The seismic shifts that are underway in every aspect of our culture these days are nothing compared to the seismic shifts God is calling me to personally, perhaps calling all of us too if there is to be any resolution that will promote the human advancement of us all.
We can no longer face anything the same way we did five months ago. It seems like such a breath of time, and yet a centuries-wide chasm has been broken open by the processes and changes that are fracturing and reshaping the world as we have known it.
We collectively stare into a widening canyon of uncertainty as life spins into unexpected directions. Uncertainty: where will all this end? What will happen to me? Will I be able to keep what I have? Am I somehow also responsible for this? Am I all that God has put me on this earth to be and to do?
Yet a window of possibility is emerging…
The possibility that we might feel with courage…
That we might decide with love…
That we might listen with neutrality…
That we might be willing to lose something that another might have,
to die that another might live…
As John O’Donohue wrote in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings:
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
You have been forced to enter empty time,
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.
The isolation imposed on us by the life-threatening spread of COVID-19 has been a world-wide empty time in which we touched the raw needs of our heart and soul, where we reached out for the humanity of others, where we realized that we are no different from anyone else sheltered behind doors, afraid.
We had to give up the “desires that drove us” but a few weeks before. The world changed in the twinkling of an eye as we closed the doors behind us, each facing our vulnerability…our death.
Forsaking the “race of days,” we pondered the end of our days.
John O’Donohue continues:
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like tireless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
And then as George Floyd’s days were ended and the unheard cry of our black brothers and sisters wailed through the world’s streets in a demand for justice, our front doors burst open, as we ran out into the streets, literally or figuratively. We have been pulled too quickly back into traveling “too fast over false ground,” our soul snatched from us as we live now too much on the level of senses, appearance, rage, justification, confusion, guilt and fear.
As we, during the first weeks of the pandemic, touched in a new way our own humanity and that of those we loved, and perhaps that of everyone else to whom we felt bound by bonds of sympathy, we are called now to touch the humanity of those we may not know, people for whom—for one reason or another—we may feel no compassion. To truly understand what frightens or enrages us, we need to understand, deeply understand, the humanity of the other, what matters to them, their history, their frame of reference, their desires and fears. We need to put them first. We need to let ourselves become the student.
We need the courage to care. To be kind. To assume there is more context to the particulars we see in any given situation. To have the humility to study, read, research, plead with God for enlightenment and truth and charity.
To do all this, we need to close once again the doors of our passion. Whether we walk in protest or otherwise engage in the transformation into which we all are swept, we need to dig more deeply into our souls for the sake of honoring the humanity of the “other,” whoever for us the “other” might be.
As I look into my own heart, I want to sincerely try
to carefully separate
fear from the courage to undergo the truth,
anger from the willingness to engage in constructing a civilization in which are blessed,
resentment from the humility that allows another a new beginning,
willfulness from the power of kindly compassion and goodness that builds up the other even at the cost of myself.
As John O’Donohue prays in blessing:
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
I wish this for all of you.