Couldn’t Keep It to Myself

It’s fitting that on the night I sit to launch this weblog my thoughts race back to my own launching pad  – the 1970s. Particularly, it’s the time  spent that decade with my Grandmother, Sweetie,  that leaps to memory.  For a chunk of my boyhood, Sweetie lived (with three of my aunts) in an apartment building on Brooklyn, New York’s Lenox Road. Traveling to her home was part of my daily after school routine.

I’d leave St. Stephen’s Lutheran School each day and ride the B-49  bus down Rogers Avenue to Lenox then walk about a block to her building.  As Brooklyn buildings go, little about that one distinguishes it much from any of the thousands of others that stipple the borough’s landscape. But it stood as tall as any skyscraper to me because that’s where Sweetie lived and shaped some of my earliest thoughts and impressions.

We’d watch soap operas together on Channel 4. We’d cook and eat. I’d go fetch things for her – that’s what little boys do – and we’d sing hymns together. Music – gospel music – is part of the soundtrack bed upon which the movie that is my early childhood rests.  At home with mom and dad, my sister and I would hear R & B and Soul. But at Sweetie’s house Gospel ruled the roost.

I liked Edward Hawkins’ Oh Happy Day; James Cleveland was pushing the envelope too.  And of course no Gospel collection could feign completeness without a helping or two of Mahalia Jackson.  The phonograph needle nestled in comfortably rendering her Precious Lord and How I Got Over.

I also seem to recall Mahalia singing another traditional song, Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody.

I Said I wasn’t gonna tell nobody but I couldn’t keep it to myself…what the Lord has done for me.

It’s a sentiment oft repeated in so many churches Sunday after Sunday: “God has been so good, I just had to tell someone.” Indeed, it’s plucked directly from the chapters of scripture, where healed men and women felt compelled to share their miraculous accounts, regardless of how incredible those might’ve sounded.

More broadly, you could argue that same age old motivation – couldn’t keep it to myself – is the driving force behind most blogs that bound through cyberspace’s endless corridors.  For many bloggers, the urge to share what they know that they know for sure they know is irresistible.  And after years of dawdling, dipping and dodging, here too am I running to find a place alongside the horde of Internet babblers who can’t keep their mouths – or keyboards as it were – shut.

I tried to avoid it.

More than a few close friends have urged me on numerous occasions to write a blog. “BLOG IT!” is a coda that one very close friend and I frequently attach to those profound thoughts we share. For dozens of months, she’s been dropping not-so-subtle hints that I had no excuse not to have a blog.

Excuses, however, were one thing I had no shortage of.  I’m too busy. I don’t know who provides the best blogging service. What would I write about? I can’t come up with a good name. And besides, I’m occasionally writing an online political column.

As late as this morning, I happily would’ve paraphrased the Hal David and Burt Bacharach lyric – Lord, we don’t need another [blog].

But life bends and twists, and the unexpected has a way of nudging us away from our comfort zones. A few hundred years before Christ, Plato called necessity the mother of invention. I would say activism and activity also are her children.

The tipping point for me came today when I read about a Southern Baptist Preacher who says he’s been praying for President Obama’s death. I posted the story on my Facebook page and the response was immediate, robust and in some instances the thinking was flawed and ill-informed.

After a few weeks where an abortion doctor had been killed, a Holocaust museum guard was shot to death by an old-timer-racist, a conservative governor admitted to having an affair – oh, and let’s not forget the debate over Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor and the Iran election protests – I felt more obliged than ever to join the public conversation.

This is  an endeavor that I don’t embark upon lightly. One that I hope will have thoughtful and compelling ideas as its cornerstone. You may not always find the answers here. But hopefully you’ll find good questions. I’m sure that some of the opinions on this page won’t even be popular among some friends. That’s alright as long as they’re thoughtful.

Absolutely, there’ll also be moments of frivolity, ironic reflection and stories about insightful or silly moments gleaned from my wife, daughter or dog. Perhaps we’ll even toss in a picture of the mundane from time to time. Where’s it written that we should always run life on the serious track? You won’t find that written here.

In some instances, you may not find anything written at all – those times when silence is a better option.  After all, the objective here is to write when something cries out to be written about. To scale the mountain and rest upon its peak. And hope someone hears the whispers of those things I just can’t keep to myself.

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