A Sunday Letter: Bikers and Fishing, Rhythm and Harmony

My dear readers,

Happy Pentecost! Here’s something of a weekend review:

Friday I played drums for the opening act and guitar for the headliner — “Little Bobby and the Storm” — at a biker charity event in St. Hilaire, MN. It felt very retro. Biker leather and tattoos don’t age much and there were not the usual smart phones everywhere. I never knew that bikers like to slow dance as much as they did. The beer was unlimited and the outdoor stage allowed for smoking, so the air was ripe with tobacco and hints of reefer. “Little Bobby,” the main attraction, was in a bad mood; his tour bus brakes went out before the show and he’s nursing the wounds of a recent divorce, so he played the blues with gutso and credibility  — and without a trace of sobriety. I was again grateful for the long winter. One of my pass-times was studying and practicing Derek Trucks’ licks and playing, and they came in very handy when going toe-to-toe with a broke and heartbroken bluesman. I overheard a grinning biker tell the sound-man that he made it past 50 years of age, which came to him as a very big surprise, and he beamed about it. It struck me as a poignant and beautiful display of gratitude.

Saturday began in absentia. I delivered this pre-recorded presentation at the 9th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry in Champaign, IL, from our apartment in Grand Forks, ND on Alain Badiou, Willie Nelson, and educational change. That afternoon the boys and I took out our fishing gear to prepare for a kids fishing event that, weather permitting, we’ll attend later today, at a stocked pond in town. We got so worked-up about it, we decided to go out for a trial run. After buying some bait and scouting out the pond we’ll take to this afternoon, we drove to Turtle River State Park to cast a few times and see if we’d get lucky. No fish, but I got very wet. The short story is that I fell into the river and, miraculously, didn’t ruin or lose my keys, phone, or wallet. I’ve always had a proclivity to getting wet on purpose or by accident while fishing. The baptismal trend continues. Last time I went in completely from head to toe was while night fishing with two student-friends of mine, to help land a 25-pound catfish and then to try and rescue a lost, glowstick-lit bobber..

Today we decided to invert our usual Sunday routine and eat breakfast first, opting for 10:30 Mass instead of our usual 8 o’clock. Apparently the New York Times also decided to change their act up and not deliver my paper. Instead of reading the Times, I read Pope Francis’ wonderful and brief homily for today (and drafted this post). He makes a rather simple, but very profound, distinction between uniformity and harmony. He favors the latter and carefully put it at the service of Christian unity. He teaches that:

…the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony – “Ipse harmonia est”. He is indeed harmony. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church.

What a wonderfully balanced and attuned message in this age of petty divisions between those who seek mirror images of diversity or uniformity! Opposing the dictatorship of relativism — an expression I’ve never cared for — does not require a dictatorial fundamentalism. The Spirit resides in the space between, in the dynamic flux where the one and the many do their dance. This is where real, religious life happens. Hopefully there are some trout there.

Peace and good,

SR


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