Hueman adaptation and the power of touch

Is it time to have the conversation about adaptation, our quintessential nature? Huemans of every color and persuasion have become increasingly connected, resulting in a dawning awareness of our inescapable togetherness. Frightening, apparently to many. Re-cognizing our shared humanity will move us through this dark cloud of fear, the deep and abiding lack of trust in ourselves and each other. It is more than a journey of faith, it is the embrace of our wholeness. It is the way forward.

In the meantime, we have created a nightmare we can’t seem to wake up from. Swinging between self-loathing and hatred of whoever’s handy, our endless wars will keep the savvy interplanetary traveler at bay, until we admit we’re all in this together and stop fighting. Those who think they exist above the rabble are still a part of us, there truly is no escape. As human beings, we have always relied on our adaptability for survival.  Adapt and evolve or decline and die. That’s our choice and it affects the entire world.

We have been trained to hate each other.  Perched on the fulcrum between animals and angels, huemans are clearly confused. Everyday we choose to express our bestial or spiritual natures. Like toddlers who hate a particular vegetable, we hate someone for the color of their skin. We don’t even question the absurdity anymore. Dominant white European/American cultures have assumed the role of planetary antibodies, attacking  “invaders”who dare threaten their empire. White people (I am one) have some heavy karma and we need to face it. Time to truly make amends.

The movie Arrival raises the specter of what can happen when more evolved beings come a calling.  There are many things I love about the movie: the way Dr. Louise Banks used her intuition to communicate with the visitors; learning their language and evolving beyond linear time; the way our hands and the 7 fingered others bring our mutual sense of touch to the foreground. I also really liked the army listening to a smart woman who kept us from destroying ourselves. A winning strategy we should try more often.

Touch lights the path to intimacy, feeling and empathy. In Arrival, Louise’s intelligence and her sensitivity allowed her to access the complex language of advanced, alien beings. She dared to trust her feelings and accept her vulnerability. As a result, she evolved. It gave her the courage to have and to love a child, even though she knew her daughter would fall ill and die too young.  Her husband was not able to accept this impossible choice and left, unwilling to deal with his own vulnerability and heartbreak.

In the movie Moonlight, we see Chiron (aptly named) trying to stay alive, bullied for being gay, chased and beaten whenever his persecutors could catch him. Touch, for him, was not tender.  Intimacy came wrapped in shame, when his first kiss turned into betrayal and more pain. Even the love of his mother was tainted by her addiction and neediness.  When he was taken in by Juan (a drug dealer) and his girlfriend, Teresa, Chiron found temporary refuge from the consuming hunger of his body and soul.

Juan took him to the beach for the first time and taught him to swim, his baptism into trust. Imperfect love is love nonetheless, and Chiron was starved for human tenderness.  While he quit his friendship with Juan, after realizing that he supplied his mother with the drugs that were killing her, Chiron found ongoing refuge with Teresa, who provided sanctuary and acceptance, no questions asked.

Chiron’s sexuality and his blackness (shining indigo in the silver light of the moon) mark him as a dangerous other.  When he finally attacked and beat the bully who tormented him, he went to jail and transformed his body to remove any trace of the vulnerability that haunted his childhood.  After his release, he took the path of least resistance and started dealing drugs, claiming respect and money, burying his emotions and his sensitivity.

That changed when his first love and childhood friend, Kevin reached out to him and they met at the diner where he was the cook.  Over a blue-plate special and a bottle of wine, they reconnected.  One was a father and both were ex-cons, living on opposite sides of the law. One of the most moving scenes in the film is Chiron’s confession that he never let anyone touch him after his night on the beach with Kevin, many moons ago.  He was so vulnerable in that moment and Kevin felt it.  He reached over and took Chiron’s head onto his shoulder and held him, stroking his hair.  Touch can heal a heart hard as glass, ready to shatter at any moment.  We fear our vulnerability, but without it there is no comfort, no connection.  It’s time to take care of each other and knock down the walls of fear and hatred.  Adapt, people. We’re all in this together.

Parousia? God – dog spelled backwards?

What options are available for those of us who are unaffiliated non-non-believers? Is there a growing proportion of “Spiritual but not Religious” members among us? Do even avowed agnostics find occasion to pray?

Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness, © 1969
The Agnostic’s Prayer

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

For weeks I’ve been mulling over what God and therefore prayer means to those who do not ascribe to a particular faith. I tend to prefer the Smörgåsbord approach, sampling tastes of the divine as the occasion allows. Which brings me to parousia: Greek for coming, arrival, personal presence and is often used to describe the second coming of Christ. The experience of the living light has moved me to tears, to poetry and to deep and abiding love. So, like the tree in the forest which may or may not make a sound if it falls and no one is there to hear it, can we be grateful to that which is largely unknown and only occasionally recognized? Is it, as the Navajo say, “In Beauty it is Finished.”

Or could it really be this simple?

Finding joy in the season

I’ve spoken to a number of people who suffer from holiday fatigue, worn out by the demands of our season of giving. What has traditionally been a time of peace, reflection and honoring the shift from longest night to brighter days is now über LED lit. The story of the holy family finding refuge in a stable and the birth of a baby who would be the embodiment of God is heartwarming, evoking rich, nostalgic memories. Growing up in Heidelberg, Germany during  Weihnachten contextualized the celebration of Christmas Eve within the tradition of Advent. The preparation, a month in advance with ceremonial lighting of candles, fasting and stories leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus gave Christ Mass substance and historical and spiritual flavor. Gifts were part of the festivities but the mystery of the incarnation thrummed in the background. While I didn’t spend much time thinking about it as a child, the scent of frankincense and flickering candles cast a spell that hymns and priestly incantations wove like a warm blanket to ward off winter’s chill.

Now we are not young, our myths are in tatters but a germ of kindness, of love remains. As Eric Fromm says, the means (consumer production) has become the end. Armand Baker has posted a lecture on Fromm’s The Art of Loving which affirms love in life rather than in possession. The theme of mature love will be explored more fully in another post.

In researching advent traditions I discovered The Advent Conspiracy and made contributions in the name of my family members to people none of us know who need fresh water. Living water, another Christ motif. I am reminded that this is the season of endings and beginnings. Remembering loved ones in holiday’s past can bring love and sorrow together. If we are blessed to have the experience of a loving family, our gratitude can lay the foundation for hope, health and the capacity for innocence throughout our lives. The inner baby remains intact.

Having just watched Ricky Bobby in Taledega Nights praying to the baby Jesus, the solution seems simple. This is the time for us to be quiet, to listen for the return of the light and to keep our inner baby happy. As we celebrate the child who fulfilled a promise of spiritual renewal, so should we take the time and care to love the baby in each of us. Just as fresh water is a gift to quench the thirst of those who need it, loving the baby in every pair of eyes we meet, be they human or animal can generate spiritual warmth in this chilly holiday season. Wishing you all the peace and happiness your baby self can enjoy.

NPR submission to “This I Believe”

I believe that we are here to become Humane Beings.

We are born, one cell of the body human, comprised of some trillion individuals who are you and me. In asking the question, “Who is God?” I have stumbled into my humanity, accepting the call to evolve as a Humane Being. Embracing the whole of myself, the extremes of good and bad, means embracing all of you and knowing that we are one. It is by God’s grace and through my heartfelt prayers that I begin to understand.

I believe that love and compassion are more than smiling at a lonely grandmother at the grocery store or giving money to the homeless person who asks for help on the corner, although these acts of kindness are acts of evolution. I do know that love does NOT mean never having to say you’re sorry and that forgiveness is one of the most important things you can do for yourself or anyone else. I believe war is a nightmare that we must wake up from, that my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother lost all they had in wars except their love.

I believe when we understand that you are just as important as I am that we will become more considerate of one another. And as we respect all the wonderful beings that share this Earth, we will come to know that God is God in any language and that God loves us all, as we are part of God’s own being. When we understand this, our evolution as Humane Beings will begin unfolding in ways we can only dream of. Listen to your dreams as they light the pathways to the wisdom of your Soul.

I once had a dream that I was swimming against a powerful current, losing ground but knowing that around the next bend there was shelter. As I thought to call out for help, a large hand grasped mine from beneath the water, holding me still against the rushing water. It was warm and comforting, holding my hand like a child’s. Suddenly, two more hands came from behind and pushed me up above the river. As I looked down to see who it was that helped me, a bright white, living flame came rising out of the water from the center of a brilliant azure circle and entered into my heart. I said, with utter sincerity, “I love you so much.” The words I spoke were simultaneously spoken to me inside my heart and in every fiber of my being. Feeling this love and acceptance so deeply healed me and helped me to realize that we are all beloved.

The evolution of heart and of mind occur in God’s time and place, in many lands and in many people, who will slowly change the way we understand and practice our humanity. We will become more Humane Beings when we understand that we are a part of All that Is, and no longer apart.