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A favorite interview and an inspirational encounter

Earlier this year, on the cusp between winter and spring, I found myself in my old home stomping grounds of northern Minnesota for some speaking engagements and a showing of the film of Neither Wolf nor Dog.  The weather was blustery and the character of the north was on full display.  A young woman named Serene Lusano, recently transplanted to the north country from California in a move back to her husband’s home town, was assigned to interview me for the local paper.  I just loved her curiosity and insight, and willingness to look at life’s changes as an adventure more than a challenge.  She did what I thought was a wonderful interview because she knew how to listen.  She did not want information; she wanted understanding.  And she knew how to turn an interview into a conversation.

I mention this because we of the passing generation need to raise up the good voices whenever we can.  Serene, a stranger in a strange land, a fish out of water struggling to swim in a new environment, was one of those voices that abound, too often unnoticed, in the small towns and forgotten corners of America.  As America’s cities metastasize and crumble under the weight of their own growth, it will be the folks in the outlying areas who have the physical and psychological elbow room to think beyond problems and shape the world with dreams.  They are the new frontiersmen and women who can reenvision this country.  Small towns, reservations, rural enclaves — these are the places where new dreams can form.  Watch them, listen to them, learn from them, and raise them up.  Listen to them like Serene listened to me, and honor them for the courage they exhibit in leaving the apparent urban mainstream to light out for the territories.

Here is the interview.


Responses to the Notre Dame fire

Immediately after the tragic fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame I asked folks on Facebook to tell how it affected them emotionally, especially in comparison to the very similar visual experience of seeing the twin towers fall.  Most people disregarded the twin towers parallel and went right to the heart of their feelings about the event itself and our collective response to the loss.  I encourage you to find the Facebook feed if you want to see the many cogent responses.  But this morning I wrote a response to those responses which I thought I would share.  Here it is:

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The answers seemed to separate themselves into four main points of view:
1. It is unseemly that people should be feeling such horror and outrage at the burning of an old European pile of wood and stones while we express no concern about the children dying in droughts across Africa, and black churches in the American south are burnt down with impunity.
2. The universe is making a statement, or, at least, offering us a metaphor about either the Catholic church, patriarchal religion in general, or the old order of human affairs. Somehow this was a message of retribution or about the necessity of change.
3. Great tears are shed for the destruction of a Euro-Christian sacred space, yet none are shed for the destruction and despoliation of the sacred land and spaces of indigenous people.
4. This is a tragic blow to the heart of the human impulse toward beauty and imaginative vision. There are moments when civilization coalesces into a physical form that stands as a monument to who we are and what we can achieve, and when these are lost we all are the poorer.
What fascinated me is how many more responses looked at the event through an ecological or sociological lens than through an aesthetic lens. This is understandable, and perhaps a legitimate corrective, given the way our world is operating these days. But there are some dark drumbeats in the distance when, for any reason, we fail to honor the beauty of our most visionary human creations because we do not like what they represent.