I’m exhausted…spiritually exhaused. They’re exhausting me…all the emails…and the voice mails telling me that if I don’t give one more dime one more time…my candidate is going to lose…and the world will come to an end…and it’s going to be… my fault.

Anyone else feeling that way?

I’m also torn up inside. I’m trying to be civil…trying to understand why this election is even close…and trying not to be haughty and naughty.

I’m missing my afternoon nap. I love my afternoon nap with Maggie and Sebastian, my buddies here at home. They still sleep like logs…the way I used to…before the Presidential debates and emails that clog my inbox and the phone calls from chummy best friends I’ve never met who want just one more donation of “just $5” so so-and-so knows s/he can count on me.

It’s an illusion. Anyone else feeling that way?

Meantwhile…between the emails and the phone calls…I visit the dying…in hospice care…who live on the edge of existence itself…who sip comfort from the deeper wells. My spirit is strangely quieted. Strangely calmed.  We sit in silence. I read a psalm or two. We…the dying…and I are refreshed. Ready for a nap.

I go home and stumble upon a prayer by Wendell Berry “To the Holy Spirit”:

O Thou, far off and here, whole and broken,

Who in necessity and in bounty wait,

Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,

By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate.”


Wendell Berry, Collected Poems, North Point Press, 1964.

12 thoughts on “Exhaustion

  1. Gordon, PJ and I are always happy to come home after our work in France; if we must leave, it is great to return to Cape Cod. But the difference this year is the election, which features the worst behavior in memory. In Europe, we felt like apologizing to anyone who asked about it – and the Europeans watch our elections very closely. More than most of us in the US. I’m sorry for your exhaustion and wish you well.


    • Dennis, Welcome back to the carnival mirror. We’ve become a nation of nincompoops – putty in the potter’s hand, and the potter is not Jeremiah’s potter who shapes wisdom into our human form but the potters turned loose by the Supreme Court decision that corporations are persons. It’s ugly. Welcome back from all that beauty. Keep the photos of the beauty and your commentaries coming, Dennis and PJ. They’re breaths of fresh air for at least one person in Minnesota.


  2. Yes I’m feeling that way too, about the emails and the insistence that I, who can’t, needs to send money or it could all fall apart. I’m also tired of the fact that the perfect candidate would never want the job and wouldn’t be able to win (in this society) even if she or he did. I don’t want to be haughty or naughty either. But it gets harder as the days go by.

    Lately, every once in a while, I involuntarily stop what I’m doing and shiver. It hits me that all the people in the 99% who really want the challenger to prevail, will be shocked if bad things happen because he did, and I realize that they’ll find ways to believe that something or someone other than his ‘side’ is to blame. They’ll hear that somewhere (because they don’t read much) then lament that their lives are still difficult, if not more so, without understanding their part in it. That makes me shiver for a moment or two until I’m able to hope again that reason prevails.


    • Sparks, This is incisive. A democratic republic assumes a wise and educated people. It makes me shiver, too. It’s astonishing that so many perceive their own interests and the national interest in the ways you describe. The abuse of language to appeal to the Pavlov’s dogs words (“freedom” for example) and the fear of unfreedom (ingeniously packaged as “socialism and socialized medicine”) are, in my opinion, one explanation. We still live in the shadows of East v. West, USSR v. USA, defeat-the-enemy (there HAS to be an enemy, and it’s never us) mindset. It’s a spiritual and moral deficit. Often people on the streets and under the bridges understand this better than most. Unfortunately, educational level has little to do with how quickly an American will salivate when the right words are spoken by demagogues. Truth be damned! “They’ll find ways to believe that something or someone other than his ‘side’ is to blame.” Thank you.


  3. Who can imagine what it’s like to nurture the good humans you talk about who are checking out of the journey of life? Who can imagine being there for people who have suffered the agony of losing a loved parent or child? You do it because you sincerely love humanity as well as the families. I am so thankful that such love exists. I am so thankful that there are organizations that know how important this is, and act to make it possible.

    On the great crisis that rings our phones, knocks on our doors, and sends emails and real-mails:
    There you go again… ministering kindness to the good activists, as well as the activists for hire.
    You want to be humane and constructive. You want to send them on their way with a smile. I hear you, but I stop everyone who wants to sell me something or get a contribution for a good cause, or want me to vote for X, send money to X, make phone calls for X, knock on doors for X, and rally for X… and then emphasize how just $3 will help… I stop them within 10 seconds and thank them for being on the case. I mention that I have been on “the case” for many years and it would be smart for them to get on to their next call. If they are not political calls… I offer to listen to their pitch if they listen to mine… if I can imagine it might be constructive. This makes it real easy to hang up if they can’t accept the concept. But, you have to take that nap man. Without the nap, I am literally useless. Telephone interruptions are so wrong. If the Call ID does not identify the caller adequately… the caller does not want you to know who they are… and they are telling me… “Don’t even think of picking it up.”

    I am so on that page of finding it unacceptable that this election is this close. It reminds us how large the numbers are who have to be restrained by forces outside themselves… to be humane.
    I’m old enough and getting frail enough to clearly see the end of this journey of life. The longer I live the more I love living. But… I am so exhausted by those who are so afraid and those who jump to adopt suggestions of fear and hate. I absolutely blame hate media for doing a modern makeover of mass communication by seeding millions with lies and hate. Yes… that entity known as Fox News is right there at the heart of it. Millions consume it and other similar providers. How can we not be exhausted? It reminds me of the first version of the film, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers”… about invaders from space who arrive as vegetative pods and steal the bodies of people. A new non-human replica hatches from the pod. The process is final when the original human falls asleep, exhausted from resisting.

    Stay strong… go ahead take a nap… hell with the damn pods. Oh, if you have not seen the movie, ask me. It will tend to make you go for all the sleep you need. Hey… we atheists get our inspiration in many ways… there are so many wonderful ways.


    • Bob, there is at least one person in the universe who is astonished that thoughtful people take the time and use their energy to offer reflections like this. There is so much here. “Lies and hate” are the body snatchers, right? I haven’t seen “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and never thought I wanted to…until now. I hear them tip-toeing sneakiily down the dark corridors of the human psyche – they walk with sneakers but their sneakers have steel soles. Anyone who’s listening can hear them. Anyone who knows their friendly disguises can recognize the curl of the lip in their smiles. Hear the deprecation in their use of holy words and in their chuckles. They’re laughing at us all the way to the Swiss banks. They arrive dressed like priests sprinkling holy water or as evangelists concerned for our eternal destiny, coming to save our souls, but under the costumes and behind the masks they are the face of Hannibal Lechter waiting to have an old friend for dinner. Okay, I got a little carried away there.

      Resist, brother. In my Reformed Christian tradition, the first article of the church’s constitution is that “God alone is Lord of the conscience….” As a good atheist, I see “conscience” written all over you. And resistance to the body snatchers. All who so live are sisters and brothers. For me, as you know, faith is the wellspring of that conscience – the history of the Hebrew prophets Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, and the rest places me in the context of continual protest and prophetic imagination beyond the body snatchers. That’s a longer discussion, of course, except to say that the one in whose footsteps I seek to follow was done in by lies and hate and an empire that refused to be disturbed. I watched Bill McKibbon of 350.org on Real Time the other night and, again, felt a very cold chill over the fact that the over-riding issue – global warming, life on this planet – has been stolen from the public agenda by the body snatchers. It is nowhere to be found.

      Thanks, Bob, for taking the time. Hope to see you next Tuesday for “The World through a Poet’s Eyes.”


  4. Leaving all politics aside, I have chosen to talk primarily with God, Who does not beg, cajole, threaten, or demean but Who listens, understands, supports and knows Who is in charge!
    No matter how the election turns out, we know that there is lots of work to do. So I’m getting ready to work, hopefully with all of you!

    And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28


  5. Oh my, Gordon. Do I ever sympathize! What really bothers me is the phone calls. How I wish I were still in a position where I could give the $100 they request. But i start a slow burn when I tell them up front that I am thoroughly familiar with all they will tell me, that I have already given the small amounts I can give, and that I am doing my best through sharing e-mail information. I plead with them to take the time to talk with folks where it will be helpful. But they still go on, to the point where I’m annoyed enough that I’m ready to give to the opposition out of spite. Well, not really, of course, but I do wish they would save their efforts for where it would help, and take my word for it up front.

    Oh well. This too shall pass. I’ve been through so many public crises in all the years I’ve been around. But this one feels especially frightening. I’m so afraid I’ll be in tears the morning after the election, and that many who are happy will suffer buyer’s remorse when we see what happens to the poor, women, and the middle class.

    I gripe, too, that my man hasn’t made public the facts about the progress in the economy, and the real content of the inaccurately portrayed health care act.

    Then, to top it off, there are the folks who won’t take no for an answer when they want me to change my internet service, or buy an expensive package to market my books.I know, just don’t answer the phone. But sometimes it’s someone who really needs me.

    GRRR! Yes, Gordon, I feel the same way.


    • GRRR back, Mona. I don’t answer the phone any more when it only says “cell phone” or doesn’t give a name I recognize. I join you in being irked that giving opens the door to incessant soliticitations, none of which seems to know that you’ve already given. Too many different pockets. Too many candidates – Elizabeth Warren, for example – who deserve all the support we can give them. And we know that Citizens United put the Koch Brothers and the like in the driver’s seat of campaign funding…unless little penny-givers like us, in VERY large numbers, pool our pennies for peoples-candidates. I watched Bill McKibbon (350.org) last night and got so angry at the global-warming deniers and what election of an anti-science denier congress and White House wouild mean not only for the little people but for the planet itself. GRRR. i’m going over to Auburn to visit a parishioner in her last days. I know SHE and her condition are REAL; I can deal with reality. I can’t deal with lies and illusion.


      • And then there are the science denier who are rewriting our history and science books for school. Double GRRRR! Only answer the home phone (if I get to it on time) if it is someone I know. But the ones that frustrate me are the local ‘unknown numbers’ who do not leave me a message, and I know I would like to hear from them.


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