Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Parade of Early Morning Myrmidons

My sleep is not so good these days. I am woken from my slumber these nights to a head full of spinning, disturbing images. A parade of early morning myrmidons marches past my mind's eye. My heart pounds, matching the beat of big bass drums and the tromping of boots in passing parades. Images of prison camps full of inmates with gaunt faces and fearful demagogues whipping maniacal throngs into a frenzy dominate my now-wide awake mind demanding my full attention.

Nightmarish questions repeatedly pose themselves: What would a Trump America look like? Would it still be America? And what would happen to the people I love and serve? What would happen to people like me?

In my visions, the pouting face of the American l’enfant terrible rises full center, sneering the words Muslims and Mexicans as if they were synonyms for excrement. I think of my many Muslim and Latin American students. I know some of them are immigrants, the documentation status of whose parents I would not want to guess. I watch their faces in class, their wide open eyes. 

I wonder how they hear this. Do they tremble to think this deeply misanthropic insecure man might one day soon have power over their lives?

And I wonder, is this what the Jews and the other vulnerable populations felt in 1930s Germany?

No Option to Remain Silent

Perhaps these midnight torments come because the Holocaust, its medical experiments and the Nuremberg Trials have recently been a part of my ethics classes, the run-up to the Belmont Report we talk about in class. Perhaps it is because of the polling data that suggests that the possibilities of Trump actually winning the election are improving.

It’s hard to know why. Nightmares have a live of their own, even the waking kind.

In Hitler’s Germany, I would have been targeted for extermination early on. While I am not Jewish, I have no doubts I would not have remained silent watching them be first demeaned, then dehumanized and in the end caricaturized as sewer rats in Goebel’s propaganda films, cast as an existential “problem” requiring a “Final Solution.”

As a clergy person, I would have been pressured to either buy into the Protestant Reich Church or to remain silent in the face of a Devil’s Bargain cut between Pope Pius and the Fuhrer. Either option would, no doubt, have proven impossible for me.

As an academic, the torture of watching the inhumane treatment of friends and neighbors and the demeaning of critical reason into a subservience to a shallow rationalization of the Reich would have proven too much. I could not have remained silent.

And finally as a gay man, for the first time in his life proudly living with his life partner of 43 years, celebrating his hard-won legal marriage now in its sixth year, I would have been required to wear a pink triangle before being shipped off to the death camps. The recent wine-sodden heydays of the rowdy cabarets of Berlin would now seem as if another lifetime.

His Own Brand of Danger
Maxim often misattributed 
to Sinclair Lewis

I do not construct Donald Trump as an American Hitler. There is enough difference between these two figures and between his followers and the Brownshirts – though more in degree than content - to recognize that this is not the resurrection of mid-20th CE totalitarianism. Trump is actually more like Mussolini than Hitler but in the end is not a repeat of either of those tyrants.

Trump presents his own brand of danger.

But it is the tone of his rhetoric, his unchallenged consistent dishonesty and his complete unpredictability that suggest to me that it would not be prudent to convince myself, as did the future residents of the death camps of WWII Europe, that something like those troubled times couldn’t happen here. It was, after all, the world’s best educated people in the most technologically advanced culture on earth of its time who produced these horrors even as the world assured itself this simply couldn’t happen, that the Germans simply couldn’t do the things that eventually they did.

Prior to WWII, the atrocities of Hitler’s Germany were believed to be “unthinkable.” Right up to the point the camps were liberated. Indeed, some of its victims walked naked down long halls into gas chambers convincing themselves that the unthinkable simply could not happen. No one would do something like that.

An Unchecked Downward Spiral 

I keep asking myself how we got to this point. How could this be happening?

At first, I saw the references to women’s menstrual cycles and bathroom practices during the Republican debates as the aberrant behaviors of an uncouth reality show clown. It is perhaps a predictable result of an entertainment industry which has spiraled down into the muck of shallow, adolescent humor, desperate for any kind of response from its addled audiences. Like any addiction, the audience has become numb to the last round of obscenity and requires ever greater sensual assaults to be stimulated.

Then came the mockery of the disabled man. And, as the brother of a sibling with a disability, I wondered first how anyone could do something like that and then why the media continued to replay that imagery knowing how hurtful it must be.

This was followed by the racist libel of Mexicans as rapists and criminals. Trump talked about building a wall across our border at that point. As I watched Trump gaining popularity it began to occur to me that the wall might be less designed to keep Mexicans out than to keep Americans in.

Then came the deliberate and ongoing confusion of the world’s second largest religion with terrorism. All Muslims would become suspect. And life for a group of Americans identified only by a religion whose numbers now equal those of Episcopalians and Mormons would become even more difficult in a culture whose infotainment industry already tends to paint them as terrorists.

I keep thinking that surely the American people will awake from this spell. I keep hoping they will swear off their guilty pleasures provided by this sophomoric con-man who allows them to indulge their unbridled bigotry and exacerbate that misanthropy with intellectual dishonesty, self-righteously rationalizing it as a revolt against “political correctness.”

But tonight, on the eve of the debates, such as they will be, the polls say that if the election were today, America’s King of Crass, the choice of the Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, might well win the right to move into the White House.

The march of the myrmidons would be on.

The election of Donald Trump would signal to me that this is no longer the country in which I grew up, the country whose people and institutions I have spent my life serving and whose principles I once admired. That America, for all of its flaws, would be dead.

Trump’s election would also signal that people like me no longer have a place in the country that has replaced it.  My life of service to that America, my values and those of people like myself will not only be rejected by such an election, I fear they would pose ongoing liabilities for me as a resident in Trump’s America much as they would have in the run-up to the Third Reich. The only questions then remaining would be how much danger I could be facing, how quickly that would materialize and what, if anything, I might be able to do to escape the tidal wave of unleashed rage in Trump’s America.

It would be only a small comfort to know I would hardly be alone in that fearful calculation.

The Crazy Woman Who Proved Prescient 

Within a couple of hours, the myrmidons march off and my interrupted sleep creeps back to claim its rightful turn, my weary mind fading to gray. The awful parade rolls away leaving me, as I drift back to sleep, wondering how I and others like me can possibly survive if these nightmares ever actually come true. I will awake in a couple of hours still troubled.

It is easy to dismiss as paranoid the rantings of sleep-starved writers and social critics spinning worst case scenarios. Dismissal usually serves as a fairly effective means of avoiding disturbing considerations. It’s a lot easier to shoot the messenger, to put them out of our misery, than to deal with the disturbing messages they bear. 

In perhaps the most widely read account of the Holocaust, Night, the late Elie Wiesel describes a woman named Madame Schacter who begins to mentally decompensate in the rail car enroute to the Auschwitz death camp. She has a terrible vision of a consuming fire and becomes increasingly loud and hysterical as she describes it.

The train car occupants demand she stop, shouting at her before finally beating her into submission, her shrill alarms reduced to soft, mournful sobbing. The calm has been restored, the collective denial of the freight car's human cargo allowed to return...right up to the arrival at the gates of Auschwitz.

For in the end, it was the disturbing vision of Madame Schacter, who also knew only too well the parade of early morning myrmidons, that proved prescient.

Harry Scott Coverston
Orlando, Florida

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.

Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. – Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Ages, Commentary on Micah 6:8


Thursday, September 08, 2016

Morning Meditation at New Coverleigh

It is cool this morning at New Coverleigh, a blessed relief from the heat and drought of the hottest summer on record and the more recent drenching rains from the outer bands of Hurricane Hermine last week. Overhead the silhouette of an elongated goose crosses a horizon glowing with the rising sun. Noisy black birds engage in a call and response morning song from the nearby trees. 

A bee is busily darting back and forth between the Mexican petunias which less than a month ago were six inch cuttings jammed into the earth, this morning a couple of feet high and covered with lavender blooms.

As I breathe in, I am aware “G-d is in this.” As that breath lingers in my body, I am aware “G-d is in me.” And as I exhale, I am aware “G-d is in the world through me.” Indeed, the very carbon dioxide I exhale this morning is an integral part of the world I share with countless other life forms, the very breath of the many plants all around me.

My north garden where I sit is now a sea of green where earlier this summer a tree crew stripped this spot of all signs of life right down to the earth, removing every stitch of green from it in the process of carrying away the corpse of my poor dying oak trees. I have worked hard to heal the scarred landscape around the north end of our home. And this morning, that hard work bears fruit.

In my time to become grounded this morning, I am aware of all the many things in my life for which I am grateful this morning. For a new beginning as a teacher in a place I love working; for our beloved beagle, Daisy, still with us but in very guarded condition; for a good report from my Father’s oncologist on the eve of more tests at Moffett Cancer Center in Tampa; for a day to spend as I see fit in this semi-retired life I now lead.

I have always loved the Johnny Appleseed song that I learned as a camp counselor at the Florida Easter Seal’s Camp Challenge years ago. There are times when the goodness of the Creation and my awareness of the many blessings of my life overcome me. I sometimes find myself throwing my hands out, looking into the sky and breaking into song: “Ohhhh, the Lord is good to me. And so I thank the Lord…for giving me…the things I need…the sun and the rain and the apple seed. The Lord. Is. Good. To. Me. Alleluia!”

Somehow that song just seemed appropriate this beautiful morning here among the trees, the birds and the rising sun in the heart of this city I love.


Harry Scott Coverston

Orlando, Florida

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.

Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.  Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Ages, Commentary on Micah 6:8


Friday, September 02, 2016

A Game for a New World

Camper World Stadium, Orlando

For much of my younger life I, like most young men in my region, found myself driven by a major obsession with college football. Love of all things football was distilled and spiked into the mother’s milk of grammar school, dominated our collective lives in high school and later formed the basis for most social life in college.

For much of my young adult life, I could rightly have been called a football fanatic. Like any true believer, it was in football that I moved, breathed and had my being. Lacking much of an identity I could safely claim for my own in those days, my allegiance to various teams gave me a credible if tenuous tribal identity that allowed me to fit in if only conditionally and temporarily.  

But my unhealthy love affair with American football ended badly several years ago. I began falling out of love my first year in seminary in 1991 when I walked across the Cal-Berkeley campus on a game day presuming that for once the library would not be jammed and I could finally get some research done. 

I was shocked to find the library just as full of students as any other day, apparently oblivious to the cannon firing from the stadium across campus where the Golden Bears were busy shelling a much weaker team from nearby San Jose State. Retreating to the coffee houses south of campus on Telegraph Avenue hoping for a little quiet reading time, I discovered them just as full and noisy as the library. 
Café Strada, Berkeley, CA, one of my old hangouts

Time simply did not stop in Berkeley for college football. I said to myself, “Toto, we’re clearly not in the South anymore.”

The stake through the heart would come about six years later when one of my alma maters won the national championship by beating another of my alma maters. My father, sister, brother-in-law and his mother and I all dutifully trudged up to Florida Field on a very cold Saturday morning in January to engage in some long-awaited “Yea, us!”

The small gathering that day in the east stands was dwarfed by the looming stadium around us whose ongoing expansions have pushed its capacity to nearly 100,000. Its upper seating is now crowned by posh corporate suites complete with full-service lounges and air-conditioned box seating. In hoi polloi seating in the nose bleed section just below, players on the field look like ants requiring the game to be watched on the giant television screens in the end zones complete with an endless barrage of ear splitting commercial announcements.

Florida Field, ca. 1970s

My parents had met at the university in the GI Bill days of post WWII and all three of their children eventually earned degrees there. My affiliation with Florida Field has a long history, having first attended the game against the University of Miami with my Dad and brother in 1965. I had learned “We are the boys from old Florida” on my mother’s lap and even today swaying with my arms around complete strangers’ shoulders to sing that song brings tears to my eyes. But as I looked around the stadium that day, it was clear that the place I once knew and loved had long since vanished.

Gone were the sweaty afternoons of plebian general admission ticket holders sitting on splintered east stands seating, the hazards of which most of us undergraduates had long since become oblivious in our customary alcohol-dimmed hazes. Gone were the days where alumni families annually purchased a block of tickets in the shaded west stand and game day served as a giant extended family reunion, hot and humid Saturday afternoons where winning was the ostensible goal but socializing was the ultimate concern.

The days of sanguine, personable interactions around a game that was often secondary in importance to what was going on in the stands and the parking lots around the stadium were gone. What had replaced it was an overwhelming, noisy, mass produced spectacle designed more for electronic media than human participants. Football, like many aspects in virtually every large public university, had become a business and, like any other business, the goal now was less about bringing pride to the university than drawing crowds and selling overpriced tribal identity merchandise made in China to insure profits for the corporate entity which had succeeded that university.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, 2015

As I watched the mural on the stadium wall being unveiled to proclaim UF to be “National Champs,” I found myself strangely detached. Perhaps it was because I was actually a graduate student at the other university UF had defeated to win the championship. Truth be told, I had become suspect to both my family of Gators (my parents met at UF and both of my siblings attended there) and my colleagues at FSU.

But what I felt that moment was less conflict than sheer detachment. There were no fireworks. Jesus did not make a cameo appearance temporarily clad in an orange and blue jersey. Indeed, the rather paltry crowd hardly made enough noise to be heard in the sound vacuum of that yawning, empty concrete canyon.

Worse yet, glory is fleeting and the frenetic journalists of the sports world were already beginning to debate who would be number one next year. So what was all this frenzied year-long worry and anxiety all about, anyway?

Perhaps only I could hear it that day but I swear that just after the mural was unveiled Peggy Lee’s 1960s hit “Is That All There Is?” began to play over the stadium sound system. “Is that all there is?” Peggy’s raspy voice pondered, “If that’s all there is, then let’s keep dancing. We’ll break out the booze…and have….a ball….if that’s all….there is….”

Call it a funeral dirge for a dying love affair.

Soccer in a Second Language

Of course American football is hardly the only version of the game in the world bearing that name. Futbol, as it is called in many places, going under the alias of soccer in the US, is the world’s most popular sport. The international version lacks the padding, the helmets and the punishing physical contact of its American cousin. The rate of brain damage and paralyzing injuries in soccer is essentially non-existent.

Better yet, the two 45 minute halves are not incessantly interrupted for commercials. When the ball goes out of bounds or a foul is called, the brief time to return the ball to play or to line up for the free kick at the goal is accounted for at the end of regulation time each half. The game rolls on.

What a breath of fresh air!

I first encountered futbol as the last smoldering embers of my love for American football were dying. About six years ago I had to go to Miami to get a visa from the Bolivian embassy, got finished early and had a little time on my hands. I went out Tamiami Trail to Florida International University to see the horticultural collection and the excellent art museum there before seeking out the Starbucks in the student union.

The World Cup was playing on a television in the union and I found myself caught up in the excitement of the largely Latin American students there as the American team played to a disappointing tie that day. Apparently one thing that is constant in all versions of football is the tendency for disappointed fans to analyze officiating after the game and lay the unjust defeat of the home team at the feet of officials seen as incompetent on a good day and on the payroll of the winner in darker moments.

Later that summer I’d find myself in Cuba to deliver a paper at an international conference. Now the finals of the World Cup were being played and in the hotel lounge we watched Spain defeat Germany. The energy among the gathered was sky high even as I engaged the conversations in a second language. And once again I found myself getting excited about a sport I understood only minimally but which had had proven immensely attractive in drawing a following around the world.

The Soccer Uncles

My sister’s younger boy plays soccer for his high school team. He’s also played for several years on local teams. Cary is a good goalie. Andy and I have upon occasion become soccer uncles, traveling to nearby towns to see our nephew play.

Cary and teammate, Garren (ca. 2010)
One of my very favorite photos of all times

In truth, I have never figured out how off-sides works or what constitutes fouls that result in free kicks. What I do observe is that parents are generally better behaved at these matches than corresponding events on baseball diamonds and football fields. I also am aware that the incidence of injury in soccer is infinitesimal compared to its American cousin, something that makes me a lot more comfortable watching my nephew as he runs onto the field.

Even as I’m not sure what’s going on all the time, I find myself enjoying these games a lot more than the football games I once loved. If nothing else the level of violence is much lower and the games seem to move a little smoother. Best of all, the lack of ongoing pounding by commercials during the game is evidence that there is a merciful G-d.

So when my nephew said he wanted to go to see the local Orlando City Soccer Club play, I immediately agreed. I want to encourage him in his endeavors and I also wanted to see what this new sport actually looked like here in Orlando.

Vamos, Orlando!

The renovations at the now Camper World Stadium (né Tangerine Bowl then Florida Citrus Bowl) have made the stadium close to comfortable. The bathrooms are not nearly as foul as they once were and the seating is clearly marked, solid and comfortable. Concessions are more numerous and there is plenty of overpriced draught beer to be drunk.

A number of things struck me about the crowd. First, it looked like the diverse place that  a majority-minority Orlando has become. It was that diversity that tipped the scales in favor of our resettling in Orlando after returning from the culturally rich Bay Area in California in the mid-90s. Truth be told, I simply don’t think I could live in a monochromatic culture anymore.  

An Energized End Zone

The team fight song was sung in Spanish “Vamos, vamos, vamos Orlando. Esta noche tenemos que ganar” (Let’s go, Orlando! Tonight we have to win!) The people behind us conversed in Creole. The clipped British accent of the African origin couple to our right betrayed their origins from one of the Caribbean islands and the white middle class family in front of us appeared to have recently escaped from their American football cells, still wearing red Seminoles garb, the uniform of the college football prison, a glaring distinction to the ocean of purple around them.

The rowdy crowd in the south end zone came marching into the stadium to the cadence of a drum corps which would keep them literally jumping up and down the entire game. They bore flags from around the world including the rainbow flag of the LGBTQ movement, reminding us of the international nature of this enterprise.  Indeed, the names of the players reflect a world in which futbol will take the dominant role that the more violent, costly version in the US currently commands. The star player for Orlando has a Latin last name that must be carefully pronounced to avoid a pronunciation which literally translates to poop.

The intentional diversity of this enterprise is strikingly revealed by the ads for the national soccer league which run prior to the game and during half-time: No racism, no sexism, no homophobia, no exceptions, no excuses. Over and over the ad ran prior to game time taking my very breath away. American sports could learn a lot from this example.

It was great fun to let my nephew be the expert at this event. To his credit he never seemed to get tired of being asked to explain what had just happened, why there was a free kick and what did off-sides actually mean. Around us, even in the hot sunshine with little breeze across that man-made concrete gulch, it was obvious that people were simply having a great time together.

We would spend the last 10 minutes of the game - in which goal line stands were repeatedly made - on our feet. It was tremendously exciting. Even the buzz kill of a late free kick to tie the game which took away Orlando’s apparent victory did little to dampen the spirits of the crowd as they poured out of the stadium. They’d come for a good time and they were going home satisfied.  

I can definitely see why people get into futbol. I cannot say I’ll be a regular at the Camper World Stadium (indeed, I’m not sure I’d ever admit to having been to a place with such a name) and after this year the club will be playing in their new stadium downtown designed just for futbol. Chances are I will never become the kind of identity-conditioned fanatic for futbol that I once was for the American version bearing the same name. 

But I’m sure my nephew will be able to talk me into going to more games. And chances are, I could even be convinced to watch a bit of the next World Cup if invited to do so. Andy and I are already pledged to attend a couple of Cary’s local matches this year.

At some level, my conversion to futbol is representative of the country I love. Little by little, America is becoming aware of a new role in the world community, not as the dominant party setting the terms for everyone else but as one among many nation-states and peoples. 

Futbol is the game of the future for a rapidly changing global community. That future is already beginning to take shape in a renovated stadium with an unusual name in the heart of a medium sized city in a Central Florida.  And today that city more resembles the incredibly diverse western hemisphere from which so many of its citizens have come than the old South out of which it has arisen.

Vamos, Orlando!

Harry Scott Coverston
Orlando, Florida

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.

Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Ages, Commentary on Micah 6:8


Thursday, September 01, 2016

Lectio Divina and the Unexpected: Jesus Repents

Be careful what you ask of people.

In lectio divina, participants are asked to listen to a passage from scripture, meditate on the words of the story and then enter into it. The exercise in our contemplative prayer group began with the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman found in Matthew’s Gospel (MT 15:21-29). 

In all honesty, I’ve never liked the story. Jesus is approached by a Canaanite woman, a woman outside his Jewish tribal boundaries, from a people that good Jews are supposed to revile and view with condescension. And when the woman begs Jesus to have mercy upon her daughter who was plagued by a demon, he blows her off.

At first Jesus ignores her entirely. When she won’t go away, he finally tells her “‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ Such a response is highly consistent with the agenda of the author(s) of Matthew, focused on presenting Jesus as an authentic messiah in a world where messiahs are a dime a dozen. Matthew’s account, as always, is deeply rooted in Israel’s history and tradition and unintelligible without a knowledge of the same.

But the woman will not be so lightly dismissed. Kneeling before Jesus she begs, “Lord, help me.” Here Jesus turns surly: “‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ One can hear echoes of today’s demonizing political caricatures in this response. Had Jesus lived today he might have referred to thugs, welfare queens, illegal aliens or radical Islamic terrorists. Whatever else Jesus might have been at that moment, he was a good Jew, a product of his own upbringing, with a predictable response rooted in the culture of his day.

Again, the woman persists: ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’  

And it is at this moment that something unforeseen happens: Jesus repents.

Good with Only Half the Equation

Most Christians have a difficult time putting those two words together in a sentence. In theory, we say we believe that Jesus was fully human and fully G-d, the paradoxical formula thrashed out by the Council of Chalcedon in the 5th CE. Truth be told, we’re really good Docetists, obsessed with the spiritual nature of Jesus while ignoring if not devaluing his human nature.

But the first time I heard a very bright woman priest in the countryside of Panama assess this story in this manner, I instantly knew she was right. To the degree that Jesus was human, he was certainly capable of making mistakes, admitting he was wrong, regretting the harm his mistake had caused others, apologizing and committing himself to a new direction in life. My guess is that Jesus learned a valuable lesson in the harmful aspects of condescension that day.

In the process, he was also learning that all socially constructed cultural values with their “common sense” (Common to whom? Sensible in what ways?)  need to be critically considered by anyone with even a drop of consciousness. More and more that critical consciousness would inform Jesus’ life and ministry. And like most prophetic figures who awaken and then call their fellow human beings to consciousness, we will ultimately reward him by putting the prophet out of our misery.   

It is to writer/editor Matthew’s credit that he was able to recognize the importance of this turning point in Jesus’ life by choosing to include this story preserved by oral tradition in his written gospel. Though it is doubtful than any of the Gospel writers were on hand to hear the words of Jesus they would later record, the persistence of this story in the oral tradition and the unpredictable break with cultural values it reflects probably points toward a real encounter with Jesus by those who would later preserve this memory.

Of course, Matthew has an agenda and it is reflected by Jesus’ final response to the woman: “‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” Here the word “faith” is probably not the best translation. The Greek word pistin is frequently translated as faith which in a post-Enlightenment world tends to be cognitive in nature. But it can also be translated as “trust,” a more existential word that is much more in keeping with the story related here.

The Rest of the Story  

What is missing is the apology. And so when we were asked to close our eyes, sit with the story, to place ourselves into its midst and to see where our heart, mind and spirit would take us, and then record our vision, this is what I saw:

Jesus is alone in the desert. The crowds have gone away for the day. He’s asked his disciples to give him some space and they oblige. Jesus sits down on a rock, looks to the horizon beyond and begins to pray:

“Dear G-d! What was I thinking?

I talk about the rain falling on the just and the unjust alike. I teach people that the poor are blessed, that poverty is not evidence of being punished for sin as our tradition teaches. I even use Samaritans as the example of the neighbor we are to love. Then I turn around and treat this woman with such disrespect.

What was I thinking?

Does she not bear the image of our Father in heaven? Is she not one of the countless examples of your creative work, a creation that our tradition teaches you see as “very good?”

This woman is desperate. Look how much she loves her child. This is what I teach people about G-d’s love for them. Then I pull this stunt.

I was wrong. I need to apologize to her. I told her that her faith was great. It’s more than that. She absolutely trusts G-d for her daily bread and thus for her very life. And now she trusts me, with all my prejudices.

I must repent of them. What good does it do me to be a son of G-d if I cannot honor and respect all of G-d’s creation? Moreover, if I want people to rethink their own lives, to repent, should I not model it myself?

Dualistic thinking is very attractive, like a seductive adder waiting to strike. Us/Them. Good/Evil. G-d/Humanity. In years to come a people bearing my name will pray each week, “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table.” Ants are worthy to gather up crumbs and cockroaches gather them with impunity.

The Canaanite woman showed me this day an incredible ability to trust the G-d who lies at the bottom of all Creation and connects all that is to each other. I pray that others follow her example and become awakened by it as I have this day.

Thank you for sending the gift of this woman’s example to me, Father. And bless you for your wisdom, dear woman. Amen.“

Harry Scott Coverston
Orlando, Florida

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.

Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Ages, Commentary on Micah 6:8