I do not know, I know


DSC_0020My brain and heart are being stretched as I listen to conversations around me. Social media, dinner table, coffee shops, gatherings, it appears we are attempting to land something, to nail it down, agree on revised societal ground rules for a new way forward that rights all the wrongs of the past.

Disclosures are bringing dark to light, gutsy public unearthing of stories hidden for years. Courage is on the upswing. A groundswell of activists for social justice is rising, challenging, demanding change. Finally there will be a balancing of the scales, equality for everyone, banishment of archaic ways of thinking and engaging in the world. Everyone will find their place. Happiness will come to all of us. Suicide rates will drop. Inclusivity and peace will rein.

I wonder…

In this desire to right the wrongs are we growing closer together or further apart? Are we trading one brand of exclusivity for another? Are we attempting to erase our own history and all that it represents? What if all questions cannot be answered, and all needs cannot be met, and agreement is impossible?

Because what I’m wondering is, as one group rises up, does another fall, and not to a position of equity, but an overcompensating tilt downward? As one voice speaks, is the other silenced? I am not saying we shouldn’t ask, even demand, certain things at certain times. I’m not saying the way things are are good enough, and we should accept status quo. No. But how do we approach these issues of justice and equality in a world as complex as ours?

I’ve witnessed online interactions within animal rights forums where passion and love for voiceless beings morphs into murderous hate toward any perpetrator of ill will or action towards animals. I’m equally horrified by the crimes and the suggested punishments. Trolling? Maybe? What we do with our anger matters, doesn’t it?

So I’m wondering if rich white maleness is identified as a pervasive evil, what happens to them, what will we do with them? If all corporations are bad, greedy, and run by RWM, who will supply our beloved stuff? If all media lies, who will be the purveyor of truth? If all developers are tree butchers, land grabbers, with no social conscience, where will we all live? If money is evil, how much shall we each be allowed to have and remain righteous? If academic institutions preclude certain world views and topics, what of freedom of speech, and where will higher thinking take place?

I am concerned as I do not see gracious mutuality within complexity, but hints of new ways to qualify, label and ultimately destroy that which does not conform. Doing bad things to an identified oppressor and calling it good, does not make it so. Does it? These are incredibly complex issues, aren’t they?

I also find a wide gulf between the hurt feelings of today’s students on N. American university campuses, and, for example, the students who protested in 1989 in Tiananmen Square. Don’t think me insensitive, rather I’m truly asking what are we becoming? Was I being honest or wise with my kids when I told them how extraordinary they were at art, music, sports, everything! Were they truly? What about “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Have we lost our perspective as we gain emotional intelligence? Is it actually possible to keep all the difficult, dark and hurtful things at bay if we legislate it to be so?

Remember Finding Nemo, the scene with the seagulls crying mine mine mine? I have to wonder if personhood and my right to feel safe, heard, understood, accepted, desired, intelligent, capable, right, could be a taste of me me me? While a healthy self image is a good thing, where it tends to go off the rails is when I discount anyone who thinks differently, anyone who has the audacity to hurt my feelings or reject what I have to offer. Where did I ever get the idea that I can customize my world like a playlist on Spotify?

I know I’m not the only one asking. Still I’m asking. I do not know the answers, and the questions continue to rise up.

Academics and intellectuals are providing healthy discourse for consideration at great cost to them (see articles below), while I simply try to articulate my sense that there are mysteries that may not have answers. Fr. Richard Rohr describes a non-dual world view, both/and rather than right/wrong. Rohr holds out that the way to peace is through acceptance, love, and non-dualistic ways of engaging in life. Rohr says unless you come to terms with dualism, you will just process any new ideas with your old operating system:

“The dualistic mind is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, smart/stupid, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. Dualistic thinking works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or the immense subtlety of actual personal experience. Most of us settle for quick and easy answers instead of any deep perception, which we leave to poets, philosophers, and prophets.”
Richard Rohr, The Dualistic Mind

More and more I’m seeing the both/and woven into my life, but it is not easy to understand, and not easy to not know the one right answer. I push back against updating my old operating system. It is not easy to not strive for rightness. But I think it may be more true.

“Then how can I know which is the right one?” Aye, there’s the rub. We can’t. But one thing I’m learning is that I do not always have to be right. Or maybe we can look at two different interpretations of a story and understand that they are both right.”
Madeleine L’Engle, The Rock that is Higher

And so I have to wonder if the core desire to deconstruct old ways with hopes of establishing a new order is an old, binary, dualistic approach? Might we again be at risk of recreating the issues of prejudice and exclusivity, only with new people groups? Is there actually, really, only one way? I wonder if there is a new way that is truly new?

Consider what I see may be the both/and in;

freedom of speech and the offence culture

scientific fact and mysticism

perfection and grace

art/beauty created by monsters

art/beauty created out of atrocity

public safety and personal freedom

true love and speaking the truth in love

the common good and the evil that is common

reconciliation and forgiveness

the power of silence

Articles I’ve had the privilege to read of late, and for your consideration;

https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/12/06/the-warlock-hunt/

http://nationalpost.com/opinion/lindsay-shepherd-wlus-interrogation-revealed-how-university-has-lost-sight-of-its-key-purpose

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/11/20/art-monstrous-men/

How I Learned to be Afraid of Men

https://www.ravenfoundation.org/montessori-remedy-plague-sexual-harassment/

Videos and articles by https://jordanbpeterson.com

And another really, really great article which I cannot find at the moment…

 

 

Truth be, I do not know much. Yet I know something. I’m paying attention to the niggling feeling I have that we are not resolving complex issues in a way that will ultimately lead us to a better place, because the old operating system does not work. And I’m attempting to put my feelings into words as I watch and listen and ask and wonder.

For what it’s worth, these thoughts, and a poem,

Lesley-Anne

How Did We Get Here

When it becomes intolerable to hold a differing opinion and have the audacity to speak of it, if nothing other than a satiating of me-ness feeds my hunger. When I see your you-ness with the phantom of hate lurking in every word, when your tongue is tied and your pen is cramped in your atrophied hand. When your love conforms to a theology of diction, then we will no longer be safe, my friend. Safety is not sameness. I cannot promise to be a safe place, I can promise you I will need your grace at some point in this relationship, because I will not be safe. Save me from me. I don’t understand what you require of me?

Shall we trade in our luminousity, abandon the teeming sea of wild thought for the tepid waters of only that which we agree on? Is that safety? I do not believe compromise of either one of us is a foundation for true love. Love does not win here. We will be less than more. We will be less than our identity of beauty and uniqueness that we celebrate, can we celebrate instead of legislate to be? What will we talk about when we agree on everything? No need for speech seasoned with salty kindness, or wisdom that offers itself through experience of terror and of grace. No need for forgiveness, or patience, when we weigh every word count as watershed and cannot speak for fear of what will be misinterpreted.

How shall we speak? What shall we say of value or of truth and how will I know you and you know me if we only say what makes the other happy? With the dull roar of truth in our ears we will bite our tongues or swallow them while gagging on our inauthenticity, our lack of integrity, or please just brainwash me, so I no longer have to struggle with this issue of only saying what is acceptable or thinking a certain way, to fit in, to conform, to be uniform… borg… I will be assimilated… No!

No, I do not believe that will be my destiny, the end of my individuality! Just as the big bang is still heard in deep space, just as the universe continues to be formed, so too our thoughts, our words must rise up and escape our mouths, no matter the cost. What say you? What say me?

Lesley-Anne Evans, 2017

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Possible, probable, or mystery?


DSC_0184I received a letter today after receiving a phone message from a stranger. She told me that she had a letter addressed to me from an address I last lived at in 1999. The woman now owns and rents out the cute old house we used to live in, and the letter…the letter…

I went by her house today and picked up the letter. She told me beforehand that she had opened it, by mistake, was just busy and didn’t read the name before tearing into it. She apologized. The letter was taped closed.

I went back out to the car, looked at the airmail envelope and the value of the stamp and noticed no return address. I thought how it’s been some time since postage in Canada was 43 cents. I drove away, pulled into the parking lot at the grocery store, and opened the letter.

Two pages, typewritten, and hand signed. I read the words slowly. I read them again, noting the telltale signs of time of writing. “seeing photos of you and Bob and your wee lad” and “He has given you one of the greatest of all blessings, a dear wee son…” and further on “God bless you – all three”. We are “five” now and have been a family of five since 1996 when our second son was born.

Just now I google stamps in Canada 1996 and see…45 cents

And a little more digging around and I see the stamp…issued for 43 cents, December 30, 1992.

The letter is dated June 15, without a year noted. But our wee son was born in May, 1993, so it could be from June 1993, or a stamp saved and used in June 1994, or June 1995…because by June 1996, we were a family of four.

Could this letter have been in transit for 20 plus years? Is this even possible?

Could I have received the letter while still living at the old house and left it behind when we moved? I can’t recall having read it before, but sometimes I have trouble recalling my PIN! Probable, I suppose, but why would multiple owners of the old house, and multiple tenants save this letter over and over again rather than recycling it?

What am I to think? What does it mean?

An old family friend, a mentor all those years ago, the writer of the letter is long passed from my life and from this world. I wonder how many years he has been gone now? I text my brothers and ask them.

What is it he had to say over 2 decades ago that I am to pay attention to now?

And so I will sit with the letter, and ponder the question… what is it God, that you would have me see?

And at the same time, shivers that this is happening…and the memories of that time…the people…a reminder of someone good, kind, and gentle who took the time to write a letter.

This is just a wee note to renew acquaintances, for I so well remember you…

Sincerely, in Him,

Alan

A slight shift… just a little one…


DSC_0789Hi. Long time no write. Much has taken place and continues to find its place in my life. I am well at times. How are you?

I am grateful for the way God allows me time and space to come to my own inconclusive conclusions, mess through my own muck (self created and a product of my upbringing, culture, experience) and opportunity to humble myself and see things ever vaguely and/or becoming clearer in what they are.

I’ve been away. In Northern Ireland. In New York City. Away from “church” and searching for where I belong, what I need, what I can stand for and with, and who are my people and community and what is it that God would have me do. And more. I’ve become a bit of a nomad, but feeling the repeated pull of home. I believe I’m getting closer to the truth and the reason I’ve needed to wander. It’s as much a result of heart wrenching, certainty tossing, conviction lostness, as it is a result of conversations with wise ones whom I trust enough to open up my pandora’s box of troubled questions and invite them in.

I invite you in…

Here’s what I’m just beginning to discover, what is being unearthed in me;

1. I’m me, and God doesn’t make any mistakes. I’ve been wrestling with God and me, not loving who I am, but loving myself too much in other ways. There is paradox in the journey of faith and self-knowledge, like everything else. The struggles I’m having are because I’m me, and the way to shelter and peace will be specific to who I am and how God wired me. It takes time for me to sort these things out.

2. I’m prideful. I’ve just recognized I’ve been asking “Did God Really say?” (yes, same question the serpent threw in Adam and Eve’s face on the garden’s slippery slope) And whatever particular version of that I’ve entertained has been my somewhat slanted/deluded reason for separation from various people groups out of a sense of needing to protect other people groups. Proud Mary…that’s me. So…

Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned against you and against your people. Bring me back to what matters to you, something I can build my life on. Help me see the difference between the bricks and mortar that build a house, and the decorative elements that are lovely yet not necessary. Bring me back to basic design, Lord. Don’t grow weary of me.

3. I am super sensitive and easily influenced. When I open myself up to new opinions and I attempt to understand various points of view, sometimes those views meld with my own and I can no longer clearly see what I believe is true. There is paradox in this too, because I am a learner with a healthy dose of curiosity, yet I must create boundaries that are healthy for me. Just like I choose to not watch the 10 PM news before going off to bed, or click on the link to stories about animal abuse, I know in my core that I cannot carry certain information well and I must therefore put it aside for a time, or for always. This does not make me an ostrich, I know information is available to me should I require it in the future.

4. I will never find a place where I truly, entirely, belong outside of maybe my immediate family. Not my extended family, not my circle of friends, not my writing circles, not my church, not my neighbourhood, not my academic institution, not even my fav coffee shop. Unconditional love and acceptance does not exist here, on earth, and I will not argue the unconditional love of Father God for me, just to say I’ve heard he does and I am trying to learn how to believe that. My sense of community may instead come in the bits of experiences I have with a wide range of people over time. I must somehow carry my belonging in me. And yes, that ultimate belonging to God.

5. Life is hard. Life is lonely. Life is beautiful. Life is holy. All of these truths coexist. Life is paradox. God is a mystery. My inability to understand or explain or argue does not make it less so. Truth can be absolute. And one can live in the mystery of not having an answer and survive. What I thought I was looking for was a common language to speak, a inclusive way of living that is non toxic and  flourishing.

What I was maybe looking for was a place to be OK with myself and all the unanswered questions and doubts that I carry with me wherever I go. No place is going to tell me I’m OK all the time. No place is capable of answering all my questions. There will be trouble. The waters will be stirred up. There will be things said that I cannot abide. And that is OK, I think.

6. I am beginning to be OK with being adrift, but also feeling the need to look at what I know for sure, sure enough to trust. I sense the big chunk of fear is shrinking a tiny bit, the angst I’ve carried every single Sunday I wake up wanting/not wanting to go to church and then don’t/can’t go… I think it may begin to dissipate. I’m working through it. I just asked myself today, “What’s the very worst thing that can happen to me if I return to church?” No answer yet, still thinking.

7. I am not alone in my experiences. This is the human condition, to walk in faith and out of faith like Mother Theresa, C.S. Lewis and me. Faith and doubt coexist. To say otherwise is a lie.

8. There will be more shifting. As I continue to unpack and attempt to understand where I am and where I am going and what God has in mind in all of this messy loveliness, I will probably write it here. We shall see.

May all that we experience and all that we learn and all that we are, feed our lives like small morsels of bread cast onto uneven ground. May we learn to see God as the one who breaks off those little bits to help us find our way, and to sustain us.

Lesley-Anne