Perhaps She is Our Teacher?
The spectacular fall weather this week, cool and crispy bluest of blue days, soft sunshine, delicious winds, all belied our feelings. Our individual and collective hearts have again been severed in a shared public trauma of yet another beyond-senseless mass shooting.
All that I could manage to feel was a deep and ancient aching sadness.
I biked my way thought a magnificent afternoon, dirt roads silent, the only sound, my tires riding through the piles of leaves. How well I remember that sound, the crunchy excitement of my child’s bike scrunching autumn leaves. The child that I am, the adult that I am, all sad, simply sad. No words to be said; no figuring it out to be done. No rational, no emotional processing. Just sad, simply sad, hopelessly and endlessly sad. Tucked beneath the sadness lives a terrifying reservoir of hopelessness.
I don’t inhabit the realm of hopelessness well; its hollow echo of separateness frightens me. As a child of the ‘60’s, I saw myself as a pseudo-hippy, even though I was simply a nice Jewish girl in college, virginal at that, motivated by the crushing desire to get You to love me. Committing myself to marijuana, forever and always, offered me false entry into that counter-culture. I believed in us.
And here we are, a thousand years later, where the ridiculous idea of us and them has calcified in lies, fake news, the manipulation of reality, the exploitation of the vulnerable and of our planet.
This week I was blessed to teach a group of 19 young women, ages 16-18, from a nearby boarding school, who are creating an advocacy program on their campus. They are choosing to be available to themselves and to others as support. Their quiet earnestness, the shy caution, their soft and deep words, opened in me a flood of feeling which I later identified as that missing renegade, my own hope. Perhaps the wreck of a world that we leave these young women might be offered to arms and hearts readied for the realignment? The feeling surged through me, then petered out, leaving me stunned and alone again. I hadn’t realized how emptied I truly feel.
How do we be here in this? My extraordinary rabbi, Kaya (long gone from here now) used to say, in this, even in this. How do we be even in this? I imagine—and I don’t know—I imagine we lean toward goodness. I imagine we lean toward ourselves. I imagine we lean toward each other. In goodness. And perhaps like Ms. Macaca Monkey, we pass it on.
The theory of the 100th money, fact, factoid or folklore, still inspires: Ms. Monkey really liked the sweet potatoes and figured out how to wash off the sand. She passed that adapted behavior on and on some more. And eventually it all changed. Everybody, in the world of the monkey, figured it out.
Here’s a link to Ken Keyes, Jr., teacher-writer-spiritual icon of the ‘50’s, as he explains it, A Story about Social Change. Check it out. Perhaps we can change the world by changing ourselves.
If this theory is a new age hoax, if its science is bogus and its story bullshit, so what? What’s the worst that can happen? We lean toward goodness. I say, let’s go for it. With our broken hearts, with our moments of sheer hopelessness, let’s lean toward that which is the best in ourselves and in each other. Let’s choose grace and let go of outcome. Let’s practice looking for the best in ourselves and each other. Let’s play this forward.
As the smoke finally died down last year in Orlando in the Pulse nightclub, and the first responders made their way into the nightclub to confront the bodies, one of them cried out, “If you are alive, raise your hand”. And it is with a broken heart that I repeat this again to us, all, dear readers:
If you are alive, raise your hand. Choose connection with the best parts of your self. And from that self, reach out to another. Let’s lean toward mending the tear in the world by imagining the best in ourselves and one another. Let’s crunch the dried leaves and smell the deliciousness of the earth and walk on her with redemptive remembrance. Like the brilliant young women from the boarding school, let’s commit to being there for one another, intentionally and with passionate purpose.
What would it look like for you? How might this intention translate to specific action in your life? For me, it would be actually scheduling the massage I’ve been talking, bringing uber-kindness to my spouse, and savoring the people I meet. What would it look like for you? Please let me know, dear readers, dear companions on this path. I am firstname.lastname@example.org.
May those of us who are the most vulnerable, the most frightened, the most at risk, the most heartbroken, may they be in the center of our hearts and our prayers.
May we walk this glorious earth with redemptive breath. May we see the beauty of what is. May we remember, indeed, that each step truly is a blessing.