Here is Where We Meet

Andrew Sullivan points us to this wonderful excerpt from a column by Barbara J. King at Bookslut:

We primates despair, and hope. On the topic of hope and hoped-for change, John Berger gets the last word. I’m a sucker for the notion that from tiny good actions may emerge tremendous positive consequences. In Here Is Where We Meet, Berger creates a conversation between a son and the dead mother who reappears to him as he stands atop an aqueduct in Lisbon.

The mother says, “Let a few things be repaired. A few is a lot. One thing repaired changes a thousand others.” The son replies, “So?” And out flows a maternal speech:

“The dog down there is on too short a chain. Change it, lengthen it. Then he’ll be able to reach the shade, and he’ll lie down and he’ll stop barking. And the silence will remind the mother she wanted a canary in a cage in the kitchen. And when the canary sings, she’ll do more ironing. And the father’s shoulders in a freshly ironed shirt will ache less when he goes to work. And so when he comes home he’ll sometimes joke, like he used to, with his teenage daughter. And the daughter will change her mind and decide, just this once, to bring her lover home one evening. And on another evening, the father will propose to the young man that they go fishing together… Who in the wide world knows? Just lengthen the chain.”

In this season of peace, may you lengthen a dog’s chain. And then see what happens.

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  1. The Rev. T. Scott Allen


  2. And a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico causes a typhoon in China and sometimes one straw [i]will[/i] break a camel’s back. The causal chains are generally hard to trace out, and this case, while plausible, may not play out like that at all. But that doesn’t matter; do what is right, without regard to the actual or expected consequences, and especially the consequent praise (or blame) you get. One of those universal religious truths, that religions (or, at least, the religious) too often forget.

  3. Was thrilled to find that Mr. Sullivan & The Episcopal Cafe linked to my column. I like Mr. Stowe’s comment above, too– the causality for positive change is rarely linear and predictable, more often nonlinear and dynamic. I do think- as a cat rescuer and as someone who writes about animals and religion- that there’s something to be said for the dynamic combination of animals and people in bringing about change, so I found Berger’s example particularly apt. (I don’t believe the animals role in it to be at all passive!)

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