Friday, December 9, 2011
This Is My Tent
I put it up yesterday evening after considering the very real possibility of the end of the Dewey Park occupation. It is my old "pre-kids" tent and now it lives next to our house on what passes for our front lawn. We had to hunt around a bit, but it was worth it. Occupy has meant a great deal to me and to my family. It has given us an outlet for our frustration over the direction of this country. It has given many, many people a voice. Of course, the various local encampments have already done their part. The movement isn't ending because the camps are gradually closing. In fact, it has gone suburban. As tents get taken down in the cities, it is important to put them up here in Burbania.
Over the last few months, the tent has become a symbol for many. However it is one that stretches back into the past. For many folks it conjures up images of "Hoovervilles". For others (myself included) we are called back to the divestment protests of the 1980's. There are other connections, too. I don't know what it means to you, but on the lawn this one occupies, it stands in part for freedom and mobility. It is too small to carry all the stuff that weighs us down, yet it is a shelter and comfort. It reminds us of all that we have. It reminds us that all we have won't fit in the future.
For me, at least, there has always been another association that has relevance here. It may be why I made the effort find it. The tent for me is spiritually significant, too. The fact is, in many traditions--and for many individuals of no particular tradition--the tent means something more.
In the faith traditions I am most familiar with, Paul the Apostle was a tentmaker in a community that knew a lot about tents. If you read the Hebrew scriptures--Exodus in particular--tents are everywhere. Mary and Joseph, traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have had one. Traveling back to Nazareth, that tent would have sheltered their new baby. John the Baptist would have had a tent, too. There was little call to mention tents in these stories. It would have been obvious that a transient people had them. Jesus--that wandering laborer no doubt often unemployed--would have had a tent, too. The tent is a basic tool and home for displaced people in difficult times both then and now.
So I set up my tent. Right now that is all there is. There isn't a sign to go with it. Maybe I will put up lights later this week. Maybe I won't. It faces the road and the rush hour traffic. I don't know what people make of it. This is the only tent in our neighborhood not rolled up for winter, so it isn't entirely clear that it serves any purpose or has any meaning on its own. I also don't know how long I will let it sit there. It will remain, at least, through Advent. Christmas morning might make a good clear end-date...
My hope is that over the next few days there will be other tents on other suburban lawns. That way each of our tents gains more meaning. It would be nice (if you have a lawn and a tent and are so inclined) if you put yours out as well. Then perhaps people will think a bit before turning back to shopping lists and expeditions to the mall.
Anyway, this is my tent. What are you planning to do with yours?