holding fast to Love

“Cherishing this evening’s evolution. First on the scene are the cicadas. Next enter the tree frogs, followed by katydids and screech owls. Every night it is the same. I am grateful for dependable evolutions.” -scratched in my journal while sitting on the porch last evening

A dear friend, who read yesterday’s post, mentioned that while she was at it, she’d also read the previous post Listening for the Voice of Love , and noted how the two created meaningful bookends for this summer. In June, I was sitting with the morning, listening to the cacaphonous prelude of birdsong breaking open the dawn, remembering that all of it is held by Love, mysteriously yet assuredly. Now, at summer’s close, I sit in the evening, listening to the fanfare of cicada, katydid, treefrog, and screech owl, acknowledging the terrible brokenness of our world.

Both are always true. And my pendulum swings from one knowing to the other, settling, when I am centered, in the middle, holding both extremes within my arc of vision, within my heart.

This morning, we sat together, this dear friend and I, with the words of Meister Eckhart.

“Even in the shadows of my life

where I often tremble in shame

You are present there as light

that ever shines without ceasing

and when I turn my heart to that darkness

I find that you were there,

shining, all along”

Turning to face the shadows of life can feel sobering, stark, bleak, desolate, daunting, overwhelming. It can fill me with despair, if I dwell only there. But if I refuse to look at it at all, I forget that Love is also there. I make Love, and my own heart, too small. I want to become more adept at doing both–remaining seated in Love and Hope and Goodness, while also seeing clearly and saying ‘this is wrong’

Still, I believe that my heart, while I trust that it is big enough to hold it all, needs to be tended carefully. How much fuel, and what type of fuel, I feed it can determine its health. Too many violent images and words and it recoils. Too much anger and it grows hard to protect its tender recesses. Too much toxic venom and it gets poisoned.

The internet and mass media, as we all know, can be a dangerous place into which to carry one’s open heart. Algorithmic formulas reinforce exponentially whatever it is we dip our toes into, and soon our vision of world is horrifically skewed. I have taken care to feed my heart in those places with the words and images of those who are seeking human goodness and integrity, so that those kinds of ideals, and so my perspective of humanity, exponentially grows in me, as Mr Rogers might say, to ‘look for the helpers’. Virtual ‘places’ like The Fetzer Institute, media offerings like Krista Tippet’s, OnBeing (specifically her conversations on civil discourse), Jonathan Haidt’s work on OpenMindedness, Positivity, and understanding the ‘other’, feed my heart goodness. These are not the ones making all the headlines (much like the helpers are not the ones making the news during any tragic catastrophe) but living, moving, and having my being with and among those whose work is Love grounds me in the hope of humanity.

Still, every 4 years or so, when the political season ramps up, in my seeking of knowledge and information, even in my seeking words of Hope onto which I might hitch my own, negativity inevitably filters through the cracks, the dam bursts and suddenly my heart is flooded with toxins.

A walk in the ‘real’ world usually helps. Encountering ‘real’ people – being kind, doing good, extending grace -restores me. Human to human conversations soothe. I suppose that’s why it was so very disconcerting for me, for so many of us, this summer to come face to face with the tangible, blatant, meanness of humanity, where suddenly, for instance, wearing a mask to protect my fellow human beings marks me as a target for scorn and public shaming. Even some very real human-to-human conversations hurt my heart. From whence did this anger spring?

Ok. With full self-awareness I recognize my discomfort with anger– mostly, I suppose, the way it comes out, more so than the actual human feeling. To say I FEAR anger is perhaps a more apt way of expressing my relationship to it. I fear it hitting me full brunt. And I recognize my dysfunctional (codependent?) conciliatory self-protective mechanisms and attempts to preempt it. Still, I have witnessed the effects of anger fueling the heart of those I love, the toxic way it changes the quality of their humanity and damages relationships. Right now in our culture, there seems to be alot of fuel out there.

So, how might my heart stay centered in Love — while seeing fully the injustices and brokenness. How might it look fully into those shadows (within and without) without being drawn into darkness in this season of my life, and of our collective lives. How might I listen, without sinking into despair, to the inevitable chorus of nightfall. How am I called to BE with it?

To ever shine? Perhaps. For me, this seems to be the calling of my heart, to hold its center, seeking goodness and light, so that I can see and hear the other while remaining true to my heart, to model the Hope for a society based in humankindness, which I wish to see become real in our world. BE the change. There are others whose calling in these days of strife will look different than my own– prophets, for instance– their gifts and passions different than my own. I celebrate these too. (see my comment on the previous post )

It sounds like such a small thing to do. To act with integrity, to not get swept away in this storm. To be content to be the proverbial pebble in the pond — modelling positivity and peace, touching those next to you with Love and Grace — can seem irrelevant in the midst of a tempest such as this. Perhaps it might be better to envision the integrity of one’s heart, then, as an anchor, holding firm.

As the season turns toward autumn, and the song unfolds, may we each continue to listen for the voice of Love in our midst.

PS. Last night I dreamt there was a black bear on my back, sleeping. I had to take care not to wake him as I found someone to help me disentangle him. He’d gotten tied up somehow in my backpack straps. When we inadvertently awaked him, he was quite gentle (though groggy) as he mouthed my hand (like a puppy) as I reached up over my shoulder to soothe him. So…. there’s that. (;

erosion control

Dear One,

It has been 2 months since I’ve written to you here. In the interim between then and now, this earth has continued to spin, in ways, if I am honest, that sometimes have felt wildly out of control (which of course is never in our control but, in the more typical absence of my need to pay attention to it, feels at least dependable.) And, of course, the earth IS fine, unaffected in its orbit by our human unravelings here in this middle swath of land, on this slip of a continent between her great oceans. A recent trip to a dark sky park (yes, we have to designate those here in the United States as we have obliterated our view of the sky so thoroughly with our 24-7 sense of urgency, efficiency, productivity and, of course, fear) lent a moment of perspective to the chaos ensuing closer to home. What feels so big is so very small.

Still, I pray that we have left you something that feels like home— home in the true sense of the word, meaning safety, comfort, nourishment, belonging, belovedness. That, rather than the devolution of human civilization we are experiencing, one based in human goodness is restored (if ‘restored’ is even the proper word. Perhaps ‘established’ is a better choice. No ‘re’ prefix at all. A dream of the future that does not pretend that life was ‘once’ anything better)

I won’t begin to try to recap the summer of 2020 for you here; I trust that history will unpack that for you. So, I will write to you from here, inside of my heart.


Today, it feels in my heart like human culture is in an epic battle between good and evil. As much as I disavow such dichotomic and hyperbolic statements, as much as I have worked on understanding the ‘other’, and on accepting my own ignorance, as much I seek to remain openminded, to stay seated in the center, I look around me today and I see on one side of this epic struggle in which we seem to be engaged, a call to decency and on the other, open hostility. (and, yes, I do ask myself what has happened in life to those who act out their frustrations in aggressive ways).

Oh, but perhaps what I am seeing is not one side as good and the other as evil, after all, for certainly there is hostile language and violent behavior on both sides of this chasm. We have become a hardened and antagonistic people, pointing fingers, scorning, and shaming the ‘other’, name calling and disparaging with vile language. Somehow that is now acceptable behavior in which to engage– part of the devolution which I see and feel. We are like petulant adolescents, rebelling, and as with teenagers, our very rudeness is celebrated. Others have ‘merely’ grown cynical, sarcastic, and untrusting of anything good, and so have devolved into apathy or selfish survivalism, feeling hopeless and powerless, looking out for only themselves. So, perhaps what I am witnessing from the center (if I can even make the pretentious assertion to be sitting there) looking out at the world, are 2 mirror images. Oh, how we must always take care to not become that which we say we oppose.

Still, it feels to me as if something has been eroded in our current culture. As if our sense of common decency, mutual respect, integrity, compassion, civility, cooperation, unity, dignity, integrity, trust, has disintegrated– and I wonder how we begin to restore those things. It feels as if something came along and clear cut an ancient forest of wisdom while we were not paying attention, and now the soil (soul) of our culture into which our roots were once firmly planted has been washed away. I’ve wondered how we can (or will) replant these things so that you, my granddaughters, will live in a world that is once again rooted in the hope and the goodness of humanity.

This is the crux of the current moment. What will win? The hope of a future based in human decency? Or the further exploitation of humanity at the expense of itself? Will we be able to halt this slide into the abyss?

On that same visit to the dark sky park, we also visited a century’s old steel viaduct, rising 300 feet above and reaching 2000 feet across the chasm it spanned, and which lay in a crumbled heap of rusting twisted metal at the base of that gorge, having succumbed at last to the winds of an F1 hurricane about a decade ago. Are these days in which we are living, this summer of 2020, going to prove a wind too strong for the tenuous, old bridge that has held our society together, no longer able to span the divide between 2 different ways of seeing the world and our place in it? Are we consumers, whose sole purpose is to use the earth and one another as commodity, with self-interest at the center? Is that the apex to which we are to ascend? Security in things? Or are we called to rise to something relational, the apex of which is compassion for our fellow human and other-than-human beings? (Perhaps apex is not the correct image for this, as humility and selflessness is a necessary bridge for this way of being together here with one another and with this planet, a laying oneself down.)

Someone recently asked me a hypothetical question. “How much money would it take for me to vote in the upcoming election for our current president?”, a man who has emboldened these baser human instincts in us (in my opinion) ? Their argument was that for, say, 50 million or so I could give you, my loves, a really good future. For me, that felt like imagining I could grow a beautiful, isolated garden for you to live in while the rest of the world surrounding you was a toxic wasteland — for that is my fear if we continue on this trajectory of undermining human goodness. But, life doesn’t work that way. To imagine that is possible is to forget the interconnectedness of life on this earth. You could never thrive in a despoiled world. I long for you a kind world, a cooperative world, a compassionate world, a thoughtful, hopeful, trustworthy world, where adults tell the truth and we trust that their intentions for us are noble.

Last summer, I read the book, The Wayfinders, written by anthropologist, Wade Davis. The most striking takeaway from that reading for me was contained in the introduction, where the author imagines human life on earth being destroyed down to a few dozen human beings, and with faith in the creativity and intelligence of the human animal, asserts that we would rebuild something completely new and different– not build back what was, rather through our prolific human gifts create new ways of doing culture. (He then goes on to explore some of the unique and diverse ways humans have actually crafted life on this earth). So, maybe, just maybe giving money to a few who would use that money to create something utterly new might affect the future in some positive and concrete, long-lasting way, except— again, we are NOT isolated beings in this place, and so the premise is flawed– my granddaughters would have their ‘riches’ in a disparaged and cruel world.

My visceral instinct, in the moment that the question was posed — the one asking how much money it would take to buy my vote — was such a strong, ‘no amount of money at all!”, but since then, I’ve pondered it quite a bit, from a variety of angles. How much money, for instance, would I need to offset this trajectory that has been initiated? How much good could I do with money? How many children could I educate? How much power might I wield to influence the movers and shakers? Still, the answer for me is ‘no’ because we don’t need a singular power (or money) on top, we need change from within. We need a shift not in wealth but in values. That’s what I think this election is about– asserting that shift from the power of money, from Money as God, to the power of soul. I pray for you, my child, that the shift has taken place.

Recently, I walked into an establishment in upstate PA where a bull’s eye target, with the faces of our state’s governor and the democratic presidential candidate at its center, was hung on the wall behind the cash register. How can it be that this is ok in our country? That our disrespect and hostility for one another is something to put openly on display like a badge (of dishonor)? How did our sense of human decency erode to this point? I believe our baser instincts have somehow been emboldened by leadership that preys upon our weaknesses.

My hope lies in this upcoming election, my child, that decency will rise up and we will choose it. When the opposing candidate speaks of dignity and decency and honor and integrity, when he refers to restoring the soul of our country, I feel hopeful again. I feel as if we can begin to replant seeds of goodness again in our country. I pray there are at least half of us who still long for goodness to prevail.

Yet, if I am honest, I also fear. I fear that the seeds that have taken root in our devastated soil have gained a chokehold, like an invasive species, and will be difficult to eradicate. Discontent and blind opposition (for the sake of opposition, it seems) are so rampant here. Violence and aggression (verbal and physical) seem to have taken hold as the only response to differing worldviews. Trust in our fellow human beings has been thoroughly undermined. Selfishness and ego rule. I fear what will be unleashed by those who do not ‘win’.

This is a bleak letter. Please know I have not given up on us. There are many, many human goodnesses that I see and know. And, of course, I continue to trust in the inherent goodness of humanity to rise up and overcome, to trust in the power of Love to overcome fear. Perhaps it is that hope which will replant itself in these eroded soils. Perhaps those seeds are hidden even now, dormant, waiting, underground, part of the bedrock itself.

The bleak outlook perhaps comes from stepping outside of my bubble. As a quiet introvert, it has perhaps too easy for me to stay inside my idealistic bubble, to remain thoughtful and hopeful rather than active, to turn inward and to not see. Then come these moments when I step out and take a look around. Recent forays have left me feeling stunned. (Perhaps it’s something like seeing a child whom you’ve not seen in a year or so and being struck by how large they’ve grown!) So it is perhaps even more striking for me to see how far we’ve devolved.

There are so many important issues we are contending with in our country right now….most of which speak on some level about the way we as a society care for one another, eg the human need for equity, the human need for healthcare, the need for a livable income (which means meeting basic human needs like shelter and food), the issue of humane justice in our immigration policies, the way we care for our earth, the epidemic of violence, and more. But WHO we are and who we are becoming is far more important than how we specifically address any one of these issues, for it is the underlying moral compass that guides these decisions that will determine our fate. The language we use matters to me, for it lies at the heart of our very humanity. Our language expresses our humanity and our hope. It defines us. It undergirds and informs the way that we approach life. When I hear words that speak the language of soul, of hope, of dignity, integrity, honor, empathy, compassion, I feel safe in your future.

Human decency matters. (and in my belief, it makes us so much safer than weapons and money) I pray it is not swept away in these torrents of change. I pray for your sake, that if it is, it will be deposited somewhere on your shores.

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