Pondering this opening question for myself, I go back in time to when I was about twelve years old... I loved baseball (I still do). I loved the LA Dodgers (I still do). And I loved Sandy Koufax, the great Dodger pitcher. But I did not want to be a pitcher: I was going to play centerfield for the Dodgers! For hours on end, when I had no one to play with, you'd find me just swinging a bat (usually in the garage): I'd bat right then switch to batting left. Man, I could do it all!
And then, a few years later and still intending to play centerfield for the Dodgers, I began to imagine my life after baseball... Sure enough, I was going to be elected President of the United States! And why not? It made perfect sense to me. It was more than a dream: it was my plan. But, of course, something else happened. Something called life: my DNA, or whatever. I had a smidgen of what ailed my Mom: an overwhelming, life-controlling, shyness. So, I stood watching my friends try out for the High School baseball team. I couldn't move. I just stood still and watched. And walked away... carrying my ball glove, but also dropping the Presidency...
Life happened: as it always does for everyone. I got a job and gave "being normal" my best shot. One of my work-mates, one day, brought a copy of The Catholic Worker to work and gave it to me, saying, "I thought you might like to read this. My Mom always throws it out as communist propaganda." I still have that first issue that I read: right there, I mean right there! articles on nonviolence, simple living, social justice and on and on... Suddenly, the lost dream of both centerfield and the Presidency, were re-created into a Soup Kitchen, shelter for the homeless, and the cultivation of a net of mercy for as many folks as possible... I thought, "What if?" And then, "Why not?" And working my ass off, I did it! But here's the point: so what?
You see, our dreams are but a step in the building of our lives, and each dream gives birth to another, and this process of life envisioning is integral to our humanity. But more, it is something which is denied or effectively limited for many among us. Equality is not equal if it is not inclusive of everyone. There is no Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. There is no end in sight to Big Money Dominating our lives, politics, and culture. Gerrymandering is still in control of too many state governments. Race decides: gender decides: class decides: and luck and whim lift up or toss aside... Meanwhile, thousands of species are driven into extinction every year and climate change continues its relentless countdown to a complete upheaval of what we, way too generously, call civilization.
Now! Now, scroll back up to the picture. If you are familiar with images of the Mother Mary and Child Jesus, the alternative I have posted might startle. But that's okay. So what's the point? Without the initial dreams of folks like Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr. there would have been no Civil Rights Movement... Without the dreams of the suffragette movement, there would never have been feminism or feminist theologies. These are just two examples from among the many that could be given: but the point is that we have a responsibility to our dreams!
We are responsible for the use of our imaginations! If we can imagine a Black Madonna and Child, then we assume the power to build equality for every race. A Black Madonna and Child is the annunciation of alternatives to privilege-profits-power: the Unholy Trinity of the Dominator Paradigm. A Black Madonna and Child is the Equal Rights Amendment personified: an alternative economic system that prioritizes real people living capably in harmony, eco-regeneration, and nonviolent social structures... And the best thing about all of this? There would be so much more, and building it would be fun!
The challenges we are facing with the coronavirus are very real. And yet, those same challenges are also an opportunity for us to consider if, when the day comes, if we might summon the courage and the will to not just get back to the business of making money: but to dream once again as children of the Living Spirit: what might we be capable of doing with our precious, precious, life? What new frontiers of imagination might a revolution of mind and heart lead to? Invoking the Black Madonna and Child, let us commit ourselves to joining with others to build the new society within the shell of the old!!