I wrote the other day about not being able to “get there from here.” This idea has been on my mind since attending the Othering and Belonging Conference in Oakland, CA last week. The essential idea is this: if we want to make a shift that supports our tackling of the trickiest issues of our world, there is no way we can get there from here. Our way of thinking about the world has to shift. But not just about the world, but about ourselves. It’s one of the reasons that I so appreciated the Rev. Ben McBride’s perspective at the conference. He supported the inner shift of seasoned organizers through his provocative question: who do we need to become? To his colleagues, this was like a koan, an unanswerable question designed to challenge their very perception of the world1. At the same time, it created space for the question to be answered. The thing is, the question has to be answered from a new place.
I’ve been talking about this in most of the conversations I’ve been in for the past week. Sitting here, just now, working through some questions alive in my own life (the trickiest issues, let’s say), I started to see clearly, I can’t get there from here. This version of myself has taken me far. He’s been an ally to my self, and a friend in so many ways. Yet, he’s gone as far as he can. Some of the questions sitting before me are being asked of me from a new place. They must be answered from a new kind of commitment. A new approach to my life. A me that holds this life from something new.
There’s a huge part of me that is asking the question: what does that mean? Oh, and, what does that look like? Honestly, I’m not fully sure. What I am sure of is that there is a desire surging in my heart. Something that wants to be born, but must come from a new place. I have to let go of the ideas I have of myself and see what’s wating for me on the other side of setting some things down.
As I wrote on Monday, there is a way of being that rests down and back. It’s from this place that I think I’m being called. Interestingly enough, it’s also from a place that is much more active, and forward leaning. It’s a part that is looking to engage in the conversations to make some things happen. To figure some things out. To reach out and connect. It’s a paradox to be sure. Perhaps one that bring some balance.
Of course, there’s something that all this great talk of moving from something new can leave out: it’s utterly terrifying. Who knows what’s on the other side? What must let go? What will change? Who will I be? These questions are all relevant, regardless of where we are looking to make a transition. Yet, how can I expect to support these kinds of shifts in the world if I can’t engage with them in my life? My life feels like a mirror of what I’m seeing in the world. This, I think is the clearest sign for how to engage with it — with compassion, patience, and love. To feel what is happening. To get curious about what is emerging. And to trust those that hold me closest.
Interesting. Until I’d written all of this, I hadn’t seen what was being asked of me. I think I’m getting more of a sense of it. I’m scared, truth be told. I’m also committed. Upward.
To be clear, this is my interpretation of what his colleague and co-panelist at the conference, Jennifer Martinez, had to say about her experience with his question. I’ll dig up the recording of the session later.↩