“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” ~ Margaret Fuller
We have one week left of school. It’s always been a little odd for me to have a profession that ends and begins every year. I’m not sure how it affects the kids, except they seem to get a little bonkers about this time. Knowing the end is so close seems to bring up all kinds of conscious and unconscious feelings.
by Courage & Renewal Facilitator Caryl Hurtig Casbon
We've been working with clergy and congregational leaders over the last seven years in Courage to Lead® retreat series, where we often hear, "This is the kind of community I wish I could experience in my church home." This expression of longing is usually followed by stories of disappointing or superficial relationships in congregations, power struggles, a deficit of trust, misuse of power, and a lack in spiritual nurturance to boot. While we experience these challenges in our work places and other communal spaces, it is especially disconcerting to face these disappointing limits in church, where we turn to find meaning, a sacred place in community, and an enriching connection to the Divine. When I hear these comments, I know deep down that people want something else, something better, but they don't know how to create it or maintain it.
Parker writes that there are two ways the human heart breaks. Hearts can break open to more capacity for love and compassion or they can break into shards that cast hurt and violence into the world. Last Wednesday, Seattle faced a terrible tragedy that sadly illustrates both forms of heartbreak. A man shot and killed four people and wounded one more in a coffee shop. Fleeing on foot he fatally shot a woman before stealing her car and later shooting himself. The final hours of his own life exploded in shards like a hand grenade thus taking the lives of others with him.
Jo Ann Stremler was walking down the sidewalk when she heard the cries of the woman shot for her car. Ignoring the risk that the gunman was still present, she and another bystander ran to offer support to the woman and began CPR. As she held the dying stranger's hand she is quoted as saying, "Whoever you are, we are here. You are not alone." Stremler's action speaks to a heart broken open to love and compassion for a stranger in need.
This story breaks my heart.
These are trying times in Seattle. This tragedy is the latest in a string of horrific shootings this year. The victims and the shooters cut across lines of race, class, age and have taken place in different parts of the city and in broad daylight. What's shared is heartbreak: that which leads to pulling the trigger and that which ripples through the families and communities of both the killers and their victims.
How do we nurture our humanity that "we are not alone" and that we are all in this together?
How do we renew out commitment in words and deeds to build communities (to paraphrase the subtitle of Parker's latest book) worthy of the human spirit?
by Courtney Martin
The Applied Research Center has a new study out this week called Millenials, Activism & Race in which they look at what motivates young people to get engaged in their communities. They conducted nine focus groups in five cities and asked questions about politics, identity, and action. Their biggest takeaway was that young people cited their personal networks (neighbors, friends etc.) and families as their biggest influences to become engaged citizens.
It was May before my
to spring and
my word I said
to the southern slopes
missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see.
The poet A.R. Ammons grabbed me right at this start of his poem "Eyesight". How many of the 50 springs of my life have I missed? Like the year when I was launching my company? Or the spring when I was finishing my senior thesis three floors underground in the Princeton library?
I recently came across a stunningly beautiful short video by Shawn Reeder entitled Yosemite Range of Light. Using time-lapse photography matched with beautiful music, Reeder shares his artist's view of the natural world - a view that turned me to wonder, and curiously, left me with a sense of hope. It's hard to put my finger on why I felt hope at the end of the video. Perhaps it was the hope that, if humanity wakes up to the beauty around us, we can preserve and protect our natural world. Perhaps it was a more personal hope, a hope that nature can and will continue to restore and renew my soul.
by Courtney Martin
Part of healing democracy is, as we've been almost exclusively focused on, about creating dialogue between people. Another essential ingredient when it comes to strengthening our public and political spaces is about education. Sometimes we learn about civics from conversations between neighbors and friends. Sometimes--particularly in this day and age--we learn about it via the cheapest teacher in the world, the internet.
by Courtney Martin
In a robust democracy the likes of which we are trying to create, there is room for everyone's bright ideas about fostering dialogue. That's why we've been so excited to run across so many different approaches to strengthening the public life as of late. One of those approaches is Living Room Conversations, formed in the last couple of years to promote more civil dialogue among people with differing political ideologies. Their goal is to create conversations that root out that shared space--the overlapping circles in the old Venn Diagram--where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground. Here's a bit more about their model:
by John Fenner
How are we, as members of communities of faith, called to welcome the stranger?
In previous posts I introduced the Habits of the Heart as described in Parker Palmer's Healing the Heart of Democracy , pondered their importance to healthy congregations, and explore the first habit, the understanding that we're all in this together. In this post I'll explore the second habit: An appreciation of the value of "otherness."
by Rose Yu, Assistant Director
I couldn't help laughing out loud throughout Margaret Atwood's New York Times piece entitled, "Hello, Martians. Let Moby-Dick Explain." Her humor helped illuminate a painful truth that our culture worldwide continues to devalue women and girls. No wonder we continue to exploit Mother Nature and our environmental troubles continue unabated. How would we regard the earth differently if our planet were called "Father Nature?"
by Courtney E. Martin
Healing the heart of democracy, as we are collectively setting out to do, is not always easy or straight-forward work. In fact, most of the time, it's fraught, messy, and complex. I was reminded of this, once again, as I read about a controversy that cropped up this week regarding advice columnist Dan Savage and a speech he gave at the National High School Journalist Conference in Seattle.
Savage told the students that it was high time that Christians learned to ignore the parts of the Bible that condemn homosexuality in the same way they have learned to ignore what the Bible says about shellfish and slavery. He went on: "The Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong: slavery. What are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? 100%."
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