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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And they wrestled all night


My intention is to continue unpacking what I began yesterday, talk about it, bring it into the light, consider what it means, consider how being at this juncture is where I’m supposed to be.

Today I opened The Good Book, which led me to a commentary by Alexander MacLaren, and there I discovered his wonderful essay about Jacob wrestling with…a man…an angel…the divine presence…God!

Alexander Maclaren (February 11, 1826 – May 5, 1910) was an English non-conformist minister of Scottish origin. “Called the “prince of expositors,” Alexander MacLaren was a renowned preacher of the 19th and 20th century. [The published collection] Expositions of Holy Scripture brings together many of the sermons over his fifty years in ministry.”(https://www.ccel.org/ccel/maclaren)

Here are some highlights from MacLaren’s commentary on Genesis 32 :

So this failure of natural power is the turning-point in the twofold
wrestle, and marks as well as symbolises the transition in Jacob’s
life and character from reliance upon self and craft to reliance upon
his divine Antagonist become his Friend.

How interesting to land on this particular story, and these particular insights now. Spiritual formation study and practise have been part of my life for over ten years. My recent studies have led me to the teachings of Contemplative Christianity (Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Margaret Silf etc.) with distinctions between living from the false self vs the true self. I am beginning to understand my longing for authenticity and integrity, and my unique place as an artist/poet in the world. I have begun to look at The Enneagram as so much more than a diagnostic justification of identity, rather a starting point toward spiritual transformation, balance, and healing. These teachings are rich, impacting. I continue to sense the draw toward this way of being.

And yet, ironically, I find myself wrestling with certain fundamentals of faith…and perhaps wrestling is what is required of me to continue on The Way with God. Do I truly desire to be transformed? Do I?

Further highlights from MacLaren’s expository on Jacob’s encounter with God (bold text by me);

God desires to go, if we do not desire Him to stay. He will go, unless
we keep Him. Then, at last, Jacob betakes himself to his true weapons.
Then, at last, he strangely wishes to keep his apparent foe. He has
learned, in some dim fashion, whom he has been resisting, and the
blessedness of having Him for friend and companion.

The desire to retain God binds Him to us. All His struggling with us
has been aimed at evoking it, and all His fulness responds to it when
evoked. Prayer is power. It conquers God. We overcome Him when we
yield. When we are vanquished, we are victors. When the life of nature
is broken within us, then from conscious weakness springs the longing
which God cannot but satisfy.

And God prevails when we prevail. His aim in all the process of His
mercy has been but to overcome our heavy earthliness and selfishness,
which resists His pleading love. His victory is our yielding, and, in
that yielding, obtaining power with Him. He delights to be held by the
hand of faith, and ever gladly yields to the heart’s cry,’Abide with
me.’ ‘I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me,’ is music to His
ear; and our saying so, in earnest, persistent clinging to Him, is His
victory as well as ours.

This is far from being tied up with a bow. I will continue to lean into what is revealed…in word, deed, circumstance, and the world around me. I don’t yet know what it means…this seeking and longing for…answers…peace…justice…love…God?

I continue to read and consider the the new name “Israel” that Jacob receives from God after morning comes and wrestling ends. I admit there is a teeny shift for me when I read MacLaren’s words;

To impose a name is the sign of authority, possession, insight into character. The change of name indicates a new epoch in a life, or a transformation of the inner man. The meaning of ‘Israel’ is ‘He (who) strives with God’; and the reason for its being conferred is more accurately given by the Revised Version, which translates, ‘For thou hast striven with God and with men,’ than in the Authorised rendering.’

A true Christian is an ‘Israel.’ His office is to wrestle with God.

jacobwrestlesgod

An encounter with the Divine…

Wrestling as worship, leading to transformation…

I wonder…

Looking for a common thread and finding random rambles…


It’s been a while since I’ve written… don’t know why, just haven’t felt much like it. Nor have I felt like writing poems. Enough said because the new me (since two nights ago when I re-established my trajectory with the gracious help of my dear husband Bob) is focused on finding a balance between over-sharing being honest, and living on the surface of life superficiality. And that, my friend, isn’t very easy for moi.

I recall a while back I used to publish mid-week random rambles, and I guess that’s where I’ll start. Easier than an essay or a soul searching journey that results in something vaguely poetic. Probably easier on both of us? Or, perhaps you can relate to #6 below… which takes me back to the difficulty in finding a balance. But, I digress.

Anyway, here’s my ramble for ya;

1. Found a new sweet spot… having artists/musicians billet with our family, share our stuff, food, ideas… the spine tingle of having them play our piano and sing in our rooms. I felt alive when they were here. Understood. Understood them to some degree, even though they were so much younger. Here’s Zerbin “New Earth”… have a watch and a listen. So talented…

2. When said band members were staying with us, they were in the kitchen devouring enjoying a dozen muffins when Derek started to laugh (I think it was Derek, maybe it was Jason or was it Nick?) Check out the view of our art gallery style fridge front in the slide show below with the cows (somewhat same theme of poo…). Yep, right under the bible verse you’ll see it!!! Nice to know there’s always something yummy to eat in our fridge!

3. Somewhat surprised that the photo of our dog Emmy and her amazing encounter with a deer posted in the Toronto Star and Kelowna Capital News… would end up with over 4229 likes and 1917 shares at Dogwork.com, on Facebook at D-Fa Dogs, on Tumblr and half way around the world on a hungarian website that I can’t find at the moment.

4. Seen along the way, a field of cows and calves, resulting in a return trip and walk into the ditch to photograph said creatures resulting in these photos… and then, the very next day after the photo shoot… they were gone! Relocated to greener pastures perhaps?

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5. Considered in passing, a sign that said “Ignore inconvenient twists and turns” and immediately I could think of all sorts of life applications for that one! Especially having just experienced a rather nasty twist when an elderly lady gave me a tongue lashing for pulling just a leetle too far into the walking lane at the intersection.

6. Discovered on the book shelf in Chapters… “Quiet”, a book by Susan Cane whom I just recently watched present a Ted Talk on the same subject of the power and joy of being an introvert. I’m waiting for the soft cover version, or the library copy… but I know there will be gems of affirmation in those pages. Here’s the talk…

Midweek random ramble 001


1. Today I went to a ‘Opa’… a Greek fast food restaurant, and was served by an entirely Asian staff. I found that ironic somehow.

2. A $2 bag of colourful balloons and some permanent markers can keep two girls happy for hours.

3. I still feel guilty leaving my kids for some me/adult time… even though they are 12, 14, and 17 years old!

4. According to the Kelowna RCMP, 10 year old children may go door to door (unsupervised) selling chocolate covered almonds, as employees of a so-called legitimate business. What happened to ‘labour laws’ and child exploitation concerns? Where are their parents? Just wondering…

5. It’s still possible in Kelowna to have a waterside table with a view of the marina, mountains, and passersby, all served up with a tasty breakfast for 2, for under $20.

6. It’s really hot out there! Especially on the pavement adjacent to large box retail establishments. It’s possible to get really excited about a glass of ice water! It’s also possible to get excited about making a beverage with key limes, lime cordial and tonic on ice and serving it to your husband when he gets home from his hot hot day!

7. Getting a bargain is still a great way to feel good about spending your hard earned cash!

8. Everybody has stuff they struggle with. Real friends don’t pretend they don’t have stuff.

9. Saying a kind word to someone is usually unexpected and most often appreciated.

10. It’s possible to do without without feeling hard done by.

11. The sound of a chickadee calling from the feeder is better than some music.

12. Boys like to play x-box. That is OK.

13. The best holiday memories can happen on your own street… or down the end of your street at the beach.

14. Life chapters that feel they will last forever are fleeting. Carpe diem… take photos… lots of photos!!!

15. Friends that remember your birthday are good friends.Friends that don’t remember your birthday can be forgiven.

16. Family that forgets your birthday… well… they can be forgiven too.

17. Reading poetry out loud to people is even more fun that reading it out loud to yourself. It is also more fun that not reading it aloud. Being invited to read your poetry out loud makes you giddy!!!

18. In order to eat a tasty dinner, one has to plan it, buy food, and then prepare the food. I must prepare said food now.

Thanks for reading this random blather…

Lesley-Anne

Poetry Friday012


Old Growth

Driving through I couldn’t help but notice
how the forest flourished,
to the very edge of the asphalt.

As if, at any moment
the deer ferns might grow legs,
tumble down the loamy banks
and run, unhindered, with long lost cousins

on the other side.

As if the Sitkas waited, breath held,
for our transient passing
only to close in upon themselves
in an ancient prayer circle, and

again offer up forgiveness for our misguided intrusions.

Lesley-Anne Evans
July 2009