Saturday, June 27, 2015

365 True Things: 91/Grace (6/27/15)

The last couple of days have been phenomenal: the Supreme Court's rulings on the Affordable Care Act and gay marriage—huge huge huge yay!!!!—and Obama's powerful eulogy of Clementa C. Pinckney. Landmarks, each one.

In the eulogy, Obama speaks of grace: "According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God."

I am a nonbeliever. But I do believe in grace.

Obama went on: "As manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace—as a nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind."

Now, I do not for a millisecond think we are all sinners. Imperfect, sure. But sinners? That's ecclesiastic mumbo-jumbo, if you ask me. An attempt to make the "faithful," meek as sheep, toe the church patriarchy's line.

But putting that aside, I do in a way feel like the last few days have been a sort of visiting of grace upon us, as a nation, as we take off our blinders (for the moment) and look to our greater good. It's that Tiny Tim wish: "God bless us. Every one!" It's a harking back to the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I think God shed some grace on the writers of that Declaration, and that they're all smiling in heaven after this week's rulings.

But to speak of a personal moment of grace (and this is nothing like momentous): one day many years ago, I was hiking back up a steep trail on the backside of the Berkeley Hills, heading to my car in the parking lot. As I crested the rise, I heard a beautiful melody, on saxophone, slow and easy and sassy and cool. Soon I saw the musician, a black man in a porkpie hat and light linen jacket. He stood loose and easy himself, playing his instrument, eyes closed, long fingers flowing over the keys. I stopped and watched him, then closed my eyes too and breathed in the springtime scent of green grasses and unfurling leaves, felt the soft air on my face. It's one of those moments that, although I didn't take a photo, has been burnt into my memory photo-like. But bigger than a photo, with all of the senses engaged: not just a vision, but a full, almost surprising moment of living.

I don't know why, but whenever I think of a "moment of grace" that I've experienced, that's the moment that comes to mind.

We all have them. We just have to slow down enough to recognize them and savor them....

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