Wailing is a start

Yesterday I was too tired and too viscerally scared to write. My fear relates to fascism, which frightened me a lot when I was growing up. People being mean really scares me and throws me back to feeling young and helpless. I had already imagined our neighbors down the street with seven Trump signs on their lawn banging loudly on my door, coming to get me.

I see a lot of fear from my friends on Facebook: pictures of a swastika already spotted. A lesbian friend insulted on the street by a stranger. African-American women feeling numb and bone-weary. The weary need to rest and take time to mourn. (I hope Hillary takes a little vacation, too.)

I took a long walk on an insistently sunny day and got some sleep after a stressfully long election night vigil. I also thought about biblical lamentation; never mind that my biblical studies teacher suggested that there is a difference between lament and complaint. Be that as it may, I stumbled on a strong lament/wail/complaint from the Psalms, a wonderful compendium of praise and curse, gratitude and despair:

…As for the gang leader of those who surround me,

Let their mischievous words cover them; smother them in trouble.

Let hot coals fall from heaven upon them

And cast them into the roaring fires.

May they sink into the muddy marsh from which there is no return.

Let no liar find a home anywhere in the land;

Let evil hunt down the violent man and do him in quickly. …     Ps. 140: 9-11

I understand my Bible better this morning: wailing can help. There is a time for that too.

wailingwallart

And then … I have also begun thinking about what I am called to do: what’s my task that uses my talents and not only takes energy but gives it back? I can stand with my journalist friends and advocate for a vigilant press because we’re really going to need eyes on someone who has a track record of dishonesty – he reminds me of Richard Nixon – and who has worked hard to vilify the press in order to undermine its credibility. I am also starting to see fake news stories, which really sows confusion. Lots of forces are at work here, actually, and this is a good analysis for those interested. I just signed up to be a supporter of the Guardian , which I had been reading for free. The press is important; freedom of the press ended up being a constitutional right for a reason.

That argument is a little more abstract than I wanted to make. A better question to pose and answer is how can I keep heart (especially since I had a really expensive cardiac repair job just this summer)? A lot of my progressive friends are angry and calling for organizing. I don’t think that is my call; anger tends to hinder me and make me inarticulate. It’s a tool I don’t use well. I think love and empathy are better tools. These things are lower on the list of progressives, derided as hippie-ish or kumbayah in our postmodern era. Yet one of the reasons many of us find Donald Trump objectionable is what appears to be his total lack of empathy  – the ability to imagine and respect what someone else experiences. As a new chaplain, I’ve had the opportunity to study empathy; it can be cultivated.

I was reminded about empathy when my friend Jana Riess posted Mr. Rogers’ advice about looking for the helpers in a column she wrote about post-election trauma. To that I would add as a Quaker: what is your gift? What is your call? What can you do that will sustain you, your neighbors, and the planet? There’s a lot that needs doing. Pick the need and sign up and in.

Walking cheerfully

I have been losing sleep over the election. I am really, really afraid of one candidate. I’m more than happy with the other, despite some important disagreements. I’ve been wondering what is my responsibility besides voting. I’ve wrestled with writing about this, since I have some talent at communicating in writing. But there is a real tsunami of opinion out there, and so one more view hardly matters. On the contrary, in this election, restraint is a good, mature thing; thinking “I alone have the answer”  is hubris at best, narcissism at worst.

Like so many others, I really liked Michelle Obama’s speech and her idea that this is not about us: this election is about our children’s world. And I’m a little worried about the children, and not just my two. I’m worried that we’re not leaving them a better place, but instead we are bequeathing a lot of crushing personal debt, a climate-challenged planet, fear of strangers who speak different languages, and soul-numbing cynicism. That last really bothers me.

I heard a lot of great speeches at the convention. Although I normally find good oratory inspiring, I must admit its charm is wearing thin. And this article  really got me re-thinking the way I value an inspirational speech. What about getting things done? What about problem solving?

For me, for my children, for my planet, I want solutions. I want to read about them. I want to vote for somebody who sweats the details of getting things done. For my own part, I need to concentrate on things getting fixed, or getting better, given enough commitment and ingenuity. I need to shift my focus from a relentless litany of what’s wrong without denying what is wrong and from jejune despair that “the system is rigged.” The system is big and complicated and contains a lot of people who unfortunately don’t think like me.

More concretely: this is also a way of practicing the Quaker discipline of “walking cheerfully over the world” . This is what I am going to do during the election season: call attention to solutions. If I can’t find any, it might just be cute kittens or pretty flowers. (I thought of doing this while sitting by my flowers.)

I’m kicking off by celebrating an amazing planetary healing (it’s yuuge): the hole in the earth’s ozone layer is closing because we banned CFCs. The lead scientist who published about this said: “Aren’t we amazing humans?”

Bonus: here are some flowers:IMG_1173.JPG