“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something is worth doing no matter how it turns out.”
—Václav Havel, Czech leader
Our country is hurting, and it has been for a long time. It is just now with the demonstrations that have given voice to the desperation of the hearts that the pain is becoming more visible to everyone. People say “no more” all over the world, our hearts say “no more” at home. No more violence, abuse, discrimination, dehumanization of the human soul.
The pandemic has revealed the often invisible forces that inequality has had in the health outcomes of people of color and the lack of economic security in underserved communities. People of color have been suffering these inequalities from the inception of this country and so much blood has been shed to sustain a system that does not work for everyone equally.
My heart aches for all that has broken us apart. For the long history of suffering, of abuse, of trauma that we all carry from our ancestral lines. The deep suffering that consciously or unconsciously has us hurt one another, and that the cycles of violence, poverty, and systemic oppression continue generation after generation.
Our hearts are saying "no more." The heart of the world is hurting. Not just in feeling the life-taking consequences of oppression, but also in losing our humanity in it. Michael Meade says that the world has lost its soul. I personally don’t think we have lost it, I think we have forgotten it, and it is now crying out loud from the depths of our being. Asking to be heard, inviting children, mothers, fathers, friends, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, to come together to hear each other in our pain. The pain that exists in so many parts of our society: the black and brown boys who are carefully trained by their caregivers about how to respond to a police officer to de-escalate any situation; the mothers and fathers of people of color who lie awake at night hoping for their kids to be safe and protected from any injustice embedded in the multiple systems they participate in; law enforcement officers and their families who might feel confused, scared, outraged; people who in the pandemic have lost their jobs and are struggling making ends meet, or who have had people get sick and die due to health conditions that are less than optimal as a consequence of poverty and lack of access to health care.
If all of our hearts are saying “no more,” then why are we still hurting each other? The outrage that we are seeing on the streets speaks of the pain that people have carried for years, the fear of not feeling safe at home or on the streets, the sadness of all the people we have lost because of systemic or interpersonal oppression, a world that has been trying to not feel the pain because it hurts too much and ,as we push it away, it keeps coming back in life-limiting ways through violence, addiction, isolation, depression.
Francis Weller says, “We forget we are all tangled together in this net of life, that the air we breathe is shared, as is our water and soil, and that everything is bound together in a seamless web of life.”
Let’s remember this, as no pain is born alone. Your pain is tangled with mine, and as we turn towards it and speak of it to one another we might understand our collective pain better and be able to heal together. Let’s not push it away anymore, let’s welcome it as an old friend and open the gates of our hearts so that we can listen to it together. Give it a loving home and a form of expression that allows it to be listened to in its wisdom and its power to heal you.
Naomi Shihab Nye says in her poem "Kindness:"
Before you know kindness as the
deepest thing inside.
you must know sorrow as the other
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
And you see the size of the cloth.
Let’s sit together in circle and talk to each other about our sorrow so that together we can catch the thread of all sorrows, see more clearly and re-construct our humanity together. All are welcome our weekly Circles of Connection, which is one place this is happening. Turning Toward Sorrow is a video inviting us to listen the wisdom of our feelings so we can respond appropriately.
Cynthia is a faculty member and managing partner at New Ventures West.
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