Quote of the Day

Photo Thanks to Caleb Morris

Photo Thanks to Caleb Morris

I’m posting quotes as we go through the fuzzy zone of being new parents again in these next days. This quote comes from Howard Thurman (Disciplines of the Spirit, 113):

When a man is despised and hated by other men and all around are the instruments of violence working in behalf of such attitudes, then he may find himself resorting to hatred as a means of salvaging a sense of self, however fragmented. Under such circumstances, hate becomes a man’s way of saying that he is present. Despite the will to his nonexistence on the part of his environment or persons in it, he affirms himself by affirming the nonexistence of those who so regard him. In the end the human spirit cannot tolerate this.

Quote of the Day

 

Photo Thanks to Nicole Mason

Photo Thanks to Nicole Mason

 

I’m posting quotes as we go through the fuzzy zone of being new parents again in these next days. This quote comes from Howard Thurman (Deep is the Hunger, 97):

If I have slandered, I must call it slander; if I have accused falsely, I must call it false accusation. Again, I must strip myself of all alibis and excuses. It may be true that I did not intend to do it, that it was all a hideous mistake; nevertheless, the injury may be as real to the other person as if my act were deliberately planned. Whatever may be the intent, the harm has been done. Again, I must seek reconciliation on the basis of my sense of responsibility, to the other person and to myself, for the injury done. Human relationships are often tough but sometimes very fragile. Sometimes, when they are ruptured, it requires amazing skill and sensitiveness to reknit them. Therefore, forgiveness is possible between two persons only when the offender is able to stand inside of the harm he has done and look out at himself as if he were the other person.

A Home for Your Introversion

Photo Thanks to Dana and Peter

Photo Thanks to Dana and Peter

I was talking with my big brother, Patrick Winfield, weeks ago. I had been on his heart and he followed the rule that when somebody is on your heart for a couple days, you call. Among our words was this notion of our uniqueness.

We talked about personality. Winfield is an extravert. He’s orange. I’m an introvert. I’m gold. The colors come from some staff exercise he had us conduct years back at Sweet Holy Spirit, where we picked pictures and found out our colors and the associations with them. The colors became an abbreviation we use in our chats. We’re identified by our pictures, by our colors.

While we were talking, we got down to something specific: people need a home for their introversion. People like me. People like my sister, Vicky, Winfield’s wife. Introverts need space, created room, to be at home.

Sometimes we forget this. We, as introverts, impacted by our peopled calendars and social days, forget that we need that space to cultivate quiet. We require solitude for the sake of our selves.

But this isn’t just true for introverts. Introverts need that cultivation space for personality maintenance. Everybody needs that quiet room for the sake our the soul. Parker Palmer talks about the internal space being created in activism and not only quiet. Howard Thurman talks about the soul need for centering down. Centering down and being active don’t prevent solitude; they can foster it. In other words, it doesn’t have to be quiet around you for your soul to have quiet.

But the soul, the interior, unseen part of you that is really you, needs space to be free, space to be home. That home may be a physical place or an internal place. It may be in a broad sweeping valley; it may overlook a breathtaking mountain; it may be deep within your consciousness.

That home is for the introverted and the extraverted. Where do you feel at home? Where does your heart move when it needs relief or quiet or calm? Have you given your heart that space lately?

Lessons from Exile

by Leeroy2Having been outside the mainstream for years, African American churches have learned valuable lessons that have given special meaning to spiritual practices and ideas. White Christians may be familiar with them in theory, but to know them from the underside, from the outside, and from the margins is an exercise in growing in new grace.

Silence is the anchor of speech

It’s easy for Christians to speak. We fill our ears, speak truths, and proclaim the gospel. We have good reason for our proclamation. But we hear less. It’s harder to be silent.

Silence is a corrective. For black and brown people, silence is a deepening, strengthening, and centering discipline. It is a discipline that was learned as black folks were taken from West African shores, unable to communicate in their native tongues, and pushed to find a way of hearing themselves, hearing their God, and, eventually, speaking about their pain.

It is learned still when life in the United States is unfair and unjust and when the rules for black and brown people are set to maintain injustice. In her book Joy Unspeakable, Barbara Holmes says that silence and contemplation bolster the interior life of a community, and ultimately sustains it.

Silence doesn’t remove the power of speech. It anchors it. The quiet is constructive because it narrows the focus on what needs to be said. It opens us to seeing what is real. It enables us to say what is wrong and, of course, what is right.

When we’re quiet, we have an opportunity to confront the pain of another. We learn to openly and realistically face our losses. We hear, reflect, and see what has set us apart from our Christian relatives.

The black church is instructed by the presence of God through other folks and notices in the silence those who are as concerned about speaking truth as we are.

I’m thankful to the folks at Leadership Journal for publishing my piece and for David Swanson’s earlier framing and partner essay. Read the full piece here.

Considerations on Peace From Howard Thurman

A cursory glance at human history reveals that men have sought for countless generations to bring peace into the world by the instrumentality of violence. The fact is significant because it is tried repeatedly and to no basic advantage. The remark which someone has made, that perhaps the most important fact we learn from history is that we do not learn from history, is very much to the point. Violence is very deceptive as a technique because of the way in which it comes to rescue the of those who are in a hurry. Violence at first is very efficient, very effective. It stampedes, overruns, pushes aside and carries the day. It becomes the major vehicle of power, or the radical threat of power. It inspires fear and resistance. The fact that it inspires resistance is underestimated, while the fact that it inspires fear is overestimated. This is the secret of its deception. Violence is the ritual and the etiquette of those who stand in a position of overt control in the world. As long as this is true, it will be impossible to make power–economic, social or political–responsive to anything that is morally or socially motivating. Men resort to violence when they are unable or unwilling to tax their resourcefulness for methods that will inspire the confidence or the mental and moral support of other men. This is true, whether in the relationship between parents and children in the home or in great affairs of the state involving the affirmation of masses of the people. Violence rarely, if ever, gets the consent of the spirit of men upon whom it is used. It drives them underground, it makes them seek cover, if they cannot overcome it in other ways. It merely postpones the day of revenge and retaliation. To believe in some other way, that will not inspire retaliation and will curb evil and bring about social change, requires a spiritual maturity that has appeared only sporadically in the life of man on this planet. The statement may provide the machinery, but the functioning of it is dependent upon the climate created by the daily habits of the people.

May we tax our own resourcefulness and may these good peaceful things be so in us. (From Deep Is The Hunger, 34-35)

Being in Love

Thurman said in one of books, probably The Inward Journey, that we don’t love in general.  We love in particular.  We love the particular.

We love people and things.  We love God.  We love hobbies, ourselves.  But we love specifically, adding discrimination to an otherwise grand concept.  Love is not a concept and it can’t be done without a grounding in reality.

When we first meet the loves in our lives, we try to shape them by our dreams.  All those things we thought living in love would be like crash into the unsuspecting object of our devotion.  They meet the way our families meet our first girlfriends, with eyes raised, everyone in the room wondering how long this phase will last.

Soon those two parties–the new love and the context of life–get together and ruffle each other until one begins to change.  They effect each other.  Sometimes we change our lives in submission because the object of love is better.  Sometimes we decide that the object of our affections and desires is unworthy, and we move on.  But when loved ones, their particular selves, stay with us, everyone changes.  Because we cannot be in love, live in love, stay in love (and here I don’t mean anything about the fanciful notions of being “in love” as much as I mean the straight and unstraight line that is a life of disciplined, passionate, contemplative, committed love)–we cannot stay in that love without changing.

I am no specialist on love, though I used to say that I fell in love everyone few months when I was growing up.  I started writing poetry in high school because I was in love.  And I did so many other things I’ll kept between me and special people in my life.  I am no specialist, no expert.  But I am trying to become a specialist.

I am trying to train myself in what loving well is.  I want to love well, love strongly, love hard.  And the implicit commitment it takes to want that, to desire that, and to pursue that desire is often unsettling.  I come to see what the desire means, along with what walking toward that desire requires.  It takes detailed effort to love.  Oh, we’d like to believe we love everybody.  I think the Savior said words that make us think we can do that.  But loving everybody is a perplexing impossibility.

Loving the people we know is hard enough and something we fail at so regularly that the Savior would blush at our insistent foolishness to misquote and misunderstand him when it came to behavior.  Thurman turned it correctly: Loving well is loving in particular.

It is loving the cracked skin and blemishes that won’t go away even though they may be covered.  Loving strongly is knowing the sheer vulnerability of your loved one and using that weakness to give them hope and inspiration and faith in humanity because you don’t do with your power what others untrained in such artistry would do.  Loving hard is the consistent exercise of staying with all those promises by the grace and help of every gift God gives.

I think doing this love, being in this love is one of life’s most consistent challenges.  And mostly because nothing really trains us toward it.  We are instructed and taught to dispense with things.  And that won’t help us become lovers.  Recycling and reusing are better words for love because love uses the raw materials of our particular lives, our real special selves, and does not force us to become something else, all while that love motivates (moves and pushes) us to become better.  Living that way is hard and usually so rewarding.

Thurman on An Island of Peace

A beautiful and significant phrase, “Island of Peace within one’s own soul.”  The individual lives his life in the midst of a wide variety of stresses and strains.  There are many tasks in which he is engaged that are not meaningful to him even though they are important in secondary ways.  There are many responsibilities that are his by virtue of training, or family, or position.  Again and again, decisions must be made as to small and large matters; each one involves him in devious ways.

No one is ever free from the peculiar pressures of his own life.  Each one has to deal with the evil aspects of life, with injustices inflicted upon him and injustices which he wittingly or unwittingly inflicts upon others.  We are all of us deeply involved in the throes of our own weaknesses and strengths, expressed often in the profoundest conflicts within our own souls.

The only hope for surcease, the only possibility of stability for the person, is to establish an Island of Peace within one’s own soul.  Here one brings for review the purposes and dreams to which one’s life is tied.  This is the place where there is no pretense, no dishonesty, no adulteration.  What passes over the threshold is simon-pure.  What one really thinks and feels about one’s own life stands revealed; what one really thinks and feels about other people far and near is seen with every nuance honestly labeled: love is love, hate is hate, fear is fear.

Well within the island is the Temple where God dwells–not the God of the creed, the church, the family, but the God of one’s heart.  Into His Presence one comes with all of one’s problems and faces His scrutiny.  What a man is, what his plans are, what his authentic point is, where his life goes–all is available to him in the Presence.  How foolish it is, how terrible, if you have not found your Island of Peace within your own soul!  It means that you are living without the discovery of your true home.

From Howard Thurman’s “An Island of Peace Within One’s Soul” in Meditations of the Heart