You are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

Summer and the Living in the Mountains Moon


Saturday gratefuls: 47 degrees. Rain. 90% humidity. Seoah in Korea. Helping her parents. All the women, pregnant and not. Even Amy. All the gun buyers. All the fearful people. America. Her disgrace. Dull gray day, as Aunt Roberta used to say. Don’t mourn, organize. Joe Hill. Labor unions. The Extremes. Showing the way for the left. Kep’s soft nudging.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Rain

Tarot: Three of Bows, Fulfillment

“Completion of a prototype. Achievement. First efforts pay off. Understand an unfinished project when the pressure is off. The first idea is not the finished thing.”

Oooh. Acting.


Day 2 of America the Ugly. Said Thursday in Mussar that I’m an unrepentant, never wavered New Left Radical. Yes. Life has happened. I’m 75 and rarely on the streets these days. Rarely in Capitol buildings. But my analysis has not changed.

We are a patriarchal, violent, homophobic, racist, classist, xenophobic, world burning culture. No. This is not to convert or repel. It’s descriptive. And it’s obvious if you are a woman, a person of color, a family member of a mass-shooting victim or a victim yourself, a person with sexual preferences or identity that do not conform to cisgender norms, a poor person of any color struggling to stay afloat as the flood of money up to the .1 percent engulfs your life while capsizing your boat, a Central American at our border, any person yearning to live here but rebuffed by our meanness, anyone struggling to stay cool and above the waterline, to save their home from wildfire. This is MOST of us.

Knocking down a woman’s right to choose. Keep your laws off my body. Remember that? I remember. I remember the days before Roe. I helped a few women get abortions from an underground doctor. I remember. I remember their anguish and I wondered if they should trust this guy as much as I did. That’s back when America was Great.

Back before the gun obsession I remember people hunted, owned guns. There was crime then, too, but the answer was not a good guy with a gun (an oxymoron?). It was the police. Yes, I remember when calling the police seemed like the right, the safe thing to do.

When Raeone and I bought our house on 41st Avenue in Minneapolis, I looked at the deed. I know I’ve written about it before but it bears repeating. There, right there in writing, was a covenant declaring that this property could not be sold to Jews or Negroes. We bought the house in 1984. That covenant was only made illegal by the civil rights act of 1964! Only 20 years before.

In my high school days it was well known that pink and green worn on Thursdays meant you were…well, you know. One of them. I may have the colors wrong, but whatever they were I know we had no idea if it was true. This was the early 1960’s and most of us were homophobic at some level or another.

All of these injustices have clear and identifiable cultural systems that reinforce them, normalize them, excuse them. They range from redlining and steering, to stereotypical representations in film and on tv, in movies, to employment discrimination and the low wages paid to those whom we now recognize as essential workers. The attack on labor unions has put workers, especially minimum wage workers, at the not-so-tender mercy of convenience stores, grocery stores, slaughter houses, packing plants.

Our xenophobia has cost us lives and treasure in the Middle East. After the debacle that was Vietnam. When will we ever learn? The peoples at our borders want better lives. Lives that all of you who read this already have. Should we deny them that chance?

Our world-burning ways. Commuting. Gas stoves. Airplane trips. Internal combustion engines of all sorts. Like my generator. And my RAv4. But most of all, not dealing with the demanding changes required to help our own grandchildren.

And, we are all implicated. It’s hard work to become anti-racist, an ally instead of a homophobe, a feminist whether male or female, a supporter of workers rights and unions, an advocate of gun control, a true friend to the peoples of the world who want to live here. And we all fail.

I drive a car powered by an internal combustion engine. My political work has subsided to writing. I still quash racist and homophobic and misogynist attitudes, assumptions. Sometimes I miss them and let them out. After 50 years of this work.

We need grace and forgiveness. Yes, religious ideas, but so necessary. We need the words of Rabbi Tarfon, “You are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” The only way forward is to accept our freely offered grace and forgiveness, get back up, and get on with it.

Who freely offers the grace and forgiveness? Well, I do for one. I hope you, too, will be an agent of forgiveness and grace for those around you. You might believe God offers these things, too. If so, accept them and move on. Let’s get back to work folks. We’re not obligated to finish, just to not give up.


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