being awed

[Between impatient check-ins with the news (for many of us), I hope that this perspective adds a counterpoint to your day]:

I’ve been referred to as odd before. Nowadays I prefer to refer to myself as “awed.” I want awe to be the greatest ongoing relationship in my life. I want to move through my days floored by the magnificence and generosity of my Creator. The breaking of a day, the silence between words, the light emanating from a real conversation, and kindness, truth, love, and the apparently random hand of grace: I want to remain gobsmacked by all of it. Rendered speechless by wonder, I await the next unfolding.

Peace, friends. Be awed today.

  • Richard Wagamese, Embers

justifying brutalities

[SSU staff and faculty chose this book to read together this term – a powerful and painful exposition. Here’s a taste:]

As a means of assigning value to entire swaths of humankind, caste guides each of us often beyond the reaches of our awareness. It embeds into our bones an unconscious ranking of human characteristics and sets forth the rules, expectations, and stereotypes that have been used to justify brutalities against entire groups within our species. In the American caste system, the signal of rank is what we call race, the division of humans on the basis of their appearance. In America, race is the primary tool and the visible decoy, the front man, for caste.

Race does the heavy lifting for a caste system that demands a means of human division. If we have been trained to see humans in the language of race, then caste is the underlying grammar that we encode as children, as when learning our mother tongue.

  • Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

a capricious little beast

[Here’s a poem by an alumna that speaks to a theme that has seemed very important lately]:

Wait

it’s morning now
I sit down
settle in
light a candle,
and wait

a friend comes to greet me
and I pour out my questions
like hot water over tea leaves
and together,
we wait

other writers guide us
from this poem to that one
a quote here, some words there
all these paradoxes rise and fall
like our ribs as we breathe,
and we wait

only if you are patient
with your questions
only when you cease
the frantic quest
for some certainty
that will cement your faith

only as you wait
still as the oak for her lark
to come home again
to nest in her branches

wait here, just wait
wait with the questions,
sit down and wait

and maybe, maybe you will find
it’s not the answers that you seek
but the questions themselves
the only way you know how to live

and maybe, maybe you will see
that even without the answers
you can go on

accepting as a gift
each moment of grace
accepting as a gift
each mystery and absurdity
accepting as a gift
all the joy and all the frustration

of understanding you will never stop asking
and understanding you will never know
and understanding it’s okay to let go

you do not need what once you sought
that capricious little beast, certainty

  • Ash

quotes from RBG

[As we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of a woman who committed herself to lasting and respectful change, here are a few quotes]:

“Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”

“I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.”

“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

“I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.”

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)

parker palmer on the death of RBG

Last night I heard the sad news: Ruth Bader Ginsburg—aka The Notorious R.B.G.—had died.

The first movement of my heart was shock and grief at the loss of a truly great human being. She fought the good fight for basic human rights for all, and was loved by people ranging from Antonin Scalia to Black rap artists. But my grief was quickly replaced by political calculations that drowned out my instinctive human response.

Then a voice rose up saying, “No! Stop. Return to the first movement of your heart and feel the deep humanity of this moment. There will be time for politics, but the seeds of salvation are found in allowing yourself to be purely human at a time when that’s what matters most. Allow your heart to break, and it will break open, not apart. If you don’t, you’ll become part of the problem.”

Now, twelve hours later, I’m grateful for that voice. The collapse of respect—even respect for death—is one of the underlying illnesses of American culture. Yes, the nearly 200,000 American deaths from COVID-19 have political implications. But first and foremost, each of them is a human loss, deeply and forever felt by family members and friends. That truth must come first, before we turn to the politics, or we will have lost all that truly matters, all chance of crafting a politics worthy of the human spirit.