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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

On the Edge

I have been quiet during this election cycle…  not silent, but quiet… certainly quieter than usual.  There are many reasons for this, ranging from my current vocational position in higher education, where I have always praised the merits of teaching students how to think as opposed to what to think… to my general dissatisfaction with the options on the ballot… to a certain degree of loss of relationships in some of my most politically minded circles… to the political divisions in my own family, which sometimes suck the life right out of me. 

I have been dwelling deeply on some words from the Talmud: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.  Do justly, now.  Love mercy, now.  Walk humbly, now.  You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”  As an empath, I am, self-admittedly, often daunted… even overwhelmed… by the enormity of the world’s grief.  I feel it deeply in my bones, and it can threaten to consume me.  This sounds awful, but it beats the alternative.  The other day, as I was feeling this pain, I thought to myself, “This is uncomfortable, but I desperately need to feel it.”  And I do.  Because not feeling is so much worse.

I have big emotions.  Big.  Big.  Emotions.  For that, I am unashamed. 

And so, in the midst of this election week… after I had taken care of those who needed me to the best of my ability, nearly consumed by the grief but, nevertheless (she persisted), desiring to give all I could… I found myself gravitating toward the pull of the ocean, as is my modus operandi. 

I sat down on a rock, and the winds blew and beat against my face, and I wrote: I am currently sitting on a mass of land that will literally be inaccessible when the tide comes in.  There is an end to national power… an actual, physical end.  This is the eastern border, beyond which we have only wind and waves.  And they are subject to only One.

I am not free to abandon the work of healing… of peacemaking… of loving.  There is no scenario in which I would want to be free of this work.  We are called to this work… to this life… and it is not passive.  It is also not boundless, but concrete.  Cliché will no longer do (if it ever did), because by definition it lacks originality.  We can no longer throw our hands up in the air and shout, “God is in control!” without essentially spitting in the faces of the bereaved and naming their narratives as worth less than our own… as worthless… No, cliché will never do, nor will sweeping gestures and vague promises.  But maybe anecdote will.  Hear me out.  Today is a day when the big picture feels too enormous, but within that we’re all living smaller stories.  Things will change when justice, mercy, and humility permeate each of our narratives.  Please don’t mistake this for submission but subversion.  I learned a long time ago that the loudest voices are merely the loudest.  And they fade.  That’s not power.  Not really.    

Do not lose heart!  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”[i]  Count on it.  Rise up.



[i] Matthew 5:4