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Your Spirit, America
The square is busy this time of day.
Tributaries of grey and beige flow out of monolithic towers of industry
And into the streets, joining a calico sea of bored faces.
It is lunch break.
A man stands alone in the crowd.
The current flows over and around him, ignorant of his presence.
His smile is not returned.
At his feet is an orange plastic laundry basket.
The helpful clerk at the K Mart had, despite his initial confusion,
Assured the man that the basket would support a full-grown man’s weight.
The clerk had returned his smile when it was offered.
But it wasn’t a real smile.
The man knew, because the clerk hadn’t gotten that crinkle in the corner of His eyes that makes a smile real.
Picking up his basket, the man meanders politely through the crowd,
Making is way toward the large cement planter at the center of the square.
When he gets there, he hikes himself up onto the miniature garden.
The rhododendrons are coming up nicely.
He places his laundry basket upside down on the tough soil
And climbs atop it.
He plants his feet.
He squares his shoulders.
He breathes in deep.
And he roars.
The sea of faces now faces him, and their widened eyes look like stars.
Ladies and gentlemen! If you’ll please stop what you’re doing and direct your attention to me, this will only take a moment. Yes, I am asking that you remove your iPods and Bluetooths long enough to hear another human being speak. Devout bean worshipers, rise up and take notice. Your pungent ambrosia will wait, safeguarded by your green, twin-tailed goddess. What a mermaid has to do with coffee, I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. All I request is one moment in time; one page in your story.
I have come here today to convey to you a message of great importance. I need no script, for I have only recently come down from the mountaintop, and the words are still fresh in my mind. Yes, I convened today with a Spirit. She came to me, clothed in a white evening gown that would have been beautiful if not for the bloodstains. She spoke to me in a surging multitude of voices, which resonated in every stone and tree until I could barely stand the ringing. But oh, how overjoyed am I that my ears ring still with her words.
She said “You, traveler. Take my message from this place and spread it three-layers thick on the land of my people. Tell them that their Spirit is wounded, and bleeds freely. Tell them that their Mother is dying. Tell them that she still loves them, and is willing to forgive them if only they would come to her aid and stop her wounds. And please, tell them to hurry. As each day passes I grow more distant from my people. As I grow more distant, my scars grow in length; scarlet timelines leading to my death. Soon they will not know me by my face, nor will they recognize my voice. I will become a stranger to them. My pleas will be ignored, my very existence forgotten. And I cannot live unless I do so in the hearts of my children. So go now, traveler. Go and deliver my words to any with ears to hear them. Oh, and you’ll need a laundry basket. Try K Mart.”
And I heeded her words. I descended the mountain in leaps and bounds, my steps light with eager anticipation. But when I reached sea level, my heart faltered and I stumbled. The Spirit had given me new eyes, through which I saw my brothers and sisters as they really were; lazy, pretentious, having been filled fat with their own opinions and ideals. I was disgusted with what I saw in them, and in myself as well; self-righteous hypocrites, each of us our own idol. I wondered why the Spirit charged me with delivering her message to such a slothful, self-indulgent society. Why on earth would she think us capable of saving her?
But her words still swam through my head. The image of her body, red and broken, had burned itself into the insides of my eyelids. As I closed my eyes, it filled me with renewed purpose, and I set off into the world. Actually, I stopped at K Mart first. There was one right at the foot of the mountain. Can you imagine? But then, it was off into the world.
And here I stand, filthy and bedraggled, to convey the words handed down to me by the benevolent Spirit. Do they ring in your ears as they do in my own, like the incessant chattering of tin-beaked birds? Do they stir in your heart feelings of conviction? Of passion? Settle now, brothers and sisters. I will tell you what you must do.
First, wake up. Look around you, and see with new eyes. What bothers you about the world around you? What bothers you about yourself? Isolate the cancer in your hearts. Have you identified it? Good. Now reach deep inside yourself, grip that pulsating tumor and tear it out of you. Throw it to the earth and stomp on it. Together now, brothers and sisters. Tens of millions of feet stomping in unison. Get used to it, for whatever we do from now on, we do together. The Spirit belongs to all of us, and it will take all of us to dress her wounds and wash her gown. Those who oppose this unity of motion and singularity of purpose will be politely asked to step aside. If you have grown too accustomed to your self-imposed illness of lethargy, at least try to keep your mouth shut. This way you may avoid infecting the rest of us with your cynical attitude.
Now that you know what it is you must do, I urge you to act quickly. Time is of the essence, and the Spirit is counting on us to make her healthy and presentable once more. That’s right, THE Spirit. Your Spirit, America.