I’m sure you’ve heard the old groaner about the guy who goes to a funeral and asks the widow, “Do you mind if I say a word?” She tells him, “Please do,” so he steps up in front of the room and says, “Plethora.” As he’s returning to his seat, the widow touches his arm and tells him, “Thank you. That means a lot.”
It’s a silly one, but it makes me laugh. And it’s resonating for me right now because it seems like everything is especially heavy and loaded with meaning and significance these days. Everything is meaning a lot.
Words are always powerful, but it feels like we’ve got to be particularly mindful of them right now. The potential for misunderstanding and upset is dialed way up. Every decision, every action, can be framed and read as a social or political statement, whether or not it’s intended as such.
In some ways, maybe this is fine — maybe we’re reckoning with the fact that the personal can’t help but be political, that our lives are inextricably interconnected. Nobody is an island, so our individual actions and choices always do affect each other no matter what our intentions. Generally, it seems a good thing to take responsibility for the fact that what we say and do is never just for ourselves or just about our own autonomy. We can’t help but include each other. That can be a beautiful realization.
At the same time, such a state of heightened sensitivity can also be so darned inflammatory. The world seems hostile and exhausting when EVERYTHING feels significant. When everything tends to land like declaring a position or taking a side…
Clearly, our social and political climate and the way we’re presented with information is terribly polarized and absolutist, leaving little room for shade and nuance. Indeed, it’s leaving very little room for individuality or independent thought. And that’s rubbing a lot of us raw. I find myself much more reactive, more easily offended, more ready with threats and ultimatums than is ever healthy.
So my message and prayer this week is a simple one: CALM DOWN.
(I mean this as my message and prayer for myself — feel free to take it on if it speaks to you, but I’m not accusing you of anything.)
I’m thinking about this as we prepare to resume in-person Sunday services next week (June 13). Our timing actually seems pretty good — I’m not getting much feedback about whether we’re moving too fast or have delayed too long — but still I’m feeling some pressure to “get it right.” And I’m uncertain about a lot of it. Do we require masks or merely suggest them? Should we provide different guidelines for the vaccinated and unvaccinated? How much content should I continue to post online each week for those who aren’t yet ready to return in person? Again, everything feels loaded, significant, meaningful.
My wise husband Travis has predicted that the rest of this year, as we figure out how to be together again, will be full of both sublime reconnections and micro-disappointments. He has also suggested that reconnecting is likely to be a longer and more gradual process than was our quick move to isolate fifteen months ago — longer, more gradual, and possibly more fraught. He’s probably right. But I am confident that we can navigate it with some grace if we commit and recommit to being patient and generous with ourselves and with each other.
I’ve got strong ideas about many things, which is fine, but maybe I don’t need to keep my opinions so sharp in my quiver ready to zing anyone who crosses me. It’s fine to have a clear point of view and to express that, but it’s not cool to shame others for their different perspectives. Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that each of us on our own entertains and embodies myriad different, and often contradictory, ideas. God, if the inside of my own brain is this kind of muddy mess so much of the time, then how on earth can I expect unanimity and agreement with the rest of the world?!
So I’d like to suggest some guidelines for our coming-together:
- Let’s try to remember that everybody has been traumatized by the past year, so we might have some pointy edges that take a little time to wear smooth again.
- Let’s allow that there is no absolute “right” way to do any of this. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that there are infinite “right” ways for us to be, individually and collectively, and it’s okay if these are conflicted and paradoxical.
- Though things may appear less certain than before, the truth is that everything has always been a wide-open field of possibility. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, sure, but it’s also reality and it’s where fresh opportunities arise.
- We’re going to continue to create together how we are together. This has always been the case. And none of the ground rules have changed for our community: be respectful, be inclusive, be kind.
I can’t wait to be with you again, friends. Once again, we’ll be resuming in-person Sunday services next week, June 13, 10 am, at Maple Street Dance Space. We’ll be providing masks so that everyone feels safe. We’ll try different arrangements of chairs as we see how many we need and what works best. And I’ll be sharing my weekly talk online on Sunday nights for those who don’t yet feel ready to gather in person… Check out this week’s talk and music by Patty Stephens this Saturday at 6 pm at BOSQUECSL.ORG and VIMEO.COM/BOSQUECSL. XO, Drew
©2021 Drew Groves