There is a community of the spirit. Join it, and feel the delight of walking in the noisy street, and being the noise. —Rumi
I am by nature a quiet person. I need a certain amount of silence and solitude to feel balanced. I feel best when I am able to begin my day with some reading and writing. I like to follow this with some time to exercise – yoga or weight and core strength training, something aerobic like a bike ride or a walk or a cardio YouTube routine. Then I’m ready to start my day of work. Some days the work I need to do is so pressing that I am unable to take the early morning time I need. That is part of being a solo pastor – time presses in and things must be done.
Finding balance is my goal for this year. This includes carving out the morning time – but it also includes other practices and disciplines. Daily meditation – usually for 30 minutes in the afternoon, is a must. Meeting regularly with a spiritual director is part of my search for balance. I have found one I really appreciate, we’ve met three times. Finding the time and the resources for a massage, an occasional acupuncture treatment, an adjustment from a chiropractor – these are all ways I seek balance. I need to feel quiet inside and this happens best when I seek “body work.” Feeling quite on the inside enables me to feel at peace regardless of the noise around me.
Along with members of the parish I am reading Parker Palmer’s book, “Healing the Heart of Democracy.” I am slogging through it highlighting thought provoking paragraphs on every page. The book holds such truth and wisdom for the noisy world we live in. He suggests that the way we, as a nation, will come to a place of healing is like walking down a busy street. Learning to navigate one’s way through a crowd of walking and talking people teaches us, deep within our selves, some of the tools we need to traverse the world today. We learn to be polite (if we are bringing out the best in ourselves). We learn to watch others, holding open doors and trying not to bump into others. We lose our individuality and merge with the flow of the crowd. (He actually says it better than I. I’m writing this from memory, what I have taken away from that thought).
Learning to navigate the crowd of voices in our country is crucial to our overall well-being, Palmer argues. We need to remember how to listen and respond. We need to share our stories and listen to one another. And, I suggest, we need to be vulnerable with one another. Our response to the vulnerability in ourselves and others is how we grow and learn and form within a deeper sense of compassion and love.
What I experience, especially in this election year, is a lot of “yelling” and name calling and anger – easily done via Facebook and Twitter, and news programs – which don’t require us to look real human beings in the eye as we spew. I think the anger is a mask for fear. We have a group of people who are afraid of losing their grip on the world as they have known it. True it has been a grip of privilege based on skin color, social status, and economics. The fear feels real I imagine, made worse because it is not acceptable to talk about the real fear – that people of color and people whose sexuality is different from the stated “norm” who want marriage equality and people who want to be able to make their own decisions about their body and health care and well, we have a black President – these realities fill some people with fear. Fear that they, as they are, white and therefore automatically privileged, are no longer in charge of the world as we know it. (My husband would argue that being white does not automatically mean privileged. The Supreme Court is considering just such a concept). There is a pushback to homeostasis, because it is what makes the world feel safe to some folks. These folks are grieving.
It seems to me that like any other form of grief this one needs a healthy forum for processing it. It needs to be named and embraced and given the time it takes to work through it. We need to pray for those who are grieving. But instead of talking about grief and its symptoms of fear and anger, people just panic and resort to some very bad behavior and words.
And then we have a whole group of people – many women, people of color, people whose sexuality is expanding how we understand “norm”, people who want the same legal rights to marry and raise a family as a heterosexual couple, people whose parents brought them to this country without the “proper” paperwork for whom this is the only country they have known, people who are just trying to earn a living wage – so many people for whom the direction this country is moving in offers hope. These people are not angry, they are dreaming.
The dreamers and the grievers need to be able to talk to one another, listen to each others stories. Embrace each others pain. We need to walk down the busy city street and learn to navigate this path together, blending in with one another while still being distinctively one’s self. We need to take delight in our diversity and be the noise.
But before we can be the noise we need to learn to be silent with one another. To share stories, to listen, and to sit in silence. I only know how to do this in the context of my everyday life: with my family, members of the congregation, people in pain who make appointments to talk to me about their needs. I am trying to learn how to do this in the context of say, Twitter comments. I realize that these are often just a place to blow off steam and that I really shouldn’t let them phase me. They have, however, made me angry. Many times. And I want to resort to name calling and angry retorts. But instead I am working on listening. And thinking about the confusion, pain, grief, suffering, fear or sense of entitlement that is conveyed and how the person must feel. I want to learn to be a better person myself and not resort to the same limbic brain behavior.
I don’t exactly how we could call all of us into a deeper place of compassionate listening. I hope however that if some of us model it and embrace the principles of the heart that Palmer suggests – or the Steps to Compassionate Living that Karen Armstrong suggests – or any of the approaches that encourage us to rise above the fray and be kinder and tenderhearted – then maybe that is a start. Maybe that is our pathway into delight and how I, or we, can become part of the noise.