Tuesday — This week we’re talking about bridges. Finding (and naming ways) to connect in a world susceptible to disconnect and fracture. And fortress building.
Sometimes bridges are built where there were none before. Sometimes they are built (rebuilt) where damage has taken a toll.
I must start here: It helps to remember that bridge building is possible. In other words, it’s an ability and gift already in our tool belt.
No one of us is on this journey alone, meaning that it’s in our DNA to find connection.
So; it’s really about accessing our bridgebuilding gift. Or in the words of Rep. John Lewis, letting “the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”
I spent a good bit of the afternoon watching videos of music and choirs that affirm moments of bridgebuilding. Oh my.
Among those videos, a story that gives me solace and motivation every time. It took place after the tragic bombing in the town of Omagh, Northern Ireland (in 1998 twenty-nine people died as a result of the attack and approximately 220 people were injured; the attack was described by the BBC as “Northern Ireland’s worst single terrorist atrocity” and by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as an “appalling act of savagery and evil”). And after the attack, Daryl Simpson built a bridge. He crated a choir of Catholic and Protestant teenagers, to use music as a way to begin the healing. “Love Rescue Me” is a U2 song sung by The Omagh Community Youth Choir.
Here’s my takeaway from listening to the Omagh Youth Choir: Inside of us, each one of us carries the carpenter’s tools.
Each one of us can dismantle the message of shame or disgrace or humiliation.
Each one of us can become an enlightened witness.
Each one of us can tell others the truth, which is our truth… meaning that we return people to themselves and to the truth of themselves, that we are–in fact–brothers (or brothers and sisters).
“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, ‘you owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Hafiz of Shiraz
Here’s the deal: Love (or worth, or value, or esteem, or forgiveness, or reconciliation, or meaning) is not something you produce or achieve or acquire.
It is not something that you even have.
Love is something that has you.
You do not have the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them. And maybe, that surrender begins with an unforeseen journey across a bridge. Across a creek that had separated and divided.
I do know this–we cannot make this journey as long as we cling. If we cannot let go (of our need for certitude or control or resentment or vindictiveness) we cannot find our way back.
I’m still watching a few videos. Oh yes, and eating blackberry cobbler. Berries picked yesterday, on the morning walk.
Wednesday — I lived on an island for thirty-two years. There was no bridge. A ferry took you where you needed to go. I remember whenever I crested the hill in West Seattle (driving from the airport) and saw Vashon Isalnd and the ferry terminal, I thought, “I’m almost home.” It slowed my heartbeat.
Now, driving to Port Ludlow, where I call home, you cross the Hood Canal Bridge, a floating bridge, about one and a half miles one of the longest in the world. Your vista is the Olympic mountains. And there’s no rushing to cross. No need to be in a hurry. And now, on the bridge I know, “I’m almost home.” It slows my heartbeat.
Bridges; where we are invited to cross.
Where we can come home.
Where we can connect to what grounds us.
Where we connect with people who make home real.
And I know that there have been times in my life when I’ve lost track of where my well-being was grounded. Assuming performance or creed or impressing or getting noticed or drawing attention was necessary.
And, gratefully, a story is often my bridge back home.
I love this account from Robert Benson’s book “Between the dreaming and the coming true,” when he talks about Sunday School teacher Hazelyn McComas (“a kind and gentle woman, a teacher, a woman of prayer, a woman whose spirit bears witness to her having spent a life seeking for glimpses of and listening for whispers of God within the ancient prayer of the Chosen People”). There is always a kid in the class who considers it his charge to trap the teacher. Benson remembers one occasion when the teacher was challenged about the veracity of the Faith. “I remember that she drew a breath and straitened up a bit, as though she wanted to be firm and clear, but not harsh and critical. (She said,) ‘This is what I believe: We were with God in the beginning. I do not understand that exactly–what we looked like, what we did all day, how we got along, any of it. Then we were sent here. And I am not sure that I understand that very well, either. And I believe that we are going home to God someday, and what that will be like is as much a mystery to me as any of the rest of it. But I believe those things are true and that what we have here on earth in between is a longing–for the God that we have known and for the God that we are going home to.'”
Yes Ms. McComas… Love is not something you have.
Love is something that has you.
Thursday — In a world where we are susceptible to disconnect and fracture. And fortress building. We need bridges inviting us to safety and restoration. And wellbeing and hope.
I am so grateful for stories (bridges) that do that for me. This week from Pádraig Ó Tuama (The On Being Project). “One of my first jobs in Conflict Resolution was as a facilitator for a process bringing representatives of two small villages together. Two villages, separated by two miles, in the north of Ireland: one village identifying as British, the other Irish. A long-lasting ease between the two villages was shattered during a summer of violence and threat. So, I was part of the team that helped support conversations.
We met every Wednesday night for about eight months. We chose a venue that was seen as trustable by everyone. The aim was simply to address the kind of suspicion that had, once again, begun to take root. Everybody in the room had already lived through much civic strife. They weren’t just troubled by the violence between their locations; they were exhausted that it was happening again.
It was painful work, and moving. Some nights seemed like we weren’t making progress. Other nights helped. Week by week, over those months, from autumn to winter to spring, we found ways where individuals in the group could open up, or could ask complicated questions of each other. I learned so much from that group. They had no interest — or ability — in undoing the past. What they were interested in doing was inhabiting the present with kindness, humor, truth-telling, and courage. They used storytelling to mark their loss, to mark their courage and their connection. We had nights where the loss was too much to talk about, so we spoke about other things. There’s no point forcing this kind of work; it needed hospitality, not demand.
Kevin Kling highlights how laughter is just a way of life, and how the telling of a story can be a way to live with loss. Not to minimize it, or to solve it, but to find a way of thriving in the here-and-now. Story and humor are part of being shaped in the image of a Creator, for him: ‘the thing that I love about the idea of God, then, is that, you know, as a creator, your creations continue to surprise you.’
Kevin Kling’s insight about how telling stories is a creative gathering force speaks to the heart of what we aim for at On Being. We hope that gathering places can be places of connection, yes; but also places where powers and presumptions are undone, and places where griefs can be acknowledged, their burdens can be laid down — if only for a while — and where the possibility of spiritual and bodily rest can be honored. Wherever you find such place of retreat, amidst all the demands and losses of this last year, we wish you the deepest hospitality in order to experience the deepest rest.” Thank you Pádraig.
Friday — I know that this week we’ve been talking about bridges, inviting us to safety and restoration. And wellbeing and hope. But today, I’m switching metaphors. After all, that’s what we writers do, on the lookout for metaphors (pictures and stories) that sing and carry our heart and spirit to places where we’re glad to be alive (even when life is messy).
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes… metaphors.
Today I thought a lot about gardens. As the garden (the cultivated garden and nature and the world around us) has always been for me, saving grace. Because it very literally, grounds me. And it hit me that the garden has always been a bridge to sanity and replenishment for me.
In other words, it’s the dirt that matters.
In designing gardens, budget discussions are never stress-free. “What is your flower budget?” I ask.
They tell me.
“You’ll need to double it on dirt?”
That wasn’t in the cards.
“Tell me how this will give me a great garden.”
The dirt makes all the difference. The dirt matters.
That’s my answer to the question about hope now. Grace is the dirt.
What grows in that soil? Fortitude for participation, focus, patience, kindness, connection, awareness and reliance on the bigger picture.
This obligation (being a part of the human family) finds footing in the right dirt. This dirt of grace, inclusion, sanctuary and renewal.
So… how do we tend the soil?
This from John O’Donohue, “When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence of mountains or fields, or listen to the simple, steadying rhythm of waves. The slowness and stillness gradually takes us over. Our breathing deepens and our hearts calm and our hungers relent. When serenity is restored, new perspectives open to us and difficulty can begin to seem like an invitation to new growth.
This invitation to friendship with nature does of course entail a willingness to be alone out there. Yet this aloneness is anything but lonely. Solitude gradually clarifies the heart until a true tranquility is reached. The irony is that at the heart of that aloneness you feel intimately connected with the world. Indeed, the beauty of nature is often the wisest balm for it gently relieves and releases the caged mind.” (Beauty: The Invisible Embrace)
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Created For Joy
I sometimes forget that
I was created for joy
My mind is too busy
My heart is too heavy
Heavy for me to remember
that I have been
called to dance
the sacred dance for life
I was created to smile
to be lifted up
and lift others up
O sacred one
Untangle my feet
from all that ensnares
Free my soul
That we might
and that our dancing
might be contagious.