Bonnie Raitt sings in “All At Once” how a fight with her daughter escalated, I receive emails from various organizations about what the Tea Party didn’t say and should’ve about the Tucson tragedy, and the date today — with all those 1’s — makes me wonder how as a person and as part of a culture I could be one with others. Having had my own fights with my daughter and my own failings as part of a community, the task seems impossible. The rhetoric in our culture incites us, even in light of the damage we just witnessed born of divide-us-and-blame-the-other rhetoric of one color or another. Having had more than my fair share of inner and outing bitching over meaningless things, my personal rhetoric also imprints on me a sense of separateness.
Yet I know, when the wind sweeps me clear of my luggage for a moment, or when a tragedy such as what happened in Tucson breaks open my heart a little more how much of an illusion this sense of separateness is. Our hearts go out to the victims of the Tucson shootings — those who died, those who lived, those who loved any of them – because they are a part of us. In that light, I want to aim my mind and deeds more toward what can help me remember that connection, and how whatever divides us also damages us.
As someone who could easily be categorized (and has too often categorized myself) as a left-leaning, feminist, spiritual and religious, activist and so on, I’ve ridden these labels to the good and the bad. The truth is that sometimes I find great senses of oneness with unlikely suspects — evangelical Republicans, atheist scholars, macho rednecks even (and apologies for labeling them at this moment). When my heart is open, I more readily connect with others because I can more easily listen to what they’re saying in the greater context of “this is who this person is and what s/he struggles with at this moment” instead of as whether this person measures up to my artificial and somewhat arbitrary judgments.
I don’t know the answer to how to transform my own heart more permanently, only that this is the direction I need to live. I don’t know the best response for how to speak with those who seek to harm, even murder, out of such close-hearted divisions, only that whatever we’re doing isn’t enough, and there isn’t enough time to ignore what life is calling is to do as a culture. Having led and participated in many political fights that labeled one group as right and another as wrong, and knowing how hard it is to affect even a quarter-inch of positive change, the work ahead is daunting. Yes, it starts with me and my own heart, but it sure doesn’t end there.
Bonnie Raitt continutes to sing. “To me, there’s a lot more broken than anyone can really see/ Why the angels turn their backs on us is a mystery to me,” but then she finishes with, “All at once I hear your voice, and times just slips away/ nothing they can say can hold me here/ take me where I only feel the wind across my face/ let me know there’s some place there for me.” This is what oneness feels like to me: a voice that lifts us out of our everyday pettiness, lands us in a place beyond human time and where we know our connection with all else alive. So happy 1/11/11, everyone, and let’s let what oneness can be land in us and keep landing the rest of our lives.