Unknowing what you Know | by Holly Hudley

It’s been a doozy of a couple years for us as a nation. We’ve been given lots of opportunities to look at our stance toward those unlike us. I loved the way poet/playwright Claudia Rankine put it: How can we have this conversation and still stay in this car together?

A great hibernating bear is shaking from his long slumber...we can no longer ignore it. We have been handed an opportunity to re-examine ourselves, to unknow our current comfortable realities. We’ve been asked if we are willing to see WHAT IS. We are not, for example, done with racism. 

If you’ve begun reading James Hollis’ Living an Examined Life, you might remember that he asks us to investigate the beliefs we’ve inherited that no longer serve our true Self. I dare you to make a list of these things. Scratch off what no longer serves the well being of you and others. There’s a whole lot of buzz about Marie Kondo encouraging us to get rid of what no longer brings us joy. I’ve seen friends heave self-identified clutter into photos documented on facebook and instagram. Though it can be argued we are appropriating her intent, can we apply it to beliefs? Do our beliefs about people, about life, about God bring us joy? For, as we believe, so we become. This is true for us as individuals, societies, institutions, and civilizations. The dominate ideas shape our realities, and we are being given an opportunity to reshape some of these and get rid of what doesn’t bring us joy and connection.

Our stamina for sitting with what is uncomfortable is remarkably thin, but those are the exact places we need to grow. Let me say this: people of color, especially black men in this country, seem to know how to live a restricted public life - how to conserve their every move so they don’t die. I wondered out loud to Josh once, “Why does Mr Anderson (an older black man we know) insist on calling me ma’am? It makes me squirm.” Then while visiting the lynching memorial in Montgomery I read a plaque about the era of white terrorism in the south stating that black folks were lynched for something as small as leaving ma’ams  and sirs off the ends of sentences. That’s why Mr Anderson can’t drop the ma’am. That terror lives in his body. Who knows what he has seen or what stories he has been told. The cumulative effect of trauma caused by racism shortens lives, induces chronic stress...it changes genes, and these stressed out genes are passed on. As long as whites think there is no problem, that we aren’t racist, we might continue to live longer than our black counterparts, but we will live without love and curiosity, and that gene won’t get passed down. I don’t think that’s what we want.

Obviously I can speak more clearly about being white as that is my racial experience, but to echo Claudia Rankine again, if we are too entrenched in our whiteness it limits our imagination. If we continue uttering trivial statements like, “I don’t see race,” then we can’t see racism....And we need to see and deal with racism. If we remain blind to it on every level (from personal to systemic), it limits empathy. It can be said that entrenchment in any identity constricts our imagination, so we begin by softening the identities we are clenched/imprisoned/caught up in. We first have to know what the cages are. When we soften to those areas in ourselves it enlarges our inner and outer experience. Then we can experience the fullness of our being, inside and out.

 

But we have to be willing to unknow what we think we know.

 

We are in the midst of an apocalypse, the Greek meaning of which is not the end of days but an “uncovering, a revealing.” If we look under there, in the shadowy spaces, in the places where we are caught, there is transformation, creativity, and possibility. There is IMAGINATION. The inner world of the mind and the outer world of being are not actually separate, but we put up many blocks  - doctrine, ideologies, fears, societal “norms” & social hierarchies - instead of realizing we already live and breathe and have our being in nondual reality. Martin Luther King Jr. said it this way: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

I’m thinking of when my middle son got in trouble for saying in a moment of 6 year old passion, “If you don’t play with me I’ll kill you!” He had a sandwich in his hand, not a gun. Another kid told on him. He was brought to the front office, and he got suspended. Yes, in kindergarten. I was dumbstruck. Literally dumbstruck. When I found out my mouth fell open and nothing came out. I happened to be at the school in that moment, in another room, having a conversation with administrators about teaching with a social emotional lens, and I was called into the assistant principal’s office. I could see the terror in his eyes, the too big chair swallowing him up. I sat back on the floor, opened my arms, let him crawl onto my lap and just held him as he cried. “I know baby,” I said. “I know you didn’t mean it, but you can’t say things like that.” Surely SURELY he is not the only 6 year old to have said something like that. I don’t know that for sure, of course, but he was called violent. On the paper it said he was a Level 3 Threat. And I had to sign it, to consent my understanding of the severity of this moment. My SIX YEAR OLD. He is still, at age 8, learning how to speak his raw emotions without losing his ever loving you know what. Hell i’m still learning how to speak my emotions without losing it at 42, but no one has ever called me a Level 3 Threat. I wish I had refused to sign. I wish I had pushed back. The way we talk about violence has a loaded meaning when we use it to describe a young black or brown boy. There is no way to get around that fact other than to face it. I cannot be certain that race factored into my son’s specific consequence, but I can be sure that zero tolerance policies have disrupted the lives of black and brown kids in far more unbalanced ways than their white counterparts. Cole is no more violent than most little boys I’ve been around. In fact, in many ways, he is probably less so. But we have a veil clouding our collective psyche around how we see black boys and men. We have allowed white men in power to get away with so much more, minimizing their behavior with statements like, “He didn’t know better,” or “He was just a boy.”

Time to unknow that reality. 

The whole point of the path of love is to transform motivation from “I, I, I” to “Thou, Thou, Thou.” It can be said that “We, We, We” is also an operative term. Essentially it is to be willing to see ourselves in the faces of another. Of every other. And then the other and I become one. Those “who see themselves in all and all in them” are simply not capable of harming others (Eknath Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita). This!! Yes! This is what it means to be fully human, perhaps what Thich Nhat Hanh refers to as interbeing. It is the way of compassion and wisdom - the very same that Jesus taught. Love your neighbor as yourself, he said. Read that again....as yourself. As if your neighbor were you - another way of saying I am not other than you. To work on behalf of this kind of love is holy work. This work, of course, is circular. The more you love inwardly the more it shows up in the outward arena. This cycling goes on and on and on. When you can see, truly see, yourself in another and another in yourself, when you can truly see yourself as you are, that’s where transformation lies.

Speaking of boats, a drawing inspired by Sunday’s OL talk by Richard Wingfield.   

Speaking of boats, a drawing inspired by Sunday’s OL talk by Richard Wingfield.  

Everything is this and that | by Holly Hudley

Sunday morning, just before leaving for Ordinary Life, my youngest stood in front of me with his finger on my chest. “Mommy are you here?” He asked.

“Yes, I’m here. Are you here?”

“I’m in the future!”

“Oh!” I said, “You’ll have to tell me what the future is like!”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, like if it’s happy or sad, beautiful or terrible, or some of both.”

“I think it’s some of both. Isn’t everything always some of both?”

Indeed. Thanks small and wild one. It’s long been said we should follow the ways of our children! The day before Evan said this, I was reading in The Bhagavad Gita: The image of God is found essentially and personally in all mankind. Each possesses it entire and undivided, and all together not more than one alone. In this way we are all one, intimately united in our eternal image, which is the image of God and the source in us of all our life.

Within seconds of reading that, someone sent me this in a text:

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In one moment, I was part of two moments, two experiences. I am this, I am that.  But it’s not just I — it’s you, us, we...everyone. At first I was like, “Woahhhhhh. What is happening here?! Who is in my headspace?” Then I found myself laugh-crying because this stuff happens all the time. We need just see it.

The magic of these nondual moments was tarnished by the pallor of the viral video of the kid wearing a red MAGA hat in a face off with a Native American elder. The optics of the situation said one thing while the maelstrom of analysis remained decidedly inconclusive. I know my feelings on it, and especially my feeling of sadness that had he been a non-white kid, there would not have been a possibility of two sides. What I am wondering now is whether there was space in that intimate, charged moment for the two of them to wonder, even for the smallest fraction of a second, if they could see themselves in the the eyes of the other. If any small whisper of “I am not you, I am not other than you” wound through their mingled breath, for the space between them was minimal.

Embracing an I/Thou, yes...and relationship with all that is, intending to see ourselves in literally everything and everyone is fundamental to leaning into a new paradigm of being. When could I have been the kid? When could I have been the elder, an onlooker, the one behind the camera? We are, afterall, already interconnected. We know this, we say “yeah, yeah, yeah, okay” to this, but how can we begin to live into it as reality. Our energy will follow our attention — it’s a law of nature. Expansion of everything is happening in this moment. Though we can now prove that on a scientific, cosmological scale, it is no less awesome. For what is happening out there is also happening in here. We, too, are expanding. We can conceive that we are made of star particles, that the light we perceive today is light from the first moment of the universe making its way back to us. Can we put our vast imaginations to work not only to ask the deepest scientific questions that will push us forward, but also to ask the deepest questions of the heart that will bring us together? Let me revise that....we can for certain, but will we choose to?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. One way to look at this is that an action driven by hate and fear has an opposite reaction driven by love. Both will always exists. This too is a law of nature, Newton’s third in fact. Science is a mystical endeavor in many ways. It wonders things like, “What are the stars made of?” And in this wondering finds out we are actually made of stars. The universe is a singularity, one whole thing, and it is unfurling its majesty through consciousness. Consider the words of Meister Eckhart: The eye with which you see God is the same eye with which God sees you. Supplant any word in the underlined space — universe, a butterfly, your mother...a carrot. This golden thread of existence runs through us all. We are this and that. 

Jesus Take the Wheel | by Holly Hudley

“God is the map whereby we locate our setting, the water beneath our life raft...the kind of god at work in your life determines the shape and quality of risk at the center of your existence. It matters who you think God is.” -Walter Bruggemann

 

I learned to drive when I was 15. I remember the first time I took a left turn and didn’t really release the wheel to come out of it, so I ended up on the wrong side of the road heading toward oncoming traffic. My dad said only, “Stop the car. Get out.”

It took some time to become a better driver. Within my first years I had no less that 5 speeding tickets and would amass several more plus enough parking violations to pay for the big dig when I lived in Boston. I think I’m a decent driver now...I’ve taken defensive driving at least a half dozen times, and I no longer end up on the wrong side of the road.

I read a meditation from Cynthia Bourgeault today that reminded me of driving. In most countries, there is a “right way” to drive. And it requires attention, peripheral awareness, and personal responsibility.

The belief in Jesus I grew up around lead me to believe that there was a singular “right way” to be a Christian. Jesus could help me in a crisis or absolve me when I messed up. His death and resurrection saved me from facing the hellish outcomes of my so-called sin. He was evoked to explain away senseless deaths, justify wars, and even unjust laws. We also see Jesus get a lot of cred when things go well. Has anyone kept track of the number of touchdowns and winning scores he has in his pocket? For sure he’s up for MVP in all major sports. Or the number of  houses spared in a storm and lights turned back on afterward Jesus is responsible for? He is still working posthumous miracles.

Sure Jesus probably loves us through crisis, screw ups, and wins and losses because he loved pretty much everyone regardless of how well they played. But this kind of faith in Jesus whereby he is some sort of intermediary, a checklist to tick off (salvation—check, personal lord and savior—check, virgin birth—check, maker of wine from water—check),  or even someone to have faith in rather than someone by whom we can set our path...this kind of faith is immature.

Such a belief in Jesus is like first learning how to drive. You don’t know what you’re doing so someone else takes the wheel. The whole purpose of childhood, in fact, is to develop ego strength...to learn to fail and get back up again...to stretch toward personal responsibility and agency. The ego, in a sense, sets us up to have the courage to dive inward. What I am getting at is that Jesus isn’t a set of beliefs, rather he is a set of behaviors. More than anything, he taught us the radical way of transforming consciousness. Cynthia Bourgeault frames it this way: “What does it mean to die before you die? How do you go about losing your life to find the bigger one? Is it possible to live on this planet with a generosity, abundance, fearlessness, and beauty that mirror Divine Being itself?” I think of the quote Bill read by Sarah Grant: “It isn’t The Way because Jesus walked it; Jesus walked it because it is The Way.” This Way is available to us no matter what we believe about Jesus, but his life was a dang good example of it.

Jesus is a wisdom teacher and his way demands that we change from the inside out. He is a shining star and an excellent example of living in love and connection with all that is. We have to die to the very same ego we spent so much time cultivating in childhood in order to discover our truest, most beautiful self. One cannot exist without the other. It’s not about orienting ourselves in the right direction toward a checklist of doctrinal beliefs, but about transforming our way of moving in the world. For me the question I most often ask is How shall I live? And is the way I live upholding the integrity of myself, others, and this planet? I know I’ve still got work to do, and Jesus is not going to take the wheel. At times it would certainly be nice, but it’s up to me to continually become a better driver. Maybe I’ll at least start keeping a Jesus on the dashboard so as not to lose my way.

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Miracles & Meaning | by Holly Hudley

I come today chewing on more questions than answers. I participated in a miracle the other day - a story I’ll tell this Sunday. And as we know Bill has spent some time inviting us to believe that miracles occur everyday. They are all around us. That a butterfly bursts from a cocoon, that the dust of a star creates life, that you and I are here at all amidst so much chaos. Depending on how you define “miracle” its opposite could be God’s wrath or something perfectly ordinary and natural.

In an interview between Krista Tippet and Walter Brueggemann, he says, “When something goes our way, we call it a miracle. When it doesn’t we call it a disastrous disruption.”

I am positive that in some parallel reality, there was another person who experienced the circumstances of my miracle as a disaster. So the questions arise. Can something perfectly ordinary also be miraculous? Am I any more special than anyone else because things went my way that day? {That’s an obvious NO to me, but I can see how some are drawn to believing the opposite to be true.} If we presume God to be active in shaping a miracle, is God also active in shaping a disaster? If I believe God to be all things, the simple but rather difficult answer to swallow is “yes.” And inside of that “yes” is still the problem of limiting our imagination about God as personified. Aristotle referred to God as “the first mover,” an adaptation of which coursed throughout the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and even Karl Marx. His influence is deep. Aristotle’s metaphysical ideas were rooted in the cosmological speculations of early Greek philosophers. These guys took on the age old questions of “Where do we come from? What is our purpose?” Aristotle is often credited with merging scientific reasoning with theological wondering.

The “first mover” moves all things but itself remains unmoved by any prior action. It is perfectly beautiful, indivisible, and contemplates only the perfect contemplation: itself contemplating. {Remember that line about “we are the universe becoming conscious of itself?” It fits here somewhere.} Aristotle wrote, “It is clear then that there is neither place, nor void, nor time outside the heaven. Hence whatever is there, is of such a nature as not to occupy any place, nor does time age it; nor is there any change in any of the things which lie beyond the outermost motion; they continue through their entire duration unalterable and unmodified, living the best and most self sufficient of lives...From [the fulfillment of the whole heaven] derive the being and life which other things, some more or less articulately but others feebly, enjoy.”

Take that and chew on it for a bit. I am left with this: I guess God is kind of huge? Also: the heavens are undefinable, and we are forms that take shape in this realm, forms that have the capacity to emulate the “unmoved mover” in our ability to live an enlarged life.

Does this first unmoved mover shape and interact with our lives? It is said that we live and move and have our being in God; that we are God-created. The larger I envision God, the more shapeless and infinite, the more this actually becomes concrete to me, as miraculous a concept as it is. That God is shapeless but also contained in forms (us for example), that God is infinitesimal and infinite, that God is not you but not other than you....these are nondual ideas, the only ones both complex and simple enough to contain the possibility of God.

The thing is that we are part of this hugeness though we are tiny. God is in both. Miracles are both tiny and huge. God (or the cosmos, as I am prone to calling it) is a container that leans toward expansion and creation. It is also chaotic and destructive. This is just the way it is, and nothing we do or believe changes that fact, but everything we do matters. I just got off the phone with Bill, and of course he gave me a little nugget of wisdom: We humans are meaning makers. We bring and give meaning to the events of our lives and the essential question is really, “Does this enlarge me or reduce me?” And I would add, “Do my actions/beliefs enlarge others or reduce others?”

Drawing by Richard Wingfield  

Drawing by Richard Wingfield 

Synchronicities | by Holly Hudley

I had a quick, sweet, love-filled conversation with my beautiful friend Brooke in which she shared her revelation about Jesus and Christmas and symbols of birth.

I read an article by my brilliant professor, Jacob Sherman, who wrote:

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(Think I liked that one much? Hearts and arrows abound. I instantly shared with Brooke!)

I am writing research papers on hope & kinship while at the same time searching the dregs of my own being for what those mean to me, not just to scholars. I come across these words: “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world” (Matthew 5:14, MSG).  The GOD-COLORS!!! I love that.

I cannot think of a better metaphor for the birth of the Christ in the form of Jesus than for us to birth the GOD-COLORS within us. Also. I learned a new word: haeccity. It means “thisness” which in turn means “the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing that make it a particular thing.” What is your thisness?

THEN I had a funny conversation with Bill in which we wondered allowed why words mean certain things and create certain pictures in our minds, and I thought he said something he did not say which gave it an entirely other meaning. I laughed so hard I snorted over the phone. Me snorting has nothing to do with anything except to say that Bill is funny. And I think he wears his God-colors, and they are beautiful.

Sometimes entanglement is hilarious. 

Co-Evolution | by Holly Hudley

Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, “God is dead.” He rocked the theological and philosophical world of his time. I don’t know if this is what he meant, but the way I have come to interpret the death of God is that the anthropomorphic, human centered, magically intervening God that must be appeased is (and should be) dead. Nietzsche came out of a time where reason triumphed and human invention exploded. Though inflammatory and often taken as such, Nietzsche himself was not a nihilist. An atheist, yes, but no nihilist. He had great faith in human reason and implored the necessity of personal responsibility. The God he proclaimed dead is, frankly, a God I also do no believe in. I wonder if Nietzsche inadvertently called for a new way to believe in reality. The God of reality - the cosmos, the gravitational pull between all things, the relational nature of, well, nature - is as alive as you and me. This relationship between all things exists whether we choose to participate in it or not, whether we believe in it or not.

Bill spoke into this yesterday: We are the universe becoming conscious of itself. We are evolution from the ground up. Everything that ever was is in us, from stardust to the dinosaurs to Mozart. We are stardust in human form. And the amazing thing is our evolution is not static. We are in an ever expanding loop with all of creation. The question is how will we choose to participate? With active hope or as passive bystanders?

For more than 35 million years, elephants have evolved and adapted to a changing earth. To put it into context, our first human ancestors appeared only 5-7 million years ago. Today, scientists observe that about one third of African elephants never grow tusks as an adaptation to avoid poaching. This is their protest to a civil war, a consumerist war not of their making. It is, perhaps, their silent plea to humans to evolve past senseless violence. They are harbingers for our survival and theirs. This dance, where predator and prey must respond and adapt to one another, is called co-evolution. It can be life giving, mutually enhancing, and it can also be destructive.

As Nature continues to adapt to us, her breath grows ever wearier. We’ve got to get it out of our heads that nature is here for us to consume.  We are but part of nature, another step in the universe’s grand project of evolving consciousness. Paul Simon, outstanding lyricist and songwriter, wrote:

Too many people on the bus from the airport

Too many holes in the crust of the earth

The planet groans

Every time it registers another birth...

Never been lonely

Never been lied to

Never had to scuffle in fear

Nothing denied to

Born at the instant

The church bells chime

And the whole world whispering

Born at the right time”

Every single one of us was, I believe, born at the right time. That we are here at all is both a miracle and exactly as it ought to be. How are you, in your own small and unique way, meant to co-evolve in consciousness?

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An allegorical painting by Holly Hudley

Braiding Skywoman, Eve, Our Stories | by Brooke Summers-Perry

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Sometimes text conjures an image. Sometimes an image inspires a story... this morning Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass puts words to my digital collage that celebrates my Irish and Oneida Earth mothers.

"And then they met- the offspring of Skywoman and the children of Eve- and the land around us bears the scars of that meeting, the echoes of our stories. They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and I can only imagine the conversation between Eve and Skywoman: "Sister, you got the short end of the stick..."

I take this as a challenge to find a way for my time here to be a time of love, healing, and the curiosity it takes to be creative. To learn from the past, be fully present to what is, to bring light to what can be in the future.

Grace in, Peace out, 

Brooke