Friday, September 14, 2012

begin again, finnegan

There once was a man named Michael Finnegan. He had whiskers on his chinagin. Along came the wind and blew them in again. Poor old Michael Finnegan. Begin Again.

This children's song kept me occupied as a youngster and occasionally pops into my head as an adult. I can recall a drive back to Boston from Albany once when I heard myself singing the song over and over for about ten miles. Fortunately, I was by myself and therefore was not committed.  I think I also recall the song because in one of my favorite Philip Roth novels, When She Was Good, the lead character sings it to herself when she is in one of her rare good moods.

For those in my tribe, this weekend begins the new year. Unlike the December 31/January 1 celebration, this new year is not brought in with wild soirees, but rather is intended to be set aside as a reflective moratorium.  It is time to begin again and take stock of who you are as a person and how you have behaved as a citizen of our universe with others.

Not sure that all in my tribe use the time as intended, and for me I certainly find myself over the two days considering more mundane matters as opposed to being introspective.  But that is what the time is for.  Check yourself out. How are you doing in terms of living within the confines of your conscience.  And how can you improve.

I love how football coaches after even a resounding victory meet the press and talk about how there is always room for improvement. I don't know how resoundingly winning my behavior has or has not  been, but like the football coaches I know that when I review the game film of the previous year I can see things that make me flinch.  So this time is supposed to be set aside to resolve how to avoid flinching so much when we review our next lap around the track.

I was impressed this morning reading excerpts from a speech that Secretary of State Clinton made about religious strength.  In these hours after the attacks at US embassies she remarked that truly religious people, regardless of their faith, do not resort to violence when their beliefs are attacked. All religions are attacked by fools at one time or another. "The response to insults is what separates people of true faith from those who would use religion as an excuse to commit violent acts."

And I think the response to all of life's turbulence is similarly what separates people.  In When She Was Good the lead character eventually dies despite the short lived singing of the children's song.  She could not find a way to begin-again.  She had gotten lost in some bad weather and died from the elements. The cause of death was listed as Exposure.

That is the cause of everyone's death.  Yet exposure is also our gift. We are exposed to life with all its  turbulence and how we react to the elements is what causes us to be joyful or sad.

 And so, for all people who take time out to reflect on what is what--whether as part of a religious holiday or during the chorus/course of any rhythmic musings--the question is how can we each day, begin-again, and religiously adhere to principles that allow us to contribute to this wonderful opportunity we call life.

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