525,600 Minutes

My friend Greg commented yesterday how ironic and lovely it would be if, a hundred years from now, we looked back on these times as the beginning of a new unity between Christianity and Islam. If you look around, there’s basis for this idea: the more intelligent of the world’s citizens are using this time to break down barriers of culture and race to learn more about each other, and share stories. Example: this Sunday, a representative from one of the local mosques is coming to talk to the youth in our church about his faith and to open lines of communication between the two communtities. He’s trying to arrange to have some of his students attend as well; I hope that works out.

I’m afraid of the talking heads who call this a turning point in the history of the world. I think we’re proving that we don’t really believe in the rhetoric of peace preached by religions and the cultural movements of the past few decades, including Gandhi, MLK, and of course the protestors to the Vietnam War. My generation was raised on these influences, but counter-acted them with violent fantasies in popular culture. One of our kids at church asked, if we really believe in the ideas of a united world culture and the importance of all human life, which any person will spout at you if cornered, then who are the 90% of Americans who favor a military response to the terrorist threat? Is it possible to enact that response and still believe in the rhetoric of unity and peace? I think that this moment in the history of humanity has the potential to reshape the tradition of war, moreso than fretting over whether to start a covert or open attack to the Middle East. I think, at this stage of humanity’s intellectual development, any murder of innocent lives towards a cause is no longer an excuseable option. What else do we have that separates us from the terrorists, truly?

There are people who would roast me as unpatriotic for thinking this way. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I cherish the ideals upon which this country was founded, and honor those who fought in the past to uphold these ideals. I concede that violence may be the only possible response to a direct threat. But I don’t think, in the current trend of flag-waving and fist-pumping, that we can rest on the traditions of the past and not look toward how our present actions will shape the soul of this country. Are we truly the friend of the world, or are we the neighborhood bully who throws his weight around and makes the little kids give up their lunch money for protection? Will the pride we feel in the flag come from an untarnished belief in the freedoms for all that it represents, or from a defensive “we’re better than you are” attitude?

This is the first time in a few days I’ve thought these things through. I’ve been running away, keeping my vision close to home. It was comforting but cowardly. The rescue workers in NYC are still moving the World Trade Center towers by the bucketful. I don’t have the right to disconnect.

At the same time, I really miss irony. I wish Jon Stewart would stop being morose and emotional and start finding targets for his silly humor again. It’s slowly getting better, thankfully.

But while we’re still dodging irony, here’s the words to a song that have hit home afresh lately. “Seasons of Love”, from Rent (Jonathan Larson):

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred moments so dear

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee

In inches, in miles, in laughter in strife

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love

Measure in love

Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred journeys to plan

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned

Or in times that he cried

In the bridges he burned

Or the way that she died

It’s time now to sing out though the story never ends

Let’s celebrate, remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love, measure in love

You know that love is a gift from up above

Measure your life in love

Seasons of love