[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.
[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.
[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
Building communities that practice understanding, loving-kindness and compassion may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of our world.
[A few years ago, Katie Gorrie introduced me to the writing and unique voice of bell hooks – the pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins who died yesterday. Some of you might have first heard of bell hooks from a class (probably taught by Katie!) or come across her writing on your own, but I’ve noticed several alumni posting tributes today to what they’ve learned from bell hooks. Here are a couple short but profound quotes that have been a part of our “daily rhythms”:]
- “To know love we have to invest time and commitment….Dreaming that love will save us, solve all our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security only keeps us stuck in wishful fantasy, undermining the real power of love — which is to transform us.”
- “The practice of love is the most powerful antidote to the politics of domination.”