Beware the Bright Side
I’ve never read it, but I remember hearing an interview with Barbara Ehrenreich about her book Bright-Sided: When Happiness Doesn’t Help. I’m not sure I understood it at the time, but I’m feeling it now. I’m feeling the ways in which our culture’s tendency toward the positive keeps us from being able to transform. The ways which we use silver linings to avoid looking at the darkness that surrounds us.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
From: A Ritual to Read to Each Other, by William Stafford
We live in a culture that was designed to be broken. It was built on power and control, where there must always be someone at the bottom, so someone can live at the top. One of the primary myths of our culture is that any of us can be the one(s) at the top. Not so. Every once in a while, someone sneaks through, but mostly, no. We will be where we are. And we will like it. And as long as ‘things could be worse’, we will keep about our lives.
These times are calling for something different. Something new. Something that helps us break free of the brokenness of the world, and heals the pain suffered all around (and I do mean all around). Black Lives Matter is showing the way. Trans people are showing the way. Indigenous People are showing the way. Let’s follow.
There’s only one way, though. It’s into the dark. There is a bright side, but it’s not in spite of the darkness. It’s because of it.
Last minute X
I have really got to stop waiting til the end of the day to write.
It doesn’t do anyone any good.
Well. It doesn’t do me any good, any how.
Follow the body, but not the body
The way into what’s on my mind at the moment doesn’t seem clear. Indeed, writing quickly at a little after 7 on a full (though not overfull) Monday probably plays a role. I suppose, like most things, the way in is in the body. What is mine telling me? To move slowly. To take a pause. To not let the mind lead the way.
For that’s one of the main things I’ve been exploring — how can I release the reactions I have that are habitual, and step into a more grounded approach to things? The body lets me know, but not at first. The first reaction in my body is quite reactive, actually. It takes some breathing and slowing down to come into contact with a more connected way forward.
So what is the relationship between the body’s initial reaction, and the path that brings the most harmony — which is known by how it feels in the body? That’s a question for me to sit with.
To, as they say, feel into.
The music fills the air even on the far side of this field. Standing in the shade of a tree, I’m watching the crowns gather. It’s odd seeing so many people gathering for what looks like an outdoor concert; these are the pandemic times, after all. But it’s not a concert. It’s a vigil. It’s a memorial.
Three years ago today a Black woman living in the apartment complex just across from the field called the Seattle Police to report a possible burglary. She had a knife because she was scared. When the police arrived, she was killed. In front of her children.
No investigation of her killing has been completed. The only two people who really know what happened, the two SPD officers, are suing to keep an inquest from being completed.
This has to end.
Her name was Charleena Lyles.
Say her name.
To what end?
I find myself asking this question whenever I hear about a meditation or mindfulness program offered at companies. What is it about a program like that that gets a company to spend its resources on it? To help employees be more mindful? Mindful of what exactly? I remember reading somewhere the idea that if those programs were really effective, it would likely lead people to quitting their jobs as they become more mindful of the ways that they are living — or, most likely, not living — their lives.
I wonder what happens if we dig down into things like this, what do we find? What is the ultimate purpose of these kinds of initiatives?
Right now, the world over, companies are likely thinking about and looking at their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. I find myself wondering this — to what end? What are they about? Really? What should they be about? And would you make them about that even if there is no proven financial benefit for the company?
What is that should? It’s this: DEI initiatives should be about the liberation of non-white peoples, as well as other groups that are not part of our ‘societal norm’. In this current moment, we are focused on Black people and their ongoing struggle against anti-Black racism and oppression in this country. But we have to remember the oppression of Indigenous peoples, as well as other People of Color. In addition, we have to remember LGBTQIA people. The differently abled. The list could go on, but I think the point is made.
One other thing: DEI initiatives should not be initiatives. They should be practices that get baked into culture. In a recent episode of On Being with Krista Tippet, Resmaa Menakem talks about diversity. “Diversity from what?” he asks. We need to be able to answer this question, and we can’t do that if we are simply implementing initiatives.
There’s a lot more to say here, but I’ll leave it there. Rather, I’ll leave it with the question I began. We march. We scream. We post on social media. To what end?
What is it that you want to see, my friends? I know what I want to see.
We thought the pandemic would define the era
And it could; but we must not let it. Indeed, the pandemic is massive. It’s a huge event that is having impacts around the world the will echo for years — decades — do come. That said, I think the frame we need to see emerge is that the pandemic became the context in which the defining moment of our era emerged. The moment that white supremacy was laid to rest.
Who could have imagined as we began to realize the impact of COVID-19 on our society that we would be confronted with the brutality of white supremacy on Black bodies so directly? I suspect that Black communities could have predicted this. I know I didn’t. That said, here we are. It’s right in front of us. Our job is clear.
Stand with Black communities. #BlackLivesMatter
Donate to Black organizations.
Buy from Black owned business.
Read Black authors.
Get to work.