Taking the Long Way Home
When children do not listen, they face consequences. Later as adults our excuses grow more nimble. We spin and dodge past failure. “Not me. I’m not to blame. I didn’t vote for him.” When everyone retreats into a corner, the space between us is nearly empty. After Hurricane Katrina, when the levees broke, failure piled upon failure. Even the bodies floating out of windows were never fully counted. At some point, the response is deemed adequate. No one wore sackcloth. The problem is studied for a while then drifts away.
Our ancestors did not listen. They abandoned the law and embraced new gods more strategic for the moment. Those sent into their midst to speak were ignored or killed. Entangled in their own devices they endured war and exile. When they finally heard the prophet’s words, remorse swept through the community. Even those in power begged forgiveness.
When children are lost, they know it. Fear grows as they search the crowd for a familiar face. Being found is a great relief. Later on it becomes harder to realize when we are lost. This crowd of ours does not say “we.” Besides, we are too busy to be lost. Why be afraid if you’re making your mortgage payments? Our public discourse doesn’t leave much room for forgiveness or coming home. Atonement never enters our mind.
In Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke, survivors describe the traditional New Orleans funeral march. The walk to the cemetery brings tears and grief. On the way back, the trumpet picks up and feet shuffle into dancing. Out of mourning comes a way to celebrate. Troubles fade and we return to life.
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