Stanley Kunitz begins his poem, The Layers:
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being abides,
from which I struggle not to stray.
I grew up in a family of eight children – many lives, one of them my own. I walked through many lives delivering Sunday newspapers for eleven years and working weekends at a take-out sea-food restaurant for fourteen years; I taught at a high school for seven years, and was a youth advisor at Congregational and Unitarian churches for several years, and I’ve been a minister for forty-three years. Many lives, some of them my own.
But some principle of being – something that is not about all the lives I’ve touched and have been touched by along the way – and whatever has been at work at the core of my being, will continue to abide.
The Kunitz poem ends:
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
It’s an exciting and challenging time. Again, Kunitz captures it: “When I look behind, as I am compelled to look before I can gather strength to proceed on my journey, I see the milestones dwindling toward the horizon.” Time moves on.
I look back to 1984, when I arrived in Westport, and I see significant changes that have taken place in our society – progress in the women’s movement, progress in gay rights, progress in the issued of racial equality.
Who, in 1984, could possibly have predicted that an African-American would be in the White House, and who, in 1984, could have predicted that his second inaugural address would have included reference to ‘our gay brothers and sisters and their right to marry,’ which a majority of our citizens now support?
I am not done with my changes, and neither are you, and neither is our country – we have miles to go as we work to end the madness of the weapons of mass destruction that are now, legally, in the hands of anyone who wants them – automatic weapons capable of firing a hundred rounds in seconds whose only purpose is to kill by the dozen! More work.