Breathing Spaces

I’ve fallen quiet again, despite my good intentions to blog regularly; several of the concerns occupying my attention are situations that I am keeping in my personal, private sphere at least for now. There are a lot of things worth talking about – the Orlando shooting, the Stanford rape case, the ongoing systemic violence that reemerges over and over again in a thousand ugly ways – and a lot of people talking about them, but I am not one of them.

In my moments of weakness I wonder, a lot, whether it reveals me to be a “bad” minister or an unworthy human being, that I am not right up front and center with eloquent words about each and every thing that is worthy of our collective attention, our rage, our grief, our solidarity. There is no shortage of words, though. Many colleagues and friends are quick to respond to the headlines that clench our bellies with terror and bring tears of rage to our eyes.

I have, at the moment, nothing to say. Nothing to say, at least, that has not already been said a hundred or a thousand times, the words repeated with each violent tragedy until they become absurd and meaningless, a chorus of thoughts-and-prayers that slowly morphs into a post-traumatic version of the “Chicken Chicken Chicken” video. *

Like I said, I might be a bad minister…

Okay then, I am a bad minister, or at least one who is also a human being whose sharp-edged sense of humor surfaces when the mitigating tenderness gets scraped a bit thin. This is what I got, world: nothin’. I got nothin’. Hollow and brittle as a glass jar with just the thinnest scraping of peanut butter coating the walls, passing for full and secretly empty.

I am again at a loss for words. Not this $#!@ again, I mutter, self-censoring my profanity on the internet. I crack wise. My shoulders tense up, then sag under the weight of each breath.

And I pray.

Image is a carved wooden sculpture of the "Weeping Buddha" - a muscular male figured seated cross-legged and bent over with his face hidden in his hands.

I pray for the aching of the world, for the healing of the wounded, for the comfort of the grieving.

For the mending of shattered sanctuary and the reopening of old wounds of the spirit.

For all of us whose guts clench, knowing the fear that comes when identity is also liability; when we are reminded that living our lives fully includes the risk of losing everything.

For the caregivers, of whom I know so many now; shuffling their own burdens of fear and loss and rage to gather the shards and mend the tatters, knowing that the work always remains unfinished.

For all our fractally complex intersections.

I don’t understand hate very well. But I am human too. I get suffering. And I have learned to acknowledge my own capacity to turn my unsoothed suffering – my pain, my fear – into sharp-edged anger. Whether I turn the spiky bits in on myself, or out into the world, it still hurts.

Things shatter and leave sharp edges. It is so easy, so very easy, to lash out, to push the suffering away, onto somebody else. Those people. Whichever ones they are, and the opportunities are legion and rife for politicization. I do not think I am going to list them here; it would be unfair to leave someone out. We are all in this together, this suffering and causing one another to suffer.

The impulse either to fix suffering, or to declare it unfixable and ignore it, is powerful. It underlies so much of what is aching and wrong, at whatever self-similar scale – personal, familial, institutional, cultural. It is so hard to stay present, to neither fight nor run, and hold the suffering moment as long as possible without burning ourselves up in the process. And yet to not at least try is to acquiesce to the violence of the system. There is no sure victory, only the choice between defiance and defeat.

I would like to have an easy answer, some pastoral comfort or prophetic wisdom to put here. But I got nothin’.


* You don’t remember the “Chicken Chicken Chicken” video? Here it is, if you want a raucous absurdity break.


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2 Responses to Breathing Spaces

  1. Karin Halsey says:

    Yes. I’m not silent out of lack of feeling or lack of care. It’s just almost too painful to dwell on. Too fragile, too sharp-edged. It will take some time before the rawness goes away and I can think coherently about this.

    • Karin Halsey says:

      And – may I share this?

      Absolutely – this is a publicly accessible blog and anything posted here is open for sharing (with attribution, of course.)

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