A few of weeks ago, my friend Romy told our dance class about a friend of hers who was struggling to find affordable housing. She described the need and some of the obstacles specific to her friend’s situation, tossing it out to the group in case any of us might know of a suitable place or might know of someone who might know someplace…
None of us were jumping at the request with a quick response. It seemed fairly clear that nobody in the room had a ready answer, and there was a brief, uncomfortable silence.
Romy continued, “Of course I know that the Universe has got this, the Universe is conspiring to meet my friend’s need.”
I blurted out, “And we are part of the Universe.”
That was the end of the conversation. It didn’t come up again. I don’t know how my classmates felt in that moment, or what they thought about it. But I thought about it quite a bit afterwards. I thought about the fact that during those 10 seconds at the end of dance class, I went on a whirlwind inner journey through feelings of responsibility and fear and resentment and relief.
Bear with me as I break it down:
We all know that affordable housing is a serious problem for a lot of people nowadays. Indeed the lack of it and all the cascading complications around the issue are a heartbreaking challenge for all of us, as a society. It’s an overwhelmingly complex mess with real human lives at stake. And even with millions of brilliant minds working on it, we don’t yet have any straightforward solutions. So my initial reflex when Romy introduced this problem into our post-dance cool-down was, “I can’t take take this on right now. I don’t have the answer, and I don’t even want to think about it! I’m not enough! ARRRGH!”
(That’s probably an exaggeration of my thought process. In truth, my instinctive reaction was much simpler, more like: “Oh shit. Run away!”)
Thus, I was greatly relieved in the next moment when it felt like Romy was letting us all off the hook by offering it up to the Universe. No longer a request of me, in particular, it could instead be a prayer, offered up to the Entirety of Creation, in general. “Of course!” I thought, “This is a matter for the Universe, or God, or Whatever. Not my problem.”
But then that immediately felt icky. Who was I kidding? I don’t really believe that the Universe (or God, or Whatever) is some comic book superhero who will come in to save the day while we impotent mortals quiver in ineptitude. I just don’t think that’s how it works. For about a millisecond, I had been able to pretend that I could simply say a little prayer and send out a few flimsily hopeful thoughts towards those experiencing homelessness. And maybe I could even call that “faith.”
But faith as an attempt to wash my hands of something is a damned limp faith. Faith as an easy clearing of my conscience doesn’t do anybody good, not even me.
All of this raced through my head between when Romy said, “I know the Universe has got this” and when I replied, “And we are part of the Universe.”
The important thing is: it’s not a “but,” it’s an “and.”
Remembering that we are part of the Universe doesn’t qualify or undermine the power and grace and benevolence of the Universe. The Universe still gets to be infinite. It being the universe, though, means that it’s universal. Which has to include each one of us. And inclusion is always an enlarging idea, not a diminishing one. The Universe — our relationship to It — is expanded with and by our presence and participation. AND here we are. AND here WE are, BEING it. We’re enlarged and expanded as well. We’re freakin’ majestic.
I’ve been thinking about how often I deny or shy away from such majesty and power. My own and that of others. And how usually this happens in the context of some perceived need, or problem, or situation that feels like more than I know how to handle.
Being the Universe sounds like a heavy lift. I don’t want to take that on most days, and usually I’m sensitive about pressuring anybody else with the responsibility. So I hunker down in my own and everybody else’s smallness and feel shitty about things. Because of course I don’t have the answers to the world’s ills. I don’t even have the answer to most of my own problems.
But here’s the thing: recognizing them as MINE, generally, is a lot more workable than laying the responsibility and/or blame somewhere else. Even laying that on the Universe (or God or Whatever) is a little bit of a sidestep.
And there’s a tremendous difference between thinking that we have to have the answers and allowing that we can be a part of the answer. The former is terrifying. The latter can be totally groovy if we let it be. Our care and attention, our gifts and talents, are part of the answer. Our lives always are part of the answer.
For sure, it is almost always necessary to open our hearts and minds to something greater than our own limited vantage. Surrender and Receptivity and Divine Grace and Mercy absolutely are an important aspect of our relationship to the Ever-Loving-Everything. But if we only relate to It as something being done unto us, well… no.
How much more empowering to remember that we’re surrendering into something of which we are already essential parts. To receive with an awareness that we already are sharing in it. To look for such glorious capacities for Good in ourselves and in each other.
You’re really something, you know that? Me too.
I can’t wait to see you this Sunday, February 12, 10:00 am at Maple Street Dance Space. I’m excited to welcome our special musical guest, Shelley Campbell! XO, Drew
©2023 Drew Groves