Friday, January 8, 2021

The Day After the Day After...

Blessed be for a good night’s sleep, no Wild Turkey rye, good friends, and time...time to breathe, to feel the earth underneath my feet, to return to what I choose to focus on and not what grabs my attention. I can say this in the blessings (and relative economic security) in which I live in these strange, painful days, which means I also want to pay forward and be attentive to what I can contribute from this place and time I occupy…

Again and again, my sacred Work has been all about awakening to
habits of mind--from which realities are seen, experienced, processed--and then discerning in a teaching-learning community how these ways of seeing the world are invited into transfiguration for the better. This post explores some of the habits of mind I’m witnessing on social media/news media, with some curiosity about how we might awaken together, then learn together, begin to imagine together. 

Anglican hermit Maggie Ross does a nice dance with this word, transfiguration. She prefers it to transformation or transcendence because transfiguration takes what is already present, and will always be present in time, and changes it in its earthly totality toward Sacred Intent. What has been isn’t severed or left behind or demonized, in other words. It becomes transfigured in a force of Love and Wholeness that doesn’t depend upon reciprocity or result for its assurance. Transformation or transcendence have this sense of ‘leaving behind’ whatever was ‘before,’ ‘sinful,’ ‘harmful,’ etc., so to be in sanctified or newly-sacred form. Transfiguration refines all that is right now. Transfiguration alters whatever needs altering in order to redeem what is, toward holy purpose for the Whole. The context out of which Ross defines this term is Christian theological-liturgical practice. Christ’s wounds were not erased or left behind. His wounds remain, but are transfigured in his resurrection.

The context I want to dive into here is today, this moment, and the practices invited to transfigure what is toward holy purpose for the Whole of our We the People. We cannot leave behind January 6th, 2021, nor hold onto it as a bludgeon in outrage and anger. No democratic majority can leave behind the 74 million of us who voted (a second time?) for the current President of the United States. Yet so very few of us in our democratic republic have a clue in how to hold all that is erupting, in all of its contradictions and pain.

[editorial note: Observe what word you are choosing, consciously or unconsciously, to describe what happened this week at the Capitol, January 6th, from about 10:30 a.m. to sunset. The word you choose will signal to your listener your politics. I am choosing the word "insurrection", but avoiding "coup attempt." I am also not in agreement with the gentler words "protest" or "riot," both because of the symbolic location and five deaths, including a police officer. I saw a "mob" and I saw a standing President incite it into this symbolic damage and the resulting deaths. Therefore, I consciously choose the gravity of "insurrection," or uprising with more visual power than we'll know for some time. Words matter, and we need as much consciousness as we can muster when we listen to one another more vulnerably, closely...]

As I was very few of us in our democratic republic have a clue in how to hold all that is erupting, in all of its contradictions and pain.

Some of us are spending our pain by raging for invoking the 25th Amendment, or if not that, then Impeachment of this President for his horrific abandonment of We the People (all of us), for his inciting the Insurrection, for his dictatorial tendencies and abuses of power, standing, populations and more. (I myself think either of these steps IS necessary to pursue, though I do not have much confidence that either will come to fruition. Doesn’t mean they’re not still worth pursuing). Some of us are slated with responsibilities to lead and serve the People in this fashion, so I encourage them to honor their oaths of service to We the People, to the Constitution.

Some of us are spending our pain in calling out the Seditionist Caucus, particularly Senators Cruz and Hawley, arguing for their resignations, for the Senate to refuse to seat them, for sanctions or reprimands of political value. (I cannot say I disagree with this either, but I do think it simply plays into the Trumpist handbook. Both will be contenders in 2024 for the Trump base, regardless of how horrifying that sounds today, the day after the day after the Insurrection. Political and media critiques-attacks on them, however accurate and legitimate, will simply fuel the fires raging in our civic chaos. No one knows what or how to welcome home seditionists...not in the late 1800’s, not now.) Here I do not encourage political servants to be calling out other political servants in a mud-slinging and sedition-hunt. Citizens without political responsibilities, of course yes, but otherwise, it's more of the same. Plays into the hands of the dividers. The place to confront seditionists is in local organizing, grassroots learning, listening to what is here that needs tending for the soul of America. Our politicians don't give a rats ass, most of them, about the soul of America. Our communities need to re-engage, each of us, one with another.

Some of us are remaining relatively quiet in our pain (refused? if aware of any), in the throes of a media frenzy, having voted for Trump but not supporting what we saw on TV. We are weary of being vilified and judged for all the social ills in the world, particularly when it’s obvious these have been around forever. No way it’s totally Trump’s doing, or even the Republican Party’s doing (however it may be fracturing and imploding at the moment). We see the day at the Capitol as a raucous and inappropriate event, but not a coup attempt nor even an insurrection. 

The tsunami of grief within so many of us is spiking through these gaping holes. Until we get curious about the habits of mind we have lived in for decades, if not longer, nothing will change. Nothing can become transfigured until it is all out in the open and surrendered to the I’m not suggesting anyone alter a thing about what they’re doing. What is unfolding is precisely what needs to be unfolding. And more are beginning to act in ways we've needed to act in a long time. Each of us is really doing the best we know how in uncertain and unpredictable times.

But I am asking What are your habits of mind, creating what you see? Are you willing to be in conversation about them?

For me then… My habits of mind these last two days have been narrowed, tight, angry, afraid, sad, stunned with disbelief. This means I’ve been testy, irritable, tending to see the worst in people--family and/or friends included. I’ve been tired and feeling hopeless. People I think/feel I love and share life with are not who I thought/felt they were--which, it must be noted here, has more to do with me and my habit of mind than anything objectively true/false about ‘them.’ And then this window opened last night…

I stumbled into a video clip posted by the LATimes of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). I was exhausted, and trying to dis-engage from the performative-psychological grasps of my electronic devices, but something caught my heart and attention. 

I paused. 

I checked in with myself to see if I could receive whatever I might receive. 

Feeling a cautious sense of “might as well,” I clicked the link.

My immediate, knee-jerk reaction to the name Lindsey Graham is one of utter disagreement, even nausea, for things he has done and things he has been accused of doing. I don’t actually know how many of those things are accurate, but I’ll guess at least 50% of them are. Negative heart space is where his name lands in me. 

That is the habit of mind and heart I surrendered in my “might as well.” I offered it up for transfiguration. If we have to start somewhere, then I might as well begin with me, in that moment, right? Somebody said that once...Ghandi, I think his name was? :)

Now Graham is an incredibly good speaker, as many know. He’s charming, self-effacing, intelligent, impish even. He got the quite-shaken Senate chamber, after an armed assault of Trump supporters on the Capitol building, to laugh as a whole. That’s pretty remarkable. So I practiced listening anew. Listening for what I could affirm, what I could receive. What I knew I would disagree with, and my own outrage at the too-little-too-late timing of “Enough is enough.” I sat with all of it, in my body, in my mind. When the five minutes was done, I watched it again, staying curious. I wanted to see if I could see TOG--that of God--in him. [One of the things that draws me to the Society of Friends (Quakers) is this very practice: seeing that of God in every human being]. 

I saw that of God in him. I did. I won’t deny it. I could feel it. 

All while knowing also that Graham is a politician, and a very good one. He can read the energies in a room and persuade and seduce with a Southern charmed voice that has worked in White America for so very  long. He did not persuade or seduce me to forget the past, nor to change my mind about my own Democratic values, knowing all that I still know, but I could begin to see the very human being in him. I could see that of God in him, even if the jury’s still out whether the forces of Spirit or other forces will make the most use of him. I posted the clip onto my Facebook page, with a “take five minutes...see if you can watch, listen anew…”

A friend and fellow-writer who has been a supportive presence for me in this whole venture of blog-writing posted a comment. It was true and honest, a frustration at the ‘too little too late’ character of a Republican politician, which I share. But I found myself watching how my own habits of mind had begun to shift. It was okay to have my frustration AND it was no less possible to see anew, a desire to begin listening anew. My habits of mind could shift, and my body experience of a Republican senator from SC could be different, curious.

It’s not much, but it’s something for me today, this day after the day after. I felt a similar hopefulness when I heard Ben Sasse speak on the Senate floor. There ARE pieces of this puzzle We the People can begin to put back in place, even if there are also those who are throwing the puzzle pieces into the trash (by which I mean radicalized QAnon folks, Trump supporters who can see no danger in President Trump yet, and liberal-progressives who would rather hold onto their anger than try to find new ways to be human together…). 

My learning here was that even wearied angry habits of mind can be surrendered, and they can be transfigured without severance or denial of all that has come before. What we are experiencing, while horrific and painful beyond ken, unjust and rupturing of all that seems rational, IS the birth canal, if we stay in the labor.  The distrust overwhelms us and swamps everything else too. It’s so easy and exhausting to name all that is wrong and broken. I will have days of that. But for today, this day after the day after...for me, in my room, surely not where others are in this journey...

What are the practices that can begin to rebuild a nation’s public trust in itself, in our neighbors, toward creating a different and more mature political culture? How does one just begin to practice trust in a tsunami of distrust, every day?

I can only start with me. The vision of our country is larger than any one of us, but each of us needs to begin to find his/her/their way--individually and collectively--to live trust where there has been distrust, to do the work of grief inside so the work of rebuilding can begin to be imagined on the outside. (Note I did not say actually begin, but imagine. I cannot imagine right now when the actual work of rebuilding a healthy political culture can start...too much pain that will need to come out, much from those who have few skills or public support for such work. So we simply need to begin imagining, brainstorming, exploring, experimenting…). For me, yesterday, it was simply watching a US Senator -- Republican SC -- speak on the floor of the chamber, while I held the intention to see that of God in him. 

That’s it. And I’m different because of my intention, and my leaning in...

No one should do this kind of thing until they’re ready to, have the umph to...this is not prescriptive, on my part. And listening anew does not mean being gullible or forgetting the past or disregarding the years of pain, sadness, and anger that remain in so many of our cells today. I don’t believe everything I hear, and I don’t believe everything that I yet want to think, try on, consider. What’s the worst that can happen anyway? My trust gets broken. I could appear foolish and idealistic to angry liberals and angry conservatives. The point is surrendering the habits of mind we have into the flow of transfigurations we cannot yet see. It’s not ‘changing one’s mind’ about anything. It’s allowing one’s habits of mind to be just as they are...until they aren’t like that anymore.

So maybe I’ll have a new goal. To look foolish to the angry ones…those unready or unwilling to surrender their habits of mind, to know this better way. 

Ever wonder if there’s a better way than anger 24/7? There is...and I can feel it more often in these days that I do my own emotional work, when I strengthen my ability to trust, and when I reach out to Trump supporters (or they reach out to me). I’ll bet there are about 73 million of them who don’t like the man at all but see a lot more that they appreciate than I know right now.

For now, this day after the day after, I’m aware we all simply need to learn a helluva lot more about our country than our polarized view of it. I’m ALL IN for learning really who we are. The only way forward is to engage those who voted for Trump, and to claim our own unwillingness to see our own habits of mind, the role they’ve played in the whole thing. A willingness to listen anew, see anew, and begin to imagine together what we’re going to create is where it starts. With you. A willingness to not-know and to get curious.


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