On the occasion of passing the threshold into the beginning of my 77th year of life:
Hard to begin… I lost an hour’s sleep earlier this morning…. worried! Then I got out of bed, sat at my altar, prayed several prayers, including the long version of the Serenity Prayer (for patience, appreciation, tolerance and strength), chanted mantras, and sat in silence much longer than usual. I went back to a different bed and lay in fetal position because the sheets were cold, and imagined myself in the womb of God/mother-father/creator of the Universe that still permeates everything. I feel asleep and awoke refreshed 3 hours later.
My thought this morning is that it is OK to attempt the impossible again and again, to repeatedly fail, simply because it’s worth doing, to be the source of the storm instead of its victim. I guess what happened last Friday set me on the path of feeling alone in the effort. So hey, I need to listen to my own cleverness, also spawned in the very early hours a few days ago (at 2:21 AM, precisely, my clock radio striking my intuitive insight with a cosmic joke, 2+2=1):
- Question: When does two plus two equal one?
- Answer: when four players become one united team, united in purpose. Hello, team!
What happened on Friday was powerfully deep, even though superficially it may have looked like nothing was happening. I went to a workshop attended primarily by climate activists. At the very beginning, the facilitator had us line up along the back wall of the room — about 50 people — with those on the far left living in the pessimism that humanity will go extinct, those in the middle struggling with the uncertainty of climate outcomes, and those on the right living in optimism and hope.
I knew right away that I would be on the far right. I was shocked to find myself alone, utterly alone, until one person who admitted they belonged more towards the middle joined me in empathy for my solitude. The other mass of people were clustered evenly on the far left and in the middle. I was appalled at the task that seemed to be ahead of me, to begin moving a few in my direction, for I know that saving the planet cannot be done from a place of doubt.
I struggle with my confidence in that task, and I know for sure that I am a small part of the many who are working on it. It’s not about me. However, on another issue, I’ve recently been very directly confronted, made wrong, by other doubters and skeptics who are certain that spreading kindness will not have any effect whatsoever on the resolution of the housing crisis. There are many angry people who will hyper-ventilate their PTSD about this issue at the merest mention of any trigger, and I have been posting triggers on Facebook with my promotion of the breakout I led on Connecting Kindness to the Housing Challenge (which I consider to have been a great success). I even engaged in Facebook debates, a horrible mistake.
Trouble is, I identify with their PTSD! I have a terrible rage about the wasted potential of all of us who have been stomped upon by the culture of control, domination and violence (Domination Disorder). I choke on it. I spit upon it. I shake, sob and weep upon it. Yet, somehow, by the grace of my Creator, I have been gifted with the ability to see the larger vision of the hidden blessing within the dross. Therein lies my Radical Hope and Optimism.
Our social process seems to have drastically accelerated. Last week, I had the impulse to attend a meeting of business owners who have either lost customers or been vandalized by homeless individuals. When their leader cried out, “We are at our wit’s end, how will we survive?” I reflected this is the exact same question from people living on the street. Then I witnessed in that meeting an articulate homeless person stand up and say, “This is not an us against them situation.” He apologized for the recent damage and stated the homeless are equally opposed to the “lawlessness” of certain homeless people, the minority whom are mentally ill or addicted. The business people made similar discerning statements, and I could see the door opening to an outside-the-box partnership.
Unfortunately, both sides carry the belief that city or county government are the paternalistic figures in this drama and have the capacity to make things right. The advocates from both sides are planning to speak to city council on Tuesday, which has not, will not and cannot do more than token bandaid efforts to address this tidal wave of climate and economic refugees, and I have taken it upon myself to express the critical need for horizontal, citizen partnership. For me, this is like walking into a den of some very angry lions who see me as raw meat.
Everything I’ve learned in my life about myself and my inner process has brought me to this moment of what feels like stepping off the edge of a cliff. I have taken a few small risks of reaching out to those who might bite me, and I’ve had mixed results — some bites, some handshakes. I’m on a very steep learning curve. I am frightened, obviously, and at the same time ready and excited to do stuff I’ve never done before, without a blueprint in front of me, only one next step.
Today, I am attending a meeting of the unhoused as they plan a unified message to deliver to city council. Tomorrow, I will attend a similar meeting of the business people. I will ask them to appeal for collaboration to do what government cannot do, change the status quo of alienation, separation and broken community relationships.
I may get stoned (no, not that kind!), pelted with rejection. I will not give up. I will continue looking for chinks in the emotional armor of the PTSD, influential people in networks of potential support, and the support of people who know me. Prayers work, prayers create a subliminal field of healing for both those who pray and those for whom prayers are made. Even if one does not believe in formal, traditional prayer, any sort of intention for success, announced or private, is very helpful. It is so unbelievably helpful beyond any rational analysis, to make a synchronicity, a coherence, of intent. I know many people are with me, and that is amplified by their voicing it.
Example: just now, as I am writing, two emails arrive just ever so coincidentally in harmony with my needs, containing truths in their footers:
- “Ripples you cannot see on the surface of the water make shadows on the rocks below.”
- “It’ll be a day like this one when the sky falls down and the hungry and poor and deserted are found.”
And the music I am listening to in iTunes randomly goes to Aretha Franklin singing a gospel tune, “Never Grow Old”
I will never grow old in my heart, I swear to you, on this first day of the rest of my life. May I be re-born each and every day.