Rev. Toni Fish, Associate Minister
Several years ago, I discovered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, published in 1967 and have shared a portion the last chapter on several occasions. In that chapter he observed that the most significant point of the Rip Van Winkle story was not that Rip slept for 20 years; rather that he had slept through a revolution. When he fell asleep the picture on the local pub sign was of King George III. When he awoke the picture was of George Washington and the revolution that had taken place would change the world. And the changes had just begun…from colonies to world power…from primarily agriculture-based economy to industrial economy to global technological complex.
One hundred and thirty-two years after Rip Van Winkle’s revolution, in 1908, Wilbur and Orville Wright were trying to fly more than 2 hours at a time at the end of that year! Automobiles were toys for the rich and famous – well, that’s still true; however, in 1908 the average person did not have one and most weren’t sure they were a good idea! Henry Ford would bring out the Model T in 1908 and that would change so much of our world yet again. Thousands of people were killed each year in work-related accidents; children worked long hours in dangerous condition; there were vast numbers of immigrants coming into the US from both the east and the west. In fact, in the larger cities, gangs terrorized the streets – remember the movie, Gangs of New York. Racism was part of the culture – lynchings were taking place in the Midwest and the south. There was extreme poverty and extreme wealth. And with all that, there were major strides and innovations in technology – radio, automobiles, airplanes, synthetic materials – and public awareness – women had begun their struggle for the vote and more equality, child labor laws were being introduced, to name just a few issues. Interestingly, oil was discovered in the Middle East and rights to drill immediately claimed by the United Kingdom. The world was getting smaller – it took days and weeks for news to spread rather than months to years.
Isn’t it amazing how far we’ve come and yet how little has changed. As we move into 2022, we live in a much smaller world – it takes only seconds for news to spread around the world – and yet one where there is still fighting for control over blocks of the neighborhood. Women and children still work very long hours in very poor conditions – they’re just not in our neighborhood mostly! Racism still exists – for some more subtly; for others, it is still overt and wrapped in national security. Advances in technology are moving so fast that it is almost impossible to keep up. And public awareness is expanding – interfaith activities, disaster relief, environmental conservation, and a call for peace.
And yet is it possible that many of us may be sleeping through another world changing revolution? Are we allowing ourselves to be lulled into a sleep-like state to avoid the pain and discomfort that so often come with major change? And we call it “I’m so busy;” “There’s just not enough time…money…etc.” “It’s not my concern;” “It’s not really a problem;”” There’s plenty of time.” Sometimes it is just easier to lie down under the tree and take a nap than to stay in the village and deal with the shifting patterns and weaves of a society in flux.
What can we do to help us stay awake during these exciting and tumultuous times? We can work together as an integrated whole – accepting and celebrating our rich diversity. As members of a faith community, we can encourage our community to expand its boundaries outside our physical sacred space. There are groups in our community that are working for cross-cultural dialogue; others working with family and children who are homeless; others working with those caught in addiction. Reach out – get involved. Make connections with local groups working to conserve our natural resources – recycling, energy conservation. Help build affordable housing locally. Find a place and a time for regular meditation. Think outside the box at home, at our work, at our church, synagogue, or mosque. Ask why. Stand on top of the desk to get a different perspective. We can bring forth a world that works for all! Let’s do it!