Thursday, October 18, 2018

1) What. 2) So what? 3) Now what?


Don’t know who came up with this, but there’s a nice 3-point, 5-word way to for teachers to reflect with students about what they’re learning:

      1.  What did we do?
      2.  What did it mean to you?
      3.  Now that you’ve learned this, what are you going to do with it?

This is not just for schoolteachers. I think this works pretty well to help us navigate through the daily news.
   1.What is going on? I mean, really what separate from the spin. The bare facts. 
   2. What does it mean to you? How does it affirm or contradict your value system, your sense of   
       what’s right, your sense of what’s needed, you sense of what is true? 
   3.  What are you going to do about it?

Maybe another way to look at it is the three-way conversation between facts, feelings and action. All three are necessary. If we ignore the facts or don’t know the real facts or choose to blindly deny the facts, we can’t think clearly about what it means or how we feel about it. And without that step, any action doesn’t make sense.

If we know the facts and choose to imagine that it doesn’t affect us, can’t face the feelings it evokes, shrug it off as someone else’s problem, we again fall short. There’s hardly a problem out there that isn’t our problem. Racism is an inescapable problem for people of color, but it’s equally a problem for people of pale color. The Me Too movement proves how many women have been affected by the problem of sexual abuse, but it is most certainly a problem men need to deal with. And of course, Climate Change doesn’t give a hoot who you are and how rich you are or how privileged you think you are. There’s in no Jim Crow separation when the tsunami comes through town.

Finally, if you know the facts and are in touch with your thoughts and feelings about them and only think about it, you end up contributing to the bad things that are happening in. There is no neutral here. From writing postcards and knocking on doors and certainly voting to speaking out more courageously in your church, school, workplace or community, by telling your true story and listening to others, by making dynamic art that awakens the slumbering soul, action is a necessary part of the three-fold process.

Michael Meade is a mythologist, storyteller, activist who tries to find the right story to frame where we are, to put the onslaught of daily news into a larger perspective (see his books and blogposts). I went to hear him last night and referred back to one of the stories that frames his books “Why the World Doesn’t End.” The short version is an old wise woman who is weaving a beautiful cloth, a kind of making the world from the confluence of colors and textures. At some point she goes off to cook a meal and when she returns, discovers that a dog had unraveled all her weaving. What to do? Of course, nothing to do but start weaving anew.

Meade suggest that’s where we are. Politically, for example, we have almost 250 years of building a democracy worthy of its name, a democracy exquisite in its vision, but flawed from the beginning with its implementation. And then in the 60’s, you have the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement, the feminist movement, the free speech movement, the progressive education movement, the natural foods movement, attention to physical disabilities in the way we build buildings and so on. All that careful weaving that was pushing the moral arc toward justice.

And here we are in the unraveling. The resurgence of racism and rampant hatred and voter suppression as I write of black voters in Georgia, the continued abuse of women and a president mocking a brave one who speaks up, a plaid shirt guy who gives a questioning look at the President’s staged rally being forced to leave, schools reduced to tests and teachers asked to carry guns, a president mocking a disabled person and a long, long list of purposeful dismantling the carefully laid bricks of centuries of democracy. Or to return to the original metaphor, the rabid dogs we’ve let run loose unraveling the exquisite weaving and leaving it helter-skelter scattered on the floor of the White House and Capital Building.

We need to see this clearly, the what of what is happening. We need to think about it deeply and be clear about what lines it crosses in our own moral universe and feel the pain of finding our work so cruelly torn apart. And finally, we simply need to pick up the threads and start weaving again. Make a stronger, yet more luminous cloth and send the dog to obedience school. 

And of course, vote. Let's all get back to work.

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