Holding On

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[Prefatory note: This post doesn’t have much to do with yoga, directly. It is just a meditation on our place and time. There are connections that can be made to yoga, in terms of “joining together,” in terms of ethical behavior of human beings to each other, but I just needed to focus on what has happened and how I feel about it, and I’m putting it here simply because I want to put it out there, this morning.]

If the United States of America were a house, a mansion, then one might imagine it as a lovely place, elegantly sculpted, near once quiet river ‒ lovely but beginning to fray, to show signs of becoming run-down. And the family that owns the place has fallen out with each other and there are places in the house which have been shut down, and which harbor frightened people. And terrible things happened during the construction and the early years of this house, and some of the people in the house, those who were trodden on in the building of the house, harbor their resentments, and now there is another multiple murder in the house and this has thrown the occupants, and the ruling family, into confusion and terror. There are bands of men roaming around in the neighboring counties which hate the family that owns the house, and it is feared they will launch an assault. And meanwhile directly outside the river has overflowed its banks from recent remarkably violent rains, and the now the floodwaters are invading the foundation. On the other side of the hill there’s a fire raging.

This is not a pretty picture, I know. I know. I wish we could say that the United States of America was strong in adversity, that we are truly united, and that we could be optimistic about its future. I yearn for some kind of optimism. Perhaps there are some wonderful, energetic people in our imagined house who remain optimistic enough that they help each other, who help out where and when they can.

Our history is a tough one. It seems as if the Europeans who first came here were desperate enough that they amassed what they could at whatever expense to other people, and this is a terrible, terrible legacy. One of our worst secrets is that the indigenous people here were so much destroyed and eradicated, that we don’t even consider that horror a part of our history, even today, because the survivors have so little power. In fact this holocaust is far from scrutinized, it is still our victory, how the West was won. At least we, the rulers, the white people, have to acknowledge what was done to the Africans brought here, because they retain some power by numbers. Still many of us want to pretend now that none of this happened.

And worst of all, we as a nation are confused in our designs on the world, in fact we still perpetrate these awful acts, bombing people from riderless death machines in the sky operated with no danger from our inner sanctums, and we think there is no karma. We think about protecting ourselves and protecting our assets. Again, metaphorically, it’s like we think we’re at a picnic in the middle of a beautiful meadow, yet if we look up, we're surrounded by our guards. What kind of picnic is this? There is fear in our bones; the guards themselves are terrified.

What can we do? Yesterday’s murders at Emanuel AME in South Carolina are in some sense another bout of karma, of chickens coming home to roost, of all our divisive racism becoming real. But it is so much more than that, in the moment. These are real people, not the subjects of imagination, and we do need to join hands with all who are grieving, and grieve these losses together.

Perhaps it is not hopeless, if we can join hands. Oddly enough, the basic ideas and ideals of these United States are noble, and worthy. Jeffersonian democracy is a lovely idea. There is so much of value in this old run down mansion still, and we do need to celebrate that. We must continue our repairs on this structure. You can see the vibrancy and the love in the faces of the people that died yesterday, in hearing the stories of how much they did with their lives. They were not beaten down, they were very alive. There is always the can-do feeling of people in this country. I recall a song from the dark days of the early civil rights movement, based on a few older songs, which included these words:

The only chain that a man can stand
Is the chain of hand in hand
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

When my son died a friend said to me, “I got nothin’.” That’s how I feel right now about this situation we’re in. I don’t have answers. Just as with Jesse, it is a tragedy and perhaps all we can do is rejoice in what was good about that person’s life, we can rejoice that there have been, and are, and will be beautiful, caring people in this world, but at the moment there is also so much sorrow, so many tears.

 

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