Joe Lodge CC
Freud tells us that looks or words can "stab us in the heart" or feel like a "blow to the face." You might not know it by how comfortable we've become treating one another so callously in both our online and real world spaces and exchanges. Such has been the calling of this journal really, a warmer abode, that lion and lamb might share the same bit of grass a while, no teeth bared, no harm done. Just a little bit of well placed and tender understanding.
To stand under someone, Michael Eigen says, is to make them feel truly taken in. To humble ourselves to ground. Have you ever gotten on the ground with someone, to be better heard? I have. It was so long ago but still fresh in my mind. I was a young activist in Occupy Wall Street and a friend was being ganged up on and shamed by fellow activists for mishandling a resource situation. She crumpled to the floor, staring off in the distance, and everyone was towering over her, literally talking down to her. Even the mediators, whose purpose was to help diffuse the situation, stayed towering above her.
So, I got on the floor with her. And I spoke gently, eye to eye, soul to soul in the midst of utter group chaos and dysfunction. I don't remember what I said but I do remember my words getting through. And I remember the moment, a talism I carry, to remind me that some things are better said from just below the place a person can hear. On the floor, heart to heart, eye to eye.
I hoped I could carve out a space in the wide oak tree of our respective communities for heart to be heard, held, and respected. Do I think everyone ought to be heard? To a point, I do. Of course there is no place for hate or wish to harm, but for complication, well, who among us does that shoe not fit? I take it for granted that all we gathered here do not think alike. But we come together to make a special kind of music out of our differences, and that music makes this place very special. You all are special to me.
There have not, in my life, been many places like this one. Places where every story is valued, every voice a voice worth receiving, tone and timbre, howl or quiver. My sense is the work we do here, connecting with each other on a deeper register, matters in a way that's a bit beyond words. It's a feeling, I guess. A feeling you might get had you had the right kind of home (do any of us ever) or not had far too much bad crowding out the good in a life. If there's any constant that connects us universally it's that we're all sensitive beings who are vulnerable to devastation and breakage. People do not always get on the ground with us. Quite often they tower above us. Or worse.
Marilyn Charles writes that "our resistance to encountering such devastation invites us to distance ourselves from precisely those individuals most in need of affirming common human connections." Isn't that something? The very thing that most ties us together as vulnerable beings is that we are all bound for devastation, and yet we often look the other way. It pains us to see the pain of others. But it is they who are most in need of human reaffirming. What we are willing to give, and to whom? How much and for how long?
One of the many gifts of art, I suppose, is its ability to hold our gaze of pain without recoil. Perhaps it's but a temporary fix for what we so often fail to be for one another. What Ofra Eshel calls a withness and Michael Eigen an under-stander. Someone who will get on the ground with you. It's good to be that for someone. It's good for someone to be that for you. Most of us go without it most of our lives. And so it can be easy to believe it might be there's nowhere in this world you actually belong, or will be safe and well received.
Charles, again writes of "the little child who was bullied so mercilessly that not-eating became a way of being sufficiently light to float through her life without the burdens of disdain and isolation she had been carrying - that that little child might perhaps [one day live in a world] in which failure is not inevitable." For some, not believing there can be such a place never really felt like much of a choice at all, it's just the way things were. I know I once was one of those who did not believe.
Much around us pulls us away from each other. And why not? Life is hard enough. We can't save the world. It's just too hard to tend to everyone's pain. No one's asking you to take it all on alone. But I have seen miracles happen in places where they should not have. Kindness in the wilderness. We're all in the wilderness. Who will be that for me? We might ask. I'm sure you've been for yourself many times over what no one else would be. It's that that opens us. We start at home base and then we go wide.
Widening the scope, Charles writes that "when social forces eliminate the subject, narrating the life story becomes a way of affirming not merely one's being, but also one's essential humanity... To find the rhythm or pattern that might invite us back into a shared common humanity in which we are not constantly at risk of being rejected and discarded... In a place where meaning can be both marked and held." Marked and held. Takes your breath away, doesn't it? To have our story marked and held. To be taken seriously, kindly, truly. To find that "respectful ear upon which the words can register, [because] how easily a story can become dislodged in the hands of an unempathic observer."
It might be the tools at our disposal would rather us dispose of one another instead. But we are not our tools, you and I. Here we are, after all, gathering together on a deeper register. Picture it with me, we're all sitting cross legged underneath that wide oak, standing-under, just telling our stories. No one standing above the other. You can hear it, can't you? That song. "There is something in us that gives witness to the real thing," writes Eigen.
What if we were to invite the best from each other, rather than, as is so often the case these days, inviting reactivity, resentment and resistance. "To listen sufficiently respectfully to the other to see what they or we might be missing that might add to our shared understanding," writes Charles. I have come to firmly believe that most of our missed-moments with one another might have been avoided had we just gotten on the ground with someone. I mess this one up constantly. But then I remember, all those years ago, not the words that were said to my friend collapsed on the floor in shame, but the gesture that helped make the unsaid sayable. Bearable. I want to learn how to do more of that.
It's a very cold world. Any place we can find our warmth is a tabernacle worth returning to. Tending to. Such are the words you have given us. Such is the place we have together built. I've been blessed to learn from you all. To receive and be received. It's all anyone wants. Much more of that, may we? In any small way we are able. Let us be able.
As Miguel de Unamuno so lovingly puts it "Warmth, warmth, more warmth! for we are dying of cold and not of darkness. It is not the night that kills, but the frost."
Yes. Warmth. More warmth. Till we gather here again... May we find and continue that warmth through each other in any way that we are able. And may we not look away.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.