Being a Guest House

Here is something I wrote yesterday:
Our grief should place us onto a similar plane of understanding. Stories of Black youth being held at gunpoint and endangered by police officers who were called to protect those particular lives are not a competition with the story of a White child who was murdered. The murder or mistreatment of a child is a terrible thing no matter their race or circumstance.

Our horrors and griefs should be taking us to the same well, where we can hold each other’s stories, feel each other’s pain, and know we are walking the same valleys.

Saying Black Lives Matter is not meant to compete with or demean your very real grief about the horror stories you hear. It’s not intended to politicize the lives of those who have died. It’s intended to shake us up and wake us up to the continuing grief of Black families, to hold in reverence the lives that have been taken simply because of someone’s race.

I see you asking, “Can’t we grieve him too?” Of course we can. Of course we should. Our hearts are meant to break open with such pain. But asking that question as a response to someone expressing their grief over one more senselessly lost or threatened Black life is politicizing both deaths.

Take a deep breath. Feel your feelings. Weep with those who mourn.

Something I notice about people in these months of pandemic is that we seem to be experiencing, as they say, All The Feels. I think we’re more vulnerable to sad stories, to outrage, to anxiety, and this makes us vulnerable to trolls, to bots, to conspiracy theories. For me, living in that fluttery place of reactivity to emotion is not healthy or sustainable, and it makes me much more susceptible to suggestion that doesn’t require thinking. Denying those fluttery emotions doesn’t help either. They’re there, and they’re going to affect me. I need to lean into them, to give them their space, ask them–like ghosts that haunt a house–what they need of me in this moment. I need to name them as they appear.

This poem, by Jalaluddin Rumi, translated into English by Coleman Barks, helps:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

“I think ultimately people become extremists not necessarily because of the ideology. I think that the ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent. I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose.

“If, underneath that fundamental search is something that’s broken — I call them potholes — is there abuse or trauma or mental illness or addiction? … [T]here are so many marginalized young people, so many disenfranchised young people today with not a lot to believe in, with not a lot of hope, they tend to search for very simple black and white answers.” ―Christian Picciolini, former skinhead

“Nazis are a lot like cats: If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them.” ―John Oliver

“Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons…
We who believe in freedom cannot rest,
we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
―Sweet Honey in the Rock

“The future, good or ill, was not forgotten,
but ceased to have any power over the present.
Health and hope grew strong in them,
and they were content with each good day as it came,
taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.”
― Linda Hogan

“Silence my soul, these trees are prayers.” ―Rabindranath Tagore

“Whoever you are,
now I place my hand upon you,
that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear.
I have loved many women and men,
but I love none better than you.”
—Walt Whitman, “To You”

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
―Eleanor Roosevelt

“Shaped language is strangely immortal, living in a meadowy freshness outside of time.
But it also lives in the moment, in us. Emotion, intellect, and physiology are inseparably connected in the links of a poem’s sound. It is difficult to feel intimacy while shouting, to rage in a low whisper, to skip and weep at the same time.” ―Jane Hirshfield

“I have always been spiritually promiscuous, lying down with any God who will have me. When I drop down into these ancient texts, I feel the breath of the God of Love on my face. It makes me crazy. In the very best way.” —Mirabai Starr

Some Personal Rules for Posting

Same photo as yesterday. Different filters and tweaking.

It’s getting difficult to wade through the re-posted tweets and memes on social media regarding the presidential race. While I might not get too anxious or flustered in what I used to think of as “normal” times, these days, I am becoming more and more wary of bots and trolls. The thing is, they’re funny. They’re clever. They make acid points. And the thing behind the thing is: Russia is no longer even trying to hide the fact that it is trying to affect our election process through social media.

In light of this, here are some posting rules to consider.
1. No quizzes. I am taking absolutely NO quizzes online. Even if I am pretty sure that this one will tell me that deep down in my soul, I am a mermaid and my personal animal is a unicorn. No quizzes. No take ’em. No post ’em.
2. No re-posting tweets and memes that disparage political candidates. Except Bloomberg. Okay, none. News stories from major outlets, and insightful (as opposed to inciteful) essays from vetted publications are still fair game, in my book.
3. No name calling. No name calling. No name calling. If the candidate is misogynistic and known to insult women, or racist and known to insult people outside his own racial group, it’s still simply never okay to call him names. It might feel delightfully cathartic to insult him back, but I’m still trying to follow Michelle Obama’s encouragement: “When they go low, we go high.” Besides, there’s so much truth that needs to be spoken that mean names dilute the issues.
4. I am struggling with the newcomer to the Democratic field. I have a favorite candidate, and you might be able to guess who she is, and if you ask, I will tell you, but I am trying to stay out of the bloody fight. I dream of a day when a nominee rises to the top in an election moment like this, but without the bruising and bloodying from members of her own party. In that spirit, I will do my best to not disparage any of the others, especially since word came out that Russia is trying to influence this part of the process, too. (Caveat: This newcomer, though. He has a pretty shady past when it comes to treatment of black people and women. I won’t insult him, but I don’t know that anything is gained by ignoring his history of racism and misogyny.)

What else would you put on the list? I need to get ready for school. . .

Gratitude List:
1. Big batch of grading done. I’ve begun using my gratitude lists as my accountability space for keeping up with the grading. Sigh. Right now, it’s got to be a whatever-it-takes proposal. And I am incredibly grateful to have that batch finished.
2. Last night’s dream: I had found an adult-sized pogo stick, and I made enormous leaps around a stage. I was planning to use the pogo stick as a transportation method because it was such a thrill to jump high and far. But I woke up before I could try that.
3. The sun seemed to rise SO early yesterday!
4. Yellow crocus.
5. All the wingfolk in the sky these days.

May we walk in Beauty!