[Please pardon a lengthy intro as I share a moment of synchronicity: I am on a personal retreat but still reading in preparation for our new program in Reconciliation Studies: Truth-telling and Reconciling with Indigenous Peoples. Early this morning, I was reading the chapter called “Creation Songs” from Sherri Mitchell’s, Sacred Instructions. As I was contemplating the passage shared below, I noticed that my random playlist was playing “Creation Dance” by Bruce Cockburn and that the cover of that album was a painting by Norval Morrisseau, whose work I had just admired at the National Gallery two days earlier after learning about him from Chris Beaver’s amazing podcast, “The Art of Sovereignty.” Interrelated indeed.]

“We all originate from the same divine source, and we will all return to that source when our learning is complete. During our journey, we will have many of the same experiences, seeing the world and one another from multiple angles and through multiple lifetimes. Sadly, there will also be times when we will lose sight of this basic fact. During those times, we will become lost in the unfolding stories of our own individualized realities.

Albert Einstein once talked about the illusion that is created by this belief in separation. He described it as a prison that restricts our awareness of connection to the whole:

A human being is part of the whole we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself in the thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion, to embrace all living beings and all of nature.

This is an idea that still seems fantastic to many people around the world. But it is a belief that has been held by Indigenous peoples since the beginning of time. Our songs, stories, and mythologies all speak of our interrelatedness. From birth, we are taught to be aware of the expanded kinship networks that surround us, which her human beings along with the beings of the land, water, d the plants, trees, and all remaining unseen beings that exist within our universe. This multisensory understanding of life is now blossoming across the planet, and we are witnessing humanity awaken to a whole new level of being. We are able to recognize, for perhaps the first time in our history, that we are in the process of an evolutionary leap, which makes this a very exciting time to be alive. Our challenge is to remember all of who we are. We begin this process by expanding our awareness to include the entire creation…”

  • Sherri Mitchell, Sacred Instructions (2018)

kiss the ground

[In late April, SSU alumna and now MA graduate, Shawna Lucas, gave the SSU convocation address. Here is an excerpt]:

In times of emotional, psychological, and spiritual change, the trauma of that change can lead us to desire quick fixes, surface level technical fixes, such as Aaron advising his community to build a golden calf. My challenge to each of us in this SSU community and those who are visiting today is to not react out of our current grief and pain by building individual or community level technical solutions. Instead, kneel low, dig your hands into the figurative soil that you are rooted in, and breathe life into what is hidden. I can’t tell you exactly what that will look like. It is as varied and creative as there are people in this room. Just as healthy dirt is a response to biodiversity, healthy communities also require diversity. Individuality, diversity of talent, unique identities and perspectives are all needed in building healthy regenerative communities. Bring what you have to the table and be hospitable to the gifts of others… Turn with affection towards the soil beneath your feet, figuratively and literally. As the Netflix documentary title suggests, “kiss the ground.” 

  • Shawna Lucas (you can read her whole address below:)

shelter and connection

[In a moment of interesting synchronicity, the two most interesting books that I’ve read lately (The Overstory by Richard Powers and The Heart of Trauma by Bonnie Badenoch) share an interest in Suzanne Simard’s research into the communities of trees:]

Dr. Suzanne Simard (2016) of the University of British Columbia and her colleagues have illuminated the underground pathways that connect groves of trees. Threads of fungus interact with tree roots and direct carbon, water, and nutrients to plants most in need of support, often the younger ones. This fosters a purposeful sharing of resources that helps the entire ecosystem of trees and plants flourish, fostering the beautiful canopy of branches and leaves.

In much the same way, we humans join our inner worlds with one another through many pathways that are largely below conscious awareness. When we are truly present with one another, the silent resources of attention, responsiveness, and love flow in a way that nourishes healing. As we come face to face with one another, we may find shelter like this canopy of trees while the mysterious underground of deep connection works its magic and we may be supported in becoming therapeutic presences in our daily walk in the world.

  • Bonnie Badenoch, in The Heart of Trauma: Healing the Embodied Brain in a Context of Relationships (2018). See Suzanne Simard’s TED talk here.

beauty will save the world

[For some time now the three central values in our mission statement have been “justice, beauty and compassion.” Today, some thoughts on beauty that may be relevant to current global issues:]

One day Dostoevsky threw out the enigmatic remark: “Beauty will save the world”. What sort of a statement is that? For a long time I considered it mere words. How could that be possible? When in bloodthirsty history did beauty ever save anyone from anything? Ennobled, uplifted, yes – but whom has it saved?

There is, however, a certain peculiarity in the essence of beauty, a peculiarity in the status of art: namely, the convincingness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable and it forces even an opposing heart to surrender. It is possible to compose an outwardly smooth and elegant political speech, a headstrong article, a social program, or a philosophical system on the basis of both a mistake and a lie. What is hidden, what distorted, will not immediately become obvious.

Then a contradictory speech, article, program, a differently constructed philosophy rallies in opposition – and all just as elegant and smooth, and once again it works. Which is why such things are both trusted and mistrusted.

In vain to reiterate what does not reach the heart.

But a work of art bears within itself its own verification: conceptions which are devised or stretched do not stand being portrayed in images, they all come crashing down, appear sickly and pale, convince no one. But those works of art which have scooped up the truth and presented it to us as a living force – they take hold of us, compel us, and nobody ever, not even in ages to come, will appear to refute them.

beyond tolerance

[From a book the faculty read together last academic year:]

“In our era, it is not enough to be tolerant. You tolerate mosquitoes in the summer, a rattle in an engine, the gray slush that collects at the crosswalk in winter. You tolerate what you would rather not have to deal with and wish would go away. It is no honor to be tolerated. Every spiritual tradition says love your neighbor as yourself, not tolerate them.”
― Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents