Looking over the shoulder

Today was fairly open. Yet, somehow, I find myself feeling like I have little time. Let’s not pretend that we get to chose how our days flow 100%. Sometimes they unfold as they do, and we look back and say, Huh.”


Turning toward…

Today I heard a man who spent 28 years behind bars speak. He spoke of his recognition of a second chance. He spoke of how his children made him human.” He spoke of what it means to support those behind bars in becoming better men (and women) rather than better prisoners. Mostly, he spoke about how those who end up in prison end up being left behind. They end up being cast aside by our culture. By society.

By us.

I’ve been trying to remember if there was a time that I looked at prisoners and thought, You had your chance.” Or, Good. Feel the punishment.” Or some other such thing. I honestly can’t remember. There must have been, though. One thing that’s true for sure is that I haven’t been stung by crime the way many have been. No one in my family has been harmed in some of the heinous ways that some have. I don’t know anyone who went to prison. I don’t have a direct connection to that system. What I do have — and I honestly have no idea where it came from — is a strong belief that people are redeemable. I believe in the power of the heart, and the power of good. This, I think, is what is meant by justice.

The topic of the forum that I was at today was restorative justice. The man I’ve been speaking about said, You can’t have restorative justice without justice. And we don’t have much justice in our system.” I believe what he was saying is that our system is built on punishment, not justice. Another way of saying this is that it’s built on retaliation or retribution. Not on healing. Not on finding a way to wholeness. This means wholeness for both perpetrator and victim. It means not turning away from the fact of crime and of the harm (and trauma) caused, but turning toward it. Turning toward it in a way that our criminal justice system actually doesn’t.

We don’t generally turn toward it in that we see the cause of the crime as being rather one-dimensional. A choice was made. You are the captain of your ship, so all choices are yours to make. This is true and it is a limited (and, in my opinion, deeply flawed) way of looking at things. To fully turn toward the fact of crime and trauma is to turn toward the larger picture of ongoing trauma in our society. It forces us to confront our history as a country; to confront our ideas of masculinity, and, thus, femininity. It forces us to look at what we say when we mean criminal.” On the surface, these are easy things. But if we are going to be honest with ourselves, we are going to have to look at the part below the surface. The ugly part. The part that we don’t want to admit is there.

Today’s panel was a wonderful reminder for me. The biggest challenges that are before us are inviting us into something. They are inviting us into a deeper relationship. A relationship that will be uncomfortable. A relationship that will challenge our sense of self. The idealized version of ourselves — the version we often believe we are from day-to-day — will be put on display. Likely, will be knocked off its pedestal. But this is good. It’s what we need. It’s how we heal. In this way, restorative justice can become a practice that we all bring forward in our lives. We can confront the parts of our selves that has caused harm and be compassionate. We can be kind. And we can heal. Together.


Listen to this

Routines. Destroyed. It doesn’t take much. Illness will do it. Travels. Busy-ness. Out of town guests are pretty good for it. Combine one or two of the above, and you’ve got a nice recipe. Fortunately, no one here was ill. But we had the disruption that comes with someone from out of town. Oh, lack of sleep doesn’t help. There’s plenty to share in that, but it’s not for today.

We had a lovely weekend. It was full of good conversation. Good food. Lovely sites. Good wine. It was wonderful. And it was deeply disruptive to keeping up with this little project, as well as simply staying in touch with my thoughts. With words.

But that’s not fully honest (if I’m being fully honest). Writing has become a bit of a second thought lately, even as I’ve tried to think of it as a main act. It’s become something that I’m rushing toward. Like now. Recently, I saw a Twitter thread talking about how one of the downfalls of the internet is good writing. The kind of writing that takes time. That takes some real effort. The author of the thread was talking about how people just write some stuff, and then post it with little-to-no editing or tweaking. Ah,” I thought, that’s me.” That’s what I’ve been doing.

More work is necessary to get good. To find a real voice that reflects what is trying to be said. Yes. This is true.

And there’s something else.

Another thing that’s necessary is an audience. Is a listening ear. A place in which to speak. For if we are speaking into a not-listening space, we are not being pulled to say the things we need to say in the way we need to say them. During this wonderful weekend, I ended up in a couple of conversations about the history of whiteness in this country. I found myself articulating things in a way that seemed to really land with the people I was speaking with. Both of them complemented me on how I articulated things. Reflecting, though, I wonder how much their listening played a roll in my articulation. More than a little bit, I suspect.

Let’s not underestimate the power of the listening ear. The power of the audience.


Sometimes III

Sometimes we have to let go of the things we thought we could articulate.

They’re just not ready.

Or maybe, they’re garbage.

Or somewhere between.

Sometimes we have to close the book. Set aside the pen. Walk away.

And play with the dog.

Sometimes, that’s all there is to do.


Ein Sof

A friendly reminder
that your life has never
stopped unfolding.
Not for one. Single.
No matter how bored
you were.
No matter how many
hours you slept that
night. How many
drinks you had.
Each moment has
flowed to the next.
There has been no
Tears turn to laughter;
that’s just how it
Rejection begets
Success, failure.
The sun seems to
rise and set once each
Look closer, and you’ll
it’s all happened
at once.
This whole thing.
It fits into this moment.
And you go on and on
and on and on.
Ein Sof.


Wherever two or more are gathered

I was taught to not look over my classmate’s shoulder for the answers. To memorize the textbook, and to be able to repeat back what was in the lecture. I was taught — in explicit and implicit ways — to figure it out on my own. To become a problem solver,” meaning, someone with answers. I was taught to pull my weight” and to add value.” These lessons came in school, where the measurements were clear (and, I was certain, totally objective), and they came in life. From parents, friends, employers. They came from TV, movies, and books. They came from cultural myths. Heck, they were even baked into many of the interpretations of religious scriptures I was presented with.

So, when it comes to being creative, when it comes to expression, the natural thing is to sit down alone, right? To try and find answers in the inquiry of what is moving through me. Yes?

What if all of this is upside down. Not to say that the act of individual creation isn’t good, or even possible. It clearly is. Look at what I’m doing right now (for better or for worse). But think about what is possible together. What is possible when we cheat, and ask for help. When we combine our wisdom.

Today I had two conversations. One with a group of colleagues for about 90 minutes. The other with a friend for about two hours. Each of them ended up being, in their own way, a creative exploration. We were all better for the whole of us.

We were all much more than any one of us.

We were able to see much more.

This is the power of the collective.