Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it. - Buddha
Siddhartha had been raised in privilege and opulence. He had been pampered and protected from the horrors of the world. When he found himself in the real world, where there was death, disease, poverty, pain and ugliness, he was bewildered, horrified and then awakened. We cannot change the world if we do not see it as a system, a whole - the sorrow as well as the joy - the ugly as well as the beautiful.
I come out of a week at The Point, a family camp based in Covenant and deliberately developed as a Beloved Community. This year it was at the Sequoyah State Park outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a community, it is a bubble out of reality. The real world has trouble even breaking into this bubble. Technology is difficult to use, we were surrounded by other Unitarian Universalists in a beautiful setting. The theme this year was “We’ll Build a Land - Love Will Guide Us.” We discussed, learned about, and struggled with dismantling White Supremacy. We struggled on many different levels as we heard words of wisdom from our keynote speaker, the Reverend Deanna Vandiver from Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal in New Orleans.
It was like living and learning in a warm, cozy chalice. Don’t get me wrong - it was not perfect. We struggled. We needed to pitch in to make things happen. We got it wrong, we got it right, we had differences of opinion, we made mistakes, and we stayed at the table. It was difficult to leave. But like Siddhartha - we cannot live in a bubble and be awake. To be awake is important - always has been. Right now things are moving at a frightening pace and awake can be frightening and overwhelming. I feel the need to take a deep breath and lean in.
Old wrongs are being made even worse. New wrongs are developing moment by moment. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia etc. are being held up as normal and okay. Rather than being our siblings’ keepers we are choosing up sides, isolating, othering, and circling the wagons.
Having just been in the middle of the United States of America and having listened to talk radio on our way back home, I am reminded of the fact that there are a lot of “alternative facts” out there that are used to bolster arguments to keep others down. Fear is a strong motivator and is fueled by half truths, lies, and all manner of manipulation. We are all susceptible to being mislead by charismatic charlatans. We must be clear about the deepest values we hold dear.
While I was at The Point, I was thinking of all of this. I was thinking that part of having privilege in our culture is believing we are able to escape into relative safety. Although I think this “safety” is partially an illusion, that belief is still very real. To help the manipulation, we are divided one from another and told that we are just a little better than them, but not nearly as good as others. I awakened to the fact that I am only one of many. I am clear that my value is neither more nor less than the value of any other. I awakened to the fact that I often find myself in positions of privilege. I awakened to the fact that I sometimes find myself marginalized and diminished.
Rob Spirko is an advisor for the UUA Online Leadership Institute development team and the former Dean of SUULE. He sent me an article last week about his personal experience of the shootings at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church nine years ago. It is an article about having clarity and being awake. It is eloquently written. It is also a warning and a request for us to be clear, awake and aware. I could never say this any better or more poignantly than Rob does in this article. Please read Rob’s article, unless doing so will cause you trauma.