Praying for Strangers

An adventure of the human spirit

We're Still Here - Now What?

And so, we begin again.

It’s the momenteous day of days. The old twelve/twenty-one/twelve has arrived. And passed. And I have so much on my mind. I’m giving a good guess that you do, too.

The shootings in Newton, gun control or the lack of it, the Mayan Apocolypse, the Mayan decedents, Christmas, the New Year, and resolutions. Deadlines and big decisions. The mess I’ve made this year, and the things I’ve gotten right. It’s all rolled into one, big sloppy ball of confusion right here at the end of another year and what is prophesized as the end of an age.

Which brings me right back to the end of the world. And the wonderful speculation that has gone on about exactly what the Mayans were up to. What did they mean? Did they just run out of ink? Out of time? Maybe just didn’t care what happened after this moment in our history? Or was it something more significant?

A friend on Facebook posted a speech excerpt from Bolivian President Evo Morales. It was worthy of a good read and a little reflection. And it helped that monkey-mind clatter begin to calm down so that I could look at the serious issues at hand. The things lying under the surface of our media news, our recent heartbreak, our pain and plodding on to shop for yet another present.

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This year seems to have drawn an invisible line in the sands of time. One that stands between those preparing for doomsday and those preparing for, well, what can I call it - a new age? A new hope? A hoping for, praying for, a greater time of peace and not of an apocolytic do all to end all. In the aftermath of the wars we’ve endured these last years, and of the recent tragedy in Newton, a new kind of peace seems so far from possible but still so desperately needed. Maybe in the aftermath of recent events in our country some of us are indeed ready for some type of end-of-age because living in this one has become so incredibly, mind-numbing terrible. I understand.

It’s also the first time I think our personal household has been a little divided. My husband and I agree on things . . . mostly. We don’t split hairs on the small stuff like toliet seats up or down and we don’t look for silly battles neither of us will win. Spiritually we are in sync, and politically we agree . . . mostly. But this Mayan, doomsday, end of the world thing has us a little on opposite sides of the coin.

The deal is - my husband is a survivor. Beginning and end. This first came to my attention after years of marriage, after knowing he can live in the wilderness for days, possibly months carrying nothing but a single toothpick and an old string of dental floss. I knew that part of him. But when we were on an intercontinental flight to Barcelona a few years ago and the stewardess was letting those of us in blue collar seats know that in the event of an unexpected water 'landing' that if we were lucky, parts of our seats might be used for flotation devices. She inadvertently announced at the same time, almost in the same breath, that those flying in first class would find life preservers under their seats. “Life preservers?” I whispered to my husband. “Can you believe it? The people in first class get life preservers and all we get is a piece of a seat?”

 “Are you kidding me?” He replied without a moment’s thought. “If the plane starts going down, two people in first class will not have life preservers.” He said this without a doubt and without any question.

It took me a moment to even process what he was saying. Then I turned and looked at him. He is a rather large and strong. He looks like Paul Bunyan. Like a mountain. I was a little dumbfounded. It never, ever occurred to me to try to take someone’s life preserver from them. After all, they did pay to upgrade.

That’s when survivor, the full meaning of the word, came clearly into view. Now granted, I am a southern girl, raised in southern roots, by people who came up hard during hard times and survived. Through ruptured appendix, picking cotton in the noon day summer sun, all manner of accidents, droughts, depression, and just plain meaness. I’m from good survival stock and I may be a sad representation of my people because I just didn't go there. 

My husband did. He lives there. He will stock up on extra things from time to time. Rice and beans. Dried meat. “Just in case,” he says. I nod. I understand. Nothing wrong with a little extra rice, some beans, and some batteries. I’d throw a few great books in there for good measure. “What do we do about the kids?” I ask him.

"What kids?”

“All of them. The children in the middle of this Mayan apocalypse end-of-the-world scare. What if they are in the road, at our gates or abandoned? Do we get to feed them? Can I grab an old mule and go out looking for them and bring them back to our piece of the world?”

I'm thinking we better throw in a few cases of pencils, a  case of pens. A lot of notebooks full of empty paper. There will be stories to be told. Writing and reading to be taught. 

He doesn’t actually answer me about the kids. Not really. But I know I’ve married a man with an incredible heart and soul. And this is what I”m relying on. Not his survival skills although I know that  should anything terribly off kilter happen in this crazy world he will be needed by more people than just me.  Just the way all of us will be needed more than we realize by others outside our tiny, sacred circles.

So, on this momentous day of days as we watch for signs in the skies, and off the coast of New Zealand figuring if they have surivived so far, surely so will we, what I’m hoping is that all of us will turn our hearts to surviving in a new way. That we might cast a picture, a vision if you will, of what we would like that surviving future to contain. And what we would like left out. I think we would agree to cast away anything resembling hunger or want, treachery or meanness, evil or malcontent. That list could be never-ending. And I would hope that we would desire to fill in our picture of the future with other, brighter things. Peace and friendship. Hope and faith. Love and laughter.

What I think those ancient Mayans may have been pointing to is this - Choose.

Choose what travels beyond these days. Choose how you will fill the remaining minutes and moments of your world. Writers - pick up your pens, artists  - your brushes, musicians - your songs. This is our time to fill in the blank spaces that travel before us with the words, the images, the music, the very memories that will speak volumes to our future generations. Perhaps, as never before, we can influence how our time is spent, the fruit of our prayers, the condition of our minds and hearts. Perhaps, instead of filling them with death, with fear, with loss, we can embrace a depth of kindness and compassion, of humanity, that this world has been gravely lacking and desperately needing.

Fishes and loaves, my friend. A world of uncommon humanity. A fulfilling of our capacity to be bravely, truly, beautifully human in a way the ancient Mayans never saw first-hand, but hopefully, in some corner of their hearts, predicted.

River Jordan is a playwright and novelist in Nashville.

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