Friday, April 25, 2008

On these shoulders

I saw an extraordinary play last night, with Beloved, Young Poet Friend and Seminarian Friend. It was part of August Wilson's Century Cycle, which also includes the Pulitzer-winning plays Fences and The Piano Lesson. Last evening's play was called Gem of the Ocean. Its depth and power were riveting, and each actor truly honored that wonderful script. A privilege to witness, and a thoroughly revelatory, wrenching experience. Local readers, get on the phone and get yourself a ticket--you won't be sorry!

At the center of the play was a rich and wonderful quilt by textile artist Cecile Margaret Lewis. It was the vessel of so many themes present in the text:
  • the continuing effects of slavery and its aftermath on the black community (and, by extension, on the larger community)
  • living and dying with honor and beauty, whatever your circumstances
  • the fire in the hearts of the oppressed, and the power inherent in the ability to be subtly, humorously, defiantly true to yourself and your people (the ones who are yours through inheritance and/or simply through the bonds of love)
  • the scarring and redemption present in every human life
  • as is apparent in the poster art for the program, the idea that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us...and that we have an obligation to honor their memory in both the living of our own lives and the nurture of the next generation
Which has me thinking today about all of the shoulders on which I stand--about the building, teaching, the suffering, the sacrifice and the generosity of:
  • the generations of my family, whose DNA, culture, social system and ethics inform my whole existence in a most basic way
  • the builders, maintainers and reformers of the Christian (Lutheran) faith
  • the great thinkers and innovators of every age
  • those who settled and led this country (in all those good and bad ways)
  • the musicians, poets, writers, artists of all kind who have helped me to see and to hear
  • my teachers (of all stripes)
  • civil rights activists (of all stripes, but particularly GLBT) who have made my relatively open and fear-free existence possible
  • those living examples in my life...Beloved, friends, loved ones, colleagues, community members--all who keep me growing.
I sat and tried to make a list, just first names, of all the people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude, and to whom I am therefore answerable on some level. I thought I might make a text cloud of those names and post them here. It quickly became evident that this was going to be an impractically long list...and that posting it isn't the point.

The remembering is the point. Honoring their gift to me by passing it on to others: THAT's the point. I'm going to try to live inside that idea for a while.

Who's on your list?

What are you going to do about it?

1 comment:

Jan said...

Good question. One to ponder and actually put to task. Thanks. And thank you for coming to visit and for your kind and understanding words.