were interviewing a journalist about this moment in American history, which seems very tumultuous and the question was, “Is it really more violent and more despairing than it’s been before or does this happen repeatedly?” And the comparison was made with the 1960s.

They said, look, there was a lot of social turmoil then. There were assassinations, right? I mean, many assassinations. But this journalist said — and I just want to know what you think — he said that he thought the difference between the 1960s and now was that even though there was incredible tumult and violence, it was at the very same time a period of intense hope, and people could see that they were moving towards goals. And that that’s missing now. What do you think about that analysis?

Vincent Harding:  Hmm. Krista, I think that is such a complicated kind of issue that I can only pick at it and tease it out and play with it in the best sense of play. I think that what I see now is the fact that all over this country, wherever I go, and, of course, where I go tends to be sort of self-selective because I am most often going into situations where people are operating out of a sense of hope and possibility, where in their local situations, whether it be Detroit, or Atlanta, or a campus someplace, or a church community in Philadelphia, that there are women and men and young people who are operating out of hope.

My sense is that, in the ‘60s, there was probably a larger kind of canopy of hope that we could see, and we could identify, and that people could name and focus on. Now, we are in particular spots, locations, sometimes seemingly isolated. But I feel that there are points, focal situations, where that is still available and where people are operating from that.

So I think that it is not simply the matter of hope or no hope. I have a feeling that one of the deeper transformations that’s going on now is that for the white community of America, there is this uncertainty growing about its own role, its own control, its own capacity to name the realities that it has moved into a realm of uncertainty that it did not allow itself to face before.

And I think that that’s the place that we are in, and that’s even more the reason why we’ve got to figure out what was King talking about when he was seeing the possibility of a beloved community and recognized that, maybe, for some of us, that cannot come until some of us realize that we must give up what we thought was only ours in the building of a beloved nation. Can there be a beloved nation? Why don’t we try and see?


In the last few days, I woke up in the middle of the night with the thought that I would buy a Coral Bark Japanese Maple and donate it to Big Rock Garden to take the place of another Japanese maple that had died.  I'd been watching the frail ailing Japanese maple for some time and kept hoping that it would spring back to life.  I talked with one of the many volunteers who give their time to various sections of Big Rock Garden and gave her my phone number.  I was contacted by a retired couple who volunteer their gardening skills and who had also hoped that the maple I was watching would rebound.  I brought a young tree for the couple to see and we walked around Big Rock Garden, looking for possible locations for it.  My hope was that it could be planted in the same area as the one that had died.  Yesterday I went up to Big Rock Garden to see where it had been planted and made a video with my cell phone camera,

Here are the photos the volunteers sent to me:


(Once again, the fonts resist uniformity.  Why not?)

When to my melancholy
All is folly

                 then the whirr
of the hummingbird
at intervals throughout the day

is all that’s sure
to stir me, makes me
jump up, scattering

papers, books, pens—
                                    To the bay window,
and certainly,

there he is below it
true-aimed at the minute cups of
Coral Bells, swerving

the fierce, brilliant faith
that pierces the heart all summer

and sips bitter insects steeped in nectar,
prima materia
of gleam-and-speed-away

A passion so intense
It driveth sorrow hence ...


ellen abbott said...

I think a big difference between the 60s and now is that in the 60s we were going forward, we were gaining ground. Now we are going backward, we are losing what we fought for to gain. That's where the feelings of despair come from, what else will we lose?

Sabine said...

Tree planting is such a great way to express our place in nature. Thank you!