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Sabbath Day – Good Friends

June 8, 2012

What a relaxing day.

The Rev. Peter Nimmo is staying with us this week, and we are thoroughly enjoying his company. Peter has just begun a several month sabbatical from the churches he serves – Old High St. Stephen’s Church in Inverness, Scotland. Peter and I were students together at Princeton Theological Seminary twenty years ago. He and his family hosted us during my sabbatical in 2008. We are looking forward to his family’s arrival next month for a time of reunion.

Peter and I walked August to school on this lovely day. My morning was then spent moving without haste from planning the week, finishing the bulletin, making a  few calls, planting peas in the garden, and conversation. Peter and I then headed over to Dunne’s Irish Pub for their monthly Oktoberfest, where we had two encounters: members of White Plains Presbyterian Church who had read my post last month about Dunne’s German fare, and two White Plains residents who are originally from Glascow. Good conversation over the triple wurst plate with red cabbage and potato pancakes, a Black Forest sandwich, seltzer and Spaten.

The rest of the day proceeded with much of the same – an unhurried movement through conversation, work, reading, browsing, and food. August and Peter played “crime scene investigators” in the attic, we had tacos for dinner, and much laughter.

The photo below was taken on Tuesday when we all headed down to the Hudson River at sunset to catch the transit of Venus across the face of the sun.  a stunning sight and a nice gathered community.

My quiet joy for the day has been dipping into Maryline Robinson’s new collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books (2012). I have read several of these essays before, but they carry a new weight by being collected here and read at just this moment in our nation’s history. I have been reading Robinson since The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, her first essay collection which blew me away. The two essay in that collection on Margaret of Navarre and John Calvin are simply challenging, inspirational, and aspirational.

This new collection shapes up as a reflection on Democracy. and the cultural habits iwthin which it thrives and our current  cultural proclivities which threaten its continuance. She opens with a brilliant reflection on Walt Whtiman, writing in 1870 who said,

“America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without; for I see clearly that the combined foreign world could not beat her down. But these savage, wolfish parties alarm me. Owning no law but their own will, more and more combative, less and less tolerant of the idea of ensemble and of equal brotherhood, the perfect equality of the States, the ever-overarching American Ideas, it behooves you to convey yourself implicitly to no party, nor submit blindly to their dictators, but steadily hold yourself judge and master over all of them.” And he said, “It is the fashion of dilletantes and fops (perhaps I myself an not guiltless) to decry the whole formulation of the active politics of America, as beyond redemption, and to be carefully kept away from. See that you do not fall into this error. America, it may be, is doing very well upon the whole, notwithstanding these antics of the parties and their leaders, these half-brained nominees, the many ignorant ballots, and many elected failures and blatherers.” These passages come from Whitman’s long essay Democratic Vistas, a virtual hymn of praise to America, and to Democracy, words which for him are interchangeable.

Robinson’s beautifully articulated meditations reflect on the life of the mind, a theologically informed faith in God, the challenges to our communal life and our democratic cultures, the wonder of scientific inquiry, and the preciousness of human life in a marvelous universe (“this shining garment in which God is revealed and concealed” – Calvin’s metaphor). Robinson exemplifies the very kind of generosity of spirit, love of place and person, and desire to grow through encounter with others (particularly those with whom we disagree) that we wil need if we are to survive as a human (humane?) species. I highly reccommend this book.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 12, 2012 2:49 pm

    Reblogged this on peterstudyleave.

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