In the midst of a pandemic and right after excessive heat, to have the skies turn orange and the sun red has not made the world feel more manageable.
Small wonder we seek comfort in our rational mind, the one that the statistics are all still with us, at least in the short term. And yet how do we listen to those parts of us which are afraid or in need of comfort? How might doing so help us better listen to all of the wisdom within us? This was the subject of today’s meditation.
Now we are at 60 days and counting. And we are going to face some hard choices in the coming weeks and we need to be clear about the nature of those choices. For only if that is clear can we be sure how we much approach these choices.
If we do not know the true horizon, we cannot head in the right direction. If we do not understand the nature of the journey, we cannot prepare for it well. Yes, an election is coming and yet it is not like any other election—not even like the election we faced in 2016. For now, we can have no doubt about the extent to which hatred and ignorance can reign and the ways in which the lives of the dispossessed can be used as political shrapnel.
The choice we face in November is not a political one—it is a moral choice and to approach it through the lens of politics is to lose sight of what is at stake. What is at stake is whether we will be a nation which preserves any sense of commitment to a common good and a common future or whether we will abandon all of this in favor of a dystopian survival ethic which furthers the inequities among us.
We have 60 days left until this election and for these reasons, and let us keep our eyes where they need to be—on the horizon against whose terrain we can see the birthing of a new day in which we do not throw away some lives because it is politically expedient, in which we still wrestle with the complexity of what it means to dismantle centuries-old systems of oppression, in which we examine honestly who those systems have served and not served.
May we each spend these days making real the world we wish to leave to those who come after us. They will be the ones to carry the burden of the choices we make.
Like how strange things cause melancholy and touch that well of sadness that always seems to be lurking around these days.
And how it might be something small and inconsequential. I had this happen when I passed the locker room door at the Y where I had gone to swim outside. The swimming itself was something I wouldn’t normally do. The whole routine, with temperature checks and all a part of this COVID time. The locker room and the worn brown plastic mat outside it reminded me of the old routine—Monday nights with yoga, hot tub, and a shower, and there my heart skipped a beat.
The divine is also in the details.
The way that a small chance encounter with someone you used to see regularly in that “other” life becomes joyful.
The way those who have been your companions are more precious to you now.
The simple pleasures which you take time to savor.
All of this.
The Buddhists say that we must engage in non-attachment, not trying to grasp what cannot be. These days certainly challenge us to practice this on an on-going basis.
Let us keep connecting with that which sustains us, the old things and the new. Step by step. This is how we get through.
My 82-year-old mother has more emojis on her phone than I do. She sends me messages with unicorns and rainbows and such. We are all in such a time of change and what I’ve been most impressed with is all the ways that we have all been learning and adapting so well and so much. And still—can we say– it is tiring! And this week, so much discouraging news. We can often feel overwhelmed and as if those joys we can have are pointless.
With our regular routines changed or gone and a sense that everything is just strange and different, it would be easy for us to allow the taste of summer to be part of our life. Yet we need to have summer we need to have those breaks in our routine that allow us to come back and appreciate our routines and our connections even more. In that spirit I offer these words from a recent vespers service:
The seasons around us remind us that we are a part of the natural world. Our bodies seek the fallow of winter, the renewal of spring, the turning of fall, and in this time, the release of summer. In this summer, strange and new, how do we honor this natural wisdom? Even amid new realities when we long for old routines, how do we embrace the renewals of this season? How do we slow ourselves to the languid pace that all those who dwell in warm climes know? How do we bask with the lizard and dip into the water with the egret? How do we savor the flavors of growing things and the samplings of new creativities being born in us? How do we let go into the gifts of summer?
The Great Spirit of the world invites us into a larger frame, a frame that says we are more than our day-to-day tasks and our lists of responsibilities. A frame that reminds us to nourish ourselves and those we love for these days will not be offered again. A frame that invites us to slow the pace and release the mind from care, even in this worry-world we now inhabit. Honor the great spirit of rest. Honor the great spirit of possibility. Honor the great spirit of bodily awareness which invites us into presence with the simple joys. Honor the fierce persistence of life which will wrap flower-filled vines around collapsing logs and poke persistent weeds up through the cracks in sidewalks. Honor the still lengthened days and the quality of the light that bookends them. Savor this summertime with the means we have this year, this time which will never come again.
As we go through this sheltering in place time, some weeks seem harder in the world than others. This week has brought news of the 100000th death within the United States from Covid-19, the death of George Floyd and the threat to a Black birdwatcher in Central Park, and at the local church level, disheartening activity by scammers. So I just thought I would take a moment today to write a message to say that in the midst of all this I am buoyed by the work of this community and all the small acts of kindness that I get to bear witness to done by our members and friends. I thought I would just list a few:
The ways in which people have been calling and comforting one another and making that connection that is so vital to all of our well being;
The continued efforts to ensure the well being of our guest in sanctuary;
The engaged conversations about what it means to support Black and Indigenous people who are disproportionately affected (by sending support and by sending masks);
The care and comfort that have been offered to people who are living alone who have experienced health problems not related to the pandemic directly but which are complicated because of the reduced number of medical and other assistive services;
The food that is dropped off that has literally saved people from extreme hunger at a time when opportunities to earn money have disappeared and the gifts to the discretionary fund that allow people to be housed in extreme heat this week;
The number of people who have given of their creativity, time and talent to help make our worship services so inspirational including the choir members who have struggled with technologies that are not their natural place of comfort to allow us to have music;
The parents who have maintained a commitment to support their children’s religious education though another task while trying to work at home.
The quiet teams of people that have rallied around a number of the friends of the church who have been unhoused during this pandemic, offering so many small and large services that otherwise they literally would have no access to in a time when most services are shut down or nonexistent;
The continued efforts to rally voters for the fall;
The number of people who have continued to faithfully pay their pledge or pledged for next year to ensure that our staff can be paid for their extra hours during this time period.
For all that you do to make our community work and for all that you don’t see every day, please know that you are making a real difference in real people’s lives.
We face threats to our health and general well being, to our economy, to our political system, to our environment and yet we also are witness each day to simple acts the counter all these trends. If you would like to get more involved in activities that might help post your spirit, please feel free to be in touch. Mostly though, THANK YOU!
And take good care, Leslie
PS Remember that we have been amassing resources to help us when the world seems overwhelming. You can find them at: Virtual Friday Meditation