don’t sacrifice truth

[Here is another excerpt from Lois Mitchell’s address at our Convocation this past weekend]:

The challenges are real; the stakes are high; reality is complicated; people are motivated by righteous indignation in the face of injustice. But our aim should never be to win at all costs when that means sacrificing what we know to be true (even though our knowledge of what is true is always incomplete) for the sake of what we believe to be right. In other words, a right or just outcome does not justify tampering with the portions of truth that we do have; as tempting as it is, we shouldn’t tamper with the evidence!

  • Lois Mitchell, Professor Emerita of International Studies at SSU (You can read her whole Convocation Address here.)

discovering a more complete truth

[This weekend was Convocation weekend at SSU, and our Convocation Address was given by Dr. Lois Mitchell, who is retiring and accepting the title of Professor Emerita of International Studies. In her address, she referred to the Don’t Call Me Resilient podcast of Vinita Srivastava, and in this passage below to a quote in that podcast from Rev. angel Kyodo williams]:

… But Rev. angel says that activists are not so much devoted to a cause, but to uncovering a “more complete truth.” Truth – as I’m sure you’ve discovered – is wonderfully, annoyingly, flirtatiously… elusive – we “see through a glass darkly.”

There’s lots of talk of activism these days and that excites me, as we encourage young people to become advocates and activists for social justice. But it also concerns me. Are we also equipping them to discover a more complete truth? I wonder if we sell activism short when we let it be about single issues or causes – racism, reconciliation, climate change, poverty, etc. etc. – or some subset of these larger issues, and not about a determination to get to the “wholeness” of a cause in all of its inherent and historical complexity. Do we tell them that it takes patience and determination to comprehend inherent and historical complexity?

  • Lois Mitchell, Professor Emerita of International Studies at SSU (You can read her whole Convocation Address here.)

being present to life

It seems to me that spirit has something to do with the energy of our lives, the life-force that keeps us active and dynamic. Will has more to do with personal intention and how we decide to use our energies. Spirit, for me, has a quality of connecting us with each other, with the world around us, and with the mysterious Source of all. In contrast, will has qualities of independence, of personal freedom, and of decision making.

Sometimes it seems that will moves easily with the natural flow of spirit, and at such times we feel grounded, centered, and responsive to the needs of the world as they are presented to us. This may happen in times of great crisis, when we forget about our personal agendas and strivings and work in true concert with ourselves and others. Or it may happen quietly, with a spontaneous sense of being fully, actively, responsively present to life. At such times, it is indeed as if something in us had said yes. Then, at least for a moment, we are whole.

There are other times when will seems to pull away from spirit, trying to chart its own course. This may happen when we feel self-conscious or when we are judging ourselves harshly. Or it may occur when we are afraid or desirous of something. At such times, we may feel fragmented, contrived, artificial. Our movements and responses may become forced and unnatural, or we may try to avoid the situation by imposing an arbitrary passivity upon ourselves. At such times something deep within us is saying no, something is struggling against the truth of who we really are and what we are really called to do.

  • Gerald May, Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology

imagining justice

The exercise of imagination is dangerous to those who profit from the way things are because it has the power to show that the way things are is not permanent, not universal, not necessary. Having that real though limited power to put established institutions into question, imaginative literature has also the responsibility of power. The storyteller is the truthteller.

We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.

  • Ursula Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind

the heart of every human

That truth has been inscribed into our hearts
and into the heart of every human being,
there to be read and reverenced,
thanks be to you, O God….

Open our senses to wisdom’s inner promptings
that we may give voice to what we hear in our soul
and be changed for the healing of the world,
that we may listen for truth in every living soul
and be changed for the well-being of the world.

-from Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter (John Philip Newell). Click here for full prayer.