For those who have not and do not want to travel the process-journey of Parts One-Two I’ve been on these last couple days, this much briefer entry aims for a distillation of what I am hearing, what I hope to say.
The confusion, de-valuing, and even condemnation of the News are overwhelming us on multiple levels. The news media coverage has evolved from largely three white men in the 1960’s--major TV Stations, anchors--to the innumerable voices with nearly infinite and varying perspectives-desires-agendas. (Some might say de-volved, but no judgment with what-is, simply, before us). How is one supposed to make sense of it all, to know what is true, right, good? It has become common place to withdraw from the news, to limit one’s intake of social-and-other media, to even give up any semblance of connection to a consensual reality amongst us (conspiracy theories, for instance). We have to find a different way to stay connected to our worlds and live in many worlds at once, productively.
My pathway toward this end (middle?) is to confront the quest for certainty that is driving so much for so many of us. Certainty, which will supposedly provide security, safety, belonging, etc. but which so dissociates us from ourselves, always looking outwardly for what we need, who we are, what we are to know so to [fill in the blank]. Certainty is illusory, perhaps always was, which is not to say truth is, or that everything is relative. Not at all. But our quest for certainty is wounding us from within and beyond.
If we come at our overwhelm from a different angle, from an inherent quest for assurance, asking different questions and tending to our own experience as the questions lead, I suggest we will find ourselves at the very least on a new plateau if not a completely new playing-field. When you breathe into the quest for assurance, when you set the intention to love-first, to reduce reciprocity around you (i.e. your expectations of ‘return’ for your virtue), to smile into love’s insufficient reason yet gift of pure assurance--the certainty/uncertainty of current events, news stories, media headlines does not matter in the same way. The triggers to get hyped up begin to dissolve and you have more and more energy for the things our democracy DOES need right now, to heal, to deepen, to strengthen. Moving to a quest for assurance has consequence and implications that seem attractive and necessary right now--each of us as we may, as many of us as are willing:
One, attention no longer needs to be drawn to some vanishing ‘center’ in grief, but instead can be devoted to the concrete intentions and practices of loving-first, to be experimented by each of us as we are willing. No one is good at it, but that’s okay--practice, practice, practice. Metta, say the Buddhists. This intention requires concerted attention, which will be challenging as the tech-companies have invested billions in buying our attention(s). Track on social media, and listen for how to love-first the person behind each post, visceral level of awareness. Send each goodwill. As you read the paper, electronically or hardcopy, exercise gratitude to each journalist-author who has labored for each article you read. Extend your awareness and heart-energy for the goodwill within him/her/them. It need not change them to change you, your sensate-awareness, your contribution to breathing love into the world. Assurance will arise out of you in ways you cannot predict or imagine.
Second, be gentle with yourself in this new intention. Start small, in ways around your home or in your immediate context, learning to love and accept yourself just as you are. For so many of us, that is a fulltime job right there, immersed as we have been in self-condemning religious traditions or families of origin that could not see our original worth, our innate beauty and giftedness. As you practice loving-first, then extend that circle to just a few other people close to you--a sister who irritates you, a co-worker who never seems to listen to you, a spouse struggling to know his/her worth. Let love ground you and trust them to enter into this loving-first as they are, for themselves.
Third, don’t expect amazing fruit of this intention right away. Our habits of mind are so predictable and so swamped every day with certainty/consumerist currents it can be hard to chart a new eddy for ourselves. But set yourself reminders as you need, in calendars or on your phone, with friends or a circle that can hold your intention to practice. Craft the intention to last for several weeks, even months.
I've been intentional about it as these words have been pouring out of me (two-three weeks). Even in this brief time of processing the diagnosis of COVID in our White House, of watching the prayers-jeers-reflections-and-uncertainties unfold in formal and social media alike, I have found a remarkable steadying, a sensate assurance that relies little on certainty or knowing who is “telling the truth” or not. I find I am receptive to all things, wondering what grain of truth will be found in the remarkable creativity of the human being swamped with fear, anger, rage. I don't need to know about each one 'to be sure'. I also don't need to be seen to be knowledgeable about [fill in the blank]. Freedom within and from without.
I am finding it easier to be grateful for the journalists who are doing the best they can while being just as swept up into the carnage of their business as we are. Yes, it's a dog-eat-dog world, 'what bleeds, leads,' but I don't have to participate in that, hardly at all. I see every piece I do read as an offering and don’t put much weight on any of them at all. Instead, I’m honing my intuition and sense of contribution from within a deep love coming from elsewhere, rooted solidly in my own bodysoul, its sensations and current of feelings, images, and more. How do I move at the pace of guidance this day? How do I love the ones in front of me?
This election is ultimately not about Donald Trump, after all, who is mortal and won’t last forever. Trump’s narcissism and love of chaos are continually fed by our addictions to certainty and order. He’s a wounded little boy in an old white man’s body with incredible power to wound us all, yes, but he has no power over Love. Love loves even him. We do need to tend to our democracy, though, if we want loving-first to blossom within more of us, if we want those we love and those with whom we disagree to know the assurance that comes from deep within.
So...shift the field inside of you. Do not give him any more energy than is necessary to deepen your citizenship. Divert all energies you can to community organizing, healing relationships, working with small business owners to survive the economic shifts that are coming no matter who is in office...to the specific activities and contributions that you can make, with your own gifts and passions. Love the folks in front of you.
Clearly, I’m a writer. I make sense of things by working them out on the page, learning what I feel and sense, think and feel some more.
When you don’t know what to do, do nothing, a friend reminded me.
Respond, don’t react. Pause often. Said another.
Be still and know that I am God, croons the Psalmist of my (and others’) scriptures.
Be yourself...be fully yourself, my writing sisters invite and mirror...
This entire blog journey so far has been honoring these maxims, but also moving slowly into the urgency I feel every day to breathe gently. It's easy to think in terms of 'who I am,' and 'doing what I can do,' but underneath those certainty-habits is a freedom to breathe. Lean into the next right thing. Allow that I will assuredly err and that pure assurance comes from this letting go deep within. Here I remember to maintain peace of mind, to move at the pace of guidance, to practice certainty of purpose, to love the folks in front of me...all so I may respond to what I can wisely, with a healthy reticence, borne of a conscious feminine wisdom to slow down, to listen more deeply, to ask for what I need and offer only what I can. (The Seven Whispers, again)
I’ve been energized to remember my earlier journeys with Jean-Luc Marion, French philosopher and Catholic theologian. I devoured nearly his entire authorship about ten years ago, achingly hungry for something I did find--or was given--in his words/pages. I’ve never had to engage his work in any formal-disciplinary way, however. Blessedly. Not my style or interest. These dense texts--God Without Being and The Erotic Phenomenon--fed my spiritual life at the time, becoming intimate resourcing for me, in prayer and in my own ache for belonging in faith communities in which I do not feel I belong easily. To be clear, he would probably be troubled by the popularist distillation I’m giving it...but it’s my blog, after all.
The visceral experience of reading our media exclamations can be exhausting, daunting, even fear-mongering at its worst. “Fake News!” (always with an exclamation point, for some reason)... It needn’t be so, I’m learning.
Reduce reciprocity in your life.
Create instances of insufficient reason, unreasonable acts of loving-first.
Pure assurance awaits you.