‘The story we believe and live in today has a lot to do with the world we create for our children, our grandchildren, and our descendants one hundred thousand years from now (if?).’ -Brian McLaren
‘We are all looking for a larger and more loving story in which to participate.’
‘The deepest truth is our union with the Absolute, Infinite Being with God. That’s the root of our reality.’ -Beatrice Bruteau
‘We experience liberation from
fruitless, or counterproductive action.
We will no longer be “just” anything,
No, whatever our work we will do it as agents…builders…of a new world.
Then, we will
treat our neighbors differently,
and so much more.’
-Center for Action and Contemplation
We are falling on our face because we are jumping high.
A dash of perspective in a dark hour.
It’s scary out there right now. It’s going to be scary for some time to come. What has been unleashed, what has been revealed, is ugly. It is what makes democracies die.
In the despair, it is easy to lose perspective. I certainly do all the time. But from time to time, I step back and try to remember where we are as a country on the arc of things.
And I see then that this is both a very dark time and, potentially, a very bright time. It’s important to hold these truths together.
When I look down at the ground of the present right now, I feel depressed. If I lift my head to the horizon, I see a different picture.
This is not the chaos of the beginning of something. This is the chaos of the end of something.
Because the 40 years of this plutocratic takeover — of the ideology that said if you’re torn between doing what’s good for money and what’s good for people, always do what’s good for money; these stories about lazy workers and welfare queens; and any number of other fraudulent tales that were meant to justify life in the Hamptons — if I allow myself to feel this way on a good day, it all actually feels like it’s burning down.
And on matters of race and identity, likewise, the Trump era doesn’t have the crackle of a launch. It has been a mourning. A mourning for white power. A mourning for a time when simply to be white and show up was enough. A mourning for an era in which simply to be a man, and not necessarily an especially capable one, could get you ahead of other people. A mourning for a time when you could be the default idea of an American and not have to share your toys.
We must understand that what we’ve been living through is backlash. Backlash.
It’s not the engine of history. It is the revolt against the engine of history. Then we might remember — just to pat ourselves on the back for a second — that what we are actually endeavoring to do right now is to become a kind of society that has seldom, if ever, existed in history. Which is become a majority-minority, democratic superpower.
I have a lot of love for my friends in Europe, but actually none of you all have your immigration rates and naturalization rates at a high enough level to get there anytime soon. And you all may never get there.
Look at India and China. I love India. My parents are from India. India is never going to be a nation of immigrants. It’s never going to be a country of people from all the world. It can barely get unity with people just from India. China is never going to be a nation of immigrants. No shade. That’s just not their history. It’s not who they are.
We are falling on our face because we are jumping very high right now. We are trying to do something that does not work in theory.
To be a country of all the world, a country made up of all the countries, a country without a center of identity, without a default idea of what a human being is or looks like, without a shared religious belief, without a shared language that is people’s first language at home. And what we’re trying to do is awesome. It is literally awesome in the correct sense of that word.
And, therefore, that we are having insurrections on the Mall or four years of an autocratic attempt or racism oozing through the television and social media portals is both terrifying and a completely predictable, inevitable result of people in power exploiting these transitional anxieties for their own pecuniary gain.
And what we have to do is get smarter than powerful people. Get more organized than them, and understand that there is a different story to tell those who mistakenly went to the Mall and the 12 percent of Americans who actually supported that terrorist attack, and everybody else — a story to tell them about something great we are trying to do.
We will actually create a country that’s better for every single person. But we have to be willing to tell that story forcefully. We have to be willing to fight those people tooth and nail, and we have to fight to win.
We are living through a revolt against the future. The future will prevail.
From the Center of Action & Contemplation:
The hearts of more and more children, young people, adults, and senior citizens are yearning for a new story, a story of love rather than hate, of creativity rather than destruction, of win-win cooperation rather than win-lose competition, of peace-craft rather than war-craft.
They are waiting for a new story to explore, inhabit, and tell.
We are all looking for a larger and more loving story in which to participate.
[Brian D. McLaren and Gareth Higgins, The Seventh Story: Us, Them, & the End of Violence]
From activist and author Courtney Martin:
We continue to build the country of our dreams, the one worthy of our children. We counter tantrums with tenderness towards those all around us. People are grieving. People are tired. The vast majority of Americans have spent almost a year largely inside of our homes, trying to keep one another safe, our lives turned inside out in an attempt to protect ourselves from life-threatening disease, but also life-threatening leadership. This is no small thing.
We need to see each other. We need to look with ten times the magnification with which we are looking at this tantrum. We need to celebrate each other’s steadfastness and resilience, our neighborliness and creativity. We have shown up for one another in quiet, slow, manatee-like ways for so many months. So many have died—of covid, yes, but also cancer and heart attacks and a thousand other things probably exacerbated by stress and loneliness.
So much has been lost. Beautiful things—like banter with strangers and bellying up to a bar to laugh and cry with a friend. But toxic things, too—so many delusions about this country shed. We are not as far along on our moral arc as we may have thought. We are not as in control, either. Control being, as we are being reminded now, an addiction of wounded, unwise souls.
Sacred is all around us. Sacred is the steadfast sheltering in. Sacred is the children writing barely legible messages to their grandparents about how excited they are to see them when it is safe.
Sacred is the rising bread and the people’s peaceful footfalls during marches that filled these streets this summer. Sacred is the church that shaped MLK delivering a prophetic voice right in time. Sacred is the murmurations and the raging waves and the swaying Redwoods, ancient enough to withstand any man’s silly machinations. Sacred is the stupid zooms and the inside jokes and the living room forts that have gotten us through. Sacred is the soul searching of so many White Americans, the earnest attempts to find different ways of being with others, of being with ourselves. Sacred are the caregivers, who make our country less lonely, the organizers, who make our country more democratic, and the teachers, who aren’t giving up on our kids no matter what.
This is where my attention is going this week, this month, this year. While they flail, I will focus. While they desecrate, I will nurture. While they grasp for control, I will release—delusions, power, money, whatever will help this place heal. There is a version of this country that exists within and beyond this moment. I’ll meet you there.
“Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
The Enlightened Heart, p. 59
The 4th Estate refers to a Free Press in the United States, or the ‘4th Branch of Government.’ This morning the AXIOS online news organization, for-profit media, reference corporate America as the new ‘4th Estate’:
‘How CEO’s became the 4th Branch of Government’
America needs law and order — but not the kind President Trump has in mind. That’s the message being sent by a broad coalition of CEOs who are silencing Trump and punishing his acolytes in Congress, Axios’ Felix Salmon writes.
- Why it matters: CEOs managed to act as a faster and more effective check on the power of the president than Congress could. They have money, they have power, and they have more of the public’s trust than politicians do. And they’re using all of it to try to preserve America’s system of governance.
A new political force is emerging — one based on centrist principles of predictability, stability, small-c conservatism and, yes, the rule of law.
- “You cannot call for violence,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said yesterday in an interview with Reuters Next, explaining why she de-platformed Trump. “[T]he risk to our democracy was too big. We felt that we had to take the unprecedented step of an indefinite ban, and I’m glad that we did.” [FACEBOOK CONTINUES TO BE COMPLICIT. TEXTBOOK DEFINITION OF GASLIGHTING. Facebook is a sponsor of AXIOS. -dayle]
Between the lines: American capitalism is based on a foundation of legal contracts, all of which ultimately rely on the strength and stability of the government.
- When a sitting president threatens that stability by inciting an insurrectionist mob that storms the legislature, corporate America will do everything in its power to restrain him.
Driving the news: Tech giants including Facebook, Google, Amazon and Twitter have worked in concert to quiet Trump and the far right. Other corporations are pulling political funding from all legislators who supported overturning the result of November’s free and fair election.
- All of this has happened before the House can even schedule an impeachment vote.
The backstory: Axios first told you about CEOs as America’s new politicians in 2019, when they increasingly were responding to pressure.
- Then corporate leaders mobilized last spring on coronavirus response, last summer over racial justice, and now they are joining ranks on climate change.
What’s next: After dipping toes in for the past year and a half, CEOs are now all-in.
- They’re in a whole new league of activism — with no going back.
Remember, GOP leaders, today, announcing their agreement for impeachment are also reacting to corporate media saying their funding, donations, are suspended. It’s money, it’s power, it’s greed—those are their motivations. Always. -dayle
The virus of lies.
We have to describe things as they are. What really happened on that terrible day? “The president of the United States incited a mob to sack the Capitol to lynch the vice president — his vice president.” -Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic
Center for Action & Contemplation:
‘If our framing story tells us that we are in life-and-death competition with each other, then we will have little reason to seek reconciliation and collaboration and nonviolent resolutions to our conflicts.’
‘How do I help people that have, unbeknownst to them, become radicalized in their thought? Unless we help them break the deception, we cannot operate with 30% of the country holding the extreme views that they do.’
CJR/Columbia Journalism Review:
‘In 2016, DT got so much free media airtime—more than $2(B) according to the the NYTimes—that he could run a national presidential campaign with a fraction of the ad budget of his competitors; amplifying him has not merely been a Fox News problem.’
‘The lie outlasts the liar. The idea that Germany lost the First World War in 1918 because of a Jewish “stab in the back” was 15 years old when Hitler came to power. How will DT’s myth of victimhood function in American life 15 years from now? And to whose benefit?’
For-profit media has made millions…billions?…from Donald Trump. Mainstream media, the fringes of cable news, all, all, gave DT platforms for disinformation and incited his rhetoric. No Doubt. This could, indeed, have made room for corporate America’s position as the 4th Estate [AXIOS].
I remember, what Don Lemon, CNN, and what so many pundits on news media said in 2015: “People want to see Donald Trump. You want to watch him,” Don Lemon told CNN viewers the day after Trump announced his candidacy. “At least there’s someone interesting in the race.”
‘At Fox, one former staffer said, the main criterion for choosing a story is whether it will inﬂame the audience: “The single phrase they said over and over was ‘This is going to outrage the viewers!’ You inﬂame the viewers so that no one will turn away.”’
CJR/Columbia Journalist Review
From journalist Maria Bustillos:
Media, too Must be held Accountable. [ALL MEDIA]
‘Real accountability, for MSNBC, means a clear and distinct demand for each of its hosts to come clean about his or her own complicity in building and enabling the increasingly violent and extremist Republican Party that led, inexorably, to the ruinous Trump administration. Joe Scarborough, for example, who on Thursday called for the president to be arrested, was not so long ago a frequent guest at Mar-a-Lago, and a staunch ally of Trump the candidate in 2016, as CNN reported at the time:
Scarborough has spoken about Trump in increasingly glowing terms, praising him as “a masterful politician” and defending him against his political opponents and media critics. The Washington Post has noted that Trump has received “a tremendous degree of warmth from the [Scarborough] show,” and [said] that his appearances on the show, in person and over the phone, often feel like “a cozy social club.”
True to form, Chuck Todd brought the most openly cynical and dim-witted take to the party. On Meet the Press Thursday, he spoke with Andrea Mitchell and Katy Tur about the possible motivations of Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary, who had announced her resignation. “I’m sort of torn on the effectiveness,” he began.
But let’s put yourself… I’m going to try to put myself in her shoes. And maybe you don’t have enough people to do the Twenty-fifth Amendment.… And you want to stand up, and do something, and say something.… But at the end of the day, is it still better symbolically to publicly rebuke him, even if it’s in the last thirteen days, even if it does look like you’re trying to launder yourself a bit, so that maybe you’ll be invited to a better law firm or a better cocktail party, but the rebuke may be still necessary anyway?
I have nothing whatsoever to add to that.’
I have, like so many, been in isolation since February…only daily hikes, the market, and virtual connection. Truly what has sustained me, even when I’ve bumped up along the edge, is a deep contemplative practice, the discipline of ‘stability loci’, a psychological function for withdrawal, surrender and acceptance: “This is my place, my situation, and that is what I want to work with, however it develops, for better or for worse.”
Deep gratitude for my virtual yoga teachers, Cathie Caccia and Seane Corn. Your spirit and guidance transcends the global sadness and dark, dark days ahead. jai
From the Center of Action & Contemplation:
Practice: Remaining in Place
What if the challenges of the current moment are actually offering us an invitation to let go of our ideas of freedom and mobility and to consciously participate with reality in a new way? In The Great Within psychologist Han F. de Wit invites us to consider the discipline of stabilitas loci (or remaining in place) as a liberating practice. He writes:
Many contemplative traditions contain the rule of not abandoning the monastic community or the place of retreat for shorter or longer periods (sometimes for life). If one follows this rule, it is almost always preceded by voluntarily taking a vow to keep to it. In the Christian tradition, it is known as the vow of stabilitas loci (remaining in one place). This place can, for example, be where one goes into the solitary retreat. The practitioner then vows not to leave this place before he has completed a specific spiritual practice or attained a certain realization. This approach can be found in the Hindu tradition: the yogi draws a certain line around her place of retreat and vows not to step outside it until she has completed a certain practice (sadhana), until she has reached enlightenment, or until death has reached her. A well-known example of this in the Buddhist tradition is obviously that of the Buddha himself, who finally sat down under the bodhi tree and vowed not to leave that spot until he had reached enlightenment. . . .
Why do people do this? What is the function of such a discipline? . . . The contemplative psychological function of this physical stabilitas and of the adherent vow is that we let go of the idea that we have an alternative, we give up the possibility of withdrawing. As we know, one of the characteristic aspects of ego is that it always wants to have alternatives available: ego reflects a mentality that always wants to keep an exit open and therefore can never come to complete surrender and acceptance. Through the vow of stabilitas loci, we confront and surrender an important part of that mentality. We say, “This is my place, my situation, and that is what I want to work with, however it develops, for better or for worse.”. . . The limitation that this discipline imposes on ego proves to have another element: a flourishing of self-confidence and strength of mind that enables us to be in the situation we are in without any reservations. What may seem claustrophobic or restrictive actually turns into vast and hospitable space. 
–Han F. de Wit
Fr. Richard Rohr:
Speaking from personal experience and my many years in Lenten hermitage (where I stayed in one small place for the forty days of Lent), I found a deep inner liberation in “giving up” my freedom to come and go as I chose. I am experiencing some of that same freedom in my hermit-like life necessitated by the pandemic. I cannot “fill” my life or myself up with outside experiences; I must simply “be” with myself and God.
 Han F. de Wit, The Great Within: The Transformative Power and Psychology of the Spiritual Path (Shambhala Publications: 2019), 263–264.
“The anger made me brave and the grief made me sure.” The Book of Longings
Can not recommend this book more highly. Inhaling. -dayle
‘Lord God hear my prayer, the prayer of my heart.
Bless the largeness inside of me, no matter how I fear it.
Bless my reeds and my inks.
Bless the words I write.
May they be beautiful in your sight.
May they be visible to eyes not yet born.
When I am dust, sing these words over my bones:
She was a voice.’
‘I felt all the women who live inside of me.’
-The Book of Longings
From Maria Popova.
“For a moment of calibrating the correct scale and splendor of things: Nasa captures the first “sprites” – brief, bright flashes of light in the upper atmosphere – on another world, dancing their intense blue in the immense sky of Jupiter.”
Maria wants call it ‘Juno Blue.’
Dr. David Bohm’s holoflux: the flowing movement of all that is, the ground of our being, the mysterious domain in which mind, matter, and meaning are an organic whole…’folding and enfolding.’
Center for Action and Contemplation/Fr Richard Rohr
Glimpsing a new world.
Thomas Keating’s final message was the following:
Dear friends: In the universe, an extraordinary moment of civilization seems to be overtaking us. . . . It’s a time of enormous expectancy and possibility.
We are called to start—not with the old world contracts, now that we know that they are all lies—but [with] what we know as the truth. . . . So I call upon the nations to consider this as a possibility: that we should begin a new world with one that actually exists. This is the moment to manifest this world, by showing loving concern for poverty, loving appreciation for the needs of the world, and opportunities for accelerated development. We need to find ways to make these really happen. I make this humble suggestion, that now arms-making is of no significance in the world. It hinders its progress.
This will allow and offer the world the marvelous gift of beginning, [of] creating, of trusting each other, of forgiving each other, and of showing compassion, care for the poor, and putting all our trust in the God of heaven and earth. I leave this hope in your hands and hearts, coming as a real inspiration from the heart of God. What does [God] care about who has this or other lands, when the power to begin with the truest history is coming from religion as expression of the Source that has been realized for centuries? Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Indigenous, and Christianity—all religions—oneness is their nature. Amen. 
Richard: In this injunction to the world, Father Thomas Keating says what he has been given to know. The only path forward for the survival of our species and perhaps even our planet is a path of nonviolence, of contemplation and action prioritizing justice and solidarity, an affirmation of Oneness and the interconnectedness of all things, which science confirms, and spirituality has always known on its deepest level.
I think the real purpose of the spiritual journey is to expand people’s ability to do good by liberating them. This is what Jesus did, after all—free people from their pain, their sin, their “uncleanness,” and even their deaths. Then he sent them back to their families and to society to live in relationship and live lives of freedom and wholeness. As a devoted student of Jesus and lover of God, Thomas Keating did the same through the gift of Centering Prayer; he helped people connect to an inner stillness and experience of God that liberated them from egoic strongholds—so they could become free and whole. His final words help us imagine the possibilities for ourselves and our world.
 Thomas Keating, Fr. Thomas Keating’s Last Oracle (Contemplative Network: 2020), transcription (October 2018), YouTube video.
Image credit: What is Ubuntu 01 (detail), Gretchen Andrew, 2018.
Fr Richard Rohr:
We think fear, anger, divine intimidation, threat, and punishment are going to lead people to love. Show me where that has worked. You cannot lead people to the highest level of motivation by teaching them the lowest.
Love is the only thing that transforms the human heart.
Ubuntu: I am because we are.
Image credit: Garden of Wish Fulfilment (detail), Arshile Gorki, 1944, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon Portugal.
Fr Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
In times of Disorder and deconstruction, we long for Reorder on a personal level—to be made new and whole again. But the Scriptures tell us that restoration will also happen on a communal, planetary, and even universal level! Jim Antal, a climate justice leader with the United Church of Christ, reminds us of our ability and responsibility to participate with God…Gaia…in the renewal and reordering of the earth.
“How can you know all these facts [about climate change] and still have hope?” For me, faith and hope are rooted in the conviction that, regardless of how bad things may be, a new story is waiting to take hold—something we have not yet seen or felt or experienced. . . . God…Gaia…is calling us—as individuals and congregations—to work with God and others to champion that new story.
For the vast majority in our society, that new story remains unseen. Wresting our future from the grip of fossil fuel seems impossible—our addiction is too strong, affordable options are too few, and the powers that defend the status quo are mighty, indeed. . . . We cannot be freed by chipping away at this millstone.
We must begin to live into a new story by changing the human prospect [of destruction] and restoring creation’s viability.
That’s what the Water Protectors of Standing Rock have done. Their courageous, unflinching discipline inspired thousands to join them and millions to imagine with them the new world that is waiting to be born. They prepared themselves through prayer and ritual to face down sheriffs, paramilitary contractors, attack dogs, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and high-pressure water cannons in subzero temperatures. They were fueled by hope, hope for a revolution rooted in love—love for God’s great gift of creation. . . .
We can’t accept God’s…Gaia’s…invitation to help create a new story unless we are willing to take action. We become partners with God when we act in unfamiliar, untested ways. Those new actions will be guided by a preferred future that embraces:
- resilience in place of growth
- collaboration in place of consumption
- wisdom in place of progress
- balance in place of addiction
- moderation in place of excess
- vision in place of convenience
- accountability in place of disregard
- self-giving love in place of self-centered fear . . .
As broken-hearted as God…Gaia…must be over what we have done to the gift of creation, God still has a dream. . . . God dreams that humans seek spiritual rather than material progress. God’s dream envisions a just world at peace because gratitude has dissolved anxiety and generosity has eclipsed greed. God dreams of a time when love and mutual respect will bind humanity together, and the profound beauty of creation will be treasured. Let us embrace God’s…Gaia’s…dream as our own. Suddenly, the horizon of our hope comes nearer.
Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation:
Rev. angel Kyodo williams seeks to liberate both the oppressed and the oppressors, which is appropriate as we celebrate Juneteenth in the United States today, to recognize the final day of emancipation from slavery in our nation. In this passage she shares her path to becoming an agent of transformative, peaceful social change.
“My formal Zen practice and training were teaching me to find a more restful place that I could abide in within myself despite the chaos and calamity [of] living in an unjust society. . . . It also gave me a way to be in response to sometimes overwhelming situations that could just lead me to a downward spiral of anger and negativity. . . .
The Zen community I eventually became engaged with [the Zen Peacemaker Order] . . . [was] explicitly committed to social action.
I advocated for [a] more balanced approach to fiercely address injustice from a place of empowerment as a warrior—but one that was ultimately committed to peace rather than aggression. This path recognized the clarity and resilience brought about by cultivating one’s inner life. . . . I saw this as a more sustainable path, especially for Black people, whose road to victory in the external landscape would likely be a long one given the deep entrenchment of the forces of oppression set against us.
In response to the events of September 11th, I wrote what became known as the Warrior-Spirit Prayer of Awakening…
May all beings be granted with the strength, determination and wisdom to extinguish anger and reject violence as a way.
May all suffering cease and may I seek, find, and fully realize the love and compassion that already lives within me and allow them to inspire and permeate my every action.
May I exercise the precious gift of choice and the power to change [as] that which makes me uniquely human and is the only true path to liberation.
May I swiftly reach complete, effortless freedom so that my fearless, unhindered action be of benefit to all.”
May I lead the life of a warrior.
 Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah, PhD, Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation (North Atlantic Books: 2016), 90–94.
‘Apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις) is a Greek word meaning “revelation”, an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling.’
‘Our nerves, our home, our country crave peace’…and leaders. As the helpers and heroes sustain us, I pray for shift. -dayle
Now, I have no choice but to see with your eyes,
so I am not alone,
so you are not alone.
There is a story of Gandhi that reveals how profound and daring his sense of compassion was. It occurred during one of his famous hunger strikes. A man whose daughter was killed came in anguish, saying to Gandhi that he would stop fighting if the great soul would eat. But Ghandi knew the healing was deeper than just stopping the violence, and so he told the man he would eat only when the tormented father embraced the man who killed his daughter.
It is said that the man collapsed in tears, but did as Gandhi asked, and the larger conflict ended. This is an enormous thing to ask of someone in grief, of someone who has been violated. But beyond the vast courage needed to incorporate this kind of love into our daily lives, Gandhi’s request reveals the irrefutable wisdom that only when the broken are headed, no matter what they have done, will we as a people heal.
-The Book of Awakening, p. 179.
Image credit: Dorothy Day, by Julie Lonneman.
’So what makes a good community? Our very survival as a faith tradition, not to mention a species, might just depend upon this.’
Common Ground & Purpose
People want something more from church than membership. They long for a spiritual home that connects with their whole life, not just somewhere to go on Sunday morning. Church is meant to be a place that nurtures and supports individuals along their full journey toward the ultimate goal: a lived experience of the communion of saints, a shared life together as one family, the Reign of God “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Too often, the formal church has been unable to create any authentic practical community, especially over the last half-century. In response, we see the emergence of new faith communities seeking to return to this foundational definition of church. These may not look like our versions of traditional “church,” but they often exemplify the kinds of actual community that Jesus, Paul, and early Christians envisioned. People are gathering digitally and in person today through neighborhood associations, study groups, community gardens, social services, and volunteer groups. They’re seeking creative ways of coming together, nurturing connection, of healing and whole-making. The “invisible” church might be doing this just as much, if not more, than the visible one. The Holy Spirit is humble and seems to work best anonymously. I suspect that is why the Holy Spirit is often pictured as a simple bird or blowing wind that is here one minute and seemingly gone and then nowhere (John 3:8).
It’s all too easy to project unrealistic expectations on any community. No group can meet all our needs as individuals for emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The human psyche needs space and healthy boundaries and not co-dependent groupings. I certainly learned this lesson myself through my participation in the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati in the 1970s and 80s, and even earlier as a Franciscan brother. Almost any community can serve as an excellent school for growth, character, and conversion, even though it may not be a permanent “home” for many reasons.
Remember, the isolated individual is fragile and largely helpless to evoke long-term change or renewal. By ourselves, we can accomplish very little. We must find common ground and common purpose to move forward. Fr. Richard Rohr
‘We wake to our cities in pain but also in longing. Full of far more people ready to build & create than to tear apart. On Lake St in Minn yesterday I saw what the drones & news cameras do not convey – an alternative landscape of care rising up around devastation.’ -Krista Tippet, On Being
The NASA/SpaceX launch and ISS dock has brought needed respite, inspiration, and hope. Look what we can accomplish as a species when we work together. -dayle
Let us surrender to Divine Grace.
-Rev. Dr. David Ault
Cartoon: Edward Littleford
“God is looking down on humans right now thinking, “Damn. Maybe I should try dinosaurs again?”
[John Oliver discusses the systems in place to investigate and hold police officers accountable for misconduct.]
Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
A powerful example of five conversions at work is The Poor People’s Campaign, which was revived in 2018 by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis.  In these paragraphs, Theoharis offers a scriptural exploration of what the Kingdom of God implies for the poor and marginalized—a movement of solidarity.
The New Testament . . . portrays the survival struggles of the marginalized, the solidarity and mutuality among different communities, and the critique of a social, political, and economic system that oppresses the vast majority of people. . . . Jesus’s teachings and actions around poverty, wealth, and power create a picture of him as a leader of a social, political, economic, and spiritual movement calling for a world without poverty, want, or oppression . . . what he named the Kingdom or Empire of God. . . .
The Greek word for “Kingdom of God” or “Empire of God,” basilea, has much to do with the economic order that Jesus advocated. Few would disagree that the Kingdom of God is central to the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament. However, many understand this kingdom as otherworldly and immaterial. But if we look at both the prevalence of the concept and the specific references to it in the New Testament, we can see that God’s kingdom is a real, material order, with a moral agenda different from and opposed to the reigning order of the day. The basilea is particularly present in the parables that describe how the reign of God functions differently from the Roman Empire: in God’s kingdom, there is no poverty or fear, and mutuality exists among all.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’s parables and stories paint a picture of a reign in which the poor and marginalized are lifted up and their needs are met, rather than being despised or ignored by those in control. . . . to model a community of mutuality and solidarity. . . .
Centuries of [New Testament] interpretation have attempted to spiritualize or minimize this good news for the poor, hiding the reality that the Bible is a book by, about, and for poor and marginalized people. It not only says that God blesses and loves the poor, but also that the poor are God’s agents and leaders in rejecting and dismantling kingdoms built upon oppression and inequality.
 The Poor People’s Campaign was first established by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in 1968 to encourage leaders and citizens across the nation to stand in solidarity with the poor. https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/about/
Image Credit: Paulo Freire (detail), Centro de Formação, Tecnologia e Pesquisa Educacional (CEFORTEPE), SME-Campinas, Campinas, Brazil.
‘Promising us a roof and then breaking that promise might be worse than no roof at all.’
Senator Bernie Sanders:
“What gives me hope right now are the new generations of young people who dream big and do not want to settle for the status quo.”
President Barack Obama:
George Floyd, 46
George Floyd moved to Minnesota “to be his best self,” as one friend put it.
For all its presumed innocence, this way of life lived by well-off North Americans is both unjust to those who cannot attain this lifestyle and destructive of the very planet that supports us all.
Sallie McFague was an American feminist Christian theologian, best known for her analysis of how metaphor lies at the heart of how we may speak about God. She applied this approach in particular to ecological issues, writing extensively on care for the earth as if it were God’s “body.”
‘In this award-winning text, theologian Sallie McFague challenges Christians’ usual speech about God as a kind of monarch. She probes instead three other possible metaphors for God as mother, lover, and friend.’
Center for Action & Contemplation
While we may continue to practice physical distancing from other humans, most of us can still safely spend time in nature. The Journal of Health Psychology confirms what Franciscans and mystics have long known: interacting with nature is a great stress reliever. Just thirty minutes of gardening lowers the cortisol released during stress-induced fight-or-flight responses. Today’s practice, written by poet, writer, and educator Trevien Stanger for the book Order of the Sacred Earth, invites us to make a very specific contemplative contribution by planting trees.
Ethnobotanist, author, and Potawatami elder Robin Kimmerer asserts, “We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world. We need to restore honor to the way we live, so that when we walk through the world we don’t have to avert our eyes with shame, so that we can hold our heads high and receive the respectful acknowledgment of the rest of [the] earth’s beings.”  . . .
I contend that every individual can participate in [the] Great Turning, and that one of the great challenges of our time is for each of us to figure out how and where we plug into this psycho-spiritual current. . . . I, for one, plant trees. . . . In my more recent work as an environmental studies professor at a community college in Vermont, I’ve had a hand in planting just shy of 100,000 trees over the past 12 years. . . .
What happens when you plant a tree? What happens when you wield a shovel in one hand (a human artifact) and a tree (a provisional mystery) in the other? What happens when you dig a hole (a Kali-like destruction) and plant a tree within it (an act of creativity)? What happens when you learn about your local ecology not just as an observer, but also as a participant? What happens when you embrace the wildness of a tree-being and integrate it into the semi-wild streets and streams of your local community? What happens when you crack open your isolated sense of self and plant within your heart this symbol of our ever-branching inter-being? What happens when you consider your actions in terms of your ecological and cultural legacy? What happens when you move beyond your concerns of today and inquire as to what type of ancestor you will be? Nelson Henderson posits that “. . . one true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”  Under whose shade do you sit beneath today? Whose shade shall you help gift for tomorrow?
 Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed Editions: 2013), 195.
 Wes Henderson shared his father’s advice in Under Whose Shade: A Story of a Pioneer in the Swan River Valley of Manitoba (W. Henderson & Associates: 1986, ©1982).
Trevien Stanger, “Tree Planter,” Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action, Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jennifer Listug (Monkfish Book Publishing Company: 2018), 184-186.
Image credit: Legend of St. Francis: 15. Sermon to the Birds (fresco detail), artist unknown, formerly attributed to Giotto di Bondone, c. 1297–1299, Upper Basilica of San Francesco d′Assisi, Assisi, Italy.
The medieval English anchoress Julian of Norwich bequeathed us a radically optimistic theology. She had no problem admitting that human beings have a tendency to go astray. We rupture relationships, dishonor the Divine, make unfortunate choices, and try to hide our faults. And yet, Julian insists, “All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.”
She squarely faces the inevitability that we will miss the mark [what Julian calls “sin”] and that there is wickedness in this world. Even so, she is convinced that the nature of the Divine is loving-kindness, and she wants us to absorb this into every fiber of our being. -Fr. Richard Rohr
‘I urge you to avoid those who cause dissension and offenses contrary to what you have learned. Avoid them.’
I am certainly no judge of television, since I have never watch it. All I know is that there is a sufficiently general agreement, among men who judgment I respect, that commercial television is degraded, meretricious, and absurd. Certainly, it would seem that TV could become a kind of unnatural surrogate for contemplation: a completely inter subjection to vulgar images, a descent to a sub natural passivity rather than an ascent to a supremely active passivity in understanding and love. It would seem that television should be used with extreme care and discrimination by anyone who might hope to take interior life seriously.
-New Seeds of Contemplation, 1949
His thoughts on the Internet, we can only imagine, would be the same. -dayle
This is a new form of propaganda tailored to the digital age and it works not by creating a consensus around any particular narrative but by muddying the waters so that consensus isn’t possible. And it’s all the more difficult because even the most scrupulous, well-intentioned coverage can easily fall into the trap of flooding the zone.
The press, admittedly, has a difficult job to do, especially in this information landscape. But that’s the thing: The landscape has changed. The digital media ecosystem overwhelms people with information. Some of that information is true, some of it is false, and much of it is deliberately diversionary. Trying to cover every crazy story, every batshit claim, is a fool’s errand. The end result of so much noise is what I’ve called “manufactured nihilism,” a situation in which people are so skeptical about the possibility of truth that they give up the search.
The role of “gatekeeping” institutions has also changed significantly. Before the internet and social media, most people got their news from a handful of newspapers and TV networks. These institutions functioned like referees, calling out lies, fact-checking claims, and so on. And they had the ability to control the flow of information and set the terms of the conversation.
Today, gatekeepers still matter in terms of setting a baseline for political knowledge, but there’s much more competition for clicks and audiences, and that alters the incentives for what’s declared newsworthy in the first place. At the same time, traditional media outlets remain committed to a set of norms that are ill adapted to the modern environment.
So now we find ourselves engaged in an endless game of whack-a-mole, debunking and explaining one false claim after another. And false claims, if they’re repeated enough, become more plausible the more often they’re shared, something psychologists have called the “illusory truth” effect.
The prevailing norms of journalism and the political economy of media are driving these dynamics.
As individuals and communities, we can respond with justice and compassion, or we can double down on the pursuit of accumulation and power, with no more than a return to business as usual.
-Father Richard Rohr
Center for Action & Contemplation
‘The pandemic has severely attacked vulnerable communities of color, including tribal communities whose members may not have access to adequate health care nor clean water, we turn to a young voice from the Navajo Nation.’
Aware that the pandemic has severely attacked vulnerable communities of color, including tribal communities whose members may not have access to adequate health care nor clean water, we turn to a young voice from the Navajo Nation (Diné), Alastair Lee Bitsóí, relayed from the pages of the Navajo Times. Excerpts below, with images from the studio of Tony Abeyta.
[Investigative, compassionate journalism. -dayle]
‘Life expectancy gap between black & white Chicagoans, largest in the country: Structural racism, concentrated poverty, economic exploitation & chronic stress cause what’s known as biological weathering.’
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. THE FIRST 100 COVID-19 Took Black Lives First. It Didn't Have To.
“We’re not going to reverse this in a moment, overnight, but we have to say it for what it is and move forward decisively as a city, and that’s what we will do,” she said. “This is about health care accessibility, life expectancy, joblessness and hunger.”
ProPublica’s reporting also revealed other patterns, factors that could — and should — have been addressed and which almost certainly exist in other communities experiencing similar disparities. Even though many of these victims had medical conditions that made them particularly susceptible to the virus, they didn’t always get clear or appropriate guidance about seeking treatment. They lived near hospitals that they didn’t trust and that weren’t adequately prepared to treat COVID-19 cases. And perhaps most poignantly, the social connections that gave their lives richness and meaning — and that played a vital role in helping them to navigate this segregated city that can at times feel hostile to black residents — made them more likely to be exposed to the virus before its deadly power became apparent.
The city [Chicago] announced the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team in partnership with West Side United, with a goal to “bring a hyper local public health strategy to targeted communities.” In the weeks since, the team has held tele-town halls, delivered thousands of door hangers and postcards with targeted information, and distributed 60,000 masks for residents in the predominantly black communities of Austin, Auburn Gresham and South Shore.
So much new & good is going to come from this. We can stop deluding ourselves that our current way of organizing our society is either sane or even survivable! That had to come first in order to rock us to our core, to humble us. Now we’ll be open to new ideas in a whole new way.
A poster from 1918 asks Chicagoans to self-quarantine if they have symptoms of the flu. For more, see “Don’t Spit! Pandemic Posters Through the Years.” (Courtesy National Library of Medicine)
Pandemics Leave Us Forever Altered
by Charles C. Mann
What history can tell us about the long-term effects of the coronavirus
Just a few decades after the pandemic, American-history textbooks by the distinguished likes of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Richard Hofstadter, Henry Steele Commager, and Samuel Eliot Morison said not a word about it. The first history of the 1918 flu wasn’t published until 1976—I drew some of the above from it. Written by the late Alfred W. Crosby, the book is called America’s Forgotten Pandemic.
Americans may have forgotten the 1918 pandemic, but it did not forget them. Garthwaite matched NHIS respondents’ health conditions to the dates when their mothers were probably exposed to the flu. Mothers who got sick in the first months of pregnancy, he discovered, had babies who, 60 or 70 years later, were unusually likely to have diabetes; mothers afflicted at the end of pregnancy tended to bear children prone to kidney disease. The middle months were associated with heart disease.
Other studies showed different consequences. Children born during the pandemic grew into shorter, poorer, less educated adults with higher rates of physical disability than one would expect. Chances are that none of Garthwaite’s flu babies ever knew about the shadow the pandemic cast over their lives. But they were living testaments to a brutal truth: Pandemics—even forgotten ones—have long-term, powerful aftereffects.
The convulsive social changes of the 1920s—the frenzy of financial speculation, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, the explosion of Dionysian popular culture (jazz, flappers, speakeasies)—were easily attributed to the war, an initiative directed and conducted by humans, rather than to the blind actions of microorganisms. But the microorganisms likely killed more people than the war did. And their effects weren’t confined to European battlefields, but spread across the globe, emptying city streets and filling cemeteries on six continents.
Unlike the war, the flu was incomprehensible—the influenza virus wasn’t even identified until 1931. It inspired fear of immigrants and foreigners, and anger toward the politicians who played down the virus. Like the war, influenza (and tuberculosis, which subsequently hit many flu sufferers) killed more men than women, skewing sex ratios for years afterward. Can one be sure that the ensuing, abrupt changes in gender roles had nothing to do with the virus?
To save themselves from the disease, scared Europeans sought favor from the heavens, most famously taking off their clothes in groups and striking one another with whips and sticks. Images of half-nude flagellants have, since Monty Python, become a comic staple. Far less comical was the accompanying flood of anti-Semitic violence. As it spread through Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, and the Low Countries, it left behind a trail of beaten cadavers and burned homes.
Absent the diseases, it is difficult to imagine how small groups of poorly equipped Europeans at the end of very long supply chains could have survived and even thrived in the alien ecosystems of the Americas. “I fully support banning travel from Europe to prevent the spread of infectious disease,” the Cherokee journalist Rebecca Nagle remarked after President Trump announced his plan to do this. “I just think it’s 528 years too late.”
For Native Americans, the epidemic era lasted for centuries, as did its repercussions. Isolated Hawaii had almost no bacterial or viral disease until 1778, when the islands were “discovered” by Captain James Cook. Islanders learned the cruel facts of contagion so rapidly that by 1806, local leaders were refusing to allow European ships to dock if they had sick people on board. Nonetheless, Hawaii’s king and queen traveled from their clean islands to London, that cesspool of disease, arriving in May 1824. By July they were dead—measles.
Later it occurred to me that a possible legacy of Hong Kong’s success with SARS is that its citizens seem to put more faith in collective action than they used to. I’ve met plenty of people there who believe that the members of their community can work together for the greater good—as they did in suppressing SARS and will, with luck, keep doing with COVID-19. It’s probably naive of me to hope that successfully containing the coronavirus would impart some of the same faith in the United States, but I do anyway.
A liminal or threshold experience can take many forms: a time of birth, a transition from life to death, or even a global pandemic that shuts down the status quo and forces us into silence and solitude. Liminal spaces, as Richard Rohr writes in the new issue of Oneing, enable us “to see beyond ourselves to the broader and more inclusive world that lies before us. When we embrace liminality, we choose hope over sleepwalking, denial, or despair. The world around us becomes again an enchanted universe.”
Liminal space is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. -From Farther Richard Rohr
Hardly anything turns out the way you expected it to, and you’re frequently ready to write life off as too paradoxical and too difficult to endure. Then some indescribable light fights its way through the impenetrable dark. –Paula D’Arcy
There is deep beauty in the darkness, in the unknowing, in the indescribable, if only we can open ourselves to its purpose. –LaVera Crawley
What if we can choose to experience this liminal space and time, this uncomfortable now, as a place and state of creativity, of construction and deconstruction, choice and transformation? –Sheryl Fullerton
Into this liminal realm, between the known and the unknown, we are invited to enter if we are to learn more of the way forward in our lives as individuals and as communities and nations. –John Philip Newell
Without standing on the threshold for much longer than we’re comfortable, we won’t be able to see beyond ourselves to the broader and more inclusive world that lies before us. -RR
Eco-theologian Thomas Berry says the universe is so amazing in its interrelatedness that it must have been dreamt into being. He also says our situation today as an earth community is so desperate—we are so far from knowing how to save ourselves from the ecological degradations we are a part of—that we must dream the way forward. We must summon, from the unconscious, ways of seeing that we know nothing of yet, visions that emerge from deeper within us than our conscious rational minds.
“The great loss is that we can move through our whole lives, picking up phones and talking to our most beloveds, and yet, still not know who they are. Our ‘How are you?’ has failed us. We have to find something else.”
Writer Ocean Vuong has long noticed how we grow numb to language when it’s ubiquitous, rote, rehearsed — and what’s at stake when we stop examining the words we use. Krista spoke with him at On Air Fest in Brooklyn back in March, just days before the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic. Even then, he said “How are you?” doesn’t go deep enough.
“When you’re using language, you can create it, use it to divide people and build walls, or you can turn it into something where we can see each other more clearly, as a bridge.”
Maybe this is one way of asking: How can we choose words that allow us into one another’s lives, especially in a time when language is one of our few remaining ways to connect? Vuong beckons us toward the freshness of tomorrows, just at the tips of our tongues. -Krista Lin, Editor, the On Being Project.
Ocean Vuong is a Vietnamese-American poet, essayist and novelist. He is a recipient of the 2014 Ruth Lilly/Sargent Rosenberg fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a 2016 Whiting Award, and the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for his poetry. His debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, was published in 2019. Awards: MacArthur Fellowship, T. S. Eliot Prize, Whiting Awards, Dylan Thomas Prize
St. Salvayre, France
Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things”
“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things …”
Practice: Forest Bathing
Center for Action & Contemplation:
“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.” –Paracelsus
Recently, in reference to concerns about COVID-19, I said, “Love always means going beyond yourself to otherness.” African American mystic Howard Thurman understood this deeply through a connection with nature which provided him with “a certain overriding immunity against the pains in life.”  In his youth he found solace in a relationship with a tree near his home. He writes:
Eventually I discovered that the oak tree and I had a unique relationship. I could sit, my back against its trunk, and feel the same peace that would come to me in my bed at night. I could reach down into the quiet places of my spirit, take out my bruises and joys, unfold them and talk about them. I could talk aloud to the oak tree and know that I was understood. It too, was part of my reality, like the woods . . . giving me space.
During this time of social distancing from other humans, it is still possible for some of us to practice “ecotherapy” or in Japanese, Shinrin-yoku—refreshment and healing by walking or resting where there are trees or forests. For those who don’t have access to nature currently, I hope you will have an opportunity soon. I also have a feeling we will all have a newfound appreciation for the outdoors when this time of “sheltering in” is over. From M. Amos Clifford’s book Your Guide to Forest Bathing:
The invitation is simple: Walk slowly [or sit still], while silently noticing what is in motion in the forest. There is always movement, even when things seem perfectly still. Strands of a web drift in the air, trees move in the breezes, birds fly by, and squirrels scramble in the branches, grasses bend, insects crawl. . . .
Until you become accustomed to it, walking slowly for more than a few minutes is, paradoxically, stressful. . . . Because the mind and body are a single entity, slowing our body will also calm our mind. . . .
The eternal movement of the forest gives our minds something to engage with. Just as with sitting meditation the breath is always there and available for watching, in the forest there are always things in motion. Your mind will drift, and many other thoughts will arise. When they do, gently bring your attention back to noticing what’s in motion.
When you find you have automatically sped up, come to a complete halt for a moment. It’s an opportunity to fully give your attention to one thing, noticing how that thing is in motion. After a brief pause you’ll be ready to continue your slow walk.
I recommend that you walk like this for at least 15 minutes. That’s enough time for your mind to go through several cycles of distraction and calming. 
M. Amos Clifford, Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature (Conari Press: 2018), 34–35.
Ecological philosopher Joanna Macy understands: “Our difficulty in looking at what we’re doing to our world stems not from callous indifference or ignorance so much as it stems from fear of pain,” she says.
It is largely after the fact that faith is formed—and gloriously transmuted into hope for the future. Only after the fact can you see that you were being held and led during the fact.
You say one love, one life (One life)
It’s one need in the night
One love (one love), get to share it
Leaves you darling, if you don’t care for it. U2
Living the Questions
On Being host Krista Tippett reflects on this moment as one of collective transition and ponders what we might integrate into the people we become on the other side of it.
To a question from listener Colorado Springs, Krista reflects on seeing this as a collective moment of transition (which is always stressful in human life) and ponders what we might integrate into the people we become on the other side of it. “To really, actively, accompany each other in holding that question — that might be a spiritual calling but also a civilizational calling for this very extraordinary transition,” she says.
Ever again, though we've learned the landscape of love and the lament in the churchyard's names and the terrible, silent abyss where the others have fallen; ever again we walk out, two together, under the ancient trees, ever again find a place among wildflowers, under heaven's gaze. -Rilke, Uncollected Poems
In Jerusalem yesterday, a priest peers from the door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe Jesus was buried. Photo: Ariel Schalit/AP
Father Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:
‘It is true that you are going to die, and yet “I am certain of this, neither death nor life, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, not any height nor depth, nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39).
On Good Friday, we lament Jesus’ death while living in hope that death does not have the last word on our destiny. We are born with a longing, desire, and deep hope that this thing called life could somehow last forever. It is a premonition from something eternal that is already within us. Some would call it the soul. Christians would call it the indwelling presence of God. It is God within us that makes us desire and seek God.
Yes, we are going to die, but we have already been given a kind of inner guarantee and promise right now that death is not final—and it takes the form of love. Deep in the heart and psyche, love, both human and divine, connotes something eternal and gratuitous, and it does so in a deeply mysterious and compelling way. We are seeing this now in simple acts of love in this time of crisis, such as people volunteering to make masks and deliver food, or people cheering hospital workers arriving for their shift. Isn’t it amazing how a small act of love or gratitude can imprint a deeper knowing on our soul?
The crucifixion of Jesus is the preeminent example of God’s love reaching out to us. It is at the same moment the worst and best thing in human history. The Franciscans, led by John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), even claimed that instead of a “necessary sacrifice,” the cross was a freely chosen revelation of Total Love on God’s part.
In so doing, they reversed the engines of almost all world religion up to that point, which assumed that we had to spill blood to get to a distant and demanding God.
On the cross, the Franciscans believed, God was “spilling blood” to reach out to us! This is a sea change in consciousness. The cross, instead of being a transaction, was seen as a dramatic demonstration of God’s outpouring love, meant to utterly shock the heart and turn it back toward trust and love of the Creator.
I believe that the cross is an image for our own time, and every time: we are invited to gaze upon the image of the crucified Jesus to soften our hearts toward all suffering.
Amidst the devastating spread of COVID-19, the cross beckons us to what we would call “grief work,” holding the mystery of pain, looking right at it, and learning from it. With softened hearts, God leads us to an uncanny and newfound compassion and understanding.’
‘Let us pray together for doctors, hospital staff, and volunteers who are giving their own lives to save others. And for civil leaders, for those who have to make decisions at this time. All these people are the pillars defending us in this crisis.’
In Italy, one priest asks for photos from his parishioners to place them in his sanctuary as he prays for them, everyone, during this time of pandemic.
From Hailey, Idaho’s Rev. Lea Colvill: ‘This Italian priest demonstrates how we see with our hearts.’
Father Richard Rohr, at the Center for Action & Contemplation in New Mexico:
‘As we grow in the spiritual life, our life will become increasingly centered. Only a few things will really matter. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, I see a lot of people right now thinking this way. There’s a sense that we’re all in this together—every continent, country, class, religion, race, age, or gender. We’re all subject to this crisis. Suffering has an ability to pull you into oneness.’
But in these dancing tears,
what is often withheld can be found:
‘Human nature is not evil. All pleasure is not wrong. All spontaneous desires not selfish. The doctrine of original sin does not mean that human nature has been completely corrupted and that man’s freedom is always inclined to sin.
Man is neither a devil nor an angel. He is not pure spirit, but a being of flesh and spirit, subject to error and malice, but basically inclined to seek truth and goodness. He is, indeed, a sinner: but their hearts respond to love and grace. It also responds to the goodness and to the need of his fellowman.’
-Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness 
If we over-use the intellectual center, then our work lies in bringing the emotional and moving centers fully online and integrating them. Wisdom is a way of knowing that goes beyond one’s mind, one’s rational understanding, and embraces the whole of a person: mind, heart, and body. These three centers must all be working, and working in harmony, as the first prerequisite to the Wisdom way of knowing.
This essay is excerpted from W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk.
O water, voice of my heart, crying in the sand,
All night long crying with a mournful cry,
As I lie and listen, and cannot understand
The voice of my heart in my side or the voice of the sea,
O water, crying for rest, is it I, is it I?
All night long the water is crying to me.
Unresting water, there shall never be rest
Till the last moon droop and the last tide fail,
And the fire of the end begin to burn in the west;
And the heart shall be weary and wonder and cry like the sea,
All life long crying without avail,
As the water all night long is crying to me.
— Arthur Symons
“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.
And yet, being a problem is a strange experience,—peculiar even for one who has never been anything else, save perhaps in babyhood and in Europe. It is in the early days of rollicking boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day, as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards—ten cents a package—and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card,—refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows. That sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination-time, or beat them at a foot-race, or even beat their stringy heads. Alas, with the years all this fine contempt began to fade; for the worlds I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine. But they should not keep these prizes, I said; some, all, I would wrest from them. Just how I would do it I could never decide: by reading law, by healing the sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam in my head,—some way. With other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy, or into silent hatred of the pale world about them and mocking distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry, Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? The shades of the prison-house closed round about us all: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the stone, or steadily, half hopelessly, watch the streak of blue above.
After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian,
the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.
One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.
This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius. These powers of body and mind have in the past been strangely wasted, dispersed, or forgotten.
The shadow of a mighty Negro past flits through the tale of Ethiopia the Shadowy and of Egypt the Sphinx. Throughout history, the powers of single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness. Here in America, in the few days since Emancipation, the black man’s turning hither and thither in hesitant and doubtful striving has often made his very strength to lose effectiveness, to seem like absence of power, like weakness. And yet it is not weakness,—it is the contradiction of double aims. The double-aimed struggle of the black artisan—on the one hand to escape white contempt for a nation of mere hewers of wood and drawers of water, and on the other hand to plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde—could only result in making him a poor craftsman, for he had but half a heart in either cause. By the poverty and ignorance of his people, the Negro minister or doctor was tempted toward quackery and demagogy; and by the criticism of the other world, toward ideals that made him ashamed of his lowly tasks. The would-be black savant was confronted by the paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which would teach the white world was Greek to his own flesh and blood. The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people. This waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand thousand people,—has sent them often wooing false gods and invoking false means of salvation, and at times has even seemed about to make them ashamed of themselves.
Away back in the days of bondage they thought to see in one divine event the end of all doubt and disappointment; few men ever worshipped Freedom with half such unquestioning faith as did the American Negro for two centuries. To him, so far as he thought and dreamed, slavery was indeed the sum of all villainies, the cause of all sorrow, the root of all prejudice; Emancipation was the key to a promised land of sweeter beauty than ever stretched before the eyes of wearied Israelites. In song and exhortation swelled one refrain—Liberty; in his tears and curses the God he implored had Freedom in his right hand. At last it came,—suddenly, fearfully, like a dream. With one wild carnival of blood and passion came the message in his own plaintive cadences:—
“Shout, O children!
Shout, you’re free!
For God has bought your liberty!”
Years have passed away since then,—ten, twenty, forty; forty years of national life, forty years of renewal and development, and yet the swarthy spectre sits in its accustomed seat at the Nation’s feast. In vain do we cry to this our vastest social problem:—
“Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble!”
The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land. Whatever of good may have come in these years of change, the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people,—a disappointment all the more bitter because the unattained ideal was unbounded save by the simple ignorance of a lowly people.
The first decade was merely a prolongation of the vain search for freedom, the boon that seemed ever barely to elude their grasp,—like a tantalizing will-o’-the-wisp, maddening and misleading the headless host.
The holocaust of war, the terrors of the Ku-Klux Klan, the lies of carpet-baggers, the disorganization of industry, and the contradictory advice of friends and foes, left the bewildered serf with no new watchword beyond the old cry for freedom. As the time flew, however, he began to grasp a new idea. The ideal of liberty demanded for its attainment powerful means, and these the Fifteenth Amendment gave him. The ballot, which before he had looked upon as a visible sign of freedom, he now regarded as the chief means of gaining and perfecting the liberty with which war had partially endowed him.
And why not? Had not votes made war and emancipated millions? Had not votes enfranchised the freedmen? Was anything impossible to a power that had done all this? A million black men started with renewed zeal to vote themselves into the kingdom. So the decade flew away, the revolution of 1876 came, and left the half-free serf weary, wondering, but still inspired. Slowly but steadily, in the following years, a new vision began gradually to replace the dream of political power,—a powerful movement, the rise of another ideal to guide the unguided, another pillar of fire by night after a clouded day. It was the ideal of “book-learning”; the curiosity, born of compulsory ignorance, to know and test the power of the cabalistic letters of the white man, the longing to know. Here at last seemed to have been discovered the mountain path to Canaan; longer than the highway of Emancipation and law, steep and rugged, but straight, leading to heights high enough to overlook life.
Up the new path the advance guard toiled, slowly, heavily, doggedly; only those who have watched and guided the faltering feet, the misty minds, the dull understandings, of the dark pupils of these schools know how faithfully, how piteously, this people strove to learn. It was weary work. The cold statistician wrote down the inches of progress here and there, noted also where here and there a foot had slipped or some one had fallen. To the tired climbers, the horizon was ever dark, the mists were often cold, the Canaan was always dim and far away. If, however, the vistas disclosed as yet no goal, no resting-place, little but flattery and criticism, the journey at least gave leisure for reflection and self-examination; it changed the child of Emancipation to the youth with dawning self-consciousness, self-realization, self-respect. In those sombre forests of his striving his own soul rose before him, and he saw himself,—darkly as through a veil; and yet he saw in himself some faint revelation of his power, of his mission. He began to have a dim feeling that, to attain his place in the world, he must be himself, and not another. For the first time he sought to analyze the burden he bore upon his back, that dead-weight of social degradation partially masked behind a half-named Negro problem. He felt his poverty; without a cent, without a home, without land, tools, or savings, he had entered into competition with rich, landed, skilled neighbors. To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships. He felt the weight of his ignorance,—not simply of letters, but of life, of business, of the humanities; the accumulated sloth and shirking and awkwardness of decades and centuries shackled his hands and feet. Nor was his burden all poverty and ignorance. The red stain of bastardy, which two centuries of systematic legal defilement of Negro women had stamped upon his race, meant not only the loss of ancient African chastity, but also the hereditary weight of a mass of corruption from white adulterers, threatening almost the obliteration of the Negro home.
A people thus handicapped ought not to be asked to race with the world, but rather allowed to give all its time and thought to its own social problems. But alas! while sociologists gleefully count his bastards and his prostitutes, the very soul of the toiling, sweating black man is darkened by the shadow of a vast despair. Men call the shadow prejudice, and learnedly explain it as the natural defence of culture against barbarism, learning against ignorance, purity against crime, the “higher” against the “lower” races. To which the Negro cries Amen! and swears that to so much of this strange prejudice as is founded on just homage to civilization, culture, righteousness, and progress, he humbly bows and meekly does obeisance. But before that nameless prejudice that leaps beyond all this he stands helpless, dismayed, and well-nigh speechless; before that personal disrespect and mockery, the ridicule and systematic humiliation, the distortion of fact and wanton license of fancy, the cynical ignoring of the better and the boisterous welcoming of the worse, the all-pervading desire to inculcate disdain for everything black, from Toussaint to the devil,—before this there rises a sickening despair that would disarm and discourage any nation save that black host to whom “discouragement” is an unwritten word.
But the facing of so vast a prejudice could not but bring the inevitable self-questioning, self-disparagement, and lowering of ideals which ever accompany repression and breed in an atmosphere of contempt and hate. Whisperings and portents came borne upon the four winds: Lo! we are diseased and dying, cried the dark hosts; we cannot write, our voting is vain; what need of education, since we must always cook and serve? And the Nation echoed and enforced this self-criticism, saying: Be content to be servants, and nothing more; what need of higher culture for half-men? Away with the black man’s ballot, by force or fraud,—and behold the suicide of a race! Nevertheless, out of the evil came something of good,—the more careful adjustment of education to real life, the clearer perception of the Negroes’ social responsibilities, and the sobering realization of the meaning of progress.
So dawned the time of Sturm und Drang: storm and stress to-day rocks our little boat on the mad waters of the world-sea; there is within and without the sound of conflict, the burning of body and rending of soul; inspiration strives with doubt, and faith with vain questionings. The bright ideals of the past,—physical freedom, political power, the training of brains and the training of hands,—all these in turn have waxed and waned, until even the last grows dim and overcast. Are they all wrong,—all false? No, not that, but each alone was over-simple and incomplete,—the dreams of a credulous race-childhood, or the fond imaginings of the other world which does not know and does not want to know our power. To be really true, all these ideals must be melted and welded into one. The training of the schools we need to-day more than ever,—the training of deft hands, quick eyes and ears, and above all the broader, deeper, higher culture of gifted minds and pure hearts. The power of the ballot we need in sheer self-defence,—else what shall save us from a second slavery? Freedom, too, the long-sought, we still seek,—the freedom of life and limb, the freedom to work and think, the freedom to love and aspire.
Work, culture, liberty,—all these we need, not singly but together, not successively but together, each growing and aiding each, and all striving toward that vaster ideal that swims before the Negro people, the ideal of human brotherhood, gained through the unifying ideal of Race; the ideal of fostering and developing the traits and talents of the Negro, not in opposition to or contempt for other races, but rather in large conformity to the greater ideals of the American Republic, in order that some day on American soil two world-races may give each to each those characteristics both so sadly lack.
We the darker ones come even now not altogether empty-handed: there are to-day no truer exponents of the pure human spirit of the Declaration of Independence than the American Negroes; there is no true American music but the wild sweet melodies of the Negro slave; the American fairy tales and folk-lore are Indian and African; and, all in all, we black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness. Will America be poorer if she replace her brutal dyspeptic blundering with light-hearted but determined Negro humility? or her coarse and cruel wit with loving jovial good-humor? or her vulgar music with the soul of the Sorrow Songs?
Merely a concrete test of the underlying principles of the great republic is the Negro Problem, and the spiritual striving of the freedmen’s sons is the travail of souls whose burden is almost beyond the measure of their strength, but who bear it in the name of an historic race, in the name of this the land of their fathers’ fathers, and in the name of human opportunity.
And now what I have briefly sketched in large outline let me on coming pages tell again in many ways, with loving emphasis and deeper detail, that men may listen to the striving in the souls of black folk.”
As Rebecca Solnit explains, hope is “coming to terms with the fact that we don’t know what will happen and that there’s maybe room for us to intervene, and that we have to let go of the certainty people seem to love more than hope and know that we don’t know what’s going to happen.” To practice hope as Solnit describes it requires acknowledging a similar incompleteness to the one that Consolmagno speaks about.
Perhaps embracing the inherent incompleteness of what we know of the world is a form of hope, allowing us to remember that there’s always something left to unfold or be discovered — and not always in the way we might’ve been conditioned to expect it. May we allow ourselves to listen, and even delight in its surprises, as we work alongside the richness of this incompleteness.
Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:
‘The good, the true, and the beautiful are their own best argument for themselves, by themselves, and in themselves. Such deep inner knowing evokes the soul and pulls the soul into All Oneness. Incarnation is beauty, and beauty needs to be incarnate—that is specific, concrete, particular. We need to experience very particular, soul-evoking goodness in order to be shaken into what many call “realization.” It is often a momentary shock where we know we have been moved to a different plane of awareness.’
“What does it mean to be a cosmic being, a creature of divine light and welcoming darkness, an integral part of a universe that is rife with mystery and potential?”
Dr. Barbara Holmes—my co-teacher at the Living School—has revised her incredible book Race and the Cosmos. She suggests the language of cosmology could improve on older ways of thinking and talking about race and ethnicity. The trailer is a wonderful presentation of this idea.
-Fr Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, 1967.
Prayer, contemplation, is freedom and affirmation growing out of nothingness into love. Prayer is the flowering of our inmost freedom, in response to the Word. Prayer is not only dialogue with God: it is the communication of our freedom with ultimate freedom in infinite spirit. It is the elevation of our limited freedom into the infinite freedom of the divine spirit and of the divine love. Prayer is the encounter of our freedom with all the all-embracing charity which knows no limit and knows no obstacle. Prayer is an emergence into this area of infinite freedom. Prayer, contemplation, then, is not an abject procedure, though sometimes it may spring from our abjection. But prayer is not something that is meant to maintain us in servility and helplessness. We take stock of our own wretchedness at the beginning of prayer, contemplation, in order to rise beyond it and above it to infinite freedom and infinite creative love in God.
-Thomas Merton, Contemplation in a World of Action, 1965
When do we
become one with earth and stars?
It is not achieved, a young friend, by being in love,
however vibrant that makes your voice.
Learn to forget you sang like that. It passes.
Truly to sing takes another kind of breath.
A breath in the void. A shudder in God. A wind.
-Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus I, 3
Because Jesus did not directly attack the religious and institutional systems of his time until his final action against the money changers in the temple , his primary social justice critique and action are a disappointment to most radicals and social activists. Jesus’ social program, as far as I can see, was a quiet refusal to participate in almost all external power structures or domination systems. Once we have been told this, we see it everywhere in the four Gospels. Jesus chose a very simple lifestyle which kept him from being constantly co-opted by those very structures, which we can call the sin system.
The city of Sepphoris was the Roman regional capital of Galilee and the center for most money, jobs, and power in the region where Jesus lived. It was just nine miles from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Yet there is no record that Jesus ever went there, nor is it mentioned once in the New Testament, even though he and his father, Joseph, were carpenters or “workmen” and Jesus traveled through many other cities much farther away. He also seems to have avoided the money system as much as possible by using “a common purse” (John 12:6, 13:29)—voluntary “communism,” we might say.
Jesus was finally a full victim of the systems that he refused to worship. Is this not a much more coherent explanation of why Jesus died?
What can we learn from Jesus’ life about how we might address the systems of inequity and oppression in our own cultures? One lesson seems to me that we have to “start local.”
He simply goes around doing what he knows to be right, which he surely discovered during his long periods of solitude and silence (a form of contemplation) on the outskirts of town, and others begin to join him.
-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation