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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Thanksgiving Sabbath unrest…


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Yellow ribbons of remembrance hanging outside a NYC Manhattan church.

My Thanksgiving Sabbath rest began with a hot cup of coffee and a little book my dear friend gifted me with for my last birthday. My darling went to church. I didn’t. I’m hoping this day will continue with family time, perhaps a hike somewhere on this lovely day, and then it will culminate in us five gathering around a table and ordering turkey dinner (my darling’s idea to reduce the work and increase the conversation) and watching the sun set over the lake and behind the Monashee. We may or may not talk about why we are thankful… often that makes for discomfort and eye rolling on the part of our young adult kids.

So I read the little book from cover to cover. “A Liturgy for Sunday Schools,” published in 1842 by the Dioscesan Sunday-School Society of Pennsylvania, fragile, water spotted, smelling faintly of must and mildew, is only 36 pages long, and for the purposes of leaders leading children in the various services of the Episcopal church Sunday-School. An easy read.

As I sip coffee and read, I am touched by the deep reverence of the words, and the words themselves, some of which are no longer part of our language today are unique, special, resonant. My mind wanders to my perceptions around church history, the simplicity, literal, black and white, how it seeps into everyday life back then. I move to my own church history, its complexity, its greyness, and how it has for a long time been part of my everyday life, but now not so much. And how I miss it but no longer know where I truly belong, if anywhere.

And I begin to see my Sabbath unrest rather than rest, not always, but now. Do you experience this? What does it look like for you? Have you found a way to peace?

There are others who share my place, others who have written about it. One of my favourite books, “Skin Boat,” by Canadian author and poet John Terpstra, resounds deeply for me. The dance in and out of the pews and I want to end up somewhere, sometimes, and other times I am repelled by the thought.

Or another friend of mine who says he is allergic to church, breaks out in a sweat when he is there, and I get that. Because there is physicality, emotion and intellect involved sitting and listening to words that you can no longer accept in their entirety, or underlying dogma, or attitudes, all those things that begin to get to you like a bur under a saddle and you finally have to untether yourself and run free for a bit while your flesh heals.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written here, and that’s partly due to feeling I have very little to say mixed with a bit of resolve and shame, but maybe it’s time to open up a bit, I don’t really know.

This blog is supposed to be about hope, and that hasn’t changed, and my belief in God hasn’t changed, nor my belief in who Jesus was and is and what he is about in the world. Jesus words (the red letters of the bible) speak precisely to how I want to live, but how I do that… that is the sticky point. I get hung up on the cast and hook, the doing what I do for the agenda/purpose of type stuff.

Yet my desire to live for God’s glory does not change. My desire to write my experience of the fullness of it, the spirit and humanity of life. My hunger for relationships that connect spiritually has not changed. My desire for spiritual formation, the integration of spiritual practice remains. I am becoming… but I do not know what.…

Anyway, I think maybe I’ll unpack some thoughts here over the next little while. I’ve done it before, HERE and HERE and HERE. Maybe it will take us to more clarity or more willingness to be unsure, more restfulness?

Here is a partial poem I’ve been messing about with on the subject… all I have for now:

This accidental architecture defines what belongs
and what is outside, romantic notions
of historic field boundaries somehow justified
by the latter commendations of sparrows and
and small creatures nested in crevices, hollows. How
we are drawn by longing then repelled by the lines drawn between us.

Build me not a wall but an altar, a holy well
set mid field and shaded by fairy thorn.