Covid quarantine has given me lots of time to listen, to think and to read and in so doing begin to shape a philosophy for the last years of my life. A favorite Spiritual author, Richard Rohr, quoted: “As we experience discomfort in this time, let’s begin to dream of a new normal, a new normal that addresses the weaknesses and problems that were going unaddressed in the old normal. If we’re wise, we won’t go back; we’ll go forward.” —Brian McLaren.
McLaren addresses our thoughts on the “new normal”. We can’t go back to what was and everything we experience changes us. How comfortable will any of us feel walking through huge crowds of people, for example? Or attending sporting events like the State Basketball tournaments in Montana? Church worship is being tweaked to better meet the needs of people who don’t want to sit shoulder to shoulder in the pew anymore. In meeting the needs of friends, neighbors and family we will have to adjust and not just assume our way is the only way. Loving, sharing and caring requires us to follow the old saying, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It is a two-way street.
Visiting with a friend of the same age recently we observed that as we came to adulthood in the 1960s we were surrounded and influenced by the Civil Rights leaders of the Black Rights movement of that time. Our eyes were opened to “Jim Crow” laws, separate drinking fountains, restaurants, swimming pools and bathrooms. There were people who still tried to tell us that it was a “separate, but equal” nation. Just read the book “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett to quickly dispel that myth. But there was a beginning and my formative years were part of that time.
Now we are moving into Phase Two of the Civil Rights movement when the laws that were passed and the promises made must be fulfilled. My own perceptions need some upgrading as well. I am struggling with the meaning of “systemic racism” and what that means on a personal level. The other day I was writing something and I used the words “black and white” to mean “right and wrong”. I stopped as I realized that statement meant that anyone who was black is being told they were “wrong”. White is good, black is not. Sitting back I thought long and hard about my own mental wiring. Many of us have said, “I am not a racist.” No, you are not. But we have to remember that by virtue of being white skinned — something we can’t help — we are privileged and people look at us differently than someone who is black or brown-skinned. It cannot be helped. It is the way we are wired.
So, how do we re-wire. Through prayer; long, thoughtful moments of inner examination; and open, truthful discussions with family and friends.
I don’t know where to start or what to say.
First I will listen/read/watch. I will speak against injustice.
I don’t want to get it wrong or get called out.
I will make mistakes. No doubt about it. I will be grateful for the lesson.
It won’t make a difference what I do. Nothing is going to change.
Things happen when I take risks and become part of something bigger.
I don’t get involved in politics. I don’t have time.
This is a human rights issue. This matters so I will make time.
Light differs from place to place. I think you especially notice light when you take pictures. Makoshika Park is one of the loveliest places to take pictures, but not at noon day when the light is flat or on a day that is overcast. There are wonderful colors and myriads of details in the formations and the wildlife and flowers, but you have to be out in the early morning or late afternoon or evening. That is when the light from the sun seems to catch the colors at their best and sharpens the details in nature.
Pictures of people’s faces have to be exposed to the light or you will only have a dark shadow where a face should be. Pictures need special attention — to the world, to your subject and to the play of light on the simplest things. The sunlight streaming in my windows at the house will create works of art out of my house plants, the dishes in the drainer, the patterns on the floor.
All of us in the colder climates love the winter sun on a frosty morning. The ordinary becomes a fantasy thanks to the light. Today, in the middle of summer, the sky is a cloudless, washed-denim blue. The shadows are on the west as the earth is moving slowly in its daily orbit. The contrast of green trees and vibrant summer flowers, is amazing.
In books of encouragement we are called in our darkest hours to always “look to the light”. See the details the light reveals. It is an intense Fourth of July this year. The pandemic is keeping us away from the light, away from people. Here in eastern Montana, while we social distance and wear masks, we can get outside in our yards, in the parks in our community, and in the countryside. In the midst of our frustration and anxiety, nature provides a way of holding on to the light.
Thinking of “light” today reminds me of the places where the light of freedom is growing dim. The pictures from China where the people of Hong Kong struggle to be free in the face of increasing military control are frightening. Or in Russia where Putin has controlled the elections, hardened his dictatorship and is always seeking to diminish the light of freedom elsewhere. Or in places in our own country where the right to vote is being limited in whatever ways the people in power can find. Those in power fear the voter. Fear lives in the shadows. Hatred cannot exist in the light. It is in the dark places where the free exchange of thoughts in the universal marketplace of ideas is prevented. The light of freedom is a natural light burning in each human being. It cannot be extinguished. One hundred years ago women finally won the right to vote. As one woman said, “They didn’t give us the right to vote. We took it.” For the light of freedom to keep burning we must remain alert to those who would suppress it and we must speak for those who are voiceless. The freedoms we cherish are universal, but for all to live in that light our determination must be relentless.
This morning my devotions had a verse from Lamentations 3.22-23: “The steadfast love of the Lᴏʀᴅ never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23). It is a good way to begin each day, to pause in the middle of the day, and to end the day. I have always liked the hymn based on this verse (Great is Thy faithfulness). "Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand has provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."