Matthew 5: 3-10
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
1 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.’ Matthew 5:14-15
The most important question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we bing good ancestors?”
What did you do while the earth was unraveling?
-Drew Dellinger, PhD/Poet
When you look at electrical things you can see that they are made of small and big wires, cheap and expensive all lined up. Until the current runs through them there will be no light. Those wires are you and me and the current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us and produce the light of the world or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.
Thought man has acquired the power to do almost anything, he has at the same time lost the ability to orient his life toward a spiritual goal by the things that he does. He has lost all conviction that he knows where he is going and what he is doing, unless he can manage to lunge into some collective delusion which promises happiness (sometime in the future) to those who will have learned to use the implements he has discovered.
I ask all blessings,
I ask them with reverence
of my mother and the earth,
of the sky, moon, and sun my father.
I am old age: the essence of life,
I am the source of all happiness.
All is peaceful, all in beauty
all in harmony, all in joy.
-Anonymous Navaho, 19th-20th century
This is been going on for while.
American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion, Thomas Merton:
Man today has lost consciousness of his need for truth. What he seeks is power. Truth is made to serve the ends of power. Truth is of no value unless it is expedient. When truth is not expedient, then it is deliberately manipulated and twisted to serve the aims of the powerful. Objective truth is considered irrelevant. It is dried by the powerful, who can change truth to suit themselves, and bend it this way and that for the sake of ambition and fortune. -Seasons of Celebration
Sound familiar? Only now, social media platforms amplify and exponentially grow disinformation and alternate truth.
How do we fix this, repair the deep fractures, the disinformation? Not rhetorical.
‘Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was on the other end of the “perfect phone call” that led to President Trump’s first impeachment:’
“I could not even imagine something like this was possible in the United States of America. … We are used to thinking that the U.S. has ideal democratic institutions where power is passed calmly, without war, without revolutions. That it could happen in the United States, no one expected that. … After something like this, I believe it would be very difficult for the world to see the United States as a symbol of democracy in the world.” [AXIOS]
“We may stumble, but always there is that Eternal Voice, forever whispering in our ear.”
-Science of Mind, p. 33
Eschatological secret [ultimate destiny of humanity]; wise heart…secret hope. -Thomas Merton
Revelations of Divine Love.
Lady Julian of Norwich.
‘Julian says that we have in us here such a “medley” of good and evil that sometimes we hardly know of others or of ourselves wherein we stand…’
25,000,000 U.S. Cases
414,000 + deaths.
From Krista Tippet, Saturday, January 23, 2021
This week’s Pause is written by Krista:
I’ve been thinking this week about vocation — from the Latin vocare, callings. Somewhere along the way in this culture a person’s vocation became synonymous with their job title, but I think of vocation as the full range of our callings as human beings. Yes, as professional people but also as family members and neighbors, parents and friends, and members of a body politic. Vocation is not so much about goals and accomplishments. It’s about how we orient our lives and our attention and our passions. At different stages in life, different callings emerge and take primacy — what we focus on and pay homage to with our presence, and what we fight for from the ground of what we love.
To pick up the question of what is calling me and you is one way to begin to walk, each with our own offering, towards a new kind of wholeness in our life together. For there are callings in a time as in a life.
Some of us — many of us — are called right now primarily to get safe and fed and warm, to keep those we love safe and fed and warm. Some of us are called to place our bodies between other bodies and danger. Some of us are called to be bridge people, staking out the vast ground at the heart of our life together where there is meaningful difference but no desire for animosity.
And some of us are called to be calmers of fear. This calling is so tender, and so urgent, if what we truly want is to coax our own best selves, and the best selves of others, into the light. Fear is the primitive, powerful place our brains go when they perceive threat. It collapses imagination, closing down a sense of the possible. It looks for an “other” to blame, and it finds one. The anger that has consumed our life together on every side is fueled by pain and fear.
This is an uncomfortable truth to take in, a fact not about life as we wish it to be but about life as it is. One of the most painful things for me to watch in the frenzy of our life together in recent years was the loss of any capacity to remember that essential contradictions run wild in each of us and are real, too, in whoever our “others” have become. There is a terrible but also a beautiful, and potentially redemptive, complexity at play whenever human beings are involved.
I wonder if now, more of us who are safe enough might feel ourselves called — to invoke Bryan Stevenson — to walk towards the reality that those who confuse and vex us are more than the worst thing we believe they are or have done. We might be called — to invoke an image Frances Kissling once gave me that has shaped my sense of calling ever since — to populate and build up “that crack in the middle where people on both sides absolutely refuse to see each other as evil.” We spend so much time and energy in this culture, so much fierce creativity, wishing to change other people’s minds. But in life as it is lived, we know that’s not how it works. Hearts soften, and then minds open. Pragmatic possibilities appear that our bodies and brains literally could not fathom before.
The show we’re offering up this week is another kind of nod to our complexity — and to how hard a time we continue to inhabit. Even as I write this with passion I feel my body clenching, exhausted by the idea of greater callings. On some level, I’m just trying to get through the days. Katherine May, who I learned about when I asked people on Twitter what was helping them get through their days, reminds me that heeding my clenching and exhaustion is also part of the way forward. She meditatively explores “wintering” as a season of the natural world but also as a place our bodies and psyches need to go, a season that recurs again and again across a life. We cheat and dismiss this in life as we’ve been living it, but it has presented itself insistently in a pandemic year we might reimagine as one long communal wintering.
We can’t move forward without grieving all we’ve lost in the past year. Closer to the ground, this means we have to let in the fact of sadness — a precursor to pain and fear — with some reverence. If happiness is a skill, Katherine May says, so is unhappiness. Winter embodies the strange complexity of reality. It is the bitterest season, we blithely say. And all the while it manages not to be the death of the life cycle, as Katherine May reminds, but its crucible.
Katherine May helps me, and I hope she offers some restorative grace to you.
Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, Center for Action & Contemplation:
…the American dream of freedom and equality could be made real through courageous action in a spirit of love, in pursuit of human dignity for all. This dignity includes all who suffer from homelessness, joblessness, purposelessness, carelessness, hopelessness.
Because our needs are so great today, and your care so constant, we know that you are rebuilding the network of compassion around new visionaries who you have assembled for this hour. Surprise us with the discovery of how much power we have to make a difference in our day:
—A difference in the way citizens meet, greet, respect, and protect the rights of each other.
—A difference in the breadth of our vision of what is possible in humanization, reconciliation, and equalization of results in our great city.
—A difference in the way government, business, and labor can work together, for justice and social enrichment.’
Washington National Cathedral is hosting a new art exhibit showcasing thousands of paper doves suspended from the Cathedral’s vaulted, 100-foot-high ceiling through May 2021. The “Les Colombes” exhibit is by German artist Michael Pendry, who has created similar works at Cathedrals around the world, and symbolizes the Biblical theme of hope and optimism heading into the new year after a very challenging 2020.
Every moment and every event of every woman’s life on earth plants something in her soul. -Thomas Merton [changes to gender, mine.]
More from Merton:
Prayer is freedom and affirmation growing out of nothingness into love. It is the elevation of our limited freedom into the infinite freedom of the divine spirit and of the divine love. Prayer is an emergence into this area of infinite freedom.
Keep your eyes clean your ears quiet and your mind serene. Breathe Gaia’s air. Work, if you can, under her sky.
I’ve always called myself a lover of language and of the limits of language. But this week I take no pleasure in how tongue-tied I feel, standing before the disarray and fragility of our life together. It’s hard to put words out into the world right now for so many reasons. That they’re not big enough. That they never tell the whole truth. That we live in a moment so on edge and reactive that someone will take offense, or be wounded by my words, and that feels harder than ever before to risk and to bear.
There is an insanity to our life together right now that is directly related to the tenuous hold on sanity so many of us feel after surviving this past year.
That does not justify hatred or violence.
It does mean that we’re called to be as gentle with ourselves and others as we can possibly, reasonably muster. That sounds like such a modest contribution to the tumult all around and on our screens, but it is not.
I keep coming back in memory, and feeling in my body, to my experience of election night 2020. I observed it as someone who sees our political life together as a reflection of the human condition in all its complexity, contradiction, and mess. But I was also watching as a person who grew up in one of the “reddest” states, who now lives in one of the “bluest.” I felt a panicked sadness — this has remained my primary emotion through everything that has followed — as the cameras zoomed in and out on those maps of our country.
I saw visually what I know in life as it is lived: those maps marked up with definitive reds and blues don’t tell the truth of our alienation and its unsustainable intimacy. The fractures that actually define our nation right now do not run state to state or county to county, but neighborhood to neighborhood, family to family. They run through our dreams for our children on every side. They run through our hearts, and through our lives.
I am so grateful to have received, as I was struggling to write this, an email from Whitney Kimball Coe of the Rural Assembly and the Center for Rural Strategies. There is a whole epic story of our time in what is being gathered and created in the world she’s part of. It is in no way described or contained in a red-blue demographic lens of the “urban-rural divide.” She gave me permission to share this part of her email with you:
“I’m at home nursing my youngest, Susannah, who had a scary fall on Monday night and is now recuperating from surgery. She’s going to be fine, but my goodness, 2021 came in hard. Stream of consciousness moment:You know, our hospital experience put us directly in the path of so many wonderful East Tennesseans. Nurses and technicians and doctors, the other parents waiting in the ER, the parking attendant, the security guard. I’m sure many of them didn’t vote as I did in the last election and probably believe the events of Jan 6 were mere protests, but they responded to our trauma with their full humanity. I’d forgotten what it feels like to really see people beyond their tribe/ideology. It broke something open in me. I’ve been living in a castle of isolation these many months and it’s rotted and blotted my insides. I’m aware of contempt, anger, and maybe even paranoia coursing through my veins, and I wonder if that’s just a snippet of where we are as a nation.
Why is our righteous indignation and disgust so much easier to flame than our compassion?
It makes me realize that there is no substitute for coming into the presence of one another. No meme nor Twitter post nor op-ed nor breaking news nor TED talk can soften and strengthen our hearts like actually tending to one another. We don’t have to ignore/excuse the darkness we all carry, but we have to keep showing up so we don’t lose ourselves to bitterness.”
We cannot conjure up something so aspirational as “unity” by wishing it, and we are in fact impoverished when it comes to “common ground” between our societal trenches.
But if I’ve heard one thing most insistently, with an infinite variety of circumstance and struggle, from absolutely every beautiful and wise human I’ve ever met, it is this: We are creatures made, again and again, by what would break us. Yet only if we open to the fullness of the reality of what goes wrong for us, and walk ourselves with and through it, are we able to integrate it into a new kind of wholeness on the other side.
Our collective need for a new kind of wholeness might be the only aspiration we can share across all of our chasms right now.
Longings, too, can be common ground. A shared desire not to be lost to bitterness. A clear-eyed commitment that what divides us now does not have to define what can become possible between us. Questions, honestly asked, about how to make that real.
[Krista Tippett is a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, a National Humanities Medalist, a New York Times bestselling author, and founder of On Being.]
Let go. Let be. And receive
in all things.
Image credit: Basket and Tree Root (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University.
Like the exposed roots of a tree, reality unveiled can be many things at the same time: sharp, smooth, ugly, beautiful, painful, and healing.
Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation:
A Time of Unveiling
The future, however, is finer than any past. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind
If you are anything like me, there is some part of you that was relieved to turn the calendar over to 2021. The new year puts at least some symbolic distance between ourselves and 2020, a year that brought so much chaos, heartbreak, and uncertainty to so many people throughout the world. I dare say that no one lived through the past year without experiencing some level of disruption and loss of freedom, of health, of loved ones, and especially our cherished notions of how things “ought” to be.
The Daily Meditations theme for 2021 is “A Time of Unveiling.” I’m convinced we are living in such a time—when reality is being revealed as it is. Systems of evil have become both more brazen and banal, our sense of “normal” has been upended, and yet in the midst of it, God continues to invite us to deeper transformation.
A few weeks into the pandemic, some people even began to use the word “apocalyptic” to describe what was taking place. Often, this word is used to scare people into some kind of fearful, exclusive, or reactionary behavior, all in expectation of the “end times.”
But the word “apocalyptic,” from the Greek apokálupsis, really just means “unveiling.”
The beginning of the new year seems like a good time to pause, “pull back the veil,” and ask, “Where is this all going? What is the end goal for all of us, and—for that matter—for the cosmos itself?” Is our “late, great planet Earth” really headed toward Armageddon? In these fractious, unmoored, and disillusioned times, I can hardly think of more relevant concerns.
No matter what is going on around us, it’s important to remember that God keeps transforming creation into something both good and new. Instead of hurtling us towards catastrophe, God always wants to bring us somewhere even better. A helpful word here is “evolution.” God keeps creating things from the inside out, so they are forever yearning, developing, growing, and changing for the good. That might be hard to see sometimes in the moment, but it’s nevertheless true.
While more and more people seem to believe that that the universe has no form, direction, or final purpose, as Christians, we can be confident that the final goal does have shape and meaning. The biblical symbol of the Universal and Eternal Christ (Consciousness)
A L P H A ~ O M E G A
stands at both ends of cosmic time. This assures us that the clear and full trajectory of the world we know is an unfolding of consciousness with “all creation groaning in this one great act of giving birth” (Romans 8:22).
Why do I think this is such an important image to remember? Frankly, because without it we become very impatient with ourselves and others, particularly when we encounter setbacks (both personal and communal).
Humans and history both grow slowly.
🤎 I love this image, especially because not only does he embody hate, I am reminded hate is born of fear and fragmentation, threading in and out of our existence on this plane. Somehow, we, this country, allowed him to be celebrated after decades of his darkness…his evil energy. May he always be a reminder for what we don’t want to be and stay diligent against these dark forces. May he be dissolved, and fade from our public platforms and consciousness. May those who supported him be awakened to his destructive energies and dark heart. May their eyes be opened. And may they want to unite with all of us to be one people, to know what is true, justified, equal…for all beings…especially the oppressed and marginalized. Let us, together, be reminded of what it means to reside in the heart of democracy and fix what has been broken since this country was born.
And then, may we heal.
From Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States:
“For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”
Alluding to scripture, he added: “This is the time to heal in America.”
From the Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris, the first woman, a woman of color, Black and Southern Asian woman, to be elected to this office.
“Protecting our democracy takes struggle. It takes sacrifice. But there is joy in it. And there is progress. Because we, the people, have the power to build a better future.”
We The People
For those who voted, again, for the current president, please answer, ‘Why’? What did he do for you? During a pandemic? Employment? Opportunity? Fairness? Equality? Or, is it deeper? Fear? Nationalism? Culture? Bias? Concerns over race? Majorities? Disinformation? Social media platforms?
May we heal. And unite. Not half of us…all of us. We. The. People.
W.E.B. Du Bois:
Strive for that greatness of spirit that measure life not by its disappointments, but by its possibilities.
My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
The collective heart of humankind’s suffering.
The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another and all involved in one another.
Today, we celebrate our democracy, our common humanity, and a glass ceiling shattered once and for all.
With nearly 160 million votes cast, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won a decisive victory. They received more than 75 million votes, a greater number than any ticket in history, with a remarkable breadth of support from across the nation.
And they shattered several glass ceilings—it will be a joy to watch Vice President-elect Kamala inspire generations of future leaders and active citizens!
Across the Collective, we have seen so many give so much over these past four years, using a range of tools to fight for justice, equality, and our democracy. I am thankful and full of admiration.
We now have the opportunity to work for the systemic solutions we know we need—solutions that can remake the calcified systems in our country, from immigration and education to race and reconciliation, criminal justice and climate. And it will require each of us to bring spirit of ingenuity and hard work to support and accelerate America’s rebuilding and renewal.
We will let out the breath we have been holding in for so long. As celebratory as we feel, we also know that much work lies ahead—the work of healing the wounds and repairing the breaches.
So, we will get to work, and usher in the America we know is possible.
With relief and gratitude,
Laurene, Emerson Collective
Empathy + Sympahty = Compassion
We are a progressive being.
There is nothing at a standstill in nature.
Only God is motionless for (S)He was, is and will be the same yesterday,
today and tomorrow,
and yet, is ever moving.
I will never understand how 70,000,000+ people could vote for him again. Never. Perhaps, maybe, hopefully, some will evolve to understand his destructive and immoral behaviors. He has shown us who he is for decades. Some of us (me) gave him no mind. And then, he was elected to serve. He did not serve. He lied. He divided. And he hated. Hate is born of fear. What was feared?
Perhaps, we have always been this divided, but the ugly part was given platform and verbalized. Democracy, we have learned, is not passive, but active. We can not simply turn out the vote every two, or four years.
We must edify and protect the marginalized and oppressed. The government serves us, we don’t serve it.
A true democracy is messy and necessary. And it requires ‘good trouble.’
Now, let’s work to balance the scales and bring Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate in Georgia. The shadow president, Senator Mitch McConnell, will continue to strangle democracy and refuse to move policy forward if we do not achieve balance. Please donate or volunteer:
James Martin, SJ:
It is, and always has been, possible to speak respectfully about someone with whom you disagree. Here’s how: “Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.”
Krista Tippett, journalist and author:
What is the story of “us”? How do we learn it, how do we tell it, and how to shift it, across dehumanizing divides, in enduring ways?
Padraig O’ Tuama, poet:
In all the waiting of your week — for results from elections, for different news, for finality, for certitude — the work of the past is calling for attention. A new future will only be built on courageous moments, and those are happening now, and now and now. In the waiting, we are with you, considering history, paradise and conflict, considering how these patterns of time are inviting us to new actions.
What do you notice about how you behave in times of conflict? Do you tend toward avoidance? Or compromise? Or collaboration? Or competition? Or accommodation?
This poem describes a conflict between neighbors: a tree hangs over a fence. The owners love this tree; their neighbors don’t. Somebody responds directly, somebody else avoids, a chainsaw appears. Suddenly this conflict becomes a parable for all conflicts, illustrating how deep they can go and how often they cannot be resolved with a question about what to do.
‘Conflict is not two sides, but many sides.
What is the definition of love between conflict?’
Will we learn how to listen to each other again; we are not enemies–we are merely opponents. We have more in common than we know, or perhaps, are willing to admit. .d
From Fr Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
When we agree to live simply, we put ourselves outside of others’ ability to buy us off, reward us falsely, or control us by money, status, salary, punishment, and loss or gain of anything. This is the most *radical level of freedom, but, of course, it is not easy to come by. It might be called foundational restorative justice, or primal solidarity with the mass of humanity and the earth. Francis and Clare created a life in which they had little to lose, no desire for gain, no loans or debts to pay off, and no luxuries that they needed or wanted.
When we agree to live simply, we have little to protect and no desire for acquisition, even for acquisition of any “moral capital.” When we imagine that we are better, holier, higher, more important to God than others, it is a very short step to “justified” arrogance or violence toward those others. It is almost inevitable, in fact, and we are witnessing today how it manifests itself at every level of our societies. If we could eliminate such manufactured and desired superiority, religion might finally become nonviolent in thought, word, and deed.
When we agree to live simply, we no longer consider immigrants, refugees, people in poverty, or anyone else on the margins of society as a threat. When we choose to relinquish our privileges, whatever they are, we have freely and consciously chosen to become “visitors and pilgrims” in this world, as St. Francis puts it. A simple lifestyle is quite simply an act of solidarity with the way most people have had to live since the beginnings of humanity.
When we agree to live simply, we have time for spiritual and corporal works of mercy, like prayer, service, and justice work, because we have renegotiated in our minds and hearts our understanding of time and its purposes. Time is not money anymore, despite the common aphorism! Time is life itself and we want to give our lives away freely.
When we agree to live simply, we have little energy to defend or protect our group, our ethnicity, our country, our money, and our religion. Our circle is no longer defined by these external and accidental qualities, because we now find the joy and beauty of the real essentials and the actual center which is God.
*Radical, from the Latin word radix meaning ‘root.’
Drawing of Thomas Merton done for The Catholic Worker by Fritz Eichenberg.
The mystic and the spiritual men who in our day remain indifferent to the problems of their fellowmen, who are not fully capable of facing these problems will find themselves inevitably involved in the same ruin. They will suffer the same deceptions be implicated in the same crimes. They will go down to ruin with the same blindness and with the same insensitivity to the person of evil. They will be deaf to the voice crying in the wilderness, for they will have listened to some other, more comforting, voice of their own contrivance.
-Faith and Violence
As our collective hearts continue to break in 2020 for so many reasons of sorrow, remembering, look up.
The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars. -Carl Sagan
Each dot is a star in our neighboring galaxy. 500 million stars at the heart of the Andromeda Galaxy.
The truth is doing us good.
The truth of the sunshine.
The truth of the rain.
The truth of the fresh air.
The truth of the wind in the trees.
These truths are always acceptable.
-Thomas Merton, Contemplation in a World of Action
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
Julius Ceasar, Act I, Scene III
“There was always just enough virtue in this republic to save it; sometimes none to spare, but still enough to meet the emergency.”
—Sec. of State William Seward during the Civil War
Fr Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:
The desert ascetics’ [ammas and abbas] relationships were nonpossessive: They cared for others while leaving them free. Concern for reputation was discarded. Feelings were acknowledged and listened to for their wisdom but were subjected to the discipline of the heart’s goal to seek God. The desert ascetics sought to mortify disordered passions that distracted them from their deepening relationship with God..Gaia…the Universe.
These were people who believed that to let oneself drift along, passively accepting the tenets and values of what they knew as society, was purely and simply a disaster. -The Wisdom of the Desert
One of the greatest needs of humanity today is to transcend the cultural limitations of the great religions and to find a wisdom, a philosophy, which can reconcile their differences and reveal the unity which underlies all their diversities.
Professional wrestling isn’t about wrestling, of course. It’s about who’s up and who’s down. The stated rules are there to be broken by some of the participants, and it’s not professional in any useful sense related to the sport of wrestling.
And the metaphor is powerful in many areas of life.
But we can’t understand the metaphor without understanding the forms of status that are on offer.
There is the status of affiliation. This is about belonging, about knowing and living with the rules. It’s about weaving together the culture and this affiliation leads to a form of popularity.
And then there is the status of dominance. This is about winning at any cost, cheating and subjugating. It’s about unraveling the culture in service of just one aim–victory over the others.
Professional wrestling creates tension between the two forms of status. We know that we all benefit from affiliation, but often are swayed by the avenging dominator if we see ourselves in them.
The theater of status happens in our daily lives. It’s who sits where at the meeting, or who gets to announce that the Zoom session is over. It’s the insurgent and that the status quo.
It’s the dramatic back and forth between someone who seeks power and someone who is tired of being told what to do.
The successful affiliator doesn’t seek to out-dominate the dominator. Instead, affiliators weave together enough persistent community pressure to get things back on track.
And sooner or later, people realize that the triumph of the dominator, while it can be painful, is short-lived.
Story from Our Community:
Nearly every day since we started quarantine, I sit outside for my morning prayer time. As part of this, following reading the daily meditation, I play the “Prayer for Our Community” at the conclusion where Fr. Rohr reads the prayer. When he pauses after the words, “Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world,” I quietly bring those to the energy of the space: my parents, my students, those suffering with Covid, our country’s reckoning with its systemic racism, our climate emergency.
‘This restoration of a climate of relative sanity is perhaps more important than specific decisions regarding the morality of this or that strategy, this or that pragmatic policy.’
-Seeds of Destruction
An outspoken proponent of the antiwar and civil rights movements, Thomas Merton was both hailed as a prophet and castigated for his social criticism. He was also unique among religious leaders in his embrace of Eastern mysticism, positing it as complementary to the Western sacred tradition.
‘The real violence exerted by propaganda is this: by means of apparent truth and apparent reason, it induces us to surrender our freedom and self-possession. It predetermines us to certain conclusions, and does so in such a way that we imagine that we are fully free in reaching them by our own judgment and our own thought. Propaganda makes up our mindfor us, but in such a way that it leaves us the sense of pride and satisfaction of men who have made up their own minds. And, in the last analysis, propaganda achieves this effect because we want it to. This is one of the few real pleasures left to modern man: this illusion that he is thinking for himself when, in fact, someone else is doing his thinking for him. And this someone else is not a personal authority, the great mind of a genial thinker, it is the mass mind, the general “they,” the anonymous whole. One is left, therefore, not only with the sense that one has thought things out for himself, but that he has also reached the correct answer without difficulty – the answer which is shown to be correct because it is the answer of everybody. Since it is at once my answer and the answer of everybody, how should I resist it?’
-Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
4th of July
‘There is only one true flight from the world: it is not an escape from conflict anguish, and suffering, but the flight from dignity and separation, to unity and peace in the love of other [people].’
-Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation
What Dorothy Day called ‘a revolution of the heart’ is blossoming in our streets, where revolutionaries seem confident America can spend less on war and police, make the 1% and corporations pay their fare share and ensure healthcare, living wages, etc., for all. -Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
Frederick Douglass’ Descendants Deliver His ‘Fourth Of July’ Speech
How can you watch and not weep? 4th of July belongs to all of us. It must.
‘In this short film, five young descendants of Frederick Douglass read and respond to excerpts of his famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” which asks all of us to consider America’s long history of denying equal rights to Black Americans.’
Douglass Washington Morris II, 20 (he/him) Isidore Dharma Douglass Skinner, 15 (they/their) Zoë Douglass Skinner, 12 (she/her) Alexa Anne Watson, 19 (she/her) Haley Rose Watson, 17 (she/her)
Love will rise above all.
Sun Valley, Idaho.
From Father Richard Rohr, Barbara Holmes, and Bill McKibbon:
Goodness is a first principle of the universe. God declares it on the first page of the story of creation. —Barbara Holmes
Creation is the first Bible, as I (and others) like to say , and it existed for 13.7 billion years before the second Bible was written. Natural things like animals, plants, rocks, and clouds give glory to God just by being themselves, just what God created them to be. It is only we humans who have been given the free will to choose not to be what God created us to be. Surprisingly, the environmentalist and author Bill McKibben finds hope in this unique freedom. He writes:
The most curious of all . . . lives are the human ones, because we can destroy, but also because we can decide not to destroy. The turtle does what she does, and magnificently. She can’t not do it, though, any more than the beaver can decide to take a break from building dams or the bee from making honey. But if the bird’s special gift is flight, ours is the possibility of restraint.
We’re the only creature who can decide not to do something we’re capable of doing. That’s our superpower, even if we exercise it too rarely.
So, yes, we can wreck the Earth as we’ve known it, killing vast numbers of ourselves and wiping out entire swaths of other life—in fact . . . we’re doing that right now. But we can also not do that. . . .
We have the tools (nonviolence chief among them) to allow us to stand up to the powerful and the reckless, and we have the fundamental idea of human solidarity that we could take as our guide. . . .
While the lives of our elders, our vulnerable, and essential workers are at stake during the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of millions of us across the globe have been restraining ourselves at home, choosing not to do many things for many weeks in order to protect those we love (and those others love as well). Surely the earth is breathing a sigh of relief for our reduction in pollution and fossil fuel use. This “Great Pause,” as some are calling it, gives me hope that we will soon find it within ourselves to protect our shared home, not only for our own sake, but for our neighbors across the globe, and future generations.
How is a huge part of the world organised under a system that has different meanings country-to-country, and could even mean something different to you, and the person standing behind you in the line to vote?
How do we know democracy is broken if we don’t know what it is?
by Patrick Chalmers.
“To my mind, there seems no better starting point for understanding politics than to grapple with the word “democracy”. What does it mean and how should it work?
The word is easy enough to define. It comes from the Greek for people (demos) and power (kratos), translating as people power, or government by the people. Most of us know democracy as something like that. But things quickly get more complicated when we ask what exactly that means in everyday life.
‘…there’s ubuntu, Watch South African Anglican cleric and human rights activist Desmond Mpilo Tutu describe ubuntu in this video clip.the Nguni language word for a humanist philosophy and way of living from southern Africa. It’s most often translated as “I am, because you are”, a profoundly political concept which evokes the connectedness that exists, or should exist, between all people and the planet – a manifesto for inclusive government.’
The distorting – if not corrupting – influence of money helps to explain why elected representatives rarely reflect the societies they are meant to represent but rather their richer members. Consider the representation of women in government. Though their share of seats in legislatures worldwide is growing, they still represent fewer than a quarter of deputies. The same goes for minorities – whatever they may be, wherever they may be. So while, for example, western countries are becoming more ethnically, racially and religiously diverse, their legislators generally haven’t kept pace with these changes. If the current US presidential race is anything to go by, the face of democracy is still pale, male and stale. In parts of the world where people of colour are the majority, male and stale usually covers it.”
As the arrow endures the bowstring’s tension so that, released, it travels farther. For there is nowhere to remain.
Concentrate on seeing all the beauty your soul can absorb but turn away from what is ugly and vile and degrading. The higher your sights, the better your spirits. Everything we do requires us to reveal our inner longings. Identify them clearly and make productive use of them.
There is nothing more tragic in the modern world than the misuse of power and action to which men are driven by their own Faustian misunderstandings and misapprehensions. We have more power at our disposal today that we have ever had, and yet we are the more alienated and estranged from the inner ground of meaning and love than we have ever been. -Contemplation in a World of Action, 1965
A Democratic Pledge
I would like to
- become more selective in what I watch and read
- become more critically aware of the messages I receive
- find new sources information about the things I care about most
- participate in local media
- create interactions in my community
Living Democracy is emerging within the human services, focusing not solely on individual self-reliance but also on the capacities of people to work together for mutual healing and problem solving. Society’s obligation to help support citizens with specific needs does not have to mean top-down governmental control; self-help and society’s help are mutually enhancing and mutually beneficial.
Towards a Moral Revolution
Moral reckonings are being driven to the surface of our life together: What are politics for? What is an economy for? Jacqueline Novogratz says the simplistic ways we take up such questions — if we take them up at all — is inadequate. Novogratz is an innovator in creative, human-centered capitalism. She has described her recent book, Manifesto for a Moral Revolution, as a love letter to the next generation.
‘I think, in this moment of such peril & possibility, we really could build a world like the world has never seen before. If there was ever a decade to do it, it’s this decade. I want future generations to say, “Look how hard they tried,” not “Look at how blind they were.”’
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.
A “STOP!” – planetary and individual*
‘Everything happens as if a “STOP! had been given on a planetary level. Of course, it was not this summary and unconscious entity of the infinitely small, the coronavirus, which gave this order. This order seems to emanate from the cosmic movement itself disturbed by the mad dream of the human being to dominate and manipulate Nature.
Everything stopped suddenly for half the countries of the world. This immobility did not fail to reveal to us all the flaws of globalization centered on profit and money. But which of the world’s politicians and leaders will be the ones to see? We are plunged into the blindness of the darkness of our habits of thought and the ideologies of progress, totally out of step with reality. How do you open your eyes to what’s going on? In my opinion, the only solution is the spiritual evolution of the whole of humanity. It alone could take into account all the levels of Reality and the Hidden Third.
It also happens as if a “STOP! had been given on an individual basis. We are suddenly in front of ourselves, before the mystery of our being, thus giving the exceptional opportunity of a spiritual evolution for each of us. This spiritual evolution of each human being conditions that of humanity.
We thus discover that the spiritual underdevelopment of the human being and humanity is the real cause of the crisis that we are going through and that we are going to go through.
But what spirituality is it? It is a radically new, transreligious and transcultural spirituality. Transdisciplinarity offers the tools for the establishment of such a spirituality, based on the community of destiny of all beings on earth. Two thousand years ago, the greatest visionary of all time, Jesus, asked “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
Without love nothing is possible to act on our destiny.
The world at the time refused such a message and preferred to kill Jesus. Two thousand years later, we are in exactly the same situation, on the brink of self-destruction of the species, a danger increased since by technological development and the immense means of destruction. The anthropocene without spiritual dimension will lead us to the brink of the abyss.
We must make, with great humility, a new pact of partnership with Nature and with all beings on earth – humans, animals, birds, trees, plants. We must stop defiling Nature with our excessive pride and our desire for omnipotence. All war should be declared a crime against humanity and all means of destruction should be destroyed.
All this can be understood as a utopia which goes against the principle of reality.
One possible answer is that of Michel Houellebecq: “I don’t believe in statements like” nothing will ever be the same again “. We will not wake up, after confinement, to a new world; it will be the same, only a little worse ”. If we contemplate the behavior of political leaders and public opinion in this period of crisis, it is to be feared that Michel Houellebecq is right. Politicians are returning to their usual language of mutual hostility and this will cause considerable social tension.
The media bombardment plunges us into an anxiety-provoking climate where, paradoxically, even death takes an abstract dimension: a dead person is just a number in a statistic. Nothing of the suffering of the one who dies, alone, suffocated by the coronavirus, reaches our place. This is glaring evidence of our spiritual underdevelopment.
The hidden hypothesis of Michel Houellebecq’s reasoning is the impossibility that human beings can evolve.
But another solution exists. Man must be born again if he wants to live.
Our task is immense. Let’s try not to be hypnotized by the multitude of doomsayers and apocalyptic thinkers of all kinds who predict the fall of the West and the demise of our world.
The word “Apocalypse” does not mean “end” or “destruction”, but “Revelation”. We are fortunate to have before our eyes, here and now, an extraordinary Revelation which can allow us to access Life and Meaning. I suggest reading, in these difficult times, the extraordinary book of Paule Amblard Saint John – The Apocalypse, illustrated by the tapestry of Angers . Paule Amblard offers us a coherent interpretation of The Apocalypse of John by the necessity of the spiritual evolution of man. The appalling plagues which cross the text of The Apocalypse are, in truth, the torments of the human soul separated from what founds it. The Apocalypse of John is a message of longing and hope.’
 Paule Amblard, Saint Jean – L’Apocalypse, illustrée par la tapisserie d’Angers, Diane de Selliers Éditeur, Paris, 2017.
* Text translated from French by Gerardo del Cerro Santamaria.
Marketers used to have little choice. The only marketing was local. The local neighborhood, the local community.
Mass marketing changed that. Now, the goal was to flip the culture, all at once. Hit records, hit TV shows, products on the end cap at Target and national TV ads to support it all.
With few exceptions, that’s being replaced by a return to clusters.
The cluster might be geographic (they eat different potato chips in Tucscon than they do in Milwaukee) but they’re much more likely to be psychographic instead. What a group of people believe, who they connect with, what they hope for…
The minimal viable audience concept requires that you find your cluster and overwhelm them with delight. Choose the right cluster, show up with the right permission and sufficient magic and generosity and the idea will spread.
We’re all connected, but the future is local.
Footprints might be a fine compass, but they’re not much of a map. That’s on us.
More from Seth:
Mathematicians don’t need to check in with the head of math to find out what the talking points about fractions are this week.
That’s because fractions are fractions. Anyone can choose to do the math, and everyone will find the same truth.
Most of the progress in our culture of the last 200 years has come from using truth as a force for forward motion. Centralized proclamations are not nearly as resilient or effective as the work of countless individuals, aligned in their intention, engaging with the world.
We amplified this organizing principle when we began reporting on progress. If you’re able to encounter not just local truth but the reality as experienced by many others, collated honestly, then progress moves forward exponentially faster.
Show your work.
One of the dangers of our wide-open media culture of the last ten years has been that the signals aren’t getting through the noise.
Loud voices are drowning out useful ones. It’s difficult to determine, sometimes, who is accurately collating and correlating experience and reality and who is simply making stuff up as a way to distract us, to cause confusion and to gain influence.
I’m betting that in the long run, reality wins out. That the practical resilience that comes from experimentation produces more effective forward motion.
In the words attributed to Galileo, “Eppur si muove.”
It pays to curate the incoming, to ignore the noise and to engage with voices that are willing to show their work.
The question arises: is modern man…confused and exhausted by a multitude of words, opinions, doctrines, and slogans…psychologically capable of the clarity and confidence necessary for valid prayer? Is he not so frustrated and deafened by conflicting propagandas that he has lost his capacity for deep and simple trust?
-Life and Holiness
Where men live huddled together without true communication, there seems to be greater sharing and a more genuine communion. But this is not communion, only immersion in the general meaninglessness of countless slogans and cliches related over and over again so that in the end one listens without hearing and responds without thinking. The content din of empty words and machine noises, the endless booming of loudspeakers end by making true communication and true communion almost impossible.
Each individual in the mass in insulated by thick layers of insensibility. He doesn’t hear, he doesn’t think. He does not act, he is pushed. He does not talk, he produces conventional sounds when stimulated by the appropriate noises. he does not think, he secretes cliches.
-New Seeds of Contemplation
Culture and Clichés correspondent Lynn Berger
We’re constantly told to try something new. ‘Innovate, don’t stagnate.’ But doing things two, three or 30 times creates space for reflection – and innovation. And it can even bring unexpected joy.
‘Politicians know that there are votes to be won with an appeal to what is old and familiar. And they know that this message is most effective when it is repeated endlessly:
So here’s the paradox: in order to appreciate repetition for what it is, we actually need a new sort of attention.
It’s probably impossible to achieve the level of attentiveness we bring to first times the tenth or hundredth time we do something. But it’s entirely feasible to look more attentively at repetition, not to see it as a stumbling block but as a goal in itself. Not as a copy but as a variation. I suspect that the routines and rituals that make up daily life, the “grind” we’ve learned to fear, would feel less like a slap in the face to the zeitgeist, and more like something worthwhile all on its own.
Repetition is the norm: we’re constantly repeating things, whether we want to or not. But there’s a difference between inattentively doing things again and doing things again by choice. Conscious, attentive, deliberate. With the full awareness that this matters just as much, and with the willingness to see, hear and feel different things when you feel, hear and see them again.’
A certain level of fatigue sets in. The media landscape has fragmented so much that consumers can filter their information diet to those outlets that reflect their worldview.
We need an entirely new politics: one that shifts us from an economic to a humanitarian bottom line, from a war economy to a peace economy, from a dirty economy to a clean economy, and from who we’ve been to who we’re ready to be. #repairamerica
Change starts with us as individuals. If one individual becomes more compassionate it will influence others and so we will change the world.
We can not stand by and be only witness to the cataclysm…we must be active participants. (Thomas Merton)
“We didn’t need a pandemic to remember how filthy America has been left by racism and the laws that uphold it.”
Ahmaud Arbery Should Be Alive
[Remember his name.]
Convicting his killers is the start. But the family of this modern lynching victim can’t have justice in a country with laws that protect white people who kill black people.
by Jamil Smith
Ahmaud Arbery was 25. A former high school football player who reportedly was passionate about staying in shape, Arbery was out for a run in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia. That’s a little more than an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida, if you need to get your bearings on a map. So that you can spare yourself the horror of actually watching the video, I’ll briefly describe what happened in broad daylight on the afternoon of Sunday, February 23rd.
I’m going to word this carefully, because I don’t necessarily believe any part of the story Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan are telling. Gregory, a retired investigator for the Brunswick County district attorney, told police that he first saw Arbery “hauling ass” that day down Satilla Drive, according to the police report. That is what a young, athletic man might be doing on a jog, first of all. But that sight provoked him to tell his son Travis that he suspected Arbery was involved in two recent burglaries in the area, even though neither of the alleged incidents had been reported to police and no official description was on record. Gregory made that assessment, despite the guy “hauling ass” past him. Was a black man running away in this predominantly white community all the probable cause that he needed?
The men loaded themselves up with a .357 Magnum and a shotgun before pursuing Arbery in a white pickup truck. Bryan joined them in the pursuit. Gregory told police that they were packing because “‘the other night’ he saw the same male and he stuck his hand down his pants which lead [sp] them to believe the male was armed.”
If we are to understand Gregory McMichael correctly, he claims he believed Arbery to be armed because — and this is his deduction, based upon his career as an investigator for the local district attorney — he saw a person who he thinks was Arbery the previous night stick his hand down his pants. Because heaven knows, no man in American history has ever done so for any reason other than procuring a handgun. (That he keeps there at all times. Even while supposedly “hauling ass.”)
That is the best story that he could devise for what appears on the video to be the deliberate stalking of a human being. Sure, there’s the audible, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” yelled by the McMichael boys, but what black man in America with a survival instinct stops when a bunch of white men with guns, without badges, hollers this at them?
The police report and full video, photographed by an as-yet unknown driver trailing the McMichaels’ truck, both detail what happens next. The McMichaels cut off Arbery’s path and then we see people getting out of the vehicle and hear yelling. As the car pulls up, per the police report account, the video depicts Arbery struggling over a firearm with Travis, the son. A man is perched in the bed of the truck overlooking. Shots are ringing out. By the end of it all, three shots are fired. At least two struck Arbery, who falls dead to the ground with a visibly bloody shirt. He was unarmed.
Arbery family attorney Lee Merritt, who last October secured a conviction of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger for the murder of Botham Jean, told me Thursday morning that Bryan was the person that recorded the video and that he believes Bryan coordinated with the McMichaels in committing the murder. “We are demanding that all three of these men be arrested immediately,” Merritt said to me via text.
(Update, 5/7: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced late Thursday evening, several hours after the publication of this article, that Gregory and Travis McMichael had been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.)
However, it is the video of this incident, emerging earlier this week, that has both seemingly secured the nation’s attention and an eventual grand jury in Brunswick County.
The killing happened more than two months ago, and a series of prosecutors have recused themselves from the case because they’re connected professionally to McMichael.
One prosecutor — Waycross, Georgia district attorney George Barnhill — wrote a letter that candidly stated why he felt that the McMichaels should escape accountability for the incident, citing Georgia’s open-carry and stand-your-ground laws, as well as its state code for grounds for arrest: “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”
I want these men put away, but this is why the solution to incidents like this cannot be sought primarily through the courts. We need lawmakers to get busy. Open-carry must be abolished. Stand-your-ground has to go. State codes that allow citizens to arrest people? Those are golden tickets for lynchings. They should be relics of an America that should embarrass us.
Why should these be the priority? Given that racism has such permanence, it only makes sense that Americans must do away with any law or standard that empowers those who embrace that ideology. First, there is too much money in it. Those who seek to maintain power invest heavily in seeding it amongst the poorest, whitest Americans, and frankly, a lot of rich folks believe it themselves. So especially in this pandemic age, I’m even more about survival than ever. If black folks want to vent about the racism of the individuals involved here, I don’t begrudge them, especially if it helps assuage their anger and grief. But another reason why Arbery is dead today is that the laws of the land, along with those who enforce them, have long ensured that people like the McMichaels don’t have to think twice about picking up that .357 and that shotgun before running off to harass or even kill someone like Ahmaud Arbery.
With laws that made sense, at the worst we’re talking about a young man with some viral tweets about white guys who confronted him about burglaries while he was out for a jog. Maybe he even takes cellphone video of it, and laughs to keep from crying as he runs off. A lot of people will be doing the same as they run Friday in tribute of Arbery on what would have been his 26th birthday. I’ll join them. It will help sate the pain, for now, and demonstrate that we should be able to do what he was doing that Sunday afternoon without threat of losing our lives.
Arbery’s death didn’t get much media attention until now, in part because it happened right as COVID-19 began scaring us into submission. But even long before the coronavirus, there has always seemed to be some reason for us to look away from black death of this kind. The era that birthed Black Lives Matter is several years past, yet we keep needing to repeat those words to a largely white America that seems exhausted by them. The shock of Arbery’s limp body slumping to the ground after very real gunshots is here to once again wake up the “woke,” I guess. Saying their names over and over again to people who don’t hear them until we eventually lose our voices has to end. We cannot afford, as citizens, to continue propagating memes and other forms of online absolution without concrete action. Until there are severe and inescapable consequences for killing black people, anyone who isn’t fully antiracist will continue to do just that.
We didn’t need a pandemic to remember how filthy America has been left by racism and the laws that uphold it. However, we cannot baptize ourselves in the blood of the slain and leave feeling clean. We can no longer accept facsimiles. We must have actual justice.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” Carl Jung wrote, “but by making the darkness conscious.” Reading this, I realize that in a whole lifetime spent with seekers of enlightenment, I have never once heard anyone speak in hushed tones about the value of endarkenment. -Barbara Taylor Brown, author & Episcopal priest
And so even now, as light gives way to darkness, I know that once again light is born from darkness. Those who read out to help strangers are living out the oneness that is part of our spiritual DNA. -Science of Mind
What are we only now coming “to know” through this time of not-knowing?
Either we will love and help one another or we will hate and attack one another, in which latter case we will all be one another’s hell. Perhaps Sartre was not far wrong in saying that where freedom is abused, society itself turns into heel.. (L’enfer c’est les autres.”) -Thomas Merton
Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus
This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come.
Humankind is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come. They will shape not just our healthcare systems but also our economy, politics and culture. We must act quickly and decisively. We should also take into account the long-term consequences of our actions. When choosing between alternatives, we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes. Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive — but we will inhabit a different world.
Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours. Immature and even dangerous technologies are pressed into service, because the risks of doing nothing are bigger. Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments. What happens when everybody works from home and communicates only at a distance? What happens when entire schools and universities go online? In normal times, governments, businesses and educational boards would never agree to conduct such experiments. But these aren’t normal times.
The coronavirus epidemic is thus a major test of citizenship. In the days ahead, each one of us should choose to trust scientific data and healthcare experts over unfounded conspiracy theories and self-serving politicians. If we fail to make the right choice, we might find ourselves signing away our most precious freedoms, thinking that this is the only way to safeguard our health.
How the Pandemic Will End
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Story by Ed Yong
The testing fiasco was the original sin of America’s pandemic failure, the single flaw that undermined every other countermeasure. If the country could have accurately tracked the spread of the virus, hospitals could have executed their pandemic plans, girding themselves by allocating treatment rooms, ordering extra supplies, tagging in personnel, or assigning specific facilities to deal with COVID-19 cases. None of that happened. Instead, a health-care system that already runs close to full capacity, and that was already challenged by a severe flu season, was suddenly faced with a virus that had been left to spread, untracked, through communities around the country. Overstretched hospitals became overwhelmed. Basic protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves, began to run out. Beds will soon follow, as will the ventilators that provide oxygen to patients whose lungs are besieged by the virus.
The White House is a ghost town of scientific expertise. A pandemic-preparedness office that was part of the National Security Council was dissolved in 2018. On January 28, Luciana Borio, who was part of that team, urged the government to “act now to prevent an American epidemic,” and specifically to work with the private sector to develop fast, easy diagnostic tests. But with the office shuttered, those warnings were published in The Wall Street Journal, rather than spoken into the president’s ear. Instead of springing into action, America sat idle.
After 9/11, the world focused on counterterrorism. After COVID-19, attention may shift to public health. Expect to see a spike in funding for virology and vaccinology, a surge in students applying to public-health programs, and more domestic production of medical supplies. Expect pandemics to top the agenda at the United Nations General Assembly. Anthony Fauci is now a household name. “Regular people who think easily about what a policewoman or firefighter does finally get what an epidemiologist does,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
The lessons that America draws from this experience are hard to predict, especially at a time when online algorithms and partisan broadcasters only serve news that aligns with their audience’s preconceptions. Such dynamics will be pivotal in the coming months, says Ilan Goldenberg, a foreign-policy expert at the Center for a New American Security. “The transitions after World War II or 9/11 were not about a bunch of new ideas,” he says. “The ideas are out there, but the debates will be more acute over the next few months because of the fluidity of the moment and willingness of the American public to accept big, massive changes.”
7 Resources for Reliable Information About Coronavirus
1. The World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) is publishing rolling updates on the coronavirus situation as well as useful infographics and explainers, and should be your first port of call for new assessments of what is going on.
The WHO has also got a really handy page on common coronavirus myths — covering everything from whether eating garlic or taking a bath can help prevent you catching it (they can’t), to discussion about what age people are most susceptible.
2. The National Health Service
The UK’s NHS is another excellent resource. It includes easy to understand advice about symptoms, and what to do if you think you have them.
It also gives details of how and under which circumstances you need to self-isolate, and for how long, and on how to get a self-isolation medical advice note to get to your employer.
3. The BBC Coronavirus Podcast
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has launched a Coronavirus Global Update podcast, which includes a daily round-up on the spread of coronavirus.
It also includes reports from affected areas, details of the latest medical information, and the impact on health, business, and travel.
4. COVID-19 Facts
The COVID-19 Facts website works to collate information from sources including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organization, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
It also features a series covering myths around coronavirus, including analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit of where the myth came from, and what experts say about it.
5. The New Scientist Podcast
The New Scientist podcast is becoming increasingly focused on COVID-19 — including episodes and pandemic preparations; the spread of COVID-19 and the importance of hand washing; the coronavirus vaccine; and a coronavirus special on disaster preparation and environmental change.
6. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The content platform of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Optimist, is sharing stories, research, and news stories about coronavirus from the Foundation.
The platform works to convene expert voices from across the global health sector, including sharing expert perspectives and updates on the response to COVID-19 — and you can also sign up for the Optimist’s news digest.
7. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
The LSHTM launched its new podcastLSHTM Viral in January 2020, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, and is releasing a new episode every week. It specifically focuses on the science behind outbreaks and how we respond to them.
Meanwhile, the LSHTM is also launching an online short course, for those who want to better understand the emergence of COVID-19, and how we respond to it moving forward.
The free-of-charge course launches on March 23, and will cover topics like: how COVID-19 emerged and was identified; public health measures worldwide; and what’s needed to address COVID-19 in the future.
Given that everything is going to be the way it’s going to be, we’re left with an actually useful and productive question instead: “What are you going to do about it?”
Stocking up on compassion.
That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief
Harvard Business Review
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present.
Finally, it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, That’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.
When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.
It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.
Sharing a message from one of the spiritual leaders in our valley, Sun Valley, Idaho.
’Those who love their own noise are impatient of everythingelse. They constantly defile the silence of the forests and the mountains and the sea.They for through silent nature in very direction with their machines, for fear that thecalm world might accuse them of their own emptiness. The urgency oftheir swift movement seems to ignore the tranquility of nature bypretending to have a purpose. The loud plane seems for a moment to deny the realityof the clouds and of the sky by its direction, its noise, and its pretendedstrength. The silence of the sky remains when the plane has gone. Thetranquility of the clouds will remain when the plane has fallen apart. It is thesilence of the world that is real. Our noise, our business, and all our fatuous statementsabout our purposes—these are the illusions.’-No Man Is an Island 
The Virus Can Be Stopped, but Only With Harsh Steps, Experts Say
Terrifying though the coronavirus may be, it can be turned back. China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have demonstrated that, with furious efforts, the contagion can be brought to heel.
Whether they can keep it suppressed remains to be seen. But for the United States to repeat their successes will take extraordinary levels of coordination and money from the country’s leaders, and extraordinary levels of trust and cooperation from citizens. It will also require international partnerships in an interconnected world.
There is a chance to stop the coronavirus. This contagion has a weakness.
Although there are incidents of rampant spread, as happened on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, the coronavirus more often infects clusters of family members, friends and work colleagues, said Dr. David L. Heymann, who chairs an expert panel advising the World Health Organization on emergencies.
No one is certain why the virus travels in this way, but experts see an opening nonetheless. “You can contain clusters,” Dr. Heymann said. “You need to identify and stop discrete outbreaks, and then do rigorous contact tracing.”
But doing so takes intelligent, rapidly adaptive work by health officials, and near-total cooperation from the populace. Containment becomes realistic only when Americans realize that working together is the only way to protect themselves and their loved ones.
In interviews with a dozen of the world’s leading experts on fighting epidemics, there was wide agreement on the steps that must be taken immediately.
Those experts included international public health officials who have fought AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, flu and Ebola; scientists and epidemiologists; and former health officials who led major American global health programs in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Americans must be persuaded to stay home, they said, and a system put in place to isolate the infected and care for them outside the home. Travel restrictions should be extended, they said; productions of masks and ventilators must be accelerated, and testing problems must be resolved.
Just as generals take the lead in giving daily briefings in wartime — as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf did during the Persian Gulf war — medical experts should be at the microphone now to explain complex ideas like epidemic curves, social distancing and off-label use of drugs.
The microphone should not even be at the White House, scientists said, so that briefings of historic importance do not dissolve into angry, politically charged exchanges with the press corps, as happened again on Friday.
Instead, leaders must describe the looming crisis and the possible solutions in ways that will win the trust of Americans.
Above all, the experts said, briefings should focus on saving lives and making sure that average wage earners survive the coming hard times — not on the stock market, the tourism industry or the president’s health. There is no time left to point fingers and assign blame.
The next priority, experts said, is extreme social distancing.
If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologists say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt.
The world of our time is in confusion. It is reaching the peak of the greatest crisis in history. Never before has there been such a total upheaval of the whole human race. Tremendous forces are at work: spiritual, sociological, economic, technological and, least of all, political. Mankind stands on the brink of a new barbarism, yet at the same time there remain possibilities for an unexpected and almost unbelievable solution, the creation of a new world and a new civilization, the like of which has never been seen. We are face to face with Antichrist, or the Millennium (Millennials!), no one knows which.
-Thomas Merton, The Silent Life, 1957
‘If a man has to be pleasing to me, conforming, reassuring, before I can love him, then I cannot truly love him. Not that love cannot console or reassure! But if I demand first to be reassured, I will never dare to begin loving. If a man has to be a Jew or a Christian before I can love him, then I cannot love him. If he has to be black or white before I can love him, then I cannot love him. If he has to belong to my political party or social group before I can love him, if he has to wear any kind of uniform, then my love is no longer love because it is not free: it is dictated by something outside itself. It is dominated by an appetite other than love. I love not the person but his classification, and in that event I love him not as a person but as a thing. In this way I remain at the mercy of forces outside myself, and those who seem to me to be neighbors are indeed strangers; for I am, first of all, a stranger to myself.’
-Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration, 1965
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith on the purpose and power of poetry
The two-time American poet laureate joins The Ezra Klein Show for a powerful conversation on love, language, and more.
‘It’s the rare podcast conversation on The Ezra Klein Show where, as it’s happening, I’m making notes to go back and listen again so I can fully absorb what I heard. But this is that kind of episode.
Tracy K. Smith is the chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, and was the two-time poet laureate of the United States from 2017 to 2019. But I’ll be honest: she was an intimidating interview for me. I often find myself frustrated by poetry, yearning for it to simply tell me what it wants to say, aggravated that I can’t seem to crack its code.
Preparing for this conversation, and even more so, talking to Smith, was a revelation. Poetry, she argues, is about expressing “the feelings that defy language.” The struggle is part of the point: you’re going where language stumbles, where literalism fails. Developing a comfort and ease in those spaces isn’t something we’re taught to do, but it’s something we need to do. And so, on one level, this conversation is simply about poetry: what it is, what it does, how to read it.
But on another level, this conversation is also about the ideas and tensions that Smith uses poetry to capture: what it means to be a descendent of slaves, a human in love, a nation divided. Laced through our conversation is readings of poems from her most recent book Wade in the Water, and discussions of some of the hardest questions in the American, and even human, canon. Hearing Smith read her erasure poem, “Declaration” is, without doubt, one of the most powerful moments I’ve had on the podcast.
There is more to this conversation than I can capture here, but to say it simply: this isn’t one to miss, and that’s particularly true if, like me, poetry intimidates you.’
I want to utter you. I want to portray you
not with lapis or gold, but with colors made of apple bark.
There is no image I could invent
that your presence would not eclipse.