To whom or what to pray?

Waiting with Pom

Sitting, waiting, lots of waiting, at the NC State Veterinary Hospital, for my next visit with “Pom,” my 11 year old Pomeranian. Pom is here for cardiological care and also surgery to remove a huge, cantaloupe-size – and we hope benign– tumor, which is attached to the outside wall of her chest, an ugly mass of red and purple “stuff” that is literally dragging her down.

Figuring I’d be here for several days, waiting in this room for visits with Pom and consultations with staff, I brought several books and this computer along for company. In keeping with the site and occasion, my first read has been Franz de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (NY: Norton), 2016. From it this quote:

“Yes, we are smart enough to appreciate other species, but it has required the steady hammering of our thick skulls with hundreds of facts that were initially poo-pooed by science. How and why we became less anthropocentric and prejudiced is worth reflecting on while considering all that we have learned in the meantime. In going over these developments, I will inevitably inject my own view, which emphasizes evolutionary continuity at the expense of traditional dualisms. Dualisms between body and mind, human and animal, or reason and emotion, may sound useful, but they seriously distract from the larger picture. (Emphasis mine) Trained as a biologist and ethologist, I have little patience with the paralyzing skepticisms of the past.” (5-6)

And a few pages later:

“Every species deals flexibly with the environment and develops solutions to the problems it poses. Each one does it differently. We had better use the plural to refer to their capacities, therefore, and speak of intelligences and cognitions. This will help us avoid comparing cognition on a single scale modeled after Aristotle’s scala naturae , which runs from God, the angels, and humans at the top, downward to other mammals, birds, fish, insects, and mollusks at the bottom. Comparisons up and down this vast ladder have been a popular pastime of cognitive science [and I would add, of Christian theology] but I cannot think of a single profound insight it has yielded.” (Emphasis mine) (12)

So here I sit — theologian, not ethologist or biologist; Christian theologian, not Jew or Buddhist or Pagan; Christian feminist theologian, unwilling to accept the patriarchal logic that has produced both the Platonic dualisms and the Aristotilian “scala naturae” (natural scale of value) secured as precious foundations of Christian thought.

This profoundly ignorant, ethically damaging, theology has been shaped by ruling class men on this planet and, both in and beyond religion, it continues to provide the philosophical and moral justification for the devaluation and subjugation of women and of all animals other than white privileged ruling class males of the dominant religious tradition and culture..

Indeed, this patriarchal logic – to be honest, this carefully, cunningly cultivated stupidity – undergirds the human insistence that other animals, all other animals, are inferior beasts when compared to human beings.

Waiting during surgery

Sitting here now, during Pom’s surgery, praying for her to come through, praying that the monster mass attached to her chest will be removed once and for all, praying for her recovery and her healing, praying for intuitive wisdom as well as medical know-how to help her heal, praying for some personal strength to come through this little moment of my own small life with my own small dog, yes, I pray with as much sincerity and fervor as I can muster or imagine!

But now really, to whom or what am I praying if not to the Great Deity of Patriarchal Logic, the Almighty Father of all those wretchen Dualisms, He who sits himself at the Top of the scala naturae? If not to Him, to whom or what am I praying today, in this moment?

I pray to the Source of Life, who is also the Spirit weaving her way into and through our dying,.

She is the Energy generating all faith and hope in the extraordinary Power of Love.

She is not really a “she” any more than a “he” — but here and now, in solidarity with women who are routinely overlooked entirely by serious male theologians and philosophers, She steps forward to greet me as a Sister, in this moment a dear little dog and a God/dess in her image!

But how is it that I write to Her, and talk with Her, and walk with Her?

Is she a “person”? No, not really, but yes.

She is not an individual, not a larger than life woman or female in some spiritual form. But at the same time She is terribly personal – an energy infusing my personal space, my personal body-self, my personal psyche, my personal sense of spirituality.

So when I pray, I am “inviting” Her energy into my life – and, in this moment, into the life of my dog – in special healing ways and, insofar as possible, I am opening myself to receive Her energy – and praying that Pom will also be opened to receive Her healing energy in this moment.

For me, “prayer” is a little more “active” – verbally and personally expressive – than “meditation,” which I experience more as a “letting go” of personal expression, words, images, and to some degree consciousness itself. This may be a grossly inaccurate understanding of meditation! I want to discuss this with Jan when we see each other in May.

I experience prayer and meditation as kindred spiritual practices – but I’m more confident in my ability to pray than to meditate.

Not as a scholar of spiritual practices, but rather simply as a human being who prays regularly and irregularly and meditates from time to time, I am certain that the best — most creative, effective, empowering — traditions of prayer and meditation assume non-dualistic and non-hierarchical experiences of whatever is most fully Sacred.  As a Christian, this places me alongside the mystics who, more often than not, have been dismissed as crazy, heretical, or evil by the standard bearers of Christian orthodoxy — charges to which the younger folk would respond with a shrug – and an indifferent, “whatever.”

Indeed, whatever.  I completely agree with Franz de Waal’s cryptic indictment of Aristotle’s logic of hierarchal value, when he says: “I cannot think of a single profound insight it has yielded.”

 Waiting after surgery

Let it be so – that little Pom can be on her way home, to romp with Bailey, snuggle with Sue and me, prance through the woods, observe farm life among horses and kitties and spiders and snakes, eat chicken and yummy snacks, and touch everybody who knows her with a unique and special quality of a  gentleness that heals.

And dear sister Sophia, may I offer the gentleness our Pom deserves in return. Touch me with wisdom to know how to be present in ways that matter most to Pom, Bailey, Feather, the other horses, the kitties – and, lest I forget, the people as well.

Thank you, o God, for the blessing of Shelly Pom Pom!  And thank you, Pom, for the blessing of God!

May it be so.

Have a peaceful first night in recovery, my sweet Pom.

 

 

 

 

Connecting the dots…

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Rachel Maddow does it exquisitely — makes connections between facts. While this photo has nothing to do with Rachel, it’s an image of folks gathered to make connections just like she does.  It’s a picture from an NAACP gathering last year  in Brevard, NC.  But now, on to Rachel Maddow and the dots she is connecting.

If you think that Rachel strains to make links where none exist, be clear that you’ll find me right beside her, doing my damndest to grasp the likely significance of what she’s doing, and how she’s doing it.  Rachel fascinates and confounds me because I believe, with her, that Russia  snatched the election out of Hillary’s hands and landed it in the lap of a man who is no more fit to be President than my little dog Pom Pom, and is considerably more dangerous.

In her MSNBC nightly show and her blog, Rachel has discussed the likely quid pro quo deal made with Russia by the GOP — a deal reflected in the party’s 2016 platform, in which the GOP agreed to be silent about Russia’s aggressive  interests in Ukraine.  But in exchange for what?

Rachel has discussed the fact that Wikileaks ( a Russian-approved source of “rumors” popular with Putin) jumped right in with its dirt on the DNC immediately following the lackluster GOP convention last summer.  If the Republicans looked bad at this point, the Democrats had to look worse.

Rachel has called attention to the fact that, immediately after the release of the pussy-grabbing tapes, Wikileaks produced another batch of anti-Hillary materials in October, this time by attacking John Podesta.  Here again, if Trump looks sleazy, voters need to be reminded again of that bitch Hillary.

Rachel suggested that the latest Wikileaks a couple of weeks ago regarding the CIA’s spying on Americans through our Samsung smart TV’s, seems a likely response to the CIA’s persistence in raising questions about Russia’s meddling in the elections.  Important, isn’t it, to discredit the CIA before the beginning of the Congressional investigations into the Russia-Trump connections?

In the last few days, Rachel has raised the possibility of connections between Trump’s firing of Southern New York’s Attorney General Preek Bharara and the fact that this man had been investigating Russia’s Deutsche Bank, to which Donald Trump happens to be the largest debtor, and in which, until recently, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce,Wilbur Ross, was Vice-President.  Say what?

Rachel has pointed out that former Exxon chief, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State, is a favorite of Vladimir Putin, who gave him a distinguished award of some sort in the recent past. Strangely, since joining Trump’s cabinet, Tillerson has become quiet as a church mouse, almost as if he’s been muffled, and the State Department seems to be disappearing, an outcome Putin would love. What is Tillerson doing, and why?

And the list goes on — connecting the dots between Trump’s puzzling bromance with Putin throughout his campaign and into his presidency, talking on and on about his admiration for Putin, even publicly calling on Wikileaks to leak more damaging material about his opponent, Hillary Clinton, whom Putin hated.

And now, we’re invited to notice Trump’s initial choice of the “alternate fact” loving Gen. Michael Flynn — a man with a serious attachment to Russia — as National Security chief, Trump’s lingering loyalty to Jeff Sessions who lied to the Senate about meeting with the Russian ambassador, the mysterious comings and goings last summer of Russia-loving Paul Manafort, Brexit leader Nigel Farage’s attachment to Trump and to Wikileaks’ Julius Assange, the trip to Russia by a Trump campaign leader and businessman Carter Paige, the real estate dealings of son-in-law Jared Kushner and his whole family, and Trump’s ties to several Russian billionaires, including a man who bought a home from him in Florida for the sum of $100,000,000 several years after Trump had purchased the home for $40,000,000.  The figures themselves confound normal people!

Dots… connecting puzzling characters, silence and secrets, political ends and political means, money and more money and lots and lots of money, and for what?  All the while this nation and other nations are being constructed bit by bit along parallel tracks of lies and more lies, in which — to quote George Orwell’s 1984,  “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”

But why bother with the elusive Russian connection when, every day, some ridiculous Trump tweet, damaging edict, or Congressional bill is launched which we must resist together  in strong, savvy ways?  And no doubt we must.  Creative, angry, loving Resistance must be our priority, as we do what we can one day at a time.

BUT — and this is key — if Russia essentially stole, bought, or somehow snatched this election, we have at least three major problems:

(1) We are putting up with a pretender, a fake president, who must be stopped.  Likewise, Pence, Bannon, Miller, Conway, Priebus, Sessions, Tillerson, et al  must go with him.

(2) There’s no reason to believe that Russia is going away.  To the contrary, there’s every reason to believe that Russia is currently infusing our nation and this globe with its own particular poison, manipulating us and other nations toward its own ends of empire-building and, most horrifically, in  Bannon’s post-modern lingo, the “deconstruction” of liberal democratic societies. It’s an open secret that Russia is doing the same thing in several European nations right now — the Netherlands, France, Germany; and has its eye on Asian nations like Japan.

(3) This sort of social mayhem will  grow only more damaging and insidious until it is stopped.

To stop it, we need the press and media to be courageous and relentless in speaking the truth.

We need our Congresspeople and Senators to develop some spine and begin speaking truth to power rather than buckling before the boss –and we need to insist that they do this.  If they don’t, we need to get rid of them asap.

With each other’s encouragement, we need to build the Resistance, which we are doing.  Good things are happening!  In it all, we need to be strong, resilient, non-violent, compassionate, good humored.  We need to take care of ourselves and nourish our most angry, loving spirits. We need to be patient with ourselves and one another, because we have no way of knowing how far ahead this road stretches.

And, of course, those of us with faith need to keep it!

“Otherwise, fine.”

Today I met over coffee with an immigrant family and a non-immigrant friend, Judy, in which we organized a visit of local families to our farm, where the kids can pat, groom and maybe ride a horse, play ball and other games, and we all can picnic — immigrants and non-immigrants together, adults and kids, neighbors, getting better acquainted  during this stressful historical moment.

Our conversation, in Spanish, English, and (in my case) a bit of ‘Spanglish,’ was delightful. We laughed a lot and had a lovely time making our plans — 3 adults and 4 kids, ranging from 7 to 16.  But beneath our words and smiles ran an unmistakable undercurrent of worry and anxiety.  What will happen in coming weeks and months to families like this — loving, hardworking neighbors from Mexico and other places beyond our borders — borders which have been drawn arbitrarily over time  as national boundaries always are designed — borders separating neighbors, dividing families, arbitrarily… What will happen?

We didn’t mention Trump.  We didn’t have to.  His mean-spirited, contemptuous presence invades our space, whoever we are, wherever we go, with whomever — if we are Mexicans or other Latinos, Muslims or Jews, feminists or womanists, African-Americans or Native-Americans, LGBTQ men or women, sick people or old people, people with disabilities or special needs, labor organizers, educators, health care providers, journalists, poor people, socialists, progressives… or allies to these various groups. We are individually and communally battered and bruised by this brute of a man who was elected president or — as increasingly seems to be the case —  who grabbed the presidency with a little help from his Russian allies, within and beyond the boundaries of the United States.

After our Mexican neighbors left our gathering, Judy and I shook our heads and, checking in, agreed — we’re both “fine.”

More truthfully, Judy said, hugging me, “I’m otherwise, fine.”

We sighed, because this pretty much sums it up these days — We’re “otherwise, fine.”

The greatest danger we face

It becomes clearer to me by the day that the most dangerous enemy we face daily is the purposeful assault on truth, fact, and honest presentation of what is real and what is not.
 
There will always be various interpretations of fact and history. However, the inevitable differences we bring to our understandings of what is true is in a different moral and political universe from the intentional LYING — some paranoid, some simply self-serving poppycock — that pops out of Trump’s mouth.
 
The rest of the Exec branch, Congress, and the Judiciary defend, ignore, or trivialize Trump’s pathological lying, to our great peril.
 
This is not something that can be tolerated much longer, without some national or international catastrophe or, even worse, our loss as a people of an ability to communicate with each other or to know ourselves, and one another, as people who seek truth.

Hoping to connect… can it happen?

Over the past five weeks, people have gathered every week, a couple of hundred at a time, to talk — about whether “strong women” are a threat or a blessing to us; about immigrants and refugees and how we go about living gratefully and graciously alongside them — and, these days, protecting them — as our neighbors; about racism as a community curse and what we can do about it; about our LGBTQ community and why queer folks generate such fear; and about religious bigotry — especially against Jews and Muslims in our midst and what we can do about it.  (We ought also talk about why Pagans are often subjected to harassment here in western NC and throughout rural America — and in time we will.)

 

These topics are  the first five in an 8-session series being sponsored in Brevard NC by our local NAACP in cooperation with several Christian congregations (protestant and catholic, white, black, Latino).

 

What’s been remarkable has been the outpouring of interest and energy by folks of different ages, men and women, eager to listen, willing to speak up, and committed to doing whatever needs to be done not only to resist  Trump but to re-make our communities and, by extension, our country in a strong spirit of mutuality.

 

Genuine mutuality involves listening to others, speaking up ourselves, and reaching out to connect with those who may be quite unlike us in any number of ways — including politically — and an openness on each person’s part to being touched and changed in ways that may surprise us.

 

Be clear that building such relationships doesn’t mean giving up on our values or basic commitments to justice and fairness for all.  But it probably does mean  coming to new understandings of who we are, what we believe and value, and why; and of coming to new understandings of the “others,” whoever they are.

 

We NAACP folks are hoping to help build a second series next fall, one to be shaped with those “others.”  How this can happen, or if it can, remains to be seen.  But it’s a real hope that many of us progressives share here in the NC mountains.

Raging on — and taking good care

A good friend wrote me yesterday that he’s concerned about the “rage” of such columnists as Charles Blow and Paul Krugman. He says he realizes they are both “morally and politically correct” and that he shares their rage.  But my friend is concerned that relentless rage will pull us down and weaken our resistance to Trump.
Here is the gist of my reply:
I don’t believe these men’s outrage is a “politically correct” response to Trump, though I do believe it’s both a politically savvy and morally grounded response —perhaps because I share it.
As a matter of fact, I receive the intense anger of such journalists and other public figures as a gift that empowers me to stay in touch, a day at a time, with how utterly bankrupt the Trump administration is by every important measuring rod, especially morally.   Regardless of what he and his gang do, their actions, including their words, reflect hate, divisiveness, violence, and contempt toward humankind and creation. There is no peace-making with such wickedness, and no desire for any reconciliation with it.
Being outraged is an emotional means of  steadfastly refusing to “normalize” Trump.  It is also, I believe, the only way to stay informed, engaged, and a constructive participant in building a creative, effective resistance.
For example, the “Time to Talk” series which the NAACP is holding in Brevard NC is steeped in community rage at Trump.   You feel it, you share it, and you have to respect it as a source of creative energy — whether in the life of a 10 yr old white boy trying to organize other kids, an 18 year old black girl with a mom from Sudan who is fighting this immigration ban, a 50 year immigrant from Jamaica, married to an American Jewish activist, who is organizing against racism, anti-Semitism, and religious bigotry here at home; or this 71 year old white feminist Christian who personally lives a charmed life and yet is furious fucking mad at what Trump, Bannon, et al are doing to our community, our nation, and our world.
Here in the beautiful Appalachian hills, we are meeting one another in a common determination NOT to falter in our rage as a root of love for America and the world, for this community and each other, and for God’s own inherent rage against injustice and hatred.
Still, I share your worry about whether we could drown in our rage. This is why self-care and care of one another must be our top priority.
Let me speak for myself: If not for dogs, kitties, and horses; if not for music and books and movies — and, yes, journalists like Charles Blow, Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristof, Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, Eugene Robinson, and many others;  if not for people like you to love and work and play with; if not for sacred moments of silence, walking in woods, humming songs,  reciting poetry that meets me through memory; and if not for good sleep (much of the time) and good food (most of the time), I surely would be swallowed up by rage.
But I am less worried about drowning in rage than about being lulled by time into an apathy of simply waiting to see what happens next.
I find myself wondering what others have been doing or thinking in the very early months and years of terrible times, like in Germany in the mid-30s, or Chile in early-mid-70s, or more recently in Hungary…
Please make sure you’re taking good care of your remarkably brave, bright, and loving self, my friend.  There is no one like you. Don’t forget — none of us can do it all, or do it perfectly, but each of us can do a little as well as we can — and that is enough.
Much love,
Carter

Sacred energy, rolling with waves

There seems to be a pattern or movement in living these days  At least there is for me.  Up and down, as if riding waves, rising up, then crashing or splashing or less dramatically floating back down for awhile, then up again we go.  Soaring high and sinking low, I find myself often in the company of friends, family, and neighbors who also are resisting Trump.

The pressure is intense right now to normalize our national crisis.  But no. With Charles Blow of the New York Times as eloquent as a human can be, and with millions of sisters and brothers, I refuse to accept anything about this presidency not only because I cherish who we are at our best as a nation but moreover, and more basically, because the Spirit of Justice-Love demands that we persist, regardless.

There are opportunities for activism everywhere.  Much of it is not only angry and impassioned; it is also creative, good humored, and hopeful.  I’m personally up to my eyeballs in the NAACP and Democratic Party, both primarily at the local level. In each, I’m  pretty far left and quite feminist, relative to many of my compatriots, especially here in the South. In both organizations, my primary commitment and assignment is to help figure out ways of connecting across historic and current divides — especially right now, divisions on the basis of religion, class, race, and age.

I believe strongly in the value of such outreach to people who don’t share my, or our, assumptions about God or the world, though I don’t expect (or even want) to reach Trump die-hard extremists, the white supremacists, the gun nuts, the women and gay haters, the Steve Bannons and Steve Millers of the hateful movement .

My interest is in touching base with people who really do want a just and loving world, people who really do value inclusivity and diversity,  people who are kind and intelligent. I want to communicate with people who do not agree with most liberals or radicals, Democrats or socialists, about how we might re-structure our political economy, or about the requirements for women’s reproductive health and freedom, or about what “religious freedom” means in relation to marriage equality, or about the Second Amendment’s hold on the imagination of so many gun-lovers, especially boys and men, in our society, or about how we humans really might interweave environmental and economic justice, wherever we are on planet earth.

There are so many issues and questions that could be fruitfully explored by people with different stories to tell and various perspectives to share.  This kind of coming together may hold a key to our ability as a nation to heal and move on beyond the trauma in this present crisis.

Right now it seems to me that riding these waves, day in and day out, is in some way preparing me to reach out.  I don’t know how, but I’m inclined to trust what is happening to me in the midst of this terrible crisis we share.  I believe that the riding of the waves, emotionally and intellectually and physically, in my waking and my sleeping,  reflects a spiritual challenge and opportunity — not to tense up but rather to roll into the rhythm — up and over and down, up and over and down — trusting myself and the energy animating me, propelling me to rise, and fall, and rise again.

I am confident that this sacred energy is securing our resistance and shaping our persistence, and I believe that this same energy is none other than the One who brings down principalities and powers, and so it will be.

An illegitimate presidency: not in our nation, you don’t!

No surprise here.  With the fall of Michael Flynn and reports that campaign aides in the Trump camp did indeed have contact with Russian intelligence during the campaign, it seems increasingly likely that Hillary Clinton’s loss was less to Trump than to Putin.  I don’t know what to call it — “criminal” sounds about right; so too does “treasonous.”

So here we are — living with what we may someday, perhaps sooner than we might imagine, know for sure was from the beginning an illegitimate presidency, ripped out of the peoples’ hands.  So, please, enough of the assurance by Democrats as well as Republicans that no one intends to “re-litigate” the election.  Why on earth not?  If we’re living in the midst of a scam, under the authority of a man who not only stole the election but is, certifiably I am quite sure, mentally ill, why not hold another election and try to do better next time?  Complicated? unprecedented? embarrassing? For sure.  But less catastrophic than a psychopath presiding over the demise of American democracy.

Let’s see if our legislators have the guts and will to take this challenge seriously.  Let’s see if GOP congressmen and women put country above party, the well-being of their constituents above their constituents’ votes.  Let’s see if judges and Supreme Court justices  have the courage to stand up to the Executive branch, and say — not in this nation, you don’t!

In the meantime, our resistance grows.  Hundreds of people in our little county in western NC are participating in public conversations on justice matters of all kinds.  Many thousands are marching for justice in Raleigh.  People in droves are piling into legislators’ offices.  Savvy, committed young people are wrestling with the possibility of running for office.  Teachers, environmentalists, immigrants, civil rights stalwarts, feminists and womanists, scientists, health care providers, musicians, writers, religious leaders, bakers, restaurant owners, hairdressers, truck drivers, lawyers, police chiefs, older and younger people, kids as young as 10 who are becoming organizers, women and men, gay and straight and bi and trans… are all showing up, speaking up, saying — not here, not in our town, not in this state, not in this nation, you don’t!

If folks wonder what “liberation theology” is, this is it — understandings of the Spirit that are rooted in our struggles for justice-love for all people and creatures.  “God” by whatever names is not “out there.”  She is right here, in the midst of our lives, compelling us to show up to stand with the most vulnerable, speak up on behalf of those without voice, and declare on behalf of us all — not in this nation, you don’t!

 

 

Resisting Trump: three lessons from horses — fear, balance, silence

Several days ago, I posted a piece about fear and my riding teacher Linda telling me, in response to my fear of my own horse, “As long as you’re afraid of that horse, she’ll scare you.”  I want to elaborate on on this matter of fear and on two other lessons I’ve learned from horses and the people who love them, lessons that help me live each day in relation to the terror that Trump is generating.

LESSON ONE:  FEAR.  What Linda meant was that, when our fear is irrational, when it is a learned response without any real basis, we do well to find a way through it — to take heart, to tap our courage — so that we can move on without the fear.  Linda did  not mean that we shouldn’t fear dangerous horses, people, creatures, guns, bombs, violence, any thing that threatens to hurt us or others.  Fear is a vital emotion that can alert us to very real danger — like the presidency of Donald Trump.  We should fear Trump, Bannon, Pence, Sessions, DeVos, Price, et al because they are threatening the well-being of our nation and world, especially the most vulnerable people and creatures.  But we should not fear those whom the Trumpites want us to fear:  refugees and immigrants, people of different colors, cultures, customs, religions, genders, sexualities, and languages, people who are “different” from us.  Indeed, as long as we are afraid of Syrian immigrants, they will scare us.  As long as we fear Muslims, they will terrify us.

But there is more.  As long as we progressives, feminists, radicals, socialists, and others  associated with the “left,” fear our more conservative and conventional neighbors, they will scare us.  Of course their homophobia, racism, sexism, or xenophobia should scare us — because it alerts us to very real danger.  But many of these more conservative women and men do not wish or intend to harm us — they do not realize the impact of their attitudes, their religious beliefs, or their votes.  They often don’t realize the significant difference between their honest intent and its harmful impact upon us or others.  If we can hold our fear lightly enough of these people’s attitudes and, for example, the impact of their votes — lightly enough to connect with them in a spirit of mutuality —  we and they can, perhaps, learn something about the other’s perspective and the other’s life. Is this learning, if it’s mutual, a way of beginning to heal a wound? I don’t know for sure, but I believe it can be a small step on the way of personal and social transformation.

I think of my friend whom I’ll call Sarah, a caring, creative, compassionate and very conservative woman.  She and I have something splendid in common — our passion for therapeutic horseback riding and its impact on kids and adults with special needs.  But Sarah’s a Southern Baptist, and I’m an Episcopalian who’s more of a universalist Christian, about as far removed from the Southern Baptist Church as a Christian could possibly be.  I don’t know for sure if Sarah and I could try teaming up to talk candidly about how our lives and our faith assumptions bump against, scare, and maybe even hurt each other.  But I do know for sure that as long as I’m afraid of Sarah, she’ll scare me.

LESSON TWO: BALANCE.  Something else I’ve learned from riding horses, an adventure I undertook about fifteen years ago, in my mid-50s,  is that you tend to be more balanced if you sit gently on the horse, holding lightly not tightly with your legs, and steadily not harshly on the reins.  The more balanced you are, the less likely you are to fall, and if you do fall, the more likely the fall is to be easy, the impact less brittle.

What, you may ask, does this horseback riding lesson have to do with resisting Trump? We need to be balanced in order to persist, in order not to burn out, and in order not to break apart physically or mentally or spiritually as we struggle for justice-love over the long haul.  We don’t yet know what will be involved in this struggle.  We have no idea how long it will be.  We can’t well imagine the difficulties we, and others, may encounter in the context of a presidency and a congress which, after just three weeks, are already lambasting us with lies and more lies to mask  incompetence, mistakes, madness, cruel policies and, I suspect, some terrible truths.

For example, I imagine that Trump and his campaign conspired with the Russians and Wikileaks and possibly even James Comey to darken public perceptions of Hillary Clinton so that Trump would more likely win the election.  Simply imagining this turns my stomach and causes me to tremble.  The very thought of such a plot, together with the evident ineptitude of our government to stop it, makes me feel like I’m falling…. If I were holding on tightly to my various needs and desires — for somebody, Obama, the CIA, the military, the courts, somebody to do something to stop this terrible coup that has happened — I would surely fall from my sanity.  I would break apart.  I would shatter.

As it is, I try to sit lightly and stay balanced — to take myself, my experiences of what is going on and my perceptions seriously, but not in ways that are final or fixed, tight or rigid.  I sit lightly by staying informed but not dwelling upon the news 24/7.  I stay balanced by praying/meditating, especially walking in the woods with my dogs, working and playing with my horses, listening to and playing music, going to movies and concerts, reading mysteries, eating sensibly most of the time, and yes working with friends and colleagues in whatever ways we can to generate kindness and justice, healing and hope, through organizations and movements committed to resisting everything that Trump stands for.

LESSON THREE: COMMUNICATION IN SILENCE.  One day, as I was struggling in vain to get my horse Red to obey me, Linda yelled across the arena to me, “Communicate with your horse, Carter!”  So seminary teacher that I was at the time, I began to talk to Red:  “Stop it! Quit that!  Come on, girl!”  Linda heard me and yelled again, “Carter, I said, ‘communicate with your horse,’ not talk to her!”  Ah, I realized at once, and laughed.  So I shut up, I quit using words, and I began to signal to Red with my hands and legs, my seat and the posture of my body. Within seconds, Red and I were communicating back and forth and were totally in synch.

This is the most radical lesson I have ever learned about anything, including the Spirit I often call “God.” While words are useful, necessary, and can be beautiful, we use them too much.  We talk too much.  We listen too little; therefore, we often fail to communicate with each other what is most important, because it seldom can be spoken. Mystics have always known that God can seldom be spoken, and never spoken adequately.  That’s why music and art play such major roles in much religion.

But what, again, does this have to do with Trump — how we resist and how we survive this damaged and damaging man and his reign of terror?  I believe, my friends, that we need to be able to listen — listen not only to those people we trust, some good journalists (and there are quite a few), our friends and mentors, and people who are “different” from us in so many ways, but also listen in and through silence.  There is so much chaos and noise coming from so many places right now.  We need to get outside the noise and listen to the silence.

So much of the noise is lies and “alternative facts”.  Could it be that in silence we will hear the truth and come to understand what, in fact, is happening? We will hear the spirits of earth and universe, of our fellow creatures? And we will hear the voices of those humans who’ve gone on, those whose spirits are here to guide us? those who come bearing the Sophia/Wisdom to show us what we can do and to empower us to do it?

Elizabeth Warren is MY Senator — and I live in NC

Over the coming weekend, I hope to write a bit more about the lessons I’m learning from my horses, because I truly believe the rest of creation has a great deal to teach us humans — more than we have to teach them.

Today, however, I want to share my politically fired up response to current events in the United States Senate.  I share this message, which I sent NC Senators (Richard Burr and Thom Tillis) today:

Well, Senator, if you get tired of hearing from folks like me, just imagine how we feel about waking up each day to yet another report of how feckless you and your GOP colleagues are in relation to the well-being of the people of the United States and especially the people of N.C.

The silencing of Elizabeth Warren — and not her male colleagues (who, even as I write, are reading the aloud the important letter from Coretta Scott King) — will stand out as a low point in the history of the U.S. Senate. What on earth could possibly have motivated your behavior, Thom Tillis, and that of Sen. Warren’s other colleagues last night? 

Sen Warren had, and has, every right to read a statement from one of the great moral voices of our time. There is no “rule” that should ever take precedence over a Senator’s efforts to take seriously her or his responsibility for moral leadership, which is exactly what Elizabeth Warren was doing, and does again and again, in the U.S. Senate.

Although I live and vote in N.C., I consider Elizabeth Warren to be MY Senator, because in terms of moral authority, she most certainly is. Shame, shame on you, shame on Mitch McConnell and shame on the rest of the GOP.

As for Jeff Sessions, if he’s confirmed, many of us will spend a great deal of time, money, and energy opposing the Attorney General’s well-documented racism, sexism, homophobia, contempt for immigrants, and all ’round bigotry.  Thanks to Sen. Warren’s efforts — and your hostile and hateful response — the larger world now knows what a bigoted man Sen Sessions is to his bones.  His nomination is yet another abomination from our sadly crazed president who, in the words of Jesus, referring to those who crucified him, does not know what he’s doing.

You will hear from me, and thousands more like me, repeatedly, until you do something to safeguard the well being of all the people, not just the rich white Christian men who applaud you.