My spiritual and theological leanings are probably just enough to drive everyone concerned totally nuts: I am intellectually atheist, though functionally Jewish, plus I'm fond of various other religions (or at least certain aspects of them). We have a new Rabbi at our Synagogue and while he appears to be a very charismatic man, my own religious leanings are such that I do not look to him for spiritual leadership in any capacity, and I remain a member partly because I like going to synagogue, but mostly because I really like peace between me and my wife.
The point of this rambling being that although I long ago decided to follow my own path and look toward no other man or woman as my spiritual leader, if I had to choose a person, I quite possibly could have chosen Peter Gomes, whose life ended just a little too soon for my tastes earlier this week. Gomes was about the most polar opposite person you could pick for me to follow: he was African-American; I was white. He was Christian; I, an agnostic Jew. He was gay; I, not so much, thanks, though as Jerry Seinfeld noted, not that there's anything wrong with that. He was, for most of his life, a Republican, and I have mostly not been a Democrat because I regarded them as too far to the right. He was something of a dandy with something of a pompous manner of speaking at the most Establishment university in the United States; I am a well-educated though frequently unspeakably crude dude who went to Abbie Hoffman's school and often sneers at The Establishment. On the surface, thus, not my kind of guy.
But once you peel away his formal and sometimes antiquated mannerisms and really listen to Peter Gomes, there is aught but beauty, truth, and light. Here is a brief comment on gay marriage, while here a longer talk with Charlie Rose. He opens the conversation with Rose with a line that elegantly encapsulates why I find him so admirable: "I like the notion that there is much yet to be revealed about the Christian faith; it's not all over yet. It's not a complete story, and we're moving into it. There is much yet to be revealed, and I think our best theological days are ahead of us." If that ain't a bare-bones summary of the philosophy of the great Talmudic masters (that is, the part of the Talmudic masters that I find worthy of attention), then I don't know what is. I have not read any of his books, and my acquaintance with him is largely through talks & other coverage he's received in that peculiar Harvardo-centric fishbowl of Boston media (you could catch his sermons on Sunday morning on WHRB, the Harvard radio station). It may be a tough pill for me to swallow to read a book about Jesus, but in the coming months I may peruse one of his books to stay connected with this eminently decent and astonishingly eloquent man.
More immediate concerns that nobody else in the vicinity of Harvard Yard prematurely join the Reverend Gomes are very much on the minds of Massachusetts public health officials as they scramble to contain a measles outbreak inflicted on the city by an unvaccinated French woman working for the French consulate downtown. What a mess: the super-contagious virus may have spread to a professor at UMass Boston, and thus his students are bearing the brunt of some public health measures, but fortunately seem not to be too bothered by the whole fuss. Though make no mistake, a fuss this is: measles spreads like wildfire and--while not overwhelmingly lethal by Andromeda-strain standards--kills simply by the fact that so many can become infected so quickly. Even a low mortality rate of, say, three percent can be a lot of bodies if tens of thousands become infected. And while the vaccine for measles (the "MMR") is good, it's not perfect, so even vaccinated people are at risk of infection, especially if they haven't been vaccinated in decades. As I noted in a previous entry: this virus is a killer. How this gal got into the US and was allowed to work without having a documented MMR is not fully clear to me, but many are paying the price for her folly.