Thursday, April 06, 2006

awakened and amused

I have been and will continue to be unenthused at certain times during my life. I have, like many awakened Americans, those stretches of existence during which I seem to stand still in time if only to wander aimlessly in our land of the free and the home of the consumer. The red pill is the most bitter of pills.

But I took it and I can’t complain; I’ve always been a coffee drinker and liquorish lover; subtlety sometimes unfamiliar and heaviness often at hand. I have fun. I am not a dull Jack but always with me there is a sense of uneasiness about that which those around me seem to regard as a harmless hungry polar bear that is “quite safe and of no concern to us… wait, is American Idol on tonight?”

But a life lived in despair or even one given over to the quiet desperation described by Thoreau is a sad way to spend an existence and luckily I am often reminded of this. The responsibility of living a deliberate, informed and responsible life must be balanced with a sense of humor and happiness even during the toughest of times.

Last night I had the pleasure of listening live to one of the most important storytellers of our time; Garrison Keillor. For those of you unfamiliar with this legendary radio personality he is the host of a weekly program called A Prairie Home Companion offered live for two hours each Saturday evening.

The show is a mix of the most talented musician from off the beaten path and a return to the on-air jokes, dramas and storytelling that more frequently characterized radio of the past at its best. It puts me at easy- good to listen to while fishing. His program is broadcast on 450 radio stations nationwide to an audience of over 3 million listeners. Howard Stern should be so lucky. The show is funny, self-deprecating and fairly even handed if slightly left of center. My Father-in-law was kind enough to buy me and my wife tickets to Garrison's one man show at Wingate University as a Christmas gift. I am grateful.

Garrison Kellior appeared after an introduction. He was there to tell us stories and to talk to us. The last thing I expected was for him to come on stage and ask us to sing but he did. He started our evening by saying we were all Americans and we were here tonight together and despite our divisive times or more appropriately because of them we should start the evening by singing our national anthem and he was right. I’m not sure "The Star-Spangled Banner” has ever given be goose bumps for so long- the whole song. My skin got tired.

Then we sang “America the Beautiful”, just because we wanted to.

He talked and he sang and told stories that split my side. He spoke about or more accurately around the fact that we as a nation have placed ourselves in danger and have allowed ourselves to become soft and unaware of all that we have and how much it takes to maintain it. And I got the sense that he fully understands our crest of culture and our apex of empire and that this ship is unsustainable and is in need of a great turn. He did me and all of us there though a favor and offered a reprieve or more accurately an understanding of the historical insignificance of our crisis. He told us he was born on September 9th 1942- 9 months and ten minutes after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Some people, he believes have different ways of dealing with difficulty. We were all amused. It turns out for those of us who have grown up without real crisis that it is odd and upsetting to recognize the hardships associated with this biological life. Without war, famine and pestilence as even occasional visitors a whole generation or two of Americans has grown up under the parentage of television with false expectations and delusions of grandeur. I have chief among my concerns a fear about how we will react to the coming crisis in energy. I see anxiety in the unfamiliar eyes of the stranger who shops by my side or worse, abject apathy from the man who watches me walk past his house and I worry about whether we will be able to reconnect in the most basic of human ways in times of social strain.

Will the spirit of community so long the fabric of our culture rise again as we struggle to adjust, adapt and remake a better way of life in the face of a necessary change or will we chose fear and blame and hate? Time will tell.

To hear the Garrison Keillor speak the tales of our American experience is to laugh and to cry and to be happy about our lot in life regardless of when or where we are and what is coming. “Tell me your troubles and I’ll tell you mine” he said and don’t we need a little more of that these days. I am delighted and thankful to have had the opportunity to spend the evening in community with such an unexpecting and delightful storyteller, apparently a spiritual benefactor as well. I appreciate the humor and grace with which he gave me hope that through times of trouble we might, as a people be willing to laugh aloud as we work together.

"Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known." - Garrison Keillor


Horatio said...

i can't believe i missed this... i'm glad you enjoyed garrison...he is an amazing story-teller. your bro, jon

Anonymous said...

Is that the news from Lake Wobegon?

If so, then I'd say that's surely the kind of colorful voice that could help you catch some fish. Anything would be better than my friend Cletus and his sordid stories about West Virginian divorcee's.