Pōwehi | by Holly Hudley

Pōwehi: Hawaiian for “the adorned fathomless dark creation” or “embellished dark source of unending creation.” Originates from the Kumulipo, an 18th century creation chant.

This is the name a Hawaiian Language Professor gave the Black Hole in the M87 galaxy nearly 54 million light-years from Earth.

54 million light years away. What we are seeing existed 54 million years ago and it just reached our line of sight!

According to our construct of time on this planet Pōwehi most likely no longer exists in the form in which it was revealed to us. 54 million light years from now another telescope will see what it has become, what the fathomless void will create. All that we currently know about black holes is our best guess based on the movement of matter and gravity near the event horizon. 

 The human capacity for shared language, to create symbols that exist outside of our minds might be able to lend clues to future beings about what we currently know so that they have a point of comparison. Maybe the black hole at the center of the Milky Way created Pōwehi. Maybe it is our descendant. After all one theory is that black holes contribute to the creation of new galaxies. Evolving revelation takes time; sometimes upwards of 54million years. 

I’ve been reading a lot of scripture lately — comparing Hindu texts to Buddhist and Christian, specifically the gospels. (Blasphemy warning!) Sometimes I wonder how much relevance a couple two thousand year old prophets like Jesus or Buddha have today. And then I see Pōwehi 54 million light years away. It feels revelatory. What did it swallow, churn and spew forth from its center? We’ve got years to go before we fully grasp the layers of meaning in sacred texts just as we don’t yet understand the inner workings of black holes. This forward-backward-entangled concept of time is awesome and overwhelming. So exactly what do the prophets have to teach us?

From Zen Buddhism | “The Coincidence of Opposites”

In the very midst of light, there's darkness;
    don't meet another in the darkness.
In the very midst of darkness, there's light;
    don't observe another in the light. 
Light and darkness complement each other,
    like stepping forward and stepping back.

From The Message | John 1:8-9

He was there to show the way to the Light.
    The Life-Light was the real thing:
Every person entering Life
    He brings into LIGHT. 

We are all dark. We are all light. Both are in our midst. Jesus, Buddha, Pōwehi…they all show us the light within that emits from the dark source of unending creation. What happens “out there” in the cosmos happens within. Maybe that is the message of the prophets: We are not actually separate! We are part of this incredible light-dark, forward-backward unfolding! Don’t waste a moment! Be the Life-Light!

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Black Holes & God’s Eyes | by Holly Hudley

With the first ever photo of a black hole, I can’t help but think of this as a new kind of revelation, a literal halo of light in our path of emerging cosmic consciousness.

Let me pause. I’m aware that any time I use a phrase like “cosmic consciousness” there might be a kind of new agey feel to it. We might want to dismiss it too quickly, dress it with crystals and tie dye. Thus is the limitation of language and cultural applications of it. I also wonder if it makes us uneasy because it is true, it is happening, and we are in the very midst of new reaches in quantum theory and space-time relativity. We are wrestling, in a sense, with the hugeness of a discovery and the smallness of our beings. I bet Jesus made people uneasy too. And Einstein chewed on expansion for a decade. But casting new age concerns aside, I invite you to step into the etymology:

cos·mos (n): from the Greek kosmos  (1) the universe seen as a well ordered whole

con·scious (n): from the Latin conscius (1) knowing with others or in oneself

We are in the process of knowing the universe together as a well ordered whole. What an invitation. This is a universe that contains US, every single one of us. As we deepen our understanding of it, we deepen our understanding of ourselves. The image produced was a collective endeavor with over 200 scientists working on it world wide. This community of brilliant folks has elevated us into a new way of seeing. Before them, black holes were conceived of in the early 1900’s, so this image is a continuation of a thought exercise that began a century ago. I want to celebrate for a moment that so many women were part of this team. In a field dominated by the lone male genius archetype, the notable contribution of women is not insignificant!

Scientists are very careful about what they put out there for public consumption. Although their inquiry starts with a question, a sense of wonder, they chase the wonder until it solidifies into something beyond speculation. If you believe what you see, the historical picture we’ve been privy to, leaves no room for doubt in the existence of black holes. Because of the internet, more than half of the global population has access to the image captured by powerful telescopes. And because word of mouth still travels to the far reaches of the earth, even more of us will know by year end. Someone please be sure to tell the shaman in the outer reaches of Mongolia, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he nods sagely and says, “I already know.”

Based on the movement of matter near perceived black holes, scientists postulate that while they consume stars that drift too near, they also eject material that creates new stars, possibly flinging them out of their home galaxy. It’s like some giant watermelon seed spitting contest conspiring to create new galaxies and star clusters. Let’s look at the black hole in metaphor. One person said to me, “It looks like the eye of God staring back at us.” In some sense it is. Remember, “The eye with which I see God, is the same eye with which God sees me.” I thought it looked like an evil eye, the very same amulet of which wards off its shadowy powers. The antidote is in the poison, the healing contained in the depths. It is of course silly to apply emotions or evil intent to a cosmic phenomenon, but in this way the metaphor of language adds beauty. It is also a lightless maw surrounded by a luminous ring of light. We don’t know what happens when we get too close to the event horizon of that blackness. I’m not suggesting we volunteer ourselves to see if it’s true if matter gets stretched and spewed into oblivion, but I am suggesting that the black hole represents the unknown, the shadowy edges of our unconscious. But here’s the good news. There is a fiery light around it. Light cannot exist in the depths of the hole, but it has the capacity to create new stars, new light, new insights and understandings. This very same process happens within. Our shadow is part of who we are, and if we accept the invitation to look inside, to investigate how it operates in our lives, it might well teach us how to transform and illuminate the fiery edges. We might get stretched in new and painful ways, yes, but we might also discover that from the centers of our beings we have the capacity to generate clusters of the brightest light. After all, the same eye with which I see the see the dark, is the same eye with which I perceive the light.

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A poem | by Holly Hudley

I saw

a fern quivering

close to the

black, black ground.

I saw the

small

leaf covered

mound

begin to move.

Pushing

the blanket

of sodden leaves

up

as if

breathing

as if

cracking open

as if

getting born

or lumbering awake.

I could not help myself.

I prodded it

with a lichen covered stick

ever so gently

to see if it had eyes with which to see me.

The mound stopped

pushing.

I watched.

It waited.

I walked

On.

Which does not mean

the earth mound

moved

or not

according to my bidding.

This perhaps is our elusive human flaw.

Our fallacy of misplaced grandeur

that deludes ourselves

into believing

we can force the earth to move.

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Seeing & Unseeing | by Holly Hudley

This morning my sons asked Alexa to play a rap song called “Let it Lie” by Common. (Side note: Common is almost as handsome as my husband. It’s true. He’s my second choice.) The song is from the movie Smallfoot, about a Yeti named Migo who discovers a human being - something his community wanted the youth to believe did not exist except in legend. Only the leader, the Stonekeeper, presumably knows the goings on of the humans and worked hard to keep the myths “etched in stone.” If any Yeti discovers the truth about them, they risk banishment from their tribe. The movie is essentially about questioning authority, the things that “have always been done this way.” My kids were giggling as they recounted the Yeti’s belief that the sun rises due to ringing a gong with one’s head, and the sun itself is a giant glowing snail that travels across the sky. Like indigenous myths about the Cosmic Turtle, they believe their mountains sit on the backs of wooly mammoths with who knows what beneath them. Another flat plane of land? Listening to the lyrics I was particularly struck by these, which flow like a dialogue between Migo and the Stonekeeper:

[Stonekeeper] The only thing stronger than fear is curiosity

(Now you know, now you know, now you know)

[Migo] Wait so, so none of those stones are true, they’re all lies?

(Now you know, now you know, let it lie)

[Stonekeeper] Good lies to protect our world

(Now you know, now you know, now you know)

[Migo] But they need to know the truth…

This last line fosters a kind of rant from the Stonekeeper about how important it is to protect the flow of information to prevent the Yeti’s annihilation. The magnificent brazenness of youth, of course, does not accept this answer. My parents will tell you that while I did not outright break rules or laws as a kid, I was stubborn and went my own way often. Phil, my dad, kind of chuckles at this now. I’d like to think he’s secretly proud of passing that trait down to me. With an award I received once, my boss presented it to me with the words, “Holly does not accept the answer ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” I got an award, so again, I’d like to think this can be a valuable trait! 

Anyhow, what I’ve recently been contemplating is how we see. It might be worthier to contemplate what we need to UNsee. 

I find myths beautiful and poetic illustrations of humans trying to grope at our origins and meaning. Maybe the universe will reveal things to us in the future that render our current understanding of the Big Bang “mythical.” This, I think, is exactly why we need to keep evolving how we see - to dive deeper into mystery, which to me, renders our lives that much more exquisite. 

In philosophy and religion there is an eons long conversation about what emerged first: God or creation. Was there a mind-like spirit at work in order for things to be? Or did that spirit co-evolve as everything else did? It is hard to look at the elegant patterning of a butterfly and not see artistry and intention. How creatures have evolved in their particular unique ways is puzzling to behold. It is mystical to experience all that is as one with the breath of God. Certainly Buddhist notions of interbeing point at that oneness, though there is no personal god in Buddhism - there is only consciousness unfolding and evolving. (If you are curious, look up the differences between Monism, Theism, Pantheism, and Panentheism. If we are not atheist, most of us fall into one of those categories of belief.) I don’t know if it’s important to me to be certain of the “truth” about God, but as my sight evolves, I can’t unsee the interconnectedness of all that is. Humans are not made of special human elements. We are made of the same stuff as mountains, bugs, and elephants. We only possess different forms, and not insignificant, we possess symbolic consciousness - a way to understand and represent this interconnectedness on a grand scale. To my knowledge, a mountain cannot paint itself, but its majesty can reveal itself through us as we try to paint it. I think this is the new story we need, one that points at universal interbeing and evolution but has tolerance for the creative use of myths and ritual to illustrate and embody it. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “When we free ourselves from signs, we can enter the heart of reality. But until we can see the ocean in the sky, we are still caught by signs.” Curiosity is indeed stronger than fear, so which will we choose to guide us?

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im·ag·i·na·tion | by Holly Hudley

im·ag·i·na·tion

/iˌmajəˈnāSH(ə)n/

noun: imagination; plural noun: imaginations

  1. the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.


I’ve become fascinated by the eyeball. It is perhaps one of the greatest miracles and mysteries of biology. Scientists think it is quite possible the human eye developed from light sensitive cells in the brain. Light sensitive cells. Of course biologist are talking about actual light provided by photons from our sun, but let’s enter into the world of metaphor for a sec. We are sensitive to the light and in fact seek it out. If we were cats we could make out forms in the dark, but as it is we need the light to to grope our way forward - internally and externally. There are of course multiple ways of seeing. Those who are blind can form the shape of something in the mirror of their minds by touch, by description. So it is really our imagination which helps us SEE.

I’ve participated in projectCURATE for some time, whose aim is “imagining, striving for, and living in a better world wherein justice, mercy, humility, and love are not just aspirations, but assumptions.”  Imagine that. Walking together in a world where your freedom to be exactly as you are is assumed, not granted, permitted, or merely tolerated. I keep going back to this analogy: we don’t judge an elephant for doing elephant. But when we see a human not doing human the way we think they should, lord help us.

Last Saturday when we were groping around about the way forward in achieving racial justice, I expressed anxiety about not knowing what to DO. What concrete steps can we take to shift into the light? One of the leaders of Curate, Secunda Joseph, answered by pointing to the importance of imagining and intuiting. This too is part of doing, for if we can’t imagine it, we can’t become it. She talked about those small things we shift when we start by looking within and asking ourselves, “What else could be possible here?”

Imagine how those light sensitive cells catch fire when we step into and trust the possibility for a more beautiful world we want to create. This is where infinity meets possibility, for I am certain that our imaginations provide access to the limitless edges of the universe where anything is doable.

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Shoaling | by Holly Hudley

Last week we took a trip to Akumal, Mexico, a little beach town set against a small barrier reef called Half Moon Bay. The turquoise water is clear to the bottom, appearing darker in places where coral is closer to the surface. We only needed to walk about 20 yards outside of our condo to snorkel in these mostly gentle waters. I’ve been a water lover all my life and apparently threw myself into my uncle’s pool at two years old. I’m not sure if its my Piscean nature or a longing to be held by something like a womb. Under water I hear only the in and out of my breath, see the glinting light of the sun, and feel rocked swimming in time with the waves. I liken it to feeling like a bird coasting over the land or another planet all together. Tiny plants grow on the ocean floor like trees, craters pock the ocean floor, urchins poke out between the rocks, and tiny to large fish dart about. It is the closest thing to absolute peace I can find.

Swimming among the reef I felt as if I were of the ocean. I saw the fish - bright blue, yellow striped, black spotted - with the same eyes as they saw me. Literally human eyeballs evolved out of the fish eye. Both are water based, better at drawing in light in the red range than the ultraviolet range. The fish are our ancestors. As I bobbed in the water, I watched an aggregate of fish band together upon seeing me, likely perceiving me as predator. Each one of the fish was about the size of my two hands, but when they joined together they became one large body and moved as such. The sun glinted off their scales as they darted and shifted in unison, trying to fool me into believing they were much larger. This behavior is called shoaling, where the larger fish form the outer layer, guiding the motion of the others. It is both social and protective.

I hovered, breathing in...out...in...out, just watching. And it occurred to me that we might be able to learn something else from the fish besides how to see. From them we can learn how to band together to protect the least of these, the most vulnerable, those who are underrepresented. We can learn how to stick together when a few loud voices or giant bobbing humans try to drive us apart. I don’t know that fish feel love, but their instinct for protecting each other is strong. Underwater, I thought of the crisis the Methodist church has created in pushing away our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters, and I wondered what could happen if lay folks band together like that? We are stronger as one, stronger together. With hundreds of fish swimming in unison, unable to distinguish the movement of one from the movement of all, there was unity in multiplicity.

I am not naive enough to think that if I had been a hungry shark I wouldn’t have eaten at least some of the fish, but I am not the shark who feasts with the the same instinct as the smaller fish protect one other. I am human - a species who has the capacity to form compassion and consciousness, something fish presumably do not. In this case I wonder what our hearts and minds can do together if if we are willing to see each other with the same eyes as we want to be seen? The venerable Thich Nhat Hanh writes that individual consciousness is made of the collective consciousness and the collective consciousness is made of individual consciousness. The two are not separate, and if we can see with such a mind for the whole, the entire cosmos will reveal itself to us. With that kind of sight we can change the world.

These street signs dot the road between Tulum and Cancun. “Stay Present”  

These street signs dot the road between Tulum and Cancun. “Stay Present” 

UNUS | by holly hudley

Yesterday, like many of you, I came to Ordinary Life to hear Bill’s prophetic, loving voice following the not so loving decision of the United Methodist Church to uphold its ban on gay clergy and same sex marriages. It took it one step further to institute harsher punishments should those bans be violated. Like many of you I was wondering what United can mean in the midst of a deep philosophical divide. Is it necessary, as poet & playwright Claudia Rankine put it, to stay in this car together?

I sat next to someone I am newly acquainted with, a beautiful, tender man who is married to a man. A man who has felt welcome in Ordinary Life in part, I imagine, because of Bill’s openness about his stance of full inclusion. We both got there late and slid into the back row. At different points we got teary, we grasped hands, we spoke aloud, “What do we do now?” Do we stay in a church body whose broader stance closed and locked a door, or do we go? My husband, a black man, said he’d have to consider heavily whether to continue supporting an institution who is essentially cloaking racism in a different form. Keeping homosexuals from fully belonging is exactly like the laws that once had whites and blacks drinking from different fountains, using different bathrooms, sleeping in different beds in separate homes.

On the one hand, no one, not a soul - neither your mother, your father, nor your granny; neither the laws nor even religion - needs to give you permission to be exactly who you are. You are not an accident or an abomination. You are an expression of the stars becoming beautifully, wonderfully human. You are that whether an institution closes its doors on you or not. Trust nature, trust how it has unfolded to make YOU.

On the other hand, the desire to belong to a loving community is real. The longing for the whole body of humanity to catch up to nature’s way is deep. The pain of having to raise a fist, a flag, a voice again and again is exhausting. When we push something into the darkness it is a form of denial, a form of lying to ourselves about what is. The global UMC has done exactly that. It is in denial of nature. It would be easy for me, a white, heterosexual woman, to continue on as if nothing has changed. After all no element of this decision affects me personally, right?


Wrong.


I firmly believe that someone else’s suffering or exclusion does impact me. We are individual bodies that live together on a singular planet in a singular galaxy. Like the interior of our own bodies we need the heart, lungs, blood, and bones - all separate by definition - to work in unison to keep us fully alive. Remember, “Thou canst not stir a flower without the troubling of a star.” We are in this together no matter how hard we try to tuck away that which we do not understand. A video I love reveals what happened in Yellowstone when the wolves were removed. The entire ecosystem changed - rivers flooded, birds left, deer overpopulated, grasses were barren - just because of the missing the wolf. The lesson here? It all belongs. We all belong. If we opt to exclude any one of us, our lives are only a half life, myopic and apathetic.

Bill said we can build walls or we can build tables. It’s hard to sit at the table with someone who has hurt us, with someone we don’t understand or agree with. A dinner party is so much more fun when we laugh and agree and affirm. But maybe right now it’s not about fun. Maybe right now it’s about grief, sitting in silence together, not rushing into empty optimism with “oh it will all be fine!” platitudes. Grief gives way to hope. Hope is an arm, a hand extended in the dark reaching into the unknown, but reaching nevertheless.

The root of united is unus, Latin for one. It is the concept of an underlying unified reality from which everything emerges and to which everything returns. However hard we fight against it, we are already one. I hope we can reach into the darkness as such. 

Just Love | by Holly Hudley

“Love and justice are not two. Without inner change, there can be no outer change; without collective change, no change matters." ~angel Kyodo Williams, 2018

 

“Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.” ~MLK Jr., 1960


“Love spontaneously gives itself in endless gifts. But those gifts lose their fullest significance if through them we do not reach that love, which is the giver.” ~Bhagavad Gita, circa 400 BC


I’m in the mental process of stringing together texts that span the course of 2500 years.  First I am in awe of the idea that mystics, poets, seers, and prophets often know something before it is KNOWN. I’m speaking of a kind of interior knowing, one that often may not have data or theorems to back it up at the time but alights again and again along the arc of human existence. Second, such teachings are as relevant 2500 years ago as they are today, as evidenced by the quotes above.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna’s prodigy, Arjuna watches - heartbroken - as a fierce battle unfolds before him. It plays out on the land between families and friends, and he does not know where to step in. I imagine Krishna, god of love, tenderness, and compassion placing one of his four, blue-black hands on Arjuna’s shoulder, saying almost sympathetically, “Oh dear one...the real battle is within. Look there first.” Well shoot, Krishna, why you gotta make it so hard!? Nevertheless Arjuna enters the path of interiority and learns that unbridled devotion to Krishna without “right action” is no love at all. He must learn to act on behalf of this love. Krishna is not neutral on this, claiming to be born from age to age whenever unrighteousness is out of balance with righteousness. The etymology of righteous comes from the Old English riht (just) + wis (wise, way) = the just way. Jesus walked this Way too. Let’s suppose for a minute that Krishna is an avatar, one that can appear in different forms whenever human kind needs a little nudge toward love. His voice is echoed throughout history. A single page does not allow near enough room to note the number of times we’ve needed such nudging! But alas, the universe is patient. Note the 14 billion year epoch of unfolding, and she is not yet finished!

We are given another drop of wisdom in the form of Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolence is a form of justice, the peaceful means of bringing about change. It is the ultimate act of love, one that I surmise cannot be genuinely expressed until the love within mirrors the love without. Much of our current extrapolation of MLK’s message is focused only on the interracial holding of hands in an illustration of his Dream. He did not, however, mince words when it came to the path necessary to be able to emerge hand in hand. He demanded our attention to imbalances between blacks and whites when it came to economics, schooling, laws, resources, and social standing. No, like Jesus, he was not murdered because he asked us to hold hands with one another. He was murdered because he asked us to take a hard look at how we were loving one another, and the powers that be did not like being shaken up in such a way.

Still, 60 years later, Zen Master angel Kyodo Williams urges us to examine the inseparable knot between love and justice. If I am told I am loved with hardened eyes or by the slick mouth of an abuser, my notions of love are disoriented and disrupted. This kind of love is greedy, harmful...left wanting. Yet hundreds of thousands of children are told daily as the hand comes down upon them, “I only do this because I love you.” If I say I want racial harmony but do not work on behalf of full equity, my words mean little. You can see how love devoid of justice, synonymous with righteous or the just way, can feel flimsy. It’s the hardest, easiest thing, Love, because it requires really looking with an eye toward wisdom. To truly love ourselves is to love others fully; to love One is to love All. For “As above, so below; as within, so without” pertains to the notion that the outside world is a reflection of our inner world. So folks, let us listen to the avatars of wisdom and bend toward Just Love.

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. ~Meister Eckhart  

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. ~Meister Eckhart 

Shine Like the Sun | by Holly Hudley

The universe is a singularity. A single, unfolding event made of billions of unique singularities. This is not unlike what is true in our bodies. Trillions of cells in our bodies make up organs, tissues, skeletal systems, all of these different parts working as one. That’s an awesome thought: our bodies inherently know how to make one out of many. It works the other way too: our bodies grew from a single cell, made many out of one. The origins of the universe are such as well - a single moment provided the potential for all of this.

What does it take to be who you are? Fully one with with multiplicity of your human-ness?

Poet David Whyte posited that we are the only species who resists being ourselves. No other creature fights its nature nor has to think about what it means to be an elephant, a hummingbird, a tree. It just is. What is at the core of our resistance to be ourselves? Fear? Self consciousness? In the ancient text of The Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells Arjuna, “Ignorance is destroyed by knowledge of the Self within. The light of this knowledge shines like the sun...Those who possess this wisdom have equal regard for all. They see the same Self in a spiritual aspirant and an outcaste, in an elephant, a cow, and a dog.” So once we really start acting like ourselves, we are no different than a cow acting like a cow, a dog like a dog...you get the idea. And then our inner being shines like the sun whose gravitational pull slings the planets around in perfect elliptical formation. It is the energy and life giver of our entire solar system. The Self shines like the sun, leaving light and love in its wake. Perhaps this is what the Buddha meant when he claimed flowers sprang up everywhere he walked - his inner light gave them life. The very same sun that made the Buddha and Jesus made you possible too. Imagine what can grow where you walk. 

Essentially, every single one of us receives this beautiful, heart wrenching invitation to unbecome who we think we are in order to become who we really are. Our essence lies in recognizing we are part of - not separate from - this great web of life. We would never get a dog hoping it would turn into a horse. We get a dog because we want a dog. Perhaps our dogs are waiting for us to become fully human.

 

I’ll close with a poem by David Whyte, The Bell and The Blackbird

The sound of a bell
Still reverberating,
or a blackbird calling
from a corner of the field,
asking you to wake
into this life,
or inviting you deeper
into the one that waits.

Either way
takes courage,
either way wants you
to be nothing
but that self that
is no self at all,
wants you to walk
to the place
where you find
you already know
how to give
every last thing
away.

The approach
that is also
the meeting
itself,
without any
meeting
at all.

That radiance
you have always
carried with you
as you walk
both alone
and completely
accompanied
in friendship
by every corner
of the world
crying

Allelujah.

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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.