The Difference Between Rage and Hatred


In the midst of the rage and anxiety, despair and turmoil, let’s keep our eyes open to Beauty.

I am really struggling this morning, not sure how I can go about the process of reflecting on gratitude after the events of yesterday in Charlottesville, and how that drives home the awareness that we are indeed watching forces of fascism rise in the United States today. We have a president whose mean-spirited and careless rhetoric has incited and encouraged the alt-right and their friends to feel like this is their time to rise. One headline I read this morning made a point of clarifying that yesterday’s event was not a protest, but a race riot. The people who came out for that rally were bringing hate out into the streets, eagerly anticipating the violence that ensued.

I am hesitant to call these folks white supremacists, though they are indeed so, because I don’t want to take the pressure off the rest of us, who live in and benefit from a white supremacist system that has gone too long unquestioned. Much as I repudiate the ideology, I experience the benefits of living in a white supremacist society. Yesterday’s race riot in Charlottesville was not just a response to our president’s bigotry, but an outgrowth of a white supremacist system gone unchallenged. This movement has been allowed and encouraged to fester and grow.

What do we do, now, in the face of this hatred?
I will express my shock and rage without letting them paralyze me.
I will repudiate the hate while I recognize that I, too, experience hatred in my heart.
I will commit intentional acts of love and solidarity with those who are marginalized and directly threatened by these people.
I will keep naming the truths and realities that the president and his followers are trying to twist into lies.
I will listen to music and look at art and read poetry (maybe make some of my own) and remind myself of what is good and beautiful, and how the arts challenge the impulse to destruction.
I will love. I will keep trying to love.

And that is hard. How can I love the torch-wielding rage-filled mob that tries to intimidate and cow people who stand up for peace? How can I love the Nazi-slogan-chanting gun-slinging marchers eager for blood to feed their rage? Holy Mystery, help me to walk in the pathway of love, to speak truth to the lies, to set the boundaries firmly and keep the doors wide open.

I titled this post “The Difference Between Rage and Hatred” because someone on FB this morning said that my words about the president and his supporters were full of hate. I challenge that perception. We MUST speak out. We MUST name the bigotry. This is not about hatred, but about truth.

Today, let each of us commit to one act of defiant love and kindness, one word of revolutionary truth, one prayer for peace grounded in hands-and-feet action.


“Good luck with figuring it out. It unfolds, and you experience it, and it is so horrible and endless that you could almost give up a dozen times. But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on. Through the most ordinary things, books, for instance, or a postcard, or eyes or hands, life is transformed. Hands that for decades reached out to hurt us, to drag us down, to control us, or to wave us away in dismissal now reach for us differently. They become instruments of tenderness, buoyancy, exploration, hope.”
― Anne Lamott, from: “Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers”
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“We do not have to live as though we are alone.” ―Wendell Berry
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“We are made and set here to give voice to our astonishments.” ―Annie Dillard
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“Writing is one of the most ancient forms of prayer. To write is to believe communication is possible, that other people are good, that you can awaken their generosity and their desire to do better.”  ―Fatema Mernissi
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Harrowing
by Parker J. Palmer
The plow has savaged this sweet field
Misshapen clods of earth kicked up
Rocks and twisted roots exposed to view
Last year’s growth demolished by the blade.
I have plowed my life this way
Turned over a whole history
Looking for the roots of what went wrong
Until my face is ravaged, furrowed, scarred.
Enough. The job is done.
Whatever’s been uprooted, let it be
Seedbed for the growing that’s to come.
I plowed to unearth last year’s reasons—
The farmer plows to plant a greening season.
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“Through trial and fire, against the odds, you have grown to trust that the world can be a safe place and you have every right to walk here. You have made parents of your instincts, intuition and dreaming; you have allowed love into where it had never before been received; you have grown life where once it was barren. With just a few found and trustworthy seeds, you have nurtured the greatest harvest there is in this, your humble life of belonging.” ―Toko-pa Turner
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Gratitude for:
“The gentle and fierce ones, the compassionate and powerful ones, the wise ones–so many people I know who work directly with people and communities who have experienced trauma, to explore and understand it, to help people seek for their inner resilience and to heal. These people I know, they work in education–both in the US and internationally, they develop social services to break cycles of trauma across generations, they make songs and music, they write poems, they tell their stories and the stories of others, they listen. How they listen! And they ask questions. They hold a big, big bowl. You probably know some of these people, too. Let’s stand around them and help them hold the bowl of stories that they carry.”  ―Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
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Gertrude Stein defined love as “the skillful audacity required to share an inner life.”


Gratitude List:
1. The forces of love that stand against the hatred. May we be strong enough to prevail.
2. Hard as it is, reminders to look into my own soul and see how my own rage and pettiness can harden into something twisted and wrong.
3. Thinking more about my sister-in-law’s ordination: The time for women leading the church has arrived. Not only was she a woman being ordained, but she was ordained by a woman, the conference pastor, leading a whole branch of the Mennonite Church. This is the time of reparations and new balance.
4. This morning, when my heart was doing its little panic in response to the news of Charlottesville, I opened my FB page to a message from a former student of mine, a fine young man who is crafting incredible music, finding ways to share his artistic vision. He shared a file of a string quartet piece that he composed. It was healing music, and the steel bands that were tightening around my heart began to release their hold. And I am proud, so proud of him.
5. Cats in the house. I know I am a little obsessed right now, but it’s such a joy to have a furperson walk through the house. I sort of think they got a little mixed up at the Humane League and gave us a cat and a dog instead of two cats. This morning as I was quietly typing, Thor came up and laid one of those little plastic armbands in my lap. I tossed it, and he went tearing after it, bringing it back to lay it at my feet. I have been almost unable to do any work this morning because of the ongoing game of fetch. I had to go wake Joss up so he could take over the game, and I could get some writing done.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Sweet Spot Between Striving and Perfectionism


God of Thundering Paws, Thor

The final quotation on this list, from Toko-pa Turner on perfectionism, is powerful for me. I don’t think I present to the world as a perfectionist. My house is messy, I can’t seem to follow a calendar for more than a few weeks at a time, I leave projects unfinished and work incomplete, I make my deadlines at the eleventh hour. Some of us are closet perfectionists, but our perfectionism is perhaps all the more insidious for that. Perfectionism is one of my shadows, the conjoined twin with shame. The never-good-enough twins. Where does that come from?

I’m working on it, steadily and surely, naming it, recognizing how perfectionism is actually at the root of so much of my messiness and time-management trouble and deadline avoidance. Every few weeks or so, I have to remind myself that it’s okay not to be perfect, that my way of being in the world is okay. Like Toko-pa suggests, I need to seek out my eccentricities, acknowledge them, and learn their gifts.

Like so many things in life, it’s a balance. In this case, between relaxing into who I am and striving to be a better person. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but I do need to find out how they inform each other, or they get pretty crunchy inside me.


“Where will you wander today?
What doorways, what thresholds,
what boundaries will you traverse?
Where will your heart find the opening
into the next open meadow?”
–Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” ~Leonard Cohen
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“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” –Robin Williams
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“One gives one’s life to be and to know, rather than to possess.” –Teilhard de Chardin
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“A smile starts on the lips, A grin spreads to the eyes, A chuckle comes from the belly; But a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows and bubbles all around.” ~Carolyn Birmingham
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“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” –Rumi
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The Love of Morning
by Denise Levertov

It is hard sometimes to drag ourselves
back to the love of morning
after we’ve lain in the dark crying out
O God, save us from the horror . . . .
God has saved the world one more day
even with its leaden burden of human evil;
we wake to birdsong.
And if sunlight’s gossamer lifts in its net
the weight of all that is solid,
our hearts, too, are lifted,
swung like laughing infants;
but on gray mornings,
all incident – our own hunger,
the dear tasks of continuance,
the footsteps before us in the earth’s
beloved dust, leading the way – all,
is hard to love again
for we resent a summons
that disregards our sloth, and this
calls us, calls us.
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Even
after
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
what happens
with a love like that —

It lights the whole
world.

–Hafiz
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Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
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“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.”
–William Stafford
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“Perfectionism is a virus which keeps us running on the treadmill of never-enoughness. It is inherently deadening for how it strives and never arrives. Failure is embedded in its very pursuit, for our humanity can never be homogenised. The only antidote is to turn away from every whiff of plastic and gloss and follow our grief, pursue our imperfections, exaggerate our eccentricities until they, the things we once sought to hide, reveal themselves as our true majesty.” –Toko-pa Turner


Gratitude List:
1. Reminiscing with the leader of the college jazz trio I sang with. I may not be able to sing like that anymore, but that experience pushed me to trust my voice in a way that will never leave me. And maybe now in mid-life, when I am again trying to understand the role of my writer’s voice in the world, I can weave some of that sense of confidence into my forward movement.
2. These two kids–boy and cat–playing toss the mouse. They’re hilarious and very entertaining.
3. This is a momentous day. My dear sister-in-law is being ordained to the ministry this evening. She is one of the most pastoral people I know and has been since I met her thirty years ago in college: she’s a good listener, she’s good at drawing people out, she asks questions that get you thinking more deeply. She has a caring heart, a powerful intuition, and a deep, deep understanding of people and communities. This has been a long journey, and I am excited about celebrating her work in the world. An ordination like this is not so much the beginning of a ministry, but the recognition that she has been doing this work all along.
4. Seeking the sweet spot between striving and perfectionism.
5. All the lovely birthday blessings! I begin my second century buoyed upon the well-wishes of a marvelous community of beloveds.

May we walk in Beauty!