“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
(The above quote, often attributed to the Talmud, is a loose translation of commentary on a portion of the Pirke Avot, which is itself a commentary on Micah 6:8. See Wisdom of the Jewish Sages: A Modern Reading of Pirke Avot by Rabbi Rami Shapiro.)
The words above landed in my inbox weeks ago, courtesy of a friend, and they have been simmering in the soup of my soul ever since.
I find them particularly relevant and meaningful today, as I continue to reflect on and “be with” the information and research presented by our history committee, on Redeemer’s role in the institution of slavery.
We cannot change the Past.
And/But the Light of Truth, as it shines backwards in time, can illuminate our Present, and inform and guide our Future.
There’s a saying and a practice from the world of community organizing, that we periodically have to “disorganize” in order to “reorganize”.
It makes me think of times in my life when I have decided to finally deal with something I’d been putting off dealing with – say, my wardrobe closet. Keeping this space “fresh” and “alive”, reflective of and resonant with my present life, requires me taking everything out, looking at and considering items under the light, giving away or recycling that which no longer serves, and choosing to keep with intention that which remains life-giving, thus opening up room for more space to breathe and something new to enter in, as needed and desired.
This process takes time and consideration, stirring up memories and stories, some simple, some complicated; old identities and affiliations; former roles and hobbies.
What is essential? What is it time to let go of? What inner work — soul work — is required to make space for that which is Living and Alive?
For many years, I worked with a spiritual director who would respond to my angst-filled questioning, “What does God want me to Do about this particular situation?” with a gentle, Yoda-like correction:
“The first question Cristina is not ‘What does God want me to Do with (about) this?’ but rather ‘How is God inviting me to Be with this?’ Then let your Doing flow out of your Being …”
Easier said than done, especially for any of us who pride ourselves in being Doers! And yet, with practice and intention, I have found her wise counsel to be life-giving.
One thing I can say for sure, as I continue to Be with the Truth of the Illusion of Separateness that Racism Is — and how our city’s neighborhoods were created out of/from this Illusion, through housing policies and practices that were racially discriminatory: I am moved to act in ways that will create a future different from our past; ways that build One Baltimore instead of perpetuating Two.
How is God inviting You to Be with all of this? And from this Being, what might God be inviting You to Do?