Thursday, November 23, 2017

happy thanksgiving for the new world a'borning...

Yesterday I returned from a three day retreat with the members of L'Arche Ottawa. What a grand way to prepare for the American feast of Thanksgiving. I have long cherished this holy day as a time to think and feel deeply about the blessings and curses we share in our complex history.  Not only is this our national harvest festival - a celebration that links us to the intuitive  wisdom of Mother Earth - it is often a family reunion. At the same time, as columnist Robert Jakubowicz notes in today's local paper, Thanksgiving has gradually become a ritual reinforcing a "pleasant fantasy" of inter-racial cooperation and compassion that is fundamentally untrue. (check it out @:http://www. berkshire eagle.com/stories/robert-f-jakubowicz-fact-and-fiction-on-thanksgiving -day,525303?)  This feast has been dumbed-down into the lowest common denominator of abstract sentimental cultural gratitude. For many among us, it is just another excuse for self-satisfied over-eating. 



Maybe it is an affliction of age, but this year my soul yearns for a more honest - even paradoxical - celebration of Thanksgiving. I know we're not well-practiced with non-dual thought in this country, but I believe there is a new world being born within and among us. Woman are tearing down the foundations of patriarchy's humiliating objectification that has long rendered them powerless, violated and degraded. People of color are both banding together to call out American racism and forging new partnerships with people of good will by electing political servants committed to the common good. Across the barriers of gender and class, not only are conversations of trust taking place again, but hints of a new America are being discussed - one that arises from out the ashes of the current regime's mean-spirited dismantling of LBJ's  "Great Society" - to look a great deal like Dr. King's "Beloved Community." 



In other words, this present darkness is NOT the end of our story. As Valerie Kaur testifies:  this moment in our history is a womb, not a tomb. It is bringing to birth a new way of living together.  I thought of this often on the six hour journey to and from Ottawa last week. Thankfully, the rental car had Sirius Radio so I was able to listen to E Street Radio for most of my trip. Taking in two different Springsteen extravaganzas - a concert from Kansas City, MO in 1984 and another from Buffalo, NY in 2009 - opened me to nearly 7 hours of tears of rage, hope, solidarity, sorrow and gratitude. I felt the presence of my daughters in the music: we have been singing Springsteen songs together since they were were small - going to his concerts, too. Over the years I have watched them find ways to hold together the tensions of America's challenges in their hearts, lives, careers and loves with grace, humor and verve. Like the Boss sings, they have discerned how to live with both/and and rarely either/or. They bring me great hope as I settle into my quiet Thanksgiving Day feast.

This train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls
I said, this train dreams will not be thwarted
This train faith will be rewarded
This train hear the steel wheels singin'
This train bells of freedom ringin'




Same, too with the young assistants at L'Arche Ottawa - and the larger L'Arche community - who have crossed the seven seas to live out a season of serving one another in trust. Each day on our retreat I experienced young and old and in-between listening to one another with their hearts; not just with the ears or obvious senses, but beyond expectations in a spirit of trust. Around the various tables, this retreat gave me the chance to break bread with young women and men from Africa and India, Europe, Canada, South America and the USA. They were a living cornucopia of our best selves - and on Thanksgiving Day USA I gladly give thanks to God for them, too.

And when I finally returned home to Pittsfield, I was greeted by my sweet wife - and our goofy dog.  Being embraced by both (albeit in vastly different ways) was yet another reminder of the new world being born in the midst of my fears. We share a fragile but deep love that calls us to sacrifice and trust, listen and accept own our wounds rather than ignore or deny them. For in being real with one another, with God's help, our love ripens. It sustains us and shows us ways to make room to welcome the stranger, the vulnerable, the refugee and even the enemy. It is not perfect - it never will be be - for learning from our pain is part of the bargain of being a part of the new, non-dual world. Like Mother Theresa once said, "God breaks our hearts so that there is more room to love again."

This Thanksgiving Day, we will walk back into the tick-free woods with Lucie for the first time since April. We will cook together, listen to Arlo Guthrie and Carrie Newcomer - probably a bit of the Boss, too - and then feast in the spirit of the birthing that is taking place all around us and within us as well. Happy Thanksgiving, America:  may this moment take us deep.

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a spirituality of l'arche - part five

NOTE: I thought I would finish this series up earlier this week but on my way to some commitments, as John Lennon used to say, life happened...