By accident of birth or some would say by destiny, my generation is about to live through yet another sea change of consciousness in this great experiment called the United States of America.
Sometime in the seventies, while working in London, trying to return home to Martha’s Vineyard, I met an old college friend on the street. She had moved to London in the early seventies right after college as a result of meeting and falling in love and marrying a lighting designer who created the concept of rock and roll light shows. He was English. We hadn’t seen each other for perhaps ten years and we recognized each other instantly. I had just passed my thirtieth birthday as had she, and we both said the same thing to each other. “If nothing else, we did one thing right — we had the presence of mind to be twenty-one in 1969 in New York city.” Very lucky children were we. One could denigrate the sixties ad infinitum, but if you didn’t live through it, you just don’t know — ad infinitum.
Today, I am sixty in New York city. I struggle with health problems that threaten my corporal existence. It is five o’clock in the morning and I have just awakened from a night filled with dreams about the three political campaigns, which churn ferociously at our feet and in our minds. Interestingly enough the overwhelming theme of my dreams was not about the three campaigns competing against each other, but rather about young people becoming involved, body and soul, in a way that is interchangeable. Just to experience the people in my dreams, you could not tell for whom they worked. They shared more than anything that divided them. What they share is a feeling that we are on the brink of a wave that has been churning and roiling in profound corners of our collective soul, seeking the slightest opening through which it may cleanse our despair.
When I lived on Crete, halfway between Piraeus and Alexandria, I would walk along the mountain road on my way to my waterfall sanctuary from the extreme heat and notice the trickling of water that inevitably broke through the mountain’s stone walls. I understood then, for the first time, that water was stronger than stone. Today, once again, the lesson of the water breaking through stone becomes paramount. Our hearts yearning to rise to our highest level is the wave slowly mounting from the bowels of our night.
We have ignored this wave for so long, numb from the stones that have been so carefully placed, brick by brick, by those who would deny we have even the facility to breathe, much less the ability to think, it feels like an eternity.
All the players have fulfilled their role perfectly in order for our wave to gather its force undisturbed by the scrutiny of self-doubt. There is our President, who can hardly think, much less speak, controlled by those who believe they are immune from the tides of history. Their arrogance competing with an outsized cynicism which has sent our children, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters to die fighting for a grand fabrication waved in front of our faces in the midst of a national wound embodied in New York city by a smoldering hole where once stood two post-modern pyramids filled with thousands of vibrant souls.
There are three senators, each with their own motivation, trying to replace that contempt which has ruled our national life with their own version of a change. One is an old soldier who believes he will be President by continuing to play upon the fears and helplessness of a people in the midst of being beaten by commerce as well as grief. The second is a senator, who is likely undergoing a grand transformation that will leave her still a senator, but with one very important difference: she will have moved from the stifling shadow of yet another cynical politician, her husband, a.k.a. Slick Willie, into uncharted territory lit by a brilliant sun.
And finally, a senator representing Lincoln’s home, who somehow must have woken up one morning, or perhaps late one evening, and glimpsed that wave which had become so formidable that he could not deny his own resonance with such a force of nature. All the players will fulfill their roles right until the crash of water upon earth. The President, who long ago became naked in a stunning, devastating turbulent New Orleans moment, will continue to transform before even the dullest of eyes into a grotesque clown, tap dancing in front of the White House. The old soldier will cling to his fury. The senator, moving from the shadows of her cynical husband, will play out her ambition before indifferent witnesses, fueled only by her illusion of power. The senator from Lincoln’s state will continue to be amazed by the wave he has integrated into his heart and its power (I pray) will gently carry him to a higher level of existence — a level at which we are all destined to arrive. He will become our mirror of possibilities.
Perhaps thirty years from now, I will be walking with my beautiful daughter (who will then be forty five) on a mountainside and we will turn to each other and say that we were smart enough to have been born into a time that carried us far beyond the stones that had been so assiduously placed around our hearts, but to no avail, for water (love, compassion) always bursts through stone.
Jack Schimmelman lives in Levittown, N.Y.