Posts Tagged ‘the way to unity’

I love you my readers! I treasure you!

As we all struggle through a difficult season of life, I find myself wanting to be talk about what it means to be connected to each other.

Today a close friend stopped by. He shared about his battle with cancer earlier in life. He reminded me of the time, before a major surgery, when we walked in the park and talked and he disclosed his feelings and I listened.

We talked about my current chronic pain. We talked about his hearing loss. We talked about what it feels like to be dependent. We talked about what it feels like not to be able to do the things we use to do. We have a bond over shared experience — and shared loss.

The question arises, how well can we connect with others during this time of social distancing, during this time of racial and political tension?

In contemporary parlance to be rightly connected to each other is to be “woke.” The word “woke” has now taken on a specific political meaning. It means to be woken to the awareness of social, class and racial inequality and injustice. It means to wake to the institutional nature of racism, of the harm it causes, of the need for change.

Early in my career, when I was teaching a class in Advanced American Literature, I had my gifted students read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. One of my female students, a black Muslim, stayed after class one day, and told me that I was of the white devil race, I was an oppressor and that I would never understand the black experience.

I didn’t argue. I heard her. What she said had truth in it. She was resolute. I tried to receive that, but in a very real sense we cannot fully understand and feel the exact experience of another. She left. I felt pain. I still do over this issue. I felt some of her pain, and I felt my own, and I felt the pain of the history and literature of the people of the United States of America.

I was the white teacher, I was male, I had wealth and with these things came many advantages and many privileges. My goal was to empower my students. Not one my students in that class was white, and so the very dynamic of our relationship argued in favor of my accuser’s position. I had all the power over what they were taught, over how they were allowed to behave, and over the grades that would determine their future.

A question stands before us as a nation, a question for conservatives and liberals alike. How does one wake up to what another person experiences and feels? How do we wake up to truths that we haven’t made our own, truths that we haven’t wanted to hear? How do we awaken to what someone else thinks and feels about us? How do we bring justice to the harmed?

This morning as I spoke with my pain brother, my pain elevated to the point that after a while I wept in front of him —so much so that we couldn’t continue. My sense of loss in the moment of connection actually increased in the very presence of what I need and loved the most — my dearest friends. He sat quietly as tears roll down my face. He knew my heart. He was present. just as I had one known his. I didn’t hide my pain. He didn’t look away from it.

Before he left we prayed for each other and I found myself praying for the whole world, that God would have mercy and bring healing to all of us.

How do we connect? How do we understand? Understanding begins with being present. It proceeds along a path following the awareness of shared pain. Then brokenness begins to connect with brokenness. Loss with loss. Tears with tears.

Our losses may be different, but our tears are the same. How do we become woke? We “weep with those who weep.”

A close friend texted me today. She wrote, “Funny. I am amazed at how much spontaneous crying I do. There is a vulnerable place opening up within me. I’m in a less thinking, more loving place. I hunger and stumble after ‘the love that will not let me go.’Finley said ‘I’m not God, but I’m not other than God. I’m not you but I’m not other than you.’”

We know this. Within us is the capacity for understanding. The secret lies within our tears. We may not merge with another, but we can identify. Inside us there is the possibility of unity. The secret is in the awareness of our shared losses. Inside us there is the possibility of justice and equality. This happens when we realize that the other is none other than us.