listening to the signals

[Johann Hari continues with what he would tell his teenage self who was being led to believe an overly confident story about chemicals:]

You aren’t a machine with broken parts. You are an animal whose needs are not being met. You need to have a community. You need to have meaningful values, not the junk values you’ve been pumped full of all your life, telling you happiness comes through money and buying objects. You need to have meaningful work. You need the natural world. You need to feel you are respected. You need a secure future. You need connections to all these things. You need to release any shame you might feel for having been mistreated. Every human being has these needs, and in our culture, we’re relatively good at meeting physical needs—almost nobody actually starves, for example, which is an extraordinary achievement. But we’ve become quite bad at meeting these psychological needs. That’s a crucial reason why you—and so many of the people around you—are depressed and anxious. You are not suffering from a chemical imbalance in your brain. You are suffering from a social and spiritual imbalance in how we live. Much more than you’ve been told up to now, it’s not serotonin; it’s society. It’s not your brain; it’s your pain. Your biology can make your distress worse, for sure. But it’s not the cause. It’s not the driver. It’s not the place to look for the main explanation, or the main solution. Because you have been given the wrong explanation for why your depression and anxiety are happening, you are seeking the wrong solution….

No, I would say to my younger self—your distress is not a malfunction. It is a signal—a necessary signal. I know this is going to be hard to hear, I’d tell him, because I know how deep your suffering cuts. But this pain isn’t your enemy, however much it hurts (and Jesus, I know how much it hurts). It’s your ally—leading you away from a wasted life and pointing the way toward a more fulfilling one. Then I would tell him—you are at a fork in the road now. You can try to muffle the signal. That will lead you to many wasted years when the pain will persist. Or you can listen to the signal and let it guide you—away from the things that are hurting and draining you, and toward the things that will meet your true needs.

– Johann Hari, Lost Connections

bone-chilling precipice

I won’t sugarcoat this: Standing on the precipice of the wilderness is bone-chilling. Because belonging is so primal, so necessary, the threat of losing your tribe or going alone feels so terrifying as to keep most of us distanced from the wilderness our whole lives. Human approval is one of our most treasured idols, and the offering we must lay at its hungry feet is keeping others comfortable. I’m convinced that discomfort is the great deterrent of our generation. Protecting the status quo against our internal convictions is obviously a luxury of the privileged, because the underdogs and outliers and marginalized have no choice but to experience the daily wilderness. But choosing the wily outpost over the security of the city gates takes a true act of courage. That first step will take your breath away.

Speaking against power structures that keep some inside and others outside has a cost, and the currency most often drafted from my account is belonging. Consequently, the wilderness sometimes feels very lonely and punishing, which is a powerful disincentive. But I’ve discovered something beautiful; the loneliest steps are the ones between the city walls and the heart of the wilderness, where safety is in the rearview mirror, new territory remains to be seen, and the path into the unknown seems empty. But put one foot in front of the other enough times, stay the course long enough to actually tunnel into the wilderness, and you’ll be shocked how many people already live out there – thriving, dancing, creating, celebrating, belonging. It is not a barren wasteland. It is not unprotected territory. It is not void of human flourishing. The wilderness is where all creatives and prophets and system-buckers and risk-takers have always lived, and it is stunningly vibrant. The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.

– Jen Hatmaker, quoted in Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness

celebrating women

(This is inspired by the women in the St. Croix Vineyard communion, circa March 2018.  And, a seed from Emily Dickinson):

I celebrate women’s handiwork,
the stitching and the mending,
turning a collar, hemming up trousers,
stitch by stitch… we speak,
speak through the connections we make,
fold of frayed edges, and pin, to mend.

I celebrate the ones who practice listening:
what powerful speech straining-to-hear is.

I celebrate the women who dig into this earth’s soil,
coaxing robust growth

I celebrate the women who carry water
who stop us in our tracks to say
look, this water, this is life. Take care of it.

I celebrate the women who do not scorn
all the hidden stitching that makes life …life.

I celebrate the women who create aromas …
food is communion.

I celebrate the woman who dared to write the line
“my life had stood – a loaded gun”
oh Emily Dickinson: so unladylike!
Writing from your corner,
lobbing silent and sure implosions
as your keen eye views the world around you;
word by precise word, you speak.

These words and ways:
eloquent
as the wind amongst the trees of our lives.
a solid mass gathering under the transience of talk
this gathering of hand work that plays.

I celebrate the women here,
those hands that tickle the ivories
strum the guitar
gathering us
weaving us into a song:

together as lament, as praise, as glory, as cries.

– Agnes Kramer-Hamstra

 

turning again…

[from a back-to-school transition liturgy crafted by Agnes Kramer-Hamstra, and prayed together last night at a small gathering of faculty and staff]:

….We turn again to the little way station that is SSU

We turn to this small happening microcosm where
we try to play out the largeness,
the largesse,
the grand languid move and
the almost invisible quickstep
that is your life in and with our lives,
in and with the life of this world,
Creator and Redeemer.

And, as we turn, we ask for help:

Help us each to accept who we are and what we are able to give right now
Help us to offer what we can, gladly
Help us to hear and see the people students are, see them and hear them as you do
Help us to teach; help us to listen.
Help us to ask for help.
Help us when we feel overwhelmed.

Grant us your peace.

responding to globalization: small scale on a large scale

There is also a vast and equally important movement toward “going local.” In fact, more and more groups are recognizing that economic localization represents a systemic solution multiplier. At a fundamental level, centralized, top-heavy systems – whether they are capitalist, socialist, or communist – cannot remain democratic. Decentralizing, or localizing economic activity, from finance to industry and farming, can restore participatory democracy while simultaneously renewing the social and ecological fabric. Instead of scaling government up, localization is about scaling business down. Business and banking need to be place-based in order to allow culture and ethics to shape commerce, rather than vice versa.

Localization is not about ending trade, nor is it about acting only locally. For grassroots localization efforts to succeed and grow in the long term, they must be accompanied by policy changes at the national and international levels. Rather than thinking just in terms of isolated, scattered efforts, we must demand government policies that promote small scale on a large scale, allowing space for community-based economies to flourish and spread.

– Helen Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World (2009)

[NOTE – a UN committee agrees: check out this report that deserves much more attention.]