Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Favorite Things

World peace. Almost everyone laughs at the beauty contestant who offers this response to the big question. Give her a break. I like that answer, especially if it's spruced up to show some thought went into it. I suppose we laugh because we don't believe world peace is possible. But it is. We must believe it is. It isn't going to happen if we don't give it a chance.

Switch sexes for the moment. Mr. America. Big muscles. Macho. "Sir, if you had one wish, what would it be?" Here is a fellow bred to do battle. If he joined the military, it wouldn't be to do "the surge." I mean, think a moment, these guys are trained to "win," not to help rebuild roads, sewers and schools. "Time's up. What's your answer?"

If you think this scenario is unrealistic, maybe you're too young to remember Cassius Clay. Soon after he became Muhammad Ali, member of Islam, he was threatened with prison when three times he refused to step forward for military induction. As it turned out, the fighter wasn't that kind of fighter. Tried, convicted, his case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. He won (as he usually did). Some jeered. Others of us cheered.

After world peace, what's next? Raindrops on roses? Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes? I sincerely doubt it. More likely, brown paper packages tied up with strings. We like our things. I'm no exception. I have a feeling that what seems to be almost everyone's favorite Broadway tune is aptly titled. We can't pick just one thing, so we make sure it's plural, our favorite hundreds of our thousands of things. This sort of tears the word "favorite" down to size, doesn't it?

Friends of ours have a son who may appear difficult from a parent's perspective, but I'm proud of this guy. He took his backpack and maybe forty dollars and hitchhiked to a city. His dream was to make sails and eventually sail away. A day or two after arriving, he landed a temporary job in a boatyard and a part-time position at a restaurant. He found a five-acre parcel downtown, near a port-a-john, a convenience store and some public housing, where he pitched his tent. When the weather turned cooler, he moved up, into an insulated wigwam. The first jobs disappeared; now he manages a tee shirt shop. Offered a raise, he said, "I don't need one."

Virginia took a similar path when she hoisted her pack and aimed north on the Appalachian Trail. Sometimes it makes sense to set "things" aside and focus on what matters most. We could live with much less material support than we do. Consumption may feed our economy, but I have a feeling we could starve it and find other ways to survive.

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