Friday, August 10, 2012
And I think this is all related. So much of worship is listening. Listening to rain, to birds, to winds and stars, to new friends, and to inner voices. Listening to grandmothers' stories, to something called God, to angels, spirits, and to crickets singing. Listen, and find music everywhere. Listen and find holiness everywhere. The soft rain of today is a healing balm in this intense summer of heat and storm. For heaven's sakes, even fundamentalist Christians are noticing the extreme weather on this planet, and the message of torrential rain, severe drought, and massive thunderstorms.
In one of my great conversations this week I commented that my children rarely hear soft summer rain anymore, and my grandchildren may never do so. I wonder if my grandchildren will see snow. So one new friend, the biotech dude, is an intense and passionate gardener. Coordinating urban renewal gardening, he is ardent about saving, building and maintaining good soil. What is to argue? But he also referred to himself as a seeker, and talked with me about the difficult problems of inner city gardening - from kids trashing the plants, and neighbors stealing produce to sell, to county government wanting publicity shots for the news but denying funding. My friend felt that his passion annoyed his allies, and that his vision of community gardening is getting lost in petty squabbles.
As he talked, standing on the banks of the Monogehela river in a garden built by kids at an inner city neighborhood Y, I realized I don't see him as a seeker at all. Instead, my new friend is a pointer - he has amazing skills with soil and he is pointing to a new future where neighborhoods protect and cherish soil and use it to feed so many people without food. His vision is important, sacred even. His struggles to share that vision are inherent to forging new paths - inner city gardeners may be dealing with teen vandalism for a long time.
I know other pointers, people creating new ways of living and being, in tiny minute ways, in our postindustrial, crumbling funds world. Friends at school advocate for foster kids; my neighbors build recycling programs; another friend is starting a suicide prevention hotline in rural Pennsylvania. I know artists teaching children, lawyers helping the poor, and therapists rebuilding lives. We constantly hear that there is no money, and we constantly do amazing things anyway.
Pointers need some soft rain, though. I puja Bridget, and love reading Rumi and Teresa of Avila; my soil friend loves St. Francis, though carefully separates what he reads in St. Francis from the punitive church of his youth; one of the best and most amazing counselors I know works with homeless people and teaches other therapists Mindfulness. Here is worship and spirituality/religion providing people the inner means to go out and point to new ways of being. Yet spirit/religion is never enough. Pointers have to contend with ourselves, and the horizontal violences my soil friend sees with gardening leaders arguing - and the blame game I see in churches and arts groups who have lost funding shows - how much we have learned to act out the very systems we hope to change.
I am reluctantly pulling out of my ten years of volunteering in one organization because I no longer wish to hear that special needs kids are the problem with arts funding, and I am sad to see devout Christian friends - with hearts in the right place - decide paternalistically what special needs children need instead of listening to the kids themselves. Similarly, my Catholic friend in New Jersey who works ceaselessly for LGBT rights and has an autistic son like I, is tired of public school parents endlessly blaming spending cuts on the special needs kids and their test scores. And I told my soil friend to quit blaming teens for the problems with inner city community gardening.
The corporations of the world don't need to police us if we limit ourselves. Wild Woman thealogian Mary Daly calls the ways we attack and police each other "horizontal violence" and names the ways we act for elite interests "token torturing." It is a great analysis for why we so often can not work together. So naming the violence and pointing it out is just part of what Pointers have to do. Simply put, pointers have to be ready to make power relationships clear: teens don't ruin inner city gardening; special needs kids are not causing the cuts in arts and school funding; the LGBT community isn't destroying the church; single mothers on welfare are not causing budget crises; poor family farmers are not at fault for fracking. Sure, people with little rights can harm each other; none of us, however, have the ability to create these systems that harm us all. We can not build new systems, if we constantly recreate the old.
While talking about pointing may seem a long way from worshiping St. Bridget, it really is not. While I am sipping tea in this lovely soft summer rain today, I am thinking of summer bounty and the rains I hope my grandchildren will hear. But I have appreciated the storms of this summer - strong storms here in western PA that are knocking up people's lives and driving home the point that we as a planet have changes to make. Soft rain can be our Rumi and St. Francis and ecstatic spirituality; and goddess knows we all need them. Yet hard rains are the ways we have to name the violence we have learned and enact on one another. If pointers don't name the ways we need to change, the change will be all the harder.
I believe there will be a day when inner city teens cherish gardens - and in point of fact, I stood in one of those gardens this week. So be you seeker or pointer, I wish you an August of both storm and gentle summer rain. All of our gardens on this planet need both.