21 November 2010

Why I Like Clouds and Rain and Cold Sometimes

I know that title may seem strange for a lifelong California beach guy to say, but there is a reason which I'll get to in a minute.

As a lawyer I can't resist a good policy discussion about controversial legislation. So this morning I attended a presentation about Don't Ask Don't Tell at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral. Lots of fascinating stuff and three key take-away points for this son of a retired Army officer.

First, DADT is more than just not asking or telling, it has tragic results on individual lives, cutting short promising careers, spending millions to actually reduce military readiness and capabilities at a time when those are not only crucial, but when a majority of military personnel themselves say they'd have no problem with LGB soldiers serving openly. Thus making more and more ridiculous such ostensible mandarins as John McCain, whose bigotry in trying to preserve DADT is increasingly desperate.

Two, DADT is a crashingly discordant exception in American law in that it requires discrimination by the same government which everywhere else must not discriminate.

Third and possibly most disturbing, DADT creates a culture of lying and mistrust. It "belies" who our military is "as an institution", says (just today, ironically) no less a figure than Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of the military leaders whose advice Senator McCain said 4 years ago he'd follow re this issue, and whose advice he is now desperately trying to ignore.

DADT is now part of the Defense Appropriations Bill pending for a vote in the Senate before 10th December's Christmas recess. If you live in a state where your senator(s) support DADT or are undeclared, give their offices a call and them to listen to Admiral Mullen and get rid of this idiotic, tragic law/policy so they'll be on the right side of history and won't be lumped with the McCains of the world.

OK, public service announcement over. 'Cause obviously none of that explains why I like clouds and rain and cold sometime.

Since the DADT presentation ended just minutes before the regular church service started at St. Paul's, and since I have friends who sing in the choir there, I decided to hang around for services. It's a beautiful cathedral and the music is terrific. Very inspirational. The sermon was great, about "the cosmic Christ" and what that concept means for us individually. And I love the smell of that incense.

I didn't have a sweater or jacket. The cathedral is all masonry, floor to ceiling, so it was on the cold side. Outside it was raining and the air was slightly damp. The wooden benches aren't exactly cushy soft. But I found myself happier than I'd been in a long time. Why?

When I was a teenager I was lucky enough to take a couple of trips to Europe with friends. You know how it is when you're 16 and 17 and think you've got the world figured out and you're on the verge of being a legal adult and chomping at the bit to leave home and explore. Thrilled at finally being able to get out of the nest, be on your own, make your own life. Thirsty for adventure.

Well, I was all of that. And spent many weeks filled with that enthusiasm while exploring countries whose histories and culture had always fascinated me. Particularly the cathedrals. Both trips were in the late spring, and at that time of year Northern Europe can still be pretty cold and damp. One particular Sunday we were in Lucerne, Switzerland. It was Easter, actually. There was still snow on the ground and a few flurries in the air. Everything was wet. But it wasn't unpleasantly cold.

Though it was overcast, the clouds had that bright quality by which you could tell the sun was shining behind them. The first few green buds were appearing on the trees. Icicles were melting. The lake was beautiful. I was almost intoxicated with the feeling of such history all around me; this city had existed since 750 A.D., an almost unimaginable history in my hometown where anything over 50 years old tends to get torn down. I walked the covered wooden footbridge over the lake whose eaves were still decorated with the paintings done in the late 1500's when the bridge was built. My friends and I returned twice to admire the statue of the Lion of Lucerne, which we found profoundly touching in ways we couldn't articulate. (I've since learned that others have felt the same.)

And of course, we spent time in a big church. It was Easter, after all. The church was probably 17th Century, from the look of its white & gold German-style Baroque decor. Yep, that one to the left, that's the very one. It was cold, and damp. But the music and the incense and the atmosphere were wonderful. Outside were the first signs of spring. Though it was cloudy, the sky glowed. And there I was, in the middle of this grand adventure, surrounded by all this wonderful stuff, these omens of a bright future. It was a wonderful, exciting, memory-making day that, obviously, I never forgot.

So while it doesn't happen often, today it happened again. All those factors once again converged--the damp, the cold stone church, the incense, the cloudy but glowing sky (with the glow coming through stained glass windows) and I felt that same sense of happiness and gratitude and excitement and gratitude for a bright future. True, since that Easter Sunday in Lucerne I've had a bit of life experience, but there's still a lot of future left to embrace.

And the icing on the cake was when my buddies from the choir collared me in the hall outside afterward to sing some barbershop pick-ups with them, just for fun, on the spot. No written scores, just pick one you know, sing everybody's part through for them, then all together. Short clips. No reason other than the sheer joy of singing with your friends. Can you imagine such a thing happening in an LDS chapel after priesthood meeting? No wonder I like St. Paul's.

Days like this are why I like clouds and rain and cold sometimes.

1 comment:

McKay said...

Thanks for the lift. That all sounds wonderful. :)