“Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.” -Victor Hugo
One of the most essential efforts today is to rebuild and heal our human infrastructure and find our way back to one another. Despite all that is happening around us, to realize our shared humanity is to discover a whole new level of freedom in our world. Imagine being in a place of mutual respect and love regardless of one’s origins, politics, or status. Our diversity and differing views, so long as we aren’t hurting each other, are gifts. Shouldn’t that be exciting that we are different? What bothers us about one another? Why do we give this myth of division so much power and tiptoe around the things that matter?
As I get older, I realize the way people respond to things tells very little about what they are confronting and more about their character and what they are carrying inside themselves. On a personal level, the people and situations that get me tied up in knots usually relate to something that I need to forgive and let go. It usually is a pain point…ouch!…hitting a nerve I had forgotten about or maybe want to forget about.
Looking around the world right now, so many people in the headlines are being offended and offensive. What is it about being an obstructionist that creates a sense of power? I shared with a friend that it reminds me of when I was a small child riding the school bus and seeing the attention another child got from the others by swearing. Everyone was at the same time awed and in disbelief by this bold use of vocabulary. Wow! He must be cool, I thought, to have that much attention! I decided maybe I would give it a try at home, and unfortunately, I received quick discipline instead of my hoped-for reaction! I see that little cursing child in these modern-day characters in a charade of lies and vulgarities calling, begging to quench the never-ending appetite for attention and power. Maybe if they had my mom, they would have gotten the lesson early on!
Yet, society and the media often give artificial and temporary power to those who create news. Seldom does anyone going about leading with love and intention get the attention. How many times in the past four years did we grab our phones, looking to see, “what happened while we slept?” People doing what is expected of them does not get attention. Kindness is usually only reported when it is in such contrast to someone else not doing their job. We hold on to this sense that all the world is going crazy when it is only a few bad players.
We do a similar thing by empowering our emotions when we hold onto hurt feelings and anger. We shut down, keep a grudge, and mark that person as “on my list!” It may seem like we are in power of the situation, having the other person “hostage” in our rage. It gives us a story to tell and the importance of being wronged by another. Yet, that myth keeps us from experiencing the healing that leads to our freedom which is not contingent upon the other person’s remorse. It is about letting go, moving on, and realizing we have wings to take us higher. Author and activist Marianne Williamson expressed it beautifully, “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world…We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.” I’m not talking about those who commit crimes–they have to be held accountable for their actions. I am talking about the rest of us and what is needed to heal our country instead of letting some tear it apart.
In a time when we really need to see each other, staying in the place of outrage and shock pushes us away from one another. I’m not the first to say social media is part of the blame–the algorithms feed what they think we need and want to see. But are we brave enough to ask someone who thinks differently how they came upon their ideas in an empathetic way? Are we willing to risk the discomfort by asking questions to understand and diffuse the tensions between us? Reading books about building community and union helps me find the words to say. Educating myself on where some of the conspiracies arise gives me compassion for those who fell into that rabbit hole and, if they are willing, to have the courage to talk with them. Often, it is fear that we won’t have enough, be enough, or get enough. I get that. Growing up in a huge family, I struggle with that myth all the time. It causes me to stare at the ceiling late at night wondering if I’m enough and to get upset when I hear someone challenging what I believe is true.
We are all on a frail branch right now that feels like it could snap at any minute. Some would like to bounce on that branch until it breaks, but most of us are not that. Most of us just want to sing our song and find our place in the world. Right now, I think so many of us miss being with each other, and it hurts in unexpected ways. Our whole world, at times, feels unexpected and unsure. This can bottle up inside us. We all need attention by paying attention to the spaces that connect. The fact is, we all have wings to get off this shakey branch to find our freedom and reconnection with one another at a higher level. What are we waiting for?
Photo credit–My backyard at Rebel Hall had the most amazing 200+ year old trees. I loved to watch the sunrise with them reaching their branches to greet the dawn!