Friday, September 17, 2021

Random Notes from a River Raft

 


  After a long, strenuous hike, you happen upon a river. A crude raft is beached on the sandy shore. Tacked to it is a paper that reads: “Take me downstream.” The handwriting strangely resembles your own.
 

You don’t know who made the raft, or why they’ve left it here. You don’t know how well it’s constructed. Does it even float?
 

You don’t know where the river leads, or how easy it will be to navigate. There may be calm pools ahead. But there may also be white-water rapids, even a waterfall.
 

You choose to trust. You wade the raft into the lazy current and shove off.
 

The raft has a sturdy push pole by which to propel the vessel forward and steer. For now, though, you collapse on the deck, content to drift. Your tired body has carried you over so many trails through arduous terrains, it’s relieved at last to be carried.
 

You snag the piece of paper from the screw fastening it to the raft. By some magic, the paper now reads, “To the Traveler.”
 

You flip it over. “Random Notes from the River Raft” is scribbled at the top.
 

Beneath that heading, you find a list of musings. Again, the handwriting looks just like yours. You can’t explain this. You can’t explain any of it. But as you read, you know it’s true:
 

You can’t say no to the river.


If you weren’t ready to make the trip, you wouldn’t have found me.
 

As your raft, I’m guaranteed to give you the ride of a lifetime.

 Get to know me.
   

 I’m one of a kind.
   

 Appreciate my build.


I’m made from materials recycled from your life. 


I can’t but stay afloat.


I’ll always support your weight, if you travel light.
The river is the guide and the journey. It knows where it’s going.
 

You’re the river’s passenger and companion.
 

Respect it.
 

Be grateful to pass through wherever the river takes us.


Nothing we pass through is forever.
 

Your life jacket is stored in your chest.
 

Forget what you think you know about rafting.


Begin again.
 

There’s no reason to push the river.


But you might have to push yourself.
 

Use slow, smooth pushes of the pole.


Fast strokes make us unstable.
 

Accept that I’ll never move in a straight line.


Learn to love zig-zags and circles.
 

Avoid over correction.


Trust my natural buoyancy.


Trust the water’s grace and flow.
 

Watch out for hazards or you’ll end up wet.


This is a law of nature.
 

No matter your skill, you’ll sometimes end up wet, anyway.


This is also a law of nature.
 

When you fall off me, float.


The river will always hold you up.


Its banks are waiting to receive you.
 

Maintaining balance while poling in mud requires extra practice.


Embrace it.
 

To move in deep water, transform my pole into a paddle.


All it takes is a little re-visioning.
 

On the river, you’ll have everything you need, even when you don’t.


When you don’t have everything you need, keep going until you discover you do.


You’re never alone on the river.


If you feel forsaken, pay closer attention.
 

When you’re finished with me, leave me on shore.


Somebody else will use me someday.


But I won’t be the same raft.


You never get to the end of the river.


I’ll see you there someday.


Deep peace,

Phyllis Cole Dai

This post first appeared in a recent issue of Staying Power, Phyllis’s weekly care package for creative, compassionate spirits. Get a boost in your inbox! 

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Friday, September 10, 2021

Contemplating The Deluge

The island has been feeling the brunt of some storm or other - steady rain since last night, drizzle at times, a teasing promise of breaking clouds, a pale bit of sunlight and then another steady downpour.  Traffic is backed up at 5 Corners, notorious for its easy flooding.  Main roads are a bit narrow as streams of water rush to find their own level.  Navigating the wet roads is more challenging than usual, but I am mindful that as soon as the rain stops, the water will recede into the sandy soil and within the space of a day any signs of the deluge will have pretty much disappeared.   

This is not a Louisiana parish by any stretch of the imagination and yet the presence of so much rain definitely leads my thoughts to the suffering occurring in so many places in the south due to heavy and relentless rains and high winds.  

I try to imagine losing everything in a storm.  I can’t.  The best I can do is watch the TV news footage to try and grasp the enormity of loss - - homes, treasured possessions, irreplaceable memories, beloved pets.  And yet I hear time after time “Yes, we have lost everything but we are grateful to be alive.” 

Time after time I see people who have lost everything helping their neighbors who may be even worse off.  A greater humanity seems to kick into action during the crisis.

Tonight the news is filled with the remembering of  the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers.  Time after time, witnesses, survivors, victims of the attacks recall how the country came together in the aftermath; how we were kinder to each other; how much more we treasured our all too vulnerable lives, how we were more likely to tell our loved ones how much they meant to us.

It didn’t last long.  Revenge for the attacks seemed to bring with it division and rancor. It continues today with all the pros and cons about the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.  The sorrow and bitterness and confusion fracture our political minds.

Nearly 20 years later, COVID has created another national crisis, another opportunity for the country to come together to support and care for one another through all the sickness and death, the terrible vulnerability and uncertainty that rides on the coattails of the virus.  We have named our community heroes, our frontline medical workers, all the essential workers like supermarket personnel and caregivers, police and firefighters, EMTs and on and on.

But in short order, blaming and shaming became part of the response to COVID.  In so many places personal rights became paramount and superceded responsibility for each other and for the health of our communities.  To mask or not to mask - - to vaccinate or not to vaccinate - - to trust the science or disregard it - - issues that have divided friends and families and communities across the country.  Curiously, all of this happens against the backdrop of a worldwide crisis: Not enough vaccines to care for the poorest countries while controversy grows about the distribution of booster shots to those in wealthier countries who have already been vaccinated.

As a  species, we seem unable to sustain a long term and consistently loving and compassionate response through the fall-out from a major crisis.  We need to blame someone.  We need to hold someone accountable.  We need to claim our own personal rights and sense of wellbeing whether this is damaging to someone else’s rights and well being or not.

Once again, I contemplate the heavy downpour.  An ancient story tells of a straight 40 days of rain - flooding the entire earth - destroying all but a handful of lives and a boatload of animals of every kind.  A meta-cleansing of earth’s people gone awry.  That story ends with hope - a rainbow and a steadfast promise that the Creator will not destroy creation in that way again.

Next time - we will be the ones held accountable.

And yet - as someone penned: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”  This Sunday we will witness a baptism - the initiation of a young child’s life into the fellowship of the church.  The child to be baptized has a powerful name.  It means “He who progresses and helps others to progress.”  His middle name means “He who wins the struggle.”  Perhaps a name we could all embrace in the service of a more loving and harmonious world where we move together toward the elusive goal of a more fully human, more fully divine way of doing life  - noticing one another - bringing one another along in the great struggle for life in all its abundance - - winning the struggle together.

Vicky Hanjian

Friday, September 3, 2021

"A Present Absence"

 One of the spiritual direction questions that my rabbi friend often asks when we are bewailing the tragic events that dominate the headlines is “Where is G-d in this?”  It always confounds me and then sets me to looking more closely at what is going on.  Where is G-d in the massive flooding that is drowning the parishes of New Orleans again?   Where is G-d in the senseless loss of life at the hands of a suicide bomber?  Where is G-d when humans can’t seem to cooperate to get a grip on eliminating a deadly virus?  Where is G-d in the massive structures of systemic racism?  The question is so open ended…WHERE IS GOD?
 

My meandering around the question led me to a brief and poignant few verses in Deuteronomy

(31:16-18) as Moses nears his death:

And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them.  And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our G-d is not with us?’  And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.

It’s not a message I would want to hear on my death bed after spending my life in behalf of a congregation, but there it is.

Sometimes asking the question almost leads the way to an answer, or at least a different way to think about the question.  I stumbled on The Way Into Jewish Mysticism by Lawrence Kushner.
He ponders the same question, but with greater wisdom than I possess.  He writes: Often it is not what it seems at first to be evil that is the problem, but our inability to see how G-d is behind it or within it. In Jewish mysticism, this is called “G-d hiding G-d’s face.”

When I look back at the Moses episode again, I see that G-d didn’t say “I’m out of here -I’m leaving,”   G-d said:  “I will hide my face.”  To me, this implies Holy Presence in Absence.

Back to Kushner where he cites the Baal Shem Tov, a master of Jewish mysticism: In G-d’s “hiding” we are not able to fathom the good that is latent within the hiding.  Indeed, if we could understand that some greater goodness is concealed within G-d’s apparent absence - that the hiding is for a reason, then we might be able to discern the purpose of G-d’s apparent withdrawal.  The Baal Shem Tov would conclude by saying that “I am more afraid of not realizing that G-d is hiding than I am of the actual hiddenness itself.”

Rounding one more bend in the road, I recall something I read in Teilhard de Chardin’s work years ago.   Kind of nice to know he pondered the question of evil and God too.  He didn’t write in terms of God’s presence or absence, but rather brought his own scientific and philosophical mind to the question: Evil in all its forms -injustice, inequality, suffering, death itself - ceases theoretically to be outrageous from the moment when, evolution becoming genesis, the immense travail of the world displays itself as the inevitable reverse side - or, better, the condition, or, better still, the price of an immense triumph.  Earth becomes the matrix in which our unity if forged.

So, tonight, when sleep eludes, a bit of mind bending meditation perhaps - - Divine Process hidden within the tumult and the chaos, in what appears to be relentless and unending sorrow and suffering, violence and ignorance.   Well, of course!! Isn’t that what the ancient story illustrates:

In the beginning when God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth was welter and waste and darkness over the deep…a chaotic scene to be sure and a Holy Breath brooded over the chaos, invisible, imageless, hidden…working.  

An ancient story for our time.

Vicky Hanjian

Friday, August 27, 2021

"Politics, Religion...Death"


They say there are two subjects you should avoid in polite company; politics and religion. There is a third subject that is so off the table in our society that it isn’t even mentioned in the impolite category. It has a category all its own called “never.” That subject is “Death.” (If you are polite company you may wish to cease reading.)

Unfortunately, the one place where you should be able to talk about death, your faith community, is often the place where the subject is avoided in favor of “everlasting life.” But that is putting the cart before the horse.

Fortunately, there is a new development in the person of “end of life doulas,” or let’s be clear here, “death” doulas. Just as there are birth doulas to see us through the beginnings of new life, there are those who will help us and our families through the last days of life. Their role may be helping with
wills, negotiating to allow a cat in a hospice room with a dying patient, sitting through the night holding a hand, making funeral arrangements, or even making sure a last bedside reading or song is a favorite of the dying person.

The International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) is located in New Jersey and offers training and certification. The designation is new and unregulated at present. But the service is clearly growing and expanding across the country.

Clergy have served the dying and their families for ages. Large churches will often have staff specifically designated for such situations. In my own ministry, I’ve served many of the functions mentioned, except negotiating a cat in a hospice room. But doulas are meant to be a more comprehensive response to the needs of the dying and their families, without constraints. They are present for the duration and whatever the needs of the dying might be.

The title of the most recent issue of Christian Century was “Green Burial: as an act of faith.” In earlier times the deceased body of a loved one was washed and wrapped at home. The hole was dug in the field and the body placed by family and friends. The Lenten words of “dust to dust” were made real. There was no chemical embalming of the body. There was no concrete barrier between body and earth. If a box was the carrier instead of a shroud it was wooden, likely made by a family member.

The first contemporary and specifically green burial site arose in Great Britain in 1993. One of the hopes was to make the area more friendly to wildlife, and offering the planting of an oak tree over the burial plot. By 2013 there were 268 natural burial sites across the country. The first one came to the U.S. in 1996 in Westminster, South Carolina. Today there are more than 160 sites around our country. There are certainly many more, scattered across the woods and plains from an earlier age, now long forgotten and overgrown.

We all must admit that it is only by the grace of God we are alive from one moment to the next. To acknowledge death as a part of our life and plan for it, is at least as important as planning for retirement, though seldom recognized that way. We might consider the question of, what is a “good death?”

One friend who received a terminal diagnosis called me on the phone. He asked me to forgive him for any harm he may have caused me in the past, and assured me he forgave me for anything that might stand between us. He said he loved me. He made these calls to several individuals he knew he would not see in person again. His wife assured me, he died peacefully.

On another occasion, I was the hand-holder. It was as if the dying was at the edge of an abyss and was gripping tightly to the only thing keeping him from falling over the edge. I felt like my hand was in a vise and I couldn’t remove it. Although unconscious, I couldn’t believe the deceased had a peaceful ending.

Whatever our belief might be about what happens to the spirit when one dies, we can know for certain what happens to our spirit and our body while alive. Perhaps living a life of gratitude and service, in harmony with creation and each other, will prepare us for death in the best possible way.

Living well is our best insurance for dying well. 

Carl Kline


Friday, August 20, 2021

"Sweet Caroline"


 My current “ear worm” has been the melody and refrain from “Sweet Caroline” - - the kind of thing that keeps singing in my brain, not allowing me to easily fall asleep at night - - repeating over and over:   Hands/Touching hands/Reaching out/Touching me/Touching you.  I can hear Neil Diamond belting it out in the inner reaches of my mind.  Occasionally the words will switch to One/Touching one/Reaching out/Touching me/Touching you.

I sometimes wonder what the hidden message is in this unbidden and constant repetition looping in my brain in the wee small hours of the morning.

With the rest of the world, I watch events unfolding in Afghanistan, feeling the great unease that comes with the unanswered questions, the pain of not knowing, the wishing for clear vision.  How do I ever know what decisions, affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, are the right ones?  The pundits seem so clear in their knowledge and opinions, even when their conclusions do not match up with one another.
Right on the heels of the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan comes the horror of a massive earthquake in Haiti followed by the effects of a hurricane and something inside me screams: “Can’t these folks ever get a break?”  The nightly scenes of unspeakable vulnerability and suffering - human beings with nothing - exposed to the wind and rain and the shuddering of the earth.  Humanitarian aid will slowly trickle in but the need is so massive and who knows how quickly another storm, another quake will exponentially increase the suffering.

Nightly news of the burning of California keeps my anxiety level at plus 10.


I indulge in feelings of helplessness.  Aside from contributing to the inevitable fund raising requests, at my age, what can I do???   My heart aches and my body feels heavy and ineffectual in the face of so much trauma.

An email “pings.”    “Carol just brought her husband home from the hospital.  They have discontinued dialysis.  He has a few days.  Can you call her?”   

In rapid succession, another email “ping.”    “Ann is anticipating knee surgery.  She can’t drive.  She is alone at 89 and trying to figure out how to manage her post-op recovery in a  2 story home with bedroom and bath on the second floor.  The isolation is causing depression.  She is usually a bright, competent person.”

These are vulnerabilities and sorrows I can interface with.  A few phone calls and Carol will receive meals a couple of times a week from the church folk.  I can listen to her as she keeps vigil at her husband’s bedside awaiting the inevitable.

Another few phone calls and Ann will have someone to take her out to lunch or to the library to ease her isolation. It is so much easier for her to receive help if someone offers to take her to her medical appointments so that she doesn’t have to ask.  A friend offers her downstairs bed and bath to Ann for her post-op recovery time and physical therapy visits.

So maybe that’s what the “ear worm” is about - - Hands / Touching hands/Reaching out/Touching me/Touching you.


Feeling helpless in the face of the overwhelming suffering across the planet is a bit self indulgent.  There is always a place to step into the suffering and offer some kind of relief even at almost 80 years of age.  We are one planet - - one humanity - - as in “no man is an island”…

A few direct questions, a bit of careful listening, and the solutions to seemingly intractable problems begin to clarify a bit.  I am connected with all humanity right where I am.  The Jewish maxim “Save a life…save a world”  is quite local.  

It is all too easy to allow myself to be immobilized by global tragedies, to be numbed into the lethargy of powerless, hopeless, helplessness.  Maybe that is the work of the “ear worm” - - to remind me of the simplest, closest to home response to suffering: One/touching one/Reaching out/touching me/touching you.

The phone calls have been made.  Some compassion and lovingkindness have been set in motion.  In no way have the global problems been solved, but a kind of healing power has been unleashed. 

 It will reverberate.

Vicky Hanjian


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

What To Do When The Eggs Don't Hatch

 

I admit that I counted my proverbial chickens.

Once the distribution of the COVID vaccine was well underway in the U.S., I thought the pandemic wouls soon be over.  Bursting with optimism, I changed the tagline of my Staying Power    (https://phylliscoledai.com/staying-power/) newsletter from "Your Virtual Care Package for the Pandemic" to "A Virtual Care Package from Phyllis Cole-Dai."  After getting my shots, I re-opened my schedule to in-person gigs.  I stowed my masks for the next pandemic, which is sure to come someday.  I hugged relatives and friends again, holding them tight and extra long.

Little did I know that my confidence was premature.  Too many of the proverbial chicks haven't hatched from their eggs.

COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are surging again in nearly every state, especiall in areas with large numbers of unvaccinated people.  This escalation has been fueled by the more contagious and deadly Delta variant.  As I'm writing, 61% of all counties in this nation have "high" community transmission, up 15% from a week ago.  Another 34% of counties report either "substantial" or "moderate" transmission.  That leaves only 5% of counties with "low" spread.  Glance at a national map showing these rates, and the country looks like it is on fire. ( Check out the numbers for yourself. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view  They'll probably be higher by the time you read this.)

To end this pandemic, once and for all, we need more people to take advantage of the vaccine.  People who are straangers to me, but people about whom I care.  People I love, like my aunt, several cousins, and a few of my friends.  People I don't want to get sick.  People I don't want to become long-haulers.  People whose funerals I don't want to attend on Zoom.  People who, at least, on this subject, won't listen to reason.

I can't persuade them to get a vaccine.  I can't compel them.  I can't entice them.  What am I to do?

The answer is simple, but not pretty: I must let them be. And part of "letting them be" is letting go of my resentment of their choice.


Believe me, I've stored up plenty of resentments.  All of them are the children of my grief.  I want the unvaccinated to attach more value to their lives and the lives of others.  I want them to invest more orf their precipous personal freedom in the well-being of their communities.  I want them to think less aobut politics and focus more on health.  I want the to set aside their hostility toward government and acknowledge that public institutions can be helpful, especially during a national crisis.  I want them to be more considerate of the health care workers who are drowning in a sea of patients afflicted by (what is now) a largely avoidable disease.  I want them to put more trust in evidence-based and data driven science.  If they believe in God, I want them to believe in a God who loves the world enough to save it through a needle.

But they don't.  Most likely they never will.

I must let them be.

Sometimes, when we love someone, letting go is all we can do.  that can be brutally difficult, especially when harm may result.  For me, loving the unvaccinated is a lot like loving a serious drug addict whos only hope is hitting bottom.  I have to let them fall.  They might not survive the landing. But maybe they'll see enough light on the way down to save themselves.

Love is practice.  Love is prayer.  Love is paying attention.  And sometimes love is letting go of our desparate need for eggs to hatch into chickens.

Love's a hard, hard thing.  It reminds us daily that we're not in charge.  It breaks our heart, over and over again.

But love is what I choose.  I won't give it up, even when the flood is raging.  Even when people are stranded on their rooftops, water rising all around them, and they still insist, "It's no big deal, we won't be swept away.  Mind your own business."  Even then, when I've no means to bring them to safety - when all I can do is bear witness to them, and hope with all my heart for their rescue - I can choose love.

I'm reminded of a song called "You Can Do this Hard Thing" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRGnftH_g41) by Carrie Newcomer.  Hear are a few lines from the heart of it:

Here we stand breathless / 
and pressed in hard times, 
/ hearts hung like laundry
/ on backyard clotheslines.
 / Impossible just takes / 
a little more time. 

"Impossible just takes /a little more time."  Well, I've time to give. And I've still got my masks to wear.  And I've still got my bewildered heart, ready to love another day more.


Who knows when another egg might crack.

Phyllis Cole-Dai

This post first appeared in a recent issue of Staying Power, Phyllis’s weekly care package for creative, compassionate spirits. Get a boost in your inbox! 

https://mailchi.mp/80e47a044893/staying-power-subscribe



Friday, August 6, 2021

One Mind...Gratitude


When I looked this morning, the one blooming flower on the Angel’s Trumpet was bowed over. Surprisingly, it had bloomed for two days. All the others before it had succumbed after just one day. You would see them, and then you wouldn’t. In the morning light you might think they were sleeping, with a lowered head, but alas, they were deceased. It’s a shame their life span is so short as the colors in these flowers are gorgeous; purple and white. I can understand where the name Angel’s Trumpet originated. They look like a trumpet used to signal the entry of nobility and they wear the colors of royalty and angels.

None of the flowers in the yard (and there are many), have attracted my attention quite like the Angel’s Trumpet. When their beauty is so fragile and short lived, I guess you had better soak it up while you can and give thanks for small favors.

I’m in the middle of reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She is a wonderful storyteller and combines the wisdom of a scientist and a culturally grounded indigenous woman. I’m learning about sweetgrass and wild strawberries and witch hazel and water lillies and black ash. Most of all, I’m learning about gratitude for the amazing complexity and interrelationships of creation that make human life possible.

We are all learning, aren’t we? We’re learning that trees produce the oxygen necessary for our breath and can provide carbon sinks. Burning wildfires and deforestation rob us of breathable air. 


We’re learning that bees are necessary for pollination of at least a hundred foods we eat, including  peaches, pears, peppers and pumpkins. Sacrificing destructive chemicals is better than sacrificing our cantaloupe, carrots and cauliflower.

We’re learning that rising seas, because of the way we are changing the climate, threaten our homes, flooding or undermining their stability. Ultimately, the waters of life threaten our lives as towers collapse and rushing rivers take everything in their path.

We’re learning that we are part of the natural world and not separate from it. Remaining trapped in an illusion of separation only digs us deeper into fire and flood, misery and pain. Even more unfortunate, our separation in our man made environments keeps us from participating in the beauty and mystery of the creation.

Why do flowers on an Angel’s Trumpet only bloom for one day while the pansies have been blooming for weeks? Why do the cicadas come only once in 17 years but in South Dakota every 3-5 years? What makes that strange sound and how do the cicada nymphs live underground?

In Braiding Sweetgrass, there is a wonderful chapter called “Allegiance to Gratitude.” We are at a tribal school on the Onondaga Nation. The children are gathering together for the beginning of the school week. The third graders are responsible for leading the pledge that starts and ends the week. It is not the pledge of allegiance to a flag, although there is no disrespect meant to our flag or those who say it. Rather, they pledge allegiance in the “Thanksgiving Address;” in the language of the Onondaga people, the “Words That Come Before All Else.” 

“Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.”

The Thanksgiving continues with at least a paragraph of gratitude to Mother Earth; to the Waters; the Fish; the Plants; the Berries; the Medicinal Herbs; the Trees; the Animals; the Birds; the Winds; the Thunder Beings; the Sun; the Moon; the Stars; the Teachers and Enlightened Ones; and the Creator. The final paragraph expresses regret if anything has been left out and concludes with the response, “And now our minds are one.”

May our minds be one. May we find ways to live in balance and express our gratitude for the single day beauty of an Angel’s Trumpet; for the cool unexpected breeze on a 90 degree day; for the promise of the developing tomato on the vine; for the bees buzzing from one flower to another; for the flicker on the feeder; for the sound of the cicada in the tree.

Could we start our week, even our day, with a Thanksgiving, with words of gratitude?

“Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.”

The Thanksgiving continues with at least a paragraph of gratitude to Mother Earth; to the Waters; the Fish; the Plants; the Berries; the Medicinal Herbs; the Trees; the Animals; the Birds; the Winds; the Thunder Beings; the Sun; the Moon; the Stars; the Teachers and Enlightened Ones; and the Creator. The final paragraph expresses regret if anything has been left out and concludes with the response, “And now our minds are one.”

May our minds be one. May we find ways to live in balance and express our gratitude for the single day beauty of an Angel’s Trumpet; for the cool unexpected breeze on a 90 degree day; for the promise of the developing tomato on the vine; for the bees buzzing from one flower to another; for the flicker on the feeder; for the sound of the cicada in the tree.


Could we start our week, even our day, with a Thanksgiving, with words of gratitude?

Carl Kline

Friday, July 30, 2021

On This Our World Turns.

 

Imagine that you are born into poverty.

Imagine that, during your grade school years, a teacher recognizes your artistic talent.

Imagine that the teacher enrolls you in a government-funded art class, held weekly at a local museum.

Imagine that, every Saturday, your mother puts you onto public transportation. She trusts that you’ll be safely delivered to the museum, where an art instructor will meet you and escort you to class.

Imagine what a lifeline that art program becomes for your young, creative soul …


Now—imagine that after art class, every Saturday, the instructor leads you into the museum’s immense mural room. There she sits you down, all alone, on the polished marble floor. “Don’t move from this spot,” she says. “Ever. When it’s time for you to go home, I’ll come get you.”

Imagine that, every Saturday, you sit there, leaning against the wall, gazing up at the vivid murals that surround you. Natural light floods down on them through massive skylights. The frescoes stimulate your awakening artist’s eye …

Now—imagine that rainwater, leaking from one of the skylights, has damaged one of the murals. The museum has invited the artist to come and restore his painting. He’s working high above you, on scaffolding…


Imagine how after your class, week after week, you watch this burly artist putting his magic on the walls. He’s like an angel painting in the heavens. Every brushstroke fascinates you.

Imagine that you never make a sound, wanting not to disturb him. You’re relieved that he never takes notice of you. He intimidates you. He’s a master painter, exuding confidence. Besides, he’s a stranger. Even his skin, darker than yours, unnerves you…

Now—imagine that, one Saturday, this artist descends from his scaffolding. He trudges across the floor, directly toward you, clothes covered in paint. He’s a big man, though more in girth than height. His hair is mussed. His broad face is terribly serious, though his eyes aren’t unkind.

Imagine how desperate you are to run away from him. But your mind screams, No! She said not to move. Ever! And you obey.

Imagine that this artist stops right in front of you. He bends down and, without saying a word, he puts something in your hand.

An artist’s paintbrush. One that he himself has been using, up there in the air.

Imagine the man straightening, then plodding on past you, out the museum door.

Imagine your gaping at the brush. Your astonishment. Your pure joy.

You don’t know that the man you just met is the world-famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera. You don’t know that he originally painted “Detroit Industry Murals,” the 27-panel masterpiece that fills this room, over nine months in 1933. You don’t know that his frescoes celebrate American industrialism while also deploring its harmful social impacts.

All you know, child, as you sit there on the floor of the Detroit Museum of Art, that sturdy paintbrush quivering in your tender hand, is that you no longer feel little, or poor. You know that you’re equipped, just as that man is, to make your own magical marks on the world in bold colors. You too can be an artist when you grow up. And somehow, in this miraculous moment, you know for certain that you will be.                                                             

I’ve shaped this story from the recollections of Donna Hanna-Chase. “The brush has long been lost,” she told me in an email last week. “But the memory of receiving it remains vivid…. I am 91 years old now, with a rich and full life behind me, but I continue to paint to nourish my soul.”

I love how this stunning event in Donna’s childhood emerged after a long period of “nothing happening.” Saturday after Saturday, Diego and Donna didn’t speak to each other. They didn’t even acknowledge each other’s presence. He just worked. She just watched, waiting for the instructor to put her on the streetcar.

But, despite appearances, much was going on in that empty space between Diego and Donna. The electric charge of his artistry was meeting the potential in her. That energy field produced a spark that would ignite her dreams.

Nobody can say what this exchange meant to Diego. For him, giving Donna the paintbrush might have been like granting an autograph to an admirer.


But for Donna, Diego’s gift was “life-defining.” It was a sign of recognition, and affirmation. It brought a message as if from heaven: “This is who you are, and who will you be.” And so Donna has been a painter, for most of a century.

In the miraculous mural room of this world, our role is ever-changing. Sometimes we’re the one up on the scaffolding, helping to paint a new fresco or refreshing an old one. Sometimes we’re the one seated on the floor, wide-eyed with wonder. Sometimes we’re the one mopping up puddles after a storm. Sometimes we’re the “different” one that others are afraid of. Sometimes we’re the one learning to be brave.

Whoever we are, whatever we’re doing, the significant moment is always there, waiting to be sparked. When the right conditions emerge precisely at the right time, a marvel can manifest, as if by magic.

But as Donna’s story reveals, sometimes the magic needs us. Think about it. What if Diego had ignored Donna. What is she had ignored him? What would have happened then?

Nothing, I suspect.

Instead, both Diego and Donna paid attention to each other. And their attentiveness helped create an energy field in which potential could be called forth and realized.

On moments like this, our world turns.

Deep peace,

Phyllis Cole-Dai

This post first appeared in a recent issue of Staying Power, Phyllis’s weekly care package for creative, compassionate spirits. Get a boost in your inbox! 

https://mailchi.mp/80e47a044893/staying-power-subscribe



Friday, July 23, 2021

Re: The Next Installment

 Our two South Dakota Senators were so happy as they announced the good news. The B21 Raider is coming to Ellsworth Air Force Base. They gave the usual rationale. It meant more recruits, more employment, more economic growth for the Rapid City area.


It’s interesting how one seldom hears any politician speak about the basic mission of Ellsworth and a new bomber, standing ready to deliver nuclear weapons on any deserving adversary. Nor will they address the moral or ethical issues of possessing, with the intention to use, nuclear weapons. It’s also amazing how ignorant many are who live in the heart of nuclear retaliation and annihilation. I recall speaking with a west river college student who spoke about partying with high school friends at missile sites, not knowing they contained nuclear tipped missiles. 


If ever there was bipartisan agreement on anything in Congress, just vote on the Defense Department budget. The result is always more, more, more; so now we spend more than half our national resources on war and preparation for war. Only a few here and there are willing to challenge the Military Industrial Complex (President Eisenhower’s title). Trump or Biden makes little difference. Both have supported the weapons industry and more specifically, the “upgrading” of our nuclear weapons to the tune of billions of dollars. The Pentagon is proposing at least $170 billion to modernize their nuclear weapons over the next five years.

So now we have the latest Air Force installment coming our way. Over the next few years the Air Force expects to order at least one hundred of these new stealth bombers, perhaps as many as 200. They are made to carry cruise missiles and thermonuclear bombs. As to cost, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), estimated in 2018 (in 2016 dollars), developing and procuring the first 100 aircraft would cost $80 billion. The CBO also estimated maintaining one Raider, capable of launching 10 Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) cruise missiles and capable of launching eight nuclear warheads would cost $40 million (in 2020 dollars) to maintain. You can do the math. $40 million times 100, simply for maintenance each year, in the hope they will never be used for their ultimate mission.


Northrup Grumman is the primary corporation engaged with the production of this new bomber. Seven other corporations are also major players. As usual, they are placed nicely spaced around the country for maximum affect on members of Congress, who will be able to brag about the economic impact this new system will have on their constituents.

Of course, we have a nuclear triad. B21 Raider Bombers are only one part of the trinity. According to the Defense Department, we need to “upgrade” our ground based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles over the next ten years for a cost of $300 billion. And the Navy and sea based part of the triad will need 12 new nuclear armed submarines, billing us $110 billion.

One place where we are certainly “number one” globally is in military spending. In fiscal year 2019 our Pentagon budget was three times larger than China and ten times larger than Russia. We accounted for 38% of all military spending worldwide.

People have said it in different ways. “You get what you give.” Or, “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.” Or even, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” We can’t be a warlord and not expect some blowback.  

Some of that blowback has happened to our bodies. It won’t be reported on the evening news, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “any person living in the contiguous United Sates since 1951 has been exposed to some radioactive fallout, and all of a person’s organs and tissues have received some exposure.” Ever wonder why cancer has blossomed over the years as our number one disease?

Talking to a west river rancher the other day, he was upset about the environmental pollution coming from Ellsworth. He and others like him are seeing the blowback. Aside from the noise pollution, there is now the problem of ground water pollution. The Air Force has training programs in firefighting using PFAS, or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances. This has been going on at bases since the 1970’s, including Ellsworth. The rancher had me look up the story of Art Schaap of Clovis, New Mexico. Because the ground water has been polluted with PFAS from the nearby Canon Air Force base, Art’s cattle are poisoned and must be killed; his milk is poisoned and must be dumped; his hay is not

edible and his body and those of his family are impacted. The Air Force has been providing him with bottled water as the underground poisoned plume spreads. At Ellsworth, several homes are also being provided with bottled water for the same reason.

There are 4,000 Defense Department sites across the country. They are home to 39,000 contaminated sites, 141 of them on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of most polluted sites in the nation. As well, the military is the world’s top petroleum consumer and a significant producer of carbon emissions. One B1 bomber test run, with 20 tons of fuel consumed an hour (14,960 gallons), uses more petroleum than you or I will use in a year.

I saw a man yesterday with a T-Shirt that read, “Start bitching and start a revolution.” I’m bitching and want a revolution in values! Enough of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction)! Bring on the peace economy, Senators!

Carl Kline

Friday, July 16, 2021

A Certain Slant of Light

The house where I live is around 130 years old. It has loads of character from bygone days. In size, it started small, then grew like a family over time. Its exterior is covered with traditional stucco, painted brown. The stucco’s rough texture looks like heavy spattered mud. Together with the bittersweet vines climbing the walls, it gives the house an earthy feel.


You don’t see much traditional stucco here in South Dakota. It doesn’t hold up well in our extremes of hot and cold weather. The older it gets, the more brittle it becomes. It cracks and crumbles. Jihong and I didn’t know this when we bought the house, moving here from the more moderate climes of Ohio in 2000.

We’ve been patching ever since. And whatever we patch, we must paint. That was our family project, last weekend. Next time, we’ll invite you to help!

Painting such rugged stucco requires special long-nap rollers, more paint than you thought would be plenty, and your favorite remedy for sore muscles. (Not to mention sunblock and bugspray.) 

Even if you’re a meticulous painter, on this stucco you won’t manage to coat every bit of the surface. It’s too pitted. That’s one reason why you’ll notice surviving flecks of the cornflower blue paint that preceded the last layer of brown, and freckles of the bubblegum pink that predated the blue. (I’ve always wondered who picked those colors, and why.)

Settling on which shade of brown to paint the latest patch job is always an adventure. Each part of the house weathers differently. The brown stucco here isn’t the same brown as there, let alone over there. Or there.

You’ll pull your hair out, trying to match any of the browns. A gallon will look great while you’re rolling it on, but once it dries, it will turn out too red or too gray, several shades too light or too dark.

This used to drive me crazy. (Just ask Jihong.) But last weekend, instead of getting frustrated by our latest mismatch, I decided that I’m just fine, living in a house of dappled brown. Whatever its color, our house will always still be what it is—our homeplace. A blessed place, in which we dwell and thrive. We’ll keep it in good repair, until it’s somebody else’s turn to patch and paint it.

At one point last weekend, after I’d poured still more paint into my tray, I stood up and walked a ways off, stretching my back and legs. Suddenly I found myself in a magical spot. Brilliant sunlight was falling onto the side of the house just so, causing all the various shades of brown to disappear into one another. Together they formed a single new color that I couldn’t see from anywhere else— 


The house looked grand. All because of where I was standing. All because of my line of vision; a shift in my perspective. All because of the light.

                                 ***
                         
Today, in the U.S., we’re celebrating Independence Day. The Fourth of July. A traditional day of flag-waving and picnics and ice cream and fireworks and, if we’re thoughtful, reflection upon the state of our nation.

Most countries, I suppose, have such a day. It’s only human to love the “house” in which we were born, or to which we’ve come to live.

America’s house has some age on it. Here and there, it’s brittle. It crumbles and cracks in extreme conditions. It’s in constant need of repair.

If we expect this house to be perfect, it’s our mistake. But it’s also our mistake if we don’t work together to perfect it.

So we patch. We paint. When we must, we tear out what’s weak and rotten and replace it with what’s sturdy and fine. All the way down to the foundation, we make sure that this dappled house is a place in which everyone can thrive.

Sometimes, amidst this hard and necessary labor, we suddenly find ourselves standing where a certain slant of light hits the house just so. And, for a moment, all its shades seem to meld to one another. Together they form something brilliant and new. The sight of it brings us up short. We have no words for it. We can’t see it from any other spot.

Then the light moves, or we move, and we’re back to dappled again—

But how beautiful “dappled” is, where the vision of unity lives.

Deep peace,

Phyllis Cole Dai  

This post first appeared in a recent issue of Staying Power, Phyllis’s weekly care package for creative, compassionate spirits. Get a boost in your inbox! 

https://mailchi.mp/80e47a044893/staying-power-subscribe



Friday, July 9, 2021

Elegy For Winthrop, Their LIght Upon the Water


In Memory of David and Ramona

The shootings seem far away, until they’re not. White supremacist violence has assaulted my hometown of Winthrop, Massachusetts, adding yet another place and its people to the national litany of sorrow and shame. I feel it deeply. I haven’t lived in Winthrop since I was eighteen, and my last Winthrop relatives died a few years ago, but a deep bond of memory and affection still joins me to the town by the sea where I grew up. The sea speaks to all who live in Winthrop, to each one in their own way of hearing, a shared metaphor in all of its ways and moods. Yet another explosion of hate, of racist violence that has taken the lives of two African Americans, this time in a place very familiar to me, the place of my earliest memories of both love and hate among neighbors. First, to say their names, David Green and Ramona Cooper. David and Ramona were killed on Shirley Street, a magical place in my childhood memories. My grandparents had a small store on Shirley Street for a time, the Beach Specialty Shop. A bit further down was Baron’s grocery store, then Appel’s kosher butcher store, and then Kaplow’s, owned by two sets of siblings, Izzy and Fannie, Sadie and Sam, the most wonderful store I have ever known, sawdust on the floor, a large pickle barrel, and a Franklin stove. It was all part of what seemed to me later to have been the Winthrop shtetl. There were also the two shuls, the “little shul,” which was Tifreth Abraham, and the “big shul,” which was Tifereth Israel.

    

The shootings and the ramming and destruction of a small house with a stolen truck – once the site of a corner store where we would stop for sweets on our way home from school – all happened on a quiet Saturday afternoon, on Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath, the mayhem playing out a short distance from the two shuls. In the Boston synagogue that my wife and I founded, Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, the reading table comes from one of those shuls, the “little shul.” Our first Torah scroll comes from the other shul, the “big shul.” Our shul is joined with a timeless bond to Winthrop. From antisemitic literature found with the shooter, there is speculation that he may have been headed next to the shuls. First, he killed the two Black people he saw, David Green and Ramona Cooper, systematically sparing those of white skin encountered on the way.

I was stunned and shaken as I read the newspaper on the following Monday morning, more details filling out the story. I thought at first that there must be many Black people in Winthrop now, not like then when there were just a handful of Black families. I was trying to push away any possibility of personal connection to the dead, of knowing the victims. Images of a place and its people, memories held in the amber of time, shimmering as I looked at the photograph of David, something familiar in his warm, quizzical look. I began to read, soon trembling and then crying. When I read that David was a lifelong resident of Winthrop, I knew. I knew David’s family growing up. His older brother Ray and I were co-captains of the High School gymnastics team, that familial warm, quizzical look smiling from the pages of my high school yearbook. His father, whom my siblings and I knew only as Mr. Green, worked as a house cleaner and cleaned our house, as well as my grandmother’s and my aunt’s house. I remember having lunch with him at our kitchen table on days when I must have been off from school, always Mr. Green, the message not lost. Only now, in reading about this grieving family, have I learned that he was Ray Sr. The Greens lived on Shirley Street in a small red house between the two shuls, just down from the beach.

There was a tide of racism that pulsed just beneath the surface of our town in those days. There were times when it came without inhibition, unrestrained and harsh, like the waves that crashed over the Front Beach wall during a nor’easter. At other times it came more subtly, shrouded in a veneer of civility, bringing a sudden chill, like the fog that blew in from the sea. There were parts of town that were known to be restricted, where Jews and Blacks couldn’t live. In the year following my Bar Mitzvah, I would walk after school from Winthrop Junior High School to the post office, which was the town’s only federal building. Through that year, I stood in a vigil with an Episcopal minister, Rev. Bob Barnes, to urge passage of the 1964 Voter Registration Bill, which led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, legislation that has been cruelly and cynically eviscerated today. During that year, as the seasons turned, I heard words that I had never heard before, the hate unmistakable, though, as it was spewed from cars and passersby against Blacks and Jews. Most painful, was then to be back in school and hear the racist jokes and banter of classmates, an invidious reflection of what was heard at home. As the civil rights and anti-war movements found common ground, becoming for many part of one struggle, so too did opposition coalesce, hate and violence simmering just beneath the surface. I sat in the car and waited as my friend and mentor, Rev. Bob Mackie of Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Rev. Barnes’ successor, went into the Elks Club building, seeking a town selectman who had been avoiding him in his application for a permit to hold a peace vigil. Rev. Mackie was visibly shaken when he returned to the car, having been threatened by the selectman, warned of “maybe a shot” through his window. The Elks building is across from the far ends of both Veterans Road and Shirley Street, where the violence has now played out.

Some fifty years later, shots rang out in Winthrop. The murders of David and Ramona are part of a pandemic of hate that is not unique to Winthrop. Of guns, guns so easily acquired yet again, the bullets that killed these two beautiful human beings were not of a hate spawned specifically in Winthrop, but spawned by the pandemic of white supremacist violence that is sweeping this land, that is carried deep in the American blood stream. It is the same virus mutated from way back then, just as lethal, but more visible to more people than the lynching, the shootings, the Jim Crow laws. Harder to avert our eyes, today’s violence is more visible to more people in more places, touching all of us more directly wherever we live. Still, the fog of avoidance and confusion rolls in unannounced, easy to loose our way, even as we nurture new clarity and hope.


The lighthouses that for centuries have guided ships home from just off Winthrop’s shore, their light upon the water, become the metaphor for us. My childhood bedroom was touched each night by their steady, rhythmic flashes of light. Winthrop has changed. It is clear in the words and tears of the people who are Winthrop today, heartbroken in solidarity and collective grief. It is clear in the words of town leaders, in there being such town leaders, who say that there is no place for hate in Winthrop. It is clear in the simple, homemade Black Lives Matter signs placed at makeshift memorials for Ramona and David. But the hate is still among us, felt by all of us because we are part of the greater whole that is America. As Winthrop has changed, drawing on the spirit of good people who have always been there, neighbors all, so too, we can all be part of a greater healing. We shall all be safe only when a vaccine of love and respect, of justice and peace, of gentleness, is cultured and injected through word and deed into the lifeblood of this country.

Going home to Winthrop to participate in a memorial vigil, the route into town is as familiar as yesterday’s walk to school, bringing a flood of memories and emotions. The winds of change in Winthrop are as clear and refreshing as the cleansing breeze that follows a storm. There is so much good, and yet avoidance and nervousness, it seems, to address directly the racism and hate that killed David and Ramona. Among all who spoke at the vigil, but for a brief reference to racism in a letter read on behalf of Ramona’s son in memory of his mom, there was no further mention of racism, or of white supremacy, or of gun laws, or of how what happened in Winthrop is part of a greater web of hate and violence. I am troubled. I struggle to understand, and yet to be understanding, to be compassionate, and wary of smugness. I keep waiting, but there is no such mention from faith and civic leaders. Perhaps, responding to the palpable collective grief, they feel called to fill only a pastoral role tonight, only to speak to the heart. Perhaps coming too near to the harsher truths and to the politics of redress and healing threatens a fragile construction of America still nurtured in the old hometown.

I sense a way of uncritical patriotism that is as simple and sincere as it is worrisome in its similarity to the way it was back then. At the same time, I am touched by a certain way of goodness, almost of innocence, in people’s unaffected sense of each other as friends and neighbors. In a moment of sorrowful reunion, Ray conveyed more hope than anger, telling of the good he saw in the wake of his immense personal loss, so moved by the outpouring of love and the coming together of people, hoping that would endure as his brother’s legacy. And yet, sitting on a bench near me during the vigil, an elder Black woman wept inconsolably, crying out in pain, her words and tears profoundly real in their expression of grief and its context. I took a few steps toward her, knelt down and took her hand in mine, trying to offer words of comfort. She whispered, “I’ve lived here for thirty years and no one knows what it was like for me, and now this.”

The shootings seem far away, until they’re not. “And now this.” As much as I try to identify with all of the places and people assaulted by racist violence, this one has touched me more personally. Gathering on the green in front of Winthrop Town Hall, there is no need to search for a permit. From where we stand in vigil, the old junior high school I attended is diagonally across the street to one side. Diagonally across the street to the other side, at the end of the short walk between, is the building that once was the post office, today the police station, where a thirteen year old Jewish boy recently become man stood alone with a Protestant minister and called for justice. In standing together now, may there be hope, the coming of change as real as the tides, for all their ebb and flow, David and Ramona’s souls shining as a blessing, their light upon the water.

Rabbi Victor Hillel Reinstein

Friday, July 2, 2021

How Do You Be?

 If you’re a movie buff, as I am, you might remember Awakenings (1990). The main character, played by the late Robin Williams, is Dr. Malcolm Sayer. Though inexperienced, Sayer cares deeply about the residents in the mental hospital where he works as a neurologist. He’s especially curious about the patients who have been immobilized, or even comatose, since an epidemic of “sleeping sickness,” decades earlier.

Eventually Dr. Sayer discovers that a drug called L-Dopa can “awaken” these patients from their strange state. A character named Leonard, portrayed by Robert De Niro, returns to normalcy after thirty years in a coma. He even falls in love, the audience rooting him on. But as the film’s trailer warns, “There’s no such thing as a simple miracle.” 

If you’d like, you can watch the movie and learn the rest of the story. For now, though, I want to tell you that the character of Malcolm Sayer was based on an actual person, Dr. Oliver Sacks. This fascinating, brilliant, compassionate, and often uncouth Brit, whom The New York Times once called “the poet laureate of medicine,” died in 2015 at the age of eighty-two. Yet Sacks lives on through his many best-selling books, some of which have been released since his passing. He also lives on through a generation of physicians who, thanks to his humanizing influence on their profession, seek to approach their patients with the same healing spirit as he did.

Sacks has now been memorialized in a new documentary by Ric Burns. I just watched “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” this week on PBS.

Seven minutes into the film, author Lawrence Weschler says, “[Oliver] was somebody for whom the primary diagnostic question was `How are you? How do you be?’ He was extraordinarily empathic with his patients.”

Journalist Robert Krulwich echoes Weschler’s observation. As he puts it, “[Oliver] was asking, as hard as a person can, `Who are you? I need to know. I need to know more. I need to know even more.’ And his attention would release people…. He would take this thread of them and pull them slowly out. But what he also did simultaneously—and this was the great part—is he pulled the whole world in, the other way, [by telling us their stories].”

In the days since I viewed the documentary, these writers’ striking descriptions of Oliver Sacks have stuck with me. They knew him well, and their remembrances of him resonate like the notes of a magnificent pipe organ in a grand concert hall. In the video, I repeatedly hear Sacks asking his patients “How are you?” just as I plainly see him greeting them with a soft, lingering touch. A shoulder, rubbed. A hand, held. Fingers, caressed or kissed.

Oliver Sacks met his patients, one person at a time. One mystery at a time. One story at a time—and the story was always valuable, whether or not he had the full details.

* * *

“How are you?” Back before the pandemic, when you and I would greet other people by asking this question, we usually didn’t expect or desire a real answer. If we got one, it had better be brief, and not too grim or involved. We weren’t up for longwinded or dreary responses. That’s not how the game was played.


The pandemic might have altered our customary “How are yous?” a bit. It might have made them less superficial, and more sincere. Those three words definitely mean more to me now than they used to. How about you?

As we begin to navigate the waters of postpandemic life (some of us sooner than others), I wonder: Would it be possible for us to move forward more in the spirit of Oliver Sacks? Can we ask each other, with empathy and curiosity, “How are you? How do you be in this world?” Can we invest our attention in real replies?

If enough of us did that, this planet might tilt a significant degree on its kindness axis. Megatons of compassion and understanding might pump into the atmosphere, causing a wondrous kind of global warming—climate change we can all thrive in.

Imagine a police officer approaching a black man in his car with genuine interest about the man’s state of health, his quality of life, his way of being …

 

Imagine a Democrat approaching a Republican, or a Republican greeting a Democrat, with that spirit...

                              

Imagine a pious person approaching someone of another faith, or no faith, with that spirit …

Imagine a native-born American approaching a refugee at the border with that spirit …

Imagine yourself, approaching the sort of human being you’re most afraid of, or most resentful of, or most ignorant of, with that spirit … Humble. Ready to care. Ready to listen. Ready to learn.

“How are you?” This question can be the portal into every unknown story that needs to be better known; into every undervalued life that needs to be valued more. This question can be, as Oliver Sacks demonstrated, the doorway into radical healing.

How are you, my friend? How do you be in this world?

 Deep Peace,  

Phyllis Cole Dai

This post first appeared in a recent issue of Staying Power, Phyllis’s weekly care package for creative, compassionate spirits. Get a boost in your inbox! https://mailchi.mp/80e47a044893/staying-power-subscribe.