Whitman’s signature poem, Song of Myself, begins: “I celebrate myself and sing myself, and what I assume you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
The weekend before last we celebrated ourselves in a day-long gathering we called ‘The Essence of Us.’ Big thanks to Mary Money, Randy Burnham, Jim Keenan and Karen Wright, to name just a few of those responsible. We ate together, talked together, played ice-breaking games together, did workshops together and listened to and watched entertainment at the closing coffee house.
Our Business Manager, John Carroll got involved, leading Simon Says and getting small groups of us, divided by the first letter of our middle name, to list as many self-organized games we played as kids that we could think of. Our group topped the fifty mark!
For better or worse, times have changed. I won’t lament television, computer and video games, and the over-scheduling, detailed-planning of today’s kids. But it was great to remember all the things we did to have fun as kids.
First of all, we all remembered ‘going out to play.’ Someone took the initiative and said, “Hey, let’s play hide and go seek, or red rover, or tag, or capture the flag, or stick ball, or street hockey.” In winter it was sledding, or building snow forts for the big snow-ball battles, or skating on some small pond nearby.
It’s not that we didn’t have organized sports, but even most of those games were organized by us kids, rather than playing under adult supervision.
I remember baseball or softball games that ended when the only ball we had got lost in the tall grass in the outfield. More than one game ended with a broken bat!
We experimented, making up new games or putting a twist on the old ones. We explored our world. We searched for gold, believing some of the orange-stained rocks might be gold nuggets. We searched under logs for snakes. We explored the nearby cemetery, finding gravestones with familiar family names and calculating ages by subtracting the birth year from the date of death.
In his Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot writes: “Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future/And time future contained in time past./If all time is eternally present… The only wisdom we can hope to acquire/Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless…/Love is most nearly itself/ When here and now cease to matter. Old men ought to be explorers.”
At ‘The Essence of Us’ gathering we explored the past. A group gathered to remember the early years of our congregation. Ken Lanouette was Board Chair and Joe Wertheim was chair of the building committee responsible for the facilities we now enjoy. They were interviewed on film to begin a documentary of our history.
We explored the present, breaking into small groups to talk about and list the things we most value about our church, and we explored the future, asking what we need to do to improve. A great day!