Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Themes of Home

My son and I traveled 1600 miles to visit my brother and his family last week. We had a great time, seeing new places, visiting with family, going to special events, and just being together. I was very aware of all the feelings churning around inside the "leaving home" experience--all the newness, discomfort, worry (will we make the flight? Will security be scary? Will we be reunited with our luggage?), schedule changes, and more. Everything new required flexibility, adaptability, and trust.

It's interesting to me that in order to step into a new experience we must be willing to step outside the known, the comfortable, the familiar. Each has its gift. It is a real leaving and a real stepping out. And at the close of the experience, there is a real leaving of the new and a modified, enriched return to the old. We carry within us some kind of expansion, more openness, more welcome, that occurred as we grew into the new experience.

I think each time we have a deep conversation with someone, each time we encounter another person truly, each time we open ourselves to a new idea, each time we try to approach something that scares us or heal something that has limited us, we go through this leaving and arriving process. The good news is that we don't lose what we leave because it has expanded us and moved in, becoming part of who we are. I think we do ultimately relax our grasp of it, dissolving the belief that we have to have it in our hands in order continue safely through our lives. More has come. More will come. And wherever we are in our travels, all is well.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Freedom Rings

Last night we went to see Symphony on the Prairie, a family tradition on the Fourth of July. But last night was different--strange, somehow. Perhaps it's because of the massive and pervasive conflict of feelings about the U.S. involvement in Iraq, the administration, and our general sense of agency and responsibility as a nation, but the flag-waving, banner-raising, red-white-and-blueishness of last night (plus the fact that 12,000 people stood almost in unison and sang, "God Bless the USA") was more disturbing to me than inspiring. It was almost like a panicked sense of denial--maybe the more unsure we are, the louder we sing.

Today I decided to go read the Declaration of Independence for myself. I believe that this country is founded on the right stuff. I also think it's a complex (and wonderful) thing when these principles are able to flow through and sustain millions and millions of people (and hopes and dreams and aspirations and good works). Jefferson said that a government is created and exists, "by the consent of the governed," to secure the rights of each individual to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. He also wrote that it was our duty to change a system of government that does not protect those rights or work for our Safety and Happiness. (I love it that those key words are capitalized in the document.)

I thought about what freedom means--freedom from bondage, from unfairness, from abuses, from exploitation, from judgment and violence. Freedom from prejudice, from unfair laws and taxes, from being at the mercy of a despot's rule, from the withholding of a sense of justice and protection. Jefferson felt freedom meant Life, Liberty, Happiness, and Safety. Interesting that in the closing paragraph of the Declaration, the representatives declared that these colonies were already free, with all the rights afforded independent states. They weren't asking anyone; they weren't threatening war; they weren't waiting to see what would happen--they were claiming what was already theirs (and ours): The unalienable right to live a free life, trying to find and bring our own measure of good to the world.

May the next year in the life of our nation and our world bring about a fuller realization of that natural, existing truth for everyone.