“Never Forget: 9/11,” read the bumper sticker on the sedan tooling through Linden Hills the other day.
Forget? Forget what? That people just ain’t no good, as Nick Cave sang? That people, even people who purportedly love and understand each other, sometimes don’t get along and epically so? That stranger danger is rampant on the planet and desperate times beget desperate world citizens who kill each other over new ideas and fables about God?
Got it. Understood. And you’re right: The news cycle long ago moved on to the sexier schism of the day, class warfare, but alert the media the more telling rift is the one between the people who have been paying attention and the people who haven’t. Culture wars, I suppose; all I know is that the last decade, like so many before it, current events threw many of us into an existential angst that bore and continues to bear fruit.
To wit: In the “Post-9/11” years, most of us dusted ourselves off, kept exploring, and continued doing the love and philosophy homework that always ended with some version or another of “Love thy neighbor.” At the same time, many others defaulted toward easily achieved stances of revenge, pontification, and patriotism.
Like I said, spare me.
“Who cares about what’s going on in all these wars and revolutions?” asked my favorite disinterested 16-year-old last month. “It’s like kindergarten: One kid pushes another down, the other kid pushes back. I learned that in kindergarten. The rest is …”
He’s right: From the day we come into this world we realize that people can be cruel and life isn’t fair; our culture is awash in those stories, pouring out as they do from the porno news channels 24-7. But there must be a place for those of us who listen to what Thomas Moore calls “care of the soul,” and know in our hearts that the only way to go is to embrace what Henry Miller wrote:
“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”
Pay Attention. Be Here Now. Live In The Moment. Be Still. It’s at the core of every spiritual tenet known to human beings, as the sermon at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community church had it this past Sunday. Over the course of 30 rich minutes, the yogi spoke of stillness and the riches that can be accessed within — a timely message for the tumultuous-contemplative season that is autumn, the time of year when imagination is everything and beauty is everywhere.
Absolutely breathtaking beauty, that is, if you take time to drink in the rain on the leaves, the placid lakes, the explosion of fire red, ash brown, neon tequila yellow, and blazing orange all over God’s creation. Symbiotic to it all is Alix in Candyland, the trippy high-end candy store at France and 54th that sells an old-school confectionary vision of happiness, love, and a memorable sweet simple sensuality.
All sorts of fairy tales and erotica have been written about sugars and sweets and the people who make and serve them, and Alix In Wonderland bursts with the smells and sights of an old-world confectionary, one that’s crazy akin to a real-time gorging on of “Like Water For Chocolate,” “Babette’s Feast,” and “Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” the Gene Wilder-version of which my teenage daughter and four of her pals imbibed in over the weekend at her birthday sleepover.
It was an amazing day, weekend, and week on so many levels, all of which I’ll tell you about sooner or later. But for me, for now, suffice it to say that the biggest takeaway from Sunday is that I got up and made pancakes for the family and teen partiers, then shocked all concerned with the news that I was going to church. A hippie church with many manifestations, anti-rules, and myriad things to chew on, to be sure, but a church nonetheless.
The 16-year-old almost fell off his stupor-perch, but I was on my way. I headed out the door and landed at the doors of Upton and 44th , where I found, prayed with, and held hands with a few dozen long-lost and newly-found soul mates, survivors, joiners, non-joiners, thinkers, lovers, smokers, drinkers, seekers and homies.
Someone suggested I revisit Mary Oliver’s “The Journey,” and hell yes I know I’m going back — for another much-needed dose of beauty and truth amidst the B.S. and the bloodshed.
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.