The arc of the universe bends toward justice.
Martin Luther King
My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
The past few weeks are like none that I can remember. At times it’s felt like Rome was burning. What on earth is happening?
The confluence of a pandemic, economic downturn, and worldwide protests following the murder of George Floyd has created a perfect storm, exposing fault lines of troubling and wicked disparities. Many of these are along the lines of race, gender, income, and class. As we observe the decline of the American empire, the hubris of self-serving leaders, and the fragility of democracies, courageous individuals are stepping up in this their finest hour. A few are in formal positions of leadership; others are on the margins of society. Most are ordinary citizens who have decided enough is enough.
No one should be surprised. At the same time, I feel like a deer caught in the headlights, in witness of the intensity of anger, sorrow, and frustration; the calls for justice; the pleas for peace; and the demands to dismantle the structures and systems which perpetuate inequity. And yet, in this dark night of the soul, hope, almost in defiance, pushes its way out through the cracks.
Sometimes things need to fall apart before they can be rebuilt.
Part of that process is taking a hard look at my place in a story with a very long history: the advantages I enjoy; the blind spots in my own vision; the missed opportunities to do something. I have been looking through a glass darkly, seeing only in part.
What is the way forward in this messy and complicated life? How do I support those who long for and imagine a more inclusive and equitable society? Perhaps a start is to listen from the heart; seek to understand; and hopefully be guided by what I hear, resisting the temptation for a superficial gesture.
What we focus on grows. In a sea of missteps, travesties, and heavy handedness, recent events have shone a light on many things: kindness, compassion, tenacity, understanding, listening, speaking out; building bridges; extending a hand; peacefulness; generosity; gentleness; trust; patience; resolve; and courage to name a very few.
All of these acts of love give me HOPE as a new chapter in the story is being written. We have the power to fundamentally shape what that story turns out to be. Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the universe bends toward justice.” The bending depends on our collective effort. * Everything is possible.
Maya Angelou’s poem has long inspired many. I last heard it read aloud a couple of years ago, when a community gathering of which I was part was feeling despair. The words gave me hope. In our humanness together, let us have hope- and then together, rise to make the changes that are long overdue.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
*This statement is drawn from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation Week 23 on Contemplation and Racism https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/2020/#gsc.tab=0
The reference to “what we focus on grows” is attributed to Robin Sharma.