Rev. Dr. Kate R. Walker
26 April 2020
Imagination As the New Normal
Last week I invited you to think about deconstructed beef wellington as a metaphor for our deconstructed world. I left you with an invitation to deepen your faith in yourself and humanity, and to let your imagination and creativity expand so we can be part of the Great Turning – an epic change from destructive living to sustainable life for all.
This week I’m asking you to picture a plate again, only this time it has four of the basic food groups on it (if you really want, you’re welcome to keep the beef wellington on your plate, just make room for three more dishes): our meal is made of grains, greens, protein, and fruit.
Hang onto the image of your plate.
Today I’m using work of Joanna Macy and Christopher Johnston, co-authors of Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy. They offer four important stages of the journey toward the Great Turning.
I’m using our plate of four food groups as a metaphor to their four steps:
*Gratitude – our grains
*grief/pain – our greens
*transformation – our protein
*going forth – our fruit
Each step is practiced for nourishment, like a meal, again and again. Each time we practice, we experience the taste differently, with greater appreciation for the growth and the preparation of our dish.
Grains of gratitude: Picture a golden wheat field blowing in the wind, or the deep green of a rice paddy, or the delicate husk of oat. Look at the vision, taste your pasta or bread. Feel gratitude for the beauty you see and taste.
Practicing gratitude deepens your sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation. It builds foundation for resiliency and balance in life. It builds trust, and generosity. Gratitude reduces consumerism by increasing satisfaction with what we have rather than we don’t have.
You may be wondering how you can practice gratitude when our world is in the middle of a pandemic, climate crisis and economic disaster? Gratitude is the preparation to a change in consciousness. It’s to prepare us for the bitterness of despair. Grains of gratitude gives us sustenance to face our deep grief for the pain in the world.
Next on our plate are Greens: I choose bitter herbs and salt of tears for the pain and grief to honor our Jewish ancestors and siblings who celebrated Passover last week.
In this transforming step we face the horror and the pain in our lives and all the world. If we do not see the pain, and the destruction, it is as if it never happened. To not feel the pain of the other, is to say “I do not see you.”
No one wants to eat bitter herbs. No one wants to feel the tears flowing from our shattered hearts. Yet, persistent denial of pain, actually encourages others to deny it. We become part of a blockade to the reality of destruction.
By naming the pain, we draw attention to the destruction and others have to look too! By seeing the pain, we begin to disturb the status quo and the status is not quo! The pain is what tells us we are in peril! We turn away at great risk.
It is past time to wake up and the only way, only path is through the grief, though the pain.
This is a test of faith. As Unitarian Universalists we may be humanist or theist, pagan or Buddhist, Jewish or Christian. Whatever our faith, it begins with faith in ourselves and faith in each other. Faith in yourself to bear the pain, and not get stuck; faith that you will be transformed; faith that others will help you, that they too will journey and be transformed by the bitterness of the herbs and the salted tears of despair.
Our transformation comes from a deepened compassion and the recognition of our interconnectedness.
None of us walks through life without being touched by pain and despair. We all cry, we all must bear the pain of life, the earth is crying and she needs us to hear her.
The grains of gratitude help heal and counter the greens of bitter wounds and propel us to the next step in our culinary journey on the plate: Protein, the gift of life – giving us the capacity to see with new eyes, a new vision on the horizon.
Buddhism teaches of Bodhichitta. Budhichitta is the intention of moving from personal well-being to collective well-being, it is the path to greater compassion for all beings, leading the way to enlightenment.
Our transformation comes with protein, the building block of life and source of energy. It gives us strength to look up and see beyond our self-interests, to see how our needs intersect with all humanity, and that we’re part of the interconnectedness of all life. With the recognition that we are interconnected, we can see there is no you vs. me, no selfishness vs altruism. These are false choices, false binary. You and I are connected. My interests are your interests.
We don’t lose our individuality! We lose our individualism. We keep our uniqueness, our integrity with our particular role to play in a vision we create together, a vision that must include the needs of the earth.
An interconnected consciousness is a revolutionary step in evolution! We are more together than separate: more energized, more powerful, more intelligent, more creative. There is no longer a battle for supremacy, we are bonded in mutual sustenance.
A different view of power means we are no longer engaged in a power over relationship. It is not a win/loose scenario. It is not fear based, it is collaborative power, where trust is deepened, faith is broadened and creative energy flows in a synergetic powerful force. This new relationship with power can’t be hoarded for it’s held in mutual accountable relationships.
The beauty of this vision of power is we draw on our power and the power of others, increasing our bond of reliance and connection. Our communities are strengthened and healthier.
We are in a time of crisis right now, communities can pull apart or come together. What are you doing to strengthen your community? Have you checked in with your neighbors? Do you look up and smile when you see a stranger on the sidewalk even as you maneuver around them? Have you reached out to those who do not have the Internet, and are vulnerable for loneliness and depression?
A new vision informs us we are in this crisis together. These simple steps are a part of the Great Turning – small but revolutionary steps!
From our neighbors to our larger community to the world community to the earth community of all life, our vision must transcend all these views at the same as staying grounded in each.
If you’re having a difficult time during this pandemic, step outside and sit by a tree. Look at the bark, touch its skin, know its history from seed to splendid spread of leaves reaching to the sun. You are part of this life, you a part of its history and also reaching for the sun.
As you reach for the sun, remember you are a part of a timeline reaching back billions of years, and reaching forth billions of years. You have ancestors who helped you arrive in this time and place, and future generations will also reach up to the sun for life – and reach down toward the earth for nourishment.
The protein of life is our foundation as we go forth into the emerging future and part take in the fourth item on our plate; the fruit – or if you prefer – dessert! Dessert is our imagination, our inspiration, our creative juices run amuck, spilling over into the rivers and valleys of the future. This is the place of your dreams and aspirations. This is the place from which you go forth.
Joanna Macy writes “… we are larger, stronger, deeper, and more creative than we have been brought up to believe.”
With each bite of our dessert, we begin with the what, and the path to the how is revealed. For what does your heart yearn? Let the heart sing its song, let the editor sleep, its work will come later.
Life is not static, life is always evolving, change is a constant, we can change the now into the future with courageous steps. What do you want, how will it happen and what is your role?
We are all Harolds and Harriets with crayons, made of the world’s rainbow of colors. Are you ready to begin to draw a new picture, write a new story? What is the picture you want to draw? Perhaps, you can begin by drawing a colorful line connecting you to your neighbor.
With our vision, we pause at a cross road, not for the first time and not for the last time. We have a choice. I’m inviting you to move forward with intention to help change the world:
Suzanna Arundhati Roy, author “God of Small Things”, and activist, recently wrote:
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, and our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage … ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
Each of us can be a grain of sand turning the epic pace of time toward a hope-filled and sustainable future. We can become part of the tipping point in time. We are a drop of water, together we are an ocean of change.
These steps are to be practiced. You now have a wonderful resource for finding ways to practice these steps in Google Classroom created by our Arts for Mother Earth Team. You can find the link in the Wednesday email.
Let us nourish ourselves in a meal of grains of gratitude, bitter greens of sorrow, protein of life and fruit of visions begging to be made. Together we are creating, imagining a new normal. Together we are cooking up a new future.
Blessed be, amen, ashay