I have a confession to make. It is a little untoward to spill it here rather than in a dark booth to someone whose confidentiality is beyond reproach. So I hope you will be gentle and kind with my vulnerability. Here it is: I am a columnist without expertise, in anything.
When I read syndicated columns in national newspapers, I am awed by the breadth of what some writers can comment on with intelligence. An economist like Paul Krugman, whose academic pedigree is stellar, focuses his analysis on the economic nature of things. However, that does not limit him much since the sinuous tentacles of capitalism worm their way through society, politics, and culture. Then there is David Brooks whose credentials were earned by his experience writing and interacting with all manner of people all around the world. He did it so well that great institutions of education and publication alike, invite him to serve their missions.
Over fifteen years ago I was invited to become an adjunct professor at Canisius College and teach an introduction to religion course. I accepted it without thinking. While I had been a philosophy major in college and had extensive course work in Buddhism, that had been decades earlier. Even my knowledge of Christianity seemed suspect to me for teaching a college course, because my time in ministry was spent within the walls of a particular denomination. So I had to design the class with a unique and narrow scope and then dive into research on the specific topics. While teaching I was careful not to stray into other areas.
Now this, a local newspaper column on…everything? On the local scene there is the eccentric City Council and local politics with a history of relationships, family and business ties, and intrigue that would take me a generation to figure out. There is also the economics of alcohol tourism, but as a non-consumer I am uniquely unqualified to report. On the state and national level there is ample corruption, gun lunacy, a web of lies and insurrection, and enormous amounts of money influencing power. But all that seems adequately covered by smart people like Krugman and Brooks. Then there is the international scene for which I have many opinions and almost no true knowledge.
So I come back to this: watching, listening, and intuiting the wisdom found in the ordinary and local movements of nature — with nature inclusive of human beings. Then, once in awhile, also the revelation of the sacred as it hides in plain sight within the ordinary. Looking small, in other words. Looking in and down for what life has to tell us.
I have often cautioned that we need to manage and reduce our intake of commercial news. But here I am suggesting it is both good and wonderful to open ourselves to a feast of news within the blades of grass at our feet, the songs of birds in the trees and on our gutters, the reverberation of moments of intimacy in words between friends, and the whisper of our own hearts as we give ourselves moments of silence within the orchestra of wind, waves, insects, and birds.
There is valuable news and wisdom aplenty within the reach of our own eyes and ears and thoughts. Still, I am no expert in looking small. Merely a companion.