Occupying Space

Gratitude List:
1. Coco–When it was over, one of the younger ones said, “I think that is my favorite movie ever!”
2. Anne’s sermon today. Dying well means loving well. Face your fears of death and dying.
3. All these concentric circles of friendship and love.
4. Learning, even when it’s crunchy, even when (or especially when) it convicts and changes and transforms me.
5. Backhanded gratitude here: I have been bothered by a rather constant, low-grade pain in my muscles and joints in recent months. For whatever reason, it’s been less intense in the past week. It hasn’t been dreadful, but it has made me shy away from more strenuous physical activity. It feels good not to feel bad.

May we walk in Beauty!

“The measure of your greatness is the measure of your magnanimity, your willingness to carry people in your heart. If we are encapsulated in our self-image, we are puny. A great being has stature, something cosmic comes through. Think of people who have really dedicated themselves to service. If we’re great enough, then we have room in our heart even for a person who has hurt us. So we can counter resentment, which can degenerate into hate, then to cruelty and even to war. As a dervish would say: “Shake yourself awake! You have been invited to the divine banquet! Don’t you realize that the divine being is present in you?” In fact, the whole of creation is an act of magnanimity. Rumi certainly put it right when he said, “Would the gardener have planted the seed if it were not for the love of the flower?” —Vilayat Inayat Khan
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
—Mary Oliver
“Arm yourself with love and knowledge, and let’s work together for justice.” —Regina Shands Stoltzfus
“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy. For when we betake ourselves to the extreme opposite of the ego, we can behold a situation from the aspect of God.”
—Abraham Joshua Heschel
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
―James Baldwin
“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation.” —Pearl S Buck
“May the sun bring you new energy by day;
May the moon softly restore you by night;
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk through the world
and know its beauty all the days of your life.”
—Apache blessing

I’ve been thinking about body space a lot since watching the president’s recent blundering through his meeting with the Queen of England. As strange as royal protocol is to Americans, it was incredibly obvious that that man had no clear sense of himself as someone in shared space. He appeared lost, and not in a pitiable way, but simply because he clearly doesn’t have the inner tools to assess himself in the context of occupying space with other humans. He’s an interesting study, because he seems to have a distinct knowledge of how to use his occupation of space as a dominance tactic, but at other times, as he did with the Queen, he appears bizarrely lost in space, unable to understand even the most minimal of social cues.

The president, with his inability to seemingly understand or accept British royal protocol, is a clear caricature of the white man/white person who is completely unable to share space, either because of lack of awareness or because of intentional thievery of the space as part of a childish dominance game. (More on the racial aspect of that statement in a moment.)

I’ve also been thinking about how women exist in public space, and laughing ruefully at memes and stories of women who did not cede space in walkways and were simply plowed into by men who were completely unaware of their assumptions that women would make space for them.

Shortly after I began my recent ruminations on presidential space-dominance and male entitlement, I came across this brilliant article by Hannah Drake on Black Women and the occupation of public spaces, both physical and virtual:

You should take a moment to read it right now.


Drake challenges me to be better at paying attention, to see how my occupation of space can have the same sense of unaware and dominance-tinged entitlement that I see in men’s presence. I have tended to think of myself as being pretty carefully aware of issues of basic human civility, yet it’s easy to get complacent and think I’ve noticed all there is to notice. Drake brings layers to the conversation, connecting dominance of physical public space with virtual and conversational public spaces. Her article helps me think more deeply and move with more intention, both as a woman in spaces dominated by men, and as a white person in spaces that do not offer space to People of Color. As a white woman, I will accept her challenge at the end of the article, and I will extend it into my school year, committing to be deliberate not only in my own occupation of spaces, but in watching the ways others interact in public space.

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