Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, February 29, 2008


A Year of Morning Thanks

More than a bit skeptical

I came of age during the Sixties, the Vietnam War era, the race riots, the assassinations—not to mention the Golden Age of rock music--and that era left its own indelible mark on me. I don’t trust blindly, and I long ago lost the ability to have total faith in people in leadership positions, in institutions, and in most anything.

That sounds awful. That I can’t trust authority could make my life miserable—there's a risk I'll end up like that despairing doleful wretch, Young Goodman Brown.

Last night I listened to a black man talk about Rastafarianism and heard all sorts of echoes out of Native American tribes from west to east in this country. He offered black people especially a way of life that promises a return to enough nativism to heal the souls of those whose heritage has been burned and pillaged, those who've been ravaged by prejudice, discrimination, and injustice. I'm skeptical. As a religion--as a faith--Rastafarianism, at least to me, felt like an almost silly hodge podge. As a means of countering the horrific despair of a people whose lives and culture were decimated by colonialism--by white people--it seemed a blessing.

I had grave doubts, but I liked what I heard--if that makes sense.

I've been a part of this small college for almost forty years, and I had to shake my head, even while sitting there, because, back in those early years, I would have never believed the place would have it's own black student union. But last night, I was there, and it was a blessing, truly. There's all kinds of things I don't think I can teach my own black students, things a Rastafarian can--even if, by his own standards, he fails to make a convert.

Maybe it's my age, maybe it's my Sixties' heritage, maybe it's my profession, but I'm capable of full doses of real skepticism, of listening to a man go on and on about a religion, a way of life, that seems to me to be specious--and still appreciating what he has to say. Despite Christ's own admonition, about a lot of things I don't have a very child-like faith. There are times I wish I did. I'm far more of a Doubting Thomas than a SweetPea. But that's okay.

My guess is that lots and lots of wonderful ideas—art itself—is created from doubt and dissent, from skepticism, from grousing and upset stomachs, from the deep cuts made close and critical analysis, from downright unbelief. I don’t think I’d write at all if I believed everything I hear.

If it's not a disabler, skepticism--and even doubt, I think--is a good thing; and this morning, even as a believer, a Christian, I’m thankful for healthy dose of skepticism. Just not too happy either. If that makes sense.

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