Desmond Tutu died today. Another bright light in the world gone. Yet he leaves us with a legacy of hope and compassion we can aspire to. A legacy to manifest in our lives and the world.
I was privileged to meet him when the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation brought him to Tacoma for an event in the Tacoma Dome that attracted thousands of people. As a board member I was able to be in private gatherings with him and his light was such a strong emanation. So inspiring.
When I became the chair of that board I hoped we would embrace his wisdom in our programs and practices. After all, we had made a rather public declaration of that intention. But it was not to be. Organizationally and philosophically nothing changed. And I soon resigned from the board.
It was another opportunity for me to understand that real and meaningful change doesn’t often happen at an organizational level. It’s an understanding more present in these current times than ever before. It is up to us.
It is up to the very personal and powerful energy of Ubuntu.
Safe journeys, Archbishop Tutu. We are so grateful for the gift of light you were in the world and the legacy of wisdom and hope you gave us. May we honor you by embracing the wisdom of Ubuntu.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Inscribed above the gates of Hell. Dante
He woke up the next morning with a hangover and a bar napkin he had signed accepting a bet to hitchhike around Ireland with a refrigerator. Tony Hawks’ journey garnered much media attention and his subsequent book, Round Ireland With A Fridge, is a light hearted read. Twelve years later another man would hitchhike around Ireland with a very different intention.
In the wake of the Celtic Tiger and collapse of the Irish economy, Ruairí McKiernan decided to find out where there was hope among the Irish people so he travelled Ireland by thumb collecting reflections, insights, and stories. His book, Hitching For Hope, is the story of that quest and a great read.
When Ruairí first mentioned this project to friends they were critical. Why was he wasting his time on such idealism when there were social justice issues that demanded attention and action? They suggested that focusing on hope would undermine the fire required for these battles.
As I’ve been writing and talking about hope, especially in this season, I’ve heard the same criticism. There is work to be done, they say. When people focus on hope they become passive spectators waiting for someone else to save us, they say. Thoughts and prayers are not enough, they admonish.
Wow. I couldn’t disagree more vehemently. Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Dante placed that inscription over the literal gates of Hell. I see those words emblazoned over the figurative gates of Hell, a Hell that characterizes much of our current social, political, cultural, and environmental landscapes. Abandoning hope is a sentiment that colludes with the narrative shaped by political and corporate forces, a narrative that leaves us railing against these forces of power on a battlefield they create, define, and control. Abandon all hope, for that leaves us both hopeless and helpless. Abandon all hope, for that focuses our precious energies and resources fighting against something vast, powerful, and complex. It’s exhausting. In all this fighting against, we can lose sight of what we are fighting for.
And that is the critical and essential value of hope. Hope allows us to shape a vision of what we want, rather than what we don’t want. Hope fosters the imagination and creativity of bold and exciting visions and actions. Hope fuels our fire for social justice. Hope fuels our passion.
If we are cautioned to abandon hope at the gates of Hell, we would be advised to embrace hope at the gates of Heaven. Especially the heaven we seek to create on Earth.
Yes. I know. We are all weary. These last two years have been hard and challenging. And it seems there will be more. Perhaps folks don’t need one more admonishment to cheer up. Yet even in these dark times the smallest light is important. Even just shining for a moment is important. And it’s the greatest gift you can give in this season.
May your light shine. May you be lifted up by the shining of others. May you find joy and peace and hope. May you know that you are loved!
We are in the season of Light. No matter the religious or spiritual tradition, this is the time when we celebrate the Light returning to dispel the darkness. And we are certainly in times of darkness.
Many of us are focused on sharing Light in all times. We are focused on sharing and sending out the energies of love and joy and peace and hope and unity. And it can be daunting when the collective is filled with the sludge of anger and fear and hatred. But in this season, there is an opportunity to increase the power of that sharing and sending. For the collective is now embracing these energies as they gather and celebrate. In this sacred season, these energies are embraced and expressed through songs, greetings, prayers, ceremonies, traditions, and actions. There is so much more receptivity than at any other time in the year.
So in this season, we leverage that energy in the collective that it may be amplified. That it might last longer than just this season of celebration. That it might take root in each heart and mind and soul.
And so we shine. Brighter than ever.
Will you take his shining opportunity to share your Light?
Our constructs of time allow us to chronologically chronicle events. Indeed, histories and historic records are anchored in this. We can pinpoint and sequence exact dates. It’s all very neat and tidy. And for our Irish ancestors, it would have been a wholly inadequate chronicling. That’s why they had bards.
For the ancient Irish, life and events happened in relationship with the natural world, this world and other worlds, the real and unreal, the sacred and profane. Their language was rich with terms that reflected this fundamental interrelatedness. Through their language came the stories. And through the stories people knew all they needed to know about events in the cosmic flow of their lives. Stories carried the essential wisdom and it was the bards who were revered and responsible for carrying the stories. It was a sacred trust in an oral tradition.
Of this oral tradition, Manchán Magan writes the following in his new book, Thirty-Two Words for Field. A brilliant book, by the way.
The key is to bear in mind that words in Irish were not just composed of an arrangement of symbolic letters from an alphabet on paper. In fact they never existed in this form within the oral tradition. They were pure sound, more like an embodied medium, and they could be communicated only by vocalising them into the surrounding air from within the cavity of a physical body. in this way words were embedded in the human body and the physical senses to an extent that is legions away from these digitally processed words on the page that now enter your mind with virtually no physical transference. The dissociation and disembodiment of writing and reading are an apt metaphor for our increasing alienation from the sensual, natural world.
The measure of the modern and written word, like the measure of time, is totally inadequate to hold the rich complexity of life that flows within those ancient and cosmological traditions. Those measures are just too small. They can hold and chronicle that flow no better than a sieve can hold water.
For those old enough to remember the 1969 release of this iconic Chicago Transit Authority song, you will know the next line is Does anybody really care?
Of course we care. But I’ll get to that in a moment. This song has been in my head since we changed the clocks for daylight savings. And I’m always reminded of that graphic, generally attributed to an indigenous American, that wonders at those who think they can cut a foot off one end of a blanket, attach it to the other end, and think they have a longer blanket.
When we moved our clocks back I discovered the clock in my car doesn’t work anymore. Since she’s a 1998 model BMW apparently it’s hard to get replacement parts. I’m a much older model…and I feel that. But I have been driving around without a clock and thus without the ability to check the time. OK. Yes, I could use my mobile phone but I choose not to. It’s been rather discomforting to realize how much I rely on clock watching.
So back to the caring part.
Yes. We do care about what time it is. We care very much about time in general. But what we care about is the mechanical construct of time that we’ve wrapped around the flow of life.
And in this mechanical construct, we step away from the natural life flow. We remove ourselves from the organic nature of that flow with all the subtle and surprising influences and hold fast to the idea that somehow we are in control and that we can actually control time through quantification. It’s an illusion. News flash. Life happens without our measuring it.
Our indigenous ancestors knew this. When the clock as we know it was invented in 723 AD it was not enthusiastically embraced. Those ancestors preferred to mark the passage and flow of life with measurements of the seasons and celestial movements because they knew themselves to be part of that cosmic flow. We use the term Indian time as a slam on those who wait for the right moment to begin something, regardless of what a clock might say. Actually my Irish friends talk about Irish time. It’s not a criticism but rather an explanation for when gatherings and events might begin.
There is a natural world fluency in this. John O’Donohue wrote a piece he named Fluent that expresses this beautifully. There is genius in this. Literally, the genius of place based wisdom. The wisdom of the natural world. The wisdom of our ancestors.
I would love to live Like a river flows Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding.
Oh, I get it. Our constructs of time allow us to accomplish what the flow might not. We do live in a world of machine mind consciousness. Yet what might be possible if we just, every now and then, stepped away from the mechanization of our lives and turned to embrace the flow? What if we were carried by the surprise of our own life’s unfolding?
What if we didn’t know what time it was…and what if we didn’t care?
Last night there were emergency vehicles blaring throughout the neighborhood. Generally when this happens we send a prayer for those in trouble. But not last night. Last night we were delighted. For last night was when Santa came roaring through our rural area.
A schedule had been posted so we knew he was coming. And it brought a smile to think of all those children rushing outside, even in the pouring rain, to wave at Santa. Unlike past years, the pandemic prevented him from stopping and handing out candy canes. But one could feel the excitement nonetheless.
So much has changed in these pandemic times. It’s so heartening to know that the volunteer fire fighters from stations all over this area were determined to hang on to a tradition that has long been so important. Bless them.
“This spark of the ancestral flame, which I have brought to the land of the stranger, is now burning brightly.”
Honoring the passing today of a bright light in the world. Dagara elder, author, diviner and teacher, Malidoma Patrice Somé. His wisdom was profound.
His books were required reading in one of the classes I taught at Evergreen State College and his insights were so very well received and embraced by the students. His books have had a huge impact on my spiritual journey. You can imagine my excitement and delight when I was approached by those who organized his events here in the Pacific Northwest to hold a multi-day grief workshop here at MossTerra. I was over the moon. Then, just weeks later, the pandemic landed and those plans were postponed. And now that dream will never be realized.
It’s a poignant reminder to embrace each day for the Light that’s in it. To hold fast to our tribe. To celebrate our relationships…while we can.
Indeed, the ancestral spark he gave the world, his wisdom and his teachings will live on in all of us. May we burn a bright light to honor him.
Blessings on your soul journey, Malidoma. You will be so missed. Your light will shine on.
I know. I tend to bang on, as they say over there, about Ireland and the Irish. My friends in Ireland often admonish me for putting them on a pedestal. Well, I suppose I do and sometimes wonder if I’m too enthusiastic. And then a story like this comes along.
The Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team registered to compete in the upcoming 2022 World Lacrosse Games. The team represents the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the people who actually invented the game. They call it a medicine game, a gift from the Creator to be played for his enjoyment and for healing.
However they were excluded from the competition because the International Olympic Committee, apparently the body responsible for such determinations, deemed them ineligible because they were not from a sovereign nation. Seriously? Although the organizers eventually realized their mistake, they said it was too late to allow the Iroquois Nationals to participate.
This decision sparked an international movement of support. But none matched the response of Ireland’s team. The Ireland team withdrew from the event and gave their place to the Iroquois Nationals team. “We felt really strongly that just putting another graphic on social media saying we support the Iroquois was not the appropriate thing to do because talk is cheap. We very much felt that action was necessary.”
You have gone above and beyond not only for us, but for what you believe is right.
The Iroquois team was deeply appreciative for the opportunity to compete, but more for the integrity of this action. “We are certainly very thankful and have a great amount of respect for Ireland. Your actions have spoken louder than words showing everyone the true power of sport, and the spirit of lacrosse. We will never forget that.”
Fair play to Ireland’s team. So excuse me for yet again banging on about the Irish. Now….where did I put that pedestal?