Spring Mountain Moon
A cloud crawls down Black Mountain,
Cotton embraces ski runs, blue above.
A light scrim of snow covers our solar panels,
The sky falls toward us, slowly.
Today is 4/20. In Colorado and elsewhere it’s a pot linked holiday and here’s a brief explanation of its strange origin.* A couple of years ago I was downtown Denver near the National Western Stockshow Grounds on April 20th. Driving to a small taqueria for lunch I passed hundreds of people walking along the road, smoking joints, smiling, lots of dreadlocks under Rastafarian knit saggy caps. Last year the 4/20 crowd made such a mess at a city park that Denver stopped the celebration for this year.
4/20 is also Adolph Hitler’s birthday, my brother Mark reminded me. Hitler is a figure in the childhood dark closet of most Baby Boomers whose parents, like mine, were veterans of WWII. My dad had a beaten up copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. It always seemed strange to me as a boy; but, as an adult, I came to realize how large Hitler loomed over his life, occasioning several years in the military for both him and my mom.
Now Hitler is mostly a boogeyman, a perfect example of either evil or the potential power of white supremacy. His Nazi party serves a similar function, offered up in movies if an ultimate villain is needed. Just as the Vietnam War, which dominated my life in the late sixties and early seventies, has faded from the memory of millennials, so even the holocaust has begun to fade from memory. Yes, it’s dangerous to lose sight of this horror; but, it’s also human. As an event moves further away from us, it changes, transforms.
Most, all?, religions are an attempt to hold a historical moment close, to keep it vibrant, vital. Easter and Passover. Even these though show the great difficulty in maintaining the urgency of something that has been covered over by distance and lack of direct experience. Max Weber called this the rationalization of charisma. As the charismatic figure or moment recedes, institutions grow up to protect its memory, but that very fact, the institutionalization of a matter of the heart, encrusts the event and eventually depletes it of its power. It becomes covered over by dogma, by tradition, by the ridigities of too much thought.
Emerson knew this. “The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?” From the introduction to his essay, Nature.
We need to discern not only, perhaps not even most importantly, the facts of the holocaust, though they are incalculably significant, but we need to look evil in the face in our time, confront it now, name it now. Stop it now. Evil, like good, does not stop in a historical moment, but gains new, contemporary expressions. If we keep looking for revelation about what it means to be human in sacred texts or historical tragedies, we can easily miss the revelation appearing in the neighborhoods and rural areas of our own country.
*In 1971, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, five high school students in San Rafael, California, calling themselves the Waldos because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”, used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about, based on a treasure map made by the grower. wiki