Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sure on This Shining Night


Patient: Doctor, I have these terrible headaches. What can I do to stop the pain?
Doctor: Let’s start with this: Stop banging your head against the wall.

Some vague memory of a joke that isn’t funny, but revealing. I went yesterday to a Dalcroze music workshop with Dr. Marla Butke and amidst many lovely moments, the ending activity took my breath away. It’s a simple movement exercise I have done many times before—4 people in a diamond shape facing the same direction, all copy the person in front who is moving to music, in this case, a recording of an exquisite choral piece called Sure on This Shining Night by Morten Lauridsen. When the leader feels finished, she or he simply turns a quarter turn and there is a new leader. There were some fifteen groups and I had the good sense to sit out and watch. The serendipitous moments when arms reached upwards just as the sopranos entered or one group descended while another ascended were many and it was one of those moments when the world stopped and I stood there witnessing prayer in motion. Not the tossed-aside “thoughts and prayers are with you” but the deeply felt sense of reverence, of unity, of gratitude for the miracle of living in a body that could move and listen to a voice that could sing in company with other sentient beings.

All of this intensified by the contrast between someone vying to sit on the highest court of the land and make decisions that can either help or hurt millions and that someone whining like a spoiled child, showing the world anything but the face of the calm impartial demeanor a judge must have and not a single ounce of empathy for a woman who he most likely violated and seriously damaged by his actions. And if by some miracle he was innocent, not a single nod of empathy for what she suffered. All of this multiplied by the support of that callous, shameless, mean-spirited, cold-hearted, emotionally-stunted, privileged and proud of it, arrogant good-ole-boys club while millions of women around the country were having their own traumatic memories triggered by this whole shameful show.

Okay, it feels true and a little cathartic to hold these men’s feet to the fire, call them names (that they deserve) in the face of my outrage and feeling of powerlessness to stop them. But where does true healing come from? What’s an active and effective way to get at the source of this head-banging that does exactly nobody any good? We are so stuck in the same old ways of thinking about the world, of experiencing the world, of negotiating a conversation with our fellow humans about the world and the inevitable bumps and thorns and wrong turns and head-on collisions just keep happening with renewed force and no intention to consider another way.

But dream with me here. What if before every session of Congress, the members stood up and did shadow motion in bi-partisan groups? Learned to follow and read and enjoy and marvel at each other’s motions and feel connected vibration to vibration (yesterday’s post), all with beautiful music playing? And then stood together and sang the music together and felt their voices blend in something larger than their little agendas, joined together to create something of beauty. And why stop there? How about if they improvised some jazz together (I can show them how without years of practice) where each one got some solo time and then had to support the soloist? And then sit and discuss their differences. Maybe naked in a sauna. You’re laughing, but seriously, why not? Can you feel how the conversation would change? Can you feel how much more successfully any conflicts could be negotiated?

I’m not joking here. What we’re doing isn’t working and we keep banging our head against the wall and then act surprised that it hurts. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to dance and sing and play together before we talk? And when it comes time to talk, it could start with a game my daughter is making for her 5th graders about American history—the good, the bad, the ugly—that actually gives them the information to understand what went down and how this led to that and gives them the moral frame to decide what never should have happened (land theft, genocide, slavery, for starters) and helps them draw the line and declare “Here it stops.”

That’s our choice. Moving toward a shameful night or a shining one. I have no easy confidence that the Senate will do the right thing, but I do believe that if the shameful one appears to win, it’s just a signal to us to redouble our efforts to create the shining one that will surely come. And this is my dream of how it could happen.

What’s yours?

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