It’s hard to take my eyes off of the three-ring circus of the current political season. There are ringmasters from the media; strongmen who bend rights and break values; young trapeze artists who fly high on ambition; sellers of snake-oil made from focus-group feedback and pithy position statements; shouting sideshow voices who urge us to sit in their makeshift theaters to see frightening scenes of a soon-coming dystopian world; clowns who are funny in a sad way; cotton candy vendors who offer solutions which taste good but quickly melt away; and slick villains with iron fists in velvet gloves.
There are impresarios of older circuses which once were “the greatest show on earth,” but now the crowds flock to the less polished acts of the new spectacles. And, there are barker-style voices insisting that the real problem is that we’ve let public-life devolve into a money-fueled, circus-style event.
The political circus is riveting, entertaining, and deeply troubling.
Meanwhile, ordinary life goes on.
College seniors anticipate May graduations, couples plan June weddings, and families look forward to July vacations.
Unexpected test results turn people into “patients.” Carelessness sabotages a crucial project. Conflict roils a relationship.
A new job lifts someone’s confidence. A surprise visit from a long-unseen friend renews a languishing relationship. The arrival of a grandchild lights up the shadowy corners of someone’s life.
We gather material to complete our tax returns, write checks for nonprofits which take-on challenges too great for an individual to address alone, and attend gatherings of groups which seek to catalyze justice and peace.
We buy groceries, cook meals, try new restaurants, and take food to a coworker sidelined by illness. We clean-out closets, power-wash the house, and wax the car.
We binge-watch the new season of House of Cards, listen to Lucinda Williams’ new album, and laugh through Disney’s Zootopia.
Some dreams come true, and some are dashed.
A colorful sunset dazzles and thrills us; it also sobers us with the reminder that our final evening will come.
The grass is greening, daffodils (“jonquils,” according to my grandmother) are blooming, and birdsong grows sweeter and louder. The warmth penetrates our skin and makes its way to our hearts.
It’s ordinary life, and it’s more extraordinary than any circus–and more important.
Ordinary life is a gift we may receive with intentional attentiveness and practiced awareness and, then, live with vulnerable compassion and, even in the hardest things, durable hope.
Van Morrison sang: “Ordinary life, be my rock in times of trouble/Get me back on the earth, put my feet on the ground.” For me, these words are a prayer.