Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Fear and Forgetfulness, Fun and Forgiveness

The day’s list was calling to me. Go through the nightmare of trying call Paypal to find out why it’s not working to transfer money to my bank, the equally unappealing need to check into online banking to see why last week’s deposit didn’t seem to register. 


But beginning with e-mail as I do, I noticed Day 6 of the Collective Trauma Summit and the enticing title of Healing Racialized Trauma Through Joy and Fantastic Forgiveness. I made the wise decision of spending 50 minutes with Ruby Mendenhall, Nico Cary, Dr. Sará King and Dr. Andrea Pennington, four black healer-activists who took my breath away with the depth of their eloquence. I was typing furiously trying to capture sentence after sentence, each one with the capacity to open further thought and feeling to Mr. Everest proportions. 


In welcome contrast to the surface political correctness I keep seeing that drives me crazy, the tribalist mentality taking hold, the dogma that further separates and stops needed conversations, here were people deeply rooted in the dynamics of social injustice, the anger and grief and trauma and outrage of it all, looking at how to truly heal and re-connect, in their thinking, their feeling and their daily work. I imagine the next five posts will be inspired by those 50 minutes, but I’ll start with some quotes by Nico Cary with a few comments.


• Joy is a radical political act. Conversation about black life mostly is about black death. That needs to shift.


The poet Hafiz says, “Fear is the cheapest room in the house” and that’s where the daily news wants us to live. To face the horrors of the daily news head on and emerge with joy is a task far beyond even the best of us. So we need to temper it with cultivating joy within ourselves and in our work and in our relations with others. My own unsupported-by-the-facts optimism comes from teaching with joy, unleashing joy in the classroom, be it with children or adults. 


• Whiteness as a construct is the highest concentration of fear and forgetfulness swirling in an endless feedback loop. Blackness is the co-emergent availability of love as something to know and be and experience. 


The capacity for black people to forgive in the face of everything that’s been done and continues to be done is both inspiring and extraordinary to me. As Dr. Sará coined it “Fantastic forgiveness.” And looping back to joy, I would add “fun” to the list of black culture’s gift to humanity, embodied in the legacy of jazz and musicians like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea. (Chick was not literally black, but embodied the black construct of jazz. In the world of healing, we are all co-present in each other and whiteness can be present in black bodies and minds and blackness in white bodies and minds.) 


The white construct of fear and forgetfulness built the narrative that brought fear to the forefront for so many millions, both the people of color who lived under the fear of colonialism and the white folks taught to fear the humanity of the black folks. Forgetfulness of our innate connection to the natural world, to each other, to our own capacity for joy and beauty, was— and remains— a central tenet of the narrative that has wreaked so much havoc.


• Forgiveness begins with the radical acceptance of just how entangled you are in the theft of bodies and land, when your inheritance in that catastrophe is revealed and you cry the tears of a body, mind and soul that finally knows itself to be in deep violation and dissonance with that which you really are. 


 Read that sentence many times. Slowly.


• Healing is what happens when we are no longer so identified with our fear and suffering. My work is opening portals to people’s own healing, not getting healed, but being their own healing. Where do you experience freedom in the body? When does the world feel alive to you?My job is to build as many portals as possible for people to enter the sacred space of truly seeing who they are and who we are.


 Boom! He hit it! That’s my job as well and off I go to work with 7th and 8th graders, offering a portal into their sacred selves.

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