• Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. Carl Sagan

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Heroes Just For One Day

June 28, 2015: I was reading blogs, specifically the Slacktivist, and I read this, and I was overcome. It was a symbolic gesture, quickly overturned, but it was a moment that convinced me that I was living in a world with giants. Giants I would never have the luck, the blessing to encounter, but it is good to know that giants walked the earth.

I grew up steeped in a number of things, but one of them was the protest folk rock of the singer-songwriter tradition (and I need to write about Bob Dylan, too). And I took from the mythology I understood from that the message – there were giants on the earth in those days, the heroes of old.

And I also got, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.” The idealism of the Sixties, the civil disobedience, the concept that people working together could make the world listen, it got under my skin, it seeped into me, but as a mythological Golden Age, one that seemed entirely lost in the world that I knew.

I cannot understate, by the way, the importance of this to my developing spiritual awareness. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, what I was looking for, the way I was questing for ma’at, the shape of collective justice, connective justice. The experience that was most important to me from the church I attended as a child was the music, the joining together for hymns: it was only then that I felt the sacred there. But it always felt disconnected from the world in deep ways – perhaps because my family was not itself religious, but more, I think, because a transcendently aimed religion is necessarily disconnected from the world in some ways; all the energy raised is directed out of the system, rather than remaining, moving, to power the web of being.


When I was looking for a UU church because I was dabbling in the idea of UUism, I checked out the ones that were near where I was living at the time. They were all affirming congregations, which was one of my requirements, but one of them made a point of its music program. So I tried it there first.

That’s the one I still go to. The one where I go because it’s nice to listen to someone else articulating ma’at.

The one where the choir opened the service this past week with a rendition of “Down by the Riverside” which had, at one point, the largely-white (though there were a number of black guests this week, for an obvious reason) congregation clapping along, and one of the ushers rocking out gloriously at the back of the sanctuary.

I’m gonna put on my starry crown
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
I’m gonna put on my starry crown
Down by the riverside
Study war no more.

Ain’t gonna study war no more….

And then the senior minister introduced the guest for the week: Bree Newsome.

(With the joke, “So we’re opening with a climbing hymn, of course,” as we turned to ‘We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder’ in the hymnal.)

And so I listened to her speak, as she gave the sermon, and talked about the process of – she didn’t use this slang, but – getting woke. And I listened, and sat with the deep well of inspiration, and art I don’t yet know how to do, but which is gnawing at me. (And OH, maybe I can approach it THAT way and that will be… hmmm…. I still think I need to learn how to do egg tempera, though.)

And she talked about other things. About how the dozen or so people who plotted the flag takedown made their decisions, about who was going to climb the pole, about the symbolism of having it be a black woman, and how they chose a white man to be her ground support. And how he – when the police threatened to tase her as she climbed the metal pole, put his hand on the pole and told them if they electrocuted her, they would electrocute him too. And the people involved with the planning who knew they couldn’t be at the event – who were teachers whose jobs might be at risk from an arrest, who were locals whose families might be at risk from reprisals. But they could still contribute, they could still make choices.

I thought about Occupy Wall Street, and how that inspired me for a bit, but I never was sure how I could fit it in. And it had not had giants. I thought about how I shared information about events in Ferguson via one of my tumblr accounts, keeping it cycling. I thought, again, about the Moral Mondays movement – she talked about the Moral Revival – and how that makes me feel connected in useful ways.

And afterwards, I picked up the girls, and told them they were going to go meet a hero. And I explained to them that there was a flag that was used to mean white people were better than black people, and how she said it’s not fair and it’s not right, and she went and took it down, even though she got in trouble for it.

And we got a picture with her (and I look like a total doof, I do not photograph well much of the time), and I curled my arm around her waist and she was just… real. A person.

As we were walking back to the car, I told them that someday, when people wanted to know about what it was like to grow up now, they could say that they had met a hero. “Why would someone ask about growing up now?” oldest asked.

We are the giants. We are the heroes of old.

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