The news of Charlottesville, Virginia puts the lingering thoughts of my retreat, from which I returned a week ago, into stark relief.
In a way.
On the other hand, my notes help provide a way to structure my response to the hatred, the fear, the violence, that includes and goes far beyond and far deeper than what made the news on the 12th of August in one particular town in one specific state of a nation seen by many in the world as sliding precipitously down the steeply pitched path to implosion.
The question that came back to me while listening and watching the news…the armed militiamen, the KKK, those who joined their voices to theirs and those who protested that presence with voice, chant, placard, and as a group of clergy did, with a silent witness of peace…comes from a book that accompanied my retreat—Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett.
In it, she recalls an interview she did with Jacqueline Novogratz who posed the question—What are you doing when you feel most beautiful? (Becoming Wise p. 78) This was within the context of a larger discussion on beauty which included John O’Donohue’s musing beauty isn’t all about niceness, loveliness. Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming. And when we cross a new threshold worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere. So I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth and also a kind of homecoming…of your unfolding life. (Becoming Wise pp. 76-77)
Looking at the pictures, watching the video clips, reading the articles, accounts, tweets, and formal responses, I found myself wanting to ask the militia with their weapons and camouflage; wanting to ask the Klan and other white supremacy groups; wanting to ask them all –THIS?? Could THIS possibly be what you do when you feel most beautiful? Stand for hate; stand for exclusion; stand for violence; Believe yourself better than; run a car into a crowd and kill a woman? And to those people who have offered a response—Did writing your words feel like a help toward healing patterns of repetition? Did the words seem to invoke or inspire a sense of depth, a call to grace or elegance, or did they recognize and condemn the inciting longstanding blight of racism?
Are our actions, our responses, the best we have to offer? If that is what the world witnessed on August 12th, the best and most beautiful we have to offer, God help us.
If we can do better, God help us so that every aspect of our being is oriented toward that fullness of dignity and character to which we are all called.
We need to do better.
Calling one another to that means a building up of relationship; it means letting go in freedom and walking toward in peace; it means standing with; it means the difficult honor of love; it means solidarity.