I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “What the heck?” recently. Levels of absurdity seem astronomically high, and the world seems off-kilter like never before. Is there actually more hatefulness and oppression now, or has there always been this much, and we can now see it because of the ubiquity of cameras and social media?
Bernice Johnson Reagon sings “We who believe in freedom cannot rest,” while Thomas Merton writes “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork.” Desmond Tutu says “We are each made for goodness, love and compassion,” while President Obama delivers the eulogy of Clementa Pinckney who (like many other brown people) died due to racist brutality.
I’m loving the warm evenings here in Oakland, and I know they are a result of ever-increasing climate instability. People can now marry in the US independent of gender, and the institution of marriage has historically been terrible for many a woman. I just bought a new car, and there are people without homes right outside my office window. We’ve had a rapprochement with Cuba, and now our multi-national corporations can go and turn it into the next bland tourist destination. I hate factory farms and love baby back ribs.
Arrrgh!!! All of this contradiction makes me cranky!
Sometimes I sit and watch the motion of waves in the bay. I can see that the incoming wave absolutely depends on the action of the wave going out. One does not exist without the other. I imagine that humans are in the process of evolving, and that the incoming wave is what we hope to become while the outgoing wave is what we release. What can look like struggle and conflict is merely the shifting of energy—a necessary and natural dance.
Perhaps this seeming chaos is merely us getting ready to step into a new human era. I recall the words of our sister Arundati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.” It helps me to remember that the world on her way is only possible because of the actions of the world on its way out. I have choice about how I perceive and interpret current events, and in which stories I invest and believe.
Leading while uncertain will be with us for a while, probably for the rest of our lives. Becoming comfortable with our discomfort might just be the best leadership skill we can develop. So the next time a presidential hopeful makes a hateful comment about a community with which they have no relationship, or the next time a brown person gets murdered because of bigotry, I will remember the wave that is going out. That wave is surely—as sure as the tide—going out.
And I’m equally sure of the wave coming in. The wave of hope that our children grow up in a fair and equitable society. Where there is clean air and enough water for everyone, and wherein our elders are cared for with tenderness. I’m not talking about a utopia—I’m sure we will fuss, be messy, and have conflict (we are human, after all). But the contradictions will not be so polarized, and we’ll have the collective will to work things out.
I’m going to practice noticing but not getting attached to the “hard” stuff while welcoming in what we’re collectively working to create. I find myself very uncomfortable at times—often not sure what to do or think. Perhaps it’s best that I’m unsure, because it means that I have to pay close attention before I take a step. This gives me an opportunity to notice those around me—community, partners, and kin I might not yet know.
So I’m going to lay back in my lounger on a warm evening and listen to Bernice sing about those of us who believe in freedom. And cherish the fact that I get to wake up in the morning and do my piece to bring this next wave in. Thanks for being on this very essential and unsettling journey with me.
From my heart to yours,