There’s always a block-long line at Georgetown Cupcake, where the TLC reality show DC Cupcakes is filmed.
Given that the nature of television is to create celebrity, the line didn’t really surprise me. What really caught my attention on a recent visit to DC was what was around the corner from the cupcake shop. There were four recently restored “townhouses” that were being offered for sale with prices beginning at $3,995,000. Up until that moment I had been under the impression that real estate was in trouble in this country.
I know you can’t tell a book by its cover, but from the outside each townhouse looked like it was about 1000 square feet. The only “come-on” in the advertising was a notice that each came with two parking places. Chances are those parking places alone are worth more than your house.
Less than two weeks later, I was on the border of Virginia again, this time in Bristol, Tennessee at King College for the inaugural Buechnerfest. (Which was wonderful.) I had another real-estate moment there when I heard an off-hand comment by a visitor from another college about the problems created for his school when people want to give them houses. The school is having a terrible time selling the property, which is most likely why the donors decided to give it away in the first place. I felt strangely reassured — real estate is in trouble.
All of which led me to wonder how in the world someone who lives in Washington, DC could have a solid sense of what’s going on elsewhere in the United States of America. And the whole thing made me feel like “United States of America” was some sort of cruel oxymoron.
Interesting, you say, but what’s that stunning piece of economic, social and political commentary got to do with the normal issues debated on The 12? Just this: a few weeks ago I was delighted that I succeeded as a blogger by starting a spirited conversation after I proposed the RCA and CRC merge. (It’s all about the “conversation” in the blogosphere.) My elation was deflated, though, after reading some of your comments. The gulfs between us are as real as the gulf between Washington, DC and the rest of the nation. Merger seems impossible. As a matter of fact, after reading the overtures to this year’s RCA General Synod, I’m wondering if the RCA can even stay together, never mind merging with its closest relative. Overtures from the left, the right, the far right and the farther right leave me wondering if the center can hold.
It was William Butler Yeats that coined that phrase about the center holding in an apocalyptic poem called The Second Coming. Written after the horrors of World War I, Yeats had visions of “Mere anarchy loosed upon the world,” of things falling apart, and worst yet, that “the best lack conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” He wondered what rough beast was slouching toward Bethlehem to be born, and one feels that his words were prescient, given the horrors the world has witnessed since the “War to End All Wars.”
Yet as powerful as his poem is, ninety-some years later I’m struck by something Yeats didn’t anticipate. He didn’t see a day when so many of us would deal with the fractured nature of our world and our humanity by queuing up to buy a celebrity cupcake. What’s it mean when consumption is our magic elixir? Perhaps the rough beast that slouched toward Bethlehem was something that undoes us by pleasure and the incessant desire for more.