Repairing America

Anything we do, no matter how routine or mundane, can be a ritual, a prayer, a magical spinning of webs of healing. This week, as I have been repairing a quilt, I have been pondering/praying/spinning webs for the mending of the raggedness of the world.

When we got engaged over thirty years ago, Jon and I bought ourselves a glorious Sunshine and Shadow wedding quilt. For a few years, in one of the places we lived, we hung it on a wall, where it was fabulously set off by the natural woodwork of the doorways and window sashes of the house. But for much of our marriage we kept it in storage, waiting until we had a perfect wall again to display it. About ten years ago, I brought it out and said that a marriage quilt belongs on a bed. If it gets damaged by everyday use, so be it. We’re looking a little bit more ragged and worn ourselves than we did back in 1990, and it just felt wrong to keep something so symbolic tucked out of sight out of fear that it might become damaged.

And it has indeed become worn and ragged, but only in one of its colors. The heathery olive green was apparently a less sturdy fabric than the rest, and over time, it became completely shredded. It was my intention to go to a fabric store and try to match the color exactly, but I just don’t ever seem to find the time to make excursions like that, and so I put off fixing it for a couple years. Finally, during lockdown, I began to wonder why I was so attached to the replacement color matching the original exactly. I had some green with the same intensity of vibrancy as the other colors in the quilt. So I cut some patches and started to cut away the old and tattered fabric. (I didn’t think to start photographing the process until I had already repaired eight of the patches.)

And while I have been appliqueing the new patches into the design, I have been thinking about the raggedness of brokenness in our world, and especially in this country, where things have actually never NOT been ragged and torn. Unlike our wedding quilt, which began in beauty, and which represents a marriage and family that respects and values the true humanity of all its members, this country may have had some beautiful aspects when seen from a distance and through certain lenses, but the colors in the American quilt were created from the blood and bones and sweat of enslaved people and from the genocide of those who lived here before the Europeans came along with their ideas of Empire. This quilt we call the United States may need to be completely remade in order to create a thing of true and lasting beauty.

What are the elements and colors of beauty and grace that we think we want to keep when the quilt has been repaired? Democracy? What a lovely and marvelous ideal! But it’s never actually been a true and shining democracy for all of us. Can we find a fabric to replace that one? This time, let’s choose a strong fabric, one that weaves us ALL into the warp and weft, that offers everyone a voice. It’s going to take a great deal of energy and time and personal labor to cut away the ragged and corrupted edges of that one, and stitch the new and stronger pieces in its place.

We’re going to need to examine our communal ideals, one by one, and carefully trim away the ones which have become torn and tattered so we can stitch new, more vibrant colors made of stronger, more inclusive fabrics into their places. Perhap then we can save this quilt of a country. ‘Til all is said and done, we’ll probably be replacing the batting and backing, tearing out rows of quilting, finding new threads and better materials. The next version of this American quilt may not look much like the original, and that is a good thing. The original was never so vibrant and meaningful as so many people thought it was. It’s always been corrupted, moth-eaten, and tattered. Now is the time to create a true America, the one we thought we had, but real and solid and vibrant.

Gratitude List:
1. Fixing, repairing, mending
2. Contemplating, praying, spinning webs
3. Creating, making, designing
4. Listening, absorbing, holding space
5. Stretching, breathing, unbending

Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly–in Beauty!

“That’s the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along.” —Madeleine L’Engle

“In all religious systems the danger is that the logical structure and rational doctrine will obscure the mystical vision.” —Bede Griffiths

“Note to self today:
Do not feed the monsters.
Monsters are those thought threads that denigrate and disrespect self and others.
Some are wandering thought forms, looking for a place to land and live.
Some are sent to you deliberately or inadvertently. They can come from arrows or gossip, jealousy or envy. Or from just…thoughtlessness.
Instead, have a party.
Invite your helpers to the table. Give them something to do. They want to be helpful. And just celebrate.
Feed the birds.
Second note: A positive mind makes a light slippery surface and anything not of it, slides off.” —Joy Harjo

Omid Safi: “In many languages, the words for “love” have a connection to words for “seed.” In Arabic and Persian, a word for love (hubb) comes from the seed that is planted in the ground. Sometimes a seed of love is planted in the heart’s ground through a glance, a touch, a word. The seed of love falls on the heart’s soil. Is it a hardened earth, a rock-covered surface, one that will have the seed washed away with the first water? Or is it a soil that has been prepared, tilled, softened up, opened up again and again and again, ready to embrace the seed of love that would surely come?”

“We need better government, no doubt about it. But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities.” —Wendell Berry

“A spirituality that is only private and self-absorbed, one devoid of an authentic political and social consciousness, does little to halt the suicidal juggernaut of history. On the other hand, an activism that is not purified by profound spiritual and psychological self-awareness and rooted in divine truth, wisdom, and compassion will only perpetuate the problem it is trying to solve, however righteous its intentions. When, however, the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic and social institutions, a holy force – the power of wisdom and love in action – is born. This force I define as Sacred Activism.”
―Andrew Harvey, The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism

“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.”
―Andrew Harvey

“I pray for the gift of silence, Of emptiness and solitude, Where everything I touch is turned into prayer:”
―Andrew Harvey, Light the Flame: 365 Days of Prayer

“Now, it’s not like Jesus was against name-calling or anything. He slung around Hypocrite, Fool and Brood of Vipers with the best of them. But I find it fascinating that Jesus reserved his name-calling for the religious community and never for the broken down or broken hearted. Never for the excluded. Never for the lonely. Never for the outcasts.

“Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t tell us to love the sinner; Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. And then Jesus goes on to define our neighbors as those who are despised, rejected, excluded, ignored, and bullied.” –Beth Woolsey

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