[Third Rail, Harvard Square T, 2015]
In conversations a couple of times, lately, I’ve heard the word “upriver” used to anchor whatever that person—usually young, usually progressive, usually really smart—is talking about, a shorthand for systemic, overwhelming, we need to look at and deal with the root causes of whatever social ill you and I are presently talking about.
The backstory to “upriver” (Skip this paragraph if you already know.): Upriver references a much-told story I’d heard back in the early 90s; the third-hand way I’d heard the tale, it had been told by Kip Tiernan, a righteous, early-on advocate for the homeless. Kip’s story went like this: Once upon a time there was a village beside a river. One day someone from the village saw a baby on a raft floating by so rescued that baby, took it home, clothed it, fed it, built a crib for it to sleep in, etc. Next day, two babies, two rescues, next day, more and more until the people of that village were doing nothing else but rescuing babies. The story ends, of course, when someone in that village proposes that someone should walk upriver to find out what’s going on!
Here’s the thing, though: Even though you or I can think upriver about, say, why it’s hot as hell right now in the Northeast although the calendar’s saying it’s early fall—another day in the 90s expected today—or why, right now, close to 60 Million People have been forcibly displaced worldwide (Take whatever time you need to take in that obscenely astronomically number), such thinking doesn’t alleviate our pain, does it.
May our ability to connect dots, to be mindful, to think systemically, to acknowledge root cases, may such mindfulness lead to a precious moment for each of us to hear the answer to our question: “What is it I am called to do?”