More Radical Than Thou

80  bar falls 29.66  0mph E  dew-point 76!  sunrise 5:55  sunset 8:43  Summer

Waning Crescent of the Thunder Moon

Jerry Stearns sent word that he worked with rebels in Central America and served a stint as a bodyguard for Rigoberta Minchu, the Mayan activist.  This reminded me, though I don’t think it was his intent, of the old game, More Radical Than Thou.

This was a game of gotcha and it drove the Everything Matters part of the personal is political.  If I, say, was a draft resister and an anti-war marcher, you might say that you planned to go to Canada.  If I planned to go Canada, you might say you were going underground.  If I said I was going underground, you might say, me too, but I’m going to bomb federal buildings, too.  This macho ratcheting up of the stakes in a round of how far can you travel away from middle-class morality and conventional politics lasted for a long, long time.

It was an aspect of movement politics in which I always felt one step behind, never quite outré enough.  I was back then, as now, stuck with this dipolarity, radical and conservative, both alive and well, never reconciled, perhaps irreconcilable. Come to think of it this same dipolarity might have been the tense spring that kept me going back to the bar for one more round.

Nowadays I cherish this peculiarity.  I can engage radical environmental politics, continue in my radical analysis of American society while loving the MIA and my docent role there.  I can continue opposition to conservative politics while loving the classics, poetry and faith traditions.  These two poles now serve as a creative edge for me, a sort of tectonic junction where volcanoes are born and subduction feeds the volcano.  Back then I felt the need to exist on only one end of the pole, rather than embracing the tension that came from them.

More Radical Than Thou pushed me to one end of the pole.  I ended up denying, repressing the conservative part of me that wandered art museums, read Ovid and Homer and yearned for a connection with God.  Seminary and a stint as a Presbyterian minister only reversed the pressure.  While I could affirm my love of biblical study and prayer, I felt constant pressure to be more radical, to engage in more and more radical political activity.   This change from one end of the see-saw to the other was no resolution either.

Only now, in these days when the introvert has settled into a quiet writing existence have I begun to live from both ends of the dialectic.  I can work as a docent amongst the fascinating details of art history while I the Sierra Club work blossoms.  I can write novels while I search nature and the American literary tradition for a pagan faith relevant to today.  Though the Jungian analysis moved far along this ancient trail, only unconditional love can heal these splits and I have found such love in Kate. We are soulmates.

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