It’s a new year according the calendar, but it’s the same world we had hoped to leave behind on New Year’s Eve. It’s still Pinocchio’s world. Pinocchio’s nose has grown longer each year. Those who have mistaken insurrection for patriotism, and party loyalty for fidelity to the Constitution have all but forgotten Jiminy Cricket. The voice of conscience is missing. All that’s left is the song meant to encourage children:
When you wish upon a star Makes no difference who you are Anything your heart desires Will come to you If your heart is in your dream No request is too extreme When you wish upon a star As dreamers do Like a bolt out of the blue Fate steps in and sees you through When you wish upon a star Your dreams come true
Optimism and the hand grenade
Before taking the oath of office, a prerequisite for the new Congress to convene, is sworn in, the new majority pulled the pin on the hand grenade before throwing it, leaving the House a mess without a Speaker.
THE REALITY OF CLIMATE CHANGE
The worst of it is the failure to face and act upon the reality of climate change. Whether by willful ignorance, misinformation, blind optimism, despair, or humankind’s Achilles’ Heel — our mortal propensity toward illusion — there is a deafening silence, louder than the calamity of war, that will not go away in 2023 and the years that follow.
Jiminy’s optimism has faded and the voice of conscience is weaker now. If Pinocchio’s nose had grown longer in private, it would be less consequential. No one would follow him. But Pinocchio cannot stand living without a stage and applause. The audience has come to the theater wanting Pinocchio to be more than someone’s puppet. Whoever is managing the strings, one thing is certain. It is not Gipetto. Pinocchio never goes on stage without Jiminy Cricket.
My father’s absence, return, and absence again
What child does not find hope in Jiminy Cricket’s calm invitation to wish upon a star, no matter who you are? But what adult can believe it “makes no difference who you are/ Anything your heart desires/Will come to you/If your heart is in your dream”? Does it? Does fate step in? Will fate see us through 2023? Fanciful thinking won’t get us through.
Questions of reality and illusion have been part of me since the day my father stepped from the B-29 Bomber at Logan International Airport. My mother and grandparents had assured me that I did have a daddy, but they had also prayed for his safety, and listen to the radio, hoping there would be no bad news about American troops in the South Pacific.
When my father stepped from the B-29 at Logan Airport and scooped me up in his arms, I pulled back. “Are you really my Daddy?” “I am,” he said. “And I’m never going away again!” The next morning, he was gone. What child knows the difference between “I’m never going away again!” and leaving the next day to be honorably discharged from the Army Air Corps?
Skepticism in Pinocchio’s world never left me. What is, and is not, trustworthy; what is real and what is illusion; what are faith, hope, and love in a Pinocchio world? In the adult world of 2023, Jiminy Cricket has changed his tune, but his call to conscience remains. Fate and destiny are not the same. Optimism is not the same as hope. Faith is a leap of faith, hope, and love that plunges into a sea of not-knowing and not-yet for the sake of a destiny greater than fate.
Gordon C. Stewart, public theologian and social commentator, Brooklyn Park, MN, January 5, 2023