I see miracles

‘I See Miracles’

Observations of an optimistic sociologist

Posted 8/26/20

Last August, Callicoon celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock with a local tribute event of 50 acts on 10 stages in three days. One of the stages was hosted by Rafter’s Tavern, where I …

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I see miracles

‘I See Miracles’

Observations of an optimistic sociologist


Last August, Callicoon celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock with a local tribute event of 50 acts on 10 stages in three days. One of the stages was hosted by Rafter’s Tavern, where I worked all three days of peace, love and music. By Sunday evening, I admit I was dragging as if it was the third day of Woodstock.

I was cleaning up and winding down when I noticed Michael Lang—the very producer responsible for the most historical music event ever. The anniversary alone was notable enough to merit a USPS commemorative stamp, and celebrations were taking place across the globe. Yet, there sat Michael Lang, in this humble tavern, on his own very personal 50th Anniversary.

At first glance, I thought I might be having a hallucination brought on by fatigue. Had I taken the brown acid? Normally never star struck, when I heard someone call him by name, I was reduced to ga-ga. Suddenly self-conscious in my tie dye and peace signs, I feared he might judge me for wearing a Woodstock costume. I pulled myself together to ask if they needed anything. A drink? Water? Did he need me to wash his feet with water? I jest here, but I was serious when I spoke to him. I merely mentioned the original music promoted at Rafter’s and something about being in the same “tribe.” Michael smiled.

The performers on stage had recognized him, although the singer admitted she was trying hard not to. Somewhere between awestruck and honored, she delivered Woodstock covers. Like a surreal apparition, we wondered if the next morning we would all wake up having shared the same crazy dream. I marveled at the odds and the significance. Owner of Rafter’s Tavern Brewster Smith said to me, “Miracles happen all the time, but people just don’t see them. You see them.”

Granted, Lang’s presence that day, in the vicinity of the original concert site in Bethel, is mostly a nifty coincidence, but it represents a most astounding phenomenon. Woodstock holds historical relevance not just because it was a spectacular musical event: The profound social significance is that roughly half a million people in extreme proximity spent three days while suffering through both hunger and weather without any violence. By most definitions, this is nothing short of miraculous. Proof right here at home: peace and love may prevail, despite challenges.

Michael Lang has gifted the region with this special legacy, but I argue we can be reminded of miracles at any time. No need to wait for an anniversary, a concert, or celebrity appearance. Truly, miracles are impossible to miss when you live surrounded by the natural beauty of the Catskills. One only needs to look.

Certainly, I can see social strife the world over, abundantly apparent with even minimal media consumption. Political discord, pandemic, economic insecurity, severe weather—dark equalizers shared by all. Causes and solutions are obviously not nearly as unified. I prefer to see things outside of what I define as “the Mode.” This Mode is the over-consumption of all media: real and fake news on commercial networks, social media, YouTube, etc. This is where most people receive influence, and it’s all through computer, smartphone and/or television screens. Overdosing causes me to suffer Mode Mood, symptomatically becoming more critical of everything, judgmental of others and generally depressed. Beware, because this is highly contagious.

Hence, I shift my gaze toward a micro view: right here, right now. Connecting with those things that are immediate feels safe and empowering. My focus is now more localized, like where I live. I love where I live. This is my community, and I care about my community. I avoid labels that divide us, so when our colloquial terms separate us as locals, transplants or weekenders, I prefer to see neighbors.

Outside the Mode exists another view: the bigger, Bigger Picture. The pendulum always swings, conflict equals change, history repeats itself, justice prevails, karma and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 are just a few examples of social, religious and metaphysical theories encouraging the notion that everything might be all right. Our views are all just a matter of perspective and perception. I seek to find the positive ones and show how we might be more the same than different.

The Mode will always be where most people are most of the time. Screens capture our attention and hijack our attitudes in an age of narcissism. Shifting our gaze inward for a closer look, or far beyond for a vastly broader scope, we might see more miracles with better focus. I see us sharing a solid foundation because most folks who live here love where they live for the same reasons. It is the common ground where we might begin from—right here, right now, or at our own each individual pace. That each of has our own gate or speed won’t slow us down when we’re moving in the same direction. We may not fix the world, but together we can continue to build a better neighborhood. Almost anything is possible. Just ask Michael Lang.

woodstock, Michael Lang, 50th anniversary, Woodstock


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