It’s the beginning of a new year and we are all trying to imagine what 2021 will bring. On the one hand, time is simply marching on. On the other, the question of ‘what’s gonna happen’ invites us to imagine a new way. The simple framing of this as a ‘new year’ creates a clean slate.
We are always standing in the space between what has been and what could (and should) be. Imagination is our uniquely human way to envision ourselves…and our relationships and our world…as we want them to be.
What about this? What if what we can imagine changes us? What we imagine builds an interior storehouse of possibilities and stories which then informs our capacity…and our ability…to be resilient, and hopeful, and compassionate, and generous. We are changed by what we imagine, and as changed beings, we are more likely to do something each day to narrow the distance between what is and what could be (thanks to Parker Palmer for this bit of wisdom.)
2021 is a blank canvas in front of us. What will be will be the result of a communal process, entered into by the interconnected community of all that is.
And so, let your imagination go wild! Imagine all the beautiful possibilities! I’ll be right there with you!
Past Stone Soup Columns
On December five and twenty…
I’m wishing each one of you a deep peace.
There’s been a great convergence in the sky, a great (annual) meet-up of multiple holidays and holy days from various traditions, and a great melancholy within…at least within me. I am grateful for all that I have…and I wish ‘things’ were different. I am healthy… and I grieve the toll the virus has taken on the global community. I have work that is meaningful that occupies my days…and I wish there was time and opportunity to do other things. I have so much. Something is missing. A great melancholy within. I am trying to make peace with this. I imagine that many of us are feeling this way.
No one is sure what ‘fum, fum, fum’ refers to in this old Catalan carol. Is it smoke from chimney fires, the thrum of drums, the strum of a guitar? Is it an expression like ‘bah humbug’? In one version of the lyrics, the song says, “on this day so cold and dreary…he is born the son of God.” Melancholy. It’s cold and dark. And there’s a promising new birth. Both/and. (Listen to it HERE.)
And so, again, on this day and in all the days to come, I wish for each of you a deep and abiding peace.
December 25, 2020
PS. January’s theme is IMAGINATION! Watch for the theme packet in next week’s FLAME.
There’s a lot of talk in this packet about stillness. Talking, and thinking, and watching, and practicing. But, what of STILLNESS? How might we experience it, and listen to it, and learn from it?
In truth, there is no such thing as complete stillness; it’s impossible. Our bodies, our breathe, our very atoms, are in constant motion. And yet, there is a quality of being still that each of us knows. We have each experienced stillness.
Where do you find it? Staring at the mist rising over a lake as the sun comes up? Gazing at clouds, or the stars, or the moon? Standing still and letting the breeze tickle your eyebrows? Watching a fire blazing? Feeling the warmth of another body nuzzled into your own? Standing stock still as activity and noise spins and reels around you?
While we can never be completely still, stillness exists. And wherever we find it, it’s almost always a sacred moment.
In these altered times, and as the holidays swirl around us, sacred moments may be our salvation. So perhaps we can turn our loneliness and our anxiety into stillness. What we can transform seeming emptiness into an experience of the holy?
That’s what we’re going to attempt this month…to feel stillness. Deep within…and whatever is going on around us…stillness can be ours. I believe it.
Peace and love to you and yours,
I’ve got a lot of scars on my body. On my chin from falling up concrete steps when I was 3. On my forehead from getting hit with a bat (accidently) when I was 10. On my calf from a dog bite when I was 8. On my knee and ankle from a motorcycle skid-out when I was 17. And a large one on my chest from a mastectomy 3 years ago.
You’ve got them too, I’m sure. We don’t get through life without bumps, bruises, and the telltale scars.
Recently, I took a big chunk of skin off my hand when I rammed it into a handrail. It bled, and for a few days it oozed angrily. Then it began to scab over. The ugly redness left. And a short week later, there remains only a small tender spot. It’s miraculous, really. We do heal.
But there’s no cure for being in human bodies. And, there’s no cure for having human hearts. We lose people we love. We have hearts that get hurt and broken, spirits that get damaged and downtrodden, and feelings that remain tender and cautious about being exposed again. In the moment, it hurts terribly and it seems the pain will stay with us forever.
And still, I believe in healing. I believe that hearts, spirits, and feelings can be healed. We fall in love again. We go out on emotional limbs again. We trust again. It is miraculous, really.
We do heal.
I hope you’ll join me in exploring this possibility.
Here with you,
The other day, I watched the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma. It’s all about social media, and screens, and the impact it’s all having on us. Disturbing for sure. And, I recommend you watch it.
It confirmed what I already knew, but hadn’t really articulated; that we are increasingly silo’d (thanks to algorithms) into hearing like-voices. What we choose to listen to and watch on our screens determines what we see and hear next. And so, we keep hearing only the voices of those who agree with us.
This makes it increasingly difficult to understand why someone might think differently than we do. We assume they are seeing the same news and media, when in fact, they are also seeing only those things that confirm their position.
And, our world is becoming increasingly bifurcated. Left and right. Conservative and liberal. Racist and Anti-racist. Pro-life or pro-choice. Etc. etc.
In myself, I recognize a parallel increasing lack of tolerance for differing views, perhaps precisely because I’m losing the muscle for it. I don’t have to practice it much anymore, so my ability to listen to something that doesn’t resonate with my views is lessened.
Rather than hearing interesting variety, my ears hear dissonance. Rather than welcoming a challenging opinion, I’m likely to shut it down before really hearing it.
In such a world, how can we better listen? There’s probably no such thing as objectivity, but shouldn’t we expose ourselves to enough diversity to form critical opinions and thoughtful responses?
This is something I’m going to be thinking about this month, and work on exercising my ears, so that they’re more open. We are the ‘church of the open minds’, after all. Right?
Right here with you,