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.]
[A 10-year-old girl’s letter to the police officer seen being crushed in the insurrection riot at the Capitol building on January 6th, 2021.]
“Sorrow is my meditation.” -Dr. Jan Peppler
‘Our suffering has been trying to communicate with us, to let us know it is there, but we have spent a lot of time and energy ignoring it.
The suffering inside us contains the suffering of our fathers, our mothers, and our ancestors.
Our suffering reflects the suffering of the world.
Understanding suffering always brings compassion.’
-Thich Nhat Hanh
We are beaten and blown by the wind, blown the wind, oh when I go there, I go there with you, it’s all I can do.
‘Despite the terrific beating we were experiencing at the hands of fate, each of us still living out his faith. Even in the presence of extraordinary pain, we were taking right action, we were attending to our practice, each in her own way.
As I listened to the lyrics of this song, the depth of my commitment to my own spiritual path became clear to me.
Marianne Williamson, in her spiritual guidebook a Return to Love, “If you want to end darkness, you cannot beat it with a baseball bat, you have to turn on the light.”
We do not need to enter a showdown with our self-destructive behavior, nor can we deny its existence. We must simply come to now it, and move on. We learn to focus wholeheartedly on positive behavior.’
-Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison
Additionally, ahimsa/non-violence practiced not only in behavior and thought, but also a vow to disrupt violence.
From Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, lawyer, author, and professor: “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation.”
From yoga teacher, practitioner, author and activist Seane Corn.
I intended this letter to be about the New Year, wishing you all the brightest and the best for 2021.
Sadly, so quickly into the year, the Capitol building in the US was assaulted by domestic terrorists, and, once again, this nation is in trauma and turmoil.
I am devastated by the events in DC and horrified by the people who caused so much suffering to democracy in the US. It’s tragic but not surprising. It felt like it was moving in this direction for a very long time.
Although this moment in history is sad and discouraging, I continue to commit to re-imagining a future that is happy, healthy, and peaceful for ALL and holding on to hope that justice will prevail and healing will occur for us in the US and throughout the world.
I hope you are doing okay. That you are breathing, staying in communication with your friends, family, and support system, and doing your yoga, meditation, and healing work.
I am sending you so much love to you and your family.
The world cries out for compassion.
“And then I remember Obama’s words, after the murder of George Floyd, to the effect of: “Think of what it takes for a black person to love America.” And it makes me weep.”
-Francis P Detweiler
‘It feels sometimes like we’re dragging America kicking and screaming toward its own creed.’ Baratunde Thurston explains how Black Americans show up for America and implores Republicans and others to, ‘join us because we’ve been fighting this a long time.’
Black Americans consistently show up for this nation an implores Republicans and other Americans “join us because we’ve been fighting this a long time.” [MSNBC]
Link to Baratunde’s soundbite:
Recently posted podcast, Why Is This Happening, with Ta-Nehisi Coates and host Chris Hayes:
‘One day after the attack on the Capitol, Chris Hayes and author Ta-Nehisi Coates sat down to process what we witnessed as a nation and what it reveals about the fragility of American democracy.’
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Chris Hayes
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
‘You cannot stand for “law & order” while waving away lawlessness, or champion the pro-life cause while waving away murder. You cannot support police by the murder of police officers. You cannot support religious liberty by trashing the US Constitution.’
‘Last week’s attack on the US Capitol was like watching the death flowering of a rotten right-wing ideology. A death flowering tree might look bright and draw attention, but that very flowering signals it’s actually diseased and rotten to its core.’
‘It might take months or years, but the tree is doomed. Those rioters are the death flowers of a racist patriarchy. Their chaotic growth, bursting energy with no direction, the urgency against losing entitlements, and the omni-directional anger based on lies.’
“Certainly anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.” (Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. [Beinecke Library/Yale]
-Voltaire. Questions sur les miracles, 1765.