Crisis state subsiding…
At least in my nervous system for the moment, it seems, the acute upset and disruption that has blown through my little Care Field here on Mill Peak, is finding a moment of respite in this little eddy of our ongoing collective turbulent phase shift.
There is a great deal of pain (karma) in our collective field. Much of it boiling to the surface right now. This is not the first time, it will not be the last.
Even just the little bit that has welled up through me in recent days has been almost more than I can bear. So I do not bear it; rather I let it break me open, crush the calcified bits, and begin to reform me, with luck to heal old wounds and better meet the emerging context of our world.
I shared on social media today:
“Start with hard honesty. As a white male, I can safely assume and seek opportunities to correct my inherent biases against women, people of OTHER races, the disabled, the able-bodied, the “other.”
No matter your gender, orientation, skin color, or other sense of self, if you don’t think this applies to you, you’re not looking hard enough.”
We all transgress. Black Lives Matter. Just as importantly, we are each transgressed upon. I wrote recently about “White Space,” what I have learned, is that there is not only White Space, but also Male Space. This led to a certain realization…
In any of the ways that we define our own otherness, we find ourselves set apart, not just from one another as individuals, but within boundaries of “us and them” based on our own self definitions.
For example, as a disabled person when I move in social spheres of the “able-bodied,” I make accommodation, not only for the lack of ramps, tables that fit my wheelchair, the awkward angles I might need to endure to engage with others, but also for the fact that I’m clearly different than the other denizens of those spaces designed to suit the able-bodied. Others, consciously or unconsciously are also aware that in some sense I do not “belong” in this place.
When someone says “Black Lives Matter,” the appropriate response is not to tell them that they are narrowminded and in fact, all lives matter. They know that. The question is whether or not we as a collective know that, when it is quite apparent that while we do know “all lives matter,” much of what we do requires black lives to pay some additional tax to come close to the privileges of that matter.
For reference, the correct response is: “YES they do! And we need to get better at making sure that that is reflected in all of our lives.”
I point this out because what I’m about to share is not meant to in any way overshadow or contradict that statement and that reality, nor to even suggest that what I am presenting shares equal footing in its current level of importance.
As a white male, there are many spaces not indigenous to me. Certainly my experience and privilege may have trained me to behave as though they are, but that does not make it so. When I imagine myself in parts of town where the faces are more brown than tan, or even in some intimate gathering in the home where the faces of women outnumber me greatly, or even yes, one-on-one, sitting with you, regardless of your gender, ability, or skin color, when I am in these circumstances there is something “not native” to my constructed way of being that I will almost certainly imperfectly navigate.
Speaking to a friend the other day in a wealthy suburb of Boston, he was expressing longing that his offering, a very beautiful and generous offering indeed, might be more accessible to communities of color.
At first I thought, he’s near a train station, the Boston area has wonderful commuter rail. Someone from any other neighborhood could easily drop in. Never minding the obvious economic first layers of traveling away from one’s home to find services, later in the conversation it dawned on me. If I was a young black male, healthy and strong and looking to develop my meditation practice. I might find this rich offering and make the journey, out of my own neighborhood and town, down the rail to this very white suburb. Naturally, and tragically, when I got off the train, “don’t draw too much ascension to yourself” would be on my to do list knowing all too well that the likelihood that I would be detained by the police is that much greater than the young and healthy white male getting off the train to my left.
The illustration is this, each of us has a checklist we are managing, nearly anytime we are not alone and outside of a room that belongs to us, indeed the checklists of brown skinned folks is longer in White Spaces, but the checklists of women are long as well spaces predominated by men. Nonetheless, each of us in any circumstance of “other” is managing a checklist against some set of unpredictable and undesirable various outcomes, not familiar to our own indigenous and natural way of being.
Inevitably, this management fails. Not always, and not always substantially when it does, but it fails. In those moments we experience some discomfort, possibly even so slight as to elude our awareness. Sometimes that discomfort is great as the violation that we have stepped into is somehow larger than us and the repercussions larger than we were prepared to manage. Friendships end in these spaces, fights can break out, arrests can happen, violence, violence, violence…
What to do?
The familiar quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Comes to mind.
We are biologically hardwired for defense. Threat analysis is always online, sometimes overactive. Were it not for this evolutionary advancement, our ancestors ancestors would have been eaten long before we might have arrived. Mystics long ago recognized that this default to fear must be overcome in order to awaken the deeper possibilities lying dormant in the soul of all beings.
Indeed, those ancestors that inquired too closely of the strange flicking tail in the grass did not often live to pass along the wonders that their inquiry had provided them up until that point.
But here we are today, a global people, no longer tribes separated by wide open spaces filled with food and danger, we are one, but we are different. We have different skin colors, different genders, different cultures, different truths, different ideologies, different values, even different longings. At the root, as Mr. HH says, we share one common humanity – we all want to be happy, we all want our lives to be easy and free from suffering. So how do we get along, how do we heal the countless fractures of our colonial and colonized histories?
We must open ourselves to one another, we must inquire, and we must be vulnerable to the inquiries of others. It is of course more complex than this, but that must be our guide star, to learn to understand each other more deeply, and in so doing to understand ourselves.
We are quick to anger and offense. It is our defense, it is what preserves the integrity of our beliefs and experience that have gotten us to where we are. Anger and offense recognize harm, or the threat of harm but what comes next is most crucial. In the wilds of the savanna, it’s an easy choice. When something threatens, condemn and get away.
If something proves itself a threat, condemn and get away.
But what, when there is no more “away?” Craig Eisendrath wrote in his book, “Permanence has fled.” Virtually all of our traditions exclude in some way, those that disagree or have not found the light, or worse are enemies of the light, they are excluded from the kingdom which we and our tribe so diligently seek.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand, it is all of us, it is everywhere. No spec lives outside the domain of the Almighty great beyond words. Beyond any form, beyond permanence and ideas of permanence, there is no away.
There is no place now outside ourselves to condemn to away that which we do not love. In my mind, I have set it up this way, condemn, or inquire?
Do you wish for all a world of love and acceptance? I don’t mean loving and accepting terrible things, I mean the kingdom of heaven, a world where we have gone beyond war, a world where we have gone beyond poverty and starvation, a world where we have gone beyond hatred, ignorance, and greed, a world of love and acceptance.
Some may say that such a world is impossible. To this I say, Fine. It is not about the permanence of some possibility, it is about direction, where do I go from here? What can I see that leads me in the direction I might call “destination” although I know that life is always fleetingly short and the destination certain, still I must pick a path.
For me, given the choice, to condemn or to inquire, my path is clear. Who knows, maybe that’s a tail twitching in the brush that I have called now “destination.” But what does it mean after all to choose love over hate?
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…