Last week, on a warm spring evening in Nashville, the magnolia trees were in blossom around the chapel on the hill.
We arrived early for the reception in a paneled room with a fireplace, rugs and lots of dark leather furniture. Not only was there no charge, they had a smorgasbord with wine, cheese, pastries and fresh fruit.
All of a sudden, my little group dissolved and I was left alone in this nice space with two black waiters in vests. Ah, disturbing, yet elegant visions of the old South. The irony is so thick here you could build an entire city on it but goes largely unnoticed. They offered me a variety of drinks, including wines and urged me to check out the food. I declined and asked them if they'd seen Obama's speech that morning. Neither of them had, but were interested to know how it went. I told them I agreed with Reverend Wright in the first place but thought Barry O' did a great job of explaining his views.
The older man said, "Hell yeah; like just to offer one small example, what about the Tuskegee men that were shot up with syphilis and never told about it as a government experiment? It isn't like these things have never happened."
The younger guy said, "He's a smart fellow if he can get people to understand."
The room filled with all sorts of folks, only a handful of whom I recognized. Loy finally entered wearing a tweed blazer and mustard colored shirt. He stood and talked with some grey haired men in dark suits. I pointed him out to a few folks near me but they all thought I was kidding. I said, no, really, I google him regularly, he's the dude with the beard and big glasses. Finally, Brother Martin went over and said a few words to Mr. Loy and he immediately approached our circle, introduced himself and sat down with us. A gentle hippie buddhist brother now manifesting in an academic's body with a very sharp mind and comprehensive awareness. Told him how much I appreciated his work and the importance of making dharma clarity available and relevant to a wider audience; building practical bridges btwn bald-headed formalism and pop zen-lite. We talked family and culture for a good fifteen minutes. He had spoken in Sewannee the night before.
Before we parted, David invited us all, yeah, you too - up to the Buddhist Peace Fellowship conference in Cincinatti next December.