By Juli Davidson
February 11, 2011
Namaste. The holy in me honors the holy in you. Namaste to anyone choosing to read this. Yes, I even say this to Bill Maher, the atheist comedy news hound who is driven by righteous indignation. He’s got the humor and passion that makes life in a community of progressives completely bearable. I honor that holy passion. Namaste, Bill.
POINTS OF ORDER VS. PLAYING IN THE DIRT
Catholics, Presbyterians, democracies, bureaucracies, the RNC, the Continental Congress, authoritarian despots, totalitarian regimes, Mormons, parliaments, Russian gulags and the Girl Scouts of America love things to happen “in order.” Every organization, especially a big one, has rules of process. The organization works best when things progress in a proscribed manner. Things happen when there is an agreed “way” for things to unfold.
But hold on a second. If we look closely at nature, we find mud and molds and messes. We find jungle overgrowth and sulfuric pools. There’s semen and menstrual blood. Even healing takes puss and mucus to work magic. The processes of birth, conception, geology, evolution, plant life and solar systems are inherently tangled. It appears to me that all the things that come forth from passion are, well, messy.
And if we can agree that everything in the world has come forth from the unpredictable, fertile womb of nature, how can we be in the mess of being? How can we operate knowing there is disorder to evolution; knowing that to get something done, sometimes we’re going to have to stand in mud up to our knees. Point of order, indeed.
COMING INTO OUR OWN
Let’s look at the role of nature, first from a Celtic mystic, and then as written in the Koran. Ninth century Irish mystic John Scottis Eriegena revealed that “Nature is the gift of being. Grace is the gift of well-being.” For Eriegena, grace is offered to us to make us truly ourselves, not in opposition to nature, but within nature. We must delight in coming into our own, not struggle to re-construct ourselves against our earthly nature.
The Koran’s creation story tells us that God reached into the fecund muck of the earth to create man & woman. Out of the mud of the earth He fashioned them. After he breathed life into them, He requested that His angels bow down before this new creation. One angel refused. It was Lucifer, literally the “Angel of Light.” In the ultimate hubris the angel declared before God, “I will not bow down to what comes out of the earth.”
His light refused to acknowledge the darkness.
Maybe if Lucifer had honored that first man and woman, bowed to the sacred to speak a simple “Namaste” to God’s new, earth-made creation, he wouldn’t have gotten kicked off the team. We too might be more comfortable with the dark parts in each other’s soul. We too could embrace the messiness of betrayal and disease and grief, knowing they are first cousins to beauty and truth and joy.
Most of us refuse to admit we have anything to do with the dark side. And then there are the best among us – Gandhi, Reverend King, Mandala, Mother Theresa, first responders, peace corps workers—who do the opposite. They show humility – connected to the humus – and suggest by example that we not raise ourselves up over one another. The least of these, the disgraced, degraded and diseased, these are their people. These are the very same people who could use a representative government that makes a place for them at the table.
I’m talking about the weakest links in the chain of our communities. I want to get a grip on how we can let nature take the lead, how progress through humility might be the long term antidote to the world’s brokenness.
THY SELF & THINE FAMILY
First, we need to be kind, to be gentle with ourselves. We need to forgive ourselves, to keep refocusing, to trust the healing nature within. We need to let our brokenness be touched with gentleness. And the first soul we need to treat gently is our own.
In bringing ourselves out of isolation, we’ll probably have to give up our “default modes,” whether defensive, or denying, or complaining, or shifting the blame. We need to give up our traditional safe places, for example, retreating to the comfort of dismissal, agreeing to “be seen and not heard.” This is part of the cost. Giving up the safe zones where we don’t have to act.
In realizing the metaphysics of the Golden Rule, we can say “What we do to others is what we do to ourselves.” Carl Jung reminded us that “Every true and deep love is a sacrifice.” A self-offering, “sacrifare,” translates as “to make whole.” To repair our broken families, it’s going to take unmedicated* bravery to sacrifice our standard responses and click into a new paradigm. [*No, not “unmitigated.”)
Here we stand, now, in 2011, at the heart of the moment. We need to be here. Sometimes we simply need to be present. We need to quit looking elsewhere. We are each put in situations where we are supposed to give ourselves away. As conservatives talk about individual rights and the myth of the One Man Alone Seeking Justice, then progressives need an equally striking picture of the risks and rewards involved in doing something with, for and alongside somebody else. Even The Lone Ranger couldn’t get it done without Tonto, his connection to the earth and to the First Peoples.
Perhaps for me the answer is to stay focused here, at home. My family challenges my ego and my order, my picture of myself as complete and competent. My daughter is a junior in High School, seventeen; she’s doing what comes naturally – moving away from me and her Dad, finding her own way. My husband pushes, and I feed the dialogue; I play defense even when I am 92.26% at peace with myself. It takes two to become the Bickermans. So how do I not try to love him into being the way I want him to be?
Here’s a biggie: our answers are not found in solitude. It is OK to get out of our comfort zone in how we respond to the stimuli. Do not retreat to the safe place – the empty place, the isolated place. Do not wallow. Do not brood. Do not re-act. The “Old Same Place” is familiar. That doesn’t mean it’s the right place to stay.
ACROSS GENERATIONS & TRADITIONS, EMBRACING DIFFERENCES
Healing the family requires reaching out. I can connect with somebody who is in a different age group, a different thought group. Who knows? It could be our neighbors, or perhaps an Intrusive relative, or a surly tenant; the connections to my answers are all around me.
As for fear of change, we might find the willingness to be vulnerable, especially in a community of support. We have to try it on; walk around in a vulnerable state, see how it works. We have to be courageous.
The wisdom keepers need each other; remember, wisdom is available in any age person. Just ask your three-year-old. There is wisdom in young men and women – they hold part of the key. I’ve heard people ask “How Can We Bring Young People into the Political Process?” or …”back into the Church?” This is so much not the question. Instead, ask how can we be in relationship with the young people who want to be standing with us, in surprise and tears and joy, facing the changes that are coming?
As aging citizens—the baby boomers are getting ready to retire—we must be ready to pay another cost: to take up the mantle of elder and tell others about the seeds we now carry. To share our stories and experiences. If we can take a moment to re-member our selves and the truths at the heart of ourselves, then the healing has already begun.
WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT KUMBYAH?
Or for that matter, peace, love and understanding? OK campers; I won’t make you sing around the campfire, but we are being invited to love ourselves in a new way. Looking Out for Number One was the clarion call of the ‘70s. How can we best shift the axis of presence from self to the community? How do we move into acting to preserve our new connected awareness and to serve this moment?
I found a piece of an answer waiting in the Eisenhower era like the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is secret strength in the fifties—the whole world wasn’t hanging out on the patio. A big bad war had taken place; people were discovering horrible consequences on both sides. People were thinking big versions of WHY? and WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
For example, there are the seminal books of Pierre Teilhard of Chardin, a Jesuit thinker who died on Easter Day, 1955. He thought far outside the box, past our duality, while embracing the heart of new science and technology.
A friend of Einstein’s, Teilhard was one of the great minds of the 20th century. Eminent scholars elaborate about his marvelous and seductive “global vision of the universe wherein matter and spirit, body and soul, nature and super-nature, science and faith find their point of unity.” Most of his widely read and discussed works appeared only after his death—The Phenomenon of Man (1955) and The Divine Milieu (1957).
Teilhard insists that only by cultivating our innate sense of obligation to life can we overcome our fear and anxiety for the human future. For him, the fundamental law of right action is to liberate any conscious energy that seeks further to unify the world. This is the energy of human love, an impulse toward unity, an impulse of mind and heart that manifests itself particularly in the relish a person has for creative tasks undertaken from a sense of duty.
With our young adults, instead of bemoaning their attachment to their iPhones and Skype and instant messaging, we can affirm their desire to connect, to reach out to another person, to be in relationship. Right now, this impulse takes the form of blogs, social networks and online communities (of artists, athletes, mathematicians, film students.) We parents and teachers might prefer the telephone and newspaper—yes, the one made of real paper. That’s fine. But we shouldn’t hide ourselves in our comfort zone. We are being invited to transcend our safe place, to be on the mountaintop together with all generations, each holding a piece of a new harmony.
IT’S RISKY TO CARE. IT’S OK TO RISK.
President Barak Obama has said that empathy is the most important thing his mother taught him. For him, and for most progressives, empathy is the basis of democracy – caring about our fellow citizens. Its part of our job to make it clear, in our lives, votes and comments, that personal responsibility is not enough. Going it alone could be downright unpatriotic. Let’s invite our conservative sisters and brothers to scour the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and the words of the Republican president who brought us into and out of the Civil War, and find the ethical backbone of democracy.
There are emergent responses inviting us into a world of wholeness—not the self-rule of separation. Maybe self-governing means governing all the selves involved in the community, reaching out to all the citizens of the nation until all the selves are governed. A progressive might say this is a call for community solutions. Are we in this for ourselves? Are we in this for each other?
If we’re going to move forward as United States of America, and foreswear the United Corporations of America, then we better be ready to stand together for something precious. I think we can find it in each other, and deeply rooted in the ethical backbone of democracy.
Next time: Toward healing the bigger breaks, the closeted progressive, and the time when even Jesus of Nazareth suggested we get off our butt.