A gentle and insightful article caught my attention this morning; it prompted me to think about life and its meaning.Small towns have been in the news lately. The past election featured them often. Barack Obama commented on the bitterness of those who cling to guns and religion. Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign celebrated small town virtues to contrast with “big city elitism” of the Democrats. [First Things]Most, who really care about such things, realize in the grand scheme of things "the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning" (Isaiah 29:14) matter little.
Any rational, unbiased historian realizes the panoply of man's history does not well recognize the intellectual, the writer, or the orator (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12) ... manifold generations have brought forward few of these.
It's as if an unseen law scrubs our history of their memory; as if that law says, "If you (i.e., mankind) won't acknowledge my work in your world, all memory of you will perish from it."
History's heroes surprise the intellectual, the author, and the orator (as well as the politician and bureaucrat); yet they don't or won't proclaim the law, to do so would make the foundations of their choosing tremble, so they stumble over it!
Only those who seem to somehow discern the existence of this royal law (James 2:8), understand it, accept it and defer to it.
These have learned humility before that law for ...
Rather than time irradicating the law or the memory of it, time has exalted and commemorated it to the lasting chagrine of those who boast in the things of this world.
- they understand its most comic moments shame the accumulated wisdom of the world's wise men
- they have relaxed their "can do" will, and stand in slack mouthed awe at the presence of the law's greatest weakness, and
- they see how it accommodates the unwanted, the unwashed, the unprotected, and the unrich ... bringing humiliation those who boast in their possessions.
I moan when the MSM and the liberal left wax on about the genius, the education, the charisma, the experience of Obama and his cabinet designees; though I admit there are a few bright lights on the left.
When they use these descriptors on Obama and his cabinet picks, they are denigrating the rest of us ... especially the lame-duck administration. The establishment boasts endlessly about an existential and materialistic world.
The kneejerk reaction of the MSM and our political elites is not introspection but frontal assault: those who suggested they were elitists and snobby were attacked; those who pointed to the existence of a vast "fly over" land found their communities denigrated, their neighbors mocked, and their hobbies ridiculed.
At few points did those who hold social or cultural power, position, or privilege acknowledge their critics' roles in our common society and culture ... rather, they were treated as lepers, were disdained, and were summarily dismissed.One cannot help but to be connected to those around you in a small town. Many of them are related to you by blood. They are kin. Folks can rattle off relations and branches of the family tree. As an outsider, this can be quite intimidating.Mistake '08 clearly revealed the extent to which the educated, the powerful, and the articulate of this great nation have fooled themselves and stumbled from under the intrinsic protection of the unseen law.
But there is a virtue in living in the midst of such family ties that is hard to describe. It involves living in such a way that you, as a person, are not an individual. You are not a solitary center of decision-making. Rather, you exist in a web of tangled claims. You are a point at which many lives intersect. You are at the same time a son or daughter, a granddaughter, a great-granddaughter.Such connectedness often produces a reflexive attitude of caring that strikes a newcomer as strange. One does not hesitate to visit, be with, console, or give to those around you. The web of relatedness surfaces at times of loss and significance and stress. Often there are no concrete actions that express this attitude other than visiting.In case you don't see it, connectedness equals community and vice versa.
This solves the mystery which surrounds the public's fascination with Sarah Palin ... she, her family, her friends, and her neighbors get it!
When she spoke of "real Americans," she wasn't disparaging the rest of America, she was speaking to her audience, the audience who knows her because of common (root of community), about tradition, culture, and connectedness.It is this sort of connectedness to place and people and the past that that makes small towns different. It is not an easy set of slogans that can be trumpeted by a political party or captured in a sound bite. It is the shape of the small town itself which has embedded itself in its people. That shape takes the form of a web that connects that person to a multitude of places and people and past experience. That web becomes the stuff of that person; it is his identity.This generation and the previous generation are too quick to move the boundaries, to bend or destroy fences, and to build roads without signage or shoulders.
Such a way of being a person is slowly being worn away by the storm surge of generic commercial culture. The children feel less a part of the small town than their parents, who are less connected than their parents. It is an inevitable process. Yet small towns are still here, struggling, battling tough economic realities but not extinct. Their shared past is still felt and passed on. The stories are told. The visiting still goes on. The churches and groceries and service stations and post offices still function as gathering places. The connections are still being made.
Unfortunately, over half of America's citizenry comes from or are influenced by these two generations; it is to their ultimate demise that they are unaware of connectedness and its corollary - community.