Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Countering CrazyMaking...Cruelty(ies)

National conversations impact local relationships, and though less immediately visible, local relationships will and do impact national conversations. It’s the slowness of the latter that makes this such a trying and difficult time. I am challenged to see how small gestures or specific actions of mine can have any impact on all the chaos I am experiencing, and everything that is rising around me, us. Given the events of last evening here in Ohio, I am reminded once again of Gerald May’s wrestling with one of his teacher’s sayings (which arose in another post, methinks). “Although attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.” May wrestled with "the only," and disbelieved the saying for over a decade. He finally relented, reviewing all he had seen in his 60 years of "big picture"/"large community" initiatives for transformation. The essay is entitled “From Cruelty to Compassion,”

which may simply be the best phrase for what I’m sensing this morning. The national hits to our local relationships keep on coming, and will in these weeks. Of course we respond in fairly predictable fashion (myself included). How may we breathe into compassion in a world with leaders and potential leaders bent upon cruelty? One heart at a time...which looks like the following, for me, today.
I want to use this space to become conscious of my own experience, name what I notice, with as little judgment (outward or inward) as I can muster. (I will not always succeed in the 'without judgment,' of course, but my heart is pure in the intention).

I gather with a group of friends most mornings to workout in the CrossFit way, the anchor of my pandemic life right now. I could sense the impact of last night’s first Presidential Debate in the energies of those present this morning. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I could feel the energies in myself, watching, curious, tender. I'm guessing for the reactions/feelings of others. This group has transitioned well, for the most part, into the socially-distanced, COVID-risk-honoring practices for being in the gym. This means that the door to come in doesn’t open until the coach on deck is ready to take temperatures, invite hand-sanitizer, invite the specific equipment for that day’s workout. Particularly at my class, there’s a few of us who tend to arrive early and then congregate outside the door, socially-distanced and masked, but catching up with one another. It’s not quite “circle time” like we used to have, but it’s a plausible adaptation, given the pandemic. It’s getting colder, so I don’t know how long this will continue, but regardless, this morning was different (in my experience). Two of us gathered in a bit of a private exchange, to ask about the other’s experience with the debate, or debacle, however we might consider it. Two others gathered in a different twosome, at some distance from us. The energy in the gym felt familiar and normal, focused on what we were there to do, but it was also muted in some ways too. The customary ease was not resonant in my own bones, anyway. I felt like a wanted a soft place to land. Thankfully, my head landed several times on a soft pad, pike push-ups. 😆

I do not have a judgement about what I notice here, nor do I profess to know what is true here. In that vein, I yet noticed that I had to be more intentional to stay connected across gatherings of individuals. One might guess that the division in our pre-door-opening gathering showed political fault lines amongst us...but maybe not. Who knows? I rarely profess to understand the ‘inside’ of other friendships, just as I know I struggle to understand my own inner-dynamics in friendships with me. I do know I was glad to be asked directly about my engagement (or not) with last night’s debate. It had weighed heavily on my bodysoul last night, impacting my dreams too, I think. Blessedly, I do not recall specifics, only feelings of sadness, fear, anger, frustration, more sadness. I lasted about four minutes in watching it before I simply had to turn it off. I then turned it back on, kept the sound muted, and stayed until I knew it was over, to listen to the first reactions of PBS commentary. I simply could not digest the toxicity of the exchanges and the strong sense that there would be little content that I could parse myself in the debate. I decided I would do better to listen to various analyses of it, with clips, to accommodate my sense of civic duty.

Even with this discernment of capacity, I could feel the division in my own belly as I entered into the CrossFit spaces. I could feel the temptations to collude and divide, gather and protect my own tender with someone I could consider fitting with my sense of ‘our.’ This is the level and depth at which our Democracy needs to be rebuilt. Naming our tender in safe spaces, yes, and becoming intentional about viewing ‘the others’ in our vicinities in Love, no matter what. Love comes from within me, not because of anything anyone ‘out there’ is or is not doing. Love comes from within, is grounded in the human body, willing to bear suffering and joy, both. (Dr. Maya Angelou, of blessed memory: Love that Liberates).

And yet I could feel the nearly two hours worth of media clouding my heart’s ability to see my friends as the beautiful and complicated people they are, we all are. We’re not to the Jesus-spoken maxim yet--Love your enemies--as I do not and will not consider my friends here enemies. But make no mistake, the seeds of this ill-will, this hatred, are being sown. Have-been-being-sown for decades now, centuries.

They are planted in us every day when we allow the media and divisive power-over rhetoric to poison our ability to breathe, to see with curiosity, to inquire in wonder and hope...They are planted every time “our guy” bullies “the other guy,” when both resort to name-calling and disdain on stage. They are planted every time one of us speaks over and interrupts someone else speaking. They are planted every time we refuse to see the fear, the pain, the suffering of ordinary Americans. And these men are not the ordinary Americans, remember.  Most of us out here are the ordinary Americans, held hostage to this cultural pathology playing out on the big screen. We have created it, of course, collectively, through commission and omission both. We create it when we honor this behavior, or collude in not changing it.

Julia Cameron, the creative renewal teacher whose work I love so dearly, has a great name for the pathology at play: crazymaking. “Crazymakers are those personalities that create storm centers. They are often charismatic, frequently charming, highly inventive, and powerfully persuasive. And…[for those] in their vicinity, they are enormously destructive.” They can take over your whole life, if you let them. They thrive on drama, and if they can manage it, they make themselves the star. (The Artist's Way)

She then itemizes this concretely, in a helpful way for me to understand last night...

  • Crazymakers break deals and destroy schedules.

  • Crazymakers expect special treatment

  • Crazymakers discount your reality

  • Crazymakers spend your time and money

  • Crazymakers triangulate those they deal with

  • Crazymakers are expert blamers

  • Crazymakers hate order

  • Crazymakers deny they are Crazymakers.

One of the candidates embodies this definition more than the other, in my view, but it is the system itself that both candidates are playing in, warring in, continuing it, embodying it...crazymaking. I know my own actions cannot impact the national chaos unfolding before us, but I also know that I can live into these weeks with intentions counter to crazymaking. I can choose for and honor myself the deals and schedules with those in my vicinity. I can refuse special treatment by working toward opportunity for all I can know/see, while decreasing my own desires for special treatment. I can inquire and learn more about others’ realities, not discounting any of them. People are hurting and suffering, and we need to hold one another's sacred callings to do the work of bearing up under this suffering. I can refuse to spend money on crazymakers. I pledge heightened awareness to counter triangulation--the pitting of two against one, the larger group against the smaller group--in all my dealings. I can practice refusing to blame anyone or to participate in blaming. At least to become conscious more often when I want to blame someone I know for... I can strive for clarity, transparency, and more order than is being led from above. I can even own up to my own crazymaking that can come when I get afraid, sad, or angry.

One of the authors I’ve appreciated in this pandemic time is Perdita Finn, Way of the Rose. She observed aloud recently a revelation she received, confirmed amidst similar revelations received by others. It will all have to fall apart before whatever is New will be born. This is the way of the Earth. This is the way of holy becoming--birth, life, death, rebirth (repeat). My question is a practical fraction in that direction...what does this mean, all will fall part? 

Will the American experiment with democracy, held to evolve over these 200+ years, need to come apart at the seams because its foundations with chattel slavery and damning inheritances of overwhelming-individualism, increasing refusal of any social safety nets (for sake of my economy, my money, my possessions--which I say from a place of more privilege than most, I know), and white supremacy’s graspings (supremacy which was not refused last night by a standing president of the USA, btw)? Will it all fall apart with a presidency of another sort, in his own unwillingness or inability to bully the bulliest we have voted into office? To lead and potentially govern in a messy coalition of voices (considered therefore weak and ineffective) instead of the traditional ‘strong man’ patriarchal pattern of old (which dies hard in all of us, men and women, so shaped in it as we have been)? Will it take longer to die as "leading" comes to mean joining in the bullying enough to keep the new norm of violence (conceptual and increasingly physical) more and more plausible as the way of our faltering democracy mired in gridlock and brutal politics? Who can break the cycle of violence, which may simply not ever really be broken in this country in the world with the most guns and the least socially-shared-commitments to one another?  How do we build social-commitment to one another again while the seeds of hatred and enemy-making are sown 24/7 in a weary, fearful public?

I really feel the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ for the candidates here… One the one hand, how does one exactly debate a bully, interruptor, and disingenue uninitiated or unwilling to honor the practices of formal debate? Whose very presence in power has been to denigrate traditional politics and historical institutions, because so many of us have voted for the institutions to fail? The fact that one of the candidates has overcome an early-life-stammer, has contributed to public life as long and with such respect as he has, and then stood through the barrage of that 90 minutes takes my own breath away. Public service is NOT a healthy-or-wholeness oriented field of contribution!

And on the other hand, how does one ever enter into deeper human becoming so needed today when there was never anyone in your life who shaped that humanity in you? That ever loved you for you, outside of the bondage of money, power, and fame? How would you ever know the human experience of ‘an other’ if no one ever truly, lovingly, initiated you into the abundances and easements of human intimacy, family belonging, civic responsibility? Put into a position of leadership, how could you know about compassion, love, intimacy, forgiveness...for yourself or for others?

Not to state it too bluntly, but I see these two white men, in their late 70’s, wearing the archetypal Red Shoes that crazymake, that determine the unending uncontrollable dance that has damned (white) men for centuries into utter isolation, intense loneliness, and (un)spoken aggressions, physical violence as resolution. If we watch--which is a plausible “if”--we must watch an ending of what many of us have called civilization, which is really not as civilized as many of us have assumed it must be. If we participate--which is the more pressing question here, really--then more of us need to find new ways to ground our feet, put our feet in different dancing shoes, put our heart and souls into staying connected with our local loves, friendships, lives. We cannot alter what will unfold here individually, though we can and must come together learning to love our friends, our local communities, with a heart for the world as a whole.

Love your enemies, Jesus said. If we get to needing that maxim here, then we do. For now, I will choose the more direct and immediate path, which is to love my friends and venture into life in cross-political, cross-religious communities while I do. I will not put on their Red Shoes, nor land in them when invited by others around me.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Caravans of Citizens -- Let's Get Curious

Today offers some opportunity for reflection and curiosity, as any day does, I suppose. This one’s observations and musings belong here, however, for reconsidering citizenship. As I drove to CrossFit (about 20 minute drive on some state-routes and then interstate 75), then back again, I saw what could loosely be called mini Trump parades—bands of pick-up trucks, automobiles and/or motorcycles with large American flags and Trump signs-flags unfurling in the winds of moving vehicles. The first one was on Woodman Drive, a city-street of a suburb of Dayton (Riverside) that connects southern suburbs of Dayton to State Route 35, which functions a bit like an interstate-wanna-be, connecting I-70 and I-675, amongst other towns east and west of Dayton (Xenia to the west, for instance, or even as far eastward as Eaton). The second one was on the way home. Traffic slowed on I-70, moving south-ward, as the caravan of vehicles drove a bit more slowly than usual traffic through Dayton’s downtown.

I remember my cousin in Cincinnati posting about this last weekend, but I didn’t have the visual yet. I now have the visual and visceral experience which invites some curiosity in me… 


The first thing for me to be clear about here is that they are clearly citizens who intend to vote. If one of the features of citizenship today is voting in the upcoming election, then these individuals are indeed banding together as citizens for their particular candidate, for whom they are adamantly going to vote. In my fifty-some years of citizenship, however, I have never seen this particular brand of expression. I see the yard-signs popping up, a usual occurrence. I see the ads that pop up before videos I want to watch, another familiar occurrence. People I know are volunteering and putting time, sweat and tears into getting out the vote, voter education, campaign-advocacy for a particular candidate, etc. There are mail ads and TV ads are forthcoming, most likely; I don’t watch as much TV as I used to, so I wouldn’t know. Small bands of roving caravans, large signs and flags whipping in the 50 mph winds, slowing of traffic and drawing attention in these ways caused by movement on a highway? Unfamiliar to me in my fifty some years. Worthy of some reflection, methinks.


I admit my first reaction was a pretty predictable and less compassionate or awakened one, which will not surprise anyone who has traveled closely with me these last 5 years of feminine awakening and eruptions of rage within me. [I have a deep vein of molten lava easily nicked at the patriarchal abuses of both men and women. Patriarchy is the abuse of the power principle, not about masculinity, per se…and it has torqued our ability to be human with one another for centuries. When I witness it or feel it, I can be less compassionate than I do desire because the rage inside me...]. I heard my own mental voice say, Wow. Look at that. The White Man and his minions are finally, truly afraid. Perhaps coming to conscious awareness of this fear for the very first time.


In my own defense, all the drivers and passengers I saw here were white and male, except for a pickup truck that had two children in the back small-seats. I couldn’t tell if they were a boy and a girl or boys or girls. So, this particular caravan was white and male and posturing his bravado, taking up space and slowing down traffic, drawing attention to himself. What most white men I know do when they are feeling insecure and afraid. Not the men closest to me, of course, but the white men I work with? Yep. Pretty predictable.


When my more awakened heart emerged with her compassion, I reminded myself that saying it this way is an offense to all of the other white men who would never be caught dead in such a parade or bravado, nor would ever in a million years vote for this particular candidate. So… I honor the irritated liberal in me who spoke her anger-frustration-even-smug-amusement, and the compassionate listening curious heart that truly does want to participate in healing our democracy. When this Open Curious Heart in me is holding the space, She is fierce that these caravans are constituted by true citizens with a passion for their candidate and whatever they believe he stands for. They are at least engaging in civic activity that we can see, as opposed to the silent majority of the rest of us, trying to figure out how to become active citizens in ways that have integrity for our hopes, passions, dreams, concerns.


I think a presumption of fear (in them) arose first because I could feel the waves of surprise, aversion, and fear rise up in my own belly, my own heart. I felt a visceral body response of fear, even a bit of nausea, to these caravans, before I worked out and afterwards too. Something in my womanheart knows the violence that fearful white persons inflict upon one another and on the world. For example…I come from a peace-church lineage, though I’m more steeped in the Presbyterian-Protestant traditions now. My family has long sadly-but-bemusedly shared the story about the Anabaptist (Protestant, professing believer’s baptism not infant baptism) in my lineage who was being chased by a Papist (Catholic, in the language of the day) across a frozen lake somewhere in Europe. There is actually historical record of it. The ice broke beneath the Papist and my ancestor turned around to help him out of the water in which he would have drowned, frozen. When both were safe on the land, the Papist overpowered and then imprisoned my ancestor. He died the next day—beheading, hanging, fire, I don’t remember. White on white violence, in days of old. A distant cousin of mine who served in the Mennonite Church at the global level brought a letter of reconciliation of this history to the pope himself, maybe 10 years ago now? All that to say, the violence that fearful white people inflict on one another and on the world is in my DNA, as trauma in my ancestral lineage. I felt fear and am not afraid to name it aloud.


I also name it because I think that is precisely one of the hopes and desires of these caravans that seem to be popping up on the weekends, on a Sunday morning in this case. FEAR US. Be afraid, like you used to be. This is certainly not the only aim, I would imagine. A college friend observed that the lack of sports gatherings gives no outlet for this behavior, so these caravans do. Men and their minions can "peacock" all they want in their large trucks with big flags. Good point, that. But I suspect fear is one of the aims, however (un)conscious. I think many want to instill fear in an accustomed, power-over attempt to silence or control all those whom this candidate disdains, outright condemns. Persons and populations traditionally silenced and marginalized, but who are now gaining clearer voices and presence in mainline awareness. [Think about that—mainline, like there are those who count as in line with the main (the man?), and those who are not willing to stand in that line any longer… One of the images that we will need to let go so to be transformed from the inside…?). I’m a white woman with incredible privilege, able to even “speak Evangelical” in my own settings and not get attacked (or lynched). And I felt fear, viscerally.


Fear is an interesting and inviting thing these days, if you think about it. Fear only has control when your mind is in the past, sad or angry for what you’ve lost, or your mind is in the future, uncertain and angry about what might happen. When you stay in the present? What rises most is curiosity and compassion. An intrigue with the human condition, how we act so strangely sometimes when we are afraid. I know I can act perceivedly strangely when I am in the thralls of fear.


But now, on this side of seeing the caravans of citizens, and viscerally feeling the fear they may have wanted to bring into the world, I mostly just feel a sadness and a hope that the fears that bind them so unconsciously may be released, gently. When human beings are feeling something that we cannot admit to ourselves, or that we do not want to be accountable for, we repress awareness of it and project it onto those outside of us. Men do this. Women do this. You do this. I do this. These caravans of citizens are projecting their fears everywhere they drive, not unlike a flame-thrower on the highways of our country.

And yet…knowing that this caravan is projecting a fear, a bravado when what lies beneath is assuredly scared, insecure…? Those who used to know their voices prioritized no longer find that to be the only case. Afraid. Those who used to feel in control of civic events and norms no longer are, completely. Afraid. Those who do not know how to live in a world where their own faces are not constantly mirrored in news, tv, media, but now faced with new faces, new voices, new faiths… so disorienting and fearful. I bow to the experience of that, the inability to come to speech about it for fear of “losing faith” or “being deemed weak in faith or loyalty or patriotism.” This the binding of the White Man and his minions. The enraged and obsessive focus on freedom screamed from the truck-beds and rooftops of automobiles only points to the bondage being endured, silenced, mute.


So there is also now a softness in my belly for them, for the White Man unconscious and so resistant to himself, to vulnerability, to surrender that would actually free him. There are white men who model a different way, a healing presence, which can invite a more humane, liberating way…but the fear binds. The inability to speak of fear binds.


Of course there is a fierceness in my belly at the very same time, somehow, that everything I get to do—writing, listening, holding space, inviting—will simply hold up a mirror to all of us in our human condition, mired in fear. Let the fear that seems so projected out in the world in these caravans soften your heart for goodness in the world. Not to harden your heart. Let a gentle fierceness strengthen your resolve—not from an angry or disdainful place, but a soft, gentle place—let it strengthen your resolve to invite the voices you have not heard, to welcome the stranger (to you) into the center (of what you value). Know your own strength to stand there too, curious, unafraid.


True freedom comes in the awareness that always, in human life, New Life must increase, and What Came Before must decrease. John the Baptist says this about Jesus. Jesus says this about the Holy Spirit (though theologians will pick at my attempts to make a point more than a pristine theological doctrine). This leaning into 'decrease' is almost not personal, just human. It is not unloving or false. It is excruciatingly/exquisitely intimate where we fear most. This cycle is what the (conscious) feminine body knows every month—possibility of new life (eggs), birthing considerations, relinquishing of the eggs (menstruation). The moon too…New Moon, completely ‘absent’ but present, waxing to Full Moon, then waning into the darkness, the New to come.


Part of me is exhausted with naming this kind of work in the world, but it seems to have a key toward unlocking citizenship for us all somehow. With the least amount of violence... For how long does it always have to come back to the fear and insecurities of the white men most in power, most in fear of losing power? It’s exhausting to engage this work and persistently refuse to enable white men’s fears. It takes disregarding his antics, when he whimpers in pain and when he roars in bravado. It takes becoming present with him, unafraid and patient, trusting that he truly will wake up to the world changing around him, how an interdependent age will nourish and free him too. What I like at the heart of this is that citizenship has, at root, a care for the other at its foundation. Yes, even if that other shows no care for you. [Great West Wing episode on this...Midterms in the title...Protecting the country even for those who are trying to dismantle it, damage those whom they fear...]. Any notion of citizenship that might come into shape in these musings over time needs to have this at the root of it. For me.


The ecozoic age struggling to be born (to use a term from Thomas Berry I learned this weekend) will offer gifts we cannot see and free us all in ways we cannot know yet. The storm will probably get worse before it gets better, but when we learn to let go of our own private center, to allow a new more expansive Center, more of us will land together in a gentler, more interdependent relationship with the earth, with the Feminine, with a healed Masculine. Yes, my task here has been to name one of the challenges here is inviting white men so resistant to what they yearn for most to relinquish, to let go…into what they desire most. This requires them learning the strength to surrender (and all those who want (white) (macho-strong) men to protect them at the sacrifice of their own humanity to learn to awaken). It requires those of us most privileged to counter our own internal resistances, hold our own excessive fragility, and show up saying "Let us decrease, so that you may increase." One could argue that's not very American, but it was George Washington. It has been every President before this one, letting his power go to the next Bearer of the Office. This relinquishment takes strength and integrity. Surrender is not victimhood, but a spiritual jujitsu known only from the inside. Collective strength only in vulnerability welcomed, borne.


So here, I guess the Feminine in me calls forth this Masculine to heal himself… All of us are waiting, urgently, acting, doing our best. And we will wait for everyone who wants to do his own Work, though we don’t actually have much more time on blessed Mother Earth.




Thursday, September 24, 2020

A Lament-Litany...and Invitation

How do we work together to pull back? to slow down? to be-with the pains arising all around us, within so many of us? Richard Rohr (Franciscan Christian author) wrote a plea-almost-litany that moved me--Google/Search for it, you'll find it. I've also found myself returned to The Seven Whispers, a spiritual practice (and book) by Christina Baldwin. This post arises from my experience of reading/digesting their words. From my own conscious feminine, white body-experience, then...a lament-litany and an invitation to join your heart to mine in a practice:
  • The Sacred in EACH of us cannot abide in a place of fear, which only lives and breathes in the past and the future. Maintain peace of mind--Stay in this Present Moment.
  • The Sacred in ALL of us cannot abide in a place of ill will or hatred. Disdain is the polite cousin of hatred; refuse to devalue anyone (yes, even 'them'). It only weakens your soul.
  • Healing cannot find its place inside a nonstop volley of claim and counterclaim, online punditry and analysis. Become an expert on your OWN pains alone, NOT the pains and sufferings of others. Learn to listen to all voices, especially those you resist. When weary, ask for what you need, offer only what you can.
  • Love will not speak over the shrill voices and unconscious/conscious deceit(s) that are everywhere within and beyond. Love does not require understanding; it requires courage, vulnerability and Heart. Show love to those whom you cannot understand. Love will grow inside you.
  • The New (that IS coming) cannot be born except that the old wounds break open, the pains be held for all to hold, and "what-was that so many fear to see" falls apart, dies, to be reborn anew, transformed. Take a breath. Allow yourself to FEEL and know your strength to BEAR this suffering. Ask for what you need, offer only what you can.
  • The Sacred who is large enough for us all cannot be borne except in a womb of Love.
  • Offer the Universe in Us that womb (no matter your gender).
  • Stand as a sentry at the door of your senses for these coming months, listening deeply and honoring the body-realities of so many unlike yourself and realities within your own body.
  • Refuse the “the blood-dimmed tide” making its way into your soul. If you allow it for too long, it will become who you are.
  • BE in the body you have, learn to cherish it, learn of its current and ancestral traumas...
If you will allow, join your own time and energy in practice with all others both like and unlike you, for the next months: IMPOSE A MORATORIUM ON HOW MUCH NEWS YOU ARE SUBJECT TO—LESS THAN AN HOUR A DAY of television, social media, internet news, magazine and newspaper commentary, and/or political discussions.
These are focusing y/our attentions regularly "against", these are tearing you and us apart in ways we cannot even name yet.
These pull us into the dualistic world of opinion and counter-opinion where a seductive facade of certainty robs you/us of your Heart to see anew, to Love.
These do not invite Divine Truth, which is always found in a bigger field where right/wrong speak only in a whisper to those quiet enough to hear...who are holding both, all, in Love anyway
You have much to gain now and nothing to lose. Nothing at all. In the present moment, fear has no hold. Maintain Peace of Mind. Ask for What You Need and Offer What You Can.
We have much to gain now if we learn to bear our own pain(s), which will educate us about the excruciating pains all around us. Surrender to Surprise. Move at the Pace of Guidance.
We have precious lives before us to protect, more important than money or economic security... Love the Folks in Front of You, Practice Certainty of Purpose.
The world—with more of us in this Grounded Heart as a stable center—has nothing to lose in the end. Return to the World.
We in the world have everything to gain when YOU arrive here, in your Heart.

Learning to Talk About Not Talking About Things Today

 We need to return to a time when we don’t ask who you’re voting for…to a time when we just don’t talk about these things.

I nodded with my friend, who was perceptive enough and dear enough to come up to me this morning to see if I was okay. You seem sad somehow, a real difference in you, she said. Her perception was accurate, after all. I’m all over the place emotionally these days, entering into a news-social-media-fast for the next long while so to live in the present, with what and who I can be right now. Being for people I love and those whom I see are suffering (whom I know and don't know), loving people I cannot understand, refusing to live in fear while I practice welcoming my own healing, being a healing presence, staying grounded with the Sacred I know deeply and well. Love today is costly, and if you’re not suffering love every day, then I invite you to dig more deeply…for the grounded joy, peace, and ease of body that is right here for you, for me…even with all that is burning today.


As I drove home, energized by a longish but steady workout, fun banter with friends (except when we were nasal breathing, to strengthen our capacities for CO2 and lowering our heart-rates!), I began to sit with a dissonance that was in me about what she said too. Something in me also disagrees with her words, though I remain deeply connected with her, her heart, her wisdom and tenacity. The more I sat with this exchange between friends, me and her, the more I’m convinced that part of our civic-communal growing curve right now is learning to talk about not talking about these things. Perhaps learning to talk about things that matter so deeply might come next, later, soon?


After all, in the last week, two of the exchanges that meant the most to me have been with friends who were willing to lower the veil a little bit. To ask me questions about politics and to actually listen to what I said. For me to actually listen to what they said, and deeply appreciate the real challenges facing all of us regardless of who is inaugurated in January. I cherish these friends and I am aware my fear can prevent me from seeing their fear, their own good-hearts facing so much I cannot imagine. The challenges will be different as we all act, depending on how everything unfolds in these months, but both sets of challenges are terrifying everyone—economic threat & despair with safety-nets and community-care deeply in question; authoritarian rule and uncertain global shenanigans; violence in the streets, which is not new for many of us over the decades, just now more visible; failure of the American experiment with democracy…? In this sense, the presidential election is not even the focal point, but the instigation. The challenges are facing us all, in different forms. But back to her words…


I immediately nodded in agreement with my friend because I do think voting should be a private act, an act between a person and his/her conscience-situation-securities-and-family traditions. As I’m volunteering for a campaign in a cool thing called a text-bank (which I never knew about before…it’s very cool, actually), I avoid the pointed-direct-questions about supporting the campaign candidate and focus on the “are you registered to vote?” and “what is your voting plan for this election?” questions. My urgency is about healing our democracy, not about one candidate, per se. As I've been shaped, I am willing to relinquish and lessen my own aims/needs to allow a robust democracy to increase, to heal. So if there is a response to me that suggests a leaning, then I will follow that lead in the campaign-volunteering goals. The ‘other’ decides, in his/her exchanges with me, how our text-strand-chat will go. Of course, I try to be charming and elicit a leaning as we go, but I honor the line of privacy, respecting what I think are strong democratic principles of right to vote and privacy of vote. Why else do we have all the curtains in the voting booths anyway? Because it matters and should not be coerced.


Should not be coerced. Now there’s an American value that arises unexpectedly in my words (which is often why I write…I learn things I didn’t know I was thinking!). Vote-choice should not be coerced, in any way, even today, facing a candidate who spoke his desire to coerce a result. If anything is coerced, the principles of freedom get bastardized into becoming what freedom professes to prevent.

Slippery slope here, of course, which all partisans are exhibiting today. Liberals have often decried religious or Republican fundamentalisms. I was well shaped in that chorus from my earlier years and my parents’ political stance and citizenship. The reality so often hidden from liberals today, however, is their/our own fundamentalisms on display, ruining our civic discourses from that side.


Liberals are renown for being for the under-dog, for the changes we/they wish to see in the world. The hidden wound comes in when the urgency for that change becomes so narrowed, so intense, that the love and compassion and kindness at the heart of transformation are completely overshadowed, even absent. When the policy or political gain becomes more important than the personhood and dignity of those before or around them. Thomas Frank was the one who woke me up to the hypocrisies and fundamentalisms in the liberal-Democratic streams right now. A party that used to be "for the people" now only "thinks it is for the people." It is actually mired in a meritocracy-fundamentalism, pursuing an individualism and identity-politic blind to the dignity of other human beings. Ironic. Unconscious. Disdainful.

In government, and in the national church bodies today (which I am more familiar as a leader in), we have both conservative and liberal fundamentalisms run amuck, unable to see one another in dignity or hear the very human grief, pain, fear that are part of our human journey on the planet right now. We have leaders in both parties running over all those who will not conform to the new identity politics or Trump-era-loyalties or whatever…


To pull it out of immediate politics for a moment might be easier to say what I'm seeing. Consider peace-activists who become militant about peace. This is a classic liberal fundamentalism that Pema Chodron talks about, smiles wearily about. How can peace activists enforce peace? Ironically. Unconsciously. Losing their own integrity for the sake of seeing now what they yearn so deeply to see. Coercing peace is not peace but political power for an impatient now. Or to look in another direction, considering ourselves Pro-Life when all our political attention is on anti-abortion politics, focusing on conception to birth, refusing monies for welfare, child-support, safety-nets for home-health-food and more. This fundamentalism is Pro-Birth, not Pro-Life (to quote Joan Chittister). This fundamentalism refuses the life to be lived after, the safety nets for school lunches, child-support, homelessness, health-care, and more.

I’m getting better at sensing hidden fundamentalisms within myself, within my worlds, by paying attention to the energetic field of it all, noticing (but not judging) the seeds of disdain expressed about Trump supporters, or “those who are so stupid in our electorate today,” or “those who don’t care for small businesses” or “those willing to gamble on a Democratic “puppet” who threatens “socialism.” No matter which one speaks in you … What is the quality of our own souls to degrade one another in that way, “for the cause of liberation or religious freedom or…?” Such disconnection. Such disrespect, fueled by fear, anger, grief, hatred…on all sides. So therefore in me too. It happens in me without thought, rising up in me though I wish it would not. One invitation then is to become adept at feeling this irony arise in us, this paradox of urgent-passion and dignity of personhood in all, held gently and without coercion toward any outcome.


Of course it seems wiser and easier to simply not talk about these things, to return to a time of not talking with one another about politics or religion.

But what if the invitation is for us all to grow the fuck up as adults who can hold one another in love and ambiguity, adults who can hold our own pains and fears honoring all those of people around us, honoring the dignity and beauty of each of us, particularly those we do not understand? What if our calling is to grow communally into a more robust democracy, well-aware of its imperfections and paradoxical histories, one valiantly healing from its fissures and its increasing gaps? What if we strive instead for the American experiment with democracy to mature through these ‘growing pains’ moments of pandemic, political gridlock, and authoritarian power grabs?


The nay-sayers amongst us will shake their heads and say there's nothing we can do but choose between the best of two bad choices, focusing only on the local. That's not completely true, of course. We must love the folks in front of us, but healing our democracy by doing the hard inner work of growing up is a third way to hold out hope for a collective on this planet, a commuanl all of us, for every one of us. Even (or maybe especially) those who want to grasp the American Ideal through force and violence.

Such naysayers do have a point for us to hold with them. Just observe throughout history how every democracy has become either an oligarchy (rich ruling class decides) or has failed, becoming an empire (emperor/authoritarian rule). Think Greek Republic into Roman Empire. The “democracy” remained in form, but the real power was driven by the sword, by the familial grabs for power by those willing to kill beloveds in order to hold onto power. [Watch I, Claudius, PBS series for a detailed view. Dawns on me that the one who eventually became a benevolent emperor (best the system could hold at the time) was Claudius, the one with a speech impediment, who was underestimated, considered not worth paying attention to, so was therefore neglected in all the political machinations until he was the only one living, standing.] Consider the long-renown voice of Dan Rather, journalist for decades in our country, posting today (Look for his post from September 24th, for reference here).


I guess it’s just not in my blood to be a nay-sayer. This third way of healing our democracy together is where we learn together...weary as we may be inside, outside. I want to reconsider citizenship with those who are willing to learn alongside me, to make mistakes, to be misunderstood, to even be disdained and dehumanized (as will happen in our public domains today). I want to learn how to talk about talking about these things, even if the first step is simply talking about not talking about these things. I hope to find out whether even this foray into soul-musings could count as learning with my peeps...who remain my peeps as we disagree on so many things politically.


Here I’m setting the intention to dive back into civic-learning, refreshing my own awareness of our distinctive form of government and the significance of the Constitution over any particular candidate. I'm going to watch small videos crafted by Free the People, offering a 'line by line' review of our Constitution. I’m inviting my friends, those who are willing, to be in conversation with me about how we’re not talking about things that matter, deep down…and listen for new ways to begin to talk about things in our public spheres that matter. [I'm also fine with not talking about these things when I see my friends, of course. Life is to be lived and not constantly reflected upon--something I've finally learned in the last decade! Part of the gift here is being able to reflect, be heard, and then let it all go too... Continue to have fun, laugh, tease, and more...] All the while, though, I am rooting out the seeds of disdain that come with my family lineage and my profession in higher ed. I am learning to stay present in the moment with a desire to learn, to listen, to heal.


So now you know. This is what I want this blog will be about…

Retracing the Steps of Freedom...Getting the Poisoned Arrow Out

This past week danced with the theme of reconsidering citizenship . A friend and colleague, Dr. C. Anthony Hunt , and I co-led an immersion-...