What kind of people are we?
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: The fight goes on The courage displayed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight to protect their sacred land and water and the treaty rights of Native Peoples has given heart to people throughout the U….
Perhaps about 15 years ago, after the birth of our grandson, our second grandchild, I had the experience of feeling absolutely overwhelmed with the love I felt for the two beautiful young souls who were being entrusted to their parents and to us for as long as we would have time to be in their lives. I hardly knew what to do with the feelings I had; what to do with the awareness of what an incredible privilege and responsibility came with being a conscious grandparent. So – I prayed for some guiding wisdom for how to go about the awesome task of loving these two precious beings and for how to be a strong and positive influence in their lives. In the deep silence of prayer, I heard “You are to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love.” 15 years later, I am still grappling with what these words mean, but I took this wisdom as my marching orders for grand-parenting. It turns out that they were marching orders for my life as well as they have continued to echo in my spirit over the years that I have been a grandmother. You are to be a Witness, a Presence, and Unconditional Love.
And then there is the attribute of Unconditional Love. We know from the long saga of God’s journey with Israel that God does not give up when the going gets tough – – and the texts are full of reasons why God could have just thrown up the proverbial divine hands and walked away in frustration and disgust. But that did not happen. The love of the Holy One for all of creation does not depend upon how faithful humans are, or how good or cooperative or thoughtful or sensitive or caring or patient with each other we happen to be. Unconditional Love is just that – it unaffected by the conditions of our lives. Being created in the Divine Image, we have the capacity to love one another through thick and thin – – even when we aren’t sure we like each other very much – even when we disagree about how things ought to be done, even when we hurt one another’s feelings – even when things go terribly wrong. Being Unconditional Love means being in our holy center where we do not get shaken by the dramas and ups and downs of our daily interactions, by political differences, by our knee-jerk reactions to the most recent inflammation in the news – it means being Love even when we don’t feel particularly loving.
Reason for Hope?
In the midst senate hearings in Washington DC and parliamentary elections in England and reports of numerous terrorist attacks against a variety of homely sites like ice cream parlors, it would seem as though confusion and chaos, dishonesty and violence, subterfuge and obstructionism are the values that rule the day. It becomes a spiritual discipline to begin each day with a re-connection with what is good and true and hopeful even when awaking into the ongoing nightmare. Even our small town island politics reflect the larger milieu as a local CEO is fired without adequate public explanation and a popular school teacher leaves the system leaving many questions unanswered.
It is tempting to wonder if something akin to Lyme Disease is affecting the entire neuro-muscular system of our culture, both national and local. Lyme is a pesky, often chronic, and occasionally lethal infection – a gift of the deer tick, which seems invincible – a gift that keeps on giving. It causes all kinds of symptoms from chronic headaches and muscle pain to fever to neurological disturbances and more, all in varying degrees of severity. The medical establishment’s struggle to recognize, diagnose and treat Lyme is ongoing and not yet fully dependable and accurate. There are days when, for many folks, fear of the deer tick rules the day.
And so it seems with our human ability to come to terms with the far reaching effects of dishonesty and violence and subterfuge and obstructionism – along with the confusion and chaos they generate.
BUT! and it is a huge BUT! Along with the onset of the most active tick season in the month of June also comes the month of celebration of another generation of young people preparing to make the long walk to the podium to receive their diplomas. All around the world the possibility of an antidote to the infections that stalk humanity is donning its robes and “mortar-boards”, or, as is also the case on our island, throwing off their shoes and donning flower garlands on their heads, preparing to step out and make a difference.
A high school guidance counselor describes the Class of 2017 this way: “Since their freshman year, they have volunteered for every event we’ve asked them to volunteer for, helping with the eighth grade transition, the Race-Culture Retreat.” She highlighted the Stand With Everyone Against Rape (SWEAR), for this volunteering spirit, particularly among the young men of the senior class.
“We collaborated and created a training program for boys. They talk about how sexual assault is not just a women’s issue but a men’s issue as well, and how it’s time for men to step up and accept their privilege.” Seventeen and eighteen year old kids did final research projects on innovative treatments for debilitating diseases and on the effects of gender bias on education in the classroom. Once again, members of the graduating class, along with a few thousand other kids from around the world, attended a Model UN Conference in New York City for a simulated learning experience that helped them to train their minds to think critically and do problem solving in collaboration with people from other cultures.
So as the tick season hits its stride and when high profile hearings seem to uncover ever more of the presence of a long suspected disease, it is a reasonable comfort to sit in the crowd as “Pomp and Circumstance” begins and another generation of young adults, far more savvy than the previous generation was at the same age, prepares to make its influence felt.
They send a strong message of hope and resilience to the rest of us who feel outrage, sadness, weariness, and often, fatigue, with the enormity of the dis-ease that confronts us on a daily basis, that the “research and development” for an antidote is well underway.
In post Biblical writings Shavuot has come to be known and celebrated as the day Torah was given to Israel. Through the Kabbalists, a tradition of staying up to study through the night on the eve of Shavuot has been handed down as a way of preparing to receive the revelation of Torah in the morning on the day of Shavuot.
In the Christian calendar year, the Day of Pentecost follows close on to Shavuot. It is a day when the life giving energy of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early church in a rush of wind and fire – a day when the Holy demonstrated its power to infiltrate and shape the life of the community.
Both Shavuot and Pentecost are remembered and observed as days of revelation.
In a parallel tradition the Day of Pentecost came with rushing wind and fire and the revelation of the gift of the Holy Spirit – the revelation spoken in such a way that all could hear it in their own language regardless of where they came from.
Christian tradition holds that the Spirit came bringing gifts of holiness for those who could use them. Gifts like wisdom and knowledge, of faith and the ability to heal, of discernment and the ability to interpret spiritual truths.
Taken together the two traditions of revelation form a firm foundation for the human community to live in harmony and wholeness – in holiness. Both traditions have the power to pull us back to center in a time when the wild centrifugal forces of national and global politics send us spiraling away from the most fundamental truths. Truths like being honest and not lying to or about our neighbors – – ordinances about not murdering -either literally or verbally – – like not stealing or envying what belongs to another. The revelation on Sinai seems so fundamental – – and yet is so easily ignored and trampled upon at the highest levels of political machination where adequate health care or a sense of safety can be stolen from the most vulnerable at the stroke of a pen.
Revelation of wisdom for living is at the heart center of Jewish and Christian tradition. The thunder, the smoke and the quaking mountain, the rushing wind and the tongues of fire, all caught the attention of our ancient ancestors.
Our attention has wandered – but we still have the stories and the ritual days that have the power to draw us back to center and to remind us again of the most basic principles for harmonious living. No fireworks, no exploding mountains, no mysterious smoke and clouds, no rushing wind and flames – – just a silent, ageless whisper of intent: “You shall be holy!!” Now – get with the program!!
A friend and I were talking the other day about what has become known as “fake news” and “alternative facts.” We agreed it was harder than ever to know what to believe. Exaggeration has gone viral. Outright lies have become prolific. The determined att…
Our beloved island is birthing spring! Azaleas and rhododendrons are lavishly pink and purple. Lilac buds are getting ready. A great blue heron surveys its realm from the shore of the pond, standing on one leg. “Pinkletinks”, tiny frogs that inhabit the damp low places, are singing their ecstatic chirping songs. We open our car windows as we drive so we can hear their invisible presence and feel the joy. A pair of fluffy white “pillows” float on the pond – two majestic swans – their graceful heads and necks submerged, grazing the bottom for breakfast.
Vicky Hanjian April 28, 2017