Exercise caution in your business affairs: for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism
— Desiderata, Max Erman, 1927
I was thinking about Superman last night as I was falling asleep. Christopher Reeve was on my mind as the doe-eyed, innocent alien; I remembered the moment in the movie when he flies backwards around the earth, either spinning the globe or himself, I’m not sure which, into the recent past so he can save his one true love’s life.
He only takes time back a minute. No earthling is aware of his transgression. When I was eight and deeply hopeful about the love between Lois and Superman, I didn’t consider the billions of other lives affected first, by the rumblings of the earth and second, by a burp in time as they lurched backwards, re-living a moment of their lives.
What of those fictional off-screen characters? Were any of them saved, or doomed? Or did they repeat the moment as if it never happened with no possible salvation? Was Superman the only humanoid with the free-will and power to change the outcome of events? Or was there some other open-mined master who understood the potential of his or her unusual opportunity?
I hope Lois Lane, having been grabbed from the jaws of fate and given a second chance of life on this earth, helped more people than she hurt.
Love’s been on my mind since my friend Arlene asked me to officiate her wedding. When she called, I reminded her of my failed marriage and awkward relationships, my fatuous affection for my dog, and my tendency to speak slowly and in half-sentences when over or under-caffeinated and when drinking wine.
“Lee’s an atheist,” is all she said.
So, I said yes.
Five days later, I find myself an ordained minister preaching from my pulpit to one dog who likes to sleep while I talk. I have a parking permit, bumper stickers, and a certificate with my name on it. If you’re looking for someone to marry you, I’m happy to help you out.
It’s been a hard week in the continental U.S., and elsewhere. An oil spill in Arkansas that no one outside of the perpetrators is allowed to assess, earthquakes in Oklahoma, an attack on the civilians and guests of our beloved city of Boston, and a lethal explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas. A gun control proposal was filibustered out of the Senate, with the Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, amongst other over-paid, under-performing civil servants, cruelly mocking their fellow, concerned citizens who supported the bills, many of whom are direct victims of gun violence.
This week, it seems to me that humanity is divided into two groups. Those who practice their humanity, and those who conclude that simply because they walk on two legs, they are human.
I started playing cello around the same time that Superman movie came out. I am told that the moment I picked up the instrument, it was clear that I born to play. My fingers knew where to go and the bow fit my grip. When I breathed, my cello breathed with me. For a while, every time I played, I got better, whether I practiced or not. But, as I got older and the music got harder, my advantage leveled out. “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards,” my teacher warned me. And then she told me to work on my scales.
During those foggy days of adolescence, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It didn’t really matter. It was destined that I’d grow taller, stronger, practice more, and lose myself into a swirl of circumstances I was not old enough to understand.
What makes sense to me now is that it is a human responsibility to learn and to grow. We’re here to experience, process, and teach. Evolve. Understand. Give what we can and take what we need. To do so, we need to practice, to keep up the strength in our fingers. And our souls.
It is plain to see that there are people who want to stop moving forward. They want to stand still or retreat into an illusory place of emotional comfort… hide behind their thick wall of righteousness. They want to slam on the brakes, stop the car, and watch everyone pass them by, simply because they don’t know where the road will lead, or because they like the view, or they’ve gone as far as they want to go.
Here’s the problem with standing still: no one is safe in a non-moving vehicle in the middle of speeding traffic.
And driving backwards is dangerous.
I can say things like that because I’m an ordained minister on a bully pulpit with a congregation currently consisting of one bone chewing canine.
If Superman were alive today, on this earth, and decided to spin time backwards a week or so, would the administrative powers at Exxon decide against running their crude oil through Mayflower? Would the Boston marathoners choose not to run? Would Mitch McConnell decide against mocking his fellow citizens who are in pain? Would the owners of the fertilizer plant in Texas take to heart the safety violations they declined to address?
I think not.
I don’t know much, but I read that the earth only rotates in one direction and blue tights, or no, there is no Superman protecting our city out of a sense of love or duty. Time, widely believed to be an illusion, feels really real. And the moon’s magnetic pull affects the ocean inside each and every one of us. There’s more than meets the eye. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards. If you’re not expanding, you’re contracting. And if you’re afraid of change, you’ll never, ever be at peace.
And, if you don’t want to drive a metaphorical car, you can always take the bus.