About a year ago, a friend of mine that I deeply trust recommended I read Glennon Doyle Melton’s memoir, Carry On, Warrior. As I read, it became clear that Melton has a good voice on the page, a refreshing sense of humor, and a tender eye for story. I was especially drawn to the passage that seemingly led to the book’s title. These are my words, not hers, but Melton seemed to be suggesting that in this life we are compelled to live as warriors while at the same time needing to let go of our various forms of artificial armor. I think Melton’s right: life is fuller at that paradox. It was no surprise to me that her work had caught on with a significant audience.
In the most recent Presidential debate, the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, invoked the 2012 Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln. I remember watching and enjoying the film, quite literally, in a packed theater in Northern Ireland and was glad for the opportunity to think back to what the movie taught me. It wasn’t surprising that Spielberg told part of Lincoln’s story well, exposing the man’s flaws or struggles and including Lincoln’s tenuous family relationships during the height of political tension. Dialogue played a central role in the film, which is probably as it should be with such a brilliant rhetorician as Lincoln. One of the surprises of the film was, of course, that it was Republicans who led the charge to free the slaves. It was the sort of film that gave me goosebumps, that even made me proud (and also saddened) to be an American. Good stories, if we let them, will break our hearts while giving us enough hope to carry on. Though I haven’t followed through, I left the theater that day wanting to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Bible-of-a-book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
Milk, as most of us know, is a pretty mediocre beverage. For starters, it comes from the internals of a cow or goat. Not exactly what most of us reach for when we’re thirsty. After it’s forced on us during infant-hood, we mostly don’t drink the stuff, except it’s a nice compliment to cereal. I’ll give it that much. When the mediocrity of milk spoils, it becomes a sour and chunky liquid, much like vomit. From the vomit, we make all kinds of questionable substances, like yogurt, sour cream, ranch dressing, and worst of all, cheese.
It will feel so otherworldly when you hear a voice within you that is peaceful and kind. A voice that’s unburdened by the sense that everything you do is wrong and that your life is on the verge of collapsing at any minute. You’ll just be in the shower or lying in bed at night or reading a novel, and this voice will confidentially break through all the noise. From time to time, the voice will offer you a clear insight, and just like that you’ll know what to do in the kind of situation that might have terrified you in the past. Maybe, just maybe, this voice is what Christians call “the Holy Spirit.”
At my high school — for the sake of this post, let’s call it Boarding School — students were required to attend a religious service. Options included Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim observances, or there was even “sacred silence” for those who didn’t identify with a particular religion. Sacred Silence occurred once a week and was open to anyone who might be interested in sitting in a dark chapel to think, meditate, or pray.