Saturday, February 8, 2020

Jay Garner, the best within us, lived

a conscientious calling

imagine life as a symphony,
within which, at best, usually,
we track one instrument, one sound,
while we can strain to follow larger wholes,
the whole itself,

does the conductor really hold every individual part,
while also holding the whole, building?

that must be how we conceive God to be,
the One who holds us all
within a continuity that aches to stumble forward,

World War II inexorably ground itself
into the world of my parents’ generation:
choices narrowed, choices demanded, the country at risk,
France lost to the Nazis, 
England periled by German planes,
Pearl Harbor pummeled by Imperial Japan,

many of the best of that generation
stepped forward into service as soldier,
as doctor or mechanic, as nurse, 
as logistics to support the soldier,

they heard and moved to the rhythm that drove the war,
and I am in awe of their courage, sacrifice, and gifts to us all,

tonight I am drawn to those within the symphony
who heard, and sought to follow,
how Spirit spoke to them differently, 
how the Spirit spoke, as Jesus taught about loving our enemies,
about peace as the way and not just the end,
about self-sacrifice as a way to reach the other,
to help the other,
to help our selves find the greatness
that calls to us when we hear, and appreciate,
the larger symphony playing just beyond
the driving rhythms that are easier to hear,  

Jesus saw, and heard, the music the angels know,
Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr did, too,
the best within us feels the pull
to use the precious days allotted to us
to make the world better, purer,
closer to the symphony all of us can make, together,
if we but will,

I celebrate tonight the calling Jay Garner heard and followed
as a conscientious objector during World War II,
wholeheartedly participating in the Starvation Experiment,
the only controlled experiment, ever, in human starvation,
with volunteers who suffered mightily that others might benefit,
his body pushed to its limits with little food and maximum stress,
all of it monitored and studied so that 
doctors could know the path back to health
for those whose bodies and souls have been literally starved.

Jay Garner is to the far right, lying down

Jay Garner is on the front row, in suspenders

by Henry H. Walker
February 7, ‘20

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