What is the value of a thistle? We don’t entirely know. I suppose God does. I suppose the little prickler gives praise to God in its own thistly way, just by being itself in cooperation with other nearby creatures being themselves. Is that enough for us to give it some respect, help it along?
As you spend a few last hours this summer in your Adirondack chair under a shady canopy of leaves—with that feeling of autumn’s imminence causing you to contemplate decline, aging, and the end of civilization—you might consider distracting yourself with some “climate fiction.” Sometimes short-handed to “cli-fi,” climate fiction is a recent modulation of environmental fiction, and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s not all doom and gloom.
But amid all your advice about clothes and food, I notice you’re saying absolutely nothing about government corruption and malpractice, ongoing racial hatred, mass incarceration, resurgent misogyny, torqued-up geopolitical tensions.
But neither Toller’s problems nor religious despair in general are particularly Calvinist, nor do I think that’s what Schrader means to suggest. Schrader has long thought about what it means to capture the holy in art, and a portrait of despair is one stunningly effective way to get there—though not the only way.
Since we have entered the Age of Resistance, it’s important to keep one’s protest muscles well-toned. With all the marching, kneeling, standing, sitting, walking out, gesturing, and pumping of hand-lettered placards up and down—not to mention furious typing on Twitter—ordinary citizenship in the United States now demands a higher level of physical fitness than we American couch potatoes are accustomed to.
Suddenly I’ve realized how stupid I am. I’ve lived in this climate and latitude most of my life, surrounded by these fellow creatures going about their quick, fluttery lives, and I know almost nothing about them, not even how to recognize their voices.
I’ve always understood that my education, beginning with my mother’s early tutelage, was a privilege. This week my gratitude—and perspective—deepened significantly as I read, along with a class of college senior English majors, Michelle Kuo’s wise and generous memoir, Reading with Patrick.
This is just a tiny sampling, and I’m only one person. I’m scribbling in my notebook as fast as I can, and I’m not even telling you all the clever jokes and tender stories and dear human connections I am witnessing in this extraordinary space.
No lights were on, not even a candle. The dusk of the day through the opaque glass ceiling over our chancel area yielded just enough light to see, but all the color had drained from this familiar worship space, leaving nothing but grays.
We know what it’s like to be on display all the time, to be ever the responsible example, to be always leading and mentoring and discipling, striving never to fail anyone in the quest to model spiritual excellence. It’s a blessed life, of course—a privilege for sure—but our laughter was an admission: sometimes it just feels exhausting.