“What we worship is what we become.”
What does it mean to be righteous? To conduct oneself justifiably or in a morally right fashion? Often we learn righteousness in the sense of religion, or from our familiars exemplifying the pathway to a successful life. I’ve been learning about the pathway of righteousness, in all it’s many forms, in my own attempt to embody righteousness. Here are some nuggets of wisdom that have come to me over the last month, specifically around communication organizing and spiritual awareness. Let’s dig…
“The key to life is knowing the difference between being in a groove and being in a rut.”
It’s no secret, we have entered some sort of “dark age” on earth. At first, I was “okay” with it, selfishly, largely due to the my privilege. I had more free time, I had a community to “suffer” together with, and I finally had some relief from living such a freakishly busy life and was able to focus on my mental health. But the more time there is to do this, and the more we continue to navigate these trying time of isolation and loneliness, it becomes more and more clear that this is NOT easy work, especially for those who do not have the luxury to simply “focus on their own health” and instead are in jobs essential to the community. Uprooting the (or any) given system and completely reprogramming neuro-pathways is HARD WORK, and not always clear. So when it hit me hard the other day that I am in a word, “frustrated”, like many of us are, I tried to justify it. One could argue we’ve always been “frustrated”, and not in a way that screams “I’m depressed and need medication”, but more in a light that shines upon all the collective evolutionary grief we face as a species. Or maybe this is a new found frustration that has reared it’s little head in the face of a pandemic, either way, admitting we have a problem is the first step. And the problems seem endless…
“The wound is where the light enters you “
Now my late Papa Sidney would argue that “it’s not a problem, Sara, it’s a challenge, and while we’re at it, we’re not arguing, we’re brainstorming”. It’s all how you frame the issue he understood. It’s also become clear to me that many of us are relying on our coping mechanisms more than ever right now; is that a problem, or a solution? One can only pray that we have taken the time to develop healthy coping skills, which is a lifetime of work. Many people turn to faith in trying times like this, and there has never been a point in my lifetime where I have seen more and more people call upon religion or spirituality, myself included. Lately, I’ve been praying daily, with my heart, with my mouth and with my feet. Praying with your feet is what MLK defined as Marching in Selma or showing up in Washington in the face of brutality. God is a verb I always said (taken from Rabbi Cooper’s book God is a Verb on Kabbalah). So what else have I found in my own spiritual path?
My Rabbi and friend recently taught me:
“You cannot pray a hurricane away, but prayer can advert the pain. It can clean your consciousness a bit. It allows to ask how are we contributing to society in a positive way? Prayer builds resiliency, and that’s spirituality in a nutshell.”
He also pointed out that the human spirit is capable off being resilient in all of this work, and sometimes you cannot change the result; instead it’s about the process, not just the results.
Prayer can show us the difference between essential pain and unnecessary suffering. So often when things are difficult and life is terrible, we think “I cannot deal with this; what did I do to deserve this?” But that is the most egotistical form of prayer of all. One does not make demands on our greater, but rather, owns them. We must be the change according to Buddha, which means taking responsibility for your home, your body, your temple. If you have been practicing and learning how to clean up your consciousness and how to show up for your community, while holding true to the traditions that speak to you, then you are going to find a positive path, even despite the hardship. The Jewish faith has a whole season dedicated to this, it’s called Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, where we have our “High holy days.” There is a difference between a holiday and a holy day in this culture, but I would argue/brainstorm that everyday should be holy. I’ve always been an optimist and a realist, to a fault.
“It takes a lot of courage to be an optimist these days. Its easy to be a pessimist.”
So if people who can continue to engage in life in prayerful and positive ways in finding joy are able to survive and even thrive during uncomfortable times, how can I embody this? This is where I find myself soul searching.
Recently I was fortunate enough to take a week long virtual workshop on Social Justice and Community Organizing in a faith based environment. What an odd marriage we have been taught that the merging of church and state is so “wrong”. When I asked the question of how the two can be mutually inclusive, our group facilitator explain that politicians are supposed to be partisan to the people. The word political come from the greek word polis, who gather deliverables about the concerns of the people. She also pointed out that a parliament is called a “kenneset”, which is the same word for sanctuary in Hebrew. It is painful obvious, there is a great rift that has been branded between spirit and business worlds, but that is not to say the two can not exist in harmony, let alone tandem. A lot of success can come from knowing which hat you wear at the appropriate time.
In order to make systemic change, in our public lives, we can take on different personas. Sometimes we have to physically change our seat, our location or even change our proverbially hat, in order to foster the relationships at hand. All of this takes TIME as much as knowledge. It’s about building relationships in politics and in faith. As I learned,
“Time is our most precious non-renewable resource.”
Time is POWER. Power is to the social world what energy is to the physical world – it makes things go
Community organizing and political action take TIME. It requires the time to get to know your neighbors, to hear their stories, and to stand up for what’s right, knowing that they would do the same for you when the time is necessary. Are you putting in the time?
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Another lesson in organizing with your community is called the “Iron rule”: don’t do for others what they can do for themselves. Allow for people to be better than you are at a job. Power depends upon consent, for there must consent for power to be exercised. So often we get so trapped into our habits that we forget to exercise our power respectfully. Our “habit apathy” is what needs our attention currently… Habit apathy is when we stop at a red light, or vote for a one party ticket because it’s just what we know and have always done. But what if we begin to question “power”, especially in the name of those who are less fortunate than us” and actually stand up for the bottom line?
“Relationships are a better currency than money.”
In the mid-20th century, Clinton Rossiter argued that one inevitable feature of the nuclear age is the state of “chronic emergency” in which we find ourselves, in which our habits come out in full force. We will have habits; habits have us. The question is whether we will shape and form our habits to a good end that support our relationships. And whether they will help us create coherent action both for the future of our democracy and in the time of emergency. Are we making good choices with our health, with our finances, and with our emotions? Do one thing every day that fosters something of this nature, even if it’s not your whole life. We have to start somewhere to build new habits.
“One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
– Martin Luther King Jr
So what does it mean to truly be an ally? In Latin, the word ally means “to bind to.” Dictionary definition: To unite ourselves with ours to find mutually beneficial interests. I.E.:
“We must make each other’s conditions our own.”
Because of this virus, we are more united in our suffering than ever before it seems. This virus reminds us we are all connected. It may be painful, it may be depressing, it may be horribly wrong, but we are all in this together now.
State Condoleezza Rice was fond of noting that the Chinese character for “crisis” also means “opportunity.”
There is great opportunity here to intentionally create communal love, in public together, and in doing this work we move towards justice, which IS a faith based practice. To do so in the face of politics is bold and challenging, but the bottom line is: If there is no struggle there is no progress.
“Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted.”
Action to the organization is like oxygen to the body. Without action or oxygen the body dies and becomes calcified but you don’t live to breath, you breath to live. The purpose of our lives is not to breath, it’s to live.
And it’s not just the action we are looking for, but often the reaction we look for when facilitating change. Recognition is super important – the first fight is for recognition in a job well done. What did we learn from this? What should we not take personally. Critique and evaluation is with everyone’s best interest in mind has to be built on trust and fairness when creating action. We may forget that bad rehearsals can lead to a good action. Our mistakes can lead us to our style. And, there is almost as much power in silence as in action, at the right time.
“If you are going to poke the bear you better be prepared to feed him.”
So what are our motivations to facilitate change currently, and how can we deploy them?
Many people are motivated in anger right now, and that’s okay, when funneled properly. The word anger comes from the norse word: ANG: meaning grief or loss
Anger is a secondary emotion in the mental health world. What is underneath anger is usually grief or loss. When we don’t know how to act on it, we go to extremes on one hand showing apathy and depression or addiction, when on the other hand violence and aggression. Either way, it becomes corrosive. Anger is the mean between aggression and repression. Anger without power is impotent rage, and will destroy even the healthiest of relationships, including that with ourself.
I’ve always been taught that the opposite ion love is not hate it’s indifference. Anger can be ruled in love. Anger must be tempered. There is another side of anger, and that is: humor.
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
So what do we do with this anger? Often times, we give it to God, whatever that source of light means for you. And/or we can take our to our institutions when we are angry enough and channel it properly, asking, “what are we going to do about this, together?“
“Our institutions represent inheritances of valued purpose with attendant rules and obligations.”
–Hugh Helco, On Thinking Institutionally
Institutions have a mission based on values, and a mission is at the heart of our institutions. What institutions do you regularly visit and are they filling their missions? When was a time when your institution was there for you? When did they fail you? Right now, there is a great need for people who care about their intuitions who are angry enough they are willing to agitate within the system; bottom line: we are stronger together. I encourage you, to find your institution, and to run with it.
In Conclusion: “Action is a cure for anxiety and kindness is intelligence shown.”
I’d like to think these hard times are just instilling us with the lessons we will need to be successful later in life. RESILIENCY is the buzzword. We will get through this. Life will go on marching right across your face. We are but ants on a rock of carbon, and yet we feel so much. I don’t know much, I just repeat what I’ve been told that seems worthwhile, and I hope that there was some gem within my nuggets of learning that speaks to you and allows you to continue with your head up high and stand by your neighbors side with integrity and justice as our backbone.
Much love always,
Sara Nicole Glass aka: MissConception
“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” Paulo Coelho