I had radar-anticipated a personal nice easy slide into July and it was just not happening. For ten days my post-Texas homecoming churned a nightmarish stew of daily new computer “issues” mixed with a raspy hanger-on bronchitis. I was at a personal nadir when the Dallas news splashed all over my breakfast table. I had just fallen in love with people in Dallas so these familiar scenes and déjà vu phrases were tinctured with immediate poignancy.
All the shock and despair and frustration, along with a messy dollop of exhaustion, landed on the couch with me when I sat down to pull music on Saturday. In a bit of a daze, I did not really know what Sunday’s Sweat was about. But sometimes the music is a spirit balm, speaks to me, tracks appear out of the jumble of the iTunes screen, magic shaping intention, the reason for showing up on yet another Sunday.
Recent events stirred the turbulence of the sixties to life inside me: the assassination of RFK and King, Watts burning, LBJ, Viet Nam, Nixon. History is repeating and I found myself following it further back. How 300 years ago people from one continent came across the sea and in quick time decimated the Native American people who had lived in North America for centuries. And, as if that were not enough, topped this fundamental wrong-doing with another: boldly sending ships back across the ocean to retrieve slaves for the hard work of building this nation.
I am wondering what it will take to stop this endless cycle of pain and suffering, to heal this miserably dishonorable legacy. Theologian Peter Adam spoke out about the Australian aborigines and said our prosperity ”has come from the proceeds of crime”. My home is built on this bloody real estate and all the abundance and privilege I enjoy is funded by this inheritance. Might we consider that current events have roots this deep? Michael Waters, a Dallas pastor, asks “How can we encourage those who follow us to express their fears, vent their anger, take action, but avoid violence at all cost…(affirm that) injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
This is my way. To name it out loud in words and song, invite us to move and feel, provide a refuge for us to meditate and be with, invite a conversation, dare to think in historical context, question my complacent comfort. Maybe this is just the rant of an old person who has lived long enough to see the past re-surface with the wretchedness of Groundhog’s Day. Remember that movie with Bill Murray? The wheel of samasara is relentless.
And so I dredged all that up Sunday morning and then offered the en-courage-ing resource of basic goodness. We can look up and out and touch the simple experience of aliveness. The way the breeze is lilting the bamboo, the slice of sunlight on my left hand, old cat asleep on the rug. We can wake up again and again, feel the basic human goodness, our commonality. See the full text of Sunday’s poem Clearing. You can “create a clearing in the dense forest of your life” and there discover this ground of goodness. Without it we cannot hope to give ourselves “to this world so worthy of rescue.” I am simply offering a place to begin.