Letter to the Promised Land

Nineteen ways to keep the faith in these desolate times

15. Drive nephew, on his 18th birthday, to his girlfriend's house. Talk about existentialism class he wants to teach at his high school, and about Nietzsche, who said, "God is dead" as well as, "There is one thing one has to have: Either a soul that is cheerful by nature, or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art, and knowledge."

16. Go see George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic at Fine Line. Fixate for first half of set on grown African-American man wearing only diaper on stage. Feel the funk. With a little help from old and new friends, turn otherwise staid balcony into mini-lovesexy dance party. As clock nears midnight and as P-Funk trips through version of "Flashlight" that haunts of a simpler '70s and hopes for a better '00s, raise glass and tell everybody in earshot, "Happy September 11th."

17. On September 11, 2003, walk through same neighborhood you walked through two years ago on this day, in utter silence. Note sound of planes overhead, cars and buses clipping along, kids and dogs howling. Talk with new neighbors about their days-old baby, who has been visited by a steady stream of family and neighbors all week. Hold baby. Decide that news of Trinity Ryan's fuzzy black hair and look of indestructible wonder in parents' eyes is as newsworthy as anything coming out of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Washington, Jerusalem.

James O'Brien

18. Write it down. Read it back. Try to believe it.

19. Hear preacher Rathbun: "You just want to say to people, 'Believe. Believe in something.'"

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