At times it would seem that we live in our own metaphorical Puritan-type communities, where cohesion and conformity—be it liberal or conservative—are absolute truth. Stereotypes of one group or another (immigrants, evangelicals, tea party activists, transgender students, Muslims, etc.) become factual identities, rather than challenged assumptions; and legitimate concerns—employment, security, immigration, global warming, etc.—lead to divided opinion. Fortunately, unlike the citizens in Atwood’s novel, we neither live on that city on the hill, which some would like to return to, nor in the darkened alleyways of Gotham city that some would have us believe.
In the midst of this recent presidential campaign, it may seem that society is stitched together as a patchwork of conflicting ideologies and beliefs separated by intolerance, discrimination, righteousness, and hostility. I myself have been hesitant to venture outside, confined to the rigid knowledge of my own truth. But I encourage each of us to stand with compassion, and to not hesitate in stepping out into the mud, alive and riveted by this complicated, imperfect world.
This is a complicated world,
but not for the sake of trying.
But how do we respond? What is it that I have done?Have I tried to lay in the long grass,
to wake early and see my breath?
When did I last wait to hear,
Not answer, not voice, but a bird,
the woodpecker’s sharp tap outside the bedroom window.
I don’t remember when I last walked in the rain
to look up and see the downpour.
Am I afraid of getting wet, of tracking mud?
How quickly I forget my coat, a pair of boots
Do I even remember where in the closet they are stored?
I must go out this next time.
I must remember that it is expected of me
to not remain dry
to track mud onto the floor boards.
It is expected that I do not remain a stoic philosopher forever.
Good reflection never came from sitting at the altar.
Unless I propose to be a monk,
but even the monk must laugh
and he does look up into the rain.
This is a complicated world
but made less so because I am not a monk
however much I would like to be.
And although not a religious
I will still pray.
Perhaps I will even pray tonight.
Perhaps my words will carry hints of the sacred.
It is a sacred found in the ordinary;
Alive and riveted by this complicated, imperfect world.
Alive and riveted by this complicated, imperfect life.
And my feet have been introduced to mud,
my hair drips rain.
Maybe I shall yet live
or at the very least I will try.