“But among the reeds and rushes
A baby girl was found
Her eyes as clear as centuries
Her silky hair was brown
Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time.” — Paul Simon
Sometimes you have to embrace the contradictions. The best artists are the ones that can highlight them without bashing you over the head with it. I don’t know if Simon is writing anything new these days. He has been in the public eye for nearly sixty years. He has probably done his due and then some.
This particular song (the one referenced above) balanced the contradiction between a world that is overpopulated and seemingly bursting at the seams with the joy and hope that comes from every new birth. Even amidst all the chaos, anger, fear, and uncertainty there is something beautiful and forever hopeful about new life.
Of course, the Catholic in me takes extra significance with these lines. It will forever be the hardest issue when it comes to balancing the teachings of faith with the political realities of the world. Simon managed to do the impossible. He made his point without bashing you over the head. That’s where you see true beauty.
In a world full of political turmoil, internet trolls, social unrest, and toxic positivity on the other side, it is becoming increasingly difficult to balance the desire to hang on to hope with the desire to give into reality. Toxic positivity’s bastardized cousin is the historical whitewash. I think most of these people mean well, but the results are still nasty.
Think about any conversation you have had with your parents or older relatives. They’ll tell you about a time when things were simpler and almost certainly better. Maybe it was getting into the movies for a quarter. Maybe it was the absence of drugs, violence, and sexual exploitation on television. Maybe it was the fact that if you worked hard and kept your nose clean you could make a decent living. They walked to school five miles a day in the snow. Uphill. Both ways. They killed a grizzly bear with their loose leaf notebook. You get the idea.
I have no doubt that things were simpler back then, but simpler does not always mean better. The pictures and stories of political opponents sharing a beer after proverbial battle on the floors of Congress are also distorted and overblown. Many of those people hated each other just as much as government officials do now.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have unique challenges now. There were not nearly as many kooks in Congress back then as there are now. Whether it be the changing of the political winds, the advent of social media, or the far reaching cable networks and interwebs, there seems to be more intrinsic rewards for going the crazy route than there was back in those days. There is an interconnectedness between the crazies than there ever was before. Your crazy uncle now has friends on Facebook and belongs to a number of online groups there.
I say all of this to make this main point. Yes, we have unique challenges, but we are not unique in having challenges. Every time and place has its own issues and its own problems that the people had to collectively overcome. Our issues come from within. Who will have the political will and intestinal fortitude to stand up and say enough? There aren’t nearly enough people on both sides. That’s the challenge. That’s the crisis.
But down among the reeds and brushes and baby boy was found. His eyes as clear as centuries. His silky hair was brown. Never been lonely. Never been lied to. Never had to scuffle in fear. Nothing denied to. Born at the instance church bells chime. The whole world whispering, born at the right time. Each life brings new hope. Each days brings new opportunities. We can make the world what we want it to be one day at a time.