The stories we tell and a word about hope
The fuzzy image, captured on a cellphone, of a black man slumped over in his seat, after being shot while reaching for his wallet. The voice of his girlfriend, which remains flat and the obvious panic in the voice of the officer. The scrolling of names and images of the 49 killed in Orlando. The picture of a casket draped in a flag, with a teary eyed child slumped over it, mourning the death of his father, a former police officer in Dallas. The fiery voice of a Presidential candidate booming Orwellian ideas about banning Muslims and building a wall on our Southern border.
Those are the sights and sounds of 2016 so far and they are horrific. They are all things I never thought I would see or hear in my life time, things that continue to baffle and haunt me.
It is undeniable: 2016 has been a terrible year. But is that all that is going on?
I like to take the long view in life, to pan out and look at the big picture. When I do that, I see a larger story playing out.
My life, and this blog, is dedicated to the Great Turning, the idea that humans are currently in a time of transition, a massive, global shift from a life-defeating society, one that breeds division and disconnection, one that gives credence to financial gains above all else, one where black lives or poor lives or Latino lives do not seem to matter, to one that is life sustaining, where we move beyond our ideas of divisions and separation and see our deep, implicit connection and interdependence upon all of life.
There is evidence for the Great Turning everywhere: There are more people then ever engaged in positive change, more people dedicated to service on behalf of their idea of the greater good then ever before. Countries around the world have signed onto a Declaration of the Rights of Nature. And, believe it or not, violent crime has been dropping since the early ’90’s.
The thing about the Great Turning is it is happening with the Great Unraveling, which is the collapse of the life-defeating society. It is the way that things are falling apart and they are all going to hell. It is the absolute, heartbreaking mess of 2016.
These two forces– of the Great Turning and the Great Unraveling–are bound to happen in conjunction with each other. They are the age-old cycle of death and birth, the dynamic and tense forces of collapse and rebuild, chaos and re-ordering, destruction and construction. They are the expansion and necessary contraction of the flapping wings that enables a bird to fly.
Things will fall apart. They are falling apart. And as they fall apart, we will find new ways. And as we find new ways, there will be backlash and reaction and they will fall apart more. And again, from the rubble, we will find new ways.
This is the mess of 2016. It is a reaction to real and legitimate change. North Carolina’s regressive “bathroom bill” is a reaction to it’s largest city Charlotte passing a law that would ensure dignity and safety for transgender folks. Donald Trump is a reaction to President Obama, who, although not perfect, represents a real shift in power dynamics in our country.
Change is happening, and when that happens, everybody has a different reaction. Some embrace it. Some ignore it. Some try to control it. Some try to guide it. And some, sensing the terrifying reality that their relationship to the world is changing, are gripped by fear and dig their heels in deeper. To some, change will always be terrifying, equality will always feel like oppression and the way things were will always be better than an unknown possibility.
It is vital to remember that we always have a choice about how we respond to change. We get to choose our framework. We get to choose whether we see things getting better or falling to shit. There is evidence for both of these scenarios, the Great Turning or the Great Unraveling, and we get to decide on the story we live in.
My biggest fear in that many of us will forget that, that we will comply with the story our mainstream media obviously chooses and live only in the story of Great Unraveling, and that it will feel too big and overwhelming for us to grapple with and we will throw in the towel. I know that, this summer, I have felt myself wanting to do so.
It is always important to orient towards hope. It is even more important to orient towards hope when times feel bleak. In response to this concern, I have decided to write a series of articles on hope. things I find hope in. Practices to cultivate hope and how t0 translate it into action. How to take heart in when all feels hopeless. This article is the beginning of that.
I want to end on that note of hope by sharing one of the ways I orient myself towards hope: I look for evidence of the Great Turning. Amidst disaster, I look for the ways humans are starting to reweave the tatter threads of our connection. Like how, while some police departments are clamping down tighter, some are finally having a conversation about the brutality that has been happening all along. Or how I finally see elected officials talk about healing and more white folks finally acknowledging their privilege. Or, in the face of tragedy, although a small portion use it to drive division, the majority of us reach for connection, unity and love.
Help spread the hope! If you enjoyed this, please pass it along via email or sharing it on Facebook. And leave me a comment: how do you stay hopeful?