Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks Woody

I don’t recall which Woody Allen movie I saw first. I think it may have been Annie Hall. Annie Hall was released in 1977, the year I graduated from high school. The year I turned eighteen. The movie represented a kind of coming of age for Woody Allen, too. No longer simply a comedy set in the past or in the future or in some nameless south of the border country where revolving dictatorships could be seen as comic. In Annie Hall, Woody Allen was funny, even as he could explore with intelligence, kindness, and depth, the joys and fragilities of human relationships. Annie Hall won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1977. It won my heart and soul for Woody Allen movies. If you’ve not seen Midnight in Paris, this long weekend may be a perfect opportunity.

A couple of years later, Allen released Manhattan, a film shot in black and white with a Gershwin soundtrack. Sad to say, I think it was the first time I ever heard “Rhapsody in Blue.” I loved the film. I still have the soundtrack on vinyl.

There is a scene from Manhattan that I have never forgotten, even if I have to look up the precise wording. Woody Allen’s character, Isaac or Ike, is reclining on a couch in his apartment. He is talking into a tape recorder. An idea for a short story about people in Manhattan who are constantly creating these real, unnecessary neurotic problems for themselves ‘cause it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable, terrifying problems about the universe. It’s, uh… well, it has to be optimistic. Well, all right, why is live worth living? That’s a very good question. Well, there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. Uh, like what? Okay. Um… for me, oh I would say… what, Groucho Marx, Willie Mays, the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony, and Louis Armstrong’s recording of “Potatohead Blues,” Swedish movies, naturally, Sentimental Education by Flaubert, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, those incredible apples and pears by Cezanne, uh, the crabs at Sam Wo’s, Tracy’s face

scene from Manhattan

So what makes life worth living for you? Where do you encounter life’s goodness? For we who believe in God we might say these are places where we encounter in one way or another God’s grace, God’s creativity, God’s love.

My list changes, and the list of music, books and movies is long and ever changing. There are also some relatively unchanging items. Times when Julie, David, Beth and Sarah are together (like this Thanksgiving). Doing something nice for someone and they have no idea who you are. The end of a worship service where everything has all fallen into place. The video of Brian Wilson performing “Surf’s Up.” U2 – “It’s a Beautiful Day.” Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone.” Bruce Springsteen, "Born to Run." John Coltrane, “My Favorite Things.” Dave Brubeck, “Take Five.” Miles Davis, “Blue in Green.” A Mary Oliver poem. Annie Hall and Manhattan.

So what makes life worth living for you? Ask the question. Give thanks.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Friday, November 2, 2012

Politics Redux

I believe God has a sense of humor and I believe that human life gives God a lot to laugh about. Two days after my blog about the care I take in not being publically partisan, I received a phone call. It was from a campaign worker for President Obama’s re-election campaign. There was going to be a campaign rally on Tuesday October 30 here in Duluth with an important political figure. There were organizing a program. Would I be willing to give the invocation? I know the caller, just a bit. She has served on the Duluth City Council. She was better acquainted with my son who has been a campaign worker for a few candidates at the local, state and national levels, all from the Democratic Party. Anyway, I asked for a bit more information. She told me about the time involved, and then said I would need a Secret Service check. Wow. This was going to be somebody significant! I said, “yes.” She then told me that the event was going to feature former President Bill Clinton. I was glad I was available. Whatever one’s politics, the opportunity to meet someone who has held the office of President of the United States is rare, and pretty cool. So there I was on Tuesday giving the invocation prior to a campaign rally featuring President Bill Clinton.

I began the prayer with a moment of silence to remember all those whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Then I prayed:

God of all peoples, weaver of the intricate web of life, we come here grateful to live in a country where we can pray freely, where we can discuss ideas openly, where each of us has a voice in shaping the future of our nation. As we make decisions about the direction of our country, may we hear more clearly your call to do justice and nurture kindness, your call to live with a certain humility and with compassion. May we hear your call to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, cloth the ill-clad, and befriend the friendless. Where we have fallen short in justice and kindness, humility and compassion, in caring for those struggling and those on the margins, we seek forgiveness. Even more we ask for determination, courage and imagination as we seek to do better, as we work together for a newer world – a world where justice is done, where kindness and gentleness are nurtured, where beauty is created, and the garden of the world tended lovingly. That work for a newer world goes on and we join it again. The cause of a newer world is ours and we accept it again. Our hope for a newer world lives on in each of us, and we fan the flames anew today. The dream of a newer world, planted deep in our hearts and souls, may the dream never die. Amen.

And if George W. Bush is ever in town and would like someone to pray, I would pray a very similar prayer.

With Faith and With Feathers,


By the way, this picture from my cell phone lets you know how great a seat I had for this event.