Monday, March 10, 2014
It also means the island population swells. Traffic many days looks like a subtropical version of rush hour on the roads outside of New York--but a bit more laidback. People rarely honk their horns! Restaurants are packed--you almost always have to wait for a table. But that stuff is good as well--our local economy depends on it!
And church attendance is up. Way up. Here at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ our Sunday morning attendance quadruples in season! Amazing!
When we talk about these things we often refer to "the seasonal effect"--how our lives go from the slow pace of summer to the harried pace of winter and then back again. How everything we plan has to take into account the fluctuation in numbers that we live with year round. One thing is for certain, it's never dull!
There's a rather snarky bumper sticker that I see every so often here on the island and in neighboring Fort Myers. It is always found on cars and trucks with Florida plates. It reads: "Some of us aren't on vacation." OK--it's funny--but it's not exactly hospitable! If you're a visitor, don't take it personally. Most of us are really glad you're here. Though some would agree with my grandmother, who used to say about our family with four rambunctious children, "I'm glad to see them come, and I'm glad to see them go!"
But bottom line: We're delighted you are here! Enjoy the sunshine, the warmth and the beaches. And come July or August, we'll return the favor!
Monday, March 3, 2014
Best Picture, for instance. Most folks thought it would be either Gravity or Twelve Years a Slave. I saw both pictures, liked both pictures, but as the night went on it appeared Gravity was going to win. And I really thought 12 Years was the better--and much more important--film. So, needless to say, I was a bit surprised, and very pleased, when it won.
Unfortunately, it has not been seen by many people. In the list of top grossing films for 2013 it came in 81st. 81st! Ticket sales for it totaled a bit more than thirty-eight million in 2013. The animated film Despicable Me 2, number 3 on the list, made ten times that amount! Perhaps the Oscar will boost the attention it gets. But the truth is, slavery is an issue we just don't want to face as a nation. The fact that our whole economy in the first two centuries after European settlement was built on it, seems to be forgotten by many. The fact that our national struggles with racism is rooted in it is oft times denied.
But there it sits--a spreading stain on our history--and on our life together as a nation today. Until we are willing to take a long, hard look at the realities of slavery, we will find ourselves bogged down in prejudice.
12 Years a Slave is a step in the right direction. The Oscar for Best Picture, along with the other Oscars it received, is another step. But it won't matter unless you watch it. It won't really count unless people are willing to talk about it. Yes, it is graphic, yes it is painful, embarrassing, violent, desperate, raw--but so was slavery. It's time we grow up as a nation, admit to our past, seek to rectify the harm it has caused, and move toward the day when there is truly liberty and justice for all.
Lupito Nyong'o, the actress who played the role of a slave named Patsy in the film, received the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the much-abused woman. In her acceptance speech she eloquently spoke truth. "It doesn't escape me for one moment," she said, "that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's." What is true for one young actress, in reality, is true for us all. As Americans our joy, our prosperity, our freedom, has indeed been built on the pain of so many others. We do well to remember.
Monday, February 24, 2014
One of the reasons I find baseball so fascinating is because it is all about choices. There are fielder's choices, where you can only get one man out and you have to choose which one. There are decisions pitchers and catchers have to make about whether to throw a slider or a curve ball. And managers make choices about lineups and pitching rotations all the time. We even say the winning pitcher gets the decision.
One of the great philosophjers of the game is the former (I shudder to say the word Yankee's catcher, Yogi Berra. WEell-know for his malapropisns, Yogi always seemed to have a comment to offer up. When Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris his back-to-back home runs yet another time, Yopgi said, "It's deja vu all over again. And when Johnny Bench broke Yogi's record fo0r the most home runs hit by a catcher, Yogi sent him a telegram that read: "Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until iut was broken."
One of his most famous quips had to do with choices. One time Joe Garagiola was going to visit Yogi. He was coming from New York, so he called Yogi to get directions. As Yogi told him how to come, he got to one point in the instructions and said, "When you get to the fork in the road, take it." (All quotations from Yopgi Berra, The Yogi Book).
Soemtimes choices, decisions, are clear and easy. Soemetimes they aren't. But always there are choices. And we need to make them.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Which really is too bad. For the role of president is worth our attention. I've been focusing on it over the last couple of years with what I call my Presidential Project. I am reading a biography of each of our presidents--roughly one per month. As I've mentioned in this blog before, some have proven a real chore to get through, and others have been a great joy. I'm reading about Andrew Johnson at the moment, and learning many things I never knew about this slave holding Unionist. He was, for instance, the only Senator from the South who continued to serve in his seat after his state had seceded. He really was a very complicated guy. (Being from Maine I've always held a grudge against him as he pre-empted Hannibal Hamlin, the only Vice President from the Pine Tree State! I'll have to reconsider my position!)
I undertook this project to learn more about our presidents, but also to have a fresh look at our history as a nation. Both objectives are being accomplished! But I'm also discovering a lot America here and now. It's clichéd to say we are a product of our history, but it is also true. And so many of the basic issues over the years have remained the same. Our Constitution, for instance, carefully balances the rights of individual states against the power of the federal government. It proves to be an ongoing balancing act. And it also is at the core of many if not even most of our debates as a nation! And various presidents were elected based on their position on that very issue!
Presidents are not kings (or maybe one day soon, not queens)--and that is by design. But they are key figures in our national life. And I am convinced that they are merely a reflection of who we are as a people. We not only get the leaders we deserve, we also get the leaders we create.
Monday, February 10, 2014
But while Dad was very tight when it came to material things, he was exceedingly generous with some of the intangibles. Like an appreciation of beauty. He loved good music, fine art and theater. And he made sure we were all exposed to such things. We had lovely paintings on the walls, and tickets (often free!) to classical concerts and trips to the local repertory theater.
And affection. He liberally doled that out to all of us. He was never afraid of a good hug. He told us often that he loved us. And a kiss goodnight was a regular part of the daily ritual.
And faith. OK--he was a preacher--so such would be expected. But while he had very definite ideas about his beliefs, and hoped that we would adopt them, he never forced them down our throats. Yes, we read the Bible together every night. Yes, we held hands and prayed around the dinner table. Yes, we were expected to attend church services on Sundays (and quizzed about the sermon on the ride home)--but we were also given the space to develop our own religious understandings. In high school the rule was, you had to attend worship on the weekend, but you could go wherever you wanted to go. I am convinced my commitment to ecumenism and interfaith cooperation began right there.
As I get older (I'm sixty) I look more and more like my Dad. There was a time in my life when I would have been appalled at the prospect. He and I had our moments. But looking back now, I am proud to bear his image.
Happy birthday, Dad!
(Photo: John and Howard Danner, circa 1988)
Monday, February 3, 2014
One of the little girl's put up her hand.
"The Super Bowl?"
Needless to say, we all chuckled. I of course affirmed her--told her she was right. And then went on to talk about shadows and long winters and so on. But Caitlyn was right. The real event of the day wasn't the weather predicting behavior of a rodent in Pennsylvania, but rather the big football game that night.
While I am neither a Broncos nor a Seahawks fan I did watch the game--and like most everyone else, was less than thrilled. It turned out to be a pretty lousy, one-sided, non-competitive game. Literally twelve seconds into0 the first quarter and the Broncos were behind, never to come even close.
Despite the game, though, folks have found much to talk about: the weather, for one thing. Everyone was worried it would be frigid in new Jersey where the game was played, but it ended up being practically balmy! Then there was Renee Fleming's take on the National Anthem. Beautiful--absolutely beautiful! Best ever, many folks said. (Of course we who are opera buffs could have told them that if they'd gotten an opera singer before . . . . !) For fans of pop music, young Bruno Mars (and the not so young Red Hot Chili Peppers) put on a very fine half-time show. And, as always, the commercials were a notch above the everyday advertisments.
So was the football game really the main event? Or were all the accompanying activities what made it a special day? If the turkey gets overcooked, but the side dishes are all delicious. is Thanksgiving still a bust? If the sermon is lousy, but the music and prayers are moving, is worship still a disaster?
Sometimes in life we forget--what looks like the main event may simply be an excuse for whatever comes with it.
Monday, January 27, 2014
I grew up in the sixties, the heyday of the Beatles. And no doubt have been shaped by their music. I consider myself a fan, and own many of their albums. I can sing along with most of their songs. While I never got caught up in true "Beatlemania"--and am more partial to the later albums than the earliest records they made--it would be hard to deny their influence in my life.
At one point, John Lennon rather famously compared the Beatles to Jesus: "We're more popular than Jesus now," he said in an interview. He went on to predict the demise of Christianity. "Jesus was all right," he said, "but his disciples were thick and ordinary." Needless to say, it created quite an uproar, but in terms of the disciples Lennon wasn't saying anything that the writers of the gospels hadn't said themselves! Over and over again Peter, James, John and the others are portrayed as being rather dimwitted and slow to understand! But eventually most of them did get it. And, then went on to share the good news of God's love throughout the Roman Empire. And, at least according to legend, most of them died as martyrs.
But I wonder if the disciple we really need to think about aren't those from the first century--but rather those of us who follow Jesus in the 21st century. In that interview Lennon went on to complain that it was the disciples who "twisted" the things Jesus had to say. Do we? Do we take the words of Jesus and make it fit our own ideas? Or do we allow his teachings to shape who we are?
If you look at my music collection you'll quickly see that I'm a Beatles fan. And that's fine. But more importantly, I wonder, if you look at my life, can you tell I'm a follower of Jesus? I hope so!
(Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Public Domain)