Dwelling in one's true abode, unconcerned with that without, The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.
— "Ten Bulls of Zen," Kakuan
It's Thanksgiving week, a time to be grateful, a time when we should stop paddling so hard, pull over to the shore, and look around. It's a time to take in the river and the trees and the sky above and savor this life we're drifting through. A time to forget the destination and celebrate the journey — the moment we're in.
The long, exhausting, divisive election cycle is over. Fifty-one percent of us were pleased with the results; 48 percent of us were not. It's been that way, more or less, every fourth November in America for 236 years. But that river, too, flows on. We've survived good presidents and bad, recessions, depressions, wars, hurricanes, and floods. We're divided politically, yes, but that division is itself a kind of strength — a centering point that keeps us from veering to extremes in either direction. Be thankful for it. Celebrate it. Hug the nearest Republican. Buy a Democrat a drink. If the Pilgrims and Indians could break bread together, surely we can as well.
And when I think about it, I have to admit I'm grateful for some things that seem silly — Facebook, for instance. It's reconnected me with old friends and classmates from around the country and the world. I see their pictures and read stories of their adventures; I see their children, a fine dinner in Turin, a camping trip in the Sierras, a new painting in the living room — and, yes, too many damn pictures of cats and dogs. But the small stuff matters, too: the political posts, the funny memes, the snark, the silly mugshots. It connects us, it broadens us, it widens our lens on the world. Social media is a good thing, on the whole, and I'm happy it's here.
A Chinese proverb says, "May you be blessed to live in interesting times." There is some debate as to whether this is meant to be a blessing or a curse. But I feel blessed to live in an interesting city, a city that in many ways is ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to dealing with ethnic diversity. It shows in our music and our sports teams, past and present, and even in our politics. We have a long way to go, but I love Memphis and I believe this old river town is paddling in the right direction. I see evidence of it every day — and for that, too, I give thanks.
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...