Namaste now!

I’m honored to be speaking, reading and playing a few tunes to the students of St. Paul Academy to kick off their Book Week festival on Election Day eve, and the main thing I’m going to tell those kids is that the absolute best thing you can do for yourself and others is to pay attention to the inner; no matter what you do in life, know how to quiet the mind and how to go to that secret secure creative place deep inside. 

Seriously, kids. Remember to nurture it and cultivate it and recognize why it is special and singular. Water it like a plant. Meditate. Love it up.

Now more than ever, kids, for there is a cacophony of invented news, opinion and entertainment these strange days, all pulling for your time and attention, all seeking to mold your soul, so as you go along in life, make sure you can hear the sound of your own voice above it all, for the good of all. As Henriette Lannes put it in his brilliant 2003 essay “The Fundamental Quest”:

“We need silence, not to escape from ourselves but to know the foundation, the roots, the tendencies of our true nature.”

Talking about staying in touch with the divinity within, here, which is what “Namaste” is all about: The 4,000-year-old word has long been a common greeting in India, but yogic traditions have adopted it and given it new translations of, “I bow to the divinity in you” and, ”I wish for you a long life.” 

As a way of maintaining the peace lately, I’ve found myself using “Namaste” in response to so many situations, conversations and ideas. At my DeLaSalle High School reunion this summer, two former classmates screamed at me about how god’s law states clearly that marriage is a sacred something or other to be shared only between a man and a woman. I listened, asked questions, and finally summoned the courage to rise above their bigoted vitriol and tell them I thought that what they were saying was homophobic, anti-love and anti-Jesus.

“Namaste,” I said, got up, and left the party with them screaming louder at my heels. Afterward I had some good chats about the interaction and about how government and church has worked to divide people who have more in common with one another than not, and the next week one of the women took me to a Lynx game where we found something like common ground — we’ve both loved girls’ and women’s basketball since high school — if not exactly peace. 

Which, apparently, is getting harder to come by all the time.

Last week in this space, I extolled the medicinal values of sunset-staring. I was still enraptured by some of the joy that column expressed and the kindred-spirited feedback I got when I happened upon another magnificent sundown, blazing into the still black and blue water of, yes, her again, Lake Harriet.

I was taking it in with Zero, my dog, and Pete, my buddy, from one of the fishing docks that juts out about 60 feet past shore. We were gobsmacked by the thing, reverent and talking in hushed tones about the healing and energizing qualities of solar power and pretty much reveling in all god’s glory on all cylinders. Life was good.

A guy about 10 years older than us and his dog joined us on the dock. I greeted him and said something about the beautiful sunset. Within 90 seconds he erupted into an angry tirade on global warming and progressives. I turned both cheeks on him, took the dog and got out of there, switching him off like bad talk radio. Pete asked him a couple questions, gave up, and in parting said, “Namaste.”

A good word to know these days, kids, when tempers are short, opinions are loud and people are having trouble enjoying sunsets out there.

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.