Working Together

"We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again..."

Excerpt from "Working Together" © David Whyte
in The House of Belonging

Many Rivers Press

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Word of the Year 2014: Courage - My Cup Runneth Over

This is the last post on my word of the year for 2014: courage. As is my way, I employed a personal challenge of weight loss to ground myself in a better understanding of how I progress. The loss of 32 pounds, while not but half what needs to go for optimal health, has played an important part. I am leaner, stronger and  more anchored in my self care. I feel transformed and lighter; on the precipice of a new way of being in the world. I am feeling more able to drop my habit of self-deprecation. Also with cultivating courage came more attention to my habits as a consumer and how to stand by my purchasing power. I'm clearer in my convictions regarding my economic responsibilities. The profound lesson of this word, however, was found in an abundance of examples of bravery that caught my attention in the world around me over the year as I shared in earlier blog posts.

There has been a plethora of examples of courage as injustices and struggles have mounted all over the world. People - both singularly and en masse - have stood up clearly outside of their comfort zones to make their stand, declare their opinions or lend support to causes that they felt strongly about. There has been plenty to choose from because so much policy currently is dysfunctional and it is as if the entirety of civilization - both east and west - has slid down the rabbit hole of decline lately. There is no denying the world looks much different from the one I entered 61 years ago.  From a civil point of view, it barely resembles the same planet.  I'm sure that someone born in 1853 reflecting on WWI would have said the very same thing in 1914 and it would be just as true.

In observing these movements and ideologies at work, I see that courage often means following one's heart - acting on it - leading with it. With all the atrocities at large these days, it seems that these outside influences are calling our courage out. Whether it is the ravages of nature and disease or the bi-products of cultivated avarice and war, we are swept up and  invited to choose and be counted. Certainly that has been the case for me.

The End Of Time

I currently work with people who are religious and as part of their support team, I read to them from their religious texts (though I refrain from discussion). I would do this no matter what the religious affiliation; Muslim, Hindu or Baptist, etc...It comes with the work, to accept all diverse faiths and to support whatever my client needs in the way of spiritual support. I was raised Christian - Anglican, specifically - and, as a child, I quite loved the whole ceremonial bits. I enjoyed the feeling "a part" of a community that was bathed in a kaleidoscope of stained glass and pipe organ music. I sang in the choir, became one of the youngest children to memorize the catechism to take communion and as a charity case they shipped me off to exotic places to go to summer camp annually. I know a bit about religion from a very tempered Christian sensibility. So it happened, because I am reading  (in this particular case) evangelical material daily, I have had on my mind Armageddon and how current events seem to play so handily into these prophesies. I know, however, that it has been 'the end of days' since Western Civilization first named the world. Later, with narrative came a stream of observations of man's inhumanities to man and documentations there of. You don't have to be Shakespeare to see how this plays out because the basics of human nature repeat the same over and over and over again.  Only the weapons employed and the disproportionate numbers of humans and their needs  have changed. Religion can be a handy tool box for shoring up what one needs or wants to hear to feel safe and maintain a moral compass. But while we are busy mooring ourselves to safety, what about being brave?

Those of us who have experienced spirit in the world in such a way as being touched personally by "that which passeth all understanding" have been set onto a journey that is not easily comprehended by those who have never been forced into an exile beyond the paridigm of conventional human experience. Certainly, there are struggles enough within the ever changing norms in every life not withstanding such an experience.  One does not leave everything of what one knows of survival and love willingly.  There is often a trauma; a shock or an hunger so violent that one is propelled into a life that is completely beyond reason yet, almost cruelly the same. Not so much the same as to allow a return to innocence, however; not so much to be able to return to the the kind of shelter religion provides.  One is too large, too vibrant and too aware to return to such a life, safe though it felt. I would think it would be pretty clear to anyone who has had such an emergence...and equally obtuse a concept to anyone who hasn't. It is from this place that I feel the need to muster the courage required to say what I see regarding this current "end of times" and how it relates to bravery.

I am of the opinion what we are working with, as humans, is more of a numbers game than a fisticuffs between good and evil played out on a green screen stretched across time. I have seen the population grow from 3 billion people to the over 7 billion people in my lifetime and I can tell you that from my perspective the woe of this world has a lot more to do with the impossible numbers of disenfranchised people and the depletion of resources than any other factor present. The difference in experience from walking down a street in 1960 to walking the exact same street 2014 is so overwhelmingly a contrast as to be a fictional act. Explaining this to a younger person feels like trying to explain water to a fish so I leave it to the popular cultural abstracts of time machines and science fiction fantasy to defining that. Meanwhile the precipitous wall of humanity is climbing ever higher. History, where the truth sleeps, is too daring or banal to reflect upon apparently and yet an examination of what has worked in the past and what there is of passion in the hearts of mankind could be our saving grace.

To follow one's heart; an invitation to do the right thing by our true self and not be so easily cowered sounds so very cliche. However, a true life altering choice does not dance on the head of a pin. Leaving ones evaluation to a judgmental deity may allow a person some room for personal forgiveness but at what cost?  A sincere choice takes a person  to where they will go forth from in all ways; a value choice will forever change a life.

A Life Beyond Judgement

The choice from the heart by its very nature will be a value judgement. One is pressed into choosing what to do constantly and often that choice involves a physical presence and risk. Whether it is coming out of the closet with one's sexuality or stepping into the parade with the KKK because one can no longer keep silent about their need to support white supremacy; should it be calling someone out for abuses to oneself or the exploitation of someone else or, perhaps, it is rolling up one's sleeves to lean heavier into the status quo to try and stop what one deems as civil decline. These are all choices that are made everyday by people and if it be courage or cowardice, it is essentially a private matter with a political consequence. The sad irony that I realized this year is this; each choice is considered by the chooser to be courageous...and who among us can say it is not without slipping into a judgment of our own?

Judgement is a powerless place that disguises itself as influential and vital.  To live without discernment requires a phenomenal inner strength and perception but I see it as the nonviolent way forward. I doubt it will ever become popular in my lifetime but it is my course anyway and if I look into the hearts of those that displayed what they considered their bravery over the year, I see a strength of purpose and focus on what they truly feel was in line with their destiny. Whether it is cutting down a village of possible insurgents in a foreign land, following through on a training to protect citizens by killing what is believed to be a threat to society or shooting a bullet in the head of a young woman for standing up for the educational rights for females. These are all deemed necessary and courageous acts by those involved who have judged them so.

I do not know how to live beyond judgment - I'm only aware of my constant bias and how it effects my choices and then, consequently, everything around me. It is with this knowledge that I have decided that I have as much courage and as much cowardice as anyone.  I get up everyday and make a choice about how I will live (because I have that privilege). I make a choice to see the glass, decide if it be half full or half empty until something - whether it be avalanche, flood or volcano - Parkinson's, pneumonia or cancer - sweeps through my life; or some ONE takes to killing my neighbor or violates me or my loved ones tipping the glass over and, if not shattering it, displacing its contents to such a degree that another - perhaps a bolder - choice is required. That is how we grow...by pushing through or being pushed... but it is how we define these experiences, that is what makes us brave and who we are everyday. It is knowing how we judge others that will liberate us from the ceaseless combat between good and evil; knowing that it is a glass...besides understanding our impression of the amount therein that will allow life to exist beyond time.

High Water Risin'

We are all courageous and cowards in our imperfection and at some level what is encouraged within us merges into a reality everyone experiences and judges. We are empowered to recognize the pure heart of what matters but only if we do so without judgment allowing love in its timeless way take the day.



Video by Amador Ortiz Ochoa
Photo by Jean Berard Studio

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