You do not need to know precisely what is happening
or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize
the possibilities and the challenges offered by the present moment
and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.
This past week has been hard for a lot of us – and it’s not easy to see a way through the divisiveness and hatred that surfaced during the elections. I hope you’ve been finding your way.
During this time of recovery and even trauma, I chose poetry over punditry, philosophers and theologians over politicians.
Listening to the meaning-makers who speak through their hearts helps me to heal and to stand in my deeper values and higher self rather than in my spite and reactions.
I listened to the gravelly-voiced poet who found light in the shadows.
Leonard Cohen, poet-songwriter-monk-advocate for our broken humanity, slipped away last week, adding to our list of losses. I spent Saturday night listening to his songs, remembering how he sought salvation in unlikely spots – the cheesy hotel, the Salvation army counter, the gutters, the guitar, and places where life cracks through our complacency. I used a clip of his music, from the often-cited, hymn-like “Anthem,” when I performed my monologue: “Finding Hope in Tough Times” a few years ago. His battered offering of hope fit the piece perfectly:
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Leonard, you reminded us not to run from our brokenness, but to plant within it seeds of renewal. I will miss you.
I went looking for wisdom in the words of the Yorkshire poet, David Whyte, who inspires me with his poetry and conversational wisdom.
Whyte’s depth of reflection on the ordinary circumstances we face as mortals always moves me.
“Sometimes we have to make a complete and absolute disaster of our lives in such an epic, unavoidable way so that it can suddenly become absolutely clear to us what we have been doing all along.”
“Every real conversation involves having our hearts broken somewhere along the way and there is no sincere path we can follow where we will not be fully and immeasurably let down and brought to earth, and where what initially looks like a betrayal, eventually puts real ground under our feet.”
May we begin to find our footing along this uncertain path, trusting the power of putting one foot in front of the next.
Finally, I turned to Parker Palmer, the Quaker educator whose non-dogmatic spirituality infuses his heartfelt vision for democracy.
Parker is a believer (as am I) in the transformative power of education and he’s one of the clearest advocates I know for a bold and compassionate civility and the practice of leading “from the inside out.”
When I looked for his words after the elections, I discovered that the organization he founded, The Center for Courage and Renewal, had refrained from jumping into the fray of post election commentaries, practicing instead the art of reflecting before reacting. Their blog post from November 7th offered some timely wisdom:
“Sometimes we need to pause for a spacious span of time – which could be just a few intentional hours, or a few days – to reflect on what we most value in life, rediscover and affirm the ground on which we stand. To reflect on questions that help us live into our own answers. We don’t often give ourselves enough time to slow down and reflect. It takes practice to stay self-aware and awake to the messages our hearts long for us to hear.”
They also shared a beautiful song by Carrie Newcomer, not political, but good for those of us who need to just keep going, stringing our own bridges across wide crevices of craziness. (Or, as I wrote last week, cobbling together a “ciseach” so that we don’t bog down along the muddy roads ahead.)
When just staying hopeful is hard, it may be too soon to put on our marching boots. There will be a time for that.
Today, take somebody’s hand.
And yes, together, we will do this hard thing.